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Monday, December 31, 2012

Him

[Updated May 3, 2013]

The question you should be asking about Him is “who’s the ‘him’”? There’s an obvious “him” in Him: R.J. But the entire teaser focuses on Spike. It begins with Spike moving into Xander’s apartment, and then shifts to Dawn and Buffy discussing Spike. The teaser always sets up the episode. Thus, I think we need to see the title as referring to Spike as well. There are several clues to this effect throughout the episode:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Selfless

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Season 7 has its critics, but I’ve never seen anyone who dislikes Selfless (this being the internet, I’m sure someone will now prove me wrong). It’s in my top 25, and it’s one of many reasons I personally rate S7 so highly. I think it’s a perfect example of what Joss meant when he said that we would understand S6 much better when we saw S7 – Anya’s story here couldn’t be told without the background of Hell’s Bells and succeeding episodes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Help

[Updated May 3, 2013]

In my view, Help plays the same functional role for S7 that Inca Mummy Girl played in S2. Ampata was a Chosen girl who sucked the life out of others for her own selfish purposes. That’s exactly what Buffy saw herself as having done with Angel, as her emotional reaction in IOHEFY showed:
“Buffy:  No. James destroyed the one person he loved the most in a moment of blind passion. And that's not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid, it is just something he's gonna have to live with.”

Buffy gave in to her selfish desire when she slept with Angel and that sucked the (metaphorical) life out of him. She therefore saw herself as worse than even Ampata; she failed a “chosen one” test.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Same Time, Same Place

[Updated May 3, 2013]

When I first saw Same Time, Same Place, I thought the Gnarl demon was too heavy-handed. In thinking about it since, I realized it works both metaphorically and in the context of the plot. As metaphor, Gnarl represents Buffy’s fears about Willow.
As plot, I think we should see Gnarl as born of Willow’s guilt about how her friends perceive her:
GNARL (O.S.)
Your friends left you here. (singing) No one comes to save you. (talking) They wanted me to have you.
Did they leave you as a gifty for me? Are you a tasty little gifty? … Or did they just throw you away?

Gnarl then punishes Willow as her sense of guilt leads her to feel that she should be punished. The entire situation, then, was something she herself created, just as she created their mutual inability to see each other.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beneath You

[Updated May 3, 2013]

The closing scene of Beneath You is, IMHO, the best dramatic scene in the entire series (Joss wrote it). When S6 first aired, I had a lot of criticisms of Spike’s storyline from Seeing Red through Grave. I gave them all up when I saw this scene. It’s so transcendently beautiful that the set-up is worth it.
Joss said later that one thing he wanted to explore in S7 was the extent of forgiveness – what evil can be done yet still be forgivable. The ending of BY is a key moment for this exploration, but there will be many others throughout the season.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lessons

[Updated May 3, 2013]

“It’s about power.” Those words open Season 7 and close Lessons, and so it is about power – Season 7, I mean. Not in the sense we understood it in Checkpoint (where we hear Buffy say these very words to Quentin Travers), nor in the sense that something similar was said in TTG and in Grave, but in a very different way entirely. The whole point of S7 is to explore what the show means by “power”.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Grave

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Grave is the only finale which was not written by Joss and the only one to end on a cliffhanger. For these reasons and others, as I mentioned in my post on Bargaining, I’ve come to think of seasons 6 and 7 as an extended two-year arc which comes to completion only with Chosen. That makes Grave less a conclusion than a transition. If you look at the seasons this way – roughly, IMO, as the two seasons which deal with Buffy as an adult subsequent to the five seasons she spent becoming an adult – then it makes sense both that Grave ended with issues unresolved  and that it would seem less like the other finales. Joss: “I've said this before, that I think when people look at the seventh season, as a story, they'll understand season six better.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two to Go

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Let’s say this right upfront: Giles’s entry into the Magic Box at the end of Two to Go is one of the great moments of the series. Maybe not quite as good as Buffy’s “Me.” in Becoming 2, but still damn fine.
Alas, the rest of this episode is pretty much a train wreck. The problems include the return with a vengeance [heh] of the magic/drugs theme, complete with hit-us-over-the-head terminology; the low quality of the special effects; and some fairly pedestrian dialogue. But the real problem is much more substantial than any of these and cuts right at the heart of not just this episode, but the whole end of the season.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Villains

[Updated May 2, 2013]

“Rage – Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles…”
I think Villains is an excellent episode, but it presents us with some difficult ethical issues. I’ll hold off on those for a bit and start with my metaphorical reading of the episode because I think it’s crucial to Buffy’s journey in S6.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Seeing Red

[Updated May 2, 2013]

The episode Seeing Red was a flash point in the popular culture of BtVS, so I need to provide some background before I get to the episode itself. One notable feature of the series, which I mentioned briefly in my Introduction, is how it became embedded in culture. The show debuted in March 1997, just as the internet was beginning to come into widespread use. By Season 6 there were so many Buffy sites I’m sure nobody could keep track of them all. They had become the water cooler around which the fans met to debate each episode. The writers were aware of fan reaction to each episode because they read some of the sites as well and occasionally even posted at The Bronze.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Entropy

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Another outstanding episode, Entropy is part of a very good run from NA through Villains. The Spike/Anya scenes are just terrific; JM and EC first demonstrated their chemistry in WTWTA and they steal the show in Entropy. Their story is important in their own right, of course, but also in this episode because of the effect their actions have on Buffy and Xander (both as a character and as Buffy’s heart).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Normal Again

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Normal Again is another one of the reasons I think S6, at its best, is brilliant. It’s a Top Ten episode for me, one of at least 4 this season (along with OMWF, Smashed, and Dead Things). I think of it as Buffy’s last temptation before her incarnation as an adult who accepts her responsibilities. And yeah, I’m using that vocabulary intentionally.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hell's Bells

[Updated May 2, 2013]


“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” Hamlet, Act IV, sc. 5.
Metaphorically, Xander couldn’t marry Anya in Hell's Bells. He’s Buffy’s “heart”, and this season her heart is unsure, conflicted. We’ve seen that uncertainty in her half-hearted pursuit of the Trio and in her relationship with Spike. We’ll know Buffy has recovered from her malaise when her heart is sure again. And vice versa.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

As You Were

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Anyone who’s so obsessive as to rank all 144 BtVS episodes (ahem) will, necessarily, have one which finishes dead last at No. 144. For me, that episode is As You Were, one of only 2 episodes I actually dislike (the other is Dead Man’s Party). I’ll summarize the reasons why without even mentioning the “Mary Sue” nature of Mrs. Finn or the addiction dialogue.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Older And Far Away

[Updated May 2, 2013]

In S3-5, episode 11 gave us a clue to the season finale by presenting a version of Buffy’s challenge in the finale and giving us a solution which was either wrong (Gingerbread) or incomplete in some way (Triangle). For reasons I don’t know, in S6, as in S2, it’s episode 14, Older and Far Away, which gives us this clue. I won’t say anything more in order to avoid spoilers.
I think OAFA is extremely well constructed – the demon trapped in the sword, the gang trapped in the house. And Buffy feeling trapped in her life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dead Things

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Dead Things epitomizes S6 for me. If a darker, more disturbing episode has ever been shown on American network TV, I’m certainly unaware of it. From the infamous “Bronze beta” scene (see trivia note 8) to Katrina bringing the nerds up short with her rape accusation to her murder to the haunting chords and matching lyrics of Bush while Buffy and Spike sense each other’s presence to the nightmare time distortions to Buffy beating Spike to her breakdown with Tara, the episode is one *intense* emotional ride.
I think it’s bloody brilliant. For me, this episode is one of the highlights of S6 – indeed, one of the 10 or so best episodes in the show’s history – and it highlights for me why S6, though it may deserve criticism at times, was one of the most daring and innovative seasons of television ever produced. Some of those highlights:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Doublemeat Palace

[Updated May 2, 2013]

I’m reliably informed that people who’ve worked in the fast food industry find Doublemeat Palace funny. Most viewers didn’t like it and it regularly gets rated among the worst in the series. The episode doesn’t do much for me either, but I do think there’s a point to it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gone

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Notwithstanding the nearly disastrous consequences of Willow’s escapism in Wrecked, and notwithstanding her conversation with Willow at the end of Wrecked, Buffy finds herself drawn back into an even more extreme form of escapism in Gone. Some viewers were frustrated with Buffy’s plunge back into the depths, and Gone is generally a low-rated episode. But as I said before, the Magic Box sequence in Life Serial was important in foreshadowing a theme of S6 and we’re beginning to see that Buffy hasn’t yet figured out how to “satisfy a customer [in this case herself] with a task that resists solving.” This strikes me as very true to life for those suffering from depression.
If one is really depressed, I guess it can seem like a good idea to take a free pass from adulthood. Like the Trio (and Warren emphasizes it by telling Jonathan and Andrew “You guys are so immature!”), Buffy’s entire goal in Gone is to do juvenile things while avoiding responsibility. Her conversation with Willow at the end may be a small step up from where she was at the end of OMWF, in the sense that she’s now accepting life itself, but she hasn’t reached the stage of accepting adult responsibilities. Spike drives home the message: “Free of life? Got another name for that. Dead.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wrecked

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Wrecked added a lot of fuel to the fires of controversy over S6. The string of episodes from Wrecked through Seeing Red is surely the most controversial stretch in the show’s history. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of fans of the show didn’t like the magic/drugs metaphor, meaning that Willow’s story line now joined Buffy’s in the internet screaming matches debates. Two members of my family stopped watching the show after this episode.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smashed

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Smashed was very controversial when it aired, mostly because of the fact that Buffy and Spike went All The Way, and judging from recent internet debates about the episode it remains that way today. Given that, I might as well say up front that I think Smashed is brilliant – as in top 15 brilliant – and mostly because of the whole 4th act, including the ending. Regardless of what I think of Buffy’s choice to have sex with Spike, I think the portrayal is incredibly good. The house falling down is, of course, a metaphor (Joss added it) which should give some hint about the meaning of it all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tabula Rasa

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Because it comes right after the astonishing OMWF, and because the proverbial shit is about to hit the proverbial fan in the following two episodes, it’s easy to overlook just how good Tabula Rasa is. I’d say it’s Rebecca Rand Kirshner’s best work, and it’s the last episode of S6 before the controversy begins.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Once More With Feeling

[Updated May 2, 2013]

I’ve watched Once More With Feeling more than any other episode (Becoming and Chosen are close), and I think I like it better every time. There are so many clever, subtle points that I can’t possibly mention them all, so I’m just going to hit the main issues.

Monday, October 15, 2012

All The Way

[Updated May 2, 2013]

All the Way is a very light episode, though with some disturbing incidents along the way leading up to an ending that should be very disturbing indeed. Still, the main plot seems like fluff, but I don’t think it is. IMO, this episode serves a structural purpose similar to that in Bad Eggs. As I pointed out then, Bad Eggs had a strong sexual theme because Buffy was about to have sex with Angel in the very next episode (Surprise). The events of All the Way are setting up some events which will take place in the next three episodes. Of course those future events are All About Buffy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Life Serial

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Without straying into spoilers, I can say that I think Life Serial foreshadows some very important themes for S6, including what some of the characters will do later on. Note particularly in each of the first 3 vignettes what the nerd is trying to accomplish with Buffy and how he goes about it. As we get to later episodes I’ll come back to this; for now, avoiding spoilers limits what I can say about the episode. As this promise of future relevance suggests, Life Serial is an important episode. The additional fact that I think it’s hilarious makes it one of the highlights of the season for me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Flooded

[Updated May 2, 2013]

I didn’t like Flooded when it first aired, nor for a long time after. I’ve changed my mind, and now I think it’s pretty good. Why?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

After Life

[Updated May 2, 2013]

I want to begin this post with a brief digression into the Hero’s Journey. While Buffy’s been on a “hero’s journey” since S1, I decided that any mention of that before After Life would spoil new viewers about Buffy’s death and resurrection. I think the steps on the Journey from here on out are sufficiently vague that I can talk about them without spoiling anyone.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bargaining 1 & 2

[Updated May 2, 2013]

I need to begin S6 with some comments about how I see the season in the overall context of the series. I saw S1-5 as tracking Buffy’s progress to becoming an adult. As I read The Gift, she dived off the tower into adulthood. The natural consequence of that reading is that S6-7 should be understood as dealing with the first stages of Buffy’s journey as an adult.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Gift

[Updated May 2, 2013]

From the moment Buffy has her epiphany on the tower, I start losing it, no matter how often I’ve seen The Gift. Joss Whedon always said that he never worried too much about plot details if he could cut through to the emotional truth. In S5 I think he combined plot and emotional truth incredibly well. While my views on which is the best season are intense but variable, to quote Anya, on a given day S5 is my favorite season.
I’ll start with the ending, because that’s the whole point of the season. Indeed, it’s the whole point of the series. Buffy’s dive off the tower is the end of her journey. As you know, my view is that Buffy’s journey was one of becoming an adult. As I read it, her dive represents the fact that she’s leaving childhood behind and launching herself into the new dimension of adulthood. James Marsters: “Thematically, I think that [Joss] tied up his original premise, which is how does a young child become an adult and pass through adolescence. And all of us vampires are just metaphors for those problems. I think that in the moment that she sacrificed her life to save her sister she became a true adult.”

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Weight of the World

[Updated May 2, 2013]

It may seem, to steal a line from Willow, as if The Weight of the World is mostly filler, but in my view it serves a very important purpose: it shows us that Buffy rejects – or maybe overcomes – Spike’s claim in Fool For Love that Slayers have a death wish. In order to show this I need to go through the dialogue very carefully, so bear with me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spiral

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Spiral makes explicit the full implications of The Replacement. We’ve known since Blood Ties that Ben and Glory share the same body, but the consequences weren’t spelled out until now. Since Glory and Ben share the same body, they can’t exist apart from each other: “Kill the man and the god dies”. In case it’s not obvious, I’ll state unequivocally the choices Gregor presents to Buffy: kill Ben to destroy Glory (though when he says this the characters themselves don’t know that Ben is Glory); or kill Dawn to save the world from Glory. You should be thinking about these choices and the moral issues they raise as we move towards the finale.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tough Love

[Updated May 2, 2013]

Who’s the object of Tough Love in this episode? One obvious answer is Dawn, given Buffy’s treatment of her. Or maybe it’s Ben getting the advice to “take responsibility”. Perhaps it refers to the fight between Willow and Tara. It could mean any or all of these, but in my view the title refers to Buffy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Intervention

[Updated May 2, 2013]

He who does battle with monsters needs to watch out lest he in the process becomes a monster himself.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

For all that there’s a good deal of humor in Intervention, it’s got a very serious point to it. This episode lays out in express terms Buffy’s feeling of separation between her human half and her Slayer half, a feeling which we saw prefigured in The Replacement, and which has been reinforced since by the recognition that Glory and Ben actualize the “separate parts in a single body” which Buffy feels. Buffy’s concern now is that the Slayer side is winning, that she’s becoming “hard”:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Forever

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Forever provides an opportunity for Buffy to grieve, while giving us a major clue to Dawn’s role this season. It also raises some disturbing issues about other characters which will be explored at more length later on.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Body

[Updated May 1, 2013]

There’s a lot of television I’ve never seen, so I can’t say The Body is the very best episode of any show ever. I can’t even say that it’s the very best episode of Buffy, because it has close competition (IMO) from Passion and OMWF. It’s a real tribute to the show, in fact, that an episode as incredibly good as The Body can have competition for “best” and that still others are nearly as good. What I can say is that The Body has to be on a very short list among the greatest television episodes of all time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Was Made To Love You

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Pygmalion, or I Was Made To Love You:
This has never been one of my favorite episodes, mostly because I’ve always found the metaphor somewhat confusing. While listening to her friends talk in the Magic Shop, Buffy seems to identify herself with Warren:
“ANYA: Why would anyone do that [make a robot] if they could have a real live person? WILLOW: Maybe he couldn't. Find a real person. BUFFY: Oh, come on. The guy's just a big wedge of sleaze, don't make excuses for him. WILLOW: I'm not, I'm just saying, people get lonely, and maybe having someone around, even someone you made up ... maybe it's easier. (Shot of Buffy looking pensive.) TARA: But it's so weird. I mean, everyone wants a nice normal person to share with, but this guy, if he couldn't find that, I guess it's ... kinda sad. (Shot of Buffy staring at her hands.)”

Writer Jane Espenson confirms this when she says “When Buffy’s talking with Warren about his break-up with April, she’s actually identifying with him, because she did a lot of the same stuff with Riley that he did with April.” I think that’s a really weird interpretation of both the Buffy/Riley relationship and the Buffy/Warren conversation, so let’s look more closely at what Buffy says in her conversations with Warren and April.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Crush

[Updated May 1, 2013}

At some point in time between Fool For Love and Crush, Spike began to acquire a very strong following among fans. He’d always been a popular, but secondary, character. Now many fans became fascinated by his story such that he became as important to them as, say, Willow and Xander were. Some fans were beginning to ship him with Buffy (Spuffy). Writer David Fury pissed off a lot of Spike’s fans by ridiculing the idea of Spuffy in public and with Buffy’s line in Crush about Spike being a “serial killer in prison”. Since Crush is so Spike-centric, it’s a good episode to examine in order to see what it tells us about him. I’ll start by discussing his role as the (other) vampire in love with a Slayer.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blood Ties

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Blood Ties sets up crucial plot and thematic points for the finale. Like the show generally, it uses the real life experiences of teenagers via metaphor. Thus Dawn, like many 14 year olds, perhaps particularly those who are adopted, feels alienated from her family and “not real”. She cuts herself because she’s come to doubt her own reality: “Am I real?”. In this case, the “real” experiences become a metaphor for the “reality” of the plot line – Dawn’s sense of alienation upon learning that she’s the Key. In my view, Dawn’s role as metaphor as well as character means that her sense that she’s “not real” is telling us something important about Buffy. I’ll leave that cryptic for now, but this dialogue seems relevant to me:
BUFFY: It's not that simple! We're not gonna be able to fix this with a hug and a kiss and a bowl of soup! Dawn needs to know where she came from, she needs real answers.
JOYCE: (sits) What she needs is her sister, Buffy, not the Slayer.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Checkpoint

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Checkpoint is the feel good episode of S5. Who among us can resist a good smackdown of the Watcher’s Council? Better yet, Buffy does that by raising an issue which will be crucial for the series henceforth: “Power. I have it. They don't. This bothers them.” Yes, it’s about power. That word gets used 9 times in the episode. But exactly what “power” consists of or what it might mean is subject to lots of interpretation; we get one here, but there will be others.
Why is the episode called Checkpoint? In my view, it’s because Buffy has nearly reached adulthood. The purpose of the “review” is to confirm that she’s ready for it. That’s the challenge Quentin puts to her: “you're dealing with grownups now”. Quentin demands proof that Buffy’s “prepared for it”, referring to information about Glory, but also, I think, meaning the challenges of adulthood more generally. That was the point of the Cruciamentum in Helpless, to which there are several references here, and it’s the same tactic the Council still employs.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Triangle

[Updated May 1, 2013]

I love Triangle, partly because I think it’s hilarious, but mostly because of Xander’s response to Olaf’s offer of a “Sophie’s Choice”: “that’s insane troll logic”. The only right answer is to refuse to choose. Well, that and have Buffy come in and save the day.
Triangle occupies the same relative point in the season that Ted, Gingerbread and The I in Team did, and it serves a similar role: it gives us the problem Buffy will face in the season finale, but doesn’t quite give us the answer. It’s also setting up some plot points regarding Willow’s magic for S6 which I can’t spoil.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Into The Woods

[Updated May 1, 2013]

The title of Into the Woods is ironic, of course. The success of Joyce’s operation means that she’s now “out of the woods”, but Riley left to join a commando operation in the jungles of Central America. Buffy’s distress at his departure means that she’s not yet out of the woods emotionally.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Listening To Fear

[Updated May 1, 2013]

The Queller demon in Listening to Fear might very well win a contest for lamest demon in the series. The episode also suffers, I think, from the far too obvious metaphorical vampire whorehouse. I’m not fond of this metaphor. Don’t get me wrong. LtF is not a bad episode like, say, I Robot, You Jane is bad. There are important developments here, both in plot and metaphor. It just suffers a bit from weak execution. That said, I do want to praise the scene of Buffy crying privately as she washes the dishes to the sound of her mother’s deranged ramblings. SMG really sells that scene.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Shadow

[Updated May 1, 2013]

If you can overlook the poor quality of the snake demon, Shadow is another good episode. Joyce’s illness is the emotional core of the episode for Buffy. I may be reaching, but I see Joyce’s “shadow” as a metaphor for the shadow of uncertainty cast on Buffy’s journey. If I’m right about that, the season’s focus on split personalities makes it natural that Joyce’s illness is in the brain.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fool For Love

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Episode 7. We expect something dramatic and important from Episode 7 and we certainly get it from Fool For Love. It’s a fan favorite and in my personal top 20. The whole episode is beautifully constructed, but I have to give special praise to the way Spike’s fight with the NY Slayer intercuts with his present dialogue/fight with Buffy. At the end, the past Spike talks directly to Buffy in the present. Brilliant.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Family

[Updated May 1, 2013]


I see Family and NPLH as a two-parter; Family opens the same night as NPLH ended. Both episodes deal with someone who’s not technically a member of the family, but who is accepted into it through love. One deals with Buffy/Dawn, the other with Willow/Tara, the teaser highlighting both stories. Tara’s story of the kitty can even serve as an allegory for what happens to Dawn and to her:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Place Like Home

[Updated May 1, 2013]

No Place Like Home introduces the villain of S5. Her name is Glory and it shows up in the transcript, though nobody speaks it in this episode; we’ll learn it soon enough. In Real Me we were introduced to Dawn and I raised the question whether she served as a metaphor, at least for some purposes. The villains almost always serve a metaphorical role, so we now should be asking whether Glory does and, if so, what that role is. There is, I think, a small hint in The Replacement, but it’s pretty obscure except in hindsight. In addition, we’d expect the metaphor to fit within the season themes which I’ve previously identified. I’m hinting, but I don’t want to spoil, so as with Dawn I’ll discuss Glory’s metaphorical role in detail in the finale.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Out Of My Mind

[Updated May 1, 2013]

If one theme of S5 is, as I said regarding The Replacement, “split personality”, then an episode entitled Out Of My Mind seems like an obvious sequel. There are 2 stories here of mental issues, those of Riley and Spike, both of whom go a bit crazy about Buffy (or because of Buffy, depending on how you see it). I guess I could include Joyce and her fainting spell as a mental issue, but I’ll leave her aside for now because that’s a bit unclear. I might also include Buffy, since her behavior in the teaser seemed to be another display of the “hunting” we saw in Buffy v. Dracula. And since I think every episode is about Buffy in some way, this might be a clue that what I’m about to say about Riley and Spike will eventually come back to her. Not necessarily in this post, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Replacement

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Three episodes into the season and as usual we’ve gotten the themes which will play out the rest of the year, as well as foreshadowing of the major plot lines. Fortunately, The Replacement gives us a theme I can discuss even now because it doesn’t require spoilers. It also sets up a plot point for later which I will hold off discussing until it comes up.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Real Me

[Updated May 1, 2013]

I like Real Me quite a bit, but I’m kind of trapped by my no spoilers policy when it comes to writing about it. The episode is telling us so much about the rest of the season that anything I say might give away key details of plot or metaphor.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Buffy v. Dracula

[Updated May 1, 2013]

It obviously helps, in watching Buffy v. Dracula, if you’re familiar with the Dracula story, beginning with Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, because this episode contains a great many references to its various versions over the years. I’ll note the ones which aren’t explained (more or less) in the episode.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Restless

[Updated May 1, 2013]

Many of the commenters at AtPO were of the view that “all things lead to Restless”. By this they meant that the episode works both forward and backwards. Looking back, it gives insight into previous episodes by telling us how Joss saw the characters up through that point in time. “I thought a nice coda to the season, which had been very anarchic and sort of upheavely season, would be to do a piece that just commented on the four characters we had grown to know and love, and where they were in their lives, what they felt about things and each other….” (Joss DVD commentary; all quotes from Joss below come from the same source.)
Looking forward, it sets the stage for seasons 5-7. Many of the themes and images from Restless will be used in future episodes. This is specifically true of the prophetic aspects of Buffy’s dream (see below), but it’s also true in many other respects as well.
I might not be quite as enthusiastic in my acceptance of the “all things lead to Restless” view as some, but I do think it’s generally true and a very useful way to explore the themes of the episode and the show generally.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Primeval

[Updated May 1, 2013]


Unlike every other season, S4 has its climactic events in the penultimate episode. Primeval “concludes” the season, but the brilliant coda of Restless gives us closure. Because it comes right before Restless, Primeval is often overlooked or criticized, but I really enjoy the episode and can re-watch it repeatedly.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Yoko Factor

[Updated May 1, 2013]

The Yoko Factor threads together several of the themes we’ve seen earlier in the season. The disputes among the SG were foreshadowed in Pangs, and their insecurities in Fear, Itself. Spike aggravates the insecurities of the SG, playing on them to bring their fears to the surface. That causes Buffy’s family to fall apart, setting up the events of Primeval.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Moon Rising

[Updated May 1, 2013]

I really like New Moon Rising in many ways, but it walks a very fine line with its metaphor. There’s a tolerance theme, obviously, with Oz as the text, and Angel, Willow and Tara as the (barely) subtext. That’s all good, but it creates a real potential for misunderstanding the entire rest of the series. I’ve actually seen people argue from this episode that vampires and demons symbolize an oppressed class, and that Buffy is an oppressor because she slays them. I’ve even seen the syllogism that (a) blacks are the most oppressed class in America; (b) vampires and demons therefore represent them; thus (c) Buffy is racist.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Where The Wild Things Are

[Updated May 1, 2013]

I have a hard time writing much about Where The Wild Things Are. I see it as one of the very weakest episodes in the series. While there are good scenes with Spike and Anya in the Bronze, with Giles singing, and with Spike talking himself out of helping rescue Buffy, the sexathon manages to be boring – even disgusting for some viewers – and the religious fundamentalism explanation is used as an anvil rather than a metaphor.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Superstar

[Updated May 1, 2013]

For all that S4 gives us a generally favorable view of magic, Superstar demonstrates that magic can be carried to excess. The episode is another take on identity, this time Jonathan’s attempt to magic himself an entirely new one at the expense of everybody else. There’s no doubt that what he did was wrong. An authentic self isn’t constructed out of thin air, it’s the process of a lifetime of work: "Buffy: Jonathan you can't keep trying to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once.  Things are complicated. They take time and work."

Monday, June 18, 2012

This Year's Girl and Who Are You?

[Updated May 1, 2013]


Who Are You? is the 72nd episode, exactly the half-way point of the series. Although it could never have been intended, I think it’s fitting that the whole series is pretty much designed to answer the question posed in the episode title.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Goodbye Iowa

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Goodbye Iowa ties together all of the themes I’ve mentioned thus far as important to S4: identity, including the creation of one’s authentic self; identity theft; indoctrination, including its relation to identity theft; family; science v. magic; individualism v. collectivism. It’s a little hard to discuss them all because they’re intertwined with each other, but I’ll do the best I can.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The I in Team

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The I in Team brings us to the second real world event which impacted S4: Lindsay Crouse, Prof. Walsh, left the show. Her death at the end of this episode was not part of the original plan. It was written in when she decided to leave. Nobody has ever explained just why she left; it’s all very professional on both sides. Something happened but we don’t know what.

Her departure had a major impact on the season because she was supposed to be the Big Bad. Adam got substituted as the Big Bad, but this changed some of the thematic points which had been intended (I’ll talk about that in the next post and later ones). As a result, in my view, a lot of the emotional resonance of the season got lost. I’ll explain this in more detail later on.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A New Man

[Updated April 30, 2013]

A New Man is another POV episode, this time seeing the world through Giles’ eyes. As was true for the previous POV episodes, we learn important things about Buffy in the course of this. That’s because Giles is reacting to what Buffy does and, more importantly, doesn’t do. We can see the episode title as referring to him – he’s a “new man” in the sense that his role has changed this year, and he wakes up after his evening with Ethan very new indeed. But the title also refers to Riley, as the new man in Buffy’s life. It’s Buffy’s relationship with Riley which is the source of Giles’s alienation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Doomed

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Doomed may seem like an odd episode to feature an apocalypse. It’s not a season finale, which we might expect. It isn’t played as farce like The Zeppo. What makes the situation apocalyptic is metaphorical: Buffy’s fear of starting a new relationship, particularly one that might be similar to her relationship with Angel. She was happy to date Riley when she thought he was a “corn-fed Iowa boy”. The idea that she’s about to hook up with another professional demon hunter is deeply worrying to her for two reasons: (1) It may say something about the men she’s attracted to; and (2) Riley’s been concealing some pretty important facts.
Riley was quick to point out that she hasn’t been fully forthcoming either, but what happened next was crucial. Buffy immediately told him who she was, namely, “Slayer, The”. Riley, in contrast, wouldn’t tell her about himself, leaving her to provide him with an all-too-accurate description. The relationship can’t succeed if she’s disclosing her identity and he’s not.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hush

[Updated April 30, 2013]


Regardless of the success or not of the seasonal arc, S4 contains two of the most innovative episodes of any TV series ever. Hush is the first of these. It’s a very popular episode, regularly appearing on Top 10 lists and often cited by fans as their favorite episode. There are so many great little details and great scenes that I can’t even try to describe them all.
Worse yet, from my perspective, there’s been so much discussion about Hush that it’s hard to come up with anything new to say. Note, though, that it fits right in with the theme of identity I’ve been discussing, particularly when it comes to Buffy and Riley, but also for Willow as I’ll explain later in order to avoid spoilers now.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Something Blue

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Something Blue is a fun episode, and it works very well to advance certain plot points (Buffy/Riley) and to deal with Willow’s pain from Oz’s departure. The problem I have in writing this post is that the episode has no apparent relationship to any of the season themes. I’ll therefore deal with the episode on its own.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pangs

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Pangs gets my vote as the funniest episode in the whole series. “You made a bear” cracks me up every time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Initiative

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The Initiative is the seventh episode of S4, and by now we know that the seventh episode is a very important one. The previous 3 such episodes were Angel, Lie to Me, and Revelations. Each of those addressed the most important issues of their respective seasons, so we should be on the alert for something of equal significance here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild at Heart

[Updated April 30, 2013]

I love Wild at Heart, but many viewers (including me) were very disappointed that Oz left. There was no secret about it at the time so it’s not a spoiler now to say that his departure was caused by an outside event. Seth Green had a movie offer which he badly wanted to take, so they let him leave. By all the public statements, the departure was amicable and BtVS would have been happy to have him back. The fact that he left was one of the factors I had in mind in my comments on S4 in the post on The Freshman, and Oz leaving will have extremely important and long-lasting ramifications both on the show and perhaps for the show.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Beer Bad

[Updated April 30, 2013]

There are worse episodes than Beer Bad, but not very many. If you ask a random Buffy fan to name the worst episode in the series off the top of his/her head, Beer Bad will come up pretty often. The problem is not that the point is obscure, as was true of, say, IRYJ. To the contrary, the episode beats us over the head with the message, even more than Buffy beat Parker. Emotionally satisfying that may be for her, but less so for us. At least I can discuss the point of the episode instead of stretching to find one as I did with IRYJ or Go Fish.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fear, Itself

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Fear, Itself may have the ending of a shaggy dog story, but it’s actually a critical episode for the season. Structurally and thematically, this episode identifies the most significant problem Buffy must solve in the climactic episode – not the finale this year – and the solution to that problem.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Harsh Light of Day

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The Harsh Light of Day gives us a lovers’ triangle: three pairs of lovers (or “lovers” in the case of Spike and Harmony). Each is contrasted with the others, all three connected by their eventual unhappiness. Note that the three women walking on campus at the end form a triangle.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Living Conditions

[Updated April 30, 2013]

There’s an obvious life lesson in Living Conditions: don’t have the bad judgment to be the college roommate of someone who grows up to be a Hollywood writer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Freshman

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The production of a play, movie, or TV show isn’t the work of a solo artist like a novel might be. It’s a group effort which involves, at least, the writers (not all of them Joss); the actors; the directors (even on his own episodes, Joss didn’t always direct); the Standards & Practices department (which controls what you can and can’t say and do on the air); make-up artists; costume designers; and musicians. The actions of all of these will affect what we eventually see on the screen.
This will be all the more true when events in the real world make it impossible to tell the story which the writers originally intended. We saw a little bit of that at the end of S3, where the broadcasts of Earshot and Graduation Day were delayed because of events at Columbine. While nothing that dramatic affected S4, the things which did happen caused probably an even greater impact on what eventually appeared on the screen. I’ll talk about those outside factors when we get to the relevant episodes, but I can’t do it until then because of spoilers.
You need to bear in mind that this is true when I discuss the opening episodes of S4. It may be that those episodes don’t give us the usual clues about the seasonal themes, or that those clues are less obvious because the eventual story got modified from what the writers expected at the time they wrote them. Worse yet, actually identifying the seasonal themes is itself pretty difficult. At the time S4 first aired, many fans were disappointed because the season seemed a little disjointed. That’s a fair criticism in a way, but in retrospect it’s my impression that they’ve come to like the season because so many of the episodes are individually good.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Graduation Day 1 & 2

[Updated April 30, 2013]

“Gentlemen,” he said,
“I don't need your organization,
I've shined your shoes
I've moved your mountains and marked your cards
But Eden is burning
Either get ready for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage
For the changing of the guards.”
 

Graduation Day ties together what I see as the three principal themes of S3. The most important theme involves Buffy’s acceptance of the absurdity of the world. For Joss, that’s a key insight in becoming a true adult. I’ll summarize that below and explain how the events of GD2 fit in with that theme and with Camus’s concept of rebellion as an important response to absurdity. The second theme, related to the first, involves the corruption of adult institutions represented by the Mayor and the Watcher’s Council. The teenage years are a natural time for rebellion and corrupt adult institutions are proper targets to rebel against. Lastly, we have the Faith arc, which involves both Buffy’s reconciliation with her shadow self and the existentialist quest for authenticity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Prom

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Looking back on it, I find it hard to believe that I didn’t much care for The Prom when it first aired. Now I love it and can re-watch it whenever I need a feel-good moment. I’m not even sure any more why I wasn’t thrilled with it. Now I see it as Buffy’s just reward.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Choices

[Updated April 30, 2013]

With the emphasis I’ve given to the importance of choice in existentialist thought, you should expect that I think an episode with the title Choices will have something significant to say. You’d be right. Faith’s made her choices, Buffy makes choices, Willow makes choices, and all those choices have (or will have) consequences for which they need to take responsibility.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Earshot

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Those who watch Buffy on DVD get to experience something the TV viewers didn’t: Earshot in the correct order. The originally scheduled air date was the week after the shootings at Columbine High (April 20, 1999), and the network decided that the Earshot storyline was too similar. It eventually aired on September 21, 1999, just before the beginning of S4.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Enemies

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The title of Enemies is ironic. Faith became Buffy’s enemy the moment the Mayor opened his door in Consequences. Buffy just didn’t know she had an enemy until now.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Doppelgangland

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Doppelgänger is a German word meaning “a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune.” Wikipedia tells us that “Doppelgängers, as dark doubles of individual identities, appear in a variety of fictional works …. These doppelgängers are typically, but not always, evil in some way. The double will often impersonate the victim and go about ruining them, for instance through committing crimes or insulting the victim's friends. Sometimes, the double even tries to kill the original.”
Given this meaning, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Doppelgangland appears at this point in the season, right after two episodes showing Faith as the dark side of Buffy’s Slayer half. It’s the same basic theme. And if it’s the same basic theme, that means I think there’s a message about Buffy in the episode even if it seems to focus on Willow.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Consequences

[Updated April 30, 2013]


Consequences reads like waking up with a hangover after a night of binge drinking. Maybe binge drinking that led to a hit and run accident.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bad Girls

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Bad Girls begins the final run to the conclusion of S3, just as Surprise did in S2. It’s arguably the first episode of a two-parter with Consequences, but they aren’t formally treated as one and there’s plenty to discuss separately so I’ll make separate posts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Zeppo

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The Zeppo is probably the most obvious of the POV episodes I listed in my post on The Wish. If you weren’t persuaded that The Wish is best seen as Cordelia’s view of the world, then watch it again now that you’ve seen The Zeppo. Or maybe the Buffy/Angel relationship really is as overwrought, nay melodramatic, as it appears to Xander here. And maybe the apocalypse is pretty much a parody.
No, it seems clear to me that in this episode we’re seeing the world through Xander’s eyes. Sometimes we’re even seeing what he fantasizes: that he’s the real hero in the SG notwithstanding his role as Everyman. In an interview for Entertainment Weekly (August 21, 2013), Joss described the episode as “a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least.” http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/09/24/joss-whedon-interview/5/

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Helpless

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Writer David Fury says in his DVD commentary that Buffy’s red coat in Helpless was a deliberate reference to Red Riding Hood. Kralik reinforced the reference at several points: “Why did you come to the dark of the woods?”; “To bring all these sweets to grandmother's house?”; and “If you stray from the path you will lose your way”. So, in line with the theme that fairy tales are real, let’s see what Wikipedia tells us about the original version of Red Riding Hood:
“The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes an ogre or a ‘bzou’ (werewolf), making these tales relevant to the werewolf-trials (similar to witch trials) of the time…. The wolf usually leaves the grandmother’s blood and meat for the girl to eat, who then unwittingly cannibalizes her own grandmother….  In [other versions] she escapes with no help from any male or older female figure, instead using her own cunning.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gingerbread

[Updated April 30, 2013]

What appears to be the principal message of Gingerbread – tolerance versus tyranny – comes across as lacking in subtlety. There are, I think, two more significant issues raised in the episode which get lost because of that heavy-handed treatment.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Amends

[Updated April 30, 2013]

This is a long post. I’m going to deal first with some very important features of Amends before I discuss the issue which I’ve been saving for this episode, namely Angel’s culpability, if any, for the actions of Angelus. I’m covering a lot here and I hope I haven’t tried to do too much.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wish

[Updated April 30, 2013]

On the surface, The Wish is a very entertaining episode with important things to say about the characters. The problem is that if you look at it a bit more closely, it suffers from a couple of significant flaws which lurk below the surface: (1) the episode leaves us believing that none of the characters actually learned any of those important things; and (2) the WishVerse creates major continuity problems. I’m going to explain below the existence of these two problems and offer a metaphorical reading which (mostly?) solves them, but first I need to talk about it just from our perspective as viewers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lovers Walk

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Lovers Walk is one of my personal favorite episodes. It has the return of Spike, no longer a metaphor, but a chaotic force as he blows into and out of town and tears the masks of deception off of Buffy, Willow, and Xander. He’s great in every scene: with Joyce in the kitchen; his “love’s bitch” speech; with Willow in the factory. The episode also has possibly my favorite scene with the Mayor and it has the PEZ witch.
But while it’s incredibly funny, the episode has a real bite to it. Xander and Willow get caught, er, “fluking”, and the repercussions are going to be with us for a while. Willow’s would-be attempt at “de-lusting” shows that she’s unwilling to do the hard work of dealing with her emotions. The spell was doubly wrong: she shouldn’t be using the dark arts for such purposes; and she didn’t have Xander’s consent to perform magic on him, a particularly egregious omission given his experience in BB&B. I think the point is to contrast her with Buffy, who does, with an assist from Spike, reach an understanding about her own desire and manages to control herself without any supernatural aid.
Spike’s words to Buffy and Angel obviously had an impact, but the opposite of the one we might expect. Instead of embracing Spike’s view of love, Buffy seemed to fear it and take it as something to avoid. Perhaps we can see the reason for this by comparing Spike’s view of love with that of Mr. Platt in Beauty and the Beasts:

Spike:  (faces them) You're *not* friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. (points at his temple) Love isn't brains, children, it's blood... (clasps his chest) blood screaming inside you to work its will…. *I* may be love's bitch, but at least *I'm* man enough to admit it.”
Mr. Platt:  Look, lots of people lose themselves in love. It's, it's no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is, you can't stay lost. Sooner or later, you... you have to get back to yourself. …  If you can't... (inhales) Well, love becomes your master, and you're just its dog.”

The dialogue in Lovers Walk doesn’t reference Mr. Platt’s view, but we heard it just four episodes ago and Buffy surely remembers it. If Platt was right, Spike’s words aren’t a paean to love, they’re a big red warning light. Buffy may or may not want that kind of love (see below), but she’s mature enough to recognize that she can’t have it with Angel.
There’s another point worth noting about the speech. This is a paradigm case of the problem inherent in attributing the views of a character to the author. Spike’s view may or may not be true; it may or may not be that of Joss Whedon. But we can’t take his words as true in principle or even as true for Buffy and Angel, any more than we can the diametrically opposite view of Mr. Platt. All we really can know is that his words express how Spike himself sees love.
In S2 I made a big deal out of the fact that Xander and Cordy were a parallel relationship for Buffy/Angel, so I should note here that Cordy turns away from Xander in the scene immediately preceding the one in which Buffy tells Angel that she’s not going to see him anymore.
Trivia notes: (1) Spike knocked over the Sunnydale sign just as he did in School Hard. (2) “Cletus the slack-jawed yokel” is Cletus Spuckler, a character from The Simpsons. (3) The book Angel was reading by the fire is La Nausée by Jean-Paul Sartre, which I mentioned in my post on Lie to Me. In the DVD commentary for the Firefly episode Objects in Space, Joss says that La Nausée is the most important book he’s ever read. In my view, we’ll see the results of Angel’s reading beginning next episode and continuing through Gingerbread. (4) Weird Science – Buffy’s description of Willow’s failed love spell – was a 1985 film by John Hughes. (5) Charisma Carpenter actually suffered an accident very similar to the one which befell Cordelia in this episode. (6) The words we heard at the funeral while Buffy and Willow were talking are from the Wisdom of Solomon 1:14-15. (7) Buffy’s demand that Angel tell her he doesn’t love her echoes the same demand by James to Grace in IOHEFY. (8) The version of “My Way” which Spike sang at the end is by Gary Oldman for the movie Sid & Nancy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Revelations

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Revelations brings us front and center to a critical issue: the extent to which Angel is responsible for the crimes of Angelus (consistent with my posts to date, I’m using the name Angel to refer to him with the soul, Angelus without). Xander and Buffy take different sides of this debate; complicating the picture is the bias each has because of Buffy’s relationship with Angel. He’s jealous, she’s in love.
I want to put aside the bias problems for purposes of thinking about this issue. Frankly, it’s a distraction from the merits. However, I also want to hold off on the merits too until we get to Amends. What I’m going to do here is analyze the actions of Buffy on the one hand, and Xander and Faith on the other. In each case I’ll simply assume for the sake of argument that they’re right in their contradictory views of Angel.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Band Candy

[Updated April 30, 2013]


After 3 episodes which prefigure one of the two important themes of S3, we now get two which prefigure the other major theme and some of the plot lines. I’m not going to spoil the plot, but I do want to talk about one of the themes: maturity. Since Buffy’s a senior this year, it’s shouldn’t surprise us that maturity is a theme. Mature is what all seniors are supposed to be when they graduate.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Homecoming

[Updated April 29, 2013]

“Welcome to Slayerfest!” is one of those lines that makes me laugh every single time. The Mayor, whom we meet for the first time and who is one of my favorite characters in the whole series. Lyle Gorch, whom we see for the first time since Bad Eggs. Homecoming has all these things, but it’s not a particular favorite of mine. This is basically my own issue: I dislike scenes in which people are humiliated even if it is really good for Buffy’s color. For example, I hated what the frat boys did to Xander in Reptile Boy. Buffy’s painful attempt to become Homecoming Queen makes me very uncomfortable and those portions of the episode therefore hard to watch. This doesn’t make it a bad episode; I think that my sense of discomfort was intended by the writers in order to remind us of something about Buffy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beauty and the Beasts

[Updated April 29, 2013]

Buffy’s shadow self/dark side has been explored in a number of episodes to date. Beauty and the Beasts examines the dark side of 3 men: Pete, Angel, and Oz. Pete’s case is the most obvious, because the story of Jekyll and Hyde – the obvious inspiration for the episode, which Willow mentions at the end – is a metaphor generally for the dark side/shadow self (or “civilized” versus “animalistic” as a specific case of the general idea). The trigger for Pete’s transformation is his potion, a fairly thinly disguised alcohol metaphor. Some literary historians argue that Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was himself a cocaine user.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Faith, Hope & Trick

[Updated April 29, 2013]

The title of Faith, Hope and Trick seems to take its inspiration from Corinthians 13:13: 'But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love'. I think all three virtues play a part in this episode, but I want to discuss them in reverse order.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dead Man's Party

[Updated April 29, 2013]

I have a hard time writing about Dead Man’s Party because it’s one of two episodes in the entire series which I really dislike watching (the other being As You Were, if you must know). I wrote the following 9 years ago at ATPO, and my opinion hasn’t really changed:
“When something bothers me, people tell me I "must" talk about it or things will get worse. I find this untrue. I find that talking about it is, in fact, what makes things worse. It works much better for me to resolve things internally; that's the way I’m able to put them behind me and move forward. When Buffy ran away after Becoming 2, I completely identified with her and was (and still am) furious at Xander, Joyce, and Willow for their mis-treatment of Buffy upon her return.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Anne

[Updated April 29, 2013]

Season 3 differs in many respects from S2, but in one way that’s very important for purposes of my posts: it’s much less dependent on metaphor to tell the story. The writers still use metaphors, but they aren’t the focus of the story the way they were in S2. Season 3 places greater emphasis on plot line. I don’t mean that as a criticism; whether you like this better or not is, in my view, mostly a matter of taste.
I think there’s a good reason for less metaphor, namely, that S3 has much less sex in it than S2 did. Let’s face it, American TV isn’t particularly open to sex in the early evening time slots (or even later for that matter). If you’re going to tell a story about a 17 year old girl having sex, it’s probably safest in metaphor. Season 3 has a little bit of sex in it, but the sex isn’t the centerpiece of the season the way it was in S2; Buffy’s faced that issue. Season 3 is about other aspects of character and maturity now that she’s a high school senior. That means I’ll be giving greater emphasis to those issues.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Becoming 1 & 2

[Updated April 29, 2013]

If you held a gun to my head and forced me to choose just one of the top 4-5 episodes on my personal list of best episodes, I might choose Becoming 1 & 2. Certainly they contain many of my favorite moments from the entire series: “It’s a big rock…”; “someone wasn’t worthy”; Whistler’s voiceover as Buffy races down the corridor; the whole extended dialogue between Spike, Buffy and Joyce; “the police of Sunnydale are deeply stupid”; every single thing from the moment the sword fight begins through the end of the episode, including the best single word of dialogue in the series (“Me.”).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Go Fish

[Updated April 29, 2013]

If S2 is a popular favorite because of the many great episodes, it comes in for its share of criticism due to really weak episodes like Go Fish. The fact that Go Fish interrupts an otherwise incredible run from Surprise through Becoming certainly doesn’t help its reputation, but it’s a regular on bottom 10 lists for the series. While I’m sure that there is a point to Go Fish, I’m not at all sure that I’ve identified it. I struggle with this episode, as I did with IRYJ, and what follows is my best shot. So what’s it doing here?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Only Have Eyes For You

[Updated April 29, 2013]

When I first saw I Only Have Eyes For You, I completely missed the point and therefore didn’t originally realize how wonderful the episode is. I thought Buffy needed to forgive Angel for what he’d done to her. I was so certain that Buffy had done nothing wrong that it never occurred to me that she herself thought she might have been wrong or that she might want his forgiveness. This, in turn, left me confused about who was supposed to be who in the James/Grace scenarios.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Killed By Death

[Updated April 29, 2013]

Killed by Death is another episode which gets little respect in fandom. Part of that is its placement in the season, right after Passion and just before I Only Have Eyes For You. That’s a tough crowd, made worse by the fact that it’s hard to see much point to KbD. As I hope I’ve shown by now, though, I think every episode has a purpose for it and a reason why it appears in the season when it does.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Passion

[Updated April 29, 2013]

In Noel Murray’s review of Passion at the AV Club, he said that this episode was “as good as television ever gets.” I rate Passion higher than Innocence; it’s on my short list for the best episode in the whole series (along with Becoming, The Body, and OMWF), which means in the whole history of television. Interestingly, Joss didn’t officially write it, though rumors say he re-wrote substantial portions of it. I consider those rumors likely true, since Ty King never wrote another episode, which would be inexplicable if he had really produced something as stunning as Passion.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered

[Updated April 29, 2013]

BB&B is one of the best beloved Buffy (heh) episodes. It’s funny, it has great scenes – Xander’s walk down the hallway, Buffy in her raincoat – and it makes fun of Valentine’s Day. Hard to imagine what more anyone could want from an episode. Anything beyond that is just the cherry on top.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Phases

[Updated April 29, 2013]

After the sturm und drang of Innocence, we need some comic relief and Phases provides it. Humor is very much a matter of individual taste, and I think it’s the second funniest comedic episode in the series, after Pangs. Even the funniest Buffy episodes, though, have a serious point, and I think Phases does.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Surprise/Innocence

[Updated April 29, 2013]

And so, at last, we reach the end of Innocence. In his DVD commentary, Joss describes Innocence as the “mission statement episode” of the show and says, with the benefit of 3 years hindsight, “This episode in a sense is and probably always will be the most important episode of Buffy that we did.” He has rated it his favorite episode of the whole series. It’s certainly a transcendent episode, one regularly appearing on fans’ Top 10 lists. Buffy’s life will never be the same again, and neither will the show.