Feb 4, 2011

Supernatural - Season 4


Season 3
ended with Dean being dragged into hell after his one year was up. Sam, however, survived Lilith's attack, turning out to be immune to her powers. It is now four months later, and Dean is inexplicably back from the dead, sporting a handprint on his shoulder. He claims to have no idea what has happened to him in hell, and even less so concerning his savior's identity. Until the one responsible for his miraculous rebirth reveals himself - Castiel (Misha Collins), an angel of the Lord.

Lilith has started breaking the 66 seals - the locks to Lucifer's prison. For that reason, in the first time in 2000 years, the Heavenly Host is down on Earth, the immensely powerful angels battling the demons who are trying to set their creator free. And Dean has a role to play in the upcoming battle - a key role, important enough so that the Lord has commanded he be saved from hell. But what of Sam? How has he spent the four months since the death of his brother?

Season 4 of Supernatural begins the Apocalypse story-arc. The war between Heaven and hell, in which the Winchester brothers are pivotal. Sam's newfound powers of demon exorcising and Dean's struggling to understand why he is so important that he deserves a second chance are of course the focus of the story, and as can be easily guessed, that means a lot of angst. Which means dragging and ISSUES! But on the plus side, the scriptwriters have learned a little, and this time the drama is a little bit more relateable, the conflicts more focused. The brothers still mostly exchange pointless and inexact half-accusations instead of actually dealing with the problems, but progress has been made.

The true awesomeness in Season 4 however is Castiel. Misha Collins portrays the uptight angel beautifully, and Castiel is in turns strong and commanding, and vulnerable and uncertain. His strict moral code and absolute obedience to the will of the Lord are put to a test more than once, and he quickly becomes the best support character this show has ever had.

And yet, among all that Apocalyptic drama, there is still time for stand-alone fun. Possibly one of the best episodes in the entire show, the black-and-white Monster Movie, with its ridiculous cheesy music and old-school drama, puts the Winchesters in a small town during Octoberfest. There seems to be a vampire there, only it wears a cape and speaks with a Transilvanian accent. Oh, and also a werewolf. With fur, and a muzzle. And that's not counting the mummy! Wishful Thinking takes us to a town where a wishing well actually works, to hilariously demented effects like a bipolar suicidal six-foot living teddy bear for example. It's a Terrible Life on the other hand, introduces us to a weird alternate reality where Sam and Dean are both Joe Normals who have never met each other in their lives, but happen to work in the same office building. Which is haunted...

There are a few gems among the main story-arc episodes as well. In the Beginning sees Dean transported by Castiel back in time to witness the start of the Winchester curse when a young John Winchester and his girlfriend Mary meet Azazel for the first time, while The Monster at the End of the Book introduces Chuck (Rob Benedict) - a mediocre writer of a badly written book series called Supernatural, which just happens to describe the brothers' lives to the smallest detail.

There is a truckload of new characters in this season - both angels, demons and humans. The scriptwriters have finally figured out that no matter how good the dynamic between the two protagonists, a tv show needs an ensemble to function properly. And with the demons switching bodies with such ease, we get to see different acting for the same character, which is also an interesting thing. Particularly the last incarnation of the demon Alastair (Christopher Heyerdahl) is a joy to listen to, as he whines and wheezes his way into sentence after painful sentence with nasal hickness that's just delightful.

In the end though, Season 4 is all about Sam and Dean, as usual, and the story ends in a huge cliffhanger that has you reaching for the next season's box in panic. I can't honestly tell whether it's better or worse than the previous year, but it is a very good season, and worth watching. It is Apocalypse now! Of the Lord!


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