Shiny Shelf

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Four DVD Collection

By Jim Smith on 21 May 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

BuffyThe fourth season of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ was something of a new start for the series. Gone were two of the series initial main characters, gone too was the setting of Sunnydale High. Deprived of their usual plot function by the re-formatting, Xander and Giles often wandered through episodes with little to say and less to do, whilst faceless, slightly disturbing soldier-boys sneaked through the back of shot, virtually waving signs above their heads reading ‘We’re important to the plot you know’.Star Sarah Michelle Gellar was semi-frequently absent from the series due to her having to make appearances in new ’sister show’ Angel, and within half a dozen episodes another regular character (Seth Green’s laconic, detached Oz) departed.

He was replaced by James Marsters’ Spike who was written in as a regular character via a plot role obviously not designed for him and a handy (plot) device in his head which enabled him to be in the same room as the rest of the regular cast without killing them. Buffy acquired a new boyfriend whom many people (not me) contrived to hate and mid-season three staff writers reportedly wrote an episode (‘Doomed’) in a matter of days to get the series schedule back on track.

I mention these problems – made much of in some quarters during original transmission – because bringing them up helps illustrate what a triumph this 22 episode season is. Awareness of the limitations, the complications and the obstacles put in front of Joss Whedon and his gang just give you a greater appreciation of what they achieve here. This is ‘Buffy’ at its finest. Of the episodes contained in this box set only three fall below ‘excellent’, (‘Doomed’, ‘Beer Bad’, ‘Where The Wild Things Are’) and only one of those (‘Beer Bad’) is beyond redemption. Between the gloriously cinematic, effortlessly funny and hugely stylish ‘The Freshman’ (who thought Katharine Towne’s vampire Sunday was in it for the long haul?) and the Fellini-pastiche abstract masterpiece ‘Restless’ we get more good episodes than you can name. ‘Hush’, with its use ‘Danse Macabre’ and its sinister floating Gentlemen. ‘Wild At Heart’ with its tear-jerking, played-to-the-hilt break up between Willow and Oz. ‘Prime Evil’ with its bullet-time fight sequences, cyborg monster and ringing validation of our heroes code of fraternal love, and ‘Fear, Itself’ with its relentlessly inventive take on that old horror standard ‘the sealed house’ and its shock comic ending.

Sorry, I haven’t finished yet. There’s also ‘The Initiative’ with its endless chase sequence and ‘Mission Impossible’ style action, ‘New Moon Rising’ with its even more tear-jerking, played-to-the-hilt sequences with Willow and Oz, and ‘The Yoko Factor’ where Spike sneers his way through a disintegrating Scooby Gang like a Japanese conceptual artist with bleach blond hair and twenty B & H. Then of course there’s the titanic Faith two parter where Dushku and Gellar try to act each other off the screen and the council of watchers come along for the ride. Even the second stringers, such as the one-note, one-joke ‘Superstar’ (where future villain Jonathan rearranges reality for his own amusement) and ‘Pangs’ (where Angel turns up and skulks whilst the gang agonise over genocide and uncooked turkey) work wonderfully well.

The season is both coherent and disparate, varied in tone but cohesive overall. A story of change, of growing apart but trying not to, which is ultimately helped rather than hindered by production complications. A great season of a great show. Simple as.

Line Break

Comments are closed.