Covering San Diego Comic-Con is without a doubt one of the highlights of being a reviewer and fan of Supernatural. Imagine the excitement and energy of a Supernatural convention expanded and amplified until it takes over an entire quadrant of a major U.S. city. Everywhere you look, walk, eat, sleep - every train you take, every lobby you enter, every conversation you have, even the food you eat and the clothes you wear - celebrates the superheroes from movies, television shows and comics that you love. You are virtually transported to living in a world where everyone and everything surrounding you validates what you feel about one or more of the popular culture icons of your life. Cosplayers bring superheroes to life with surreal replication of costuming, mannerisms, make-up and poses. Massive screens and banners display larger than life images of action movies and television series.

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                                                                                                    (Supernatural Dress Pics by Alice)

To give you an idea of the size of the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), the convention center itself is approximately 7 city blocks long.

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The exhibit floor is 525,000 feet (for those of you who can relate to numbers like that). Programs (nearly 700 in 2014) begin every 15 minutes from 9 am to 11 pm in the 19 rooms of the convention center plus virtually all the surrounding hotels and buildings. The SDCC website lists only four additional venues (the San Diego Central Library, the Horton Grand Theatre, and the Hilton Bayfront and Marriott Marquis hotels) but the convention goes far beyond those buildings. I personally visited the technology exhibit at the Omni hotel, the art exhibit at the Grand Hyatt hotel, multiple take-overs of Gaslamp bars and restaurants by studios and websites, plus the boats in the harbor, the sidewalks, lawns, fountains, parking lots and closed off streets that all showcase immersive experiences of some show that marketers want you to notice.

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(Convention Harbor pic taken at SDCC2017)
Here, every one of the 135,000 people who attend the convention (the number is much higher if you count non-ticketed fans who come for the regional events) has heard of Supernatural. If they aren’t a fan themselves, they are awed by the genre show and legendary fandom of the longest consecutively running science fiction/ fantasy series on television. Sunday has been unofficially dubbed “Supernatural Sunday” because of the commotion that surrounds filling the 6500 seat Hall H for the Supernatural panel.

 

Admittedly, it would have been very difficult to match the excitement or grandeur of last year’s panel. Being immersed on three sides by a stunning video recap of Supernatural’s first twelve seasons while Kansas played “Carry On Wayward Son” for a packed house of elated fans was 5 minutes of Supernatural Heaven. Still, several things particularly distinguished the magic of Supernatural’s time in Hall H this year.

First, the auditorium was again filled, or nearly so. As usual, fans had been in line since the day before, but the wristband system at least allowed them to sleep and shower (a key improvement) in their hotels before Sunday morning. I may be wrong, but I didn’t hear of anyone being turned away this year because of hitting capacity. As far as my eyesight could reach, every seat was taken. It was very hard to tell without walking the hundred or so rows to the back of the theater, but it seemed like people were still entering the hall right up to the start of the panel. Put that many Supernatural fans into one place and the fervor tends to get amped up a bit! Just listen to the excitement: 

Alexander Calvert being on his first SDCC panel was another highlight this year.

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Alex has completely won over the Supernatural family with his portrayal of Jack’s well intentioned, confused, power-emerging, coming-of-age innocence.

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This young 28 year old Canadian actor has seamlessly engrained himself into the Jared/Jensen/Misha veteran trio who have worked so closely together for nearly a decade.

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Nothing could have prepared Alex for being thrust into the insanity that is the global stage of their public appearances, though. SDCC had to be terrifying yet he handled it with ease. Very impressive. “I’m not even going to try to play it cool. This is awesome.” he said with a deadpan expression that let only a slight smirk sneak through. Alex, you were totally playing it cool whether you knew it or not! Alex didn't let his geeky excitement show until the stress of the entire panel was over and he could enjoy the unique experience of being in front of so many fans! 

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He fit right into the Rob Benedict, Richard Speight Jr. and J2M teasing, dishing back jibes and jokes just as fast as they were being thrown at him. Misha reminded everyone of how much Alex looks like him, and asked the writers if maybe Jack was really Castiel’s son.

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One week later, Misha even tweeted a picture of himself with his “son” Alex, and his two “other” children, Maison and West. 

(Misha has continued to tweet about the familial relationship between he and Alex since then.) 

Actually, Alex reminds me of a very young, talented Gilmore Girls Jared.

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(Jensen's not asleep here. He's shaking his head with his "It's just Jared being Jared" reaction.)

I think Alex has a very bright future ahead of him. I’m thrilled that he is continuing in season 14, and I made sure to say so to every writer I could snag!

Another highlight of the panel was Rob Benedict and Richard Speight Jr. as hosts!

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It appeared to me that Rob took more of the lead this year, perhaps because Richard had started prepping and directing the second episode of season 14 back in Vancouver. He had to be thinking, "I’m only working in Vancouver on a handful of episodes this year [I think he’s directing three] but of course one of them directly conflicts with my hosting gig in San Diego!” Rob (who plays God on the show) teased Alex (who portrays a Nephilim – half archangel, half human) that it must be nice to be an omnipotent, powerful being on Supernatural. Rob was insinuating that Alex replaced him in as the Winchesters’ powerful, celestial ally but I got the impression that Alex didn’t immediately get the joke. Jensen picked up on Rob’s opening, and added that the writers must really be impressed with Alexander because they took away his powers, thus allowing him to remain a part of the cast. The audience, understanding that Rob’s God still has his powers and thus was written out of the storyline, was howling with laughter. By now, Alex was catching on, with Rob fumbling his eye glasses to feign a flustered, man-left-behind shtick. I’d love to know if it was all planned or totally improvisational, but it was great comedy nonetheless!

Rob and Rich took turns asking each panelist specific questions about season 14.

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They tended to get real answers from all the executive producers, and once in a while from the three musketeers.

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All their season and character insights are expanded upon in the press room interviews.

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Alex tried to give meaningful answers, but he was usually sidetracked by Jared, Jensen or Misha! The boys were just having way too much fun!

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Jared and Misha also gave a shout out to Ruth Connell and Genevieve Padalecki in the audience.

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It was really nice to have them acknowledge Ruth. Did you know she’s had the longest female part in the show?

**S14 Spoiler Paragraphs Ahead**

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Despite the thrill of seeing the Supernatural cast in person and being enthralled with the improvisational stage show they perfected on the fan convention circuit, the most memorable component of the 2018 Supernatural panel was the season 14 preview clip. It began with the traditional “then” sequence that I presume will be the opening of the season 14 premiere episode. It recapped all the major events of season 13 – Jack being born and his exploration of his powers and place in the world; Asmodeus’ reign over Hell; Mary and Jack’s battles in the alternate universe; Rowena’s, Kevin’s, Gabriel’s and Bobby’s return, Sam’s death and resurrection; Heaven running out of angels, Lucifer’s demise; Michael’s possession of Dean. Instead of the expected, subsequent “Now”, though, the teaser image flashed “Soon”, which was unexpectedly tantalizing. I think it may have given a timeframe that indicated the action starts some months after Dean’s possession, but sadly, I don’t remember that detail precisely. My mind was trying to grasp what we were seeing, and catching up with the reality that “soon” meant we were about to see a teaser of season’s 14’s secrets!

The scene began with a cold open of a Middle Eastern, Muslim gentleman going through his morning routine of rising, washing and prayers. This sequence was frankly a bit perplexing because it went on for quite a while. It was purposely, teasingly detailed and slow. What did he have to do with Supernatural, with Sam, Dean or Castiel? Was he about to become a victim of the monster of the week? But when the supposedly devout follower of Allah raised up from one of his prone, face to the floor bows, Michael!Dean suddenly came into view, enveloping the screen, sitting directly in front of the man, quietly, serenely, in the only chair in the man’s small home. The image was bone chilling. Jensen was Michael. There wasn’t a shred of Dean in the face that has portrayed him for 13 years. Michael was meticulously dressed. I think he still had on his tam hat, but I don’t remember for sure. His clothes were crisply formal, with a shirt, tie and suit that looked both expensive and debonair. Michael spoke quietly, with the reserved precision of a being who knows he has no equal on earth. He quoted scripture to introduce himself to the believer. The exchange had the intent of the intimidation and power of old when archangels of God appeared to men thousands of years ago. The man first asked if his intruder was Raphael, then Gabriel, before lastly guessing Michael, a faux-pas that comically deflated Michael’s egotistical big moment. Michael challenged the man’s faith, and recited back to him the events of his life. He then asked the man what he wanted most in life. The frightened, shocked very small human being, who was still kneeling at Michael’s feet, eventually answered “Peace” but Michael wasn’t buying it. He believed that mankind wanted a leader, and he was there to fill the role. Michael recited a long narrative in what I presumed was Arabic, the language of the Quran. It was utterly mesmerizing. Michael was sinister, emotionless, threatening and powerful. I kept searching for signs of Dean – in the eyes, or a slight movement, a flinch, or stammer. Maybe a hesitation or a faulty step that indicated that Michael was struggling with Dean. Even a popular culture reference or a biting remark that meant Dean was in there somewhere – but there was nothing. The breathtakingly handsome, suave man who overpowered the humble surroundings of humanity was entirely Michael.

The scene was utterly stunning. Undoubtedly, its impact was magnified by the scale of the massive auditorium screen. The season 14 premiere overwhelmed our senses but Jensen’s performance was nothing less than chilling. Jared had the same reaction, interjecting that that was the first time he had seen Jensen portray Michael: “I kind of got chills. Way to go Ackles.” Jensen said getting into that scene and the character of Michael was “a little more challenging than anticipated.” Well he knocked it out of park, as usual.

We were all strictly warned to not pirate or periscope the scene. You can see several outlets’ videos of the full panel but as of yet, I haven’t seen or heard of a copy of the clip being uploaded to YouTube. I’m guessing we’ll all see edits of the scene soon enough as the network promotes Supernatural’s return. It will surely be in their teaser videos. Nothing will compare to the impact of that preview, but still, I can’t wait to see that scene again. The flashbacks that we’re expecting to see all season of Dean’s witness to Michael’s cold cruelty should be quite a treat.

***End of Spoiler***

The immensely talented Supernatural team had to leave all too soon to get back to bringing this scene and the rest of their 14th season to us in just a few short months.

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Listening to them talk about the show that they love just as much as we do, and watching them genuinely have fun with the each other is an uplifting, heart-warming experience. It always leaves me feeling there’s hope for the world. They push through their fears to get on stage for us. They pour every ounce of their talent into the best performances possible so that Supernatural continues to be a superb story of heroism in the face of humanity’s struggles.

As long as they show up to make Supernatural, I’ll be right there next to them, and I’ll bring you along with me sharing their story the best I can.

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Misha Collins, Nightsky and Alice Jester at SDCC2018. 

Want to see more of #Supernatural at #SDCC? WFB's first report on the Supernatural panel, in which Alice combined my pictures and tweets with her notes, has a few more video snippets and commentary on the panel. I also summarized and analyzed the biggest confirmations and spoilers that came out of the press room in my Let's Discuss the Big News report. Our extensive coverage of Supernatural, including our interviews with the cast and executive producers in the press room, related #SPNFamily events at San Diego Comic-Con and media coverage of show and cast can be found under the Comic-Con 2018 tag. There's still more to come as we slowly work our way through the thousands of pictures, interviews and videos we gathered for you! Please leave your impressions, questions and comments below and we'll share any details we can with you!

 

SDCC statistics: https://www.comic-con.org/abouthttp://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/comic-con/sd-me-con-numbers-20170715-story.html# 

Convention center pic: https://visitsandiego.com/2018/07/san-diego-convention-center-welcomes-comic-con-2018