Judge Cynthia Boris went to hell and back writing this review.
Our reviews of Supernatural: The Complete First Season (published September 5th, 2006), Supernatural: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray) (published June 24th, 2010), Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (published September 11th, 2007), Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (published June 27th, 2011), Supernatural: The Complete Third Season (published September 2nd, 2008), Supernatural: The Complete Third Season (Blu-Ray) (published November 26th, 2008), Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 1st, 2009), Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 13th, 2010), Supernatural: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray) (published September 26th, 2011), Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray) (published September 28th, 2012), Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season (Blu-ray) (published September 23rd, 2013), and Supernatural: The Anime Series (Blu-ray) (published August 2nd, 2011) are also available.
Between Heaven and Hell
This is the season where Dean gets Touched by an Angel and Sam takes a walk on the wild side. It's Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season on DVD.
Facts of the Case
If you haven't been following along, first I say, why the hell not? Then I say, here are the facts of this case. Sam (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls, Friday the 13th) and Dean (Jensen Ackles, Dark Angel, My Bloody Valentine 3-D) Winchester are brothers. When Sam was a baby, a demon came into his room and dripped blood into his mouth then burned their mother, Mary, on the ceiling. From that day until the day he died, their father, John, dedicated his life (and his son's lives) to hunting evil. For the last three seasons, Sam and Dean have wandered the US in their extra cool '67 Impala, saving people, hunting things, and getting themselves in deeper with the forces of darkness.
When we last left the boys at the end of Season Three, Dean was yanked down into hell by demonic pitbulls, the result of a one-year deal where he offered up his soul to a demon in return for bringing Sam back from the dead. Now, at the start of Season Four, Dean is back from hell and Sam's had one heck of a summer vacation.
The fourth season of Supernatural hangs a hard left, leaving behind most of the urban legend investigations that were the original basis for the show and steering the boys headlong into the Bible. Which, depending on your religious leanings, could be considered the ultimate urban legend.
The season opens with a stunning visual of Dean waking up in a pine box, then literally clawing his way out of the grave. The scenes of him pulling himself up out of the ground with the appropriate grunts and groans so resemble scenes of childbirth that I have to assume it was intentional. Upon his return, Dean makes two discoveries: he's been gone for four months and he's completely intact ("I've been rehymenated!") except for a handprint burned into his shoulder.
Desperate to find Sam, he goes to Bobby's (Jim Beaver, Harper's Island) and learns that his brother has been off the grid in his grief. Together they track Sam to a no-tell motel and there we're handed the most perplexing scene of the season. Sam is with a girl (Genevieve Cortese, Wildfire) who appears to be a one-night stand but turns out to be the demon Ruby who used to inhabit the body of Katie Cassidy.
For the fans who may want to call me on this scene, let me take a moment to say, no. It makes no sense. I get that Ruby and Sam don't want Dean to know it's her, but the banter with Sam calling her the wrong name and her asking if Sam and Dean are "together" is ridiculous. It was a show designed to trick the audience and not the characters and that's not playing fair. Later on in the episode we learn that this new body is really Ruby but Dean doesn't learn the truth until episode four.
Enter the angels. Castiel (Misha Collins) is the one who pulled Dean out of the pit but he's just the tip of the holy iceberg. Before the season is out we'll meet Uriel, Zachariah, and even a fallen angel who gets her groove on in the backseat of the Impala with Dean.
New, recurring characters have never had an easy time fitting in on Supernatural. We like our boys together and we abhor anyone who might tear them asunder. But Misha Collins hath charms that soothe the savage fangirl and as such, he has earned himself a regular gig come Season Five.
The overreaching arc for Season Four of Supernatural is this: Lilith has a new hobby. She's trying to break the 66 seals mentioned in the Bible. If she succeeds then Lucifer escapes from the pit, walks the Earth, and it's apocalypse now. So, Sam and Dean simply have to kill her before she breaks the last seal and it would be nice if they did it sooner than later since each seal brings down some horrendous plague upon a section of the world. More than half the episodes this season directly relate to the problem of Lilith, the seals, and the angels. Scattered in between are a few stand-alone stories including one amazing salute to the classic Universal monsters and a "meta" episode that pokes fun at both the fans and the show itself.
Here's how I rate the episodes along with some of the best pop culture references.
• "Are You There God? It's Me, Dean Winchester"
• "In the Beginning"
Top Pop: It's not a pop culture reference but it's one of the most damaging lines ever spoken on the show.
Dean to Sam: "If I didn't know you, I would want to hunt you." Ouch.
• "Monster Movie"
• "Yellow Fever"
This is the episode that has the infamous "Eye of the Tiger" sequence where Jensen Ackles continued enthusiastically lip syncing to the song when Jared didn't enter on cue. It's tacked on to the end of the episode on the DVD.
Top Pop: One of the witnesses has a pair of boa constrictors named Donny and Marie. "It's Marie you've got to look out for. She smells fear."
• "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester"
Top Pop: Not a lot of good one liners in this one, but the title alone qualifies as a great pop culture reference. Who didn't grow up with The Great Pumpkin on Halloween?
• "Wishful Thinking"
Top Pop: (Young boy finally turning the tables on the bullies who have
tormented him all his life.)
• "Heaven and Hell"
Top Pop: Dean to Anna: "So, you just forgot that you were God's little Power Ranger?"
• "Family Remains"
Top Pop: (There are actually quite a few pop culture references in this
• "Criss Angel is a Douchebag"
Top Pop: I got nothing.
• "Sex and Violence"
Top Pop: Lots of great pop culture references but the best one is hard to catch. Put together all the names of the Siren strippers; Jasmine, Aurora, Ariel, and Belle and you get a list of the Disney Princesses!
• "Death Takes a Holiday"
Top Pop: another truly loaded episode but I'm going with. .
• "On the Head of a Pin"
Top Pop: Alastair gets all the good lines in this one including this taut at
Dean's supposed ineptitude.
Top Pop: The title is an obvious pop culture play on the movie It's a Wonderful Life. Also Dean and Sam's last names are Smith and Wesson instead of Winchester. So clever.
• "The Monster at the End of This Book"
I think the episode is brilliant, but some fans were not happy about the references to slash fiction (stories that portray the brothers as lovers) or the line, "for fans, they sure do complain a lot." In all fairness, Kripke also pokes fun at his own writers with Chuck apologizing for forcing the boys to live through bad writing (ie: "Bugs").
• "Jump the Shark"
Top Pop: The diner in the episode is called Cousin Oliver's, a reference to the arrival of Cousin Oliver on Brady Bunch, which is often known as the moment the show jumped the shark.
• "The Rapture"
Top Pop: I got nothing.
• "When the Levee Breaks"
• "Lucifer Rising"
And that's it. A whole nother season of Supernatural in a nutshell.
Turning our eyes to the DVD itself, there's some good and some bad. On the good side is a lengthy gag reel that was cut together as a presentation so it's like watching a short movie. Lots of fun, some great stuff and some unusual stills of the cast and crew at the end.
There are three commentaries, Eric Kripke and Jeremy Carver on "In the Beginning," Sera Gamble an Robert Singer on "When the Levee Breaks," and Kripke alone on "Lucifer Rising." If you're into the writing process or the story behind the story, you'll find these commentaries fascinating. I personally prefer commentaries that directly speak to what's happening on the screen—behind the scenes tidbits and production trivia—but there's little of that here.
The audio and video are as you'd expect for a new show. A nice range of subtitles in a variety of languages including English Closed Captions which I like to switch on to pick up details I may have missed.
The episode descriptions are printed in a paper booklet with photos from the season, very handy but…
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The reason the episode descriptions are in a booklet is because they did away with the fold out case, and that makes me very unhappy. This season is packaged in those cheap plastic flipper discs inside one plastic case. So cheap that mine arrived destroyed. The plastic pieces that hold the flipper peg in place broke off in two places so the disc holders were floating around loose in the box. The weirdest part is that there is no damage to the outside sleeve so it appears that the inside case was broken before it went into the final packaging stage. It's like a magic trick. Watch me break this egg without breaking the box around it!
My second complaint is about the special features on this set. The gag reel and commentaries are fine, though I would have preferred to see at least one with Jared and Jensen. The deleted and extended scenes do add some new information, so no problem there. Then we have the big featurette called "The Mythologies of Supernatural: 3-Section Featurette Gallery Bridging Heaven, Purgatory and Hell to Examine Key Mythological Precepts."
It's as hard to explain as the title is long. The feature begins with a painting divided into three sections. I assume the sections are Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell but the font they use is so decorative there's no reading it on the TV. Click through any one of these and you're taken to another bizarre, medieval tapestry-looking graphic with more words you can't read. Move the curser and you highlight tiny, shadowy cutouts of people (?) to activate that section. The concept probably seemed cool on paper but in practicality, it's way to hard to navigate. Once you get past that test of patience, you're delivered a featurette that isn't worth the time it took you to get there. Basically, everyone one of these leads you to a lecture on the Bible. They have interviews with theologians and historians, and occasionally Kripke and his crew have something to say. And it's all superimposed over classic art pieces depicting events in the bible. It's too much. If I wanted to watch a documentary, I'd turn on The History Channel.
I get that this season is about angels and demons and I'd be fine with a five-minute featurette about the biblical ramifications of the storyline. But every featurette on this set is dedicated to the same subject. In earlier seasons we were given a look at a typical day on the set, a closer look at the Impala and the making of special episodes. That's what I'm looking for on a DVD, something that gives me the sense of being there. It was very disappointing.
Supernatural is currently my favorite TV show, and it ranks in the top ten of shows on my lifetime list. It's all the things I like to watch, investigating, the paranormal, and brothers—I do love my brother shows. The acting, the writing, the directing, even the sets and the props are consistently top-notch and intriguing, and I'm always left wanting more.
If you haven't watched the show before, I wouldn't suggest starting with this season. It's too far into the mythology to pick up without being confused. Though, any fan of the Universal classics should at least rent the disc with Monster Movie on it.
For fans of the show, of course you're going to buy this set. There are plenty of episodes that bear watching a second or even third time and the gag reel is guaranteed to make you smile.
This court finds Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season guilty of overzealousness but we appreciate their style so we're willing to let them go with a warning. But the next DVD set better have behind-the-scenes features because we won't be so lenient next time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Episode Commentary
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