Supernatural ‘Exodus’ – Back From the AU and On to the Season Finale!

 

After my epic review of last week’s episode, I’ll try to make this one more concise – which I realize isn’t saying much with the bar that low. Exodus, the penultimate episode of Season 13, began with a lengthy recap, which caused me to start encouraging my television to “come on, get to it, we know what happened last week!”

I suppose it’s possible that someone forgot that Sam Winchester died in the last episode and that Lucifer brought him back and that he has just now walked into the rebel camp – where Sam sees Mary alive and Dean sees Sam alive. But I don’t know that person.

I do love that they pick up right where they left off, which doesn’t happen often enough and which gives the episode an extra sense of urgency and immediacy. Sam hugs Mary, who he’s been trying desperately to get to all season, and Dean stares at Sam over Mary’s shoulder like he almost can’t believe it, with a soft “Sam?”

As soon as Sam and Dean have a moment alone, they both need to reconnect after the intense emotions each has experienced – Dean’s devastation at losing Sam and Sam’s shame and guilt at being brought back by Lucifer and bringing him to the camp.

Sam: I’m sorry about all this.

I held my breath, waiting to see what Dean would say and my heart breaking for Sam – who has absolutely nothing to be sorry about but is always ALWAYS worried about disappointing his big brother.

Dean: Are you good?

Sam: I’m alive, yeah.

Dean: Well then you’ve got nothin’ to apologize for.

Me: OMG YES!

Dean pulls Sam into a hug, wraps him up so very tight, and you can see the moment when Sam lets go of that guilt and self-blame and just leans into it, letting his brother hold him. Realizing that it’s okay, that all Dean cares about is that Sam is alive and well and that’s all that matters.

Dean: I thought I lost you, man.

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Supernatural ‘Beat The Devil’ – Yes, I’m Still Emotional!

 

This week’s Supernatural episode was one of those episodes that everyone had a strong opinion about – but, as often happens in this fandom, not necessarily the same strong opinion. The one thing that everyone did agree on was that the acting was off the charts incredible – and nobody was left unemotional, that’s for sure.

For me, I think the emotions were especially complex because I was fortunate to be able to watch some of the episode be filmed, including some of the most intense moments. I thought that maybe, since I had already watched those horrific moments when Sam dies and Dean has to watch it, maybe it wouldn’t hit me so hard when I saw it onscreen. But no. It just meant that I got all emotional watching them film it, and then got emotional all over again watching the final product. I knew that Jensen and Jared had killed it in those scenes, but I don’t even have words for how much they broke my heart now that I’ve seen the episode.

So I agree with everyone else – the acting was off the charts. There was plenty to love about this episode, but there were also some things that bothered me, so here’s a bit of both along with a few behind the scenes tidbits.

The opening scene starts right in with the heartstring tugs – a scene of domestic family bliss, Cas and Jack and Mary and Sam around the table and teasing Dean about eating too much pizza, Mary saying she and John called him “our little piglet”. (This is Sam’s perspective, so it makes sense, but I’m pretty sure Dean’s love of food is a result of the deprivation that came after Mary died). Then Sam and Mary having the heart to heart that Sam has longed for, finally hearing Mary express her faith in her sons, how she knew they’d save her and they did. It’s Sam’s most wished for fantasy come to life – and of course it’s a dream.

Break my heart right at the outset, why don’t you? I sort of wanted to employ my dream interpretation skills, because that’s what psychologists do sometimes, but I’ll try to stop myself (would I just be psychoanalyzing writer Robert Berens? Hmmm. Tempting, Bobo…). I did love that in Sam’s fantasy, everyone is teasing Dean – it’s such a little brother fantasy. And everyone is together, family by blood, family by choice. Everyone is safe and happy. Oh Sam.

First quibble though – does Sam really sleep fully clothed in a long sleeve shirt even?? Really??

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Director (and Guest Star) Richard Speight Jr. Brings the Emotions in ‘Unfinished Business’

I am loving the lead up to Supernatural’s Season 13 finale. With four episodes remaining, this week’s ‘Unfinished Business’ kept up the momentum and continued the work of bringing the team together who will try to save the world (from AU Michael or Lucifer or the both of them). We’ve now gotten rid of Asmodeus to clear off the playing field a bit, and by the end of this episode Castiel, Gabriel and Rowena will all be in the bunker with the Winchesters getting ready to save Mary and Jack (oh, and the world).

Richard Speight, Jr. directed this episode, which wouldn’t be OMG AMAZING in itself since he has already directed multiple episodes. What makes it OMG AMAZING is that Richard ended up directing an episode in which he also is the featured guest star! They assign the directing schedule early on, so originally they didn’t know Gabriel would be getting an origin story, or that this would be it. When I sat down with Richard earlier this year after his first directing foray for Season 13, he knew he’d be directing episode 20 but had no idea what it would be. Turns out it’s one that stars his own character, Gabriel! Not one to be easily discouraged, Speight opted to do it anyway. He must have worked his butt off, but he pulled off a tour de force performance as not one guest character, but TWO – Gabriel and Loki!


Two of Speight’s previous directing outings have been favorites of mine, especially Season 11’s ‘Just My Imagination’ and Season 12’s ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. The latter was beautifully directed and scored, the title and the music and the directing choices a loving tribute to Quentin Tarantino’s films. That was writer Davy Perez who wrote the nod to Tarantino, but Richard told me in an interview at that time that he then knew he could pick up the momentum and roll with it.

Richard: …I decided oh, I can totally go stylized with this, we’re gonna go cinematically stylized, and I can dive in and keep fanning the flames in that direction. So that led to a lot of Western themes that I put in there, and to a Western score that got put in…. I’m a big Sergio Leone fan, and it felt like there was a lot we sort of pulled from that.

‘Unfinished Business’ also lent itself to being cinematically stylized, from some of the filming choices to the set dec to the awesome music score by Jay Gruska that really set the episode apart. Gruska apparently composed original music even for Gabriel’s kazoo solo, which was perfect for the alley fight scene – and also worked as an homage to Supernatural actor and Richard Speight good friend Rob Benedict’s band, Louden Swain (fans who love the band join in with a kazoo chorus on one of their best-loved songs). Gruska’s score was integral to the cinematic styling of this episode, making some of the pivotal scenes more memorable.

In some of the previous episodes he has directed, I’ve been impressed with the beautiful cinematography and lighting and asked Richard about it. His appreciation for director of photography Serge Ladouceur’s talent makes their collaboration a particularly striking one. In War of the Worlds, for example, he said that he’d almost over-shot the sequence with Lucifer in the hanging cage being tormented by Michael because it just looked so cool!
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Supernatural VegasCon 2018!

Vegascon is one of my favorite conventions – it’s four days of craziness, tons of my favorite fangirls and fanboys, a thousand miles of walking, and Jensen Ackles singing at the Saturday Night Special. What’s not to like? (Except maybe the thousand miles of walking part…)

This year was even crazier than before, since I was also working in the vendor room to sell Family Don’t End With Blood and our other books. But in between meeting tons of awesome fellow fans and signing lots of books, I managed to take in a bunch of panels. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments and photos below.

Day One: Thursday

I had to work late on Wednesday teaching, so I couldn’t fly in until Thursday afternoon. I was trying very hard to get there in time for Richard and Rob’s kick off, but the shuttle I booked to save money took its sweet old time winding its way through Vegas before finally stopping at the Rio – which was, predictably, the very last stop. That means I missed Gil and Osric onstage together, which made me very sad, and caught only part of Jeffrey Parise’s inaugural con panel. I have to say, I was taken aback by what a nice guy he is – and how attractive! Let’s just say Asmodeus is neither of those on the show, so that was a pleasant surprise. He’s also very amusing. And he spells his name the same way as my son, so of course that’s a point in his favor too. Also, he looks sort of familiar…

@Kreespa: Have you and Tim Omundson ever been seen in the same place?

Hmmmm.

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Vote For A Hero! The 2018 Change Maker Awards and the Supernatural Connection

When we decided to write Family Don’t End With Blood, one of the main reasons was to break the silence around mental health challenges. If nobody talks about their challenges, we all tend to think we’re the only ones suffering, and thus we keep silent. That means we don’t reach out for help when we need it – and that is a dangerous thing. As a psychologist, I know the tremendous value of hearing other people’s stories, so that our own can be validated. So that WE can be validated, and thus feel worthy of the help we so deserve. Many of the chapters in the book are written by people who have dealt with a significant challenge – and have come out on the other side. Some of those are Supernatural fans, and some of those are Supernatural actors.

Jared Padalecki was the first Supernatural actor who told me that he had something to say and a reason to say it in Family Don’t End With Blood. He wanted to tell his own story of coming up against significant challenges of anxiety and depression, so that others would be emboldened to tell theirs to someone who could help – so that others who were struggling would truly know “you are not alone”. Jared had partnered with two important organizations to help get that message out there, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and Attitudes in Reverse (AIR). Both organizations do amazing and important work in fighting stigma, educating people about mental health, and providing a route for people who are struggling to find the help they need.

Because everyone who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood was passionate about making a difference, we decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to two of the charitable organizations the cast supports – Misha Collins’ Random Acts and one of Jared’s partners, Attitudes in Reverse.

AIR was started by Tricia and Kurt Baker after they lost their son Kenny to suicide. AIR volunteers, along with Trish and Kurt and their therapy dog Miki, speak at schools and universities about suicide prevention and mental health, and have put together a powerful exhibition called “In Their Shoes.” Each pair of shoes in the exhibit is from someone with an important message, written in their own words on their shoes, and helping to increase understanding and empathy for those who are struggling. You can literally “put yourself in their shoes” and understand the need for help and breaking the silence.

I’ve donated a pair of shoes, and so have many of the Supernatural cast. Gil McKinney, Samantha Smith, Mark Pellegrino, Carrie Genzel, Rob Benedict and Louden Swain, Jason Manns, Lauren Tom, Chris Schmelke and many others have written their messages on a pair of their shoes.

Samantha Smith donates a pair of shoes
Gil McKinney
Carrie Genzel

Jensen Ackles donated a worn pair of sneakers, with the message “My brother, I’ve got your back….Always.” When Jared was struggling, Jensen was there for him, and his message reflects his unwavering empathy, understanding and support.

Jared Padalecki donated a pair of boots which have travelled all over the country to help raise awareness. His message: When life breaks you down, never give up. Always Keep Fighting.

Jared and Jensen’s donated shoes and heartfelt messages
Miki feeling safe and comforted between Jared and Jensen’s shoes 🙂

In the chapter he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, Jared opens up about his own anxiety and depression, and how sometimes it has been difficult for him to keep going. He writes with extraordinary candor and vulnerability, taking the reader along with him on a lifetime journey of self discovery starting with his own childhood and continuing through Supernatural and the present. Jared shares his story so that others can feel like it’s okay to share theirs – and to accept help, just like he did.

I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression most of my adult life… it did win a few battles along the way (though I am proud to say, I am winning the WAR!). One of those battles was in season 3, during the filming of “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” It was a day like any other: I woke up, worked out, memorized my lines, and headed to the set. But something I couldn’t identify (or, maybe, that I was choosing to ignore) was eating at me. Beating me down. Convincing me that it was going to win, and that I didn’t have a chance to stop it. I made it through my daily hair and makeup and was taken to set for a rehearsal and blocking of our day’s first scene. I got in the car and rode to set, and then I was sent back to my trailer to finish changing into wardrobe and to wait while the crew set up the lighting. I walked into my trailer, sat down on the couch, and I couldn’t get up. I could no longer, on my own, muster the will to carry on. I heard the knocks on my door and I knew my crew was ready for me on set, but I couldn’t make it out of my trailer. After a bit of time, Jensen came into my trailer to see what was going on, and he knew I was not okay. He had the assistant director call for a doctor, and he sat with me to talk. The doctor showed up a bit later and sat with me in my trailer to ask me a few questions. After some time, the doctor told me that his professional opinion was that I was clinically depressed, and I should take some time off from filming.

That’s when it hit me.

I couldn’t stop filming.

I couldn’t put my crew out of work for a day, a week, a month.

I also couldn’t face, or admit, what was going on in my head.

I met the doctor in the middle. I went home, and we pushed that day’s scenes to another time. After a long sleep and a long jog and a long bath, I was ready to show back up for work the next day. Supernatural has continued for many years after that. And then, seven years later, we went back to film at the very same house we were using the day I sat in my trailer and couldn’t make it to set. That day was the day I also launched the first Always Keep Fighting campaign. In over 200 episodes, over 1,600 filming days, and hundreds of locations, what are the odds?

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