In the thirteenth episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy is given access to the Initiative, despite that Willow warns her that she may be moving too fast. Then everything is unbelievably fucked up. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Well, this is easily one of my favorite episodes in the whole series. It actually fits incredibly well after “A New Man” because there’s an entire plot about Willow feeling left out and inadequate, much like how Giles felt in the past episode. Even without thinking about it, Buffy has moved on rather quickly to her new role within the Initiative, and Willow feels like she’s losing a friend. It’s such an uncomfortable situation, and I think this story shows us just how awkward this all is.
I think a lot of the tension comes from the fact that we don’t really know if Willow’s concern about the Initiative is true. In fact, until a good third of the way through, it was entirely possible that Buffy had made a good decision. She was impressed with the facilities; Professor Walsh seemed eager to get her onboard. And hell, have we ever seen Riley glow as much as he does in this episode? He’s clearly quite happy with this arrangement, and who could blame him? He’s finally attracted to a girl who can not only kick his ass, but is allowed to know the secret he’s been forced to hide from everyone. (Does his family know? Does he even have a family? I know so little about you, Riley.) I knew that room 314 had to be a thing, but maybe that’s just where they invited pi or something. I DON’T KNOW. I guess that I entertained the notion of having hope. I know that’s a foolish thing to do, but it was nice to see Riley and Buffy together. I like them as a couple, especially since they have such a different dynamic than Parker or Angel.
I’m pretty sure, though, that if things keep heading the way they are, Willow/Tara are going to crush the competition. They flirted in this episode, right? My little gay brain is not just overreacting, is it? They are totally crushing on one another, aren’t they? I mean, they have to. They are both just so awkward and cute with each other, and I’m pretty sure that I will sink all other ships just to sail on the HMS WillowTara. So, can I have this, Buffy? Can I have it right now? THANKS.
I’m going to also go ahead and say that the secret inside room 314 was not what I expected. Somehow, it’s more disturbing than what I could have imagined. I think Professor Walsh is the one who makes it that way. It would be bad enough if they were conducting experiments in order to build some sort of super soldier of demon parts. That’s a creepy idea. But Professor Walsh’s really creepy maternalism? The fact that she watches Riley have sex? The fact that she speaks to Adam like he is her son? Yeah, this is like the polar opposite of Mayor Wilkins in some ways, and then exactly the same. Because even if I despise what Professor Walsh does in “The I in Team,” I can’t hate her. I’m intrigued by the way she acts.
Yet even beyond this plot line, there are just so many layers in this episode. We’ve got Buffy and Riley having sex for the first time, and the clear reference to Buffy expecting to find the bed empty. We have Spike not only moving into a crypt and insisting he not have anything to do with the Scoobies anymore, but also becoming even closer to the group. I mean, they saved his life! Again. To be fair, Giles did charge Spike, but THIS ISN’T THE POINT. The point is that we also have an entire bit where it seems clear that Willow’s finding her own things to do without Buffy, namely Tara. Look, I don’t care that I already brought it up. Willow had that crystal from Tara, didn’t she? OH MY GOD WHAT DID THEY DO?
I think that half the surprise of the end of this episode comes from the fact that it’s so sudden. Buffy was fully introduced to the Initiative in this episode, and Professor Walsh devises a way to get rid of her like twenty-five minutes later. But that’s because this whole time, I believed the Initiative itself would be the Big Bad for Season 4. It seemed like we were heading that way anyway. Buffy clearly wasn’t going to get killed by those demons (though I did entertain that thought for half a second after her heartbeat stopped registering), and that would mean she’d have to confront Professor Walsh.
I pretty much just clutched my face and tried to prevent myself from hyperventilating once Buffy appeared on the camera feed behind Professor Walsh. It’s especially mind-melting because you could see Riley begin to break over the thought that he lost Buffy because of all of this. Riley was the one who brought Buffy into the Initiative, and now he realizes that he should have asked more questions of his superiors. That has to be a gut-wrenching epiphany, too. Buffy brought it up more than once, and she was certainly the only inquisitive member of the Initiative. And now he believes she’s dead.
Ugh, Buffy’s message to Professor Walsh is just so perfect. It’s one of my favorite moments for her character because YOU KNOW SHE MEANS EVERY WORD OF IT. And then I have feelings about the terror on Professor Walsh’s face? I mean, fuck her for trying to take out Buffy, but why do I feel bad about her losing Riley? And what’s Riley going to do? And how are the Scoobies going to deal with this? How is Professor Walsh going to deal with Buffy? And what about –
HOLY SHIT ADAM JUST SKEWERED PROFESSOR WALSH WHAT THE FUCK. What the fuck!?!?!?!? WHAT THE FUCK. No, fuck you, how do you end an episode that way? What are you doing? She’s dead, isn’t she? You just killed off the main antagonist because oh my god she was never the season-long villain IT WAS ADAM ALL ALONG WASN’T IT
I am just so overwhelmed.
Mark Links Stuff
– My eBook adaptations of reviews I’ve posted are on sale at MarkDoesStuff.com. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Firefly books are priced from $2.99 to $3.99 a piece, and are available in ePub (iBook, iPod, iPad, Nook), Kindle, and PDF files.
– I now have a Lulu storefront, where you can purchase physical copies of all of my previously released books, including a full Mark Reads Twilight book that includes all four sets of Twilight reviews.
– I am going on tour in April and May across the western half of North America! Please check this post for tour dates and to see which cities I still need help finding venues in. You can RSVP for any date by clicking on the city name and using the Facebook page for it, or you can just leave a comment! If you have access to a venue, know of a good book store or coffee shop that hosts events, or would be willing to host an event at your house or work (I DON’T CARE WHERE, I WILL SHOW UP), please comment on that post to let me know. I can also be reached at markreadsandwatches [at] gmail [dot] com.
– I am presenting for three days at Ascendio 2012! Come hang out and have the best weekend ever in July!
– Liveblogs for Game of Thrones season 2 start on April 1st. For the time being, there will be no proper reviews, just liveblogs.
– Since Legend of Korra has now been released, I’ll review the first two episodes over the course of the next week or two; once the show starts back up again, we’ll do weekly liveblogs and I’ll have reviews of it up on Sunday.
– Mark Watches The Lord of the Rings films starts on March 31st. Each consecutive Saturday, I’ll watch the three LOTR films in order and host a liveblog; I’ll post a loose review of them on Sunday morning!