Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | April 2, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S4, E04 – Fear, Itself

Fear, Itself
Season 4, Episode 4
Original airing: 10/26/99

My Rating: 75

The Good: I really enjoyed this episode. It let us a little into everyone’s minds by playing with their individual fears. The writing was excellent as it created a realistic fear for each character out of what we already know about them.

Xander fears becoming irrelevant to his friends. This was set up in the episode by the first scene when Willow points out that she, Buffy, and Oz have new plans for Halloween. Anya reinforces things when she points out that Xander has less and less in common with his old friends lately. But what puts this episode over the top is how each fear has already been introduced in the past. We’ve already seen Xander becoming a hanger-on by not actually attending campus, and yet hanging out there (S4E2).

The same is true of Willow’s fear. She loses control of a spell in the haunted house and it attacks her. Earlier in the episode, she pointed out that the next step in her Wiccan learning was a little daunting to her. But she’s also said in the past that she’s learning slowly and carefully. She understands that what she’s doing is playing with powerful forces and she doesn’t treat it lightly, as much as she delights in her successes.

Oz obviously fears losing control of his wolf. This is something he’s struggled with several times in the past ever since he first changed into a werewolf and suspected he had killed people (S2E15). The moment he has in the bathtub where he tries desperately to talk himself out of changing is especially poignant.

Finally, Buffy fears being abandoned by the people she cares about. Again, the episode speaks directly to this via her conversation with Joyce and the continued fallout from her aborted relationship with Parker. But it also harkens back to her relationship with her estranged father and the whole of her relationship with Angel. It makes a lot of sense for Buffy to be a little gun shy at this point.

On top of all of this, we had some great development of the Anya/Xander relationship as well as some fun moments with Giles. Anya and Xander admit that they might be dating. Anya even manages to be a bit coy in the moment. It’s nice to see Xander returning some of her affection as he begins to get used to her style of communication. And, as always, it was fun to see Giles in a non-watcher capacity. His sombrero was my favorite fashion moment in the episode. I also like how he’s not afraid to try and have a little fun when the world isn’t about to end.

The Bad: Some of the effects were a little on the cheesy side, but I can actually forgive that since this was a 1999 TV show. The only one that really bothered me was the bloody disembodied head which spoke to Xander. Mainly because the mouth didn’t move and it just looked silly.

I also didn’t really understand why the frat guy who broke his neck was talking to Buffy. I think it would have been more powerful if it was Parker or her father who was taunting her about everyone leaving. Buffy had never even met the frat boy, to our knowledge.

Favorite Moment: I absolutely loved when Giles pulled out a chainsaw to “create a door”. I’m a sucker for Giles-Is-Awesome moments and this was one of the best.

The Bottom Line: This isn’t the best episode of Buffy ever, but it is one of my favorites. It’s so tightly written and wonderfully acted that I can completely enjoy the episode, even when I know the punch-line.

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