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All Episodes Talk: Season 4

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A place to discuss particular episodes, arcs and moments from the show's run. Please remember this isn't a complete catch-all topic -- check out the forum for character topics and other places for show-related talk.

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I'm one of the few people who liked Season 4. Well, most of it. 

I thought the Initiative was a great way to expand the story into a world that was bigger than high school. I liked Maggie Walsh, I loved Adam, hell, I even liked Riley. He was an interesting character, even though he was certainly more boring than, say, Spike, and I did enjoy all the "Riley is boring" jokes that everyone was making about the show. Harmony was fun, Spike's chip issues and need to find a different way of being evil were brilliant, and the Core Four were all not only relevant, but recognizable. Anya was finally a main character, Faith woke up and was awesome, characters' romantic lives were actually interesting and well-written, and we were treated to possibly the funniest Thanksgiving episode of any show ever.

However, the end of "Primeval" was The Shark for me. Buffy defeats Adam by turning machine bullets into doves? WTF? I'm pretty sure that's not a Slayer power. And it wasn't a witch power from Willow, either. S4 Willow had a good hacker's mentality for improving on existing spells, but she did not have the kind of built-in superpowers that she displayed in later seasons. Superpowers which, incidentally,

had to be sucked out of locked grimoires, on more than occasion, in order for her to eventually level up that much

. Tapping into Willow's natural power at that point might have, maybe, allowed Buffy to change a dove into a bullet, but turning dozens of rapidly moving deadly projectiles into complex living organisms? I don't buy it. it was an unnecessary distraction to the climax of an otherwise great story. And then they spent the next episode having weird dreams. Compared the finales of 1,2, 3, or 5, Season 4 had an extremely weak finale. And then after all that big symbolism of how importantly integral the Core Four are,

we skip to a whole season of "It's The Dawn Show."

Oh, there were more drops in quality to come, certainly. Just as nobody seriously claims that Fonzie jumping over a shark was worse than Fonzie becoming a nerd-mocking schoolteacher, I'll take "Primeval" or "Restless" over most of the episodes of Season 7, any day. But most of S4 was honestly good enough that, even after being spoiled on the quality of the first three seasons, I was still really happy with it until it fizzled. And then, for the first time, I found myself rewatching episodes over and over, not for pleasure as I always had before, but because I felt like there was some kind of deep brilliance that I just didn't get.  And that kept on happening in the subsequent seasons. Because, somewhere during "Primeval" I think the writers shifted into a kind of bad fan-fiction mentality, and from then until the end of the series, events were too often based on what they thought it would be cool to see the characters do, rather than what might actually make sense or be in character or be consistent with the what we knew about magic, vampires, yadda yadda yadda.

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Having just watched the entire series and seen everything after season 3 for the first time, I didn't enjoy season 4 all that much while I was watching it. In retrospect, though, I like it a lot more. Spike hadn't been completely ruined yet, Anya became more endearing, there was no Dawn, and although Riley wasn't the most exciting boyfriend Buffy ever had, I thought he was okay enough and certainly easy on the eyes.

And I realize I'm 13 years behind on this, but man, "Hush" was really good.

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I don't like season 4, I love season 4.  It's my favorite season.  While it didn't have an arc as strong as seasons 2 or 3, the episode quality is second to none.

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I've long thought season 3 was the overall best of the series, because it felt to me that it made Sunnydale itself a character and the reveal that the Mayor had set the city on the Hellmouth in the first place to actually draw in and concentrate a lot of the mystical/demonic stuff the Scoobies had to deal with on a regular basis in order to eventually lead to his ascension explained a great deal. The dark Slayer/mirror Buffy thing that Faith represented was also a great take.

That said, IMO Hush was probably Buffy's finest hour, and whatever weaknesses season 4 may have had overall I will always give it and Whedon credit for introducing us to Tara.

Edited by KirkB
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I think Season 4 had some very strong episodes (Hush, New Moon Rising, Who Are You) but also had to deal with Lindsay Crouse leaving midway. I think the idea of Riley was interesting, it was just that Marc Blucas fell short as an actor.

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I never bought that there was any chemistry between them. And loved Hush, especially the scene where Willow and Tara join forces to slam that pop machine against the door to keep the monsters out. Just that little scene where Tara links her fingers with Willow's, there is a knowing look between them, almost a nod of recognition - "Yes, together. NOW!" and boom - door blocked. Loved that.

Edited by riley702

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Pretty much everything about Hush was great. The scene you mention, the miming exposition scene where Giles identifies the Gentlemen, Xander thinking Spike had hurt Anya and then Anya kind of ruining the moment afterward. But New Moon Rising was also great. It's one of the episodes I still go back and watch regularly.

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Plus, the back-to-back Pangs and Something Blue combo is kinda the height of Funny BtVS (political/racial ickiness aside). There is a lightness to Season 4 that never comes back to the show, and that makes it fun to watch.

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I never bought that there was any chemistry between them.

Yeah, as one of the few who liked Riley, there was no chemistry between Buffy and Riley till season 6.  But on the flip side, Buffy was the only character Riley didn't interact naturally with.  He and Xander made perfect believable friends, and he and Giles in the few scenes they shared were good.  All those pale in comparison to Riley and Willow.  The amount of chemistry Blucas and Hannigan had was insane.  The scene on the couch in "The Initiative" was the ultimate example of that.  They wound up cutting down on Riley and Willow scenes, unfortunately.  It all goes back to what Douglas Petrie said in his commentary for "The Initiative", they had to be careful with Riley and Willow due to their chemistry, which caused people to think they were going to and should be together.

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I'm just about finished a re-watch of this season and I completely forgot how Buffy beat Adam.. I was like Doves, wtf? as well.

I did like the post watcher/librarian GIles though. 

 

And well, Anya... it was great to see more of her.

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I didn't mind Riley as Buffy's boyfriend, I mean I'm a Buffy/AngelFF for life but I thought Buffy needed a human boyfriend for her character to grow so Riley was okay even if he was boring.

But I hated the initiative, from Walsh to Adam the cliche secret lab, all of Riley's friends, Riley and turning Spike into a pathetic useless vamp this season ugh.

But I loved "Pangs" one of the funniest Buffy episodes

I loved Spike's delivery "you made a bear, undo it, undo it!!"

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I liked s4 well enough. Pangs and Something Blue are like crack for me, and Hush is genius. Restless works for me too, though I can see how it might be too esoteric/pretentious for some. Metaphors are a fine tool, but they're not the highest form of communication known to mankind. 

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Season 4 is the season I rewatch the most. As far as standalone episodes go, I think this one is the best quality wise, though S2 and 3 had better overall season arcs. The aforementioned Something Blue and Pangs are some of my favourite funny episodes and Hush is just brilliant.

I never had any shipper affiliations on this show so I didn't mind Buffy moving on to Riley, Willow moving on to Tara, Xander/Anya were more fun this season than ever (they moved into sad territory later) and Spike was still incredibly funny, especially post-chipping.

 

Also, I didn't even hate Adam that much, or Prof. Walsh. But FORREST, oh my god, I wanted to punch him in his smug sneering face every time he opened his mouth. He didn't even start out that bad, but as the season progressed, his punchability dramatically increased.

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Yes! Forrest was a complete a**hole.  Was basically nasty to Buffy from day 1.  He was so jealous of her.  Riley's other friend, Graham was so much nicer.

 

I'm a Buffy & Angel shipper (love angst in my relationships), but I didn't mind Riley.  Yes, he was very blah, but I think Buffy needed that after the rollercoaster that was Angel. 

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This is a bit of an unusual season to evaluate, as it's easily the one that had the most outside factors compromising its potential. Losing Angel and Cordy to the spinoff, Walsh's actress having to leave halfway through, and Kristine Sutherland not having much time for the show after Joss reneged on killing her off in S3 all clearly had their effect, and this stands out even more clearly when compared to the mess of seasons 6 and 7, which have no such excuses.

 

I've heard from someone else that the season's main arc isn't that great, but it makes up for that by having several of the best individual episodes of the show's run, and that pretty much sums it up for me too. I still have a lot of fun watching it, and considering how badly it could have gone, I definitely think we can be thankful for what we got.

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Christian Kane (Lindsey) on Angel originally auditioned for the role of Riley Finn. I wonder if he could have been able to bring more to that role since I  liked him on Angel. Riley may have been a character that nobody could have helped.

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I think Riley was a fairly thankless character. He's there (IMO) to represent the normal life Buffy craves. That's part of the Riley vs Spike dynamic. Spike is SlayerBuffy and Riley is NormalBuffy.

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Episode 4x01:

Buffy: "I can't wait till mom gets the bill for these books. I hope its a funny aneurysm."

Me: *whince*

Seriously, did Joss plan that far ahead?

Edited by mrspidey

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"Living Conditions" is one of my least favorite episodes of the season (and indeed, of the WB as a whole), but I just read someone on another board pointing out that the baggie that Buffy uses to secure Kathy's evil toenails in overnight is one of the Ziploc™ bags that Parker left her for snagging extra food from the dining halls.  Which means that Parker (unknowingly) helped out with the slayage.  Which earns the episode a few cool points, at least, IMO.

Parker Abrams, unwitting Scooby.  Heh.

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On ‎25‎/‎03‎/‎2018 at 9:27 AM, Halting Hex said:

"Living Conditions" is one of my least favorite episodes of the season (and indeed, of the WB as a whole), but I just read someone on another board pointing out that the baggie that Buffy uses to secure Kathy's evil toenails in overnight is one of the Ziploc™ bags that Parker left her for snagging extra food from the dining halls.  Which means that Parker (unknowingly) helped out with the slayage.  Which earns the episode a few cool points, at least, IMO.

Parker Abrams, unwitting Scooby.  Heh.

Never quite sure about Parker, is he a sleaze or does he just not see Buffy as a long term girl and she goes all Bunny boiler and hits him over the head with a branch when he tries to apologise to her? Love Kathy, the actress turns up in a very similar role in DH and it explains why Buffy had such problems with Sunday if Kathy was sucking her soul.  

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I don't HATE Superstar…but I know at least one person who does.  And IIRC, Loandbehold is a Gemini, so consider this a belated (or early) birthday present.  I was reading Monty Ashley's livejournal (MontySeesBuffy), and here's an excerpt from the relevant entry:

Quote

Okay, don't hate me for this or anything, but I don't care about Jonathan. At all, really. I read episode guides when I'm done with each episode, and the early shows are full of "This is the third appearance of Jonathan; he's in the back of the crowd." I don't understand his fanbase. People with no lines are called extras. Even when he got lines, Jonathan has never seemed like a coherent character to me. I can only remember three of his appearances, and they all could have been done by one-shot actors. None of them seemed to build on the previous ones in any way, and I was never filled with any great desire to see what he was doing offscreen.

I don't have anything against him, it's just that I don't care about him. I don't see how he got such a huge group of fans that he got to come back in his own episode. It's like a cult of lack-of-personality.

I'm so close to just skipping this episode. I'm not even asking myself how they got into this reality or whether this was a dream sequence or what. I'm just wondering what the point is.

Jane Espenson has a crush?  You got me, dude.

But wait, there's more:

Quote

Here's the thing with this episode. If you like Jonathan, good for you. You're probably enjoying this. More references to Omnipresent Jonathan equals More Fun. Me, though, I'd had enough Jonathan by about his second appearance in the main credits. So at this point, twenty minutes later, when nothing much has happened but the same joke over and over (Jonathan wrote a book! Jonathan's on a billboard! Jonathan's in a band! The Bronze now plays swing music! Okay, that last one was a slightly different joke, and I did laugh at it) I find the whole thing very wearying.

Well, thank goodness Jane got that out of her system.  I mean, imagine if she later wrote an episode that was All.About.Andrew…

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9 hours ago, Halting Hex said:

I don't HATE Superstar…but I know at least one person who does.  And IIRC, Loandbehold is a Gemini, so consider this a belated (or early) birthday present.  I was reading Monty Ashley's livejournal (MontySeesBuffy), and here's an excerpt from the relevant entry:

Jane Espenson has a crush?  You got me, dude.

But wait, there's more:

Well, thank goodness Jane got that out of her system.  I mean, imagine if she later wrote an episode that was All.About.Andrew…

Jonathon was what made Buffy great, how a minor character can grow and blossom. But I always thought Espenson's crush was on Principal Snyder?

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Halting Hex, you are right about my hatred of Superstar. Monty Ashley had it right - it's one joke told over and over for 42 minutes. We won't even get into how Jonathan becomes the heero of the season or Jane Espenson has him pull the uranium core based on absolutely nothing ("we've never seen him eat" when he was introduced only a couple of episodes before and not seen since that time). They should have stopped it right after the opening credits (which were brilliant). As for Jonathan himself, I liked him when he was "Hostage Boy." Basically, he was us - one of the regular populace that Buffy protected and saved on a nightly basis, but especially on Tuesdays (or Mondays for the first season-and-a-half). 

And thanks for the (only slightly belated) birthday wishes!

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10 hours ago, Loandbehold said:

Halting Hex, you are right about my hatred of Superstar. Monty Ashley had it right - it's one joke told over and over for 42 minutes. We won't even get into how Jonathan becomes the heero of the season or Jane Espenson has him pull the uranium core based on absolutely nothing ("we've never seen him eat" when he was introduced only a couple of episodes before and not seen since that time). They should have stopped it right after the opening credits (which were brilliant). As for Jonathan himself, I liked him when he was "Hostage Boy." Basically, he was us - one of the regular populace that Buffy protected and saved on a nightly basis, but especially on Tuesdays (or Mondays for the first season-and-a-half). 

And thanks for the (only slightly belated) birthday wishes!

No you see it COULD have been that but the subplot of his personal growth and heroism makes it so much more.  

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Seems to me the first two episodes of the Season 4 somehow foreshadowed the post-Buffy destinies of the actors playing the Scooby Gang's core four. Yeah, I know that's a bit of a stretch, but nevertheless...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but:
Buffy - college, whole new life (without parental guidance) ahead, new experience, bright prospects, best friend nearby, lots of good-looking boys around and thus far we don't know Parker is a jerk;

Willow - college, whole new life (without parental guidance) ahead, new experience, bright prospects on the academic field, best friend nearby, the loving boyfriend with a band;

Giles - lots of free time, whole new life without Principal Snyder and all those annoying schoolkids in the picture, new experience, dunno what he does for a living, but at least he's got Olivia;

Xander - basement of the parents' house after failed summer roadtrip, odd jobs, new (but not in a good way new) experience, prospects kinda bleak, "we moved on and you suck" attitude from his friends, no girlfriend (though judging by the events of the ep 3 it wasn't that bad for him to stay single).

Then again:
SMG: lots of new roles, speaking at the UN Women Global Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship industry forum, Freddie Prinze Jr., marriage since 2002 (quite long by Hollywood standards), 2 kids, no substance abuse scandals;

AH: lots of new roles, some charitable projects, Alexis Denisof, marriage since 2003, 2 kids, no substance abuse scandals;

ASH: new roles, some achievements in music industry, relationship since 1980s, 2 kids, no substance abuse scandals;
NB: few new roles, 2 broken marriages, alcohol-related issues, rehabs, countless arrests for misbehaviour and some suicidal thoughts. Is Nic some kind of hostage to his character, who was destined to be some kind of outsider among the Scoobies, I dunno.

But all of this is just my humble opinion. I can surely miss something in the picture.

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On ‎20‎/‎08‎/‎2018 at 5:12 PM, nosleepforme said:

I don't really think the characters' storylines in season four foreshadowed any of the actors' post Buffy-lives. I feel like you are comparing apples to oranges. Even if you count for Xander being really lost compared to the others, Xander is still fairly well adjusted as opposed to Nick Brendon. 

Well he's got good company, Thomas Gibson, Robert Downey Junior, Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell....

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