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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.