The third Supernatural convention of 2021 kicked off on the one year anniversary of the series finale, which means emotions were running even higher than usual as I was flying to New Orleans. Both Jared and Jensen posted a heartfelt remembrance, Jared including his last call sheet and tape mark from that day that is now in his office along with a panel from the bunker. Jensen sang along to Carry On Wayward Son on the radio as he and the family road tripped down to Nola, as emotional as we all were.
It did help to know that they were as emotional as we all were, as we all converged on New Orleans.
This was a challenging con for me physically because I injured my knee two weeks before, on my way home from Charlotte. How did I do that, you ask? Skiing? Jogging? New exercise routine? Alas, no. I got into a car. Just…. Sat down. That’s it. It’s doubly annoying that I wasn’t even doing anything worthy of an injury, but here we are. That made getting back and forth from hotel to convention center a lot harder than usual, though I was very very thankful that I was at the hotel that was closest to the ballroom!
When I got in on Friday morning, after submitting my Covid test and getting my wristbands, I caught some of David Haydn Jones and Adam Fergus’ panel – they have so much chemistry together and always have a lot fun onstage, which makes their panels a pleasure to watch. They both wrote chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, giving a behind the scenes look at their experience on Supernatural and with the fandom.
A fan asked when Ketch decided not to be with the BMol.
David: When he got shot in the head?
That’ll do it.
Both agreed that they wished they’d had more scenes with each other. And on a less serious note, there was enough innuendo to amuse just about anyone, with the two planning a spa retreat, some wrestling in the snow, wearing chaps on the first date, eggplants (ahem) and a pillow fight, among other things. Similar to Jared and Jensen, Adam and David clearly enjoy each other’s company and make each other laugh, which inevitably gets me laughing too.
David told the story of the chupacabra gag reel bit again, which I adore. Just him saying that word makes me giggle at this point.
David: You know it’s a good day on set when the camera is shaking!
The best segment, though, was David overhearing an amorous couple last night in the hotel room next door.
It’s November 19 – a date that will always make my heart ache a little. For most people, it’s just another day, but for me it carries a significance that might seem silly to some, but has real emotional weight for me. It’s the day Supernatural ended. After 15 seasons, the show that changed my life aired its final episode, Carry On, on this date one year ago.
I sobbed my way through the second half of that episode, so violently I came close to making myself ill, and then smiled through my tears as Sam and Dean were finally reunited in Heaven and allowed to live happily ever after. As much as I was on the same page as Jensen Ackles with having a hard time just getting my head around the idea of Dean Winchester dying at all, once I did I was on board, as he was, with how the finale showed us his last moments and gave us an even deeper understanding of him than we’d had in the fifteen years before. I’ve had several conversations with Jensen about Dean’s ending and the finale episode (and one with Eric Kripke) over the past year or so, and my appreciation for Carry On has only grown as a result. None of us wanted to say goodbye to Dean Winchester – I sometimes think they are the only two people who love him more than I do, though I know some of you might quibble with that – but that ending felt true to the show that I love and to Kripke’s vision, and ultimately to Jensen’s understanding of Dean and Jared’s understanding of Sam.
I know some people don’t feel that way. Some of my closest friends don’t feel that way. I know it’s been a tough year for people who didn’t like the finale, or even hated it, and that anger and disappointment has fueled a year of infighting in the fandom that – improbably – sometimes seems worse than the infighting that went on when the show was actually on the air! I am tremendously grateful that it worked for me. I feel fortunate, because I care so much about this show, and if it didn’t it would hurt. A lot. So I have empathy for the people for whom it didn’t work, and I hope that one of these days that sense of loss and disappointment will ease and new passions can help people heal.
For me, the show ended reiterating the themes that came to characterize it over its entire run. The Winchesters finally had free will, thanks to their own determination and intellect (and help from Cas and Jack). We got to see them living what passes for a normal life as a Winchester, long enough that there were well established routines and rituals and time for pie fests and snuggles with Miracle, while also doing what gave their lives purpose and meaning: hunting.
The fact that the inherent danger of their profession caught up to them just made their heroism more powerful, to me. Every time they went out there, saving people and hunting things, they knew they could die. They knew there could be a bullet that found them or a monster that ripped them apart or an exposed rebar that a vampire could use to impale them. Every single time. And they did it anyway. That’s what makes them big fucking heroes. The fact that it stuck this time (forgive that choice of words) makes it glaringly obvious that the stakes were back to where they were when we started this journey. No deals with demons to bring them back, no pleading with Death, no playing with time. They were mortal, as vulnerable as all of us are.
And they went out there and did their jobs anyway.
I could have watched 300 hours of Winchester domestic life – that episode that Robbie Thompson always wanted to write and never got to – but I’m grateful for what we got. And as much as it was agonizing to watch Dean die and to watch Sam lose his brother, the raw genuineness those last minutes allowed felt like a gift. Dean got to say what he wanted to say, right out, defensiveness stripped away. All those times he covered up his feelings or struggled with vulnerability, we got to see how far he’d come, how open he could be. I love everything that Jensen and Jared added on that day, from the ‘yeah, there he is’ to the ‘always keep fighting’ to the callbacks to the pilot when they started this journey together so many years ago, both the characters and the actors. I know how much it meant to them and how proud they are of it.
I was teaching a graduate course in Grief and Loss most of last year, and I used the finale episode so many times, with its realistic depiction of grief and its hopeful message of being able to carry on. I’m also grateful that the show didn’t leave me there in the barn.
It’s a beautiful scene, one of the most emotional I’ve ever experienced, but it still makes me tear up every time I watch. Supernatural could have left us there, or ended with Sam having permission from his son that it’s okay for him to go now too. Instead we got to experience Sam and Dean’s reunion, Sam and Dean and Baby on that bridge, smiling. The scene didn’t need many words and it didn’t give us many. “Hey Sammy.” “Dean.” A call back, along with their close-to-the-pilot wardrobe. Saying each other’s names has always meant a lot more anyway.
I kept crying long after Bob Singer called that final “cut” and Jared and Jensen said goodbye to us, the fans, forever incorporating us into the story. Simply because the ending was an ending, and I don’t think I was ever going to be truly ready to say goodbye to this show. I was so worried, a year ago today, that the fandom would disappear. That everyone would find a new show to love and forget about this one, while I knew damn right well that I’d be sitting here one year later still madly in love with these characters and this show and missing them. I don’t do moving on very well when I’m this passionate about something. I worried that I’d be all alone here, marking the anniversary with a glass of wine and a rewatch and a box of tissues and wondering if I was the only one who remembered the significance of November 19.
Instead it has been a week of shared emotions and memories and beautiful tributes to Supernatural and its ending, social media timelines filled with art and meta and gifs and heartfelt posts about what the show has meant and still means to so many people. I’ve smiled over a million photos of Dean hugging Miracle and Sam kicking the washing machine. I’ve sobbed over every line of dialogue in the barn scene flowing over a screencap that has no right to be as gorgeous as it is. I’ve smiled reading fans’ imaginings of what Heaven is like for the Winchesters and what Sam and Dean are up to now. I’ve tripped down memory lane and all the best times with Sam and Dean and Cas (and Jared and Jensen and Misha) over the years. My timeline has been every bit as vibrant and alive this past week as when the show was on the air and on the covers of EW and TVGuide and everything in between.
I don’t know why I was so worried.
Supernatural has never been ordinary – it has always been extraordinary. It stayed on the air when the network didn’t support it, when viewership was tiny, when the WB went out of existence. It pulled people in from the tiny CW network, and then from Netflix, and TNT, and Hulu, and… It kept pulling people in year after year after year, word of mouth spreading the word organically and the talents of its cast and crew keeping people hooked. For most of the past year, it has remained in the top 10 streaming content despite being off the air. And more than all of that, what’s extraordinary about Supernatural is that the show has made a difference to countless people. When I decided to put together two books about how Supernatural had changed lives with Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, I wasn’t prepared for the powerful stories I’d receive – not only from fans but from the actors themselves. The show has changed us, and it has changed them. And that is extraordinary.
I don’t know what will happen a year from now. I don’t know if this will be the last big hurrah of a fandom that has survived a lot of ups and downs and a level of infighting that would have tanked a less determined group of people for sure. But here we are. Still loving this show and these characters. Still wanting to celebrate what it’s meant to all of us.
In their chapters of There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Jared and Jensen both wrote about what they hope Supernatural’s – and the Winchesters’ – legacy will be. I reread both their chapters and a few others to remind me today that there is a legacy, and how proud these actors are of that and the characters they brought to life.
From Jensen’s chapter:
I think that the people who have found Supernatural and become part of the fandom and found each other through the show—the SPNFamily—are probably the legacy that we’re going to be proudest of… The show carries the message to always keep fighting for each other, and that has inspired the fandom to keep fighting too, whatever fight they are facing… We started out thinking we were making a horror show about monsters, but it became clear pretty quickly that’s not what made the show important. So many fans have told me that what is special is that it’s a show about two brothers who will do anything to fight for each other and to fight to save the world. Not in a way that people tell them to or according to what’s written in a book, but by making their own choices about what’s right and wrong and always trying to do what’s right. That’s the legacy of the show and that’s what has made a difference.
From Jared’s chapter:
I’m very proud of what we’ve done and of the story that we got to tell. Sam Winchester has inspired me, just like he’s inspired many fans… I think most of us, like Sam, probably do struggle to forgive ourselves sometimes. But I feel like Sam’s actions have been kind and sacrificial and loyal, and I have always wanted him to keep fighting—for his brother, for his family, to save people. I value that about him. The way the Winchesters have faced insurmountable odds inspires me and hopefully others to keep on working as hard as we can.
Jensen’s chapter had an important ending that will be a comfort to me every November 19th and all the days in between:
And let’s be clear. Supernatural will never end. The show might, but what it has built? This will never end. Besides, nothing ever stays dead on Supernatural.
Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Ackles.
Happy one year anniversary of wrapping up, Supernatural.
My fear was that I’d be the only one to remember this year. That this year, Supernatural Day would feel more sad than joyous, and I’d be sitting here recalling years past when we all took to social media with posts and tweets and photos celebrating the premiere day of the Little Show That Could, together.
I should have known better.
The fandom can feel like a fractured and contentious place sometimes, especially now a year after Supernatural ended, but I woke up today to find my timeline overflowing with beautiful memories and heartfelt sentiments about what the show has meant to people who are still grateful – and still missing it, like I am. One of the best things about fandom has always been that it feels like having a community of like-minded people around you, sharing the joy you find in something, and understanding just how passionate you are about that something. It’s validating, and it makes the experience of being a fan a million times more enjoyable. It’s why so many of us describe joining the fandom for the thing we love as ‘coming home’ or ‘finding my people’. Being able to wake up today and feel all those wonderful things all over again is such a gift.
So I’m joining the chorus (which is the best feeling ever – to raise your voice and express your emotions along with a whole bunch of other people doing the same).
Happy Supernatural Day!
We came a long long way over the fifteen years this show was on the air.
Thank you, Eric Kripke, for creating these characters and this story that has changed so many people’s lives.
Thank you, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and so many more gifted actors for bringing these characters to life and making them so real – imperfect, complex, struggling, enduring loss and pain and confusion and despair just like the rest of us do.
But never giving up.
I am so grateful for the journey we got to take with Sam and Dean and Cas and all the other memorable characters who were a part of this fifteen year story. Grateful that the story itself was never simple, and rarely easy, just like real life. We watched the characters we loved go through unimaginable pain and loss; watched the actors portray their grief and rage and longing and love so vividly that we could feel it ourselves, in our own hearts.
This is an odd anniversary to commemorate, but it’s an important one. It sounds melodramatic, but two years ago today my life changed significantly when I got the news that Supernatural was ending. If you haven’t ever been a passionate fan of a show or a film or a book series or a band, you may not understand. If you have, you probably do.
Two years ago today, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins told the SPN Family that Supernatural was coming to an end after fifteen seasons, with tears in their eyes and real emotion in their voices. I still have trouble watching that little video message, but I’m forever grateful that they cared enough to tell us themselves.
So on this March 22, two years later, I thought I’d share what I wrote in the Introduction to the book we put together to remember how special Supernatural will always be, with chapters from the actors and the fans about what Supernatural has meant to them, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done.
I’m just as emotional looking back on that day now as I was when I wrote this…
There are certain experiences that happen in our lives that we will never forget. Psychology even has a term for the memory created by this kind of experience: a flashbulb memory. When something happens that shakes our world especially profoundly, the brain encodes that moment differently, and more vividly, than it does our everyday memories.
Back in the day, a flashbulb was a cube that sat on top of your camera and went off to illuminate a scene you were capturing with a photo, freezing it in time forever (it’s now just a light on your smartphone). Our brain, when it records a flashbulb memory, does something similar: it freezes the important, sometimes upsetting moment in time forever. The sights, the sounds, the smells, and the emotions of that moment are all preserved deeply. The memory doesn’t fade like other memories, or lose its emotional intensity. Instead, it remains as clear and vivid as if it happened yesterday. We remember the clothes we were wearing, or exactly what we were doing or thinking, or who we were talking to. We remember our initial shock and then the moment when our emotions kicked in.
Most often, flashbulb memories are about world-changing events like September 11 or shocking personal news. But they can also be things you wouldn’t expect. Sometimes, something is so important to you that the news of its impending loss hits hard enough to freeze the moment in time. I think that’s what happened to me on Friday afternoon, March 22, 2019, the moment I found out that Supernatural would end after its fifteenth season. That might seem like an odd thing to be preserved forever as a flashbulb memory, and it’s certainly not equivalent to world-changing events, but that’s not how our brains work. When something is important, it’s important. And for many people, myself included, this little television show that lasted for fifteen seasons is personally and emotionally important.
When I first heard the show was ending, I was volunteering at the Project Fancare table at Lexington Comic-Con, surrounded by copies of Family Don’t End with Blood and fellow fans. Project Fancare is a nonprofit that gives fans a forum to talk openly about how television and film and books and all sorts of fandoms have helped them get through tough times, and why that’s a good thing. I had just finished talking to a woman who stopped by to tell me what Family Don’t End with Blood and Supernatural have meant to her.
As the woman walked away, my friend Kim leaned over and said softly in my ear, “You need to take a break. Take your phone and go to the bathroom and watch the video that Jensen just posted.”
That’s all she said, but instantly I knew. I knew from the genuine emotion in her voice, and the concern for me that I could hear there. I knew because there’s a part of me that had been waiting for that news and anticipating it and knew it was coming sooner rather than later. My stomach instantly fell and my brain kicked into survival mode, blocking all my emotions and making me feel oddly calm even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t. I can vividly see the table in front of me, the books spread out there, and the woman walking away. She was wearing one of the first Represent “Always Keep Fighting” T-shirts and she had bright red hair and a bag with the protection symbol on it. I can see it like it’s a photo frozen in time—as brightly as if lit by a flashbulb—and I can hear Kim’s voice and her words like she just finished talking, even though it’s now many months later.
I stood in the alcove by the bathroom in the giant convention center and pulled out my phone and found the video—and as soon as I saw their faces, before they even started speaking, there was no doubt in my mind. Jared, Jensen, and Misha are extraordinary in how open they have been with their fans, and I could see all the emotion they were struggling to contain before I ever hit play to listen to the message. I am forever grateful that I got to hear it from them.
Things are different in the Supernatural fandom than they were two years ago. I’ve been dismayed at the animosity and bullying toward other fans that sometimes seem worse now than when the show was actually airing, something I have to admit I didn’t expect. But I’ve also been encouraged by the kindness and support that most fans continue to show for each other. And I love that the Supernatural cast have made it clear that their love for the show and for their characters and for the fandom is not going anywhere.
While a global pandemic has made it impossible for most of us to see our fellow fans or the actors, with conventions and concerts all on hold, I’m grateful for all the zoom panels and Instagram lives and interviews and every other piece of content we’ve gotten from the cast that I miss so much. It eases the loss and makes me feel like we’re all in this together. I’m grateful for all the myriad fanworks that this incredibly creative fandom puts out there to share, from the prettiest gifs to the most heartbreaking youtube videos to fanart and fanfic that can make me cry or smile all day. I’m grateful for every playful bit of fun I run across and every supportive bit of conversation. It reminds me what fandom – especially this fandom – is all about.
I’m grateful for everything and everyone that keeps the SPNFamily alive. And I’m still hopeful that we haven’t seen the last of Supernatural.
Next up in our Supernatural Spring Break celebration week, another chat with one of the Supernatural actors who made their way into our hearts – this time while dressed as Dracula. Todd Stashwick is a genre favorite actor from so many of my favorite shows, as well as a bona fide fan himself. We met over a decade ago at an early Supernatural convention, and I was so taken by his understanding of fandom and passion for all things geeky that we included that chat in our first two books. When I put together a book to celebrate the legacy of Supernatural as it was ending, I knew I wanted to ask Todd to write a chapter – and I’m glad he did!
At the end of last year, the online There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done book club for that book invited him to drop in and answer some questions about his chapter and the show, and I’m glad he did that too. Here are some excerpts from that discussion, that I was happy to join in on also.
BC: So glad you could join us. Can you talk a little bit about how you decided on what would be in your chapter?
TS: Kind of you to say (smile). Thinking about the long road you all traveled down, and looking back at the fact that you all found commonality of experience through the show got me thinking about fandom as a whole and what that means to me. So I reflected back to what I believe lit the fuse of being “fan” in myself. How we don’t “become” fans, we notice that we are, we find ourselves innately drawn to certain stories, characters, and franchises because it answers some need inside of us. It connects us to other people. It gives us a tribe.
BC: I adore that you have a long history of being a fan of so many things! My husband is a huge Star Wars fan, but I never experienced that kind of community until SPN.
TS: It’s also not restricted to sci-fi/horror/fantasy. My mother in her 70’s attended Downton Abbey parties. We seek like-minded souls.
BC: When you wrote in your chapter that “We are tribal creatures who use mythology to come together and understand ourselves” – that really resonated. So true!
Lynn: Yes, that is so much what fandom – ANY fandom – is about. We seek like-minded souls, and finding them validates us and feels incredibly satisfying. It’s like a primal need, for belongingness.
TS: Mythology is a way to analyze ourselves, our culture, explain the unexplained, wrestle with death. It gives us a metaphor to understand ourselves. Mythology gives us an escape. It’s really fun. And horror allows us to field-test fear without consequences. Like a roller coaster, we tempt fate, death, and come out okay.
Lynn: Yes – and Supernatural has both mythology and horror. No wonder it’s so compelling. People always ask me, how did you choose who would write chapters in the book? A decade ago, I sat down with Todd in the green room at a convention, and was so taken with how deeply he understood fandom that I never forgot it – something he said, “television is our campfire” resonated with me so much I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I knew I was going to ask him to write a chapter in the last book about Supernatural and its legacy.
TS: It’s (TV is) just an extenuation of our oral traditions.
BC: I also think it’s so wonderful that someone who is such a fan themselves, and who has such an appreciation for fandom itself, played the shapeshifter enamored of classic monster movies, and with such pathos. We very rarely see a villain on SPN, especially those with a humorous bent, evoke such a sympathetic response. I think that moment is one of the reasons it has endured as a fan favorite (for me at least).
TS: It’s what drew me to the role, the high melodrama and the quiet fragility.