Written by David Fury
Directed by James A. Contner
At the ruined high school, Buffy shows up looking for Riley, but as we know, he’s with Adam. Meanwhile at Adam’s lair, Riley is standing there looking confused. It seems he can only act when Adam gives him a command. He has a behavior modification chip (installed courtesy of Maggie Walsh) near his heart. He still doesn’t want to fight on Adam’s side, but he can’t defy the chip’s programming. Adam is looking forward to putting him to good use.
After the credits, Adam is still waxing poetic about his plans and about how the world isn’t realizing its full potential. He considers himself Riley’s brother. Then Spike shows up, to the annoyance of both Adam and Riley. He wants the chip out now, and he’s amused by Riley’s programming. Adam won’t remove Spike’s chip until Buffy is in the Initiative slaughtering demons. Spike and Adam realize the flaw in the plan to separate Buffy from her friends: now Buffy doesn’t have access to the resources she needs to make it into the Initiative. Adam is not happy, and Spike awkwardly tries to save face before heading out to run damage control. Wow, fail.
Willow and Tara show up at Giles’s apartment. He’s hungover, and Willow is sheepish. Also she’s wearing a really cool shirt.
Giles seems hopeful of a reconciliation (as long as it takes place far away from his headache), but Willow is just here to grab her laptop and the encrypted Initiative disks. She and Tara awkwardly leave.
Buffy is sitting on the floor in her dorm room, and I really like her outfit too.
She picks up the old picture of her, Willow, and Xander, looking sad. She starts to call one of them, then changes her mind and starts gearing up instead.
Anya shows up at Xander’s basement, where he’s lying morosely on his bed. She wants him to go interview for more jobs. He briefly thinks the army might actually be a good idea, but then she points out that he’d have to keep to a rigid schedule, and he changes his mind. She’s very dismissive of his idea that he’s not useful to his friends. She snuggles up to him. She likes him both as a person and a boyfriend. In fact, she loves him. So she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about her. It’s a reasonably good pep talk, coming from Anya, but it doesn’t really motivate him to go mend fences.
Buffy goes to the cave where she last encountered Adam. She makes it all the way to his computer setup, but he and Riley are both gone already. And where they have gone is deeper into the Initiative, in parts of the facility that Riley didn’t know existed. They connect to the caves. Also, Adam has reanimated Maggie Walsh as sort of an automated worker. Same with the doctor guy, although he seems to have some small amount of sentience. And he’s turned Forrest into another Frankencyborg, to Riley’s horror (but not Forrest’s).
All Buffy ends up finding in the caves is Spike. He pretends to be shocked and annoyed when she informs him that he’s wandering around in Adam’s territory. He encourages her (annoyingly) to go make up with Willow so she can get the information she needs off the encrypted disks. However, as far as Buffy knows, Spike has no way of knowing that she and Willow had a fight, so she’s suddenly very suspicious. She pretends to notice nothing, though, and goes on her way.
Willow and Tara are at Tara’s place, and Willow finally figures out how to decrypt the disks. Well, at least, she starts decrypting them, and then they automatically decrypt the rest of the way, which annoys her. Then Buffy calls.
Down in the secret area of the Initiative, Riley has a conversation with Forrest that he doesn’t enjoy. Forrest loves his new upgrades. The way he’s talking, I’m guessing his soul has left the building. Zombie Walsh injects Riley with something. He is not having a fun day.
The core four slowly meet up somewhere on campus. Anya and Tara are absent. Buffy asks the other three who in particular gave them the idea that they were talking bad about each other behind their backs. Spike! They all feel foolish and want to move on. Buffy’s theory is that Spike is working for Adam, especially because she ran into him in Adam’s lair and was really keen on Buffy getting those disks decrypted. The info on those disks includes the complete schematics of the Initiative, including the secret area. Buffy’s kind of impressed by Adam’s plans. All the demons crowded into the Initiative. When they attack, a bunch of humans and demons will kill each other, providing him with materials for his Frankencyborg army. What’s ominous is that Adam seems to have wanted Buffy to both know about the plan and to get into the Initiative to try stopping it. They’re going to have to make sure they have a trump card when they make their move.
Down in the Initiative’s secret lab, Spike very much wants his chip out now. He thinks he’s earned it. Adam isn’t budging.
In Giles’s flat, the Scoobies are trying to work on a plan. Adam’s weakness is his power core, if they could only get it out. There’s a Sumerian spell that can paralyze someone, which would give Buffy time to remove the power core, but only Willow would be able to say the spell—except she doesn’t know Sumerian, and she would be very dead very quickly if she tried to get close enough to Adam to say it. Xander thinks all they need is to combine the strengths of everyone: Slayer Buffy, witch Willow, linguist Giles. To Xander’s surprise, Giles thinks that’s a brilliant idea, but we don't get to see why.
The core four make their way to Lowell House. They’re not at all confident that their plan will work, but they’re going to try it. They have to rappel down the elevator shaft into the Initiative. On the way down, Buffy apologizes to Willow. Willow meets her halfway. Buffy might have been wrapped up in her own stuff, but that stuff wasn’t unimportant. Willow kept secrets. They hug. Xander catches up to them at the bottom, and they both hug him. He thinks this overflowing of emotion means they’re about to die. Once Giles gets to the bottom, they pry their way out of the elevator shaft, only to be confronted by a whole squad of soldiers with taser guns.
Spike and Adam watch the Scoobies get hauled in by the Initiative guys. Spike thinks this means it’s time for him to get his chip out. Adam disagrees, since Buffy has all her friends with her. Adam is willing to remove his chip now...by removing his head. He has Forrest do it, but Spike puts his cigarette out in Forrest’s eye and escapes.
The Initiative guys bring the Scoobies in front of that colonel Riley decked. He doesn’t feel like listening to their warnings, but Willow trips him up when she mentions the secret lab that he doesn’t know about. He still thinks they can handle the situation their own. His plan to go up against Adam is to use the taser guns against him. Problem with that is that taser blasts only make him stronger. Buffy very awesomely tells him to step aside so she can do her job as the Slayer, a job they have no idea how to take on themselves. The colonel tries to get in her face, and that’s when the power goes out.
Adam opens all the doors to the demon containment cells, and the demons promptly riot. One of the Initiative guys relays this development to the colonel, who puts the Scoobies under arrest before leaving with a bunch of guys to go confront the demons. Buffy knocks out the guys he leaves behind with ease. They need a good, secluded and quiet spot to do their spell before attacking Adam.
In the main room of the Initiative, it’s pandemonium. Soldiers and labcoats versus demons. Spike is fighting demons too.
Willow analyzes the schematics and figures out where the secret lab is. The trick will be getting there, since it’s on the other side of the facility, in the middle of which is a humans vs. demons battlefield. They fight their way across, Buffy with her Slayer strength and Xander with a taser gun, covering Willow and Giles all the way across. They make it to the other side and get into the 314 room.
They find the door leading to the secret lab. Buffy goes in, and the other three set up their spell stuff there. Buffy needs to get there quickly, because the spell will only take five minutes to complete. They barricade the door to the main Initiative, and Buffy heads in deeper.
The first thing she finds is Riley, still sitting in his chair, silent and immobile. Adam walks in, and Walsh and the doctor guy are in there too. And Forrest. Adam leaves her to their capable and gross hands. She kicks Walsh away, knocking her into a tray of beakers, which shatter near Riley. She keeps fighting Forrest. He’s pretty formidable now, and he wants Riley to watch him kill his girlfriend. Riley slowly manages to grab a chunk of broken beaker, then uses it to gouge out the chip in his chest. Owwwwwww.
Willow, Xander, and Giles get going on the ritual. In it, Willow represents the spirit, Giles represents the mind, Xander represents the heart, and Buffy represents the hand. Which is just awesome. I love this spell, guys. The spell is going to be some kind of spiritual link between Buffy and the three of them, giving her everything she needs to fight Adam.
Forrest is getting the upper hand with Buffy, but that’s when Riley finally gets his chip out and starts helping. She leaves to go find Adam, and Riley stays to fight Forrest.
The main facility is still in total chaos. The soldiers are retreating. Adam’s watching on his monitors, at which point Buffy enters the room. They start fighting. It goes about as it has the other times she and Adam fought. It really emphasizes how important superior mass is for the effective use of strength. She breaks off the bone spike from his arm, but he just shrugs and has his other arm turn into a six-barreled grenade launcher/machine gun thing. Buffy gets behind cover as he starts firing.
And then the spell goes into effect. Adam blows up the console she’s hiding behind, and then she stands up. Her eyes are orange and glowing. When she talks, she uses the voices of all four main characters. She says the Sumerian incantation, which creates an invisible barrier that repels Adam’s gunfire. He’s intrigued and maybe a little anxious.
Riley is still fighting Forrest. Forrest is winning, but then he starts whaling on him with a tank of something flammable. Then Riley ducks behind some cover in time for the tank to blow up in Forrest’s hands, blowing Forrest up with it. And there goes the very obvious head of the dummy they put in there for the explosion. Oops.
Adam fires grenades next, but Buffy turns them into birds, which fly away.
So cool. Then she waves her hand and his arm turns back into a normal (well, demonic) arm. She starts fighting him again, and she easily has the upper hand this time. She dodges all his blows and has him on the ropes quickly. He’s horrified and incredulous. She rips out his power source, and he collapses. Riley catches up in time to see her use magic to make the power source disappear into nothing. Then she collapses into his arms as the spell ends. Willow, Giles, and Xander come back to themselves, a bit overwhelmed. Then a demon breaks in. Probably would have put them in serious danger, except that then Spike kills it. They correctly gather that Spike only did that so they wouldn’t kill him for working with Adam. And they’re willing to give him that. (Nooo, dang it.) Buffy’s still feeling strong enough to fight the rest of the way out of there, so she, Spike, Riley, and Graham lead the way out. They manage to save 60% of the soldiers.
This final charge to the exit is intercut with a board meeting of people who originally started the Initiative. They’ve decided that the Initiative’s goal of rehabilitating demons and finding a way to use them for the good of the nation was unfeasible. They terminate the project and plan to fill in the facility with concrete.
I quite like “Primeval.” It’s not quite up there with the final battles of seasons 2 and 3, and it lacks the emotional intensity of “Prophecy Girl,” but it’s a very strong conclusion to the Initiative arc. I seriously love the spell they use to defeat Adam. That bit where Buffy turns the grenades into doves is one of the coolest shots of the series, and she’s been beat up by Adam enough times that it was extremely satisfying to see her finally turn the tables on him. And while I’m not entirely clear on why Xander needed to be included in that spell, I do think it’s awesome that he’s the one whose seemingly dumb idea was how they came up with it. They also finally deal with the problems and distance that have been building between them, which is a relief. The only part I’m not entirely satisfied with is the free pass they give Spike at the end. Opportunistically saving them from a demon after trying to get them killed does not prove he’s safe to keep around. Anyway, looking back over the whole season up until this point, even though there are definitely some pacing issues (which may have been forced on them by the circumstances surrounding the departure of Maggie Walsh’s actress), it really does seem like the broad Plot A fits nicely with the Plot B. Plot B was about the way our social groups from high school tend to disintegrate when you try to upgrade them to a new setting, like college. The friends we make in high school are people we see every day, perhaps multiple times per day, simply by having so many classes together. College is too spread out for that to happen, unless you and your high school friends happen to end up in the same major. Plot A is a government institution that gets too big for its britches, the consequences of which can only be defeated by overcoming Plot B and sticking together. If this were just a high school drama with no supernatural layer to it, then there wouldn’t really be a good reason for these four people to stick together after season three. Plot A is the thing that unifies them even when their personal lives end up on different trajectories. It can be a good thing, but only if the characters allow it to be (because they’re all making sacrifices for it). Right now, they’re at a place where it is. That may change. Going along with my Plot A/Plot B thing about the whole season, I really like that the final showdown was essentially between two hybrids. Adam is a stitched together monstrosity combining man, demon, and technology. Spell-enhanced Buffy was a magical cocktail of herself and all the strengths of Giles, Willow, and Xander. In order to defeat him, she had to get up to his level in that way.
I really like how quickly Buffy is willing to forgive her friends. Sometimes they treat her like a doormat, yes, but it takes a lot to make Buffy hold a serious, unforgiving grudge against another human (basically, Faith is the only one who has breached that threshold). She already misses Xander and Willow maybe an hour after the fight, and she wants to call them to try to patch things up. And then, all she needs is the slightest indication that their problems might have been caused by something other than themselves for her to reach out to all of them again. Buffy is the Hand not just because she’s the one who does the fighting; she’s the hand that gathers them all together.
Xander feels like he has no place in the group and that his life isn’t going anywhere. Plot A and Plot B are equally empty for him. But if he were completely resigned to a pointless existence, then he wouldn’t have gone to meet up with the group for peace talks. I think I might have figured out Xander’s purpose at last. He’s the guy who believes they can get things done. He may have very little self-confidence, but his confidence in his friends is extremely hard to shake, and that confidence is what spawns a lot of ideas that nobody else would come up with. Xander is the Heart because he’s the one who inspires the others to take heart, even in the face of terrible odds. He doesn’t operate on reason, but on emotions.
It’s interesting that Willow kept going with the decryption even though she was very angry with Buffy. What was she planning to do with the information she found? Drop it off at Giles’s apartment or leave it on Buffy’s bed without saying anything? Would she have gotten over her huffiness once she read through the decrypted information and called the Scoobies back together herself? I really like the reconciliation scene between Buffy and Willow in the elevator. In a sense, the core four are really two halves: the people who don’t really have a choice about being in the fight (Buffy and Giles), and the people who do (Willow and Xander). Willow is kind of the leader of the volunteer core (no, that wasn’t a typo), and the two halves of the group are linked together by the deep friendship between Buffy and Willow. That’s why Willow is the Spirit. She represents the unity of the group. Very little about the group can function if Buffy’s friendship with Willow is off course. Which brings me back to the reconciliation. It was most important for that particular bond to be repaired. Xander and Giles naturally fit back into the equation once Willow and Buffy are okay again.
I’m trying to figure out something to say about Riley that I haven’t already said. He has to face the twisted zombie or patchwork demon versions of three of the people in the Initiative he was closest to. Walsh, that doctor guy who seemed to be pretty high-ranking, and Forrest. He fought against his weird behavior modification programming so that he could fight all of them for Buffy. It’s essentially a Plot A recap of his entire season of Plot B.
Spike may be kind of stupid sometimes, but he does know which team is less likely to kill him if he shows them his support. He’s never been one for patience and planning (those are both Angelus’s territory, where his is jumping headlong into a fight that will likely get him killed and riding the adrenaline rush all the way to the other end), so it’s no wonder he screwed up Adam’s plans. If he’d waited until Willow got the information out of the disks to break the Scoobies apart, he might have succeeded in keeping Buffy isolated just the way Adam wanted. But once again, that’s more on Adam than it is on Spike (or it’s on the writers).
I quite enjoy hungover Giles. And drunk Giles. Is this his first bender since “The Dark Age”? I kind of wish he had them more often. But that would sort of infringe on his role as the Mind, wouldn’t it? Giles’s role in the core four is the easiest one to figure out. He represents maturity, logic, and reason. Even though he loves the supernatural, he rarely jumps to conclusions about the monsters they face. Knowledge (and the savvy to obtain more of it) is the invaluable weapon he brings to the table.
“And Adam has a neat pile of body parts to start assembling his army. Diabolical, yet...gross.”
“Does anyone miss the Mayor? ‘I just wanna be a big snake’?”
“Xander, just because this is never going to work, there’s no reason to be negative.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.