on 10 July 2002
There was a lot of criticism about season 4, mostly from fans who didn't like the change in the Buffy formula and Angel and Cordelia's departure. Buffy couldn't be a schoolgirl for ever and season 4 introduces us to the challenges of becoming a young adult, living in a dorm, falling in and out of love, exploring sexuality, facing an insecure future.
This is a difficult year for Xander, desperate to escape his parents basement and trying to keep up with his college-going friends and Giles, who loses his job.
We are introduced to the lovely witch Tara, whom Willow falls in love with. When Willow's ex Oz comes back in 'New Moon Rising' he discovers she's not waiting for him and this brings pain to all concerned.
Xander's girlfriend, ex-demon Anya, brings fun to the show with her ignorance of society's rules and her rude behaviour.
Bad guy Ethan Rayne is back in 'A New Man' and rogue slayer Faith in the excellent 'This Year's Girl' and 'Who Are You'.
There is an episode centred on Jonathan (the student who tried to kill himself in season 3), the very enjoyable 'Superstar'.
Buffy's new love interest is Riley, a soldier in the Initiative, a secret government organisation hunting and experimenting on demons.
I didn't particularly like the Initiative/Adam storyline but looking back, this was probably the best Buffy season ever with strong episodes as well as good storylines in the background.
Spike is back with a twist as a conflicted, 'neutered' vampire with a chip stopping him from hurting humans. This season sees him trying to find his new place in the world. Spike's situation brings humour to this season when he teams up with Harmony and while he lives with Giles and then Xander.
This introduces a new aspect of Giles character, for the first time we see his paternal feelings towards Spike.
'Hush' has the scariest villains in the form of the gentlemen and an excellent storyline never done before in a TV series.
'Restless' is outstanding, a must-see for any Buffy fan including Joss Whedon's commentary.
Buffy's writers have always enjoyed teasing the fans with clues as to what will happen next and Season 4 is particularly strong on this. There is foreshadowing of major storylines in both season 5 and season 6. All Buffy fans need this DVD set!
on 24 February 2003
With the loss of David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter to the spin-off show, "Angel", there were voids to be filled in this, the first season out of high school, and Marc Blucas and Emma Caulfield suitably obliged. The fragmentation of the Scooby Gang was for many the core reason why Season Four didn't match the heights of the previous three: nobody seemed to care enough about each other any more. With Giles out of work, Xander flitting from one deadbeat job to another, and Buffy and Willow settling in to life on campus, there was concern that the old gang would never get back together.
A big risk was taken in introducing a more classic sci-fi element with the arrival of a secret government demon-hunting operation. But there's a big difference from other genre shows: the Initiative was never in control of its actions. And that's the gist of the season: that Buffy and her traditional methods will always be superior, and that it's through her skills and her friends that evil is defeated, not bureaucracy. Which is why there's no big finish in episode 22 (the grand climax happens in episode 21), because the most important storyline is about the reaffirmation of friendships, demonstrated in the most bizarre way imaginable in an episode composed almost entirely of dream sequences.
There are a few misses among the hits (watch "Beer Bad" for the cavegirl activities of Buffy, but don't expect much else), and some classics (the Emmy-nominated "Hush" was possibly the boldest piece of television attempted before "The Body" the following year). And in the final scene of the season, we get a great setting-up of what's to come, without knowing any specific details.
There's a featurette on "Hush" as well as a commentary, and Christophe Beck gives us a great insight into the work that goes into scoring an episode. Plus there's all the usual scripts, episode commentaries, stills gallery and cast bios.
All in all, a season that left a few minor gripes, but which in the overall scheme of things, has continued the journey of life into adulthood. Now they're all supposed to be grown up, but the future still holds a great deal of uncertainty, and that can only be good for the show.
on 20 July 2002
This season seems to get quite a bit of criticism. Why? Because people don't like change. They all had to start growing up sometime! Okay, so the season villain was a bit weak, but there was so much more to like about the season that this should be forgiven. There were several very special episodes; the famed 'Hush'-possibly Mr Whedon's greatest achievement to date; the glorious 'New Moon Rising'-who can forget the moment Oz realises Tara is more than just a friend to Willow? And, of course, the dreamy 'Restless'- with a fantastic commentary by Mr Whedon. Spike is back and on a character high! He emulates Cordelia's bitchiness with aplomb! Anya just gets cuter and cuter. Professor Walsh is fabulous while she is alive. What a shame she had to go! She made Adam look like a Care Bear!
The only real low was the fact that Buffy's boyfriend was alive! It had to happen sometime! Otherwise how would she know what she was missing?
Basically, even on a low, Buffy is better written, performed and directed than anything else on the Box. Buy it and enjoy!!
on 2 July 2002
Season 4 turned the Buffy formula on its head, and was all the better for it. One of Buffy's strong points is that its about real life (albeit in a supernatural world), and life is about change. So, season 4 addresses what happens when you graduate from high school and move towards adulthood. Buffy and Willow went to college, Angel, Cordelia and eventually Oz left, Giles found himself without a job and Xander without a home. Although many people criticise the show for leaving Xander and Giles in the cold, I believe Joss Whedon very wisely did this. Giles' redundancy which lead to loneliness and minor alcoholism, is a common occurance for middle aged men. And Xander's isolation due to him being the only person out of his friends not go to college is very real too. Without this they couldn't have grown as people. And reintroducing Spike and chipping him was a stroke of genius. He's great fun and far more interesting than Angel. The similarities between 'chip' and 'soul' are endless and effective. Later seasons have even shown him to be an even more tragic hero. Giles mentions to Spike that his chip could be part of a greater purpose, and I really hope that pays off some day. And Tara? I think a wolf whistle will suffice. Anya makes a very sexually explicit, welcome replacement for Cordy too. The Initiative and Adam don't really cut it as villians, but then the real villians the gang had to defeat was their differences. What makes season 4 one of the best however is the consistancy of the entertainment in virtually every episode. Restless, Hush, Superstar and The Yoko Factor to name a few. I always struggle to compile my favourite season chart for Buffy, but one thing is for certain, season 4 is close to the best.
on 2 May 2002
Season 4 makes the "Scooby Gang" more human and deals with them becoming adults rather than school kids. The Initiative factor adds the Governmant conspiracy thing to the show that brings the idea forward that all those monsters are well known beyond the "Scooby Gang" circle. After all, it's hard to keep that sort of thing secret. I like Riley Finn and feel that after Angel, Buffy deserved a "Normal" guy in her life. The fact that Buffy can't totally commit to Riley tells us something about a Slayer needing that "Dark Side" element that he can't provide. I think Joss really makes Riley out to be a young man in search of purpose and it works well. Riley being faced with loyalty to his Government and his love for Buffy creates this constant struggle between the two and as a replacement for Angel fills the hole nicely. In season 4 Giles is a normal guy with a nice home and acts as advisor rather than "Watcher" and truley becomes part of the "Gang". I like what Joss has done with 4 adding that entering adulthood element and the Government involment factor showing that on going fact that when government get's involved things tend to get really screwed up. Season 4 is a big departure from the first 3 and like life itself, we all go through big turns and 4 does this well.
on 6 August 2002
Buffy Season Four got many bad reviews. There were moans about some of the core cast leaving, the fact that the gang were no longer in high school, that Buffy's new boyfriend was dull, and that the main villain of the season was poor. The only one of these niggles I agree with is the latter one - Adam wasn't the best villain and the arc of the season, concentrating on the Initiative, was not the strongest either. However, open your eyes and look further and you'll find that this season is one of the best Buffy seasons ever when it comes to consistency. It changes the formula drastically but with success, unlike Season Six - while the new setting and new characters are disorienting, the change is for the good. If the characters had remained the same, then the series would have gone rapidly stale. Instead of this, though, we get a number of classic episodes - Pangs, Something Blue, This Years Girl, Who Are You?, Superstar, New Moon Rising, Primeval and Restless being just a few. Oh, and could this review not include a mention of Hush? Of course not! Release it in a cinema and it would scare the pants off any non-fan who went to see it. Joss Whedon and his team have done themselves proud - in terms of acting, direction, writing, production and pure quality, this season lags just a little behind Seasons Three and Five. However, I find it way more appetising than the totally overrated Season Two. Anyway, that's my rant over and done with. Now, what about the pesky discs?
This DVD set is remarkable. The episodes themselves are pure class but the extras make them even more enjoyable. We've never had six commentaries before but if the standard of the ones on this set keep up, we should have one for every episode! Doug Petrie's enthusiasm for the show seeps over during both of his talks, whilst Jane Espenson is a delight during her commentary for one of her fave episodes Superstar. David Fury and James A. Contner are interesting but don't compare to Joss Whedon's double dutch of Hush and Restless. He speaks rapid-fire and lets us in on anecdotes, hidden meanings, and influences. He should be knighted! Meanwhile, we have five featurettes - these are not that fulfilling but offer up some interesting info such as interviews with Chris Beck (the man behind the musical scores) and an updated look at sets. After this, we get the usual scripts, biographies, trailers, and stills. However, this time around, the scripts (well, three out of the four) are actually interesting to read - because the three Joss Whedon scripts all have their own gimmick and 'special' twist, it's fun to read Whedon's stage directions and to get a sense of how he wrote a silent episode, for instance. The interactive menus are gorgeous, and the same thing can be said for the exquisite packaging.
So, you've probably seen the episodes before. See them again! While the quality of the season is bought down a little due to the overall arc, ninety per cent of this season is top and the extra features just compliment it even more. Watch as Faith emerges from her coma, see the Scooby Gang fall apart and then get back together even stronger than before, witness their dreams, their loves, their failures, and watch as their town is plunged into silence as part of The Gentlemen's sinister plan. And, after doing all this, hear the cast and crew chat about their roles, watch a live performance of the Buffy theme music, get a free tour of Sunnydale, read up on the cast's extracurricular activities, and listen to the rip-roaring commentaries. This is brilliance, through and through. So get it NOW! What are you waiting for? The end of the world? Again?!
on 23 August 2004
Well, what can be said about freshman Buffy? The opening shots of the first episode of the season capture the feeling of that nerve-racking first day on campus. Life before university is easy, you have your friends, your social-life and your niche, then all of a sudden you are just another face in the crowd. You have to start again to secure your place in a very different environment. You don't have any boundaries, no parents to answer to and plenty of cash in your first semester to do what you like. This first episode captures this so well. The season then progresses and we find our heroine struggling to find her feet, even her friends think she is possessed in the episode 'Living Conditions'. I regard this season as one of the best. I know a lot of people would disagree because of all the changes that take place in Buffy's world, no Angel, no Principal Snyder and Buffy's new love interest, dependable Riley Finn. But these changes make it all the more interesting. I for one thought the Buffy/Angel love story was getting a little stale, there was always big drama and apocalyptic disaster but they were not moving forward and I think we are all aware of how young love, intense though it may be, cannot in most cases be sustained past adolescence.
The Buffy/Giles relationship also moves forward, with Giles stepping back from such a patriarchal role and allowing Buffy to 'blossom', although inevitably their bond is strengthened by his distance.
Willow has the opportunity to grow as a character, with her witchcraft getting darker along the way, which makes for some interesting developments in later seasons. But she too also becomes more independent and strong.
Xander finally gives in to the inevitability of adulthood and bad grades. He does try to fit his life around the scooby gang but because he chose not to do the college thing he has to tread a different path and experience the 'real world' that brings with it a whole new set of possibilities for him to be rejected.
All in all this is a fantastic 'coming of age' season and one not to be missed by any devoted Buffy fan. Sit back, enjoy the struggles that change brings and roll with the punches. Also watch out for the season finale, a peculiar and brilliant look into the mind of one Mr Joss Whedon.........."Anyone for cheese"?
on 12 February 2003
The 4th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer begins when Buffy and Willow start college. The new environment introduces us to new faces, like Riley, who seems to be a regular Joe from Ohio who works as a tutor, Tara, a witch, and Adam as the new main baddie. Faith, the other Slayer, comes back for a few episodes, and Anya becomes Xander's girlfriend. The old big bad Spike also returns. The most interesting episode is Hush, where The Gentlemen steal everyone's voices and the most part of the episode is played without no dialogue. Joss Whedon's (written and directed for example Hush) episodes are the ones that are the most experimental and risktaking, which makes them the highlights of the show. The extras include 6 commentaries and some original scripts, which are interesting and allow you to go inside the writer's or director's (who ever is doing the commentary) head. All in all, if you've liked the show, you won't be disappointed in the episodes and the extras have some cool stuff too. Plus tho box in which the 6 DVD's come in, is also pretty neat!
on 7 July 2003
Many fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have condemned season four as the weakest in terms of central story-arc and overall style, but I have to disagree, finding this the best season of Buffy ever (having watched the disappointing season seven).
Okay, so the departure of Angel and Cordelia at the end of season three left a void in the show, but Angel was disposable, lets admit it, and Anya and Spike provided more than enough comic relief in Cordelia's place.
The destruction of the High School also posed a problem, but in a show that is forever changing, progress is good, and I rather like the university and Giles' house as hubs for the scoobies activities.
There is everything to like about season four, and not really much to hate, as it contains some of the best stand-alone episodes produced, excellent character development, and the return of the hilarious Spike, Harmony (who is now a pathetic excuse for a vampire!), Anya, Jonathan, Ethan Rayne and even Angel and psycho rogue slayer Faith (who awakens from her coma and wants revenge in "This Years Girl and "Who are You?"). We are also introduced to new characters Tara, who is extremely likeable, and Buffy's new love interest Riley Finn, who may be considered annoying, but is a strong addition to the cast, and definately necessary for the story-arc, considering he is an agent for the Initiative. All characters are at their best, with Willow and Spike in particular shining in their roles. Spike is most definately at his funniest, as there is none of season five's "I'm in love with Buffy" nonsense. Instead, he remains a fickle enemy of the "scooby gang", who he must form an exciting and hilarious bond with after the chip that prevents him from hurting humans is implanted in his brain. James Marsters as Spike is a joy to watch throughout, particularly in "The Initiative", "Something Blue", "Hush", "The 'I' in Team" and "The Yoko Factor", where his character traits are fully exploited. It is priceless to watch him chained in Giles' bathtub, complain about staying in Xander's basement and "watch him and Anya s*@g", and request weetabix to give his warm pig's blood texture.
Perhaps the most surprising character development is with Willow, who is an improving witch, breaks up with Oz in the excellent "Wild at Heart", before causing mayhem in her depressed state in "Something Blue" (when Buffy and Spike decide to get married!), and later realises she is a lesbian when she falls in love with the wonderful Tara.
The drifting apart of the scoobies is not disappointing, but rather a vital and necessary part of the shows character development, and this only betters their reunion in the penultimate epiosde "Primeval".
The story-arc is completely different from anything Buffy fans are used to, bringing in elements of science fiction and government conspiracy (a step-up from the conspiracy in seasons two and three). Though admittedly not the strongest story-arc, it kept me interested, and we do see the introduction of the wonderful Professor Walsh (Lindsey Crouse), who must be one of the most notorious Buffy villians ever. She is put to excellent use in the under-appreciated, though brilliant "The 'I' in Team", when she tries to have Buffy killed, and her Frankenstien project "Adam" is completed, before he stabs the evil prof ("mother") with his 'skewer'. Adam himself is not a bad creation, but it is refreshing to see that he is not given too much screen time. Season four is instead fleshed out with brilliant stand-alone episodes, and some very funny, very scary storylines.
The best episodes in this season are (in viewing order);
"Living Conditions", "Wild at Heart", "Something Blue", "Hush" (scariset episode!), "The 'I' in Team", "Who are You?", "Primeval" and "Restless" - (extremely original and very clever), although every episode in the boxset is a classic, and each are very good indeed. "Hush" deserves special mention because it is almost entirely silent, and instead relies on spooky background music, even spookier "monsters of the week" (the Gentlemen), and wonderful storytelling and acting. The best bits of this episode are when Anya asks if Olivia is Giles' s*@g buddy; when the scoobies wake up (and Xander blames Spike, who in reply gives him an amusing hand gesture); when Giles gives the gang the slide show (and Buffy mimes how to kill them, whilst Anya is eating popcorn); when Xander thinks Spike is feeding on Anya; and when Buffy and Riley come face to face in the clock tower...
Overall this season deserves and rightfully achieves 10/10, and I am not easily pleased! So what are you waiting for, go buy it!
on 17 April 2004
I get really annoyed when everyone says that Season 4 is the worst season in Buffy. Season 4 was the first two box sets of videos i ever got of Buffy, from my parents. At first, i was aprehensive, after reading everybodies reviews thought it was going to be crap, but watching it, it is one of my faveourite seasons ever! Its so brilliant and original and what Buffy is about. We lost Cordelia and Angel :'( but this just showed how strong the show was to survive 2 major losses. Buffy you rock.