Sweeney: WE’RE DONE. VICTORY DANCE, GUYS.
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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Fear Itself – Such a fantastic Halloween episode. Giles with a chainsaw! Anya being fantastic instead of annoying! Great stuff.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Yoko Factor – The comments section on this post indicate that nearly all of Traumaland agrees: #MEH.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Goodbye, Iowa – Too much Biley. Too much Initiative.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Harsh Light of Day – Ugh. Parker.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beer Bad – MEGA UGH. Never speak of this again.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fear Itself – Despite a slow start, the episode has the distinction of being the first I truly enjoyed of the season.
- New Moon Rising – I have a soft spot for all things Oz, and Alyson Hannigan turned in a great episode.
- Primeval – I debated putting this higher, but there were enough moments of bullshit to keep it right here. The binding spell was A+ though.
- 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.
- Wild at Heart – See above referenced soft spot in addition to great Buffy/Willow moments.
- 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.
- A New Man – Let’s be serious: this is mostly for demon Giles chasing Professor Walsh.
- Something Blue – If you look at it with one eye closed and ignore the non-sensical, you can appreciate the funny bits.
- The Yoko Factor – Solidly middle of the pack as the start of the end of the season.
- 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.
- 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.
- The I in Team – Pretty forgettable save for a 10 second I’MMA KILL YOU speech from Buffy.
- Doomed – An episode that plays Spike’s attempted suicide for laughs has got some issues.
- Goodbye, Iowa – I died of boredom. That’s what I remember.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hush – Yes. Good. Love.
- Fear Itself – Giles with a chainsaw. Need I say more?!
- Pangs – Yes, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But I love the crap out of this episode.
- Something Blue – Okay, FINE. I have an irrational soft spot for the ridiculous episodes in which nothing of real consequence happens. Shut up.
- 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.
- 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.
- A New Man – Giles scaring the Evil Bitch Monster alone makes this episode brilliant.
- 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.
- New Moon Rising – More feels, plus Willow coming out to Buffy and Riley taking his first steps towards becoming a real boy.
- 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.
- Superstar – It has its issues, but it was a fun little tangent. Plus, I kind of love Danny Strong.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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?
- 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.
- The Freshman – Meh. A little too over the top on all the things.
- Living Conditions – The only reason this is as high as it is? All episodes focusing on the Initiative were automatically worse.
- Doomed – Marc Blucas gets added to the credits and my will to keep watching dramatically drops.
- The I In Team – That speech of Buffy’s was definitely the highlight. The rest was a snorefest.
- Goodbye Iowa – Blurgh.
- Beer Bad – Can we all just agree never to talk about this episode again?
- 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!