Three-volume box set containing the closing eleven episodes from the fourth season of the popular teen fantasy. 'A New Man' sees Giles transformed into a demon after a night out with Ethan Rayne; with the whole gang unable to recognise him, Giles is forced to turn to Spike for help. 'The I in Team' finds Buffy being introduced to the Initiative group through Riley, but can she trust Riley's mentor Professor Walsh? In 'Goodbye Iowa', Riley starts to fall apart, and even has doubts regarding his relationship with Buffy. 'This Year's Girl' sees Faith out for revenge after waking from the eight-month coma induced by Buffy, and in 'Who are You', Faith finds her perspective on life altered when she takes over the Slayer's body. 'Superstar' sees Buffy beginning to doubt whether cool kid Jonathan is really as perfect as he seems, and becoming suspicious regarding the new monster in town. In 'Where the Wild Things Are', the gang come up against a gang of sexually repressed poltergeists who have gone into overdrive. 'New Moon Rising' sees Willow and Tara's relationship under threat with the return of Oz. In 'The Yoko Factor', Angel follows Buffy back from Los Angeles to apologise, only to get into a fight with Riley. 'Primeval' sees Riley enslaved by Adam, who is using Spike to create dissension in the gang. Finally, in 'Restless', the gang experience some very strange dreams after a night in at Buffy's.
In Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, Sunnydale high school is left behind in smoking ruins and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) becomes a college freshman at the (fictitious) University of California Sunnydale campus. The major arc of the season involves a semi-sinister Man from U.N.C.L.E.
-type government agency known as The Initiative which has its Bond-style HQ under the campus. Their nefarious plans involve capturing vampires and demons, including the now-regular character Spike (James Marsters), and hacking them to pieces for assembly into a Frankensteinian supermonster or fitting them with chips that mute their killing urges. Buffy's plank-like new boyfriend Riley (Mark Blucas) is deadweight, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is shoved into new corners of irrelevance (and turns folkie!), Willow (Alyson Hannigan) breaks up with the werewolf (Seth Green) and comes out, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) whines about not being a student but starts dating a former demon (the amusing Emma Caulfield), Angel (David Boreanaz) has his own series but drops in for crossovers (you will need to buy the Angel box sets to find out how some key plot lines pay off) and previously killed or comatose semi-regulars pop in for dreams or revivals. A run of shaky episodes starts off this season, with the show seemingly uncomfortable with the new setting as it treads water with the same old monsters. This set starts to pick up, however, with a few well-above-average episodes, the stand-out being "Hush". This is a rare attempt for the show at being truly scary, featuring Nosferatu
-like demons who glide around robbing people of their voices and force all the characters who have been evading the truth to open up to each other through non-verbal communication. The big plot, spread over the bulk of the episodes, is less interesting than the major arcs of the last two seasons, perhaps because Buffy's new love interest and new nemesis both fail to make much of an impression. This also tends to leave Sarah Michelle Gellar in the shadows of the show she is supposed to be starring in--her best 42 minutes in this series ("Who Are You") comes when she is possessed by bad girl Faith and can cut loose a bit. Mildly wobbly after the last two years, Buffy
is still hanging in there and making an absurd premise pay off. --Kim Newman