Adam Glass’s “Paper Moon” was a mixed bag for me.  There were scenes I loved and scenes that dragged on interminably. One guest actor delivered and one had a bland presence. Fortunately, the good outweighed the bad, because the good was Sam and Dean actually starting to talk. To each other. In complete sentences. Thank you Adam Glass, and, according to Glass, thank you Jeremy Carver.

Let’s get the negative out of the way. First off, Adam Glass needs to realize there is no exposition fairy who magically makes exposition scenes interesting. Even Game of Thrones’ sexposition begins to pall quickly. If there’s a way to show something through action or dialogue, please, please choose that way. Do not give a guest star with weak acting chops masses of exposition that simply lays out the plot with no narrative twists or layers. I almost slid off the couch listening to Kate talk about the set up for the episode. And although I did not find this actress compelling in “Bitten” and still didn’t in “Paper Moon,” she really had thankless material to work with in this episode.

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Besides the heavy exposition, I also did not appreciate the flashback scenes. Kate’s flashbacks added nothing to her monologue as they simply showed what she was saying rather than adding something. And there was no reason whatsoever to show the Lester scenes all over again. I can remember last week. I think most of us can. Flashbacks interrupt the flow of action and have to be used extremely well to justify how clunky they are. These flashbacks were simply unnecessary.

The result of these issues is the A story never really caught hold. The pacing was uneven and Kate’s character failed to move me. I’m not sure why anyone thought it would be a good idea to revisit “Bitten.” That episode is probably my least favourite of the series, with forgettable guest actors. At least the actor playing Kate’s sister had some spark. I believed her scenes as she showed her werewolf heart.

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Fortunately, there was lots of good meaty stuff in “Paper Moon” as well. The state of Winchesterland was really the A story, as Sam and Dean tried hard to lower their barriers and really talk. I loved that they both needed to hide behind shades as they pretended to relax by the lake. Both boys fronted that they were enjoying the down time, as they sipped beer out of their stalwart green cooler. But Dean finally whipped off his shades to allow himself to be seen as he told his brother he knows he needs to heal but he HAS to work. He needed the case he sniffed out of the news. And Sam lowered his own shades, understanding.  He’d sniffed out the same case. Winchesters can’t put down the mantle they were raised to wear. They are who they are.

That theme was then explored again through the werewolf sisters. In many ways, Kate and her sister mirrored Sam and Dean. Through no fault of her own, Kate was turned into a monster. Lonely, she gave in to the temptation to save her sister’s life so she would have a companion. I think we can all recognize Dean’s dilemma from last season. The reflection is not a simple one, however.

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Kate’s story also mirrored Sam’s, as her sister could not fight the lure of monstrousness and gave in to her werewolf nature. Kate hoped to save a sister who did not want to be saved, just as Sam wanted to save a brother who was not fighting his demon soul. Given that Kate eventually realized she had lost the fight and killed her sister, what does that tell us about our brothers?

My read is Kate’s story mirrored Sam and Dean’s in many ways, but it was not a direct reflection, just as the Ghostfacers last season were not meant to be read simply as Sam and Dean. Kate and her sister were warped reflections of Sam and Dean.  They were meant to bring up the season’s narrative issues and then to expand them.

Kate had the same drive to save her sister as Sam had, but she did not have the same faith her sister was still there to be saved. And Kate was right to fear. Her sister wanted to recreate a sense of family, but for the purpose of wielding power. She wanted a companion to help her destroy anything in her way. Her vision was to rule a territory in a way that would make Crowley proud. And that is not a reflection of Sam and Dean. Ever. Even Demon Dean resisted Crowley’s efforts to recruit him to co-rule Hell.

Demon Dean’s plan was to walk off the playing board instead, hanging out in honky tonk bars and picking up waitresses. In the long run, the plan would not have worked. Killing Lester was the first step onto a slippery slope. But if Dean had not been fighting to retain some semblance of himself, Sam would have been too late to save him.

At their cores, Sam and Dean are driven to protect. They may not sacrifice each other but they are willing to sacrifice themselves. Their bond gives them strength, but they’ve never used that strength to set themselves up as some kind of ruler. Instead, they throw themselves at impossible odds to try and make a difference in the fight between good and evil. And that’s a crucial difference between their story and Kate’s bond with her sister.  Sam and Dean are right to believe in each other.

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Dean knows he has made some bad decisions—really bad decisions. And that drives him to try and figure out what path leads to the right decisions. Unlike Kate’s sister and unlike Crowley, he is not attracted to power for its own sake. He wants to make a difference on the side of good. And Sam understands, because he had the same reaction to finding out he was Lucifer’s vessel and full of demon blood.  Kate was right to kill her sister who had lost herself. Sam was right to believe he could bring Dean back.

But that narrative has its own complications. If Sam and Dean are right to protect and believe in their bond because it gives them the strength to fight against evil, the definition of evil is of crucial importance. That line is not as clear as it should be for either brother at the moment, and the Mark of Cain will continue to cast shadows on Dean’s identity. But at an even deeper level, I think the brothers’ arc this year will be jointly deciding where they will draw the line on far they will go to save each other, now that they know what it feels like to cross over.  At the same time, they have acknowledged all over again how important they are to each other.

I think what I loved the most about the brothers’ car talks, besides the fact that they happened at all, is the way both guys zeroed in on the note as the most hurtful part of Dean’s demon days. Sam can forgive being chased around the bunker with a hammer easier than he can forgive Dean leaving him. The Dean who wanted to kill him had a demon in control. The note was written by his brother Dean peeking through his twisted demonic soul. His brother abandoned him, not the demon. Carver’s vision is clearly for Sam and Dean to each walk in other shoes for every issue they’ve had that divided them.

I like that abandonment is the key issue between Sam and Dean. I think they both know they need one thing they can hold on to, one thing they can count on, and it’s each other.

Comments  

nappi815
# nappi815 2014-11-04 06:44
I agree;) though even though I can't even remember bitten, I think I was a little more tolerable of kate and Tasha....I always enjoy the parallel stories......fo r me, it's never about the anvils, because these stories aren't meant for me per se, they're meant for sam and dean....and in these stories lie a lesson for the boys.....either in what they should do or what they should never do....if you get what I mean. I think sometimes the boys need a little help and it's these parallels that allow them to see a situation similar, yet different to theirs....but they can actually see it, where their own situation, can cloud their judgment because of their emotions. jmo of course;)
sylvia37
# sylvia37 2014-11-04 09:02
Very succinct. I love your grasp of this episode. When Kate started in on her explanation.... .and then kept going....and going....I thought, really? Were Jared and Jensen really sitting at that table listening to this dialogue over and over? Very amateurish way to write, in my opinion. And I agree, that although Kate was okay in "Bitten", her lack of expression was off putting. Anyway, I agree with your interpretation of the parallels and I look forward to your analysis in the future.
E
# E 2014-11-05 07:51
I agree Sylvia, I found the actress playing Kate much less effective in this episode than I did in Bitten. I guess when she was playing a love-struck college student it was much more in her comfort zone, so I found her much more believable then. This time, I found her largely slack jawed and bland. She spent a good deal of the episode with her mouth gaping open like a fish (or Kristen Stewart) looking doe eyed and helpless. She may have been a "good" monster, but she was still a monster, supposedly with the super strength of all werewolves, but I wasn't buying it from her in this episode. I guess playing a monster was outside her comfort zone and I found her quite dull, and she came across about as menacing and dangerous as a wet paper towel. The girl who played Tasha was much better had more fire and was much better at coming across as ruthless and dangerous. I also agree that the Kate backstory was interminable; it just went on and on. As I was watching I was like… why do we need to know all this? Who cares! What were Sam and Dean doing while Kate was off saving her sister and turning her into a werewolf? Were they still on "We Time" at that point? Lets see that instead! :P It was clearly filler, and not great filler either.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-11-04 10:16
I was one that really liked Bitten so Kate wasn't a distraction to me from the real story of Sam and Dean. I will agree however that the dialogue at the diner from Kate was really tough to get through. But because the rest of the episode was golden I let it slide. Thanks for your review. I do love the layers that all of you uncover for us.
Lilah_Kane
# Lilah_Kane 2014-11-04 11:22
I was actually one of those that liked Bitten because it was different than usual and from another point of view so I had no trouble with Kate. My focus were though mostly on the brothers. Anyway, balanced review. :)

- Lilah
NOLANOLA
# NOLANOLA 2014-11-04 15:09
Yes I noticed the shades and the parallel's. COULD NOT MISS IT WITH A 10 FOOT POLE :o
Gerry you just scared the hell out of me; please don't let one of the bothers KILL the other. I could not take that. I don't want them to die either but since that Jensen's wish, it may come true-Just not each other.
SPNForever
# SPNForever 2014-11-05 04:33
Supernatural is my favorite show of ALL TIME. I have to be honest, Season 10 is a HUGE disappointment. The first four episodes have been boring except for Demon Dean. Paper Moon SUCKED. People say it was all about the subtext but it was so blatantly in your face my sister and me are going through something similar to Sam and Dean it freaking irritated me. Adam Glass is a great writer but this episode was so predictable I was just mad. We get 4 so-so, well boring episodes then a week off? WTF? then a musical? If season 10 doesn't kick in soon I'm done. Sleep Hollow is much better and the special effects on Constantine blow Supernatural away. I love SPN but feel if true fans don't let Carver know he's blowing Season 10 we may lose our favorite show due to poor writing and boredom. I'm sure people will criticize my review but there is no greater fan than me and I want this show to go on forever. Kripke and Edlund need to rescue this Season 10 disaster soon.
NOLANOLA
# NOLANOLA 2014-11-05 10:02
Hear Ye, HEAR YE :o
Scullspeare
# Scullspeare 2014-11-05 15:01
We're most definitely on the same page with this episode. Thank you.

Quote:
Do not give a guest star with weak acting chops masses of exposition that simply lays out the plot with no narrative twists or layers.

That exposition scene in the diner was one of the clunkiest I've seen in a long time. I've watched the episode a few times (because, as you said, there's a lot to like about Paper Moon, ie. all the scenes between the brothers). Each time I resisted the urge to fast forward, instead asking "Was this all necessary?" (No), and "Could it have been edited down?" (Yes). Less here would, IMHO, have definitely improved pacing and strengthened the episode.

Quote:
Flashbacks interrupt the flow of action and have to be used extremely well to justify how clunky they are. These flashbacks (to Lester) were simply unnecessary.

Agreed, and the flashbacks during Kate's long-winded exposition served little purpose other than to break up the boring visuals of three people sitting in a booth.
The other day I was watching Season 2's The Usual Suspects, an episode I hadn't rewatched in a while and I'd forgotten how cleverly it used flashbacks; Sam is selling a convincing story to the cops while the flashbacks tell a completely different tale, ie. the truth. :D Together they provide all the exposition we need while making us LOL in the process. Now that's the ideal way to use flashbacks.