Buffy the Vampire Slayer

End of Season 4 (4.12-4.22)

4.12 A New Man

The issue of Giles not particularly having anything to do is finally to the fore.

BUFFY: Giles was the librarian at my high school.

RILEY: Ah, I've seen the library... it's gone downhill since you left.

GILES: Yes. I'm embarrassed to say that I actually miss it at times.

RILEY: So, you're retired?

GILES: I'm sorry?!

RILEY: Or... you're working somewhere else now?

GILES: Well, not - er - sort of between projects.

We all miss the library - those were simpler times. Mr. Giles doesn't get on well with Prof. Walsh, which in Buffy is always a strong signal that she's doomed.

GILES: Oh, she's awful. She said I was an absent male role model. Absent my arse.

As usual with episodes about Giles, Ethan Rayne is on hand. Also, Willow and Tara do magic together for the first time, which without being over-emphasised, doesn't go as planned. Willow advises Buffy to tell Giles.

WILLOW: He's feeling neglected and out-of-the-loopy.

Almost in passing, we hear of "314" scaring demons. Giles gets his revenge on Prof Walsh, but that just gets the Initiative after him as well as Buffy.

RILEY: We'll do whatever you need.

BUFFY: Thanks. I just wish I knew what I needed. I keep thinking "let's ask Giles"

Buffy actually comes closer to losing Giles in this episode than any other for quite a while before or since. This too isn't over-played, which for me just makes the idea even more scary.

4.13 The I in Team

A pre-credits poker game ends up highlighting the questionable motives of the Initiative (the I in episode).

ANYA: I choose to feel threatened.

I've started to get a happy when I see "Guest Starring Amber Benson". She brings another dimension to Buffy, and not just because her character is beautiful, delicate and vulnerable. She isn't recruited into helping the team at every turn (as Cordelia often was, even when she wasn't dating Xander).

WILLOW: Everyone's getting spanked but me.

Willow's scenes with Tara are so nuanced and subtle - a combination of good writing and good acting.

WILLOW: Just the scooby corps, you know? I mean, I could have invited somebody else if I knew it was an open free-for-all.

Even the scene where Buffy and Riley Do It is reasonably subtle, unless you remember Faith.

BUFFY: So, what d'you want to do now?

Meanwhile, the rest of the scooby corps is helping Spike... because, er...

SPIKE: You're the goody good guys! You're the bloody freaking cavalry.

Buffy wakes up and isn't alone, for the first time. I think I remember the feeling.

RILEY: What's the matter? You weren't expecting to see me?

4.14 Goodbye Iowa

BUFFY: That probably would've sounded more commanding if I wasn't wearing my yummy sushi pajamas.

For a natural leader, Buffy does have a tendency to fail to understand people.

RILEY: Maggie's dead. Happy now?

BUFFY: How can you ask me that?

"How can you ask me that" is a complete failure to try and understand what someone is saying to you. I find it irritating. I'm not sure this is the first time Buffy says it but I'm sure it's not the last.

Willow hopes Tara knows she doesn't just visit her for the spells, but she'd like to do another spell this afternoon.

TARA: The Goddess Thespia? Are you sure we're ready for that?

Tara sabotages the spell to locate demons, for reasons we don't know yet, but one might guess it's demon-related. She's not going in the same direction as the scoobies and that makes her so much more interesting.

4.15 This Year's Girl

"Previously" is getting longer and longer. And then there's another interesting dream sequence...

FAITH: Little sis coming. I know. So much to do before she gets here.

It's fantastic - two former regular characters who haven't been seen for 15 episodes are suddenly having a picnic together. This isn't the way TV shows usually work.

RILEY: I just suck at the whole grey-area thing.

That's an alarmingly frank summary of Riley's character.

WILLOW: How'd you handle the Angely bits?

Willow still talks like she did in high school. It's very endearing.

WILLOW: She's all, I'm wicked cool, I'm five by five!

Maybe this episode should have come earlier in the season - I think it's the show's best anchor back to the high school era. But the long gap does add to its impact.

SPIKE: Can't any one of your damn little scooby club at least try to remember that I hate you all?

Scooby is really being mentioned a lot nowadays. Also, good reminder that Spike has no soul, easy to forget when he's cute and funny and kind of on their side.

MAYOR: The world has gone and changed on you. I wish I could make the world a better place for you to wake up

This scene is vital - a reminder that Faith was never evil, she just allied herself with the Mayor for her own protection, and found genuine affection. This is key to changing her direction.

And as if bringing back Faith and Mayor Wilkins, we get Buffy's mom too! Giving us characters we're invested in makes the episode more interesting, more exciting when they're threatened, and reminds us why we loved Buffy, especially Season 3. At the same time, when you think about it, you realise how un-invested we are in the new characters. Tara's a secret, Riley's two-dimensional, Prof Walsh is dead already and the rest of the Initiative guys we hardly know. High school had plenty of non-scoobies like Cordelia, Harmony, Jonathan, Snyder and other recurring staff and students. UC Sunnydale is looking rather thin.

4.16 Who Are You?

There's a lot of fun in this one watching Buffy act like Faith. Also every line of plot gets advanced - Adam becomes a leader of vampires. Tara is still Willow's secret, but -

TARA: I am, you know.


TARA: Yours.

Tara is also handily the one - not any of the scoobies - to spot that Buffy's not herself.

FAITH: Oz is out of the picture? I never saw two people so much in love. She just couldn't get enough of old Oz.

Nice to be reminded of this, as Willow herself seems to be neither dwelling on her past nor trying to make any sense of her present.

Buffy gets to drive a getaway van.

BUFFY: Okay, I'm good at this…

Switching bodies was a great twist, but an even better one is that Faith encounters nothing but kindness from everyone Buffy knows (except Spike) and it ends up changing her.

VAMPIRE: You're the slayer.

FAITH: The one and only.

4.17 Superstar

I think they've been tweaking the opening credits in every episode this season, but this time they're significantly different.

XANDER: We knocked 'em dead. Which they already were.

WILLOW: We knocked 'em deader.

Jonathan helps with slayage, and before heading to the Initiative to reveal Adam's secret power source, stops at the Espresso Pump to counsel Buffy.

BUFFY: There's no way he could know. I mean you don't just look at someone and say: Hey that's not your body, get out of that body with your hands up!

I do find Tara's role as Jonathan's most adoring fan quite uncomfortable though.

BUFFY: someone could wish the whole world to be different right? That's possible?

ANYA: Sure, alternate realities. You could have, like, a world without shrimp. Or with, you know, nothing but shrimp.

When the monster is defeated and the wish is undone, one of his posters turned into a Dingoes Ate My Baby poster. Almost as though we're not done with Oz yet.

4.18 Where the Wild Things Are

GILES: As a rule, demons have no empathy for any of the species other than their own. In fact, most think of vampires as abominations. Mixing with human blood and all.

They theorize that it could be Adam bringing them together.

TARA: So he's, um, bridging the gap between the races.

WILLOW: Huh! Like Martin Luther King.

At this point the Adam plot has dutifully been moved forward and is forgotten about for the rest of the episode. We get a moment where one of the characters verges on questioning the credibility of the show's world - I'm reminded of Cordelia asking Giles how many times he's been knocked out.

WILLOW: Ghost boy. Drowning in a tub. I - I tried to save him, but, being a ghost already, well, I was way too late.

XANDER: A ghost? What's the deal? Is every frat on this campus haunted? And if so, why do people keep coming to these parties? Because it's not the snacks.

It turns out Giles can sing. Really well.

WILLOW: Now I remember why I used to have such a crush on him!

Funny how that never came up earlier.

Xander, as always, is the one to rush in to save Buffy. But things are more complex now. Tara's powerful magicks are needed too. Giles, as ever, comes up with knowledge of what's going on. Xander and Anya do teamwork too. Actually this is an exceedingly rare episode where Buffy doesn't defeat anything, being too busy shagging throughout, but is the one to be rescued.

4.19 New Moon Rising

ANYA: Everyone's uncomfortable now.

Kind of summarises season 4. And growing up.

OZ: I'm a different person than when I left. And I can be what you need now.

Oh dear. Like many a lover, Oz isn't quite right about what his partner really needs. Which is awfully hard on him.

BUFFY: You sounded like Mr. Initiative. Demons bad, people good.

RILEY: Something wrong with that theorem?

BUFFY: There's different degrees of-

RILEY: Evil?

We didn't really need any more hitting over the head with Riley's two-dimensional world view. We've been aware that there are degrees of evil since seeing Angel's tortured soul, or since seeing Spike cheerfully reveal where his prisoners are hidden because he can't be bothered with them any more.

WILLOW: He said he was gonna find a cure, and he did. In Tibet.

BUFFY: Oh my god, I can't believe it! ...Okay, I'm all with the woo-hoo here, and you're not.

WILLOW: No, there's "woo", and "hoo." But there's "uh-oh," and "why now?" And... "it's complicated".

BUFFY: Why complicated?

WILLOW: It's complicated... because of Tara.

Beautiful coming-out speech (within the limitations of not being able to say it on American TV), beautifully played. But because we're much more invested in Oz, their goodbye is even more moving.

WILLOW: I was waiting. I feel like some part of me will always be waiting for you. Like if I'm old and blue-haired, and I turn the corner in Istanbul and there you are, I won't be surprised. Because... you're with me, you know?

4.20 The Yoko Factor

SPIKE: You know, for someone who's got Watcher on his resumé, you might want to cast an eye to the front door every now and again.

That actually is a bit surprising, as it's been pointed out several times this season.

XANDER: I help out with all kinds of stuff. I have skills... and stratagems! I'm very... help me out?

ANYA: He's a Viking in the sack.

Spike quite effectively sows discord between the scoobies, which makes a lot more sense than him helping them rescue Oz in the previous episode. Xander sows discord between Buffy and Riley without Spike's help.

ANGEL: You actually sleep with this guy?!

BUFFY: Okay, that's enough! I see one more display of testosterone poisoning and I will personally put you both in the hospital! Anybody think I'm exaggerating?

ANGEL: He started...

The tension is never that great though, because although we know that Buffy will always love Angel, we also know he's not coming back.

RILEY: Didn't you?

BUFFY: No. Of course not. How can you even ask me that?

There's a four-way scene between Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles echoing the days of earlier seasons before there were various girlfriends having to hide in the bathroom out of the way.

BUFFY: If I was any more open minded about the choices you two make my whole brain would fall out!

With heavy symbolism, Buffy walks out on her friends.

BUFFY: I guess I'm starting to understand why there's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One and her friends.

4.21 Primeval

WILLOW: Diabolical, yet... gross.

XANDER: Does anybody else miss the Mayor, I just wanna be a big snake?

They come up with a plan that involves them all.

GILES: Xander, just because this is never going to work, there's no need to be negative.

The four of them have a "finest hour" moment, battling their way across the chaos in the Initiative - Buffy fighting, Willow ducking and diving, Xander giving covering fire and Giles bringing the magic gourd.

WILLOW: The power of the Slayer and all who yield it.
Last to ancient first, we invoke thee.

Although maybe that's their finest hour.

ADAM: You can't You can't last much longer.

BUFFY: We can. We are forever.

BUFFY: Sha me-en-dan. Gesh-toog me-en-dan. Zee me-en-den.

By this point, we're wondering how this can be the final showdown when it's not the last episode?

ADAM: How... can you?

BUFFY: You can never hope to grasp the source of our power.

4.22 Restless

One of my favourite episodes ever. There's so much to unpack (especially in hindsight).

WILLOW: Did you get anything less heart-of-darknessy?

Willow's dream is a lot like her nightmare in Nightmares and also has strong echoes of The Puppet Show. Clearly she still has fears about being a powerless nerd. But there are also new elements, like the foreshadowing dialogue with Tara and the shot of Miss Kitty Fantastico prowling - I think she represents the Slayer. Tara remarks that "she's not all grown yet" - but she is coming.

BUFFY: Well, you must have done something.

WILLOW: No. I never do anything. I'm very seldom naughty.

But Willow did perform the spell in Primeval and maybe that's why the hunter comes for her first.

BUFFY: I'm way ahead of you, big brother.

Xander's dream, like Willow's is mostly cryptic and fear-driven, and he too clearly feels driven by events, out of his control.

GILES: A watcher scoffs at gravity!

Having Oz and Harmony back in Willow's dream is fun, but Snyder's reappearance is simply brilliant. Funny, but also questioning where Xander is from and where he's going - as Xander says earlier, "you gotta have something".

SNYDER: Are you a soldier?

XANDER: I'm a comfortador.

SNYDER: You're neither.

The scenes where Xander passes in continuous shots from one familiar scene to another are also wonderfully surreal.

Giles' dream is a tangle of fatherhood (Buffy as a child, and Olivia pregnant), and wanting to be a rock star and also resume his role as a watcher.

GILES: Buffy you have a sacred birthright to protect mankind. Don't stick out your elbow.

It's increasingly laboured that whatever's after them is after Giles' brain, having taken Xander's heart and Willow's... something else. But maybe that's necessary to remind us of last week's enjoining spell in which Giles was the mind, Xander was the heart, Willow the spirit, and Buffy the hands.

GILES: Willow, look through the chronicles for some reference to a warrior beast. I've got to warn Buffy, there's every chance she might be next. Xander, help Willow, and try not to bleed on my couch - I've just had it steam-cleaned.

Giles follows the tangled cables, and ends up finding his watch.

GILES: Well, that was obvious.

Buffy's dream is the nicest - drenched in sunlight and without fear (though Giles was much less afraid than Willow and Xander). She seems in control and always keeps focussed on finding her friends.

TARA: You think you know what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun.

BUFFY: I think I need to go find the others.

TARA: Be back before Dawn.

It's revealed that the First Slayer is affronted that Buffy shared the Slayer power with her friends through the enjoining spell.

FIRST SLAYER: The Slayer does not walk in this world.

BUFFY: I walk. I talk, I shop, I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out... and I don't sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends.

FIRST SLAYER: No friends! Just the kill.

Buffy doesn't exactly defeat the first slayer, but does succeed in drawing her into Buffy's world, where she can be ignored.

GILES: Oh, I'm beginning to understand this now. It's all about the journey, isn't it?