Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Primeval   Rewatch 
October 7, 2015 9:09 PM - Season 4, Episode 21 - Subscribe

A loose lipped Spike leads Buffy to reunite the splintered Scoobies. Adam's plan to incite a large human/demon battle to insure lots of body parts for new friends is brought to light, and Riley finds himself under the cyberdemonman's control. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles combine their strengths to take Adam down.
posted by yellowbinder (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a hail mary of an episode. It works pretty well, and hits on the whole united weak together strong idea. It's pretty much pulled out of the writers hats, but thematically it's quite cute, and leads to some decent sequences. While Buffy and the gang come up with their plan, Riley is having his own little sideplot that hardly even connects with the rest. His final fight with Forrest is a bit weird to be honest.. he's remarkably unaffected by having to kill a monster version of his best friend, or indeed a zombie version of his mother figure.

What I do like about this episode is that it makes some time for Xander, something the show has forgotten to do for most of the season, who really is depressed by his current situation, and understandably so. By having Anya declare her love for him we get a nice nugget of hope for him, a character who has been on the down and out all season: sure, the others have a spat with each other, but individually are really fine (well, Giles is still unemployed, but at least he's got his singing career).

I also quite like their positions in the demon, although I'm not completely convinced of Willow as spirit. Xander absolutely is the heart, in that he is often and always driven by raw emotion, and we've seen the positive and negative of that throughout the show.

Adam's final plan isn't actually revealed until this episode, and it's underwhelming. Basically, he wants lots of people to die so he can stitch them together again. It also hinges on the Slayer leading a group of millitary soldiers who have no interest in following her (especially as she threatened to kill their leader just one episode ago). Still, the final fight is pretty great (although some of the battle scenes in the Initiative look pretty cheap).

-Buffy, when alone, decides to attack Adam with an axe. Man she really does need the others for planning.
-The initiative has a release all the monsters button :)
-the first slayers name is Sineya, apparently.
-"Let's promise to never not talk to you again". That'll last a whole season!
-Why not just shoot Adam with a rocket launcher?
-They brake into the initiative again, but at least time they are caught
-Spike's survival here is at nearly it's most absurd.
-Government conspiracies always meet in dark rooms.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:25 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mixed feelings about this one myself.

Some random thoughts:
* This was one of the few times I really enjoyed Adam's presence. He generally felt pretty off to me, (especially when they tried to shill him, like in Superstar), but his slowly melting confidence turning to bewilderment in the face of Buffy's unexpected power boost was pretty great. "Interesting, very interesting," was just right for that guy, and in retrospect, I wish he'd been given better stuff to do during the rest of the season.

* Didn't really care for the final showdown. It was way too comic book-ish for my taste. Fights in Buffy usually felt more grounded and plausible. Adam's arm cannon coming from nowhere, Buffy's weird midair kicks and the uranium banishment spell all felt kinda WTF. The only bizarro flourish I liked was Buffy turning a grenade into doves, because hey, symbolism. (Her having a force field also seemed pretty reasonable, given that she knew there might be guns in the room.)

* Spike's survival is, indeed, at the height of its implausibility here.

* The government being more worried about the Scooby Gang going public than the presence of a Hellmouth also felt really off. Like, I could see them shuttering the Initiative for gross incompetence, but the idea that they wouldn't replace it with something bigger, or at least more expensive, seemed pretty crazy. Enough to make the willing suspension of disbelief more difficult, anyway. (Later seasons do nod to this with Riley rejoining anti-demon black ops work and all, but Sunnydale is a hotspot that I just can't see them just shrugging and ignoring. Pretty much anything would've been a more reasonable response, up to just leveling the whole town in an 'accident.')
posted by mordax at 2:24 AM on October 8, 2015

-The initiative has a release all the monsters button :)

Shades of Cabin in the Woods in this episode. I kind of wonder if the final third of that movie was Whedon going "god, what if I'd had a BUDGET for that Initiative stuff?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:46 AM on October 8, 2015

I wish they'd put in their own versions of Daffy Duck's ole "it's a great trick but I can only do it once" on their Scooby Gang Transformers spell.

I mean there were consequences but they were pretty slight. They opened up a line of dialogue with the first slayer, who communicates with a few words and a lot of violence, but it didn't really seem like the violence they experienced in their semi-shared dreams posed a real world danger.

When they're all panicking about Glory, it would have made sense for them to at least try this.
posted by elr at 10:43 AM on October 8, 2015

Is there a name for this trope where each member of a team gives transfers her special power to a single team member who then becomes super-powered to beat the big bad-guy? I remember it from practically every Saturday morning cartoon I ever watched.
posted by skewed at 8:17 PM on October 8, 2015

All Your Powers Combined (Warning: TVTropes)
posted by yellowbinder at 8:53 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really like this one. It's not the best, sure, but it wraps things up nicely while leaving just enough space for Restless. And it has some very good moments - Giles hungover, wanting to know if Willow is going to work on decrypting the disks there with all the tapping on the keyboard; Anya's look of pleased and satisfied possessiveness when lifting the blanket on naked Xander; Tara starting to say, "Yes, she's right here" and then pausing, unsure whether she's supposed to run interference between Buffy and Willow; Giles again saying "I've been so stupid" when the realisation that Spike has deceived them all hits them. The bossman at the Initiative going on a rant about breaking in here with weapons like this - it's a gourd. A magic gourd.

But one of my favourite bits is Willow and Buffy reconciling, hugging mid-air and "ooh, falling now" down to the bottom - completely safely of course - and then hugging Xander when he arrives at the bottom, making him think they're all going to die. The look on his face when he realises, no, they're not - and he's got two women he's totally crushed out on hugging him and telling him they love him - ah, it is priceless. Giles, you gotta get down here indeed!

I also still get chills when they finish the ritual and all join together to become Super-Slayer. Something about those creepy eyes, and the voices all speaking as one, and the slow, ritualistic gestures - it may be a cliché, but it's one that really works for me.

But yes, Spike so should have died. The only way I can headcanon it is that they were all still coming down from the rush of the ritual and just didn't have the energy. Why they didn't stake him after he took a few demons down on the way out is beyond me, though. Silliest decision ever, really.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:40 AM on October 9, 2015

They probably should have killed Spike, yeah, but it comes down to that same thing as at the end of S5 – Buffy’s not there, and anyway, she’s a hero, and she lets people like Ben (or chipped Spike) live, even if they might turn into Glory (or non-chipped Spike) at any time, and make the world pay for her mercy. I think the others were too worn out to do it; she’s really the only one who could have, and Spike is momentarily useful at killing demons who might get too close to them, and they’re so relieved Buffy’s okay that they don’t think about it. They’re all much better at reactive killing than proactive or strategic killing, in any case, and they have much more pressing reactive killing to do.

Giles does mention that they should have done it in his dream in “Restless.” Who knows, maybe Buffy felt sympathy because Riley also had a chip in him. Chips all-round! Someone must have bought the party-pack. Spike’s also pretty lucky that he never got into a fight with a human Initiative soldier and could just whomp demons. In any case, I find it to be worthwhile just for “Well then everything is all right and we all get to be not staked through the heart. Good work, team.” (Also “well let’s go save them, by gum!” which is third in Spike’s Great Motivational Speech Trifecta of S4, after “For justice - and for - the safety of puppies – and Christmas, right?” and “I am. I know I'm not the first choice for heroics ...and Buffy's tried to kill me more than once. And, I don't fancy a single one of you at all.”

My favourite part is also the moment in the elevator shaft where everyone essentially makes up. Obviously, not everything can be repaired immediately, but it's still a nice moment with group hugging, and it leads to the reaffirmation of their bond and friendship that is the spell that finally defeats Adam by using a symbolic part of all of them (which the First Slayer then tries to sever, but is defeated). I’m kind of sad that we didn’t actually get to see Giles join the group hug, though.

It’s all about mending friendships, from the elevator shaft to the final spell; defeating Adam is essentially immaterial, secondary to those goals, which is why the battle, while cool, is basically an afterthought, and why it’s the only Big Bad fight not to be the last episode of the season; this is a season about relationships, characters, and the need for togetherness. I am totally fine with the battle taking a backseat to that sort of thing.

Riley: “Not really wanting a lecture right now” and so say all of us, Adam.

Giles trying to posture that he’s not really that hung over and then just being unable is beautiful. I also feel Willow’s frustration when her problem is solved for her, even though it’s a good thing that the problem is solved.

Anya’s declaration of love is really sweet, even though Xander saying “it doesn’t matter” his friends think he’s a directionless loser might be true, but since Xander will always feel it’s true deep down, he’ll let that feeling sabotage everything, including that love. That’s really too bad, as he’s basically responsible for the idea that saves everything here; he likes to talk about the end of S6 as “I saved the world by talking with my mouth,” but in a way he does that here, too.

it's a gourd. A magic gourd. Giles is always so damn sheepish about that magic gourd….“And then I…shake my magic gourd”

What is kind of weird is that Buffy sends everyone to the exits to figure out how to open them instead of going to Adam’s console to try to figure it out, away from immediate danger. I feel like Willow and Giles could have figured out how to release the exits from there more effectively.

I like that this episode made sure, with a few very specific shots, to let us know that Graham got out okay. Rewatch Graham Fan Club forever!

Despite the triumph, “Restless” still has what feels like a happier ending. I can definitely see why they didn’t want “burn it down and salt the earth. That’s all” to be the last line of S4.
posted by ilana at 1:13 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Coming back in on my latest rewatch (maybe I'll make it past S5 this time) to say how disappointing it is that Forrest, one of the few recurring POC characters (the third, I think) is a not a bad guy but an asshole, gets killed and turned into an even more asshole-ish bad guy. Fellow Initiative back-up dude Graham at least gets to be vaguely supportive, and survives. He, of course, is white.

I know the overwhelming whiteness of BTVS has been remarked upon before, but it seems worth remarking upon again.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:59 PM on October 16, 2023

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