Alrighty then. This is my fourth (yes, my grip on the obvious is iron-clad) season review of Supernatural here on our esteemed site. So, if you’re reading this, I would have to assume that you’re at least mostly familiar with the show, storyline, and characters. However, I will sum up thusly: 20-odd years ago, this evil yellow-eyed demon showed up and wasted the mother of the Winchester family in a quite horrible fashion. Big Daddy Winchester took that shit personally, became a hunter of the forces of darkness and raised his two sons to do the same. Once they was all growed up, our Winchester brothers - Sam (think Luke Skywalker) and Dean (Han Solo, of course) - continue to kick ass and take names. Along the way, they lost BDW in a deadly deal with the yellow-eyed demon to save Dean’s life, gained some new allies (some, like Bobby, who hung around for good and others who seemingly dropped off the face of the earth - what’s the Arctic like, Jo?), kicked more supernatural asses, and generally made some really bad decisions here and there. Mostly I’m thinking about teaming up with the demon Ruby. . .oh, and then there was that little thing that happened when Sam got killed. Dean did exactly what his dad did; namely, making a deal with a demon to save his brother’s life. It worked but left Dean with only one year left on Earth, after which Hellhounds would show up, tear his ass to shreds, leaving him to spend eternity in Hell. Which, as it turned out, is exactly how Season 3 ended. . .Dean slaughtered, only to be last seen in some cloudy limbo with a intricate interlocking web of chains that would make Pinhead proud, embedded into his flesh with large, unpleasant hooks. Bloodied and torn, screaming “SAM!!!!” at the top of his lungs. As season finales go, it was not precisely a bundle of joy for fans.
But that’s why we wait. And damn if it wasn’t worth it. Season 4 continues the tradition of every year improving on the one before. . .but THIS time? Creator Eric Kripke and company upped the ante so fucking high and changed the game so radically, the only way it could have been more surprising is if the Winchesters were suddenly blasted into space or something. Thank God it didn’t go that way, but you get the idea. Some very serious shit went down this season, and the best way to explain is to say. . .the overriding mythology arc that’s been going on for 3 years? Turns out there was other stuff going on the whole time, right there for us to see - but why would we even consider the fact that the mythology was really just THEOLOGY?
That’s right, boys and girls. This year we learned even more about Hell. We learned about the fact that God - whose existence had been questioned by Dean in a previous season - does, in fact, exist. As do angels, who are not exactly warm and cuddly creatures; they are the warriors of God’s army. And they kick unholy ass with the best of ‘em. Even if sometimes, they can be kind of dickish (Dean’s words, not mine, LOL). One of them actually pulled Dean out of Hell, though (which made for a great sequence in the first ep, watching Dean claw himself out of his grave). This angel is Castiel (Misha Collins, another great acting choice who repeatedly knocked it out of the park this season), who saved Dean for reasons that aren’t exactly altruistic; seems God has a plan for Dean, who couldn’t be less enthused about that.
Meanwhile, Sam has been tooling around in the Impala, continuing the quest for vengeance against evil, and specifically Lilith, Season 3’s big bad who was responsible for sending Dean to Hell. Going back to the theme of bad decisions, Sam has teamed up with the demon Ruby (now played by Genevieve Cortese, as actress Katie Cassidy’s human vessel was destroyed by Lilith at the close of the last season), and they’ve gotten a little. . .close in the time they’ve spent together. Sam’s powers have gotten MUCH stronger, but he’s paid quite a (disgusting, in my opinion) price for them. But in typical stubborn Winchester fashion, he simply sees it as a case of the ends justifying the means.
This season, dealing with the coming Apocalypse if Lilith gets her way, Dean’s growing distrust of Sam, and just some generally heavy shit, is still simply outstanding. Everything that made the previous seasons of SN so good remain in high abundance, but have been upped yet another notch. The writing is superb, never TOO religious with the new direction to turn some fans away while not being blasphemous enough to offend others. The wit, one-liners, and overall excellent plotting are represented as well as ever. The direction retains the look and feel of features, and does a great job of providing atmosphere and scares in equal measure. And lest I worry you with all this intense, possibly too-dark mood the storyline has taken, allow me to assure you: it wouldn’t be Supernatural if there weren’t at least a few comedically-minded eps to lighten things up from time to time. I’m thinking specifically about “Yellow Fever,” where Dean comes down with a sort of virus that makes him frightened of, well. . .everything; “Monster Movie” is a loving tribute to the creature features of old, and goes so far as to be filmed ENTIRELY in black and white; and last but certainly not least, “The Monster at the End of This Book,” where we find out that there is as series of books called “Supernatural” and there is quite an interesting twist involving what the boys find out not just about their fan base, but the author of these novels (which represent every episode of the series thus far) and his place in the bigger picture. This ep in particular has a great time dealing with fandom and some of what the writers feel have been missteps in the previous episodes. There’s more humorous stuff in store, as well (ever seen a giant, 7-foot tall teddy bear that’s come to life with a taste for whiskey, porn, and is more than a little suicidal?), but I’ll leave that for you to discover. There are also some other twists and turns in the drama department; one subplot in particular, dealing with the Winchester family history, absolutely blew my mind.
Once again, WB comes through with a great assortment of extras. The now-infamous Gag Reel is here, of course (and longer, as it seems obvious that the boys like to mug for the camera, secure in the knowledge that the fans love this shit). There are extended or unaired scenes on 13 (?!?) episodes, and commentaries on 3 episodes. And finally, a 3-part documentary called “The Mythologies of Supernatural - From Heaven to Hell.” I suspect this will divide a great many fans, because it is a lengthy, straight up documentary about religion and the part it played this season. Theology experts, writers, and the like are interviewed, with very little input from anybody truly involved with the show (although I think Kripke is featured briefly). So those who are interested in this kind of thing, you’ll dig it. Those that don’t will want to erase it from their DVDs. Regardless, I do feel that it’s an interesting touch, and shows the dedication the SN team has to going all-out.
Overall, the fourth season of Supernatural is, once again, a flat-out winner that outdoes everything the previous seasons have given us. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, as Dean and Sam, continue to provide the single best representation of brotherhood - with all the highs and (devastating) lows that entails - on television. So yeah, I’m a gushing fan boy and all that, to which I say, “so the hell what?” The show kicks my ass, makes me laugh, thrills me. . .and makes me care. I’d be selfish if I asked for anything more. So I won’t.