TV reviewer Katie Young won’t be disappointed if this week’s episode of Supernatural, Paper Moon, features some mooning of a different kind…
It’s all quiet in Heaven and Hell this week, as the Winchester boys take some ‘we time’. But their R & R doesn’t last long as a face from the past shows up, coinciding with a spate of apparent vicious animal attacks…
We open at a biker bar with Werewolves of London blasting. No prizes for guessing the monster of the week then. I do love it when they find the budget for a decent soundtrack. We follow the POV of a mystery woman, before getting a glimpse of her bright red lips. As we know, women with red hair or red lips are trouble in the Supernatural universe, which surely makes me ripe for a cameo as I have both. Our femme fatale grabs a horny greaser and takes him out back for a killer make out session – literally!
Cut to Sam and Dean drinking beer by a large body of water. Traditionally, this means they will be having a deep and meaningful conversation any second. They are both rocking sunglasses, even though it looks pretty overcast (Oh, Canada!) which is a nice touch as it signals they are not quite ready to face recent events or to look each other in the eye. I also like the non-too-subtle “no hunting” sign by the lake. Dean referring to their mini vacation as “taking some we time” is utterly precious. I will never fall out of love with Sam and Dean’s “unhealthy, tangled up, crazy thing”. After the threats and woundings Demon Dean dished out (although I personally would have liked to see that taken further and darker, given their history), it’s good to see their dysfunctional bromance is back on track. But after reading about the killings in the paper, Dean is antsy doing nothing while people are dying, and tells his brother he needs to get back to work.
It seems the lid on the dressing up box has been opened for good, as the boys sport some lovely game ranger outfits to quiz the local constabulary this week. They find out that the victim was a guy called Barker (woof), and that a local drunk called Tommy saw him leave the bar with a girl who was not all she seemed to be.
Further investigation leads them to a creepy barn, where they find Kate, the reluctant werewolf from Season 8’s Bitten. Kate cops to the killings, and Dean is about to shoot her when Sam says he’ll do it because he doesn’t feel Dean is ready. The scene is clearly meant to be a reversal of and call back to the situation with Madison in Season 2’s Heart, and thinking about the brothers’ beautiful tears in their early years on the road together momentarily distracts me from my first half of Season 8’s rage flashback. But before either brother can gank Kate, the sheriff calls Sam and tells him a security guard has just been killed across town, and the boys realise Kate has been lying about being the murderer, which is just as well as she’s escaped anyway. Luckily she’s left her phone behind, and the boys hit redial and get the Lincoln Motel.
On the way there, Sam and Dean have a weird, tentative conversation in the Impala. Dean thinks Sam went dark and that perhaps he should feel remorse, but Sam doesn’t see and issue with what he did to Lester. There is an awkward feeling to the scene but I guess it’s positive that they are talking. I think the problem is, that the show has a checklist of things which fans consider the core of Supernatural: Brotherly moments in the car, classic rock, the disguises the boys wear. But after nearly a decade and two seasons of largely disappointing episodes and ret-conning, we’ve seen a massive divergence from the Scooby Doo/X-Files format of the early seasons, and now it feels a bit like the writers are paying lip service to the emotion and freshness of earlier series without the depth of feeling. Moments like this feel a little shoehorned where they used to feel organic. And having had Dean feel so betrayed by Sam’s failure to look for him when he was in purgatory in Season 8, it seems a huge U-turn to have him berate Sam for pulling out all the stops this time.
The next morning, the brothers see Kate come out of her motel room and follow her into the woods. But the girl about to chow down on a jogger turns out to be Kate’s wolfy sister, Natasha. It transpires that after becoming a wolf, Kate left her family to protect them, and stayed away until her sister was in a near fatal car accident when she gave in and turned Natasha to save her life and heal her injuries. There is a nice scene with the girls in the car, big sister Kate driving, mirroring Sam and Dean in the Impala. She even wears plaid and says “son of a bitch”, just in case we didn’t get that we’re supposed to compare her and the elder Winchester. While Supernatural is seldom subtle with its parallels and subtext, it works pretty well here, and I actually really like Kate as a character.
|I’d look this horrified if someone gave me this haircut too|
Realising Kate cannot control her wild sister, Dean lies and says that they can cure them both if Kate takes them to Natasha. She agrees, and they head for a cabin owned by the girls’ family.
In the car, Sam admits he did more bad things than his brother knows about, but explains that he’d watched Dean die, carried his body and put him on the bed, only for him to disappear again. Dean realises he never said thank you for exorcising him, and Sam tells his brother that he never has to, not to him. And we’re back! This scene feels a lot more natural and emotional. That’s my boys! That’s my show!
When the trio reach the cabin, they find that Tasha has turned two guys into lupine minions, who immediately pull a gun on Dean, forcing Sam to drop the weapon he has trained on Natasha. The bad little wolf tells Kate that she can either walk away or join her pack and orders her to eat Sam’s heart out to prove her loyalty. She also calls Sam Paul Bunyan (a reference I smugly understand despite my Britishness, having visited the Trees of Mystery tourist spot in California last year) and it makes me laugh out loud. Poor Sammy.
One of the new pups tells Dean to get on his knees, to which he replies, “I’m awfully flattered…” before getting punched in the mouth, and I punch the air, because that’s the cocky, gutter-minded Dean Winchester I know and love. Sam stabs both of the werewolf henchmen, and Kate, realising that Natasha is too far gone to reason with, dispatches her sister before escaping through a window.
Back in the Impala, Sam and Dean talk again. Dean says he needed to get back in the saddle rather than dwell on what he’s been through and the things he did. Kate calls them from a truck stop and they thank her for saving them and tell her to keep her nose clean. She’s wearing both of the matching heart bracelets she and her sister had, which is genuinely quite touching. It also serves to highlight the fact that Kate had the strength to do what the boys have never been able to – let go of the person she loves most.
This season is all about different forms of the monstrous, and it’s good to see an example of a monster who has retained some humanity and survived the Winchesters not once but twice, as these characters are often brought back only to be killed off.
Back in the car, Dean tells Sam he might not be ready to hunt, but he’s trying to do the right thing because he’s sick of doing the wrong thing. Perhaps Dean’s time as a demon, and his experience with Kate will mean letting go of the blinkered view he’s always had that all monsters need to be put down, but that remains to be seen.
The next episode is the big 200th! We have been promised some light relief with a musical theme, and the episode title is Fan Fiction, which suggests a meta special, and some kind of commentary on Supernatural fandom. While these fourth wall breakers tend to be either brilliant (Changing Channels), bonkers (The French Mistake) or car crash (Season 7, Time for a Wedding!) I have a feeling I may have to watch this one through my fingers… and not because I’m afraid of the ghosts. Be there, or be square!