This is the continuation of Part Two of my refresher course on Seasons Three and Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was broken up to avoid making the post novel-length, which is something I do quite easily. I do admit that it’s been a while since I’ve watched Season Four, but I will never forget my favorite episodes. I never realized how much I really liked Season Four (though far from my favorite) when I started re-watching it a few short months ago – though Riley still hasn’t grown on me. Lots of good episodes, some that dragged, some that were painful to re-watch, but overall Season Four is still a fun season to watch. I do realize that I skipped some major episodes towards the end, and while they’re good, they aren’t necessarily my favorites. More on those episodes after Part Three is released and I’ll have a “Best of Everything Not Mentioned Previously” post.
Please be on the lookout for spoilers if you’ve never seen the show, and enjoy the flashback if you’re a fan. SPOILER ALERT!!!
Episode 3 – “The Harsh Light of Day”
My Two Cents: Dear Spike – Harmony, really? What a downgrade from Drusilla, dude! Team Buffy discovers something peculiar about Harmony after she runs into Willow one night after an evening out with our Gang at the Bronze – the blonde bimbo’s now a vampire. Taking a bite out of Willow, Harmony runs away after Oz whips out a cross to ward her off. Whining about how her boyfriend’s “gonna teach them a lesson,” she slinks off. Said boyfriend, Spike, is digging around in a crypt underground looking for a mystical ring called the Gem of Amarra. Legend says that the ring can turn any vampire invincible – the sun doesn’t harm them, pesky wooden stakes can’t kill them, [insert Vampire Problems here]. Buffy learns this the hard way after she has a daytime encounter with Spike, tousling with him as he is mocks her and her failed relationships. When he mentions Angel she goes into a rage, beating the crap out of him and grabbing the ring from his cold, dead hand. Poor Spike runs away from the sunlight before it can dust him, hiding below in the sewers. With ring in hand, Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang are hanging out at Giles’ pad, when Buffy decides that she wants Angel to have the ring. Oz offers to take the ring up to Angel in Los Angeles to avoid any awkwardness between the Slayer and her vampire ex-boyfriend. In Angel’s spinoff, the continuation of the Gem of Amarra storyline concludes with Angel destroying the ring so that he doesn’t become a target for other vampires who may want it.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang (plus Anya, minus Cordelia and Angel), Spike, Harmony Kendall
Notable Quote: “I like you. You’re funny and you’re nicely shaped. And, frankly, it’s ludicrous to have these interlocking bodies and not…interlock. Please remove your clothing now.” “And the amazing thing? Still more romantic than Faith.” – Anya and Xander
Episode 4 – “Fear, Itself”
My Two Cents: Another Halloween episode – how I love them! Our fearless heroes and heroines fight off a fear demon that can manifest your biggest fears. Great… There is also an important lesson to be learned from this episode – do not randomly grab your nearest occult book and draw a diagram or shape or occult ritual just ‘cause it looks “cool” or “adds atmosphere.” Bad things always happen, people, when you randomly draw the dark and strange powers of the occult in because you’re trying to impress the opposite/same sex! Oh, and having a fraternity party in the middle of the mayhem – not the brightest idea either. Our gang has to face the following fears manifested from the darkest recesses of their mind, eating away at their own insecurities in the process. Meanwhile, Anya makes it to the frat part fashionably late (and dressed as a rabbit – more on that later) and find the house mysteriously boarding itself up. Anya asks Giles for back-up, and he follows her back. Giles makes his own entrance into the frat house and he and Anya run into Buffy and the rest of the Gang. Giles recognizes the emblem on the floor in a room upstairs and tries to warn Buffy before she destroys it – destroying it brings the demon into our world. Um…whoops. Fortunately for our gang, Gachnar the Fear Demon is merely a few inches tall, and Buffy turns him into a grease mark by smashing him. Easiest demon kill yet!
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Joyce Summers, Riley Finn, Maggie Walsh
Notable Quote: “The summoning spell for Gachnar can be shut down in one of two ways. Destroying the Mark of Gachnar…” [Buffy destroys the Mark] “…is not one of them, and will, in fact, immediately bring forth the fear demon itself!” – Giles
Episode 6 – “Wild at Heart”
My Two Cents: Oz never really gets an episode focused solely on him, but this is definitely an Oz-centric episode. Willow’s relationship with Oz is slowly starting to get cracks in its foundation after Oz becomes mesmerized by a mysterious young woman named Veruca, who first appears with her band at the Bronze. All of the guys in the room become smitten with her, and Oz senses something different about her. His werewolf senses are spot-on because it turns out that Veruca is a werewolf too. The difference between Oz and Veruca is that while he tries to hide the animal inside for fear of hurting those that he cares about, Veruca doesn’t give a shit and fully embraces her werewolf aspect. To protect them from the full moon happening at the same time, Oz locks himself and Veruca in a cage in a crypt that he uses for that time of month. Their animal instincts kick before their transformations and they kiss. When Willow arrives to bring food for her boyfriend, she’s shocked when she sees the two naked and spooning. Angry and hurt, Willow leaves in a dazed and heartbroken. Later on, she tries to unleash a spell on the two but can’t bring herself to do it. Unfortunately for her, Veruca has her own plans of getting rid of the one thing that’s keeping Oz from being with her. As Veruca tries to kill Willow, Werewolf Oz comes in and rescues Willow by killing Veruca before she can be harmed. Oz, realizing that he has to take his own steps in controlling the animal inside, tells Willow that he’s always loved her before leaving.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Riley Finn, Veruca, Spike, Maggie Walsh
Notable Quote: “Oz, don’t you love me?” “My whole life, I’ve never loved anything else.” – Willow and Oz
Episode 8 – “Pangs”
My Two Cents: Thanksgiving – it’s that fun, awkward holiday where we’re forced to spend time with the family members that we hate, and also remember the atrocities that befell the Native Americans. It’s also an instant-classic Buffy episode. An angry Native American spirit named Hus (from the local Chumsah tribe) escapes from an old abandoned mission that Xander discovers as part of a construction crew at the groundbreaking for a new Anthropology building at Sunnydale University. Hus kills the curator of the local Cultural Center and retrieves some of the weapons that were taken from his tribe. In another part of town, Spike is fleeing from the Initiative, who captured him back in “Wild at Heart” and implanted a chip in his head that prevents him from harming humans. He runs to Giles’ place as a last resort and asks for help, which Buffy reluctantly agrees to. Angel’s also in town, taking a break from his spin-off and helping out the Gang (without Buffy’s knowledge), thanks to a vision from his friend Doyle back in L.A. Xander, Willow, Anya and Angel run into each other, and they figure out that the Chumsah spirits are coming after Buffy. While preparing her Thanksgiving meal for her friends, the spirits attack, shooting arrows into Spike as Buffy and Giles run for cover. Buffy discovers that she can injure and kill the spirits with their own weapons, which gives her an advantage. Hus transforms into a giant black bear. Crap. Buffy kills the bear with a knife, thus saving her Thanksgiving. As the rest of the Gang make it back to Giles’ place, they sit down for dinner, with Xander blurting out that Angel had helped them out. Awkward…
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang (minus Oz, plus Spike), Angel (cameo appearance), Harmony Kendall, Riley Finn, Forrest Gates, Graham Miller
Notable Quote: “Thanksgiving isn’t a-about blending of two cultures. It’s about one culture wiping out another! A-and then they make animated specials about the part where…w-with the maize and th-the big, big belt buckles. They don’t show you the next scene, where…where all the bison die, a-and Squanto takes a musketball in the stomach!” “Okay, now, for some of that, you were channeling your mother?” – Willow and Buffy
Episode 9 – “Something Blue”
My Two Cents: Willow and spells sometimes do not mix very well and can cause disastrous and hilarious results. Hilarious like having Buffy and Spike engaged and planning their future wedding (future foreshadowing, and welcome Spuffy fans!) Not-so-hilarious with Xander becoming a beacon for all things demon-y, Giles going blind… The list goes on. Some of the events in the episode will give us future clues to what will happen with Willow and her abuse of magick for dealing with all of her problems. But do we blame poor, distraught, drunk Willow for wanting to forget about Oz and healing her pain by casting a spell? Unfortunately, the chaos of her miscast spell is so chaotic that it almost gets her friends married and seriously injured. A familiar demonic face reappears in the form of D’Hoffryn – Anya’s former employer. So impressed by Willow’s magickal abilities and her pain, he takes her to another dimension. He offers to make her a vengeance demon, but she politely refuses; she’ll turn into something much worse at the end of Season Six. In the end the results of the spell are reversed. One of the funniest bits in this episode occurs when Buffy and Willow are having a conversation in their dorm. Something Willow says causes poor Amy (the young witch from Season One’s “Witch” episode who turned herself into a rat in Season Three’s “Gingerbread”) to shift from being a rat to a very naked human for a few seconds, before turning into the creature again. Don’t worry – she’ll be a human again soon enough.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Riley Finn, Amy Madison, D’Hoffryn
Notable Quote: “Look, Spike – we have no intention of killing a harmless… uh, creature… we have to know what’s been done to you. We can’t let you go until we’re sure that you’re… impotent…” “Hey!” “Sorry, poor choice of words. Until we’re sure, you’re, you’re…” “Flaccid?” “You are one step away, missy –“ “Giles, help! He’s going to scold me.” – Giles, Spike and Buffy.
Episode 10 – “Hush”
If I had to include another favorite Halloween-like episode to my list of favorite episodes from this season, it would definitely be the truly frightening and darkly comic “Hush.” The Gentlemen are definitely some of the most vivid and imaginative villains to appear on the show, and on genre TV in general. Buffy doesn’t venture into the realm of fairy tales that often for its episodes (see Season Three’s “Gingerbread”), but this episode has all the classic trappings of a well-written classic tale. Our story features ghoulish beings stealing voices, ripped-out hearts (can’t hear someone being killed if their voice is gone), and a young heroine whose scream saves the day, slaying the wicked ghouls – enter Buffy. What really makes this episode stand out is the fact that Joss Whedon took a huge risk and made the decision to have no dialogue in the episode’s second half, making a great episode even better. Instead of lines, we get charades (with some accidental innuendo thrown in) and great moments of characters communicating with one another with gestures and looks.
There were two major revelations made during this episode: Willow’s friend from her Wicca group, Tara, has magickal abilities that Willow was unaware of before. Tara has a natural ability for magick, which helps them out in a dire situation, and when their hands connect to perform the spell there is instant chemistry (foreshadowing). For Buffy, she runs into Riley the Teaching Aide from her Psychology class – turns out he’s part of a secret military group called the Initiative. They hunt and trap demons for research, experiments, and other dastardly deeds. Talk about first impressions…
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Riley Finn, Forrest Gates, Tara Maclay, Maggie Walsh, Olivia (Giles’ flame), the Gentlemen and their minions
Notable Quote: “Can’t even shout, can’t even cry / The gentlemen are coming by / Looking in windows, knocking on doors / They need to take seven and they might take yours / Can’t call to mom, can’t say a word / You’re gonna die screaming but you won’t be heard.” Creepy Little Girl from “Hush”
Episodes 15-16 – “This Year’s Girl / Who Are You”
My Two Cents: Hmm…there’s someone missing from Season Four that would spice things up a bit and cause even more chaos and disorder in Buffy’s life. Who could we bring in to make life ever more of a living hell for our Slayer? How about another Slayer waking up from her eight-month coma? Welcome back, Faith! As though dealing with the cybernetic biological walking disaster that is Adam, our Big Bad, we see Faith return to give Buffy more grey hairs. Faith starts to have nightmares/prophetic Slayer dreams involving Buffy, and each time she seems to be stabbed in them. Her brain kick-starts and wakes up our restless brunette Slayer. Hell-bent on making Buffy pay for putting her in the coma and moving on in her life, Faith receives a special parting gift from the dearly-departed Mayor Wilkins: a contraption that can switch bodies, or rather, a person’s soul into another. I smell trouble brewing from a mile away. Buffy and Faith have one hell of an epic fight, but in the end Faith uses her nifty gift, causing the two Slayers to switch bodies. Poor Buffy is trapped in Faith’s knocked out body while her dark counterpart enjoys the perks of “being” Buffy.
Author’s Note: To clarify who’s who in this next section, I’ll be using handy quotation marks to differentiate between our Slayers. When the quotation marks disappear, that means our girls are in their respective bodies. Let us proceed.
Those asshole assassins from the Watchers’ Council – last seen in Season Three – capture “Faith” after she is arrested by the cops. “Faith” has to escape from the assassins’ clutches and get back to her body before “Buffy” can do any permanent damage; “Buffy’s” not having it. She plays mind games with Spike, she sleeps with Riley, and she’s the first to figure out that Tara and Willow are dating, thanks to a crude remark about Willow’s sexuality. Our Slayers also get major emotional revelations throughout as they experience what it’s really like to be in each other’s skin. Faith experiences the love and friendship that surrounds Buffy, while Buffy sees the anger that Faith deals with, along with lots of self-loathing and internalized disgust towards herself. While Buffy is trying to figure out how to get back into her own body, Season Four’s Big Bad, Adam, is recruiting vampires in his crusade to create a demon army. The vampires hold some churchgoers hostage in the daytime, and “Buffy” is the first to make it to the church (after almost skipping out of town, but she’s still a Slayer). At Giles’ pad, “Faith” surprises him by claiming to really be Buffy. After being interrogated by Giles, and sharing some awkward memories, Giles realizes it’s the truth. Tara and Willow come racing in with a magickal device that will return both women to their rightful bodies. “Faith” makes it to the church as well and saves “Buffy” from a vampire, and the two Slayers beat the shit out of each other – again. “Faith” grabs their hands and they switch back, both completely shaken from the body switch. Buffy deals with the ramifications of Faith’s actions, and Faith escapes to Los Angeles – she’ll give Angel hell soon enough.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Faith Lehane, Riley Finn, Joyce Summers, Tara Maclay, Forrest Gates, Graham Miller, Adam, Mayor Richard Wilkins (in dream/video form)
Notable Quotes: “I’ve been looking for you.” “Been standin’ still for eight months, B, how hard you look?” – Buffy and Faith
Episode 19 – “New Moon Rising”
My Two Cents: Oz gets his second starring episode in Season Four. When a character gets more than one featured episode about them on any series, that’s a telltale sign of: 2) they’re going to die, b) their contract wasn’t renewed, or c) they’re leaving to pursue other projects. In Seth Green’s case, it was Option C, as he wanted to pursue other projects outside of Buffy . Willow, Tara, and the Initiative are also featured in this episode, which deals with Oz coming back from Tibet. Oz learned several different techniques for controlling the werewolf within him, letting him live a relatively normal life again…but he wants Willow to be a part of it. Willow has moved on and is with Tara, as we found out in “Who Are You,” but seeing Oz stirs up unresolved feelings. Tara and Oz have a confrontation that leads to Oz wolfing out after he smells Willow in her. Tara is able to escape, but the Initiative captures Oz and takes him to their secret underground military base, where they hold other demons for experiments and imprisonment. The Scooby Gang is able to sneak into the complex with the help of Riley, but they are captured. The Gang is able to escape, but Riley Finn is now Initiative Enemy #1 and on the run. Oz leaves the show again and we all gather together in sorrow. My favorite scene is the last one, which shows Willow and Tara declaring their love for each other in a really touching and romantic scene.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Oz, Tara Macclay, Riley Finn, Forrest Gates, Graham Miller, Adam
Notable Quote: “No candles? I brought one. It’s…extra flamey. Tara, I have to tell you…” “No, I-I understand. You have to be with the person you l-love.” “I am.” “You mean…” “I mean.” “Oh, yes.” “I feel horrible about everything I put you through. A-and I’m gonna make it up to you. Starting right now.” “Right now?” [cue cuteness / fluffiness / implied sexiness] – Willow and Tara
Episode 21 – “Primeval”
My Two Cents: Our Big Bad for this season, Adam, is the weakest of all the major endgame villains that have appeared on the show. In comparison to first three Big Bads that we encounter (The Master, Angelus, Mayor Richard Wilkins), Adam falls short on the Pure Evil scale. But he is definitely a villain that shouldn’t be underestimated, as Buffy learns quickly after having her ass handed to her by him. With Adam planning to create a demon and human holocaust and build his own monster army from the pieces, Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang have to come up with a way to defeat him. How do you a powerful cybernetic entity? With magic, of course! In order to do this, we need to get our fractured Scooby Gang back together. After some disingenuous manipulation by Spike, who slowly tore the group apart and making them distrustful of each other, our heroes realize that they really do mean a lot to one another. And to defeat Adam, they have to have a united front in the battle. While soldiers and demons are killing each other, the core of our Scooby Gang gather in a room together and do an incantation that gives Buffy some kickass powers, like being able to stop bullets. She plunges her fist into Adam’s chest and rips out his nuclear-driven heart, crushing it with her newfound otherworldly powers, which disappear after the incantation is complete. “Primeval” is a good episode to end the season off, and it also shows us how much harder Buffy and her friends will have to fight in the coming seasons.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Tara Macclay, Riley Finn, Adam, Forrest Gates, Maggie Walsh
Notable Quote: “I do speak Sumerian, it’s not that. Only an experienced witch can incant it, and you have to be within striking distance of the subject.” “See what you get for taking French instead of Sumerian?” “What was I thinking?” “So, no problem, all we need is combo-Buffy. Her with Slayer strength, Giles’ multi-lingual know-how and Willow’s witchy power. Yeah, don’t tell me, I’m just full of helpful suggestions!” “As a matter of fact you are.” – Giles, Buffy and Xander
Episode 22 – “Restless”
My Two Cents: Strange, trippy, existential, psychedelic, mind-fuck episodes are great, aren’t they? Some of my favorites reside within that rich, dark, witty, and emotional world known as the Whedonverse. And “Restless” is a fine example of an episode that will have you analyzing it and breaking it down to its very essence, trying to figure out what the hell you’re watching and what it means to the characters and to you, the viewer. There is no way for me to describe the episode without ruining the viewing experience, so I will leave this vague opinion here and recommend that you watch it immediately. It’s just that good.
Notable Characters: Scooby Gang, Joyce Summers, Tara Macclay, Harmony Kendall, Adam, Oz, Principal Snyder, the First Slayer, Olivia (Giles’ flame), The Cheese Man
Notable Quote: “I have no speech, no name. I live in the action of death. The blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction, absolute, alone.” – The First Slayer, speaking through Tara