TV From The Crypts: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 4
Welcome back Whedonites. Lilith here to rehash season 4 of our favorite vampire-laden TV show Buffy. Get ready for some deviations from the usual with the Scooby Gang; this season brought with it some heavy topics, full of love, science, slaying, studying and sex. Yup, Buffy and her friends are off to college this season. Spoilers to follow as I review this monumental season of Buffy.
The best part of rewatching this show so I can bring you these raving reviews is that starting in this season I wasn’t actually rewatching it! Yeah, I kind of stopped watching it after season 3, as by then I was a junior in high school and like Buffy had other things on my mind. So tackling this season was all-new for me, with lots of surprises.
Probably my only complaint is that the show started out with a lame pretense: last year the high school was blown up when the class destroyed the demon mayor, but this year all is well while Willow and Buffy trudge off to college, naturally enrolling at UC Sunnydale (aka the local campus). Granted Buffy feels obliged to stick around the area with it being on top of a hell mouth and all, but it just seems kind of sad. I stuck around my local town for college too, but my reasoning was it gave me a free ride through undergraduate, so I could save my entire student loan requirements for my medical degree. Hopefully Willow has the same outcome, cause I really wanted to see her end up somewhere like Harvard or Stanford. But she’s a good friend, and Buffy and her realize staying local is the best to keep the local fanged population in check.
The first couple episodes were a little painful, watching Buffy adjust to college was even more awkward than when she joined a new high school. Buffy also had to learn the hard way that a lot of guys are just into getting laid. But after the first couple angsty episodes there were some great developments.
New characters to be excited about: well there is Riley of course. Riley is the super attractive under cover soldier boy that initially thinks Buffy is an idiot but then half way through the season acknowledges he has a crush on her, only to discover that she is actually the perfect girlfriend when the two uncover their secret identities. I read that Riley was meant to be the opposite of Angel for a boyfriend for Buffy, and I agree, plus I like it. Yeah, you kind of have to like Angel if you watch Buffy, but I think Riley is the better choice. He turns out to be supportive, moral, strong, and though a little protective he happily accepts the fact that Buffy could kick his ass in a sparring fight any day. It really is teamwork when the two work together. Granted, they go through a couple rocky bumps along the way, but come out stronger and closer than ever.
Other new characters: well, there is Professor Maggie Walsh, who is the notoriously strict and heartless psychology professor at their new school, but then she turns out to also be the head of “The Initiative”, which is the undercover military group catching supernatural creatures that Riley is part of. I think Walsh was a bit of a weak character, mainly because they tried to do too much with her. She would have been a lot better JUST as a psych professor, but adding all the military background and role to her just made it unbelievable (on the spectrum of believability as it exists on Buffy of course). She was obviously meant to be the mad scientist that let her work go too far, and then gets killed by her creation as a sick twist of fate, yet they never really explained why her scientific goal was to create this demonic cyborg named Adam. It could have been a better plot if there was more background to that part of the story, like that parts of the cyborg were from a former lover, or that she had ulterior motives for creating the unstoppable creature in the first place. But there needed to be a villain to try to pit Riley and Buffy against each other, and I guess Maggie Walsh filled that role.
Another character that took on a much more recurrent role was Anya, the former female vengeance demon that was forced to be human in the previous season. She seems to have accepted her fate, and ends up falling in love with Xander. She is painfully blunt and has an obvious lack of compassion, yet she is a nice addition to the group, and comes in handy several times when battling demons with backgrounds similar to what hers had been. It’s also nice to see Xander date someone acceptable for once, and watch their relationship grow.
The rest of the main characters this season are recurrent ones from previous seasons, and I love them all. Probably the saddest part of the whole season for me was early on when Oz left the gang. He realized his werewolf tendencies were out of control, and a fellow female werewolf tricked him in to sleeping with her, breaking Willow’s heart. Oz of course saves the day by tearing out that werewolf’s throat and killing her when she threatened Willow, but watching him leave is heartbreaking. I really loved his character and hoped for more.
But with Oz out of the picture, Willow has some serious growing up to do. She goes through a several episode mopey phase, but starts to embrace her inner witch and begins dating a fellow female witch named Tara. Willow’s character was still a little too weak for me this season, but that might be because of her overall choice to stick around too. I really wanted more for her, here’s to hoping that can still happen in future seasons.
Spike also becomes a regular, but still peripheral character. Throughout most of the season he is forced to be nice to the gang since The Initiative implanted him with an inhibitor chip when they caught him. This chip prevents him from harming any humans or innocents, though he finds he can attack or hurt fellow demons and vampires just fine. Spike was also a wishy-washy character this season, and I wanted to see him just embrace going one way or the other. He kept trying to do evil things and screw up the plans of our Scooby Gang, but not whole-heartedly, and it would have been better if he just acknowledged that he wanted to be good, or gave up and was a bad-ass, not this in between crap.
And lastly we come to the queen herself: Buffy. I didn’t think it would be possible, but Buffy grew as a character even more than before. She went through a couple episodes of nervous adjustment to college, and then became even more badass than ever. She grew up, started making smarter decisions, kicked both buff soldier boy and demon ass more than ever, and balanced her social-slaying-school life perfectly. Although she might not always say the right thing during her speeches, she always did the right thing, and she finally started getting better at accepting help. She was the true center unit of the gang and did a better job than any of them keeping them close, yet also opened her heart to many others throughout the season. She really is a woman to be admired in so many ways.
Well, that was my summary of where the feel of the characters went this season, but now for a couple favorite moments.
The funniest episode by far was Superstar. A former classmate from high school, Jonathan Levinson, comes across an augmentation spell while in counseling for his depression, and using it he temporarily rewrites history so that he is some super powerful, smart, sexy, and important person in the city. He has every talent possible, and it seems that Buffy actually goes to him for help. Of course, the myth eventually starts to unravel and his cover is blown, but it was still a pretty funny episode watching him masquerade around as the coolest guy in town. I especially loved the opening credits, which showed him in all the spots previously filled by other characters, made me do a double take!
And my absolute favorite episode of the season was Hush. This episode features these incredibly terrifying fairytale gentlemen that steal everyone’s voices and then go around the town at night with their straight jacket wearing monsters cutting out the hearts of victims that can’t cry for help. It was absolutely terrifying, and if I am honest it gave me nightmares for a couple days. It also is the episode where Riley and Buffy both learn about their secret identities, which of course we were all dying for it to happen. If you had to watch just one episode of the season, this would be the one I would recommend.
Hope you enjoyed today’s review of the 4th installment of our beloved Buffy The Vampire Slayer, until next time slayer wannabes!
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Posted on February 26, 2015, in TV, TV From the Crypts and tagged Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 4, Demons, Riley Finn, slayer, TV, TV From the Crypts, vampires, Whedon, Willow. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.