Buffy 4×14: Goodbye Iowa

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: David Solomon | Aired: 02/15/2000]

“The I in Team” [4×13] succeeded primarily because it focused on character development rather than the shakey plot arc of the season. This episode, on the other hand, focuses nearly completely on the plot arc and is greatly hurt by it. When BtVS episodes decide to drop away the focus from the characters, they better have a strong plot to make up for it. Unfortunately for much of the rest of S4, there isn’t a strong plot to fall back on. While the episode suffers, it doesn’t quite flounder. The scenes displaying Riley’s increasing withdrawl symptoms are very well done and there’s some timely humor mixed in. The plot isn’t a mess only because everyone’s still confused about what is happening, and the pieces set into motion during “The I in Team” [4×13] are still being sorted out.

Before I say anything else, I want to announce that Buffy’s yummy shushi speech is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. Buffy is so cute here!! That speech alone gave the episode 5 points more than it would have been without it. Okay, back to the analysis. Like I mentioned in my review of the previous episode, Adam’s inquisitive nature about himself and his surroundings gets old very quickly. In fact, it begins to wear thin before the end of the episode. I think the writers are using his questioning to cover up his lack of an interesting personality. As an extension of this, his introduction to Buffy is so-so. I admit it’s always fun to watch a tough new demon toss Buffy around a bit, but Adam just doesn’t strike any fear in me. Maybe the stupid floppy drive in his chest is absorbing all the fear right out of him. Buffy’s subsequent worrying about Adam seems pretty contrived as well. I mean, she only fought him once and didn’t know what he was. I think it’s a bit soon to be saying “I could barely fight him. I-it was like Maggie designed him to be the ultimate warrior. He’s smart and fast.” He didn’t look very fast to me, and his intelligence is also yet to be seen from Buffy’s perspective.

Aside from the introduction of Adam, the focus is on two things: the Scoobies’ entrapment in Xander’s basement and Riley’s withdrawls. In order to make sure the Initiative can’t find any of them, the Scoobies all hang out in Xander’s basement for some amusing times. Giles wakes up to a mirror ball spinning in his face and loud noises coming from the other side of the room. There he finds the girls (Buffy, Willow, and Anya) all snuggled up together cutely watching cartoons. Turning off the TV, he isn’t amused. Buffy gets to talking about how Riley isn’t quite Joe Normal like she wanted. Unbeknownst to her right now, he is actually in the process of becoming Joe Normal as the drugs finish leaving his system. Riley’s not going to have an easy time giving up being physically enhanced with Buffy as his girlfriend. These problems are all addressed early in S5. Amusingly, later in the episode Xander tries to take advantage of an opporunity to kiss Buffy! This tells us that Xander is not in love with Anya yet (though he does care about her, as “Hush” [4×10] proved), and that he still has the hots for Buffy. He’s wanted to kiss her from the moment he saw her in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] !

Riley’s slow decline into complete drug withdrawl is really well done and acted by Marc Blucas. This is the best and most subtle acting I’ve seen him do on BtVS up to this point. The scene where he’s pointing a gun at the old lady, wondering if she’s a vampire or not (by the way, why would an old lady be hanging out at a demon bar? Maybe she is a demon and Riley has a point), is fantastic. As Buffy points out at the end of the episode, Riley’s entire world is coming apart. He doesn’t know if he’s on the right side anymore and things have become ‘gray’ where they used to be black and white. This is another representation of what the Scoobies are just starting to go through as they continue to grow up. These shades of gray will be addressed with growing intensity during the next few seasons.

I was very pleased that Riley was getting the drugs through his food, not from those vitamins he was taking in the previous episode. All in all, this is a passable episode which focuses on plot rather than character development. Adam isn’t terribly terrifying and the problems and mistakes of the Initiative arc (which I described in great detail in my review of “The I in Team” [4×13] ) come into sharp focus. Riley’s decline into madness due to withdrawl is convincing and everything in Xander’s basement is hilarious. And oh yeah, Buffy’s yummy sushi speech is pure gold!


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Spike telling Buffy that she has tragic taste in men.
+ The whole group admitting Spike has a point about Riley’s involvement in the Initiative.
+ Spike’s hilariously goofy “thumbs up” at the thought of Riley killing Buffy.
+ Giles saying Anya has Wagnerian snoring. In “Chosen” [7×22] Anya snores quite loudly. Cool.
+ Forrest smashed Spike’s TV! He’s going to miss Passions! 😦
+ Willie’s back!
+ Poor Spike is being beat up by demons now too.
+ Riley holding onto Buffy’s scarf is sweet.

– Buffy overhears what’s wrong with Riley by hiding around a corner. Contrived and cliched? Unfortunately yes.
– Buffy’s worrying for Riley gets tiring by the end.


* Willow wants to perform an important spell with Tara to locate nearby demonic energy. Tara sabotages this spell because she thinks she’s a demon, which we find out in “Family” [5×06].




32 thoughts on “Buffy 4×14: Goodbye Iowa”

  1. [Note: jun posted this comment on June 20, 2007.]

    More continuity: we see Giles’ Mark of Eyghon again when he turns off the cartoons in Xander’s basement.


  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 6, 2007.]

    Yeah, I noticed that too. Really nice continuity. This is a very good episode but I agree that it could have been a lot better. For me, Adam is really boring.


  3. [Note: WorldWithoutShrimp posted this comment on January 15, 2008.]

    I think you go way too easy on this one, mikejer. Any hope that the season arc could have been interesting was destroyed by “Goodbye Iowa”. Compare this with “Innocence” or “Consequences”, which structurally served the same role in Seasons Two or Three. Those episodes gave their respective arcs lots of momentum which led to great strings of episodes. “Goodbye Iowa” took all of the momentum out of S4’s arc, and left the rest of the season struggling to find good stories to tell.

    …also, this is about the absolute worst episode to be someone’s first episode of Buffy, as I can testify as someone I know who had never seen the series watched this with me as I was watching it for the first time.


  4. [Note: Tinkerbell posted this comment on July 31, 2008.]

    I also thought that it was a bit silly that Buffy says to Anya and Giles, who are fighting, “Ok you guys could we not please? everything’s screwed up enough without you two doing scenes from my parents marriage” and in Tabula Rasa, Anya and Giles think that they are engaged.


  5. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 10, 2009.]

    I personally really don’t like this episode. I don’t like how Riley goes ballistic on Buffy- she’s done absolutely nothing to him or to anyone that’s at all suspicious, yet he’s yelling at her and shaking her around when *she* was the one who was almost killed by Walsh.

    I thought that Tara didn’t do the spell with Willow because she thought it was too advanced, and that this was a foreshadowing to their problems in Season 6. But good point there, Mike.

    All in all, I realized that the reason I don’t like Riley is because of everything that happens with him from this episode and on. Before this, he’s just Riley, and the reason I didn’t like him was because he wasn’t Angel, which is really not his fault. Lol. But from this episode on, it just becomes too dramatic, and because he’s off the drugs, his strength lessens even more and he’s not even close to being as strong as Buffy, which makes him even more insecure. And in Season 5, it’s not just Buffy drawing away from him, it’s him who also draws away from her. His storyline gets too annoying from this point on, IMO.


  6. [Note: Adam posted this comment on May 10, 2009.]

    I really love this episode. I don’t know why people don’t like this episode. If you just take the episode for what it is, it’s a great episode.

    The writing is terrific, and the plot is fun and interesting. I would rate it an 80, maybe an 85.

    Am I the only one that thinks Riley is cool?


  7. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 10, 2009.]

    I haven’t actually done a poll, Adam, but I think you may be one of the three people in the world who like Riley.

    Nah, just kidding. But I think most people dislike Riley because everyone knows that Buffy doesn’t belong with a “Regular Joe.” Even Joss said so:

    “There was two reasons why the Buffy and Riley relationship didn’t fly. There was nobody getting over Buffy and Angel. Just nobody. Two, *because* I’d seen the tortured Romeo and Juliet, `This is the wrong guy, he’s going to make me miserable’ romance, I wanted to see Buffy have a nice relationship with a nice guy. America doesn’t want to see that. America doesn’t give a rat’s ass about a nice relationship with a nice guy.”

    Whether people are Bangel or Spuffy fans, they all know that a relationship with a regular guy won’t work. Also, IMO, he’s annoyingly gentlemanly. Women- as unhealthy as it may be, and as much as they’d like to deny it- like a little bit of the badass jerk in their men. (True, Angel’s not a jerk, but he is badass.)


  8. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on October 20, 2009.]

    “Also, IMO, he’s annoyingly gentlemanly. Women- as unhealthy as it may be, and as much as they’d like to deny it- like a little bit of the badass jerk in their men. (True, Angel’s not a jerk, but he is badass.)”

    See, from this woman’s point of view, you got it right in the first sentence but then fell into the bollocks old cliche about women liking bad guys. Women don’t like bad guys, they like guys they can be a little bad WITH. (Sure, I know many women go for guys who are bad to them, but that’s just plain old insecurity and low self-esteem.)

    The reason why it’s annoying that Riley is so gentlemanly is the reason that men don’t get when they think women ought to be grateful for chivalrous treatment*. Many of us don’t want to be ladies. We want to be able to swear and drink beer and get down and dirty now and again. I’m not saying we want to act like men, but we DO want to act like human beings and not some rarefied pedestal-dwelling repository of virtue. Buffy wants to be able to fight, not pretend to need protection. THAT’s why Riley isn’t any good for her – he can’t see past traditional roles and ends up feeling emasculated. He’s a sweet guy, but needs to grow up and stop mistaking butchness for identity.

    But then I’d take Spuffy companionship, equality and laughs over Bangel drama, adult-teenager vibe and pure, eternal blah any day.

    * NB: ‘chivalrous treatment’ does *not* equal holding doors open. That’s just basic manners, and should be done by whoever goes through first regardless of sex. Obvious, but usually needs pointing out for some reason.


  9. [Note: raven posted this comment on March 12, 2010.]

    Just watched season 5 on dvd and was mystified that the script seem to indicate that Riley was a good guy and the problem was all Buffy’s fault. Went looking to see if I was the only one who thought Riley was a insecure jerk blaming his problems on his girlfriend and bailing dramatically when she didn’t come to heel.

    Sunburn, thought your comments were right on. Riley was all about himself. All his reactions to Joyce’s illness were about him. All, Buffy should be weak so I can be strong for her. He only thought it was cool that Buffy was strong when he thought he was stronger. As soon as he wasn’t he had to find ways to make her wrong. The final ultimatum – Beg me stay or never see me again -that was a real caring guy!

    Gotta say, the Marti Noxin episodes seem to advocate really adolecent viewpoints.


  10. [Note: buffbuff posted this comment on July 26, 2010.]

    Am I the only one who loved the fight between Riley and Buffy, when he tells her about Professor Walsh’s death? That line from B – “Then you can ask me how happy all this death makes me” – was fab, and it made me think about the First Slayer. Also hinting to S5? (Slayer feelings, death etc)


  11. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 7, 2010.]

    Things are feeling disjointed. Maggie Walsh’s very sudden death at the end of last episode, Adam magically dropping in on the group (the runaway who is wanted dead or alive, just happens to return to where are the guys with guns hang out), the forced and stilted conversation by the doctors about how Riley needs his drugs, how they make him stronger etc. Duh. They both know that, nobody would talk like that among themselves — the dialog was written that way so that it can be overhead by Buffy. Lame.

    I’m thinking the scripts were hastily reworked to deal with Lindsay Crouse suddenly leaving the show. Not saying that’s what happened, but it feels that way.

    On the bright side, I’m finding Riley to be an interesting and well-acted character. Compare how Marc Blucas played this one with David Boreanz’s acting in S1. Reading through, the Riley dislike expressed on his thread (and on the threads for earlier episodes) is about what happens later, not now. Well except for Riley being blamed for being sick in this show. Come on now. How about I blame Xander for wanting to rape Buffy while thinking he was a hyena. The Riley man was sick. Even then, he defends Buffy when the soldiers break in and wonder if Buffy was causing trouble again.

    Why did Tara spike Willow’s spell? The spell was too scary? I am puzzled.

    I don’t recall a baddie as strong as Adam. Buffy can hit him all day and he doesn’t blink or budge. Then one swing of the arm and she’s flying 20 feet. But as someone else wrote, for some reason I don’t find him scary. He seems so … implausible. It’s strange, I find it easier to suspend my disbelief with the show’s magic characters than I do with its science characters. This Initiative thing is really corny. Which was not an Iowa pun.

    Finally, SMG is looking unhealthily skinny. Eat, girl.


  12. [Note: Tara posted this comment on November 27, 2010.]

    They should package this episode separately and distribute it as a remedy for insomnia. Because good frakking God was this episode dull.


  13. [Note: Brizon posted this comment on January 29, 2011.]

    First time viewer here. So I’m doing a “Buffy” marathon ( late to the party, I know but at least I’m compulsive about it, 4 and half season in less than two weeks ) and I have a question. Will Buffy ever get over that “get a normal boyfriend” nonsense? Buffy – stop! Vampires are OK, chaos demons, whatever just stay away from humans because for some reason they suck. Riley is quite possibly the most boring and annoying character to grace this show. So I’m enjoying my “Buffy” and suddenly this bloke shows up and ruins my genuine junkie experience. When will he die? I want Buff to be happy, butterflies and stuff but right now I wish she was more like Faith. I mean, come on, love is in your blood children and there’s no real passion between them, no chemistry, no nothing and she’s like “My poor Riley, I need to be with him” What a load of bollocks! Willow and Tara produce more sparkles in their scenes and they haven’t even kissed yet.


  14. [Note: NK posted this comment on February 22, 2011.]

    I was interested by what Raven said about Marti Noxon’s episodes tending to have adolescent viewpoints, because I usually very much enjoy Noxon’s episodes and think she attracts an unfair amount of flak from the Buffy fanbase. After all, Joss clearly had a great deal of faith in her writing or he wouldn’t have promoted her through the ranks over the years.


  15. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on August 3, 2011.]

    I also love the yummy sushi-pyama speech.

    Cool that SMG brings another personal thing in the series.

    Sushi is one of her favorite foods.


  16. [Note: Lunatic on a pogostick posted this comment on August 29, 2011.]

    I have to say my main problem with Adam is the way in which the writers try to make him interesting through having him question his exsistence but he only ever comes off as a pseudo-intellectual high school kid. Which is bothering because usually the series is very inteligent when it says something about life in general.

    P.s love this review specificly the focus on the “shades of grey” because i have always felt that the show in general was about growing up and dealing with the revelation that the world is unlike what you have been told. Especially the last half of the show. I tend to split the series up into one half being the first 3 seasons,and the the second half the last three seasons. Season 4 was just a brief intermission :P.


  17. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on April 1, 2012.]


    The reason Tara ruined Willow’s spell is addressed in a Season 5 episode titled “Family”. The spell they were doing would unmask demons and Tara believes she is a demon (she is not) but her family has her convinced she is… it’s an extremely compelling episode and I think you will really like watching it. As such Tara feared Willow would learn “the truth” about Tara and no longer wish to be with her. At least that’s what I analyzed it to be. Some feel its because Tara thought the spell was too advanced for them, but they do a lot of advanced magic and I don’t think Tara would deliberately sabotage Willow without extremely good reason.


  18. [Note: Dave posted this comment on May 12, 2012.]

    Am I the only one who sees Riley’s “drug addiction” as an easy way to avoid touching on the heavier subjects?


  19. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on October 7, 2012.]

    I like Riley. I like Buffy’s attempt at a normal relationship with a normal guy, even if he’s only normal by Sunnydale standards. I agree it wasn’t meant to work out. And I also think that the main thing that keeps season 4 from being one of the greats is that Adam is a really lame villain. If they had to kill off Professor Walsh, maybe it should have been at the hands of an evil boss, someone who was controlling Adam and planning the whole demon + human parts thing. Don’t know, but I love season 4. I think it’s the funniest season of all of them.


  20. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 26, 2012.]

    Damn, everyone, tell us how you really feel about Riley. Well at least this episode helps further the “identity” theme of the season. Everyone is losing and re-discovering their identity… Riley joins the pack.


  21. [Note: Jen posted this comment on June 7, 2013.]

    Well, here’s my two cents worth about Riley, albeit a little late. Riley is a very nice guy, sensitive, intelligent, strong, sporty; just about the typical ‘perfect boyfriend’ you find high school girls fantasizing about on other TV shows. In other words, he doesn’t really fit into the Buffyverse as a potential boyfriend for our heroine. Ordinary/extraordinary to this extreme extent was doomed, despite the opposites attract principle. It was a nice thought by the writers to try and give Buffy some normal ‘courting’, as Riley puts it; but if you think about it, it could never work. Riley would have had to be extraordinarily well-balanced to be able to cope with a slayer for a girl-friend, and I doubt any man could have the self-confidence this implies…


  22. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on June 8, 2013.]

    Actually, if more guys were the way Xander started out*, there really shouldn’t be a problem. A couple decades ago, this would’ve been a huge problem, but as a species, I think a lot of guys are getting better about not having to be the “most important” in the couple.

    “Well, there was this one time I had to decapitate a guy who had been a linebacker, huge neck, and all I had was this little Exact-o knife, am I scaring you?” “No, actually I find it oddly comforting.”


  23. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on June 15, 2013.]

    Hmm, I can’t agree that Riley was just an attempt by the writers to give Buffy a normal boyfriend. I think they knew exactly what they were doing from the start in setting up Riley as the rebound/transition guy. The conversation Buffy and Willow have about Riley at the start of ‘Something Blue’ shows that Buffy is drawn to darkness, which Riley most definitely is not, so it’s clear from the outset that this relationship is not going to work in the long term. If further evidence were needed, I’d say you only have to look at the fact that the episode where Buffy and Riley finally reveal to one another who they really are and decide to embark on a relationship reegardless is titled ‘Doomed’.

    I look at Buffy and Riley as a classic writing technique of putting light and dark together to draw out the differences. Season 5 establishes that Buffy’s power is rooted in darkness (as does ‘Restless’ in S4, albeit metaphorically) and Riley was basically a foil to highlight that side of her for us as viewers. The character of Riley did his job perfectly in allowing Buffy’s character development, and setting up her arc in S6, so I always feel bad that he gets such a raw deal in terms of reception.


  24. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on May 3, 2014.]

    I find it interesting that many people blame Riley for letting his suspicions of Buffy get the best of him and subsequently lashing out at her. While I certainly sympathize with Buffy, particulaly in light of being set-up by Walsh, I don’t see how Riley is really to blame her. How is he any more accountable than Angel for actions taken by Angelus or Xander under the hyena’s thrall given his drug withdrawal and his entire life being turned upside down?


  25. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on June 26, 2014.]

    I’ve been enjoying season four a lot more now than when it first aired. However, I still think the Initiative arc wasn’t that interesting and bringing in Adam only made things worse. The only time I found Adam very disturbing was when he was talking to that little boy, I hadn’t considered that the scene with Adam and the Boy is a nod to Frankenstein. Anyway,its not usual for children to be the victims in Buffy and I was surprised the first time I saw this episode that he met such a gruesome end.

    And then there’s Riley. Watching this season again I find I’m even less convinced by the Buffy/Riley relationship than I was the first time around. To me, Sarah Michelle Geller and Marc Blucas just never seem to click with each other. There is just no chemistry between the characters or the actors. He’s just too big and tall and she’s bordering on looking like an anorexic, all slim and tiny. No my friends, in this case, opposites do not attract.

    The Initiative. Good God, those guys were lost without Maggie Walsh, weren’t they? I hated when Forrest suggested Buffy had killed professor Walsh. Don’t they have cameras and stuff over there? Maybe room 314 doesn’t, but the other places certainly do, and yet Forrest and co. didn’t check them to get clues or whatever… He just accused. Idiot. And how easy is it to infiltrate and escape the Initiative? Come on, it’s a secret military operations center, it’s supposed to be very difficult to break in or out. Yet, Adam got out and in very easily. And then that contrived scene at the end with that endless exposition took nearly all of the fun away from the story. And the fight scene did nothing to show Adam as a great danger. Come on, Buffy, you’ve defeated The Judge and The Mayor. Just explode Adam already.

    Loved the slumber party in Xander’s dank little basement, especially the three girls in bed together watching cartoons. Also Yummy Sushi Pajamas all the way! I also liked the TV in the crypt scene with Spike under the skeleton, and the way the writers are continuing to move Spike, kicking and screaming, into the Slayer’s camp by having his demon pals reject him. This was around the point in the series where everything seemed to suck for poor Spike and I found myself going, “Aww! Poor guy! Let’s give him a hug!” everytime he appeared on my screen. Anyway, I think you’ve rated this episode perfectly, its quite average, its neither Buffy’s best or worst.


  26. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on July 6, 2014.]

    I’ve never understood the widespread dislike of Riley. After all, he can be an interesting, worthwhile, and likable character (and in my opinion, he was; I never saw him as “boringly normal” or anything like that) without either being a perfect person OR the ultimate “Mr. Right” for Buffy. Yes, he has character flaws (as all interesting characters do). His “old-fashioned gentleman” schtick is both the source of a considerable part of his charm and the root of some troubling issues. Yeah, he has trouble dealing with having a girlfriend who’s stronger and a better fighter than he is–and yes, this is without a doubt his least appealing quality. But cut him some slack, say I! I don’t necessarily feel, for instance, that this issue of his was something that he could never have gotten over–or that it, all by itself, necessarily doomed the relationship. I think that both Buffy and Riley had issues that contributed to the ultimate failure of their relationship.

    Do people perhaps overlook the interestingness of Riley as a character because they excessively buy into the show’s initial presentation of him as the “normal guy for Buffy to have a relationship with that will be different from Angel”? I mean, the character has that side to him–but really, in large measure, it ultimately proved to be a red herring. I would argue that we shouldn’t confuse how other characters on the show initially saw him with who he actually is and what role/function he ultimately played as a character.

    Adam was a disappointment, and as everyone else has already noted, the overarching plot of the season takes a turn for the worse with Maggie Wash’s early death and the shift of focus to Adam. But personally, I see neither the Initiative per se, nor (by any means) Riley, as being negatives of the fourth season. In this particular episode, all the interesting drama stems from watching Riley try to cope with his whole world falling apart. He goes through experiences here that are similar (in their general consequences, that is–not in their specififcs) to what Buffy went through back in season two’s “Lie to Me.” Sure, he’s in the situation that he’s in partly due to his own dubious past life choices–but that’s part of what makes it interesting. Everything that’s happened with him prior to this episode has set him up to sending him spinning into the crisis that he flounders in here, and bo be unsure who to trust–Buffy included–in the midst of it all. Even when he’s being rather a jerk to Buffy, how do you not have some sympathy for him? (And let’s not forget that in the end, he comes out on her side…)


  27. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 21, 2014.]

    Brizon, Riley is definitely by no means the most boring and annoying character to ever grace the show. He’s not even the most annoying recurring character. Remember the Annoying One?

    He may be the most annoying *recurring* character (Spike has, ahem, an *interesting* description of him early in S5 which I think is bang on the money).


  28. [Note: ramblingraconteur posted this comment on March 7, 2015.]

    I actually really like this episode. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t seen it in a while, but I seem to remember it being just as character-oriented, if not more so, then “The I in Team”. Riley and Buffy had many sweet moments, and this episode was probably the most sympathetic Riley had been up to this point. Marc Blucas did a fabulous job, probably the best bit of acting he’s done on Buffy.


  29. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on March 18, 2016.]

    I really like this episode, this season, and surprisingly Riley. I think the problems between Buffy are at the very least 60/40 caused by Buffy not actually wanting that kind of relationship. Riley is a sweet, chivalrous lad who treats women like most men don’t these days – wth respect of their femininity. It’s fine if a woman wants to drink and swear with the lads but don’t then play the Girl Card later and expect preferential treatment. I’ve seen this behaviour by women inumerable times in my professional life.

    I’m sorry to contradict the sheep-folk, but Adam is a really strong and powerful adversary for Buffy. In this season, Buffy should be learning that awareness and tactics make the difference against powerful enemies. Unfortunately she doesn’t learn this lesson after she runs headlong into Adam the first time and gets easily defeated. I think it’s entirely in character for her to hold her hands up and think he’s also smarter, because remember Buffy for most of the series links Slayer prowess to the ability and right to be in charge. Of course she thinks Adam is smart, she thinks she’s better because she’s the Slayer. This is all great characterisation.

    The creeping bias against S4 in these reviews continues – why on earth don’t you find Adam’s dialogue interesting? He’s literally the embodiment of a new breed of human/demon/cyber creature and is showing exactly WHY he killed Walsh – he’s a man with the impulses and ferocity of a demon augmented with cybernetics, and is intensely questioning both who and what he is. He doesn’t know how people work, but he learns quickly. Adam is perhaps the strongest villain Buffy has faced up to this point and I was genuinely interested as to what his plans were and how they might ultimately defeat him. Buffy suffers genuine, injury-ridden defeat in this season, which is FAR more that can be said of those that came before – against such a powerful and vicious enemy, Buffy looks genuinely outmatched. That’s much more interesting than the affable but rarely actually threatening Mayor. Angelus probably still tips it for me as the most interesting villain, but most things in S2 are the best the series ever achieved, so that’s not surprising.

    As usual, because you discarded the plot after as a little as one sentence about it, you fail to understand that the characters of Buffy thrive via their responses to the plot. Let’s not forget what kind of show we’re watching…on any show some plots will be better or worse, but at the end of the day this show has Vampire Slayer in its title. If especially Adam ruins your suspension of disbelief, then get a better suspension of disbelief…or perhaps go and watch a series that doesn’t deal with a blonde girl battling monsters.


  30. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on March 18, 2016.]

    One thing I forgot – it’s really, really easy to look back after years and say a floppy disc drive is distracting. Yeah, if the series was set today, it wouldn’t be there. In 1999-2000 people still used floppies almost universally. USBs were around but not common, and the early ones could break very easily compared to a floppy. So the computer tech from 16 years ago is out of date…it should be! It’s like criticising Buffy for having cathode ray monitors in a scene – that’s what was used back then.


  31. [Note: George Moujaes posted this comment on July 13, 2016.]

    I have to second the bias against S4 and some of the stuff said about Buffy’s character, in this criminally underrated episode.

    There is much to elaborate on especially with what you start discussing in the second paragraph. To bring in the Willow/Tara dynamic, I think this is one crucial episode where we see what virtues Tara brings to the table in contrast to Willow’s, and by extension, Buffy’s, choices. Willow’s blatantly confident approach with magic finds Tara reacting with a lot of hesitation. Tara’s choice to have the demon locator spell backfire borderline helps save Buffy from getting directly caught headfirst with Adam. She was surrounded by other bystanders (Xander, the Doctor, Riley) when Adam does make his appearance, but if she’d gotten there ahead of time, things might have turned out worse for her.

    This “pure intuition” of Tara’s is something that they directly have Buffy explore and confront in this season’s final episode, Restless. The First Slayer *is* pure intuition. She borrows Tara to speak, she has no name, she “lives in the action of death,” etc. Buffy does not try to destroy this “pure intuition” about the First Slayer, this thematic motif that seems to recur in this excellent season. She instead accepts it and explains that time has moved on, “she doesn’t sleep on a bed of bones, she has friends” etc. Moreover: recall the scene where Giles is swinging the pendulum at Buffy to help channel her focus in Restless. Buffy laughs a little: “Don’t you think it’s a little old fashioned?” Giles says that this is the way men and women have behaved since the beginning of time.

    The most symbolic (and pointedly, unconscious) character development for Buffy this season (and to me arguably the most important teleological development she will ever face) is that to truly conquer evil, Buffy must disavow a part of herself that lives “in the action of death” and in what the First Slayer describes as “the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute… Alone.”

    I genuinely think that the most important kind of evil the show has ever addressed has been on Season 4. Buffy and Willow must learn to overcome the natural instinct to ‘offend’. Tara’s character makes the contrast even more explicit: it is about letting pure intuition speak, and figuring out how to respond to it, rather than letting instinct and *reason* take the initiative (no pun intended) in combating something problematic.

    The show does not (far from it) address this excellent contrast anywhere else as well and as rewardingly as it does than on Season 4, for all characters concerned. That is also why I think it is the best season on the show. Yes it spreads itself a little thin, but that is speaking to its greatest weakness, weighed against many, many strengths for anyone who actually cares to delve into the analysis.

    There is heaps to say and little time, so I think I’m going to time out unless I find something else to add.


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