by Diana Steenbergen
Supernatural, the underrated gem on The CW, kicked it up a notch in Season 4, going from being a pretty good show to being a pretty great show. The show was ambitious with their introduction of angels into the storyline and it paid off, for the most part.
From the moment the season began, with Dean clawing his way out of his grave in the season opener, "Lazarus Rising," the angels vs. demons storyline took center stage. Central to this was the addition of Misha Collins to the cast as Castiel, the angel who pulled Dean out of hell on God's orders. I thoroughly enjoyed his introduction to the show and I also loved how Collins played Castiel from the start as if he were confused by a lot of what he saw of human behavior, and with Dean specifically. Watching Dean and Castiel interact was one of the highlights of the season. There were some down moments in the angel storyline, specifically how disappointing the once promising character of Julie McNiven's Anna turned out to be in "Heaven and Hell," but by and large, this direction for the show was a great success.
The core of Supernatural has always been the relationship between Dean and Sam, and this season was no exception. During the year the show took some big chances by creating serious conflict between the brothers, conflict that brewed for the majority of the season. After years of solidifying the bond between the two Winchesters, the slow-building distance between them was well executed, and while it might be painful for the audience to watch them fight, it makes for great drama.
Jared Padalecki rose to the occasion with Sam's journey into darkness, turning in some of his best performances to date. Especially well played was how conflicted Sam was between what he thinks he must do verses what his brother believes should happen. I also loved his reaction to seeing Dean for the first time in "Lazarus Rising." That moment is one of my favorite scenes of the series so far. Jensen Ackles, meanwhile, was given a piece of the mythology pie this season, becoming a "chosen" character in the battle of good vs. evil, something only Sam had experienced prior to this. Ackles takes every opportunity that is given to him to deepen the character of Dean. While Sam's path leads him to increasingly dark places, Dean's is a journey of faith, somewhat unexpected for his character, but done believably mainly through his relationship with Castiel.