Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | August 6, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S4, E19 – New Moon Rising

New Moon Rising
Season 4, Episode 19
Original airing: 5/2/2000

My Rating: 64

The Good: This episode is an excellent wrap-up to the Oz and Willow relationship. It also serves as an official jumping off point for the Tara and Willow relationship. I think the show handled this love triangle very well.

Oz’s return is very abrupt and throws a huge monkey wrench into the dance Tara and Willow have been doing. I like that this forced things along a little bit with the girls, but I also like that it allowed Willow to realize how much she’s grown since Oz left. Their scenes are calm and mature. There is no high school drama. It’s just two adults reconnecting. At the same time, Willow is going through a very confusing situation, and she displays it really well.

One of the highlights of the episode is when she tells Buffy how she feels about Tara. Buffy’s reaction is confused, nervous, and then accepting. Once she wraps her head around it, she realizes that Willow’s happiness is all that matters. If only the whole world could be so understanding and tolerant.

I really enjoyed Tara in this episode. I’ve found her frustratingly self-effacing in the past. And she does a similar thing here. But it works because she’s been obviously becoming more and more comfortable with Willow in the last few episodes. She’s been stuttering a lot less and even standing differently. Cue the arrival of Oz and Tara’s extreme lack of self-confidence has her practically throwing Willow at him. Willow’s happiness is so important it completely supersedes anything Tara might want. Normally, I would find this behavior extremely annoying, but I think it works for Tara because we know she has confidence issues. I think there’s also definitely something to be said here for the notion that Tara perhaps thinks Willow will choose Oz purely because he’s a guy. The indication is that this relationship is a new thing for Tara as well as Willow, so I’m sure the confusion is high for her as well.

Mostly, I found Riley really annoying in this episode (see The Bad), but I did like that he finally got kicked out of the Initiative. It feels like something that should have happened a long time ago as he’s been quite a bit less of Joe Soldier since Adam arrived on the scene.

I also really enjoyed how Angel was brought back to the forefront of Buffy and Riley’s relationship. That’s a huge part of Buffy’s past and part of the reason she has the outlook on life that she does. It’s something that absolutely needed to be addressed.

The Bad: Riley is used AGAIN as a convenient plot point. I could not believe it when he pulled out his gun and was about to shoot were-Oz while he was in the cage. How was this in any way Riley-behavior? He’s always been presented as a rule abiding fellow who follows instructions and protocol. Aside from that, he’s been nothing but almost obnoxiously upstanding with his moral choices. To pull a gun on a caged animal in anger was completely absurd. But then it got even worse when Oz turned back into a human and Riley changed his entire belief system about demons and the Initiative. That was the world’s fastest 180 degree turn ever.

And, as ever, Adam felt annoying and pointless here. I appreciate that he might have finally given Spike some direction, but we’re three episodes from the end of the season and Adam still doesn’t feel like a threat. In the past, the Big Bads have always had a master plan, but they also spend the season torturing and hounding Buffy and company. Adam has done nothing but chill in the dark and play on the computer.

Favorite Moment: I really love the scene between Tara and Oz in the hallway. Oz has always been portrayed as calm and collected. And now, he’s supposedly even better at it, to the point where he can keep his wolf side from coming out every month. But all it takes is the hint that Willow has been hugging someone else and he goes completely wild. Personally, I found his wide-eyed expression and earnest shaking before he changed to be just as terrifying as the moment he looks at Tara out of a wolf-y face and whispers “Run”

The Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the half of this episode that was about Oz, Willow, and Tara. The episode did a great job of wrapping up the relationship between Oz and Willow that was left hanging very abruptly back in Wild at Heart (S4E6). It also allowed Willow and Tara to finally get as close as they dared to saying how they really feel about each other.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode about Adam and Riley was extremely terrible. This was some of the worst Riley characterization we’ve had so far. Luckily for my score, I was sufficiently pleased about Oz, Willow, and Tara.

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