Thursday, May 15, 2008

Buffy Wednesday (14 May)

Wow, kids, have I got a lot of typing to do here.

A part of me just wants to barrel through it, going into as little detail as I can, and another part wants me to take my time, go over each nuance, treasure each moment . . . 'cause it'll never come again.

Maybe I'll do both, and try to find a healthy bala--

Oh, screw it, I choose the second one.

The Captain and I saw six--count 'em, six--episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" tonight, and since he was acting in the position of captain, there was no dissuading him. Not that I tried real hard.

Tyranist did, however, try to convince me to watch "Angel" tonight, and when I refused, he did use the patented Guilt Trip Method, reminding me that he had bought all five seasons of "Angel" because, well, I forced him into it.

This is both true and false, but if you read my last "Angel" post, and god help you if you did, you'll know that I already argued this, and laid the patented Guilt Trip Method handbook out beforehand.

I hope tyranist is content with a simple, "I don't say that no, absolutely I will never watch 'Angel' again, I just say that right now, I don't want to watch it, and I don't know how long that feeling will last." 'Nuff said?

Anyway, this is about "Buffy," and while I shed more tears tonight than I have at any point since "The Body,"* I was very happy to be along for the ride.

First up was a great episode called "Normal Again." It was written by newcomer Diego Gutierrez, and directed by Rick Rosenthal, who directed HALLOWEEN 2 (and 8).

Buffy is searching for the Evil Geeks (they refer to themselves as "The Trio" in tonight's episode, so I will too), checking out newly-rented houses, and we see them in the basement, bickering and being dorks. They see Buffy coming and Andrew summons a demon with big bubble eyes that leaps out and attacks her. We get a ridiculously choppy fight, during which, the demon produces a stinger from its wrist and pokes Buffy with it, then takes off.

During the next hours, Buffy intermittently finds herself not in Sunnydale, but in Los Angeles, in a mental hospital, surrounded by doctors and orderlies. It's confusing and disorienting, but keeps happening, and each time she stays there a little longer before leaping back to her normal, awful life as the Slayer in the Sixth Season.

Meanwhile, Willow is at school, building up the courage to ask Tara out again when she sees her with some other girl. It looks like Tara may have moved on, and Willow turns tail and flees without a word to her.

I gotta warn you, right out of the gate, that I knew that a major character would die before this season ended, and I thought I knew how she would meet her death (although this turned out to be a mistake, which I'm actually grateful for, as the real death hit me completely by surprise, as it was meant to). So, I've been walking on eggshells the last few weeks, tensing up each and every time Amber Benson shows up in an episode.

We don't know how long it's been since the botched wedding, but Xander and Anya have both been gone for days, and Xander makes his return, mentioning that the magic shop is closed. He wants to talk to her and make things right, but has no idea what to say. The girls are all very warm and welcoming to him, and I'm glad.

And I think I ought to digress a second time and mention that tyranist misunderstood my last BufWed post that I hated Xander for what he did to Anya. Actually, that's not even remotely true. I love Xander, warts and all, and while I don't agree that he handled his wedding doubts in the best way as possible, I fully understood his motivation and feelings. I was just so embittered by the "Angel" episode fallout that it may have tainted by "Buffy" post. More on that later.

Spike and Buffy do get together shortly after, but it's not in the way they usually do. He is more than interested in continuing the relationship, but she is adamant that they stay apart. Buffy passes out then, and awakens in the sanitarium again. The doctor tells her she's been there for six years, that her Sunnydale experiences are all in her mind, and that her parents are really concerned for her. She looks up, and there are Joyce and Hank, both alive, both still married, and yes, they look very worried about their daughter. She's got schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, she's created this intricate universe in which she's a sort of superhero, but she's been coming out of it.

It's a weird way to look at the series, and have the characters comment on certain absurd aspects of the show, like a sister who was a ball of energy and then suddenly has always been there, or that three dorks could be the major villains of 2002. Even Buffy thinks it's silly, ridiculous, sad, that she could imagine herself to be the protector of the world, but also so screwed up that she's sleeping with her hated enemy.

We also catch up with the Trio and find that Warren and Andrew are plotting against Jonathan, who's never been the same since Warren killed his ex-girlfriend.

Buffy tells Willow about her reality-shifting, and when Willow tries to convince her that it's all being caused by that demon sting, Buffy reveals that she spent two weeks in a mental health clinic when she was fifteen and first claimed to see vampires. A bit earlier, I mentioned to tyranist that when we first saw the second season episode, "Killed By Death," that I thought the doctors would hear her raving about vampires and think she was insane, but instead we got the cool der kinderstad monster. And tyranist then reminded me of the comic book he let me read where Buffy was indeed institutionalised and tries to convince herself she's not the Slayer, something I had found interesting but dismissed as fictional, but I think now may have been written in response to this episode.

Xander and Spike go out together, despite Xander's continued animosity toward Spike (something that can only increase in time), and manage to find and capture the demon that stung her. Willow breaks off its stinger for use in an antidote.

Dawn takes care of Buffy, who jumps back to the hospital, where Joyce tries to convince her she doesn't have a sister. When Buffy jumps back, Dawn is hurt that in Buffy's fantasy, she is an only child again. She leaves, but Spike shows up, concerned for her. When she brushes him off (yet again), he says that she gets off on being miserable and won't allow herself to be happy. When he leaves her alone, she tosses the antidote in the trashbin.

When she flashes back to the hospital, she tells them that she doesn't want to be crazy anymore, that she wants to be healthy, to be normal again, as the title goes. The doctor says she has a circle of imaginary friends that keep her in her psychosis, and to be rid of it . . . she must rid herself of them.

So, Buffy ties up Willow and Dawn and Xander (after hitting him in the face with a frying pan) in the basement, next to the bug-eyed demon that is chained up there. The doctor is telling her to destroy those links to her fictional world, and she unchains the demon, and hides under the stairs while it attacks Xander.

At that moment, Tara shows up, and I gotta tell you, my sphincter tightened up like the garbage smasher in STAR WARS. She comes down the stairs, hearing the noise, and uses magic to distract the demon. Then Buffy grabs her leg and trips her, and I thought, "Oh no, here it is. It's finally come." I was freaking out here, as much as Buffy, who is in her hospital room, being coached by her mother to be strong, to find the will to do what she has to do to overcome this mire she's found herself in. And Joyce's words do get through to her, 'cause she looks at her mother, tells her goodbye, and returns to herself in the basement.

She rises, and in about three-tenths of a second, has killed the demon. Her friends--Tara included--are all okay, and she apologises for what she did and asks for the antidote again. The en--

Oddly, the episode ends in the mental institution, where Buffy's doctor and her parents grieve that she's withdrawn completely into her fantasy reality. Unsettling.

Wow, this was one belter of an episode (if a "belter" is, indeed, very good, and I haven't misused the word), emotional, powerful, scary as all hell, and all the things the best BTVS episodes are.

Since I'm only allowed to say it six more times (unless I've lost count), I'll use one of those to say that, yes, I am hugely jealous of you fans who got to see this when it was new, as well as the truly great rest of the season. At the same time, what would it have felt to be a long-suffering fan and have to, well, suffer through the last dozen unpleasant, depressing, dark, dismal, almost-painful shows? Did the programme lose viewers? Were there people who felt about "Buffy" halfway through the season the way I feel about "Angel," and abandoned it?

These things I can only know from interacting with other people, something I'm unable to do in my current state of social paralysis. But I'll have you know that my giant loser existence is actually just a figment of my twisted psyche, and that I'm really a successful screenwriter living Malibu, and currently dating both that girl from "24" and Dakota Fanning.

Our second episode of the night, "Entropy," which was written by Drew Z. Greenberg, we get our follow-up to the wedding show.

The Trio is up to no good, planning something big and running afoul of vampires. Buffy and Spike destroy the vampires, but Spike
tells her she'd better tell her friends about their relationship, or he will.

On the more positive side, Tara and Willow seem to be getting along swimmingly, and start spending time together again. Also spending time are Buffy and Dawn, who go shopping together, and we are told that Dawn has repented of her stealin' ways, and has returned the items she shoplifted. Buffy is trying to reconnect with Dawn after her selfishness and insanity, and Dawn tells her the best way they could spend time would be if she let Dawn go patrolling with her. Of course, Buffy is unwilling to put her sister at risk, and for the first time that night (but not the last), I am reminded that Buffy is not only an adult now, but she is Dawn's mother, as much as Giles was Buffy's father.

Also, Anya is back in town, and seeks out Xander at his apartment. He apologises profusely, and seems to be making headway before he ruins everything by telling her he wishes he could have cancelled the wedding long before the day.

Anya becomes furious, and wishes horribleness on Xander, her face turning demony. But it doesn't work, and Xander doesn't notice. She leaves and goes to see her demon pal Halfrek, who laughs at her and says that you can't wish vengeance yourself, but must find someone to do it for you.

At this point, tyranist paused the DVD and asked me how this was any different than what I am incapable of forgiving Angel for. Sometimes I wonder if he really wants to know my answer or just tell me I am wrong, but I guess I do that too. And my answer, as irrational as it may be, was that I just feel what I feel, and the way it was done really influenced that. Anya spends the whole episode wanting to curse the hell out of Xander, but it's pretty much played for laughs, and Angel was just a cold-blooded, deadly serious being, with nary a chuckle to be found. Perhaps what Wesley did to Angel was worse than what Xander did to Anya (I just used the word "perhaps," remember), but it was not presented in the same way to me, the viewer.

The Trio continue with their master plan, and Warren and Andrew plot against Jonathan.

So, Anya goes to see Willow and Tara, and because they're lesbians, she knows they hate men and wish ill on them. Men like Xander. But god bless 'em, these two clarify that they're not about hating men, but about LOVING women. It's part of why I love this couple and have absolutely no issue with the lesbianation of Willow. If something is done well enough (like the sudden introduction of a little sister, or the gradual empowerment of Willow, or even the [rather one-sided] romance between Spike and Buffy), I can accept pretty much anything.

But yes, Anya wants them to curse Xander, but they don't. So she goes to see Buffy and Buffy says what Xander did was wrong, but she loves him and wouldn't want to see him harmed. Dawn too fails to curse him, and Anya heads for the hills when Xander comes over.

In a roundabout way, Buffy discovers a hidden camera watching the house, and thinks that it's Spike spying on her. She confronts him, but he plays the spurned suitor card and tells her he loves her and would never hurt or threaten her.** She has a bit of trouble swallowing this, but believes it's not his camera.

Spike heads to the magic shop just as Halfrek advises Anya that she needs to find someone who doesn't like Xander, and that person will help her curse him. Spike wants some kind of spell or elixir to make him feel better, and Anya offers him a bottle of Jack Daniels. Halfrek leaves them alone, and they get drunk, all the while Anya talking about nasty old Xander and Spike talking about that awful girl who stomped on his heart.

Buffy shows the camera to Willow, who gets on her computer and traces its signal. She discovers many more cameras all around Sunnydale, and they can watch the feeds to see what the Evil Trio sees.

Oh yeah, and the Trio have this headpiece to the Staff of Ra thing that tells them on a map of Sunnydale where some hidden source of terrible power is.

Spike and Anya, having both lived much longer lives as evil beings that have recently changed their ways and been spurned in love, really should have been closer before this episode, but I think this was the first scene between them . . . ever.

But instead of wishing boils or testicular devastation on Xander, Spike kisses Anya, and when she kisses him back, promptly mounts her, right there in the Magic Box.

Yes, I said it. UPN isn't the only one; I can do it too.

Unfortunately, Willow has tapped into the camera feed, and witnesses this. And then Buffy does. And then Dawn does. And then Xander does. Well, as you can imagine, he doesn't take this well.

Well, neither does Buffy, and Dawn realises why it bothers Buffy so much. Dawn asks why Buffy didn't tell her about her and Spike, and I don't know if it was the wrong choice or not. Nevertheless, Willow lets them know that Xander grabbed one of Buffy's weapons--an axe, in this case--and has gone off to use it.

I don't know how Sunnydale's geography works, but the magic shop seems to be within walking distance of . . . well, everything else in town. Maybe it's on a grid, like Arizona and Utah.

So, Spike and Anya seem somewhat ashamed of what they did--which is understandable--and might have worked out their issues, had Xander not arrived to kill Spike. But you know, he's more angry at Anya than he is at Spike, and tells her, "This is how you get back at me? By letting this THING touch you?" Anya responds that he's in no position to judge and attacks not just his walking out on their wedding, but his whole personality as well. But Xander tells her what she did was sickening, and Spike remarks, "It was good enough for Buffy," just as she arrives on the scene.

Everybody responds to that revelation, and they all go their separate ways, with no further violence. Or vengeance-wishing.

The episode ends on a high note, though, with Tara coming to visit Willow and talking about how long the road to them repairing their relationship could be . . . and that she hopes they can just kiss and skip all that. So they do. The end.
The third show we watched was called "Seeing Red," written by Steven S. DeKnight. It was with both intense joy and rumbling trepidation that I saw Amber Benson was in the opening titles. I hoped it meant she was going to be in all the remaining episodes of the season, or at least . . . ahh, I don't know what I hoped.***

So, Willow and Tara are in bed together, having spent the whole night making up, and it's nice SOMEBODY on the show gets to experience a little happiness. However brief. Willow mentions that Spike said something about being with Buffy, and Tara tells her what she knows. Willow is a bit horrified and wonders why she was left out of the loop, and I wonder if she would have understood, not having been with anyone who sucked before. Of course, she was doing the whole magic addiction thing, so maybe she would have understood completely.

Dawn sees that Tara and Willow are back together, and she is completely happy about it. However briefly.

Meanwhile, since Willow traced the video feed, Buffy has found and burst into, the Trio's hideout. She finds a message of "Too Late" left for her. The house pretty much self-destructs, and Buffy does make it out alive, and with some of the Trio's papers. She gathers the girls together and they set out to find Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan.

Anya is off vengeance demoning, but she's so fixated on her own grief and anger that she doesn't grant wishes. She's upset that "he lied and lied and lied" to her about wanting to get married. But you know, she had to have been aware of his cold feet, since they each sang about it in "Once More With Feeling," and she certainly was listening closely enough to hear him say her toes were hairy.

Dawn visits Spike at his crypt, informing him that she knows he had sex with Anya and Buffy. She lectures him about hurting Buffy when he supposedly loves her and leaves him pondering the thought of how he shows his love to her.

One of the best relationships they set up in Season Five (which, sadly, they abandoned rather quickly), was the one between Dawn and Spike, and I was pleased when Dawn went to his crypt to talk to him about his dalliance with Anya. She asks, "Do you love her?" and he thinks she's talking about Anya, but of course she isn't. "Then how could you do that to her?" she asks, this time referring to Buffy. Dawn says, "What you did last night...if you wanted to hurt Buffy, congratulations." Like I said, there's an interesting dynamic between Spike and Dawn, and it's a shame they don't use it more.

The Evil Geek Trio goes to a cave (where they had been led in the last episode) where some kind of energy field protects a demon lair from non-demon types. They dress Jonathan in the skin of one and push him through the barrier. He comes back with two red balls, the Orbs of Shakakhan****, which give their possessor strength and invulnerability. Warren puts them in his manbag, and immediately confronts one of the demons, which he kills in a couple of deft moves.

Buffy goes to Xander's to, well, have a big moral argument, I suppose.***** They each call the other on the things they've done wrong lately, but Xander mentions that his mistakes are nothing compared to the things Spike has done, and just because he has a chip in his head doesn't mean he has a soul. Characters on this show often have self-righteous attitudes, and it bothers me, but I've got to remember that not everybody hates themselves as much as I do, and that there are actually people with strong convictions AND a sense of self-worth. So I'll let this argument slide.

Everyone's pretty much in pain, and Xander seeks solace at the bottom of a glass in the Bronze. The Trio enters with Warren all superpowered. He hits on a hot chick, then confronts her angry boyfriend, who used to pick on him in high school. He beats the boyfriend down, and a couple other guys for good measure. Xander comes out of the bathroom and challenges Warren to a fight, but he gets his face mangled for his effort.

Buffy gets hurt fighting a vampire, returns home, and goes in to have a bath. Spike appears and, in one of the darkest moments in easily the darkest season on pretty much any show ever, puts the moves on Buffy, and when she tells him no, tries to rape her. It starts just like any other Buffy/Spike scene, with him apologising for squishing with Anya, her insulting him, him saying she should've let Xander kill him, her saying she couldn't do that, and him saying she loves him and her saying she doesn't, and him coming over and grabbing her, and her pushing him away . . . but the next thing you know, she's yelling stop, and he's on top of her, and he's not stopping. And it's hard to talk about, let alone see, since I tend to adore Spike, and it's a stark, ugly moment, and would have gone further had she not gotten a moment in where she could kick him off (and across the room).

I suppose it's then that Spike realises what just happened, and he tells her he's sorry, that he could never . . . well, he would normally never . . . except he could.

I understand why it's necessary from a character point of view, but wow, that's probably not something I'm going to be showing my seven year old.

Xander comes over to tell her about Warren, and sees Buffy crying on the floor and Spike's leather jacket. He puts two-and-two together, but when Willow comes in and sees Buffy there and Xander's bloody face, she doesn't seem to notice much. She tells them that she and Tara analysed the Trio's plans and knows where they'll be that night. Xander does warn Buffy about Warren's new strength, and that seems to encourage her (since he ain't exactly human anymore, right?).

Spike, meanwhile, goes back to his crypt, replaying the attempted rape in his head. His demon friend Clem (the one with the sunny demeanor and saggy skin) comes over and Spike rants to him about Buffy and how vampires are supposed to kill Slayers, not love them, and that the damn chip in his head won't let him be a monster, and he can't be a man. But maybe he can do something after all.

The Trio's plan is to go to the local amusement park, which has just had its very profitable opening day, and clean out the profits. There's an armoured car, but Warren stops it with his bare hands. Buffy arrives and there's a pretty good fight, and I'm finding myself hoping that Buffy tears Warren's head off and scores a goal with it, but Warren just can't be stopped.

In a surprise move, Jonathan leaps on Buffy and while struggling, whispers how she can defeat Warren. She tosses him away, and fights Warren again. When he gets the upper hand, she grabs the Orbs and shatters them.

Warren has a jetpack hidden under his coat, and he uses it to get away. Andrew too has a jet pack, but he crashes when he tries to escape. Jonathan just stands there, understanding that he was meant to take the fall by the other two. Andrew and Jonathan are arrested, and though I figured their story was over, we follow them and their conversation from the police car to the station.

Spike leaves Sunnydale, but vows things will be different when he returns.

The episode ends with a nice moment the next morning, where Buffy and Xander are in the backyard, talking. She tells him what happened last night and he tells her he's sorry for the things he's done. They talk about friendship and the mire their lives have gotten into, and hug. Tara and Willow are in their bedroom talking, Tara looking down at Buffy and Xander below.

Xander notices first when Warren approaches. He threatens Buffy, then raises a pistol and fires it, gangsta-style, several times. The shots go wild, but one takes down Buffy, and another goes through Tara's chest, spattering Willow with blood. Warren runs off, Xander goes to Buffy, who is lying on the grass with a spreading gunshot wound. Willow does the same to Tara, screaming and crying, but Tara is obviously dead. Willow's eyes go black, then red as her horror turns to fury. The end.

You know, I don't know if I knew it was coming or not. They deliberately got us to lower our guard with the scene between Xander and Buffy, and the attack came out of nowhere, and was over in about three seconds. It was horrible, yes, and I wept, but like in "I Was Made To Love You," the shock of it came first. The grief would come in the next episode.

I wish I didn't know Tara was going to die, but I did hear about it countless times over the last few months, and Joss had said himself at last Comic-Con about his plans to bring her back in Seventh Season, so I knew she had at least gone away back in July. On the positive side, though, I had either read or misheard that it was Andrew that killed her, by summoning some demon that did the deed. So when she came to the basement toward the end of the first episode we watched ("Normal Again"), I was convinced that it would happen then. When the episode focused on Andrew and Jonathan after they'd been arrested, with Andrew bawling about Warren abandoning him, I figured he'd eventually escape, summon the demon, and Tara would pass away then. So, though I knew it was coming, I mis-knew, and that helped me greatly.

I told tyranist that this was a perfect place to end, since I would be on the edge of my seat all week, just as you normal viewers out there would've been. I went to the bathroom, and when I came out, he had already put in the next disc, queueing up the next episode.

Okay, I think I'm going to end right here. I did try to convince tyr not to push play, claiming that it would be good for us to wait to see what happens, and that if we started the last disc in the set, there was no way he could just stop with one more . . . he'd watch through to the end.

Apparently, though, tyranist took this as a signal that we were on the same page, and continue to the end of Season Six he did.

Rish "Zero Willpower" Outfield

*And you know, pound for pound, more tears might have been shed tonight than during the forty-eight minutes of "The Body," since there were more shows to go around. Plus, I'm pretty sure I was more broken-up by tonight's events than tyranist was. Maybe I'll ask him sometime.

**Luckily, this was my first-ever episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," so I was able to take Spike on his word there, knowing he would never hurt, stalk, attack, insult, demean, or spy on her.

***I hope this doesn't count as one of my turns, but gosh, how would it have been to have followed the show and love Amber Benson/Tara as much as I've grown to, and finally see her a full-fledged cast member? I'd probably have cheered and thought, "Now that the family is back together, everything is going to be alright!" At least that's what I THINK I'd have felt. It's all-too possible that in 2002, the spoiler-happy internet would have blabbed the unpleasant truth and fans everywhere would've known what was coming ten minutes after they filmed the scene. Damn world wide web.

****Okay, it was Nezzla'Khan, but I get tired of trying to remember the names of these things.

*****Actually, it was to tell him that Anya loves him and made a stupid mistake, but it devolves into an exchange of hurtful words.

No comments: