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?!