Whether you consider it dark-fantasy or science-fiction there is no denying that the CW Show, Supernatural, has become a force to be reckoned with, and is about to start its fourteenth season this coming October.
We’re taking a look back over the past seasons, ranking our top five episodes, and now it’s the turn of season four. Like the previous ones, this was hard to narrow down to five due to it being the penultimate season of creator Eric Kripke’s five-season story arc. It involves the return of Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) after his imprisonment in Hell; his brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) being led further astray by the demon Ruby (now played by Genevieve Cortese), and drinking demon blood to increase his powers; the introduction of Angels, most notably Castiel (Misha Collins); and the continued fight against Lilith (Katherine Boecher), as she attempts to free the fallen archangel, Lucifer.
The season starts with Dean awakening in a pine box and having to crawl his way back to the surface where he finds all the trees surrounding the area fallen, radiating out from his grave. He is just as confused as the audience is, with no idea how or who got him out of Hell. The only evidence he has is a red handprint on his shoulder that looks burned into his skin. He quickly establishes that Bobby (Jim Beaver) wasn’t responsible, but then has to track down his brother, whom Bobby hasn’t seen since they buried Dean four months ago, going against Hunter tradition. Dean assumes the worst, that his brother did a deal with a demon to get him out, which would explain the handprint and the fact that some sort of presence tried to attack him.
After an emotional reunion with Sam, Dean finds out that his brother didn’t bring him back either. Sam tried, unsurprisingly, but when nothing panned out he resumed hunting Lilith. Without many options left to them, Bobby suggests they visit a friend of his, a flirtatious psychic named Pamela Barnes (Traci Dinwiddie). Pamela conducts a seance and is able to determine that the thing that raised Dean is called Castiel, but when she pushes to try and see Castiel’s face the ritual backfires, resulting in Pamela’s eyes being burned out.
Later, after another attack, Dean decides to summon Castiel to find out what the hell is going on, and gets Bobby to help, without Sam. Sam had snuck off with Ruby, in a new meatsuit, and the two of them discuss Dean’s return. Ruby points out that Dean will be pissed at Sam when he finds out what they’ve been up to. Sam knows this which is why he’s waiting for the right time to talk to his brother. Bobby and Dean do the summoning ritual and we are treated to perhaps the best entrance of a character into Supernatural, perhaps into any TV show. Castiel arrives at last and informs Dean of exactly what he is: an Angel of the Lord, and it is he who saved Dean from Hell. When pressed as to why, Dean is told it is because God commanded it, and Heaven has work for him to do.
The sixth episode of the season is on face value a standalone Monster-of-the-Week. Dean contracts something called ghost-sickness which causes the victim to become more and more scared of things until they have a heart attack and die. It falls to Sam and Bobby to try and save Dean, who becomes a liability the closer he gets to death.
Jensen Ackles is amazing in this episode as he’s required to show fear in front of the silliest things: being chased by a Yorkie, and full on screaming in terror when surprised by a cat. His face, though, when a huge boa constrictor named Marie, slithers over his shoulder and down his lap would mirror mine, no acting required! The comedy achieved is laugh-out-loud good, but Ackles also gives us insight into what truly scares Dean as he is plagued by hallucinations involving his brother becoming truly evil, and Dean’s terror about going back to Hell.
The reason Dean contracts the sickness in the first place isn’t the same as the other victims in the episode. The victims were all dicks, and Supernatural’s creator, Eric Kripke, was moved to address fans directly to calm any outcry that might result in some not picking up on the real reason. Dean is hiding a secret from Sam, he even lies about what he was hallucinating because of this, saying he saw Howler Monkeys rather than telling the truth, and the secret won’t come out until a later episode. It was the first time that Kripke addressed fans directly, and you can read his release here.
Lastly, stick around for the end credits to watch the superb outake of Jensen Ackles mouthing along to ‘Eye of The Tiger’ by Survivor. It shows what fun can be had on the set of a show in which both cast and crew alike all refer to each other as family.
On The Head Of A Pin
By the fifteenth episode we’ve found out that not only does a month in the real world translate to a whole ten years in Hell, meaning Dean was down there for forty years, but also while he was there Dean succumbed to the pressure he was put under and accepted a role torturing other souls to avoid being tortured himself. He withstood being tortured for thirty years, but then couldn’t take it anymore. This all came out in a tearful confession to his brother Sam in the episode ‘Heaven and Hell’. In ‘On the Head of a Pin’ this comes back to torment him even more. Something or someone is killing Angels due to their fighting against Lilith and her plans to release Lucifer. Castiel and Uriel (Robert Wisdom) take Dean, without his permission and leaving Sam behind, to where they have Alistair (Christopher Heyerdahl) imprisoned, the demon who both tortured and mentored Dean in torturing in Hell. The angels want Dean to use his new skills in getting answers from the demon.
Angels in Supernatural have never been the types to just sit back and observe, as Castiel points out in the second episode of the season: “Angels are warriors of God. I’m a soldier.” However, this seems a step too far for the forces of Heaven, and Castiel’s resolve is starting to waver. After a visit from his former garrison commander Anna (Julie McNiven), who chose to fall to Earth, Castiel starts to question God’s plan. It’s the turning point for him, and he starts to show signs of free will, and he’s still no closer to finding out who is killing Angels.
The scenes in which Dean tortures Alistair aren’t at all pleasant, and Ackles makes you feel the trauma Dean is going through. At the same time you want to egg him on as Heyerdhal’s performance as Alistair is creepy to the limits. Alistair gets the better of Dean though, when he drops the information that everything going on is Dean’s fault. Lilith has been trying to break 66 Seals so that she can free Lucifer, but the 1st Seal had to be broken by a Righteous Man in Hell. Dean breaking and agreeing to torture souls was the 1st Seal, and the news shakes him to the core. Alistair also breaks free of the trap holding him and starts to beat Dean to death. Castiel returns in time to try and save him, but it’s the arrival of Sam that saves the day. Sam has been drinking demon blood, fed to him by Ruby, and he is now able to destroy demons using the power of his own mind. Dean doesn’t see this as he’s unconscious, but Castiel is visibly shocked.
By the end of the episode we find out that it was Uriel who’d been killing the Angels; he and others believe that God has abandoned them all and that Lucifer is the way forward. Uriel is thankfully killed by Anna before he can attempt to convert Castiel. We also learn that although Dean was the breaker of the 1st Seal, the Righteous Man is also the only one that can stop Lilith in the end. Dean, however, doesn’t believe he is strong enough to do so.
The Monster At The End Of This Book
Never afraid to poke fun at itself, Supernatural steps into meta-humour again with the eighteenth episode of the season when it introduces Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict). Chuck is an author, who under the pseudonym ‘Carver Edlund’ has written a series of books about two brothers who hunt monsters and despatch ghosts…. Sound familiar?
It not only sounds familiar to Sam and Dean, it’s identical, as they discover the books are a word for word retelling of their lives… all of it in intimate detail, up to the point Dean goes to Hell. Not only that but they also discover that the books have fans online. There’s Sam Girls, Dean Girls, and to their horror… Slash Fans.
The two of them decide to track down the author, via his former publisher – who is also a major fan and has the same tattoo they have… only in a more risque location – only to find that he’s not a demon, but a schmuck in a bathrobe who is able to see their lives through cripplingly painful visions. Chuck can see, and has seen, their futures. The brothers’ scepticism is challenged though when Chuck has a new vision, this time seeing Lilith coming to kill Sam, and with everything Chuck predicts coming true, it looks like the end might be drawing near for Sam.
We discover from Castiel that Chuck isn’t simply psychic but he is actually a Prophet of the Lord, and the books he writes will one day be known as The Winchester Gospels. Prophets are also protected personally by Archangels so that no harm can befall them. When it looks like Sam is going to end up done-for, and through Castiel’s indirect help, showing us even more so that the Angel is preparing to disobey his orders from Heaven, Dean decides to use this information to his advantage. He forces Chuck to come with him to confront Lilith, knowing that an Archangel will step in to intercede. This happens, and Lilith is forced to flee before she can kill Sam.
In addition to all the humour in this episode, we also see Sam talking to Chuck about his drinking of demon blood and that he doesn’t think he could stop even if he wanted to. He’s convinced that saving the world from Lilith and Lucifer will fall to him as Dean isn’t up to the task. Dean is also worried that his brother won’t pick the path of self-sacrifice but will do something stupid in the name of revenge. We also see one of Castiel’s superiors, Zachariah (Kurt Fuller) threaten Chuck when he has another vision and wants to warn Sam and Dean about what he saw. Heaven is certainly up to something, and it can’t all be good.
Lastly, it is alwaysworth going back and rewatching this episode if you are up to date with all of Supernatural, (at least up to Season Eleven) and watching Chuck as the events unfold. When you finally learn the truth about the cowardly prophet later on down the line it makes the episode all the more interesting.
The last few episodes of the season see the Winchesters hurtling toward the finale at breakneck speed and at loggerheads with each other. In the previous episode,’ When The Levee Breaks’, after discovering Sam’s demon blood addiction, Dean and Bobby lock Sam up in the latter’s demon-proof panic room. Unfortunately, Sam is – unknowingly – helped to escape by Castiel who is still following Heaven’s orders. The finale picks up with Dean angry and refusing to try and find his brother after the two of them got into a fight, and Ruby convincing Sam to stay away from Dean and to proceed with their plan of taking down Lilith as she knows how to find her. Both men are as stubborn as the other even though they are both pained to be apart. It takes them far too long to admit, both in this season and in the show overall, that they are far stronger together than separated.
Dean finds himself transported into what looks like an opulent hotel room where Zachariah and Castiel are waiting. Zachariah informs Dean that his time is now, and he needs to wait here, in the Green Room, so they can keep him safe before the grand finale. Lilith has broken 65 of the 66 Seals she needs to free Lucifer, and Dean is told that she is on the cusp of breaking the last one. After a lot of vague answers from the Angels, Dean’s agitation becomes anger when he discovers the Angels have no intention of letting him go. They want Lilith to succeed, they want Lucifer to rise, they want the big showdown between Lucifer and Michael to happen so that they can remake the world anew due to God’s continued absence. Lilith is the 66th Seal and the Angels want Sam to kill her.
Dean manages to convince Castiel to disobey and help him, and the Angel’s inner conflict is played out so well by Misha Collins. Collins had auditioned for the show thinking he was going to be playing a demon but then found himself cast as an Angel. Castiel was only supposed to be in a few episodes but Collins was so well received that the character of Castiel was expanded upon and he is still in the show even now. Knowing that they don’t have long to find Sam, Castiel takes Dean to Chuck, and the Prophet tells Dean where his brother is. The archangel that protects Chuck immediately starts to manifest and Castiel sends Dean on, intending to hold his ground against his Brother and buy Dean more time.
Being pushed to make more and more questionable decisions by Ruby, and struggling with his addiction to demon blood, Sam finds out Lilith’s location, and after draining a person dry to drink the demon blood he sets out fully powered to end things once and for all. He kills Lilith before Dean can get to him, but her blood starts forming an ominous pattern on the floor. Turning to Ruby for answers, the other demon reveals how she’s been playing him all along, ever since they met in the third season, and how Sam has fulfilled part of his destiny. Angered, Sam holds Ruby as Dean kills her, removing her poison from their lives for good.
It is too late though, because as the blood pattern fully forms it begins glowing with a blinding light, “He’s coming.” says a terrified and very apologetic Sam, and we are left with the screen fading to white, leaving the brothers about to witness Lucifer’s rising.
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With such a jam-packed season it was hard to narrow the list down to five, and so here are a few of the episodes that didn’t make the cut. ‘In the Beginning’, which sees Dean travelling back in time and finding out more about what happened to his parents when they were young and how it was Mary who made a demon deal which effectively cursed Sam forever. ‘Wishful Thinking’ is a comedy episode about wishes coming true, and features a suicidal oversized teddy bear and a guest appearance from Ted Raimi. ‘It’s A Terrible Life,’ which has the brothers put into an alternative universe in which they aren’t brothers but are working for a company that’s haunted. And finally, ‘When the Levee Breaks’ for Sam’s traumatic cold-turkey scenes when he’s trying to beat his demon blood addiction.
So that’s our Season Four list. Do you agree with these picks, or are there others you would have included instead? Let us know in the comments.