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on 22 June 2009
Will someone please explain to me, what is Joss Whedon's problem?

Did he suffer a childhood trauma that forced him to sabotage his every success? Or is it simply that his `Love/Hate' relationship with Buffy meant that he just couldn't be bothered to follow through; throwing a full third of each series together and using a dozen different stomach churning clichés?

In the end of course, the fact is that I simply do not know. But if my opinions are correct and BTVS was really a reflection of Joss Whedon's subconscious, then it's no wonder that Buffy and Willow were such whimpering cowards and Xander had an inferiority complex the size of Mt. Rushmore.

The character of `Adam,' one of the finest villains ever created is proof that Joss Whedon is a spectacular writer, even though he seems convinced that any `Nietzschian Ubermench' must automatically be `Evil' by default.

On top of that, the episodes "Pangs," "Something Blue" and "Hush" are all true classics that will go down in Television history. And at the end of the day, the four part `cross-over' story in which Faith sets out on the road to redemption would have made a great spin-off series in itself.

"Because it's wrong."

But as to the worst aspects of the series however, where do I begin?

Even leaving aside the "Hilarious Joke" at the beginning of the first episode, it was almost 40 minutes of pathetic, whimpering cowardice; a young woman standing on the threshold of adulthood feeling miserable, isolated and alone.

There then followed a ridiculously clichéd and farcical `Comedy' episode about living with a difficult roommate.

"Fear Itself," drove home the fact that Buffy was terrified of being abandoned, just in case any of the viewers happened to have been in a coma for the last three years. And this fear was personified by her childish obsession with that womanising pillock, Parker Abrams.

In the end, BTVS was the story of each character's search for security, contentment and social conformity. I, e, "Why Can't I Just Have a Normal Life!?" And blaming the fact that she was the Slayer for Angel's departure and her parents' divorce, Parker Abrams was `Proof' in her mind that she must try to be a wimpy little girl.

Enter Riley Finn, a corn-fed, Iowa stereotype who Buffy hardly noticed earlier in the series, but now the man who was doomed to be her walking badge of `Normality' and who Buffy would lean on like a crutch.

"Look Everyone! See! I DO Have a Normal Life!"

Of course, when Riley also turned out to be a `Fry Cook,' that comfortable illusion was shattered.

No matter how much Buffy tried to pretend that she was just a weak and wimpy little girl, ("I held back a little") she was `Certain' that being the Slayer would drive Riley away sooner or later. And in a ridiculously ironic self-fulfilling prophecy, her desperate attempts to keep her two worlds separate caused him to leave her in series 5.

Moving back to series 4 however, Willow also used Tara like a badge and a crutch in the vain attempt to mask her own fears.

A terrified little schoolgirl, using magic and flashy clothes to try and hide her irrational cowardice, (Primeval: "Why are you still in costume?") Willow used Xander and Oz like the stupid T-shirts she wore to try and make herself `Feel' more secure.

When Oz left in fact, it wasn't her `Love' for him that caused Willow to feel such crippling pain. After all, as far as she was concerned, their relationship was little more than a sticking plaster to cover the agony of her childish fears. But what if Willow now `Fell in Love' with someone who would never leave her under any circumstances? A whimpering coward who was even more pathetic and weak-willed than she was?

What if she found another spineless doormat who practically worshipped her for breathing, making Willow feel confident and powerful by default? So as a result, when Willow stumbled across Tara, it must have been like striking gold.

"Now I can say that I'm a Lesbian as well!" Cheered her subconscious. "That'll make me look REALLY confident!"

As for Xander? He'd spent the first three series struggling to get inside Buffy's knickers and hating all male competition, feeling weak, stupid and useless in comparison to his friends. But now, Buffy and Willow were off at University and in a separate world. And robbed of Angel as the target for all of his projected jealousy, blaming him for the fact that Buffy would never even glance in his direction, he wallowed in the `Basement' of his own self-pity, (another clichéd metaphor,) whining about his relative lack of intelligence and talent whilst shagging Anya to make himself feel better.

Speaking of Anya, could Joss Whedon have created a more blatant `Cut & Paste' character?

When Cordillia left the series, he simply created a replacement.

When he needed a `sexist' character to prop up the `Girl Power' subplot, he turned Forest into a rabid chauvinist who projected all of his self-doubt onto Buffy.

Do I even dare to mention the episode "Superstar?" The worst possible blending of ridiculous `Comedy' clichés and pathetic, whiney self-doubt ever conceived?

"Buffy was right?"

Also, Professor Walsh turned out to be the head of the `Initiative' and a modern day Frankenstein. Who didn't see that coming?

And as for Giles, he also spent the forth series wallowing around in his own self-pity, feeling useless and shagging an old friend; even projecting all of his insecurity onto Buffy's new mentor, Professor Walsh.

In short then, all five series of BTVS were written to these precise specifications: (And before you ask, I don't even recognise series 6 & 7.)

1. One-third spectacular writing, incredible acting, hilarious comedy, deep drama and so forth.

2. One-third pathetic, childish whinging, futile attempts to mask their own fears, fear of adulthood and responsibility etc.

3. And finally, one-third stomach churning stereotypes and lazy, predictable plot/character development which might as well have been `written' by sticking a pin in a book of TV clichés.

So because this series reached the glorious heights of `Adam' and "Five by Five," it almost seemed contractually obligated to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 August 2012
Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer sees Buffy and her friends starting to grow up and take their first steps into adulthood. They move away college, new friendships are forged and new experiences are - well - experienced.

The Scooby Gang dive head first into fresher life, with Willow turning lesbian (or at least experimenting with women as much as she does her magic) and Buffy having a lot of sex with college boys and her season squeeze, Ripley. In fact, with all the hormones flying around its a wonder any vampires or demons are slain at all. She should be called Buffy the Frat-boy layer.

The main thread of the season was ambitious and tried to move the Buffy saga onto a much bigger level, I think, and to a certain extent it worked. The season ends on a not terribly compelling but promising cliff hanger, that hints that "things have only just begun..."

Season 4 is a change in the Buffy format. The Scooby gang no longer attend Sunnydale High, familiar cast members are no longer in the series and Giles is no longer a watcher. To a certain extent it's a case of, "if it aint broke don't fix it", because I really didn't enjoy this season as much as the first three; whether that was because of an absence of familiar faces like Angel and Cordelia, or the fact I didn't like the new ones (Riley & Tara) I do not know - but something about this season didn't work as well for me.

Another really annoying thing about this season is that on at least 3 occasions I stuck in and a DVD and pressed played and the "Previously on Buffy" intro had me thinking, "What the hell? I've missed an episode..." I had to take to Google quite a few times to unravel the mystery and found out it was because the Angel series was being aired at the same time and they were mixing up footage. Understandably this really through me and I wasted a lot of time skipping back through episode and doing Google searches trying to figure out what was going on.

There's also not much in the way of vampires in this season (it's mainly demons being staked) and a lot of the episodes get very surreal and a bit out there. But that's no bad thing and, mostly, season 4 is still very good and great fun to watch. In fact, there are some excellent episodes such as in this season such as "Hush".

Season 4 episodes are as follows:

1) "The Freshman"
2) "Living Conditions"
3) "The Harsh Light of Day"
4) "Fear, Itself"
5) "Beer Bad"
6) "Wild at Heart"
7) "The Initiative"
8) "Pangs"
9) "Something Blue"
10) "Hush"
11) "Doomed"
12) "A New Man"
13) "The I in Team"
14) "Goodbye Iowa"
15) "This Year's Girl"
16) "Who Are You"
17) "Superstar"
18) "Where the Wild Things Are"
19) "New Moon Rising"
20) "The Yoko Factor"
21) "Primeval"
22) "Restless"
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on 13 July 2013
Two stars is being a bit generous, to be honest. I loved the first three series of 'Buffy' but series 4 is a mess. Buffy goes to university and the writers seem to forget what made the series work. A huge number of the episodes are just boring with a focus primarily on tedious interaction between the characters. In the earlier series this interaction would've been embedded within a larger storyline, either a Monster of the Week episode or the series' story arc. Now we get endless, interminable scenes of the characters having trite conversations. Buffy mopes, and whines, and whinges, and sulks.

There is almost no drama!! Where has the drama gone?? It's just angst-ridden rubbish and much of it made me cringe with embarrassment. The Initiative story arc is just awful and frequently feels shoehorned into the episodes rather than arising naturally as part of the narrative. Worse of all is that it's just not remotely interesting.

Xander and Anya's fiddling relationship became so annoying. She wanted sex all the time. Xander was fine with that as he wanted sex all the time, and so it goes on, episode after episode after episode. Riley is remarkably dull and Buffy's relationship with him doesn't ring true for a moment. I won't even get started on Tara as she was profoundly irritating and very poorly acted.

The whole of series 4 felt long one drawn-out burst of badly-written, derivative teenage angst which, if you're into that kind of thing, is fine. But it's not why I watch 'Buffy'. I watch it for the characters, the dialogue, the clever use of metaphor, the inventive plots, the drama and the skilled use of far-reaching story arcs. Nothing in series 4 left me moved or emotionally involved. It fails on practically every level.

There are some decent episodes, such as 'Hush', and a number of others are entertaining, and Anthony Head steals every scene as an even more sarcastic than usual Giles, but I was relieved to get to the end the box set. It was a chore sitting through it. One plus point is that it looks fantastic. The UCLA campus is beautifully shot and it looks terrific in widescreen. It's sad that what started out as such a great TV show should devolve into something so asinine and glib. I can't help but think Whedon took his eye off the ball when he developed 'Angel'.
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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?!
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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"?
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on 12 February 2002
Buffy Season 4 is the most painful of all to watch. Sometimes you actually want to weep, as it suffers from a classic case of losing it's way.
The Buffy and Angel forbidden love saga could have gotton a bit stretched for a fourth run and perhaps taking him off to show was actually better for the fans than letting the relationship tail off. However, the inclusion of the dreadfully boring Riley was a huge disappointment. There was absolutely no depth to the character whatsoever.
The second problem was trying to get the group dynamic going without the setting which facilitated their meeting. The library meant they were all going to meet each other, now Joss had to find reasons for them to meet instead. This left the fabulous Giles and Xander out in the cold in this season, bolstered with another boring character, Tara. Neither Tara or Riley really find any feet until Season 5.
What's left? Of course, the sharp story of Joss Whedon is still there. The show is still infinitely more watchable than other run of the mill "teenage" stuff like Dawson's Creek, it just has no Feng Shui. The glue which held it all together and made the show greater than the sum of it's parts began to fall apart.
But let's not forget Hush, definitely one of the Top 5 Buffy episodes ever. Almost worth the price of admission, in fact.
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on 24 May 2004
As a Buffy fan with a limited budget, several months ago I bought series two, three, and five from the American Amazon site. I skipped series four because in retrospect I frankly thought it sucked, I didn't like Adam and I really, really couldn't stand Riley.
But I had forgotten that nearly all my favorite episodes of Buffy are in series four. My friends and were constantly finding that the episodes we most wanted to watch were the ones in this series.
Of course there's "Hush" - it's a given as a classic must-see episode. But series four also has some of the funniest episodes in Buffy history. "Who are You" and "Restless" are personal favorites in the funny stakes, but there are many more episodes that are well worth watching just for laughs.
If you can't decide which series to buy, don't dismiss series four right away. It's well worth a second look.
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on 28 January 2004
i thought that this was an extremely entertaining season. it was very funny and enjoyable and most of the credit for this goes to spike and anya. i do not understand what people mean when they say this was a weak season!
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on 11 June 2002
Like most people I regarded Season 4 of Buffy as its weakest. Not so. Upon reflection,having just got this box set, I'll go out on a limb and say that it's the best season of Buffy with the possible exception of Season 2. Gone is the library and high school - Buffy's in college now, and things get shaken up quite a bit.I think that's a good thing, life isn't easy and it never goes exactly to plan, Buffy and Angel, more than any other TV shows portray this. This season contains the excellent breakthrough virtually silent episode,'HUSH'. Joss Whedon once again proves his genius; it's full of subtle humour and the ending is wonderfully ironic.
It's also the only show I know that takes the mickey out of itself, and does so with aplomb in the hilarious 'SUPERSTAR'. In addition there is a fabulous 2-parter featuring Eliza Dushku as Faith. But, for all the merits of 'Hush' and the Matrix style season 'finale', I'd have to say that my favourite episode of the season, one of the best of the show, eclipsed perhaps only by the musical episode, is 'Restless' the final episode, although it has nothing to do with the plot. Joss Whedon allows us a glimpse into the innermost thoughts, feelings ad fears of these characters by allowing us to inhabit their dreams. It's fabulously surrealist but Joss's commentary is illuminating. All in all,a faulous season,let down by some unispired extras (esp. featurettes) but more than worth it all the same. Seeing Giles in a sombrero is worth the asking price alone!
Trust me, you wont't regret buying this season, even if you're not a huge Buffy fan.
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on 29 December 2004
I found this DVD considerably better than the first three, and not only because of the great episodes! I was personally not a huge Buffy fan before seeing this DVD (I started with the fourth season), but afterwards was somewhat hooked! Admittedly you have to have some interest in this genre of television programmes, but that's not to say that a wide range of people can't enjoy this DVD, as I have found from personal experience that people of all ages could have great fun in front of this DVD for whatever reason.
The kick-ass action is always good fun, interspersed with excellent romances, an exciting and varying range of characters and good build-up to the end of the storyline creates something for everyone to watch.
Not only that- but the cast makes for excellent viewing, all the characters being VERY attractive and good actors/actresses! All the best characters are used in this season, such as spike, cordelia, anya, and even a little angel, and of the course the usual scoobies (willow, buffy, xander, giles)
The actual overall storyline is fantastic, and i think beats all the other seasons. The whole thing's based around a government organisation called 'the Initiative' which fights demons and vampires etc. Unfortunately they end up way out of their depth and unleash an incredibly deadly monster upon sunnydale. All the episodes vary from being based mainly on romance to fantasy, to just plain kick-ass.
And it's not just the episodes, there's also great special features, the audio commentary episodes being my personal favourites, also great for those of you interested int he techncial side of filming.
All Buffy lovers are guaranteed to love this DVD probably even more than all the rest of the buffy ones, and everyone else will probably love it anyway!
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