It’s over a week later, and I finally have time to sit down and write about Supernatural Denver con, the first Creation Supernatural convention since the whole world changed completely right after the Las Vegas con in March 2020. I remember flying home from that convention, when we had all just barely heard about Covid, wondering what it all meant and how long it would be until I’d be with my SPN friends again. Little did we know that it would be THIS long!
I was only able to go to Denver for the weekend, so I missed the festivities on Friday – and some of my favorite people, including Chad Lindberg, who was only there on Friday. Some friends were kind enough to get my vendor table set up and put out some books, since this was the first convention since There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural was published. The contributors all put together their chapters for that book just as the pandemic began, so I hadn’t been able to bring it to a con until now. I think the book was excited to finally meet the cast and fandom!
And I was finally able to give the actors who contributed to the book their copies – if you haven’t read their chapters yet, have some tissues ready if you do. Hearing how much Supernatural meant to them, and what the experience of bringing their characters to life brought them, makes me tear up every time I read the actors’ chapters.
That was exciting – and so was finally being able to see some of my fandom friends for the first time in 19 months! One of the best parts of conventions is being able to be immersed among people who totally get it – and whose eyes will not glaze over alarmingly if I talk about Supernatural for too long. Therapeutic for sure!
Denver con will definitely go down in history as an unusual con – which I feel like we’ve said about so many things over this past 19 months. There were Covid protocols in place, which meant I stressed myself out trying to get a Covid test that would come back before I had to get on a plane but would also be within 36 hours of me checking into the con – thank you, neighborhood CVS! I’m accustomed to masks all the time, so wearing one for the weekend was no problem at all, and I was relieved that everyone else was pretty good about keeping masks on too. Considering how unsafe I feel teaching in person now, in spite of masks, I felt a little safer at the con knowing everyone was both masked and recently tested.
So that part was good. No fan is ever going to like having a giant plexiglass panel between you and the celebrity you came there to see, but we’re in a pandemic and there’s a lot that we wish was different right now. Waving at Jensen, Jared and Misha is not the same as a bear hug, but it will have to do for now. I have to admire the creativity of some fans, who came up with no-touch photo ops that put that plexiglass panel to good (and sometimes amusing) use!
The other odd part of this con was that the schedule was switched around from what we’re all very accustomed to – there are always things that happen on Saturday (like Misha Collins’ panel) and on Sunday (like the Jared and Jensen gold panel and main panel). Because Jensen was shooting on the Rust film and had to be back on set for Sunday, he appeared on Saturday instead. That caused ridiculous amounts of fan theorizing and conspiracy theory tossing around about why the switch was happening – which was for exactly the reasons put forth, Jensen’s professional obligations – i.e., filming on Sunday. It was different to have solo panels for Jensen and Jared instead of a joint one, and fans had different opinions on that, some happy to have an hour with their fave and others missing the banter that always comes with a J2 panel. In other words, as always, your mileage may vary.
I caught some of Briana Buckmaster, Kim Rhodes and Samantha Smith’s panel on Saturday. The fan who sometimes collects words for a Mad Libs at the con asked them for some adverbs, they talked tattoos, and gave a shout out to Rachel Miner, who we all missed.
Fan: What tattoo should I get?
At that moment, a loud whistle drowned everything out.
Kim: A train, apparently…
Sam talked about how she had decided to leave acting when Supernatural called her to come back for the finale of Season 11. She thought they meant series finale, and was surprised when the show was actually still going – and that she was returning for more than one episode. Briana talked about the rejection inherent in being an actor and having to learn to keep telling herself that she is enough. All three were happy to be reunited and I was happy to have their inspiration back on the stage.
Jensen’s solo panel was next, and he seemed to take a moment to soak up the love when he came onstage.
It really felt like forever since we’d seen them all in person, so there was ALOT of love in that ballroom!
I think all of them prefer being onstage with one of their friends, and he mentioned that he missed Jared being up there with him – especially because it was the first con back and they’d been looking forward to it.
Jensen: It’s just me – I don’t have my brother here!
For our final photo retrospective for Supernatural Spring Break week, Kim has put together her thirty favorite photos from Supernatural cons over the years. I have no idea how she was able to do this, because narrowing it down to 30 from so much incredible beauty? I would give up. If you’ve ever stood behind her and looked over her shoulder in a convention hotel room at 2 am and watched while Kim edits her shots and tries to decide which of the hundreds (from one con) to post, then you get what I mean.
Most of the time, my contribution on those late night editing sessions is to periodically distract her by exclaiming OMG GUH!!! when she gets to a particularly gorgeous one. Kim, for some reason, does not appreciate this.
So I’m paying her back by NOT rearranging these photos before this posts. You’re the photographer, Kim, so you get the final say on which of your photos bring you the most joy. I’m just grateful for every single photo you’ve taken, and that you put together the color photo spreads for both Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. The books would not be nearly as pretty if it wasn’t for your contributions, and the photo and art contributions of other talented fans you coordinated too. (Also you wrote a powerful chapter!)
So here, in order of ability to spark joy, are Kim’s Supernatural cast faves – along with her commentary below and some of mine I couldn’t resist adding. Enjoy!
#30 – Misha at the convention in Jacksonville 2016.
Lynn: And Misha Collin’s blue blue blue eyes too!
#29 – Nashville 2019. I love their riffs.
Lynn: Me too. And their smiles. Jensen Ackles and Rob Benedict aka Robsen definitely sparks joy.
#28 – Louden Swain concert in Austin, Texas, 2020. I’m pretty sure this is “Rock Song.”
Lynn: The Swain show in Austin as 2020 began was one of the last times we got to see them play and be with our fellow SPNFamily. It was a charmed trip in so many ways, and the Swain show on my birthday was the perfect way to celebrate. And, I’m in my feelings already…
#27 – Saturday Night Special, Nashville 2019. She just has so much fun at these concerts, and it shows.
Lynn: Kim Rhodes putting her inner rock star out there at the Saturday Night Specials is one of the best things to come from Supernatural conventions.
#26 – Literally the best emcee Ever. Dallas, 2019.
Lynn: Hands down. I remember Richard Speight, Jr.’s very first con and how his personality came through loud and clear. When Creation had an actor cancel for their next con and were wondering who could replace him, I said they should call that Richard Speight guy (who we’d interviewed for our first book) because he was a natural for the convention stage. They did, and the rest is history. And the conventions became something they might not have without Richard’s guidance and incredible ability to improvise onstage at the drop of a hat.
Continuing our week long spring break celebration of that little show we miss, here are some memories of the Supernatural cast over the years, seen through the lens of Kim Prior’s trusty camera – and her photographer instincts!
First up, some pics from Vegas Con 2015. I remember the first time Gil McKinney stepped onstage and started singing and everyone kind of stopped and went WHAT? Because damn, can he sing! The song he wrote for his dad is a favorite of mine – if you haven’t heard it, check out his album with that beautiful song and more.
Rob with the perfect tee shirt and almost clean shaven at that con!
I can hear the harmonies on Seven Bridges Road just looking at this photo…
Jensen looks as excited as all of us were to have both Winchester parents onstage at the same time with him!
Here are a few from Jacksonville 2016 – Ruth Connell and Kim Rhodes with smiles that light up the room, and Mark Sheppard doing one of the things that clearly makes him happiest – playing drums.
Nashville 2016 Matt Cohen when his hair was really long, which I’d almost forgotten. Matt can pull off any look, and I love how much he’s bringing to Entertainment Tonight these days – all his experience helping host cons with Rich and Rob have been put to very good use!
Tomorrow is the last day that Supernatural will be on the air. The last time I’ll wake up in the morning and think oooh there’s a new episode on tonight! The last moments I’ll get to spend with the fictional characters who have meant so much to me and the show that has changed my life. I don’t think I ever could have been ready for that, to be honest. And I know I’m not alone.
Whether you’ve been watching Supernatural for one year or fifteen, most of us are not what you’d call ‘casual viewers’. We don’t just watch this Show, we live it. Many of us found our closest friends here. We fell in love with the richly drawn and brilliantly portrayed characters, and they have been our inspiration for real life change and real life determination to keep on fighting whenever something threatens to knock us down. We spend alot of time here, immersed in the community that formed around the show, sharing thoughts and feelings and hilarious memes and heartbreaking confessions on every social media platform imaginable.
We all found our niche and our people, and we count on that support system every single day. All because of a little television show on the CW that drew us together. Even when we’re railing about its plot holes or inconsistencies or canon not going where we wanted it to go, Supernatural is the thing we have in common. The fact that we’re still railing and meme-ing and posting and stocking up on tissues makes it pretty clear that even after all these years, we’re passionate about this Show and its incredible cast.
Photo: Rob Hayter IG
The impact that Supernatural has had goes beyond watching a tv show. The theme of the show has always been one that fans have taken to heart and used as an inspiration in real life too. The Winchesters have never been traditional superheroes – they’re human, and their flaws and challenges have never been glossed over either by the writers or the actors. For fifteen years, Supernatural has showed us that ordinary people can make a difference, just through their determination. The Winchesters have lived the “always keep fighting” mantra – even when it means they’re often bloodied and bruised and beaten down — and showed us that we can too. When real life beats us down and leaves us bruised and bloodied, we can pick ourselves up like Sam and Dean did after God himself put them through a literal beating. Castiel taught us something similar – he may not have been human (for most of the show), but his journey mirrored the journeys of many of us as he fought to become himself and rebelled against forces conspiring to prevent that. So many other characters have also inspired us to be who we are, from Ash to Kevin to Bobby, from Charlie to Eileen to all the Wayward women letting us know we all can embrace our wayward too. Supernatural changed most of us in some way, for real.
And that means that knowing it’s ending is hitting us hard. I’ve had television shows end before and I’ve been sad – I remember gathering with friends to watch the last episode of the X Files back in grad school, all of us going out drinking afterwards to drown our sorrows. I remember watching the final episode of Buffy, and Angel, and then talking long into the night with friends who had been invested in those stories. This feels different. Somehow, although we all always knew that the show would end sooner or later, when it kept on going (and going and going) it started to seem like Supernatural would really never end. That we could keep on joking about it being the never-ending show and look forward to Jared and Jensen calling out “Sam! Dean!” gray-haired from their rocking chairs. That we’d always have this show to talk about and argue about and care about – and the vibrant communities within which to do that. I’m still having a hard time getting my head around the fact that tomorrow really is the last episode – it’s been a part of my life for so, so long.
It’s hard to believe, after all this time, that Supernatural will, in fact, end.
Every time I do manage to get my head around it, the realization hits me like someone just punched me in the stomach. You would think I’d be good at this – I’m a psychologist. I teach graduate courses on grief and loss, in fact. I should know how to cope for myself, right? Not gonna lie, I’m pretty worried about Thursday night. So I thought I would sit down and pull my thoughts together to remind myself how I can get through it – and how we all can get through it.
First, we need to allow ourselves to call this what it is. This is not just “a silly television show going off the air” – this is a real and genuine loss. Supernatural has been important to us, not just as a sci fi fantasy show we enjoy watching, but as a real life inspiration and a source of great satisfaction and belongingness. Losing it is going to hurt like hell. Allow yourself to frame this as a loss and accept that you’ll need to grieve that loss, just like any other. Don’t let anyone’s “oh get over it, it’s just at tv show” invalidate your feelings. The loss of the show itself is difficult enough, but secondary losses can be just as painful – the constant media coverage we’ve grown used to, with new photos and updates all the time, the vibrancy of the communities, the passionate conversation created every week around new episodes, the frequent conventions where fans meet not only the actors but other fans who have become forever friends.
Like everything else in life, the pandemic has made what would always have been a deep loss even harder to take. Many of us had planned to be surrounded by fellow fans when we watched the series finale – to be with people who also “get it”. The fact that Supernatural is ending in the middle of a global pandemic means that’s not possible for most of us. However, we can still pamper ourselves a little. Maybe that means a slice of pie ala Dean Winchester or wrapping yourself in a warm fuzzy blanket. Maybe that means having a zoom call open with your friends or staying on social media in between scenes so that you don’t feel like you’re watching alone. I’m hoping it will make me feel a little better to share in the communal expression of feelings that will be going on in every corner of the internet. Even if you’re watching “alone”, know that you won’t be – all over the world, the rest of the SPN Family will be watching too. When ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ starts to play for the final time, we will all tear up together. Every time you grab a tissue from the box(es) you have at the ready, know that you won’t be the only one.
Once we’ve made it through Thursday, give yourself time to grieve and permission to do that in whatever way feels right. We all cope with grief differently and there’s no right or wrong way to do that. Some of us are what we call “instrumental grievers.” We need to DO something in order to feel better. Organize a rewatch, put together a playlist of funny moments at Supernatural conventions, post your own personal tribute to the show. Plan a get together with other fans for once the pandemic lets us travel safely. Tweet your thanks to a cast member who inspired you or another fan who got you through a tough time. Celebrate all the things that Supernatural has meant to you.
If, on the other hand, you’re more of an “intuitive griever,” you need to feel your emotions and express them in order to grieve the loss. That means it will probably help you to share your feelings with other like-minded people. Talk about how you’re feeling in whatever community you feel comfortable in; the validation of ‘OMG I feel that way too’ really does help. If losing Supernatural is the icing on the cake in a year full of stress, do what Jared Padalecki has been candid about doing that helps him – make an appointment with a therapist. Most of us who are therapists have a broad understanding of loss and will understand what that loss means to you.
Here are a few coping strategies that are helpful when we’re grieving a loss that might help with this one:
Objects of connection. These are symbolic objects that help you feel connected to whatever or whoever you’ve lost. Wear your favorite piece of Supernatural jewelry or clothing. Make a scrapbook, physical or virtual, with photos that are meaningful to you – actors, characters, photo ops from cons, or fun times with fellow fans. Put your Pop Funko Sam, Dean and Cas where you can see them and smile. Construct a memory box that holds items that remind you of the show or of the experiences you had as a result of being a fan of the show. If you’ve collected way too many Supernatural tee shirts, sew them together into a quilt that you can snuggle up under as the weather gets colder. Whatever object lets you feel close to the show and remember it, keep it close and let it keep you connected to what you’ve loved.
We put together two books which include the actors’ feelings about the show in their own words specifically to help us stay connected to Supernatural and what it means to us as the show comes to an end. I guess you could say they’re objects of connection too. There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and Family Don’t End With Blood are intended to be a reminder that this show has changed the lives of both its fans and actors. A reminder of the characters who have inspired us, and why they’re so important both to the fans who love them and the actors who brought them to life. Something you can hold in your hands and hang onto while you read their words and know that we were never in this alone.
Share your story. Especially if you’re an intuitive griever, sharing what the show has meant to you and what the loss feels like can be helpful in adapting to the loss. Write your own ‘chapter’ like the actors and fans did in the books; share it in whatever space feels comfortable to you. Writing is therapeutic in itself, helping us make sense of the loss and express whatever feelings are associated with it.
Resilient image. If the feelings of grief start to seem overwhelming, it can be helpful to create an image of resiliency that can remind us of the strengths and supports that we do have. It’s a way of self-soothing when our emotions are strong enough that we feel temporarily helpless and out of control. Create an image of a time and place when you felt safe, comfortable and in control even though there was chaos or danger around you. Maybe you’re in the Men of Letters bunker, running your hand over the names carved into the library table. Maybe you’re in the Impala, who always kept her boys safe in the midst of even a literal apocalypse. Maybe you’re wearing Dean’s leather jacket, or huddled beneath Castiel’s wings. Visualizing that resilient image when there are lots of emotions and stressors can be calming and comforting.
Ecotherapy. Being immersed in nature helps us make meaning of our life and our losses, making us more aware of the here and now and less stuck in our heads, and helps us experience our emotions more fully. Take a walk in the woods or on the beach. Notice the sun and the clouds and the wind and the smells and sounds around you. If it’s safe to go barefoot, dig your toes into the sand or the grass. If there’s a labyrinth near you, walk it. Being in nature makes us feel more connected, both to ourselves and to the rest of the world, so this can be especially helpful if you’re feeling some of that loss of community.
We’re a diverse community of fans, and we’re all going to grieve differently. We sometimes tend to think that everyone should process loss the same, and if someone doesn’t, maybe they’re not “really” grieving. But there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and no timetable for how long it takes each of us to adapt to a loss and for the hurt to lessen. Some people want to be distracted and move on as quickly as they can, maybe finding another show to love and another fandom to join. Others need to sit with their feelings for a while and just FEEL them before they can adapt. Both are valid ways of grieving a loss.
The hopeful thing about grief is that it doesn’t mean forgetting. We never forget the people and things we’ve loved, and we don’t need to stop loving them. They become part of us, cherished memories that eventually bring smiles. We can celebrate what the show has given us, how it’s changed us. The friends it’s brought into our lives, the courage that the story and the characters have inspired in us. The ways Supernatural and the SPN Family have kept us going and gotten us to where we are in life – to who we are in life. There’s a lot to celebrate and cherish about Supernatural and what it’s meant to all of us.
Most of all, know that you’re not alone. Even if you’re sitting in your living room watching a screen by yourself this Thursday evening, there will be people all over the world doing the same thing. People who love Supernatural, who have been inspired by its characters and its message. Whose lives have been changed by this little show and who are going to miss it when it’s gone – but who will keep on celebrating all the things it gave us for a very long time.
In the wise words of Castiel to Jack, about losing what you love…
Eventually they’re gone, even the very best ones, and we have to carry on. So what’s the point? The point is, that they were here at all and you got to know them. When they’re gone, it will hurt, but that hurt will remind you of how much you loved them.
Oh, we loved them. We’ll always love them.
And maybe, just maybe, as the final words of Jensen Ackles’ chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done remind us, “nothing ever stays dead on Supernatural.”
This video linked below kinda says it all… See you on the other side!
I don’t know why I ever entertained the thought that Supernatural might go out without all kinds of emotions and reactions, since the show has always inspired those in its fans – so why should its last few episodes be any different? The week before’s episode (Despair) brought intense and varied reactions and saw the loss of Castiel; this past week’s episode was very different but it somehow managed to engender varied reactions again. We didn’t lose any of the remaining three major players, however, and I’m still shocked about that. I had convinced myself, in an attempt to somehow prepare myself for the anguish, that either Sam or Dean or both were going to die in 15.19. I was so on edge I could barely think of anything else on Thursday (which makes work challenging) and I had my box of tissues and glass of wine at the ready. Slice of pie too, and fuzzy blankie, just in case. Not that any of that is going to be all that helpful next week, probably. But I was so convinced that we were losing at least one of them, that I spent most of the episode hyperventilating and hypervigilant, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And then…. it didn’t.
Until the moment the credits rolled, I was half hiding my face behind my hands certain that something horrible was going to happen and take all the good feelings away. I sat there in shock for a good few minutes after, probably muttering out loud “is that… it?”
It was also confusing because this penultimate episode (forgive me, but everyone in this fandom is using that word because it holds special meaning to us and how often do you get to use it properly?) – anyway, this penultimate episode felt so much like the end. Like the series finale, not just the season finale. There were lots of “let’s just leave it right here, okay?” posts on Thursday night. This fandom does not get to have feel-good endings. It just doesn’t happen. Not as a season finale, that’s for sure. We’ve been so conditioned to tragedy befalling us if we let our guard down, I think there was a collective “HUH?” from all over the world when this episode ended and Sam and Dean were still alive – and Jack was… Well, Jack. But also, for all intents and purposes, God.
The writers of this episode are not fandom favorites, which also made me nervous. They’re known for episodes that have so much going on, it makes your head spin, and this episode wasn’t an exception to that. There were things that made me scratch my head, but they also managed to tie up a ridiculous number of loose ends in a relatively satisfying way, so I’m not going to quibble too much. Maybe I just desperately needed something that felt like a happy ending, because I’m willing to just let myself feel good about this one. There is only one more episode left, and I want to hang onto any good feelings I can find about my favorite show EVER, for five days longer.
Special kudos for the amazing music in this episode, which really enhanced the story and made me feel more than I might have. Christopher Lennertz and Jay Gruska have knocked it out of the park so many times for so many years, making Supernatural so much more powerful and emotional than it would have been without their talent and how much they care about the show. I’m so appreciative. This episode was Lennertz; the series finale will be Gruska.
How many boxes of tissues will I need when the Winchester family theme plays for the last time? I don’t think there are enough in the universe.
The episode picks up pretty much where ‘Despair’ left off, Sam and Jack realizing the world is empty as we see scenes of empty streets in cities all over the world, mournful music playing that makes the scene so much more cinematic than it would have been otherwise.
Dean drives up to join them, finding a shell-shocked Sam and Jack.
Sam: I couldn’t save anybody…
Jack: (looking stricken already) Where’s Cas?
Dean: He saved me. Cas is gone. Jack, I’m sorry.
Dean still looks in shock, barely able to meet Jack’s eyes, his jacket still bearing Castiel’s bloody handprint.
Jack gasps, heartbroken. Sam looks even more shocked and guilt-stricken than before. He calls people, getting only cell phone answer messages. That little detail seemed so real, like exactly what any of us would do, unable to believe that everyone is really gone.
The three walk down the deserted street, mournful eerie music playing, into a deserted diner with the beer tap still running, like the best apocalypse fanfic. (With a little homage to Jensen’s Family Business Beer Co)
The diner itself is called “Sammy’s” and it resulted in some amusing tweets about bringing all the boys to the yard, because fandom knows how to have fun even in the midst of an apocalypse.
Jack calls to Castiel, but gets no response. As he walks dejectedly by some plants and trees, they wither and die as he passes.
Sam can’t shake his guilt.
Sam: I did this. We didn’t give Chuck what he wanted, we tried to rewrite him and the whole world paid the price…
Dean and Jack disagree, and Jack is the one who speaks the message that will always be inextricably linked with this show for me.
Jack: You can’t just give up.
Always Keep Fighting.
The Winchesters do seem to give up, though. They meet up with Chuck and tell him he’s won, that they’ll give him what he wants.
Sam: We’re giving up.
Dean: I’ll kill Sam, he’ll kill me. We’ll kill each other. But first, you have to put it back – the people, the birds, Cas. You gotta bring him back.
They are willing, both of them, to sacrifice themselves to save the world – as they have always been.
Chuck really is sadistic, though. He doesn’t find that story ending as compelling as he thought, deciding to leave the Winchesters and Jack wandering through a deserted world, dealing with their overwhelming guilt.
Chuck: Knowing it’s this way because you wouldn’t take a knee.