Supernatural Just Hit The Reset Button

***SPOILER WARNING FOR 12.22 AND 12.23***

The epic journey of Sam and Dean Winchester has given us 12 years of love, hate, deaths, laughs and broments. Season 12 finished by condensing all of that into 2 hours of nail-biting, heart-wrenching action and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

Part one of the finale, Who We Are, was penned by a favorite writer of mine, Robert Berens. Picking up where the previous episode left off, Sam and Dean trapped in their home with evil Lady Bevell, their air disappearing, their options limited, we were treated to the brothers working together to get the hell out of dodge and rescuing their brainwashed mother.

One thing I’ve loved about Season 12 is that the brothers have been on the same page for the most part. Even when Sam made the poorly informed decision to briefly team up with the British Men Of Letters, he only kept that information from Dean for a short time before admitting his actions. And Dean, rather than pent up his anger or disappointment, told Sam he was willing to try it his way but let him know in no uncertain terms that he was pissed. Communication has been lacking between the Winchesters since the very beginning of the show, and to see them now, in their 30s and realizing that maybe talking things through is actually efficient and beneficial, well to me that’s a good reflection of my own life and maturation process. {Side note: in a meet and greet I had the opportunity to ask Jared Padalecki if it was more difficult to play the brothers communicating and in a good place given their tumultuous history and he told me that he and Jensen Ackles have such a good chemistry working together that they slip easily into the roles that the Winchesters need them to play.}

One of the scenes that hit home with me was Sam and Dean’s discussion about how they saw the end coming. In multiple conventions both Padalecki and Ackles have expressed a desire to have the show finish with both the boys going down in a blaze of glory. The Butch and Sundance conversation reflected that and it makes me wonder if there’s some foreshadowing with them mentioning it. I’m okay with it ending that way, although it would limit their choices if they were to ever decide to make post-show movies.

Once escaped (after Dean got to FINALLY use the grenade launcher!) the boys teamed up with their surrogate mom, Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) , who had managed to capture their biological mom, Mary. Jody has been a wonderful addition to the show, someone who can hold her own against the onslaught of evil, kick some ass like nobody else, but also give the boys a safe haven and a home cooked meal when they need it. In a particularly tender moment, Jody approached an injured Dean, placed her hand on his heart and held his hand as she walked away, all in plain sight of Mary, almost as if to say “This is what a mother should be.”

I’ve seen some consternation over the fact that Walt and Roy, the two hunters who killed Sam and Dean in Season 5’s Dark Side of the Moon, were invited back to be a part of bringing the fight to the BMOL. I had no problem with that. It was suitably awkward, Walt and Roy were embarrassed and appeared to be contrite, and it fit well with Sam’s wonderful speech about fighting the bigger fight. (Besides, Roy is now dead at the hands of the BMOL and Walt is left alone to grieve him…suitable punishment in my book.)

Sam’s speech. Let’s talk about that for a moment. Padalecki nailed every single aspect of it. Sam freely admitted earlier in the episode he found it easier to follow than lead, and his entire life he’s followed his idol, his big brother. In Season 5 he asked to be considered an equal but we all remember how that ended (Stull’s Cemetery, hole, lost soul…you know the rest). But here his idol tells him he’s ready, Dean knows he can do what he was always destined to do, lead. The pride on Dean’s face throughout the speech broke me a little, to be honest. This is the Winchester relationship I’ve been craving, one that reflects the real-life relationship between Ackles and Padalecki. And then, of course, we had it. We had….THE HUG! I try not to put expectations on writers. As fans we do have a tendency towards entitlement and the writing team do a damn fine job for the most part. But I’m a hug-whore and I’ve been missing that particular broment. To be fair, hugs usually come at times of peril or reuniting, so with the boys fighting on the same side for a while now we haven’t really had an excuse. But this hug, Dean’s “come here”, Sam’s eyes welling up….well that felt a little like coming home. So thanks for that, Mr Berens.

The part of the episode I can’t stop thinking about is Dean’s journey into Mary’s mind. I can be a little stoic when it comes to watching TV with other people around, stiff upper lip and all that, but everyone in my living room was reaching for the Kleenex at those scenes. Jensen Ackles is genius. That’s a given. But he took it to a whole new level (is there a level above genius?) with his heartbreaking admission to Mary that he hated her. The first time he uttered those words I literally gasped. Amara told him at the end of Season 11 that she was giving him what he needed most, so how could he then turn around and say that everything Mary had done had broken him? He ain’t wrong, but to hear it out loud, well that was pretty heart-wrenching. It was pointed out to me that maybe admitting that to his mother was what Amara knew he needed, it was a way for him to let go of the resentment he’d been holding onto for so long. Samantha Smith also played the scene to perfection, subtle reactions to Dean’s accusations all the more painful. I truly believe it’s one of the best scenes in the show, if for no other reason than it asked and answered questions that go back to the first episode of the first season.

Seeing Jody kill Lady Hess, taking pleasure in Mary killing Ketch (sorry, David Haydn-Jones, I love you, nothing personal) I was excited that once again, Berens acknowledged the women in the Winchesters’ lives. Both moms stood up and took the hit, made the hard kill so their boys didn’t have to. And given the number of female characters Supernatural loses, to have the remaining ones “kick it in the ass”, as Alex stated they would, gave me the warm fuzzies.

And then it happened. Hug number 2. Sam, Dean and Mary. I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to end the first part of what was shaping up to be a favorite season finale.

Part two, All Along The Watchtower, was an action-packed, edge-of-the-seat nail biter, written by showrunner Andrew Dabb. The sudden and “unexpected” return of Crowley (come on, we all knew he was in the rat, right?) at the bunker was a welcome bit of light relief as he offered his services to close the gates of hell in return for the Winchesters ridding the world of Lucifer. Mark Sheppard commands any scene and this episode was no different, his insults veiled in fanboy-esque appreciation of the boys always amusing.

Here we also saw the re-appearance of Castiel, protecting Lucifer’s baby-momma Kelly. There were some beautifully sweet moments between these unlikely friends, Castiel comforting Kelly on her impending doom and assuring her he would be there to raise her child. Misha Collins and Courtney Ford had lovely chemistry and played the potentially tense scenes with a tenderness that brought a tear to my eye.

A huge part of the episode for me, though, was Sam and Dean’s transportation to the alternate universe. Aside from the eruption of cheers when Alt!Bobby appeared (and called his gun Rufus, for goodness sakes!), they were being shown what their efforts have done in their own world. Without them, the apocalypse was never stopped and humankind was virtually extinct, a victim of the war between heaven and hell. Sam and particularly Dean have always struggled with self-worth. There have been times when they have been quick to sacrifice because they see themselves as no more special than anyone else. Between this reveal and the conversation Dean had with Mary about his childhood and the way he and Sam ended up, I like to think this whole experience was some kind of catharsis for them both. Maybe moving forward they’ll be less inclined to jump in front of a bullet for anyone apart from each other. Maybe. They’re still the Winchesters, after all.

One thing I definitely did not expect was Crowley’s willingness to sacrifice himself. His entire raison d’etre for the 7 seasons he’s appeared in has been self-preservation. Offering up his own life in order to complete the spell that closed the door to the alternate universe was so out of character and yet….oddly comforting. For me it validated my love for the character. I hope there’s a way we can have Mark Sheppard back on the show but if that was his swan song, I’m okay with it. I’m not okay with the off-screen death of Crowley’s mother, Rowena. I feel she deserved more, so I’m holding judgement on that until we see if she manages to weasel herself out of that this time.

Where do I start about the death of Castiel? I thought we were free and clear, I thought all our losses had finished with Lucifer taking Mary through the crack in the universe. And then Lucifer reached back through and ripped out our hearts. Dean’s reaction was devastating. He was numb, in shock. All these years of watching Castiel evolve, become bad, good, human, nothing seemed permanent. But an angel blade through the heart, the blue light pouring out of his vessel, that seems to be something he can’t come back from. Of course, no death on Supernatural is permanent so we can’t know for sure. But if it is, seeing Dean (and Sam, to a lesser extent) move on from losing a man they considered another brother, that’s going to be an interesting theme for season 13. (Of course there’s now a great opportunity for a spin-off with Alt!Bobby and Mary battling Lucifer, and I’m sure there’s an Alt!Castiel that they could team up with!)

Overall, I felt like episode 22 overshadowed the true finale. It has easily been categorized in my top 5 episodes of all time. But that doesn’t mean 23 wasn’t fantastic, it really was and here’s why I loved it so much: we have literally gone back to the beginning, even with the symbology of a shadowed yellow-eyed figure appearing in a nursery. Sam and Dean are on their own. Their parents are gone, they have no connection to the angel world, Lucifer is not free to roam the earth, American hunters are a rare commodity, and they’re in a really good place with each other. With the exception of the bunker (and can I just say that I’m ecstatic that their home survived), they’re right back to where they were on that fateful day that Dean showed up and told Sam that “Dad’s on a hunting trip, and he hasn’t been home in a few days.”

Season 13 is going to be an interesting ride but given the way Season 12 ended I have tremendous faith in Dabb and his crew to maintain the Supernatural we all know and love. I mean, come on. There’s going to be a Scooby Doo crossover! Zoinks!

 

 

Is A Mid-Life “Crisis” A Bad Thing?

A few days ago a friend casually dropped it into conversation that he considered me “middle-aged”. After several long moments of re-considering my friendship with him (kidding) I realized he wasn’t actually wrong when you look at the logic and math of it. Last September I turned 40 and given that average life expectancy in Canada in 2012 was 81.24 years I am technically in the middle of my life. Is “middle-aged” something I have ever considered myself? No, of course not. When I think of how I viewed a 40-year-old in my childhood it seemed they were on the downward slope of life and yet here I am, at the big four-oh and feeling no more of an adult than I did at 21.

Or am I? Lots of things have changed for me in the past couple of years. Anyone who knows me well knows I struggle with anxiety and depression which became something I had to deal with two years ago as it started to control my life. With medication and unwavering support from friends and family I re-discovered myself and started making choices that would help me get myself on a track to happiness. Some of that was physical, some emotional, there were lots of hard choices to make, some scary decisions, but things started to turn around and I’m frankly a little astounded at where I am today.

One of the hardest things to change in my life was my career path. I’ve been passionate about traveling for as long as I can remember, having taken my first trip overseas at the age of 3 and not even thinking twice when I left school about starting a career as a travel agent. And for more than two decades sharing my passion for exploring the world made me happy. Or so I thought. Once I had a healthy mind I started to question if the job was making me happy or I was happy with the status quo. I had literally known nothing else since I was 16 and I’ve never been comfortable with change. But everything else was changing, I’d started removing some more toxic relationships in my life and suddenly I realized my career was one of them. In the past I’d explored new jobs and never felt like anything would make me take the plunge, convinced my reluctance was about love for the job. Suddenly I wondered if it was fear. Fear of failure; fear of the unknown; fear of starting at the bottom once again. It entered my mind last summer that maybe just looking wouldn’t hurt. An idea started to formulate.

Next up was my living arrangements. My sister, Kerry, and I had been renting apartments since we moved to Canada 17 years ago and we’d convinced ourselves it was the most logical course of action. We didn’t plan on living together forever, we wanted to save money, we didn’t have enough saved for a deposit. The excuses came thick and fast. Our cheap rent was a trade-off for frankly, a crappy apartment with a useless landlord. Cracks in the walls, a rampant mouse problem (thank goodness our cat took great pleasure in helping us with that) and neighbors who let their dogs poop in the hallways were just catalysts for my stress levels and we were constantly looking for something else. Because of restrictions on animals in rented apartments (don’t get me started on that subject) we knew our rent was going to increase by at least half and after several years of looking and getting disappointed I decided to look on a realtor website, you know, just for shits and giggles. I sent a listing to my sister, stating “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we could afford this, I’ve kinda fallen in love with it. Damn banks would never give us a mortgage though.” Or would they? We thought it couldn’t hurt to ask, so we did. And less than 6 weeks later we took possession of our very own condo and were suddenly budgeting for grown up things like mortgage payments and strata maintenance fees.

Meanwhile I’d had an interview for a job I was really interested in. Part of my job in travel had always involved insurance and I was strangely intrigued by the concept. Suddenly I was being offered a job at an insurance company who offered me decent pay, a fantastic location in downtown Vancouver and promises of support for any advancement I was interested in. My decision to accept the position was an easy one, something I never thought I’d experience and mid-January I found myself saying goodbye to the only job I’d ever known, a 24 year career. Four months in and I can’t believe how happy I am. The people I work with are wonderful, the support and encouragement I receive from my peers and management are unprecedented for me and every day I come home knowing I made the right decision, however terrifying and difficult it was.

The final piece of the puzzle, though, is me, and I’m working hard on myself. Earlier this year I had a wake-up call when I was told I was considered pre-diabetes, a completely reversible situation but if I didn’t change my diet and exercise habits I would be a diabetic patient and things would become more difficult. For years I’ve made excuses for my poor diet and focusing on my mental health has been the biggest one. Well enough has changed for me now to not be able to use that any more and I’ve been eating healthier in the past month than I ever have. Cutting out the majority of carbs, although not completely, has been the hardest part (man, I miss pasta!) but Kerry has been there with me every step and we now find ourselves choosing to eat healthily , even on weekends. When we slip up or have a night out and forget the diet we don’t find ourselves saying “to hell with it, we slipped, we may as well give up.” I’ve managed to drop almost 15lbs in the past 6 weeks and I feel so great, physically and mentally. I still have some work to do but the biggest challenge is changing habits and I’ve had huge success there.

So there we have it. Within 8 months of turning 40 I’ve purchased my first home, changed careers and become a bit of a nut about healthy eating. Life is amazing and I’ve astounded myself with overcoming my fear of change and failure. Maybe this is a “mid-life crisis”. Maybe it’s just my response to a series of wake-up calls over the past few years. Whatever it happens to be, my 40s are shaping up to be the best decade of my life; I’ll take it.

Fable Kitchen: Farm To Table At Its Finest

I’m lucky enough to live in Vancouver for many reasons, not least of which is the incredible culinary culture. It’s no secret that I like food and the diversity of my city allows for a seemingly unending variety when it comes to dining choices.

A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to try Fable Kitchen, a reasonably new farm to table experience on W4th Avenue in Kitsilano. While competing on Top Chef Canada, Trevor Bird created Fable as a concept for the infamous “restaurant wars” week and upon returning home to Vancouver started the process of bringing his vision to life. Sourcing local fare from Vancouver’s vast resources, Bird and front of house partner Ron MacGillivray set about building a dining experience they could be proud of.

Fable has embraced modern culture and as such encourages reservations on their social media outlets. Having struck out trying to get a reservation by phone I reached out on Twitter and was soon promised my friend and I had seats at the chef’s table (a bar-like experience at the front of the restaurant overlooking the busy, open-plan kitchen). However, on arrival there was no record of our reservation and, as apologetic and friendly as the front-of-house staff were, we ended up walking away a little disappointed to an alternative dining option.

Here’s the thing; mistakes happen. Everyone is human, things get away from us and errors are made. The way I gauge these situations is by how they are handled and I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ve ever been more impressed by an organization. Upon a DM expressing my disappointment I was immediately contacted by owner/manager Kathy Schleyer, taking ownership of the error – she had booked us in for the wrong day – and apologizing profusely, expressing her embarrassment over the error. She invited us to please consider returning and she would make the reservation herself. We were excited to eat at Fable so my friend and I made plans to meet there this past Friday and this time our table was booked!

You couldn’t be blamed if you walked past Fable on first attempt to find it. A small store front with an unassuming awning, the restaurant’s lack of pretentiousness starts from the minute you step inside. It was a busy Friday night but the hostess was doing everything she could to accommodate the walk-in patrons and was cheerful and upbeat despite the line-ups. We were led to our table towards the back of the tiny dining area and immediately felt embraced by the homey comfort of the thick wooden tables, exposed brick walls and metal wine racks. I usually struggle to make a choice from a menu but with a limited number of items I assumed my decision would be easy to make. Not so. My friend even tried the age-old method of closing her eyes and pointing at an item for me!

Our server, I wish I had gotten his name, was incredible. Adding to the casual atmosphere, the servers were dressed in button-downs and jeans and our server welcomed us with such enthusiasm he made us feel like we were visiting with a friend. He expertly explained the specials, obviously proud of the concept of the restaurant, and even helped us pick our cocktails. (Side note: I thoroughly recommend the Vercingetorix cocktail. Tough to pronounce but named after an historical figure who surrendered to Julius Caesar we dubbed it the loser cocktail!)

We started with the fresh made sourdough bread and black pepper butter – I could have probably eaten a whole meal of this and been completely happy. Due to the mix-up we were then gifted an appetizer to share and the chickpea fritters with curry aioli and pea shoots were absolutely out of this world. For my main I chose the halibut dish. Served on a delicious bed of stinging nettle oat risotto, the fish was cooked to perfection, just flaking off with my fork. A fennel salad on top of the fish added a slight sweetness to the peppery bite of the risotto, a crispy piece of duck skin added a wonderful contrast of texture and the salt on the dish was provided by a thick slab of bacon.

The piece de resistance for us though was the dessert we decided to share. Noted on the specials board our milk chocolate panna cotta served in a mason jar was quite possibly one of the best desserts I’ve had. The panna cotta itself was incredibly smooth and not overly sweet. Fresh summer berries and a salty Oreo cookie crumble added texture and the whole thing was topped with a perfectly tart summer berries gel. For us, the most impressive part of service was when we were asked if we wanted to have our dessert right away or if we wanted to hang out for a bit longer before they brought it out. Such a thoughtful offer and it all added up to convince us we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted.

I don’t know when I last had such a wonderful experience at a restaurant, start-to-finish. It’s obvious that every staff member is proud to be involved in the organization and I would have likely missed out on this if the initial mix-up hadn’t been handled with such grace and respect. I’ve worked in customer service my whole career and I tend to be overly critical of the experiences I have. Keep doing what you’re doing, Fable; you’ve got all parts of the equation nailed and I will be back.

Supernatural: The J2 Phenomenon

I’ve been to a lot of Supernatural conventions. It’s not something I’ve ever really done for any other show and I often wonder what it is about Supernatural that bucks the trend. It’s a great show – my favorite. It’s been going for a really long time. I’ve met some of my closest friends through it. There’s a ton of reasons this show has gotten under my skin but after every con I come to the same conclusion. It’s all because of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles: J2.

Last weekend I met up with some friends and headed to Bellevue, WA, for the Salute to Supernatural Seattle Convention. Originally I had decided to make the trip across the border and down the I5 because Timothy Omundson was going to appear and I had yet to see him. “I won’t worry about getting any J2 pics,” I so wisely vowed. “This is going to be a cheap weekend, I have to keep the cost down.” Suddenly I had tickets to the Saturday Night Special concert and a photo op with each of the Js, as well as autographs and photos with Omundson. What can I say, I’m weak.

The concert was amazing (anyone who has yet to listen to Louden Swain, get on it now; they’re incredible) and Omundson was everything I had hoped he would be – hilarious, charming and interesting. And then Jared and Jensen walked onto stage, each of them holding one of the Padalecki boys, Tom (who was snuggling into Uncle Jensen) and Shep (clinging to his dad). Entertained by anecdotes from both Js about Tom’s excitement over his birthday, the crowd was encouraged to sing happy birthday to the now 4-year-old and we happily did it. Both Jared and Jensen share so much of themselves with us, they make the entire experience inclusive and welcoming and for that short time they make us feel like we’re part of their family.

Throughout their hour long panel they bounced off each other with humor, helping each other out with memories and even with Jensen asking Jared at one point if he knew the person who was randomly FaceTiming him. Jared turned to his “partner” midway through the panel and asked him to say what the first thing was that came to mind for each season, which evolved into a memory game as neither of them could remember anything about season 2! With grace and respect they absorbed the questions, good and bad, and made everyone feel as if we were just watching two buddies shoot the shit with a bunch of friends, which at the end of the day we kind of were, albeit a large bunch.

Jared and Jensen’s friendship is something that is hard to explain to anyone outside of the fandom. I can’t think of any modern day show where the stars are this close and it honestly feels like something very special when we get the chance to watch it up close and personal. They moved to within a few streets of each other, their wives are best friends, as are their children, they take vacations together and they are each others’ biggest fan. Supernatural is a fantastic show but there’s no doubt in my mind it would be heading into its 12th season if it wasn’t for Jared and Jensen and the friendship they share. People who have worked on the show consistently say the atmosphere on set is one of laughter and professionalism, and that the Js are the leaders in that. We root for Sam and Dean every week but are we really rooting for Padalecki and Ackles? The love the Winchesters have for each other (especially this season – YAY!) is enhanced by knowing how close the Js are and every time I go to a con my belief is reinforced that this relationship is the driving force behind the success of the show.

If you’re a Supernatural and J2 fan you know what I mean. If you’re not, go to YouTube and search for panel videos from the conventions. You’ll see what I mean, you’ll feel it. I’m so proud to be a fan of a show that gives its stars and guest stars such a great experience. The conventions are frequent and exhausting and yet the actors keep showing up and I like to think they feel our gratitude. I never thought I’d be able to say I feel lucky to be a fan of a television show and yet here I am. So thank you, Jared and Jensen. See you in Phoenix 😉

Hello World!

Well here it is! My very first blog post on my personal blog. I’m going to try and write down some very random thoughts on this web page. Eclectic will probably be a word often used to describe my blog and I’m okay with that. I’m someone with many different thoughts and ideas on a wide range of subjects. And I always love to hear what other people think about the way my brain works! Looking forward to chatting with you as we take this journey.