Synopsis: In Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The College Years, Buffy takes on a gang of vampire dropouts.
Review: Welcome to Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The College Years. So much has changed about Buffy that The Freshman seemed more like a pilot than a season premiere. The setting of the first three seasons was high school, and the premise was monsters as a metaphor for social problems you face in high school. With an all new setting, this episode had the roughness of a pilot--struggling to find a feel for the characters and premise. The beloved high school series Saved by the Bell fumbled with Saved by the Bell: The College Years and was cancelled after just one season. Buffy has more going it for it than just high school humor, and it does last four more seasons, but will it ever be able to regain its footing? Before writing this review, I had already watched the first eight episodes of season four: it simply is not as good as the first three seasons...yet. Maybe Whedon is a little off his game while writing this episode. He was working on this and a pilot for the spin-off Angel at the same time leaving Marti Noxon with growing responsibility on the Buffy set. (I have made it clear I usually dislike Noxon-written episodes.)
The college part of the episode was somewhat entertaining and where Whedon really shone. As he did with high school, Whedon masterfully portrays a realistic perspective of college. The uninteresting part of the episode was the vampire part. Whedon does continue the tradition from season two and season three of offering a potential big bad and killing him (or her as is the case in The Freshman) by the end of the premiere episode. Thank goodness, too. I do not think I could have stood another episode with Sunday. On that note, I am not sure how much of Buffy's new roommate I can stand either.
The worst part of this episode was the characterization or, should I say, mischaracterization. Buffy was really off her game the entire episode. She was in the season two premiere and season three premiere also, but at least there was a valid reason for her to be in those seasons. I do not really have any complaints about Willow or Oz, but Giles and Xander were pitiful. Please, Whedon, come up with something for both of these characters to do to make them a valuable part of the team once again. After all, that was what this episode was about: Buffy needs her support team.Buffy the Vampire Slayer did away with the Council last season. I believe that was a bad idea. A genre series like Buffy needs something to anchor the mythology and provide a valuable role for each of the characters. This episode gets the fourth season off to a rocky start with a 4 out of 10. It has the roughness of a pilot but also the promise of a pilot of interesting developments to come if you hang on long enough, namely, a teaser near the end of commandoes bagging a vampire. This has two possibilities: a replacement for the Council or the big bad for the season.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)