Sunday, November 04, 2007

The End of Buffy Season Four

21 October Part II

As I type this, I am farting deadly. I just wanted to warn you.

When last we left our overweight heroes, we had just gotten caught up on "Angel" episodes, and Mr. Rish Outfield was ready to ride off into the sunset.

And then we put in the "Buffy" DVD again.

First up was "The Yoko Factor," written by Doug Petrie, who also wrote "Bad Girls," "Revelations," and "In the Dark," among other episodes. In this one, Spike is hanging out with Adam, the DemonCyborgGuy, and is complaining about how tough Buffy is to defeat, despite his having killed two Slayers in the past. What makes Buffy stronger, apparently, is her little cadre of friends and partners. This gives Adam the idea to separate Buffy from her friends, which Spike volunteers to do in exchange for Adam getting rid of the pesky chip in his head.

Speaking of her friends, Willow and Tara are getting pretty close, even bandying about the idea of rooming together next year. Willow doesn't think Buffy will care, as she spends most of her time with Riley now, and the two friends have grown apart.

Xander goes to Riley's hideout to bring him a change of clothes. Riley mentions Buffy telling him about her past with Angel, prompting Xander to complain about Angel's transformation after his "perfect state of happiness." Whoops, Buffy sort of left out that part.

Spike first goes to talk to Giles, offering to help him procure files from the Initiative in return for a guarantee of clemency (ie, he is never to be slain). He also comments on how Buffy has no more use for Giles, not as a Watcher, not as a librarian, not as a friend.

Next, Spike talks to Xander, voicing his inner fears that the gang considers him nothing more than comic relief, and that Buffy flat-out considers him useless.

Buffy comes back from L.A., where she was crossing over with "Angel" in the last Faith-centric episode, and is in a bad mood due to Angel's treatment of her. She goes patrolling alone and runs into Forrest (the black dude from the Initiative who also played D.L. on "Heroes"), who's also patrolling, and is somewhat hostile to her. Together, they investigate a cave where, to their surprise, Adam is waiting. They fight.

Buffy has her hands full with the DemonCyborgGuy, but Forrest doesn't stand a chance: he is stabbed by Adam's wrist claws and passes into that dark clearing at the end of the path. Buffy flees the cave, injured.

Spike comes back to Giles's place, having "procured" the Initiative's secret files, and finds Giles drunk and feeling as sorry for himself as Rish Outfield on a Tuesday afternoon. When Willow arrives to decrypt the files, Spike comments that Buffy seems to have developed an aversion to witchcraft. Willow doesn't understand, and Spike elaborates that Buffy commented that she disapproves of what Willow and Tara are doing together. As Spike designed, of course Willow realises what Buffy was talking about.

Riley hears the Initiative guys on their radio talking about running into a particularly tough vampire, and surfaces to lend a hand. He arrives at their location to find Angel there, wiping the walls with Initiative grunts. Riley thinks Angel has gone bad again (and all that entails) and they fight. Angel, upon discovering that this is Buffy's new boyfriend, fights particularly hard, and eventually leaves him a bloodied heap in an alleyway.

Angel goes to Buffy's dorm and confronts her, wanting to apologise for what he said in "Sanctuary." Riley bursts in on them and Angel is more than happy to stomp on him a second time* until Buffy breaks it up. She tells Angel she's sorry too for how things went over on his show and that she accepts his apology. Angel leaves, but mentions he doesn't like Riley and will be happy when he doesn't have to see Marc Blucas's name on the opening credits anymore.

When he's gone, Riley tells Buffy he was afraid Buffy had slept with Angel again, and that he lost his soul, and that, well, he'll have to go back to dating vapid, party-friendly freshmen who can't take him in a fight. Buffy clears things up, telling Riley that she loves him (not Angel), and oh yeah, I almost forgot, your pal Forrest is dead.

Riley rushes off, and Buffy returns to Giles's place. She finds everyone there angry at her, Giles is completely sloshed, and Willow is incensed that Buffy has turned everyone against her for her lesbianic tendencies. Neither Xander nor Giles were aware of this, and both respond . . . well, poorly. Buffy is furious at this reception, and tells the whole gang that she's better off without them.

She takes off alone to confront Adam.

But Adam, in his underground lair, is not alone. He has been joined by Riley, who he's been expecting. The end.

A good episode, with lots of interesting character dynamics. Angel's presence felt really contractual, really obligatory, really "you scratch my back, I'll shave yours," but that's ultimately alright. Giles was quite funny in this one, especially when drunk (when Willow talks about the nature of her relationship with Tara, you can hear him moan, "Bloody hell," in the background). I believe Anya was in this episode, but I don't really remember now.

It leads us directly into "Primeval," which we watched immediately afterward. We couldn't not watch it, since we had a cliffhanger, and DVDs are just so easy to keep watching. "Primeval" was written by David Fury, who, besides being the son of the longtime head of SHIELD, wrote "Doomed," "Helpless," "Go Fish," this season's Halloween episode, "Angel" episodes "Parting Gifts" and "Lonely Hearts," and some episodes of "Lost" and "24."

Riley has gone to Adam's side due to a chip that Professor Walsh implanted in his chest. It seems she considered him like a son and wanted her two "sons" to be together. Riley tries to fight it, but the chip pretty much controls him.** Adam takes Riley to a secret lab at the Initiative, where the zombified Professor Walsh has transformed Forrest into a DemonCyborgGuy too. Riley is to be next.

Xander still feels sorry for himself, but Anya makes him feel better. Willow too feels better when she decrypts the stolen Initiative files. They reveal Adam's plan: free all the demons held captive in the Initiative, pit them against the soldiers, and then sew all the pieces together to make a bunch of DemonCyborgGuys.

Buffy goes into the caves and finds Spike there, looking for Adam to take his chip out. She talks to him and realises that he is the reason her friends turned against her. Buffy gets her four main pals together and apologises. She needs her friends to defeat Adam. Only with Giles's language skills, Willow's witchcraft skills, Buffy's fighting skills, and Xander's smartass skills, can she do this.

The four of them sneak into the Initiative (rapelling down the elevator shaft), and are promptly caught by the skinflint colonel and his soldiers. He refuses to listen to their warnings about Adam, but then the power goes out, and all the containment units (ie, cages) open up, and like Lindsay Lohan's bedroom, the place is awash with demons.

Everybody fights. Buffy and Co. take advantage of the turmoil to get to Room 314, where Professor Walsh created Adam. They block the door behind them and discover a secret entrance to a secret laboratory. Giles, Xander, and Willow sit down and begin a ritual, while Buffy goes in and confronts Adam and his cronies. Forrest attacks her and Riley can only watch as his new lover, Buffy, fights his old one, Forrest (oh wait, I think they were just friends. Never mind).

Finally, Riley is able to grab a piece of glass and cut into his chest, removing his inhibitor chip. He leaps into action, making Professor Walsh dead again and taking over Buffy's struggle with Forrest so she can go after Adam.

Adam, it would seem, is even more powerful than he used to be: he's transformed his right hand into a combination hand/claw/knife/gun/dildo/rocket launcher. As he fires it at Buffy, the trio in the other room complete their ritual, and suddenly, Buffy has become Neo, only with more acting talent and glowing yellow eyes. She stops Adam's bullets and turns the rocket into harmless doves. She strides over to take out Adam.

In the next room, demons manage to break through the door, and one descends on the three who are in a trance, channeling their energy into the Buffster. At the last second, who should kill the demon and save them but Spike.

Buffy, immensely powerful, takes down Adam with very little difficulty, plunging her hand into his chest and tearing out his . . . what did they call it? His uranium power core. Adam, the CyborgDemonGuy, and big villain of Season Four, is dead.

As our heroes get to their feet, military bigwigs are surveying the damage via closed-circuit. Everywhere are the bodies of soldiers, demons, vampires, and Ewoks. The men in charge deem the Initiative a failure, and declare the project be terminated, the building be demolished, and all records destroyed. The end.

This was, to these green eyes, a riveting and satisfying end to a season full of storylines. Many new characters were introduced during Season Four, the majorest being Riley Finn and Tara (does Tara have a last name?), and though I felt a bit of a dip in quality during the year, there were just as many laughs and scares as I've become used to (a huge portion of those in "Hush," the scariest episode of the season). And speaking of "Hush," I think I'm going to declare it the best episode of the season, with "Who Are You?" a close second. Both were fantastic episodes, and make me want to buy this season's set. On the downside, with the addition of new characters, there were some, Giles usually, who didn't have much to do throughout the year. Also, there wasn't an abundance of emotion, I felt, in Season Four, but maybe I'm forgetting something.

Ah yes, I am forgetting something. And that would be "Restless," the Season Four finale, written and directed by Joss Whedon.

After their ordeal last episode, the four show principals go to Buffy's mom's house to watch a stack of videos*** and relax. Almost immediately, they fall asleep. At this point, tyranist expressed his worry that we were about to witness "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"'s first clip show. Instead, each character has a dream that lasts an act, and all are in danger from a mysterious force.

The dreams are inconsistently surreal, and may have deeper meaning, but may just be the awesome lyrical symbolism that made up that classic of modern cinema JUGULAR WINE.

Willow's dream is first, and she has the good-old actor's nightmare where a play is being performed, but she's not prepared. She's back in high school, dressed in her old nerdy clothes, and people are making fun of her, among them Xander and Oz.

Xander dreams that Buffy's mom is trying to seduce him, that Giles and Spike are the best of friends on playground swings, that Willow and Tara are lipstick lesbians who invite him to participate, that Giles is trying to explain something to him in French, and that Principal Snyder is Colonel Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW. Oh, and repeatedly, something is trying to get at him in his basement.

Giles dreams of his sort-of-girlfriend Olivia as his wife, and little girl Buffy as his daughter. They're at a carnival, and Spike is a celebrity. Anya is a stand-up comedian at the Bronze, and he gets up and starts to sing a song, in which he tells the other three about the danger they're in. Then he is attacked by what looks like a head-hunter or aborigine.

They make use of most of the standing "Buffy" sets, even showing how the high school set and Xander's basement set are connected, in the way you could only do in dreams.

Buffy's dream has all sorts of effed-up stuff in it, like Joyce being walled-up at the school, and Riley playing cushion forts with Adam in human form. Buffy finds herself in the desert. There, she faces their attacker: the very first Slayer, from presumably thousands of years ago, whose power they tapped into in the last episode. The Slayer tells Buffy that she shouldn't have her friends, that she's stronger alone, and Buffy tells her that her friends are everything to her, and she'll never abandon them.

The first-ever slayer seems satisfied by this, and all awaken from their dreams unharmed. Buffy goes into a bedroom that is not her own and hears a voice telling her to be back before Dawn. The end.

And at last, it has happened. While you and many like you may disagree, I found "Restless" to be the first truly awful "Buffy" episode since I started blogging them. I've often complained about the lousiness of the first season, but it may be that none of them were quite as bad as this one. I can't say for certain.

Yes, Giles singing was nice, and yes, there were a few laughs, especially in Xander's dream, but mostly, it was a totally pointless show, with no development, plot advancement, or milestones, and a lot of humourous moments that were not humourous.

This was an unbelievably indulgent episode. I almost wish it had been a clip show.

It was well-regarded, though, and I've heard it said that, until ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND came out, it was the best depiction of dreams in film. I know this is a popular show among fans, because, in July, I was invited to go to a two-episode screening of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on the big screen. The two episodes chosen were, naturally, "Once More With Feeling," and this one. When I mentioned the title to people in line, they all knew what "Restless" was and were enthusiastic about it.

The screening was so popular that it sold out, a second show was added, it sold out, and a third show was added, late that night. Having missed out on the first two, I chose to go home instead. But my point is, a lot of people really like this episode.

Either that, or it was chosen because Giles sings in this one too.

I've heard a lot of Trekkers say that, if you're a real fan of "Star Trek: Enterprise," you simply ignore the actual last episode, and consider the second-to-last one the series finale. While I don't feel that strongly about the last "Enterprise" episode, I'd certainly be wont to consider "Primeval" the last episode of "Buffy"'s Season 4, pretending "Restless" didn't ever happen.

But hey, that's just me, and I'm certainly looking forward to November, when we'll get to Season 5.

Rish "The Vampire Watcher" Outfield

*Dammit, I'm doing it again: siding with Angel, a character I despise, instead of Riley. Oh, alright, I'll admit it. I don't despise Angel anymore. It just isn't fair.

**Just like evil controls me and Dr. Pepper controls tyranist.

***Not DVDs? Is there a reason for this? Was Apocalypse Now not yet released on DVD in 2000?

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