Wednesday, January 5, 2011

TV Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 4)

I was a little worried that, since I’ve already started watching season five of Buffy, that I’d have a hard time remembering which events belonged to what season but so far no trouble. This season had a much stronger overall story arc than the previous three, which I did like, but there was plenty I didn't like as well

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Summary: Buffy and Willow have started attending the University of Sunnydale with Xander, Giles, and the demon Anya still in nearby Sunnydale. And, like every other large institution in Sunnydale, the college is hiding a few unexpected secrets that end up coming back to bite them in the butt.

The Good: At some point in the show I just gave up thinking about it and simply started marathoning it on my computer and was amused by it. I think a lot of it was because the show had a stronger overall story arc than the previous seasons (which is something I like) and that left a lot of episodes ending on cliffhangers, something that doesn't happen as much on TV shows these days. I was also pretty happy to see Tara introduced since I’ve heard so much about “the longest running lesbian couple on TV” and I liked the character development it gave Willow and how she didn’t fall for Tara immediately. I suppose Oz’s speedy departure was necessary for this and out of all the couples on the show I do like the Willow/Tara one the best, they just make sense together and function well as a couple.

The Bad: I was really hopeful that I would like this season of Buffy more because the characters were in college (like I am) and you just don’t find that many stories set in college these days. Nope, the characters might have been back in high school (and that even got lampshaded in the first couple of episodes) for all the difference the new setting made. And for me the setting is the most crucial part of the story, I would place it even above having a coherent plot in terms of importance, so to see it squandered like this just irks me. Beyond that, I didn’t like how Oz was written out of the story so quickly to make room for Tara (actually, his character seemed to change a bit from episode to episode as well which I thought was odd), the standard military guys at the Initiative annoyed me, and I’m just not sure what to make of Riley. On the one hand, he did get pretty well fleshed out after a season but on the other hand he felt a little too similar to Angel at times and, like Oz, just didn’t make sense at other times. And I have to admit, I was annoyed at how Buffy had to find another guy as soon as Angel left, what’s so wrong with being single I ask? It has been well established that Buffy really likes to have a romantic partner most of the time, that I will concede, but it’s still annoying to see nearly every character hook up with someone else as soon as they break up, it certainly doesn’t ring true for what I see in my other college friends’ lives.

The Music: We’ve still got an insert song in every episode and again I can’t remember any of them (I think I liked one because it was a song I was already familiar with but I can’t even remember what song it was). Also, I understand that the fans probably would have killed Whedon if he changed the opening music, but could they at least update the images to reflect the current season? Since the opening shows actual clips from the show it just doesn’t make sense to show stuff from the current season and the older ones, it just seems a bit lazy.

The Visuals: I recall almost falling out of my chair laughing at the Initiative’s headquarters under the school (it honestly looked like they took a warehouse and covered the inside of it with tinfoil) and the monsters still look pretty cheap. Some complaints on the setting as well (as in, that didn’t look like a small town college) but I think I already ranted on that enough.

So, there were parts of this season I liked but I’m still not that big a fan of the show. Gah, I’m off to watch more noitaminA now and get my josei fix (ie, stories that actually focus on being a young adult in college, not a young adult in college who may as well be in high school again).