Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4 Review and Core Episodes Guide
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Review
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Review
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Review
Having barely survived high school intact, Buffy and her monster-fighting team embark on something even scarier in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: adulthood. Leaving behind the comfort of home, old relationships and the always-vacant high school library, Buffy is thrown into college life in Sunnydale, still the epicenter of everything evil. Airing in the fall of 1999, the season took Buffy and her friends along a path of discovery, failure and love in 22 fascinating episodes. The season also introduced the spin-off series Angel, which craftily intertwined with this show in a few cross-over episodes. The fourth season slowly splintered the group then brought them back together in a fantastic season finale that forced them to combine their strengths to battle a Frankenfreakish baddie.
“Isn’t college cool?” Willow geeks as Buffy, after a very ‘slay-heavy summer’ in Sunnydale, finds it hard to adjust to college life. The Freshman (episode 1) shrinks the slayer in scale as Buffy wanders the very large campus, the massive college library and the huge classes in which she disappears; anonymous and tiny. Buffy is no longer the brave, confident soldier her high school mates celebrated; she’s a freshman. Self-reliance, friendship and adapting are all explored as Buffy finds new footing battling a strong vampire who preys on freshmen. Xander delivers one of the best pep-talks in the series, proving that once again, he has an insight into people no other character can match. And then, there’s the strange, secret presence of a military team quietly capturing the creatures that lurk at night…
”It’s simple. Kathy is evil. I’m an evil fighter. I have to kill her.” And what would college be without terrible roommates who make your life a living hell? Logging phone calls, monitoring milk consumption and playing Cher on loop is only the beginning when Buffy is introduced to her new roommate Kathy (Dagney Kerr, George Lopez, Desperate Housewives). Living Conditions (episode 2) explored following one’s instincts and provides a cautionary tale for how not to be the worst roommate ever. It also very subtly introduced a new woman on campus whose scent captures the attention of resident werewolf, Oz.
Relationships take the focus in Harsh Light of Day (episode 3) where Spike returns to Sunnydale with a new girlfriend, Harmony (Mercedes McNab, Angel, Hatchet II) former mean girl from Sunnydale High. Buffy meets Parker (Adam Kaufman, Taken, NCIS), a shy, sweet guy who she decides will be someone she can take a chance on. And Anya returns with a mission: bed Xander Harris to get him out of her mind. Spike’s presence in Sunnydale involves a mystical ring that allows vampires to walk in daylight. In a beautifully choreographed fight, Buffy battles Spike as the sun blazes over them. The themes of men treating women badly in relationships and making mistakes are explored as Buffy sends Spike to the sewers and Oz to L.A – to give Angel the ring.
[Oz’s arrival in L.A and Angel’s story with the ring is carried over on spin-off show Angel. (In The Dark, episode 3)]
Halloween in Sunnydale. Something’s bound to go wrong. In Fear Itself (episode 4), a haunted house on campus comes alive as each character’s worst fear begins to manifest. Separation, fear and conquering demons take the focus as Buffy and her friends are split apart then reunited in an ever-changing house of horrors. Anya and Xander begin dating upon Anya’s insistence and lack of social cues. The episode ends on a hilarious note as a demon escapes from another realm to show the gang just how easy it is rise above fear.
Where there’s college, there’s beer. Beer Bad (episode 5) examined Buffy’s bad decisions as a result of heartbreak, insecurity and regret. Still stinging from Parker’s recent actions, Buffy engages in some alcoholic comfort – and begins to regress into a cave woman along with her drinking buddies. As cavewoman Buffy gets the perfect revenge and closure on Parker, another attraction begins when Oz watches/smells Veruca (Paige Moss, Beverly Hills 90210, It’s All Relative), an intense, magnetic girl who makes Willow uncomfortable. “I wanted you before I even saw you. I sensed you. Did you sense me?” Veruca purrs to Oz as Willow witnesses their undeniable attraction in Wild At Heart (episode 6). When Oz is forced to explore what it means to be a werewolf (“the wolf is inside me all the time”), Veruca makes her move and Buffy races against the secret military group to protect Oz’s life. Oz makes a hard decision in a deeply emotional episode with themes of animal instinct, attraction, primal needs, splitting of self and relationships.
The mystery of the secret military group is finally answered in The Initiative (episode 7) revealing Riley’s role in this organization. Headed by the intelligent Professor Walsh, the secret demon hunting operation captures and examines Spike along with other monsters. A hilarious fight between Harmony and Xander, Buffy standing up to Professor Walsh and a sweet beginning for Buffy and Riley pack this episode with themes of secrets and new beginnings.
There’s a tall, dark stranger lurking in town, watching Buffy. With his signature broodiness and trench coat, Angel quietly returns to Sunnydale, on a warning that Buffy may be in danger. Pangs (episode 8) find the gang celebrating Thanksgiving, on Buffy’s insistence, as spirits from history’s past come back for revenge. Spike, now altered by experiments The Initiative conducted on him, seeks refuge at Giles’ and inadvertently becomes involved with Buffy’s fight of the week. Fixing past wrongs, protection and family become the theme of this episode as the gang gathers around for a strange and dangerous meal.
As Buffy and Riley begin dating, Willow falls into despair when she discovers that she won’t be seeing Oz for a long, long time. Something Blue (episode 9) shows Willow’s increasing witch abilities as she desperately casts a healing spell with unfocused energy, inadvertently causing everything she says to literally come true. Bizarre, hilarious and reminiscent of the first two seasons, the episode explores heartbreak, alternate realities and loss through a mix of humour and pain. Buffy and Riley’s relationship is sweeter and softer as she realizes that dating the ‘bad boy’ is not constructive or healthy.
In a 22-episode arc, Hush (episode 10) stands out as a pivotal point in the season; a profound episode that is visually stunning and incredibly riveting. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the episode contains everything integral to the show: dreams, warnings, humour, fear and self-power. The Gentlemen, ghoulish men with knotty knuckled hands and perma-grins, float about town stealing human voices, both beautiful and sinister in their movements. Willow discovers Tara (Amber Benson, Supernatural, Husbands) a fellow witch, who is powerful and sweet. And as Buffy and Riley finally discover each other’s secret identities while working together, they struggle for the words to explain their new relationship in brand new territory. Communication, connection, relationships and self-power are all explored in one of the best episodes on the show – and television.