199 And Counting – Supernatural’s Paper Moon
As this week’s Supernatural episode ended, I found myself very emotional. Not just from the episode, though the last line hit me hard, but from the realization that I had just watched the 199th episode of the show that changed my life. In two weeks, we’ll all celebrate the amazing milestone of the 200th, hopefully with cast and crew joining in the online celebration. When we fell in love with Supernatural and decided this would be the show we’d research and write books about, we thought we’d be lucky if it stayed on the air another year. That was 2007. Here we are, with 2014 almost done, and the Little Show That Could is still going strong. Forgive me if I needed a few extra tissues.
I really enjoyed this episode. The story line played out in a linear fashion instead of jumping around, and the pace was even throughout. And oh how I loved the interaction between the brothers. I’ll wax poetic over that in a minute. Most amazing thing about this episode? My daughter and I agreed. On everything. Is the moon blue instead of paper??
I’ll get the few things that both of us were iffy about out of the way first. Kate’s long exposition scene and the detailed flashbacks were the only jarring cutaways. For godsakes, Show, I am capable of remembering what happened TWO WEEKS AGO! I realize this is a network thing, that they want to ensure that a first-time viewer finally tuning in after ten frickin’ years won’t be totally lost, but damn, it’s annoying to all of us who follow along with a magnifying glass.
And I’m still struggling a bit with the whole “Sam was as much of a monster as Demon!Dean” thing. It still seems like Sam went after the worst of the worst in trying to get Dean back, so I’m having a hard time demonizing (heh heh) him for that. It feels a bit like they’re forcing that down my throat, but maybe we just haven’t heard quite enough yet. Sam fessed up to lying about there being others besides Lester, but I’m still skeptical that I’m going to climb aboard the Sam-is-a-monster-too train.
For the most part, I liked the parallels, though there were a few times they veered frighteningly close to anvilicious. It’s a long-standing Supernatural trope to use guest characters to mirror the Winchesters, and it’s one I like, but I prefer it subtle. That’s a pet peeve of mine though, so maybe I’m just hypervigilant for it. Most of the parallels worked here. Did you see the looks on Sam and Dean’s faces when Kate said, “She’s family, that’s worth eating a bullet for.” The way they glanced at each other, acknowledging that yeah, they get it. Do they ever!
The parallel got more complicated as Show presented us with the question of how far Kate should go to save her sister, questioning where that moral boundary tipped from one side to another. This is a question Supernatural has wrestled with throughout most of its run, and I like that it’s still asking. Is Kate’s decision a foreshadowing of what’s to come? Show seems to be setting up the possibility that Dean will be facing quite a struggle in trying to control the mark of Cain, and he seems to know it – his comment that Tasha was “in too deep – you don’t ever come back from that. Not ever” was chilling. Let’s hope Sam finds a different way to save his sibling from the darkness – he has so far, after all. I have faith in you, Sam Winchester.
So, other than those little quibbles….so much to love!
An aspect of the parallels I loved was the charm bracelet each sister wore, two halves of a whole. Many fans interpreted that as analogous to the amulet that has been passed back and forth between the brothers, especially since it seems like a soulmate sort of symbol. Seeing Kate wearing her sister’s in the end, because her sister was gone, hit close to home, evoking the time when Sam wore Dean’s amulet while he was in hell. I can’t even think of the amulet without getting all overly emotional, so that shot of the charms was powerful. As Kripke once said, the guest characters’ story lines give Show a chance to comment on the brothers and their relationship much more than could happen otherwise.
After feeling cheated of the Sam and Dean reunion broment (and hug) on last week’s SPN, I had my fingers and toes crossed that Adam Glass would come through with his promise of broments in this one. And boy, did he! I was so blown away by the sheer amount of actual conversation that the Winchesters were having, I didn’t know what to do with myself. In fact, I’m pretty sure I kept babbling something like “OMG they’re talking, they’re really talking!”
Their conversation struck just the right balance, which doesn’t always happen on Supernatural. They didn’t tip into “no way would the boys ever talk this much” territory, but they didn’t have one of those infuriatingly abbreviated non-conversations when nobody manages to convey anything to anyone either. Instead they haltingly but genuinely attempted to be real with each other. It was awkward, sure, but that only made it more emotional. They were trying so hard, bless their Winchester hearts. After all that’s happened, and the countless times they’ve hurt each other, it was agonizingly clear that repairing their relationship is the most important thing to both of them. They are so far from giving up on each other, that’s in another galaxy. And I loved every minute of it. It was especially touching that they both kept making sure the other didn’t think they were trying to “start anything”. God knows, things often go south between Sam and Dean because one of them does – or because their communication skills are so rusty that one of them at least thinks that’s what’s happening.
I feel like they both learned something from their painful journey in Season 9 and the first three episodes of Season 10, in which they flip-flopped their customary positions. Dean was the one struggling with his impulses and Sam was the one who decided to move heaven and earth to save his brother. Even if his brother didn’t exactly want to be saved. They’re both uncomfortable with the lengths they went too, embarrassed and ashamed. But instead of covering it up or lying to each other, they’re actually talking about it.
Saying that it was refreshing and bloody satisfying to hear the boys actually talk to each other is a gross understatement. Only a Supernatural fan would understand how amazing this is, and how unusual. There was tenderness and affection in what they said, but it wasn’t overt, nothing hitting us over the head or so much that the characterization suffered. It seemed very real, and still very Winchester. I don’t know how you pulled that off, Adam Glass, but I’m grateful.
Dean: This is good.
Yes, Dean. It really was.
The best moments appeared on my Tumblr dash and Twitter feed almost immediately.
Dean: Not to mention, I never even said thank you
Sam: You don’t ever have to say that, not to me
Tumblr: How to say “I love you” in Winchester.
And speaking of that, the first scenes were so delicious I just want to stare at them forever. Sam and Dean at the lake in beach chairs and sunglasses? It was like a favorite piece of fan art come to life, except this was canon! Both the brothers looked ridiculously gorgeous, and wherever they filmed that was almost as beautiful as they were.
And yes, they were having “we time”.
Tumblr: So they decided not to get that divorce and went on a second honeymoon instead?
Have we ever actually seen the Winchesters take a vacation before? It was glorious. I could watch an entire episode of Sam and Dean at the lake, staring at the setting sun and clinking their beers together, the Green Cooler of Feels between them. And a “No Hunting” sign posted nearby, which the boys clearly decided to ignore. Nice touch, Show.
Fandom quickly recognized the location as where Jared did his ALS ice bucket challenge too. See? We don’t need extended flashbacks, we’re quick like that.
Also delicious were Sam and Dean in park ranger uniforms and jeans. How lucky for us that the boys just happened to steal uniforms that fit them like they were painted on! And how lucky for me that wardrobe decided to give Dean Winchester a short jacket for a change and then make sure he was wearing tight jeans.
Me: Thank you wardrobe. #datass
I also loved the running joke between the brothers about Dean being a demon. That’s such a human thing to do, trying to deal with the elephant in the room by joking about it. It seemed so very Sam and Dean.
Sam: Oh, you were a demon? I didn’t realize that.
Dean: I was a demon? I didn’t realize.
Sam: Shut up [soft smile]
There were too many great lines to quote them all, but I laughed out loud at:
Tasha: No one’s talking to you Paul Bunyan!
Sam’s face O—o.
Sam: Guess she likes bad boys.
Dean: Well, wait till she gets a load of us.
That probably was way hotter than it should’ve been.
Vampire bad guy: On your knees!
Dean: Well I’m flattered, but…
One of the best things about this episode was that it broke ground and let Sam save Dean. Yes! The theme of Sam saving Dean played out in this episode in multiple ways, including Sam being totally kickass and saving both himself and Dean from the werewolves – with only one hand! Keep it up, Show. (Jared talked about this theme in his meet and greet – more on that in the next blog post.)
Glass didn’t shirk on the stab-you-in-the-heart emotional moments either.
Sam’s voice breaking when he tried to explain to Dean how desperate he’d been, how wrecked by Dean’s death.
Sam: I carried your corpse into your room. I put your dead body on your bed.
And Dean’s face when he hears it, so devastated. Because he knows what that’s like – he did the same thing for Sam in All Hell Breaks Loose, carried him back and laid him out and grieved over his body just like Sam did.
Tumblr: Now both brothers know what the heavy, lifeless weight of the other feels like in their arms.
It did my heart good to see the brothers hunting side by side again, having each other’s backs literally. Dean reaching over to touch Sam on the shoulder as he asks “You okay?” These are the brothers who captured my imagination and my heart almost a decade ago.
The other great thing about Sam and Dean actually talking is that they were able to say outright some of the things that fandom discusses but that rarely get acknowledged in canon. Sam is back to being smart – smart enough to worry about what will happen if Dean starts killing again, even if it’s a werewolf. He’s no longer underestimating the impact of the mark of Cain, and he’s willing to step in and tell Dean not to do it. And Dean is willing to listen.
The last line hit me hard. You can hear Dean’s guilt and shame – his embarrassment about all those bad decisions. And he doesn’t hide it from Sam, for once. He tries to open up and be honest about it, just as Sam does when he confesses that he lied about there being others besides Lester.
Dean: I’m just trying to do the right thing, man. Cause I’m so sick and tired of doing the wrong one.
That’s the Dean Winchester I know and love. Carrying a crap ton of burdens and going down the wrong path sometimes, but still wanting to get out there and kick ass – to do some saving people, hunting things. I feel like tonight’s Supernatural got the boys back on the road where they belong, back to the family business. I’m so glad I’m still along for the ride!
We were lucky enough to watch some of the filming of this episode while we were at VanCon, including Kate in the phone booth (where did she find a phone booth??).
They also filmed the dark road she crosses as she leaves town, which was actually right behind the studios. We watched a random car and truck drive back and forth about 20 times, the dark road eerie with atmospheric smoke billowing across it like fog. It was strangely beautiful.
They also used that stretch of road to drive the Impala back and forth a few times, driven by Jensen and Jared’s stand-ins. Just hearing the familiar rumble of her engine gave me goosebumps. I would have been happy to stand there forever, watching her drive by, a sleek black form in the foggy night. Only a Supernatural fan could be this emotional about a car.
I wasn’t the only one captivated by Dean’s baby, it seems.
Brit Sheridan (Kate) tweeted this priceless photo:
Jason, Jared’s stand-in, was pretty awesome too. He’s not only as tall as Jared, but built the same way. He even moves the same way. Thanks for the great conversation, Jason!
Stay tuned for some meet and greet tidbits from both Jared and Jensen at Chicon, and exclusive interviews with Lauren Tom, Curtis Armstrong and the talented guest star from Paper Moon, The Green Cooler. He has some fascinating insights about working with Jared and Jensen…
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