Howdy ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another TV review and today I will be reviewing season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So after a good time with season 1, 2 and 3, I am ready for more. Minor spoilers follow…
As usual, we follow the life of Buffy Summers; normal teenager by day, vampire slayer by night. As part of the “Scooby Gang” along with Giles, Xander and Willow, except this time with less Cordelia and more Oz, as they take on the supernatural happenings that go on in Sunnydale.
The show continues to have episodic stories, but also has stories that continue over the course of the season that relate to things that have happened in the past and present too. This season deals with Buffy and her friends growing up and moving to university and taking on the problems that come with higher education and social interaction, but also all the classic supernatural issues that come with life surrounding the slayer.
Story-wise this season definitely changes things up from the get-go, having the Scooby gang separated in different directions and experiencing the real world beyond high school feels very odd at first, but it does present some new adventures and personal journeys for some individuals especially when it comes to Buffy, Willow and Oz. There is a lot of new content to take in with some of it being hilarious and exciting, but it’s not all fun and games, there are moments of mystery, surprise, drama and melancholy emotions for sure. Luckily there are some familiar characters and scenarios to keep things from feeling too detached. I also feel like I’m at the right age to be watching this show, besides being a big fan of TV and being a massive fan of Joss Whedon and his work with other TV shows and films, right now, having been a recent university student, this show really resonates with me. Having gone through the whole uni adventure myself, this show happens to capture perfectly, the uncertainty and the ups and downs of being a uni student. Whether it be moving away from home and living in a new environment, being the newbie on campus, living with difficult people, having hard times in class or missing the old times before higher education. Plus whoever came up with the use of the song “Believe” by Cher is a don, it is one of my all-time favourite cheesy pop song from the 90’s.
Episode highlights include:
- The Freshman
- Living Conditions
- The Harsh Light of Day (personal favourite)
- Fear Itself
- Beer Bad
- Wild at Heart (personal favourite)
- Pangs (personal favourite)
- Something Blue (personal favourite)
- Hush (personal favourite)
- A New Man
- The I in Team
- Goodbye Iowa
- This Year’s Girl (personal favourite)
- Who Are You
- Superstar (personal favourite)
- Where the Wild Things Are
- New Moon Rising
- The Yoko Factor (personal favourite)
- Primeval (personal favourite)
When it comes to the cast, the regulars once again give us such beautiful and memorable performances, while the new additions certain shake things up for the recurring cast members.
So let’s start with Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers. Buffy this season has a lot to deal with, she has relationship issues, foes new and old trying to kill her, new levels of intimacy with university men, and on top of that, she has to be the slayer. It was interesting to see Buffy for all of her knowledge, confidence and power, still being a little naive, powerless and indecisive and I once again have to say that Gellar is the woman of the hour because she acts so well. Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg is simply amazing, this is really big season for Willow as she starts to become more efficient as a witch, we see her heartbroken and then go through an unexpected and radical change with her new friend. Hannigan is such a great actress as she happens to be cute, pretty, witty, smart and mysterious all at the same and that is quite a feat and Willow as a character was just someone I wanted to hug all the time. Nicholas Brendon is once again so cool as Xander Harris, this season really puts Xander in an odd position as he happens to the only non-university student and doesn’t seem to be going anyway with his life besides his odd jobs and his strange relationship with Anya. However, the guy is still full of some of the best one-liners, is still funny and seeing him around just makes me smile.
Oh and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles, a frigging legend. I think I’m in love. I mean I’ve always liked Giles, the guy is English, has a dry sense of humour and is very strict and dull as a character, but since becoming unemployed this guy has become a hell of a lot more interesting. Seeing Giles in a more casual manner makes for some interesting moments like Giles in a sombrero or Giles with a chainsaw or SEEING GILES BLOODY SINGING AND PLAYING GUITAR! I swear seeing that just changed my world and made Giles and Anthony Stewart Head as an actor like the best person ever. Emma Caulfield returns as Anya but in a more substantial role than before, now she’s sort of part of the Scooby gang and while she’s a little eccentric and does not know anything about subtly when it comes to voicing her opinions, however, she has a good heart and having her in a relationship with Xander makes for some really funny moments. James Marsters in this season as Spike, damn what a joy he was to watch. This version of Spike is bad to his old ways, he’s dangerous, manipulative, cunning and funny as hell, but he is also silly, unthreatening and surprisingly docile when in an unfavourable situation. Marsters again remains to be the voice of reason, has great lines of dialogue and because his new situations, his constant interaction with the Scooby gang is just the best thing ever.
And then there’s Marc Blucas as Riley Finn, over the course of the season I got to like him more (especially when he meets Angel), but overall I’m not overly fussed about his character. I know he’s just an average joe by day/military guy by night, but as a character, he was never that engaging to me and just doesn’t fit into my view of the show. Amber Benson as Tara Maclay was definitely the most unexpected and interesting flavour to be added to this new cast, she’s incredibly shy, a bit of a recluse and no one really sees her, that is until Willow comes into play and she opens up a lot more. Benson does a great job of being super shy, vulnerable and adorable all at the same time. Lindsay Crouse was as Maggie Walsh but I never liked her from the moment I saw her and as for George Hertzberg as Adam, I say well done him, he was like the Terminator mixed in with Frankenstein, but with the intelligence and humour of a smart human. Adam is a little unconventional when it comes to being a villain as he wasn’t as clearly evil as those who came before him, I mean he was still bad, but in a more casual manner. Kristine Sutherland was once again good as Joyce Summers, however, she didn’t stand out that much considering everything that happened in this series took place further Buffy’s old home. After not seeing him for a while, the return of David Boreanaz as Angel was awesome, his moody yet cool persona is still fun to watch and I liked his complicated interactions with Buffy. Seeing Eliza Dushku as Faith brought warm feelings to my heart, for a while I wasn’t sure if the show would acknowledge her existence again, but they did and Dushku came back swinging in all of her fiery hotness and I liked having this girl back the picture even if it were for a short time. And finally the appearance of Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson was like the best unexpected of this season, I almost didn’t recognize him in the episode he was featured in because he’d changed so much, but damn I have to give props to Strong, he killed it in his one-off episodes.
So to conclude season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a bloody good season and is possibly my favourite season so far. Removing Buffy and company from their usual high school hijinks and placing them in college adds a great sense of the Scooby gang and with faces new and old showing up, new revelations taking place in Sunnydale and with stories full of bizarre, hilarious and emotional elements thrown in throughout, I was left thoroughly entertained and emotionally invested.