Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Goodbye Iowa   Rewatch 
September 9, 2015 11:14 PM - Season 4, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Between Buffy's accusations, Walsh's death, and withdrawal from Initiative drugs, Riley is not having a good time. Adam explores the outside world and returns home to learn about himself. Tara sabotages a spell.
posted by yellowbinder (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So this is an episode all about Riley. As I say, quite a lot of this season is about him and how he changes. I don't... completely buy the journey he goes on here, again it's all very compressed. There's also the weirdness going on of the surprising lack of reaction to Walsh being murdered. Sure, everyone is being all hot headed, but this is kind of a huge deal! The Initiative, for all that its a shadowy government organisation, will prove less effective than the Watchers Council throughout this season. The ability of Buffy and Xander to infiltrate the initiative is a bit embarrassing (and I love that they manage to stumble on plot information by magic), and this won't be the last time!

Adam is set up as a convincing villain here. He murders a child, a short cut to our heart strings, then demonstrates that he is a match for Buffy in battle, essentially toying with her in the fight they have. Unfortunately, while he is physically impressive, his actual plan is not. At this point, the whole "mother had a plan for us" thing sounds good, but we'll soon see it's just kind of lame.

Finally, essentially existing in a seperate subplot, we have Willow and Tara, and a reveal that Tara has a dark secret which we won't discover for an entire season! The show was bold enough to set slow burning plots up and leave them here (note how, before when Giles had a secret we found out what it was a few episodes later); unfortunately the whole "secretly a demon" plot doesn't really add much to Tara's character, and makes her seem devious the first time through, which is a bit unfortunate and distracting really.

-"I've been thinking about that last spell we did all day". Right. So to get round the idea of physical intimacy the show introduces spells. But why are Tara and Willow talking to each other in coded language? Are they actually talking about a spell? Do they know they are gay? What... what is happening here? They appear to be performing for an audience.
-Willy the Snitch! Yay!
-How does Spike get power in the crypt
-That probably would have sounded more commanding if I wasn't wearing my yummy sushi pyjamas
-"By the way if you're trying to kill her" *thumbs up*
-Adam looks a lot like Moloch really
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:28 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

What I want to know is does anyone else think Willy the Snitch could have been a shout-out to the first Anita Blake book or is it just me?

"Are they actually talking about a spell?" I would say all of the above, although as Giles would say, it seems as though the subtext is rapidly becoming text.
posted by Coaticass at 3:16 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really, really wanted to like Riley more. He could have had some really compelling character arcs -- farmboy trying to make peace with the weirder parts of the Initiative, then has to reconcile that with the Slayer, the whole magic-vs-tech thing, and even this "What have the people I trusted done to me?" I don't know whether it was the writing or Blucas -- who didn't impress me any more in Necessary Roughness, but that wasn't particularly strongly written either -- but by the end of his run in S5, I was desperate for Riley to go.

I liked this episode well enough the first time I saw it; with the benefit of hindsight, I like it a lot less.
posted by Etrigan at 9:58 AM on September 10, 2015

Adam is scary looking for sure, and I do wish the show had known what to do with him a bit more. If Walsh was still around to guide him there would be some good tensions there, or if he was able to do more Moloch-y things giving him great influence in an increasingly wired world. As it is he's just a big strong body that's physically imposing but not actually that effective as a villain.

Plus, that disk drive in his chest is pretty hilarious, at least 15 years on.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:27 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Plus, that disk drive in his chest is pretty hilarious, at least 15 years on.

Oh yeah, imagine if he'd won and in 3 years having to upgrade himself to CD, then DVD. Then inevitably he'd pick HD DVD over blueray...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:44 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

"Ah, yes, I have information on you, Slayer... Wait. Disk read error? Dammit... Ejecting... Disk read error. Seriously?"
"Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
"Oh, for... All right, just a second..."
(ADAM powers down. BUFFY kicks him in the head repeatedly until he dies.)
posted by Etrigan at 5:37 AM on September 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Ah, so that's what happened to Riley. I'd literally blocked that stuff out of my mind. I guess the forced BB switcheroo with Walsh and Adam also forced a pretty quick transition for Riley's character. I imagine if Walsh had been the puppetmaster for the whole season, that there would have been a more believable conflict between Riley and Buffy, as well as a more gradual deprogramming process for Riley.

I also imagine that one of the limiting factors for Adam was the complicated (but still not altogether convincing) makeup. The actor was probably only able to spend so much time on set, since getting him in and out of character probably ate up a good portion of the day, which meant that pretty much all of his scenes had to be done in a fairly perfunctory way.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:44 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, not wild about this episode. And another thing which I am not wild about and forgot to mention last episode (and previously) is how I am disturbed by Forrest, our first significant speaking-role PoC character, being such a mean, whiny jackass. He started out being kinda foul-mouthed and objectifying and has only gotten worse from there. Once again, he behaves like a ginormous asshole, saying Buffy deserved to have her life plotted against. He insults Riley all the time too, so it's not even just fierce loyalty to his mates that's making him do it - he just seems to hate everyone and generally be destructive. Which, you know, there are people like that. But it is disappointing that the so far only recurring PoC character is the person like that.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:32 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spike: Got to hand it to you goldilocks - you do have bleeding tragic taste in men.

The scene between Adam and the boy (very Frankenstein) is probably the scene where he’s to most creepy and intriguing. Pity that was basically his first scene. I also just realized that basically he’s the last Big Bad to be physically killed by Buffy. In terms of that, the seasons go: Buffy (kills the Master), Willow/Buffy (Willow’s resouling technically kills Angelus, but Buffy does stick a sword in him), Giles (he blows up the library), Buffy, Giles (kills Ben), Xander (nobody dies but I guess he “kills” Dark Willow because her hair turns back to red), Willow/Spike (the Slayering spell plus the amulet). Even Buffy is imbued with the essence of Willow, Giles and Xander to achieve the kill. Kind of interesting.

“Wagnerian snoring” is a great insult.

“Why am I not entirely comforted by the arrival of the man-sized microwave?”

Anya is very protective of Xander this episode. They also establish she’s at the “hurt when he hurts” stage (and she hates it), showing the progression of the relationship from the physical.

Xander will go on to defend Riley a bunch over the next season, and other than getting to have a male friend approximately his age, I’m not totally sure why. Maybe Riley as Buffy’s “Normal” boyfriend makes Xander feel like he’s defending himself as a dating prospect. Also, “I totally get it. Can I have sex with Riley too?” (I think Xander basically says something like this at least once for each one of Buffy’s boyfriends, ie. Spike being compact and very well-muscled. Not sure that I love that it’s played for laughs, but at least he’s secure enough to say things like that. Of course, then it’s followed by the “make out with me” but. Oh, Xander.

Both Riley and Spike get increasingly isolated and each one has to choose a side.
posted by ilana at 11:38 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also just realized that basically he’s the last Big Bad to be physically killed by Buffy. In terms of that, the seasons go: Buffy (kills the Master), Willow/Buffy (Willow’s resouling technically kills Angelus, but Buffy does stick a sword in him), Giles (he blows up the library), Buffy, Giles (kills Ben), Xander (nobody dies but I guess he “kills” Dark Willow because her hair turns back to red), Willow/Spike (the Slayering spell plus the amulet).

This is a fantastic point, and I think it's one of the major themes of the show: whenever we see a Slayer being defeated, it's because she's alone (or even burdened by other people, as with Nikki, the second Slayer killed by Spike). Buffy, on the other hand, has a more robust support structure (compared to the Watchers) who help her overcome greater evils -- nearly all of whom have themselves gathered support as well. Adam has the weakest of these, with really just ForrestBot and the mindless Dr. Walsh and Dr. Angleman drones (all defeated by Riley). So when it's Buffy one-on-one with the Big Bad, she wins; otherwise, it takes the proverbial village to defeat the... other... proverbial village.

(A note from the Buffy wikia: depending on whether one considers Dark Willow to be a Big Bad, Adam is the only Big Bad to be defeated in a non-Joss-written episode. More fodder for his being the worst one, quality-wise.)
posted by Etrigan at 11:56 AM on September 14, 2015

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