You know how they say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone? Or that you don’t know how much you love something/someone until you don’t have them anymore?
Yeah. It’s true. I’ve known for fifteen years that I was madly in love with Dean Winchester, but even knowing that, I truly didn’t know how much I was going to miss him when he was gone. I took for granted that I’d always be able to “see” him, that I could keep discovering his character and his story, little by little as time went on. I underestimated how wonderful it was to be endlessly fascinated by a fictional character and have the privilege of learning who he was, in bits and pieces and often-covered-up glimpses of the ‘real’ Dean Winchester, over the course of years and years and years. There was a reality to that discovery, in that it played out gradually, just like it does with people in our actual lives. And thanks to Jensen Ackles’ brilliant portrayal, there was a reality to everything about Dean Winchester that made him real to many of us.
That made him very hard to lose.
I thought that 2020 would be the last time I wished Dean happy birthday; I knew that he wouldn’t exist in the present by 2021. But right now I find myself needing to write about him again. It’s part of grieving the loss of something/someone important, that we want to hang onto our memories of them and remember why they were so important to us. I don’t want to forget him, not ever. And since fictional characters never needed our real-life validation, it doesn’t make any difference whether Dean ‘exists’ in the present or not – remembering him is for me. I miss him, and reminding myself of all the reasons why I love him helps me feel just a little bit better.
This could be a really long article if I tried to make an exhaustive list of what I love about Dean Winchester, so I’ll keep it short. Top five reasons why I will always love Dean Winchester.
One, I love his complexity. That’s due to Eric Kripke, who created him and wrote him for the first five seasons, and to Jensen Ackles’, who brought him to life in a way that was even more vivid than what was written on the page. It took me a whole season to fall for Dean Winchester; at first, I dismissed him a little as a stereotypical ‘bad boy’ type, a little too brash. Pretty on the surface but too stereotypical underneath. (Forgive me, I was only watching because a friend insisted, so clearly I wasn’t paying enough attention!) When Season 2 began, I suddenly realized that I had misjudged the show, and the brothers. I remember watching Dean, leaning against the Impala, break down and confide to Sam that he was not at all okay, tears glistening in his eyes, voice breaking. I let the papers I was grading slide to the floor and said out loud, “how did I not realize this show was amazing?” But it was also Dean, and Jensen’s willingness to show his character’s vulnerability, that made me fall head over heels for Supernatural.
It’s no secret that Davy Perez is one of my favorite Supernatural writers. If you read my episode reviews regularly, you’ve heard me say that more than once, and he’s the only writer who wrote a chapter in the new book There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural, all about his journey as a writer and his experience on the show. There’s an online book club that’s currently reading Peace, and they’re inviting the contributors to join in their discord chat when they’re discussing that chapter. I pop in when I can, so I joined them when Davy’s chapter was the topic of conversation – and so did he!
It was Davy’s first time using Discord, so the only emoji he could find to try to express himself was the watermelon – which has remained the Book Club’s favorite emoji and is now used for all kinds of positive expressions in Davy’s honor.
The book club always has great questions and Davy had some great answers, so I’m sharing them here with the rest of the fandom (with Davy’s permission of course).
BC: What was it like to write an episode for Supernatural?
DP: I used to watch a lot of shock horror (in the) 80’s and kinda channeled that.
BC: How much influence did the network or the studio have on the writing?
DP: The network and studio give notes, but don’t mandate or dictate anything. They are more there to
guide you toward the ideals that they want the show to always be (striving) for. The writers/producers are still in charge of the story in the end.
BC: You said in your chapter that you had only watched a few episodes of Supernatural when you were hired, so you were not overly influenced by what had come before and had fresh takes on the characters and story line direction.
DP: In general, writing an episode is a lot like doubting yourself every step of the way (while also having
to) believe in your own genius. Also, specifically with SPN and with any show, you always do the work, from beats on the cards, to outline, to then just working on the scenes. I aim for an act a day when
(working) on a script. I actually found that whenever I watched an old episode, I found inspiration for
bringing something back, or looking at something from a new angle. I was hired to bring in fresh ideas, for sure, but I like innovating from existing stuff vs. just fabricating from thin air.
BC: What do you think have been your most significant contributions to the characters’ development?
DP: My most significant contribution might be either the glasses or the sweaters (in Mint Condition and American Nightmare).
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!
It’s the second to last day that Supernatural is airing, and I woke up extra emotional and thinking, for the millionth time, about how special this show is and how much I love it (and how much I’m gonna miss it!) So I’m going to continue celebrating my favorite show of all time today with more exclusive interviews with its cast and directors, and more original articles (if I can see clearly enough to actually finish them). I want to smile today too, remembering how much Supernatural has meant to all of us – the actors and the fans.
One of the things that makes Supernatural so unique is that even its one episode or briefly recurring characters are sometimes so memorable. That was the case with the Alpha Vamp, brought to life by the very talented Rick Worthy. I loved his character on Supernatural and I also loved him as Dean Fogg on The Magicians, so I was elated when Rick agreed to write a chapter for There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. We wanted that book to come from all kinds of diverse perspectives and to include all sorts of characters – even scary but charismatic vampires!
As the show comes to an end, I caught up with Rick again to ask him a few questions about how he’s feeling about Supernatural and being part of the SPN Family now as he looks back.
Lynn: How are you feeling about Supernatural now that it’s coming to the end of its run?
Rick: I’m happy that they have decided to end it, and by they I mean Jared and Jensen, because I think that they were ready to say goodbye to Supernatural. I think they could’ve ended the series earlier or they could’ve chosen to keep it going to Season 20 if they wanted to — I really think it was up to them. They both have done an amazing job with handling being TV stars on an enormously successful American TV show and they are, I think, exemplary actors in terms of their handling being on a hit show with such a massive global fandom in the millions. I admire them so much. I also admire the writers and producers and directors – everyone who was involved with making the show happen. The teamsters, the craft services team, everyone who works on the show to make the show a day to day event.
Lynn: It really is a team effort.
Rick: I admire them all and from what I understand, they have pretty much kept the same people in place over a number of years. That’s always a good sign that people like the show that they’re working on, when they come back the following year. I’ve heard that about Supernatural and I think that’s indicative of the tone that Jared and Jensen set for the show. I think it sort of trickles down, you know? And that’s a wonderful thing.
Lynn: It is, and they’re proud of that. They talk about that in their chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, in fact.
Rick: It is sad for me personally because the show meant so much to me. It came at the right time in my career – it jump started my career in enormous ways and I’m incredibly grateful to God for that. But all good things come to an end, and I think if they’ve decided to end it, that’s their choice and I wish them well on their next adventures, whatever that may be, the next chapters in their lives.
Lynn: Looking back, do you have a favorite behind the scenes moment?
Rick: I remember in the episode ‘There will be Blood’, when Dean tries to attack the Alpha Vamp and they basically come to his house. And there is this big sorta long Citizen Kane table where the Alpha Vamp presides and it was just awesome. It was a beautiful set design, just perfect in every way. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, it was incredible.
Rick: And then Jensen – Dean, sorry – he attacks and comes after me and then I have to hurl him, just toss him over the table like he’s just paper! And we did the whole thing and it was just one of those really cool stunt scenes and I love to do those. It was a really cool stunt set up and I remember Jared got very excited and he came up to me and said dude, like you should totally record this! (laughing) On your iPhone. So I gave him my iPhone and he said, I’ll record it for you.
Lynn: That’s really the kind of actors they are.
Rick: So we did. When the director, Guy Bee, said ‘Action’, we do the stunt and then I just toss Dean over the table, although I believe that part was his stunt double if I remember correctly. And I think in about two takes, we had it, and it was pretty cool. And then I remember looking back at Jared and he gave me the thumbs up like, yeah that was really really cool! It was his enthusiasm about the shot that was so fun to me. I love working with actors who enjoy what they’re doing and have a respect for the process. How many times has he done this kind of shot? Dozens and dozens and dozens of times, maybe hundreds since the pilot, you know? So I really loved that and I haven’t forgotten that.
Lynn: I love that story so much. It really does show how they never lost their enthusiasm for the show or the characters, never started dialing it in, as they say. Is there a favorite moment with fans that stands out as you look back?
Rick: Wow, so many. I always think about the cons. Last year I gate crashed, totally gate crashed, the Supernatural con in Rome. I decided to make it a vacation. I didn’t just go to Rome, I went to Ireland and London and Paris and then to see a friend in Spain. When you’re in Europe, everything is just a 2 or 3 hour flight, it’s not that hard, and really cheap to fly. So I popped in to the Rome con even though I wasn’t officially invited. I of course had friends there and we hung out and just had such a wonderful time. And just hanging out with my friends , my American friends here in the states and then seeing them in Rome and hanging out with them there, they’re like a second family with me. And us hanging out together in Italy was just wonderful. I won’t mention names because I try to give people their privacy but I had such a wonderful time and it’s memories that you’ll never forget. We had a lovely time and sadly it was a short trip for me because I had to get back to London for a few days and then back to Vancouver to go back to work. But it was amazing and I had a lovely time.
Lynn: Thank you so much, Rick. I’m so happy to have your beautiful chapter in the book. I hope we get to say hi in person again soon!
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.