Thursday, October 30, 2014

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 4: Paper Moon

Lots of werewolf flashbacks so no surprise when an unseen woman going into a biker bar then grows claws, slices a man’s neck and (presumably) eats his heart (something werewolves do on Supernatural)

Sam and Dean are very very carefully relaxing – with Sam very much expecting Dean to fall apart into little pieces given the givens (the tension is excellently presented). Dean, of course, is in major suppression mode, claiming to be fine – and wanting to go out hunting since they’ve seen reports of multiple “animal attacks”

So on to the case and it’s an excuse to put them in an entirely different uniform – Game Wardens. They confirm the latest victim left the bar with a woman and that hearts were removed. There was also a less-than-reliable witness who decides the woman was a ghost because he was sure she’d also been eaten by the beast then he saw her later.

He’s put 1 and 1 together and sort of reached 2. Kind of. And I guess “oh you silly fool, it was clearly a werewolf” would be a kind of unfair reaction.

Off to a spooky barn where they find dead birds, claw marks and inside – Kate, the werewolf they let go. They chain her up and she claims the hunger is too strong (nah, it’s far too early in the episode, she’s covering for someone). She expects them to kill her and Dean pulls his gun but Sam would rather her sit out the whole killing thing given the very recent Mark of Cain-ness. While they’re debating it, the policeman reports another “animal attack”. Told you.

While they debate whether Kate is innocent or capable of teleporting, she escapes. No-one on this show ever stays tied up. Ever.

So time to track her down and Dean to get  little huffy about Sam not thinking he’s ready to kill and totally-not-spitefully bringing up the man Sam basically sacrificed to try and find Dean. Passive aggressive sniping all round!

They reach the hotel room and follow a woman they think is Kate – she tries to play innocent, before showing her fangs and snarling. She attacks – and Kate pulls her off them, but also stops Dean shooting her. The werewolf is Kate’s sister. They question Kate, Dean all snarly, Sam trying to be understanding – she turned her sister into a werewolf.

Kate describes her story – how she doesn’t kill people or eat hearts, how she controls the wolf and even carries a silver knife to kill herself if she loses it. In a huge, clumsy and really unnatural exposition (lots and lots of clichés. It’s like someone reading aloud a protagonist’s info dump in a book) she explains who she turned Tasha, her sister, into a werewolf to save her life when she had a bad car accident. She then lost control and Kate pleas for a chance to help her sister learn how to become a werewolf since she’s family and Kate is why she is a werewolf in the first place.

Dean offers the hope of a werewolf cure to lure Tasha in. Kate falls for it but Sam knows Dean is lying; Dean doesn’t see the problem, they’re monsters, they kill monsters. Sam is less willing to go for the whole “kill them because they’re monsters” and “kill them for doing terrible things to protect their family” because that’s what the Winchesters do – over and over. Dean agrees – all the more reason for them to kill them both since the Sam and Dean are such a mess. Which Sam counters as Dean taking out his issues on Kate and Tasha.

Sam and Dean have a much deeper talk about the whole Mark of Cain thing, how much it hurt Sam – and how much it shames Dean. It’s a much more touching scene and ends with actual genuine, but never mentioned gratitude.

Now happy fluffy moment ends with them arriving at their destination, Dean chaining Kate and them leaving to kill her sister while Kate begs them not to. But when they go in it turns out Tasha has turned two guys, they have guns and they get the drop on the Winchesters. Tasha demands Kate eat Sam or Dean’s heart to prove she is worthy of joining her new pack

Kate says no to heart eating and Tasha sends her two baby wolves to kill the Winchesters while they argue (baby, new turned werewolves vs Winchesters – it’s not even a fight). Tasha continues to try and pull Kate over to the dark side – and Kate stabs her with that little silver knife she carries in case she loses control. When the Winchesters return they find Tasha dead and Kate long gone.

Afterwards the Winchesters decide not to chase Kate down but Sam again raises the fact they weren’t ready for this. After what Dean went through, it was too soon to take on another case. Dean admits that Sam may be right – but he wants to do the right thing “because he’s sick of doing the wrong one”

I quite liked Sam pointing out the Winchester hypocrisy – between them they have been so many different kinds of monsters and, equally, between them they have done terrible, inexcusable things for various reasons. They have made deals with devils, they’ve allied with the king of hell so often that they have him on speed dial. They have forgiven absolute massacres because the person doing it was either one of them or someone they cared about. The Winchesters have no moral high ground at all.

But I think Dean generally not caring about this kind of shows the difference in viewpoint that has always been there between the two brothers and has only been exacerbated by his trip to hell and now the Mark of Cain. Sam, generally, still plays for team good guy and clings to that as an illusion – that’s not naivety, I think it’s more a sign he hasn’t completely given up hope. Dean? No hope – it’s an ugly, nasty job, they do what they can and it’s imperfect and messy and unfair and often outright evil – but needs must. This is what they do. Of course, that isn’t the more “mature” idea, because at least part of that comes from Dean’s need not to morally/emotionally/intellectually analyse anything or 10 seasons of repression will come crumbling down. What’s fascinating is seeing that crumble – this episode we saw Dean’s guilt peaking through and some of all that questioning not so willing to be silenced

For all the many many many things Supernatural gets wrong (especially with depictions of anyone who isn’t a straight, white man), one thing it has always got right is the long term development of Sam and Dean. They’ve had 10 seasons to establish pretty deep, strong characters with an immense history that follows them and informs everything they’ve done. I don’t know why, but I feel these four episodes of season 10 have been touching on that, drawing on that more.

Of course all that complexity and the show then merrily tosses aside (or at least tones down) any inconvenient moral conflict by having Tasha be almost comically evil so her death won’t cause the slightest blip of angst