Buffy the Vampire Slayer S04 Wrap Up

Sweeney: WE’RE DONE. VICTORY DANCE, GUYS.

abded dance

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Although we have discussed our difficulties with ranking in the past, this was probably the easiest list for me to put together. I moved episodes around a lot less than I did in S2 & s3. Aside from the final two episodes, which I have gone back and forth on, I have no reservations about the list. That said, my list basically fell into three groups (1) Good Episodes (2) #MEH Episodes -and- (3) Never Again Episodes. I’m not surprised by how many fell into the last category, but for all of our S4 bitching an moaning, group one is actually almost half the list. The biggest problem with this season is that it’s so hit-or-miss. There are several episodes that are just AWFUL, and the Never Again section on this season is definitely longer than previous season for me. The other issue is how badly handled certain season-long elements are. This season asks a lot more of us in terms of suspension of disbelief, because it can’t even seem to stick within its own rules and that’s frustrating.

All of that being said, now that we’re here, on the other side of the season, I can say, “It wasn’t that bad.” It’s a lot easier to say it from this side, though. I think what I’m really saying is, “I’m glad I’m done and my celebratory haze is dulling the pain of the memory of this season.”

  1. Hush – We’ve already decided that one of the things that we will do to send off Buffy when we finish the series in February-ish is some sort of top 5/10 best-and-worst episodes from the whole series. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this episode will make that Best-Of list for me. It’s brilliantly written, The Gentlemen are terrifying as villains go, and not even Riley or The Initiative manage to ruin it. It’s flawless.
  2. Who Are You? (/This Year’s Girl) – This spot goes to Who Are You? but it seems unfair to separate it from This Year’s Girl, which has to do the legwork of seeing up Who Are You? (also, it gets the great Faith!Buffy in the mirror scene!) Usually I do split the two-parters, but these two really do feel like one episode. A damn good one, at that, in a hit-or-miss season. Watching Angel has given me a new appreciation for Faith’s arc, but what we see here is a huge part of that too.
  3. Restless – It’s a batshit episode, but I think that’s part of why it works. They committed to it so fully that it’s awesome. Also: epic foreshadowing. Actually, that’s probably the main reason I enjoy it. Knowing the future!
  4. Fear Itself – Such a fantastic Halloween episode. Giles with a chainsaw! Anya being fantastic instead of annoying! Great stuff.
  5. Primeval – I was torn about where to put this episode, because there are a lot of things I hate about it. However, I love the magic device that they use to defeat Adam. In spite of the many reasons I could justify putting this in the bottom half, I am sufficiently obsessed with that five-or-so minutes to put it all the way up here.
  6. Superstar – I really thought I hated this episode. I don’t have fond memories of it from the first time around, but hell if I can remember why, because I actually enjoy it.
  7. New Moon Rising – 5-7 are basically a big tie for me, being ranked like this only because I have to break them down somehow. I think this episode is last of the three solely because it’s the hardest to watch. It should be, but my tie-breaker was, “How likely would I be to re-watch each of these three episodes?”
  8. A New Man – I don’t care all that much about Ethan Rayne, but this episode gets points for being Giles-centric. Giles scaring Evil Bitch Monster was priceless.
  9. The I In Team – This marks the transition into the #MEH episodes on my list. I adore the BAMF Buffy speech to Evil Bitch Monster, but that’s about it. The rest of it isn’t exceptionally great or terrible. It’s just whatever.
  10. Wild at Heart – Normally I give more deference to episodes that gave me so many feels, but I had issues with the hastiness of this arc. I know they didn’t have a choice, and I don’t hold it against them, but I can’t rate this episode any higher because of that. Also, I skimmed the post again and: SOMEONE ELSE’S UNDERWEAR. Ew.
  11. The Yoko Factor – The comments section on this post indicate that nearly all of Traumaland agrees: #MEH.
  12. Pangs – Nothing in this episode makes sense. It has some stellar moments, but it might be the least logical episode in a season that oozes contrivance. There are just barely enough of those moments to keep it in the #MEH section, rather than the NEVER AGAIN section.
  13. The Initiative – Remember that hot second when Riley wasn’t annoying? Barely, but I swear it happened. That said, this is the point in my list where we switch from #MEH episodes to, “Nope, never revisiting that.”
  14. Goodbye, Iowa – Too much Biley. Too much Initiative.
  15. Something Blue – I know a lot of people love this episode, and I thank it for its gif-worthy moments, but I will take the gifs and never actually watch it again, thanks.
  16. Living Conditions – I appreciate that they were attempting to do their usual thing of using demony stuff to talk about real stuff, like having shitty college roommates, but I still don’t like this episode. TOENAIL CLIPPINGS, GUYS. Toenail clippings.
  17. The Harsh Light of Day – Ugh. Parker.
  18. Doomed – Spike-in-Xander clothing is the only thing worth watching in this. I will, once more, stick to the gifs and say “Never again” to all the boring Biley dramz.
  19. The Freshman – When I posted this on my own Facebook, I got into a discussion with a friend over whether this or S5 had the worst season premiere. I’m standing by this one, though I’m sure many of you will disagree. It helps that I don’t actually remember having problems with the S5 premiere.
  20. Beer Bad – MEGA UGH. Never speak of this again.
  21. Where the Wild Things Are – Or this. Never. Again.

 

Lorraine: IDK if I’m ready to quite admit that this season wasn’t SO bad. It felt pretty bad. And for that reason, there shall be more dancing:

We’ve spoken a lot already about the problems with the large arc, but I think what made that almost unbearable is that we had nothing to fall back on– no old standbys. Sunnydale High is gone, Giles as a Watcher is gone, Angel and Buffy’s relationship is gone, the Scoobies as best friends are gone, BAMF Buffy moments are reduced as are some of the better and extended fight sequences. Oz leaves early on. Even Joyce’s shitty parenting is nowhere to be seen. I know things could not have remained the same forever, but it was this flux coupled with the failure plot arc that made this season a little harder to get through.

The worst part of it all is that the season tried a number of things that would’ve been excellent had they been pulled off with more skill.

There were highlights, of course, (because a bad season of Buffy is still a decent season of TV) both as far as episodes and elements. Anya and Tara were both great additions to the cast, and Spike even through his contrivance-y extended presence, was often a humorous saving grace.

Here’s how I rank ’em:

  1. Hush – I loved this episode as much as Sweeney said I would. It was brilliantly acted from start to finish and if I close my eyes, I can still see The Gentlemen. Yick.
  2. Who Are You – An amazing piece in the Faith arc that gave us a great performance from SMG and one of the most gifable moments of the series so far.
  3. Restless – Brilliantly thought out and executed and such an out of the ordinary way to end a season. Opinions may be split, but I loved it.
  4. This Year’s Girl – I’m separating the two episodes, and this one falls down a spot because it had so much of the set-up work.
  5. Fear Itself – Despite a slow start, the episode has the distinction of being the first I truly enjoyed of the season.
  6. New Moon Rising – I have a soft spot for all things Oz, and Alyson Hannigan turned in a great episode.
  7. Primeval – I debated putting this higher, but there were enough moments of bullshit to keep it right here. The binding spell was A+ though.
  8. Superstar – A bit of a silly episode that had the tough job of following up This Year’s Girl, but was at least entertaining which is better than the middle chunk of this list.
  9. Wild at Heart – See above referenced soft spot in addition to great Buffy/Willow moments.
  10. Pangs – If we are going to get a whole bunch of contrivance anyways, it might as well be as fun (see: Spike) as this episode.
  11. A New Man – Let’s be serious: this is mostly for demon Giles chasing Professor Walsh.
  12. Something Blue – If you look at it with one eye closed and ignore the non-sensical, you can appreciate the funny bits.
  13. The Yoko Factor – Solidly middle of the pack as the start of the end of the season.
  14. The Initiative – Surprisingly, the introduction to the Initiative and Riley wasn’t bad. Re-reading that recap reminded me that there was a time when I was still fresh, new and untainted by S4. Hilar.
  15. Living Conditions – Not a wild success, but generally a fun take on the roommate from hell, which gave us moments like Buffy and Oz walking in the park and the zoom in on Buffy’s twitchy eyes. It was mostly hurt by contrivance and toe nail clippings.
  16. The I in Team – Pretty forgettable save for a 10 second I’MMA KILL YOU speech from Buffy.
  17. Doomed – An episode that plays Spike’s attempted suicide for laughs has got some issues.
  18. Goodbye, Iowa – I died of boredom. That’s what I remember.
  19. The Harsh Light of Day – I pretty much hate all things Parker and not even winning Anya, Spike and Oz moments make up for that.
  20. The Freshman – I wish there could be a do-over for the BtVS look at entering college. Preferably one that didn’t abandon all of the character growth and development Buffy acquired over the past three seasons.
  21. Beer Bad – I think the joke’s on us with the episode that tried to teach some sort of moderation lesson, and drove us directly to the nearest store of alcohol.
  22. Where the Wild Things Are – Pretty legit that all this episode makes me think is, “fuck.”

 

Kirsti: Honestly, I don’t think we’ve had quite enough gifs to properly celebrate the end of season 4. Because SWEET MOTHER OF JEEBUS, I thought it was never going to end. And yet, here we finally are.

  1. Hush – Yes. Good. Love.
  2. Fear Itself – Giles with a chainsaw. Need I say more?!
  3. Pangs – Yes, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But I love the crap out of this episode.
  4. Something Blue – Okay, FINE. I have an irrational soft spot for the ridiculous episodes in which nothing of real consequence happens. Shut up.
  5. Who Are You? – Can we discuss how brilliant Sarah Michelle Gellar is again? Because she is. Also, that scene between Buffy!Faith and Spike. OMG.
  6. This Year’s Girl – There was a lot of set up in this, as Lor mentioned. But it was so nice to focus on something other than the Snore-nitiative for a change.
  7. A New Man – Giles scaring the Evil Bitch Monster  alone makes this episode brilliant.
  8. Wild At Heart – CRY ALL THE UGLY CRIES OMG. It loses a bunch of spots on the list for me because I want to stab Veruca in her stupid skanky face.
  9. New Moon Rising – More feels, plus Willow coming out to Buffy and Riley taking his first steps towards becoming a real boy.
  10. Primeval – After yelling at the Scoobies repeatedly for being idiots in The Yoko Factor, the “with our powers combined” solution was great. It loses points for Zombie Scientists, Riley performing surgery on himself, and the Initiative existing in general.
  11. Superstar – It has its issues, but it was a fun little tangent. Plus, I kind of love Danny Strong.
  12. The Harsh Light of Day – I think I only like this as much as I do because of what it sets up down in Los Angeles.
  13. The Yoko Factor – Yes, I spent most of the episode wanting to punch every member of the Scoobies, but it also gave us Giles singing Free Bird, and the most accurate description of Angel ever: “Mr. Billowy Coat, King of Pain.”
  14. Restless – You guys, I know a lot of  you love this episode. But it just hurts my brain. There’s way too much going on, with the constant foreshadowing and the references to previous seasons and the “Is this a symbol for something or did Whedon just dump it in there for the hell of it?” Maybe I’d like it better if I watched it with Whedon’s commentary on?
  15. The Initiative – It’s only this high up the list because of the scene between Spike and Willow where he manages to cheer her up despite arriving with intentions of killing her.
  16. The Freshman – Meh. A little too over the top on all the things.
  17. Living Conditions – The only reason this is as high as it is? All episodes focusing on the Initiative were automatically worse.
  18. Doomed – Marc Blucas gets added to the credits and my will to keep watching dramatically drops.
  19. The I In Team – That speech of Buffy’s was definitely the highlight. The rest was a snorefest.
  20. Goodbye Iowa – Blurgh.
  21. Beer Bad – Can we all just agree never to talk about this episode again?
  22. Where the Wild Things Are – NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.

 

Thanks for joining over this season, Traumateers! Regardless of how we felt about the episodes, spending season 4 with you all has been nothing short of excellent. Truly.

Share your top and bottom episodes in the comments and tell us how our lists stack up against yours.

See you in season five!

 

Sweeney (all posts)

I collect elaborate false eyelashes, panda gifs, and passport stamps. I earned my MA in Global Communications and watching too many YouTube videos. Now people pay me to edit YouTube videos. The circle of life. Reconciling my aversion to leaving the house/wearing pants with my deep desire to explore everything is my life's great struggle.





Marines (all posts)

I'm a 20-something south Floridan who loves the beach but cannot swim. Such is my life, full of small contradictions and little trivialities. My main life goals are never to take life too seriously, but to do everything I attempt seriously well. After that, my life goals devolve into things like not wearing pants and eating all of the Zebra Cakes in the world. THE WORLD.





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  • Democracy Diva

    Cracked up the second I saw the Abed dancing gif and knew I was in for a treat.

    To the rankings: Hush is just the clear winner and I agree, probably one of the top five – maybe even three, for me – best episodes of the series. Superstar would have been in my top five for the season because I am a sucker for all things Jonathan and all things shtick, and this had quite a bit of both.. I also would have ranked Something Blue higher – it’s hilarious, which makes me forgive a lot of other things about it, and like K, I love a lot of the Buffy episodes that are pure silliness. And it’s a three-way tie for last place between The Freshman, Beer Bad, and Where the Wild Things Are for me, because the terrible acting of those random stoner vampires in the premiere basically killed any chance of me having any faith in this season – at least until the Faith episodes. But Cave!Buffy and the Joss Whedon PSA is just as torturous, as is the complete lack of sense and non-vomitous moments of WtWTA.

    Okay, I just got to the Saved by the Bell dancing gif and srsly get out of my head you guys. These are amazing.

    • Feels episodes always win out for me, no matter how much I say I love the campy episodes. And I do! I do love them, but whenever I sit down to rank, feels always win.

      I forgot about those stoner vamps in The Freshman. Truly, that should’ve our first and only needed clue to things to come in S4. I had to give the edge to Where the Wild Things Are because it was an awful premise that hinged on Biley sex, and seriously, watching them together makes me physically unwell.

      Thank you. Saved by the Bell dancing gifs make me physically well again.

  • Ley

    I never held any resentment towards this season–or Riley–back when I first watched it on TV. I really didn’t remember how god-awful it was until I revisited the season through your recaps, so…thanks for that? Although foreseeing the future is rad, and I do particularly enjoy what is to come for the show!

    • YOU ARE WELCOME. 😉

      I’m really excited for the future. We’ve only heard a few people say they didn’t enjoy S5, as opposed to the resounding, “UUUUGH S4 I’M SO SORRY,” we got all those weeks ago. Should be fun.

  • Polge Clément

    Yay end of season 4 ! http://static.tumblr.com/xdt3gx2/LqTm6r38v/8.gif (sorry i’m not as strong a dancer as you are)

    I like The Yoko Factor though, mostly for its crossover magic, and because it’s a fine conclusion to Buffy visiting LA. I’d give it a MEH++, like one step below “good”, and two steps above “acceptable”.

    • Are you kidding? If you dance like that, let’s get married.

      I accept MEH++ as an official rating and understand this language.

  • Anagnorisis

    Let’s see…
    Hush, best episode, without any doubt. It’s in my top 15 best Buffy episodes as number 3. Amazing.
    Who are You? At first I thought it was an average episode that existed only to show how good is SMG as an actress, fun but no big deal. But then, after rewatch I understood the whole “because it’s wrong” thing and how it works to develop Faith’s character and now I see that it works perfectly as an episode.
    Restless. Fine, I don’t love it but I admit is a great episode and it is beautifully filmed and edited. But yeah, I see the future and don’t find it as awesome as I should.
    Something Blue. It’s fun, I watched so many times and it’s still entertaining. (It’s also better at foreshadowing than Restless, lol I have issues)

    The rest of the episodes (are a mess in my head, the Giles episode was fun because Ethan, I don’t care a lot about Oz and I… am very sorry to say that I don’t like Tara (please don’t hurt me!), I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just don’t, I wish she could grow a pair already, sorry, sorry, the firsts episodes are forgettable, the initiative/Riley episodes exist).

    Beer Bad. We know it’s bad (the episode), but if I had to choose, I’d rather rewatch this one instead of any other above. I prefer bad than boring.
    Where the Wild things are. Yeah, no.

    • Beer Bad is at the near bottom of my list, but yes, absolutely, I’d rather rewatch that than say, Goodbye Iowa which was the most painful watching recapping experience of the season for me. It was the episode that would not end.

      I often mention how my viewing experience must be intensely different than what others went through while either watching live or binge watching. I watch each episode with a fine tooth comb, basically, and it kind of takes away some of that “hours long movie” magic, you know? Anyways, I’m excited about watching new episodes and that hasn’t happened for a while…

  • SnazzyO

    I’m not quite as big a fan of the Faith arc on Buffy (SOOOOOO much more love for Faith arc on AtS from me) but I can’t say your lists surprise me.

    I put Primeval/Hush/Restless at the top. Pangs is next because it’s hilarious as well as A New Man. After that, it’s a bit of a blur but general sentiment of Scoobie-feels episodes are higher than Initiative episodes works for me.

    Top “moments”
    1. The Primeval spell in total plus Buffy turning rockets into birds
    2. The attack on Ft Giles with the calvary on the bikes and… “You made a Bear. A Bear! Undo It! Undo It!”
    3. When the Gentlemen are smiling and entering the room while waving around the knife.
    4. When Giles chases Maggie Walsh as a proto Fyarl demon.
    5. Giles slideshow in Hush to classical music
    6. Drunk Giles in the Yoko factor.
    7. Miss Kitty Fantastico being told by Willow she has a catnip problem (I practically get Type II diabetes watching that scene).
    8.Buffy!Faith in front of the mirror making faces and saying “because it’s wrong!”
    9. The credits for “Superstar”
    10. I am, you know, “yours.”

    • I think Faith’s episodes on Angel were great but in a different way. I mentioned that I thin Faith had to carry out that piece of her arc on the darker, more serious Angel. But I think the piece of it all on Buffy helps you appreciate what happens on Angel. I couldn’t really separate them out in liking on over the other.

      YOU MADE A BEAR! Is fantastic. I love that line still and a ton of the little moment in Pangs, like Buffy slapping Spike upside the head and all of them looking at her when Xander lets slip that Angel was in town.

      The credits for Superstar were inspired. I love them so much.

      Excellent moments. It almost makes me forget how much some of the stuff in between all these moments sucked!

      • Disa Marnesdottr

        Undo it! Undo it!

  • Jojo

    Kirst – Pangs, and Something Blue – yeah, I think we are closest of all reviewers. And on to season 5, which has wonderful highs and some lows. There is a contrivance that beats all contrivances in the series – one which left all of fandom going ‘WTF’. There is joy, sorrow, pain, laughter, stupidity, UST and at least one amazing dream….and I can’t wait for Monday.

    • When I make these lists, I pretty much know that me and Sweeney will be the closest. D:

      I can’t wait for Monday either. You guys are really building up the anticipation…

  • wolf

    I think when it comes to ranking episodes mine fall fairly in line with Kirsti’s. I do like the silly episodes or the ones that focus on random fun, at least in this season, but that could be due to having re-watched the show so much that plot and things needing to make sense matter less to me. Yay for knowing the future and the series in general so well. I’ve never actually tried to rank episodes in each season or overall because I hate trying to sort out the things I love most and the things I hate most, especially because I’m fairly meh about most of the stuff I dislike in Buffy so sorting it out is more effort than I’d want to put into it. Anyway, YAY s4 is over!

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      Team Silly Episodes FTW.

    • How many times have you watched the series? I wonder if this comes from a Team Feels thing or from a repeat viewer thing. I do like the campy episodes, I promise! When it comes to ranking them, though, the ones that stick out most to me, though are either ones that invoked strong emotions or significantly furthered the plot or characters in some way. That may just be because at this point, I’m watching for plot! Repeat viewers come back more for fun, yeah? Even Sweeney is only on her second watch and her lists tend to match up more with mine. Maybe this is a thing?

      YAY! IT’S OVER.

      • wolf

        Oh Lord, um, I really couldn’t say? Like I watched it when it started showing in my country and then got very absorbed into it throughout my teens. I usually watched the re-runs on TV, of which there were many. I’m pretty sure the syfy channel is still showing it. When I was at college I bought the dvds after a few years of not seeing it and then forced my roommates to watch the whole series with me. I’ve watched a few eps with fellow buffy fans online where we sync up our episodes and then just comment on them to each other which is tons of fun. So I really can’t add it up, but it’s fair to say more than twice for sure 😉

        Hmm, I had thought it might be a thing. That having seen it so many times feels and plot just take a backseat for me now, but like I said it might also just be this season. Feelsy eps do take priority in the later seasons for sure at least I think they do.

        I guess seasons 1-3 are pretty dated now and knowing where the characters end up could have an effect on how I view it. As I’m sure you know by now, the Bangel romance ran its course for me back in season 2 the first time I watched the show so that could be why feels aren’t big with me for those seasons either. And Season 4 is just terrible for the most part so I just take the fun where I can get it despite contrivance.

        Hard to say for sure why the fun episodes take priority since I still haven’t analysed what my ranking is for the later seasons. Having said that, I can guarantee that my season 5 top eps are feels related for sure. Which I’m sure doesn’t count as a spoiler since you are used to FEELS on this show by now.

  • Jojo

    Can we make two Mondays a week, and balance that by making two Thursdays a week – cuz we really don’t need a weekend. Weekends are boring. Uhm…but only on the internet because everyone will hurt me otherwise.

    • I think SS is the only place where two Mondays a week would be considered a desirable thing. Quick, hide, before the mob comes to get you…

  • So, this is a little off topic — for which I apologize — but for anyone who has Tara/Amber Benson love, watch this video about the newest project she’s in (Lor, they show a scene from a future Buffy episode, but I don’t think it spoils anything.): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNKexxhsn5k

    • Also, to be slightly more on-topic, I can’t wait to see your reviews of season 5! I have serious love for some of the episodes, but I remember being a little WTF about the season-arc at first… It’ll be interesting to see what Lor will have to say, lol.
      I haven’t really ranked the episodes in a season, but I’m tempted to go back and do that now, after reading your lists.

      • I hope what I have to say ends up being interesting. 😉

    • HELP ME SING. 🙂

      She’s adorable.

      • She really, really is. OBVIOUSLY, I had to share. ^_^

  • Disa Marnesdottr

    My daughter and I watched season four Buffy commentary from the DVDs together. The commentator was describing the relationship between Buffy and Riley in all the typical ways–normal, healthy, all-American, wholesome–and daughter was somewhat skeptical. She kept talking back to the television. This was the last thing she had to say about that.

    Buffy Commentator: Riley’s the guy who won’t stop coming. He just keeps coming.

    Disa’s Brilliant Daughter: We saw that episode.

    • A+
      Disa’s Brilliant Daughter is brilliant.

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