Next up in our celebration of Supernatural’s last week on the air, catching up with Mrs. Tran herself, Lauren Tom!
Supernatural has brought some wonderful people into my life, and I’m so grateful. As the show comes to an end, I caught up with some of my favorite actors from the show, many of whom wrote chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. One of those people is Lauren Tom, who wrote a beautiful chapter about playing Linda Tran on Supernatural and how her own cultural background has impacted both her personal and professional journeys. Lauren has been super busy as one of the stars of Ghosts of Tsushima, on Season 4 of Goliath, and has also been doing some political advocacy and some important work with charities like Homeboy Industries. So I’m grateful she took some time out of her busy schedule to chat!
We did some personal catching up first — where our kids are, the joys of family facetime, how the pandemic is affecting us and our families, the importance of self care and how challenging that can be. We also discovered a shared affinity for coffee ice cream. Which, we both agreed, counts for self care.
Lauren had recently watched The Social Dilemma (which I’m trying to find time for – but I’ll have my coffee ice cream ready. Reality is the scariest kind of scary!)
Then we talked a little Supernatural (note to self: stock up on even more coffee ice cream for this week’s series finale…)
Lynn: As the show is actually winding down, how do you look back on it and what it’s meant to you?
Lauren: I really appreciate the show on so many levels. The humor and the acting is really good, you know?
Lynn: Totally, agreed.
Lauren: And the special effects and the whole way it’s put together. Humor goes a long way with me, and I think they were so smart to incorporate that. I think that’s part of why it’s been so successful too – it has everything.
Lynn: I was just saying that to Matt Cohen, who I chatted with earlier.
Lauren: He’s such a nice guy, I’m so glad he’s getting to direct. I feel like that’s why Supernatural has been one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, because it combines everything that I’ve actually been able to explore and participate in, as far as comedy and drama and even my days in avant garde theater, because you kind of have suspend your imagination and really just go there (laughing). You know, I have to look down at my body and imagine that red smoke is coming out, not a normal thing, you know?
Lynn: Let’s hope not.
Lauren: And then the sitcom work and the drama, too. It was like oh, I get to do everything in this series. So I kinda felt like I was really using myself. And of course the people I’ve met along the way. I do think it’s gonna have a life beyond this, when the last episode airs, because the fandom is so strong and I think people will keep in touch.
I’ve known Matt Cohen a long time. I was there for his first Supernatural convention a decade ago – I remember turning to my friend Kathy as we watched Matt try to hug every single fan he met and saying “this guy is a keeper.” I was thrilled when his reception at the cons ensured he would be invited back, eventually becoming one of the Karaoke Kings and an integral part of the Supernatural conventions all over the world. Matt was one of the first Supernatural actors I invited to write a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood, because I knew he would have something inspiring and moving to say. I was right. The chapter he wrote is candid, insightful and very personal – it describes the way being on Supernatural has changed his life and how his relationships with his fellow cast members has changed him as well. It’s one of the chapters that makes me smile and tear up simultaneously (like all the best Supernatural episodes).
I was thrilled when he returned to the show again to play John Winchester, and perhaps even more thrilled when he became part of the final season of the show – not as an actor this time, but as a director. By then he had already made his own short film, Mama Bear, which he had directed and proved just how talented he was behind the camera, not just in front of it. I loved that film, so I couldn’t wait to see what he did with Supernatural.
I waited until his episode, Gimme Shelter, had aired last month, then we caught up by phone.
Matt: It’s nice to hear your voice.
Lynn: It’s been a long time.
Matt: Too long as far as I’m concerned!
(I think the entire SPNFamily feels that way at this point – we all miss each other! We caught up with family stuff, and how his son Macklin is doing with online learning (great) and then dug into the episode.)
Lynn: I was super excited that you got to direct an episode before the show ends. It seems so right and so special.
Matt: It certainly was special and I feel lucky. This show has given me everything at this point, and for it to give me my first hour of prime time TV directorial debut? I agree with you, it felt right. I felt like I was at home because I knew these people were going to do everything they could to not have me fail.
Lynn: For sure. You’re family.
Matt: And to me, that made me work harder than I’ve worked on anything my whole life, to make sure I could get them out on time and get everyone home and rested and then back to my set again and we could just knock this one out and keep on moving. And that’s exactly how it went. It was a special experience with the most remarkable crew I’ve ever worked with. They were there for me and I was there for them and it was just beautiful. Every day was emotional for me. When I wrapped every single day, I felt that this was part of my eight day goodbye to the show. And it was difficult, you know? I tried not to cry every night.
Lynn: I can’t even imagine how emotional it was for you, after all this time and this being such an incredible, life-changing journey. This was one of those quintessential Supernatural episodes that has a little bit of everything – humor, excitement, and emotion. All of them came together, but it was a complex episode. The emotional moments are probably my favorite things about the show – in this episode, like the scene when Castiel talks about his journey – finding a family, becoming a dad.
Lynn: It struck me that is so similar to what you wrote about in your chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood, about your own journey finding yourself and becoming a dad too. Misha [Collins] was so good in that scene. How did you feel about the episode’s story?
This has been a hell of a week. The US election happened on Tuesday and Americans (and most of the rest of the world) waited through constant anxiety attacks to find out who won as results trickled in. Everyone was on edge, tensions were high, and I really needed my number one comfort show, Supernatural. On Thursday, the third to last Supernatural episode ever aired in the midst of all this uncertainty and anxiety – an episode ominously titled ‘Despair’. True to Supernatural form, its third to last episode aired in the middle of unprecedented chaos and caused even more chaos, both in the fandom and more broadly in terms of anyone watching trending topics that night. In fact, #Supernatural not only trended, but #Destiel and #Putin trended – often in the same tweets. Who the hell had that one on their 2020 bingo card??
As Supernatural ends its run, it’s no longer the major player on Tumblr that it once was, but on Thursday all those 2012 Supernatural accounts rose from the dead en masse to comment on whether or not “Destiel Is Canon” with a mind blowing range of unironic celebration posts alongside an equally mind blowing array of shitposts and hilarious memes making fun of the show for how that possibility played out. I admit I never thought that if Supernatural once again ruled Tumblr memes, it would be for making fun of a scene that was the opposite of intended to be funny.
But it’s been that kind of a week. I have mixed feelings all over the place that I still haven’t sorted out and the US Presidential election was just decided after 987 years, so I’m not likely to sort them out any time soon. Instead, I’ll try to dig into the entire episode, not just those three minutes, and see where it brought us, for better or worse.
The episode picks up right where 15.17 left off, Sam helping an injured Jack. Jack tells them all to leave him, for their own good.
Jack: I don’t wanna hurt you, don’t let me hurt you…
Alex Calvert is so good at making me feel for Jack, that plaintive ‘don’t let me hurt you’ going right to my heart. Dean has changed his tune completely, insisting passionately that they’re not gonna give up on him. Poor Dean must have whiplash with how the writers keep making him change his tune so often.
Billie appears, blaming them for her plan not working and then zapping Jack out of there to the Empty.
Which means we get to see Rachel Miner again, so yay. Jack promptly explodes, though, so boo. The explosion wakes everything up and makes a lot of noise and totally pisses it off. Enraged, the Empty attacks Jack, crushing his head.
Poor Jack, he’s been through a lot in the last two minutes.
Billie gives us some exposition about the Empty being pissed at her too for sending an explosive Jack there, and reminds us that the Empty can’t come to Earth unless it is summoned, which we already knew. And Sam reminds us what we figured out last week about Billie’s plan – that anyone who was resurrected will die, including Sam and Dean. Billie also is pissed that Sam took the God book and wants it back, refusing to return the maybe still alive Jack until Sam gives it to her. Sam finally goes to get it; instead of putting it in her outstretched hand, he drops it on the table instead. Sassy, Sam.
Billie underestimates the Winchesters for some reason and walks away to read the new portion of the God book, her scythe left behind and her back to the Winchesters. She zaps Jack back to them but insists he’s coming with her, since he’s still “useful”, and that’s when Dean has had enough. He grabs her scythe and attacks her, injuring her. She zaps herself out of there, leaving Jack (and her scythe) behind.
Lisa Berry can be very scary indeed and she proves it in this episode, telling the reapers in her library when she returns, clutching her shoulder, that “the plan has changed.”
That night, neither of the Winchesters can sleep. Dean drinks in the dark, and Sam joins him.
Dean slides a glass and the bottle to his brother and they settle in, mirror images of each other. It’s a beautifully filmed scene from director Richard Speight, Jr. but melancholy as hell.
Dean: Sam, I’m sorry…about everything.
Sam: Dean, you don’t have to…
Dean: I pulled a gun on you! I couldn’t stop… we were so close to beating him… I couldn’t snap out of it.
Sam: Yeah, well, you did. And you’ve snapped me out of worse.
Sam: You have.
Sam is hanging onto hope for both of them, saying they’ll regroup. Somehow.
The past two weeks haven’t been quite as full of constant new Supernatural content as the ones before – and many of us, especially here in the US, have a lot else on our minds — but it has still been a good time to be a Supernatural fan. I’m grateful for all the coverage we’re getting, with newly released photos and videos and articles just about every day, because we know we only have a few more weeks of the show being on the air and that happening. Most of the coverage has been about the show itself, but the Supernatural cast has also been very involved in the American elections. This is a group of people who take seriously the Supernatural mantra of ‘saving people’ and they are all using their platforms to carry that out however they believe will be the most effective. Article and video links included below so you can check out more coverage details.
At the start of last week, the SPNFamily got some long hoped for and very welcome news — after years and years of pleading, Supernatural now has its very own Impala hashtag emoji! I will admit, I didn’t have on my 2020 bingo card sobbing with pride and joy and anticipation of loss over a Baby emoji, but here we are. I’m beside myself with pride for our little show – it may not seem significant to people outside the fandom, but it’s so significant to the SPNFamily. (It’s not a regular emoji, so it won’t appear forever, but I’m still very happy to have it for the show’s end run at least).
As we’re all preparing to grieve the loss of Supernatural, we’re also looking forward to the new projects that the cast and crew will be working on, which helps at least a little. TVLine kicked off last week with some good news about Jensen Ackles’ new project, The Boys.
TVLine reporated that Ackles’ Soldier Boy will play a pivotal role in Season 3.
Showrunner Eric Kripke: With him comes the big season mythology that he threads all the way through. The season is sort of about him.
They also had some news about the fate of Castiel, which many of us are trying to steel ourselves for right now as the pivotal Episode 18 airs tomorrow.
Castiel’s deal with The Empty has not been forgotten and will play into the show’s final episodes. Uh oh.
Andrew Dabb: It’s something we introduced last year, knowing to a degree where it was going. The story can always take twists and turns. But obviously, The Empty’s been a little bit more of a character this year, played by Rachel Miner, who’s done a great job. It has still got a grudge against Cas, and that will not go away.
To say we’re nervous about tomorrow’s episode is a gigantic understatement. Personally, I’m so anxious at this point, for multiple reasons, I can barely sit still long enough to type this.
Last Tuesday, Jared started filming his new show, Walker, and the SPNFamily tweeted #GoodLuckJared to him all day to start him off with lots of love.
On Wednesday, EW had an article on Supernatural’s unofficial theme song, Kansas’ Carry On Wayward Son. I swear, everything about our show is special – what other show has a theme song like that, 100% embraced by the band itself to the extent that they came to Comic Con a few years ago to kick off the Hall H Supernatural panel??
Supernatural creator Eric Kripke explained how the song came to be used in the show.
Kripke: Those weren’t just classic rock songs, those were the songs from my collection. At the end of season 1, we were cutting the first of the ‘Road So Far’ trailers. We wanted to do a recap to remind everyone what happened all season but we really wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t the same old avalanche of exposition. [Producer] Phil [Sgriccia] and I looked at ‘Carry on Wayward Son’ and set it to this long recap and it just came to life because the lyrics seemed to fit what the brothers were going through. What people don’t remember is that in season 1, that was the second-to-last episode that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ played. And then we tried to do another ‘road so far’ for the finale set to Triumph’s ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and it was just obvious it just didn’t take the way that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ took. You could just tell from fan response that people were not digging it.
Luckily, Kripke was really good at going with his instincts, and it’s the Kansas song that was retained over all these years. I still can’t sing along to it at the end of convention karaoke without tearing up. And I am 100% certain it will destroy me in the finale.
TVLine also ran a story and video about what Jared and Jensen will miss about working together, which I imagine is ALOT.
Jared: Acting opposite Ackles for 15 seasons has given me the confidence that I can push myself. I don’t want to say I baby it with other actors and actresses, but I pull my game back. If you’ve been playing tennis with somebody 15 years or basketball or doing jujitsu or something, you know how hard you can push. Whereas if you just walk in onto a court with somebody you’ve never played before, it’s like, ‘OK, well, I’ve got to feel them out, because I don’t want to just start dunking on the guy, and it’s not a game.’ And so with Jensen, I know I can push as hard as I possibly can — and harder — and that he’ll push back just as hard, and we’ll bring out different aspects of a scene, different facets of what the characters are going through.
When Jared talked about how he tried to leave “Jared out of it” and let Sam have all the emotions during the last scene, Jensen laughed – clearly neither were able to leave their own emotions out of it at that point.
Jensen talked about the shorthand that he and Jared have constructed over the years, which I’ve heard him mention many times before, saying that it helped them really flesh out the bond between the brothers.
Jensen: There’s a nuance, I think, that he and I are able to tap into, not only with our characters, but with the relationship that these characters have with each other in every scene. A lot of times, those nuances are not written on the page, and that is, I think, something that we pride ourselves in being able to bring to the character, to the story and to the show. And that’s something that he and I don’t really even need to talk about. It’s stuff that presents itself to us, almost in the middle of a scene. We’re so comfortable and available to each other for letting those kinds of moments happen that they happen all the time. I’m going to miss having that confidence with somebody that I can just allow those moments to happen and you can seize them.
I’m going to miss those moments too, Mr. Ackles. More than I can even put into words.
Three more episodes of Supernatural to go before the show comes to an end, so my highly emotional investment in every episode continues. Everyone is different in their way of coping with the show ending – some are pulling away, trying to protect themselves from the impending loss. Some are more invested than ever, determined to savor every last moment with their favorite characters. Some are just trying to hang on until the end. I’m clearly doing a terrible job of protecting myself or pulling away, since near the end of this episode I ended up bursting into tears and simultaneously screaming at fictional characters on my television as though they were standing in my living room. With gun drawn.
I’ve never loved a show that I knew so well that I had different expectations for an episode depending on who its writers were – until Supernatural. I like Meredith Glynn’s writing a lot, so I was already emotional knowing this was her swan song episode for Supernatural (though I’m excited she’s joining the SPNFamily who are over at The Boys next season!) Of course it’s not the writer who decides where the story arc goes, though, especially at this point in the series. I guess all that is to say I went into this episode with both anticipation and trepidation – and came out with a lot of feelings (and also profoundly emotionally exhausted). Mostly the episode worked for me, even if I had to do a fair amount of thinking about it to be okay with all of it. But I used up a lot of tissues in the process.
The episode title (“Unity”) tells us what will happen in it, which was inevitable considering there are only three episodes left. On each side, those who were ostensibly on the same team but at odds needed to come together so we could go into those final episodes with the battle lines clearly drawn. Sometimes that means plot comes before character in order to get from Point A to Point B, and that never makes me the happiest, especially with a show that I watch for the characters more than for the plot. Ideally the two goals aren’t antithetical. So with the title, we already knew where we were headed – it was just a matter of how to get there and would I enjoy the ride?
The first scene was very pretty. Amara in a pool in Iceland (which according to Emily Swallow was filmed in frigid weather, so argh poor Emily). Shooting stars fill the sky, reflected in her eyes as she looks up, and she says softly, “Welcome home, brother.”
Supernatural really is a sibling story, and Amara’s feelings for Chuck are as deep and complicated as Sam and Dean’s for each other. She’s a sympathetic character in this episode, which made me feel very bad for her throughout.
Much of the episode unfolds simultaneously, so they used chapter title cards of ‘Dean’ ‘Sam’ and ‘Amara’ to let us know that – which hasn’t been done before, so it pulled me out of the story momentarily. I don’t think we needed them, but I guess I see what they were going for.
At the bunker, Sam calls Cas, both of them frustrated at running into dead ends as they desperately try to ‘find another way’. Sam gives Dean the cold shoulder, things between the brothers strained and chilly after their car argument last episode.
Dean: So this is how it’s gonna be, you giving me the silent treatment?
They fall right into another argument, Dean insisting that “this is the only way” and Sam snapping back, “Don’t you ever get tired of saying stuff like that? Our last chance, our one shot…”
He’s so angry he’s ridiculing Dean, making fun of him for his sincerity and insistence.
Although both have a point here, really, since other times when they’ve let themselves be talked out of making a sacrifice, there have certainly been consequences, whether AU hunters being slaughtered by Michael or releasing the Darkness or Billie becoming Death or whatever. There are no simple answers on Supernatural.
Dean insists that they don’t have to like it – and he clearly doesn’t like it – but “you and me, we gotta get it done.”
The “you and me” theme runs through the episode, for both pairs of siblings, as they struggle to get back on the same page. I really like Meredith’s examination of the bond between siblings and how deep it runs, and how complex it can be – something the show has always had as an underlying theme.
Amara interrupts their argument to let them know Chuck is back, and to ask how they’re planning to cage him (which of course, they aren’t.)
Amara: When God caged me, he had four archangels. Do you have four archangels?
Dean: No. We’ve got one Jack.
It was possibly the only humorous beat in the episode that made me snicker – much of the episode was more about reaching for the tissues than laughing. Emily Swallow can pull off both the snarky and the sad, and she does both in this episode.