WARNING: Spoilers ahead
I know this is not a popular opinion, please be respectful in reading my thoughts.
Season 4, for most of the fans I’ve spoken to, is collectively considered the least favorite season. Or, at least, at the bottom of the list. Trust me: I am aware of the flaws, cheesy story plots, and an anticlimactic big bad. However, there are a few aspects of this season that drown out the bad things for me. In this post, I’m going to break it down.
1. I am a sucker for the overarching metaphors in this season
Throughout this season there are two overarching metaphors that impact the actual structure of the season itself.
First of all, there’s the representation of each aspect of Buffy in her band of friends. Throughout the past three seasons, Whedon had established that Xander represents Buffy’s heart, Willow her spirit, and Giles her mind. In Episode 21, “Primeval”, we get to see these roles literally established and used in order to enhance Buffy’s fighting ability.
Many complaints of season 4 are that the season seemed disconnected. The characters were somewhat separated from each other and we lost the unity that the Sunnyvale High School library had to offer. However, I quite enjoyed this about the season. Moving on to college is a weird time and it marks the end of one aspect of your life and the beginning of another. The way I interpret it, season 4 was intended to be written this way in order to represent not only the separation from your past and old friends, but internal parts of yourself being separated as you navigate the new territory of adulthood and college. After all, at its core Buffy is about the transition from childhood to adulthood. The show couldn’t move forward without addressing the specific change from high school to college.
2. My favorite episodes of all time are in this season
I think it goes without saying that “Hush” (S4, E10) is one of the most masterfully written episodes of Buffy, and possibly television history. It’s easily in my top three episodes. However, many other episodes that I just personally like are included in the season 4 lineup, such as “Fear Itself” (S4, E4), “Who Are You?”(S4, E16), and “Restless”(S4, E22). This makes it my most rewatched season solely because of this.
3. Almost all the major characters (with the exception of Cordelia) are included
We not only are introduced to new characters, but the old characters that we’ve grown to love are still included. I welcomed Spike’s return with open arms, as well as the introduction of Tara and Anya (I know she technically came in season 3 but we really got to know Anya this season). There are still a couple episodes left of Oz’s witty banter at the beginning as well. All in all enjoyed the interweaving of the characters.
4. Character Developments
We see Giles going through a bit of a midlife crisis during this season which is very enjoyable in my opinion. It’s a time of weakness for him and when the gang realizes he really is as human as they are. He doesn’t lose his mentor position, however his own character is deepened during this season in very simple ways.
The obvious other development is Willow falling in love with Tara. This was handled in such an expert way and revolutionary in the representation of gay people in the media. Watching this is what inspired me to come out myself.
5. I watched this season at a time in my life where the themes represented were relevant to me
This is probably what is truly behind what makes everyone’s favorite season. Personal connection is truly why we love what we love. For me, season 4 has the themes that connect with me most at this point in my life and when I originally watched it: transitioning from high school to college, being brave enough to break away from society’s expectations, questioning of one’s identity in more ways than one. These all were messages I needed to hear.