During the last three years, I’ve been slowly making my way through a re-watch of my all-time favorite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here are my thoughts on the Season 4 episodes!
The Freshman *** (out of ****)
A solid season opener that shows Buffy trying to fit in during her first days of college. The villain of the episode is weak, but exciting to start a new chapter of the series.
Living Conditions **1/2
Of course Buffy has a demon for a roommate, which this episode pushes to the limit. Nothing special, but fun.
The Harsh Light of Day ***
Spike is back and better than ever! The storyline about the ring that allows vampires to walk around during the day, a storyline that transfers over to Angel 1.03, is compelling.
Fear Itself **1/2
We’re introduced to Anya’s fear of bunnies — yay! — but overall this Halloween episode is nowhere near the greatness of the season 2 Halloween episode. Feels a little too familiar at times.
Beer Bad **
I’d consider this one of the five worst Buffy episodes probably. Even before I got to it, I was dreading it. I suppose an episode about Buffy getting drunk in her early days of college seemed inevitable, but the drunk college kids turning into cavemen-like doofuses is just silly.
Wild at Heart ***1/2
The first great episode of season four tears Oz away from Willow, when he becomes drawn to another girl on campus, who also turns out to be a werewolf. Alyson Hannigan’s acting at the end of this well-constructed episode is absolutely heartbreaking.
The Initiative ***
The episode that sets up the rest of the season, what I love about this one is that Spike finally gets his chip that prevents him from hurting humans, and therefore, becomes a part of the Scooby Gang!
Nice but unmemorable episode. Angel’s back, hooray! Most interesting because it sets up the amazing Angel episode, I’ll Remember You.
Something Blue ***
I’m a sucker for the what-if episodes, the ones where a spell causes everyone to change personas. Here, Giles goes blind, and Spike and Buffy get engaged! The Spike and Buffy scenes are about as funny as this show gets.
One of the five landmark Buffy episodes. The scariest Buffy episode ever, this one’s also significant for stripping the characters of their trademark Joss Whedon dialogue. It also sets up the Willow and Tara relationship, and such a fantastic final scene and note, too. Pretty much a perfect episode, one I’d rank only behind Once More With Feeling and The Body. Fantastic!
Kind of a filler episode after Hush, Buffy trying to decide if she wants to date Riley. Nothing special.
A New Man ***
The Giles demon episode! He’s the one character who hasn’t really been transformed much in any previous episode, and so it’s a treat to see him as a demon for about half the episode, one who can’t speak English! Also, nice bit at the end setting up the big bad.
The I in Team **1/2
Standard mid-season episode that sets up Buffy becoming a part of the initiative. Great twist ending though. Bye Bye Professor Walsh!
Goodbye Iowa **1/2
Again, standard and not very memorable. This and the previous episode basically just serve the arc of the season and don’t do anything extraordinary with the storytelling.
This Year’s Girl ***
YES! Faith gives this season a much needed jolt when she awakens from her coma and goes back to Sunnydale. Love seeing her character again, but it’s the cliffhanger that excites the most!
Who Are You? ***1/2
I love the role reversal episodes, it’s what makes this show so damn fun, and this is one of the best, Buffy and Faith switching bodies! Sarah Michelle Gellar has such a blast being Faith, it makes every scene of this a pleasure. Whedon wrote and directed the episode, so obviously we get some extra tension, like when Riley has sex with Buffy… aka Faith!
One imaginative episode followed by another, one of the stand-outs of season 4! Such a clever idea to make the loner Jonathan become the celebrity of Sunnydale and to begin the episode with this the common knowledge reality. LOVE!
Where the Wild Things Are ***
This episode is a little silly and longwinded at times, but something I loved about it was its surprise factor. Unlike many other episodes, especially this season, I never really knew where it was going throughout the hour. Lots of great humor involving the sexual tension among the characters. Kind of a weak ending, but still lots to like here.
New Moon Rising ***1/2
Great final goodbye to Oz as he returns to Sunnydale and finds out that Willow has started a relationship with another woman. Heartfelt, well-written episode.
The Yoko Factor ***
Tensions rise between the Scooby gang, and the return of Angel! Terrific episode isn’t especially memorable but still good.
The big season 4 finale (ending one episode early!) is a doozy, lots of great action on the way to destroy Adam. Love the way he dies, so simply, with the magical help from Willow!
The second-best episode of the season is still one of the top six or seven episodes of the show’s entire run, a fantastic season closer that takes us into the dreams of Willow, Xander, Giles, and Buffy. Weird imagery, fantastic comedy, and a clever preview of season five, this is Joss Whedon at his best.
BEST EPISODE OF SEASON 4: Hush (4x10)
WORST EPISODE OF SEASON 4: Beer Bad (4x05)
Brian Rowe is an author, teacher, book devotee, and film fanatic. He received his MFA in Creative Writing and MA in English from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his BA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He writes young adult and middle grade suspense novels, and is represented by Kortney Price of the Corvisiero Agency.