Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | June 11, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E14 – Goodbye Iowa

Synopsis: Riley comes to ask Buffy what happened while she is wondering if he knew about Maggie’s plan. Riley returns home to find that Maggie is dead. Adam escapes and kills a boy. She and Riley have an angry confrontation before setting off separately to hunt for the demon they think is responsible for both killings. Willow tries to help with a spell but Tara sabotages it. Riley finds Buffy at Willy’s Bar and freaks out. He is in withdrawal from the chemicals Maggie was feeding him. Buffy and Xander sneak into the Initiative and confront Dr Angleman. Adam returns just as Riley does.

The Good: Spike getting beaten up by demons for consorting with the Slayer was interesting. As was Tara deliberately voiding Willow’s spell. I could speculate but in both cases I’m not sure where the story is going.

The Bad: The rest of the episode was not good. Some of it probably belongs in “The Unknown” but the overall impression was confused and flat. There is a casualness to the Initiative as a story and as an organisation which undercuts them as a serious plot. Again they are shown driving around town in uniform in the day time. They are at the crime scene (of the dead boy) and Riley presumably wanders across town to reach Willy’s Bar (in uniform). Surely if they are a secret organisation they shouldn’t be doing this? Wouldn’t residents of Sunnydale wonder what they were doing there?

Then you have Buffy and Xander are able to stroll through the Initiative base without detection. Dr Angleman compounds this by conveniently explaining aloud all about the chemicals Riley is on including the fact that he doesn’t know he’s on them. That last revelation was a hilarious bit of writing because even if the other doctor didn’t know that, would you really want to broadcast it around corridors where those very soldiers could be walking? We also had Riley disobeying a direct order from Angleman to stay put. His men had to take their trucks and weapons from the base to head out, so why didn’t Angleman stop them?

Forrest was not characterised well either. He seems pretty sure that Maggie Walsh would have been justified in murdering Buffy. It’s not just the lack of moral concern that came across poorly. It’s also that the writers seemed to mix that with his jealousy over Buffy’s influence on Riley. He was given no logical reasoning to verbalise and so just seemed petty. He then leapt to the worst conclusion possible when Maggie’s body was found. She works in a building filled with demons and yet Forrest outrageously claims “only one person I can think of who could do something like that.”

The tension between Riley and Buffy played out like a soap opera. There were accusations and dramatic misunderstandings and not a lot of good acting or writing. As we knew the truth the actual tension created was minimal and out of nowhere Riley suddenly snapped and began sweating and shaking. The onrush of symptoms left Riley openly question if he (the Initiative) was the bad guy. It felt like that was the purpose of his story here but it was not communicated well. The writing and structure of the episode were bad but his acting didn’t add a lot.

Adam was an awkward villain. His conversation with the boy seemed oddly neutral. He seemed to genuinely want to learn about life in a way that only became creepy when he gave his evil grin. When he returned to the lab his blank demeanour continued to rob him of menace. Even though he skewered a child I couldn’t help but feel he was somehow not to blame. He then confused this “I’m a robot, please programme me” persona by talking more and more as if he knew what Maggie Walsh’s plan was and wanted to enact it. Then he kills Dr Angleman while seeming to choose not to kill anyone else. It was an utterly bizarre sequence of choices which left him feeling as flat as Riley as a character. Considering he is the strongest demon we’ve ever seen that’s a major disappointment.

The Unknown: Anya could use some character development. All she does here is talk about how much she loves and wants to protect Xander. That’s it.

Best Moment: I smiled at Spike giving Riley two thumbs up at the thought of killing Buffy and later asking not to be given orang-utan blood. A better line came when Xander suggested that he and Buffy make out to avoid detection at the Initiative. She points out that they are in a serious military organisation and that soldiers and scientists wouldn’t be caught kissing. “Well maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world, ever think about that?” he retorts.

The Bottom Line: I thought a lot about last season’s Faith storyline while watching this. Clearly Riley was supposed to go on a similar journey of questioning his own morality in relation to demon hunting. Perhaps Adam was too. In neither case though do we have as interesting a character or someone we really know. We’ve seen a lot of Riley yes but in a passive, obedient role. The only time we’ve seen him being himself is when he came to Willow to ask out Buffy. He was so proper and moral then that it doesn’t feel dramatic (as it did with Faith) to see him question right and wrong. It seems obvious that he will find the right path eventually because he is such a level headed guy. Meanwhile Adam gets the worst introduction of a major bad guy that I can remember. The episode itself was very poorly structured with no emotional hook. This is not a good sign for Season Four which has rapidly gone off the rails.

38/100

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