Category Archives: Season 4

Final Thoughts: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4

Well, here we are.  It’s no secret that I didn’t really enjoy this trip through Buffy’s 4th season.  Never one of my favourite years of Buffy, it was particular difficult during this rewatch.  One of the underrated joys of DVD is being able to watch the best of a series while skipping the worst, but that’s not possible when you need to review the whole thing.  Beyond that, my tastes have changed over the last twelve years.  The season-arc is definitely the weakest element of Buffy vs. The Initiative/Maggie Walsh/Adam/who cares and that bothers me a lot more than it used to.  Serialized drama has become a rather refined art over the last decade and this season just hasn’t as well as the others, best being enjoyed in snippets rather than as a whole. Continue reading

I wear the cheese, it does not wear me

Sometimes cheese is just cheese

“Restless” presents a similar problem to “Hush” in that much as I might have to say about it, so much more has already been said.  Dramatic dream sequences begging for analysis have become somewhat old had in television by this point, but the idea was a lot more fresh back in the day and the episode’s quality ensures that effort yields reward but, rather than try to find a fresh take on all this, a la my “Hush” review, I thought I’d simply try to place this episode I love in this season that, I must admit, I haven’t got much use for. Continue reading

Well, Spike can be very convincing when… I’m very stupid

Awwww

It’s far too easy to snark on what sucks about “Primeval,” but I’ve done enough of that this season, so I thought I’d do a positive write up.  Not that this episode does much to redeem the arc leading up to it, but I feel like my reviews have grown a bit monotone over the course of this season.  So, with that, I’ll say that the climax of Buffy’s fourth season makes for an assertive return to series form and that its success stems mostly from acknowledging how far off track things had gotten.  The episode may be a little on the nose with its mystical metaphor, but back-to-basics-Buffy was just what the doctor ordered after a season of identity crisis. Continue reading

I like “Helter Skelter”

Apparently, scotch is also bad

Hey, Adam still exists!  And he has a plan!  How very serialized of him.  I know, I know, I said (many times) that I’d stop snarking on season four’s utterly underwhelming arc, but now that it’s approaching its supposed climax, I’m struck once more by how utterly dumb it is.  Not dumb in the sense that evil cyborg-demon-bots are dumb (they don’t have to be) but dumb in the sense that I don’t see how anyone thought that this was the right way to execute it.  Adam was given a five second debut when we were 60% through the season.  Since then he’s killed a boy, preached to some vampires, and recognized Jonathan as a big phony.  Now we’re supposed to care about what he’s up to?  I could respect the series for trying, but so little effort’s been put into developing Adam that I’m convinced the writers either didn’t know what to do with him or didn’t care.  I guess Buffy’s got to fight something, right? Continue reading

Pretty much now

Hey

Oh yeah, that’s why we loved Oz.  “New Moon Rising” is yet another episode that’s superfluous to the arc of season four but, given what a total train wreck that arc is, why don’t we just appreciate it as a delayed (but welcome) proper send off for the character.  If “Wild at Heart” was born of practical necessity, then this episode is the exact opposite.  There was no need to bring Oz back; the show and the audience had moved on, and there really wasn’t a hole there for him to fill.  It’s clear indication of how extraneous the character had become.  And yet, despite all that, I’m still happy to see the character.  While Oz may not have been an essential ingredient in the Buffy mix, he’s still and enjoyable one and it’s nice to see him get a worthy goodbye. Continue reading

Stop and smell the corpses, ya know?

Think that’s good, just wait ’till OMWF

I feel pretty safe calling “Where the Wild Things Are” a failure; I’m just not sure if it qualifies as a noble one.  The episode is thoroughly watchable, but its efforts to deal with the issues of child abuse and sexual repression come off as more confused than nuanced.  We have the standard mystical metaphor as the abuse suffered by the children of the Lowell Home manifests as a blend of sexual urges and shame… and plants.  Obviously, the first two go together, particularly in cases of child abuse, but I’m unclear on whether the vines are meant be Eden imagery or a Sendak nod and, either way, they don’t really bring much the themes of the episode.  Adding to the confusion, we have Buffy and Riley’s sex drive being what sets off the whole crisis and Xander and Anya getting beyond the physical is what resolves it.  Sooo… sexual repression is bad… but so is sex? Continue reading

Yeah, back off Betty

You’re all too tall

I remember watching “Superstar” for the first time in a university common room.  The usual Buffy-crowd was there and at the end of the opening credits, there was a moment of stunned silence followed by someone muttering “what the fuck was that?”  You’d think that after almost four years of consistently having our expectations thwarted that we’d have been better prepared for such a curve ball, but the subversion of “Superstar” is something new.  After almost four years of genre-bending, Buffy had, inevitably, developed its own conventions.  Much of season four has been about challenging these (with mixed results), but this is the first episode to actually push us out of the Buffy universe. Continue reading

Because it’s wrong

Hope it doesn’t stick like that

Good as “This Year’s Girl” was, “Who Are You?” is even better.  Buffy and Faith have been each other’s mirrors from the get-go and the body swap is the natural culmination of that dynamic.  And this is a culmination.  I’m not sure if it was by design or circumstance, but Faith wouldn’t appear on Buffy for another three years and, once we get there, both characters have clearly moved beyond being defined in contrast to each other.  Deliberate or not, this episode serves remarkably well as the breaking point, stripping away all illusions the characters might have about each other and forcing them to get over one another. Continue reading

Ass-kicking makes for a solid Plan B

Still BFFs, right?

We certainly didn’t need another aside at this point in the season-arc, but I said I wasn’t going to worry about that anymore and so I’ll just consider the first of the Faith two-parter on its own merits.  And what great merits they are.  “This Year’s Girl” succeeds by both delivering on and thwarting audience expectations.  Faith is a character who most of us loved and her return holds out the tantalizing possibility of a renewed Slayer-vs-Slayer feud.  We get that, in the end, but Faith spends very little time as the antagonist and it’s these scenes that really make the episode work. Continue reading

Hey! We got new rules here: no killing

Why'd you bring Xander, again?

I’m somewhat torn about “Goodbye Iowa.”  On the one hand, Riley’s long overdue for some attention and the episode does a good job digging into his character.  On the other hand, this was our introduction to Adam and the episode regulates the supposed Big Bad to the periphery when he desperately needed to be front and centre.  It’s probably best to simply view this episode outside the context of the season arc, which is pretty much a lost cause anyway.  Taken just as a “Riley episode,” “Goodbye Iowa” brings the goods, finally giving us a reason to care about the big lunk. Continue reading