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Thread: Positives and Negatives - S4

  1. #121
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    I've missed so many episodes that I don't feel like doing all of them now, especially since most positives and negatives have been covered. (Except for The Initiative, which sucks, and I could list more negatives for it. And Something Blue, where I could list more positives.) So I'll just go with Restless.

    Restless

    Positives:
    I could list them all day! This is one of the show's greatest episodes (and it fits that it's a season finale looking forward, since season 4 is a transitional season, and the main season 4 plot was so mediocre that the writers wisely decided to resolve it in the penultimate episode). I won't, though, since other people should get to list positives as well. First off, I love this episode because it, instead of the plot, it focuses on characters and uses the format to explore the characters in an unusual way, and even though it has a mini plot with the First Slayer that invades all of their dream, it's still a more realistic depiction of dreams than the dream scenes in most movies and show - which, of course, makes it look all the more surreal, since dreams are surreal and full of random things and things from reality appearing in weird contexts, mixed with some genuine expressions of deep subconscious thoughts. For instance, Xander falling asleep while trying to watch Apocalypse Now and then dreaming of watching Apocalypse Now which is nothing like the actual movie Apocalypse Now, is something that strikes me as exactly the kind of thing that happens in dreams. Willow dreaming of a performance of Death of the Salesman which is nothing like the actual play is another example. (Dream scenes in movies and shows are often too structured and sense-making and not nearly as surreal and random as real dreams are.)

    While there's a lot of foreshadowing, my favorite parts are the scenes revealing the emotional core of the characters. Xander's dream has already been mentioned - with the heartbreaking moments with Xander's parents in the basement and the darkly funny Snyder-as-Kurtz scene - but I find the climax of Willow's dream, with her being "exposed" in the classroom ("Your costume is perfect. No one is going to know the truth about you") the most emotionally effective, in all its simplicity (even though I find the rest of Willow's dream less interesting and well written than the rest of the dreams). In a way it should not be a big revelation or anything, but it works since it comes at the end of the season in which Willow had so much development and changed from her high school persona and gained more confidence and power - and it foreshadows the end of season 6 really well.

    Another favorite part is Buffy's conversation with Adam (more foreshadowing) - and the fact that this episode made Adam more interesting and better utilized (in his human form, no less) than the entirety of the season 4 up to this episode.

    Negative:
    While I also love Buffy's scene with the First Slayer (my Tumblr icon comes from it!), Buffy criticizing the First Slayer's hair felt out of place.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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  3. #122
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    Day 22 - Restless

    Positive: My favorite episode, ever, ever! As a Xander fan, I learned more about the character from this episode than all the previous episodes and seasons combined! And from that, I also learned that Xander is a character who doesn't share with his friends. Remember how we learnt the he camps outside on Christmas from Cordelia, and Willow knew nothing about it! Wow. I also feel that if I ever wanna get to know Xander, Willow and Giles, I could just visit this episode and learn all I needed to know about them.

    Negatives: I didn't really enjoy Buffy's dream. I don't know why. I feel there was more information and emotion in Willow, Xander and Giles' dreams than Buffy's.
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  5. #123
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    Restless:

    Positives: "I walk. I talk. I shop, I sneeze, I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don't sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends"

    The entire episode is superb but Buffy's dream is definitely my favourite. I love the reference to Buffy/Faith's dream in Graduation Day II and the countdown to Buffy's death ("Oh no that times all wrong"), the reference to Faith's dream in This Years Girl which is all kinds of intriguing as it suggests that Buffy and Faith are in fact psychically linked ("Faith and I just made that bed"), the foreshadowing to Dawn ("Get back before Dawn"), Riley turning on Buffy because she chose to pursue her primordial slayerness over her friends ("I thought you were looking for your friends. Fine killer, if that's the way you want it"), and the revelation that in order to explore her Slayerness Buffy may have to turn elsewhere from her friends ("I'm never going to find them here" "Of course not. That's why you came"). All of the dreams are so nuanced and great but aside from Buffy being my favourite character, I just find her's the most interesting thematically and for how it sets up for S5.

    Honourable mentions: The misdirect that Willow fears people will find out she's gay only to realise that, to Willow, that's nothing in comparison to finding out she's still a nerd. And her Welcome to the Hellmouth costume! Xander's fears that all roads keep leading back to his parent's basement and how he instantly bows his head in shame when the silhouette of his father is cast down over him. Giles telling Buffy that she "has to stop thinking. Let it wash over you" as "this is how men and women have behaved since the beginning, before time" and Buffy tells him that his misogynistic teachings (aka The Councils) are "old fashioned." And all the nice little touches that make this episode feel like an actual dream such as my favourite, when Anya is inexplicably sleeping in Willow's bed in Buffy and Willow's dorm room.

    Negatives: This episode is a fascinating character study and a perfect bridge between S1-S3 and S5-S7, but I can understand why people would feel it is underwhelming as a series finale. And this really isn't a negative of the episode itself but, for me personally, I always get a little depressed watching this episode as in many ways it's a goodbye to the series as we've known it. S5 changes the series in a lot of fundamental ways and it feels like this was one last look back.
    "You've got ... a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself."

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  7. #124
    Bronze Party-Goer ghoststar's Avatar
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    Running a little behind here, but let's go! I find the middle of this season to be a dry spell, so, unfortunately, I don't have a lot of good things to say.

    "Goodbye, Iowa"

    Positive: Riley's withdrawal feels realistic to me. I like that they pick hitting Willow as the one thing that would show us that he's really lost his marbles and that he would be embarrassed by later. He's more apologetic about that than he is about having joined an evil government agency, which IMO is very Riley Finn.

    Negative: YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS' CRAPPY BASEMENT YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS' CRAPPY BASEMENT YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS' CRAPPY BASEMENT. Seriously, this was the 99-00 season. Has no one in Sunnydale heard the word "Waco"?

    "This Year's Girl"

    Positive: I like the opening scene between Faith and the Mayor. I know I sometimes grumble about Faith, and I do feel that making her completely psychotic rather than "just" emotionally unstable is a retcon, but these two always have excellent chemistry. Her feeling that the Mayor is more harmless than she thought he was in S3 (when she was aware of his plans to kill Buffy's graduating class, and ultimately gave Buffy the clue she needed to defeat him) makes sense in the context of a dream sequence.

    Negative: It doesn't make much sense anywhere else. Also, YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE ON YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUS YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE ON YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUS YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE ON YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUS.

    "Who Are You"

    Positive: Gellar and Dushku do great work selling the body swap, and Faith-as-Buffy's scene with Spike is hilarious, mostly because he looks like he would totally go for it.

    Negative: Why hasn't Riley's religion ever been mentioned as an issue with all the witchcraft and fornication that he's invovled in? Also, YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN YOUR MOM'S HOUSE YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN YOUR MOM'S HOUSE YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN YOUR MOM'S HOUSE.

  8. #125
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghoststar View Post
    Running a little behind here, but let's go! I find the middle of this season to be a dry spell, so, unfortunately, I don't have a lot of good things to say.

    "Goodbye, Iowa"

    Positive: Riley's withdrawal feels realistic to me. I like that they pick hitting Willow as the one thing that would show us that he's really lost his marbles and that he would be embarrassed by later. He's more apologetic about that than he is about having joined an evil government agency, which IMO is very Riley Finn.

    Negative: YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS' CRAPPY BASEMENT YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS' CRAPPY BASEMENT YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS' CRAPPY BASEMENT. Seriously, this was the 99-00 season. Has no one in Sunnydale heard the word "Waco"?

    "This Year's Girl"

    Positive: I like the opening scene between Faith and the Mayor. I know I sometimes grumble about Faith, and I do feel that making her completely psychotic rather than "just" emotionally unstable is a retcon, but these two always have excellent chemistry. Her feeling that the Mayor is more harmless than she thought he was in S3 (when she was aware of his plans to kill Buffy's graduating class, and ultimately gave Buffy the clue she needed to defeat him) makes sense in the context of a dream sequence.

    Negative: It doesn't make much sense anywhere else. Also, YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE ON YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUS YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE ON YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUS YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE ON YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUS.

    "Who Are You"

    Positive: Gellar and Dushku do great work selling the body swap, and Faith-as-Buffy's scene with Spike is hilarious, mostly because he looks like he would totally go for it.

    Negative: Why hasn't Riley's religion ever been mentioned as an issue with all the witchcraft and fornication that he's invovled in? Also, YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN YOUR MOM'S HOUSE YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN YOUR MOM'S HOUSE YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DEEP STATE IN YOUR MOM'S HOUSE.
    What does Deep State have to do with what's going on in these episodes?
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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  10. #126
    Bronze Party-Goer ghoststar's Avatar
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    The Initiative is a renegade secret agency fulfilling its directors’ agenda without regard to its lawful mandate. (And its mandate may itself be unconstitutional.) That catches up to it toward the end of the season, but at this point, it’s completely out of control, and its demonic cyborg creation is engaged in an insurrection.

  11. #127
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghoststar View Post
    The Initiative is a renegade secret agency fulfilling its directors’ agenda without regard to its lawful mandate. (And its mandate may itself be unconstitutional.) That catches up to it toward the end of the season, but at this point, it’s completely out of control, and its demonic cyborg creation is engaged in an insurrection.
    Respectfully, I think you're applying too much conspiracy theory to the Initiative and how the writers were using it, which was mainly "institution combining military and science that creates its own monster and serves as foil to Buffy&theScoobies' non-patriarchial non-rigid non-scientific way of doing things."

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  13. #128
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    ”Superstar”

    ... Do I hafta? Okay, the instructions were clear, so I’ll try.

    Positive: Umm... eh... Buffy’s hair was above-average for this season? Oh, wait, I have one— Xander’s man-crush on Jonathan is pretty funny.

    Negative: The fridge logic is overwhelming here. It isn’t even fridge logic, it’s sitting-right-in-your-chair-watching-it logic. If anyone can pull off a spell this powerful, then basically all Willow’s practice has been a waste of time. Why hasn’t Jonathan’s appearance changed, if he’s a model? Is no one at the Initiative even a little interested in what the Slayer’s up to now?

  14. #129
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghoststar View Post
    ”Superstar”

    ... Do I hafta? Okay, the instructions were clear, so I’ll try.

    Positive: Umm... eh... Buffy’s hair was above-average for this season? Oh, wait, I have one— Xander’s man-crush on Jonathan is pretty funny.

    Negative: The fridge logic is overwhelming here. It isn’t even fridge logic, it’s sitting-right-in-your-chair-watching-it logic. If anyone can pull off a spell this powerful, then basically all Willow’s practice has been a waste of time. Why hasn’t Jonathan’s appearance changed, if he’s a model? Is no one at the Initiative even a little interested in what the Slayer’s up to now?
    Why would his appearance change? It's his spell, his fantasy, and under the premise that it can make people think/feel anything he wants about him (which, yes, I agree, is inconsistent - he can't be that powerful), why would he want people to see him differently than he is? Wouldn't you prefer that people adore you and find you gorgeous while you look just as you do? If he wants to be a model, he can be a model while looking like Jonathan.

    It's like those characters like Bella Swann (who has been called a canon Mary Sue - and Jonathan's spell is obviously a parody of a Mary Sue wish fulfillment fanfic), who are describing themselves as clumsy and not all that attractive, but everyone in the story is falling in love with them.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    ”Where the Wild Things Are”

    I’m probably unusual in that I don’t hate this episode! No, it doesn’t achieve a lot in terms of advancing the season’s plot, but neither do the actual season-plot episodes after #13. I think this one fits well into the series’ continuity and has some funny moments,

    Positive: It’s actually a gutsy, disturbing, and strangely spot-on exploration of growing up in a sexually repressed environment. Anya and Spike provide just enough banter to keep the tone from dropping into misery territory.

    Negative: I’m willing to buy that, after this long, the Scoobies realize they’d’ve already been caught if they were still being hunted. Still, I need some explanation for why Riley’s relationships with Maggie and Buffy aren’t making it untenable for him to keep living in the Initiative’s house, alongside Initiative fanatics, and working under the command of people who probably now hate Maggie’s dead guts. I mean, we know that Forrest and Riley are bickering more these days, but that doesn’t come close to addressing the ideological differences at stake.

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    “New Moon Rising”:

    Definitely a better ending for Willow and Oz than “Wild at Heart” would have been, and some good development for Riley; suffers from the sloppy plotting endemic to this season.

    Positive: Willow and Oz’s final discussion covers all the basic truths of moving on from your first love...

    Negative: ... BUT THEY NEVER DISCUSS THE ROLE OF THE HELLMOUTH IN OZ’S ISSUES. You’d think that, if his lycanthropy returns after months of remission, JUST when he moves to the Hellmouth, they MIGHT think that it played some role in its return. But no. Even if Willow wanted to stay at the Hellmouth for her magic studies, the option of transferring should’ve been mentioned, at least as something that Oz has thought about in the half-year or so before now. Instead, it’s completely ignored.

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    "The Yoko Factor":

    Postitive: Spike's being completely scatterbrained is pretty funny. I'd say he's dumber than he ought to be (given his success in earlier seasons), but he was a lousy personnel manager as early as "School Hard," when Dru had to prompt him to "make nice with the fellas." Unlike his technical incompetence in "Doomed," his being hopelessly disorganized makes sense.

    Negative: Why do the Scoobies all believe Spike? OK, sure, they're not as close to one another as they were a year ago-- but they're still all closer than they are to Spike! At this point, Spike has literally just tried to shoot them (and then, comically, grumbled about the unfairness of the resulting headache). I could buy that the First Evil or someone else good at taking familiar forms could sow dissension to this extent, if they wanted to, in season 4. Just not Spike.

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    "Primeval"

    Positive: Zombie!Maggie is as Oedipal and smothering as ever. Her interactions with Riley are hilarious.

    Negative: What the hell, Congresspeople? I'm sure the Scoobies broke a bunch of laws cleaning up your mess, but they were never "insurrectionists." There's not even any point in calling them such, unless you're painting them as the bad guys in your report, WHICH YOU AREN'T.

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    "Restless":

    I'm not even sure how to pick one thing good to say about it! It's among my all-time favorites. But here goes:

    Positive: Sineya is such a fascinating character. Her sense of isolation and frustration with the spoken word as a medium of communication are so beautifully done.

    Negative: OK, what is up with her teeth? Any anthropologist who's studied primitive cultures since probably the 1960s could tell you that the foraging lifestyle seldom results in twentysomethings with mouths full of rotten teeth. Several teeth ground down by grit or cracked on rocks by age 45, sure, but usually not the same results as a starchy agrarian diet or sugary modern diet, even without the benefits of modern dentistry. I'm honestly not sure why someone (Joss, in this case) who didn't know that much even cared enough about prehistory to put a character in this setting.

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