Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | August 6, 2012

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

Synopsis: Oz returns and spends the night talking with Willow. She confesses to Buffy that she is in love with Tara. A werewolf attacks Graham and kills another soldier. Oz smells Willow on Tara and turns. Riley and company capture him and nearly kill him. When he turns human Riley tries to help him escape. Adam comes to see Spike and recruits him for his coming war. Buffy and the Scoobies break into the Initiative with Spike’s help and free Riley and Oz.

The Good: The main purpose of this episode was achieved in strong fashion with Willow fully committing to her relationship with Tara and coming out to Buffy. That scene itself felt authentic with Willow reaching a point where she was so sure of the change in her situation that she had to tell her best friend. Buffy was initially uncomfortable with the unfamiliar before remembering herself and realising that Willow’s happiness is all that mattered to her.

The relationship side of Oz’ return was pretty solid. Understandably he has come back for the girl he never stopped loving. He has been through dramatic personal changes in order to bring his other side under control. The irony is that Willow has been through as significant a transformation as a result of his absence. I liked the way Willow was able to get sucked back into the dynamic they shared before without actually getting physical. She was very mature in her handling of the whole situation. Their goodbye conversation provided nice closure for the Oz character and gave sweet acknowledgement to the love they shared.

The knock on effect on Riley and Buffy had its merits to. I thought the way Riley’s comments about Oz stirred up memories of Angel was entirely believable. Buffy’s sensitivity (about Riley’s dismissal of all demons as evil) worked nicely as a parallel to her own shocked reaction to Willow’s homosexuality. Their relationship takes another step forward as she feels the need to share all of her history with him so he can understand her fully.

I liked seeing Spike operating with purpose once again. His cameos were becoming repetitive and to see him playing the Scoobies was far more enjoyable.

The Bad: The Initiative\Riley parts of the episode were clunky in the extreme.

Early in the episode Buffy begins edging toward an explanation of who Angel is by telling Riley that some demons are genuinely good. You would think by now he would accept that she knows more than him. Instead Forrest walks in at that moment to announce that a demon killed one of his men. Buffy asks what kind of demon and Riley dismisses her by saying “Does it matter?” Umm, clearly it does to her because you were just in the middle of a conversation on that exact topic. It felt like an entirely contrived line to make the link with homophobia that was the episodes underlying metaphor.

The next we see of them they have Oz in a cage and are excited to execute him. It seemed entirely unprofessional for Riley to dismiss the scientist he is arguing with and pull his gun on their captive. Of course this is the Riley who has revealed the Initiative’s secrets to half a dozen civilians so quite why they still employ him I don’t know.

Next his conscience kicks in as the scientists begin roughly experimenting on Oz. Again there was a real lack of logic or any sense of a chain of command. Why doesn’t Riley go to his superiors and lodge formal complaints about this? We don’t have time for that because Riley is caught trying to break Oz out on his own and is court martialed. Well, it was about time.

The lack of explanation for what the Initiative thinks of the Slayer and indeed what their role in Sunnydale is hurt this. Buffy doesn’t even attempt to just talk to any of the guys at the Frat house about Oz despite knowing them all and having worked there. The General’s categorisation of the Scoobies as anarchists sounded ridiculous. Though not quite as cheesy as Riley’s attempt to turn that into his new catch phrase. The fact that the Initiative was penetrated yet again (admittedly with Adam’s help) was yet another nail in the coffin of them being an efficient military organisation.

We’ve had some bad fight choreography before but Oz jumping into a chair (which Tara threw) and then passing out made no sense whatsoever.

The Unknown: It wasn’t clear why Adam wanted Spike to help out with this particular mission. Was he trying to gain the Scoobies trust? We of course still don’t know what Adam is up to yet we now learn he wants heavy human and demon casualties to achieve his aims. Like the whispers about the Ascension last season I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that the less I know about plans for the apocalypse the more I enjoy them.

Best Moment: I smiled at learning that parts of Adam used to be a boy scout. I wasn’t feeling the overwrought emotions that Oz, Tara and Willow were but I appreciated the story. For me the quiet Willow coming out to Buffy scene was pretty effective.

The Bottom Line: The Willow story was pretty good. The Riley story was pretty bad. I suppose the mistreatment of Oz by the Initiative is a logical last straw to make him see what a one eyed organisation they are. But the execution of that story was so poor that it damaged the chances of me investing in his character.



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