Original airdate: Nov. 16, 1999
Project 310 re-watch date: Feb. 21, 2009
This episode proves to me why I don’t like Season 4 -- well, at least the major reason I don’t like Season 4.
Season 1, 2 and 3 all featured a definitive “Big Bad”... a villain who stood out above all the other villains and lorded over the entire season. In season one, we met that villain in the very first episode. In Season 2, the Big Bad appeared in the third episode. The Mayor, the villain of Season 3, made his first physical appearance in episode 5, but had been reference as early as Season 2.
Now, with that info at hand, let’s look at Season 4. This is episode 7, and we’re getting our first real look at The Initiative, which isn’t really the true villain of Season 4. The Initiative creates the Big Bad -- Adam, the human/demon/robot hybrid -- but it isn’t the big bad itself. It’s sort of the Spike to Season 2’s Drusilla. It’s also annoying that in a show about demons and vampires they felt the need to bring government conspiracy into the mix.
That said, I could put all that aside, if it were for the mishandling of the Spike portion of the episode. In this episode we find out Spike, who was captured by The Initiative in a previous episode, has been implanted with some kind of chip that prevents him from being able to harm a living thing. However, he somehow manages an escape from the initiative complex, without setting the chip off. It’s not until he gets to Willow and tries to bite her that the problems being. It’s a huge continuity error, and leads to all kinds of future issues with how the chip actually functions.
So, to sum up, this episode introduced a horrible government organization that was a crappy excuse for a villain, and also gave Spike -- one of the best actual villains on the show -- a semi-functional neutering chip that turned him into a lame version of Angel. Wow, the more I think about it, the less I like this episode. As a standalone episode, it’s actually not that bad, but the long-term impact of the episode is hard to ignore upon re-watching.