The Complete Fourth Season
Sam Winchester is the veritable ‘chosen one’ of the demons. This status has conferred on him certain powers, which ironically are perfect for fighting demons. With his demon-given powers, Sam was to have led the demon hordes in a war against humanity, but he chose not to. In season four, we see Sam embrace what he is, but not why he is.
Just as Sam is the chosen one of the demons, his brother Dean is selected by the angels to fight for them. Of the two, he’s probably the least likely choice (demon-blood infection aside). Dean has previously stated that he doesn’t believe in angels, and his vice-driven lifestyle doesn’t really mesh with the angelic philosophy; but the angels are stuck with him due to prophetic circumstance.
And so, the brothers are pitted against each-other by cosmic powers with little interest in their well being. For the most part, Sam and Dean’s relationship hasn’t changed much. It was established in the second season that Sam may one day be corrupted by his demonic side, and that Dean would have to stop him. What changes in season four is that Sam is now moving to the dark side on his own accord; feeding on demon blood to increase his powers, believing that it is the only way to stop Lilith. At the same time, Dean is now faced with far greater implications should he fail to stop his brother; not just the few people he may kill, but the world-wide apocalypse he may bring about.
The angels have been completely absent from the series thus far. There was even an episode in season three which addressed that issue, when the brothers faced a supposed angel (which ended up being a demon in disguise). At the time, Dean said he did not believe in angels, asking why super-powered good guys never stepped in when the forces of hell were baring down on them.
When we finally meet the angels in season four we find out why they have yet to step in: they don’t care. Their battle is against the demons, but it is not over the Earth. The enemy of their enemy is not their friend, they are simply the battle ground. Dean is set to the task of stopping Lilith from releasing the seals which will free Lucifer, but the angels’ only concern is what effect Lucifer will have on them, not on humanity itself, and they’re more than willing to kill innocents along the way.
Some of the best episodes continue to be those written by Ben Edlund (the writer/artist who created The Tick). He’s like the Darin Morgan of the series, writing funny/absurdest stories that stretch the show into new territories. My favorite was ‘Monster Movie,’ his homage to 1930s’ Universal Monster Movies, complete with black and white video and period German costumes.
The mythology introduced this season is far more complex and layered than that seen before, and the series benefits greatly from it. There’s an element of mystery, and a larger-view mission to accomplish. Luckily, the show doesn’t become preachy or overtly religious as a result of the angels; they are simply another creature that feeds off humanity, they just aren’t as malicious about it.
The show continues to get better with each season, and this one is the first to feel like more than the sum of its parts. A much stronger season story arc, a complex relationship between the brothers, and some experimentation in the stand alone episodes make for a great season of television.