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

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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.

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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…

Sam & Dean: Rest, Relaxation and Werewolves

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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.

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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.

“I watched you die. And I carried you. I carried your corpse into your room and I put your dead body on your bed; and then, you just…”

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.

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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 embarrassing you know?..All of it. The note. Crowley. Everything.”

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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:

“I’m not trying to get by it…it’s about getting about getting back in the saddle. Doing something good. Not stewing in my own crap…Let’s say you’re right…maybe I’m not ready to hunt. But I am just trying to do the right thing, man, because I am so sick and tired of doing the wrong one.”

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.

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The brother’s relationship repair was done remarkably well throughout the episode. There wasn’t suppression and avoidance leading to a brawl or affecting the hunt. Sam and Dean have evolved and matured to a place of discussion and addressed the elephant in the room before it became an elephant, with forthright emotional honesty that was refreshing and welcome. Nicely done, boys.

Final Thoughts

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.

Your thoughts?

So, that was 199 – whose ready for 200?!


# LEAH 2014-10-30 23:34
Thanks Elle, nice review and I pretty much agree with you on everything you have said. Honestly the Kate story was just pleasant filler between the brother moments it seems.:) I wish so much emphasis wasn't being put on the Lester portion of the conversation. I think both guys are completely worn out both physically and mentally. And still they tried to communicate. It wasn't perfect. It was a start. No one stormed off or really even got angry. I hope they will talk some more. Baby steps back to find their way together again. Moc on their mind. The recent past and the immediate future to worry about. Good for them.
# Trucklady 2014-10-31 00:00
Great review Elle! I agree with everything you said 100%. I just loved this episode and finally I feel we are getting the conversations between the guys that they have needed for a very long time. Heck we have all needed it and I'm so glad the writers felt that way too. They still have a ways to go but this episode showed that they both have grown and are in a place where now they both know that reading between the lines or brushing this off or burying them deep down just does not work anymore and words have got to be spoken in order to move on and beyond all the crap. This is the best season so far in my book and I'm loving every bit of it.
# nappi815 2014-10-31 07:44
Spot on wonderful review. I agree with you 100%. It's been ten years in the making, but I finally think we're heading towards a less dysfunctional relationship between our boys. I believe they've finally reached the point where they will come to accept who they are, flaws and all, and come to be ok with that. I feel the bond growing stronger with ea. episode, and i'm proud of both of them for dealing with what's happened instead of trying to sweep it all under the rug. it's going to be bumpy for a bit, but I have no doubt the end result will be a stronger, more mature brotherly bond based on honesty and understanding rather than misconception about ea. feels about the other based on their own low opinion of themselves..... damn, it's about time. :D;)
# Wynne88 2014-10-31 14:28
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.

I never got the feeling that Sam felt guilty about what he had done; in fact, he didn't really seem to see it as a big deal and didn't appear to understand why Dean was even bringing it up. Although I didn't think they conveyed it very clearly, I could definitely understand him maybe being uncomfortable about NOT feeling guilty, especially since Dean gives the impression that he thinks Sam should be bothered. Hope they pursue that.

Also, I thought it was weird having Sam sit in the back of the Impala, but as you pointed out, it is so much easier to have heart to heart conversations if you don't have to look someone in the face, especially if it's dark. That was well thought out on someone's part.

Thanks for the great review!
# E 2014-10-31 15:50
Sam really showed his guilt over Lester more in the cure episode and Dean saw that. He exploited it as a demon to rattle Sam and it's clear he remembers that in this scene. Sam was just confused because Dean brought Lester up out of the blue; it made little to no sense for Dean to shift gears like that. They weren't discussing Lester, they were discussing Dean, which is why the whole Lester convo comes across more to me as a deflection at best and a criticism at worst.

Sam was sitting in the back so that Dean could trap Kate and cuff her to the steering wheel. I think Dean did that with Krissy too, although Sam wasn't in the back seat at the time. It did work out nicely for their non- face to face, we AREN'T having a chick-flick mo-mo.
# cheryl42 2014-10-31 14:44
I kind of got the impression that Sam wasn't going to apologize for what he did. It didn't go down how he planned and he feels bad about that but much like Dean in saving Sam last season he isn't going to beat himself up about it. But it remains to be seen what else Sam may have done and if he is going to have to answer for that.
# E 2014-10-31 15:56
What do you think the response would have been if Lester had been a good guy and say willing to sell his soul to save his young child from cancer for example? What would people's views of Sam's actions have been then? Generally I am accusing the PTB of mitigating Dean's culpability in this way, but this time they did if for Sam. They chickened out with this part of the story. If they REALLY wanted to explore the "bigger monster" aspect then they shouldn't have made Lester such a schmuck. A grieving Dad tricked into selling his soul? Puts what Sam did in an even more unflattering light and could have really given him something to agonize over. It shouldn't matter that Lester was a douche, what Sam did was pretty shady, but they are making us not care as much through said douchery. I guess the days of this show taking those kinds of chances are over.
# elle 2014-10-31 19:34
I think the point was made that Sam looked specifically for a person who was a less than great person - not someone with a noble purpose. Sam simply wouldn't have chosen someone with selfless goal - that's out of character, especially when he had a host of unsavory, nasty people to choose from. He was scoping that particular bar for just the right person. It doesn't make it right necessarily. Was it his intention for Lester to actually trade his soul? No. But at the same time, it was what it was. Neither one is dismissing what took place lightly and I don't believe that is the goal of the writers - in fact, they've taken a chance in having both boys contribute rather dramatically and directly to the killing and sacrifice of a human soul, even if he was a not a nice guy (a killer, if you want to be blunt because ultimately Lester was hiring somebody to kill his wife). Nobody has dismissed it, per se, it is being addressed because it's a line that was never crossed before and that is why they both need recovery. The boys aren't killers in a black and white, slaughter for the sake of taking human life way. However, a life is still a life to them so they've had to come to terms with everything that happened and how they reached those places, accept what happened and move forward. This episode was about that recovery process more than anything. That's what I believe anyways.
# Scullspeare 2014-10-31 17:44
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:
So true, and of course the key part of the statement is ‘everything “Dean” went through.’ Both boys have been through the emotional wringer and Hallelujah! to that fact being acknowledged. I know the Winchester way is just to play the “I’m fine” card or to deflect through insults, but given how well that’s worked for them in the past (yes, that was sarcasm) it’s nice to see them actually dealing–in small doses and in character, and I’m totally fine with that. Let’s just hope the season builds on the foundation established here.

While listening to Sam’s “I carried your dead body” speech, it hit me that Sam has buried (or at least been faced with burying) Dean, the big brother he idolizes, three times:
1. After Dean’s final death in Mystery Spot. I don’t think canon has every specified whether Sam buried Dean or cremated him on a pyre, but given Sam lived in the Trickster’s alternate universe for six months (?) beyond Dean’s death, presumably he had to do one or the other.
2. In the field outside Pontiac, Illinois after Dean was dragged to Hell in No Rest for the Wicked.
3. After Metatron killed Dean in Do You Believe in Miracles. While, obviously, he didn’t have to go through with burying Dean this time, it was a reality he faced right up to the point he discovered Dean’s body missing.

Is it any wonder he’s messed up? That he went to the lengths he did the third time around, crossing even some personal lines he’d set for himself (using Lester as bait, for example) in the wake of that kind of emotional devastation?

I mean, look at the lengths to which Dean has gone to never face that pain; he flipped out on Bobby in All Hell Breaks Loose II for even suggesting they bury Sam–then sold his soul to get his brother back. For him, an eternity in Hell is preferable to burying his little brother. Ditto for his deal with Ezekiel/Gadreel and taking on the Mark of Cain. And when Sam threw himself into Hell in Swan Song, I think of the physically and emotionally battered Dean, on his knees at the ‘gravesite’, completely spent until Cas returns to heal him (physically, at least).

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows there’s finality to a burial. We come up with all kinds of ways to protect ourselves emotionally after a loved one dies, but when they lower a casket into the ground (or place them on a pyre, as hunters in SPN often do), the reality of the loss becomes impossible to ignore.

In the past we’ve seen RoboSam and KamikazeSam in this situation; I’m kind of liking Let’s-deal-even -if-it’s-in-a-r oundabout-sort- of-way Sam.

Thanks for the review and food for thought, Elle!
# E 2014-11-01 10:36
And Sam (for right or for wrong) really thought Dean was dead in season 7/8. He thought that Dean exploded in a tidal wave of black goo along with Cas. So he may not have had a body to bury, but he still thought Dean was dead at that time, and actually tried to go on with his life without him, not that that worked very well. So when it comes to Dead Dean… for Sam its really been four times. Poor guy. No wonder he's a mess.