So I’ve been marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. The show seems to naturally split into two eras, Suddydale High and Post Sunnydale High. Seasons 1-3 saw Buffy slay her way through her teenage years and quite a few apocalypses (apocalli…?), then ended very neatly on a graduation and a spinoff into another beloved series, Angel. The best seasons of the show always seem to be from this era, if internet rankings are to be believed. And the worst season(s)? The most notorious is Season 4.
So naturally I started out rewatching it.
Seasons 1-3 had everything: life lessons, tragic romance, deaths of favorite characters, and really epic storylines. Season 4 comes along, the normal setting is in ashes and everybody’s roles have changed. At least two regulars have moved on and left. There’s new love interests (some blander than others), new (and underwhelming) big baddies, new sexualities being explored (and hotly debated over).
For all its flaws, Season 4 still has a lot of good. It captures the transition between high school and college rather perfectly. There are amazing, individual episodes (Hush comes to mind). It was groundbreaking in that it explicitly explores the show’s first ever lady on lady relationship. And best of all, Spike joins the main cast!
So why is this season hated so much? I’m going to go out on a limb and say the abruptness of all that change was one of the biggest factors. After all, bringing a secret government agency into a universe that usually focuses on medieval lore and magic was risky, and spawned a lot of good. It makes more sense than Season 6 where the main plot revolves around three nerds committing petty crimes for no ultimate purpose (Season 6 is actually my second favorite).
The entire point of this is to say transitions are tough. Narratively, if they aren’t done right, they can throw someone far enough that they don’t bother coming back. In life, they’re the roughest part of growing up. They make people look back on the old days too fondly so they miss the gems of the present. Change is exciting and breeds a lot of good, but it’s the journey that makes or breaks.
Some food for thought. Anything philosophical to add? Are you a raging fan of Buffy Season 4? Am I spouting blasphemy of the highest order? Let me know what you think. 🙂
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