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Like the rest of these threads, I'm slightly exaggerating because I pretty much see every Buffy season is near-perfect television.
I voted "liked it, now love it." I've always seen S4 as sort of the black sheep of the show. Whedon shows always struggle to find the perfect balance between monster-of-the-week character episodes, and long-form arcs, and S4 pretty clearly falls on one side of this dichotomy (see: AS4 for the opposite side of the spectrum). It's Big Bad/season arc is easily the worst of the 7 (rivaled only by the potentials). Honestly, I really love everything having to do with Riley, the Initiative, and Adam, but it is all a little blah compared to Angelus, The Mayor, or Glory. I love the themes it brings up like government intervention gone bad, dating the 'good guy,' distrust of authority, leaving home, racism, sticking with the ones who love and care about you, and sexual experimentation (and I could go on and on). I don't think the season left enough room to explore some of these themes to the fullest, but I really enjoyed what I got.
What really surprised me, on this latest viewing, is how funny it was! And how all of the comedy wouldn't have even been possible without the inclusion of a few too many filler episodes. From Living Conditions, to Fear Itself, to Something Blue, to Superstar, S4 was hilarious and really utilized the whole 'starting over' approach to it's advantage. Even "bad" episodes like Beer Bad and Where the Wild Things Are have some of the best comedic character bits of the whole series.
Of course, I shouldn't even have to mention crazy good episodes like Hush, This Year's Girl/Who Are You?, and Restless. Episodes like these probably couldn't have even happened in the later seasons that were so wrapped up in their own mega-arcs.
And finally, I just want to say that I LOVED the finale. ...not Restless, I mean the actual finale: The Yoko Factor/Primeval. It is a tad basic, but seeing the Scoobies be broken apart simply by growing apart due to growing up, and coming back together in the most epic, comic-book superhero-y way possible was just plain awesome and I think I'm going to miss the more 'fun' approach once I get around to rewatching the later seasons.
EDIT: Hopefully without being too schmaltzy, I just wanted to say that as a bi guy, and after experiencing my first (and current) serious relationship with another man, Willow and Tara's blossoming relationship really hit home for me. Okay, it got a little silly with the magicky sex, but other than that, it felt very believable. I loved being able to sense on Willow's face that even she's not 100% sure if being with Tara is the right path, but it feels right to her. For me, as a logic-based and rational thinker (at least I try to be), to admit to myself that love isn't about logic is one of the most important lessons I've learned from the past year.
...I hope that made a tiny bit of sense...
Still like it! It may be the most lighthearted Buffy season, so it's usually a fun watch. Shows that start off set in high school will always have difficulty adjusting when the characters graduate, but I think season 4 of Buffy does a pretty good effort. Like a previous commenter mentioned, it's a good character season. It's probably the season where I get the least annoyed with all of the characters, so that's a plus!
I think the Initiative arc actually starts off okay; I've always thought the reveal in "The Initiative" was well done. But the arc definitely loses momentum around "Doomed" and then even moreso once Walsh is killed off. Adam has zero charisma, his motivations aren't at all compelling, and his connection to Buffy is basically non-existent so he feels very distant from everything else going on in the season. He's supposed to be so powerful but it's hard to take him seriously as a Big Bad. There's a lot that would need to be changed in order to fix that arc, but the science vs. magic theme should've been a lot more prominent.
But like I said, Adam feels so distant – to the point where it's easy for me to ignore a lot of the Initiative stuff. There's not much depth to the season but I enjoy it a lot more than I do the later seasons.
Like to like still (it wasn't an option). My perspective has shifted though: I used to be a great apologist for the Initiative arc, but now I feel the extremes more intensely. I like more than ever the self contained episodes; in fact, my appreciation has steadily risen with each new viewing. But the main arc episodes I can no longer make excuses for. Despite all of my good will and desire to see the season with rosy glasses, a lemon is just a lemon and my intellectual integrity demands that I call it out for what it is.
I’m currently doing a series rewatch and I’m onto season 4. Something Blue is playing right now (I don’t even need to watch it as I know it so well).
Season 4 is interesting to me. It definately is funny. Probably the funniest it’s been in all honesty. However, the characters just don’t seem to be themselves. Transitioning from one season right to the next makes this very apparent to me.
I understand that the ‘college is struggle’ storyline would impact them but they’re so different. Buffy is really no longer her vibrant self who is self sufficient. I’m not used to seeing her doubt basically everything about herself and her life. For someone who was so adamant about going to college, when the situation presented itself her reaction just doesn’t seem quite right.
Willow kind of got annoying this season too. With her strange ramblings. It’s like she got given a larger personality but I prefer who she was before.
Xander was probably a little more grown up this season compared to the earlier ones which made for a nice change.
Giles also seemed lost and confused for the most part.
I just can’t like the season for anything more than great comedic episodes. I struggle with the Initiative storyline and Adam, I struggle with their personality changes and to me it’s just the beginning of the end of the show as I knew and loved it.
None of the options quite fit. Think I was a bit luke warm on S4 when I first saw it, but it has grown since. I still dislike a lot of the main arcs. There's enough good character moments and arcs, and some of the best episode that make it a very strong season overall.