The Initiative

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  • 8.5

    The initiative

    By arkanitoo, Aug 14, 2014

    This is a solid episode which really manages to get the seasonal arc moving. We're introduced to the Initiative, we discover Spike can't harm any living creature anymore, we find out Riley and Walsh are both heavily involved with the initiative, and we see Riley making his first romantic moves on Buffy. The title, "The Initiative," means two different things. There's the obvious (the military group), but Riley is also taking the romantic 'initiative' with Buffy. Much of the episode is centered around introducing us to both of these threads. It's also interesting to note that while Buffy does initiate contact with Riley, she really isn't a large part of the episode. The focus is really on Riley and Spike's attempts of connecting with Buffy, in their own unique ways.



    There are a lot of abrupt scene changes that really work perfectly here. The first is when the Initiative boys are talking about how hot Buffy is. Forrest says, "I bet a lot of guys would like to get their hands on The scene then quickly changes to Spike on the ground saying, "Slayer... I'll kill you. Not so tough. I... Kill Another instance is when Spike, trapped in the Initiative, overhears that the Slayer is likely somehow related to why he's trapped there. He assumes that the Slayer is responsible and says "I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding. She's wised up a bit. Fine! I'll take her apart. I don't care how brilliant she Then the scene abruptly cuts to Buffy in class having a really hard time with her ballpoint pen. Yet another instance of this happening is when Riley admits his attraction to Buffy and tells his friends, "Well, I guess I'm gonna go see a The scene quickly changes back to Spike who, while trying to escape, tells the labcoats, "Sorry, can't stay. Got to go see a



    Riley and Spike are both after the same thing here: Buffy. Riley wants to establish a relationship with her while Spike, at least on the outside, wants to kill her (he is also subconciously in love with her, see Foreshadowing section). I'm going to focus on Riley and the Initiative first, though, which both come across as frequently hammy. Riley's "I guess I like her" speech is an example of this. He really does rub off as so nice that there's got to be something wrong with him. However, when he punches Parker out for saying that Buffy is too whiney (which is shamefully what a lot of the BtVS community thinks of her too), I can't help but love the guy for it. His attempts at gaining information on Buffy are also very well-intended.



    Riley and Spike both go looking for Buffy in her dorm and find Willow there instead. At first Riley doesn't win Willow over in their very interesting conversation. She says, "Why should I trust you?" He replies, "Just sort of hoping you'd think I have an honest She uses recent experiences (Parker, and to a lesser extent, Oz) to shoot him down: "I've seen honest faces before. They usually come attached to He is sympathetic and says, "I appreciate you wanting to protect your friend. I guess, uh, she kind of brings that out in Riley, of course, observed Buffy stick up for Willow when Professor Walsh was overly cruel to her. Before he leaves the room Willow begins to feel like her pain is robbing Buffy a chance to meet someone new, and that that isn't fair to her. So she opens up a bit and gives Riley a bone. She says, "She likes cheese ... She has a stuffed piggy named Mr. Gordo, loves ice capades without the Cheese rules all.



    Later on at the party Willow helps Riley approach Buffy, but all he can think of is to offer her some cheese. This doesn't go over too well and ends with Buffy running off with a very poorly dressed Xander. At the end of the episode, when Riley gets another shot, he makes some progress by asking, "Did Willow tell you I like cheese?" Buffy calls him peculiar, which is what Riley called her earlier and he says "I can live with I sure know that if a pretty girl walked up to me offering cheese that I'd be pretty happy. So I'm very pleased that cheese won the day in this situation.



    The Initiative, what Riley is a part of, gets a solid introduction here, even if it comes off as very hammy for a secret military group. I love their big hanger bay and the Initiative theme song. It's also fun to see that Professor Walsh is the one running the show. She's actually a pretty fascinating character, which makes me wonder why she got killed off so quickly. More on that when the time comes though. The fight scene towards the end also worked for me. I enjoyed the complete chaos of it, what with Willow trying to crawl away, Riley saving her, Spike trying to escape, and Buffy firing a flare gun and laying the hurt on the military boys. The commandos should have been far more beaten up by Buffy than they were though. I only wish that this arc would have been developed sooner than six episodes from now.



    A lot of stuff is going on with Spike here as well. He now has the chip in his head and begins the process of learning what that means for him. The chip comes off as pretty inconsistent in this episode though. He's able to lay several blows on various people without his head exploding in pain. The only time we outright see him have problems is when he tries to bite people. This is changed in the following episodes. Anyway, this was a really smart move by the writers. This gives him an excuse to be a regular on the show and allows his character to be developed in new areas. A scene in particular which I adore is when he violently attacks Willow in her dorm (even though he is looking for Buffy). This is very brutal and feels very much like a rape scene. After the break, though, we see that Spike can't bite her. A brutal scenes now turns into an impotence parody and the two of them pull it off hilariously. Spike even points out that back in "Lover's Walk" (3x08) when Willow was wearing the pink lilac sweater he wanted to bite her. Willow tries to be kind and tells him, "You know, this doesn't make you any less Spike amusingly replies, "Don't patronize The truth of the matter is that Spike isn't terrifying anymore. It will be a little while ("Doomed" [4x11]) until he finds out that he has other ways of inflicting damage.



    Xander and Giles get some fun bonding time again. Boy these two are really at a really pathetic place right now. Early on we see them doing research alone together. Xander's so bored that he, in jest, suggests they summon a demon and "kick its The writers also firmly establish that Xander's military skill is completely gone. I'm personally happy about this, because there really needs to be someone in the group who has no special knowledge or skills. He claims he still has good hand-to-hand skills and then later has a slap fight with Harmony. This moment has to constitute a new low point for his character's ego. Wow was that both pathetic and hilarious.



    To finish up here I'll say that this is a strong episode which covers a lot of important ground. Some of it came across as a bit hammy and lightweight for the main arc of the season, but fun was definitely had. When pitted against the arc-initiator episodes from other seasons we can see that this one definitely lacks the same intensity and punch . "Revelations" [3x07] and "No Place Like Home" [5x05]). It's certainly a solid start, though, which leaves me interested for more.

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  • 8.5

    This is a solid episode which really manages to get the seasonal arc moving.

    By tarafan2, Jun 15, 2013

    We're introduced to the Initiative, we discover Spike can't harm any living creature anymore, we find out Riley and Walsh are both heavily involved with the initiative, and we see Riley making his first romantic moves on Buffy. The title, "The Initiative," means two different things. There's the obvious, but Riley is also taking the romantic 'initiative' with Buffy. Much of the episode is centered around introducing us to both of these threads. It's also interesting to note that while Buffy does initiate contact with Riley, she really isn't a large part of the episode. The focus is really on Riley and Spike's attempts of connecting with Buffy, in their own unique ways.



    There are a lot of abrupt scene changes that really work perfectly here. The first is when the Initiative boys are talking about how hot Buffy is. Forrest says, "I bet a lot of guys would like to get their hands on The scene then quickly changes to Spike on the ground saying, "Slayer... I'll kill you. Not so tough. I... Kill Another instance is when Spike, trapped in the Initiative, overhears that the Slayer is likely somehow related to why he's trapped there. He assumes that the Slayer is responsible and says "I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding. She's wised up a bit. Fine! I'll take her apart. I don't care how brilliant she Then the scene abruptly cuts to Buffy in class having a really hard time with her ballpoint pen. Yet another instance of this happening is when Riley admits his attraction to Buffy and tells his friends, "Well, I guess I'm gonna go see a The scene quickly changes back to Spike who, while trying to escape, tells the labcoats, "Sorry, can't stay. Got to go see a



    Riley and Spike are both after the same thing here: Buffy. Riley wants to establish a relationship with her while Spike, at least on the outside, wants to kill her. I'm going to focus on Riley and the Initiative first, though, which both come across as frequently hammy. Riley's "I guess I like her" speech is an example of this. He really does rub off as so nice that there's got to be something wrong with him. However, when he punches Parker out for saying that Buffy is too whiney, I can't help but love the guy for it. His attempts at gaining information on Buffy are also very well-intended.



    Riley and Spike both go looking for Buffy in her dorm and find Willow there instead. At first Riley doesn't win Willow over in their very interesting conversation. She says, "Why should I trust you?" He replies, "Just sort of hoping you'd think I have an honest She uses recent experiences to shoot him down: "I've seen honest faces before. They usually come attached to He is sympathetic and says, "I appreciate you wanting to protect your friend. I guess, uh, she kind of brings that out in Riley, of course, observed Buffy stick up for Willow when Professor Walsh was overly cruel to her. Before he leaves the room Willow begins to feel like her pain is robbing Buffy a chance to meet someone new, and that that isn't fair to her. So she opens up a bit and gives Riley a bone. She says, "She likes cheese ... She has a stuffed piggy named Mr. Gordo, loves ice capades without the Cheese rules all.



    Later on at the party Willow helps Riley approach Buffy, but all he can think of is to offer her some cheese. This doesn't go over too well and ends with Buffy running off with a very poorly dressed Xander. At the end of the episode, when Riley gets another shot, he makes some progress by asking, "Did Willow tell you I like cheese?" Buffy calls him peculiar, which is what Riley called her earlier and he says "I can live with I sure know that if a pretty girl walked up to me offering cheese that I'd be pretty happy. So I'm very pleased that cheese won the day in this situation.



    The Initiative, what Riley is a part of, gets a solid introduction here, even if it comes off as very hammy for a secret military group. I love their big hanger bay and the Initiative theme song. It's also fun to see that Professor Walsh is the one running the show. She's actually a pretty fascinating character, which makes me wonder why she got killed off so quickly. More on that when the time comes though. The fight scene towards the end also worked for me. I enjoyed the complete chaos of it, what with Willow trying to crawl away, Riley saving her, Spike trying to escape, and Buffy firing a flare gun and laying the hurt on the military boys. The commandos should have been far more beaten up by Buffy than they were though. I only wish that this arc would have been developed sooner than six episodes from now.



    A lot of stuff is going on with Spike here as well. He now has the chip in his head and begins the process of learning what that means for him. The chip comes off as pretty inconsistent in this episode though. He's able to lay several blows on various people without his head exploding in pain. The only time we outright see him have problems is when he tries to bite people. This is changed in the following episodes. Anyway, this was a really smart move by the writers. This gives him an excuse to be a regular on the show and allows his character to be developed in new areas. A scene in particular which I adore is when he violently attacks Willow in her dorm. This is very brutal and feels very much like a rape scene. After the break, though, we see that Spike can't bite her. A brutal scenes now turns into an impotence parody and the two of them pull it off hilariously. Spike even points out that back in "Lover's Walk" when Willow was wearing the pink lilac sweater he wanted to bite her. Willow tries to be kind and tells him, "You know, this doesn't make you any less Spike amusingly replies, "Don't patronize The truth of the matter is that Spike isn't terrifying anymore. It will be a little while until he finds out that he has other ways of inflicting damage.



    Xander and Giles get some fun bonding time again. Boy these two are really at a really pathetic place right now. Early on we see them doing research alone together. Xander's so bored that he, in jest, suggests they summon a demon and "kick its The writers also firmly establish that Xander's military skill is completely gone. I'm personally happy about this, because there really needs to be someone in the group who has no special knowledge or skills. He claims he still has good hand-to-hand skills and then later has a slap fight with Harmony. This moment has to constitute a new low point for his character's ego. Wow was that both pathetic and hilarious.



    To finish up here I'll say that this is a strong episode which covers a lot of important ground. Some of it came across as a bit hammy and lightweight for the main arc of the season, but fun was definitely had. When pitted against the arc-initiator episodes from other seasons we can see that this one definitely lacks the same intensity and punch. It's certainly a solid start, though, which leaves me interested for more.moreless

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  • 9.0

    "Ever think I'm gunna take you home?"

    By Drea94, Apr 19, 2013

    Great way to reveal the Initiative! I love that RIley and Maggie Walsh are both high up in the commando

    s league; it's a good way to introduce new characters into the scoobie gang. Although, I'm not a fan of Walsh, I do love Riley. All in all, good plot, and fun scenes with Riley/Buffy and Spike/Willow.

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  • 8.0

    The War on Demons

    By joxerlives, Jan 20, 2012

    The Good;

    So at last the truth! The Initiative set is indeed impressive and Spike's escape is daring, he's almost like Jaws in the Bond films, the audience starts rooting for him even when he's the bad guy. The fights also good and the Harmony/Spike scenes and Harmony/Xander scene is wonderful



    The Bad;

    Not a great deal, strong ep



    Best line;

    Buffy (to Walsh); "For someone who teaches human behaviour you might try showing some"



    Shot;

    Buff uses a flare gun, odd to see her using a firearm of any kind. The Initiative seem to have more guns than NATO.



    Tied up;

    Spike tied up but escapes.



    Knocked out;

    Willow in the struggle with Riley and co.



    Women good/men bad;

    The horrible scene where we think Spike is killing Willow. Of course, she then fights back, You go girl! Contrast that to Harmony who takes Spike back AGAIN after all he's done to her. She asks Xander why men just leave but of course by that stage Xander already has. Buffy is outraged at Riley's seeming chauvanism towards her. Parker's remark about Buffy is unforgiveable although maybe he has a right to be bitter, he did try to apologise to her only for her to bash him over the head with a branch.



    Jeez!;

    Walsh's remark to Willow about Oz is very harsh. For a moment your heart is in your mouth when you think Willow is lying dead behind Spike on the bed.



    Kinky dinky;

    Buffy describes her top as 'slutty' but I don't think it is particularly. Unlike her top on the cafeteria which you can blatantly see down when she trips. Forrest eyes up the women in the cafeteria, the first blonde girl in the floral number in particular is undeniably HOT! Parker describes Buffy as 'Bunny in the sack'. You figure she must have gone easy on him? Forrest figures that Buffy and Xander are on their way to have 'Crazy naked sex'. Harmony comments that she can 'slap Spike around' a little if he likes it. Buffy dancing is also good although she's better with Faith.



    Calling Captain Subtext;

    Doug Petrie describes the Initiative boys as a 'gay calender pin-up' and he's not wrong, you can imagine Jack from Will&Grace having it on his wall. Petrie seems very keen on Marc Blucas in his commentary although he was equally as keen on the Faith/Buffy sapphic subtext.

    The whole Spike/Willow scene is one big impotence gag. Once again a vamp feeding is compared to a sexual act. Harmony comments that Buffy is just going to slap Spike around and that she can do that. Is that why Spike falls in love with the Slayer? When Spike finds Buffy on the computer he says 'Hello gorgeous". Hmmmmm. Will still has some insecurity left over from her wallflower days.



    Guantanamo Bay;

    The whole idea of the Initiative is very 'War on Terror', it resembles Camp X-ray to a T. Of course this all takes place BEFORE 9/11



    Scoobies to the ER;

    Thankfully not this week



    Questions and observations;

    Spike likes the Sex Pistols, big suprise. Buffy likes cheese, a leftover from her day as a rat? Here we have Spike in the opening credits hinting that he's a regular from now on (by contrast it took poor old Tara 3 seasons to get there and she only lasted 1 ep). Giles comments that he should lock his door. Spike refers to the Nazis conducting experiments on vamps which we'll see in 'Why we Fight'. Xander refers to the mobile infantry from Starship Troopers, Riley not unlike Johnny Rico in many ways. Spike is 126 which means he was born in 1873, making him a late Victorian (Angel is over 200 making him a Georgian). Note Doug Petrie named Grahme Miller after a Canadian friend of his and that it's Grahme who suggests that Buffy might be a little off because she's Canadian. Spike seems to use significant violence during his escape but maybe the chip hasn't really kicked in yet? Riley' shirt makes him look like he's from Star Trek.

    Marks out of 10; 8/10

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  • 3.5

    Sexist writing, unbelievable plot and a wasted opportunity to kill one of the deadliest vampires in Sunnydale.

    By ElvinJim, Aug 31, 2011

    The writer of this episode is so sexist. From the camera work in the first scene to the conversation between the College boys and especially what Parker says about Buffy and freshman girls on campus. I would have thought that Parker would have been more careful how he spoke about Buffy after getting knocked out by her twice or possibly had a bit more respect after she saved his life in the last episode. I found it so unrealistic for someone (like Riley) to go to Willows room and close the door behind him and start talking to Willow to find out about Buffy and to ask if she also liked him. Maybe if they were 12 years old you could believe it. Season 4 has really had the sexual references and scenes increased this is probably the first episode from the season that didn't have a sex scene in it so the writer had to replace it with crass humour. Over all the acting and dialog was really bad and I wonder if the actors just didn't really feel like trying after reading the poor script. I know it was just supposed to be funny but I found it stupid how Willow was talking to Spike after he tried to kill her and saying things like ,"maybe try again in half an hour". (another implied sexual reference) she should have picked up a pencil with her magic skills and dusted him. She hates Spike because he has hurt Buffy many times, he has helped torture Giles helped torture Angel he is to blame for Cordelia almost dieing when he kept her prisoner in the old factory. He is a murdering vampire and he was sitting on the bed with his back to her very vulnerable. After all Willow said the reason she was not going to Harvard , Yale or Oxford Uni was to stay in Sunnydale and fight evil.

    There were some good plot developments like explaining the initiative and the chip in Spike's head.moreless

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  • 9.5

    The Initiative

    By TrueTvWatcher, Oct 21, 2010

    The Initiative was a superb episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We were introduced to The Initiative and its members who lead double lives, similar to Buffy. It was really cool how every thing was connected. Spike who just escaped The Initiative is now being hunted by them, as he attempts to eat Willow. There was a lot of action, good story flow, and character development. Riley has a thing for Buffy and is trying to get to know her, but Buffy being the Slayer, always seems to be preoccupied when talking with Riley. There was a lot of good things that made this episode so great!moreless

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  • 8.0

    Season 4, Episode 7.

    By Wanted23, May 25, 2009

    Spike is captured by The Initiative. However, he later escapes and hunts for Buffy, but instead only finds Willow. However, things go awry when Spike gets a major headache while trying to feed off Willow. Riley realizes he has feelings for Buffy.



    Not a bad episode, compared to what else we have been given so far this season. I'm not liking the way season 4 is shaping out so far. I like the whole Riley and Professor Walsh in The Initiative thing, though. I like how Spike betrayed the other vampire while escaping too. Riley and Buffy like each other! Woohoo! Decent episode, but Buffy isn't doing well this season so far. Hopefully it improves.moreless

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  • 7.5

    I admit right now The Initiative is the reason Season 4 is my least favorite.

    By RobGrizz, Feb 04, 2009

    The idea this year was Magic vs Science. We've had Magic on Buffy as the main concept, but in an attempt to shake things up and try something new, science is brought in- in the form of the Initiative, a commando unit headed by the seemingly normal Riley (no one can ever really be normal on this show) and the professor. It wasn't a bad idea. But I was never convinced by the actor in the role as a squad leader (geeky TA, sure), and I never thought he was good enough for Buffy. Besides, the applied "science" wedged into the show was really just basic gadget and gizmo stuff, that never really fit into the show. Some real deal scientific explainations implemented into the mythology would have been welcome.



    But I liked Riley befriending Willow to try to get closer to Buffy and I LOVE the scene where a now neutered Spike can't "perform" when advancing on Willow. A+ scene!moreless

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  • 9.5

    An absolutely excellent episode- so underrated. Really brilliant.

    By TwistedConverse, Oct 13, 2008

    The Initiative is an overlooked and underrated episode that is actually pretty outstanding. It is just absolutely fantastic. It had so many hilarious scenes, some nice sad ones, good action and the best fight in Buffy history- Xander vs. Harmony of course!



    Most people don't think much of this episode because it starts off the Initiative arc- one that isn't great but not bad either. The Initiative arc was actually very good here- interesting and definitely leaving you for more. Spike getting trapped there was a great idea to bring him back for and it really did have some nice action sequences- and a flare gun!



    However, the underground military isn't why I love this episode- it's the rest of it. I'm not a Riley fan but he was so great here, really funny and interesting. A shame they stripped him of his good qualities. He had really funny scenes with Willow and Buffy and the "I choked" scene was great. I also loved the bit where him and Buffy are both trying to get each other to leave for the same thing- to catch Spike. It's ironic and just very, very funny.



    The Xander vs. Harmony fight... I have no words. It is so unbelieavably hysterical. Ridiculous, pathetic and hilarious. The slow motion made it all the funnier and the hair pulling was just... awesome. A moment to be cherished.



    Willow was great here; still clearly broken up over Oz's departure yet still funny. I loved her threatening Riley with axe murder if he hurt Buffy and I liked that they made it funny rather than whiney. Spike getting a chip was a masterstroke. People often complain "Ooh Spike is annoying after S2". What they really mean is "I'm a Bangel fan and can't get over the fact that Buffy loved Spike". Spike is still as funny, witty and brilliantly acted here and in other seasons as he was in Season 2. I was ecstatic that he was added to the opening credits as he only enhances the show.



    The Initiative is a really excellent episode; hilarious, sad and action packed. It is very underrated but not to be missed. An episode that will leave you smiling.moreless

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