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Why everyone hates this season

famicommander

Scooby
Joined
Dec 26, 2016
Messages
617
Age
32
There are a lot of great individual episodes but the season-long story arc and the main villain don't really hold together. Adam sucks, Riley sucks, and the theme of the gang slowly drifting apart all year isn't what I wanted to see.
 
Plasma
Plasma
Pretty much hit the nail on the head here.

thetopher

Member of the Church Of Faith
Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
11,420
Location
The Moot, England
Sineya
Basically:

- the Initiative is a big downer for many; the concept of injecting the military and weird sci-fi tech (taser rifles, secret labs, mind-control chips) into a show that had previously always (with glaring exceptions like Ted or Go Fish) been about the supernatural creatures, magic spells and prophecies was very jarring. Couple that with the change in setting- no more high school- and it was off-putting to some.

- Also the way the Initiative is portrayed; in the beginning its a shadowy, secretive organisation that turns out to be a bunch of dude-bro frat boys and a weird scientist professor masquerading as a lecturer? When you bring in 'big government conspiracy' you have to write them to be a certain way. Like...competent.

- The series hits the skids when Prof. Walsh dies. It's clear that this was not the plan but the writers scrambled and had to change things up. So the writing gets wonky and then the Initiative & Adam get kinda put in the background by the Faith, Jonathan and Oz-centric episodes, which also happen to be more interesting.

- Adam. Not only was he a charisma vacuum with a floppy disc drive in his chest but, more importantly, he had no direct emotion connection to our protagonists; previously we'd had Angelus & Faith who had some cool antagonism with Buffy & one or more of the scoobies. With Adam he's more concerned with tangential characters like Riley or Spike and he doesn't really interact with Buffy except to punch her in the face. I want a quip-off and a battle of wits, but Adam was never written like that; on the one hand he's a marauding monster and on the other he's a shadow-y mastermind.

- In hindsight the replacement of Cordelia and Angel with stand-ins was fine; probably the safest option in a season that was changing so many things up and doing crossover stuff.
However Anya and Spike are much, much more morally murky than the characters they replaced; one is a former vengeance demon and the other is a soulless monster. They are both former antagonists of our heroes and so intergrating them into the show took some deft writing.
Many feel that these two 'joining' the group (and the justifications for that) makes the Scoobies much more morally suspect...which would get more apparent as the show went on.

- Riley, the brand new love interest, and a romance that kinda subtlety pushed on the audience. Many didn't like it.

- The 'exciting new college experience' is just not as relatable as the 'losers of high school' one.


Having said all that I really, really like S4; it's solidly in the mid-rankings of the Buffy seasons for me. It has tons of great stand-alones, lots of effective comedy, character-based episodes. All the characters have plenty of narrative space to really be explored this season, without the need for any overall arcs, they're put in different scenarios and we get to see how they react.
It's the first season where Joss and co really started experimenting with eps like 'Hush' and 'Restless'. And I love a lot of the crossover magic and the main characters organically drifting apart before a dramatic/funny split and then the need to reunite to save the day.
 

Spo0kyxSpice

Townie
Joined
Feb 23, 2022
Messages
15
Age
32
Hmm, I wouldn't say hate it. I'd say there are a few things I didn't like about Season 4 but it has some great episodes in it.
My main issue is Riley, at first he's fine and it's perfectly normal for Buffy to be moving on and experiencing college, but when he starts getting major jealous and crazy thanks to being off those special army tic tacs, it gets annoying real fast IMO.

As for Adam, I enjoyed him as the big bad. The whole government conspiracy and being aware of a Hellmouth just makes so much sense to me, of course they'd have to know. I'm a huge fan of monster movies and practical effects so the Adam suit - as silly as it may look, the effects and look of him just bring me so much joy in a (terrible B-grade 80s cheesefest horror movie).
The finale threw me, but that's a good thing. Buffy defeating this season's evil right before the final episode and just having such a chaotic (The Cheese Man!) and goofy finale really works well.

Again, this is all my opinion. But I can definitely see where the season starts to slow and wane compared to the first 3 seasons.
 

Cohen

Hellhound
Joined
Oct 24, 2005
Messages
3,260
Location
Neptune, California
Sineya
I think a big issue with season 4 is that the writers didn't really know where they wanted to go with the characters. Which, to be fair, is a big issue when teen shows have their characters graduate and go to college or the adult-world. It's so difficult to really capture the essence of young adults aged 18-21, especially people who were friends in high school and go off into adulthood and remain close--and make it believable.

In reality, I think Willow and Buffy probably would have moved on from Xander in college, and Buffy would have likely made new friends. But for the limitations of the show, and because of that pesky little secret she had, it kept her isolated from other college students. We never really see Willow or Buffy make new friends in college, except for Tara, and Willow's very shallow attempt at joining the Wicca group.

But the show remained about the Scoobies, and the writers were not very sure on how to keep the storylines going in a believable, organic way. I think they figured this out by season 5. Shifting the Scoobies away from campus and giving them a place to meet (Magic Box) really helped make the story more organic and believable in season 5 and 6. I think this is what made season 7 so disjointed, as well. It was so unbelievable that so many people could be in that tiny house that we had spent 6.5 years inside of, knowing it was so tiny. By eradicating their home base (Library/Magic Box) in seasons 4 and 7, it splintered the story.
 

burrunjor

Scooby
Joined
Nov 13, 2018
Messages
742
Age
32
I love season 4 personally. Spike is at his best this year, Adam is a good villain for that season, the humour is at its best, the gang go through some big, but positive changes like Willow coming out, Xander being ready for a proper relationship. It also had great stand alone episodes and really put the effort into making its monsters unique and scary like the Gentlemen. Also I had no problem with Riley this year. He's fine for the most part for what he is, it's just in season 5 when he becomes a nightmare with his "all girls want bad boys" crap that we are supposed to sympathise with!

To me it's the last proper Buffy season to be honest. Season 5 certainly isn't bad and it has its stand out episodes, but it's when I think they start to go in a fan ficcy way in certain respects, when Joss starts to get too self indulgent re the soap opera, when the balance shifts to being more of a supernatural themed soap opera, rather than a horror/adventure show.

After that seasons 6 and 7 though again not without merit, are total fan fic seasons of the show. Season 4 to me is really when Buffy kind of reached her natural end. IE she's moved out of high school, she can tackle anything thrown at her like Adam, she's in a stable relationship, she's realised how important her friends are too her etc. Everything after that just feels like ruining her life to prolong her journey, like killing her again, etc.
 

Cohen

Hellhound
Joined
Oct 24, 2005
Messages
3,260
Location
Neptune, California
Sineya
I think there's a shift in season 4. I don't think I agree with you on the "fanfic" aspect. While there were boards towards season 5 starting up, I don't think fandom really had an influence on the show, like fandoms can have today with certain genre shows. But season 4 starts a shift in quality. There's a ton of soap-opera-ness to season 4 too. Buffy and Riley's will-they-wont-they, Willow's Oz troubles and secret friendship/relationship with Tara, Xander's career woes, Giles' feelings of incompetence following his being fired as a Watcher and lost job at Sunnydale High due to the blowing up of the school. They tried to do a good story arc with the Government, but it doesn't really hit as well as the mayor plot of season 3. I think for many people the college by day, secret ops by night schtick was too far out of believability.
 

burrunjor

Scooby
Joined
Nov 13, 2018
Messages
742
Age
32
I think there's a shift in season 4. I don't think I agree with you on the "fanfic" aspect. While there were boards towards season 5 starting up, I don't think fandom really had an influence on the show, like fandoms can have today with certain genre shows. But season 4 starts a shift in quality. There's a ton of soap-opera-ness to season 4 too. Buffy and Riley's will-they-wont-they, Willow's Oz troubles and secret friendship/relationship with Tara, Xander's career woes, Giles' feelings of incompetence following his being fired as a Watcher and lost job at Sunnydale High due to the blowing up of the school. They tried to do a good story arc with the Government, but it doesn't really hit as well as the mayor plot of season 3. I think for many people the college by day, secret ops by night schtick was too far out of believability.

I disagree that the fandom had no influence Buffy was one of the first shows where the creator talked with the fans that way on the message boards even agreeing with their interpretation on Faith and Buffy having a gay subtext. Also whilst season 4 does have some soapy elements, it's not quite like 5 where entire episodes come to revolve around that like The Body and Into The Woods.
 

Plasma

Spooky
Joined
Feb 16, 2022
Messages
2,721
Age
24
Location
Westchester, NY
Black Thorn
@Cohen it has a similar issue to Stranger Things S3 for me. You mean to tell me that a giant facility was built underneath of a massive public place, yet nobody noticed?

I get that people in Sunnydale can be blatantly ignorant of supernatural events, but it’s a little much to say that they were completely unaware of a massive construction site underneath a college. Additionally, the Initiative definitely seems like it’s been around for a hot minute, so why didn’t they ever show up beforehand? The Slayer blows up the Judge at a mall with an RPG, yet they never investigated or followed up on that?

S4 expects the audience to swallow a horse pill of assumption and hand waving, and it’s something that the show in general never really has issues with otherwise.
 

thrasherpix

Scooby
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
4,739
Age
40
@Cohen it has a similar issue to Stranger Things S3 for me. You mean to tell me that a giant facility was built underneath of a massive public place, yet nobody noticed?

I get that people in Sunnydale can be blatantly ignorant of supernatural events, but it’s a little much to say that they were completely unaware of a massive construction site underneath a college. Additionally, the Initiative definitely seems like it’s been around for a hot minute, so why didn’t they ever show up beforehand? The Slayer blows up the Judge at a mall with an RPG, yet they never investigated or followed up on that?

S4 expects the audience to swallow a horse pill of assumption and hand waving, and it’s something that the show in general never really has issues with otherwise.
I headcanon that the Mayor somehow made it very difficult for them to operate, probably with Wolfram & Hart helping him...but it's not fully satisfactory. And yet there are vague signs, from g-men after Marcie to the coach with mutagens (and seemed to know something was supernatural about Buffy the way he ONLY went for the gun first than hand to hand when Buffy confronted him).

There were worm demons that could help (and Maggie might not know the details of that), and there are colleges with secured areas that I think include underground (and it seems so much falls underground sooner or later). Still...it's hard to swallow. Especially that easily found door in the woods that Buffy had to pass before (but maybe Adam made it easier to find).

Still, the show didn't take itself too seriously yet (though doing so more and more with each season until they had the audacity to say s6 was realistic) so I was able to overlook it.
 

WillowsFaith

Potential
Joined
May 21, 2021
Messages
168
Age
30
Replacing Angel with Riley, The Initiative plot line, Boring and uneventful Episodes, Oz Left, and Buffy’s fights were not exciting until the finale. Also Adam was the lamest Big Bad of the whole show. The Only redeeming Moments were the thanksgiving episode, Faith’s 2 Part Epic, Hush, Giles retirement, and Spike becoming a Scooby. Granted, every teen drama fails to live up to the highschool years. I actually feel like season 4 started great. But the threat and the thrill of the show waned as we learn more about the initiative and professor Walsh. Also the production value seemed to go down as the episodes went on. It’s always been a hard season to rate because it has some of the shows best episodes like hush , but also a very dull season arc
 

Mr Trick

Scooby
Joined
Jan 9, 2015
Messages
16,702
Age
42
Location
London, UK
Hate is a strong word. Overtime I think people have warmed to it. The main arc storyline is a big downer. But from a Scooby point of view its still pretty strong (it maybe Willow's best season). Also it has 5-6 of the best episodes ever. I still see it as a strong season, and overtime The Initiative stuff doesn't bother me as much because I just gets used to it. But I do get the hate. The storytelling overall is still very good, its just that main arc of the season is a letdown.
 

hoponlilmama

Townie
Joined
May 8, 2023
Messages
57
S4 was supposed to pan out a bit differently.
So with the early departures of Walsh and Oz, they had to pivot pretty quickly and change direction, so the Big Bad for this season (Adam) was a bit lacklustre.

I may be one of the few who actually likes their transition to college, AND I like Riley.
 

AlphaFoxtrot

Scooby
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
2,692
Age
41
Because Buffy jumped the shark. The quality of the second half of season 3 was just so high, trying to meet or exceed it would have been impossible. I mean, think of the Act V cafeteria scene in "Choices." It's literally several million dollars worth of talent standing around being afraid of a puppet in a box, and it's awesome. Season 4 is fine, and has the most consistent quality of the series, but we don't judge seasons in isolation.
 

Mr Trick

Scooby
Joined
Jan 9, 2015
Messages
16,702
Age
42
Location
London, UK
Adam has actually grown on me as a villain. The actor does a solid job and there are highlights with him such as the stuff with Spike. With more time he could have been a better villain.
 
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