Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Big Re-Watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 4)

(AKA- The one with Adam)

After the excellence of season 3, it would always be a pretty tough act to follow, no matter what Joss Whedon had up his sleeve. I remember being a little underwhelmed buy the first few episodes when watching it the first time around and during the recent re-watch, and that feeling hasn't ceased. In the fourth season, Buffy and Willow venture into the big bad world of College, Xander tries to find himself a steady job and survive living in his parents basement, Oz exits, Spike re-enters, soon to be chipped by 'The Initiative' and two of the worst characters in the history of the show are introduced...but the season does have some stand out moments, including some very quiet monsters of the week...and you better believe Giles cleans his glasses, and Xander says 'Avengers Assemble' Hi-oh!

It is easy to pan this season for its weaknesses- the undercover-military-demon-hunting-super-secret-club-of- kickass-army-dudes rubbed me the wrong way and in essence diluted the somewhat exclusivity of the Scoobie gangs M.O. and seems purely to be a vehicle to shoe horn in Riley- a rather forgettable beefcake who Buffy swoons for, and a place to keep 'Adam'- a half machine/demon/human Frankenstein rip-off  hybrid under wraps until the last few episode to fight our demon slaying heroine. The 'Initiative' are also responsible for also 'chipping' Spike soon after he swaggers into town again. This action ultimately neuters Spike and drains quite a lot of the fun out of one the shows most loved and entertaining characters in the show. And the less said about Tara, the better (I will get to her in the season five review)

HOWEVER, season four does have its charms, mainly many of the monster of the week episodes. 'Hush' is probably one of the most famous episodes of the show, and one of the best. It always hovers at the top of polls for best episode and rightly so. Written and Directed by Joss himself, it is a truly stunning episode of prime time television. I could go on about how it harks back classic fairy tales and addresses the importance of community, language and how scary the 'Gentlemen' are, but I won't. If I was to sit someone down to try and get them into the show, Hush would be one of the essential episodes I would make them watch.
There is also much charm and entertainment to be found in the Halloween episode, 'Fear, Itself' in which the gang find themselves in a haunted house that comes to life and slowly picks off frat boys, and we also see Anya dressed up as a bunny. 'Beer Bad' has some of the funniest moments in the show when Buffy and some pretentious college boys are reduced to stupid cavemen through the drinking too much beer which has been spiked by the landlord of the Sunnydale college student bar.

Towards the end of the season, the impending face-off between Adam and Buffy kicks off in the penultimate episode and boy, its a good one. This is the Scoobie gang joining forces like never before to help the Slayer take down Adam. With the help of Giles, Xander and Willow combining forces with a spell, Buffy takes on Adam with all her might and I must say, in pretty impressive style.

The last episode 'Restless' is a little talked about but excellent episode of the show and a great conclusion to a rather average (but not totally awful) season. Each of the gang take a trip into their own psyche in dreams that showcase and reveal their doubts and feelings for the future, and the Slayer. An achievement both technically and in story telling, it bodes well for the fifth season... 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Big Re-Watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 3)

(AKA- the best one)

By the time Buffy The Vampire Slayer was going  into its third season, it had garnered a massive cult audience, and a fair share of  critical praise for its blend of action, humour and well thought out and original storytelling. If there was any pressure on Joss Whedon and the other writers to live up to expectations, they certainly didn't let it show in this season. For me, it is this season that progresses the show from being very good watch to an immensely enjoyable watch. So the question again, as with seasons 1 & 2, is it still good? is it still my favourite season? Short answer- Yes, long answer...

This is the season that made me a big fan of Buffy. All the ingredients of what made the show great were amped up and were delivered episode after excellent episode. The main arc of the season is the strongest of them all, and the monster of the week episodes continue to deliver enjoyable bad guy fodder for the Slayer  and her scoobie gang to overcome. Angel returns for some more handsome brooding and caressing Buffy's face, Oz is a fully fledged member of the gang now, Giles cleans his glasses some more and the show finds some Faith...


In the first episode of the season we find our heroine living in a dingy L.A apartment , trying to forget the earth shattering events of season two, but after killing a few baddies and realising that Sunnydale is her real home, she returns, but its a bumpy ride settling back into the scoobie gang and all things that were so familiar to her, and with Faith turning up, it's not going to get easier for her.

With Giles being stripped of his watcher duties and replaced buy Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, an even more stereotypical English upper class buffon takes charge of watcher duties for both Buffy and Faith. however Giles still manages to hang around for the season and help out with the gang when it comes to beating the bad guys. Throughout the shows entire run, it is often Giles that steals the show in many episodes and this season is no exception to this, especially in one of the funniest episodes, 'Bad Candy' In which the adults of Sunnydale are reduced to the behaviour of  rebellious teenagers, thanks to the meddling of everyone's favourite sly bastard, Ethan Rayne. It's Giles and his shenanigans with Buffy's mother Joyce (excellently played by Kristine Sutherland) who have the most memorable moments of this episode and a real highlight of the season.

The Buffy/Angel relationship once again takes centre stage in a few episodes and proves that Joss Whedon can also write and direct emotional, heart felt scenes. With the return of Angel from a dimension of  unspeakable torture and subsequent guilt trips that he gets from the 'First Evil' emotions run high for both he and Buffy and by the end of the season a tough but rather inevitable decision had to be made to let them both move on with there lives.
Relationships between all of the main characters are put under strain, Xander and Angel as usual are at loggerheads with each other, Faith and Buffy inevitably lock stakes and results in one of the best fight scenes of the entire show.

The big bad of the season in the form of the mayor of Sunnydale (played by Harry Groener) who, with the help of a certain slayer in town has grand plans for bringing down not just Buffy and the scoobies but all of Sunnydale. After about twenty episodes of the Mayor talking about and planning, he finally attacks on the Sunnydale high graduation ceremony. This leads to Buffy revealing her secret of Slayerness to everyone (kinda...just to the students on campus) and rallies them to help her fight the mayor and his cohort in a massive battle in the last episode. Needless to say, like the rest of the season it is a solid entertaining action packed finale worthy of being called one of the best episodes in the shows history. 

Where now for our merry band of scoobs? after graduation, it is the big bad world the have to face now, how will they cope without the safety net of the library? will Buffy find another love? can the show continue to be as impressive and enjoyable to watch? only season 4 can tell us...