Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | June 3, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E13 – The I in Team

Synopsis: Buffy is shown around the Initiative, given a pager and goes on a mission. Afterwards she sleeps with Riley. Willow is feeling ignored and spends more time with Tara. Forrest spots Spike out shopping and shoots him with a tracer. Spike runs to the Scoobies to ask them to help him. Buffy asks many questions at a briefing and then later asks Riley about 314. Professor Walsh has cameras in Riley’s room and so decided to eliminate her. Buffy is sent out to track a potential threat but it is a setup.

The Good: Riley and Buffy finally sleep together and do seem convincingly happy. It was a nice callback to Parker and Angel to show us her waking up the next morning and turning over to check that Riley was still there.

The Initiative story was intriguing on a basic level. They are hiding many secrets and by allowing Buffy into the building we got a closer look at the possibilities. Her stream of questions continued the theme that the Initiative doesn’t understand the demon world in the way the Scoobies do. Willow asks a good question when she queries exactly what the Initiative expect demons to do once they have been neutered.

The writers continue to find plausible ways for Spike to stay involved in the Scooby gang. He naturally wants nothing more to do with them but as soon as he gets into trouble he has to call them. It was a nice moment when Giles makes him give him his money back (from when Spike charged for his help last ep). I also enjoyed Xander’s continuing career search as he goes through the direct marketing phase.

The Bad: In the final few minutes of the episode I realized why the Initiative story wasn’t clicking with me: Maggie Walsh. She is bland and generic and with no sense of what her endgame is I felt she was the reason the story felt flat. I had quite forgotten that Adam then wakes up and skewers her!

The Unknown: That moment was unexpected and blows the story open in a way I can’t fathom.

For a start we see that the Initiative clearly aren’t a part of the mainstream US military. Or at least I hope not! Maggie Walsh and Dr Angleman are experimenting on demons in unethical ways and creating their own monster in Adam. Their worst crime is of course trying to assassinate Buffy. Does this mean that they are a corrupt leadership team or that the military is approving extra-constitutional acts in the sphere of demons?

I think that’s an important question because surely if Riley and Forest and the others found out they would do something about it? It will be interesting to see if this is the moment when Riley breaks out of his soldier boy routine and develops a more distinct personality of his own. I wonder if those really are vitamins?

What about Adam? Who or what is he? What can he do and how does he think? We have almost no clues as to where the story is now headed.

The analogy here seemed clearer. The Initiative are the government or a different representation of the side of it which we saw in the Mayor. They are the military industrial complex looking for ways to tinker with science and nature to achieve their objectives in ways which have a very dubious link to the welfare of its citizens. I liked the line where Riley says “We’re doing good here” in an unquestioning way. Joss Whedon was clearly years ahead of other pop culture which cracked firmly onto this concept once 9\11 happened. There’s a hint of the Big Brother state too in Maggie Walsh having cameras in her soldiers’ rooms.

The Buffy is estranged from the Scoobies but then returns to the fold story felt too familiar (e.g. 201, 314, 401) and played out. I think that wasn’t helped by Buffy and Willow having similar issues only a few episodes ago when Willow was going through her breakup (409).

Best Moment: Xander’s reaction (spilling his poker cards) to the spanking comment was good old fashioned sit com. I also smiled at him telling Spike to stop taking runs in the morning (when he comes in hiding from the sun).

The Bottom Line: The pace of this season is quite confusing. This episode seemed to set Maggie Walsh up as the new Mayor with Adam as her Faith. But the final moments blew that up and left us with a far more puzzling situation.

56/100

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