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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 4 Episode 14

Goodbye Iowa

5
Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Feb 15, 2000 on The WB
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (14)

8.2
out of 10
Average
490 votes
  • Goodbye Iowa

    7.5
    "The I in Team" (4x13) succeeded primarily because it focused on character development rather than the shakey plot arc of the season. This episode, on the other hand, focuses nearly completely on the plot arc and is greatly hurt by it. When BtVS episodes decide to drop away the focus from the characters, they better have a strong plot to make up for it. Unfortunately for much of the rest of S4, there isn't a strong plot to fall back on. While the episode suffers, it doesn't quite flounder. The scenes displaying Riley's increasing withdrawl symptoms are very well done and there's some timely humor mixed in. The plot isn't a mess only because everyone's still confused about what is happening, and the pieces set into motion during "The I in Team" (4x13) are still being sorted out.



    Before I say anything else, I want to announce that Buffy's yummy shushi speech is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. Buffy is so cute here!! That speech alone gave the episode 5 points more than it would have been without it. Okay, back to the analysis. Like I mentioned in my review of the previous episode, Adam's inquisitive nature about himself and his surroundings gets old very quickly. In fact, it begins to wear thin before the end of the episode. I think the writers are using his questioning to cover up his lack of an interesting personality. As an extension of this, his introduction to Buffy is so-so. I admit it's always fun to watch a tough new demon toss Buffy around a bit, but Adam just doesn't strike any fear in me. Maybe the stupid floppy drive in his chest is absorbing all the fear right out of him. Buffy's subsequent worrying about Adam seems pretty contrived as well. I mean, she only fought him once and didn't know what he was. I think it's a bit soon to be saying "I could barely fight him. I-it was like Maggie designed him to be the ultimate warrior. He's smart and He didn't look very fast to me, and his intelligence is also yet to be seen from Buffy's perspective.



    Aside from the introduction of Adam, the focus is on two things: the Scoobies' entrapment in Xander's basement and Riley's withdrawls. In order to make sure the Initiative can't find any of them, the Scoobies all hang out in Xander's basement for some amusing times. Giles wakes up to a mirror ball spinning in his face and loud noises coming from the other side of the room. There he finds the girls (Buffy, Willow, and Anya) all snuggled up together cutely watching cartoons. Turning off the TV, he isn't amused. Buffy gets to talking about how Riley isn't quite Joe Normal like she wanted. Unbeknownst to her right now, he is actually in the process of becoming Joe Normal as the drugs finish leaving his system. Riley's not going to have an easy time giving up being physically enhanced with Buffy as his girlfriend. These problems are all addressed early in S5. Amusingly, later in the episode Xander tries to take advantage of an opporunity to kiss Buffy! This tells us that Xander is not in love with Anya yet (though he does care about her, as "Hush" [4x10] proved), and that he still has the hots for Buffy. He's wanted to kiss her from the moment he saw her in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" (1x01)!



    Riley's slow decline into complete drug withdrawl is really well done and acted by Marc Blucas. This is the best and most subtle acting I've seen him do on BtVS up to this point. The scene where he's pointing a gun at the old lady, wondering if she's a vampire or not (by the way, why would an old lady be hanging out at a demon bar? Maybe she is a demon and Riley has a point), is fantastic. As Buffy points out at the end of the episode, Riley's entire world is coming apart. He doesn't know if he's on the right side anymore and things have become 'gray' where they used to be black and white. This is another representation of what the Scoobies are just starting to go through as they continue to grow up. These shades of gray will be addressed with growing intensity during the next few seasons.



    I was very pleased that Riley was getting the drugs through his food, not from those vitamins he was taking in the previous episode. All in all, this is a passable episode which focuses on plot rather than character development. Adam isn't terribly terrifying and the problems and mistakes of the Initiative arc (which I described in great detail in my review of "The I in Team" [4x13]) come into sharp focus. Riley's decline into madness due to withdrawl is convincing and everything in Xander's basement is hilarious. And oh yeah, Buffy's yummy sushi speech is pure gold!

  • "The I in Team" succeeded primarily because it focused on character development rather than the shakey plot arc of the season.

    7.0
    This episode, on the other hand, focuses nearly completely on the plot arc and is greatly hurt by it. When BtVS episodes decide to drop away the focus from the characters, they better have a strong plot to make up for it. Unfortunately for much of the rest of S4, there isn't a strong plot to fall back on. While the episode suffers, it doesn't quite flounder. The scenes displaying Riley's increasing withdrawl symptoms are very well done and there's some timely humor mixed in. The plot isn't a mess only because everyone's still confused about what is happening, and the pieces set into motion during "The I in Team" are still being sorted out.



    Before I say anything else, I want to announce that Buffy's yummy shushi speech is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. Buffy is so cute here!! That speech alone gave the episode 5 points more than it would have been without it. Okay, back to the analysis. Like I mentioned in my review of the previous episode, Adam's inquisitive nature about himself and his surroundings gets old very quickly. In fact, it begins to wear thin before the end of the episode. I think the writers are using his questioning to cover up his lack of an interesting personality. As an extension of this, his introduction to Buffy is so-so. I admit it's always fun to watch a tough new demon toss Buffy around a bit, but Adam just doesn't strike any fear in me. Maybe the stupid floppy drive in his chest is absorbing all the fear right out of him. Buffy's subsequent worrying about Adam seems pretty contrived as well. I mean, she only fought him once and didn't know what he was. I think it's a bit soon to be saying "I could barely fight him. I-it was like Maggie designed him to be the ultimate warrior. He's smart and He didn't look very fast to me, and his intelligence is also yet to be seen from Buffy's perspective.



    Aside from the introduction of Adam, the focus is on two things: the Scoobies' entrapment in Xander's basement and Riley's withdrawls. In order to make sure the Initiative can't find any of them, the Scoobies all hang out in Xander's basement for some amusing times. Giles wakes up to a mirror ball spinning in his face and loud noises coming from the other side of the room. There he finds the girls all snuggled up together cutely watching cartoons. Turning off the TV, he isn't amused. Buffy gets to talking about how Riley isn't quite Joe Normal like she wanted. Unbeknownst to her right now, he is actually in the process of becoming Joe Normal as the drugs finish leaving his system. Riley's not going to have an easy time giving up being physically enhanced with Buffy as his girlfriend. These problems are all addressed early in S5. Amusingly, later in the episode Xander tries to take advantage of an opporunity to kiss Buffy! This tells us that Xander is not in love with Anya yet, and that he still has the hots for Buffy. He's wanted to kiss her from the moment he saw her in "Welcome to the Hellmouth"!



    Riley's slow decline into complete drug withdrawl is really well done and acted by Marc Blucas. This is the best and most subtle acting I've seen him do on BtVS up to this point. The scene where he's pointing a gun at the old lady, wondering if she's a vampire or not, is fantastic. As Buffy points out at the end of the episode, Riley's entire world is coming apart. He doesn't know if he's on the right side anymore and things have become 'gray' where they used to be black and white. This is another representation of what the Scoobies are just starting to go through as they continue to grow up. These shades of gray will be addressed with growing intensity during the next few seasons.



    I was very pleased that Riley was getting the drugs through his food, not from those vitamins he was taking in the previous episode. All in all, this is a passable episode which focuses on plot rather than character development. Adam isn't terribly terrifying and the problems and mistakes of the Initiative arc come into sharp focus. Riley's decline into madness due to withdrawl is convincing and everything in Xander's basement is hilarious. And oh yeah, Buffy's yummy sushi speech is pure gold!
  • Here's Adam (BOOOOOOOO!)

    6.0
    The Good;

    Some great acting from Marc Blucas as Riley comes apart. Love Buffy's rallying speech in her sushi pyjamas and Riley recognising Spike.



    The Bad;

    A pretty dull episode in many ways, Adam is a stupid enemy. I always said that the more Joyce in an ep the better it is, well, the more Adam in an ep the worse it is. The idea that he had a floppy disc player in 2001, really! Also the little boy he kills is the dumbest kid ever.



    Best line;

    Anya; "He was GI Joe for one night, it wasn't as if he was in The Nam"



    Character death;

    Byebye another Initiative scientist and some poor MP



    Shot;

    No but Riley threatens one of Willy's patrons with his pistol.



    Jeez!;

    Cutting the demons arm off, nice!



    Kinky dinky;

    Trying to remain inconspicuous Xander tried to kiss Buffy.



    Calling Captain Subtext;

    Buffy, Willow and Anya spend the night in bed together. Amazed if the slashficcers didn't make great play of that! Upon seeing the Initiative Xander asks if he can have sex with Riley too. So, why does Tara ruin Will's demon hunting spell? One day we'll find out. Spike comments that Buffy has tragic taste in men, foreshadowing indeed.



    Guantanamo Bay;

    The Initiative are very brazen, charging around in Humvees, guns blazing. Buffy hits Willy but at his own request, the last time he'll be seen in the series.



    Scoobies to the ER;

    Riley goes cold turkey and gets stabbed.



    Apocalypses; 5,



    Questions and observations;

    Giles still has his Mark of Eyghon tattoo, you'd think he'd want rid of it? In the scene where Riley and Buffy meet at the murder site the camera goes very funny in places, going octagonal? Spike says he has a cousin who married a Privlops demon but like most of what Spike says he's probably lying.



    Marks out of 10; 6/10 Adam is going to drag the scores down for the rest of the season.

  • Goodbye Iowa

    9.5
    Goodbye Iowa was another great episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This episode introduced us to the Sentient and Awake Adam, who is the creation of Dr. Maggie Walsh. We learned a lot more about her and her other side. We also learned more about the intiative and that they were secretly putting stuff into the soldiers food. I thought that Adam was disturbingly brilliant and it was cool to see how the story is unfolding. Willow has been seeing Tara a lot of magic stuff lately, and on their latest spell Tara spoils it on purpose for unknown reasons. It is interesting to see her character being slowly revealed, and I like seeing her and Willow doing magic. There were a lot of good elements to this episode. Great stories, great acting, great directing, and over all great delivery. With Adam on the loose the gang and the initiative both have their hands full.
  • Season 4, Episode 14.

    8.0
    Buffy and Riley become suspicious of each other after Buffy tells him that Maggie Walsh tried to have her killed. When the murdered body of Maggie Walsh is discovered, the Initiative automatically thinks Buffy is responsible. Riley also becomes agitated when he sees Buffy with Spike (Hostile 17). Meanwhile, Adam remains on the loose.

    I liked this episode. It was pretty interesting, but I can't believe Riley asked Buffy if she was happy that Maggie was dead. That was just messed up, but I will let it slide because he is sexy. I'm so glad he is shirtless so much. Interesting plot, also. Good episode. :)
  • What's that for?

    8.0
    Another episode that barely manages to scrape up an 8. I enjoyed the dark tone of this episode. The body of Maggie laying on the floor, and the fact that they were willing to have Adam kill of a child. There was some good humor to offset the more morbid parts of the episode. Like when Buffy makes a speech in Xander's basement, followed by the line "That probably would've sounded more commanding if I wasn't wearing my yummy sushi pajamas".

    The only thing I didn;t really care for was the rift between Riley and Buffy over Professor Walsh's death. Also, I didn't like Forrest's attitude.
  • A solid episode but one that unfortunately doesn't do much for me.

    7.5
    Goodbye Iowa is a good episode but it's just not one of my favourites. I don't find Riley entertaining at all and The Initiative scenes were pretty yawn worthy also. Aside from some good scenes, this episode doesn't have a lot to offer.

    The Riley storyline is one that I just don't care for. It's not bad but I find myself zoning out and daydreaming when it's on. Riley himself is a pretty dull character so his scenes don't appeal to me. His torn loyalties drama was pretty yawn-worthy in my opinion and I just can't connect to the storyline.

    Marc Blucas put in a decent effort here. He's a bit wooden most of the time and doesn't have good delivery but he was pretty good here. He played the confused man coming off drugs quite well but seeing as Alyson played a similar storyline so much better in Season 6, it's hard to really appreciate it. Nevertheless, he was pretty good here and it's likely his best performance.

    The Iniative storyline of Adam isn't my favourite either. Adam lacks charisma as a villain- he doesn't inspire fear and just seems to be there to hit Buffy lots. The master plan thing was just uninteresting. The fight scene near the end was really cool though, just what the episode needed,

    Forrest was so annoying all the way through here; I hate that he was so against Buffy for no reason. He's such an idiot. Definitely my least favourite of the commandoes! That's not saying much though.

    Goodbye Iowa is an episode I don't have a lot to say about. It's decent but not great. Still worth a watch though, as with any Buffy episode!
  • Goodbye Sanity as Well!

    8.0
    Goodbye Iowa-Buffy and Riley get mutually suspicious of each other when Buffy reveals that Professor Walsh tried to have her killed. When Professor Walsh is found dead things get even more out of hand, with the commandos quick to blame Buffy. Riley is even more agitated when he sees Buffy with Spike ("Hostile 17") and then again at Willy's Place. Meanwhile the man-demon-machine Adam that Professor Walsh created is roaming Sunnydale and even Buffy can't seem to stop him.

    Another cool episode that gets a bit psycholocially as well as bring some needed tension when Professor Walsh is found dead. Riley's descent into delusion even insanity is great to watch as he becomes overwhelmed with grief dealing with Maggie's death. Marc Blucas shows for the first time that his a much capable actor then previously thought as he gives great performance as a paranoid Riley. The scene I loved especially was in Willy's bar and Riley is show conflicted whether to kill someone regardless of it being human or demon. Sarah also does well by being Riley's support system throughout. The rest of the usual guest stars also do well like Leonard Roberts as Forrest. Despite me loathing the character, he does give a good performance, playing off Marc Blucas quite well. Adam has always been seen Buffy fandom as the worst villain of the show, which I can see why. Adam is basically a futuristic version of Frankenstein. Also, Adam has no distinct personality which is understandable considering his literally a killing machine. But Adam to me was always a decent threat and he does provide some disturbing moments like mutilating a little boy. I like the mini-battle toward the end of the episode as Adam easily knocks out Buffy, Riley, Xander and kills Doctor Angleman. "Goodbye Iowa" does well by providing some good performances and dark moments. Also, Buffy and Xander going under in the Initiative was priceless.
  • Revealing episode, didn't care much for it.

    8.8
    After Maggie Walsh tried to get Buffy killed, whoops! Adam killed his mommy. OUCH. Anyway, she deserved, at least I think so. Now we'll never really know for sure what she was trying to do, but the other doctor guy knows a little. Adam is really weird, but it's kind of weird to know that Prof Walsh was drugging/chemically enhancing Riley. Adam even killed that little boy. Sad. Okay, I'm starting to fall for Tara and Willow. Sad again, I know. You can just see how happy Willow is. I wonder why Tara didn't want to do the demon locating spell. Maybe she's a demon!? That gets me thinking. Spike is a good guy, at least I think so. He can't hurt anybody and it sucked to see him getting beat up. He didn't really do anything, I mean geez, he wants to kill a demon. So what. I've seen better episodes of BtVS, but this one revealed a lot of stuff and got you thinking.

    Rating = B
  • Buffy - "It’s raining monsters"<br /><br /> Xander - "Hallelujah!"

    8.3
    The gang has more or less found their place in the new post-high school world, but three other characters are just starting their journeys of discovery. Spike is finding out that not only has his macho mojo gone, but that the commandoes are still after him, smashing his must-run-on-batteries telly and forcing him to hide under skeletons. Compounded with Willy’s clientele letting him know in certain terms that he’s broken the underworld code – no fraternizing with the Slayer – we see that his revival (when he discovered that he could fight demons) was pretty short-lived. <p>

    But everywhere has codes. Riley is horrified when he discovers that Buffy has been hiding Spike. It’s only his love for her that stops him listening to a jealous Forrest who was so keen to get Riley together with a hottie fresh(wo)man, but less enthusiastic when she turned out to be better at fighting than him. “Maybe she needed killing,” he suggests. But just as Buffy doesn’t believe Spike’s cat among the pigeons claim that Riley knew about Maggie’s plan, Riley doesn’t believe that Buffy had anything to do with the Professor’s slaughter. An increasingly confused, sweaty, paranoid and aggressive Agent first discovers that his mentor wasn’t all she was cracked up to be, then that she’s dead. He disobeys orders and goes after the Polgara demon that supposedly killed Walsh, but still he has problems going against the Initiative’s rules. “I thought I knew, but I don’t anymore; I don’t know anything. I don’t know who the bad guys are….Who’d you believe?” Buffy, used to independent thought and making her own decisions, has a more sophisticated mind and can see the grey areas. Riley is literally GI Joe starting to question everything he believes in. His breakdown following his cold turkey off of his “vitamins” could be a metaphor for Gulf War Syndrome. The soldier questioning his values is certainly analogous with, for example, a Vietnam War soldier wondering if what his country is doing is the right thing.<p>

    Another lumbering lug taking his first steps to freedom is FrankenAdam. Exiting out of the plot device back door, he strides into his Garden of Eden – the Sunnydale campus. When he re-enters the Initiative to let us know that he’s a “kinematically redundant, biomechanical demonoid”, i.e. part man, part machine, part demon, he confuses Riley even more when the Agent learns that Adam is his “brother”. But without their mother figure, Adam is as confused as Riley about his meaning in life. Adam knows what he is and why he is, but not who he is. Maybe Prof Walsh should have put that on the oh-so-retro floppy discs. You’d have thought that the Initiative would have memory sticks, even if it was only the beginning of the millennium. <p>

    Still, it’s fun to see Xander and Buffy, with the former’s pseudo-military knowledge and the Slayer’s security clearance, break into the Initiative. As Anya points out, Xander wasn’t in Nam – one soldier episode two seasons ago is a pretty long plot device and this is the last time it is used. As we see Buffy’s spectacles being retinally scanned, it seems an awful long time since - one episode ago - she was agog over her new world. Such a lot has happened since then. Unfortunately, much of it is boring. Adam is a tedious villain and we don’t care enough about Riley at this stage to be involved in his breakdown. His removal from Buffy at the end of the ep is only painful because we care about our Slayer. In the end, despite his accusations, he sees her as we do. He holds onto her headscarf when he’s lost his grip on everything else; he senses the strength in her, he still has faith in her, even though he’s he is not sure who to trust. He accused her of trying to harm him, but he knows that she is the real deal, that she is worth believing in. <p>

    More interesting though is the burgeoning relationship between Willow and Tara. Willow claims she doesn’t go over just to Tara’s to do spells, she’s not just using her for her magic, um, fingers. Curiously, we see Tara throw away the demon-hunting magic powder, opening a little plot development for S5. Tara is introduced to us gradually and we learn to love her just as our feelings for Riley don’t grow much above indifference.
  • Riley's world comes apart as he discovers what his mentor, Dr. Walsh, was really up to.

    6.8
    A lot of plot development takes place in this episode: Maggie's death is discovered; the Initiative is pitted against the Slayer; Riley finds his loyalties tested between his buddies and his girl; and Adam kills a little boy as he searches for answers on himself; and Buffy, the Commandos and Riley discover Maggie's 'pet project'.

    All this, and somehow the episode just fails to ignite. It's nice to see Buffy with the Scoobies again, and I do feel badly for Riley discovering that he wasn't working for the person he thought he was working for. I like Adam, though not nearly as much as the Master, Angelus or the Mayor...but the episode itself just leaves me shrugging my shoulders.

    Truthfully, on first seeing this episode I was much more interested in why Tara was sabotaging Willow's spell than I was with anything happening in the main story.
  • ' I don't generally like to kill humans, but I've learned that it pays to be flexible in life.'

    9.2
    ‘Goodbye Iowa’ was a decent episode that continues ‘The I In Team’. What I like so much about this episode is the way it’s filmed and ofcourse the acting of Marc Blucas was excellent.

    It continues with Buffy at Giles’ apartment telling him that they aren’t save and need to hide. Meanwhile Adam comes out of the place he was in after killing Maggie. He then comes across a little boy in the woods and kills him.

    Meanwhile Riley is getting mad after finding out that Maggie tried to do something to Buffy and it doesn’t help when he sees Spike with the rest of the gang. Riley then goes back home where he tells Forrest about Maggie but then gets the bad news of Maggie’s deadness.

    Dr. Angelman gives a demon that they had captured the fault and Riley goes after it to kill it. He finds Buffy and tells her about Maggie and they both have a fight, Buffy then goes to Willy’s bar and asks for information and Riley follows her and gets upset about the fact that she is hanging out with some demons. Riley begins to shake and sees that there is something very wrong with him.

    Buffy takes him home where she shakes and scratches his arm, Riley thinks that he might be the bad guy but Buffy tells him to sleep and leaves him in a bed. Then she goes with Xander into the initiative.

    Xander and Buffy get to Dr. Angelmen and there they find Adam and Riley also follows them after escaping from his room. Adam tells about Maggie and that she created him and Riley, he has been fed some chemicals and that’s why he’s been feeling so weak and confusing because he hasn’t had them in a while. When they try to stop Adam he kills Dr. Angelman and escapes when the other soldiers come in and they take Riley to their hospital.

    The episode was a good Riley episode and a development of the initiative and more explanations about Adam. But it wasn’t entirely satisfying, the Spike storyline dragged it down and made it a bit irritating. Also Tara’s scene with Willow was very cute but didn’t seem to add anything to the episode except slowing it down. The episode was excellent though, it developed the Ruffy relationship beautifully but other than that it’s not one of the show’s best.
  • Riley is getting all wierd, while Prof. Walsh is out of the game and the fingers are pointing towards Buffy. Will their relationship break up over it? Not certain. This episode is a bit on the off-side for this season.

    6.2
    This is the first true Filler Episode of this season, not counting "A New Man" from a few episodes ago. The soldiers of the Initiative are starting to act strange as the death of Prof Walsh is discovered, and soon we learn that they are regularly druged via their food - which assure that Riley will take most of the damage. Since his running away at the end of the last episode, he looks worse and worse - and Buffy is worried. Also, we learn a few things about Adam, the Walsh's Monster, but nothing worthwhile. It seems that this episode just covers the gap between the last good episode (I in Team) and the next good one (This Year's Girl). You can truly just skip it if you're watching through the season.
  • A strong, if flawed, exploration of the season's theme

    8.0
    This episode not only picks up where the previous episode left off, but it also takes the season’s theme and runs with it. The questions of self-identity and self-realization have been on the table since the premiere, where Buffy was doubting herself and her place in the world. Before dealing directly with Buffy’s crisis of personal growth, however, there’s the matter of Riley Finn, a character designed specifically to explore the concepts of self-awareness. Riley begins to discover that critical assumptions about his world are wrong, and it is not easy for him to adjust.

    Riley’s experience is important because it foreshadows the journey that Buffy must ultimately take throughout the rest of the series. Buffy has lived the life of the Slayer for years, but beyond Giles’ most basic lessons, Buffy has ignored the training that Slayers have previously enjoyed. Thus the source of the Slayer power is something of an unknown, and what that means to Buffy as a person has yet to be explored.

    The question is: how much of a person is the sum of the influences that went into his or her creation, and how much is inherent to the individual? To understand what the legacy of the Chosen is, one must first establish who Buffy is at her core. This season is all about taking the lessons learned in the third season (Buffy facing her dark reflection) and using them to find herself, once all of her assumptions from high school are stripped away. It’s a long and involved process that never really comes to an end, especially since Buffy comes to the inevitable conclusion that she must understand what comes externally from the Chosen line. It becomes a process of give and take, stepwise revelation…Buffy learns about herself, thus discovers something about her Slayer legacy, which then spirals into more self-awareness, and so on.

    As would be the case for many of the character introduced to carry the theme in the later season of “Buffy”, unlike Angel or Faith, the writers would ultimately fail to consider what to do with Riley once his main purpose was fulfilled. For many fans, Riley will always be remembered as the annoying character that he became in the beginning of the fifth season. The episode also introduces a side to Tara that touches on the season’s theme; indeed, Tara would become another example of a character that was kept around past her intended exit with no clear purpose.

    But at this point, Riley was of primary importance to the narrative. For one thing, the writers had set up Buffy and Riley as a couple isolating themselves from their allies; this would have long-term consequences for the rest of the season. On Buffy’s end, the damage wasn’t quite so severe, but the lines between Scoobies and Initiative were definitively drawn. Riley was caught between the truth offered by Buffy and the life he had come to know in the Initiative.

    Of course, Riley doesn’t see it quite that way at first, and Buffy’s life doesn’t make it any easier. Spike’s association with the gang (however loose at this point) is in direct conflict with Riley and his training. To him, it seems like Buffy may be the enemy that Walsh was trying to make her appear to be. But he also can’t deny the fact that Walsh lied to him. His physical symptoms, his withdraw from the chemicals administered to him by Walsh and the Initiative, are a reflection of the shedding of illusions. In an interesting (if gruesome) parallel, Adam has awoken, and he feels a need to understand himself, to the point of conducting experiments.

    More parallels are drawn between the Scoobies and the Initiative. The gang hasn’t really been working together as a team for some time, and being forced into close quarters under siege conditions is not good for the friendly relations. Similarly, Riley finds Forrest unwilling to give Buffy the benefit of the doubt. In fact, Forrest is unwilling to accept that Walsh is potentially deceptive. Once Walsh’s body is found, Forrest automatically assumes that Buffy killed the Professor, rather than waiting to examine the evidence or accepting Engleman’s admission that the Polgara skewer was involved.

    Things go from bad to worse when Riley decides to take command of the investigation into Walsh’s death himself. This sets the stage for a direct confrontation with all the things he would rather not acknowledge. He tests Buffy, unsure of where her allegiances lie, despite all the evidence to date. Buffy is forced into a position of resolving the issue herself, if only to prove herself to Riley. Under such circumstances, the result is predictably damaging to both parties.

    Since the episode is all about shedding illusions (or the struggle to preserve them), the scene between Willow and Tara is significant. Tara has something to hide, and she’s willing to lie to Willow to keep it that way. Considering how much of her confidence is currently riding on Willow, this speaks to something rather powerful. Unfortunately, while this subplot would gather some ominous overtones in short order, the plot would come crashing down when Tara’s supposed demonic legacy would turn out to be a lie.

    Before long, Riley is confronting Buffy at Willy’s, and as his confusion grows, so does his reaction to his withdrawal. By the time his world is truly spinning in circles, he’s struggling for control and losing the fight badly. Buffy, of course, is the only thing that seems to calm him down, but that’s not necessarily a sign of romance; Buffy has already been established as a powerful female figure, in place of Walsh, and thus his comfort in her presence has disturbing psychological implications.

    With all the thematic resonance established early in the episode, the writing wavers a bit once the plot turns towards the action at the Initiative base. The story requires a showdown between Buffy, Riley, and Adam under highly charged circumstances, and it’s clear that the writers weren’t sure how to get there. Bringing back some semblance of Xander’s supposed military “training” from “Halloween” is unnecessary and contradictory, especially since Buffy’s clearance wouldn’t extend to Xander if the Initiative had any semblance of security. Then again, the Initiative is run rather sloppily, because they were always better as a concept than as depicted. (Though Buffy in glasses is rather hot!)

    As usual, the writing seems to indicate a much larger and far more impressive operation than the one that’s actually on screen, which is just plain weird. It’s one thing for that disparity to be in the script for “The Initiative”, but once it was clear that the reality wouldn’t match the vision, why keep up the silly front? It adds to the already present concern that the writers didn’t really know what to do with the Initiative, beyond its role as the source of Riley’s inner struggle. (It also doesn’t help that the meds given to Riley and the others are suddenly being given through their food, instead of the far more obvious and consistent vitamins that were highlighted in the previous episode!)

    It all comes to a head when Riley hears the truth and can’t handle it. He can’t reconcile the idea that he was being treated like a test subject by someone he practically worshipped, and that the worship itself was at least partly engineered. Enter Adam, who is both a regression from the subtle workings that created Riley and an advancement of Walsh’s obvious goal: the creation of the perfect anti-demon soldier.

    Adam comes across as a creature engineered in both body and mind, meant to approach his appointed task with a certain brilliance tactical flair. This also echoes the philosophical side to the original Frankenstein’s Monster. But it should be noted that Adam offers to explain Walsh’s endgame to Riley, and at the last moment, Riley interrupts him. This is fairly blatant way to avoid having to give an explanation, since it’s clear that the writers didn’t know where to take the concept. They needed to use this situation for the sake of triggering Riley’s psychological journey, but beyond that, the writers were unsure of themselves.

    As one would expect, the fallout is left to future episodes, but Riley becomes the center of a struggle between the reality that Buffy offers and the illusion that Forrest embraces. This would serve to isolate Buffy even further, because she feels a need to fill the gap that the loss of Walsh and the Initiative leaves in Riley. More than that, Buffy’s own questions of self-identity come to an unusual head in the next few episodes, where her dark reflection (Faith) makes an unexpected return.

    But the point of this episode is to bring the “complication” phase of the season to a relative close. Many characters are at a crisis point. Riley, certainly, has had every assumption in his life thrown into question. Buffy, still unsure of who she’s supposed to be, now faces an enemy that she doesn’t quite understand. Tara is hiding things from Willow, even as she draws Willow away from her old friends. Xander still doesn’t have a stready job, and thus he hasn’t found a solid foundation for understanding himself. Even Spike is no longer living in the same world he left behind, now that he fights demons.

    The subsequent two-part epic would transition the season towards its “resolution” phase, where the plot/character arcs would begin to converge. Riley’s process of dealing with the truth about the Initiative is key to that evolution, and in a sense, it’s that outward focus that leaves the season feeling somewhat unfocused. As strong as the Riley material is in this episode, Buffy’s part of the journey is only prompted by the events of this season. Add to that the fracturing of the core gang, however well intentioned, and the season is weakened.

    This episode is very strong, however, even as compared to the previous episode, which felt rushed and poorly structured. It resolves the immediate problem of replacing Walsh with an even bigger threat, while also giving Riley a reason to exist beyond the need to give Buffy a love interest. All that said, the episode struggles because the season as a whole was not as well-conceived as it should have been. One could easily wonder if the troubles with “Angel” and its first season were to blame.
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