Buffy finally shows signs of weakness!,
This review is from: Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 4 (Box Set 1) [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
I suspose it had to happen....a Buffy set that is less than perfect. After three great seasons (each better than the last,) expectations for season 4 were high and as often happens in life expectations were left unfulfilled! Season 4 starts weakly with the first couple of episodes. There is some attempt to duplicate the dichotomy of the slayer/schoolgirl relationship that worked so well in the first threes seasons. Buffy clearly feels uncomfortable with the new college surrounding, but it never quite works as well. Likewise, new beau Riley is at best unconvincing and at worst slightly irritating. It seems unlikely that Buffy would find attraction in such a damp squib after her tempestuos relationship with Angel. It is a clear sign of weakness when the best episodes rely on some Angel reference or season cross-over. Worst of all is the introduction of "The Initiative" which seems an ill-conceived and poorly focused "villian." Some of the episodes here are clumsy and some just plain silly. Earlier Buffy was often flippant but never silly.
So why 4 stars? Well Buffy below par is still far better than most TV and there are still a handfull of great episodes in this season including the classic "Hush." The show and it's stars still look great and there are other plusses too. The transition of Giles from (arguably) core of the show to somewhat side-lined figure is nicely handled. Spike is developed in a novel direction and has many great lines. The appearances of Angel and Faith recall the heights this show can reach at it's very best and Sarah Michelle Gellar is as good as ever.
Season 4 had a very hard act to follow and this is still very good if not quite great TV. Whether this show will be able to return to it's former glories will depend on whether the shows producers and writers can rediscover their best ideas and enthusiasm. Quite a challenge, but if anyone can rise to it Buffy can!