TV - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 4

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

steven harris examines Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4 as he finds Sarah Michelle Gellar all grown up...

Previously on previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Angel gone, Cordelia gone, Faith bad, Mayor big bad, school all explodey, Faith in coma, Buffy a big girl now about to start college (or, as normal people in non-American countries call it, University) life.

So the Buffster takes Psych classes and meets a clever professor woman and a teaching assistant with unfeasibly huge pectoral muscles as though he is storing spare breasts for Pamela Anderson. He’s called Riley, not Pamela. Turns out that Prof Walsh and Riley are part of a secret government initiative inventively called The Initiative. It’s dedicated to scooping up and apparently researching non-humans which is bad news for demons and vampires and icky things. Good job Angel’s gone.

But Spike is back. And he gets captured and has a chip stuck in his head which makes him incapable of attacking humans. So he’s sort of like a bull mastiff with no testicles. Let’s not dwell too long on the image of Spike’s testicles, doglike or not.

Willow and Oz break up over him doing the wild thing in the woods with a lady werewolf. Well, he takes off and she feels betrayed but luckily she has a new friend on campus, someone with Wicca smarts akin to her own – Tara. Oz eventually comes back having learned some Tibetan schizzle to control his werewolfy ways but when he works out that Willow and Tara are in girl-on-girl love he can’t control his werewolfy ways and leaves town again to become Doctor Evil’s son forever.

That’s after the Initiative boys have bagged and tagged him and Riley defies Prof Walsh’s orders by helping release the Oz back into the wild. Prof Walsh decides Buffy is a bad influence on her favourite student/stormtrooper, so she tries to get the Slayer killed. Because, of course, she’s pretty nuts. So nuts that although she isn’t the big bad of the season she is constructing the big bad out of all the nastiest components of the demons and vampires and icky things the Initiative have been scooping up and experimenting on. Yup, it’s Frankenbad. Only he’s called Adam. Because he’s the first of a new race. In case you didn’t get the Judaeo-Christian significance of the name she gives him.

Adam is clever and logically nasty and very, very strong. Stronger than Buffy strong which makes it a bit difficult to just kill him in the middle of the season, conveniently. Thus we get plenty of episodes which are only partially about the development of Adam’s plans because they also focus on the interpersonal relationships between characters.

You see, Moffat haters, this entire develop the domestic element of the supporting characters thing isn’t something he’s invented in recent seasons of Doctor Who just to piss you off; it’s actually necessary to allow a long-running science-fiction/fantasy serial to stay fresh and seem relevant to audiences old and new. So yes, Faith comes out of a coma for a couple of episodes, swaps bodies with Buffy for a bit, gets to do it with Riley while being Buffy, gets switched back and runs off to Angel. The character and the companion series.

So yes, bit-part character Jonathan who has appeared in every season as someone feebler and more risible than Xander gets an episode in which he casts a spell to make himself sexy and cool and interesting and great until he isn’t any more because Buffy (and Spike) work out that things aren’t exactly right in this bizarre-world alternate universe.

So yes, Spike does become more obsessed with Buffy in a way that is surely going to develop into him being in love with her by Season 5.

So yes, Xander does stop being quite so feeble and risible and develops a proper relationship with a proper person. Well okay, not quite a proper person, Anya, the former vengeance demon now trapped in hot chick body. But at least she’s not an Incan mummy or a reptile thing.

So yes there are quite a few soft focus, up and down shots of bedsheets which contain Riley and Buffy, you know, messing up the bedsheets.

So yes Giles does feel left out now he has no Watcher’s role with Buffy and no job at the exploded up school library.

The Scooby Gang tag may be a comical quip but unless Joss Whedon had allowed for such developments within the lives of the protagonists Buffy simply would have become Scooby Doo. Without the dog. Because Oz leaves. And there are no Scooby Snacks. Minus exposition and enlargement of those peopling the Buffyverse all you get is running down endless corridors, monsters lurking and raising their arms, caretakers saying things about meddling kids (which was sort of Principal Snyder’s job but he got all eaten in the season 3 finale), and intelligence in a girl being displayed by giving her glasses and no as funky clothing as the less-clever, pretty girl.

Anyhoo, Frankenbad was all part of Walsh’s plan, as was Riley who has been modified with weird chip technology too. Adam seems to think he and Riley are brothers because ‘mommy’ Walsh fiddled with them both. Riley works out how to defy Adam’s control over him by ripping out his own chip (not a euphemism) and the gang perform a spell to give Buffy super-duper powers so she can kick the crap out of Adam and remove his power cell. All done.

Oh no, not all done. Season 4 has a coda episode. A dreamy sequencey episode. The killing of the big bad is not the end of the thing. It’s the penultimate show. In the final episode of this set of 22 Buffy and those who cast the spell to defeat Adam – Giles, Willow and Xander – are stalked in their dreams by the spirit of the first slayer.

The First is primitive and has no speech so Tara appears in the dreams too, as a vessel for her to express herself through. She tells Buffy that a Slayer must have no friends, must hunt and kill with the same solitary and primal instincts of the First herself. Oh with added threat that if Buffy doesn’t do what the First says and fight her in the dream, the friends will all die. Buffy refuses to fight her which buggers that plan up. Curses, and she’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for Buffy’s love of the friends whose lives and characters had been so carefully and considerately expanded during the course of the season.

The dream sequences of the final episode hint at developments to come in the 5th season but I’m not going to tell you about them. Not today anyway. I must go and say sorry to a vengeance demon first.

Until next time on previously on previously on previously on Buffy…hasta luego. Beer bad, garlic good.

Image - IMDb.