Friday, September 11, 2015

BtVS: The Whirlwind: Season 4, “The Yoko Factor” and “Primeval”

Covering “The Yoko Factor” and “Primeval,” in which Adam’s well-thought out, detailed, and totally coherent schemes come to fruition!

So. Adam.
            Nobody particularly likes Adam, myself included, and I suspect a lot of the writers. I’m not willing to go so far as to dub his the worst like some are, though—he’s boring, no doubt, and they never particularly figured out what he should be doing until it was too late, but he’s inoffensive, which is much more than I can say about some we’re about to run into. Still, he sucks, even though the dry flashes of incongruous humor, his appreciation for “Helter Skelter” and the parts of him that were a Boy Scout for example, are pretty good.
            So they’ve been struggling with what he should do, to the point that all he does in “Superstar” is watch some TV and declare “This is bullshit.” Sorry, I mean “I am one with every aspect of my being and am the mostest awakest of all and thus perceive this to be false,” which is okay villainous patter, but doesn’t actually mean much of anything. There’s some talk of how he bridges the demonic with the human, which also sounds neat, but once again doesn’t actually mean much of anything. Back in “Who Are You?” there was some business where they tried to bill him as some inspiring messiah figure for the demonic world, encouraging vampires to transcend their fears. Trouble is that unlike, say, the fears of a human which get manifested in a haunted frat house only highlighting how trivial and small they are, a vampire’s fears are very well justified, they need more than the power of positive thinking to overcome their problems with the sun. There’s a bit of an attempt to hearken back to this idea in “The Yoko Factor” when he gives Spike a speech stirring enough to be dubbed just like Tony Robbins, but it doesn’t seem to actually make Spike any more loyal—he just wants the chip out, which Adam has already promised to do, it remains a purely transactional relationship. Finally, in these two episodes, Adam reveals what he wants, and it’s to create an army of human demonoid cyborgs like himself, just as his mother intended. To do this he has packed the Initiative full of demons and will unleash them so all the demons and the humans kill each other, and then use all the mangled dead parts from the casualties. Oh and Buffy needs to be there to lead the humans. But she needs to be there alone. Is there a better way to accomplish his goals? Several, including him killing everything himself. But whatever, I’ve said before the show never had the tightest plotting, even if this is much sloppier than usual. No, the issue with Adam is hidden in the above, but it isn’t how simultaneously threadbare and convoluted his plan is. It’s that it’s actually Maggie Walsh’s plan.
            Adam ended up being the “Big Bad” of the season (to grudgingly use the parlance), but it really should have been the Initiative itself…somehow. Anything that would have made the Initiative seem more involved, or to highlight how the seeds of their destruction were sown, or something better than a weirdly stagey conclusion where an old white guy in a suit gives a monologue about how Walsh’s vision was “brilliant but unsustainable,” which is putting things mildly euphemistically. It didn’t even particularly need to have an evil plot along the lines of Angelus or the Mayor or even Adam himself—it could have, and even probably should have been their own ineptitude bringing about their destruction, still involving or even centered on Adam. As it is, Adam and the Initiative feel strangely disconnected from each other, I think mostly because he is only something the Initiative unleashed because it let Walsh have free rein, and she’s dead, so there’s no directly responsible connective tissue.
            Anyway, that doesn’t exactly sink these episodes, which are pretty enjoyable, if a touch anticlimactic despite the huge and impressive battle right in the middle. The gang’s resentments and insecurities and distance have been simmering since basically the first episode of the season, so while Spike doesn’t have to do much to get the Scoobs to nearly self-destruct (he declares success before they’ve even actually had their fight, but they’re so obviously on edge this hardly seems like overconfidence), but it’s still pretty impressive how elegantly he does so—if memory serves, in Xander’s case he just says something I’m pretty sure fans were proposing at the time. They come together, though, just as briskly, because he has to do just a little exaggerating to force a real blow up (also because he had to nudge them back together a bit, because the clues Adam wants Buffy to get so she goes to the Initiative as with Willow, and for some reason Adam assumes Willow might not give Buffy critical, life-saving information because they had a tiff, and Willow says “They must have been programed to auto-decrypt after a set amount of time” without thinking anything of it, and Jesus Christ, here’s another problem with Adam, too much outside contracting), but also because, as Anya tells Xander “That was hours ago. Get over it!” Not just her weird take on emotionality, it’s true. The gang has to magically enjoin and form a super Slayer, Voltron style. Why does combining their souls make Buffy a god for a bit? The power of love. Magic. Whatever, it’s goofy, but also neat. Add in Spike doing his insincere heroism bit (“Let’s go save them, by gum!”), and, you know, Adam and the Initiative may not have come together all that well, but it’s still fun to watch, and closes out the 4th season with…
            …wait, what, this isn’t the end of the season? But…huge battle…Big Bad…
            Oh. Oh yeah…

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