Follow by Email

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Empty Places

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Et tu Brute?
Empty Places made viewers angry when it aired and I think still does today. It’s comparable to Dead Man’s Party in its plot, and that generated a similar reaction. I don’t like DMP (second bottom on my list), but EP works for me. What’s the difference? Mainly the fact that the abuse of Buffy was SO one-sided in DMP. It wasn’t just that Xander and Joyce, and Willow to a lesser extent, were self-righteous, the episode and its successors implied that they were entirely right. In EP the situation is much more nuanced. We see the conflicted feelings of the SG, we see Buffy’s side, we know that there’s something to be said on all sides. While my heart’s with Buffy, just as it was in DMP, here I can see the point of her critics.


Let me deal with a couple of preliminary points before I get to the big mutiny. First there was the question of Faith taking the Potentials to the Bronze. Yes, blowing off steam was probably needed. That still doesn’t make the Bronze a good choice. Faith put herself at risk of arrest and everyone at risk of death had Caleb showed up rather than the cops. Bringing up the raid on the vineyard as a way of defending herself to Buffy was not only offensive, it was a terrible argument. There’s a huge difference between a military operation gone wrong and putting everyone in danger in order to get some R&R.
That said, Faith was very mature and considerate of Buffy earlier when Dawn insensitively tried to talk about Xander. The fact that Buffy didn’t want to discuss that topic, though, shows just how far she’s controlling her human feelings and steeling herself to function as General. It’s another sign on the road to the mutiny.
In order to discuss the mutiny, I want to review how we got here, even at the risk of stating the obvious and repeating points I’ve made in previous posts. Since BotN, the Potentials and the SG have seen Buffy in full “General” mode. Indeed, to a very substantial extent they’ve insisted that she take on that role. As I’ve emphasized starting with my post on BotN, the logic of this is irrefutable. We’ve known since the very first episode of the series that the Slayer alone can stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. If the Slayer alone can slay, then the Slayer alone gets to make the decision to slay. That means the Slayer must necessarily be in charge.
The unique status of the Slayer has always made Buffy uncomfortable, and her discomfort has been highlighted throughout all 7 seasons, most recently in CWDP. The inescapable fact of being the Slayer isolates her from everyone else. That was her complaint in CWDP, but really it’s been a factor since the very beginning: “Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them?” (Welcome to the Hellmouth)
From the very beginning of the series, Buffy reacted to her situation by accepting the responsibility which came with her unique status. She articulated that responsibility in the passage I keep repeating from Selfless: "It is always different! It's always complicated. And at some point, someone has to draw the line, and that is always going to be me. You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the slayer is always cut off. There's no mystical guidebook. No all-knowing council. Human rules don't apply. There's only me. I am the law."

Note that both parts of the dilemma are expressed in this single quote. The Slayer is isolated, and yet the Slayer must perforce make the decisions because there’s no one else. I think this pretty well expresses what Buffy has been doing for a minimum of 3 years before Selfless (at least since Graduation Day).
However, accepting this responsibility, good though it is, causes an additional problem. This is the problem raised starkly in Help, but one which has simmered below the surface all along in episodes such as Phases, Gingerbread, and Lessons: Buffy simply can’t save everyone. Thus, accepting the full responsibility which comes from being the Slayer inevitably puts an incredible burden on her, above and beyond the risk of death she faces every night.
Seen from the other side, many of the Potentials have relied on Buffy to protect them. That was the point of Showtime. Eve/First told everyone “I don’t think Buffy can protect us.” After Buffy defeated the Ubervamp, the Potentials could be confident that they were safe. That kept them on Buffy’s side, notwithstanding her harsher moments, until Dirty Girls called that into doubt. Thus, Buffy feels the burden of protecting the Potentials, causing stress on her, yet the disaster in Dirty Girls means that the Potentials have now lost confidence in her ability to protect them. Her plan to return to the vineyard therefore appears to them as reckless.
The point of the episodes since BotN is to show how these factors conjoin to isolate Buffy. Get it Done emphasized both parts of her dilemma. She “failed” to save Chloe, but when her guilt at that “failure” caused her to react as General she succeeded in angering everyone around her. Empty Places is the culmination of this cycle. Everything Buffy says to the mutineers is true, but it doesn’t matter. The emotional impact of the disaster at the vineyard means that they won’t follow her once more unto the breach. She’s also now isolated from her friends – and remember the metaphor: they’re her mind, heart, and spirit – even above and beyond the isolation that comes from being the Slayer which she noted in Selfless and CWDP.
Part – but only part – of Buffy’s problem is that she has not issued her commands in an acceptable way. Farmgirl62 pointed this out in her excellent comments on GiD. Buffy knows this is true. She told Giles this in LMPTM: “Have you seen me with those girls? I mean, the way I've treated my friends and my family and... Andrew.” The truth is, though, that even accounting for this, Buffy’s still on the wrong path.
The true heart of the problem, to put it in existentialist terms, is that the role of General inherently requires treating other people as objects rather than subjects. You can put a gloss on this by saying that Generals should be very nice in the way they treat their objects, but at the end of the day the privates are still objects for the General to order into combat. And yet, the logic of the situation inescapably demands that there be a General.
Let me state this for emphasis: when Buffy took on the mantle of General in BotN, she made a mistake. We’re supposed to recognize it as a mistake, even those like me who reflexively defend her most of the time. While I’m not going to spoil the finale, I will offer this clue: An essential part of Buffy’s dilemma is that the role of General is a traditional patriarchal role. It reinforces the isolation she feels, there being, of course, just one General. Exchanging a woman (Buffy) for a man (Watcher’s Council) in the role may seem like progress, but it’s actually not.
Everyone can sense that something is wrong, including Buffy, but nobody (yet) can see a way out of the logical trap I summarized above. Kicking Buffy out of her house is how the SG and the Potentials express their sense that another attack on the vineyard is the wrong plan, but that’s the excuse for the mutiny, not the reason for it. I’ll argue over the three remaining episodes that they’re right to be disturbed – Buffy is indeed on the wrong path – but wrong in the way they went about it and wrong in their solution.
Having acknowledged that Buffy is on the wrong path, and has gone down that path making mistakes along the way, let me now review the mistakes of the SG and the Potentials. The biggest problem is that they’re trapped by the same paradigm which has trapped Buffy, so they decide to let Faith take command. Wood was the first (heh) to make this suggestion, but Dirty Girls should have taught us to be skeptical of his advice. He was the one who pushed Buffy to “test” the Potentials, and that led to the disaster. As shadowkat put it, “Wood is a metaphor for authority figures who've always under-estimated Buffy.” His last name may very well serve as a double entendre to emphasize this point.
I’ve said this before, but I don’t think Wood is evil. I think he’s an asshole for not recognizing his own responsibility for the attack on the vineyard, and for attacking Buffy in public, but he’s not nominating Faith because he wants the First to win. That would be derogatory of Faith in a way that’s unjustified given how far she’s come. No, he’s nominating Faith because he’s simply incapable of seeing any alternative.  That’s partly on him, but it’s also inherent in the logical trap that the Slayer power entails on the Slayers.
It’s easy to see, though, that Wood’s suggestion can’t possibly work. If, as I suggest, the whole problem is caused by the fact that Buffy was the General, then making Faith the General obviously won’t solve that problem. She might be a better General, but she’ll still have to bear the same burden Buffy has been laboring under. All that will happen is that the burden will shift from Buffy to Faith; there’s no net progress.
At the time Dirty Girls and Empty Places aired, there was lots of argument that Buffy had showed herself to be a bad General tactically as well as in the way she treated her subordinates. Many were enthusiastic at the idea of Faith taking over. I don’t agree with these arguments, but I think my point about burden shifting demonstrates that the whole issue is irrelevant to the themes established in the opening episodes to S7. Good tactics or bad, the mere fact of being the General leaves the Slayer isolated and unable to protect everyone.
The next problem with the mutineers is that they don’t actually know what Buffy’s plan is. Yes, she wants to go back to the vineyard. They don’t, understandably enough, but they never allowed Buffy to explain how she would return or what she planned to do. They simply refused to go.
There were lots of bad arguments in the room besides those of Wood; the Hellmouth must have been really acting up. That’s a joke, but we were shown Storyteller and the earlier scene here with Giles and Willow for a reason:
WILLOW
(walking away with Giles) Good idea. My control was fading. What's up with those cops?
GILES
Oh, same as everyone. The Hellmouth is active again.

Buffy undoubtedly interpreted the mutiny as a sign of the Hellmouth’s influence, and we can see it that way in metaphor to some extent: we can interpret the whole scene as the blooming, buzzing confusion of Buffy’s internal thoughts. I don’t doubt that the Hellmouth influenced everyone’s reaction, but as was true when it was Spike in The Yoko Factor, “trouble was stir-uppable”.
In each case, the bad arguments stemmed in part from existing resentments. I mentioned Wood already, and his resentment is easy to understand after First Date and LMPTM. Anya has shown all season that she still resents what happened in Selfless. She made the claim that Buffy was “luckier” than everyone else: “But you didn't earn it. You didn't work for it. You've never had anybody come up to you and say you deserve these things more than anyone else. They were just handed to you. So that doesn't make you better than us. It makes you luckier than us.”
As we saw in Get it Done, the Slayer power isn’t a matter of “luck”, it originated in a primal violation. That doesn’t make Buffy a victim – she’s not – but it does mean that Anya is effectively criticizing Buffy’s personal moral character. That’s pretty hard to take after what we’ve seen over the last 7 years, and is pretty rich coming from Anya. Note also that if Anya’s argument had any merit, it would make no sense to expel Buffy and then pick Faith as the new leader. Choosing Faith is internally contradictory to Anya’s position in two ways: first because Faith would be just as “lucky” as Buffy; and second because Faith’s existence actually refutes Anya’s assertion that Buffy is “luckier than anyone else”.
That said, Anya’s comments mirror what Buffy told Holden in CWDP: “I have all this power. I didn't ask for it. I don't deserve it.” So while Anya’s comments are indefensible in character terms, they do express Buffy’s own internal insecurities.
Rona’s joy at seeing Buffy gone made her even more widely disliked than Kennedy, high a bar though that may be. Rona was the one who showed up in Sunnydale expecting to be protected. She’s lost confidence in Buffy’s ability to protect her. Her obnoxious comment reflected that the whole issue, for her, is more about being protected and about resentment than it is about anything else. I do wish, though, that Dawn had slugged her instead of just telling her to shut up.
One reason that Wood, Anya, and Rona all spoke up is that they have come face to face with Buffy’s harsher side over the course of the season (Selfless, GiD, LMPTM, the scene at the Bronze here). We, the viewers, have had the advantage of also seeing Buffy’s moments of doubt and compassion: her rescue of Spike in Showtime; her rejection of more power in GiD; her caress of Dawn in LMPTM; the scene with Andrew in Storyteller; her tears on seeing the picture of herself with Xander and Willow earlier in EP. The important thing about all these scenes is that the other characters have NOT seen these moments when Buffy lets down her mask. Thus, she has appeared harsher to them than she has to us. This makes their rebellion more understandable even if it doesn’t improve their logic.
Unlike DMP, Xander and Willow are not the moving force here. Their comments are not directly critical of Buffy, they just conspicuously fail to defend her. That’s a betrayal in its own way, but not nearly as bad as what we saw in S3. And it’s somewhat understandable after the events at the hospital. We as viewers can see how broken Buffy is by her guilt over Xander’s injury, but that probably wouldn’t have been as clear to Willow and Xander.
I’ve noted before that Giles lacks confidence in Buffy’s decision-making (meaning, metaphorically, that Buffy lacks confidence in herself), and it showed in the mutiny. Putting metaphor aside, just 2 episodes ago Giles was urging her to be the General and saying that everyone was expendable. Now he’s against her, even as she recites the principles he’s been advocating all year, because “This is a hell of a lot to ask”. And disclosing to the entire room her private doubts about trusting others, which she overstated in her anger at him for sending Spike away, was a gross and unfair breach of confidence.
The most controversial line was undoubtedly that of Brutus Dawn: “This is my house too”. This struck most viewers as preposterous. While it’s true literally, it’s just not right literally. No child believes she has the right to tell her parent to leave the house. Metaphorically, however, it works perfectly. Dawn IS Buffy; that is, she’s Buffy’s non-slayer part, what Buffy sees as her better half. Thus, the scene plays out metaphorically as Buffy’s human, compassionate part telling her Slayer half to step down and stop dominating. In this sense, Dawn is indeed a joint occupant of Buffy’s (metaphorical) house, and fully entitled to exercise her rights.
So there's plenty of fault to share in EP. The way I see it, though, Buffy is "more" right. Though I’m not going to analyze her statements in detail, everything she said was factually true. She took a position consistent with her behavior over the previous seasons, with what her mentors have been telling her since BotN, and with the existing paradigm of the Slayer. The mutineers, in contrast, had no real solution. They didn't want to follow Buffy's advice, but they found themselves trapped in the same situation except for a different name at the top of the firm resume. To make such a minor change at the cost of betraying Buffy seems much less defensible to me.
One last fact to note about the mutiny, and it’s an important one. The Potentials and the SG may have kicked Buffy out, and they may have done so for bad reasons, but they haven’t deserted the battlefield. They’re still prepared to fight, they just don’t know how yet.
So why did they kick her out, instead of just getting up and leaving en masse? I think that the metaphor is driving the plot here. All of Sunnydale is now deserted, but Buffy’s house is crowded with her hopes, her dreams, her thoughts, her confusion, her insecurities. She needs to get away from all that in order to regroup. In addition, as Allie pointed out in comments, it would be logistically difficult as well as dangerous for everyone else to move.
I have to admire Buffy’s attitude on the porch at the end, both forgiving Faith and giving her the chance to make a difference. In a way, it’s what Faith told Wood before the meeting: “WOOD: Why didn't you fight back? FAITH: Other things matter more.” And props to Faith, who’s the only one to come out of the whole scene looking good.
Trivia notes: (1) Clem asked Buffy if she could “believe this mishegas”. That’s a Yiddish word meaning “craziness”. (2) Willow and Giles pretended to be from INTERPOL, the perhaps unfortunately named International Criminal Police Organization. (3) Xander mentioned his Halloween costume, meaning his pirate outfit from All The Way. (4) Faith likes to remind Anya that she had Xander first, which she did in The Zeppo. (5) Caleb’s mocking words about Buffy’s tears recall Buffy’s nightmare about her father in Nightmares: “BUFFY: Why are you saying all these things? (a tear rolls down her cheek) HANK: Because they're true. I think that's the least we owe one another. She begins to sniff and cry. HANK: You know, I don't think it's very mature, getting blubbery when I'm just trying to be honest.” (6) Andrew used the phrase “called dibs”, which is American slang meaning that he asked for it first. (7) It’s very hard to see on screen, but what Giles and Dawn see in the photo is an imprint of Caleb’s ring. They could recognize it because of Shannon’s burn mark in Dirty Girls. (8) There’s a joke in the location of Spike’s mission. Giles told him to go to Gilroy (CA), which advertises itself as “The Garlic Capital of the World”. Having second thoughts about Giles’s motives now? (9) Giles suggested that Andrew bring his “Pan flute thing” along on the trip with Spike. In Greek mythology, the god Pan played the flute. (10) This is the last episode to feature a scene at the Bronze, so the band was Nerf Herder, who wrote the Buffy theme music. (11) While riding the motorcycle, Andrew wears the same helmet Dawn wore in Bargaining 2. (12) Spike mentioned the “onion blossom things” at the Bronze. We learned that he liked those in Triangle. (13) The inscription on the wall in the monastery is in Latin, but written in Greek letters. (14) Giles suggests that Buffy is leading them to find “windmills”. The phrase “tilting at windmills” means to fight a non-existent foe. While the phrase isn’t precise, he means she’s chasing after nothing. (15) Buffy’s claim that Faith tried once before to “take everything she had” refers to the body switch in Who Are You. (16) Rona’s “ding dong, the witch is dead” comes from The Wizard of Oz.

24 comments:

  1. Part of the dislike of this episode, I think, is that there are not many left, so waiting until NOW, means less time for good things at the end, which is what people were hoping for. But, to make the metaphor and the story work, it couldn't happen until Faith arrived, making the explicit point that the problem is not necessarily Buffy's leadership and tactics, but that the issues are all rooted in patriarchal paradigm.

    Of all the SG, Giles is the one who was the worst. Willow and Xander I can forgive, they've both gone through a lot, and you can see that they felt isolated from Buffy after she declined to hang at the hospital. But Giles, like you said, criticizes her for following his advice, betrays her confidences before the entire group, and completely undermines her authority.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually cheered for Dawn when she made the call to kick Buffy out. Such a moment of self-actualization there. True, we'd never accept a teenager kicking out their parent, but standing against Buffy, after everything they've been through together, had to be huge for her.

    I know a lot of people who were angered by Dawn, felt she was the worst of the group, and lot of people I've seen have based their objections on material things, like the fact that Buffy pays the bills, as why Dawn was in the wrong, but that just doesn't fly to me. How much a person contributes on the bills is not what makes it their home, or else we wouldn't accept wives that never worked as entitled to part of the value of the home*? Regardless of who paid the bills, it was still Dawn's home, and to say that she has NO SAY in what goes on within her own home, legal dependent of Buffy or not, is to remove Dawn's agency. Now, plenty of people do this with children, I try not to, children are people not property, but I feel that Dawn was completely justified in taking the action that she did. I know a lot of people felt this moment was the payoff from CWDP, what The First was getting at when it had appeared to her as Joyce. I don't think that follows, as this moment is not about Buffy's choices. I think that payoff comes later(detailed below).

    *Though I know there are PLENTY of people who actually don't agree with that, feminists do believe that, and I've seen more than a few self-proclaimed feminists make that argument, in re Dawn.

    SPOILER

    I think the moment when Buffy doesn't choose Dawn, is in End of Days when she has Xander take her away. But since Dawn knew this moment was coming, she quickly regained control of the situation and returned, allowing her and Xander to play a pivotal role in the battle at the Hellmouth. Of course, this reading demonstrates that Joyce was helping in CWDP, which means it was really Joyce, not The First, which is still a contentious point.

    Or it means that of all the people in the show, Dawn most of all understood that the First was attempting to divide them, and refused to play along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see your overall point about spouses. I'm not sure that extends to children.

      I was furious with Dawn when I first watched it, but came around to the more metaphorical reading I gave now. I'm still dubious about the straight character reading. Dawn certainly should (and does) have a say in what goes on in the home, but I'm not sure that goes so far as to say "I need you to leave".

      I agree with you that this isn't the result of CWDP. I do think it's possible to read it that way. Dawn could be resentful or hurt from several incidents, and "Joyce's" words could have made those seem more sinister. But Dawn's instant rebuke of Rona leads me to think that she's closer to Willow than to Kennedy or Rona or Giles in her reaction to Buffy.

      Delete
    2. I am not positive I agree, but I really like this read on Dawn.

      I agree with the point about Dawn having rights to the house -- I don't know if her rights supersede Buffy's, but they are not nonexistent.

      Delete
    3. OT, but you figured out how to sign in from lj. How'd you do that?

      Delete
    4. In the comment box there's a drop down "reply as:" thing, and a livejournal option. For a while I tried typing in local-max.livejournal.com and that didn't work -- then I just went to local-max and it worked.

      Delete
    5. Good to know. I wish I'd figured that out a while ago.

      Delete
  3. The straight read of Buffy being kicked out of her house didn't really register with me until I got into fandom, oddly. I think I caught the (or rather, a) metaphor of it right away: Buffy's house is devoted entirely to the mission, and as such when what is necessary for the mission is no longer Buffy, it stays with the mission and not with Buffy. I won't list the ways in which Buffy and the gang are wrong, but suffice it to say that I generally agree with your position but am probably more critical of Buffy overall.

    Mostly, I agree that Buffy never should have been the General in the first place. I do think that the gang installing Faith as new General is in keeping with the logic that Buffy has been presenting all season long (though that logic is also logic coming from Giles). Buffy's primary mandate to be a General is because she's a slayer, and that logic does suggest that another slayer has the same mandate. That's not really why Buffy is admirable -- but the qualities which made her a great leader in previous years, and even this year when she's not totally Generalling out, are more related to Buffy the person and her relationships with and respect for the people who work with her.

    I think it's appropriate that Spike and *Andrew* are absent for the meltdown. Spike is obvious -- he'd have Buffy's back regardless -- but I think that Andrew has seen, in Storyteller, Buffy's most vulnerable *and* most honest-to-goodness effective moment, IMHO, since BotN, when she reached him at the end of Storyteller.

    My reason for sympathizing greatly with the mutiny is that I really don't think Buffy's plan was all that great -- but more than that, I think her plan was not good enough to risk one's life over. All plans are going to involve a risk-benefit calculation, but I genuinely don't think that anyone in that room should be held to risk their life for a plan that they had no confidence in -- and that's because at core I don't believe that they are an army. And I think Buffy, during this scene, was not going to back down on the issue that they were attacking the vineyard; or, at the very least, she gave strong enough evidence that the people in the room had strong reason to believe she wouldn't back down. Buffy may not be a bad General as far as Generals go, but the core problem is that she is ordering people into a battle they don't believe in. I don't think that's a good reason to kick Buffy out of her house, but the escalation of the scene read to me as clear enough that both sides would not budge, and it was kick Buffy out of her house or agree to risk their lives.

    They should still have gone to another house, of course, but metaphor -- Buffy's house belongs to the mission now (which is a representative of Buffy having invested so much of her identity in the mission that she feels homeless without it).

    I do think Giles and Wood come across the worst here.

    The placement of Faith as leader is something that obviously *should* come from the potentials, because they have been told over and over by Buffy, who has not really connected to them as people, that it's her slayerness that makes her special and that makes them special. My feeling is that Wood seized upon the opportunity to install Faith once he saw that that would be doable -- and then the core Scoobies basically didn't protest, because a) no one actually wants the leadership job, and b) no one, emotionally, can deal with this situation. Giles, who was actually mounting arguments against Buffy, should really have been thinking more clearly, but he didn't. Anya is mostly reeling from bitterness. With Willow and Xander, as you say, the crucial thing they do is to withhold their support; they are mostly, though not entirely, argument-adjacent. And Dawn is trying, I think, to do what's best for the cause. "The mission is what matters."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. One of the worst things about this episode, which I don't have big problems with ultimately (though I think the execution is spotty) is that too much of the show was actually spent on a gotcha! twist which, incredibly, got almost no one -- that being that the writers were seemingly trying to trick the audience into believing that Buffy was the First in the argument scene. Buffy doesn't touch anyone or anything, and Caleb had told the First to go in and lead the gang to their doom as Buffy both at the end of Dirty Girls and in EP again. What this presumably was meant to accomplish is to make the audience cheer on the gang rejecting Buffy, since they were really "not falling" for the First's plan which would get them all killed (though misattributing it to bad judgment on Buffy's part rather than it actually being a trap) -- only to be shocked when Buffy grabs her coat and is actually the real Buffy. But from what I can tell, the number of fans who actually thought she was the First in that argument scene is miniscule -- I've only seen one person who thought that, here: http://www3.sympatico.ca/jenoff/btvs719.htm#btvs719a. I didn't really think that, either.

      So, you know, that was kind of a dumb writerly move -- since it's a twist that no one really noticed. I don't know if it actually hurts the episode, except that it makes Caleb's planning to the first especially dangly, and my suspicion is that setting up and maintaining the twist took some energy that could have better been spent on writing the argument scene.

      Still, while that's a significant flaw and there are other major ones, I don't think this episode deserves the ire that it actually gets in fandom.

      Delete
    2. Very good points.

      "the qualities which made her a great leader in previous years, and even this year when she's not totally Generalling out, are more related to Buffy the person and her relationships with and respect for the people who work with her."

      Yes, exactly. And Buffy's own identity is so tied up with being the Slayer that she herself doesn't realize it.

      "My reason for sympathizing greatly with the mutiny is that I really don't think Buffy's plan was all that great -- but more than that, I think her plan was not good enough to risk one's life over."

      I wouldn't even call it a "plan". It was more of a "target" or "aspiration". The very fact that it was so nebulous, combined with the lack of actual evidence that Caleb was protecting something, makes it pretty understandable that the Potentials would refuse to accept it.

      "One of the worst things about this episode, which I don't have big problems with ultimately (though I think the execution is spotty) is that too much of the show was actually spent on a gotcha! twist which, incredibly, got almost no one -- that being that the writers were seemingly trying to trick the audience into believing that Buffy was the First in the argument scene."

      You know, I have no memory of seeing this before, and I've read Jenoff's reviews. I guess it didn't strike me as likely; certainly nobody else I've read ever suggested it. If that was the intent, I missed it and so did everyone else at AtPO.

      Delete
    3. SPOILERS

      The thing is, had the group gone along with Buffy, it still wouldn't have worked. It's fairly well demonstrated that a frontal attack on Caleb wouldn't have worked, Buffy's evasive techniques at the end of Touched are much more effective. I don't see her pulling that off with a whole force of Slayers behind her.

      Delete
  4. You know, I never had a problem with Buffy getting kicked out of her house (as opposed to them going to another house) because logistically, that's just very difficult. Why move dozens of vulnerable people in a dangerous town when one person who everyone else is mad at can just leave and be fine on her own because she's the slayer? Yeah, it's pretty rude, but they're mad at her. Mob rules.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like your take on Buffy should never have been in the role as a General because it doesn't "fit" but I think it's less about gender and more about a mismatch of structure and mission.

    I actually think Rona had the best point:

    RONA
    You know what? I am sick of your deal with this Spike guy. This isn't about him. This is about you. You're being reckless.

    BUFFY
    (steps back) What?

    RONA
    You are! I don't even know you, and I can tell! You are so obsessed with beating Caleb, you are willing to jump into any plan without thinking.


    It's not so much that she was obsessed with Caleb as she wanted to somehow make things right.

    So, Buffy's instincts that they needed what was at the vineyard and moving quickly were right. Her handling of the group was an epic fail. At this point the team wouldn't follow her to ice cream.

    But the mutiny was a disaster for everyone. Perhaps if Giles hadn't been still smarting from their fight, Xander wasn't so traumatized, and Willow wasn't so distraught they could have filled their role better. What was needed was a moment to calm down. If they had been at a better spot perhaps they could have sidestepped a public squabble. But alas, Buffy announcing a completely reckless plan, in public forum, and claiming no room for debate backed everyone into a corner and they were not at their best to begin with. This enable Robin to begin a more serious "attack" on her leadership. Clearly he was biased but I'm not sure he was "evil" either -- just really really wrong.

    I really disliked this episode. It had a decent topic -- show Buffy frazzled and have her fail at the leadership thing -- but execution was too muddy to be done right. The mutiny, while warranted, was too over the top with kicking her out of the house. The divisiveness of the rhetoric combined with her isolation just distracted from the actual topic IMO.


    Buffy was wrong but she needed to be reigned in and given a chance to calm down. They needed to take care of HER. She was a mess but in her isolation and their pain -- this didn't happen.

    As you said only Faith came out looking marginally "good" in the whole exchange. I think it threw some of the characters under the bus needlessly.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. red_satin_doll said:

      Buffy was wrong but she needed to be reigned in and given a chance to calm down. They needed to take care of HER. She was a mess but in her isolation and their pain -- this didn't happen.

      Yes, this, very much so. Admittedly I'm Buffy-centric, although I can see how wrong-headed her approach was at this point. (One of the things I love about the show: how everyone can be right and wrong all at the same time.) But this scene is also another example of how often her friends fail to "see" her: she apparently has slept little if at all in days (if gabrielleabelle's timeline of the last episodes is accurate), etc. She's greatly stressed, yet as in previous seasons, her friends don't seem to notice. (She may be hiding her emotions but surely someone must have noticed how thin she's gotten?) Just as Tara is the only one to realize that Faith is not Buffy in WAY, or everyone assumes that the Buffybot is just Buffy dealing with grief. And I think that's deliberate; it seems to tie into the theme of just how well do we know anyone (or does anyone know us)?

      BTW - the system won't let me sign in under my LJ url for some reason
      http://red-satin-doll.livejournal.com/

      Delete
    2. I can't figure out the problem with lj. I thought local-max had it solved. I can't sign in with anything other than Google, because that's how I set up the account.

      Delete
    3. red satin doll, you are completely right. This is a continuing theme of Buffy's story, that she can't be truly closest with the people she wants to be, because at times like this they fail her(like Angel and the terrible birthday present in S3).

      And your observation about Buffy's appearance is spot on. I kept commenting to my mother about how terrible SMG looked when it aired, but at the same time, this is contrasted with the First, who looks like the healthy and glowing Buffy of S5. SMG honestly disappeared into the villain's role so well, IMO, that the fact that they were both portrayed by the same actress failed to make this explicit demonstration of the toll taken on Buffy for me until several rewatches later.

      I have more to say about this and some other stuff, but I'm saving it for Monday.

      Delete
  6. "I like your take on Buffy should never have been in the role as a General because it doesn't "fit" ... The mutiny, while warranted, was too over the top with kicking her out of the house."

    Well, remember the basic rule: If she doesn't fit, they must evict.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Yeah, it's a painful episode to watch even now. The way you phrase it strikes me as just right: "Buffy was wrong but she needed to be reigned in and given a chance to calm down. They needed to take care of HER. She was a mess but in her isolation and their pain -- this didn't happen."

    I think that's what Willow tried to say, but things got out of control before she got there.

    ReplyDelete
  7. No child believes she has the right to tell her parent to leave the house. Metaphorically, however, it works perfectly. Dawn IS Buffy; that is, she’s Buffy’s non-slayer part, what Buffy sees as her better half. Thus, the scene plays out metaphorically as Buffy’s human, compassionate part telling her Slayer half to step down and stop dominating. In this sense, Dawn is indeed a joint occupant of Buffy’s (metaphorical) house, and fully entitled to exercise her rights.

    I think that's the first explanation of Dawn's actions there that I can actually accept and make sense of, at least metaphorically.

    BTW, I tried to log in under my LJ (as local_max has done) but I must be doing something wrong.

    Excellent work, I'm enjoying these greatly. I also enjoyed your metas on the AV Club. What will you do after you're finished with these episode essays?

    red_satin_doll
    http://red-satin-doll.livejournal.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm not sure what I'll do next. Probably heave a big sigh of relief. :)

      Maybe then I'll get an enigmatic smile on my face and stare out at the open road ahead of me. :)

      Delete
    2. I'd be willing to ship you my TPBs of S8 if it could persuade you to do those??? ;^D

      Delete
    3. Yeah, but then you'd have to let me keep them for 10 years while I read them over and over, obsessively.

      Delete