Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | August 21, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E21 – Primeval

Synopsis: Adam reveals that there is a chip inside Riley which allows him to be controlled. He shows Riley the secret lab where he will build the new master race of human-demon-machines. Spike encourages Buffy to make up with Willow so that she can decrypt the computer disks he supplied them. Buffy figures out that he was behind their argument and the Scoobies make up. They also concoct a plan to defeat Adam and make their way into the Initiative. Adam’s war begins but Buffy is able to defeat him with a special spell. The government abandon the Initiative and destroy the facility.

The Good: This was a decent wrap up episode for a deeply flawed arc. Oddly Spike seemed to get as much dialogue as anyone and his insistence on getting what he was owed made perfect sense. His sarcastic witticisms bounced neatly off Adam’s unresponsive visage until the war began. I also thought we got the best Xander scene in a long time when he just lay in bed pondering his existence. With no jokes or over-expressiveness required I felt like I was actually seeing a real guy for once. Buffy and Willow finally cleared the air too which was pleasing stuff. It was nice to hear Buffy acknowledge the big change Willow has gone through and for both to reaffirm their bond.

On the other side of the walls Adam’s plan was simple and clear. His desire for chaos was so that he would have a pile of dead bodies from which to build his new hybrid race. We also got confirmation that the military had intended to use demons to create super soldiers to fight wars for them. The sight of Maggie Walsh as a zombie worker was pretty creepy.

The ensuing chaos was fun to watch at times and the final confrontation between Buffy and Adam was better than I remembered. The writers used Adam’s invulnerability to good effect as it really meant something when his voice finally gave away his doubt. Buffy’s transformation into a magically possessed being is something of a big shift for the show. In the moment it gave off a very pleasing visual, a million miles from the show’s early effects. As she went all Neo on Adam we got some good looking shots of her outpacing and powering him including a sweet looking moment where she delivered multiple kicks in mid-air.

The fight and the closure of the Initiative also seemed to fit the overall theme of Buffy. As she told the soldiers “This is not your business, it’s mine.” It seems like this will be the end of government attempts to get in on the demon business. The fact that Buffy’s friends could conjure up spirits more powerful than Adam should also put an end to demons trying to get in on the human business. With hindsight of course I can see this as a step in changing the mythology of the Slayerverse from simply fists and stakes to more powerful supernatural influences.

The Bad: The downside to the Enjoining spell is that it came out of nowhere. It may as well have been called the Deus Ex Machina spell. The fact that Giles could think of something powerful enough to stop Adam and yet never mentioned it before felt cheap. I know at the time I was deeply dissatisfied with how easily Adam was dispatched by magic rather than the human intelligence at the core of most good stories.

There is no excuse for the Scoobies not to kill Spike now. He wasn’t just trying to have them killed. He was aiding a creature that would have tried to wipe out the human race. That’s what Angel was trying to do in ‘Becoming.’ Spike should be stakes as soon as possible and the flimsy attempt to explain how he won back their good graces was not enough.

The battle scenes in the Initiative were not good. I can’t hold Buffy to the standards of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. It’s a deeply unfair financial comparison. However the Initiative men didn’t really fight like trained soldiers. Most of the shots we saw had them firing randomly at unseen targets while a comrade was being eaten alive a few feet away. There was no coordinated attempt to fire on the enemy as I’m sure any basic training would teach you. The random explosions in the background didn’t help convince either. It’s very much for the best that the Initiative has been shut down.

Once more the Riley story didn’t seem to work. There didn’t seem to be any point in including Riley beyond the fact that he was in the cast. We already knew that the Initiative had devious plans for him. The fact that Maggie Walsh had put a chip in him felt like a needless escalation of the story to explain why he couldn’t fight back. His brilliant plan to stab himself seemed as risky as his plan to blow Forrest up in an enclosed space. Poor Forrest was treated like the most generic of villains too in his demonoid form. Of course he got to do more than Graham who we saw briefly during the fight scenes. There aren’t many characters on TV who have had as much screen time as Graham and been allowed to do so little.

The Unknown: I wonder how that school for invisible spies is going (111)?

Best Moment: The fight between Buffy and Adam.

The Bottom Line: If I didn’t know I would definitely be confused as to why this wasn’t the season finale.

54/100

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