I love this season.Why everyone seems to loathe?
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 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).@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.