CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Blu-Ray Review: Fourth Season of Underrated ‘Supernatural’ Rocks
CHICAGO – With the fifth and reportedly final season of “Supernatural” starting tonight, September 10th, 2009, on The CW, what better time to sing the praises of this often clever and always underrated show via a review of the recently released fourth season Blu-Ray and DVD editions? If you’ve never seen “Supernatural” start at the beginning, but if you’ve seen the first three seasons, don’t give up on number four.
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
By its fourth year, “Supernatural” had settled into a confident, unpredictable groove, beautifully weaving individual urban legends in a mystery-of-the-week format while also telling an interesting overall story. Of course, I don’t expect to see “Supernatural” on ten-best lists next to shows like “Lost” or “Mad Men,” but there’s something to be said for a show that’s been consistently entertaining for four years and counting. “Supernatural” has been incredibly entertaining.
“Supernatural” works for the same two reasons that most shows succeed - quality writing and an effective ensemble to deliver it. If the show has a weakness, it’s that they’ve never quite developed the supporting ensemble effectively but the two leads - Jared Padalecki and, particularly, Jensen Ackles - have gotten better every year.
Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on September 1st, 2009.
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Home Video
Padalecki and Ackles play Sam and Dean Winchester, respectively, a pair of supernatural investigators, men trying to come to terms with both the details of their own dark pasts and with the constant battle between heaven and hell. Dean knows a thing or two about the latter as the third season ended with him literally being dragged to the fiery underneath.
Of course, there’s no show without Dean and the more rebellious of the Winchester brothers finds himself back on solid ground at the beginning of the fourth season of “Supernatural,” sometimes accompanied by an angel who reports that God himself needed Dean back in the real world for an important battle to come. Why? Dean will play a role in the stopping of the ultimate villain in the history of the show, Lucifer himself.
So, Sam and Dean are back traveling the world and stopping the forces of the supernatural wherever they go with a group of writers who seem downright inspired by being able to weave issues of classical angels and demons into the overall fabric of the show. Knowing that the overall arc of the season would be incredibly dark, the mysteries of the week in “Supernatural” display a lighter tone in season four, including battles with a 7-foot teddy bear and an episode that opens with Dean running in terrified fear from a tiny dog.
What’s great about “Supernatural” is how quickly the show can turn on itself. Take for example the great “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester,” which opens by playing with the urban legend of razor blades in Halloween candy, hinting at a lighter-toned episode, but becomes both honestly scary and one of the more important episodes in the character arcs of the entire season.
Watching the fourth season of “Supernatural,” I was struck by two thoughts - one, that the show has arguably never been more consistently entertaining (in part due to the switch in focus from Sam to Dean and the developed acting ability of Ackles), and, two, that I’ll be disappointed if the fifth season is truly the last.
If one of your favorite shows is coming to Blu-Ray and DVD, you should hope that Warner Brothers is the studio releasing it. They do TV on Blu-Ray right. “Supernatural” looks amazing in HD and even the DVD version is better than average technically for the format. Blu-Ray 1080p is absolutely the way to go - the video and audio are flawless - but if you haven’t jumped to the next-gen format yet, the standard DVD looks much better than average.
The special features on “Supernatural” are the same on Blu-Ray and DVD and are presented in high definition on the former.
Special features include the 3-section featurette “The Mythologies of Supernatural From Heaven to Hell,” Extended/Unaired Scenes, Gag Reel, and the following commentary tracks:
Episode 4.3 “In the Beginning” - Executive Producer Eric Kripke and Writer Jeremy Carver
Episode 4.21 “When the Levee Breaks” - Writer Sera Gamble and Director Robert Singer
Episode 4.22 “Lucifer Rising”- Writer/Director Eric Kripke