Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | May 27, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S4, E12 – A New Man

A New Man
Season 4, Episode 12
Original airing: 1/25/2000

My Rating: 65

The Good: This was a very entertaining episode. It had some plot holes, but overall, I was giggling my way through it. And it also touched on some important plot development, which made me happy.

This was the first time we’ve seen Buffy and Riley together where I can believe their relationship. They seem pseudo-comfortable with each other now that they’re starting to get physical. Their banter still is super cheesy, but I think that’s actually realistic for an idyllic new couple. I think it’s expressed very well in the breakfast scene with Willow where Buffy is goofy, happy, nervous, scared, and pleased all in about two minutes. Yep… that’s young love.

Tara and Willow also seem to be heading to a romantic place. The scene of the floating rose was interesting with its sexual overtones. The music, lightening, language, and facial expressions all scream relationship. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

My favorite thing about this episode, though, was the pairing of Giles and Spike. Just excellent. Spike’s decision to help Giles for money is totally believable and leads to some really wonderful humor with the two of them. Giles needed someone to be his ally in this episode and I think Spike was a great choice.

This episode finally hints at the Big Bad for Season Four. Ethan Rayne mentions 314 and that it’s scaring the entire underworld. At the end of the episode, Maggie Walsh enters a room labeled 314. The possibilities are endless and very exciting. Is Maggie evil? Is the room evil? Is something in the room evil? Is the entire Initiative suspect?

And finally, I was excited to see Ethan Rayne back. He doesn’t always have a lot of motive, but he’s always a lot of fun. Some of my favorite episodes feature his particular brand of mischief (S2E6 – Halloween, S3E6 – Band Candy). While he’s definitely underused here (see The Bad), his drunk scene with Giles is still extremely entertaining. Watching two old friends/enemies catch up together leads to wonderful dialogue on this show.

The Bad: The main problem I had with this episode is that it was just too heavy handed. We’ve already seen Giles struggling with his new life since the season premiere. He’s no longer a Watcher or a librarian, so what is he doing with his life? But the episode acted as if this was new information. Almost every conversation was written to point out that Giles is jobless and older and potential pointless now.

He even has an incredibly weird and personal conversation with Prof. Walsh. He’s never met her before and doesn’t know she’s part of the Initiative, but he tries to tell her how to interact with Buffy. She responds by tapping the nail right on the head and calling Giles a failed father figure. It’s an incredibly awkward, fast, personal, and volatile scene that came out of nowhere.

And then we have Ethan. As I mentioned before, he doesn’t always have a lot of motive, but at least he usually has a reason. In this episode, he just appears and transforms Giles into a demon. He never says why or how or if he was just fooling around. He’s a convenient plot contrivance instead of an actual villain and that’s disappointing. It’s also completely unexplained why he was hanging out in the shadows of the dark crypt at just the right time. I think it’s too convoluted to say he figured out that Giles would figure out a demon was rising and went to the right place just to step from the shadows and make a menacing speech to himself.

Favorite Moment: The practical effects are bad, but I love the moment when Giles jumps out of the car to chase Professor Walsh down the street. It made me so giddy and happy to see straight-laced Giles take a moment to get some of his own back from his conversation with her earlier in the episode.

The Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the humor in this episode. I was entertained throughout it and I definitely appreciated the hints at a further storyline and developing relationships. But the episode was also too blunt and awkward to really be good. I think this stands as a baseline for an “average” episode.

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