Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Buffy Season 4

Go To

Headscratchers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spoilers abound.

Click here to return to the main Headscratchers page.

    open/close all folders 

    Spike's Chip Kicking In 
  • So in season 4, Spike gets this chip installed into his brain that causes excruciating pain when he tries to harm a human. Okay. Then why does it ONLY kick in when he tries to bite Willow? What, did his escape and him throwing her around not count?
    • It probably just took a while to kick in and Willow was just lucky it began to work when it did.
    • Actually, it kicks in as soon as he gets out of his cage. During the struggle with the two doctors, you can see he pushes them out of the way a lot, but he actually attacks just once. That one time, he screams in pain. People just don't remember that particular moment, the first time around, because they don't know the chip is there, yet, so they assume someone or something hit Spike, and that's why he's screaming... but he's the one hitting. Next time we see him, he's at Willow's place.
      • Word of God is that it was a screw up on the part of the creators. They realized the chip should have kicked in while he was escaping after that scene had been filmed. They edited the footage to just have the pushing and as little fighting as possible, but Joss has acknowledged it was a major mistake.
    • As we learn later it has something to do with his intentions. Him throwing her around for one reason or another doesn't qualify in his mind as trying to hurt her. Not any more than me cracking an egg qualifies as me eating. He's able to spar with Buffy because he knows he won't hurt her so what would have happened if she simply didn't dodge? Based on that episode Spike probably could have trained himself not to trigger the chip if it had occurred to him.
      • I think that's exactly the direction Drusilla was trying to lead him in when she returned later. He was just way too emotionally messed up over Buffy by then to take her up on her offer to teach him how.

    Adam's Origin Story 
  • So according to the comics, Adam was originally an agent of the Initiative. If that's so, then how come Riley never recognized him?
    • The answer to that comes down to two questions: how big was the Initiative, and how long had Riley been working there? After all, do you know the faces of everyone who works for your company (including in the branch office in Poughkeepsie)? And would you still recognise every one of them if half their face was covered in demonic cybernetics?
    • How many people would recognize with more than half their face destroyed? I know IRL that was an actor with makeup on but in universe most of his face came from some green skinned demon. Riley would have had to recognize someone by just one section of his face.

    The Cheese Man 
  • In that freak shared dream they had after killing Adam, what was up with that guy with the cheese?
    • Word of God says he was just supposed to be something random.
    • Basically, Joss Whedon and the staff had so much symbolism in the dream scenes that they decided to come up with something completely nonsensical for fun. :)
    • Another way to look at it is that the Cheese is the central metaphor of the entire series for the Slayer. To understand the Cheese, is to understand the series. The Cheese Man makes four appearances in this episode:
      • 1) Willow's Dream: "I made a little space for the cheese." — Buffy has to make space for the Slayer in her life.
      • 2) Xander's Dream: "These will not protect you." — While the Slayer protects what she can, she can't be everywhere. You have to look out for yourself.
      • 3) Giles' Dream: "I wear the cheese. It does not wear me." — The Slayer is a mantle that Buffy wears. It is not all that she is.
      • 4) Buffy's Dream: The Cheese Man appears between her, and the First Slayer. Buffy's role as the Slayer acts as a barrier between her, and the monsters that she faces
    • Alternatively, each "Cheese" is a metaphor for the inner psyche of each character, and how they relate to The Slayer.
      • Willow makes room for "The Cheese" in her life, always trying to be the comforter for Buffy, giving her what she needs to go on.
      • Xander wishes to be "The Cheese" himself, but just wanting to be like her will not protect him, and he knows it.
      • Giles' relation with Buffy is complex; He once thought that Buffy was a force that controlled his life, but now realizes that he has shaped her as a father figure, and in a way she has become more like him.
    • Also remember Willow's wooing Buffy advice to Riley in Season 4's The Initiative: "She likes cheese."
    • The way I always looked at it (remembering that Whedon said it was meant to be totally random) was that it was sort of a nice tie-in to the rest of the dream elements to make them something the viewers can easier relate to. For example: In most dreams, no matter how linear or how much sense they make, there's usually one or two elements that don't really make sense no matter how you slice it. Thus, we have the dreams experienced by Buffy and the Scoobies, which given the plot line and progression of the episode, make sense in at least some basic way - there's something violent and angry that wants them all to die - and then you get this batshit crazy "cheese guy" vision out of nowhere. My two cents, anyway.
    • If you interpret "cheese" in the American idiomatic way, to mean "kitchy and silly," the cheese man's words could be interpreted as Whedon's philosophy on screenwriting:
      • "I made a little space for the cheese." — letting some campiness into the script keeps things from getting too heavy.
      • "These will not protect you." — Assuming by "these," he is referring to cheeses: if your story sucks, you cannot fall back on "it was supposed to be silly!" to defend it.
      • "I wear the cheese. It does not wear me." — Control the silliness; it must serve the story, not the other way around.
      • Dude. You're either a genius or a complete loon, and right now I'm leaning towards the former.
  • Remember Farmer in the Dell? "The Cheese Stands Alone". This is what the First Slayer wanted of Buffy. Not to have friends that distract from her work.
  • Cheese shows up in Jonathan and Andrew's dream in Season 7. Clearly, cheese is important in the Dream World.

    The Problem With Pangs 
  • While I understand it was supposed to be Rule of Funny, is anyone else bugged by Willow's behavior in the Season 4 episode "Pangs?" A mystically-powered specter is killing her best friend Xander with a lethal and painful disease because he had the miserable luck to be the first person the Chumash ghost encountered, and she's not only unconcerned but banging on endlessly about how Hus deserves his revenge? Even if she's become that ardent a Strawman Political, shouldn't the fact that Xander is dying in front of her upset her a little bit more than her opinion of American history?
    • I dispute that it was "rule of funny". Willow felt played entirely straight in that episode. Yes, the writing was really that unreasonable.
    • Most of the early eps in Season 4 weren't exactly the best. Whedon was trying to redefine the show with college themes rather than high school ones, and it was a shaky renovation. The show stepped back up in the second half of season 4, and then shot upwards from there.
    • Objection to both of the above claims. One, Xander wasn't even close to dying, he was sick but still active enough to ride a bike at high speed across Sunnydale. Second, Willow's reaction was clearly shown as over-the-top for the sake of comedy. The whole episode had that tone, and the uselessness of his angsting at this point was pointed out several times. Why do you think the episode had Spike of all people, still sociopathic and just recently halted in his killing, deliver a rant that's accepted as a compelling counterpoint?
      • Because his being a sociopathic killer does not invalidate his point. That's an ad hominem. Spike has always been the character that sees things surprisingly clear and treats the others with pointedly brutal honesty, and this case was no exception. He's sort of like Anya in that regard; he'll say what no one else is willing to. He just doesn't do it left and right, like she does. Also, Xander had a magic disease that acted like syphilis. They even called it syphilis that was acting funny. Syphilis can very easily be fatal if untreated.
      • But not instantly. Syphilis takes months at least to really hit home and is actually fairly treatable these days.
      • Magical vengeance curses inflicted by vengeance demons that take on the form of fatal illnesses, on the other hand, tend to strike instantly. How treatable they are is, as of yet, unknown.

    Why Do The Gentlemen Need Hearts? 
  • Even though "Hush" was a great episode, there's one little problem. No one actually explained WHY the Gentlemen needed to take seven hearts. It's established that they have to take them, but that's as far as they go to explain.
    • Fairy Tale demons, as per Giles. Apparently, that's how the fairy tale was written.
      • ...I thought that they were fairy tale demons as in demons on whom a fairy tale was based, not that they were fairy tales as in summoned from a fairy tale or created from/took their power and form from a fairy tale.
    • They probably needed the hearts for some kind of demon ritual, which is probably also why they apparently needed to wait until the second night they were there to finish "collecting." The Gentlemen were carefully arranging the seven heart-jars in a semicircle, they clearly meant to do something with them.
    • The Gentlemen traveled to the future, played Kingdom Hearts, then went back in time and decided to re-enact it, only they took it a little too literally because they're demons, and then...
      • Or it could simply be that they want hearts. They don't necessarily need some pressing reason for hearts, it could just as easily be a game they play.
    • Maybe they taste good...
    • To expand on what was said above: I always thought they wanted them to impress each other. Remember when they show the other Gentlemen the heart they stole and they're all impressed and he fakes some polite humility?
    • A clue might be in Revelations 15:1, the verse being read in the silent prayer meeting held on the streets of Sunnydale.
    Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

    Riley Hatedom 
  • Why does everybody hate Riley? He was the healthiest relationship Buffy ever had.
    • "Healthiest Buffy ever had" is... kind of damning with faint praise. Yeah, he wasn't fighting off constant urges to kill her, and he didn't make her miserable for prolonged periods until the last stages of their relationship, but he still hurt her.
    • He had a pulse and an average body temperature over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That alone disqualifies him from being suitable relationship material for her.
      • This might need some clarification. First, his pulse and average body temperature are said to be over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This tells us nothing about the pulse. As for the body temperature, 70°F are about 21°C. So his body temperature is about the same as that of a lizard on a good day?
      • The joke is that he's not a Vampire. Buffy is primarily shipped with Angel and Spike, who are Vampires. And with Faith in like third place, I guess.
    • A) Riley was a complete dullard when he was first introduced. It's hard to support a relationship when one character is so boring. B) He was an old-fashioned sexist who never really got over the fact that *gasp* a girl is stronger than him. C) He became a Replacement Relationship Scrappy after the popular Buffy/Angel romance. D) As he was criticized for being to boring in season four, season five saw him going "dark" in a rather lame way. E) This "darkness" consisted of getting suckjobs from vampire whores. F) He whined repeatedly in season five that Buffy wasn't paying him enough attention while her mother was dying from a brain tumor and a hellgod was trying to kill her little sister. G) When Buffy found out, he acted like he did nothing wrong and gave her an ultimatum. H) The show started showing signs of Creator's Pet, including Xander in a particularly OOC moment. So yeah, that's why nobody liked the relationship, or Riley himself.
      • In Riley's defense, Buffy bears at least half the blame.
      • How does Buffy "bear half the blame" for her relationship with Riley failing? He is the one who couldn't cope with his girlfriend being stronger and more durable than he was; he is the one who decided to try and find what she saw so attractive in the night... by going out and getting suckjobs from vampire whores. And he bitches that he's not getting any attention from her when she clearly has a hell of a lot on her plate already, what with her mother being seriously ill and a hellgod being after her sister. Buffy, on the other hand... tried to hold back on her strength and act more feminine, to try and ease the concern she could sense from him. She was openly devoted to him and never cheated on him (despite her mixed feelings about Spike; in fact, her main argument when Riley admits that he's jealous after Angel breezes through Sunnydale is "have I ever given you any reason not to trust me?"). She tried to cut back on the slaying, to try and treat it as just a job (the way it was to him) but failed because it's not a job for her - it's a calling; she can't just roll over and sleep after hitting a quota for area patrolled and vamps staked for the night, she has to know that she staked all the vamps she could find and covered all the ground she could that night. And when her mom got sick and Glory started gunning for her sister? She acted the way she normally does under stress: she closed down and withdrew from just about everyone. Everyone else knows she reacts this way and refuses to let her withdraw from them; Riley... just sat around and moped and whined.
      • That was pretty much Buffy's problem. She was so busy withdrawing from the world that it never occurred to her that all Riley wanted to do was be a good boyfriend and comfort her. Because he was pushed away, he felt useless and unloved. Also take into account the fact that Riley has to get used to not being on that super-soldier serum. It's seen as unreasonable that he asks for comfort from his girlfriend because Buffy has problems of her own and as such cannot take the time to bother with him.
      • Buffy doesn't bear half the blame, or even a quarter of the blame, but she did handle the situation poorly. That's in character for her, though: when Buffy is in love, she throws herself into it completely, practically without reservation. She shouldn't have tried to "feminize" herself for him, and shouldn't have tried to slay less to assuage his insecurities. But it's understandable that she would, because that's what she does.
      • Wait, what? Buffy throws herself into love practically without reservation? She has intimacy issues out the wazoo and can hardly bring herself to get emotionally close to anyone.
      • Buffy bears at least half the blame if not more. A) It's not fair to really say he didn't get over her being stronger than him. For starters he was only a bit of a whiner about that and honestly any man who has trained to peak human performance and is on super soldier serum has a right to bitch if his girlfriend is stronger than him. Women are weak, that's simply reality. If I'm Captain America and my girlfriend turns out to be Super Girl I'm gonna cry a bit too cus it's really not fair. B) Buffy treats him pretty much the same way she treats Spike in season six. He's a warm body when she needs to get her physical entertainment on but if she wanted an emotional conversation she'd go else where. Granted in context it was just a matter of who was there and who wasn't which was random in itself but if I found out FROM SPIKE that my girlfriend's mother had a tumor to say I'd be pissed is an understatement. Oh this is after she decided that there were things she needed to say to her ex that I couldn't hear and that immediately after he kicked my ass. I might not LIKE Riley but it's because he's a bloody ponce not because he's not a saint. He is. In the Buffyverse (pre-season 8 anyway) he's as close to pure good as anybody on the show.
      • While Buffy did shut down on him when she was dealing with stuff, that is NOT an excuse to cheat with someone else, much less a vampire. If your loved one is going through a tough time, you stick it out and try and show understanding. If it still doesn't work, then break up with them. Having difficulties because there's stuff going on that distances you is never an excuse to cheat, and Riley is the least sympathetic for it. Riley and Buffy were arguably incompatible where it mattered - being open with one another, especially on Buffy's side. Buffy has trouble getting close to people and while her later closeness with Spike is mostly because the Scoobies just didn't want to hear that their reckless resurrection was causing her suffering, she does eventually drop her guard around him in season seven, and they're clearly life partners in some sense or other. But with Riley she can't seem to do that because she's trying to be strong for a lot of other people. This really hammers home that she doesn't see him as a partner, so he really should've just walked instead of dabbling in the dark side.
      • I don't think it's fair to say he's justified over crying about being weaker than a woman (especially the Slayer, of all people), but I don't think that's exactly what he was doing. It's more that Riley, being a mid-western boy turned soldier, initially thought in very naive, chivalrous terms, and he had no idea what he could actually offer Buffy if it wasn't protecting her and fighting for her. He did come to his senses and realize that he could be there for her emotionally instead of physically, but by that point she'd drifted away from him emotionally so he wasn't even really doing that either. He gave up his future as a soldier to side with her (he did get recruited again later, but he wasn't expecting a second chance) and, as of Season 5, it seems like he barely even exists on her radar. She doesn't need him as a protector, she doesn't want him emotionally involved, and the other Scoobies (especially Dawn) have accidentally given him the impression that he's never going to measure up to Angel (and that might not be entirely untrue) - I can't blame the guy for getting frustrated and, when the chance arose to rejoin the military, asking her point blank whether he has any reason not to leave Sunnydale and get back into the life he'd originally intended. His timing, throwing this at Buffy while she was dealing with her mom being in the hospital, was horrible, but that's when the government made him the offer - the ultimatum wasn't in his hands. Then there's the vamp-sucking thing, which was just bizarre and stupid, but if he'd stayed in Sunnydale, he would have had to face up to that and earn her trust again. Since he didn't stay on the show, he dealt with it off-screen instead, while fighting demons around the world.
      • Both are probably to blame, more or less, as with nearly all relationship problems. But personally I have to admit that I hold Riley more responsible since he's older and I just feel he should be the more mature one. Although actually the one who's really guilty here is Spike.
    • I admit that I don't like Riley. I just don't really know exactly why, I just kind of do. If I had to guess, though, it would be that he just seemed the kind of too perfect golden boy who everybody around him instantly likes which is what tends to piss me off big time. Maybe it's jealousy. I know I'm a pretty jealous person.
  • I can't talk for the others, but I never liked Riley because he was rather boring and whiney. I don't like Angel much neither, actually, because of his whole "vampire with a soul" thing going on. Spike was ok, tough, since his personality didn't change much after getting his soul back (when he wasn't insane, that is)
  • I think Riley, in and of himself, was a fairly good attempt of the writers to set up a human being who'd be an OK match for Buffy. In addition to being loyal, brave, and good looking he'd have to be something of a fighter - one willing to risk danger to help save the world. Riley's badass credentials are supposed to be revealed in "The Initiative" — his confident discussions and commands on identifying demons and vampires were clearly designed to show him as one of the few human men that could share Buffy's calling. ——- Unfortunately, The Initiative as a group is so ridiculously written that it looses more and more credibility with each episode it's seen in, beginning with "The I In Team". Not only is it written in such a carelessly Mildly Military way (see folder below), but in the space of 3 episodes in which the Initiative has a prominent roll (The I in Team, Goodbye Iowa, and New Moon Rising) The Initiative engages in every bizarre and foolish cliche that we've seen over and over again from third-rate horror/sci-fi movies. They're eeeeeeevil, in an unbelievably cartoonish way.
    • Maggie decides to kill Buffy simply because she asks questions.
    • We learn that The Initiative has been harvesting demon parts for possible "military applications", even building a Frankenstein Creature. (Because why not?)
    • The Initiative drugs its soldiers, because of course it does.
    • Forrest is so blindly loyal to the Initiative, that he's hunky dory with the concept of Maggie putting a hit on Buffy. Nothing shocking there for him at all.
    • The fact that a werewolf like Oz is actually a human who sometimes turns wolf, rather then the Always Chaotic Evil demons and vamps we've seen doesn't give the Initiative lab coats any kind of ethical pause.
    • Add them all up, and throughout the last half of the season our respect for The Initiative erodes, crumbles, and then collapses completely. Sadly it brings our opinion of Riley down with it. Riley's still one of the good guys, yes, but his badass credibility has been shot to pieces - something we the audience needed in order for us to believe in his appropriateness for Buffy. Rather then be a leader in something awesome and admirable akin to the Green Berets, He was unwittingly involved in an evil version of the Keystone Kops. Without a competent and good Initiative, Riley becomes a taller version of Xander.
      • So, in other words, Riley is a tall Badass Normal? The Xander analogy is confusing.
  • Riley Finn was an unfortunate convergence of all possible reasons for a character to be unpopular, all happening simultaneously. First off, there were many fans who never gave him a chance from the getgo simply because he wasn't Angel. And although it wasn't actually his fault Riley's introduction to the show had the bad luck to coincide with the disappearance of meaningful storylines for Xander and Giles, which pissed off many of their fans. On top of that Marc Blucas simply had no chemistry with Sarah Michelle Gellar, to the point where one scene with Alyson Hannigan generated more subtext than an entire seasons' worth of scenes with Buffy did even when the actors weren't even intending it to. And that's even before the writers gave Riley's character personal issues almost guaranteed to push the hot buttons of Buffy fans — such as being unable to accept having a girlfriend who's stronger than him, or never really renouncing the pseudo-fascist tendencies of the Initiative. Basically, with all this going against him Riley Finn would have needed a direct miracle from God to become a popular character, and none of it is really the actor's fault. (Not even the lack of chemistry thing; chemistry between actors is something where you either got it or you don't.)
  • I think this article gives us a great reason to dislike Riley: [1]
  • I actually rather like Reilly. He's a decent human being, wants to be good and do good and fight the good fight. But yes, excellent points raised that he had a lot going against him from the start. He's even something of a Genre Refugee, points raised at him being Captain America in Sunnydale are valid, he's an idealistic wide-eyed good-hearted hero in a dark, gritty, Urban Fantasy world, and he doesn't really fit. Add to the fact that his character archetype had really been discredited by the late 90s, with even Superman barely being able to pull it off, and there's just a lot of reasons to think he doesn't belong. But that was ultimately what doomed his and Buffy's relationship, which was rather a stroke of genius: this person doesn't fit into this life, this character doesn't belong in this story. Can Buffy make room for Captain America Light in her world, or does he need to go off and become the Hero of Another Story? Even Xander's support of Reilly, telling Buffy to go after him and not let him leave, can be read as "We need this kind of person around, the group can use another Heart."

    The Initiative. Seriously? 
  • The Initiative. Joss Whedon's handling of this "military" organization killed my interest in the show. There was NOTHING truly military about The Initiative at all, except that it was majority male and they used guns. And it wasn't a case of "Our Secret Military Groups are Different"; it was that the writers just didn't care. To name a few things, military people do not refer to each other as "agents", they refer to each other by their rank. Speaking of which, Riley acted like it was big secret thing that he had a rank (and Buffy seemed surprise). Ranks aren't secrets, or something only some people have—a military rank is literally the first thing other service-people will want to know about you because it quickly tells your amount of experience, level of responsibility, and sometimes even skill set. The costume department didn't bother to give Riley and co. clothes that looked like uniforms, but instead settled with plain trousers and sweaters. Riley's hair? Too long. Mentions of specific branches? Riley made an offhand mark about Marines, once, but that's it. (The irony of it being Marines is just hilarious—Marines are notorious for being insanely proud of being in the Corps, and the stereotypical Marine brags about it. A lot.) And all this is just scratching the surface.
    • Yeah, because nothing says "undercover" like openly flailing your rank and military clothing around in a college campus.
      • The cat was out of the bag already; Buffy knew he was military, but Riley was acting like his rank was a secret. Also, the costume designer was clearly going for non-civilian, but for some reason couldn't buy some cheap fake uniforms.
      • Riley never makes a big deal about having a rank. It's Buffy who acts astonished when he mentions it. Buffy who clearly isn't much of an authority on anything military.
      • Granted you'd never see a group of soldiers in those get ups but at those ARE real military uniforms. Proper pants and proper sweaters. The hair is a BIT long but your actually allowed more hair than you civilians think in the military. Military regs (depends on the branch) goes from zero to four inches evenly regulated. Most go with less simply because it's easier to keep it super short. It's like mustaches it's not that you're not allowed it's that there are strict measurements about it can't touch your upper lip or your nose nor extend beyond the width of your lips and its easier not to have one at all.
    • The Initiative wasn't really a "military" organization per se like another branch of the armed forces, more like a secret paramilitary group recruited from the military. Similar to the CIA's Special Activities Division, who are almost all former military, but once in SAD no longer are part of the actual military. The Initiative is basically the same way.
    • This is little mis-read. The Initiative wasn't military, it was government, closer to the FBI than the Army. Riley and co. might have been recruited from the military, but that's just good sense. You want guys that can fight. But the operation itself wasn't. This is fairly clear in series 5 when the new Initiative comes to Riley and assures him that they ARE military, not government, so he knows they're different.
    • We should also remember what we learn in season 5 of Angel: Wolfram & Hart (and demonic forces in general) have significant power within the US government. It's possible that there are many powerful people within the government and the military who WANT the Initiative to fail.
      • Not to mention the appearance of the Initiative on Angel in season 5, where their operative is dressed as a standard man in black, along side a military officer. And some military units, especially some special forces and intelligence units, DO use the title 'agent' rather than their rank. Which makes sense. The Initiative was a government agency with a military component.
    • They did mention in the commentary that Riley's hair was way too long.
      • Marc Blucas likes his hair! >:(
      • Maybe Riley's hair is part of his cover as a college student.
    • The Initiative is obviously a dumping ground for people from the military who are incompetent, but haven't done anything specifically bad enough to get kicked out. Normally they'd be shipped off to a weather monitoring station in the Aleutian Islands for the duration of their service and then denied reenlistment, but a few of them have political connections that make that difficult. So those guys get put into a special unit and assigned as security to an academic laboratory(!) that's just landed a very large and very dubious DARPA grant. The military knows what a stupid project this is, but because these screwups are all prima donnas who have uncles are on the House Armed Services Committee or something, great pains are taken to keep them from realizing that it's a stupid project. Fortunately the project is on a college campus in Southern California and they basically get paid to hang out at the beach and flirt with girls. They're also told all the time how cool and important they are, and get to speak in pseudo-military jargon and otherwise act badass. What they don't get: real guns.
      • This theory makes a surprising amount of sense. In virtually every Military in the world, the first thing a CO thinks when he hears of a new "special" project recruiting is "who do I want to get rid of that is a complete fuck-up? Lets put his name forward/encourage to volunteer". Experimental projects are usually unofficial punishment postings for whoever is put in charge of them due to this effect.
      • It depends on the experiment though. I'm quite certain without consulting a history book that Neil Armstrong wasn't a complete fuck up that nobody cared if he came back from the moon. The Initiative would have or at least should a big deal where you sent the best.
  • How are the Watcher's Council and the Initiative BOTH unaware of each other? The Watcher's Council is implied to have a lot of political power around the world. The idea that there for at least seventy years there was this US military unit studying monsters and they didn't know is a little odd. Possible but not plausible. Now the Initiative a unit with the the necessary resources to track down Angel when he was flying as low as he could manage and were versed enough in his history to know he had a soul somehow is ignorant to the existence of the Watcher's Council and the Slayer? It's likely they didn't know WHO the slayer was since on average the slayer changes probably annually, (Buffy dies after two years as the slayer, Kendra after less than a year, Faith on barely survives her first year) so it makes sense that they don't know who Buffy is but when Riley saw her with a sharp pointy stick it should have clicked. I suppose it's possible the Watcher's Council knew and didn't tell but even that seems unlikely. I would think that part of Watcher's Academy would involve laughing at the silly Colonials pretending to be monster hunters. But maybe not. Just bugs me.
    • Where did you get the idea that the Initiative was 70 years old? I know that in Angel there were hints that the organization that recruited Angel would become the Initiative but all Initiative specific dialogue I heard never specified an age. The one bit of dialogue I do remember about age seemed to imply that the Initiative was started based on a proposal from Maggie Walsh so that she could craft her perfect demon soldier. And if that's the case, the Initiative would be twenty at the oldest.
      • It's heavily implied that the Initiative got it's start sometime around World War II. If not directly then at least the organization that would give rise to them. Furthermore they were fully aware of Angel and considering he'd been flying pretty low for several decades (and probably snuck into the country to begin with) them knowing where to find him and what he was suggests they've been around for longer than just a few years.
    • The Initiative being unaware of the Watcher's Council makes sense, in a way - the Council is based in England and they make a point of keeping as low a profile as possible. They've probably got some contacts in the upper echelons of most governments - Giles doesn't treat the threat to have his green card pulled as idle, after all - but it's not likely that a new branch (which is what the Initiative was, after all) would have been brought into the loop yet. The Council not knowing about the Initiative, though...honestly, I find it likely that the Council did know and just didn't bother to tell Giles. Remember that he wasn't even working for them, at that point, and Buffy wasn't all that high on their list of favorite people, either. These are the people who came damn close to not even telling Buffy that Glory was a hellgod, after all - with-holding important info like "oh hey, a new government operation that calls itself the Initiative has set up in your backyard and they're playing around with demons" is peanuts, compared to that.
      • Wouldn't he have learned about it while he was still in the Watcher Academy though? At least with Glory it's heavily implied they don't know much of anything. Even after they spill their information they don't REALLY give Buffy anything useful. Knowing WHAT she is is only important if that comes with a how to kill note otherwise it doesn't matter if you're a sufficiently advanced alien or a god. They don't even seem to be aware of the knights.
      • It really just depends on how long the Initiative has existed, and how good they are at the "secret" part of being a secret government organization. That there was an Initiative-like organization operating in the 1940's doesn't mean that they are specifically the same organization; different branches, offshoots, one department being folded into another department or broken up into splinter groups, a lot can happen in fifty to sixty years. Especially when you're looking at a difference of wartime and peacetime; there's also the possibility that the Initiative is a backpocket organization, something the government takes out occasionally when it sees a particular need for it, then reassigns somewhere when it has no further apparent usage. That something that may or may not have been similar to the Initiative existed in some form sixty years ago does not prove that the organization is decades old, and even if it is, does not prove that they were ever important enough or effective enough for anyone in the Watchers' Council to take notice.
      • Or, on the other side of that coin, it's entirely possible the Council failed to notice their existence because they're a secret organization operating in another country across the pond that has absolutely nothing to do with the Slayer and is not actively threatening the existence of the world, and therefore has no reason to ever appear on their radar. The Council is not omniscient. There's no reason they would notice or even care that the Initiative exists.
  • My main complaint about the Initiative is that they were ridiculously jobbed out to make Buffy look better. Seriously, they simply don't move, react, or fight remotely like any kind of trained people. Its not just 'its not accurate to real-world military details', its 'for the love of Ares, I've seen more skilled combatants standing around guarding shipping containers for $14/hour'. Any halfway-competent PMC could rent you entire companies of people that, if given a basic briefing on what they're up against and how it dies and some simple useful weapons (such as, oh, shotguns loaded with wooden flechettes, flamethrowers, and cattle prods), could kill vampires ten times faster than these allegedly super-elite hand-picked agents allegedly armed with the very best super-advanced tech the US government could dredge up from the depths of the black ops labs could. Did Joss Whedon not have a stuntman budget this season, or did he just not care?
    • You have a point. But you have to remember that the initiative was never trying to KILL anything. only capture them for experimentation. If they wanted a high kill rate, then they would have used technology that reflected that. But instead they use mega-tasers and hand-to-hand combat.
  • In commentary (I believe for Season 2, when Xander stole the rocket launcher) Joss Whedon said "What I know about soldiers is they sometimes march." So a great deal of this is up to just not caring about properly portraying a military organization. And you can bet that government-sponsored demon hunters who turn out to be Evil All Along are not going to get your scripts Backed by the Pentagon, so there was no actual military advisor to help correct oversights. Assuming the writers even wanted one, which given the tone of the show and the people involved, is highly unlikely. As for real-world reasons why the Initiative is such a clusterfuck, well, one can imagine a chain of events leading to it. 1) Someone in the government wants to start experimenting on demons. 2) To get demons, go to where the demons are. 3) Sunnydale, specifically its high school and college, are hotspots of demon activity. 4) You don't want anyone to know what you're up to, so you need to blend in. Bunch of experienced thirty-something soldiers hanging around a college or high school are going to attract attention, so you need college-age soldiers to blend in. 5) Once you know that, get your young, relatively inexperienced soldiers in place, under cover. No ranks or even military service, they're not with their branches of the military anymore, they're on special assignment. So "Agent" not "Soldier." Set them up in a frat house, since it handily explains why they're always hanging out together and gives the infrastructure to keep them close to the organization. 6) Charge these young, inexperienced fratboy agents-not-soldiers with capturing monsters from other dimensions, not killing them (which is generally much easier). Bake at 450 degrees for an hour, let rest for twenty minutes, hot piping disaster is ready to be served!

    Rebellion and Old vs. New 
  • One of the major themes of the show is rebelling against the "old ways". Buffy does not adhere to the mythos; she attends school, has friends who help her, she quits the Council, and when a demon that supposedly can't be killed by any weapon appears, she uses a rocket launcher. The biggest expression of this is in the Season 3 finale when an Old One incarnate is taken down by the youth of Sunnydale, and some TNT. Fast forward to the next season finale, and a high-tech government outfit has started to fight back against the supernatural, only to be told by a Chosen One who pokes demons with a sharp stick to back off because it's not their business, and they're playing on her turf. Did anybody else find this a complete contradiction to the message the previous three years had worked so hard getting across?
    • Joss wanted an anvilicious Guns Are Bad moral in the series and realized that even though modern weaponry would logically be effective in the fight against Hell, since Guns Are Bad he had to totally turn around the Scooby's stance on this so much that the universe rewrote itself so that only pointy sticks are effective against the legions of hell. Also, the military is evil as a representation of The MAN, so we couldn't show a military force as more effective against demons than our heroine with the pointy stick. Writer on Board, basically.
    • Alternatively, the problem with the Initiative is that they attacked the problem of demons with science. A smarter Initiative would have accumulated a library to put Giles' to shame, and had a few witches or warlocks on staff. Evidence indicates that the reconstituted Initiative was moving in this direction. Besides, Wesley used guns (with mixed results) on Angel.
    • Besides, the Initiative was actually doing pretty well so long as it focused on fighting monsters and not creating demon-cyborg supermen. Buffy's complaints aside, the lesson didn't seem to be "modern military sucks, old-fashioned slayers rule" so much as "Evil Is Not a Toy, so stop trying to run tests on it and just kill it already". Or at least, the lesson was eventually toned down to that: when Riley returns later, he's still a government agent using high-tech weaponry to take down demons, and he seems to be doing a bang-up job at it.
    • Pretty much what the post above said, after season 4, the Initiative or whatever government agency is now handling the supernatural seems to be done with experimentation and research, and is now sending teams to take out problems, such as a nest of demon eggs, and then moves on to the next trouble spot. It could be that the year long research of all the different creatures was actually a boon to the Initiative, as they learned what worked and didn't work. They also probably learned to screen their employees a lot better after Maggie Walsh went bananas.
In fact, most of the blame that could be landed on the Initiative could be shifted over to Maggie Walsh, a civilian, who went utterly bonkers and drunk with power. Seeing as how Adam was a secret to most of the base and in real life a LOT of upper brass would be pissed off about their men being used as parts for a Frankenstein style army, I can imagine this was the result of Maggie Walsh just not being supervised carefully enough.
  • What the above said. Maggie Walsh was the problem here, not the Initiative as a whole. Buffy herself even remarks on their efficiency a couple times, noting that the Initiative might just put her out of a job, and tried to work with them as a part of their group. She didn't so much rebel at the idea of technology being used against demons, as she did at the idea of Maggie Walsh attempting to murder her. I don't know where this "Anvilicious Guns are Bad" message is coming from.

    Why didn't the other Mok'tagar disguise themselves as human too? 
  • So, in Living Conditions, Kathy Newman was a Mok'tagar posing as human. If the Mok'tagar can do that, why didn't the others looking for her use this ability to make that job a little easier? Even if it wouldn't fool Kathy herself, coming onto campus in human form and asking a few questions or just observing things still seems like a better plan than lurking around a wooded path hoping to find the right person walking there in the middle of the night (although they did luck out using the latter method). If Kathy's face ripping off means she was wearing someone else's skin, then maybe I can accept that it can be done, but the method is kind of frowned upon in an even demons have standards sort of way. Or maybe she was just the only one of her relatives to learn English or something.
    • Possibly because Kathy's assumed age made her a legal adult (we never hear how old she's supposed to be, after all - just her real age when she's fighting with her parent; she's apparently 9000 years old). The registrar and the police would just roll their eyes. Not to mention that the campus staff are unlikely to even tell the name of a student if they don't have to; in fact, it's possible that they tried a more subtle method and had it bomb, and this was their plan B. Also, I think Kathy may have been using a plastic mask with a bit of glamor to cover up the weirdness that would result; this would account for it just ripping off.
    • It could also be a pride thing. Maybe the older Mok'tagar consider posing as a human to be disgraceful, and Kathy acting like a college student was the cultural equivalent of teenage rebellion.

    Spike's Gesture in Hush 
  • The morning after everyone goes mute in Hush, we come to a scene with Xander and Spike (both were in the same room overnight, with Spike tied to a chair). You don't need to be an expert lip-reader to tell that Xander very clearly tries to say to Spike, "You did this to me!", to which Spike replies with with a deadpan expression and a "V" gesture with his fingers. But is that "V" for the British obscenity whose American counterpart would not be allowed on TV, or "V" for "I'm a Vampire, dimwit."? Is it both? I think I'm going insane without knowing for sure!
    • Shows can get away with any obscenity as long as it's not recognized by the censors.Shows can even make up their own obscenities and it's allowed, even though it's still being used the exact same way as typical ones. Many shows have taken advantage of this.
    • I took it as a combination of flashing the possible British obscenity, because Spike's annoyed with Xander, while also answering him with the number 2 sign, as in "it's both of us".
      • Nah, he's just Spike and he needs to get his British profanity in. He's flipping the bird (at Xander, no less), nothing more.

     How much does Jonathan know? 
  • In "Superstar", Jonathan bends reality and becomes a paragon, with many of Buffy's feats being attributed to him, such as defeating and crushing the bones of the Master, destroying the Mayor, and regularly taking out vampires. How much about this stuff did Jonathan know before he cast the spell (of course he knew about the Mayor, he did help with that, but he couldn't have known about the Master)? Would he have to know anything at all about that stuff when casting the spell, or was it just stuff that the spell took care of on its own without him having to specifically shape it?
    • I think the spell itself took care of the details, as if he'd gone back in time and changed the past. In the new Superstar reality, Jonathan knew a whole bunch of stuff that he didn't know in the old timeline (like Adam and the plutonium core) because he has a different backstory. He says near the end that his memories are fading away and all he can remember about the advice he gave Buffy and Riley is that it was good advice and he hopes they'll still follow it. Superstar-Jonathan knew all about the slayer, the Master, the hellmouth, the Initiative and everything because he was involved in those adventures, but once the spell was broken and everything changed back, he lost those memories.
      • I argue that Jonathan DID know about those things. maybe not in vast detail but knew vaguely. We forget that Sunnydale Students knew way more about what was going on than anyone suspected. It wasn't hard to convince a entire senior class that they had to fight a super demon at graduation because in general the students knew what was going on all along.

     Chumash targets in Pangs 
  • In Pangs, when Willow tells Angel that the killer is killing authorities, Angel reasons that as he's from a warrior tribe, the biggest authority would be the best fighter. But unless the cultural studies professor and priest were secretly kung-fu masters, that's not how he judges his targets at all.
    • No but they were representative of the authorities that killed his tribe: secular (the professor), spiritual (the priest) and military (Buffy).

     Demons without chips 
  • In Primeval, a massive fight breaks out between The Initiative and their captured demons. Shouldn't most of the demons have a "no violence" chip, and thus be unable to fight. During Spike's short visit, he never drank the drugged blood, and thus he must have had his chip implanted as soon as he arrived, which presumably would be standard practice. Why are most of the demons able to fight then?
    • A vampire is a dead body reanimated by a demon, and we know how the human brain works. But demon breeds are much rarer. The Initiative probably just don't have the anatomy knowledge or the spare bodies to figure out how to control them. I believe on Angel there was a joke about Lorne's heart being in his buttcheek, so clearly demon anatomy could be wildly different from human. Also, Spike's chip could have been a prototype that they were testing out, and not necessarily a standard procedure.
      • Actually they said that last one explicitly, when they observe Spike’s behavior, that “the chip works” like if it’s the first time they tested it.

     Willow coming out as gay but not bi 
  • Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but why didn't they just have Willow come out as bi instead of gay? She had a crush on Xander for years, then dated Oz pretty seriously. I admit I have no experience or frame of reference for this, but are we just supposed to assume she loved both Xander and Oz platonically, after they had so many sweet episodes together (particularly on Oz's side)? Again, feel free to educate me on this, but it seems to carry some unfortunate implications that bisexual people just don't exist in the Buffyverse.
    • Willow is gay because Joss wanted one of the main Scoobies to be gay. Bisexual might have made more sense but that's not what he wanted. As for her past relationships, it's entirely possible for a homosexual to have heterosexual relationships and be as into them as they're able and not realise they're gay. More than platonic but not fully satisfying. Willow didn't realise what she really wanted, what really fulfilled her until she'd actually got a taste of it from tara. Don't underestimate the effects a heteronormative culture can have, the idea likely hadn't crossed her mind so she sought partners that fulfilled her as best they could and thought that was it until she learned better.
      • That makes sense. I admit I don't know what it's like to 'come out', but that this happens for homosexual people is entirely plausible. I can't recall if Willow ever discussed it directly herself or brought up that reason for her relationships with Xander and Oz, but Buffy's still a forward thinking show if it's represented well here.
      • While it is possible for homosexual people to engage in heterosexual relationships before coming out (in some cases even getting married and having children), it was pretty clear that Willow was not originally written that way. She even repeatedly kissed Xander while she was going out with Oz. It was clear that there was genuine sexual tension between them and not just a feeling that she had to conform to social convention. The out of universe reason is that Joss wanted to have a homosexual character on the show and he's openly said that he hadn't originally decided who it would be, so this hadn't originally been part of Willow's character; it could just have easily have been Xander. Joss probably didn't feel that having Willow come out as bisexual would be as significant to the character as having her come out as gay. If he could go back, he probably would have written some of the early episodes differently (not that it's a bad thing for the writers not to know in advance which character would be gay, since it means they're written the say way as everyone else). Willow being in love with Xander actually still makes perfect sense even if she was gay, given they've been best friends forever and even without sexual attraction it's easy to confuse a deep platonic connection for a romantic one even if you're heterosexual. Even her relationship with Oz makes sense given he was the first boy who really showed her any affection and they did have a lot in common. There were just a few times throughout the early seasons when it was clear she was originally written as sexually attracted to male characters which, if the episodes were written knowing what was planned, they probably would have been written differently.
    • Or the simpler reason is that No Bisexuals was still fully ingrained in the mind back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Homosexuality still hadn't got much traction in mainstream media - and people still thought you could be 'turned gay'. Bisexuality meanwhile at that time was thought of as someone who just lusted after every person on the street. In-universe, Willow might not realise she is bisexual. She's still very young and she must suddenly assume that since she's in love with a woman then she must be gay. It should also be noted that in Oz's departure, Willow still gives some hope that they might reconcile one day. So she's not swearing off on men completely. Whether this means she has a primary attraction to women, and Oz and Xander were just the exceptions, or vice versa with Tara and Kennedy is something she hasn't figured out yet.
    • What bothers me is that bisexuality is never brought up. It is important to acknowledge the many gay people who were previously in heterosexual relationships before they knew they were gay or came out. This could be true for Willow and would not negate her romantic and loving feelings for Oz. However, the possibility of bisexuality is never considered and that makes it seem more like bi-erasure. Judging by the writers' belated choice to make her gay and her clear "uncontrollable" sexual attraction to Xander in season 3, I think it is very likely she is bisexual. Willow is insecure in herself and seems to cling to labels. Add to that her need to reassure Tara, and probably herself, that their relationship is not just a phase, I believe she is bi. She says a few times she is "gay now," but that could be her just not realizing it. She could also have a stronger preference for women, which would make it even more confusing for her.
      • Ultimately there is no reason why bisexuality should have been brought up. Lets ignore momentarily that having a homosexual on a teen/children's show at the time was pretty edgy and could easily have offended the censors. The reality is that this is a bunch of teenagers and they may not have been familiar with the term or didn't feel altogether comfortable discussing it. Notice how long it takes Buffy to acknowledge it in the first place and once she does how she not so subtly keeps Dawn away from it. Xander generally treats it as an All Men Are Perverts scenario or that's my best friend and the subject never comes up. Though Willow is most likely bi. It's not just her lust for Xander in S3, in S4 she clearly got a hint of something when Giles starts singing, it's not clear how much of Dracula is preternatural but everybody seemed to have come down and she still acknowledged he was attractive. She also clearly still had feelings of Oz.
      • On a meta-textual level the reason is most likely the above - that bisexuality just doesn't get acknowledged much on TV and that Whedon wanted to have a gay character. But despite these less than noble reasons, what we end up with on the textual level is a perfectly reasonable representation of a person who identifies as a lesbian. English have only a few words to describe an almost infinitely wide and mutable variety of sexual preference, and there indeed plenty of people who consider themselves lesbians for whom the label does not mean 'has never had romantic/sexual feelings for a man'. Some women consider themselves lesbians until unexpectedly falling for a man in middle-age, some women have a 'bi-curious phase' etc. And this mutability is all the more true of the hormonally turbulent period of adolescence. We must assume that in-universe, Willow used the term that felt right for her at the time. Combining the meta- and the textural we can also assume that maybe Willow was suffering from the very lack of bi representation that this show perpetuates, and she simply thought straight/lesbian were the only real options.
  • IIRC Word of God says that there were plans to turn either Willow or Xander gay eventually (which makes the Xander / Willow ship kind of hopeless, but I digress) and there are indeed hints for both characters that they might have homosexual tendencies, only for Willow it is developed and for Xander it is not. I think if the series came out in the 2010s, there'd probably at least a discussion of bisexuality or even Willow saying to Tara "No, I don't like anything but you" or something of the sorts...
  • There's a lot of different interpretations. Willow identifies as lesbian, and in the real world if she were a real person that would be the end of it. How she chooses to identify is no one's choice but hers. Being that she's a fictional character in a fictional setting, there are a number of possibilities to raise and discuss: She could be a lesbian who had an If It's You, It's Okay love for Oz, and something unresolved and confusing with Xander. She could be bi- or pansexual who was fortunate enough to have two soulmates (Oz and Tara) in rapid succession, and was attracted to Xander and Kennedy. She could even be straight, have an If It's You, It's Okay love for Tara, which convinced her she must be a lesbian leading to her Scrappy Relationship with Kennedy, since if she fell in love with a woman she must only be capable of loving other women now. But in the case of how she was written on the show, homosexuality was barely tolerated at the time if you were lucky, and bisexuality wasn't considered a real thing. So writing Willow as bisexual was, to most, less believable than writing her as a reality-warping witch, because reality warping-witches exist in Urban Fantasy settings, but bisexuals don't exist anywhere, period.

    Willow and Oz in this season before Green left 
  • Kind of a side wonder continuing from above, but has anyone ever leaked where the writing planned to go with them before Seth Green decided to leave the show? "Wild At Heart" always felt rushed in that I know they did confirm that story was supposed to last longer but is there any clue what was longer originally going to be? On one hand it seems like it could have been a heart warming story about Oz realizing his werewolf side is just a part of him and strengthening the Oz/Willoe ship. On the other a big theme of the season was monsters vs monster-hunters and where that line is, so I admit an Oz Face–Heel Turn may not be improbable with a homicidal female werewolf tempting him. I had also assumed Tara's addition was a late comer idea from a now unattached Willow but reading that there may have been plans for Willow's coming out previously I wonder if a Tara-like character had been on the books for this season before hand or not? Does anybody have any dirt on a What Could Have Been here or has no one ever spilled on this subject?


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: