Yep, I’m still using my “how often do you watch this” criteria here, for consistency’s sake, I suppose?
Anyway, unlike yesterday’s challenge, my answer did not change from the one I gave five years ago, so I’m not even going to hide it behind a cut: “Restless,” the season four finale, is still one of the absolute best episodes of the entire series and manages to be ridiculously rewatchable to the point of silliness. Each time, I discover something new, and my appreciation of what Whedon and crew created grows exponentially. It’s such a departure from a normal episode, as it’s more a beautifully filmed character study than a narrative arc.
I’m not even going to try doing an analysis of the episode or the individual dreams, since I would just be rehashing things already better written, so if you want to try delving into that headfirst, I suggest starting here, here, and here. Or hell, just Google “Buffy Restless interpretation” and you’ll get a host of articles and even dissertations, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been to a college where they offer classes in Buffy studies.
I will say this, however: the use of imagery and foreshadowing in “Restless” to this day inspires me. My brain works in pictures instead of words, which makes being a writer interesting most days, and knowing that someone was able to interpret the words and ideas in Joss Whedon’s head into the beauty that is displayed on screen is enough to believe that what’s in mine might actually be able to be seen by others.
Not that “Restless” doesn’t have its problems. As with all things in the Whedonverse, the treatment of women of color is dismal. The First Slayer, an African who “speaks” through Dream Tara, is shown as a lesser person than the modern, very white Buffy, who chooses to mock Sineya, as she is later named, for having dreadlocks. Sigh.
While Willow’s and Xander’s dreams do an exceptional job of showing the hopes and fears of the two characters, Giles’ and Buffy’s serve more of a narrative function, where the baddie (Sineya, which again, sigh) is revealed and “defeated.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s still a ton to unpack visually, but they’re not as strong as the two that came previously. It definitely feels more rushed than the rest of the episode, like, “Whoops, we should probably wrap this up now? DONE.”
On the whole, however, this episode is just fantastic and beautiful and truly a beautiful example of cinema. I would recommend it based on the cinematography alone, but it is a piece of art that everyone should see at least once in their lives. Forget art house films; go watch “Restless.”
Honorable Mentions: “Once More with Feeling,” “Hush,” “Who Are You,” “Becoming Parts I & II,” “Selfless,” and “Lies My Parents Told Me”