Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Some of the best funny bits of season four

WRITER: Joss Whedon

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon


With the battle against Adam and his demon horde won, an exhausted Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander return to Buffy’s house to relax and chill out. Soon, though, they all fall asleep, in to what will turn out to be very, very strange and potentially deadly dreams in which something angry and primal is stalking them — the spirit of the First Slayer, furious that her power was invoked for the gang's enjoining spell. And original slayer wants to make ‘em pay.


Where to start with Restless?

It’s perhaps the strangest, weirdest, (arguably) smartest episode of the entire series. Joss decided to end season four in a way no one expected, or that had been done before to my knowledge on a major US TV series. Here we delve deep in to Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander’s subconscious’s through their dreams. Dreams which play out just as dreams usually play out – disjointed, apparently nonsensical, surreal.

There’s a lot here to explore, to think about.

Joss says he pretty much sat down and wrote by free association, letting it all tumble out of his head on to the page. And you can tell. That kind of writing works well here as dreams are often like that - a jumble of images, of ideas, hard to interpret. But there’s also lots of foreshadowing of future events in Restless – mostly from season five with a certain unexpected arrival, but also from season six and what happens to Willow. And then a certain major event from season seven concerning Spike. It’s subtle but it is all there.

For Willow it seems her fears are of being a major player in all things Scooby and that she’ll not be truly accepted for who she is by her friends. Her biggest fear, though, seems to be that underneath the cool, cute, magiced-up College girl Willow, she is still really the mousy, insecure little geek from school.

On to Xander, whose fears are mostly about him being trapped in a loser life, stuck in bad low paid jobs and never escaping his parents’ basement. Oh, plus some guilt around being kinda hot for both Willow and Tara and, ahem, Buffy’s mom.

Giles, meanwhile, seems to focus on how he treats and relates to Buffy, seeing her as a little girl, an innocent, naïve daughter who he must be hard and strict with in order to keep her safe.

Finally, Buffy herself deals with issues such as marginalising her mother (who literally becomes part of the building, living inside its walls) and confronting the source of her power as well as the question of who and what she really is.

In the end Buffy confronts the First Slayer who is furious that Buffy isn’t like her: a pure primal power for killing and nothing more. Buffy settles in her own mind that she is much more than that, and that she has to have her friends back, that she needs them to be strong, to keep her as her and not as something similar to the First Slayer. This fundamental realisation forces the dreams to come to an end and the gang to wake up, disturbed but in one piece and with lots to ponder over, just like the audience.

The First Slayer


1. Original. Restless is like nothing else I’ve seen on TV. Sure, other TV shows have gone weird and trippy, but not with the same depth of meaning, clues, signs and portents which do pay off in future seasons. Often weird and trippy is just weird and trippy for its own sake. Not here. Joss’s idea was to as accurately as possible capture the look and feel of a genuine dream but to layer it with meaning and with ideas and clues to be argued and debated over by fans until time itself ends.

2. Direction. This episode is beautifully directed. The camera work, composition, cinematography is quite something. Individual shots are quite stunning as are the dissolves. It kinda reminded me in places of a Tarsem Singh film, just not quite as visually batty. The use of the interconnected sets at the studio Buffy was filmed in is quite ingenious too, allowing characters to, in a single unbroken shot, literally step from, say, the Bronze right in to Xander’s basement, then on in to a Sunnydale U hallway etc. Its how the studio space was arranged for real but is also quite odd and jarring when watched as part of a constructed narrative. Two of my fave directed bits are the black and white Spike-striking-poses sequence and the single slow motion close up shot of Ms Kitty Fantastico walking towards camera. Joss was really rockin’ the camera on this one.

3. The First Slayer. Actress/model Sharon Ferguson does a great job as the First Slayer being full of so much wordless, primal power and lethal ferocity. With her animalistic movements, long wild hair and war paint she makes for a truly scary figure. Thankfully we will see her again in future eps of Buffy.

4. The Cheese Man. Perhaps no other character in Buffy outside of the core group has been more discussed/debated/pondered than the mysterious cheese man, a happy bespectacled chap who turns up now and again to talk about and offer to the Scoobies some slices of processed cheese. Bizarre! I have nothing. Joss…?

5. Spike’s b&w photo shoot. As mentioned earlier, really cool sequence. James Marsters is clearly having way too much fun striking those cheesy poses.

6. Guest stars. Yay! Oz is back, albeit a dream Oz in Willow’s head seen canoodling with Tara in class. Still, it’s Oz. Big smile. Plus we get Phina Oruche back as Giles’ on and off girlfriend Olivia playing mommy figure to Buffy in Giles’s dream. But best of all is the excellent Armin Shimerman back as odious (now eaten by giant snake demon) Principle Snyder doing his best Marlon Brando/Colonel Kurtz impression. Love it.


It doesn't suck. But I get why some people wouldn’t like it. It is weird. It is rather self indulgent. It is mostly about Joss getting to play in his sandbox and doing what ever the hell he wants to do. But so what? Joss doing what he wants to do almost always ends up being out of this world awesome! Just as it is here.


Spike striking a pose


Xander: “Apocalypse Now is a gay romp. It's the feel-good movie of whatever year it was.”

Xander: (to Willow) “So whatcha been doin'? Doing spells? (to Oz) She does spells with Tara.”
Oz: “Yeah, I've heard about that.”
Xander (dreamily): “Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell... and then I do a spell by myself.”

Buffy: “But what else could I expect from a bunch of low-rent, no-account hoodlums like you? Hoodlums, yes, I mean you and your friends, your whole sex. Throw 'em in the sea for all I care. Throw 'em in and wait for the bubbles. Men, with your groping and spitting. All groin, no brain. Three billion of ya' passin' around the same worn out urge. Men... with your sales.”

Cheese Guy (to Giles, while wearing two slice of cheese on his head): “I wear the cheese, it does not wear me.”

Giles: “Somehow our joining with Buffy and invoking the essence of the Slayer's power was an affront to the source of that power.”
Buffy: “You know you could have brought that up to us before we did it.”
Giles: “I did. I said there could be dire consequences.”
Buffy: “Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast.”


1. This episode marks Seth Green’s final ever appearance in Buffy, though not Oz’s. The character returned in the Season 8 comic book series where he was living happily in Tibet with a wife and child…until Buffy and her band of on the run slayers turn up.

2. The outfit Willow wears in her dream, after Buffy rips off her "costume," is the exact same outfit she wore in Buffy 1.1 'Welcome to the Hellmouth.'

3. A quote from Joss re. The Cheese Man: "The cheese man means nothing. He is the only thing in the show that means nothing. I needed something like that, something that couldn't be explained, because dreams always have that one element that is just RIDICULOUS. Thus, man of cheese. Plus funny. (to me)"

4. When Giles is singing at the Bronze, Buffy composer Christophe Beck and Four Star Mary (the real band behind Dingoes Ate My Baby) are all onstage with him.


Cave Slayer is very angry! 5 (out of 5)

And so ends my Buffy Season Four retrospective. It’s on to season five soon.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Buffy’s best fights from season 4

WRITER: David Fury
DIRECTOR: James Contner


Adam reveals his plan to his ‘brother’ Riley who it turns out has a chip planted inside of him by Maggie Walsh; a chip which allows Adam to control him. So what's Adam been up to? Well, he's been deliberately loading the Initiative with demons and wants Buffy in there to lead the humans in battle when he releases the demon horde upon them. Buffy, he figures, will maximise demon casualties allowing for lots and lots of human and demon spare parts, which he can then use to build an army of hybrids to begin bringing order to a chaotic world. Meanwhile at the caves, Buffy has a run in with Spike and figures out what’s been going on. She, Giles, Willow and Xander meet up and realise that Spike, working for Adam, has been playing them off against each other, looking to isolate Buffy from her besties. Buffy also figures out Adam’s plan and our girl decides to mount a surprise attack on Big Bad's secret lab in the Initiative before he can put his nasty plan in to action. But how to defeat the big nasty? It seems he feared the strength that Buffy drew from her friends, which goes and gives Giles an idea for a powerful spell to give the Buffster the advantage in combat. The gang then heads to the Initiative where they break in through Riley’s old frat house, repelling down the secret elevator shaft. However they are soon captured by Initiative types and pretty soon must watch helplessly as Adam takes control of the facility releasing all the demons from their cells. A massive human vs. demon battle ensues complete with explosions, mass casualties, body parts cleaved away. Buffy and the gang escape custody and cast their spell, imbuing Buffy with the strength of her three best friends and of the original primeval magic of the Slayer. Meanwhile Riley manages to remove the controlling chip from his chest and fights the newly demoned up Forrest, eventually besting his now monstrous ex-best friend. At the same time, primevaly boosted up Buffy finds Adam and engages him in a one on one smack down. Adam is unable to match or work around Buffy’s new power and ends up having his power cell ripped from his body by her, killing him stone dead. Later, somewhere in Washington DC, a bunch of Government officials discuss what happened in Sunnydale and make the decison that their interference in all things supernatural was a mistake and that the Initiative should be shut down and buried forever.


The power of true friendship, of drawing strength from those who care for you and who you care for. Not being alone. This is one of the fundamental themes of the entire series. Buffy has only lived as long as she has, has only been as successful as she has because she’s got what no other slayer ever had: friends, family, a life (of sorts). She has people to care about and who care about her. Who have her back. The power in that is immense.


Adam, Demon-Forrest, lots of let loose demons.


1. Action. You want big action? Fights? Explosions? Gun battles? Fire? Sets blowing up? Limbs severed? Check all those. Primeval is big. It’s ballsy. It’s an action spectacular. Humans and demons fight, fly through the air, lose body parts, explode. You name it, almost every stunt is in here. Seeing the fantastic Skunkworks location used as the Initiative engulfed in flames and carnage is pretty darn cool. Director Jim Contner and the stunt team did a splendid job. The stuntmen really earned their pay on this one inc. high falls and full body burns – still the most dangerous stunt to do. Contner shows lots of wide-angle destruction as well as fast cut frenetic carnage and more intimate battles and bloodshed. I especially liked Forrest blowing up, his dismembered head sent spinning at the camera. Cool.

2. Buffy goes Neo. Okay, so Joss loves The Matrix. It’s his favourite film. And here you can tell. When Buffy becomes possessed by the primeval force, she slows time, stopping bullets in slo mo and turning missiles in to doves. The FX look amazing if totally ripped off of the Wachowski’s. But its kinda cool seeing the same thing used in a magic/supernatural context as opposed to the scifi one in The Matrix.

3. The Buffy/Adam fight. Buffy’s hand to hand fight with Adam is bloody great. It is fairly brief but its a big ol’ fist pounding slug fest as she dodges his huge blows and counters with hard and fast poundings of her own. A tiny girl laying epic blows on a huge, hulking Frankenstein monster type and sending him reeling is just such a goddamn awesome image. Its moments like those that remind me why she’s possibly my favourite hero character ever, and still, all these years later, just so dam cool.

4. The elevator repelling scene. In a very Buffy scene, Buffy and Willow have a touching heart to heart and reconnect as best friends…while repelling on ropes down an elevator shaft. This sweet and touching scene is then undercut with funny as the pair hug…and then pratfall the rest of the way down. At the bottom of the shaft they continue to hug, and when Xander comes down next they hug him too. Unaware of the context Xander takes it the wrong way and thinks they are all about to die. Heh.


1. Despite the coolness of Buffy and Adam’s big end fight, it does feel oddly small scale and ends kinda quick. Basically they are fighting one on one in a small room with nobody else about. I wish they’d been able to stage the fight out in the main Initiative set somehow. It would have been a lot more visually interesting with all the carnage going on around them.

2. Sarah lost a fair bit of weight over seasons 3 and 4 and her stunt/fight double is, in several scenes, obviously a lot more muscular.

3. I love Spike, but how come Buffy didn’t just stake him when it became clear he was working for Adam? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she didn’t, but it doesn’t make a whole heap of sense.


The fights and FX are fab but I do love the elevator-repelling scene. It’s disarmingly sweet, character based and funny. Quintessential Buffy.


Xander: “Spike's working for Adam?! After all we've done — Nah, I can't even act surprised.”

Buffy: “Xander!”
Willow: “Oh, wonderful Xander!”
Buffy (while giving a group hug): “You know we love you, right?”
Willow: “We totally do.”
Xander (morose): “Oh God, we're gonna die, aren't we?”

Spike (to Adam, about getting his chip removed): “Hello? Paging Dr. Owe-me-one.”

Willow (to Colonel McNamara as he's searching their equipment): “It's a gourd.”
Giles: “A magic gourd.”
Colonel McNamara: “What kind of freaks are you people?”

Uber-Buffy: “You could never hope to grasp the source of our power. (Pushes a hand in to Adams chest, pulling out his power core). But yours is right here.”

Spike (faking enthusiasm to help the Scoobies and save his own skin): "Then lets go save 'em, by gum!"


Primeval is the standard big fight/epic conclusion to this season’s story arc concerning The Initiative and Adam. But it is not the season finale. In a left field decision made by Joss, and flying in the face of normal TV drama, he decided instead to end this season with a strange little character driven coda; an experimental episode about dreams and consequences which explores our main characters inner most fears, strengths and weaknesses. Restless is that episode. The one that ends season 4 proper. And it quickly became one of the most discussed, debated and beloved episodes of Buffy and of Joss’s writing career so far.

See ya in the Scoobies’ dreams.


Uber-Buffy beats all before her. 4 (out of 5)