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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.