Supernatural Wins with ‘The Gamblers’ 

 

It feels SO good to sit down to write a review of my favorite show and be overflowing with love for it, like I’ve been so many countless times over the past fifteen years. We have nine episodes left of Supernatural, and all I want is to feel like this – grateful, inspired, in love, dreading the end. The relief is like a physical thing, to feel this way right now, as melodramatic as that might sound.

So, let me do some squeeing, because I’ve missed it!  I enjoyed this episode by Davy Perez and Meredith Glynn so much that I just want to go scene by scene and savor it all over again.

THEN:  (Moment of inappropriate giggling because they actually used the vampire Dean hiss in the ‘Then’ montage. Ahem. Okay, sorry.)

The opening is another musical montage, which seems to be a thing now for the Show, but it works especially well because the song is so damn fitting. “North to Alaska” is exactly where Sam and Dean are headed, and the song actually starts off with the lyrics “Big Sam left Seattle…” and something about his brother, and how perfect is that? Meanwhile, some poor guy named Leonard is losing at pool and losing his cool and clearly about to die. He loses, gets kicked out of the pool hall, falls in the dirt and can’t find his now-broken glasses ala the Lord of the Flies scene I’ve never gotten over and then gets run down by an 18 wheeler. In other words, quintessential Supernatural beginning.

As Sam and Dean make their way to Alaska, Sam texts with Eileen and Dean snarks about turning off the sound. Eileen is skeptical about this trek they’re on and so is Sam, but Dean insists they need to try, and is hanging onto hope.

Dean: It’s there, it’s gotta be. Chuck wants us weak, because he’s coming for us, Sammy.

So on they go (Baby might be down on her luck but apparently she can still drive all the way to Alaska, and the Winchesters are a whole lot better at getting through those Canadian border stops than I am most of the time even with their currently shitty luck!)

Sam’s asleep in the car like he often is in the best fanfic, and Dean of course wakes him like any big brother would, with a slap and a ‘Hey!’

Brothers.

Dean’s stopping for food, because he ate everything they had in the cooler while Sam slept.

Sam: (affronted) We’re on a budget!

Gifs sasquatchandleatherjacket

Jared Padalecki has such a knack for making even a simple line so funny and so Sam, and I laughed out loud at that. The Winchesters are down to their last $4.60, so all they can get is a cup of coffee and a slice of pie.

Dean: Two forks?

I laughed again, realized I was thoroughly enjoying the episode, and became practically euphoric at the realization.

Gif sasquatchandleatherjacket

Sam gives Dean grief about not being able to have cheese and Dean gives him an affronted look right back.

Dean: Dude, Lactaid!

Me: This episode is everything!

Much of the episode – dialogue included – really did read like fanfic, and that is my highest compliment. It means the writers get the characters as well as we do, and that feels incredibly good. Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack were Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack!

Dean turns his 1000 watt smile on the waitress and they find out there’s a “magic pool hall” in the middle of nowhere and that people like poor Leonard don’t come back from it.

Sam: Now we know the down side – it might kill you.

Dean is much more optimistic.

Dean: This is my game – hell, our game!

He reminds Sam of all the memories they have of playing pool.

Sam: (frowning) Yeah, because we had to eat!

Me: Yep, definitely have read that fic.

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And We’re Off!  Supernatural Proverbs 17:3

 

We’ve never had a Supernatural episode named after a Bible verse before, but considering how this season is shaping up to be all about God, I guess it’s appropriate. Proverbs 17:3 was the swan song episode for writer Steve Yockey, who has written some of my favorites, and another directorial stint for Richard Speight Jr. With that combination, it’s not surprising that I liked it a lot – but it was an unusual episode in many ways. Proverbs 17:3 is all about how “the Lord trieth the hearts”, and that’s certainly fitting for what happened to the Winchesters in this episode. But it’s not that simple; this entire episode worked on multiple levels, so it’s equally fitting for what keeps happening to the fans. My heart is definitely being tried!

Let’s dig in, shall we? (There’s nothing I love more than feeling like I have a lot to dig into the day after an episode airs, and for the millionth time I have to say that I’m going to miss this day-after-conversation-speculation-discussion SO much)

The episode starts off with a quintessential Supernatural opener, three young women (who look so much alike half the fandom thought they were triplets) on an ill-advised camping trip and one of them being silly enough to go OUTSIDE the tent when they hear scary noises. Only one survives, and the case of the week is kicked off.

Meanwhile, Sam has been texting Cas (which he erroneously spells Cass like everyone on this show) and it’s sort of heartbreaking. I understand why Cas left so abruptly, but I doubt Sam really does despite whatever explanation Dean gave him.

Dean returns with supplies, including ghost pepper jerky, and we get a pricelessly funny brothers scene which I loved. Only Supernatural can seamlessly transition from people getting murdered to Jensen and Jared making us laugh over ghost pepper jerky. I think most of us suspected that we were seeing as much Jared and Jensen as Sam and Dean in that scene, and wondered if Jared was reprising his spike-the-eggnog-and-not-tell-Jensen bit from the Christmas episode, this time with super hot actual jerky. There’s a moment when Jensen definitely does his half hidden OMG laugh, and the throwing the water all over himself felt a lot like his ad libbing too. Meanwhile, Sam’s knowing taunting of his overly macho brother by withholding the water was so perfect – and could have been Jared too.

It’s wonderful to have a familiar and beloved colleague directing so much for the final season, and Richard Speight Jr. does a great job with this one. He understands the fandom differently than any other director would (except Jensen himself and another of this year’s directors, Matt Cohen) thanks to doing so many conventions for the past decade. He knows what gold Jared and Jensen are when he gives them some free rein and I think that’s what he did here. He also recognizes that gold when he sees it, and knows how to edit to make sure that comes through. I’m grateful!

On the other hand, Speight also knows how to make a moment visually stunning and powerful, perhaps thanks to his love of Tarantino and film in general. That fits well with this last season, when much of the show is subtext and meta, and when there are call backs to earlier seasons that have impact thanks to the way they’re presented. Speight has a unique style, and occasionally it jars me, but I think that also works most of the time. We’re supposed to jarred at this point, just like the Winchesters, our collective footing swept out from under us.

And lastly? Speight understands just how beautiful we think these characters are. Like Kim Manners, he’s not afraid to linger on their expressive faces, up close and personal, or to showcase their fighting as the oddly erotic thing it can sometimes be. He also is very aware of how demon Dean and Lucifer Sam affected the fandom, and just how powerful it will be to see them again. And see them we do, gorgeously.

In this moment, he knows what to linger on.

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‘Raising Hell’ With Supernatural 15.02

 

Episode two of the fifteenth and final season of Supernatural was called ‘Raising Hell’. I’m not sure why it was called that, since Hell was ostensibly already “raised” in the first episode, but it turned out to be sort of fitting anyway, since the episode raised a fair amount of disagreement and infighting amongst the stressed-out-because-we’re-about-to-lose-this-show fandom. As a fan, I sometimes agree with all the sides. I understand the fans who don’t want to hear any complaints or criticisms, who desperately want their last 19 episodes of the show to be something that feels good, a celebration without critique that brings only joy and lots of good memories. I understand that feeling; I tend to be good at forgiving, handwaving and even ignoring in order to appreciate the good parts of what I love. On the other hand, I also understand the fans who are critical of an episode. When you only have 19…18….episodes left, having one of those feel unsatisfying is tough to swallow. I’m somewhere in between the extremes.

The writers of this episode are not always my favorites, as I’ve said before. They have written some good episodes, but there are quite a few that haven’t worked well for me. Whether it’s because they’re seasoned television writers or because they just enjoy juggling, these are the writers who often are given the episodes that include everything but the kitchen sink (which I’m sure, in all fairness, is challenging). Some people like that and are happy to greet each new revelation with a more is better attitude. That’s not me. I like to savor each little bit of this show. I like the show to spool itself out without too much rushing, and for every moment to be invested with depth and a meaning I have to work a bit to figure out. I’m not just here for the action; I expect the show to give me insight into the characters that are why I love it.  I start to get a headache when there’s too much going on that isn’t well connected to the main characters or when there are too many characters jammed into one episode.

We’ve been told that lots of ‘fan favorite’ characters will be coming back this season, which makes sense. It’s the last season, our last chance to see some of our favorites and perhaps to give them a proper send off. I’ve been on board with that revelation, and at the same time concerned that it would be overdone, so that each return wouldn’t have the gravity it’s due. For me, that happened in this episode. Rowena and Chuck were back, which was expected, so I won’t consider those a “return” as much as a they’re-part-of-the-current-storyline. But in addition to Rowena and Chuck (and new character Belphegor) in this episode, we had three other returns: Amara, Ketch and Kevin. That’s a lot of returns in one episode!

I like all three of the returning characters, and the actors did a wonderful job with their portrayals. While I initially wasn’t a Ketch fan, I’ve warmed up to the character over the seasons, partly I suspect because David Haydn-Jones is an awesome human being and a talented enough actor that he brings a vulnerability to Ketch that’s unexpected and interesting. Most of fandom was spoiled for all three returns, which also dilutes the impact considerably, and while I don’t entirely know if it made sense for Ketch to turn up there in the nick of time, I could go with it.

Then we had the return of Amara, something fandom also knew about. I loved Emily Swallow showing us Amara’s evolution (and her snazzy new wardrobe) but by the time we saw her and Chuck, the episode was already feeling a bit crowded.

And then we got the most emotional return of all – Kevin Tran. Again, most of us knew he’d be back, which diminished the impact, unfortunately. I was happy he was coming back; It’s no secret that I love Osric Chau to bits and that I adored his character. But by the time Kevin appeared, I think I actually exclaimed “Kevin too??”

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Nineteen More To Go…. Supernatural’s Season 15 Premiere!

 

The experience of watching Supernatural for this season is going to be very different than the fourteen seasons before. It’s Season 15, the final season of the show I’ve been loving for fourteen years and reviewing for almost as long. I usually write an emotional, bouncing-with-anticipation review of the season premiere after waiting impatiently, my heart in my throat and overflowing with gratitude that I get another twenty plus episodes with my favorite fictional characters. I’ve never watched a season premiere and thought ohgod, we’re one episode closer to the end – until now.

I wanted desperately to just watch the episode and savor every second of it, every moment with the Winchesters and company something to cherish now that I know we won’t have that many more moments with them. I didn’t want to think about how it was the last time I’d sit down to watch a season premiere, or that now we have one hour less with Supernatural than we had the day before. I just wanted to squee, but I couldn’t shake the knowledge that we’ll need to say goodbye soon. One down, nineteen to go. Somebody stop me from counting!

I’m sure my reviews will be a little different this season too. I can’t be cavalier about anything – not about my intense love for the show and the characters, and not about my frustration when any of those 42 precious minutes of an episode are squandered. So expect even more passion than usual (if that’s possible) and a little more rage than usual every now and then. I’ll try to temper it, honest.

‘Back And To The Future’ wasn’t the strongest season starter we’ve had, and there were things that made me grind my teeth or scratch my head, but there were also things I enjoyed. I selfishly – and perhaps unfairly – want every second of the last season to be exactly what I want to see, and I recognize that’s not going to happen. I’ll still likely rail against it anyway.

‘The Road So Far’ had Bob Seger’s ‘The Famous Final Scene’ playing, which is not only melancholy and dramatic (which I thought was fitting) but meta as hell, cueing us into the fact that this season is probably going to be very meta indeed.

And then we got the last title card. Sorry, I couldn’t help the L word. It made me instantly emotional to think we’ll never hold our breath waiting to see what the title card will be and then gasp at how bloody awesome it is.

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Are We Ready, Fandom? Supernatural Season 15 Premieres Tomorrow

 

It’s Wednesday, October 9, 2019. It hasn’t been a noteworthy date in the past, but to many of us who are Supernatural fans, it’s feeling like one now. It’s the night before Supernatural’s Season 15 premiere – and the last time I will ever sit here trembling in anticipation of a new season of the Show that changed my life a decade and a half ago. Like most humans, I don’t do all that well with change – and I certainly don’t do well with loss. Supernatural has been incredibly important to me, in countless ways. It brought me some of my closest friends, gave me a community that I cherish, pulled me out of my anxiety-caused reticence to go places and do new things. It inspired me to attempt career moves, world travel, new relationships. It turned me into a writer, because I had so damn much to say about this show and these characters and this fandom that even fear and self doubt couldn’t keep me from saying it.

It’s been a long time that Supernatural and I have been together. It’s a long term relationship, with all the benefits that brings and all the potential losses that carries. I’ve grown used to the rhythm of the seasons, intense weeks of episode after episode when I join other fans in jumping up and down in joyous celebration of what we love and gnashing our teeth over what we hate, followed by intermittent hiatus breaks where we all speculate about what’s going to happen next and read a lot of fanfic. Supernatural is part of the ebb and flow of my life, enriching it in the best of ways. It’s personal, this thing I have with the show – and I don’t mean that in the pathologizing sense of the old scary term “parasocial relationship”. I mean the real one, the validating and inspiring and healthy one that lets me immerse myself for 42 minutes a week in a fictional world with beloved characters who manage to teach me about myself and feel like old friends. There’s research on this folks, I’m not making it up. It’s good for you. And for me.

The past week has seen article after article in all the mainstream media publications that cover all the shows and are well aware that a venerable series is about to end. I remember when no one was writing about Supernatural. When my first phone call to the studio was met with an incredulous “you want to write a book about this show?”  I remember season premieres heralded mostly by fandom, mainstream media unaware of this hidden gem that only we knew was going to be something very special. I was frustrated for a long time that the rest of the world didn’t recognize Supernatural for what it was, or its cast for how amazing they are. Now, as it prepares to tell its last stories, it seems like the whole world finally knows. And I’m so very proud of our Little Show That Could, but each time I read an article I also think, you don’t really know. Not the way we do.

You don’t really know what this show means to us or how much it’s changed our lives. (Unless you’ve read Family Don’t End With Blood, and then maybe you have an idea). You don’t really know how we feel right now, caught between incredible joy and anticipation for tomorrow night and the constant looming knowledge that this is the last time we’ll have this. As always, I’ll have a slice of pie and a glass of wine and a comfy blanket ready as I sit down to watch tomorrow night. As always, I’ll also have a big box of tissues. But this time, I need those tissues tonight too. I’ve needed them all week, every time I read another headline. This time I’m steeling myself for the first of the lasts, desperately not wanting that to be the case. I’m determined to cherish every moment I have left with my favorite show and my favorite characters, but I also know this will be a rough season full of anticipatory grief as well as celebration. Luckily I know I’m not alone – as always, the fandom community who really does get it is there to take the last trip on this wild ride with me, just as it’s always been.

Buckle up, SPNFamily.

See you on the flip side.

— Lynn

You can read how Supernatural really has

changed lives – for the actors and the fans –

in Family Don’t End With Blood – links on

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