The Super Sleepy Dispatch
Recap and Review: Supernatural 10:4 “Paper Moon”
By P.S. Griffin
And just like that we are back to a run of the mill monster of the week episode, heavy on the subtext anvils.
The episode opens to the excellent song “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon. If the episode’s title didn’t give the MotW away, the song certainly does. Still my hopes are high for stylish werewolves, tailors and beef chow mein. Owwwoooo!
This episode was directed by Jeannot Schwarz. It’s gorgeously shot. The direction does a lot to emphasize the mood between the brothers. It looks like an old school monster of the week, and yet everything looks wrong. You know what I mean.
The episode opens with a slip of a girl, blond entering a biker bar and picking out her prey. I like how we see her progression through the appreciative male faces. She stops when she sees the one and he’s thrilled. He’s easily coaxed out back for some nasty. Instead she tears him apart. We see enough to assume that she’s Kate, the newbie werewolf from “Bitten”.
After the bloody opening, we see the Winchesters enjoying some post cure R and R in the great outdoors. Every long shot is a postcard, and every close up emphasizes the distance between the brothers and their inability to see each other clearly. Gorgeous.
Their lawn chairs have great views of the lake. There’s brotherly bonding sort of, and there’s beer. It’s a benign facsimile of the way things used to be, made surreal by the washed out lighting and the cheap sunglasses. We get the sense that both brothers are hiding behind the dark frames. Just wait for the car talks.
Dean teases Sam about being a gimp. He doesn’t understand how Sam managed to get so hurt considering their history. Sam tries to explain which prompts Dean to say, “That sling come with a slice of crybaby pie on the side?” Dean seems to be trying too hard to be Dean. Their conversation confirms that Sam was injured while fighting (torturing) a demon.
Of course Sam tries to get Dean to open up and talk about things. Instead Dean has found a case in the paper. He wants to work. Apparently there have been a series of strange animal killings in a nearby town. Dean really wants to go back to hunting now. I wonder if he’s starting to get that special feeling of… Must. Kill. Now. Sam is worried that it’s too soon.
I confess to being flummoxed by Sam’s attitude. How is doing nothing helping Dean? First, Dean has always worked through his feelings by doing something. Who can forget the season seven Dean fixing baby montage as he processed his grief about losing Cas to the Leviathan. Once the car was fixed, Dean fixated on hentai. Dean doesn’t like to sit and stew in his juices. He is a man of action. He’s either hunting, or drinking, or consuming porn, or watching telenovelas, or reading. Think about it.
Second, where was Sam last season? Dean went gonzo manic bonkers because he wasn’t killing enough; they need to use the hunt to sate the beast and the bloodlust. Anyhow, Sam acquiesces. They have work to do, or rather Dean has to work.
Dean and Sam eschew their FBI suits for the guise of game wardens and head to the Sheriff’s office. They learn that the victims’ hearts were eaten. We all know what this means. Owwwooo! Yep. Werewolves. They also learn that a witness said that there was another victim, a girl; yet only one corpse was found at the scene, and there is no evidence to suggest a second victim. The Sheriff says the witness is unreliable. Is this because he was intoxicated or because he is a biker? Bikers are individuals that chose to lead lives that are not main street American. They appear rough, nomadic, violent and prone to drinking to many in society. Add karaoke and it sure sounds like demonic Dean.
Dean and Sam find the witness, Tommy, at the same biker bar. Tommy hesitates to talk to them because he knows his story is crazy, or at least the Sheriff’s reaction let him know that his story is crazy.
The Winchesters tell him that they won’t judge him. They’ve seen plenty of cray cray themselves. Tommy tells them that the victim, his buddy, went out back with a girl. She was young and innocent looking, but knew what she wanted. Later he saw the same girl covered with blood by the Sturgis place. When he looked again to offer help she was gone. He believes that he saw her ghost after she was torn apart. The Winchesters know that she’s the supernatural assailant. Owwwooo!
Of course the Winchesters hightail it to the farm. Dean finds dead chickens aplenty and the three parallel scratches that werewolves tend to leave about. He finds a slight blond girl in the barn. Her mouth is bloody. Sure enough it’s Kate. We see she’s wearing a bracelet identical to the assailant from the opening sequence. She’s talking to someone on her cell but she stops when she smells Dean. She tries to escape but unfortunately she runs into Sam who grabs her. Both brothers recognize her from season eight’s “Bitten”. They even remember her name.
They accuse her of being the town’s killer werewolf. She looks confused, then admits to it. She says that she couldn’t ignore the hunger any longer. She’s not terribly convincing, however the Winchesters buy it because she’s not the first werewolf to succumb to the hunger.
Her dialogue is on point for Dean and the Mark’s bloodlust. “Things changed… being this… I tried to be strong but it was too much, too hard.”
Kate tells them to just do whatever they’re gonna do. Apparently she wants it done quickly. She reminds me a bit of Dean goading Sam to kill him in “Soul Survivor”. Like Sam, Dean hesitates. He’s clearly uneasy because he sympathizes with her and doesn’t want to kill her. Sam however is still business as usual except that he doesn’t want Dean doing the killing.
Dean’s pause gives Sam time to tell Dean that he doesn’t think he should make the kill because he’s not ready. This is bollocks of course. I think Sam wants to pretend everything is fine and dandy and once Dean kills, Sam will have to face the truth. Anyhow, I scream “Idjit!” Sam you have no idea how the bloody mark of Cain works. BFF Crowley was absolutely right. Dean needs to kill to maintain control.
Before either one of them can pull the trigger, Sam receives a call. There’s been another animal attack across town. Obviously Kate is not the killer. Well, I think logistically she could still be one of the killers. The brothers’ minds don’t work logically this episode because of the writing.
Moving along now… oops! Kate escapes before they can question her further. It’s always the pretty ones that get away on this show. Luckily Dean has her phone and can track her last call to a motel. Off we go!
On the way, we get an awkward car talk. Dean is still speaking his mind rather than bottling his feelings tightly to keep things between the brothers copacetic.
Dean is testy about Sam’s previous concerns regarding his readiness to hunt (and kill). He asks Sam what he meant and Sam talks around his fear that Dean will go dark or remains dark if he kills. He assures Dean that he’s not trying to start something.
Dean is more forthcoming. He points out Sam needed a break too. Sam is confused and Dean brings up that nasty Lester business again, apparently questioning whether Sam is fit to hunt. Ouch. We are treated to a rather long flashback that includes both brothers’ parts in the sordid affair. Dean assures Sam that he’s not trying to start anything either. He is definitely trying to make a point. This brotherly moment is tense, terse and troubling. Dean doesn’t usually behave this way.
Sam is annoyed, incredulous and uncomfortable, with one bitchface after another passing over his face. Sam covers by pointing out that Dean killed Lester. Dean replies that he was a demon and that Lester was dead anyway because of the deal, and that’s all on Sam.
Sam reflects on this clearly troubled. He asks what Dean wants from him and then makes excuses about his behavior. “I’m not happy about it, but I had to find you, so if I had to bend a few rules.”
Dean corrects him, telling him he went dark. Sam, very testy, acquiesces. Dean assures him that he’s not complaining about it. (At least Sam cared enough to do something). However he wants to be clear that they both needed the time off. He ends the conversation by saying it was good, twice. Clearly Dean got something from the painfully awkward exchange. Was he just glad he stood up for himself and called out Sam on his bull? Is he still playing with Sammy?
Dean is standing up for himself and maintaining his previous stance *”Soul Survivor”) that even as a demon he was certainly no worse a person than Sam. He’s refusing to allow Sam to make him the bad guy (the big bad demon). He even suggests maybe Lester wasn’t Sam’s only victim. Ouch! Yeah Dean!
It’s nice to see him standing up for himself, even if the subtext is that Dean is still not the same person that he was before. His calm demeanor and his recusal to let Sam off of the hook remind me of demonic Dean’s banter wirh Sam. Seriously. This episode is screaming in large and small ways that Dean is still different and Sam is still mostly clueless and very scared. Dean is a little bit scary. Change is scary.
Anyhow, they end the awkward, tense conversation by pretending it was helpful and everything is beautiful. We’re cool bro. Yeah. I’m not buying it. The subsequent silence is deafening. It speaks volumes.
At the hotel they see a slight, blond girl leave her room. They follow her to a nearby park where she appears to be stalking a male jogger. The Winchesters pull their guns. Freeze pretty lady, who… surprise! surprise! She is not Kate. Was anyone actually surprised by this obvious development?
She tries the sweet and normal act, however the Winchesters do not buy it. Dean tries to determine whether she’s a bona-fide werewolf using the old cut with a silver knife test. If she reacts, other than by bleeding, she’s afflicted with curse of the werewolf. Owwwooo!
Of course she freaks and screams for help from the big scary man with the knife. They pause giving her time to wolf out enough to defend herself. Things look dire until Kate shows up to stop her sister from killing Sam. Who didn’t see this development coming? The sister runs away and Kate stops Dean from shooting her by explaining that the girl is her sister. Dean pauses and the look on his face tells us that family still means something to this snarky, darker shade of Dean.
Dean is pissed though that Kate’s sister is a werewolf. He’s an angry man with a gun. He wants Kate to explain how this happened. And he gets madder when she says that she turned her sister. Both brothers accuse her of being a killer. She says that she’s not like that, but does a poor job of defending herself. And she won’t admit that her sister is the killer.
Sam suggests they go somewhere private to work things out. Dark Dean is a hoot, “Yeah, sure. Go grab some coffee, maybe some bear hearts, let’s party.” I am guessing he would rather just gank them both and call it a good day.
At the diner, Dean and Sam listen to Kate’s story. Dean’s being lean and mean. Kate swears that she’s never eaten human hearts and says meditation and yoga are effective at controlling her urges. Dean sneers at this and one wonders whether he hates new age stuff that much, or he doesn’t believe her because he knows all about dark urges.
Clearly, she’s the older sister in their sad tale and a Dean analog since she used supernatural means to heal her terminal little sister, Tasha. She bit her good, and the bite took too well. Tasha loves the power and the hunt. She’s our busy little killer.
Then there’s also the very on point dialogue about not knowing what to do with this new life, staying away from family to protect them, and of course staying moral with a clear conscience despite the urges. And yes she even wanted to take her curse and do something good with it. It’s pretty much Dean’s story in retrospect.
Anyhow we learn that Kate hasn’t killed a human or consumed a human heart. She’s a good girl y’all yet she’s a friggin’ monster with claws and fangs. Didn’t I tell you to expect many more MotW episodes dealing with monsters and their families in my review of “Soul Survivor”?
Little sister Tasha isn’t so good. She likes human hearts, Kate cannot lie. She tells them Tasha is family and she would happily eat a bullet to protect her. Big brother Dean has died to save Sammy twice. Anyhow Kate’s story borders on Winchester levels of dysfunctional family time. The brothers look at each other in recognition. Through the looking glass their special brand of dysfunction doesn’t look so good.
Anyhow, true to Winchester form Kate doesn’t want to quit on her sister. She wants to isolate them deep in the woods to teach her sister about control. I remember the werewolf Professor from “Bitten” who admitted that it was impossible to abstain forever once you’ve tasted a human heart. I don’t think Tasha can be rehabilitated.
The brothers want to know if she has the cojones to put Tasha down if she can’t be saved. Dean actually asks Kate the same thing that he asked Sam in “Soul Survivor”, “You know what you have to do right”? Kate says that she will take that care of her sister; she owes her that much.
Suddenly I am reminded that Dean is a superb liar. He tells her that there’s a cure and they can use it on both her and her sister. Sam’s bitchface gives the lie away. Luckily for them, Kate doesn’t notice. Lean, mean Dean is planning to get his kill on. The cure is obviously the pointy end of a silver blade. Sam looks very uncomfortable.
At the car he tells Dean it’s wrong to dump their garbage on the girls, especially Kate who pulled a crazy Winchester kind of save for Tasha. Dean lets it slip that he’s lost faith in their ability to make things work, probably because he knows he’s still a demony guy with the Mark of Cain. It’s only a matter of time. If Kate is our mirror for Dean, Tasha is our mirror for what Sam fears Dean will become; she is a killer, a monster, and totally controlled by her urges.
Apparently Kate knows where her sister is holed up because they have a rendezvous plan. So they drive away in Baby with Kate riding shotgun (the horror!). Seriously, this is weird. Is it because the brothers can’t look at each other now. Or is Glass trying to tell us that they’re not on the same page… or they’re together but they’re not feeling it like before… Or maybe there be secrets and lies…
Well Kate is asleep, and sure enough, Sam confesses that Lester was not the only dupe Sam used in his search for Crowley. He’s vague and cavalier about it, implying he saved his best stuff for the bad guys. I think that perhaps he’s being disingenuous about what he did. He really is a selfish, self righteous monster compared to Dean, demonic or otherwise. Dean may have had urges because of the Mark, however Sam let his own wants compromise the safety of others, and he apparently feels no guilt about it.
The subtext here is scary tense. It’s as if Dean has drawn, measured and found Sam to be wanting. Like demonic Dean said, there was little difference between him and Sam except that Sam was probably worse, and demonic Dean owned up and took responsibility for his actions.
Sam plays the heartbreak card, excusing his actions (using innocents!) as a reasonable response to his grief over Dean’s death. “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 on your bed, and then you just. …” Boo hook princess.
Dean says that he thought his note was enough! Sam stutters becausr he’s gobsmacked. Then Dean thanks him and says that the whole demon business and Crowley… he’s embarrassed. WTF! This is so not original Dean. Seriously.
First, Sam is very emotional in this scene. Dean, Mr. One Perfect Man Tear, who usually wears his emotions on his face is showing very little emotion. His face is nearly frozen. It doesn’t seem like Old Dean at all to me.
And second, Dean’s big mytharc in the early seasons, besides saving Sammy, was his angst and fear about going to Hell and his angst and guilt about liking to torture souls in hell. How does the man’s feelings about turning into the thing that drove his emotional well being and self worth into the ground be explained as embarrassment. Either Glass is an idiot or Dean is still quite a bit demony. I pity the fools that think everything is right with their world, though admittedly Dean tries to pretend there at the end, smiling it off.
They arrive at the proverbial horror staple, an isolated cabin in the woods. This one is pretty fine. Dean handcuffs Kate to the steering wheel. Of course! That’s why he had her in the front seat. Kate begs Dean not to kill her sister. Honey I am pretty sure that is the only plan on the agenda.
Kate tries to take the blame for her sister’s actions. Dean’s mind is set in stone baby; so is his face and it’s a strong contrast to Sam’s very troubled and emotional mien. “Tasha’s in too deep. You don’t ever come back from that. Not ever.” Dean has become an expert in this stuff over the years. Also I suspect he knows full well that he isn’t really cured, and it’s only a matter of time before the bloodlust and killing take hold and/or lean, mean Dean returns in full force.
Dean and Sam enter the cabin. Dean is all business whereas Sam appears to be distracted and saddened by the family photos of better days. is I am sure he remembers looking at Winchester family photos whilst torturing his brother, terrified that he Dean was lost to Sam forever.
Sam finds Tasha in a bedroom holding a doll. She can’t believe her own sister betrayed her. Soon both brothers are captured by Tasha’s werewolf boys. She loves the life so much that she’s made herself s killer pack.
Kate has escaped and runs in to save Tasha but instead she saves the brothers. Kate wants to know who the wereboys are. Tasha says that she turned them; they’re their new family. Dark Dean is wonderfully snarky, “Yeah, you’re a regular psycho Brady Bunch.”
Tasha wants Kate to join her pack and prove her loyalty by eating Sam’s heart. Kate refuses of course after some tense face acting by everyone. Kate is a good monster. This prompts Tasha to tell her wereboys to have some fun with the Winchesters, and save her a heart in a doggy bag. Tasha’s snark includes referring to Dean and Sam as dreamboat and Paul Bunyan respectively, and Mary Kate and Ashley. The wereboys take the Winchesters to the other room for playtime.
The sisters have an emotional visit where Tasha tries to talk Kate into being an out, proud and free werewolf. Kate laments that her good little sister is long gone. They want to stay together and be there for each other, but the lives they want to lead respectively are too different. And of course Tasha is a killer. I see where this is going.
Kate tells Tasha that she can help her. Tasha tells her no thanks, I don’t need your help. I am good. According to Tasha she’s “better and smarter and stronger and awesome. I’m a freaking superhero.” Kate is upset because she’s killing innocent people, but Tasha doesn’t care. She used to be scared and weak but not any longer. Tasha then tries to sway Kate to her side by using the family card. If Kate joins her she won’t be alone anymore because they will have each other.
Meanwhile, The brothers do a song and dance patter that both distracts the wereboys and angers them, giving Sam the opportunity to knife both of them.
Kate says that she loves her sister. Tasha says that she loves Kate. They hug and Kate kills her quickly while hugging her tightly. It’s sad even though I don’t care about either character. She flees before the brothers find her sister’s body.
As they drive away Sam tries to initiate another fun car talk. He thinks they returned to hunting too soon. “I mean Dean, you were a demon. You still have the Mark. Didn’t you ever want to talk about it?”
Dean’s pretty chill except for tension around his eyes and lips. He doesn’t need to talk. He needs to work. Still Sam is worried that Dean’s not ready.
Again with emphasis, Sam is an idjit. I see that he cares deeply about his brother However, he has no idea how the mark operates yet he is trying to control Dean’s actions. Dean absolutely knows how the mark works. He is being honest about needing to hunt (ie. kill); however, he’s not telling Sam much else. The fact that he’s not visibly jonesing for a kill tells me that there’s at least a teeny weeny bit of demon lurking within. Otherwise he would be edgy and mean and replacing his need to kill with another vice like booze, sex or food.
For some reason Kate calls. Maybe she’s depressed about killing her sister and the Winchesters are the only people she can talk with about her feelings. Considering their current inability to say what they feel, this is sad.
Sam thanks her for helping them and commiserates that she killed her sister. Kate says that she wasn’t her sister. I guess it’s easier to think of her as a killer werewolf. The must kill my sibling subtext overwhelms this episode. What’s interesting is that each brother thinks the other is the monster. Since Sam is being obtuse and Dean is the immortal with the mark of Cain I tend to think death is in Sam’s future, especially if he tries to kill Dean.
Dean of course tells Kate to stick to the straight and narrow. He doesn’t need to say or else. It’s pretty much implied. Kate signs off by telling them she hopes that she never sees them again. She killed means of course that she really hopes that she never becomes a maneater, a monster, a killer. Owwwoooo!
Dean finally answers Sam. “Maybe I’m not ready to hunt. But I’m just trying to do the right thing, man, because I’m so sick and tired of doing the wrong one.” This is the end of the conversation for now. I think Dean is trying to hunt, do good, and make it seem like old times with his brother until he goes off the deep end. He may be human enough to be doing this for Sam.
The brothers’ love for each other was crystal clear in the cabin when their lives were seriously threatened by the newbie pack. I also got the sense that Sam is the one not ready to hunt because losing Dean and curing him has been too much for him to process.
I can’t help but think that the last time Dean was in this mindset he ended up with the Mark of Cain and went on to become kill happy, and more than happy to risk his life to defeat Abaddon and Metatron. Hmmm… that Metatron guy is still a problem…
Additional Thoughts: This episode was written by Head Writer Adam Glass. I found it to be fairly paint by the numbers overall. Glass is pretty pedestrian in his plots. However, he excels at dialogue. I loved the awful, tense, stilted car conversations. Boy, something is surely rotten in the impala!
In fact I thought most of the dialogue was really good despite being extremely anvilicious.
I do think that Glass was heavy handed with the anvils. Despite the proceedings being mired by subtext, I really enjoyed the pleasant fission of dread about what the future holds for the boys. What is with all of the kill my sibling subtext. My guess is we are supposed to think Sam will have to kill Dean and then the opposite thing happens because Dean can’t be killed, and Sam’s futile attempt might unleash a beast. The fact that Cain killed his brother really can’t be ignored. Although Dean is justified to find fault with Sam’s actions and hypocrisy regarding the Lester incident and whatever other terrible things he did in the name of finding Dead, I can’t help but wonder if the Mark also feeds distrust towards the Mark holder’s brother.
I also thought Glass’ script adroitly let us know through subtext and brotherly conversations that Dean is still different and that it’s only a matter of time.
I just wish he could write a great monster of the week episode, and foster more interest in writing for the Team Free Will and about the mytharc.
What do I know? Time will tell. It’s a long long wait for Carver to tie up all of the loose threads that the writers stable can’t be bothered to deal with. How many days until the finale?