The Buffy-a-thon: Season 4
My god, I'm past the halfway point. As some might recall, since 2006 I've been on a project to watch all seven seasons of the legendary "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" TV series by Joss Whedon, which I foolishly missed out on while it was on the air. I've just wrapped up Season 4, more than halfway through the 144 episodes.
I have to admit, it's a close call, but I think this is the best Buffy season yet, narrowly topping Season 3's swell duels with the Mayor and Faith. It's tight, sexy and funny, with an engaging ongoing storyline that consistently goes in unexpected directions. We get less of the sometimes-forced "monster of the week" episodes that run out of steam.
This season has big changes - Buffy and the gang go to college, Angel's gone, and at long last, the U.S. military apparently notices all the demons and vampires haunting Sunnydale, California, and decides to do something about it – namely, a top-secret Initiative that's capturing demons for some mysterious plan. The Initiative storyline, and Buffy's affair with its lieutenant Riley, drives the season and is a lot of fun. The military's got nothing on the slayer. The grotesque cyborg-demon creation Adam is another excellent "Big Bad" villain for the series, with a laconic cool presence.
To top it all off, Spike joins the cast on a regular basis, with a great plotline about him losing his vampire preying skills (read: impotence) and becoming a begrudging "good guy" (sort of). James Marster's snide and sarcastic Spike is a great addition to a crew that was getting a little too touchy-feely. There's good conflict with the trio of Buffy, Willow and Xander this season, and each character gets a moment to shine. Willow's break-up with Oz and surprising affair with Tara are nicely handled. Only former watcher Giles gets a bit lost this year, not given much to do.
I'd long heard about how good "Buffy" was when it was on, but life and the like got in the way of catching its spell. But it's even better to watch it on DVD in huge gulps, having mostly avoided spoilers. Season 4 shows Joss Whedon and co. at the peak of their powers, and it's a heck of a lot better than most stuff on the tube today.
Best episode: "Hush," the classic "silent" episode where some ultra-creepy demons steal Sunnydale's voices, and Buffy and Riley have to stop things – without saying a word. Lots of plot movement, tremendously freaky foes, and a lot of humour without a line of dialogue.