It's no surprise by anyone's standards that I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's a well developed show about a strong female character who kicks non-sparkly, soulless vampire ass. It has tight pacing, witty dialogue, compelling characterization, and all the delicious camp of the nineties. Well, sometimes the camp is less delicious and more hysterically awful, but I found a masochistic appreciation of the silly after watching Doctor Who.
I love Buffy and her friends, but season four was by no means the best season. I think its mediocrity is second only to season one, where the cinematography and episode plots were more ridiculous than intriguing. This is the second season where the antagonist doesn't really pack a punch. The Master in season one was Buffy's worst nightmare, and the amazing internal emotional conflict Buffy had during season two made the show reach to new heights. The Mayor in season three at least was humorous. But Adam in season four is kind of...boring. Not because he isn't a reasonable threat, but simply because Buffy's emotional conflict with the character is nonexistent.
So in terms of plot, this season wasn't one of my favourites. As for characterization, I liked how the Scooby Gang's feelings of inadequacy were finally placed as a forefront theme to the season. Buffy's new love interest was fairly dull, however, Joss Whedon knows enough to make him somewhat interesting by placing him in a mysterious situation. Buffy and Willow both had to emotionally mature in their romantic relationships this season, so that was fun to see. I'm loving Anya's frank nature and Xander is getting less and less annoying as seasons go on. In fact, how he helped Buffy in the opener made me love him a bit.
Mostly, this season is only interesting because Whedon seemed to realize that there wasn't a lot going on in the storyline and decided "Hey! How about we try ALL OF THE ARTISTIC STYLES?" Episodes like Hush and Restless remind me of the show's versatility, and while the season itself is fairly forgettable, those two episodes acknowledge the series' ever growing artistic maturity.
Watching Buffy is rather a different experience from watching Doctor Who. Somehow I was able to stay away from most spoilers through Doctor Who, and the show has never been couple-focused, so I got to experience a lot of the main story lines unscathed. With Buffy, I know most of the character arcs and relationships, - although I have no idea how it ends, so if you tell me, expect a samurai sword to your neck - and because of this, it's more about the journey of dialogue, cinematography and characterization than main story arcs.
I'm finding more and more that my overall preference is watching TV shows in seasons and less the weekly episode format we regularly experience. I'm not sure why this is, but I think it probably has something to do with viewing the season's overall tone in a packed amount of time. Less of my own problems or thoughts get in the way of the show as an isolated experience. Any comments on watching in seasons vs. episodes?
Favourite episodes: Hush and Restless for their unusual artistic formats. Hush made me challenge my ideas of communication, while Restless has become my go-to episode to watch when I need to go all floaty and dissociative for writing. Primeval was also just a classic Buffy finale format, and I loved how the Scooby Gang ended up defeating the antagonist.
Least favourite episodes: Beer Bad was completely cringe worthy, but in that kind of camptastic way that makes Buffy such a cult classic experience for me. A New Man was also lacking. Not quite funny or heartfelt enough, and it kept me detached from the storyline.