I don’t have as much as I usually do to say about this one. Fittingly episode 199 is classic Supernatural formula: opens with a teaser monster killing, the boys catch wind of the case, adorn undercover costumes, interrogate and solve the problem. Paper Moon flowed like a season one episode in this way and coming off last week’s intensity, the familiar procedure was enjoyable to watch particularly when the MOTW storyline was more an opportunity for Sam and Dean to have an episode long heart to heart and just be brothers again.
Kate & Tasha: The Best Laid Plans
The monster story this week was fairly simple: missing hearts equals werewolf. In particular, an old familiar face, Kate and her sister Tasha whom Kate turned to save her life. Whether or not you enjoyed her first appearance, I like this character. Kate is one of the few “monsters” who has not only survived a meeting with the Winchester brothers, but one who has resurfaced to for a second visit now. Plus, she’s just the right mix of sass and self-reliance to work for me and counterbalance Sam and Dean on screen – less damselish and a dash Buffy-esque.
The Kate and Tasha story felt a lot like a metaphor for Sam and Dean’s most recent situation, without being and out and out carbon copy: here we had one sibling go completely dark side after a…near death experience and the other try desperately to save that sibling, despite the bloody trail, until it finally came to the point of killing them. Tasha’s transition was even born from a mark on her arm. The major difference being – Tasha simply couldn’t be saved, so Kate had to kill her; though to Kate’s mind, her sister was long since dead.
The werewolf storyline was a great classic monster of the week to revisit with some darker themes about when the line is too far crossed to come back from or pull someone back from. Tasha was a nasty, ungrateful thing with zero impulse control and for someone interested in a “pack” had no respect for her maker/sister whatsoever. Exceptional quips though – her nicknames were priceless. As much as I like Kate, I hope for her sake that we don’t see her again under such nasty circumstances.
So that’s the MOTW story for this episode: it was enjoyable, good characterization and plot. The real meat of this episode though? All about our boys…
First, I have to say the best moment – visually – in this episode is Sam and Dean by the lake in the sunglasses. That will be with me, forever. It was awesome. Now, on to the rest of the good stuff.
Both boys have serious carry over wounds after recent months, and we’re not just talking about Sam’s sprained wrist. Each has added more baggage to the excessive amount they already haul around on a regular basis – this time though, they’re each a bit more open than usual. The compete over whose shoulders Lester’s death and/or condemned soul falls onto and worry about whether the other is prepared to return to hunting because they each experienced a lot of trauma, particular involving crossing lines in ways they’ve never crossed before.
For me, the best conversation is this episode happens when Sam confesses there may have been other people he hurt beyond Lester in his pursuit of Dean. But Sam adds emotionally to Dean how it was when Dean died in his arms and then to just find him gone after, it was unimaginable.
What is brilliant about this moment is the emotion of it. In a unique shot, Sam is in the back of the Impala, Dean in the front – perhaps allowing both to be more honest or expressive by not looking directly at each other. The rain, the dark lighting and intimate atmosphere of the car cast the perfect background – it isn’t a tense conversation, but it is affecting.
Sam appears to have come to terms (or at least be getting there) with what he did to find Dean – maybe he’s more uncomfortable with how comfortable he is than anything else. The look on his face as he’s telling how he got to that place read more grief than guilt and frankly, that’s understandable by this point in their lives. Dean seemed to understand that too. He’s been in exactly that moment of carrying his brother’s dead body and laying it on a bed and grieving over it. So, yeah, he has some empathy.
They address the inadequacy of “don’t look for me” and how it absolutely did not fill in any blanks. We also have a surprising confession from Dean, about the note he left and his time with Crowley and the entire demonic mess he made:
It’s unclear if Dean is embarrassed by what he perceives as his own weakness in these behaviours; giving over to impulses and his lack of control which is something Dean has always had or if he more shamed by it. Likely, knowing Dean it’s a good, solid mix of both.
Finally, the boys wrap up their conversation: Dean says thank you and Sam tells him thank you is never needed. Sam doesn’t look like the conversation can truly be done with here, because of course it’s not.
Sam is still frustrated though: Rest is key – to deal with everything “Dean” went through. The Mark needs to be addressed. He wants to talk about it, which is typically enough for Sam. And to Dean’s credit, he doesn’t brush it off but he asks how they are supposed to talk about it? And finally, Dean succinctly cuts his own truths for Sam:
Fascinatingly, in a combination of Dean-like and un-Dean-like fashion there is guilt over what he did while he was a demon, but Dean both acknowledges it and consciously decides not to be consumed by it, rather to work through it. This was a sad though clarifying moment for Sam and left us all on a forlorn note.
As MOTW stories go, Paper Moon was pretty successful. The villain was evil and contained by the end, though without any major twists there. Our character of the week, Kate, survived to see another full moon and her story was tragic enough to feel bad for her silhouetted shape walking alone down the road at the end. Ultimately the strength of the episode was as a vehicle for Sam and Dean’s recovery and in that it was well done. Conversations were well paced, key issues addressed and above all, it felt natural at every turn. There is still a lot left to cover – Sam himself is still keeping track – before (if) normal can truly be achieved. But, melancholy as it ended on, this was just enough now.
So, that was 199 – whose ready for 200?!