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Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season 4 (New Packaging) [DVD]
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With high school now just a fleeting nightmare, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) graduates to college and finds not only new academic crises, but ghost-ridden ones as well. Buffy’s boyfriend, Angel the vampire, is now dead to the real world as well, leaving her plenty of opportunities for romance, as well as facing the harpies of hell, who continue to haunt her. College is infinitely more difficult and dangerous than high school. To help her cope, Buffy takes on a tutor in her Grand-Guiginol studies, former friend Rupert Giles, the resident expert on darkness, devils and all things evil. Giles can certainly help, but when it comes to fighting darkness, Buffy is all on her own.
Having battled a hellish vampire master, an evil boyfriend, a rogue slayer, a giant man-eating demon-snake thing, and a particularly nasty high school principal, Buffy Summers embarked on one of her biggest challenges in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: college. With boyfriend Angel out of the picture (and on his own show) and Sunnydale High destroyed, new horizons were to be tackled for Buffy and the rest of the Scooby gang. There were cute guys (Buffy's new boyfriend Riley), cute girls (Willow's new girlfriend Tara--yes, Willow's gay!), frat parties, irritating roommates, harsh professors, and, oh yes, a secret military initiative that was experimenting on the demon population (Riley's part of it). Buffy truly hit its golden years in the fourth season--just when you thought this show couldn't get any better, Joss Whedon and his creative team pulled out all the stops and took Buffy and co. into rich new territory. By far, the highlight of the season (and the entire series) was the Emmy-nominated "Hush," a nearly dialogue-free episode in which the creepy "Gentlemen" rob Sunnydale of its collective voice, and Buffy and Riley finally come face to face with each other's hidden identities. While Frankenstein-esque monster Adam wasn't the show's best villain (you'll have to wait until next season's Glory for that), he was a worthy adversary for the biotech age, and the military milieu was a nice contrast to Buffy's previous gothic outings. Season 4 also marked the return of blonde vampire Spike (who developed a crush on Buffy), the ascension of vengeance demon Anya to full-time cast status, and the brief return of bad slayer Faith (in a fab two-part body-switching episode). Throughout, the entire cast, headed by the unparalleled Sarah Michelle Gellar, worked television magic of the kind rarely seen on the small screen. This is Buffy at its best. --Mark Englehart
Top customer reviews
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!
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.
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My favourite show ever