Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | August 27, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E22 – Restless

Synopsis: The gang are all wired after the spell and plan on staying up late to watch movies. Instead they fall asleep instantly and begin having strange dreams. Willow and Xander are chased by some unseen being while also facing their friends and family in unusual scenarios. Giles then seems aware that it is the first Slayer who is pursuing them. They are each killed in their dreams  before finally Buffy confronts the first Slayer and waking them up.

The Good: I enjoyed this a lot more on Rewatch than I did the first time. Back then I wanted answers and this episode seemed to be a waste of time with lots of irrelevant nonsense thrown in. This time not only did I enjoy the little clues which were dropped about the future of the show but I really liked the hints of inner-psychology we got along the way.

I thought Willow and Xander’s dreams were the most interesting as they seemed to go deeper into their fears and desires. Just like in “Nightmares” (109) Willow found herself facing a stage performance that she wasn’t prepared for which was a nice nod to our knowledge. She also showed anxiety over being seen as the timid bookworm she once was, a feeling she expressed earlier this season in “Doomed” (411). Xander stayed true to his horny-guy self by imagining hooking up with Willow, Tara and Joyce. Perhaps though he is growing somewhat as Buffy calls him brother in the dream, something she has always seen him as. Once more his lack of career direction weighs on his mind as Snyder reappears to tell him he has no direction. We also got yet more army related references with Xander assuming the role of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now.

The moment which felt like it had the most emotional significance was when Xander’s father finally appeared and yelled at him. We’ve only ever heard about Xander’s family in passing but his use of humour to deflect real emotions had always made it clear that his home is not the happiest. The fact that this season he has only been seen in his basement avoiding his family added to the sense that this was a major moment. To see him cowering slightly while offering excuses was a strange and revealing moment. I don’t know quite what it does for the Xander character but it was a moment of insight that felt entirely appropriate.

The comedy was solid too with Riley being sent up as “Cowboy guy”, Giles playing a theatre director while Harmony tried to bite him, Spike playing on the swings, Xander peeing in front of the Initiative and the running joke of the man with the cheese slices popping up to offer cryptic advice. On the flip side the first two dreams were tense. Not only did we get a nice sense of disorientation about what was really going on but the First Slayer was always stalking in the background. Towards the end of Xander’s dream we were getting into really strong territory where his unknowing fear of the First was growing effectively.

Giles and Buffy’s dreams were rushed and were more focussed on the First. We did get a few interesting moments though with Olivia weeping over an empty pram that moments ago seemed to contain Giles’ child. Similarly Buffy finds Joyce living in the walls and advises her to come out. Joyce points out that Buffy could get her out just as Buffy walks off. I can think of several dark interpretations of both moments which added a sense of depth to the dreams. Adam popped up in human form and Spike posed in black and white before things turned entirely to the main plot.

The Bad: This episode certainly turned me off at the time. To have the season finale (of a lacklustre season) be a surreal dream episode without much explanation of what was going on was extremely daring. Of course lots of people loved it and looking back its strengths are easier to see than they were at the time.

The Unknown: Giles begins solving the problem within his dream which somehow seemed cheap after the bubbling tension and confusion that Willow and Xander faced. Giles’ ability to instantly comprehend the problem has become a bad running joke this season. Although the moment when he realises that the First is behind him was beautifully crafted (both as a story and cinematically, with his facial expressions giving away what he knows is coming) it felt a touch rushed and confused. Buffy is then left to fight the spirit of the First and didn’t seem to do much to win. She simply informs the First that the power of the Slayer is not the source of her strength and that’s it.

Of course the spirit of the First may not have wanted to kill Buffy but merely get under her skin to warn her about the future. With hindsight it’s easier to see that the last two episodes of Season Four have been opening up the Slayer mythology to allow different stories to be told in future seasons. However at the time the quick dispatching of the First made the episode feel flimsy and lightweight.

Best Moment: Caught between his father’s disappointment and the First Slayer the tension and confusion in Xander’s dream was pretty strong.

The Bottom Line: It’s very hard to rate this episode and I think the score will vary massively depending on when you watch it within your own Buffy knowledge. I was pleased to enjoy it so much more on Rewatch than I did the first time.

Overall Season Four was a big disappointment though. The cracks first appeared at the end of Season Three and they grew this season with very poor planning of the Riley\Initiative arc. On first viewing this wasn’t as apparent because the humour remained strong and every few episodes another gem would appear (“Fear, Itself”, “Hush”, “Who Are You?”). I will be fascinated to see how Season Five holds up on Rewatch.

67/100

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Responses

  1. I remember seeing this episode when i was first discovering Buffy and not thinking it was worth much. But after years of being a Buffy fan and loving these characters and the storytelling so much, it is almost a masterpiece when I watch it now (after being saturating in the buffyverse). It’s a fun episode for a “rewatch” AND love tara as this spirit guide thing. She has always struck me as more of a natural witch. Clarvoyant and intuitive; connected to nature andd magics in a way that Wilow is not. She starts to show strength here in this episode. I understand Cordia’s dislike for Tara’s character so far but I think her quiet wisdom and natural beauty gives us a layer of magic i was happy to see explored on Buffy. I hope she will start to make more sense to people who haven’t latched onto her yet because i believe she is a very special character in this universe. AND loooove Harmony! lol


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