Pros:Hush is brilliant. Faith comes back for a couple of episodes.
Cons:I didn't like the Initiative thing and did Willow really need to turn lesbian?
The Bottom Line: Even though I loved the Buffyverse, I thought this season was weak.
The fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is right in the middle of the series that ran seven seasons. It has some of the most drastic changes in both the stories and the cast. From what Ive read in other reviews, this appears to be the fans least favorite of the first four seasons. I tend to agree, although it did have some shiny moments.
Recommend this product?
The third season of BtVS ended with Buffy and crew graduating from high school and a big showdown that resulted in the school being blown up. The biggest change with the story was that the Angel character (David Boreanaz) left the show to go do his own series that lasted five seasons. The third season ended on a cliffhanger and left the possibilities wide open for the future of Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as a character and for the entire series.
This fourth season begins during Buffy and Willows (Alyson Hannigan) freshman year of college. The Cordelia character (Charisma Carpenter) from the first three seasons has also left the show and ended up on the Angel show. Buffy and Willow and Oz (Seth Green) all go to the local Sunnydale college while Xander (Nicholas Brendon) works odd jobs and continues to play the odd man out of the cast. Its like he just never gets a break, even though he at least has a steady girlfriend (Anya, the former demon) throughout the season. With the high school destroyed and his disassociation from the Watchers Council, Giles (Anthony Head) spends his time at home researching demons and helping the group with their continued struggles with the local vampires and demons. Spike (James Marsters) also comes back into play and becomes a regular character, though his intentions are not clear.
One of the biggest problems with this fourth season of the show is that it opens very weakly and takes several episodes before it ever really lifts off, and even then the core plot of this season is not very good. Most of the early episodes deal with the failing relationship between Willow and Oz as Seth Greens character prepares to make his exit. Green was getting too many big movie offers and ready to move on, and I think the show did a great job of writing him out of it. In the later part of this season is where we get to see Willow decide to try lesbianism after having her heart broken so badly by Oz.
The main running plotline in this season involves an underground military research facility called The Initiative. It is a secret government sponsored military operation that tracks, captures, tags, and destroys demons and vampires. Imagine the Watchers Council with federal funding and lots of big guns. Buffys new boyfriend (Marc Blucas) also happens to be one of the leaders of The Initiative, so you can imagine the conflict that arises there.
I thought the whole Initiative thing was kind of dumb. It is supposed to be a secret military facility, yet they eagerly let Buffy into it and two episodes later want her dead. I know this is a fantasy show about vampires and demons, but if they want to incorporate some kind of military presence, it could have been a little more realistic. The only really good thing to come out of this part of the story is the seasons main villain, a biogenetically engineered creature called Adam. Hes built like a cross between Robocop and the Hulk and makes quite a formidable opponent for Buffy and the gang.
Although I thought this season as a whole was weak, it does have one of the greatest episodes ever filmed - Hush. This was the famous Emmy-nominated episode, and is definitely worth seeing. Joss Whedon, the shows creator, is so often praised for his witty dialogue that he decided to show them and make a silent episode. In this one, the characters only talk for the first few minutes of the show, then some demons appear and cast a silence spell over the whole town. The acting and body language of the cast is incredible in this highly inventive episode that really caught the viewers by surprise. Too bad the rest of the season wasnt as good as the effort put into this particular episode.
This DVD boxed set was put together as if it were intended for someone who had already seen the show. Instead of piling all the extra features into the last disc, some of the bonus content also appears on the other discs. The problem this creates is that some of the making-of featurettes and interviews discuss things that happen in later episodes. Ive never watched Buffy on television before and have been watching this entire season on DVD, so I ended up seeing a bunch of spoilers while watching the bonus material. Quite a few of the episodes also feature commentary from the writers and directors, including the man Joss Whedon himself.
Season Four Episode Guide:
The Freshman This weak season opener shows Buffy struggling with continuing her job as the Slayer.
Living Conditions Buffy finds out her new roommate is more than just annoying. A sometimes funny episode.
The Harsh Light of Day Spike makes his return in the episode.
Fear, Itself This is one of the better episodes of the season and involves a haunted house that gets too real. It has a hilarious surprise ending.
Beer Bad In this fairly dumb episode, a bunch of frat boys are turned into Neanderthals after drinking a new kind of locally brewed beer. Even Buffy gets caught up in the mess.
Wild at Heart This episode puts a lot of focus on the relationship between Willow and Oz.
The Initiative Buffy starts to get her new boyfriend here, and we finally find out whats up with all the commandos running around campus.
Pangs Angel makes a cameo in this episode, obviously to help remind fans that hes got his own show, which debuted the same time this season was running.
Something Blue This is a really great episode where Buffy and Spike fall in love after a spell is miscast. It is also rather foreboding to some events that happen in later seasons.
Hush The brilliant and Emmy-nominated silent episode.
Doomed Buffys new relationship gets more complicated. Also, the group revisits their burnt out high school.
A New Man Giles gets turned into a demon!
The I in Team This marks the turning point between Buffy and the Initiative.
Goodbye Iowa The evil new Adam character is introduced here.
This Year's Girl (part 1) and Who Are You (part 2) Faith (Eliza Dushku) comes back for these episodes and she pulls a Freaky Friday with Buffy. Good stuff.
Superstar This is almost a parody episode that even has its own special opening credits. Its about a nerdy kid (regular cameo maker Danny Strong) who casts a spell over the town making them all think hes the coolest guy ever.
Where the Wild Things Are Xander gets to shine a bit in this very sexual ghost story.
New Moon Rising Oz returns for this episode and Willow finally admits that shes in a new relationship
with a girl.
The Yoko Factor (part 1) and Primeval (part 2) As the season comes to a close, theres lot of fighting with the Adam creature. Willow finally admits to Buffy that she's into girls.
Restless This fourth season ends on a very interesting note with a dream-oriented episode. Definitely a weird one.
I cant wait for Season Five, though I do hope its a little better than this one. I still enjoyed watching this series and have fallen in love with the shows cast, characters, and writing. The blend of fantasy, horror, humor, and real-life drama is brilliant.
My other Buffy-related reviews:
Season One http://www.epinions.com/content_161131957892
Season Two http://www.epinions.com/content_180122586756
Season Three http://www.epinions.com/content_192577375876
The Xbox game - http://www.epinions.com/content_214905687684
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