Buffy begins college feeling completely overwhelmed. But once the monsters show up, it?s just like old times. Then she strats dating Riley, a handsome commando battling the same monsters. He?s part of a secret organization... more » called The Initiative and Buffy is all too happy to join the team. But she soon suspects The Initiative may be more dangerous than the monsters they are supposed to be battling . . .« less
Season Four of "BtVS" provides the initiative for changes
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In Season Three of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Joss Whedon and the show's writers proved that the series could survive Buffy killing Angel. For Season Four the task was to prove that "BtVS" could survive losing Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley, who were spun off into their own film noir vampire detective series. The surprising success of their effort is displayed in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fourth Season," a season that is more impressive with each viewing.
When last we left our heroes most of them had just survived graduating from high school. Now Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and Oz (Seth Green) are off to UC-Sunnydale while Xander (Nicholas Brendon) tries to survive in the real world and Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) twiddles his thumbs in his apartment. Instead of the "high school is hell" idea, the underlying symbolism of the season is now the brave new world of college. Buffy has moved out of the house to live in the college dorm (surprising), but with somebody other than Willow (more surprising), and is trying to move beyond Angel (sad, but not surprising). After a dalliance with Parker Abrams (Adam Kaufman), the personification of that horrible "transition" person your friends always warned you about after your first big breakup, Buffy hooks up with clean-cut Iowa farm boy Riley Finn (Marc Blucas), charming psychology graduate assistant by day, Initiative super-soldier by night.
By now we are familiar with the double-story arc structure of a "BtVS" season. For Season Four the first half story arc has to do with the mystery of the Initiative, while the second half is the confrontation with Adam. More importantly, there are several monumental character changes inspired by the desire to keep a couple of actors and the decision of another cast member to leave. Wanting to keep James Marsters around, the idea of putting that bloody chip in Spike's head, neutering the vampire when it comes to putting the bite on human beings, was a masterstroke (and, dare I say, surprising). Suddenly, Spike is a de facto Scooby. Meanwhile, with Emma Caulfield sticking around as Anya, she becomes the show's comic relief in place of her boyfriend Xander. Then, when Seth Green left the show to concentrate on films, what we thought was an offhanded comment in "Doppelgangland" suddenly comes to fruition for Willow when she meets Wicca wannabee Tara (Amber Benson). All of these changes end up having much more significant impacts on the show than the addition of Riley Finn as Buffy's new love interest.
Season Four begins with a lot of interpersonal issues, from trouble with dorm mates ("Living Conditions") to getting dumped ("The Harsh Light of Day," "Wild at Heart"), before getting caught up in the mystery of all those soldier types running around the campus in the dark ("The Initiative"). Buffy and Riley finally discover the truth about each other in the landmark episode "Hush," the only episode ever to earn Joss Whedon a well deserved Emmy nomination for Best Writing of a Drama (insert outrage over snubs of "The Body" and "Once More With Feeling" here, please). The second half of the season finds Riley learning to work with Buffy ("Doomed") and Buffy enjoying working with the Initiative ("A New Man") before Professor Maggie Walsh (Lindsay Crouse) tries to kill her ("The I in Team") and her stitched together uber-demon Adam (George Hetzberg) breaks free and sets up the final confrontation ("Primeval").
Ultimately, the strength of a season is judged by the episodes that are essentially off the main story arcs. For Season Four this means a Halloween episode with one of the best punch lines ever ("Fear, Itself"), the great Buffy and Faith mind-switch ("This Year's Girl" and "Who Are You?"), the discovery that the coolest and most important in the world is Jonathan Levenson ("Superstar"), and the hilarious insanity of Willow's wish list ("Something Blue"). Of course on that last episode once again the joke is on us as the alternative reality give us a preview of what is to come down the road. One of the most unique aspects of this season was that the climatic battle with the year's big bad happens in the penultimate episode and the season finale, "Restless," serves as an actual epilogue as Buffy and friends encounter the First Slayer (Sharon Ferguson), and sets the stage for significant develops to come.
The fact that Season Two ended with the greatest episode ever of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in "Becoming, Part II," when Buffy has to kill Angel to save the world, obscures the fact that on balance Season Three and Season Four were both stronger seasons overall. The operatic finales might not reach the same heights, but the lows are higher and the on average score is higher. The worst episode of Season Four is probably the season premier, "The Freshman," which suffers because like all first episodes in a season of "BtVS" the goal is to have Buffy rededicate herself to being the Slayer so that new viewers can feel like they understand the gig. If anything, Season Four reaffirms that the strength of this show is character development and not just vampire slaying.
Final Comment: It is nice to see that the extras for Season Four contain twice as many commentary tracks as we have been privy to for each of the previous three collections. In a perfect world it would be great if all of the episodes had commentary, provided by shifting tag-team combinations of writers and actors, in the tradition of the very early episodes of "Farscape" on DVD, but I have long had the feeling that the cast of "BtVS" is rather intimidated by the encyclopedic knowledge of the show enjoyed by its fan base."
The Jossverse goes baroque: how I got hooked on Buffy
Sean | Ashland, Cayman Islands | 03/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When a local TV station in my area first started airing the WB, the only show I wanted to check out was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had read good reviews of the show from places like Entertainment Weekly and Cinescape Magazine, and I was searching for something new to watch. I first started watching Buffy around the beginning of the third season, and as you have probably already guessed, it didn't take long for me to get hooked.
During the time the fourth season was airing, I had a routine. I specifically chose a schedule at work where I was off Tuesday through Thursday. I would finish my guitar lessons at the music store where I taught part-time about six thirty or so. Throw my Strat in the trunk, cruise through Tim Horton's for an Iced Cappuchino, and home at eight. Every Tuesday, like clockwork. After half a year of this, I realized something: I was addicted to Buffy in a way no television show had ever managed before.
The fourth season is widely regarded as the worst season of Buffy on the Internet. Because of this, I believe everybody is crazy.
Why? Why do I revere the fourth season above all others, when the majority of my fellow Buffyphiles see it as an embarrassment to be forgotten?
The answer, I think, lies in the very theme of the season - change. The loss of Angel and Cordelia, and later Oz, shook the show's formula to its roots, not to mention the shift from high school to college, from the library to Giles' place, from awkward Xander-piney Willow to blossoming funky-bohemian sexual awakening Willow. We were comfortable with the way things were! After two stellar seasons, Joss was changing everything! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
But as I think back on it now, The Joss knew what he was doing. These actors were beginning to visibly age, and he knew he couldn't keep them in high school forever. A shake-up was just what the series needed to keep it fresh. And a shake-up we got.
First of all, every one of the Scoobies was removed from a comfortable existence and thrown into uncharted territory. Buffy without Angel. Xander out of adolescence and into early manhood. Willow - holy smokes, Willow! - first losing Oz, and then discovering something extraordinary about herself. And Giles, the fired Watcher and librarian who becomes Mr. Mid-Life Crisis Guy. All the Scoobies suddenly had to deal with transitions, never an easy time.
Next, the tone, the very feel of the show changed as well. Joss has said before the fourth season was the beginning of the show's "Baroque" era, and how right he is. Starting with "Hush," the show's first true event, and continuing through altered reality episodes like "Who Are You" and "Superstar," the show takes on an almost palpable air of foreboding and unreality, as the audience begins to notice hints that something is coming. ("You think you know...what you are...what's to come. You haven't even begun.") This tone, which lingered on through the first seven episodes of season five, may just be my single most enjoyable entertainment experience ever. I remember watching the last four episodes ("New Moon Rising," "The Yoko Factor," "Primeval," "Restless") over and over again, and I still do.
The key to enjoying the fourth season is understanding what it means: It's the turning point for the whole series.
The fourth season still has many of my favorite moments from the series:
Xander mangles Yoda's speech from The Phantom Menace.
Parker puts the moves on an apparently unsuspecting Willow, and gets a big surprise.
CaveBuffy responds to Parker's heartfelt apology.
"The Big Bad is back, and this time..." ZAP!
"Maybe you're trying too hard."
Xander and Harmony, locked in mortal combat.
Giles uses transparencies.
Willow meets a fellow Wicca.
"Because it's wrong.""You can't just say Librum Incendere and..." Fwoosh! Thunk!
Spike attempts to inspire Xander and Willow into mayhem.
Tara blows out a candle.
"You want some Fightin' Pants, Buff? I can get you some Fightin' Pants!"
The Battle of the Initiative, and the Charge of the Scoobies - my favorite Buffy action set piece.
Season 4 saw Joss' favorite running gag begin, and it goes like this: If you're a villain in Sunnydale, don't EVER make a Villain Speech.
And finally, last but not least, Xander's foreboding, sinister, sexy, terrifing dream, which still haunts me, and makes me think Xander might be in for a hard time of it before the series ends. ("You can't protect yourself from...some stuff.")
These are just a few, I know. But I just wanted to get the point across. Those of you who haven't seen it - buy it, watch it, remember it. There are events in the fourth season which are still resonating in the series to this day, and a close study of this season over time will only enrich your enjoyment of subsequent seasons. Those of you who have seen season 4 and don't appreciate it for what it is, buy this set and give it another chance.
Buffy is set to end after episode 144, which makes the episodes from "Hush" through "Restless" the halfway point of the series. Once the final episode, "Chosen," is finally aired, this story of Buffy, Xander and Willow transitioning from adolescence to adulthood will go down in TV history as one of the medium's most remarkable accomplishments - a show that frankly, honestly and always with hope examined what growing up really is; and it did it all with the conceit of a teen-age girl beating the snot out of vampires.
And the fourth season, especially "Restless," is the turning point where the Scoobies begin to realize their journey is just beginning. Don't miss it.
"You think you know...what you are...what's to come. You haven't even begun.""
Robert Moore | 02/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Season 4 of Buffy was more of a transitional season for the show, making the episodes different from previous season's. But episodes such as "Hush" "Restless" "Something Blue" "This Years Girl and Who are You" made the show still completely great and worth the watch. As far as I know the following at suppose to be on the S4 dvd's:Disc 1:
Script for "Fear Itself"Disc 2:
Commentary by Writer Doug Petrie for "The Initiative"
Commentary for "Wild at Heart" by Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon and Seth Green Disc 3:
Commentary for "Hush" by Joss Whedon
"Oz revelations: A Full Moon"
"Buffy, Inside sets of Sunnydale"
Script for "Hush"
Still Gallery Disc 4:
Commentary for "This Year's Girl" by Writer Doug Petrie Disc 5:
Commentary for "Superstar" by Jane Espenson
Script for "Who Are You" Disc 6:
Commentary for "Primeval" by Writers David Fury & James A. Cotner
Commentary for "Restless" by Joss Whedon
Featurette "Season 4 Overview"
Still Gallery As you see there are plenty of extra's in this set more than any of the other Buffy DVD sets and I can't wait for it to be released! This includes an all new Joss, Marti, and Seth commentary never before heard, not even by the uk watchers!"
Not the best Big Bad, but a horde of great individual episod
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 04/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let me start by issuing a spoiler alert. It is not customary by Internet etiquette to issue such an alert for shows that have been out for several years, but let me err on the side of caution.
Immediately after offering THE X-FILES in new and cheaper slim-pack editions, they now offer the entirety of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER in similar packaging. The difference is that unlike THE X-FILES, where they cut out enough special features to reduce the original seven discs to six, the BUFFY releases are uncut.
Of the seven seasons that comprise BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Season Four is the most perplexing. On the one hand, it is almost universally regarded as one of the weakest of the seven seasons, usually ranked with Season Six as the weakest. I personally think that Season One is the weakest followed closely by this one. On the other hand, a lot of BUFFY fans, when they rank their all time favorite episodes, end up putting a disproportionate number of Season Four episodes on the list. Two of the episodes, "Hush" and "Restless," might be consensus picks for the five best episodes ever. How to resolve this paradox? It isn't hard. Although Season Four had a large number of truly great episodes, the overall Season Four arc was probably the weakest of all seven seasons. The introduction of the Initiative and the Frankenstein-like Adam, the season's "big bad," seemed in conflict with the show as a whole. In the earlier seasons and especially Season Five, much of the brilliance of the show and a great deal of the emotional tension derived from the season-long narrative. Season Four almost completely lacked the kind of narrative drama that made Seasons Two and Three so exhilarating. So even though the season featured a large number of truly great episodes, they tended to stand on their own, unlike previous seasons where the best episodes were integrated in a central narrative.
Season Four finds Buffy and Willow going off to University of California at Santa Cruz . . . uh, I mean Sunnydale (UC Santa Cruz doubled for UC Sunnydale), Xander making his way through a string of entry level jobs while becoming romantically involved with former vengeance demon Anya, Giles without much to do since being fired as Buffy's Watcher and without a librarian job since Sunnydale High School had been blown up at the end of Season Three, and Angel and Cordelia off to Los Angeles (and their own series). And the evil vampire Spike finds himself defanged by the Initiative, unable to engage in violence towards anyone but demons, inadvertently beginning his transformation into an ally of the Scooby gang. The season also sees the departure of Oz from the show (Seth Green was getting too many movie offers to make his staying on the show in a supporting character to make much sense) and the introduction of Tara as Willow's girlfriend, thus introducing arguably the first normalized lesbian relationship on television. Oh, and Buffy gets a new boyfriend, Riley Finn, along with Connor from ANGEL one of the two least popular characters in the Slayerverse.
As mentioned above, the main narrative is disappointing compared to prior seasons. The Initiative never became especially interesting or compelling and Adam just too wooden to match the appeal of the Master, Angelus, or the Mayor from the first three seasons. Much of the reason was the fact that the heavy make up made much in the way of either facial or physical expression difficult to impossible. The romance between Riley and Buffy in neither this nor the next season interested fans of the show, so there was an emotional void in the season as well. Interestingly, Buffy's best romantic episodes took place not on BUFFY but on ANGEL, especially in the amazing "I Will Remember You." Nonetheless, despite the weak central narrative arc and the lack of an emotional center, the season contains a host of amazing episodes. Some are funny, some are moving, some scary, some deep, and some a mixture of all of these. The most famous episode of Season Four, and one of the two or three most famous episodes ever, is the haunting "Hush." Some critics had complained that the writing of BUFFY was being overpraised, that it seemed better than it really was because of Joss Whedon's amazing skills at writing dialogue (even when he didn't actually write an episode, he would help punch up scripts by adding some lines). His response, therefore, was to write a script in which all the characters lost their voices for the bulk of the episode. The result was sheer genius with a host of marvelous sight gags and a wonderful meditation on the difficulty of communication. The Gentlemen in the episode are among the most haunting creatures in the history of TV, comparable to anything one will find in THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE X-FILES. They look very much like well-dressed Victorian cadavers, impeccably polite, who move by floating eerily along a few feet above the ground, cutting hearts out of their victims. So that their victims will be unable to scream, they have captured the voices of all the residents of Sunnydale. No one who ever sees the episode will be able to forget it. Whedon says that one of his goals in writing the episode was to produce in the Gentlemen monsters that would stand out as the great television monsters of their time. There is little doubt that he succeeded. This was also the episode where Riley, who Buffy thought was just a Psychology teaching assistant but who really worked for the monster-hunting Initiative, and Buffy discover that neither was who they thought they were. The episode ends with Buffy and Riley standing in her room staring at each other in silence after one of them says, "We need to talk."
The season was filled with a host of other great episodes. Nearly as highly praised is "Restless," the interestingly anti-climatic season finale. The Scoobies had defeated Adam the season's Big Bad, the previous week. "Restless" is a wonderful reflection on the previous four seasons and the journeys that all four principle characters have traveled, presented as a series of dreams of their being killed by the First Slayer (except Buffy, who resists her and thereby saves the others) while watching APOCALPYSE NOW (interesting given Riley's comment to Buffy earlier in the season that since meeting her he had had to learn the plural of apocalypse). The episode also contains another and final hint about Season Five when in Buffy's dream Tara appears and tells her, after she has left a room, "Be back before dawn." In Season Three in a dream that Buffy and Faith shared Faith mentioned "Little Sis" and referred to something that would happen exactly two years later (it would be Buffy's death to save Dawn).
Speaking of Faith, another great pair of episodes were the two featuring her: "This Year's Girl" and "Who Am I?" One of the most amazing things about BUFFY is the way it would take on traditional subjects and handle it better than any other show on TV ever had. There has never been a more powerful episode about losing one's virginity than that from Season Two of Buffy, never a better episode on TV about death than "The Body" from Season Five, and although a number of TV shows have attempted musical episodes, all pale compared to "Once More, With Feeling" from Season Six. A plot staple on television has been having two characters switch bodies. Joss Whedon was never content with just doing their take on such an oft-repeated plot device. Instead, the episode becomes an amazing discourse on self-hatred, with Faith in Buffy's body doing Faith kind of things in Buffy's social nexus. There are many very funny moments, such as the great scene in which Faith encounters Spike, realizing that he is a vampire but also realizing something that Buffy never had (his basic sexual attraction to Buffy), and then offering a hyper-sexualized description of what she could do for him if she wanted. There is a memorable moment, reminiscent of Travis Bickle's mirror scenes in TAXI DRIVER, where Faith, trying out Buffy's body for the first time, stands in front of the mirror, towel wrapped about her following a bath, rehearsing variations on her caricature of how she views Buffy. Over and over she states variations of "It's wrong!" obviously viewing Buffy as a goody two shoes. Interestingly, just before she escapes from Sunnydale she hears on TV about three vampires who have taken over a church during worship service. She goes there to take on the vampires and when one of them asks her why she doesn't just go away and not risk her life in saving the others she replies, "Because it's wrong," with no hint of irony in her voice. The episode starts off as a cruel trick on Faith's part, one that will allow her to escape Sunnydale and the Watchers Council that wants to capture and neutralize her as a rogue Slayer, but ends with Faith realizing how much she hates herself by understanding how Buffy has a much better life because of her relationships and principles. Buffy and Faith encounter each other in the church just before switching bodies and fight, with Faith in Buffy's body getting Buffy in hers on the floor, beating on her face, screaming how she hates her, obviously meaning that she actually hates herself. The two episodes lead to two additional great episodes on ANGEL, where she goes to kill Angel, eventually trying to get Angel to kill her as an odd form of suicide/penance. The four episodes comprise the beginning of Faith's salvation and transformation to a decent human being.
There are many other great episodes as well, including the hysterical "Something Blue," where a spell by Willow that goes wrong leads to Buffy and Spike getting engaged and planning their wedding; "The I in Team," in which Buffy briefly becomes an ally of the Initiative; "A New Man," in which Giles is turned into a demon and almost killed by Buffy; "The Yoko Factor," in which Spike attempts to help Adam, who has promised to remove the chip that keeps Spike from killing humans, by turning the Scoobies against one another; and the wonderfully funny "Superstar," in which Jonathan, who dominates the briefly redesigned opening credits, is suddenly the center of life in Sunnydale. I should, however, also mention that the season also contains the episode that usually wins fan polls of the worst BUFFY episode ever, the simply dreadful "Beer Bad," in which a doctored batch of beer turns Buffy into a Neanderthal. Still, all in all this is an imminently watchable, if overall disappointing season. No fan of BUFFY will, however, not want to own it, and with the new inexpensive edition, there is no reason not to do so."
Some really amazing work
Heather M. Dumdei | Chicago, IL United States | 04/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer's 4th season was the first season when I actually said to myself, "Joss Whedon is a genius..." It's not that I didn't think he was a genius beforehand, but this was the season with the episodes that really pointed that out to me. The episodes of which I speak are "Hush," Joss' creepy response to critics who thought that he'd [smell] without his snappy dialogue, "Who Are You," where Faith inadvertently starts down her long road to redemption by literally walking in Buffy's shoes (my personal favorite episode), and "Restless", Joss' meandering walk through Buffy, Giles, Xander and Willow's dreams, to insightful and more frequently humorous effect. These three episodes stand to show what an amazing and imaginitive mind Joss Whedon has and why his writers consider him a "benevolent dictator" over them. And since this DVD comes with Joss' commentary on both "Hush" and "Restless", I must say it's the Buffy DVD set I've anticipated the most so far.The rest of the season also has some gems. "Fear, Itself" is simply the best use of anti-climax that I have ever seen on TV or film. "Beer Bad" treats us to the more primitive side of Buffy. I'm particularly looking forward to "Wild at Heart", which will feature a special commentary track by Joss, Marti Noxon (writer/producer), and Seth Green.There are a lot of changes in the cast in season 4. Angel (David Boreanaz) and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) have moved to LA (their further adventures are chronicled on Angel), and Oz (Seth Green), fearful of the wolf within, leaves to find himself. Their void is filled quite well by Spike (James Marsters), the former bad boy who unwillingly takes his first steps towards being a better man, Riley (Marc Blucas), Buffy's Army stud, Anya (Emma Caulfield), the ex-vengeance demon with a unique view of the world and incomprehensible obsession with Xander, and Tara (Amber Benson), a sweet Wicca with a little mystery. The season is a little shaky as a whole. The whole Initiative and Adam story arc is kinda [weak], but those amazing episodes are so great that it's easy for me to take a "forest for the trees" approach to season 4. Still, check out the DVDs. Those three Joss episodes alone will be worth it (but I'm pretty sure you'll have a good time with the whole thing)."