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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 4, Episode 21 – 22

March 22, 2024 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4-21 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

FU-SION-HA! A BTVS Retrospective, S4 E21-22


Episode 21

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

For some reason, this episode starts off with Buffy searching the wreckage of SunnyDale High for Riley, but that’s just a momentary scene. But seriously… why would he be there? “Oh, my best friend died; better go to this bombed out high school that means nothing to me”. Think harder, Buffy.

Anyway, we then cut to Adam and Riley, with Riley asking what Adam has done to him. It turns out Walsh implanted a behavior modification chip in Riley’s chest to make him subservient for her plans. Spike shows up,  but Adam STILL won’t remove his own chip, and is Spike REALLY this much of an idiot? I know people love this character, but he’s coming across as an All Pro level sucker here. Adam says Spike has Buffy HOW he wants her, but not WHERE. So it’s somehow Spike’s job to get Buffy into The Initiative HQ. Adam is doing none of his own work here.

Buffy is all alone in her dorm room after the ruins of her high school somehow mysteriously failed to turn up her lost boyfriend. She sees a picture of herself, Willow, and Xander from happier days, and it makes her sad and/or empowers her. She grabs an axe and heads out.

Onto Xander now, lying naked in bed with no will to go check the jobs board at the unemployment office. Anya tries to motivate him, but he feels hopeless and dejected over the fight with his friends. She cuddles up with him and tells him she loves him. Awww. Sweet, I guess? What does she even see in him, other than that she has no life experience and he was the first boy she met?

Is the Incan Princess syndrome again with this guy. He wins simply by showing up first.

Buffy heads to Adam’s cave for the last do-or-die showdown, but Adam is gone. Spike isn’t, though! He tells her he was looking for a place to lay low, then reminds her to get the data from the discs he gave Willow. Buffy seems sus!

Adam brings Riley to a hidden area of The Initiative. Inside is a zombified Professor Walsh and Science Guy! My wife insists this was some great reveal, and while I guess I didn’t see it coming, a dead Walsh obeying Adam’s orders doesn’t seem that stunning to me. Like… okay, fine, I guess. But I think my wife was expecting some big gasp. Now if Walsh was still alive and in charge… THAT would matter to me. So they could resolve the whole Professor Walsh Loves Riley storyline I was so sure of!

Anyway, they meet an Adam-ized Forrest along with Walsh and Science Guy, and he loves his new life as a hybrid monstrosity.

Willow decrypts the discs. Well, not really. They start decrypting on their own. But that never really matters, so MOVING ON…

Buffy, Xander, Giles, and Willow all meet up on campus where Buffy pieces together that Spike deceived all of them and is working for Adam. So they realize most (MOST!) of the issues they had to work through weren’t real, he just got everyone’s dander up over their own insecurities.

Speaking of Spike, he heads to Adam and Riley, and Adam is still stalling about the chip. COME ON, YOU DUMBASS VAMPIRE. Holy hell Spike has been incompetent since we first met him, hasn’t he? How many times did he have Buffy dead to rights and blow it by either bringing Dru along or not using mom as a meat shield or something else equally stupid? He’s just a fool.

At Giles’, the reunited Scoobies plan their assault on Adam. They think they can cast a spell to stop him, but the spell is in Sumerian, which Willow can’t read, only Giles can. And they’d have to be in striking distance of Adam, which only Buffy could even momentarily survive. Xander says it would be a good plan if they could all face Adam at the same time, and by gum, Giles thinks he has something there!

The team heads to the Initiative frathouse to break into HQ by rappelling down the elevator shaft. Hey, remember when Professor Walsh said there were stairs? I do. The writers of this show never have, but I do. Those stairs never made a damn lick of sense anyway, and I’m getting to be relatively sure she was just fucking with Riley when she mentioned them.

Buffy and Willow talk through their remaining issues while they head down the shaft. SAD MUSIC PLAYS to let us know this scene is meaningful! They and Xander all hug, but at the bottom of the shaft, a dozen armed soldiers are waiting for them. Wow, it’s almost like a high-budget secret government military organization has fucking security cameras or something. WHO COULD POSSIBLY HAVE FORSEEN THIS?

In Adam’s hidden room, he notes that Buffy’s friends are with her, and he’s pissed at Spike. He has Forrest try to kill him, but Spike scampers away like a scolded dog.

Or a scalded dog.

Never was quite sure what Jim Ross said there. I mean, I guess either would make a dog run away.

But why would you scald a dog? That’s unnecessarily cruel.

Jim Ross is from the South, though. Who knows what Southerners do? Probably scald dogs.

The Scooby Gang is arguing with The Colonel when the power goes out, releasing all of the demons The Initiative has caught. This is Adam’s plan: Mass death on both sides in the high tech lair so he can use the bodies and the technology to make more Adams.

OH THAT’S WHY HE’S NAMED ADAM. I get it now! Clever, BTVS. Especially for you.

During the big Soldiers Vs Demons brawl, a desperate Spike joins in to help kill demons.

Going over the Initiative schematics, Willow finds what must be Adam’s hidden room. Buffy heads into it while Xander, Willow, and Giles stay behind in 314 to start a spell. In the hidden room, she finds a subdued and voiceless Riley. Forrest and Professor Walsh attack, and Buffy is on the struggle bus. Riley bucks the control chip just enough to slice open his chest and start fishing around inside. He pulls out the control chip!

(I’m not sure how closely these will be released, but I just got done writing the finale to Young Justice season one, and I’m SO, SO tired of talking about control chips, guys)

Riley sends Buffy off to fight Adam while he stays behind to fight Forrest. After a struggle, he explodes Forrest with a flammable gas tank. I guess you could say he gave Forrest…


The Hurt Business.

(I had to get one last Shelton Benjamin joke in now that he is dead)

Buffy starts fighting Adam, at which point the Scooby spell resolves, sending Willow, Giles, and Xander’s spirits into Buffy so they can all fight together.

Xander merging with the others is like the time Goku almost fused with Hercule. I’m not really sure it would have actually helped, but hey… here he is.

Anyway, Giffower (Giles/Buffy/Willow/Xander, natch) starts whipping the holy hell out of Adam using Sumerian magic before finally ripping out his Uranium power core and vanishing it. So with one whole episode left in the season… Adam is finished?

A demon barges in to where the vulnerable bodies of Giles, Willow, and Xander are, but Spike charges in and saves them all. With that, the team heads out into The Initiative HQ to kill the rest of the rampaging demons.

Then we cut to a government meeting to officially disband the embarrassment that was The Initiative.


Episode 22

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Well. Adam is defeated. The Initiative is shut down. Everything is resolved. So sure; let’s have one more episode before we officially end this season. Why not?

At Buffy’s house, we see Buffy and Riley talking, and Riley is heading out to get debriefed on the whole Initiative thing.

It suddenly JUST DAWNS ON ME after this entire season is over: Why weren’t the invisible kids army part of The Initiative? The government clearly has access to them, too, right? Why not send THEM after some demons and shit? Weird.

Anyway, after Riley meets mom for the first time and heads out to his meeting, the rest of the team decide to watch some movies to unwind from the big fight. They put in Apocalypse Now and immediately all fall asleep.

Willow starts having a dream about her and Tara and their kitten, with Tara wandering what they will call “her”, but she doesn’t seem to be talking about Ms. Kitty. Tara tells Willow, “They will find out about you”.

Suddenly, Willow is back in high school with Oz and Xander, and she is on her way to drama class. And say what I will about this show—and I have! For four full seasons now!—they really knew how to write dreams. This whole episode is nonsensical and non-sequitur in the best kind of way. We’ve all had those dreams where we try to relay them and it’s all “You were there, but then suddenly you were Joe Theisman, but you sold used cars, and my mom wanted to buy a car, but then we were in India…”. This whole episode is that.

Good for watchin’. Not so good for writing up on and even worse for jokes! But I’ll do my best.

Willow’s drama class is a play she has not learned any lines for—so this is good, calling back to Willow’s earlier nightmare—and Buffy, Riley, and Harmony are all in the play. Giles is the director, and he says everyone Willow has ever met is in the audience. Buffy says Willow is already in costume. Willow sees something behind everyone crawling around, but she can’t make it out.

Willow gets lost in the curtain trying to get on stage—think The Weeknd in his hall of mirrors at the Superbowl halftime show meme—and finds Tara there. We get more cryptic “They will punish you when they find out about the real you” stuff from Tara.

Monsters attack Willow in the curtain, but Buffy saves her, still going on about Willow wearing her play costume. She grabs Willow’s back and pulls off Willow’s identity, revealing dorky Season One Willow underneath. The monster attacks her again, and Buffy seems embarrassed of her.

Xander wakes up to see Willow spasming in her dream, but no one thinks much of it. He goes upstairs to find the bathroom, and Buffy’s mom tries to seduce him into bed. But he has to go to the bathroom first.

In the bathroom, The Initiative is suddenly there studying him, so he leaves and ends up in his basement with something scratching at his door.

Then he is outside, with Buffy in a sandbox playing and Giles on a swing-set. He is training a suited-up Spike how to be a Watcher by swinging with him. And ALL I WANT going forward is Watcher Spike now. This would be my new favorite character.

Xander sees Ice Cream Truck Xander from a distance, then becomes ice cream truck Xander.

In the truck, Anya is talking about going back to being a vengeance demon. Xander sees a made-up Willow and Tara making out (but not REALLY because the network BTVS was on would not allow the show to have them kissing on the screen). He crawls back into the truck to join them, but ends up in the basement again.

OH MY GOD this article is hard. Whew.

In the basement, he sees the monster that was after Willow, then he is transported into Apocalypse Now with the role of Brando being played by Principal. Xander gets chased by the dream monster thing, and it pulls his heart out.

We move along to Giles’ dream now, where he and Olivia are taking a child-like Buffy to the fair. She plays a game to teach her how to kill vampires.

Spike calls Giles over to where he, in black and white, is a star sideshow attraction. When this bit of the dream cuts to Giles, he is in color next to a shackled and crying Olivia, but he pays her no mind.

Giles meets the team at The Bronze and sees Xander’s ripped open chest. Xander and Willow tell him something is after them. GILES STARTS SINGING because OF COURSE he does at this point. More Anthony Stewart Head demanding he gets to sing now that this genie is out of the bottle. He is singing his line delivery about how Buffy must have released a primordial warrior beast.

The monster attacks Giles, but he says he knows who it is and that he can defeat it!

Narrator: He couldn’t.

Buffy’s dream now; she’s in her dorm room, but Anya is her roommate and is trying to wake her up. Buffy doesn’t want to wake, though.

She is suddenly in a bedroom at home with an unmade bed where she remarks that she and Faith just made that bed.

But… that was Faith’s dream earlier this season. How would Buffy know about it? Why do Buffy and Faith occasionally have this dream mind-link?

Then the bed is just made up again, and Buffy leaves. Tara tells her “Be back before Dawn”. And yes, I capitalized that because I know what this is an allusion to because my wife hates that character and has bitched about her to me long before I ever started this first time watch-through.

Buffy is back in high school, and her mom is living in the walls. She leaves mom there and finds herself in Riley’s debriefing where Riley has been made Surgeon General. He is enacting a plan with the human who was once Adam to take over the world.

Buffy smears some mud on her face and Riley dumps her.

Suddenly in the desert, Buffy finds the dream monster, who can only speak using Tara as an avatar. She is the very first Slayer, and she was summoned when Giles, Willow, and Xander did the spell to do the Fusion Dance with Buffy.

Buffy basically proves immune to the First Slayer’s attacks, insults her hair, and then everyone wakes up.

So that was an episode that happened.

Not sure why they decided on THAT as the season finale other than to cement a few allusions to Dawn next season. I wonder if the rest of the dreams will prognosticate anything else going forward, though. Was Tara talking about more than Willow’s dorky lack of confidence when she kept talking about “the real you”? Will Olivia end up getting tortured? Will Anya go back to being a vengeance demon?

I guess I’ll find out soon enough, possibly starting with next week…

So make sure to come back for Season 5’s Retrospective!