Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The College Years

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4

As can be expected, my epic Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch has gone on the back burner a little bit thanks to the new season of TV. But, it’s still going and I’ve now got through the fourth season of the show! Huzzah!

Now I know the fourth season is seen as one of the weakest of the series’ entire run. Mostly down to the big bad of the season – The Initiative and Adam. Yes. I will admit. They weren’t the strongest. But, watching now, it does make sense that something like this should have happened. After all, in the end of season 3 of the show we’re made aware that people are noticing some weird shit that’s going on. Principal Snyder, among others, were well aware of all the dark forces in Sunnydale. Why shouldn’t the US government know too?

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods’ secret underground organisation.

The Initiative

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s The Initiative – secret underground organisation.

It’s funny. Watching season 4 now I couldn’t help but draw parallels to The Cabin in the Woods. Okay, bear with me. It was mostly the visuals. The first time we see The Initiative in comparison to how we’re introduced to that secret organisation in The Cabin in the Woods. I just got the same feeling when I was watching.

The other reason I know season 4 had a lot of flack was Riley Finn. Now let me get on my little soap box and stand up for poor Riley Finn. He had big shoes to fill. Angel was a big part of Buffy’s life. He was the polar opposite of Riley in every single way. And he fit into Buffy’s life perfectly. In my eyes. It was a nice, normal relationship. And Riley, I think he was the man for the job. So, leave Riley alone! Yes, he wasn’t Angel. But, the was the perfect beau for Buffy’s fourth season.

While overall season 4 might be considered weaker among the others, you can’t argue that the fact that it has some of the hands-down best episodes of Buffy.

Evidence #1: Hush

This is a GEM of an episode. Sure, on the surface it’s a stand-alone demon of the week episode. But that’s bullshit, because it is SO much more than that. Silent episode. Haunting use of score music. And one of the most terrifying TV demons you will ever see. The Gentlemen are up there as my favourite demons from the show. Literally, silent and deadly.

Evidence #2: Fear, Itself

Fear, Itself
Halloween episodes of Buffy are usually very strong episodes. Season 4 didn’t disappoint with Fear, Itself. Simultaneously actually horrifying in places while also having one of the funniest pay offs any episode has ever had. Gachnar – ‘They’re all going to abandon you, y’know’.

Evidence #3: This Year’s Girl

This Year's Girl
Faith’s back! Back to bring back the pain to the one person who was, most likely, her only friend – Buffy. It was great to have Faith back and have her storyline move on. Instead of just leaving her in the coma. Though, I think I actually prefer the crossover Angel episodes featuring Faith’s arc. But still, a fantastic bit of TV here.

Evidence #4: The Yoko Factor

The Yoko Factor
I have a couple of reasons why I’m listing this as a great episode of the season. One thing – Angel vs. Riley. I can’t tell you how glad I was to see that showdown. It had to be done! It just HAD to be! Secondly, I loved the Scooby Gang meltdown. It all just blew up with a few choice words from Spike.

Evidence #5: Restless

Up there, with Hush, as one of the all time best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I remember thinking it was an odd way to end the show. The ‘real’ finale, Primeval covered the end of the season’s arc. So why did we need this episode? Why couldn’t the arc have stretched to the last episode? That was me back then. Now. I can watch Restless over and over again and never tire of it. The dream sequences are fantastic and there are just so many layers. Not to mention the whole set up for Dawn.

So there were some brilliant episodes. And yes, some all out bad ones. Top of my list of the worst of season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has to be Where the Wild Things Are. I remember while doing my rewatch I had almost completely blanked the details of this episode out of my head. Wow. It was just … one of the worst of Buffy, EVER.

Season 4 did a good job of developing all of the characters. Most notably, Alyson Hannigan’s Willow. She loses the biggest love of her life (then) in the shape of Seth Green’s Oz and falls in love with Tara. The shy, but somewhat powerful, wicca. That was one bold move, Mr. Whedon. Very bold. And it worked. It was lovely watching the relationship blossom.

Talking of which, that Willow/Oz/Tara arc is probably the only one to have got any tears out of me. As I’ve been documenting each season I’ve been letting you know how much each season has been making me cry. Have to say, I stayed pretty dry throughout season 4. Except Oz’s goodbyes. Both of them. Damn those were tough moments! But other than that, season 4 – light on the tears!

For me, the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t the weakest. It probably stands in line with the seventh season. In the middle somewhere. Good. Some memorable episodes. A lot of STUFF happens. And it moves things forward a considerable amount. As every season of Buffy has a knack for doing.

Oh and another reason to love Buffy’s fourth season? Xander saying this in the first episode of the season (The Freshman – written and directed by title=”Joss Whedon”>Joss Whedon):



  1. Never have been a fan of horror and although this might not be horror I never understood the appeal of vampires either. It’s clear that this was a show you liked quite a bit though 🙂

  2. It takes a strong individual to stand up for Riley… and I’m not one of them! Actually, truth be told, I didn’t mind him as a character at all, but I felt, and still feel in hindsight, that the role could have been better cast. Technically, I can’t deny Blucas fit the bill of the role, but I never connected with his performance and so the whole thing fell a little flat for me.

    Cannot express my love enough for Hush. Perfection. Absolute perfection.

  3. My problem with Riley was that he was just a really boring character. He was never really developed beyond middle america clean cut soldier boy. He was always a bit wishy washy. I love Blucas in Necessary Roughness now though. Its nice to watch him in something and not hate him

    • And that’s why they struggled with what to do with him in season 5. He just had no place. Which is a big shame.

      And yet Anya was perfectly integrated and a really good addition to the cast from season 4 and she was there right til the end.

  4. I liked Riley too, although I started to get a bit tired of the whole masculinity-threatened-by-my-super-slayer-girlfriend routine by season 5.

    • Yeah, I did not like that move in Riley’s storyline in season 5 either. Though guessing that was the only way they could think to write him out?

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