Buffy 4×21: Primeval

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Fury | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 05/16/2000]

The Initiative arc thankfully ends and, while not a great episode, two incredibly entertaining things happen. One, there’s a huge fight that culminates in an Uber Buffy which is very fun to watch and two, Zombie Forrest gets all blow’d up! What more could an attentive viewer ask for? All the problems that plague the Initiative are exposed here and it’s not nearly as pretty as seeing it all exploding and ending. This episode is all about explosions, special effects, and quick resolutions. Much of it is fun to watch, but it’s doesn’t have the depth of the usual episode.

Towards the beginning, Buffy is seen feeling even more alone than she felt when she returned from her visit to L.A.. She even picks up that trademark photo of her, Willow, and Xander all happy in the S1 and S2 days, which always serves as a reminder of who they used to be and how far they’ve come. This photo makes appearances in a number of episodes including “Dead Man’s Party” [3×02] and “Empty Places” [7×19] . Xander, on the other hand, doesn’t feel alone as much as terrible about the fight, “‘Cause I think maybe they’re right” about him being a “lost, directionless loser with no plans for his future.”

For the first time I can remember, Anya shows some actual love to Xander that extends beyond his penis. She says, “So what if they are? You’re a good person, and a good boyfriend, and…and I’m in love with you. Whatever they think of you, it shouldn’t matter.” I think this moment is a bit of a turning point for Xander, because in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] he refuses to be the “butt monkey” anymore and in “The Replacement” [5×03] we see him working in construction again.

Fortunately for the group, Spike slips up when revealing he knows about the fight the Scoobies had the previous day. This tips off Buffy to the idea that maybe he masterminded their entire conflict (which, of course, he did). This leads to the scene where the core Scoobies gather outside and Buffy finds out that Spike manipulated all of them (“He played us. He wanted us to fight to split us up. That’s where it came from. The stuff we said the other night.”). Even with this news, nobody seems quite convinced to simply ‘drop’ all the things said. Discussion about Adam keeps their minds off of it though. Because of the discs Spike gave Willow the group now knows Adams’ plan, and Buffy figures out why he wanted her to know it (“Adam’s gonna make sure the demons attack the Initiative from the inside … He wants me there. Probably figures I’ll even the kill ratio”).

They meet up at Giles’ place and come up with a plan to defeat Adam. On the way down the elevator shaft of the Initiative Buffy and Willow have an opportunity to work out their remaining issues. Buffy says, “I just…I’m sorry. I hate that things have been so strained between all of us … I think we’ve all sort of drifted apart this year, don’t you?” Willow replies, “Maybe a little. But, you know, first year of college, it’s hard to keep the old high school gang together.” Buffy says, “But I want it together. Will, I miss you. And Giles, and Xander. And it is my fault. I’ve been wrapped up in my own stuff, I’ve been a bad friend.” I’m pleased that Willow finally admitted to Buffy, and herself, that “I haven’t been Miss Available either. I kept secrets. I hid things from everyone.” Then they hug, Xander falls into it, and apparently all’s okay again?

While I like the dialogue, I feel that this scene is a cheap resolution to the issues at hand. “The Yoko Factor” [4×20] really set the stage and showed us what a season’s worth of growing issues can do to a group of friends. This episode, though, takes the easy way out favoring plot over naturally addressing said issues. Fortunately, these issues aren’t forgotten about in subsequent seasons. It does, though, feel like the Scoobies are beginning to make the transition from friends to family, which is a big theme in S5.

The rest of this episode is all about the plot, so I’ll be brief. First of all, Zombie Forrest is ridiculously dumb. The acting is terrible and he has some of the worst lines the series has ever had. Examples include “your will belongs to us now” (what, is Adam creating the Borg Collective?) and “look who’s come off the bench!” Grr…Argh! There are a few pieces of the plot I enjoyed, though, including watching Buffy talk down a colonel, the thrilling scene where Buffy battles through the chaos to reach room 314 (with a slow motion Spike included), the ultra cool joining spell (“last to ancient first“), and the ridiculously satisfying fight between Uber Buffy and Adam. I particularly enjoyed Adam’s increasingly worried reactions. After Buffy stops all his bullets with an invisible shield he says, “(worried) very interesting.” Their quick hand-to-hand fight, where Buffy wails on him, is extremely fun to watch as well.

The very end of the episode is a speech by the U.S. government declaring the Initiative as a complete failure. I think that statement speaks to it being a failure as the arc of the season as well. So while there’s a few good character moments, they take a back seat to finishing up the plot arc of the season. This episode is fun to watch, but it lacks the kind of depth I’ve come to expect from this series. In that respect, it is a disappointment. Fortunately, it’s not the season finale. The intensely complex “Restless” [4×22] is.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Willow and Tara feeling awkward around a Giles with nothing but a bath robe on, and vice versa.
+ Buffy realizing that Adam is so not worried about being destroyed by her.
+ Xander having the winning ‘combo’ suggestion.
+ When Buffy and Willow hug Xander, he says “oh God, we’re going to die.” Then he says, “Giles, hurry up! You definitely wanna get down here for this!”

– Adam wanting to make Riley like him. Yawn.
– Zombie Walsh and the blood tubes. Very stupid-looking!
– Buffy says to Willow, “you’re my best friend!” This feels really hokey, which is one of the rare occasions when SMG doesn’t nail her line.
– How is Riley able to fight Zombie Forrest after cutting into himself and yanking a chip out of his chest? Don’t look at me for answers!


[Score]

75/100

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39 thoughts on “Buffy 4×21: Primeval”

  1. [Note: Felipe posted this comment on April 18, 2007.]

    I think that´s unfair the score, it should be like a minimun an 80/100, due to the good realization of the special effects and the interesting spell that all the gang does.

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  2. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 18, 2007.]

    Felipe, that’s the thing about my reviews… I don’t give it big points just for putting on a special effects show. The only reason it gets even the score it does is because much of the action is fairly entertaining to watch. That doesn’t make up for how shallow an episode it is though.

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  3. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 1, 2007.]

    I thought that it was nice that Buffy said “He played us”. Spike did not play her. He knew that he couldn’t. That she was a loyal friend, unlike Willow, Xander, and Giles. They were so easy to turn against Buffy. That is seriously a recurring theme on the show. The core four really aren’t that tight together. As Spike says in Touched, “You sad, sad, ungrateful traitors”. Actually, I don’t like that Buffy put blame on herself for what happened in TYF. She is too hard on herself with that guilt complex. She’ll punish herself for things she didn’t do.

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  4. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 8, 2007.]

    Exactly my point, Latoya. Buffy is the only loyal to their friendship. She is not easy to manipulate like the rest of them were.

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  5. [Note: Kyarorin posted this comment on March 25, 2008.]

    I’ve always been on the other side when it comes to the fight in TYF. Sure, Willow, Xander and Giles all turned on her, but they were more than justified. Xander and Giles were pretty much abandoned and felt useless (as shown clearly in “The Initiative” where Xander suggests creating a big evil so they could participate and Giles actually seeming to consider it). Willow, while she did lie a lot, was as Buffy said going through some life-changing stuff and that kind of issue is something that tears friends apart. And then, of course, Buffy does actually treat them as side-kicks rather than equals, which probably didn’t help much.

    But then again, I have a tendancy to over-identify with Willow due to being both Wiccan and gay, so perhaps I’m biased in this case. XD

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  6. [Note: AnonDK posted this comment on June 2, 2008.]

    I always found it funny that, when deciding how to treat Spike, they seem to look to XANDER, of all people, for validation on his life!

    Which is weird coz it seems Xander gives him the thumbs up 😐

    As for the score: justified. I HATE when people say this should be the seaon finale! Besides the Scooby stuff, there is so many flaws in this episode, it’s entirely uninspiring, dull, plot-oriented and just races to the end, no satisfaction required.

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  7. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on June 29, 2008.]

    this was a, though flawed, EXTREMELY FITTING season finale (yep thats right im not counting restless at all, season finales need SOME kind of battle unless you count the battle of me not falling asleep while watching restless) as it was a pretty darn cool plan that adam had. even the spell, which was a cheap way to utilise the season arc of the scoobies drifting away and defeat adam at the same time, was forgivable as it was just so action packed (cool cgi too). the forest/riley fight was very nice to watch and was a great way to show how much more quich thinking riley is than forest. the ending scene was an insightful vision into idea of the initiative and may even make up for the initiatives lack of purpose over the season. overall an appropriate season finale which fits the flawed season its caps. as for restless JOSS WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???

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  8. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 29, 2008.]

    He was thinking “let’s do something different”. Those of us who like our subtext and symbolism and a bit of extra complexity have been jumping up and down and applauding ever since. (There was a paper in _Slayage_ a few years ago comparing _Restless_ with Eliot’s _The Waste Land_… Mind you that poem is so ambiguous that you could probably compare a randomly selected piee of gangsta rap with it and find parallels, but *still*. I’d say _Restless_ left TV behind and became Art, and that’s rare.)

    As an aside, we have yet another example of the Act Like A Bad Guy and Suffer Instant Karmic Justice Buffyverse rule: `Down here I am in control’, *powercut*…

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  9. [Note: Suzanne B posted this comment on January 28, 2009.]

    Did anybody else think that terrible line from Buffy,” Your my BEST friend” sounds an awful lot like the Buffy-Bot?

    I also agree with the fact that Buffy was the only one that didn’t get played. She was actually the only one with REAL grievances with the others. To me, it always seemed like the scoobies were insensitive to her pain and loneliness. After Angel turns, after she kills him, that she thinks she has to kill Anya in season 7, raising Dawn, being brought back from heaven, ect. ect. It bothers me for some reason.

    But love the reviews, Mike!

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  10. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 14, 2009.]

    Latoya and Suzanne B, I totally agree with you!! It’s always the Scoobies who turn on Buffy- it’s never, *ever* Buffy who turns her back on them or hurts them. Especially here- just because Xander is insecure about his future, Giles has no life to speak of, and Willow became gay, doesn’t mean that they should blame it all on Buffy!! She has her own issues too!!

    Mike, when I was watching the episode, I thought of something that I was sure you would mention in your review. Adam is made up of different parts, and I think it’s very interesting that only a Buffy made up of different parts could destroy him. Very fitting.

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  11. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 15, 2009.]

    Emily wrote:
    “It’s always the Scoobies who turn on Buffy- it’s never, *ever* Buffy who turns her back on them or hurts them. Especially here- just because Xander is insecure about his future, Giles has no life to speak of, and Willow became gay, doesn’t mean that they should blame it all on Buffy!!”

    I agree that – generally speaking – in many of the episodes especially of S 3/4 that involve “issues” between the Slayer and the Scoobies they react quite unjust towards Buffy and tend to be easily influenced against her. This often seems to me out of place; I have the impression that at times the writers create unnecessary conflicts just to avoid too much “feel-good-atmosphere”.
    In this case, however, I would grant that the great debate is about serious, long-running developments and worries – (and not some singular incident as in, for example, “Dead Man’s Party” where the Scoobies got furious on Buffy and reproach her for leaving THEM alone – hello???) – and I understand that this could burst out in the manner as it is depicted – blaming the other, being unjust and egoistic. True is, Buffy still never wouldn’t react like that, but I think that here the reaction of the Scoobies to their troubles is at least comprehensible behaviour.

    Mikejer wrote:
    “While I like the dialogue, I feel that this scene is a cheap resolution to the issues at hand. “The Yoko Factor” (4×20) really set the stage and showed us what a season’s worth of growing issues can do to a group of friends. This episode, though, takes the easy way out favoring plot over naturally addressing said issues.”

    I actually don’t have a problem with that. At least SOME kind of working out was done (not like the “nice moves” comment in “Dead Man’s Party”) and I don’t believe that after every brawl a great examination and concilation is always required or helpful. I mean, it happened to me too that I had some serious argument with a good friend and afterwards I could simply say that I was unfair and apologized. There was SOME talk about it but no great “working issues out” scene because it happened due to personal worries that my friend knew about and accepted that it was for this reason. I guess it’s similar here. The important thing is not the fight in 4×20 but the long running issues behind it. And all of the persons involved have at least an idea of the worries the others carry about, or in any case got it after the brawl is finished. And they accept it, and let it pass. You seem to be keen to have some great “working things out” scene but perhaps no more is possible or feasible. Of course it’s nice to imagine that they would sit down and tell each other openly everything that is moving them. But would it really change anything in the long run? Buffy has made it perfectly clear that she needs the support of the Scoobies, what else can she do? The Scoobies have their worries and I think Buffy understands them a bit, even if they have treated her unfair. She knows them, she knows they are not perfect (who is?), and she accepts it and moves on.

    The important thing is, as you stated, that the long-run consequences of these developments are not suppressed but play an integral part in the remainder of the series. But I see no fault with the manner of conflict-conclusion in this episode.

    Thanks for your great reviews!

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  12. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 18, 2009.]

    Buffy WAS complicit in the growing-apart of the scoobies. She went off and practically lived at Riley’s for the second half of the season. Not to mention inviting all the initiative guys to the bronze in “The I in team”
    And it seemed a bit harsh in the previous episode when she said that if she was any more understanding of the choices that Willow and Xander made, her head would explode. What bad choices had Willow ever made up to this point? She was only using magic to help the scoobies, and she picked the two best romantic interests of the whole series: Oz and Tara!
    Things that bugged me about this episode:
    1.The fight scene with Adam was pretty awesome, but all I could think about whilst watching it was the matrix. It was a bit of a rip-off, I think.
    2.When Forest says “Adam made me to be almost as bad as he is” it seems like the writers are trying to say “Look, look! Riley IS useful!(but still not as strong as Buffy)” To borrow a phrase from Mikejer-this line is hokey! Cut all the crap with Forest/Riley/Maggie and the doctor guy and the episode would have been loads better.
    I did like the special effects during the fighting in the initiative. I loved how it was always in the background.

    Loving your work, Mikejer. Hope your academic-ness is going well!

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  13. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 18, 2009.]

    @Lucy: This review was posted over three years ago, shortly before I graduated from university. So, yes, my academic-ness is going great because it’s thankfully non-existent! 🙂

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  14. [Note: Lee posted this comment on December 21, 2009.]

    The very end of the episode is a speech by the U.S. government declaring the Initiative as a complete failure. I think that statement speaks to it being a failure as the arc of the season as well.

    I don’t agree. I never had a problem with the Initiative story arc. In fact, I think I had enjoyed it more than what went down in S2, which has always struck me as spastic.

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  15. [Note: Lee posted this comment on December 21, 2009.]

    Buffy WAS complicit in the growing-apart of the scoobies>

    Why is that a bad thing? What is it with BUFFY fans in that they insist that the Scoobies stick together . . . always? It seems as if many fans don’t really want them to grow and maintain their relationship as they had done back in high school. Why is that?

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  16. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 23, 2010.]

    I, personally, thought this was the best Initiative-related episode. It was terrifically entertaining, though I’ll admit the final battle with Adam was a bit anticlimactic. It was much better than “The Yoko Factor”.

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  17. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on September 11, 2010.]

    -The very hectic battle in the Initiative was very well done with the explosions and gunfire.

    -I also enjoyed the Buffy vs Adam fight (even though his machine gun was a bit hokey) and how he gets more worried as the fight continues.

    -The General puts only two armed guards against four people, including the Slayer. Weird!

    Of course the episode could have been better, but it’s the end of the Initiative so, yay!

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  18. [Note: dr. horrible posted this comment on October 11, 2010.]

    When Xander said, “Does anyone miss the mayor?” I couldn’t help but think yes, every buffy fan ever. We’re finally rid of Adam! Yaaaaay!

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  19. [Note: John posted this comment on January 5, 2011.]

    The Initiative battle was very good overall, but a couple things bothered me.

    A) There should have been WAY more gunfire then there actually was; guns were the main strength of the Initiative, and it makes no sense for their soldiers to rush into hand-to-hand with extremely powerful demons.

    B) As noted, Riley being able to fight Forrest and not immediately die after Forrest wailed on Buffy just made no sense; and Riley didn’t even have his supersoldier drugs anymore! Chalk that up to Buffy’s fluctuating power level for plot purposes, I suppose.

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  20. [Note: Helen posted this comment on May 21, 2011.]

    Hm, I thought there was quite a lot of depth here! The whole season has been about dissection, analysis, re-assembly and therefore identity, among others the identity of the slayer. And this episode is restating the slayer question and comes to the conclusion that the slayer is the hand.

    (Aside: In the Freshman, Sunday is all joyous about breaking Buffy’s arm (‘what about breaking your arm’…’the arm is hurt…it’s not broken’…’Hey Buff, need a hand?’); in Primeval, Buffy and Adam’s dialogue is similar (‘broke your arm.’…’Got another; I’ve been upgrading’).)

    The slayer is the ‘instrument’ as put in the terms of the Slayer’s council, and the military council concludes in Primeval that their purpose was to ‘harness[…] its power for [their] own military purposes’. Primeval attempts to define the Slayer as merely the executive force of a larger organism, whereupon Restless deconstructs this reductive definition of the Slayer and restores Buffy as a whole complete person.

    Which is why I kind of like Adam in theory.

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  21. [Note: Dave posted this comment on August 13, 2011.]

    Riley pulling something from his chest, that’s tied to his central nervous system? Even for a person with no knowledge of nerves, it’s clear as day that it would do serious damage.

    I know I bash him a lot, since I dislike his character a great deal, but that point really irritates me!

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  22. [Note: RicoS posted this comment on February 15, 2012.]

    ive never liked the whole buffy power up thing. i mean, it just seemed so forced and contrived. two humans and a relatively inexperienced witch are somehow supposed to turn buffy into some godlike entity?? i mean id understand if she just got a little stronger, but she stopped goddamn bullets in midair, through the use of some type of impenetrable force field. she waved her hand and suddenly controlled adams arm. the whole thing just came out of nowhere. and just as soon as it came, it left. there is never any recurrence. thescoobies face far more powerful and menacing foes in later seasons, uet nobody ever thinks to just use this super spell again. i understand thay it was dangerous, and the next episode (which is one of. my favorites) shows there were definitely adverse side effects, bit since when is anything they do not life threatening?? i just feel like the writers wanted an excuse to throw some of those special effects in there. luckily the effects were pretty cool when i saw them as a kid, and even still now. theh save the climactic battle from being completely unbearable, certainly not as bad as another battle in which for no apparent reason at all buffy came back to life, got twice as strong as she was before, then went back to normal with no explanation or questions asked……(yes im looking at you season one finale)

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  23. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on May 15, 2012.]

    Emily: “Mike, when I was watching the episode, I thought of something that I was sure you would mention in your review. Adam is made up of different parts, and I think it’s very interesting that only a Buffy made up of different parts could destroy him. Very fitting.”

    That’s brilliant. Nice.

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  24. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on May 16, 2012.]

    But the making up of different parts is quite different. Adam is made of different parts because of demon-vivisection. Scientists created Adam by killing and dismembering demons as well as a human (though *hopefully* he was already dead a la “Some Assembly Required”). Buffy grows stronger because of the combined talents of four friends who willingly bring their various strengths to the effort and who remain complete and autonomous individuals. It is their cooperation and friendship that is the “source of [their] power”, which Adam “could never understand”.

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  25. [Note: Jessica posted this comment on June 1, 2013.]

    I think Lucy’s point was that Buffy was as much of a part of the growing-apart of the Scoobies as the others were. Yes, Buffy does have the Slayer issues to contend with, but in another way, that really proves the loyalty of the others. Xander and Willow have never been obligated to help or stay in the fight, even though their lives are just as much at risk – probably more so, since they aren’t as capable of self-defense as Buffy is. And once Giles was no longer her Watcher, his obligation went away as well. Buffy is essentially stuck with the Slayer gig – the others are proving their loyalty by their very presence by her side. So I wouldn’t say that Buffy is the only loyal friend of the group, by a long shot. And as Kyarorin said, Buffy has been treating them like sidekicks. Yes, she is the Slayer and uniquely equipped to defend herself in certain situations, and it’s understandable why she wouldn’t want the others along. But at the same time, her family and friends have played a big part in keeping her alive. Willow’s magic, Xander’s CPR in the season one finale, Giles in his Watcher capacity (Buffy’d be long dead if she had to do the research herself), and many, many more.

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  26. [Note: lurking in the woods posted this comment on June 4, 2013.]

    After watching Cabin in the Woods the whole Initiative-thing suddenly becomes much funnier. Not better, necessarily. But thinking of BtVS’s Initiative as a failed CitW-operation spices it up a lot. And it gives me hope that Amy Acker is somewhere walking around in a white lab coat.

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  27. [Note: Beth24 posted this comment on December 24, 2013.]

    Does anyone else ALWAYS laugh after Spike’s ‘Let’s go save ’em, by gum!’ line at the end of the episode? I don’t know what it is about it, but James Marsters’ delivery is so perfect that for me it’s the best line!

    Like

  28. [Note: Rick posted this comment on January 6, 2014.]

    If “Restless” didn’t exist, this episode would be disastrous, both on its own, and as a season finale. It’s redeemed by the thematic wonderfulness of the enjoining spell, which explicitly calls out the Scoobies metaphorical roles as aspects of Buffy herself. This will be explored even further in “Restless”.

    I loved “Combo Buffy’s” fight with Adam and wished it was longer. I loved the combined voices of the Scoobies when Buffy spoke, her turning the shell Adam fires at her into birds was a sublime moment.
    Most of “Primeval” is just crash bang plot mechanics, but it does set up “Restless”, one of the finest episodes of the series, so it automatically gets bumped up a whole letter grade for me for that alone.
    (I really hated that Lindsay Crouse returned for this episode as “Zombie Maggie”. I was so mad at her for leaving the season prematurely, damaging the season arc in a way the writers couldn’t salvage. When I watched the episode, I remember yelling at the TV “Now?? You decided to come back NOW??? Thanks a lot!!”)

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  29. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 4, 2014.]

    This season is about identity, as many said, and the fact that Buffy needs to literally merge with the Scoobies shows that she is the one Slayer who wouldn’t be able to live on her own. The Scoobies are now a part of who she is, this bodes very well into what Spike says in Fool For Love that Buffy has ties to this world and it’s the only reason she always emerges to the top usually unscathed. Buffy needs the gang, Giles’ brilliance, Willow’s intellect, computer and magical skills, and Xander’s confidence and heart. Xander is also quite brave and helps Buffy feel better whenever she’s feeling down, without them, she wouldn’t be doing half as good as she is.

    One thing that disappointed me here was that they pulled another Dead’s Man Party on us, and the very real issues that the gang have are waved off. I enjoy their cutesy reunion, but is it satisfying after that nerve-racking conflict? Not to the least. Yes, Spike manipulated them, but he didn’t make them fight, not really. He just gave a push to the problems that were already clearly brewing inside our core four, and I really would have liked them talking it out and dealing with it realistically instead of waving it off and blaming it all on Spike. Anyway, I read through the comments and noticed how everyone’s character bias was showing. I still feel like all of the Scoobies were totally justified in their own turfs. Willow did have the right to be mad at the gang because she’s insecure about Tara, and when Spike mouthed off to her that maybe the Scoobies weren’t comfortable with it, she obviously felt cornered and a little disappointed that her friends weren’t understanding the emotional turmoil she had been going through. Buffy and Willow both weren’t giving each other much time, Buffy stuck to Riley like glue, which in turn, led Willow closer to Tara and ‘wanting someone to herself’. Xander has every right to feel left out, his friends are off to college and he has nobody but an ex-demon to keep him company. He feels like a failure in life, and the only people that he can talk about to, a.k.a the Scoobies, are too busy in their own dilemmas to comfort him. Plus, there’s the fact that Xander has pretty much always felt useless due to his Average Joeness. Then there’s Giles, he’s done so much for all of the Scoobies and he’s a father figure to Buffy, and to a lesser extent to the rest of the gang, as well. Currently the man has no social life, no love life, his last two girlfriends either died or walked away from him and now he’s not really got anyone but the Scoobies and his books to keep him company. He’s also unemployed, old and probably having a major mid-life crisis. He used to be the freaking Ripper and now he’s pretty much nothing but a ‘former librarian’ as Spike calls it. Buffy of course is also very justified in her actions, she loves her friends, they are her strength and they’ve all been drifting apart. But she’s The Slayer and her problems are very real, so she’s allowed to be mad at them. She’s saved the world, killed her boyfriend and had numerous bad experiences in the past, if she wants to be caught up in Riley so she can have that gist of a normal life, then she is allowed to. All of us, whether our problems are big or small, they’re still problems and they’re still a huge deal for us. There are people who tell me that my problems don’t matter because there are people who have it worse, and yes, I’m sure there are, and that sucks, but it doesn’t make my problems any less painful or real. It’s just like that.

    Anyway, I love some parts of this episodes and dislike others. I cheered when Xander mentioned the Mayor. The bit that has more of an everlasting impact on the series is the spell that creates Super Buffy. It’s such a typical genre story to tell, to make your superhero even more super, yet it’s a story that works formidable well at this point. Usually on BtVS we have the new ways defeating the old ways, this time we had the reverse, and supernatural beat technology. That final Buffy versus Adam fight scene was really cool and Tara was so cute checking with Willow what she should say to Buffy on the phone. Spike getting away from several death scenarios was a lot of fun. And Buffy rocked when she told commander whatever that he was getting into her territory.

    I really enjoyed the slow-motion, special effects, head’s flying, dead bodies everywhere, people exploding-that’s always fun. Anyway, I think a B would be suitable but I’m so glad this Initiative arc is finally donezo and that Restless is next, I love Restless and it is a great way to end the season!

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  30. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on July 14, 2014.]

    Wow! It appears as though I like this one quite a bit more than a lot of others around here do. While it’s certainly not the equal of the show’s very best finales (“Becoming” being my personal favorite), that’s a high bar. I don’t find it shallow or disappointing at all; I’ve always considered it a great near-finale and a definite highlight of season 4. The spell at the end is really cool, and I find the main characters’ coming-together through it very affecting.

    To fully express my thoughts here, it’s necessary to back up and look at what happened in “The Yoko Factor.” The thing about that episode is that, while I hugely like and respect what it was trying to do, I see the execution as having been really sloppy. The idea of Spike stirring up already-brewing trouble among the main characters and getting them all to fight was an inspired one, and it perfectly brought to a head the season-long arc about drifting apart (and, as I suggested in my comments under the “The I in Team” review, the thematic contrast between Buffy & co. and the Initiative). Anyway, like I said–the idea of Spike doing this was great. But is it what Spike actually did?

    As I see it, Spike didn’t so much stir up hidden interpersonal conflicts among the main characters as poke at their various individual insecurities. The fact that they then proceeded to have a big fight over their “issues” was–on a charitable interpretation–perhaps a result of simply not being as tightly-knit a group as once they were (as Spike says, the whole “kids go off to college and drift apart” phenomenon)…or, on a rather less charitable interpretation, a writers’ contrivance/lucky break for Spike. I mean, consider each of the conflicts that Spike “stirred up”:

    -Giles feels useless and unsure of his role in the group/in life. This has been built up quite nicely over the course of the season, but it hasn’t very often been a source of conflict between him and Buffy. Really the only example was when she forgot to tell him about the Initiative–and they talked that through at the end of “A New Man” and things have seemed fine between them since. Giles still had his doubts and insecurities, but that was a personal issue–not a conflict between him and anyone else.

    -Xander feels like a directionless loser being left behind by his college-bound friends. Again, yes he does–but note that Spike had to totally invent a fake story about his friends talking smack about him…because they don’t actually do that. Nor has Xander actually been left out of much of anything all season long. There was one exchange in “Fear, Itself” where he was like “What, there’s a party?” and the others were like “Oh, didn’t we tell you?”–and that’s about it. He’s been at most of the “college parties” that Buffy and Willow have gone to. The season opener proved dramatically how much Buffy needs him. He infiltrated the Initiative with Buffy. Etc. Anya has had lines here and there about how he has nothing in common with the others and they look down on him, but they never really rang true. I just don’t see pre-existing conflict between Xander and the others over this issue.

    -Willow is afraid the others aren’t cool with her being gay. Really? I mean, yes, it’s a natural fear for someone in her situation to have…but in the one scene in which she actually told anyone (Buffy) about it, Buffy–after seeming a bit thrown for a moment–made it clear that she was cool with it, and the scene didn’t hint at any lasting issues. Again, Spike had to *make up a story* about the others talking behind Willow’s back to set Willow off. (And even then, I still found the writing contrived in the big fight scene in a number of ways.)

    -The fight also touched on things like Buffy being mad at Xander for spilling details of her Angel relationship to Riley, and Xander and Willow resenting Buffy’s inclination to cut them off and “go it alone.” These, at least, are genuine ongoing interpersonal conflicts among our heroes–but their flareup in “The Yoko Factor” still seems rather…convenient–because it happens totally independently of anything that Spike does, just happening to coincide with his gambit.

    So anyway, given all of this…to complain that this episode brushed aside the conflicts that erupted in the previous one too quickly just doesn’t ring true to me. In my view, most of the distance and conflict between the Scoobies boiled down to being mired in their various individual insecurities, plus having “grown apart” just enough to be easily manipulated into projecting those insecurities onto each other instead of communicating about them and supporting each other through them. Thus, it feels just right to me that realizing that Spike had manipulated them was enough to at least get them to put things aside and start (awkwardly) working together again, and that the subsequent emotional opening-up between Buffy and Willow–followed by a spell that literally made them all stronger by uniting them–sufficed to restore warm fuzziness between them.

    (And no, I didn’t find Buffy’s “You’re my best friend” line hokey (!?) at all.)

    I agree that not everything to do with the season plot totally worked. Adam resurrecting Walsh and Forrest, and controlling Riley, was not super-riveting (though it was at least on-theme regarded the whole “hierarchy/follow orders vs. individualism” contrast). I also might have preferred for Spike’s story for the season to ultimately “go somewhere” to a greater degree than really happened. But pretty much everything else about this episode really worked for me. Despite some flaws, I think (apparently unlike many others) the Initiative as an institution was interesting and effective, and I liked the confrontation between Buffy and the colonel in this episode and the ultimate fate OF the Initiative. And the climactic face-off between Buffy-plus-gang and Adam was just…awesome.

    So, that’s my take. 🙂

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  31. [Note: NewSpock posted this comment on November 3, 2015.]

    “For the first time I can remember, Anya shows some actual love to Xander that extends beyond his penis.”

    That isn’t the way I read Anya. From season 3 on it was clear to me she really fell in love with Xander, she tried to convince him to leave with her, she came back for him in s4 because she can’t deny her feelings for him. She used sex to get Xander to stick with her, though she clearly enjoyed it as well.

    In one of the episodes when Xander got ill, she took care of him, and in “Hush” she criticized Xander of only wanting sex with her, but wanting more from him…

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  32. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on November 3, 2015.]

    At the very least there must have been a connection after they had sex again since the original plan was to just get it over their feelings with one more go. As we know she decided to stay since it seemed to make sense and if we go with what we learn from Selfless she goes with the flow. If it was just for the sex she probably could have just moved on to somebody else but something must have drawn her back.

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  33. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 23, 2015.]

    It should be mentioned that Billie Doux Restless analysis mentions that this episode features a name drop for the First and the title sounds like “prime evil” or “first evil”.

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  34. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on April 20, 2016.]

    Another Initiative episode, this time the finale to that arc, and another sub-par score simply because you don’t like the concept. Through this whole season you’ve derided the Initiative for being ‘hokey’ or ‘inept’ when I really don’t think there’s the evidence to support that. This episode of all of them deserves a higher score, and I can’t help feeling you marked it down for very thinly-justified reasons.

    I love that the Scoobies actually take time out to apologise for the fight in the previous episode and recognise that there are issues there. Willow admits she has essentially been hiding away with Tara, Buffy practically lived with Riley for half the season and both Giles and Xander let themselves be cut adrift post-high school. None of them really made an effort to stay the friends they were this season; I agree this marks the point where they become more a slightly dysfunctional family than a group of friends. There’s nothing wrong with the way the scene is written or plays out, and we get a conflict at least partly resolved. This is good character work right there.

    The end of the Initiative is simply awesome. It’s one of the most ambitious scenes ever put together for the show, and it works very well. I really don’t believe the Initiative was incompetent in any way – it’s actually a good glimpse of what a demon setup in the US would be like, if their objective was to capture and study demons. The Initiative tried to take Adam down and failed. Buffy only knew tasering him wouldn’t work because she’s tried it, and they had little reason to believe her (even though they should have). The soldiers had no reason to suspect their own creation Adam was orchestrating the increase in demon captures. This episode also highlights how effective Adam’s plans actually were. Much like the Mayor’s plotting last season, Adam had his own goals that only peripherally affected the Scoobies, meaning less interaction. Adam’s plan only failed because they found a spell that could join the four of them and defeat him. Alone, Buffy would’ve been dead. She’d already fulfilled her part in the plan just by being involved in the battle.

    The writers were forced into a different direction than intended – I don’t think Adam was the big bad they wanted. He was really just the ‘Dragon’ of Walsh, but sometimes actors can’t be there and other plans had to be made.

    There are a few minus points here – Forrest’s dialogue zingers are a little campy but I didn’t personally mind that. Buffy does that sort of thing all the time. I also didn’t have an issue with a chip affecting Riley but him being able to remove it. He hurts himself a fair bit pulling it out, but it didn’t have to be the same kind of chip that Spike has. It only needs to be able to generate impulses to affect your nervous system and Adam’s line ‘tied directly into your nervous system’ is taken a bit oo literally by most viewers. Also, Riley may be off the drugs but their affect on him doesn’t diminish for a long time; he’s been on them so long they take ages to properly wear off, as we see in S5.

    At the end of the day, I watched this season unfold as it was aired and the retrospective mauling of it comes off as just that. In hindsight anything looks worse than it did when it was fresh. I suspect Game of Thrones-style expectations now affect even retrospectives; television is now moving more and more towards epic, action-filled seasons that are half the size of the tv seasons just a decade or so ago. Why 10 or 13 episode series get away with it is beyond me when this is half a season of programming at best. Think about how short Buffy S1 is, and then realise that this is a standard season for a lot of series these days. In all, I love season 4 and put it above both 3 and 6.

    Haven’t looked at the score for the very good but highly overrated ‘Restless’, but I bet it’s a P while you deliberately under-scored this episode. In terms of impact, Primeval is far more relevant to S5 and beyond than Restless.

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  35. [Note: Joy posted this comment on April 20, 2016.]

    Respectfully, Krssven, I have have some problems with the way you criticize MikeJer’s reviews. You seem to confuse opinions with facts, demanding that he present evidence to support his opinions, but then presenting your own opinions, e.g. “was simply awesome” and “highly overrated” as if they’re indisputable facts. At least, that’s the way it comes across to me. Our host put a tremendous amount of thought and time into his reviews, but when his opinion differs with yours you accuse him of petty agendas such as, “another sub-par score simply because you don’t like the concept” and, “you deliberately under-scored this episode.” It’s rude and borders on personal attack IMO.

    Your criticisms remind me of a person who invites themself to someone’s home for dinner, then not only criticizes the free meal, but also accuses the cook of deliberately trying to sabotage his enjoyment of food.

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  36. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on April 21, 2016.]

    I can see your reasons for incorrectly confusing my opinion (‘it’s awesome’) with criticism. Throughout the S4 reviews the ‘evidence’ against certain plot elements has been ‘they’re hokey’ ‘they’re incompetent’ ‘out of character’ etc. These are also opinions and need corroborating with exactly why. If it’s going to be asserted that the Initiative was a poor plot element, I need to see evidence for it. This goes all the way back to The Freshman where even the appearance of the commandos was greeted with a ‘really?!’ You can’t do much more than criticise this kind of analysis. I really enjoyed the S1-3 reviews and sometimes agreed, sometimes disagreed with them. S4 is the first time I can see real dislike behind the reviews. Some people didn’t like S4, and he’s clearly one of them. Now, I respect the opinion put down, but it won’t be free of criticism by someone who thinks the episodes involving the main arc were often unduly marked down. There are a LOT of good episodes in S4, finally putting to bed the idea that any one season is better purely based on its standalone episodes – every Buffy season has great standalones (even the first). I also disagree frequently with disconnecting the episodes characters from the plot, and this happened a lot in S4 reviews. The two are not separable – the show is about the characters as they interact with the setting and each other.

    On the ‘it’s rude’ point, if you consider it rude, that isn’t really my problem. Sometimes that happens around subjects that are heavily biased.

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