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Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season (2008-2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/1/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/30/2009

You've got to hand it to the producers of Supernatural. Despite the fact that the show stars two pretty boys (am I allowed to say that?), they aren't afraid to throw everything at the main characters. I mean, any show which opens with their mother burning to death (while bleeding and floating in mid-air) isn't going to pull any punches. Since that time, the boys have been beaten, mauled, and nearly killed numerous times. And yet, now that the show has settled into a nice groove, it doesn't look as if the torture is going to let up anytime soon, as evidenced by Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season.

Season 3 of Supernatural ended on a decidedly down note. Having fulfilled a pact which saved his brother's life, Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) was attacked by invisible hellhounds and then dragged to hell, while his brother, Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki), watched in horror. As Season 4 opens, four months have passed on Earth. Dean awakens in his coffin and drags himself out of the ground. He can't remember much and he has a handprint burned into his shoulder. Meanwhile, Sam has been working with his demon-gone-good-girl accomplice Ruby (Genevieve Cortese), slaughtering demons and looking for ways to help Dean. When the two are finally reunited, Dean reports that the four months on Earth was decades in hell and that the suffering has changed him. Sam has changed as well, as his telekinetic powers have grown while Dean was gone. Dean is soon contacted by an angel named Castiel (Misha Collins), who warns Dean that the powerful demon Lilith has set a plan in motion to start Armageddon, and that only Dean and Sam can stop her.

Yes, it's somewhat of an understatement to say that the abuse continues in Season 4 of Supernatural, when you consider the fact that one of the characters literally went to hell and back. But, that's what makes this show continue to be good -- the Winchesters are constantly being challenged, threatened, and simply pummeled and we love watching them fight back. The show does a great job of finding new ways to fuel Sam and Dean's desire to hunt the creatures of the night. They've slain many of the actual and psychological demons from their past, and they could have moved on by now. But, each season brings a new evil to face, and while they've fought back against large-scale demonic forces, the idea of Armageddon is certainly a looming threat.

Aside from a new evil to face, Season 4 wisely needs some much-needed balance into the show's other-worldly characters. From the first episode, Sam and Dean have been faced with demons, some of which are very powerful. This made Supernatural fall into that cliched trap where evil is everywhere and always very strong, and the power of good is often fleeting. But, by introducing angels into the mix, the show has a more honest, and less trite feel. It's interesting to point out that the angels aren't that different from the demons, as they must inhabit the body of a human in order to interact with humans. However, their powers are based on light, not darkness, and the first time that Castiel blasts a demon is very cool.

So, Season 4 is some heavy-handed stuff, huh? Sure it is. Dean comes back from hell, Sam is working with a demon, the world is going to end, and the brothers fight constantly. But, a totally dark season of Supernatural wouldn't work at all, and we get some more lightweight episodes as well. Not unlike The X-Files, Supernatural mixes shows which follow the story arc, and stand-alone episodes where the boys go to a town to find the baddie of the week. Some of those entries from Season 4 are instant classics, such as the episode where the whole town is an old black and white horror film, the one where a family is threatened in their new home, or the one with the magicians. The show also shows that a sense of humor is very necessary to balance out the horror, such as when Sam and Dean go back to high school, or the one where a town has a wishing well (and Ted Raimi gets a hot girlfriend). And who can forget "Jump the Shark"?

Supernatural has probably lived longer than most expected, but the most surprising aspect of the show is that it has maintained an air of quality. The show deftly balances horror and humor and is never afraid to get dramatic. And based on the finale of Season 4, things are only getting started.

Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season has the eye of the tiger on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The four disc set contains all 22 episodes of the show's fourth season. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, but the HD transfer really magnifies the grain. In some shots it's is quite distracting. Other than that, there are no defects from the source material. Despite the fact that this is a dark show, the brightness level is always acceptable. The colors look good and are never washed out. The level of detail is good, and the depth is notably good at times. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Seriously? No lossless track? This track provides nice stereo, surround, and bass effects at times, but they are all somewhat weak. We miss the power and clarity which would have come with a HD track.

The Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season set has a few extras. Ten episodes offer extended or unaired scenes as a bonus. (These are separate, not edited into the show.) There are AUDIO COMMENTARIES for the following episodes: "In the Beginning" with Executive Producer Eric Kripke and Writer Jeremy Carver (Disc 1); "When the Levee Breaks" with Writer Sera Gamble and Director Robert Singer (Disc 4); and "Lucifer Rising" with Writer/Director Eric Kripke (Disc 4). The last two extras are found on Disc 4. "The Mythologies of Supernatural: From Heaven to Hell" is split into three categories; Paradiso, Purgatorio, and Inferno. These are then divided into sub-categories which explore various subjects from the show, such as angels, limbo, and sirens. Each piece contains clips from the show and comments from the creative staff, but there are also interviews with scholars and historians who give us the "real" facts about the mythologies. The other extra is a 10 minute GAG REEL which show just how silly Jared and Jensen really are.

Warner Home Video has also brought Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season to DVD. The six disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from Season 4. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear here. The level of grain isn't as notable as the DVD, which is good. On the down side, the image isn't as sharp as the Blu-ray Disc, and it's somewhat soft at times. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark. However, the image simply isn't as crisp as the Blu-ray. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is essentially the same track which is found on the Blu-ray Disc. Again, the stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects are nicely done, most notably during action scenes and when the "whoosh" sound effect occurs as the show goes to commercial.

The DVD set contains the same extras as the Blu-ray Disc set.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long