19. New Moon Rising
Oz returns, apparently in control of his werewolf form, and Willow has a tough choice to make. Very emotional, sensitively-written which deals with Willow’s budding romance with Tara. 8.5/10
20. The Yoko Factor
Spike teams up with Adam and manipulates the Scoobies from within. Meanwhile, Angel returns and causes friction between Buffy and Riley. Enjoyable, if slightly muddled. 8/10
Everything wraps up an episode early as the Adam and the Initiative comes to a surprisingly early close. Lacking in comparison to other finales, but love the uniting of the Scooby Gang’s powers. 8/10
Buffy, Giles, Xander and Willow have something haunting their dreams in the single most layered, dense episode of the show. A surreal masterpiece that can be watched endlessly and you will always uncover some new meaning, symbolism or significance. Utter genius. 10/10
Verdict: It’s difficult to rate season four as it really is a season of two halves. Yes, the Initiative storyline is probably the weakest season-long story arc of the show and, by God, Adam is one heck of a disappointing villain. Still, I have to say I enjoy this season a lot more than most fans seem to. The reason for this is the terrific quality of one-off episodes this year. This season really is full experimentation, as the show explores what it is now that it has lost the high school setting and has moved to college. This approach means that some things are fantastic – ‘Hush’, Willow and Tara’s romance, the addition of Spike – while others are not so much – ‘Beer Bad’, the loss of Oz, the addition of Riley. Overall, though, there is a lot of intelligence and creativity on show this season. How well you rate it will depend on what you prefer – a strong story arc or standout single episodes.