Stand alone episodes have always been a part of Supernatural’s landscape. They allow us to explore new creatures, urban legends, and folklore that fascinate our imaginations. They provide glimpses of our greatest fears—giving us insight as to what it means to be human. Stand alone episodes entertain and provide us an escape from the humdrum everyday. They can play with form or explore a hidden corner of the Winchester’s world. But stand alone episodes can do so much more. They can illuminate some aspect of the season story. They can be metaphorical. Stand alone episodes can give us fresh perspective on the mythology. The monster of the week can stand in as an avatar for one or both of the brothers—as Kate and Tasha do in this week’s episode. Supernatural often uses stand alone episodes as a means to foreshadow the over-arching season story—but in “Paper Moon,” we see it turn towards a potential forewarn—one that Sam and Dean must heed.
First, let’s look at the monster of the week itself.
We begin the episode following a woman wandering into a biker bar. She surveys the room, coming across all the various people that populate it until she settles on one man. He ends up smiling at her and we next see them in the alley. They’re becoming a bit hot and heavy—that is until she rips the man’s heart out. We’re left to wonder just who this woman is. It’s clear that she’s some type of creature—most likely a werewolf—but we don’t know enough yet.
The Winchesters, while on their R&R, catch wind of the killings happening—including the one we witnessed. The case is rather simple. Find the monster doing this, end them, and go back to sitting comfortably on the beach having “we time.”
They don their latest disguise—this time as game wardens—and stop at the local police station to get the scoop on the kills. There, they learn that the victims all have one distinctive thing tying them all together: their hearts are missing. Instantly, they have an idea of what they’re dealing with. It has to be a werewolf. It’s also clear that the woman that one witness claims was also killed might be the very creature responsible for killing these people. The police aren’t so sure, convinced that the local drunk is making it all up. Sam and Dean know better.
We see them question the young man, and he is certain that she became a ghost. Whatever killed his friend also must have killed her—only she hung around to haunt. Dean assures him that “nothing is too crazy,” but both Winchesters know that it’s not a ghost. It doesn’t fit their pattern. It reaffirms to them that they are indeed hunting a werewolf—and that this girl must be their intended target. They track her down to a barn—only to find a familiar face.
It’s Kate, the young woman who was turned into a werewolf by one of her roommates. They watched the film put together by the trio—capturing a blow by blow of the situation as it happened. In it, they see Kate turned into a werewolf only to kill in brutal fashion the one who turned her. Before they could even arrive on scene, Kate had already fled, promising that they would never see her again. She would live on animal hearts and get by—there would be no need for the Winchesters or anyone like them to come looking for her.
And yet, here they are and here she is. It’s pretty incriminating that she’s a werewolf and the kills happen to be done by one.
Quickly, they tie her up and start interrogating her. If Kate is indeed the one killing these people, she must be stopped. Kate quickly fesses up, telling them, “I guess things change—being this. I tried to be strong but the hunger was too much, too hard. It’s not like anyone gave me a handbook on how to be a werewolf.”
It isn’t until they get a phone call from the police informing them of a fresh kill that took place while they were encountering Kate. She can’t be their werewolf killer. She wasn’t physically there. If not her, then who? Has Kate joined a pack she’s now protecting?
Before they can ask, however, Kate manages to escape while they’re on the phone. She runs into the night—but leaves her phone behind. It allows the Winchesters to track her down to her hotel, and there they find her exiting her room. At a safe distance, they follow her down a path, keeping their weapons at the ready. If Kate thinks she’s going to get “breakfast” they’ll make sure she doesn’t.
Once they manage to catch up to her, though, they discover they’ve made a grave mistake. This young woman isn’t Kate after all. At first she appears to be a frightened girl, pleading with them not to hurt her. The next, she’s snarling and ready to attack. They may have been tracking her convinced that this girl was Kate—but they’ve now managed to find the wolf that is responsible for killing all those people.
They’ve also managed to find Kate’s sister.
Kate’s story was already tragic. She went from an idealistic and hopeful college student embarking on her new life with her boyfriend—-excited to possibly become a lawyer someday, “something green, nothing corporate,”—to a vicious creature that lusts for human hearts. In order to keep that side of her at bay, she now has to live on the fringes of society scraping by on things that “no one will miss.” Kate has had to grow a steely spine and become a bit rougher around the edges. Her instincts may drive her to kill—but underneath she’s still the good hearted woman we first met in “Bitten.”
That becomes clear as she reveals to the Winchesters why her sister’s a werewolf. Already turned herself, she learns that her sister is more or less dying after a terrible car accident. Feeling helpless as she stood at her sister’s bedside, Kate chose to do the “unthinkable.” If her sister was to become a werewolf like her, she’d heal. Tasha would be okay. She’d be alive. And so, Kate turned her. As a bonus, it’d reunite the close sisters, giving them the chance to reconnect and strengthen their bond—one severed after Kate had been turned.
Because Kate had been turned in such a violent manner, she knew the truth and the difficulties that can arise from being a werewolf. She knew that eating one human heart would lead to a blood-lust so strong that it would overwhelm. She knew that there was responsibilities that came with the extra strength, the fast healing, and the teeth and claws. To be a werewolf meant that one needed to exhibit a tight self control over their lusts and actions. Kate didn’t want her sister to go down the path that Brian had.
So, Kate told Tasha the truth about everything. She explained to her that they must rely on animal hearts. They can’t eat human hearts or they’ll truly become monsters. It’s a curse that they must accept and master.
Except Tasha simply didn’t agree. She decided instead to kill a person and eat their heart—leading to wanting and needing to eat more. No matter what Kate said or did now would not change that. Tasha would do as she pleased.
After sparing Tasha from the Winchester’s wrath, Kate now must make a difficult choice. Does she lead them to her sister yet again or does she run into the night? Led by the possibility of a cure, Kate chooses to help the Winchesters track down Tasha. They have to go to a cabin—one that was a safe haven for the girls in their childhood—and there they’ll confront the werewolf responsible for all the murders locally.
Upon arriving, however, they discover that Tasha has created her own pack. She doesn’t want to be like Kate. She doesn’t understand why her sister practices yoga or fights against her werewolf side. She can’t fathom why Kate doesn’t simply give into what their nature provides. For Tasha, it’s made her go from being “scared to being scary.” She’s a “super hero” and “awesome.” Tasha can do anything she wants and have anything she wants. By virtue of being a werewolf, there’s little that can stand in her way. Why not take full advantage of that? It’s easier this way.
She gives Kate an ultimatum. Either she kill and eat Sam Winchester’s heart here and now and join the pack or die. Either she choose one of her own kind—a werewolf—or the human beings that are there to kill Tasha. It’s a difficult choice and one we don’t envy Kate for. Either path will lead towards heartache and destruction.
If Kate is to choose to go with her sister, she will lose the humanity that allows her to fend off her lusts for human hearts. If she should give in now, she’ll be no better than Brian had been. Kate carries a silver knife just in case she should come to that point—driven mad by the drive to kill a human being. Here, she’s confronted with it head on. A human is dangled in front of her, ripe for the taking if she should want. All she need do is attack.
There’s a darkness in this moment. It hovers over Kate as she looks first from Tasha to Sam and back again. For the briefest of moments, we can see the young wolf waver. She wants to be with her sister—and who can fault her after what she’s been through. Kate feels that Tasha is “worth eating a bullet for,” too. If this is what Tasha requires, then maybe it’ll be worth it in the end.
And yet, Kate ultimately ends up refusing. Her human side wins out, giving her the strength to remain steadfast in her vow to “never ever eat a human heart.” Kate has faced the unthinkable again and withstood it. She chose to fight back the growing monster that could have consumed her. She could have easily ended up like Brian—and Tasha. They both became mad with the power their werewolf side provided. They both felt that it could give them the strength to overthrow those that had oppressed them.
In the end, Kate saw it for what it was: false. That power was what ultimately ended up possessing both of them—oppressing them in ways no one else ever had. It clouded their judgments and made them blind to the truth around them. They were not better for being a werewolf—instead they were made worse.
Knowing that Tasha had truly crossed that final line—had gone too far and was “never coming back from that,” Kate did what she told the Winchesters she would do. She would “take care of Tasha.” Exchanging one final goodbye and “I love you,” Kate faces her sister. They embrace, and in that moment, Kate ends her sister’s life. She knows that the monster Tasha had become was no longer the sister she had once tried to save.
That girl had died in that hospital bed.
It didn’t need to be like this. Kate and Tasha’s story could have been a happier one. If Tasha had simply listened to Kate and heeded her words, she might not have become the monster that led to the Winchesters tracking them both down. She might not have turned into a vicious and cruel beast exacting revenge on those that hurt her—even if those she killed stood in for those that had oppressed her. Tasha could have been with Kate.
But she didn’t listen. And it cost her dearly— first her humanity and then her life.
How does this story, then, illuminate the growing story of season ten? What does it say about Sam and Dean? What is the forewarn encapsulated within this monster of the week?
In the first three episodes of season ten, Dean was a demon, turned by the Mark of Cain. He had lost all his inhibition, had an even shorter fuse, killed without impunity, and did whatever he wanted. He cast off responsibilities. He set aside his long held ideals. Demon Dean was a cruel beast that set out to destroy everything that was inherently Dean. That culminated in the moment he nearly smashed Sam’s head in with a hammer. The last action necessary for Demon Dean to destroy the real Dean would be to eliminate the brother that Dean had spent a life time protecting.
He came so close to succeeding.
Crowley had leveled at Demon Dean an ultimatum: “Pick a bloody side.” Demon Dean, clearly, had done just that.
We see this same ultimatum play out between Kate and Tasha. Kate and Tasha are physically two different people. And yet, they are very much reflections for one another—they are the same person, just opposite sides of the coin. Kate wanted to remain as human as possible. She wanted to hold onto that—so she tried anything necessary to do so. She picked her human side over her werewolf. It was crucial to her that she do so. To succumb to her werewolf side would mean she had become the monster that had turned her in the first place. Kate may have been a werewolf able to call upon her teeth and claws at will. She may have been capable of killing. But Kate ultimately chose her humanity—the much harder path—because it’s more real. Kate retaining her humanity meant that she still valued its fragility and its resiliency—something she hoped her sister would have learned, too.
Tasha, on the other hand, chose to embrace everything that made being a werewolf amazing. She was powerful, able to take what she wanted when she wanted it, and there was little that could stop her. Tasha enjoyed the blood-lust. She enjoyed the power that the kills allowed her. She loved that she could exact revenge by proxy on anyone that had ever hurt or oppressed or bullied her. She could lead on men, take and eat their hearts, and due to her new strength stop anyone that got in her way. Tasha burned away her humanity with each kill, giving into the much easier and more powerful aspect of her supernatural self.
In the beginning of “Paper Moon,” we see the Winchesters sitting together quietly. They’re relaxing, sharing some beers and companionable silence—and yet Dean can’t quite turn off the hunter brain. Just because they’re sitting on that beach doesn’t mean he’s not reading the paper. He remarks about a news story that leads them straight to Kate and Tasha. He wants to hunt—needs it.
But is this a good thing?
Alarm bells ring upon this news. Sam warns him that if it goes sideways “even an inch” that they’ll walk away. Hunting is dangerous, yes. It could lead to something triggering for Dean. Demon Dean, the disease of “Soul Survivor,” may be gone, but it’s not all gone. The Mark of Cain still rests on Dean’s forearm. It is a lingering cancer waiting, hoping for that moment it can reactivate, regain its strength, and perhaps take control of Dean once more. It is silently biding its time, waiting for that moment when it can perhaps reawaken Demon Dean. Hunting may start its slow creep.
And yet, hunting could also give Dean something that relaxing can’t: redemption.
Dean knows that he did a lot of heinous things while demonic. He knows he killed innocents, treated everyone around him crassly, and was vicious to people. He taunted and tormented Cole—for the sheer pleasure of it. Worst of all, he knows he nearly killed Sam, something that is unforgivable in Dean’s book. After a lifetime of vowing to save Sam rather than kill him at all costs, it’s a difficult pill to swallow. He knows that this sin may never be truly wiped clean. But he has to try.
And he just can’t do that from the lawn chair.
One way for Dean to do that is to hunt. To get back into the family business means that he’s “saving people.” It’ll make up for those lives he either took or ruined. It might help him to build upon the “we time” he shared with Sam, too. Making them not only partners but brothers in the fight will do a lot of good for Dean.
Most of all, it’ll help Dean to remember one major reason why he’s fighting so hard to keep his own humanity: Sam.
And so, Sam relents and they take on the hunt.
As they watch Kate and Tasha’s story unfold, the striking parallels can’t be missed.
In season nine, it was brought up by Sam on numerous occasions that the Mark was doing something to Dean—that he was concerned that this would lead to something bad. Each time, Dean blew him off, insisting that they needed the Mark and First Blade to take down first Abaddon and then Metatron. Dean wasn’t wrong. They needed to take down Abaddon. She was going to destroy the world and turn it into Hell if left unchecked. So, he gave into the Mark.
Kate begged her sister to not given in to the werewolf curse. She begged her not to eat human hearts. Kate warned Tasha about the dangers of it—how it would turn her into nothing but a terrible monster. She put everything on the table, explained everything to her sister, and was left to hope that something, anything would sink in. Instead, Kate watched her sister slowly succumb to the power of the wolf. She watched Tasha slip away. Tasha knew what would happen. Tasha knew that it could lead to her destruction.
And she paid the price for not listening.
But in the aftermath of becoming a demon and now being freshly cured, Dean has to pick up on the crucial forewarn that Kate and Tasha provide. Sam is still raising the warnings about the Mark of Cain. He’s still expressing his concern for what happened when Dean had become a demon—and he’s now raising the warnings that Dean needs to be careful that he not succumb to the Mark yet again. After all the turmoil and emotional stress endured during “Soul Survivor,” Sam knows that it could happen again. They must be vigilant if they are to keep it at bay.
This forewarn is what could potentially happen to Dean. If he should choose not to heed Sam’s words—if he should ignore the warning signs and alarm bells a second time, it’s possible he may end up succumbing yet again to the disease of Demon Dean. Much like Tasha, this could lead to his death. He could face the same fate—death at his sibling’s hands after becoming the monster that replaced the real him.
In this way, hunting becomes a test for Dean. He’s walking a dangerous edge between teetering over into that monstrous side or finding the redemption that he so desperately needs—for so many things he’s done.
Throughout the hunt, we see Dean move to make kills. And each time, Sam steps in and does them for him. In some ways, Dean may be hesitating unconsciously, leaving that window open for his brother. On the other hand, he may be simply that fraction too slow to prevent his hyper aware brother from stepping in. It’s that threshold moment that Dean must meet if he is to truly figure out his place. Eventually, Dean will have to make his first kill post-cure—it’s only a matter of time. It’ll be a crucial moment—one that will see the elder Winchester picking a side—is he human or demon?
This is a new ground for Dean. Like Kate, he has to cope with his humanity. He has to hang on tight to it in order to remain who he is. Kate is deathly afraid of becoming the monster she saw Brian and Tasha become. Dean knows all too well the monster he can be when under the disease of Demon Dean. It isn’t someone he likes. In fact, he finds the whole ordeal “embarrassing.”
Dean has never had to face something like this. He’s faced it by proxy as he’s helped Sam, but this is the first time that Dean himself will have to make the hard choice, face the hard path of fighting to remain human. Even after he returned from Hell and had to cope with what he did as Alastair’s protege Dean remained human. Dean fended off Michael’s attempts at possessing him at every turn. Even while in Purgatory, Dean remained the same.
This time, he has to wrap his head around the fact that he became a vicious monster—one capable of taking great pleasure in inflicting great pain. He may have faced that once before while in Hell, but this time is different. He hadn’t been tortured when he took on the Mark. He wasn’t trying to end his own pain. Dean took the Mark of his own free will and choice. He decided to succumb to it—and the end result led him to becoming the worst version of himself. Fearful of becoming the killer he’s always believed himself to be, Dean became one worse: he found himself capable of murdering and tormenting simply because he wanted to do so. It’s still sinking in for the elder Winchester.
Any attempts to talk about it cause Dean to bristle. He’d rather not examine what happened if possible. Instead, he’d rather focus on the hunt. When that doesn’t work, he’ll try a new tactic. His fumbling conversation about Lester with Sam seems callous on the surface. He’s poking the bear when it comes to bringing it up. In many ways, this is a classic Dean Winchester deflection. He doesn’t want to face the hard truths about himself, and he doesn’t want anyone noodling around in his psyche, so he will deflect things to something someone else did to change the subject.
It’s also a fall back for Dean. He’s worried about his brother. After all, Sam did something questionable—something monstrous. It’s easier to have a conversation about what Sam did than to face what he did or what happened to him. It’s almost a comfort to worry about Sam. That’s normal for Dean, and he feels that if he can slip back into this routine, perhaps he can put behind him all the deeds Demon Dean did to Sam.
And yet, underneath, we can sense a truth that leaves us heartbroken. He may not be able to come right out and say it, but when he says, citing his embarrassment, “All of it. The note. Crowley. Everything,” Dean is questioning if he’s worth saving at all. He can’t believe his brother would go this far for him—and that’s what he’s really asking when bringing this up. Furthermore, he can’t figure out why. He tells Sam that he can’t see how helping Kate try to save Tasha will help. Sam says that they do it all the time, that they fight for their brotherhood, and Dean retorts, “Oh yeah, that’s worked wonders for us ”
It’s not that Dean doesn’t think their brotherhood isn’t worth fighting for—it’s that he doesn’t see himself as worth fighting for.
As Dean struggles with this issue, he’s facing the fact that he must decide what side he should choose. The forewarn that Kate and Tasha provides points that he’ll need to rely on Sam. He’ll need to listen when Sam raises concerns. He’ll have to—like Kate—fight off the inner demon trying to take over. That side of him will want to take the driver’s seat. It’ll want to make him turn away from who he is and turn him into something he never wants to be. It’ll take everything in Dean to beat it.
“Paper Moon” encapsulates this forewarn clearly for Dean. But what about Sam?
Sam, from the moment we see him sitting with Dean, is clearly still watching brother closely. Even when he seems utterly relaxed, we can tell he’s keeping tabs out of the corner of his eye. He’s worried that at anytime his brother could return to that dark path that the Mark of Cain demands. It’s a new worry that the younger Winchester’s never quite faced—and yet he should be Dean’s best help ever.
While Kate and Tasha stood in as clear avatars for the two sides that are dividing Dean in season ten, it’s clear that they’re still very much Sam’s avatars too. He has spent his life waging a war against the evil inside him. Infected with demon blood at six months old, marking him to be Lucifer’s vessel, Sam knows all too well the personal struggle Dean will now face. He has been Kate and he has been Tasha.
Sam’s tried everything and anything to keep the demon blood polluting him at bay. He’s demanded that if he ever changed into something he’s not anymore that Dean should kill him. He’s refused to use his powers. He’s held firm on saying no to Lucifer. Sam had to build up enough reserves in those fights to keep the anger at check. He needed to keep his own rage and his own issues from clouding his true self. Sam, as Dean put it, has been “kicked, bit, scratched, stabbed, possessed, killed.” And he’s emerged on the other side all the stronger for it.
Most of these were in efforts to either keep himself human or to protect Dean.
And yet, Sam has also succumbed to his darker side. He’s given into the powers given to him by Azazel. Furthermore, we saw him relish the strength it gave him, shown best when we see him kill Alastair. He gave into Ruby and consumed demon blood. Sam let his anger master him. He allowed himself to chip away his humanity—and we see him do so again as he coerces Lester into selling his soul. This is a monstrous thing he does—one we can understand in his desperate hour but know will need to be faced and overcome.
And so, Sam knows all too well the fight that Kate and Tasha fought and ultimately lost. He’s been there. He’s endured it. And he’s survived.
If anyone can guide Dean through the path he’s now tying to walk, it’ll be Sam. He can read the forewarn that Kate and Tasha provide clearly. It’s evident all over their situation. After all, Sam hadn’t listened to Dean when his elder brother begged him not to use his powers—or to drink demon blood. Sam ignored Dean’s pleas to not listen to Ruby. So he knows exactly what Kate tried to do and where Tasha failed—and he knows that he can’t fail the same way. Sam knows he has to learn from his own mistakes in order to prevent his brother from making them, too.
Sam can see that this path might lead him to kill Dean—but like his older brother, he’ll choose to save Dean instead. He knows, anyways, that the real thing that needs killing is not his brother—it’s Demon Dean, the disease that threatens him. It’s that Mark burned onto his brother’s skin—the one that could poison him all over again.
Sam remains the care giver here, ensuring that his brother can’t possibly call upon that darker side so soon after being restored. He’ll kill before Dean can, he’ll try anything and everything to keep that monster inside from getting out. Rather than waging this battle on the inside as he’s done in the past, Sam will have to do so from the outside.
He also gets why Dean wants to hunt—why he is bound and determined to do this. Needing redemption for letting Lucifer out, Sam felt much the same way and still does. He knows that Dean needs to save lives in order to make up for those he took. And, because of the desperate acts he committed, ones he explained with such sorrow by telling Dean, “No. No, no. I’m sure there were a few hunters I rubbed, or punched the wrong way. But, no I pretty much saved my best stuff for the bad guys. But you gotta understand something Dean, I watched you die, and I carried you. I carried your corpse into your room, and I put your dead body onto your bed and then you just…” Sam knows he must walk this path with Dean for himself, too.
Kate and Tasha’s story may have ended tragically, but Sam knows what it foretells. He can see the dead end path they walked for what it was. He has walked it himself before. Now that Dean is fumbling his way down it, too, Sam couldn’t possibly be a better guide that will help Dean. He’ll make sure that they don’t make Kate and Tasha’s fate theirs, too.
Instead, Sam will make sure they can emerge stronger, better, and redeemed. He’ll make sure that the Mark can’t infect Dean yet again—or he’ll die trying.
Emily Tennant plays Kate’s sister, Tasha. In our first brush with the young werewolf, Tennant gives her a misleading innocence. The Winchesters are stalking her, convinced that they’re trailing the now turned rogue Kate, only to find themselves mistaken. Once they have her, she quickly puts on a frightened act, trembling and whimpering—anything that will make the brothers let her go. Stuck in their awkward reaction, it takes too long and we see Tennant turn Emily on a dime. She reveals herself to be a werewolf and lunges before fleeing down the path. It’s after her exposure that we see Tasha truly transform on screen. After they track her down to the family cabin, we see a cruelty in Tennant’s performance. She’s harsh and animilisitc. Tennant gives Tasha a lot of snark, too, especially when addressing the Winchesters or her sister. She conveys well that Tasha enjoys all the perks of being a werewolf, relishing in the power it provides. And yet, Tennant also grasps that a lot of this is pure bravado. Tasha’s still looking for approval from Kate—she wants them to live happily. Tasha may be a werewolf gone rogue, but we can see, in Tennant’s performance, the little girl still buried deep inside. As we see her die, Tennant makes us feel sympathetic for the young woman she once was.
Brit Sheridan returns to Supernatural as the now somber Kate. When we last saw her, she was a college student transformed into a werewolf, her life left in ruins. In the two years since, we can sense a heavy weight resting on her shoulders—all in how Sheridan portrays her. There’s a sorrow that lingers around her, a wariness in all her actions, and a seriousness that marks her. It’s in her stance and in the way she looks around her. Sheridan makes sure that we can sympathize with Kate without even having to tell the story behind the latest werewolf attacks. As the brothers have her tied up, and she’s lipping off to Dean, we can see that she’s trying to buy time. We don’t want to believe that Kate could be the one doing these things—and it’s mostly because Sheridan makes Kate so likable. We want to trust her. When the truth is revealed—particularly when we see her stop the brothers from killing her sister, we’re afforded a glimpse inside Kate’s inner mind. She’s heartbreaking as she explains how this “curse” has changed her life—that she had to give up her family and walk away from the life she used to know. Kate lost all the promise that should have been hers upon her transformation. And yet, as we hear the story about Kate’s desperation to save her sister, Tasha, we can’t help but feel even more sorry for this girl. She saw a chance to save her sister, and instead it has only brought more grief—yet another heavy burden for this young girl to carry. Sheridan makes us feel most for her when we see her scream for her sister from the front seat of the Impala. Kate may know that her sister has be stopped, and she may know that it’s too late, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Sheridan makes this moment very human—even if her character is not one anymore. Despite all the sadness that marks Kate in this return, we can also see the fierceness and steeliness that has grown through the past two years, too. She’s no longer the naïve or innocent college student we saw filled with so many ideals and hopes. Instead, we see a battle hardened and cautious woman, willing to protect what matters to her and has the resolve to follow through on her word. Sheridan made Kate a strong character on screen through just her presence, making us sit up and take notice of the young werewolf. She breaks our heart most, however, when we see that Kate has no choice but to kill Tasha. The action is swift and brutal, but the aftermath is tender and sad. As we see Kate wander alone again into the night, we’re left to wonder just where she’ll go and when she’ll turn up next.
Jensen Ackles slides effortlessly back into the Dean Winchester we’ve come to know—and yet we can sense a new vulnerability in this performance. It’s clear in his body language and the way he delivers his lines. Ackles conveys all of Dean’s guilt and horror at what happened while he was demonic with subtlety and grace. Even when Dean’s not talking about it, we can sense in how Ackles presents the character that all of this is still weighing on his mind. It’s clear in the moments Dean hesitates in killing the werewolves. It’s in the times we see him driving as he glances at both Sam and Kate. Ackles has always managed to show us the little boy trapped inside the hardened hunter, and we saw that plain here. Ackles also gave us a chance to see Dean’s hurt and drive in the way he went about this hunt. He puts all of Dean’s bravado into the line, “Well, wait till she gets a load of us,” in response to the remark that the werewolf girl they’re hunting likes bad boys. We can also see that Dean’s attempts to talk about Lester for what they are in how Ackles delivers the lines: they’re deflection and concern for his brother, something Dean’s all too familiar with. In the final scene, when Dean expresses to Sam why he wants to hunt, Ackles put every heartfelt emotion into the line, “Maybe I’m not ready to hunt. But I am just trying to do the right thing, man. ‘Cause I am so sick and tired of doing the wrong one.” Now that he’s been restored to the Dean we know, how will Ackles show us Dean’s struggle to remain that way in the remainder of the season?
Jared Padalecki gives Sam a heightened sense of worry and care in this episode. We can see it from the moment they’re sitting in the lawn chairs to the closing moment in the confines of the Impala. His body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones capture just what Sam’s feeling. Padalecki shows us that Sam has learned well at the feet of his brother on how to be protective. It’s in every action and word. Sam is watching his brother like a hawk, jumping in at the last second when necessary, and gaging just how his brother is feeling at every turn. Padalecki gives us all of Sam’s compassion, too, as he faces Kate and the difficult and unthinkable situation she faces. Padalecki plays Sam gentle when speaking to her. He’s always played Sam with great empathy, and we see that shine best in the final conversation that Sam and Dean share with Kate. Sam knows that this tragic ending could have been his—and still might—and so he feels deeply for the young werewolf. Padalecki captures this best when he delivers the line, “For what it’s worth, thank you. At the end of the day she was your sister.” That doesn’t mean that Sam didn’t feel frustrated in “Paper Moon.” Padalecki showed us that well, too. He captured that brilliantly when he shakes off Dean’s mention of Lester or when Sam says, “Oh, you were a demon. I didn’t realize that.” Padalecki’s subtle here, showing us that it’s not merely frustration, it’s concern for his brother and a sense of pent up emotion from what happened back in the Bunker dungeon. His best scene, however, comes when he makes his confession to Dean about the time he spent looking for his brother—and how far it pushed him. He’s quiet in this moment, simply stating the bald truth without any frills. This simple statement about carrying his brother’s corpse hits hard not only for the word choice given in the script, but in how Padalecki makes them become heartbreaking and real in how he says them. In that moment, we can see and hear all the agony Sam went through from the moment Dean died in his arms to the moment he could finally say, “Welcome back, Dean.” Now that they’ve had their first brush with hunting again, how will Sam keep his brother from turning away from the forewarn? And how will Padalecki show us that?
Best Lines of the Week:
Dean: You’ve been… kicked, bit, scratched, stabbed, possessed, killed. And you sprain your friggin elbow?
Sam:No. No, no. I’m sure there were a few hunters I rubbed, or punched the wrong way. But, no I pretty much saved my best stuff for the bad guys. But you gotta understand something Dean, I watched you die, and I carried you. I carried your corpse into your room, and I put your dead body onto your bed and then you just…
Kate: I guess things change being this. I tried to be strong but the hunger was too much, too hard. It’s not like anyone gave me a handbook on how to be a werewolf.
Dean: Yeah, you’re a regular psycho Brady Bunch.
Next episode, Supernatural reaches an awesome milestone: 200 episodes. Who else is ready for the “musical-ish” party?