Buffyverse General Talkback (Buffy The Vampire Slayer Movie, TV Show, and Angel; Major Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Reviewing the Buffyverse and thought we could use a general talkback.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)

It's 2021 as of the writing of this review. Can you believe this is the first time I've ever seen this?

First off, it's absolutely awful. There is no use kidding about that. We'll get back to that soon enough.

As Joss Whedon's horrible treatment of the cast members of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series became public knowledge, I thought it would be instructive to rewatch The Buffyverse and see what impressions I would now see knowing that the creator was a bully and a harasser. And I could definitely have a field day with this movie regarding some of the skeevier elements. The problem is I get the sense the script was reworked so much that it doesn't feel like Whedon at all.

I'm not saying Whedon has never written corny scripts. The first and seconds seasons of Buffy the TV show say he has and on numerous occasions. I'm saying this script did corny things that Whedon would have immediately jumped on and pointed out for meta comedy.

One of the most unpleasant elements of the film is that teenage girls seem to be a bit objectified here. And again, Whedon's done that on the TV show too. But when Buffy is in the gym in a sports bra and Merrick comes in in a trenchcoat and cryptically insists she comes with him to the graveyard, Whedon would have played up the pedophile angle instantly. It's the first place the audience's mind goes, so Whedon would let us know we weren't crazy for thinking that. After a few beats, Buffy sort of cottons on to the idea that he could be a dangerous killer, but there is something wrong with the intelligence of the script if that isn't her first reaction. Since it isn't, I can pretty safely say Whedon did NOT write that scene. Or if he did, it was written differently.

A lot of the elements are different from the TV show including vampires not being dusted when they die. This would have been a pain in the neck on the TV series with the cast having to clean up bodies and cover up murders at the end of every episode. There also is reincarnation involved with the Slayers and the Watchers, and their roles are more limited because of that. And the less said about PMS being used as a vampire detector the better. That specific bit I'm betting DID come from Whedon (it's totally in character), but was probably dropped from the TV series because it's stupid.

It's amazing the movie is played entirely as a comedy, and I didn't laugh once. I hear all the time about Paul Reubens "hilarious" extended death, but not only did I not laugh, it's much briefer than it's reputation suggests it should be. If Pee-Wee Herman had the longest film kiss in screen history (legitimately) than Paul Reubens' extended vampire death SHOULD actually take awhile.

Here is my suggestion: If you want to see the movie, watch the trailer instead. There are a couple of nice things in the movie that are all spoiled in the trailer. When Pike tells Buffy she's not like other girls and she puts her head on his shoulder and says "Yes, I am," that's wonderful and iconic. And you don't have to waste an hour and 25 minutes to see it, because it's in the trailer. As is Buffy catching the knife thrown at her head with her hands, and saying she didn't even break a nail after she hit the guy.

Here is something that will amaze you. Buffy the TV show was very influential in the fluidity of fictional language, and the way characters spoke using pop-culture names and terms for shorthand. The movie did it first. What's amazing to me, and something I don't think the movie gets credit for is that one of its quips actually became a real saying, while Buffy The Series' insular dialogue remains singularly Buffy: The Series'. When the girl describes the jacket as "SO five minute ago", that actually became a real pop-culture saying in a way nothing from the TV series ever did. It's funny and a bit annoying too. I mean, Jane Pauley would probably not like to best be remembered for coining the term "Bad hair day". But that's essentially what she WILL be remembered for. And yeah, the most the Buffyverse ever caught fire into the fabric of the pop-culture landscape was a throwaway joke from the terrible movie. Life is so unfair.

Buffy's personality is like Cordelia here, as the TV series suggested it was in "Becoming: Part 1". I don't object to her being a spoiled, bratty, bully. What I object to is that movie Buffy is clearly stupid. Part of the joke is that it's the bimbo killing the monster in the horror film, but even if Joss Whedon's feminist cred is suspect, he knew enough to make Buffy Summers actually admirable and cunning on the TV show. It's very weird the movie has Buffy being so dumb.

The less said about Buffy's mother in the film, the better. She is an unrecognizable cartoon caricature of the worst and most absent parent ever. Her clueless behavior is beyond appalling, and completely outside of the sympathy and empathy Kristine Sutherland brought to Joyce on the TV series.

I kind of feel like it's useless to try and deconstruct this movie to get into Whedon's headspace and the way he treats women and minorities. Because very little of the film actually feels like Whedon. Every inch of it feels like he must have been pushed aside. I don't think much of Whedon as a person, but he's not THIS bad of a writer. I can see why the movie, of which he has sole writing credit, is a major sore spot with him. 1/2.
 
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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Welcome To The Hellmouth"

So, in the wake of the revelations of Joss Whedon's jerkish behavior on the set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that sort of led me to decide to rewatch the series (and Angel) on Hulu and see if knowing what I know now colors how I view the show.

As far as the first episode ever goes, I didn't notice too many red flags (although Jessie asking Cordelia if she wants a shoulder to cry on, or to better yet, nibble on, is super gross) but it's very clear to me my previously low opinion of the first season was justified. There are a couple of interesting and refreshing choices in the storytelling (including making Darla at the beginning the Vampire in the opening late night at the empty school horror scenario) but frankly a LOT of this makes me cringe. Joss Whedon has been celebrated his entire career for his sharp dialogue. Is this truly the same guy who wrote Cordelia's painful "Coolness test" or Buffy's first ever entirely cliched and unfunny banter with Darla and Thomas in the tomb? I always thought these aspects of the episode were lame, but I always gave Whedon a free pass for them because stuff got better later on. But there's really no excuse for the show to be this badly written at this stage of the game.

There is some moody and atmospheric lighting during some of the horror scenes, and yet the direction for most of the episode is quite pedestrian. A lot of the boarding and directing in the high school is the exact same kind of stuff you could see on 90210. And I don't mean that as a compliment. The Avant Garde stuff the show later became famous for was not present at the beginning.

I also have to say, the score absolutely sucks. Walter Murphy has composed some good things for Family Guy later on, but his work on Buffy is entirely unremarkable. Buffy always had one of the most memorable scores to me out of any TV show I watched. And Murphy's stuff is not only forgettable, but it sounds a little tinny too. Generally speaking, the show's later composer Christophe Beck was not afforded an orchestra either. But the music was elaborate enough that you either couldn't really tell, or you didn't mind when you could.

It's interesting that David Boreanaz initially affected his performance as Angel with a sort of droopy-eyed demeanor and a somewhat slow, slurry, and croaky voice. It's an interesting choice right off the bat, but simply not sustainable. Boreanaz was new to acting when he got the part (he was a dog-walker before he was cast as Angel) but I think he quickly learned a quirky performance is not something to saddle your character with forever if you don't have the chops for it at that stage in your career.

It is not credible that there is a dead body found in a school locker, and the worst thing that happens is that gym is canceled.

Fun Fact: The Cthultu Mythos, longtime considered a major influence on the franchise, is present in the very first episode, and further delved into at the beginning of the next. What else are the Old Ones a reference to? While the writing on the show may not always have been sound, it appears the bones of the long-term mythology was. This is all stuff that eventually played out with Illyria on Angel: Season Five 8 years later. That's a pretty impressive level of groundwork being laid in the first episode ever.

I smiled at watching the theme song again for the first time in years. That is a great tune and main title. And the first and second season's versions are spooky and horror movie atmospheric, rather than the rockin' action movie homages the later main titles became.

Ultimately, however the first episode was a bore, and Cordelia's casual cruelty seems even worse than when this aired. Not a great start. *1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Harvest"

Oh, yeah, bad warning signs aplenty here. Sheesh.

Let me start off by saying the episode sucked, and the last scene is not actually iconic as fans of the series think it is. It's lame. Maybe it wasn't in 1997. But it is now.

Buffy calling herself "mentally challenged" is the casual cruelty of Joss Whedon in a nutshell.

Speaking of which, the scene where Cordelia tells Willow that she doesn't interfere in her private conversations because she's boring was remarked in the DVD commentary by Whedon as something he snarkily said to a female classmate in high school, and found out later he really unintentionally hurt her feelings. That notion and this scene feel a lot less understandable knowing Whedon was still making those kinds of snide comments the entire time on the series and didn't understand he wasn't loved for it.

I liked the scene transition from the sewer sliding vertically into the library card catalogue. It's a VERY early example of the show using an "interesting shot" which it got better at later on.

It's not credible that people are making excuses for the vampires not being vampires at the end. The series is asking us to believe they are offering a harsh critique of the denialism present in society. No. That's not what it is. The people in Sunnydale always make excuses because if they didn't, that would change the entire premise of the show. And while I do appreciate that would make it worse (especially after only episode 2) I don't appreciate being sold the idea that the show is doing a cynical observation of people. Observations actually have to be true. It's simply a thin excuse for the Total Reset Button being rehit at the end of every episode. And it isn't remotely believable.

Similarly not credible is the "deliver" scene. Are you telling me the teacher never told the students what the delete key does? That joke seems to have been written by an adult who believes the younger generation is a lot more computer illiterate than they are. It's not a commentary on Cordelia being stupid at all. It's something that a student in 1997 would already know in order to function in a computer class. It's sloppy writing in the name of a very cheap joke.

Back in the day, I appreciated the allegory the show was making of Buffy's mom not actually understanding that her being grounded IS actually the end of the world. She says Buffy only believes that because she's a 16 year old girl. In the years since I watched the series I learned about a political rationalization called a "false equivalency". It's not actually a good allegory in hindsight after all. It's actually bothsidesing the apocalypse. It's not something I tolerate anymore. I don't put up with it from The New York Times, and I won't put up with it from Buffy The Vampire Slayer either.

Garlic can briefly be seen in Buffy's weapons chest. Very, VERY rarely seen in the franchise, and it only made a single other appearance in either Buffy or Angel past the Pilot.

My favorite scene in the episode holds up years later, and frankly I'm a bit shocked more people aren't impressed with it. Xander says a fairly stupid and cliched line: "Oh, we've gotta stop Jessie from doing something even stupider than usual." And Giles gets fiercely angry at him for that, and insists with both fury and sympathy that Jessie is dead, and they are dealing with the thing that killed him. I like that moment. It's a serious reminder of the stakes, after Xander says a thing that would be not particularly controversial for another character to say in a different franchise. Instead he get reamed for it, which I like.

Finally, the thing I want to talk about this episode is something that is actually kind of minor in the episode itself, but it's the first symptom of a larger pattern of bad messages. Ironically, this was not a problem that affected Firefly at all, so I'm not sure why only The Buffyverse was afflicted. But Joss Whedon has been getting a lot of flack for his feminist insensitivities for the past few years. After MeToo, that was inevitable. But until Ray Fisher, I don't think people have ever given him the proper level of shade he deserves for his racial insensitivities.

We'll be talking a LOT more about this as we get into reviewing Angel, but in the second episode of Buffy ever, the tough, muscled, black bouncer is turned into a quivering coward and killed. Basically, Joss took the one black person who has appeared on the series so far, and completely emasculated and killed him off for shock value. I believe that every death you show in fiction makes a statement. The statement of the first black man on Buffy The Vampire Slayer being killed in such a humiliating fashion shows that Ray Fisher was probably onto something.

As I said in the first review not off to a flying start. *.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Witch"

It's been years since I've seen this, and the first thing that jumped out at me is that as far as mysteries go, it is beyond poorly constructed. The supposed clues are all misleading, and don't actually make sense to what is going on. The selling point of a red herring is that a red herring is a plausible culprit. What this episode does instead with "Amy's" various confused and innocent seeming reactions to horrible things she's deliberately caused is make it completely outside of what the mystery is. Is it possible Catherine is merely acting surprised to dupe Buffy and friends? Conceivable. But if this is a mystery, that is something that needs to be spelled out explicitly to the viewer in hindsight. As it stands, it's simply an unfair mystery.

The reason I so readily identified it as such is because the Buffyverse has its share of unfair or unjustified plot twists, and I've sort of been on the look-out for them. This is definitely the first example, although it's not as egregious as some upcoming ones (I'm specifically thinking of the "bogus" prophecy arc in Angel: Season Three).

What else? I like Buffy asking Giles how he planned to stop her being a cheerleader. I was annoyed at Giles' behavior for many reasons. His "I forbid it," suggests he believes he holds more power over Buffy than he does. Who can he contact in the school to object to this? The principle? Her Mom? Won't they be questioning why a school librarian is raising the objections he is? And frankly Buffy saying she wanted something normal in her life is something Giles would want for her in later seasons. I'm not suggesting Giles grew as a character. I'm suggesting he's being written out of character here. Why? For pretty much the single most vulgar reason you can write a character out of character: to create artificial conflict where none should actually exist. To be blunt, this era of television was rank with that, and I can't indict Buffy The Vampire Slayer for it without slamming every single other show I watched and loved at the time. But it's a failing in hindsight, and it's one I no longer tolerate.

As I was watching Cordelia's driver's ed scene, I noticed something for the first time. The direction on the show this season is entirely dated. I'm not saying the Buffyverse is a timeless franchise. Many of the references and fashions put it in a very noticeable place in time. But as far as filmmaking goes, as much as I could (and will) criticize some of the scripts, the direction became relatively cinematic and modern, and it stayed that way. That sequence and the rest of the episode could have been made on an unmemorable low budget TV drama from the 1980's. Whatever else the Buffyverse felt like, it felt fresh at the time. I was underwhelmed with this era of the show back then. And that's probably because it's filmed like every other boring piece of television I didn't care about.

I think as far as creepy, nice guys go, Xander Harris was essentially Patient Zero for that gross phenomena. I found his "You're like a guy" thing to Willow appalling for that reason. Which is why I smiled when Buffy drunkenly told him he was like one of the girls. I think Xander's behavior towards Buffy is creepy. I liked that moment because he actually had to pay for it a little.

Buffy's mom Joyce is annoying at this stage of the game, but she's real. The movie version of Buffy's mom is a cartoon caricature of the most clueless and absent mother ever. I like that as annoyed as Joyce's foolishness makes me, she does actually care about Buffy. Although the real thing that tells me that she's not paying attention to her is that Buffy tells her there was an accident during the cheerleading tryouts and she doesn't look up and say, "My God, what happened? Are you okay?" I actually think it's out of character and bad writing that she doesn't do that, but television wasn't TOO concerned with making parents on teen-themed shows entirely realistic or sympathetic to viewers. And that's another failing.

I will say something nice. Anything I really objected to was due to it being a weak episode. Not due to the producers failing women and minorities. It's just not a strong script. Which is frankly nice. Because I am predisposed to like the show. If I don't have any ideological problems with it, I'm inclined to just sit back and enjoy a crappy episode. Now maybe this episode was slightly TOO crappy to actually enjoy. But I suspect better episodes coming up with nothing infuriating in them will be very enjoyable to watch. **.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Teacher's Pet"

I'm with Buffy and Giles. I liked Dr. Gregory too. Although it's weird he has his name embroidered on his labcoat.

The look on Sarah Michelle Gellar's face as she was listening to Cordelia's counseling session was priceless.

Principle Flutie remains one of the most inconsistently written characters in the franchise's history.

This episode starts the trend from this era of the show of making the last scene or shot a cliffhanger that is never followed up on.

It's a bit noticeable that in the establishing shots of Sunnydale High, the same people walk in front of it (in the same clothes) each time.

The She-Mantis puppet is fake-looking, but here's an unusual opinion: That kind of thing doesn't actually matter. None of Buffy's non-human creatures have ever been remotely credible during its entire run, and that never stopped my enjoyment of the show, even knowing and being able to tell they were totally fake. Realism in science fiction and fantasy is a vastly overrated commodity. If the writing is actually good, the visual effects don't matter. It's a pity current stuff takes the opposite stance.

Only so-so as far as it goes, but that pretty much describes Season 1 in general. **1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Never Kill A Boy On The First Date"

The Anointed One reveal at the end was pretty great.

I still use the phrase "Okay, at this point you are abusing sarcasm," in my everyday life.

I'm not saying Whedon was eyeing Cordelia for Angel in a spin-off at this point in the game, but "Hello, Salty Goodness" is still somewhat ironic in hindsight.

Xander's creepiness has gotten a fair amount of backlash in hindsight (he's particularly bad in this episode) but I wonder why Cordelia doesn't get the same shade for exhibiting the exact same predatory behavior here. Probably because the gender power dynamics are reversed, but I rarely have seen Cordelia grosser and more unlikable than this episode.

Speaking of Xander, that bit with the Tweety Bird watch was hysterical. One of the funniest things on the series up to this point.

All right. **1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Pack"

Technically, the scariest episode so far. But's it's also not aged well.

The rape implications are pretty nasty, but that's par for the course for the show, and simply the introduction to the producers using that as a threat against the female heroes by the male ones. It's systemic and gross, and it's really unfortunate.

I want to address the Zookeeper's demise. Buffy threw him into the hyena pit. For all intents and purposes she killed him. Why is nobody making the federal case out of her doing that when they were all over Faith for doing the same thing to the Deputy Mayor in Season 3, except by accident? I have found that when it comes to television and the morality of its heroes, when it is and isn't appropriate to use lethal force is entirely arbitrary.

I find Principle Flutie's death unfortunate not simply because he didn't deserve it. But it's clear he was only killed off because he didn't quite mesh with the dynamic of the rest of the show, and the writers were clearly frustrated by that. It's a valid storytelling choice, but whenever TV writers do it, it certainly is never fair to the actor for the character the writers couldn't crack. But the close-up of the smiling photo makes me feel especially bad in hindsight.

There are a couple of amusing things in the episode. Giles declaring Xander a 16 year old boy, and Buffy calling that him trying to Scully her was fun. It also delighted me to realize the lead bully Kyle was played by a youmg Eion Bailey, who played August on Once Upon A Time. I suspect if I like watching the franchise less this time than I do any of the others, I might be a bit surprised and delighted about who I now know used to be on the show in a bit role.

My biggest question is something I would have been asking the entire time if I were a better writer or a more observant viewer back in the day. We took this for granted during the Oz episodes but it really makes no sense. Why does the school library have a cage? I don't get that bit, and it's weird it's not something I've ever questioned before.

For the record, the Zookeeper was giving me skeevy feelings from the beginning of the episode. It's very weird that I seem to recall being surprised by the twist ending at the time. In reality, his behavior in the first scene would have been a red flag to the 45 year old me he was responsible all along. The painting already being on the floor would also not be something I would have missed if I had watch this for the first time today.

I found the scene in the Bronze at the beginning of Buffy and Willow discussing Xander and Angel entirely insufferable. Whedon had obviously never heard of the Bechdel test. Almost all female on female scenes in this show so far have been about discussing love-lives. Not great.

One of the interesting things about the episode that I have not seen it complimented about (although most fans seem to agree it's a good episode in an otherwise bad season) is that it's very interesting that lot of the performances and cues being asked for the actors to get across to the audience are entirely nonverbal. The gym teacher's dumb joke about loving the brutality of the dodgeball game is besides the point, and probably only there to help any dummies in the audience who couldn't quite grasp how horrible that was supposed to be. But I like that a lot of what the characters are feeling is shown mostly through their expressions and non-verbal cues. That's unusual for television, especially for television from this era.

But yeah, the whole franchise is starting to feel a bit shaky in hindsight. If I'm noticing the dumbness of a cage in the library way back in episode 6, what other dumb stuff in the future will I no longer tolerate? Eyes wide open, man. For sure. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Angel"

If you had told me going in that this was the first episode of Buffy I really would have laid into and nitpicked to death, I would have been shocked. "Angel" is generally considered by all fans to be a turning point into the show becoming great. It didn't turn the show great YET. But it wouldn't have later become great without it. I am a little amazed and disturbed that if Arrow had aired this episode two seasons ago, I'd give it one star at best. Some positive turning point.

Let's start off with the ugly. Xander telling Cordelia her outfit makes her look like a hooker is eye-opening to me. Major red flag there. Not only is it uncalled for, it's not even funny. It's telling that Joss Whedon identifies most with Xander Harris and made him the comic relief at the same time. I'm starting to get the feel for how he treats other people just based on the way Xander does. He thinks those kind of remarks are cute and endearing instead of hurtful and annoying. And it seems like he always did.

Yes, I'm aware David Greenwalt's name is in the writing credits. But Whedon was famous for sprinkling one-liners into other writers' scripts. If he didn't write that specific line, I'll eat my hat.

Buffy talking about Darla being a bit worn around the edges is gross for the same reason, although since it's not constructed entirely as a clever quip, it's possible Whedon didn't write it.

It's very weird the Master is talking about power and responsibilities. That's Spider-Man's whole bit.

Kristine Sutherland made an interesting acting choice that I love, that I also entirely missed until now. But when she meets Angel for the first time, Sutherland plays it as if Joyce clearly doesn't like him. Whoever this strange man is, he's bad news, and she's trying to figure out how to get Buffy away from him without driving her straight into his arms. It's interesting that Joyce doesn't like or approve of Angel instantly, but she always seems to have gotten along with Spike. Which tickles me in hindsight.

Giles' problem with fighting Buffy with the quarterstaff is that he forgets she has superpowers. Her easy victory is a lot less impressive than the show is saying it is.

Even knowing it's coming, the Angel vampire reveal is quite effective. I don't know if I would have actually been surprised if I had first seen this episode before I already Angel's deal (I started watching the show in Season 2) but the dramatic beats of making it and revealing it as a surprise are sound.

In reality, don't you think this is something Angel should have already revealed and discussed with Buffy ahead of time? Granted, there would be no drama in the episode if they had done that, but I am not a big approver of creating drama in lieu of common sense.

If you ever need proof how dated the show actually is, just witness how freely Angel uses the word "Gypsies".

In Angel's first Vampire episode, it's revealed he has hospital blood-bags in his fridge. In later episodes it's said Angel drinks pig's blood, and that human blood is addictive and dangerous for him to drink because it makes him overly aggressive. I don't blame the writers for not having that down completely in his first real episode, but it's a difference I notice.

I'm not saying the episode and the show downplayed Angelus' old actions in this episode. After all the Master declares "Angel" the most vicious creature he's ever met. At the same time, Giles saying Angelus was like all of the other Vampires will be retconned in season 2, when it's revealed that he's probably the cruelest and most evil vampire who ever lived. He's like if Hannibal Lecter lost his soul and humanity. It's also weird to hear the Master and Darla call him Angel when describing his previous evil actions. The series was not quite consistent on that point yet. Hearing Darla call him Angel after he's staked her especially hits the ear wrong.

Giles pronounces "Angelus" correctly right off the bat, but he's one of the few characters in the first two seasons who do.

"It's so nice of you to invite me into your home." I don't like that line of Darla's. At all. It's said for effect for the sake of the audience, but it's not something a real person would ever say. This isn't just a problem with Buffy The Vampire Slayer by the way. That kind of atrocious dialogue was endemic in ALL television in 1997, especially genre. Subtlety was unheard of, and almost every show needed to hit the audience over the head with what was going on for fear of losing the audience's interest because the average audience member in question couldn't follow complex ideas. Now due to cable and streaming, television can be a lot more intelligently written, because smart people can now seek out smart shows, and those shows can find audiences and make money without having to worry about dumb viewers getting lost. Buffy was a show on network television at the time, and that line is a prime piece of evidence that it equally depended on dumb eyeballs as much as smart ones in a way current good television doesn't need to.

While I'm on the subject of bad writing, Buffy finding Angel in the position with Joyce she did is beyond lazy, and not credible, and they really had to set up a ton of unbelievable and unlikely pieces to make it happen. As huge a moment as it is to see Buffy believe Angel has fed on and tried to kill her mother, they had to move mountains to put Angel in that specific moment, and none of it is remotely believable. I don't like that either.

Angel and Buffy's fight at the end, as well as him goading her feel entirely unnecessary too.

Willow and Buffy can still talk about nothing but boys. It's really tiresome.

I like that Joyce questions what the school librarian is doing at the hospital to see her. Her asking that tells me she's far more sensible than the writers who gave her the lines about barbecue forks or the school really caring would have you believe.

Darla using guns was a nice wrinkle.

Angel says here that he's never fed on another human being since the day he was cursed. This was later retconned. Big time. He's actually done it several times.

I adore the phrase "With a song in my heart" to describe violent, unforgivable actions. I named a Gilda And Meek story after that phrase for the same reason. It gives me the chills.

I like the moment where Collin comforts the Master about losing Darla. I like it because it's a moment of empathy for two characters I barely know and roundly dislike anyways. What I especially like about it is that Collin uses the evil framework of "Darla was weak and we're better off without her". And he's doing it to make the Master feel better! One of the interesting things about the vampires in the franchise is that they can exhibit love, concern, and caring. And that doesn't change the fact that they are completely evil creatures at the same time. I think this is the first time we've witnessed that idea outside of Angel, and later on Spike and Drusilla. And it's the only time we've gotten that for either the Master OR the Anointed One as well.

I have to say it was a huge mistake to kill off Darla this soon. She's a great character, and I see why Angel: The Series resurrected her. I get the logic of killing her off. By Angel doing that, he's resisting temptation once and for all, and casting the die and throwing in with the good guys. The problem is Darla still being a temptation would have been good for the show. I don't like or respond to love triangles, but this one already exists, and the stakes are much larger than "My boyfriend didn't call me tonight. I think he's cheating". I get the storytelling logic of Angel definitively choosing Buffy for this episode. I just don't agree with it. And this is spoken as someone who HATES love triangles! This one actually half-works, and it's not one I'd simply get rid of. Simply because there are so few that actually do.

I will give the episode something. And it's something all Mutant Enemy shows deserve credit for: A great last scene. The cross being burned into Angel's chest after Buffy describing their last kiss as painful is properly romantic, grand, epic, iconic, memorable, and all those other big superlatives you want in a tragic romance. And I take note that unlike the contrivance of Buffy finding a half-dead Joyce in Angel's arms, they didn't have to move mountains to create the scene. It feels right and perfect, and it's the reason I respond to the Buffyverse in the first place.

Unfortunately, it's quite possible that great and memorable scene colored my response to how good the episode actually was back in the day. It actually sucked. But truthfully I don't think that amazing ending was why I overlooked the suckiness of the rest of the episode before now. I think I simply wasn't a sophisticated enough viewer and writer to recognize the rest of the episode as sucky, or understand that many of the story turns and pieces of cliched dialogue were b.s.. I'm not saying I've gotten too demanding in the meantime, but standards on TV HAVE been raised, and there is plenty of current stuff that can deliver an ending that bittersweet without the rest of the script being an utter mess. I think my standards have simply changed. What this means for me rewatching the rest of the franchise going forward is anybody's guess. *1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "I Robot, You Jane"

The last time I reviewed this episode (in the beforetimes) was back when I got my first DVD player and reviewed the Buffy: Season 1 set (one of the first DVD's I ever got). I've seen it a few times since that review (which was quite pedestrian by my current writing standards) and I've also been through many DVD and Blu-Ray players in the meantime, but this is the first time I'll be writing down my thoughts since then.

And the episode "Angel" concerned me because I always liked it back in the day, and clearly I was wrong. My old review declares "I Robot, You Jane" the single worst episode in the entire Buffyverse, with the worst dialogue hands down. Not an exact quote, but close enough. Can you see my concern from here?

And yeah, it sucks, and yeah, it's probably the worst episode of Buffy (although there are a couple of Angel episodes that I hate more in hindsight). But what surprised me going in is that I liked the opening scene. It's a flashback to the 1600's which is refreshing and unusual enough. But the romance it's depicting that Moloch has cast on his last victim before Willow is actually same-sex, which I can't believe didn't register with me before. I must have simply thought Moloch's love worked differently between male and female acolytes, but I'm a very simple minded viewer now, no longer invested in refusing to believe what I'm seeing. The dude Moloch kills at the beginning is clearly gay, and it's weird that didn't register before.

But from there it's pretty much all downhill from Fritz's embarrassing "jacked on" rant. But the first thing the awful episode did to me is surprise me with a scene I liked.

Let me see if I get this straight: Sunnydale High allows Xander to walk around with a T-shirt that says "Porn star" on it? How did I miss that? High definition makes everything better (and in this case much worse).

This is the era of teen television in which everything on the internet is portrayed as inherently dangerous. It's not just dated, it's wrong about the actual dangers that exist. Since this aired I have become aware of some of the very real dangerous things the internet has been responsible for. And almost all of those dangerous things DO involve misinformation. But it's more to do with people sharing hatred and propaganda, rather than tricking teen girls in chatrooms. I'm not saying that isn't a problem. But considering all of the real problems social media has caused the world, and this country in particular in the meantime, warnings about internet stranger danger feel like missing the forest for the trees. The real danger of the internet isn't the person on the other end. It's the misinformation that gets passed back and forth. People in 2021 meatspace using the internet rarely cause the kinds of havoc seen in 1997 network TV, and if they do, Chris Hansen is on top of it. I feel like the episode acting like the freedom of untold information is the great thing, but making online connections is bad, is the opposite moral they should be teaching.

Granted, I have 24 years of hindsight to think that, but it's another reason this episode (and the show) are dated.

It's not credible Giles doesn't know Spider-Man. He's 40 years old, and a person.

"We read make our speaking English is good," is a great line. It's terrible dialogue, and in the episode with the worst dialogue, I am unsurprised they made it funny. It's the writers playing to their strengths.

I knew I would be giving the episode a zero again by the scene with Willow writing to Malcolm in the computer library. Why does her school computer have a speech function? The show tries to pass Malcolm's voice off as emotionless but a real speech function in 1997 would actually sound like Stephen Hawking. There would be no inflections at ALL. And this is an intimate conversation, right? Why would she make it audible in a public area of the school? And it IS a public area. So where are all the other students? Is the show saying she's the only youth there interested in using a computer?

And why is Dave using the speech function? He's essentially discussing and admitting his crimes in a public. And you know what? The suicide note read out-loud was extra tacky. I don't find that funny or entertaining. This show has some messed up priorities and ideas about what good horror actually is. That's just sick.

Later when Moloch is in the robot body, it's clear how and why he was able to make the speech function work that way. Which means it never would have worked in real life, and as a computer nerd Willow would already know that. Before Miss Calendar came along, Willow was the group hacker. They made her in explicably computer illiterate in this episode which is another sign it's badly written.

This writing is all shady if you ask me. I called this the worst episode ever 15 years ago. If I was right is to be determined. But there's a ton of awful stuff in it that actually blew by me at the time.

"Tell me the truth. How's my hair?" That admittedly made me laugh.

Xander falls down off the fence as if Uncle Phil just threw him out of the Bel Air mansion.

I never gave the episode proper credit for this because I started watching in Season 2, but Miss Calendar already being in the loop about the demon on the internet IS actually a good and surprising twist.

I like when Giles suggests a computer virus, Miss Calendar says he's seen too many movies. That's actually great.

I'll tell you what I like: I like it because it happens over and over again, and isn't quite in your face any time. But Moloch appears to be creating various obscene moments of internet havoc among the tertiary or background characters. During scene transitions various never-before-seen characters express frustration over their laptops acting in bizarrely violent and even fascist ways. And I like that it's not made explicit for any of those weird happenings, and the viewer has to tie that together themselves. I will give this episode zero stars with no regrets. But the truth is it's better than I remembered in a lot of ways. Because of that.

"Demon come!" is like the dirtiest demonic command in hindsight.

Willow's last confrontation with Malcolm was beyond excruciating. I said this episode had the worst dialogue? Yup.

The score during the climax is pretty tinny and amateurish-sounding too. Even for this season.

I like Giles' thing at the end about liking books over computers because they smell and have texture. It's understandable. It's weird. But it's understandable.

For the record it's a quirk I share. Tactile sensation is why I prefer books to Kindle and DVD's to streaming. It's relatable even if Jenny doesn't think it is. Physicality is the key. It's amazing the TV show is talking about this 20 years before I ever heard anyone else bring it up. It's definitely a real thing.

One last thing before I grade the episode the zero it may or not actually deserve. Joss Whedon said something many years ago after I watched and graded this episode so poorly that made me pause. He said it contained his favorite scene of the entire first season: The conversation between Buffy, Xander, and Willow talking about their disasters with relationships, and ending upon Xander joking that they were doomed, them all laughing, and then realizing it's not funny because it's true. Watching it again, I see why Whedon liked it. I still don't. It's cloying, and sounds like it comes from snarky adults on a sitcom rather than teenagers with actual problems. That's probably true for a LOT of the dialogue on the show. But I'm not giving this episode or that scene extra credit for it. It's actually kind of annoying.

So yeah, worst episode ever. At least until the one in Angel: Season 3 where Angel verbally threatens to eat his infant son in front of Wesley at the end, and Wesley is supposedly the bad guy for trying to stop it in the next episode. But one dud at a time. 0.
 
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Matt Zimmer
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Puppet Show"

I suspected two things going in, and knowing them made me make a promise to myself. I was 95% sure that this episode was going to be overrated by both the creators and the fans. And I promised myself that wouldn't matter when I'm reviewing it. No matter its quality, I'm going to judge it by my own standards and expectations, not anyone else's. We'll see how I did.

In truth, I still feel the episode is overrated. But it's still the best episode so far. Why? We'll get to that. But it's a well constructed mystery for the viewer, that interests me because it isn't one for the characters. The characters take an awful lot on faith, and even though the audience is given the information they are right to (out of context) Buffy and her friends have no way of knowing that. When Xander suggests they may have been "Keyzer Sozed" for all THEY knew, he could have been right. And they would have been screwed because they would have had no counter to that. But that's for later. We'll get there soon enough.

First, I again object to the idea that there are several murders at the school and the students are not sent home, and school and / or the talent show aren't canceled as a result.

I'll tell you something that shocked me. Principle Snyder was infamous on this show for being the one character with zero redeeming virtues. But I actually liked his first scene. I loathed him as much as I remembered from his second scene forward, but I like that he hears Buffy, Willow, and Xander mocking a teacher's discomforts and punishes them for it. What shocks me is that it actually serves them right. They were being obnoxious brats simply because they knew Giles wouldn't call them on it. Regardless of their relationship to Giles outside of school, they shouldn't be talking to him like that IN school, especially in front of other people. In school he is not their peer or their friend. He's an authority figure. I liked the new principle reacting badly to that and defending his teacher's honor.

Of course in the very next scene Snyder is revealed to be the single worst human dirtbag in the show, but I'm shocked his earliest negative impression of Buffy and friends is actually justified. Did not expect that.

Things Snyder won't tolerate: "Students loitering on campus after school. Horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking." So we know the dude's priorities.

He is also a sufficient red herring and mislead. He's so horrible you wish he's the culprit, which is part of why you might think he is.

Xander and Giles' trick with Cordelia's hair IS kinda neat.

Let's delve in the mystery further. I think it's exceptional as far as the viewer is concerned. In fact, I don't believe I've understood exactly how tight it was, and how impressive its narrative tricks were before this viewing. And one of the reasons I noticed THIS time is because I am aware that the Buffyverse has a problem of telling very unfair mysteries to the viewer, that do not hold up to scrutiny. That is the entirety of the arcs of Season 7 of Buffy and Seasons 3 and 4 of Angel. It is obviously easier to tell a mystery fairly if it only occurs over the course of one episode. But the episode went above and beyond at first glance.

The thing I love is the deliciously brief, out-of-context scene between Sid and Morgan, where Sid is trying to convince Morgan to kill Buffy. Outside of everything else, it means Sid is guilty. Knowing the actual solution means the writers basically figured out a genius way to make a scene of Sid planning Buffy's murder being iron-clad evidence to the audience in hindsight that Sid is actually innocent! Another major clue (which I missed entirely until this viewing) is that when Xander takes Sid to the library, while Giles, Willow, and Xander don't say anything that sounds incriminating to each other, to an outside observer with Sid's mission, the things they are researching, and the fact that they are trying to help Buffy, makes them sound like willing and knowing accomplices to a demon murderer. Now if Sid were slightly smarter, he'd question how and why Demon Buffy could possibly have finagled real human allies, but it works if you accept Sid is under pressure, and believes he's working on a clock. Everything fits.

For the audience. In reality, Buffy was foolish to trust him. Or at least trust him as much she did. I'm not saying her trust was unfounded or unreasonable, but it could have screwed them if she was wrong. And I think her being right is luck more than anything. If Sid had been scamming Buffy (or as Xander put it, Keyser Sozeing her) he said the exact right things. I recently wrote a comic book story involving the fake psychic scam known as "cold reading" which is how John Edward convinces grieving people he can contact their dead loved ones, and why I believe that man is sinister and belongs in jail. But I recognized a lot of what Sid said as consistent with how cold readers get people to believe unlikely stories. One of those ways is to flatter the listener. He tells her he suspected she was the demon because how could not after seeing what she could do? Also playing to Buffy's vanity is Sid claiming to have known and loved a Slayer. The reality is, if Sid WERE Keyser Soze, these are all lies he could have believably made up off the top of his head to cover his tracks. And Buffy would have believed him anyways, even if he were guilty. The audience is given a few ironclad instances that Sid is on the level. Buffy should actually be a LOT less sure of that than she claims to Xander, if she were being more responsible. But she believes Sid is on the level for the same reason people believe in John Edward: He made a seemingly real connection with her. The fact that it WAS real is random luck as far as I'm concerned. He offered no proof, and him disappearing when he did meant Xander's theory should at least have been considered.

I love mysteries that make me pour through minutia, which makes this a good one.

Finally, let's talk about the tag. Probably the most overrated scene in Buffy history. I have been a Buffy fan for a LONG time. I actually used to collect the VHS tapes. The tapes were also woefully inadequately collected and the first 3 seasons essentially only contained the 6 most important episodes to the given season's arc. The last Season 1 tape collected this episode instead of Prophecy Girl which was a mistake beyond all reason.

And the reason given for including it with the tapes is the tag. In 1997 when this aired, networks used to cut off the end credits of programs, and the makers of the tapes assumed people would like to have this for posterity because obviously it would only be aired on the WB the once, and never seen again. But I've seen it aired repeatedly since then, even on the WB. FX aired it in every time it broadcast the episode, so I think the makers of the tapes thought it would be a rarer Easter Egg than it was. And yeah, it's on Hulu with no fuss or muss too.

And you know what? It's not even funny. It's not worth destroying the entire Season One arc just for a 30 second improv from the cast. So that's where I stand.

So yeah, maybe the episode is overpraised for some things. But on another real level (the construction of the mystery) I don't think it's praised enough. ****1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Nightmares"

Ah, the Fear / Nightmare Trope. A better demonstration of it here than most projects. And this is spoken as someone who doesn't really dig the episode. It's boring, but it still used the trope well.

I have a surprisingly significant superficial-sounding complaint. The actor who plays Billy looks FAR too similar to Andrew J. Ferchland. I've seen the episode many times, so I know better, but if it had been a few weeks since you last saw the Anointed One, you might be a little confused about who the kid in the teaser is. The fact that Ferchland is in the episode too doesn't help much. They look that much alike.

If you ever believed Marti Noxon was a terrible writer and showrunner, and should not have been placed in charge of things from Season 6 onward, this episode gives you all the proof of that you need. It is clearly demonstrated here that Buffy has a very real fear of being buried alived, the other characters see that for themselves, and it isn't brought up once in the first three episodes of season 6 (or ever again). Make no mistake: Joss Whedon is not off the hook for this unforgivable oversight either. He actually wrote the story for this specific episode! If he were doing the bare minimum of his job, instead of spending his free time telling the cast and other writers how much he thinks they suck, he would have caught this himself. Season 6 really is unacceptable on every level.

I very much like that idea that when Collin was a mortal boy, his biggest fear was monsters. A child psychologist would have a field day with The Annoying One.

"It's funny if you're me," is a good line. And really unfortunate in hindsight. And almost certainly written by Whedon. Like I said. Unfortunate.

I mentioned this is a great use of the Fear / Nightmare Trope. I love Wendell's fear of spiders. Because he doesn't hate them, he loves them, and his fear come from guilt. That's a very interesting and unusual dynamic which is why this episode uses the trope better than most.

Unfortunately as well written as the tropes are, for a horror episode, the direction is really quite bland. It could have been seen on Degrassi Junior High in the 1980's. That's how basic the school drama is. That's a regular problem for Season 1, but it should not effect the Nightmare episode. It does right by the trope in the writing (rare) and botches the execution (frankly, also rare).

Like "I Robot, You Jane", various misfortunes involving the premise seem to be happening in the background to various never-before-seen characters. Also like that episode, they are mostly played for laughs (the tough kid being embarrassed by his gushy mom is kind of funny).

Kudos to the show for making Cordelia's fears as stupid as they should be.

I am very unimpressed that Xander is the type of person who picks up random candy off the floor and eats it. I don't care that it's already wrapped, he doesn't know where it comes from, or where it's been, so it's totally stupid and nasty.

And he's so stupid he can't even imagine brand-name candy bars.

Willow's stage fright fears were great. Do you know what's ironic? Alyson Hannigan obviously has some real-life hang-ups about her singing voice, so it's kind of funny this was a part of Willow before it ever became an issue in the musical episode.

Buffy as a vampire was interesting. It's played as if that's what she actually is but it doesn't completely track because she never acts or does anything evil. But that describes Spike sometimes when he has a larger agenda of working with the Scoobies. Perhaps evil Buffy thought being human again and saving the day were actually in her best interest. But that still doesn't fully track with the behavior of other vampires.

Still a vampire doing the right and noble thing for entirely selfish reasons is not unheard of. That's that janky raping cretin Spike's entire reason for getting his soul back. I just can quite figure out what Buffy's selfish reasons could possibly be, especially considering how empathetically she still treats Billy.

I'm probably overthinking it, and it was simply badly written. But the problem is that I'm always the guy trying to figure out reasons why what I just saw wasn't actually badly written. It's a definite flaw of mine and I tend to rate bad episodes of something I otherwise like higher than I should because of it. This episode will probably be another example of that.

Do you know what does track? Giles' fear of Buffy dying, and her fears of being buried alive and turning into a vampire compound on and compliment each other beautifully. There is almost an elegance and symmetry to each worsening level of horror there.

Finally, I'm going to go into a bit of depth why the Fear / Nightmare Trope almost never works, at least not for me. I almost never believe it or find it credible.

Most projects are unwilling to give their heroes realistic fears in these types of episodes. Their scenarios are so outlandish and outside of the audience's experience, that you'd think the first thing the character would wonder is if they were dreaming, realize they were, and find the power to fight the nightmare and wake themselves up. The very first time I saw the trope (outside of Star Trek, which has so much crazy stuff going on it doesn't count) was the third episode ever of Batman: The Animated Series, "Nothing To Fear". That episode is utter turd on every level, and it's the biggest reason I think that for the most part, the DC Animated Universe version of Scarecrow is a total dud.

You see, Batman's life is genuinely scary. He deals with life-threatening and horrifying things every night. But that was the era of kids television that believed a hero showing a human emotion like fear is a weakness, rather than something the viewer, young or old can relate to. No, when Scarecrow sics his fear toxic on Batman, Batman isn't afraid of the Joker learning his identity and killing everyone he cares about. He's afraid... Groan, his father, Thomas Wayne would be disappointed in him! Of course! Basically the producers decided the actual scary thing in Batman's life is the idea that he simply isn't awesome ENOUGH! It's a bit disgusting on some level to be truthful. Instead of me thinking Batman brave for not having a life-threatening, or God forbid "unflattering" fear, I'm questioning the World's Great Detective's logical capabilities. He's freaking Batman! There is no part of Thomas Wayne that would ever be ashamed of him and not proud of every inch of him. How dumb is Batman's fear to boil down to bogus insecurity he should already know isn't true? They wanted to give Batman a flattering fear? In truth it makes it so I cannot actually think any less of him. What a dope.

You can argue, "Fears are irrational, and fears don't make sense." Which would be perfectly fine if Batman were a stupid and gullible person. Intelligence-wise he's supposed to be one of the smartest people in the world! And he worries Daddy won't love him for risking his neck every night to save lives and bring criminals to justice in his parents' honor? C'mon, now. How dumb do you think I am? Because you are portraying the World's Greatest Detective as even dumber than that.

The reasons Buffy's fears resonate with me is because I think a lot of them are justified. Not only because stuff like Xander being in his underwear is coming true, but as the series progressed, although we RARELY saw Hank Summers, what we DID see of him leads me to believe he's one of the worst fictional fathers on television. I don't believe Buffy is being a drama queen for her essentially having Batman's same fear. I believe she totally thinks Hank has this in him to actually say to her on a bad day. What makes me angry (and really empathize with Buffy's pain here) is that I think she's right. The guy is never there, and frankly him giving a real reason for cutting ties other than just always refusing to answer the phone would actually be a vast improvement. Basically, as horrible as Buffy's vision of her father is, he's far more present and real in the dream state than he is in reality. I sympathize with Buffy rather than Batman because Batman thinking Thomas Wayne sucks is unforgivable, and Buffy thinking Hank Summers sucks is totally accurate. Did I mention that I love how the episode uses the trope and it's one of the few fictional projects I did? Buffy can't reason herself out of the worst of this stuff because unlike most saps who fall for and believe the dumb things the trope shows them, she has no evidence they are actually untrue. Maybe she'd piece it together quicker knowing a bunch of nightmarish things are happening to everybody else too, but it's credible simply because Hank DOES suck that much, and Buffy always believed he had that in him. And he probably would have said something similar to this at some point if he weren't such a GD coward all the time.

Like I said, the episode handled the premise wonderfully. I'm not giving it five stars though. No TV episode that ever does the awful and lame Wizard of Oz callback at the end deserves that. Four's the best I can do. Sorry. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Out Of Mind... Out Of Sight"

Can you believe it's episode 11 and this is Cordelia's first spotlight? Long overdue.

Her chastising Shakespeare's Shylock for every single thing she herself is guilty of is Cordelia in a nutshell.

I like that Buffy is wistful that she used to be May Queen. Xander isn't selling the "You don't need that, you've got us now," argument very well, is he?

Actually, Xander, the vampire bat joke WAS funny. It borders on criminal no-one else laughed.

"Can you say 'Gulp?'" Another good one.

Principle Snyder is proving to be an effective thorn in the heroes' sides. He's an unneeded complication in scenes that didn't used to have that complication, which makes him an good antagonist. Plus Armin Shimerman makes the dude super easy to hate.

Ultimately, I don't think the invisibility gimmick is believable here. At least not to me. I imagine there are superhero fans who'd dig it. But my problem with the power is the person would always be accidentally knocking into people who don't see them. Marci commits her attacks in crowded public spaces, gets away clean each time, and isn't knocked over flat even once. Xander said it's the superpower he wants the most. It's the one I'd want least. It's the Monkey's Paw of superpowers. It's the one that puts the person in the most unwitting danger without even realizing it until the truck hits them. And it never stops. The episode exploring its abilities without ever even hinting at the alarmingly huge amount of drawbacks means it's failing the premise.

You could argue that maybe Marci doesn't knock people over because she's had the power for so long and mastered it. My opinion is that is not something a person could EVER get used to or master. A ninja maybe. A high school girl? No way.

I loved Xander's line of "Want to come over for dinner? Mom's making her famous phone call to the Chinese place." That's great. It clearly came from a middle-aged comedy writer rather than a high school kid. But that's why it's funny.

Vampires not casting shadows is a form of invisibility. No wonder Angel has Giles spooked. But not being able to see yourself in the mirror is an overrated pleasure.

Do you know what REALLY bums me out about Angel and Giles' first scene? They really like each other! Giles is legitimately grateful to have someone find something as amazing as the Codex for him and I get the sense Angel is never allowed to talk to guys like Giles as a peer. Until now. They don't exactly trust each other yet. But they both trust Buffy and that's good enough. It kills me that Giles is a far bigger advocate for Angel's role as Buffy's helper than Xander ever could be. Especially considering what that vampire butthole is gonna wind up doing to him in season 2 when he turns evil. What a waste of a perfectly good potential bromance.

Cordelia's May Queen acceptance speech is TOO terrible. I know it's supposed to be funny, but there is no way I can sympathize with anything else bad that happens to her in the episode from that point forward. The problem with Season 1 Cordelia is that she simply isn't dumb (or innocent) enough. She's too smart and insightful to be forgiven. She seems to be fully aware of how horrible she is. But believes it's fully justified against whichever lesser being she chooses to bully. Which makes her deplorable rather than funny.

I like Charisma Carpenter's line-reading on "Bait?". I also like Buffy correctly agreeing with Cordy that canceling the celebration is letting Marci win, and that that's wrong because she's way more evil than Cordy herself. What's especially messed up is that it's true.

Cordelia's speech to Buffy about feeling alone is something she believes is a valid explanation for her messed up views and behavior. In reality, it's a blazing indictment of them. Like I said, she's TOO smart. She knows how wrong it is, and does it anyways. That justification to Buffy seemed to justify Marci's actions far more than they would be if Cordy hadn't said it.

I like Marci calling that out for being the manipulative drivel it was when she tried it on her. But as Buffy said, she's a full-on loony. so I can't fully support her disgust with that while she's attempting to carve up and disfigure Cordy's face to horrify future generations of children. Bummer.

FBI guys all around the episode in the background. The show is always good at those kinds of background "set-up" Easter Eggs. They get especially good at them in Season 4. This is a good and rough early example.

Buffy was all "Little late, fellas," to the FBI agents and she was right. They've been on-campus the entire episode. There was no excuse for them to only show up after it was already over.

Like "Teacher's Pet", the episode ends on a twisted and delightful cliffhanger that was never resolved, nor ever intended to be resolved. But the idea of the government having a special ops team of invisible assassins is great. Am I wrong in thinking this probably should have come up in the Initiative arc in Season 4?

This was solid but I found plenty to complain about too. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Prophecy Girl"

The underwhelming end to the teaser with the Master was fun specifically because it was deliberately underwhelming as a joke and wink to the audience. This is definitely the first episode written and directed by Whedon.

Buffy breaking a nail is a callback to the movie. The end of the world is truly nigh for that reason.

This episode is a turning point. It contains the best scene Joss Whedon had ever written up to that point. Granted, Sarah Michelle Gellar did most of the heavy lifting, but the words he gave her were pitch perfect: "I'm 16 years old. I don't want to die." How is it that people were screaming at the unfairness of Sarah Michelle Gellar being snubbed for an Emmy nomination for "The Body" when the truth is she should have been nominated already in Season 1 for this? When she asks if it will hurt my heart breaks. She throws things at Giles when he starts talking about the signs, and she yells at him to tell her her fortune, and that he's useless there with "your books". That's a perfect distillation of the unfairness of the Watcher / Slayer dynamic. Granted, it's no fun for Giles. But just because as Buffy herself says, "That the deal," doesn't mean it's not a totally raw deal.

Xander's invitation to Buffy to the dance it outwardly sweet. But it drives me crazy. He botches what could have been a nice moment for the both of them. When she tells him she doesn't want to ruin what they have, he could have backed down gracefully, said "You have a point", or "Call me if you ever change your mind." Instead he's like, "That's not the point. You either feel something or you don't." That manipulative. He's making Buffy be the bad guy, and he counting his increasingly diminished chances on the fact that's she too nice to be direct with him. But I don't think a "nice guy" backing a girl into a corner deserves niceness. Because he isn't being nice. Frankly this is a lesson I could have probably taken myself earlier in my life and saved myself some grief, but I don't like the fact that stuff like this ALWAYS happens on TV with characters like Xander and the character is never called on it.

What's worse is he's petulant and rude to her after HE forced HER to do that. He not only forced her to be the bad guy, but let her feel and believe she was that every second she had to do it. Some friend.

Frankly when Aeryn called out Stark for this on Farscape, as a person who loved Stark, I was devastated. But she was right to do it, and it also made me admire both her and Farscape. It's not fair that Xander is putting the responsibility to set limits in their relationship entirely on her. I wouldn't even object too much to her feeling her out and seeing where the limits need to be. But he shouldn't be making her set them all herself. That's not fair. If he senses she's uncomfortable, he needs to back up, at least a little. He shouldn't be demanding a definitive answer from her about something she's clearly never even thought about before.

And after all that, he thoughtlessly asks Willow to the dance without once considering how much that would actually hurt her. Because if there is one thing nice guy creeps are good at, it's spreading their nice guy creepiness outwards to infect others around them.

And what bothers me the most is that Xander is Joss Whedon's surrogate character! Whedon speaks though him. And apparently the initial plan was for Buffy and Xander to end up together! He didn't realize with all of the various petty sabotaging Xander has done between Buffy and Angel, including suggesting killing him without talking to him, how bad that would come off as? Am I really supposed to believe the guy who created television's most visible "Nice Guy" creep as his own surrogate is a feminist or an ally? And am I to understand he calls himself that without ever being a single bit aware of how episodes like this make Xander come across?

No, Joss, the problem isn't that people don't get you or your humor. The problem is you are a creep. That's always been the only problem, and why we aren't allowed nice things.

I do have a shameful confession. I have used the line "On a scale of 1 to 10, it sucked" many times. Often in these very reviews. I can only take my bashing and disdain of Xander and Whedon so far as long as I possess the brass to do that. Mea culpa.

I love the scene of Joyce giving Buffy the dress. Best mom ever. Although I think Joyce miscalculated something. She tries to sell the idea of her going to the prom alone and winding up meeting Hank as an example of a happy ending. Considering what a turd Hank is, it might actually be a cautionary tale instead.

I like that Miss Calendar expresses surprise that Buffy is the Vampire Slayer because she's so little. It's funny because it's true. That's only the kind of joke the series could do once it was up and running for a bit. It wouldn't make sense if Gellar hadn't been cast as Buffy yet. Which makes it fun.

The scene with Cordelia and Willow bonding over how annoying and not cute it was the guys were watching cartoons is amazing for how quickly it devolves from humor to appalling horror. The bloody handprint on the TV over the dancing pigs really sells what an actual violation to the kids' safety this actually is. And that's got to be extremely tough to get across in a show where students are routinely murdered every week. But the bloody handprint on the happy pigs sells why Willow is as devastated as she is, even after all this.

"It wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun." Joss Whedon's reputation for perfect dialogue is somewhat overstated, but things like this and Buffy's earlier scene with Angel and Giles are the reasons he has it to begin with.

Also, tell me again why school wasn't canceled after that.

After all that, Willow telling Buffy she likes her dress is why I like Willow. It's a perfectly Willow thing to say.

Again, I don't want to take away too much credit away from Joss Whedon's dialogue writing ability. He IS good. But ultimately it is probably fair to say that a LOT of his career success has to do with pure timing and luck. He is very lucky television was as bad and hackneyed and cliched as it was before he got there. The truth is the line, "Tell him... Think of something clever, and tell him I said it," is not particularly smart or clever as far as writing dialogue goes. But Whedon is the first guy ever to make that specific obvious joke so it seems like the most brilliant thing ever. Whedon's star only really started to diminish once people as good or better at this than he was started to give him competition. When the most famous TV writers from this era is a jackass like David E Kelly, who won shelffuls of Emmys despite being the worst fictional writer of the 1980's and 1990's, Whedon had the medium and the entire playing field to himself for two or three solid years. And people complaining about Whedon never winning an Emmy never really understand why it doesn't bother me. Those idiots gave Kelly, a writer who is basically a cautionary tale in every single aspect of how you should NOT write a script, boatloads of Emmys for multiple terrible series. I don't think Breaking Bad nabbing the Emmys even matters nowadays. After Kelly fooled the organization so long into believing he could pass for a good scriptwriter, writing Emmys are meaningless and not worth winning. Whedon never winning and only being nominated once is actually a career selling point if you ask me. Twin Peaks was shut out too. The Emmys don't reward great television. They reward easy television. What's amazing is that that line makes the impact it does because it's effortless. Because TV was so bad it never occurred to anyone else before Whedon wrote it. So Whedon saying a very funny but obvious joke makes him the hottest writer in Hollywood. And that's largely due to luck. If television were at the current quality it is now in 1997-99 Whedon would get practically no attention or traction. But his success involves writing great scenes when no-one else was even writing good ones. And never winning anything because none of his shows had a creepy dancing baby.

Whedon never needed to be great to catch fire the way he did. He just needed to be good when nothing else was. And yeah, that's what happened.

I think this next bit might be a plot-hole on Joss Whedon's part, but I'm going to choose to believe it was deliberate. But when Buffy tells the Anointed One she knows who he is, you can assume that the prophecy was botched by Joss himself, and he didn't keep the story consistent enough to make what he planned in episode 5 go down the way it should have. Whether that is true or not (and I suspect it's true) I choose to view it as a happy accident instead. If that huge a part of the prophecy is so clearly wrong, isn't it possible that Buffy's death is being misinterpreted too? And the reason I will give the episode that benefit of the doubt, is because that's what happened. I choose to believe a sloppy mistake is clever foreshadowing instead. Because despite all my negative reviews of various things, I like finding reasons to like a project rather than excuses to hate it. The notion that prophecies are not all they are cracked up to be gives me a reason to actually like the Annointed One's inconsistent arc. And that's just fine with me.

I like that Xander and Willow are all "Do you mind?" to Miss Calendar and wondering why she's now in the club. It's actually a fair question.

The Locutus of Borg reference is so great because it's the first time I had ever seen a pop-culture reference to the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation. That made the joke matter to me when I first saw it back in the day.

As much as I hate Xander in the episode, him thrusting the cross at Angel and saying he didn't like him was cool, as was him asking him to prove Buffy right that he's a person. Xander is such a manipulative bunghole earlier on. I can actually like him when he's direct.

I love that the Hellmouth opens directly in the high school library. That's something I have always loved.

Speaking of great dialogue, the Master dryly disparaging the "feeble banter" portion of the fight is not great dialogue (and the feeble banter actually IS feeble). But Joss is the first guy to do the joke, so he has the playing field entirely to himself, and it seemed like genius at the time. The credit belongs to him for something Dan Harmon or Vince Gilligan could have pooped out in their sleep today. The guy was super lucky everyone else was so bad at this.

The Master taunting Buffy that he needed her there to escape in the first place was a great and horrifying moment. He seems to have similar mesmerizing and telekinetic powers as Dracula in Season 5. I also liked her echoing that he liked her dress after he kills her and she drops dead face-first into the water. Although unlike Willow, it's cold-blooded rather than cute when he says it.

I like Buffy telling the Master he has fruit punch mouth. THAT is a perfectly Buffy thing to say.

Yeah, yeah, Angel, everyone likes the dress.

I don't like the idea that Xander saves the day by giving Buffy the Prince Charming kiss. I don't like that subtext one bit.

The Master is so old that when he's dusted he leaves behind his bones. There's a Yo Momma snap in there somewhere. I'm sure of it.

His slo-mo walking outside WAS pretty epic. Nice moment.

This is the best episode so far, and arguably the first great one. But do you know what? The score still totally sucks! It's bad when the only music cue that really lands is when they play the Nerd Herder theme during the climactic Power Walk. I think this great episode would have been even better had Christophe Beck been around to score it. Still, great. *****.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
30,659
Location
Framingham, MA
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "When She Was Bad"

Buffy doesn't just have issues. She has a whole subscription.

First Christophe Beck score. And the show is miles better for it.

"Hey, guys. Miss me?" is a pretty iconic moment.

Nice to see David Boreanaz in the main titles.

Liked Giles questioning the wisdom of Principle Snyder's vocation.

I like the look of bitter shade Giles gives Xander when Xander wins his bet over when Giles would say he'd need to consult his books.

I don't like the dream sequence where Giles turns into the Master and tries to kill Buffy. It doesn't play fair with the viewer. Also, did they actually hired Mark Metcalf back or just get in a stand-in to wear the make-up? He doesn't look quite right.

"Oh, sarcasm. Right." I hate that line. Season 2 is the era of the show when it was starting to become great. But it's not great yet. And Whedon often would have the characters say something embarrassingly stupid and then say "I can't believe I just said that." Joss was trying to have it both ways. Have the characters be as dumb as a jokey bad TV show, but buying it back as he tried to make things on the show seem more and more credible and grounded. It never worked. Willow believing the clog-dancing is not remotely believable, and the joke is badly written and ill-placed.

Case in point. "A bitcuh?" I don't know how Whedon shows his face in public after that.

"They're gonna cook her dinner?" It's really beyond the pale and unacceptable at this point.

However Snyder not knowing smell is one of the five senses is actually in character for that dope.

This mentions something about the Anointed One that either brushed by me or I forgot. It mentions he has power and control over the other Vampires, and that they will do whatever he says. For obvious reasons Andrew J. Ferchland's days on the series are numbered, but that's a cool idea. It's very interesting he can get the vampires to keep digging in a grave with consecrated soil. Nothing says they'll do anything for him quite like burying through dirt while their hands are set on fire.

Absalom is a pretty cool villain. It's a shame he lasted only the one episode. But Joss really enjoys killing off black characters so we are where we are. His death is pretty great though.

"You've got something on your nose." Xander is the worst.

A rarity: Hank Summer's isn't the worst person in the episode. I don't think that ever happened again outside of dream sequences and flashbacks.

Buffy's dance with Xander is so mean because it's cruel to three different people at once (Xander, Willow, and Angel) for three different reasons. It's not a great thing to realize in hindsight how good Joss Whedon is at writing casual cruelty.

I liked Cordelia saying she could hold her own. Not the response Buffy was looking for, and I like that Cordy didn't take the bait.

Speaking of bait, the selling point of Angel is that he can tell when a trap is not going down as planned. He's smarter than Buffy. It's no wonder he later pulled the same scam himself when he turned evil.

Xander saying he'll kill Buffy if they hurt Willow is the emptiest of threats, but you can tell he believes he means it when he says it.

For some reason I like that they've stopped treating the Anointed One's voice.

Buffy saying killing all the vampires would distract them is a good line.

Unfortunately, I dislike the idea of Buffy torturing vampires. What sucks is that this is a problem Whedon, who believes he's progressive and woke, should have picked up on himself. Yeah, vampires aren't people and are completely evil monsters. But that's why showing a hero like Buffy torturing them is shady. Well, vampires aren't people, so it's okay. Well, terrorists are monsters too, so that's okay. And Muslims are pretty much terrorists, right? See how the dehumanization chain works? If you can come up with a rationalization for torture for a pretend reason like Whedon has here, your mind will get closer to accepting it for a real-world reason on real people. If Buffy were called on it at the end of the episode, and this was treated as part of her "Dark Buffy" arc in the episode, it would be one thing. But instead Whedon is acting like she just means business, and is finally taking things seriously. It's not okay.

Buffy smashing the Master's bones was cathartic and the right way to start off the second season.

"We could grind our enemies' bones into Talcum Powder, but gosh we just did that yesterday." I like the "All is forgiven" expressions on Xander and Willow's faces.

"I hate that girl." There is so much about the Anointed One I do not know, and I regret that I never will.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer is known for having very weak and boring premieres. I think this one and the seventh season's opener are the only ones that feel narratively satisfying, and as a good kick-off to the season in question. But I do however feel that much of the writing is still sophomoric, and that Whedon still hadn't fully got ahold of how seriously to take the premise and treat the characters' intelligence. It's a pretty good episode in and of itself, and a rare decent premiere, but it still contains many growing pains. Much like Buffy herself. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Some Assembly Required"

I like that Anthony Stewart Head has taken over the opening narration. He has a lot more gravitas and far less cheese than the WB announcer ever did.

I like that Angel is actually jealous of Xander! What a dope! Buffy is right to call him on the "He's just a kid," thing. It's another reason I think Buffy and Angel's jailbait romance was so ill-thought out in hindsight.

And he is not afraid to use Cordelia to get Buffy jealous. That's the emotional maturity level of the Vampire with a Soul.

Same students in the same clothing walking across the opening wide shot of the high school. What a coincidence!

I like Giles suddenly deciding this was none of their business. But the whole stork thing is a smokescreen.

I will actually get into the debate over whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. It's a vegetable. Full stop. I don't care if it has seeds. So do cucumbers. Are you saying THOSE are fruit? That's a slippery salad and sub topping slope, my friend. It's a vegetable. One of the very real things science is wrong about.

Weird that the episode is directed by a guy named Bruce Seth Green. No relation?

"Yeah, I knew that. But did you see the look on her face?" One of the few things I like about Xander is that he knows the right way to get a proper negative reaction from Cordelia. As far as obnoxious person skillsets go, that doesn't suck.

"Love makes you do the wacky." That's a great line. Full-stop.

Buffy's an old-fashioned gal. She was raised to believe the men dig up the corpses, and the women have the babies. Another great line.

Call Xander an optimist but he's hoping to find a fortune in gold doubloons.

Xander saying it's a first that Cordelia has told the truth hits me BADLY. It's wrong. Love her or hate her, she is always completely honest. It's like Xander was grasping for an insult in the moment, seized on the untrue thing, and said it because there was no better slam available. Xander's a jerk. That doesn't surprise me. What bothers me is that none of the other characters call him on that. Not even Cordelia! It bugs the poo outta me.

I love how Buffy's criticizing throwing the body parts away from a time-management standpoint. Honestly, being analytical like that is an important skillset for a given hero to have. Buffy isn't given it enough and neither are most other heroes, who tend to have to have the smarter person in their supporting casts point out things like that.

Eric singing "My Girl" as he cuts off Cordelia's head on the picture shows how messed up he is. It's a good jump cut to end the scene. Eric's so creepy he has a porn collection that scares even Xander.

I like Jenny saying Miss Calendar is her father.

I like Giles' rugby slam. It's a good one.

The moment of Daryl under the bleachers is moving simply due to Christophe Beck's music cue (although the episode's score was by Adam Fields). The second Beck joined the show, it got ten times better than it was.

It is never a good idea to invite Cordelia to scream all she wants.

The climax leading to the lab being set on-fire is a bit unlikely and convenient, but it sort of works.

"Do you mind? We're talking here." Xander is the worst.

For some reason at the end of the episode, learning the first thing Daryl said to Chris after he woke up is that he shouldn't have brought him back makes me forgive him a little. Nice touch.

Solid-ish week. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "School Hard"

Spike running over the Sunnydale town sign, stepping out of the car, lighting a cigarette and saying "Home sweet Home" is like the perfect introductory scene for the character. Him immediately poking holes in the braggy Vampire's crucifixion story by using Woodstock is an allegory is great too, and sort of tells us everything about the character immediately. I really like the idea that many vampires falsely claim to have been at the Crucifixion in the same way many Boomers falsely claim they were at Woodstock. It's very instructive about what world events actually effected Vampire-kind. And I think the thing that created the Cross and Holy Water is definitely a defining moment in the next generation of Vampires. A Was A Moment.

Drusilla makes a similarly favorable impression by saying absolutely insane sounding things in a spooky voice with those bulging eyes. I love the way Spike dotes on her, which is another fascinating insight into the ways vampires can care about and love each other (which will be more fully explored later on).

"Miss Edith speaks out of turn. She's a bad example and she'll have no cakes today." I mean, that's just NUTS! I like that she can do the Vampire roar.

"What's the up, guys?" is great Buffyspeak.

Spike's introduction to Buffy is memorable too, although his predatory stalking of her in the Bronze has unfortunate implications for later on.

I like Xander saying he's putting a collar with a little bell on Angel.

Are we supposed to believe Buffy is so stupid that she doesn't know you put sugar in lemonade? Because I don't. Typical Season 2 cheap joke that isn't remotely credible.

I like that Cordelia is immediately impressed with Joyce's appearance. She declares her a woman who really knows how to moisturize.

Do you know what I'm not impressed with? Joyce's intelligence. Her taking what an obvious worm like Snyder says at face value says she is very unfair to her daughter.

Spike's "William The Bloody" mythology is surprisingly tight with what came later. Yes, he's faced and killed two Slayers since the Boxer Rebellion. However, some of this was retconned later on. Angelus wasn't actually his sire, Drusilla was. Angel was like his Grandsire. Also, Spike like almost everyone else in season 2, pronounces "Angelus" wrong. Also, the last Slayer Spike killed (Nikki Wood) didn't actually beg for her life, although that IS the kind of lie Spike would tell to Buffy to sound bigger.

And of course the black guy dies. It's systemic in this franchise.

I'll tell you what I like: "Set 'em up. Knock 'em down," is a good plan. I like that Buffy is the one on the show who comes up with the plans. That's quite refreshing from when Giles used to always tell her what to do last season. But at this point, Buffy is the group leader and they view her as such. I can quibble about Joss Whedon's intentions and other messed up messages. But I can't deny how refreshing it was to do that for a young female character. It still happens rarely. I mean, you still have to tell Supergirl, Stargirl, and Batwoman where to punch. I like that it's Buffy who not only comes up with the plans, but that they actually work with little to no fuss attached.

Do you know why Angel sucks? He actually offers up Xander's neck to Spike before Spike calls his bluff. Xander may hate Angel for the wrong reasons, but his hatred isn't irrational. The guy sucks.

I like Spike promising to make it quick and that it wouldn't hurt and Buffy corrects him that it's going to hurt a lot.

Joyce for the save at the end! It is not lost on me Spike would have actually killed Buffy without her intervention. Women!

The Mayor isn't mentioned yet at the end, but Snyder suggesting he knows the truth and is a part of the media covering it up suggests the larger conspiracy already.

"The Annoying One." I love that. I love that Spike actually bends his knee in supplication, before he's all like, "Nope" and simply kills the kid off instead. It may be the third episode of the season, rather than the first, but I think when Spike promises the audience a little less ritual and a lot more fun, the season is off to a roaring start. Great stuff is happening. ****1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Inca Mummy Girl"

I like the idea that Xander doesn't like Rodney for that time he beat him up every day for five years.

"Blah, blah, bliddy blah. I'm so stuffy. Give me a scone." It's like Buffy knows Giles.

First appearance of Seth Green as Oz. Green's mustache and goatee look SO weird here.

I'm a little insulting nobody figured out Impada was the Mummy. Literally every single thing she said about her backstory was a red flag to her being the actual culprit. I don't know if I want to solve a mystery being looked into by heroes this dumb.

Speaking of which, why doesn't it register with Xander that the bodyguard recognizes Impada and says "You!" I know he's got a thing for her, but still.

First appearance of the Danny Strong as the very unfortunate background character Jonathan. He's pretty pathetic right off the bat.

I feel like there is a scene missing in the jump cut between the scene with Giles in the library and the bodyguard immediately attacking Impada and Xander. It feels very sudden and forced and as if the scene leading up to it must have been cut for time. I guess they needed to make room for the lame Twinkie scene.

The whole "Chosen One" thing suggests any girl who gets called that is destined to get a raw deal. It's amazing that nobody really ever made a big deal about Impada telling the bodyguard she was in love. That seems a little quick, if you ask me.

It's SO cute that Oz is into the Eskimo.

Cordelia is SO mean to her exchange student. Hate that character. I like him asking if Cordelia is even from this country.

"Does it look like I'm with Xander?" is crucial. It gives us permission to hate Impada. We needed it. Bad.

I like Willow's reaction to Impada being the Mummy: "Oh. Good."

Buffy casually uses the slur "gypped" at the end of the episode which is another reason I don't like this era of television.

Not feeling the episode. **1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Reptile Boy"

I like Xander, Willow, and Buffy deconstructing Bollywood musicals.

Buffy isn't going to let go of Giles immediately because I'm thinking at this point he needs the lesson more than she does.

Sarah Michelle Gellar's pout gets to you every time.

"Nothing happened last week. I was there." That's a good one.

How great are Angel's accurate warnings about how badly this is gonna end? "When I kiss you, you won't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after." "When I kiss you I want to die." Seriously. What great, torpid, overly dramatic dialogue. These are things that would definitely be said by an emo vampire and a teenage girl. I've never even read Twilight but I can bet it doesn't have a line as epic and ridiculous as that. I'm sure there are epic and ridiculous lines in Twilight. But I'll bet not all at once. Buffy's greatest gift is the ability to do both at the same time, and make you believe both things at once too. I sincerely doubt Twilight pokes holes in itself as it happening.

"When I was your age, I wasn't into grown up things either." I hate people like that. As if Richard there is SO freaking mature for trying to get underage girls to drink so he can sacrifice them to his lizard God. The series really has an ear for despicable young men, which is kind of alarming. But I mean, that it is not a quip said by any decent person ever.

Buffy is 16 going on 40 (accurate description by Willow) and knows more about adult things and responsibilities than Richard ever will. I resent that he actually made her feel bad about that.

Richard coming upon Buffy passed out on the bed is creepy and horrifying. I really don't like the buttons this series is pushing with that.

Angel's going to live forever and he doesn't have time for a cup of coffee? Go Willow.

I personally believe the series physically body-shames and humiliates Nicholas Brendon far too much. I get he wasn't actually a teenager when this was filmed, but it still feels skeevy to play him undressed and in women's clothes for laughs.

How DOES Angel shave? I never got that bit.

I like the notion with that with the Reptile dead, fortune 500 CEO's that used to pledge the frat were being raided by the FBI and financially ruined. I don't feel like Tom going to jail was as just a punishment as he deserved for what he did. The consecutive life sentences and the implosion of their elders makes me feel a little better.

One of my favorite Xander moments of all time occurs in the episode. Mostly because it's a moment played unlike any other time I've seen the moment. Including on a Joss Whedon show. But Xander is talking about what a freak Angel is, sees Angel is behind him, doesn't miss a beat, and says "Hey, man, how you doing?" I love that. Every other show would play the "He's right behind me, isn't he?" unfunny bit instead. But Xander simply doesn't care that Angel heard that. There is not much admirable about Xander Harris. But this is one of the moments where I truly liked him most.

Machida is apparently played by voice actor Robin Atkin Downes. I always thought Downes was kind of handsome for a voice actor, and could be a leading man if he chose. When I thought of him in a live-action role, Reptile Boy isn't quite what I had in mind.

All right episode, but nothing special. ***.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Halloween"

I like that Hulu has the recaps at the beginning of the episode. The DVD collections are wholly inadequate for always leaving them off, and in some places, cutting them off so much they actually got rid of parts of the beginning of the episode. Buffy needs a proper DVD rerelease in the worst way. Fox's early efforts were beyond pathetic.

It's not mentioned by the other characters, but this is the first episode to explicitly prove vampires can show up on film, even if they cast no reflection. It's very interesting it isn't remarked upon here because it's kind of a big deal. And it's still consistent with stuff that is shown later. You can find set bloopers where David Boreanaz's reflection showed up on camera. But I like the idea that vampire photographing but not photographing well has been true since at least this episode.

I love that Cordelia makes Angel laugh at the beginning.

"Rough day at the office." I love that the Slaying stuff is always referred to as "the office". It's just a job after all, as crazy as it is. "Office romance" between Buffy and Angel is funny for that reason.

Larry's first appearance is wild to me. He's such a vulgar, thoughtless jerk. Which is in reality a mask. It's very interesting.

I love that Vampires stay in on Halloween. Nice facet to the characters. Spike watching the Great Pumpkin in Season 6 is also great.

Willow stating Cordelia is not Angel's type is inaccurate, to say the least.

When Cordelia says that "When it comes to dating, I'm the Slayer," that is a perfect distillation of Cordelia.

Drusilla: "Do you like my insides? The parts you can't see?"

Spike: "Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet."

I repeat: This show is great at the epic and ridiculous at the same time.

Ethan Rayne is an interesting character but I never felt his arc was ever properly paid off. Robin Sachs played the heck out of him, and I think it's kind of weird I never really saw him in anything else but this show (at least on this side of the pond).

Buffy, Lady of Buff and Duchess of Buffonia. Love that line.

Oz's scene with Cordelia was funny as was his meet/cute with Willow as the ghost. Who is that girl?

Toothbrushes. Mrs. Davis must be stopped. Show has its priorities right about that.

Buffy instantly fainting shows what a disadvantage the heroes have going in. Ethan does not play fair.

Is this woman insane? She's never seen a car. Sgt. Rock is taking a lot on faith here.

I like that Spike thinks this is just neat.

Giles is flipped out the exact proper amount at seeing Willow walk through a wall.

Major Plothole: How did the Vampire get into Buffy's house without being invited in? What really bugs me most is that it's SO huge of a plot-point and this is literally the first time I've noticed it. How dumb am I?

Beating up that pirate gave Sgt. Rock a weird sense of closure.

I STILL think "Ripper" sounds like a weird nickname for Giles.

Ethan saying he knows who Giles is and what he's capable is juicy, but I still don't think it was ever paid off properly. After seven seasons and three or four appearances by the character, I still never even slightly understood the motivation for Ethan Rayne.

Giles beating the poo out of him is what is known as a good start.

"Hi, Honey, I'm home." It's a well-worn line for a reason. I kind of want to cheer that moment.

Ominous ending. Not too many episodes black out on a close-up shot of Giles' face.

There were interesting elements but I didn't feel the episode was too strong as a whole. Things didn't feel quite cohesive to me. ***1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
30,659
Location
Framingham, MA
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Lie To Me"

Cordelia sympathizing with Marie Antoinette is why I don't like Cordelia.

I like Xander telling Ford he'd only be imposing in the literal sense.

"Oh, THAT'S what that song is about?" I love Willow.

Ford isn't wrong. Angel is older and has cold hands.

I like the expression on Xander's face after Willow tells him he made Angel do that thing where he's gone. He don't care.

Willow's bedroom door opens directly outside? I have never seen a bedroom door operate like that.

Angel talking about honing his brooding skills isn't actually funny, but it's a progression because it's the first time he's been allowed to make a joke.

Chanterelle as seen here (later to become Anne Steele on Angel) has one of the most surprisingly solid arcs of the entire franchise. And she appears for a total of four or five times. But the progression we've seen from her each time is pretty impressive, especially considering the naive wallflower she is here.

Ford saying every teen should be allowed to die young and stay pretty is sort of a funny joke in a show with vampires but it's also not true to life for most teenagers who consider themselves unattractive. It never occurs to Ford that other people his age might value different things.

I like Giles worrying Buffy is compromising her secret identity to impress cute boys.

I like Angel telling Xander to stop calling him "Dead Boy".

The dude being dressed exactly like Angel sort of undercuts his entire rant against these kids.

Spike is a bad, rude man. I like how he dotes on Drusilla after she starts whimpering about being told the bird is dead. It's very funny.

"I've known you for two minutes and I can't stand you. I don't really feature you living forever." This is one of my favorite Spike lines of all time, and one of the best Buffyverse lines ever. And after Ford actually brow-beats him into doing the lame 30 seconds line, I feel and understand Spike's disgust at the kid. He's super annoying. I don't see what Buffy sees in him.

Angel and Willow's is a forbidden love.

Angel's story of what he did to Drusilla is horrifying. But he's still underselling the deliberate cruelty behind it. Buffy is unfortunately going to have to learn about Angelus for herself.

I like that the threat to Drusilla is enough to make Spike back down completely. That's an interesting thing about Spike.

Also interesting that he actually comes through with his bargain with Ford. What's interesting is that if he had doublecrossed him I actually wouldn't have blamed him.

I don't actually sympathize or feel sorry for Ford having brain cancer. He's made some pretty deliberate choices that dying gives him no actual excuse for.

It was an interesting episode but I think I gave it more credit back in the day than it was actually due. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Dark Age"

I like that Buffy thinks Giles's diapers were tweed.

I don't think Slayer missions should involve protecting blood banks from vampires. At least they aren't killing live people. And if we have to stake every vampire who stole blood from hospitals we'd have to go after Angel in season one.

I like Nicholas Brendan's line reading on "Extra class AND Cordelia? Mix in a little rectal surgery and it's my best day ever!"

Fist mention of Xander's Uncle Rory who we'll meet in Season 6.

I like when Buffy accuses Ethan of selling her that dress at Halloween and nearly getting them all killed he says, "But you looked great." WHAM!

It's interesting that when the zombie guy escapes the cage Xander immediately moves to protect Cordelia.

Xander asks if him feeling pretty good about digging through Giles' files makes him a sociopath. I'm guessing yes.

I like the black and white photo of Anthony Stewart Head with the long hair, leather jacket, and guitar.

"Don't be sorry, be Giles." I like that. I also like Head's line reading on not knowing how to stop Euygon without killing Jenny.

"We're sorry./ "We'll be good." I like that Willow just scared Cordelia and Xander with her authority.

Angel throttling Miss Calendar here has unpleasant implications later on.

I like that Jenny is a bit cold to Giles after all that. I don't blame her one bit.

I like that Giles likes the Bay City Rollers.

Decent episode. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "What's My Line? Part 1"

As far as mysteries go, the first part is well-constructed. I suppose that's easier to do in a two-part episode rather than a season arc, but Buffy has whiffed short mysteries in the past and will again.

Mr. Pfister the worm guy is suitably creepy, but I thought the same thing about the coroner on Picket Fences, and they are the exact same guy.

The cliffhanger is great. It's a bit of a cliche that Kendra and Buffy get into a fight when they first meet, but at least the show put in the legwork of making the audience see Kendra's suspicions seem entirely justified just based on what she saw.

I totally forgot Willy the Snitch existed until I saw this episode again just now. I love that character and I forgot I loved him.

Dalton the learned vampire is another minor character I'd forgotten, but I think he would have been better served taking off after the events of this episode. He is not cut out to play in the big leagues, and every second he's around Spike and Dru is another that ticks on his mortal clock. NOT as smart as advertised.

I often forget that just because Oz does poorly in school, that his aptitude is high, and he is not actually stupid. I also liked him deadpanning that Buffy was a "Tense girl". Mr. Wears-A-Bowling-Shirt-Everywhere-Before-Wearing-Bowling-Shirts-Was-Cool has always been a master of understatement. I also love that he's the kind of guy who takes things like that in stride.

What does "Don't warn the tadpoles!" actually mean? Willow using "Frog fears" as an explanation is entirely unhelpful.

I like Giles' yelling at Xander for joking around when the situation was so serious. He doesn't do that often which lets you know it IS serious.

Buffy's paranoia in the hallway was great. Giles worrying he might have been TOO alarming later on is the wrong mindset. Willow was right that it was good she took him seriously.

Buffy just killed a Superbowl Champ? Great laugh-line. I also should point out that that guy seemed to me to be human, and supposedly against the Slayer code to kill. Faith gets nothing but grief for it later on, although admittedly a large part of that is probably her sociopathic reaction to it.

Xander calling Cordelia "transportation" in the way he did was really dirty and low-class, but I DID like him describing her as his witless foil.

My favorite Xander moment in the episode, and I think it's my favorite thing in the episode, is something that either brushed by me before now, or I simply wasn't mature enough to appreciate how great it was. I love after Snyder says this horrible thing about Xander being a waste of space, (nothing any adult has any business telling any kid, especially one under their care,) I love that Xander's response is to thank him for being honest with him. And that he hopes someday that he's in a position to be equally honest with him. I love that. It's unfair that Snyder can say something like that to Xander, but if Xander says something horrible back, he'll get in trouble. I like the moment because it points out the unfair power dynamic a lot of adults have with kids, and also shows the true thing that many adults abuse that dynamic to air their petty grievances on people unallowed to call them on it. Because the cruel adults know if they spoke that way to people their own age, they'd get reamed for it. I think a large part of the show uses Snyder and some of the miserable adults the kids encounter in the first three seasons to pander to its core audience a bit. But it's not like this specific unfair thing is untrue, or something teens watching this don't have to put up with themselves. Good for the show. Pandering or not, it's true and unfair that small men like Snyder take out their frustrations over their miserable lots in life with people not permitted to fight back. It's infuriating actually.

The stuffed pig is not great for me. It highlights the age difference between Buffy and Angel even more. She can joke that he's a cradle-robber. But it's not actually a joke. That's what he is.

Buffy enjoying and being comforted by sleeping in Angel's bed breaks my heart in hindsight. That poor, dumb kid.

I like Spike saying the Society of Taraka is not overkill. It's just the right amount of kill.

I have a complaint, that I can only offer now with 20 years of pop-culture experience. Bianca Lawson's African accent sounds cartoonishly, unbelievably fake. I'm not saying her performance is bad exactly. I'm saying I can't take it seriously as long as the way she talks is so unrealistic and outside of the African dialect. Black Panther basically ruined Kendra for me for all time.

But this was a solid first part. And one of those rare early Buffy episodes that ends with "To Be Continued" flashing before the executive producer credits. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "What's My Line? Part 2"

The Buffyverse is probably the lowest budgeted franchise that I outright love. Almost all of my fandoms besides it actually have really good production values, at least for the era they were made in. What's fascinating about the Buffyverse, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular, is that despite the nonexistent budget, (and the fact that things were so cheap they actually had to film in real graveyards in Season 1,) is that the writers and directors came up with some very visually iconic and striking moments. Drusilla carrying Spike out of the Church in her arms would probably have played better with a bigger budget. But the truth is even most of the big budget shows I watch don't often deliver visuals as iconic as that. It doesn't matter that it isn't perfect. It's memorable. It stays with you. Twin Peaks is a definite influence on this show. But things this show did are things I believe also influenced later shows. It showed how to make interesting visuals on television without having to spend a mint. And I don't think there are any other equally cheap franchises I've watched that were ever as great at that specific thing. I can talk down the dialogue, the dated sexism and implicit racism, but the show carried itself like a major motion picture rather that a WB teen soap with a tiny budget. It's very unusual in that respect. And yes, I see the influences of David Lynch in that. Although Twin Peaks always had a MUCH higher budget and better production values.

I remember laughing about the romantic "orchestra" playing during Xander and Cordelia's "Sam and Diane" moment, but with 20 years hindsight, it's not very impressive. While it is true almost all shows now use synthesizers rather than orchestras, technology has evolved to the point that they sound somewhat credible at mimicking orchestras. They never sound quite as pure and good. But they are usually passable for them. In 1997 or 98 when this aired, synthesizers sounded kind of awful when attempting that. There is a tinny echo to the soundtrack that would be absent in a real lush orchestra. It's a failing I only realize 20 years later in pop-culture hindsight.

The cop pulling out the gun after calling out Buffy's name was a great and stark reminder these assassins could be anybody. It was a shock, especially seeing it in a school. But it's not credible the students weren't immediately sent home after that.

Also not credible was Oz's reaction to being shot that it was amazing but painful. That's a TV reaction, not a real one.

I like Oz noting his hair is brown sometimes.

I love Oz and Willow at the end. The bit with the monkeys wearing pants in animal cookies is pretty much adorable, as is the notion that all monkeys are French.

Here is something I didn't realize until I saw it this. I think Buffy is far too patient with Kendra. I'm not saying that Kendra is wrong that all vampires need to be killed. But Kendra is SO darn sure about everything, completely earnest, and unwilling to ever think she might be wrong. What she is is an annoying know-it-all. It bothers me she believes Willy's lame lie, and it bothers me worse that Buffy takes her word for it. Kendra does nothing but complain about Buffy's lack of discipline and how she isn't taking her training seriously. And that's none of her business. And I'll tell you who survived seven seasons: Not Kendra.

Dru torturing Angel was a bit cathartic for me knowing what I do in hindsight. Her bit about them eating cakes and honey sounds funny, but it's also heart-breaking. I find it interesting that Angel mocks Spike's manhood and suggests Drusilla is actually still in love with him to get Spike to lose control and kill him before Dru is restored. What really gets me is that things probably would have turned out better for everyone if Spike HAD killed him then and there. Very gallant move. That I regret for Buffy's sake that Spike didn't take him up on.

Speaking of Willy, I mentioned that last episode that I forgot I loved this character. After hearing him ask Buffy and Kendra to nude model I don't anymore. Unacceptable in the current climate, although the truth is it was always unacceptable. Positive thing about MeToo is that I can recognize that now.

Slightly off-topic: Can you believe that they are bringing Beavis and Butt-Head back? That will never work. For the same reason.

I don't like this as much as the first part, simply because I am infuriated with Kendra's presumptuous and rude behavior. It's typical for television to create forced conflict between heroes, but I have found that the weak TV shows do that by making one of the heroes insufferable and always wrong. Do you know who Kendra actually is? Brainy Smurf. I don't get why pop-culture junkies are allowed to make fun of the "The Complainer Is Always Wrong" Trope, while primetime television for adults practically offers similar versions of the same character all the time. I'm not defending terrible 80's cartoons written by committee and approved by child psychologists. I'm suggesting modern television, even otherwise good stuff, is not actually much better than they are in that area. True, we now have smart and complex villains. Stipulated. 80's cartoons never had that. But we never seem to actually have a shortage of rude, annoying, and always wrong heroes. Brainy would be proud. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Ted"

I had a sneaking suspicion when I sat down to watch this that it wouldn't hold up, and that's putting it mildly. To be absolutely fair, I was never really crazy about the episode. The truth is I can take or leave about half of the episodes in Season 2. But the things portrayed and depicted in the episode are wrong.

Remember the episode of Alias in Season 3 that ended with Vaughn's new wife Lauren assassinating a guy? CLEARED that love triangle between her, Vaughn and Sydney Bristow right up amazing quickly. And annoyingly. The answer was Vaughn married a b-word. Ted being a serial-killing robot leaves everybody off the hook. And they shouldn't be. Buffy's behavior was wrong, as was Joyce's. It's not narratively fair to the viewer to make things this easy for them. Plus, remember how I said Buffy: The Series has its share of short-term mysteries that are poorly constructed? This episode qualifies.

Forget how awful Ted is for a minute, the second Buffy told Joyce Ted threatened her, she should have believed her. I can't believe Willow and Xander were making excuses either. The drugged cookies were another cheap contrivance.

The other thing that bothers me is something about Buffy I actually appreciated. She says "I'm the Slayer. I shouldn't have hit him that hard." She's right, and I like that she knows she's right. But it's not fair she gets off the hook while Faith is later brow-beaten by both her and everyone else for the exact same crime.

Cordelia said something interesting that is sort of used as an insult and laugh line against her when Willow tells her what she is suggesting is fascism. She suggests the laws should apply differently to Buffy. And there is definitely some truth to that. I think Buffy has it right that she must be held accountable for her actions for hitting a human that hard while being a Slayer. But the laws of man are almost irrelevant when applied to what Buffy does and what her role in the world is. I'm not suggesting Slayers should be allowed to indulge in the criminality Faith does later on. But they dispense their own form of lethal justice to keep the world safe. I would not necessarily declare Ted's "death" a clean shooting if she were a cop. But she'd probably only be put on desk duty, or in the worst case scenario fired. I don't think it would be something she should be considered criminally responsible for. Buffy herself says in Season 7 that as the Slayer she is the law. I think that that's more of what Cordelia is referring to.

Ted's dead wives are in his closet? And nobody smelled anything going into the apartment? Did I mention this mystery was poorly constructed?

Good for the show for finding a use for Cordelia: She actually knows the rug doesn't match the decor, so they find the trapdoor.

I really always liked and appreciated Detective Stein in Season 2. He was one of the very few "real" characters on the show. The fact that he's usually set against Buffy is something I like because I very much like him and how good at his job he is. There doesn't appear to be a bruise on Buffy's cheek so maybe killing Ted for that is overkill? I love that. I love that's he's a regular, competent cop, doing a decent job. I don't care if he mistakenly suspects Buffy of things she isn't guilty of. I love that his reactions to the craziness of the town are that of a normal person. I love that very much.

For the record, kids of Xander and Willow's age in 1998 would have had no idea who the Captain and Tennille are. How would I know? I'm ten years older than they are and didn't know who they were. The show is obviously written by middle-aged writers right there.

I still use the line "The subtext is rapidly becoming text" in real-life.

Speaking of which, I was all set to compliment the episode on a very good feminist thing, which would have been nice to be able to do considering the allegations against Whedon, and the fact that he co-wrote the episode, which is essentially about a man abusing a mom and her daughter. The episode's subtext is icky, and when I saw this scene I pounced on it and was ready to give Whedon all the credit in the world.

I love the moment where Jenny tells Giles he's making her feel bad that she doesn't feel better. More women need to tell guys this. Back the frak off, dude! It's not Jenny's job to make him feel all right about it. If she needs space, she should be allowed it. Giles is making her feel guilty for having to set limits and making her be the bad guy. What an amazing scene of empowerment for her!

And here's how I remembered the episode was written by Whedon, and why he never deserved the slightest bit of feminist credit for his tenure on the show. She later apologizes to him for her harsh tone! See, she's allowed to say the true, empowering feminist thing to Giles. But he's a well-intentioned man, so that means it's her responsibility to walk it back later on. It's like Joss wants the credit for caring about a woman's pain. But the woman's pain is not allowed to make the sensitive man feel bad. That's a bridge too far for a "nice guy" feminist like Whedon. How is it nobody has ever called him on this stuff before now? I'm annoyed. What's especially frustrating is that Giles being put in his proper place not being bought back would not have hurt the episode or the arc of the series. There would be other ways for them to reconcile besides her apologizing for stating her truth. And considering the danger they faced that bonded them, the words "I was out of line before" did not need to pass her lips. But the brand of feminist Whedon is is that a woman is allowed to set limits. But making men uncomfortable by doing so is a bridge too far for him. And that disgusts me. And says everything about him as a person.

Why ISN"T Joyce allowed to have a man in her life? Why IS Buffy allowed to be right about Ted? Why does Buffy get to have her way when she's been unreasonable from the start? She was rude to Ted long before he showed his true colors. I mentioned that this show panders to its youthful audience in getting it to mistrust adult authority figures. This is going TOO far in that direction. Not every new boyfriend Mom comes home with is evil. I realize this show uses allegory to illustrate problems teens face, but there is nothing truthful about that allegory. Worse, there is nothing healthy about that allegory. It doesn't actually teach the teenagers watching a true lesson, and in fact makes the world seem more dangerous than it is. It feeds into their narcissism as well. That's not a good moral. And it one of those cases where the show pandering to its audience comes back to haunt it.

This episode is such a mess. I'd declare it a disappointment but I expected it to not hold up, so that's not quite right. But jeez, you want to talk about questionable feminist ideals being portrayed by Whedon early on in the show? This is probably the biggest first example. *.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Bad Eggs"

Back when the first few seasons of Buffy were airing, I didn't own a computer or have access to the internet. Basically the way I followed my fandom was through magazine articles. The Buffy The Vampire Slayer fanzine was pretty good, but also hard to come by. My best Buffy reporters of note were Entertainment Weekly. Even Family Guy has made a joke about how much that magazine loved this show. I suspect Family Guy's judgment about that is especially harsh because EW has always hated Family Guy. But I digress. I read Entertainment Weekly to keep up with any Buffy I missed. And I missed "Bad Eggs" the first time out. But I remember the description Entertainment Weekly used to describe it, and it's perfect, and I probably don't need to write the rest of the review after I paraphrase the sentence. They called the notion of redneck vampires "money in the bank". And that's the most accurate distillation for a review of the episode a critic could possibly give. This is literally the first project to ever have a vampire say "I'm going to beat you like a red-headed stepchild," and pop culture is all the richer for it. I don't care if "Bad Eggs" is one of the least remembered episodes ever. The Gorches are genius. They are the kind of numbskulls who destroyed an entire Mexican village before they became vampires.

I especially love Lyle. Take note, other vampires: "It's over." Lyle is one of the only three major evil vampires of note (the others being Drusilla and Harmony) who actually survived all eight years Buffy and Angel were on the air. And that's because he knows when to book when the getting is good (and that includes his next and last appearance next season.) The doomed Dalton could have taken notes from him. He would have lived longer. As dumb as Lyle outwardly seems, him running when he did says he's smarter than almost anybody else.

I think the thing the episode gets the most credit for is something it should and is still impressive in hindsight. It pretty heavily telegraphs Buffy and Angel's romance is about to be doomed, which is great. The show was great at giving hints and clues of upcoming stuff by making visual cues like that, especially in graveyards. But as Buffy and Angel are making out a little TOO hot and heavy, the camera pans to the tombstone next to them which reads "Rest In Peace". It can either mean Angel's soul or the ship in general, and it wonderful foreshadowing of the highest order. Buffy got a lot of credit for doing things like this at the time, but I think people have sort of forgotten that aspect of the show. I think other shows do that to some extent nowadays, but I think all of their clues are more subtle and subject to interpretation (probably to keep the obsessing fans guessing) which is somewhat less fun and definitely less amazing. There is something really epic and memorable with the fact that Buffy was unafraid to hit you over the head with what was about to happen. As Giles notes earlier, the subtext is rapidly becoming text.

"I'll see your Eeeyaugh! and raise you a Gaauyeegh!" The comedy in this episode is working just fine. Thanks for asking.

For the record, the fact that that Angel doesn't smack Buffy upside the head for saying all she sees in her future is him, and affirms that sappy teenage nonsense instead, tells me he's actually a jerk of the highest order. With or without the soul. This is not a guy looking out for a teenager girl's best interest. You want to call Angel a pedo creep? He actually is.

Something, something bezoars and mind-controlling bad eggs. Me? I'm only here for the redneck vampires. ***1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Surprise"

I am leery. I am very worried about my rewatch of "Innocence" and seeing "Surprise" again did not alleviate those misgivings. I think on some level Marti Noxon (who wrote the episode) deserves a lot of credit for the amount of painful foreshadowing she infuses every action Buffy and Angel take together for the final time at this phase of their relationship. But in hindsight, whether it's good mythology set-up or not, I am not positive making "Innocence" as painful as possible for the viewer in hindsight is actually admirable. In hindsight, maybe "Innocence" was handled wrong.

What is interesting to me is that regardless of the questionable messages being sent about teenage sex I find that this section of the season is actually when the show hit its stride, and a LOT of the individual elements are stronger now than they have ever been. I seem to have overlooked Juliet Landau's brilliance this episode. Bringing the character back to full strength really made Landau embrace the crazy and chew the scenery for good measure. The scene where she's threatening to scratch Dalton's eyes out with her fingers is both playful and scary. Her putting back on and straightening his busted glasses, and patting his head with a bored look on her face was quite funny.

And Oz. Oz. The whole bit where he's telling Willow that he is going to ask her out, he's nervous about it, she tells him she'll say yes, and he admits comfort to that idea providing a buffer, is beyond adorable and endearing. I don't think the writers quite nailed who Oz was until he deadpans "Say, did everybody here just see that guy turn to dust?" and while Willow clues him into the realities of vampires she's all, "I know it's hard to accept," and he instantly and cannily says "Actually, it explain a LOT." TV didn't have characters this cool back in 1998 before Oz. And what kills me most is knowing how badly the show is going to fail and ruin the character in season four. One of the worst things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that it will create perfect characters and scenarios, and just destroy them for the sake of destroying them. And it bothers me more than most of the times the show did that that they wrecked Oz of all characters. This right here is a special dude who deserved better.

James Marsters is billed "As Spike" for the first time in the guest star credits. I like him basically making fun of Angel's truly ludicrous plea to sacrifice himself to the Judge instead of Buffy. He smiles almost ruefully at Angel's dumbness and he's like "There IS no instead. It's first or second." Which anyone but an idiot like Angel could clearly see. This situation did not cry out for a negotiation and Angel looked like a chump for it.

I'm going to talk a little bit more about Miss Calendar's reveal as Romani in the next episode. I have to say, knowing this show, I half expected there to be little clues all throughout the first and second seasons of the idea that she was sent to watch Angel, but this is literally the first time it's ever come up. The foreshadowing to the next episode is pretty impressive. But there was literally no place to suggest Jenny had a link or interest in Angel previously, so it seems out of nowhere instead. That's not good mythology. That's sloppiness.

I am going to warn you. My review of "Innocence" is gonna be long, and I'm betting shockingly uncomplimentary in hindsight. I hope I'm wrong on both counts. But Buffy's dew eyes in this episode and Angel's sweet and purely good behavior means I'm probably gonna come down hard on a plot turn I used to be impressed by, but no longer am. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Innocence"

I do not approve.

I seem to recall back in the day a secret part of me hated this episode, but it was critically acclaimed, and back then Joss Whedon was in the phase of his career where he could do no wrong, so I accepted the accolades and half-loved the episode too. The part of me that hated that episode was the part that hated Buffy being hurt, which meant it was effective, and therefore, great. Right?

I am going to make a prediction for the rest of the season. I am going to give "Becoming, Part 2" the highest rating I can give a an episode because I personally believe it is the best episode EVER of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. What kills me is it's never on any fan's top ten list. I hear about "Hush", "The Body", "Once More With Feeling", and "The Gift" but "Becoming, Part 2" has not received its proper fandom acclaim. It was considered the best episode when it aired, but other episodes soon took other fans' place in that regard. My opinion is that it was the best episode and stayed the best episode. What makes me respond so positively to it while this kind of made me cringe in hindsight?

"Becoming, Part 2" made me hurt, just as much as this episode did. But it was a GOOD hurt. I cry like a baby every time I see it, but those are good, cathartic tears, of witnessing something truly tragic and epic that moves me in the way few television productions ever have. People talk about Buffy's pain here, but it's just nastiness. Angel hurts her by slut-shaming her and making her ashamed of her sexuality. Which is bogus. It's not something you could really complain about in 1998. But in the era of MeToo? Yeah, it's a problem.

The thought behind this episode's acclaim (and a LOT of Buffy's goodwill) is that, Buffy always shows negative consequences to teenage behavior that parents might find questionable. Like horror movies before it, Buffy is a roundly conservative franchise punishing characters for not living up to an adult's expectations regarding sex. Horror movies kill the characters off. Buffy puts them through the emotional wringer instead. Neither position is healthy to portray.

It would be one thing if Joss Whedon were a conservative himself, and the show was reflecting his ideals. I could actually respect that and even see the artistry there. But Joss Whedon, liberal extraordinaire's main message to the kids at home is that sex is bad, even if both people love each other and are ready for it, and men will always use and abuse women after they get what they want, and women will wind up being ashamed and feel like embarrassed pariahs among their group of friends. That's not a feminist message. And it never was. The idea that Whedon has branded himself as such is not nearly as appalling as the fact that people didn't push back on it long before now.

David Lynch similarly treats women terribly in his movies and TV shows. But say what you will about Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (and I'll say the first 40 minutes are utter dreck) but it helped a lot of women who suffered abuse confront that about themselves in seeing Laura's struggles and ultimate redemption. I think Lynch does not get enough guff for how he treats women on-screen. But I cannot deny his work has resonated for many victims of abuse who think Fire Walk With Me has value while the rest of the Twin Peaks fandom treats it as the Black Sheep of the canon. And God, I could also probably deal with it if the abuse Buffy suffers from Angel led to women in similarly abusive relationships to recognize how to get out them. But the moral of the season is Buffy and friends trying to get Angel's soul back. Instead of Buffy dumping him for the loser he is, the show has turned into all about how she can fix him and how he can change under the right circumstances. There is no redemption for Leland Palmer coming, so Twin Peaks exploring Laura's pain actually is a healthy message for people who've been through the same thing. This season is telling kids there always a hope that the guy who beats you and treats you like waste can become a good person if given the proper motivation to change. Did I mention it's appalling feminists haven't been calling Whedon on this poo long before now?

We're gonna spend some time discussing individual scenes in the episode. I knew this review was gonna be long, and I suspected it was The Scene that was going to do it. I was right.

Some of what I am about to write has been verbalized by me elsewhere. I am a writer. And this episode and The Scene in particular were turning points in how I approached writing. I consider writing a form of therapy. My problem is Marti Noxon does too, and it ruined season 6 of Buffy by making it a cry for help, but I can say nothing I write is toxic for the sake of working out my issues. I think I should probably talk a bit about Joss Whedon's DVD audio commentary about The Scene and why his reaction to it made me decide how to write my characters going forward.

When discussing the "Next Day" scene Joss says that he wrote the deliberately, horribly, cruel things Angel says to Buffy off the top of his head, and afterwards he felt like a total dirtbag, and totally guilty for how easy that was for him to do. And based on the allegations against him, I would not have been comforting myself the way he did afterwards. Let me be blunt. The scene is amazing. Its cruelty is precise and laser focused in a scene that lasts a surprisingly short space of time. Angel says things both nuanced in their meanness and deliberately horrible. It's a master abuser at work, and everything wrong with men done in as an efficient and damaging a manner as possible. And let me tell you something. And this is especially true because the scene is amazing. If it weren't I might cut him some slack. But his "Woe is me, I felt so bad for writing that," does not pass my b.s. detector. He says he feels like a horrible person? That's because he is. He is not off the hook for that simply because he recognizes it in hindsight. The whole "Woe is me, I'm such a jerk, love me for it," thing pretty much wore out its welcome with Louis C.K.. I'm not saying I'm a better or worse writer than Joss Whedon. What I will say is that given half a chance I would totally botch that scene. I have men in my comic books mistreat women from time to time, but none of it is subtle, and borders on cartoonishly outrageous, which is sort of the point. I do not know enough about how to say the correct cruel thing to a woman to get under her skin. You know what? I'm cool with that. I am perfectly happy with my sexist characters not being all they should be because I don't understand the specific mindset of the abuser deep down. I'll accept my writing is worse for it. Because I don't feel like a terrible person otherwise, which I would if I could come up with something that brilliantly written off the top of my head. I can look myself in the mirror and sleep at night. Fair trade.

Next scene to discuss. Also a big deal on Whedon's audio commentary. The scene with Jenny's Romani uncle describing the purpose of vengeance. It is Whedon's favorite scene in the episode, and the one he was dreading writing. And I get why he likes it. But I don't think it's actually a good scene.

The problem with the idea of the Gypsy Curse is that it makes no sense for the Gypsies to build in the escape hatch into it for Angel experiencing human happiness. Whedon loves the scene because it makes something that really makes no sense sound plausible. I don't love the scene because as much as the characters rationalize it, it's still not actually plausible. What were the Gypsy's thinking?

Willow and Oz in the van. Whedon has a special place in his heart for the scene and I do too. Oz's initial reaction to Willow offering to make out was priceless ("Whaaaat?") and his whole explanation of wanting her to kiss him back is beyond sweet. I swear to God, this is why I resented them destroying the character so much. He's perfect as is.

Xander reveals he still possesses the military skills he learned at Halloween. It's kind of cool, and it's also something you wish they went back to more often than they did.

When Buffy pulls out the bazooka, that's when it's okay to cheer. "What's that do?" I can bemoan this episode's messages all I want. This is clearly the show in its prime either way.

"Wear something trashy...er." Here's something interesting. In the commentary, Whedon bemoans the fact that he didn't think to have wardrobe dress Charisma Carpenter in a trashy outfit, and Xander saying that while she's dressed wholesomely is out of line. Do you know what that is? A red flag. The reality is, it would have been wrong for Xander to say that no matter WHAT Cordelia is wearing. And Whedon doesn't know that? And he still claims to speak for feminists? Stuff like this is why all of the abuse allegations are no surprise to me. It was woven into the very fabric of his writing.

Spike wanting to destroy the world in the episode is actually out of character. Granted, he had secondary selfish reasons for teaming up with Buffy in the finale to take down Angel, but him wanting to destroy the world is wholly outside of the idea that he likes the world he professes in "Becoming, Part 2". I'd actually cut the show a little slack for this if another writer wrote this specific episode, but Whedon wrote both. It's out of character since he did.

I loved Giles' scene with Buffy in the car at the end. Giles is a thankless role on the show but Anthony Stewart Head brought the goods there and showed why he's indispensable to the show's success and why Seasons 6 and 7 didn't work with his lesser involvement.

I will give the episode this much: Because it exists, and because "Passion" exists, "Becoming" is the best episode. The good hurt would not have existed without the bad hurt first. I can acknowledge that much. While also pointing out that it IS a bad hurt, and nothing about the moral of the episode or how the female characters are treated is remotely admirable or empowering. **1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Phases"

That was not only better than I remembered, it's definitely better than the critics always said it was.

Entertainment Weekly in particular was lukewarm on the episode. It said Jack Conley, (who played Sahjahn on Angel, and can be seen here out of demon make-up) delivered a rare bad performance for the show. I disagree. Kane's problem isn't down to Conley. It's simply bad writing. I mean, in order to make it clear Kane is absolutely loathsome, he has to make deplorable, gross, and sexist remarks. Kane sucks. But Conley delivered the lines the writers fed him with no problems. And they sucked.

"A Werewolf in love," was a pretty cheesy way to end the episode, but I'll forgive it. Just because Oz on the phone with his Aunt was great. "Hey, is Jordy a Werewolf? Uh huh. And how long has that been going on? No reason. Give my love to Uncle Ken." Classic. I also loved him watching the Catherine statue at the beginning of the episode, and noting its eyes follow you. Oz saying he likes something means it's good and it always did.

Angel's scene in the episode was creepy but not in a good way.

The way Xander dusted Theresa was cool. Cool enough visual to make the main titles of Season 3.

I love Giles telling Buffy not to jump to conclusions, and Buffy saying she didn't jump. She took a tiny step, and there conclusions were. That's great, classic Buffy The Vampire Slayer dialogue.

In hindsight I really like how Larry is portrayed in the episode. I think it's pretty much the best one-episode character progression I have ever seen a random character be given. He is so horrible throughout the first part of the episode. And when he comes out to Xander his entire demeanor instantly changes. A weight has been lifted, and he's lost the chip on the shoulder. I normally would scoff at any of show giving a character this amount of growth in this short space of time, but when I see him help the girl pick up her books at the end, I think it's brilliant instead. It's not remotely realistic. But who says fiction has to be? What it is is great.

This episode is SO unusual because Xander is talking so much smack about Oz. Outside of Willow herself, it turned out Xander wound up liking Oz more than the rest of the Scoobies. Giles and Buffy liked him (as did Cordelia) but none of them developed the appreciation for his laconic demeanor that Xander did. It's SO weird to hear him bashing him.

I love Giles being excited by the Werewolf ("One of the classics!") and thinking Xander's moon pie joke was much funnier than it was. Has that ever happened to you? Somebody makes a LAME joke and you are the only one who finds it hysterical? You feel sort of crazy in hindsight when everyone is rolling their eyes at you. But it's funny! No fair judging me!

Willow says she's not much fun to be around three days out of the month either. I very much enjoyed how the show tied Oz's Werewolfism into puberty. I especially love that because they did that Willow gets that line.

They changed the design of the Werewolf later on to make it less fake-looking, and also a little more unique-looking to only this show, but that just means the production values of the episode seem wildly inconsistent. Here is an interesting opinion: The Werewolf may look fake here, but it looks fine for the show. I think the best reason to change it wasn't because it looked fake but because it's better to easily be able to put Seth Green in the make-up and beast transformations.

I'm with Oz. I like it. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered"

Joyce and Jenny macking on Xander is the funniest thing ever.

The episode missed the boat on two things. Ironically, I was disappointed in this back in the day too. But because Buffy is the Slayer, when she was the rat, she should have beaten up the cat and broken the mousetrap. Clearly the show didn't have the budget to do those two things. But it's what it SHOULD have done.

I love Oz punching Xander and saying he just really had the urge to do that, and then instantly helping him up. I love Oz. Him looking for Buffy as the rat was great too.

There is not enough comeuppance for Angel this season for how much he sucks, but I like how stupid he looked and felt when Drusilla said Xander was a real man compared to him.

I love that Cordelia is still wearing the necklace. It's clear she's somehow hoping this break-up won't be a permanent thing.

However I rolled my eyes are her "You mean that love spell was for me?" She thinks it's sweet instead of the single creepiest thing a person could ever do. Ugh.

"Angel nails a puppy..." I'm with Buffy, Giles. Stop. We don't need to know this bit.

This was fun. And yes, the premise is creepy and so is Xander. They still made it work. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Passion"

There are things about this episode I have always loved and still love. But to be blunt, I have a LOT of problems with it now. I am by turns amazed and disgusted at various points in the episode.

I think before we really discuss the good things in depth (and there were many) I want to basically say why I'm not okay with this episode anymore. And maybe question my fitness at a discernable TV viewer for ever being okay with it. But the episode is FAR too cruel. Especially considering Angel's descent into evil, especially going by the last scene, was never intended to be permanent.

I think the "gift" he left for Giles was startling in its horribleness, but I think it went far farther than it ever should have. I mean leaving her in the bed is problematic enough. The cops should have arrested Giles for murder for it. And the drawing of her left in Giles' apartment simply makes the idea stupid as well. The cops didn't take that crucial piece of evidence at the crime scene? Come on, now.

But as cruel (and stupid) as the picture of Jenny is, I think the thing that I most regret watching again is something I'm angry at myself for not objecting to before. What REALLY angers me is Angel looking in Buffy's window and laughing at her and Willow wailing in despair over learning Miss Calendar is dead. Is that necessary? Does that or Angel's torpid narration wrapping around the episode actually make it even slightly better in any respect? What has happened instead is that I will never, EVER forgive Angel, and the part of 2021 Matt Zimmer who is disgusted with this episode is equally disgusted with late 1990's / early 2000's Matt Zimmer who later forgave Angel and was a fan of his own TV show. I thought giving SPIKE a redemption story after his actions in Season 6 was disturbing? For some reason, that strikes me as far worse for multiple reasons. And I cannot believe I ever, EVER wanted to see good things happen to this character later on.

According to the DVD commentary there was some debate over whether or not to show Angel actually killing Miss Calendar or whether or not to surprise the viewer when Giles was. Seeing it happen and knowing what Giles is walking into with the "Upstairs" card and roses and candles is far worse. They also pointed out that they made a conscious decision to have Angel kill Jenny in his Vamp face because they were afraid if he did it in his human face the audience would never forgive him or accept him kissing Buffy again. I think that "concern" sums up the problem with the writers on the show in a nutshell. They actually believe at some point the viewer should forgive Angel, and accept him kissing Buffy, even after that. That's troubling, to say the least.

But there is a LOT of good in the episode. I mentioned the show is in its prime and it is. Only Buffy The Vampire Slayer would have the magic shopkeeper with the thick foreign accent instantly switch to a New York dialect and say to Miss Calendar, "Oh, you're in the trade?" That is pure genius, and the first time I ever saw a scene as perfectly clever as that was when the episode first aired.

There is another selling point to the episode that I will almost certainly be discussing in-depth in "Becoming, Part 2". But I'm a little shocked and proud this compliment can also be extended to this episode. Joyce Summers is like the best and most refreshing TV mom to a teenager from that specific era of television. She's trying to navigate the idea that her daughter had sex and she asks Buffy if she was at least careful. And Buffy rolls her eyes and is like, "Come on, Mom." And Joyce is like, "Don't come on, Mom me. You had sex with a boy you didn't even see fit to tell me you were dating." Joyce has no way of ever knowing Angel probably has not had sex since before the AIDS epidemic, or that vampires can't get humans pregnant. She's a concerned mom who loves her daughter. That is 100% the right question. Buffy has no right to brush it off as besides the point. Stuff like that is why I love Joyce. You'll hear a lot longer and more extended rave about the character in the second part of "Becoming".

Willow saying that Ira Rosenberg would be unhappy with his daughter nailing crucifixes to her bedroom wall is a great joke.

Plothole: Angel claims the Latin sign outside the school inviting all who seek knowledge to enter is the thing that invited him into the school. In reality, it should have been because it's a public building. He doesn't need an invite for that.

And finally, as angry as a lot of the episode made me, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Anthony Stewart Head brought the goods. I love that after Buffy saves Giles' life she decks him in the face and tells him he was going to get himself killed, and that she can't do this without them. Which ends up with them sobbing in each other's arms. And knowing neither actor was ever nominated for an Emmy for this show shows how useless that particular award actually is. That moment actually gave me chills.

I am unhappy with a lot of this episode in hindsight. And what's disturbing is that I am equally unhappy with myself for failing to recognize these problems until now. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Killed By Death"

This will be an interesting review.

Generally speaking, among Buffy fans, this is considered an unambiguously bad episode. The children in jeopardy trope is outright gross, and the actress who plays young Buffy looks so unlike Sarah Michelle Gellar it didn't even occur to the producers to hire a blonde girl. So, knowing that this episode is widely hated (for admittedly good reasons) are there any interesting things to note? Or even any, GOOD things?

Actually, yeah. I was really digging Cordelia in the episode. Her "Tact is just not saying true things. I'll pass," is a classic and essential Cordelia line. And it's especially classic and essential because it's true. Giles even mentions to Willow later that what Cordelia was talking about in Buffy's trauma with her dead cousin making her need a tangible monster to fight is 100% accurate, and insightful to boot. I don't see why Cordelia should be getting shade for clarifying this important distinction with Buffy ahead of time. Especially if even Giles thinks it might be true.

I laughed at Giles pouting about being saddled with Cordelia, but on this go-round, I find it more troubling than I did before. Not because I don't believe Giles would be that petty. My problem is is why is Xander seemingly in charge, and why has everybody just decided he was? I don't get the group hierarchy at ALL when Buffy is in the hospital.

My favorite scene is something I didn't even register or notice before this viewing. I love Joyce extending sympathies to Giles about Miss Calendar. What amazes and interests me is it hurts Giles because he didn't expect to be reminded of that when he was. Which also tells me both Giles and Buffy don't really appreciate Joyce. Her empathy is no surprise to me, but it shocks Giles because he takes her for granted. She's the clueless Mom who has no idea her daughter is the Slayer. So maybe Giles and Buffy have mistaken that aspect of her as stupidity. And since THEY are the ones holding back the secret, THAT is the hang-up THEY are saddling her with. It's interesting Joyce being insightful surprises them when it does. Mostly because they never treat her like an insightful or even a real person. They act like she is always in the way. But Giles is in pain and she noticed, and offered her sympathies. I like that about her.

Angel telling Xander it must have killed him he got there first really, REALLY angers me. First of all, because Angel is a low-class jerk, and I dunno, I feel like the show often makes characters antifeminist so it's easier for the viewer to hate them. It actually is NOT great to hear a character make gross and sexist statements, even if they are evil. I also am annoyed that Xander doesn't say "You are a gross and stupid person, Angel, and I pity you." To be perfectly blunt, if Angel said that to me in Xander's exact position, I wouldn't push back on it either. Because Angel is powerful, dangerous, and crazy, and I would never push my luck in antagonizing that psychopath in that circumstance. But Xander has already done quite a bit of threatening and goading Angel in that scene, so when I needed to hear him stand up for Buffy's virtue, when he doesn't, I took extra notice. I am not happy about that scene. At all.

Also, the writers shouldn't be asking Charisma Carpenter to mack on middle-aged dudes to get intel. I get that Carpenter was like actually 30 when Cordelia was in high school, but because Cordelia IS supposed to be in high school, it's still super skeevy. Ick.

This also clarifies that Angel does not need an invite for public spaces. Another bit of proof the last episode messed that up.

Here's something. I think that the monster's method of killing is actually pretty good. It's scary, has a good visual, is gross and creepy, and still looks all right on the show's nonexistent budget. When people are talking down how much this episode stinks, I hope they don't mean those eye suckers. They actually give me the willies.

So yeah, a bad episode. But as bad as people say? I wouldn't go that far. **.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer "I Only Have Eyes For You"

This episode is VERY highly regarded and well-loved among the fandom. But what I noticed during my latest "Eyes Wide Open" rewatch of the franchise is that it isn't highly regarded or well-loved enough! This is the first episode I have seen since I started rewatching the show this go-round that I outright loved. That I have no negative notes for. That does not hit me as wrong, creepy, or tone-deaf in hindsight. I expect there will be a few more raves coming. But I did not quite remember this episode being so great. But it's greatness impresses me because the episode and the bones of the episode are so freaking solid, when nothing else has been yet.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer has done a lot of scary episodes. It's done many horrifying episodes. It's done TOO many disturbing episodes. But this episode is a rarity in that it's SPOOKY, which is not something the series trafficked in regularly. And maybe they should have. They nailed it here.

People have done psychological dissertations about Buffy The Vampire Slayer and what it means, but I think this episode is like a perfect psychological deconstruction of the characters, and would given REAL Buffy scholars, the ones I would listen to, a LOT to talk about. I think the most genius thing I remember is still the most genius thing, although it means even more now. But I love the fact that Buffy is possessed by the murderous male student and Angelus is possessed by the poor doomed female teacher. I have to confess David Boreanaz's performance isn't perfect, and I actually laughed once in a place I shouldn't have. What I found funny was how humilating and uncomfortable this must be for Angelus, and yeah, we've NEVER seen him that upset before or since. This REALLY got to him.

What I love about Buffy refusing to forgive James is that you are led to believe she refuses to feel a shred of sympathy for this kid because she sees his murder of the teacher he supposedly loved as the ultimate betrayal. The way Angel betrayed her. You are led to believe as long as she can't forgive Angel, there is no forgiveness possible for James and the teacher.

But she actually identified with James rather than the teacher. She believes SHE is the murderer who snuffed out the person she loved due to her own selfishness and neglect. And it's a weird, amazingly complex, and GENIUS idea, that should be playing out on a TV show with a LOT higher of a credibility factor than something called "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". And that's the frustration the fandom has over the entire franchise in a nutshell. We take it seriously (as we should) but because the show has a silly name, nobody who doesn't follow the show would EVER understand WHY we could take something called "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" seriously to begin with. I appreciate Whedon named it that to sort of make this amazing show inaccessible to TV snobs and cynics. But I think that was a mistake. I think TV snobs and cynics did not deserve to be driven away from this great show as in-joke between Joss and the fans he truly cares about. And I didn't really have that specific perspective until I rewatched this perfect episode.

Truthfully, all I'm here for is the radiant adult Meredith Salinger (from The Journey Of Natty Gann, one of the few decent Disney live-action films in the 1980's). Also shocked that the guy is portrayed by Christopher Gorham, who voiced the Flash in some of those recent DC Universe Animated Movies. I had always assumed Gorman was MUCH younger than someone able to play a high school student in 1998. If you told me he was currently in his late 20's in 2021, I'd believe you. Even if the math of when I started watching those movies wouldn't hold up, I wouldn't bat an eye.

First mention of the Mayor which shocks me. While the conspiracy has been played around with since the third episode of the season, this is the first time the Mayor was mentioned. When I saw Season Three, I always felt like the Mayor was the elephant in the room in season 2, and the Big Bad in waiting. The truth is, we aren't even aware he exists until the third to last episode of the year. That surprises me.

I need to discuss James Marsters as Spike. Two things. Because I hated Spike after Season 6, I don't think I was able to quite give James Marsters his due for what he brought to the show before that season, and before Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon destroyed his character, because they believed him trying to rape somebody would make a swell moment of personal growth for him. But Marsters has serious acting talent. And I'll tell you what made me think that. It's Angel slobbering all over Drusilla. I always recalled him being furious at that. But that's not all it is. He's also genuinely upset and disturbed by it. But he can't say anything for risk of revealing he's gotten his strength back.

Speaking of which, say what you will about Spike (and I have and will) the character is known for being placed in visually iconic scenes that you remember, and made good clips for his credit billings in the theme songs the season after they aired. I would argue the only real iconic moment Spike has had before now so far was him running over the Sunnydale sign at the beginning of his first episode. Him standing up out of the wheelchair at the end as the thunderous music plays, is definitely the second. It's amazing how huge that lands, and it's all due to Marsters' performance. While you don't get any sense a team-up with Buffy is coming, William the Bloody just became the series Wildcard as long as Angel doesn't know exactly how healed he is, or how much he loathes him. It literally gives me chills.

The whole episode does, and the playing of that eerie title song is pure emotional dynamite, and everything in the episode lands, and everything works. I suspected going in when I decided to rewatch things with new eyes after the recent Whedon allegations that I would probably still love quite a few episodes. What surprises me is that so far, it's fewer than I predicted. What is a bigger surprise is that this is the first one of them. Didn't see that coming. But the episode is pretty much perfect. *****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Go Fish"

First the cliche: "That was wrong on every level."

Now to deconstruct the cliche. Usually when someone says that something is wrong on every level, they are actually expressing amusement and a sense of wicked admiration for it. Not me though. Not about this. This was LITERALLY wrong on every level. I'm not being cute. This sucked.

I'm going to try to make this review shorter than normal, because that was SO sucky I don't wanna dwell on it, but maybe I should, because a LOT of it is a huge red flag for the later Whedon allegations. But let me try to detail the suckiness as briefly as possible.

I actually understand why Snyder is mad at Buffy for breaking the guy's nose. And I am angry that I am understanding about that. The truth is Buffy is the Slayer. I thought the debacle with Ted taught her that she shouldn't ever be hitting normal human beings that hard. It sucks on some level, but because she's the Slayer, she actually should have waited for him to attack her before punching him. Considering what she can do, him locking the doors and telling her to relax does not cut it. And what makes me especially furious is that because Buffy IS a superstrong person, she would actually have to let the guy get in a LITTLE bit of an attack to make it remotely justified, which is unfair and ridiculous. And then they tell her she dresses wrong, and to wear something appropriate to school tomorrow? Do you know what I think? I think the PRODUCERS have the actual problem with how Buffy dresses. And objectifying Xander later on in the swim briefs does not make the producers fair. It makes them equal opportunity creeps.

And when the coach says his boys "have other needs", I was like "Whoever wrote this episode should be fired. Out of a cannon. Into space. Butt first."

It's weird, but I recall seeing this episode again AFTER Wentworth Miller hit it big as the smoldering hunk on Prison Break (his clip being a memorable part of the season 3 intro always tickled me for that reason) but this IS the first time I've seen the episode since he graduated from intense eye-candy to off-the-wall scenery chewer Leonard Snart on The Flash and DC's Legends Of Tomorrow. This is one of those shows that never deserved him and that he is way better than. Although I'd probably only be a LITTLE annoyed at this if I was forced to compare it to his lame stint on the execrable Joan of Arcadia.

The last "epic" shot of the monsters in the ocean, was obviously done on the cheap. They are suggesting they are deep in the sea, and yet the tide is rolling as if they are right by the shore. It's as if they only had to budget to film on a beach and they are trying fruitlessly to hide that fact. Normally, this show's desperation to hide how cheap it is is sort of endearing to me, but this episode is so gross it makes me mad instead.

Jonathan not being appreciated being saved by Buffy from the bullies is actually understandable. But the peeing in the pool thing shows Jonathan is and always has been a creep.

You know? Snarking aside, I'm done. That was nasty, and I don't want to think anymore about it. I'm out. 0.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Becoming, Part 1"

Watershed. A gamechanger. A landmark in serialized television. More epic than anything this low-budget has any right to be. Containing ONE thing in it that drives me nuts, so it's imperfect. It has it all.

This will probably be a long review, and almost all of it is gonna be complimentary. There is a lot to mull over and be wowed by.

I very much like how the episode opens and ends on Whistler's ambiguous narration. The differing scenes don't actually change the meaning of what he's saying the second time out, but the neat thing is that it fits both scenarios either way.

It's too bad we never saw Whistler again after the next episode. The plan was for him to be Angel's mentor on Angel: The Series, but Max Perlich, (excuse me SPECIAL GUEST Max Perlich) was unavailable, so Glenn Quinn was cast as the similar character of Doyle. But the main reason I wanted to see Whistler again is that unlike Doyle, he's mysterious, and I know nothing about him. And now I never will.

Joss Whedon can talk smack about Donald Sutherland, and how he botched his performance in the Buffy movie all he wants, but the truth is even if that's true, he lent the franchise gravitas. Casting Richard Riehle in the crucial role of Buffy's first Watcher Merrick always confounded me. It's such a big role that it deserved a cameo from a big actor. Movie Buffy's Merrick was the evil President Snow in The Hunger Games. TV Buffy's Merrick was the grandfather in Grounded For Life. These are not equal interpretations, whether Whedon think Sutherland ruined his movie or not.

I'll say one good thing about the TV version of some of the stuff covered in the movie: Buffy is portrayed as sort of stupid during it. That's good. That suggests that Kristy Swanson's character might have been more cunning than the ditz she acted like deep down, and simply never had cause to take anything seriously before. Interesting idea to make Buffy out-Cordelia Cordelia. But forget Cordelia. That's actually a compliment she doesn't deserve. She's actually one of the Heathers.

I love when weird TV shows involve real people. They rarely do however. But when the guy at the museum (played by Jack MacGee) asks Giles why he wants to wait to open the stone crate, and wondering why he wouldn't want to simply be surprised, that's a real-world viewpoint from a real person. If I was unaware vampires and the supernatural existed (and I don't think they do on my level of The Dark Tower) that would be my exact reaction. Genre often forgets to add real characters. Joss Whedon remembered just this once.

The flashbacks later became a staple of Angel's TV show. With the exception of Los Angeles, none of the sets here are remotely convincing for the given area of the world they were supposed to be set in. But I don't care much. The scope still exists, even if it's not entirely effective. Just attempting it works more than if they hadn't.

I have been spending these past two seasons of this rewatch being generally appalled and disgusted by Resident Nice Guy Xander Harris, and his creepy and entitled behavior towards Buffy. So I am both appalled and delighted that his jerkiness and cynical perspective matched my own to a T this episode! He should be a lawyer. "Here's an interesting perspective: Who cares?" I love that! Giles brings up that it was Jenny's last wish to restore Angel's soul, and loses his cool when Xander coldly (and accurately) points out that Jenny is dead. What's especially ironic about Giles's position is that it's another example of the character giving Angel a far bigger benefit of the doubt than that character actually ever deserved. He's going to regret this mindset of mercy in the very next episode. When Xander says, "The way I see it, you want to forget all about Miss Calendar's murder so you can get your boyfriend back," I was like "Boom! Mic drop!" That's actually how I see it too. My fist is punching the air, especially after my rewatch and new perspective about "Passion". Angel is unforgivable at this point. At least to me (and Xander, God bless 'im).

I think this might be one of Spike's funniest episodes simply because he does so much with so little. His visible pleasure at Angel's failures is a bit cathartic and very good to see. His sing-song "Someone wasn't worthy," goes in the hall of fame for his one-liners, as does "Wackiness ensues." And I don't think I ever appreciated the deepness of "Oh, look, it's a rock. It's a big rock. None of my friends have a rock this big," until now. It's not just sarcastic, it's somehow wise.

But is it just me, or is Angel's "Gosh, I was hoping we could get back together," painfully unfunny and lame? It strikes me especially so knowing how absolutely witty and clever Angelus wound up being on Angel: The Series. His "You fall for it every time," might have been a better snap, but the truth is Buffy only fell for it once before now, and that was when Angel was with her. Kind of a punk move to use that trick against her a second time. But yes, Giles is in trouble.

One more thought on the Flashbacks, specifically the first. In a later season, Buffy does NOT like hearing Angel say a Vampire's personality is extremely similar to the person they replaced. But drunken Irishman Liam, as seen in the alleyways with Darla? He is FAR more recognizable to me as Angelus than Angel. And that's all without being evil. There is a zest for life both Liam and Angelus share, although Angelus' zest is more for death. But they are equally zesty, is what I'm saying.

Two more things to talk about. The first thing is the thing in the episode I didn't like. The second thing is how the episode ended. If God is kind, I will have more to say about the second thing than the first.

But I hate Kendra's death. It's pointless, and stupid, and done to basically service Buffy's arc rather than Kendra's. And Kendra is literally the most important person of color on the show for the first two seasons. And she goes out like a punk to teach the white characters a lesson about the stakes. IStandWithRayFisher. After that, how can I not?

But... but... I like the cliffhanger anyways. Remember what I said about me loving real characters in fiction? On Buffy demons and people are killed left and right (seriously, nobody thinks to close the school when a woman walks off the street into the middle of the classroom and sets herself on fire?) but it is alarming how little law enforcement is involved. Buffy is about to realize that her dangerous calling might in fact put her close to dead bodies she can be confused with for their murderers. One of the things I loved about 'Salen Lot, is that Matt Burke told the characters that even if they won and killed all the vampires, chances are, a cop would see the wrong thing and they'd all be going to jail for murder. I love that's Buffy's grief is real, and private, and intruded on by people seeing that bit of horror entirely out of context. It is not only unexpected complication out of nowhere, but it's a realistic complication so I kick myself and Buffy for never seeing it coming. It's the perfect "Insult to injury" moment to end the episode on. I just wish Whedon didn't feel the need to murder the show's only real black character to do it. Either way, it's a heck of an ending. *****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Becoming, Part 2"

I am going to state a controversial opinion. What annoys me about this controversial opinion is that it is uncommon. But I think it's a no-brainer, and I am mad at society for not sharing it. You guys are nuts and you all suck. But when all is said and done, "Becoming, Part 2" is the single best episode of the series. Every Buffy fan loses their minds for the gimmick episodes of "Hush", "The Body", and "Once More With Feeling", that they don't remember or appreciate how important to the show, and frankly television history, this was. "Becoming, Part 2" was the best episode the show had done so far (and most Buffy fans would agree with that at the time). What I think is that it's never been surpassed. On either this show or Angel. I will go one farther. Nothing on Firefly or Joss Whedon's stint in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes close to it either. This was Whedon's career high point, that considering it's unlikely that anyone will ever be willing to work with him again, will NEVER be surpassed in my eyes.

I mentioned TV history, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer was very good for television. It was good for television in the way The X-Files was bad for television. I don't want to get TOO off-track in this review, but everything The X-Files did wrong, Buffy The Vampire Slayer did right (at least until Angel's finale "Not Fade Away".) But The X-Files was extremely unhealthy for television, and TV was made worse for it being a success. The fact that The X-Files was often amazing doesn't change this fact. In fact, if The X-Files were terrible, it never would have caught on, and neither would have the questionable trends it started.

Because of The X-Files, a LOT of genre television didn't believe you needed a firm game plan when planning out the mythology of a sci-fi show or fantasy. Twin Peaks mistakenly got the "David Lynch is making it up as he's going along" accusation leveled at it as well, but in reality the mythology to Twin Peaks is deceptively simple, and holds up in hindsight. The X-Files however was an utter mess both in hindsight and at the time. Apologists made excuses for it but they (and I) were fools for ever having Wanted To Believe. Not a single plot twist held up to scrutiny. And instead of giving answers for and resolving plotlines, Chris Cater simply compounded the problems by adding new elements that didn't fit what came before. I defy you to explain the logic of the Black Oil. It destroyed the show. In flipping Season Three! Things became SUCH a mess that Carter had to take the audacious (and annoying) tack that everything we learned about aliens on the first 9 seasons was a lie when he relaunched the show for two seasons a couple of years ago. Basically, things were such an unplanned mess, The X-Files had to retcon itself in entirety. And a lot of similar shows similarly did not have a big game plan. Buffy did. Boy did it ever.

The second destructive thing The X-Files did is make a movie. You can level this complaint against Star Trek, but no Star Trek movie damaged either that franchise or television in general the way The X-Files: Fight The Future did. Star Trek The Original Series was canceled before its time, and The Next Generation had a lovely and satisfying last episode itself, so no harm no foul. No, what The X-Files did is have a movie set between the seasons. And the series was left unresolved because Chris Carter believed he could someday later on resolve the entire thing on the big screen, and didn't want to waste all of the mythology secret reveals (as bad as they were) on a mere TV finale. Suddenly, after The X-Files, a LOT of TV shows declined closed endings and instead set up their finales as prologues to films that invariably never happened (see also Alias). Even Buffy and Angel did this. But what Buffy also did was tell a compelling story from season to season with a beginning, middle, and an end. It did not live and die by season ending cliffhangers, and told its entire story, sometimes setting stuff up for later, sometimes not. But Buffy knew where its story was headed. Not saying I LOVED all of those seasons and stories, but once Buffy showed TV you can have a gameplan, other creators like J.J. Abrams took after that, and soon enough it became common, and the mantra for shows far better than Buffy could ever hope to be. But artistic, satisfying, tear-jerker endings like this episode did not exist before "Becoming, Part 2". I'm sorry, they just didn't. TV has done tearjerkers before (Quantum Leap springs immediately to mind). On rare occasions before this they'll even wrap up a story (see the original The Fugitive). TV even had the occasional artistry going for it (The Pilot and Episode 2 of Twin Peaks). But before Becoming, Part 2, no show dared to try and put all of those things together at once. Never before. Name an example. There isn't one.

The third X-Files damaging trope thankfully never damaged or hit Buffy, but Chris Carter believed that if David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson left the original series, he could replace them and their irreplaceable characters with new actors, and that the audience would just be fine with it. And a LOT of shows since then (glares in Smallville and The Office's direction) have followed this idea (to their detriment). Luckily for us, Buffy ended exactly when Sarah Michelle Gellar wanted out. As it should have.

But Buffy The Vampire Slayer and "Becoming, Part 2" were very good for television, and put all sorts of bright ideas into the heads of people even more talented than Whedon. Which is a very good thing.

Let's talk about the episode. This is already a long review, and we haven't even done that bit yet. Weird, right?

The teaser is dynamite, and lives up to the cliffhanger. And Snyder lives up to being the character on the show with no redeeming qualities. He will always make a situation worse than it has any right being if he is in it, usually due to either bias or dishonesty (as seen from his "The cops of this town are deeply stupid," line later on, it's both here). Snyder sucks so bad and is so clueless that when Buffy theorizes he's never gotten a date in high school, he doesn't recognize it as a slam. "Your point being?" No adult or villain should ever be this stupid. If Snyder were an even remotely worthwhile character, he'd say something like "My dating life or your theories about the lack there-of aren't about to stop you from either being homeless or in jail." The point being that Snyder would STILL be better off than Buffy, high-school dates or not. Instead, Snyder misses the point entirely because the character is allowed no redeeming virtues.

Seeing this again startles me a bit at how stupid and annoying with her stupidity Joyce is. But regardless of whether or not she handled Buffy coming clean well or not (and she clearly didn't) I like the fact that despite the fact that she's stupid, she's not about to let Buffy call her that. There is a moment when Buffy tells Joyce sarcastically to get another drink (Joyce has been stress-drinking already) and Joyce smashes the glass against the wall. and yells at her appalling daughter that she has no right to talk to her like that. And I love her for it! I love that even when Joyce is being dumb and unreasonable, she lays down the line when her daughter treats her that way. To be blunt, (and I may be getting a little off-track here, AGAIN,) it's one of my favorite moments of the entire series just because it is unlike the reaction of any fictional TV parent of a teenager before or since. If Brandon or Brenda Walsh had told their stupid pet of a mother to have another drink in this circumstance, she'd widen her eyes and say, "I think that a good idea," before nervously sitting down and taking a swill. I love Joyce pitching the fit that she does here instead. Regardless of how dumb and ditzy Joyce is being (and she's far dumber and ditzier in this episode than usual) Buffy has no right to talk to her that way. She is not her peer or her girlfriend. She needs to check herself.

What kills me about how great and unusual a moment that is, is that it wasn't remarked upon by Whedon in the audio commentary at all. I have never seen a single Buffy fan before ever bring it up, point it out, admire it, or even quote that it exists. I suspect for many people reading this review, I will be the first person they've ever heard discussing it. But I believe Joyce's personal dignity is hard fought for and won here, and nobody should ever dismiss it or forget it after that.

I have something unkind to say about the producers and Drusilla. Drusilla and Juliet Landau are amazing this season. But they are the only season she is. Granted, Landau's reappearances amounted to guest shots rather than the arc she enjoys here, but Dru looking back on Angel and Spike after making out with Giles and saying she was in the moment was really the last memorable thing the character ever did and said. And she did and said a TON of memorable stuff. But only this season for some reason.

Spike on the other hand is hitting his stride. I'm not saying Whedon was already planning Spike to someday become a full-fledged cast member at this stage of the game. But I guarantee it's his and Buffy's team-up here that gave him the idea. They gelled as peers shockingly quickly, and when Spike says he wants to save the world I actually believe him. His shrug upon leaving Buffy to be killed by Angel is such a funny moment the main titles used it when James Marsters was bumped up to a series regular in season 4.

Part of me wants to clock Xander for not warning Buffy that Willow was trying the curse again, (obviously hoping she'd kill him before it was successful, because Xander is worse than Hitler). But the moment of realization and sacrifice would have meant a LOT less to me as a viewer and a fan if Buffy had known it was coming.

Buffy understanding it is happening with no warning instead, and still sending her beloved to Hell because it's too late is one of those mythic and Shakespearian turns comic book writers say superheroes are about but never seem to actually be. Here, her telling her beloved to close his eyes, stabbing him in the stomach, and sending him to Hell.. Gets.. The Point... Across... Like nothing else.

And the Sarah MacLachlan thing just kills me decades later. I didn't actually cry this time through (mostly because I was still mad about what Angel did in "Passion") but I came closest when Joyce reads the note and choked back a sob. "Now leaving Sunnydale. Come back soon," is another perfect endpoint for the series. It sets up stuff, but is a satisfying ending in its own right. Whedon did NOT learn that from Chris Carter.

I wish Oz had more to do in these last couple of episodes. His "We know the world didn't end because... check it out," was the one Oz thing he said these past couple of weeks, and a laughline right at the point we could really use one.

The Mutant Enemy zombie saying "I need a hug," is another great tension reliever to leave us off with.

It is not lost on me that Giles grimaces when Willow suggests Angel was cured and Buffy and he ran off together in a whirlwind of romance. Do not forget that grimace. It will come up again.

I thought Drusilla's performance as Jenny Calendar was very convincing. Far more convincing than it needed to be. But she WAS "in the moment". When Giles says the words "Angel's blood..." a less skilled interrogator would let him finish the sentence for further clarification. She realizes however that he already said the only thing that matters, and kisses him instead to keep up the pretense (for apparently no reason).

For the record, Giles confirming to Xander he wouldn't want to see him in a dire situation is played as a funny joke at Xander's expense, but I think it's a jerkish thing for Giles to affirm. I know he's been through a lot, but jeez he's a punk for that.

Joyce and Spike making small talk for the first time is golden. Spike later says that Joyce was the only person of the group he could stand and I can see it. She actually treats him like a person, even after learning he was the guy she knocked over the head with an axe handle. It's kind of cool.

Snyder seems excited about the Mayor. I'm with Xander and I will very much enjoy seeing this tool being eaten by his man-crush next year.

Angel seems glad Spike has his back. If Angel were smarter, that would actually make him suspicious.

Spike high-tailing it out of town in the black Cadillac with one arm wrapped around Dru is one of those visually iconic moments the show always seems to give him.

I personally believe this episode contains my favorite non-Twin Peaks musical score out of any television episode. "Close Your Eyes" devastates and amazes me in just the right places. Christophe Beck is amazing. I get literal chills.

Here's a question: Who actually called the cops at the beginning? If I had written the episode, I woulda said Angel did the second Buffy ran off at the end of the last episode, simply to mess her up. It's an annoyingly unanswered question that I can reasonably answer myself.

Willow eyes turning blank and her voice turning harsh as the Latin chant she was reciting suddenly took over her and became automatic is very, unexpectedly scary. Which also makes it predictably funny

You can argue about the merits of the Lynch influences in "Restless", or about the true nature of sacrifice in "The Gift", or the realistic portrayal of loss and grief in "The Body". But do any of those episodes have ALL three of those themes, AND a big honking swordfight to top it all off? No. This is actually the best episode of the series, and it always was. I will fight you. *****.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Anne"

Buffy The Vampire Slayer is famous for have surprisingly sucky season premieres, and "Anne" is the second worst of all (next to "Buffy Vs. Dracula"). I understand the rationale behind it, at least I did at the time, but it's an outmoded way to tell a story.

What Joss is doing with small, underwhelming premieres is what is known as The Slow Burn. Sometimes I appreciate it even if the episode sucks (Season Four's premiere is quite impressive with its foreshadowing, without ever once being impressive itself) but "Anne" is even worse than usual because NONE of the Season 3 Arc is being set up here, and it's all unrelated to everything else. We'll talk about a few interesting things, and the episode's many failings. This is a bad episode and I don't want to unfairly pick on it or suggest episodes this bad are common for this show.

I'll talk about things that didn't work first. Just to end things on a more positive note.

The Scooby adventures were shockingly bland. Outside of the classic bit of Oz whiffing throwing the stake at the fleeing vamp, nothing is funny or clever. Even Xander and Cordelia collapsing in orchestral passion as the vampire turns to dust feels a bit old hat.

"Here's my impression of Gandhi." That is a classic Joss Whedon joke. What is especially classic about it is that it's not the slightest bit funny and Whedon seems completely unaware of it. It's this episode's version of Captain America's "Language" from Age Of Ultron. It's Whedon believing he is funnier than he is and that his fans' threshold for laughing is lower than it is. It's annoying. Here's something new: I wouldn't have recognized it as annoying as it is if "Language" never existed. One of the worst things about Age Of Ultron and Justice League sucking so much is that many of their weaknesses throw into relief flaws in his earlier work I would have had no context to recognize as sucky as they were. The "Gandhi impression" is Whedon at his stupidest, confusing himself for clever.

I am thoroughly unimpressed by how unimaginative the Buffyverse's version of Hell ultimately is. Yes, the show's budget is shoestring. And it doesn't stop this version from paling in comparison from what they were able to come up with in Lucifer, DC's Legends Of Tomorrow, and even Preacher. Preacher's Hell being memorable especially stings because they didn't actually usually have to pay a whole bunch of money to portray it. This just sucks.

I am creeped out at Whedon sexualizing Buffy in the dream sequence. The camera lingers WAY too long on her breasts to be considered anything but icky. To be fair to Whedon, sexualizing teenagers is a major problem in Hollywood still, and has been done on everything from Smallville to Riverdale. I don't have to like it or think it's isn't gross though.

Next I am going to talk about good things, and finally some random things of notes.

The first good thing is Joyce blaming Giles for Buffy leaving. It throws him for a loop, but he regains enough composure to tell Joyce he didn't make Buffy what she was. As far as excuses go, it utterly sucks. Joyce's complaint isn't about Buffy being the Slayer. It's about how she was doing it in secret, and had an entire secret relationship with this man she knew nothing about. That's super creepy. And Giles believing Buffy should keep this from her mother is 100% on him. Especially because the blow-up wouldn't have occurred if this had been revealed and acknowledged during a quiet moment and Joyce had been allowed the proper time and context to deal with it. To be blunt, Buffy does little to comfort her mother about the truth in the last episode and that's also on her. It bothers me that the finale portrayed Joyce as being dumb and unreasonable. Because Buffy and Giles have been treating her terribly. I like this episode because Joyce actually calls Giles on it.

Say what you will about the climax (and it DID suck) but the practical fights were SO badass, they made wonderful clips for the intro to Season 3. The badass look of Buffy looking around with the axe in her hand is so iconic it spent three seasons as the end of the theme song.

"I'm Buffy The Vampire Slayer." Generally speaking, the characters in the show say the title of the show rarely. But when Buffy does, it's ALWAYS a big moment.

Lily may be annoying in this episode, and this episode may have sucked for set-up for the rest of the season, but Lily becoming Anne at the end of the episode was neat set-up for her arc on Angel.

"What are you doing?" "Going through your secret files." "I'm calling the police." [Rips phone off the wall.] That and Buffy's "I suck at undercover" is one of the reasons I like her as a hero. She's pretty no-nonsense when dealing with strangers, which is kind of refreshing. She has never been comfortable at guile or spyjinks and none of her missions have ever been compromised simply because she refuses to b.s. her enemies. I like that about her. Here's something: For people who like and admire Buffy, I don't think I've ever seen anybody else compliment her about that one thing. But it's one of her coolest qualities.

Speaking of main title clips, one of the shots of a homeless woman standing in the middle of the street was eventually used on the main title for Angel for all five of its seasons. I didn't realize it came from this episode until I just saw it this time.

The episode may not have set up the arc of the season, but the notion of time moving differently in Hell sure explains why Angel is totally crazy when he comes back in a couple of episodes.

One of the frustrating things about The Slow Burn is that later producers discovered it was unnecessary. The show "Lost" started with a plane exploding on a mysterious beach and the first scene in the Pilot being gripping and exhilarating didn't lesson the mystery, or make the journey less rewarding as it went along. Joss believes in a story getting better as it goes along. I believe in that too. What Whedon fails to understand is that doesn't mean you have to make the beginning of the story suck for the sake of comparison. The other option is to make a great premiere and keep upping your game every week. This is clearly not something Whedon was EVER cut out for. Season Seven is the basic proof of that. But that doesn't make weak season premieres like "Anne" any more acceptable. *.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Dead Man's Party"

Not much important happened this episode. But it was still surprisingly solid.

I am really rooting for Joyce and hating Xander. While Xander is right that Buffy put her mom through Hell, he does not get to be the one to call her on it. His behavior is loutish and he thinks he is more entitled to Buffy's apology than he is. Out of all of Buffy's major friends, he was actually hurt the least. And he's the one making her feel the worst. That's not okay. At all.

Joyce said some really interesting things in the episode. When Buffy snipes at the idea of private schools, Joyce ALMOST loses her cool and says with as much tact as she can muster, "Buffy, you made some bad choices. You might have to live with some consequences." That is a true thing a good parent says. Joyce also tells Buffy she wasn't perfect and handled Buffy telling her the truth badly. But this is something I already said: Buffy laid it on her in the most inconvenient and horrifying way possible, and acted like she was stupid for not immediately getting with the program. Joyce is a good enough person to admit she reacted badly. Is Buffy a self-aware enough person that she understands the way she told her gave her few other options BUT to react badly?

I have problems with the party. It's nice Joyce seems okay with it, but she shouldn't be. She was going to bring out the good plates, and the Scoobies essentially set up a drinking party with a band without asking her. They wreck her house even before the zombies show up.

And what was with the idiot answering the phone? I confess I don't go to parties but it is usual for a guest to answer the phone when it rings? Because it strikes me as incredibly bad etiquette. Even for a drunken stoner. There HAVE to be SOME sort of recognized rules at these sorts of parties. I can't believe strangers answering the phone is considered by anyone else to be okay.

I love Joyce's eulogy for the cat. It is very clear to me why Spike actually likes her. She doesn't NEED to be this decent and she weirdly is.

Giles' "Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead! Americans!" is one of that character's funniest lines ever.

Speaking of which, Oz saying he liked the cat and that he thinks they should name it Patches was a riot. His descriptions on the differences between a gathering, a shindig, and a hootenanny are Classic Oz too. "A whole lot of hoot, just a LITTLE bit of nanny." Awesome.

I have a problem with Snyder in the episode. He's too loathsome. A person like Snyder cannot function in society as long as he speaks to people like Joyce the rude way he does publicly. Someone like Snyder would have been fired a long time ago. I don't care that this is over fifteen years away from MeToo. Nobody who works with children would ever put up with it. I don't like how horrible they've made the character because it's quite unrealistic. You can throw Donald Trump in my face as a counterexample, but I think Snyder's behavior is openly worse. I have no doubt Trump is worse in private but Trump doesn't talk that way in public. I get this was a private meeting, but still, it's not realistic. Giles strong-arming him at the end was admittedly awesome but it never should have been necessary.

The last scene of Willow and Buffy jokingly throwing antifeminist slurs at each other has truly aged poorly. One of the worst endings of the series simply because every bit of the language is dated.

But the rest of the episode was decent, especially considering nothing much really happened during it. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Faith, Hope And Trick"

Interesting thing I noticed: In Faith's first episode, Buffy treats Faith far worse than Faith treats Buffy. Thought that bears mentioning.

I like Willow telling Oz he was supposed to stop her from doing that and him saying he likes when she does that.

Xander's "They should film that story and show it every Christmas," is also a great line. Although to be blunt, his perving on Faith is creepy. And to do it in front of Cordelia is especially rude.

"I told him I loved him, and then I kissed him, and then I killed him." Only on this show will you get an epic (yet ridiculous) line like that.

Mr. Trick is cool simply because he acknowledges the fact that he's black. He in fact mentions that Sunnydale is not exactly a haven for the brothers.

Scott totally whiffed it what that ring. Holy cow, what a screw-up. Not his fault, but it's also not something I'd look past were I Buffy. Were I Buffy, he just blew it forever with that.

Odd, weirdly poetic, and surprisingly accurate episode title.

The screen fading to black, and then the ring lighting up and shaking was a total Twin Peaks move. Instantly got that homage.

One thing I notice in hindsight is that I don't think Angel returning when he did was ever explained satisfactorily. I mean, I get The Powers That Be weren't done with him, but what caused him to return at that exact moment? I feel like a great deal of the most important parts of Angel's arc seem a bit random and coincidental in hindsight.

Buffy telling Snyder him being overruled is essentially him having his entire competency and fitness to do his job called into question is one of the few "good ones" the show was nice enough to allow her to get off on him. The fact that Joyce was there to enjoy it was icing on the cake.

The show is still doing The Slow Burn at this point, but with the arrival of Faith and Mr. Trick, things are starting to come into focus. ***1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Beauty And The Beasts"

One thought kept circling around head as I was rewatching this: Buffy The Vampire Slayer shouldn't ever be this bad. At least not at this stage of the game. I'm not saying the show hasn't done worse, or even that's it's the worst episode so far. But it's after "Becoming". There is no excuse for it anymore. I chalked up all of the horrible episodes in Season 1 and 2 as growing pains, and part of the process of the show finding itself. This is terrible with no larger explanation needed.

Here is a fun thought experiment for people who have seen the show but aren't completely attached to it, or maybe if the recent Whedon allegations made you lose the Faith a little (so to speak). The next time one of those alleged Buffy scholars (You know who I mean. The people who have done psychological dissertations on the show and characters, and believe the the show is perfect in its creation myths allegories, and that its melodrama is the closest the modern age gets to Shakespeare; those guys) talk about how purely brilliant the show is, I suggest you dare them to watch this episode with you while you MST3K it. If the person isn't fuming, there is gonna be a LOT of painful silence on their end due to utter embarrassment. You cannot declare Buffy The Vampire Slayer the modern Shakespeare as long as this episode exists where it does. What Buffy The Vampire Slayer is is television. Nothing more, nothing less. And it's often as thoroughly mediocre as all of the rest of the television is. It is NOT actually all of those revelatory things its boosters say it is. It's a regular TV show that is sometimes good. And sometimes it's this bad, and there is no defense for it possible. I'm sorry. It's the truth.

I think what the problem is is that even at this stage, the show believed that it needed to lean into the premise of "Everything scary is real." They've done Frankensteins, zombies, mummies, robots, witches, all that nonsense. So the producers were like "Hey, let's do Mr. Hyde!" That shouldn't be how any show tells its stories. Have you ever seen the show Grimm? (Coincidentally co-created by Buffy producer and Angel co-creator David Greenwalt.) During the early episodes they tried to make the premise a police detective procedural of a cop solving fairy tale crimes. Not only did the gimmick never convincingly work, but it landed with a thud every time. So the show soon enough decided it was no longer about that and never looked back. It was never a great show. But once it understood its entire high-concept premise was holding it back, it became occasionally watchable.

The sooner Buffy The Vampire Slayer realizes they aren't a "Monster Of The Week" show, the better off we'll all be.

What really bothers me about the episode is that it is SO easy to criticize. I never liked the episode, but it amazes me I never destroyed it in a previous review either. Its flaws are numerous, and obvious. And ultimately inexcusable. Where to begin?

Using the Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde plot as an Afterschool Special allegory for a guy beating his girlfriend is bad enough (on pretty much every level, both concerning message and episode quality) but what kills me is Buffy looking down on this girl for thinking she can change the guy in the very episode she's trying to tame Angel. How is it I missed that before this? How are Buffy's delusions any purer than this poor girl's? Why should I EVER think it's okay for Buffy to judge her negatively as some kind of doormat, instead of, I dunno showing some, "I been there, babe," empathy?

Whedon wants credit for being a feminist? He might do better by having the female characters actually support the poor girl being abused instead of acting like her refusing to leave makes it entirely her own fault. I should not have to be first person to point this out. Buffy scholars, hang your heads in shame.

I also am disgusted with how the show treats Mr. Platt. He is completely lovable, empathetic, charismatic, and a great addition to the show. But he's also black, which means he is destined to die in the most humiliating manner possible. I cannot think of a more embarrassing death for a black character. For one thing, a teacher like that wouldn't be smoking in his office at school EVER. And they only had him do that so they could do the horrible gag reveal of the burned out cigarette his corpse is holding. What's especially twisted and sick is Buffy goes into his office not realizing he's dead, and opens her heart and tearfully cries that she needs to talk to SOMEONE! Mr. Platt is not a heroic character. And the show still made his subtext the black guy who sacrifices himself so the white character can grieve them. I have to say, that's a pretty impressive (and awful) racist trick. If I haven't said it before (and I have) IStandWithRayFisher.

The continuity of the show is ludicrous too. Angel is a feral beast now? Swell! So who put on his pants for him at the beginning of the episode? That huge and ridiculous continuity error bothers me a lot less than the idea that this is the first time I've noticed it. I have never been a picky TV viewer, but I was SO lenient on shows I otherwise liked, I could never see stuff like this staring me right in the face. It's unacceptable, and I'm ashamed I never noticed it before.

Also Angel killed Pete at the end of the episode. Forget how the Scoobies explain to the rest of the school how that happened. How does Buffy explain to the rest of her friends how that happened? Without having to lie and falsely implicate herself as his murderer? They had Angel kill him to tie up loose ends, but instead it created an unforgivable plothole. What a mess this show is turning out to be in this viewing.

Faith's take on all men being animals deep down really annoyed me. Not because I disagreed with it. I'd have a problem with it even if I thought it might be true. The problem is the statement is definitive about ALL men who exist, no matter the circumstance, which is actually something she has no way of knowing about. It's not something any given man has anyway of knowing about either. You cannot state an ironclad truth about a group of people's personalities when everyone everywhere seems to have a differing opinion on every topic imaginable. It's just as toxic and cliched when men make "All women are," statements. Faith isn't insightful, she's ignorant, and desperately trying to hide it by pretending to be an expert on a subject she actually knows nothing about.

Is there anything in the episode I liked? (Besides poor Mr. Platt?) Oz had a very Oz line: "Just a thought. Poker, not your game." Basically we were treated to one great Oz quip and an unending mess otherwise. I never gave this a great review in my previous reviews, but I'm kicking myself for not destroying it long before now. 0.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Homecoming"

A lot of fun. And also imperfect. We'll try to focus more on the fun in this review, but we'll get in some snipes too.

I have to say I don't think in hindsight the show gave the Mayor a great opening scene. I think he's my favorite of the Big Bads, so it's very weird they made the restrained choice for an opening scene they did. To be fair, the scene may not be either great or memorable, but it's surely interesting and raises questions. He's obsessed with germs and Alan's hands, nothing really alarming in and of itself, but Alan is clearly absolutely terrified of him. I'm still not sure after all these years what specific thing Finch saw that made him so terrified, but it's an interesting way to go, if not as big and funny as the character wound up being.

I liked Mr. Trick in the episode very much. I liked his bit about spiny headed things, and expressing admiration for the Slayers still being alive. That's like the Capital citizens in The Hunger Games. They are all there to see the kids kill each other, but on some level they want the underdog to survive. It's a very brutal and human viewpoint in this kind of scenario. Mr. Trick is more of a man than Mayor Wilkins thinks he is. I especially love that Mr. Trick suggests Sundown towns were his reality before he became a vampire, so the Mayor isn't telling him anything he hasn't heard before.

It's funny that on the big board, the last listed weakness for Cordelia is Xander. It's true, but Buffy is a witch for writing it down in front of him.

I very much loved Oz's yearbook photo.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about the mess with Xander and Willow is that this specific episode is playing it as cute, and endearing, and even romantic. A couple of episodes from now our perspective will be that it's utterly heinous, and if that's true (and I lean towards "Lover's Walk"'s take more) they shouldn't be confusing the issue like this. That is a story failing. It can be argued it's confusing because they are confused kids and the writers are leaning into that. But if the writers are going to decide it's devastating and unforgivable later on, they shouldn't be doing that.

Loved Cordelia bluffing Lyle Gorch. You can think him a coward for falling for that, but out of all of the recurring evil vampires we've met, only he, Drusilla, and Harmony survived all eight seasons of Buffy and Angel. Maybe he's simply not stupid.

I'm wondering if it was this specific episode that gave Whedon the idea for The Cabin In The Woods. I see many elements from it here.

I think Faith's prank she pulled on Scott in front of his date at the dance was a pretty dirty and low-class trick. That she pulled on behalf of Buffy for no other reason than that she likes her. I think Faith is a pretty deplorable character, when all is said and done. But I'm not going to argue that a LARGE part of her descent into villainy wasn't triggered by Buffy treating her unfairly.

I recall the end being memorable back in the day because no other show would think to end it that way, but I'm underwhelmed in hindsight. Perhaps no other show would end it that way because it's actually really unsatisfying. Food for thought.

It was a fun episode though. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Band Candy"

This isn't a well-loved episode but I also think it was probably a bit better received that it should have been. It's Jane Espensen's first episode and it is classic her. It's well-written enough, but she tends to put in a really filthy or unpleasant element in most of her stories that doesn't let you enjoy things. This is a comedy episode. The "tribute" should not have been babies. I think as a person and somebody who interacts with fans Espensen is great and down-to-Earth. As a writer she is totally overpraised. I think because she's so awesome and great with fans people give her a pass for things like this. We really shouldn't.

I think the thing that worked best in the episode was Giles. It was down to Anthony Stewart Head's brilliant and convincing performance, but Espensen also made some very interesting (and correct) choices in her script as to how to depict an immature Giles. The first thing I noticed upon a rewatch is that he is a total jerk to Joyce. He leads her around hanging off his arm but he's totally inattentive to what she wants, never agreeing with her about what bands are cool, and saying growing up in England was boring, not because it was, but because expressing disdain for everything is cool and turns girls on. I think Whedon does not know how to write women properly when all is said and done. This episode proves Espensen knows how to write men. She did need not to make Giles as abusive to Joyce as Angel was to Buffy, and she still is able to show to the older people in the audience that he's mistreating her. Again, Espensen's writing is usually overpraised. But stuff like this is why she has fans to begin with.

Giles nodding along and getting into the music was brilliant. The way Head holds the cigarette is pretty convincing too.

Joyce may think that her car is the Geekmobile, but the truth is she still thinks Juice Newton is cool. Which means she ultimately isn't. Perhaps James Dean Giles is right to keep her at arm's length as long as she's saying stuff like that.

I took note at Snyder saying it was just wrong that the babies were going to be eaten. Because it is literally the only remotely good and noble thing he has EVER said. And it's really a no-brainer, and not exactly a tough stance for a person to take. But that's how low the bar is for that character. Literally his best quality is that he's against babies being eaten. That's not a real brag.

"Summers, you drive like a spaz!" I think the episode was better received than it should have been. But lines like that are why it was well-received back in the day at all.

I love Mr. Trick this episode, and I'm fascinated by him because I'm paying more attention to him this time through. There were three really interesting things he did. The first was to kill the guy who might not have eaten the candy just to make sure no-one else would. Whatever you think of Ethan Rayne, him witnessing that says he probably thinks he's gotten in over his head. The second interesting thing he did is that we learned he actually paid Ethan for his work. Rayne delivered what he said he would, and there was no need to burn that particular asset. I love it when villains are smart enough to treat people well because it's in their best interest. I also found Trick's perspective that the demon being killed was in Wilkin's best interest and that he did him a favor correct. That's the right way to look at it, but the truth is Buffy did Wilkins the favor. Trick claiming credit is him simply trying to get ahead of the narrative. Which is the right tack to take when your boss is a politician.

Giles being so punch-happy with Ethan was a lot of fun. He is so delighted whenever Buffy is forced to punch him it was infectious, and I wished she punched him more just to see Giles punching the air even more than he did. Ethan was never properly paid off on the series. But Robin Sachs and Head brought the goods this episode.

Fun, but imperfect, and the babies in jeopardy means it's less fun than it should have been. ****.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Framingham, MA
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Revelations"

In my rewatch of Season 1, I gave the episode "Angel" a shockingly bad review. It surprised me because I did not expect to hate that episode that much this go-round. But it was stupid and obvious. The thing that turned me against it totally was the dumb, cliched, and unlikely hoops the show had to go through to have Buffy come upon Angel holding Joyce in a compromising position. It was so fake and phony and television, (and I can never give a harsher description of a bad plot turn than describing it as "television").

However, Faith catching Angel in a compromising position with Miss Post was entirely 100% believable and properly set up. There is not a single piece of it that feels contrived. I can think Faith rash and stupid for not being willing to hear either Xander or Buffy out, but I don't blame her for seeing red for walking in on Angel doing what he was doing to her.

I think Miss Post was probably a bad Watcher to begin with. She tells Faith when she visits her Motel room that Vampires don't tend to knock. Actually, genius, they DO. That HAVE to in order to get into a residence. They cannot enter a home uninvited. This is not sound advice any Watcher should ever be giving a Slayer.

I found Giles' rant to Buffy a bit heart-breaking in how earnest and hurt he is, but if I may be so bold? What did he expect? I get why Xander is mad (and Cordelia brought up some excellent points as well) but Xander was very clear last year that re-ensouling Angel would essentially be giving that murderer a free pass on killing Miss Calendar, and a way for "Buffy to get her boyfriend back". As I recall, before he was taken and tortured by Angel himself, Giles was very supportive of honoring "Jenny's last wish". He cannot actually be surprised this went down exactly as Xander said it would. I get the torture makes him feel especially personally betrayed. But he's no better than the crying members of the Leopard's Eating Face Party always screaming that they never believed a leopard would eat THEIR face. This was always going to happen. He was kidding himself if he thought Buffy would put his personal dignity ahead of reconnecting with the man she loves. And this is EXACTLY why Xander was against the idea to begin with, so he can't act like he wasn't warned this was coming, whether he was tortured or not.

Cordelia's two best points are that Buffy doesn't have much to fear from Angel. The last time he went crazy he was focused on torturing and killing all of their friends. And I especially love her telling Buffy to get over herself when Buffy accuses Xander of hating Angel because he's jealous. That breaks my heart on some level. Cordelia is defending her man in a way he clearly does not deserve. But like, I get it anyways. Buffy saying that to Xander in front of Cordelia is actually insulting to HER too. I like that Cordelia calls her on it.

I feel like Oz seems a bit out of place in the episode. They didn't really have him offer an opinion either way, and he simply asked questions other characters could have asked if he weren't in the episode. That's not great or even usual for the character.

The reason the Glove cannot be removed is a brilliant and gruesome one, and Buffy's solution for "removing" it was brutal and funny. Although I need to point out that Buffy actually KILLED Miss Post by doing it. If you count her, the zookeeper from Season 1, the human bounty hunter from "What's My Line?", and the two German assassins she tricked into shooting each other, Buffy has killed a total of five people (so far). I really don't understand why she is coming down so hard on Faith for doing the same thing (only once) later on, but by accident instead of deliberately.

I continue to be annoyed that Xander and Willow are still being portrayed as tender and sweet. They even created a music cue for their love theme for God's sake! It's super obnoxious in hindsight.

That definitely landed better than "Angel", an episode with a similar premise. I felt every bit of Faith's pain was earned, and I can actually see her mistrust of Buffy and the group growing out of a real and logical place. I am very glad that aspect of Faith going bad actually holds up in hindsight. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Lover's Walk"

To be 100% truthful I expected to dislike that far more than I did. I think it's still a good episode. Although there are a couple of infuriating things. But they are briefer than I remember, and only one of them is as bad as I remember.

The worst thing in the episode is something I believe we as fans should have raised a fuss over back in the day. It was a d-word move on the producers' parts. The scene transition of a potentially mortally wounded Cordelia to a priest reading last rites at a cemetery, to widen to Buffy and Willow walking by and saying that Cordelia is fine, is one of those appalling storytelling moves nobody who ever watches current television would ever tolerate from a different modern franchise. We'd rightly go into conniptions. It's unfair. It's cruel. It's stupid. It's manipulative. And worst of all, it's not funny, especially because the situation isn't remotely funny either.

The other horrible thing that steamed me was Xander bringing flowers to the hospital room. The stones on that guy. But what I love is that Charisma Carpenter's performance is amazing anyways. When she tells him to stay away from her I got chills. Perhaps I notice it because (especially on Angel's show) Carpenter has never really been praised for her acting ability. She's funny in what she does, but she can't exactly stretch, at least not usually. This moment totally landed, and I felt her pain, and I especially like that the make-up job they put Carpenter in was credible for someone crying in a hospital bed. I'm not saying she looked remotely as messed up as a real woman in pain (this IS television) but it was still unflattering for a young woman to put herself in the position of other people seeing her like that. Having that vulnerability sort of helped her performance, and I think really got the basics of what she was feeling across very well.

But basically the reason I can't be mad at this episode is Spike. Now admittedly, last season Spike was not as great and memorable as I remember. I thought Marsters was excellent, but I had mistakenly misremembered his antics as being the highlight of the season. Once Angelus shows up, not only do they lessen, but they become that much less important until his team-up with Buffy.

This episode? Marsters was brilliant. I loved his scenes with Willow. Part of her actually feels sorry for him, and has genuine sympathy and concern. But he's so crazy and dangerous she's rightly in fear of her life. Him talking about the Chaos Demon being all slime and antlers is one of the most memorable Spike moments ever. And Marsters is kind of shuddering a bit when describing how he was telling Drusilla the team-up with Buffy didn't mean anything and Willow is totally conflicted in either saying "There, there," or running for her life.

And I loved the scene of him and Joyce at the house. Him talking to her about his problems and her offering genuinely sound advice is wonderful. And when he asks for the little marshmallows I'm rolling. I think Angel and Buffy are wrong about one big thing about that moment. Joyce is actually in no danger. Spike claims in Season Five she's the one person in the group he could stand and that totally plays here. He actually legitimately likes Buffy's Mom. Angel was doing more harm than good, and frankly scaring Joyce more than Spike ever could.

I loved and laughed at Spike's reactions to Angel being unable to enter Buffy's house. He points and laughs at him and pantomimes growling at Joyce. It's just SO much fun.

I especially love at the end of the episode after the big fight that he gets a big grin on his face and is all "Come on, don't tell me that wasn't fun?" Ultimately, he doesn't want or need the spell. Their friends are in the factory, and Spike will do what he should have done, go back, kidnap Drusilla, and torture her until she likes him again.

I thought Lenny the vampire offering to let Angel and Buffy walk if they simply left right then was a very generous and unusual offer for a vampire to make. Figures the one time it's offered, Buffy and Angel aren't in a position to take him up on it.

"Tell me you don't love me," is an epic, tragic line that I have heard before elsewhere, but it always works gangbusters in any show or film that uses it. It gave me the chills here. Not much. But a little. There is a reason it is overused.. Because it's effective.

The show is famous for having excellent and memorable last shots to black out the executive producer credit on. It's also famous for great iconic visuals for the character of Spike. Spike caterwauling to the Sid Vicious (or more accurately Gary Oldman) singing "My Way" is one of the best endings and iconic Spike moments at the exact same time. Yeah, the cemetery scene is dirty pool and I still feel angry about it. But I was never going to give the episode a negative grade as long as this scene existed in it.

Spike waking up on-fire in the sun was a scream. I'm guessing this is a common problem for drunk vampires. The ones too drunk to wake up from that never do.

The Mayor says he would sell his soul for a short game but it's a little late for that. 20 years later, I still don't know what a short game is. But it's still a great zinger. I also liked him describing Spike's activities last years as "shenanigans". Sort of tells us a lot about the character using that specific silly word for Spike's crimes.

I very much love that in the episode where all of the main characters are left off miserable, Spike exits singing and happy. That's perfect. The episode is not, but I liked it more than I feared I would. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Wish"

I have seen numerous alternate reality / alternate universe episodes before and after this one, but this one made such a positive impression on me for breaking some of the biggest rules of the high-concept. Cordelia is the central character of the story, as is often the case with the one character who remembers the previous world in the alternate timeline stories. But the show then does the unthinkable. It kills Cordelia off midway through! Not only are we now missing our main perspective character, but the alternate "wrong" versions of our heroes are going to have to figure out what is wrong, and how to fix it on their own. It says very good things about Giles and the Scoobies he's assembled that they were able to figure out and fix the problem with that little to go on.

I like that Larry is in the Scoobies in the alternate reality. That is the proper sci-fi technique. And Buffy isn't even sci-fi!

The dustings at the end of the episode were so great. They never put that much money into that visual effect before but they really, REA:LLY wanted the deaths of Angel, Willow, and Xander to be memorable, and even weirdly beautiful. The reality ending with the Master killing Buffy says we are very lucky Giles fixed things when he did.

Anyanka brings up a very good point. How can Giles, trusting fool that he is, even be sure the other world is better than this one? His answer is the only one needed: "Because it has to be." I got goosebumps at that. Well played, Giles.

The Master's mass production murder machine is truly horrific and looks absolutely 100% painful. Yikes!

Willow and the "puppy" is totally messed up although Evil Willow in general is messed up (especially in Season 6).

I love Buffy being all "You gotta be kidding me," when Angel shies away from the cross. And I love that it means nothing to her that he says her name as he dies in front of her. The fact that it means nothing is why Giles needs to fix this.

Let's talk a bit about the first act before the Wish takes place. To be perfectly honest, Anya's behavior is inconsistent with her later behavior. She seems outright normal here. She is not literal minded at all. Granted, she is actually undercover for most of the first act, but the Anya as we later got to know her would specifically suck at undercover because she utterly lacks pretense. It doesn't fit is what I'm saying.

I have a suggestion to any writers reading this review. It's something I'm gonna bash the episode over. The episode has one of the boys Cordelia likes say he can't be seen with Xander Harris' "cast-off" but if she wants to go somewhere a little private... Here is my suggestion. Never write a scene like that. Under any circumstance. Ever. It degrades all of the characters on every level. I shouldn't have to complain about something like this on a show created and run by a self-proclaimed "feminist icon". But I ultimately have to because Whedon has always been full of poo about that specific thing. Listen to me, writers. Don't EVER humiliate a female character in that specific way for any reason. Your show / movie / book will not ever be made even slightly better because of it. This is a solid genre episode that I have to deduct an entire star off of because that scene is so freaking icky. I'm not happy here.

Buffy throwing Cordelia into the garbage to save her life makes me realize why she is fed up with that girl to begin with.

There was a scene in the episode that I have seen a few times in the past couple of years, because American psychology has progressed enough to make it a common opinion. But it was unusual when Buffy The Vampire Slayer offered it in 1998. But Oz points out that he told Willow what he wanted, and he thinks she wants to talk to make herself feel better. The unique Buffy take on that idea is Oz saying that isn't his problem. But it's something a lot of recent stuff has done, although it was unusual 20 years ago.

The "Other Hellmouth" in Cleveland isn't explicitly called a Hellmouth here, but it's revealed that a lot of demonic activity DOES take place there.

Is Buffy's Watcher still Merrick in this reality? Unanswered question.

This defied a lot of the central conceits of the alternate reality premise. Once Cordelia is murdered, literally anything could happen! It was a bit exhilarating, to be honest! All bets were off! And a WB teen soap named Buffy The Vampire Slayer just delivered the most extreme example of that specific trope to date! People back then and now believe Buffy The Vampire Slayer mattered. Stuff like beating Star Trek at its own 40 year (at the time) game in a single episode is why it did. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Amends"

I was interested to rewatch this. The biggest question I had was whether or not Joss Whedon (who wrote the episode) planned from this point forward to have The First Evil be the Big Bad of the final season all along. I think that's very possible, but I also don't think the continuity holds together perfectly.

The First, particularly as Jenny Calendar, touches Angel at several points, which the First is not supposed to be able to do in Season 7. If I recall correctly, the demonic shape Jenny briefly morphs into at the end of the episode was also seen once or twice in Season 7, so that fits. One of the neat things about the First in Season 7 is that it had a scope of power that was hinted at but never fully proven or explained. I like that the First is a singular consciousness, and appeared to be able to be in two places at once in the episode "Conversations With Dead People". This episode suggests the First also has the ability to become invisible to some people while appearing to others at the same time. The scope and powers of what the First could do made it seem nigh unstoppable for the first third of season 7, and even though Buffy is poking fun with the whole "I get it, you're evil," thing, it really IS as far reaching as Jenny is suggesting it is.

I am disappointed in Oz's portrayal here, especially in a Joss Whedon episode. He's cool and understanding, and I DID love his "I think we should sit back down again." But one of the reasons I don't like seeing him and Willow quarrel or have angst is because Oz is not a character that remotely works with any sort of angst attached. I'm not happy, as sweet as Oz is.

I think "Am I a righteous man?" is probably one of the greatest killer lines Joss Whedon has ever given David Boreanaz. It was a literal gift any actor would kill for. It saddens me he is unable to deliver the EXACT level of pathos and commitment that line demands. People have given Charisma Carpenter guff for not being a perfect actor. But Boreanaz has had his share of slip-ups too. That should have gone down as Angel's best line ever and his most defining moment. Instead I totally forgot it even existed until I saw this again.

I love Buffy (correctly, mind you) telling Angel that he's fooling no-one by telling her she has no idea of the horrible things he has done. Of course she does! Because he did them to her! I would think Buffy Summers would be the absolute last person the dude would play the "You have no idea what I'm capable of," card on, but Angel is kind of a dope in this episode.

I love the ghost of the chambermaid going back to "That's right! Make a scene!" That was powerful and gave me chills, as did the dead father describing there being an art to the murder of his children. That's beyond messed up.

Giles will help Angel (it just keeps getting funnier) but only while he has a crossbow pointed at him. These hauntings of The First suggest Giles is not overreacting.

Joyce is SO kind to Faith here. I don't like where their relationship ended up. But Joyce remains the best mom ever.

I don't ever like seeing Angel with a mustache. It just raises questions about how he shaves. The show shouldn't ever do that.

The redemptive snowfall is much less redemptive for me this outing. I still haven't forgiven Angel for Miss Calendar and enjoying Buffy and Willow's grief.

Love the Mutant Enemy zombie in the Santa hat.

We are led to believe the First brought Angel back, and that The Powers That Be were responsible for the snow. I personally think The Powers That Be were responsible for both. The First is far too all-powerful and far-reaching to ever believe bringing back Angel would be in its best interest. It's trying to screw with him now but I don't believe it brought him back because it was unsuccessful, and probably could have predicted that it would be unsuccessful ahead of time. Buffy was right that if the First brought him back it needed him (sound and smart reasoning), and that means Angel could hurt it. But the First literally had nothing else to do with Angel for the rest of the series, even during its major war on Sunnydale and the Slayer in Season 7. So that means it probably didn't bring him back.

Willy the Snitch is back in my good graces. Him encouraging Xander's menacing and saying he was very intimidating was a very cool thing to say, as was him wishing Buffy and Xander Merry Christmas. Not saying all is forgiven for his icky behavior with Buffy and Kendra, but it's a start.

The plants dying underground here makes "From beneath you it devours," a really good clue in Season 7.

It's an interesting prequel to Season 7, but as far as a David Boreanaz showcase goes, he didn't quite bring the goods. Sarah Michelle Gellar was good, and he played well off her, but I really wish Boreanaz had more acting training before this show besides being a dog-walker. Although he definitely got better on his own show. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Gingerbread"

The adults in Sunnydale besides Giles are useless. Willow's mother is especially annoying, and that was true before the Hansel and Gretel stand-ins worked their voodoo on her.

I also feel that after what Joyce tried to do there needed to be more wrap-up between her and Buffy. I don't like that there was no apology given or accepted.

Xander and Oz falling through the ceiling after it was all over was a great gag to end the climax on. "Did I get him?" was also funny.

Love Cordelia calling Giles a Youthful Offender. I always loved that joke.

Xander is absolutely wrong that Oz is looking at him differently and judging him. If anything Oz is making more pains than usual to be friendly and make peace with him.

The end with Willow unable to change Amy back from a rat was funny too.

I like that the tough bully steps back once Buffy gets involved. Buffy is already getting a good reputation, and it definitely explains the Class Protector Award she received at the Prom.

This is the one episode where Wilkins doesn't do anything shady. We only see him in his role as Mayor and nothing else for the first and only time.

The episode was all right. ***.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Helpless"

Solid.

A few episodes ago Buffy really hurt Giles and this time Giles returns the favor. In my opinion Giles' sin was far worse than Buffy's. Buffy going back to Angel was understandable and actually expected, no matter what Giles thought. But Giles agreeing with the Watchers' Council to give Buffy the injections to depower her makes him no better than those people in psychological experiments back in the 1950's who were falsely instructed by "doctors" to administer electrical shocks on supposedly unwilling test subjects. But THEY were the actual test subjects, and how they responded was what the study was really about. The test was actually to see if people would comply with a person in authority ordering them to hurt someone they didn't know. What's even worse about Giles failing this kind of moral test is that those "experiments" were done on supposed strangers. Giles actually knows and cares about Buffy, so following arbitrary orders to hurt her is especially unforgivable.

Or is it? Buffy witnessing Giles being fired for the crime of loving her like a daughter surely made her forgive a LOT. And seeing what a turd of a Dad Hank is, I get why.

The joke ending with Xander and the peanut-butter wasn't very strong, but it's one of the few things in the episode I didn't like.

I also didn't like the roomful of Polaroids of Joyce. Where did Kralick get that much camera film? I notice these things now, writers. I'm not as easy to please as I used to be.

Dominic Keating, who played the resident butt-monkey Malcolm Reed on Star Trek: Enterprise, has a small role as the Watcher turned vampire Blair here.

Jeff Kober (China Beach) also played Rack in Season 6. Kralick is the more memorable role. His telling Joyce he knows he has mother issues was great, as was the disturbing revelation that he enjoys getting burned by the cross. I also found why he needed the pills very mysterious, although I'm guessing a big part of it is plain old addiction.

Buffy's trick with the Holy Water was great.

Buffy really doesn't like Quentin Travers. I actually do. Harris Yulin is one of those older "Serious Actors" Buffy sometimes hired that gave the show extra gravitas and respectability. Lindsay Crouse in Season 4 is another good example of that.

That was good. ***1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
30,659
Location
Framingham, MA
Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Zeppo"

Shortest recap ever.

This has aged a bit badly. Not as badly as some of the series, but a plot by a group of zombie sociopaths to blow up the school is a lot less fun in the modern climate. Also troubling is the first instance of the show using the r-word in a derogatory manner. Beyond dated and offensive.

I also think the guys coming back from the dead is a bit inconsistent with how Giles always warned the Buffy characters about resurrecting the dead would go. Not only was the spell easy enough for a tool like Jack to pull off (without an animal sacrifice no less) but I don't see any personal costs or dire consequences attached either. Yes, the zombies are all psychos. Because that's what they were before they died. Bob's first question upon being raised being if Jack taped every ep of Walker Texas Ranger shows this particular resurrection spell brings back surprisingly human characters.

Weirdly, nobody makes any mention of any afterlife. That was the first thing that traumatized a reborn Buffy.

Faith's seduction and deflowering of Xander is played as sexy in the episode itself, but it's actually quite gross. She is a broken person.

Xander saying he liked the quiet was a cool thing to say to call Jack's bluff. "I don't think I want to see you around campus anymore, Jack," also says who's boss.

I liked and was a bit appalled and disgusted by Oz's line that he was weirdly full.

I liked Xander telling Cordelia he hoped she'd die of a wasting disease in the next 20 seconds. That's a good burn.

Speaking of which, Cordelia's snaps were quite masterful. She REALLY got under Xander's skin, which I like.

There is something about the episode I liked back in the day, but I don't think it was good for the show at all. It was done as a joke, but I don't think the show should ever been taking that specific shot at itself. But the whole "This is the greatest thing we've ever faced" bits are supposed to be comical because the viewer doesn't witness much of it at all. But Xander walking in on Buffy and Angel's torpid dialogue is so ill-advised as far as a story turn goes because the show is proving that out of context, the Buffy / Angel 'ship is ridiculous and overwrought and stupid. And while that may be true for a cynic, it is not a message the show should ever be putting forth to the viewer themselves. It strikes me as a bit of a breach of the audience's trust to say "Hey, we think deep down Buffy and Angel are a stupid teen soap opera". That's not the part of the show the show should ever be casting doubts about with the viewer. And I feel a bit weird that I tolerated that back in the day, just because it was so unusual for a show to do that sort of amusing mea culpa about itself. But it's TOO unflattering. That brushes aside the veil and the reality TOO much. It's not even meta when you get right down to it. It's the show being deliberately awful and suggesting it always is and we just didn't realize it before now. That's a not good or healthy message. Especially because frankly I don't think it's true. None of Buffy and Angel's melodrama is ever as over-the-top and unearned as this was. They are not just saying the show is dumb, they are saying it's dumber than it actually is. That is a mistake, a failing of the episode, and a failing of the series.

I love the revelation that the car wasn't even Jack's. Because that's the kind of night it's gonna be.

"Tell me right now!" Perfect time for the dude's head to get knocked off by a mailbox.

Naming a knife a girl's name is definitely a serial killer move. Xander's reaction to Jack's appalling threats and violence is surprisingly measured and reasonable and makes me like him, long before he stood Jack down over the bomb. He has a knife to his throat and keeps his dignity. Which is kind of nice because the donut runs suggest the other characters don't believe he has any.

I cannot decide what I think about Angel wanting Xander out of the way, so he'd be safe. On some level, it's gallant, and suggests that Angel actually cares about him and what happens to him. But the cynic in me thinks it's Angel's way of saying the same thing that Cordelia is: "You don't matter and none of the important monsters know you exist." It's a bit dismissive and humiliating, and considering how badly Xander has treated him before he lost and regained the soul, I think it's almost justified. But it strikes me as a mode of passive-aggresion on Angel's part rather than a good tactical move.

Ultimately my opinion over the episode has cooled over the years, and not entirely due to the dated plotline and language. I question the wisdom of the show proving to the audience that it sucks. Is it just me or is that like the ONE thing a show should NEVER do? Am I weird for thinking this? ***.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Bad Girls"

I'm thinking about it and I think this is probably the best episode of the season. With one or two exceptions, Season 3 was pretty solid the entire way through, while Season 2 was more hit-and-miss. But Season 3 does NOT have any "Knockout" episodes like "Becoming", "Hush", "The Body", or "The Gift". So me saying this is the best episode isn't because it's particularly outstanding. It's because all of the season's best elements are working at their best, particularly the Mayor and Mr. Trick.

The Mayor's "To-Do" list being "Reschedule Plumbers' Union, Call Temp Agency, Become Invincible, Meeting With PTA, and Haircut" is a perfectly Buffy The Vampire Slayer joke, and the kind of joke only Buffy The Vampire Slayer ever did. What's interesting to me 20 years later is that most other dramas STILL don't do jokes like that. I think they are under the mistaken impression that they hurt a drama's credibility. There are some "dramas" like DC's Legends Of Tomorrow which do silly stuff, but the entire show is silly. I don't think television has quite absorbed that you can do silliness and drama at the same time without ever actually hurting the drama. I may not have really absorbed the questionable character arcs or the poorly planned mythology of Buffy, but one of the things I HAVE done is make Gilda And Meek a drama with legitimately funny jokes. Not just funny quips and one-liners. Funny jokes. And Buffy was the only show that really did that before or since. Even Angel sort of stepped away from that for a great deal of its run. It's very interesting and weird that nobody else has done that in the meantime.

I really love the Mayor and Mr. Trick and one of my biggest regrets in Faith taking Mr. Trick's place is that the Mayor is so great with him. Yeah, he's great with Faith too, but for an entirely different reason. But when the season starts out, it's clear Mr. Trick barely tolerates the Mayor. But when he walks off at the end of the episode giggling, Mr. Trick can't help himself. He's all smiles too. He's a vampire without a soul but finds the Mayor's good cheer endearing and fun. And I love what that says about vampires. And it also makes Angelus a lot less forgivable in hindsight if vampires are capable of that.

I love that Wilkins loves the Family Circus and Mr. Trick loves Marmaduke. The Mayor has sanitary issues with Marmaduke, but I like that Trick is comfortable enough around the Mayor to insist that's why Marmaduke is cool. Nobody tells Marmaduke what to do. That is Trick's kind of dog. Again, it's so endearing, and the season became lesser once the character was killed.

I very much like that the Mayor's reaction to Mr. Trick saving his life is to thank him and say that was very thoughtful of him. Frankly, it's played as sort of funny because it's understated from the sloppy gratitude many other people give heroes in that specific situation, but I really like it because it's entirely direct. There is no part of that expression of gratitude that is wasted on sloppy nonsense. And do you think a soulless vampire would actually be gratified to hear sloppy nonsense on his behalf from a human? Of course not. It's says everything about how cool Mayor Wilkins is in that his gratitude is so short and formal. This is a man who lives and dies by etiquette. Which makes the fact that he's totally evil all that more interesting.

I liked most of Giles and Buffy, but not all of it in hindsight. I still laugh when Buffy pouts to Wesley "Whenever Giles wants to do something he says 'Please'. And afterwards I get a cookie!" And Giles' snark to Bathazar about how if he asks him to clean those hard-to-reach places he should kill him now was hilarious, and so was the way he says "Ow!" when the vampire punches him.

But I don't much like how after Buffy tells him they need to talk, and Wesley says he's her Watcher and she should be coming to him, Buffy and Giles share a withering look, and affirm they'll talk later. I'll tell you why I don't like the moment. It's rude. It's unprofessional on the ends of both Buffy and Giles, and while I can't say that Wesley makes a favorable first impression, he is right that that's the way things are supposed to work. If Buffy wants to talk smack about Wesley and their situation, maybe vent when Wesley isn't there.

I think the reason I reacted badly to it this time is because Buffy and Angel had a similar moment with Riley in Season 4, and I thought that was clearly wrong and out of line. And if that's true for a character the audience is supposed to like like Riley, that means it's also true for a character the audience is supposed to dislike like Wesley.

Speaking of which, Wesley is SO unlike what he turned into on Angel. He is SUCH an overt coward here, and brags about confronting two vampires under controlled circumstances. Giles assures him he'll find few controlled circumstances in Sunnydale.

I mentioned before that Buffy ragging on Faith for killing a dude is wrong as long as she has killed (adds them up) FIVE people on the series (so far). But I think the reason Buffy is so upset at Faith is that this was entirely preventable if Buffy had not given into Faith's peer pressure. The audience is made to think Faith is a bad influence on Buffy. And that is clearly true. For me, one of the most annoying aspects of Buffy taking Faith's lessons to heart is that they are clearly stupid and untrue. But if Faith can be a bad influence on Buffy, that means Buffy could have (and should have) been a better influence on Faith. Maybe Buffy is so hard on Faith, and perhaps more than she even deserves, because she surmises this would never have happened if she had been prepping Faith to be more cautious. Yeah, I know Faith doesn't listen. But that doesn't mean Buffy needs to be feeding into or agreeing with the bad behavior like breaking into a store to rob it. Part of Alan's death is actually on Buffy.

I also feel a lot differently now about Buffy's "Faith NO!" before Faith stabs Alan. There is a lag time between when Buffy notices Alan is human and Faith stakes him. Instead of warning Faith, Buffy probably should have physically stopped her. She clearly could have (and has done similar things in the past, even with Faith). The show made Buffy aware of the mistake before it happened to suggest to the viewer Buffy wasn't complicit in it. Instead, I think her being unable to stop it makes it partly her fault. Stuff like that IS her job.

For the record, Faith DOES care. She wouldn't have went back to examine the body the way she did if she didn't. Of course, only the audience is aware of her expressions as this is happening, but it definitely affected her and she felt bad. That is a very important thing for the audience to understand. Part of her saying she doesn't care is because Buffy is trying to lay all the guilt on her. The truth is caring about it hurts, and as long as Buffy is blaming her, there is no upside to caring. If Buffy was taking responsibility too in that last scene, (for instance saying "WE killed a man,") maybe Faith would understand she's not actually alone in what she feels.

I like that when Xander's face twitches when he hears Faith's name, he slaps it. That was a well-timed bit of comedy.

A couple of dated bits of humor exist here. Xander saying Cordelia is dressed in "Hooker-wear" is no longer acceptable (although in reality it never was) but at least Cordelia has a snappy comeback. And while Faith saying she liked the cop because he was Butch is also a dated thing to say, it's also a perfectly Faith thing to say, which makes it still funny. Weird how that works.

I love what a comfort and bit of normalcy in Buffy's life Joyce is. Buffy truly does not deserve a mom that great. She's awesome.

Faith's bit of drawing a heart on the window was cute, and her and Buffy dancing in the club was super hot. A LOT of that montage (and the rest of the episode) was so visually cool it was used in the clips of the next season's main title.

"His name is Angel." That's not a badass line in the slightest so I am unsure why it sounds so badass when David Boreanaz says it.

It's very interesting that Angel and Wesley's first meeting is so low-key here. Although that also goes for Wesley and Faith. I wonder what Wesley thought when he saw that Angel was a vampire. That would have been a neat controversy to explore.

Balthazar is truly repulsive (and I mean that as a compliment) and an unrecognizable Christian Clemenson plays the heck out of him. 20 years later and I still can't believe that's Socrates Poole. Inspired casting against type. I don't think Clemenson was EVER given another role like Balthazar again which is a shame. He brought the ham.

Yeah, I think this IS the best episode of the season. And yet, I'm still not giving it five stars because it is imperfect. ****1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Consequences"

Buffy Characters Behaving Badly.

It's not just Faith that's the problem. Not by a longshot. I think the only major characters in the episode not to make disastrous mistakes are Giles and Angel. Everybody else approaches the problem all wrong.

I think maybe I want to talk about how Faith spirals out of control. We learned something about the character here we didn't know before. She's manipulative. The things she says to Xander are literally the most hurtful things you could tell a guy you slept with (and her accusing Buffy of secretly digging it when Angel went psycho is similarly appalling). Marti Noxon wrote a very effective counterpoint to Whedon's scene in "Innocence" here. But really, until Faith falsely blames the death on Buffy to Giles, I think Buffy is handling it all wrong. When Faith says near the beginning of the episode, "It's WE. You were right there with me. Everything I go down for, you go down for," she's right. It's the fact that Buffy is viewing this as Faith's sin which is why Faith refuses to face it. And as seen by her dream Buffy does feel a great deal of responsibility. It bothers me that until the "dirty" speech she refuses to verbalize it.

Let me be clear: This fault of Buffy's probably wouldn't have helped anything if she didn't have it. I think Faith is simply a broken person. It's nice she reformed the next season on Angel, but she believes she has the high ground now, and nothing is gonna change her mind at this stage of the game. The problem with doing an intervention with Faith at this stage of the game is that she hasn't hit rock bottom yet. While she still thinks she's in the right, there is no redemption possible.

I felt bad for Xander, but cannot help but still think he's a bit of a creep in telling Faith that sure, he'd like that to happen again... Sometime. "Just not like this." It does seem to me that Xander saying that while he's trying to comfort her gives him a clear, superficial (and toxic) agenda. The things Faith says and does to Xander are super gross, appallingly violent and hurtful, and out of line. But Xander isn't treating her very well either. He's acting like she's a potential future conquest. Why SHOULD she believe he's really on her side?

Opinion: Faith would have killed Xander if Angel hadn't shown up. Further opinion: The scene was badly written because there is no way Angel should have been able to enter Faith's motel room. Unless he was invited there off-screen at one point and we missed it. But that's sloppy writing.

I'll tell you the major problem I had with that scene, especially compared to "Innocence". I have taken Whedon to task for writing that scene plenty of times, but I don't think I ever gave Marti Noxon the proper level of shade for this scene. And I should have. Not merely because it's essentially the same toxicity with the gender dynamics reversed. I'm not suggesting it's equivalent because of that. It's because it started Noxon's disturbing trend of equating sex and violence, and using dirty talk and actions to work out the sexual frustrations she felt as a youth. I will talk smack about Whedon writing the scene he did. But if he ever said the specific things Angel said to another woman he slept with, I'd be surprised. And this is me knowing the allegations against him. But the problem with THIS scene is I can totally picture Noxon telling a guy these things. She's stated in interviews a lot of season 6 was her working out her youthful sexual indiscretions. The truth is I don't care about them, they make the show worse than it ever should be, and she needed to leave her therapy to the professionals. Perhaps the reason I was not down on this scene before now is that I never noticed Noxon wrote this episode before. But it's the start of a disturbing trend.

Also, this toxicity that Noxon has portrayed in her writing on the show is a reason I'm a bit annoyed she got on the MeToo bandwagon against Whedon. I think Whedon treated Charisma Carpenter like crap. But the truth is his time as showrunner involved a lot less objectification and sexual humiliation of the characters than hers did. Which is saying something because Whedon sexually humiliated characters a LOT. But I don't like Noxon claiming to be on Carpenter's side, because she was entirely on the wrong side of the issue while she was on the show. It's very hypocritical. I will listen to Emma Caulfield, Amber Benson, and Michelle Trachtenberg's stories. Not Noxon's. I seem to recall Sarah Michelle Gellar was very unhappy about the gross and violent sex scenes she was asked to perform in Season 6. She was embarrassed by them. That was Noxon's tenure. And it pretty much all started in this episode.

I liked the Mayor being dismayed with the horrible thought that Alan was about to betray him, and him being dead, and being unable to "scold him". Similarly great was him instantly admitting to Faith he sent Mr. Trick to kill her, her telling him he's dust, and him saying, "I thought he might be what with you standing here and all."

I broke out the world's tiniest violin for Willow crying over Xander and Faith. Truly annoyed by that especially after everything else. Her referring to the situation as Faith "Being with my people," was cute though.

I think the characters, including Faith are clearly throwing around the word "murder" too freely and inaccurately. It was an accident, which is the opposite of what murder is. The proper word is homicide.

Wesley handles things terribly too and is probably the real reason Faith turned. How much of Giles and Buffy's conversation did he hear? Did he miss the most important part where Giles tells Buffy this isn't the first time something like this has happened and that involving the Watcher's Council wouldn't be in Faith's best interest? Also him intruding into Angel's mansion with a group of guys and a cross to throw a net over him feels like the dirtiest of moves.

To be honest, I think Angel is saying the things Faith needs to hear, but I can't help feeling the things he is saying are emo and just insufferable. I won't deny she responded to them, and that she is the type of person who responds to emo things to begin with. But I personally don't respond to them and find them annoying instead.

I find this episode extremely distasteful in hindsight, and think Marti Noxon needs to check herself before she lays claim to being on the side of the MeToo movement. I think her portrayals of women and their sexuality on this show did far more harm than good. Even compared to Whedon. **1/2.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Doppelgangland"

It's kind of a shame Whedon didn't write or direct more fun episodes than he did. As this episode shows, he's really good at them.

Really, it's the humor and jokes that make this otherwise underwhelming episode enjoyable. I mean the start of "Bored now," and "I think I'm kind of gay," is NOT great, but the individual jokes just landed one right after the other. And that included the stuff without Vampire Willow in it!

Vampire Willow calling Willow the b word upon being shot with a tranq dart pretty much sums up the differences between the two characters. Also, "Hands!"

My favorite Vamp Willow line was said to Cordelia: "Cordelia, I promise to never steal your boyfriend again." If Cordelia couldn't see what was wrong with her based on THAT specific line delivery, she deserves to get eaten.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, not being useless for the first time this season.

I love that when Xander holds up the cross to Willow he starts shaking it because it's not working right. Crosses work the same as faulty toasters in Xander's mind.

"She was truly the finest of all of us." "MUCH better than me." "Much, much better." It's such a devastating situation that the show finds the right comedy for. It's amazing how the show navigated stuff like that.

I like that the instant Willow covertly waves to Oz is the instant he knows she's all right. Unlike everyone else, he doesn't need to be convinced. He knows. I find that interesting and cool.

Perhaps I should discuss "Bored now" and "I think I'm kind of gay." The only thing you need to know about "Bored now" is that it's appalling that Season 6 brought that formerly wonderful character to a place where she'd believably say it. I don't love that aspect of it.

But "I think I'm kind of gay," bothers me. A LOT. Especially in light of Season 7 and Willow's later quip, "Gay now." One of the reasons I objected to Joss Whedon randomly turning Willow gay, (besides the troubling objectification he did with Amber Benson and Alyson Hannigan to tittillate the audience) is that Willow's behavior is not gay in the first three seasons. I don't mean she doesn't act like a gay person. I mean she is legitimately attracted to Xander and Oz. Willow is a clear bisexual, and the show portraying her as having "switched teams" is not accurately showing the struggle lesbians go through. I don't like the idea that the show is sort of diminishing her feelings for Xander and Oz in hindsight. I watched those feelings. They were genuine. There is no "Gay now" switch. Whedon famously nixed a scene in Season 6 where Willow and Amy used a spell to turn a bully gay as punishment for making fun of Willow's gayness because it suggests being gay is something you can turn on and off like a switch. And David Fury is not a terrible writer, but perhaps the reason he had that questionable idea to begin with is that's how Willow's gayness was treated. I respect Whedon for stepping in and saying that is not something that should be treated like a punishment. But the "switch" note doesn't feel true to what happened to Willow.

Angel is about to tell Buffy that a person's personality doesn't change much as a vampire, and she doesn't want to hear it. My opinion: That's something she NEEDS to hear. Say what you will about how ill-advised the later Angel / Cordelia ship was, at least Cordelia understood exactly who and what Angel was before and after both times he was cursed. The only superior thing with Angel and Cordelia to Angel and Buffy is that Cordelia went into that ship with her eyes wide open. Buffy refusing to entertain the notion that Angelus was very similar to Liam is why Buffy and Angel could never work.

Also, this raises question for Buffy and Spike's ship, especially once he was reensouled. Is Big Bad Spike really all that different that William the Bloody Awful Poet? If not why do Big Bad Spike and Reensouled Spike still seem to have the same dry personality? It's very interesting to think about is what I think.

Vamp Willow's "F bomb" being cut off right before she was staked was pretty great.

It's interesting that Faith has no idea how to treat the Mayor. I don't see HOW he's "a family man" with his wife dead for a century, but by the same token it's refreshing he refuses to allow Faith to call him her sugar daddy. Him setting that limit suggests he's the first man in Faith's life never to treat her as a potential conquest. Let's face it, even Giles got an "Aw shucks" look on his face when Faith called him hot when they first met. Wilkins setting that limit with Faith might have literally been the first time that has ever happened. Like the questions raised about vampire personalities, it's very interesting. Do I think Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a complicated and complex enough show to deserve all of the psychological dissertations and essay's its gotten? No. Do I understand why it has them to begin with? Definitely yes.

It's not a great or perfect episode. But it's fun, which a lot of the later seasons forgot to be. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Enemies"

That was a bit of a mess. Not plotwise. But characterization-wise, specifically between Faith and the Mayor and Buffy and Angel.

I love Faith's relationship with the Mayor usually, but this feels very off, especially after MeToo. I think the show had him basically prostitute Faith out to turn Angel evil played as an evil father figure having different values than a good one. But I now find it unacceptable. As well as him telling her to pull her hair back. That was done back then to show him being fatherly. Instead he strikes me as every sexist boss a woman has to suffer through. What kills me is that there are good things between the characters too, such as her being unable to stop herself from smiling at his excited suggestion of miniature golf at the end. But along with his veiled threat about having to replace her at the beginning of the episode, I think the writers were still trying to figure their relationship out and things were a work in progress at this stage of the game.

It bothers me enough that the Mayor mispronounces "Angelus". It especially drives me nuts that ANGEL does too! Weirdly, Wesley is the only one to say it correctly in the episode.

I was always soured on Faith's line of "You played me!" It strikes me as the writers trying to be more current and hip than white people were in 1999, and I thought that back in 1999 too. The line hasn't improved with age. Also what is Faith truly angry about? She betrayed the both of them first.

The demon helping out Giles because he introduced him to his wife was a very funny and relatable idea. What kills me is that if he didn't owe that specific favor to Giles, he would have done what the Mayor asked, Angel would have been lost, and the Mayor probably would have won. We are very lucky Rupert Giles was where he was. I like how his line readings were much gentler and not scary when he was talking to Giles. That was a very nice touch.

"A demon's a demon." The mindset to killing demons is very different on this show than it was on Angel: The Series. If somebody had killed the harmless demon trying to sell those books on Angel: The Series, Angel and friends would be investigating the murder. It bothers me that Faith can tell Buffy there is nothing they can do and she just accepts that.

I am annoyed at Buffy for being mad at Angel for doing exactly what she asked of him. It wasn't exactly a request that he could refuse, but the reason I'm mad is that Buffy spends way too much time trying to make-believe the other guy doesn't exist. As we can see Angel can slip back into it like a glove utterly convincingly. When Angel was about to tell Willow that vampires have the same personalities as their human victims a couple of episodes ago, he should have finished the thought instead of allowing himself to be stared down by Buffy.

Do you know what DOES bother me though? Angel was more convincing than he needed to be. Complimenting Joyce's hair was very authentically Angelus, but Faith is kind of dumb, and would not have needed that specific thing. She DID appreciate it, but she never would have needed it. The only reason I can't dismiss Buffy being totally mad is that Angel played the part better than a dope like Faith needed him to. Part of me thinks he was having a little bit of fun in the role in that moment, which is why I myself am a little annoyed at him.

I love "Are you still my girl?" "Always," though. I'm not made of stone. That's awesome and iconic.

My favorite moment in the Buffy / Angel / Faith drama is Buffy telling Faith that Angel is a killer, and that the second they kill her he'll turn on Faith next. Angel helpfully admits "I probably will," so Faith cheerly says that that means they should probably keep her around for awhile. Faith may be stupid usually but her cold logic there is impeccable.

I liked Angel throwing the letter-opener at the Mayor and him catching it through his hand. That was neat. Him acting like a protective "What are your intentions towards my daughter?" father figure to Angel is a little too soon in their relationship for my taste though, especially since he tried to pimp her out earlier in the episode. That didn't feel right.

Giles' standards jokes were funny.

Giles asking for the receipt for the bribe Xander gave Willy is one of the most genius jokes I have ever heard. I love every inch of it.

Do you know what I liked? Wesley whining to Giles about telling the Council on him being turned around by Giles telling him that he should. This is actually a bad reflection on HIM, not Giles. This IS something the Council needs to know, and it's Wesley who is gonna be in the doghouse, not Giles.

The episode isn't bad exactly, but I don't think the characterization felt right. ***.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Earshot"

Many of the sites I post these reviews on frown on talking politics and I need to talk politics a little before I start this review. What I CAN do is keep things a bit vague and general, and not specific. But this episode was pulled by The WB after Columbine due to the sensitive nature of the school massacre subject. I'm not going to get into the politics of gun control or bullying. What I'll talk about instead is television's constant need to postpone perfectly acceptable episodes due to real-world events the creators of the shows in question have no control over. I realize Columbine was the worst school shooting in the country's history, but it wasn't the first (Oz astutely points out school shootings had become trendy at the time) and I think that made the lessons "Earshot" was imparting MORE important after that, not less. The WB could have editted out the line of Xander asking who hasn't idly wondered about taking out the place with a semi-automatic, and the episode would be very necessary and healing for the country to see. And television always does this. Instead of having tough conversations about difficult subjects, television wants to ignore them until people forget about them. The modern day politics of school shootings are that people are tired of waiting to talk about it and that there is apparently no good time to bring up their concerns because these mass shootings happen so often. I'll go one further. When it comes to terrorist attacks, or even stuff as mundane as hurricanes, TV should not be censoring producers exploring that subject matter simply because it's become unintentionally relevant. If anything, that should give TV MORE license to take those kinds of chances.

As with any of my TV rules, there is an exception to this notion. American Horror Story had to censor a scene with a mass shooting after a VERY bad mass shooting in I believe the seventh Season (Cult). But American Horror Story also had a mass shooting in the fourth season finale that was so upsetting and exploitative to me, that I quit watching the show. I think in that one instance, the producers getting it through their thick skulls that that specific idea is not any acceptable level of horror "entertainment" is a good thing. But that is the only example against this rule off the top of my head. Usually TV needs to be more flexible to allowing shows to tell their stories, no matter what happens during the news cycle.

We got all of the annoying politics out of the way and I hope I kept things vague enough to pass muster on the sites this is posted on. How was the episode?

I'll tell you why it's solid. It has a new and unusual sci-fi premise handled beautifully. It's a perfect high-concept for a show filled with teenagers to explore how loud their pain actually is. Buffy is right about one thing: Jonathan is an idiot. A person does not go up on a clocktower with a high-powered rifle to kill themselves. He's the red herring to the lunchlady murderer, but the problem is that he's wasting focus on finding the actual murderer by doing something so stupid. Granted, he doesn't know there is another murderer, which is another thing to suggest Buffy is also right that everyone else has their own pain and Jonathan is not exactly being mindful of anyone else, and does not have the high ground there.

The quips and one-liners in the episode, particularly by Oz, are VERY strong. I don't want to say unusually strong, but this is the part of the season Oz says his best lines, but still, it's something to be proud of. Of course Jane Espensen is always annoyed when people quote the great Oz lines from the episode at her because they all tended to actually have been thought up by Whedon. I love that Oz usually enjoys lame, but this leaving him cold. I love that when he gets the school paper he usually heads straight to the obits (and I equally love that the school paper has obits). And I like that when he reads the review that his band plays as if they have giant Polish sausages taped to their fingers he believes that criticism is fair. SO great.

Do you know who else is great? Cordelia! I love that it turns out like we thought: The girl says exactly what she's thinking! And I loved her walking up to the creepy teacher and simply asking him if he was planning to murder a bunch of people. You'd think she was discussing the weather.

I groaned at the notion that Angel's thoughts were like the mirror. I like that Buffy's initial reaction to hearing that is denial she's trying to read his thoughts, immediately undercut by curiosity as to why she couldn't. The reason I don't like it (besides it not operating under Our Earth Logic) is that it's one of those rules that should box the show in. And really, it's something the producers would have to remember to always follow. And they didn't. The Beast's Master can read and speak to Angelus's thoughts just fine in Angel: Season Four. I don't think the series is particularly clever for making the one person whose thoughts Buffy wants to read be blank. I think they are buying themselves future headaches. And God bless me, I'm right.

Wesley's scene of not trying to think about Cordelia while Buffy smirks at him says the show should have given Gellar and Alexis Denisof more comedic scenes together than they did.

I feel for Xander's panic at what he can't help thinking. As far as guys go, I rarely think about sex (comparatively speaking) but if I knew someone could read my thoughts, my panicked mind would go to dark and horrible places it never goes. Xander's ideas are basically the show demonstrating how bad that would be in a PG-13 manner.

Willow being upset that Buffy knows what Oz is thinking when she doesn't is a legit complaint. Especially because what Oz is thinking is so meta and weird.

Buffy's reaction to learning Joyce had sex with Giles was classic, as was her dropping that bomb on him at the end of the episode (causing him to walk into a tree).

For the record, Xander being distracted by Jello in the dire moment he was shows that Xander utterly sucks, and you can't count on him for anything. That moment of selfishness and stupidity leading to finding and stopping the real killer feels like a cheat to me. Xander is the worst hero in the episode, and saves the day at the same time. That's not cool. I hate Monterey Jack on Rescue Rangers but at least he was portrayed as a genuine nuisance for his cheese obsession. I don't like Xander being made the school savior by being distracted from tracking down a potential kid with a gun because of Jello. Seriously bogus.

Larry is such a sunny and kind character now. It is SO nice how that bit of progression has stuck for him. It makes me even more mad for how he was treated in the season finale.

Angel should NOT be telling Buffy he'll never leave her two episodes before he breaks up with her.

I laughed at Willow asking if it was a boy demon. Thanks, Willow. Buffy did NOT need that put into her head.

For the record, this definitely television. The demon is fully naked, and has no visible genitals. How is it there are two of them? How do they reproduce? It's TV, not HBO.

I hope Giles and Wesley were kind enough to share the rest of that cure to the crazy guy afflicted with the same telepathy Buffy had, or at least told the Watchers in charge how to make it. That felt like a loose end.

The episode was relevant, did not deserve to be postponed, and could have aired with a single edit. And it's also a solid sci-fi high concept, and a great allegory for teenage pain. It's a very good representation of the show at its best and what it can be. ****1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Choices"

Underrated episode. I absolutely love the Mayor's speech to Buffy about her having no future. I love it because he directs it towards Angel. And everything he says is actually true, which is what makes it especially devastating. His story about Edna Mae was similarly heartbreaking and especially made what he was saying true. Angel is being selfish.

Faith does NOT want to leave that knife behind. This will come up again.

Willow confronting Faith is not as impressive to me as her stealing those important pages from the Books of Ascension.

Xander looking for someone to hit Wesley was verbalizing my feelings,. but the truth is Wesley was actually right, and I think Giles' knew it. So I was very relieved Oz lost his cool for the first time ever and destroyed the bowl, taking the decision out of his hands. That would have been a very uncomfortable drawn-out argument, especially because Wesley was right, and I didn't want him to be.

Speaking of uncomfortable arguments, even if Xander didn't know Cordelia was broke and hurting, the things he was saying to her were unfathomably cruel. He tells his friends she brings out the worst in him, but if that's the worst of him, he's not a great guy at all. Especially if it can be brought out so easily.

Snyder is starting to see his faith in the Mayor might be misplaced. I really look forward to seeing him being eaten by him.

I like that the frame that the Mayor uses when Faith frustrates him by not wanting to do the errand he gave her was that she was being spoiled. Him saying this wasn't a free ride was more than accurate, but accusing her of being spoiled is a very fatherly way to put it.

We never saw Oz lose his cool before, and this was the first time we saw Wilkins's rage too upon losing the box. When Faith showed up with Willow and a knife to his throat I instantly saw why he liked and valued her. Willow was right that it was too late for the group to make up with and forgive Faith, but she's wrong that she has nobody who cares about her.

The episode was better than I remembered. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "The Prom"

I love and hate the episode at the same time. It's so weird how divided my feelings are at various points.

My biggest problem with the episode is Buffy's reaction to the break-up. She's a teenage girl about that. "This cannot be happening." I don't like that. Because that fact and the fact that she writes "Buffy And Angel 4Ever!" on her class notebook says Angel never should have been dating her to begin with. The show had been leading us to believe Buffy's emotional maturity was 16 going on 40, and since they did that, I think it was inappropriate to lean into the immature teenage girl angst as much as they did here.

Angel calling their relationship a freak-show wasn't just a horrible thing to say. It was an out of character thing to say. That's a little bit too modern of terminology for someone as old as Angel to speak. It struck me as legitimately badly written, which isn't great.

Tucker has a very interesting and largely unknown place in the show's history. Initially, the plan was to bring this dirtbag back in Season 6, and make him the head of the Villain Trio of him, Jonathan, and Warren. Out of those three characters Tucker is definitely the most overtly evil in his actions before the sixth season, but they couldn't get the actor back, so instead of recasting him, they brought in Tom Lenk as his lovably doofy younger brother Andrew, and transferred the Big Bad role to Warren. The writers turned Warren pretty repulsive in his stead, but all of the bad things Warren did and that happened to him were originally envisioned to go to Tucker. Which basically would have completely changed the dynamic of Warren and his arc on the show. Instead of being the Big Bad, Warren would have been one of the two surviving members of the Trio, and been tricked by the First into killing Jonathan in Season 7, and later joined the Scoobies and the Watcher's Council. It's amazing how things as random as being unable to contract an actor can majorly change things in a show's arc. After what Warren did, could you EVER picture the disgusting Adam Busch in lovable old Andrew's role? I certainly can't and desperately want to at the same time.

There are a few Buffy moments that I recall clearly as purely perfect. Buffy kissing Angel, stabbing him with the sword, and sending him to Hell. Spike sobbing over Buffy's dead body. Spike and the kitten poker. Those are the scenes I like to remember the show for. Buffy getting her Award at the Prom for "Class Protector" is one of those moments. And it might just be my favorite of all of them. It's definitely the most feel-good thing the show has ever done. It gives me the warm snugglies like nothing else on the show.

I noticed that Jonathan brought a hot date to the prom. I like that.

Xander paying for Cordy's dress doesn't make up for his behavior all season but it was a pretty nice peace offering.

I loved the bit with Xander's sock-puppet of love. I especially love what an antagonistic foot his and Anya's relationship gets off on here. And Xander's rage at being overlooked for Class Clown by a prop comic is another example of how rage-filled the character actually is.

Cordelia is right. Wesley DOES look way 007 in a tux.

It tickles me that the priest in the dream sequence was played by the guy who played Detective George Frankly on Mathnet / Square One Television.

I like Xander's exasperation that VCR's don't have zoom, until he sheepishly realizes they DO have pause.

I absolutely love Joyce coming to Angel's home at the beginning of the episode and telling him he is going to have to make a tough choice on Buffy's behalf about her future. I will never forgive Angel for last year, but I don't think Angel is a completely worthless person because he doesn't ever reveal to Buffy that Joyce did that, or try to pawn off the decision on her. What is especially interesting about him not doing that is that he never gets credit from the writers to the viewer for that. That's something I had to admire in hindsight, and it never registered with me how cool and fair that was of him to not drive a wedge between her and daughter to get himself off the hook a little. It's an example of him being an adult, which is unfortunately another reason someone like him never should have been dating a teenage girl to begin with.

One of the reasons Buffy and Angel being together was sort of all right before this is because it's sort of understood that all Slayers have very short lifespans. That's the job and the destiny. But Buffy is clearly not playing by that rulebook, and her surviving so long means that she CAN have a future, and that needs to be taken into account. I'm not saying she would ever be in a position to have a house with picket fences and a nuclear family with 2.5 kids, but she could definitely have more than Angel as long as her mortal outlook isn't actually terminal. While she was living on the edge, Angel as her boyfriend was all right. Since she seems to be in it for the long haul, it's not anymore.

Buffy and Angel dancing to "Wild Horses" at the end was a nice moment to leave things off with. Nice night after all.

I love and hate this episode in equal measure. And yet, the Class Protector thing is the thing I will always remember. So it gets a good grade. ****.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Graduation Day, Part 1"

I seem to recall Entertainment Weekly being a bit lukewarm on this finale back in the day, and I always thought that was a bit unfair. A little hindsight and my now better writing ability says it's not. Buffy talking about "watching my lover die" is truly emo and corny stuff, even as far as Buffy and Angel shipping stuff goes. "You killed me!" also seems like bad dialogue that belongs in a worse show. And yet all this was written by supposed dialogue genius Joss Whedon. I can't explain it either, and I'm not impressed.

I don't feel that bad for the professor Faith killed. Just because he's stupid. His attitude instantly turns amorous when Faith asks if he lives alone. He actually thinks he has a shot at getting laid then. With a woman who looks like Faith does while he looks like he does. Where did he get his degree? The University Of Being Unable To Read The Room? Unbelievable.

I talk smack about the episode but I cannot get over how great the Mayor's stuff is with Faith. He genuinely loves and cares about her, which is great. What's especially great is that she actually understands and appreciates it. I think he is the first man she has ever met that she doesn't believe has a larger sexual agenda for her in the back of their minds. And because of that he makes her feel safe. When she talks about her mother calling her "Firecracker" she is shocked the instant the story passes her lips. She never thought she'd trust ANYONE enough to let down her guard about that specific thing. But instead of shutting down (like she always did when Buffy got close to a breakthrough) she thinks it feels right, smiles, and continues. The reason I didn't totally object to a redemption arc for Faith the way I did Angel and Willow is because Faith always had the potential for good but never had the context for it that Angel or Willow did. I find her love for the Mayor enough of a reason to want to see her redeemed. And I especially love that during her redemption arc in season 7, just because she is trying to do good and the right thing, doesn't mean her love for Wilkins has lessened over time. Their loving relationship in the one decent thing in both of their lives. And like Spike and Drusilla, it's endearing and the reason I like them both, no matter what evil they do.

I think perhaps the reason Faith feels okay with expressing her feelings to Wilkins is that Wilkins is entirely confident that it's all right to, and gives her that permission. Whenever she is talking something delicate to Faith, Buffy is sheepish, and half-acts like letting down your guard is if not a bad thing, a hard and unusual thing. Wilkins is totally willing to hear her experiences out, and makes her BELIEVE it's okay and NORMAL for her to tell him. His confidence and assuredness in his belief in Faith's words mattering and being all right is worth a lot more than Buffy lowering her eyes and saying "I guess," all the time. And I love that about the character.

What's especially great to me, is that when she talks about her past, the Mayor is genuinely interested and supportive. She feels safe talking about it because he's not "Yeah, yeah, yeah"-ing her like most adults do. I think that is another commendable thing about Wilkins. He listens when Faith speaks. That's rare and cool.

The Mayor believes there is no point in becoming a demon if you can't be regular. That's hilarious. I feel the same way about being a guy in his 40's.

I don't know if anyone has ever brought this up yet. Possibly not because the feminist messages on the show are shaky, and that's what takes everyone's attention now that we know Whedon is a creep. But Anya's obsession with Xander is definitely stalkerish. Xander barely knows her, and she offering to run away with him and spend the rest of their lives together. The fact that Xander eventually falls for her and they make her weird forthrightness work anyways does not change the fact that her behavior towards him to start off with is pretty creepy.

Buffy quitting the Watcher's Council was long overdue. What kills me is that as petulant as Whedon tries to make Wesley sound, to sort of make the horrible things Buffy says to him seem justified, I don't think they are. The Council refusing to help was NOT Wesley's decision. I agree with her quitting the Council. But she doesn't need to treat Wesley like dirt to do that. He DID try. That's more than most people would do in his place. I don't like that Joss has him pout "This is mutiny," just to line up Buffy's nonsensical retort that it was Graduation. It's just all so unnecessary.

And you know what Whedon's excuse would be? Buffy is a teenage girl, and teenage girls don't always react to bad news appropriately. But the problem is that not only are the writers entirely selective about Buffy's immaturity, but they are having Giles feed into it here as well, and which suggests it's justified. And it's really not.

The Mayor entering the Library at the beginning strikes me as a far bigger violation than most of the other Big Bads ever did. And Wilkins is the Big Bad I personally like the most. But that was probably the dirtiest move. Even Angelus didn't do it again himself after he revealed himself in Season 2. More chutzpah than Angelus is not a brag.

"Our lives are different that other people's." Great Oz line. Also first mention of the world of shrimp with weirdly gets called back to more than once.

I like Harmony about as much as Willow does. It's weird how I sympathize with the character far more when she's an evil vampire.

Joyce accepting Buffy's order for her to leave town shows how far these two have come. I love that character. And Buffy saying that her staying could get Buffy killed was a great thing to say not only because it was the proper motivation, but also because it was true.

Xander saying he knows he's never making it out of this school alive works on every level.

Similarly great is the Mayor telling Snyder he is headed for his just reward. The viewer may see him being eaten by a snake coming, but Snyder sure doesn't. Can't say he wasn't warned here though.

So-so first part. We'll see if the conclusion is better. ***.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer "Graduation Day, Part 2"

That is certainly the most ambitious episode so far. Is it the best? Not even a little. It had a lot of problems. It's better than Part 1, but it's still a mess.

This episode was also held back because of Columbine. What's weird is that even if I don't agree with the decision to hold back "Earshot", I at least understood the rationale. There is not a single thing in this episode that brings to mind the circumstances of Columbine. Even sillier, there is nothing in the episode that is remotely imitable for a kid in 1999. WB was being TOO cautious here.

We'll get to the good things but I want to talk about some of the messes, because I notice them now and it's unacceptable. Why is this episode the first we are hearing about the Eclipse? Those things are newsworthy events and not information that comes up at the last minute. People sell special sunglasses for them and everything. It's a shared cultural event. Everyone should already know it's coming. It should not be a surprise.

Even dumber are the rows of kids with the bows and arrows. Have you ever tried firing a bow and arrow? It's HARD. If it goes any distance at all it won't hit the target without practice and skill. You can't ask me to believe that a dozen random kids who have never had reason to use them before can somehow accurately hit moving vampire targets on the first shot. What drives me nuts is that I am the first person I've ever seen mention this. If Buffy had aired today, people would have noticed and talked smack about that specific thing. What I especially don't like about it is that I might have shut my brain off and accepted accuracy from weapons novices if Whedon had given them crossbows. But because they couldn't use those with the striking fire imagery Whedon clearly wanted, he has to insult my intelligence instead. My intelligence feels especially sheepish because it didn't pick up how dumb this was before now.

Larry was robbed. That it is all.

I have to say Dream Faith's riddle about Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0 is a lot less fun now that I know it doesn't lead anywhere. It launched a thousand theories (mostly involving Dawn in hindsight) but none of them were ever satisfactorily paid off enough to make that remotely credible. Granted, David Lynch never answers his riddles either. But that's the point of David Lynch. Whedon always acts like his stuff is gonna pay off and this is an annoying loose end instead.

I checked online just to be sure. It supposedly references Buffy's upcoming death. Not remotely clear either before or after.

Buffy making peace with Faith in the dream and then kissing her forehead in real life also feels very unsatisfying, especially knowing what is coming in season 4. Not well thought out by Whedon there either.

Speaking of which, that was an embarrassing way for Wesley Wyndam-Pryce to exit Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I only notice how badly Whedon treats him because of what an awesome character he became on Angel. And the kiss with Cordelia was beyond creepy and anticlimactic too. It wasn't remotely funny.

Speaking of creepy, the whole "Drink me," thing starts off as typical annoying Buffy and Angel emo and quickly devolves into something entirely gross and disturbing. What bothers me is the show NEVER shows blood when vamps feed so Angel seems unusually violent here by sloshing it everywhere. And he seem especially selfish and gross for feeding far longer than he should have. The worst thing is that Whedon also plays up eroticism in the moment which makes it no surprise it turns out he has the personal problems with women he does. Very weird things seem to arouse Joss Whedon. Legalized prostitution became his later obsession on Firefly and Dollhouse but this was his first example of finding a gross thing sexy rather than gross.

I very much like that Giles and Xander are properly disgusted with Angel. What I don't like (or get) is that this is Angel's last episode. Does Whedon truly think that's the best memory for the viewer to send him off with? Does he think people will be MORE eager to see his own show after he did that? There is just no part of that scene that wasn't ill-advised.

It's very interesting and cool at the beginning of the episode that at this point the Mayor clearly cares more about Faith than the Ascension. Didn't see that coming. Frankly, neither did he. Or Buffy for that matter.

The Mayor's rage is frightening. Him calling Buffy a whore is literally the first time he's ever used inappropriate language so it telegraphs how majorly and unusually upset he is.

Why do the nurses just let him walk out of the hospital after he tries to smother Buffy? Why weren't the police called?

"That's the craziest plan I've ever heard." / "We attack the Mayor with Hummus." / "I stand corrected." / "Just keeping things in perspective." Oz and Cordelia tend to always get the best lines, but they are rarely allowed to play off of each other. It's a shame it only really occurred this late in the game. That was phenomenal.

I like that the entire school was involved in the final battle. It was majorly empowering that Buffy armed all of the kids to protect themselves. Again, nobody should have been using flaming bows and arrows but the idea itself is sound.

Snyder tells the class it's a time for celebration so everyone should sit still and be quiet. Then he tells a kid to come see him after graduation. I was very glad to see him eaten by the snake. How dumb is he? He died remaining the character on the show with no redeeming virtues. Well, he thinks eating babies is wrong. But that's the only thing I can credit him with.

I thought Oz amending it was amazing they survived high school was cloying and cutesy. And yet, I still found the episode closing on the "The Future Is Ours" banner weirdly gratifying. It's sort of interesting (and admittedly kind of random and arbitrary) what I do and don't respond to decades later.

Cordelia says Wesley staying and offering to help was noble. She was right. Especially considering how unequipped to help he actually turned out to be.

Harmony being bitten here is the first clue she is a vampire in Season 4.

I was still majorly impressed by both parts of "Becoming" two decades later, with my tastes refined, my writing skills improved, and my eyes wide open about the show's many troubling subtexts. And yet "Graduation Day" doesn't hold up in hindsight at all. Although the second part is slightly better. ***1/2.
 

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