Saturday, August 30, 2008

Buffy Wednesday (August 27)

Tyranist and I caught three episodes of BTVS this week. Sadly, it means we are now more than halfway through the last season.

First up was "Potential," by Rebecca Rand Kirshner. I should remember who Kirshner is (she wrote "Tabula Rasa"), but I always forget.

The show started with Buffy and her potential Slayers (including a Chinese one, who only speaks subtitled Mandarin) walking through the cemetery. Spike jumps out and attacks the girls, all part of their training, and Buffy critiques their actions. For now, the First Evil is apparently napping, but it will rear its ugly head(s) again soon, more powerful than ever.

Buffy goes to school, where Amanda, the skinny girl she talked to about beating up bullies in "Help" shows up again.

Willow is told by the English coven we have never seen that another Potential is right there in Sunnydale, previously undetected. Dawn and Andrew are both relegated to standing around while the super-normals train or instruct or cast spells or work out. Willow prepares to cast a spell to locate this Potential, who will be sought out by a glowing ball of light. I'm going to come out now that I am all for glowing balls of light. I don't know, maybe I'll change my mind as I grow older, but for now, they're just cool.

Well, Willow casts the spell, and the ball floats around, then zooms straight for Dawn, who is standing by the door. The ball hits her, and knocks her down, and we realise that Dawn is the other Potential Slayer.

But of course, I mean, hey, why shouldn't she be? When Buffy died, I thought it only natural that Dawn should be the next Slayer, since she's made up of Buffy DNA, right?

Well, Dawn takes the news badly. In order for her to become the next Slayer, Buffy's gotta die, right?* Also, a Slayer tends to have a very short lifespan. After all, Buffy was killed, what, a year after being "chosen?" Dawn goes upstairs, then takes off out the window. Buffy never would've done that at her age.

Dawn finds Amanda from school on the sidewalk, who tells her that she was attacked at the school . . . by what appeared to be a vampire. She says she'd heard rumours that Ms. Summers knew about such things and was looking for her. Dawn says she believes her and asks her to take her to the classroom, where she claims she locked the vampire.

Buffy takes the girls (and Spike) to the local demon bar (I wonder if Sunnydale has more than one), and shows them how to get information from the demons there. Later, they go to a crypt where a vampire is sleeping. Buffy tussles with it, showing the girls how to keep their heads in battle, then she ducks out of the crypt, leaving the girls to fend for themselves.

It's maybe not the best way to teach a lesson, but it gets the point across. And anyway, they kill the vampire without any casualties, so I guess it worked out.

Xander and Willow, back at . . . well, their house, discover that Dawn has snuck out, and Willow casts a locator spell to find her.

Dawn and Amanda go to the school, and find the vampire hiding in wait for them. It chases them around and Dawn does her best to wallop it with a fire extinguisher. They board themselves up a science classroom while the vampire tries to get them.

Even worse, the Bringers (them pesky minions of the First Evil) show up to capture/kill the Potential Slayer. Dawn thinks fast and uses the gas jets to burn them, and sees that they were after Amanda, not her.

Xander and Willow and Buffy and . . . pretty much everyone who's not evil or dead arrive at the school. The vampire attacks again, and Dawn gives the stake she was using to Amanda, telling her that she's the one to kill it. She does, and Buffy takes care of the Bringers.

As they leave, it is revealed that Amanda was at the door when Willow cast her spell, and it went THROUGH Dawn to get to Amanda. Suddenly, Amanda is special, and the other Potentials immediately bond with her. Dawn ends up feeling unspecial and like an outsider again, but quickly volunteers to do some research on the computer. The real Potentials (and Buffy) continue training, leaving her alone.

Then Xander comes by, and tells her he knows how she feels. Ever since "Welcome to the Hellmouth," he's been the normal, ordinary guy, surrounded by Slayers, or smart people, or vampires, or witches, or werewolves, or ex-demons, or whatever Cordelia was, but that he can see that she's special even without powers or a unique heritage.** It's a nice moment between them, and it makes Dawn feel better, and hey, sometimes that's all you need. The end.

I didn't particularly like this episode . . . until the end. The Xander speech was a good one, and Dawn is a sweet character, and that made up for a lot. I think tyranist felt like it was the best scene Xander ever had, and while I can't go that far, it was nice.

Next up was "The Killer In Me," written by Drew Greenberg. It began with Giles taking the Potential girls out into the desert for a vision quest. We never see the girls, though, which I assumed was a cost-cutting measure.*** And something else we never see . . . Giles touching anything. They even explain that someone else has to drive for him because he let his drivers license expire. I believe this was another of those "tyranist pauses the tape" moments.

Kennedy is too sick to go, but Giles and all the girls drive off into the desert. Spike is still chained down in the basement (fairly sure the First Evil is going to take him over again), but it seems he's been having problems with his brain chip: it's been causing him pain when he's, I don't know, sitting on the couch or taking a slash. In other words, it's malfunctioning.
She decides to call Riley, but when she calls the number he gave her, she gets a flower shop answering machine, and leaves a cryptic message (I believe it involved the Army of the Twelve Monkeys and "Merry Christmas") before hanging up. Meanwhile, Spike writhes on the floor.

So, Kennedy wasn't really sick, she just didn't want to go with the squares on their silly vision quest, but preferred to stay and hang with Willow. I should find that irritating as hell, but for some reason, I was cool with it. She tells Willow she needs to take her somewhere and show her something important, and that somewhere turns out to be at the Bronze, and that something turns out to be her patented seduction routine.

She talks to Willow about how she became a lesbian, and at first Willow is very defensive about it, but warms rather quickly. Much as I have to this character. Willow tells Kennedy about Tara and Kennedy tells Willow why she finds her so attractive. A little drunk, they return to their already-shared bedroom, and kiss.

But something strange happens: when they part, it's no longer Willow standing there, but Warren. Kennedy freaks out, Willow sees herself in the mirror and she freaks out, they go downstairs, and everybody else freaks out. Willow/Warren tries to explain what has happened to her, and eventually convinces everyone that she's who she says she is.

Willow thinks--and it makes perfect sense--that this is something she has done to herself, through that magic that has a tendency to go a little screwy. She takes off alone, but Kennedy follows her.

Because Buffy doesn't know what else to do, she and Spike go to where the Initiative headquarters used to be. I thought it was all filled in with concrete, but apparently they just closed the doors and got the hel-ck out of Dodge. It is dark in there, and there are still bodies (of both demons and men) decaying on the floor. But something else lurks there, a demon that didn't die, perhaps, and it leaps upon Buffy when she's distracted by another of Spike's disabling chip-malfunctions.

As soon as Buffy takes the monster out, lights come on around them, and a bunch of Initiative dudes arrive, led by a black guy we've not seen before. He's on orders from Agent Finn to help Buffy out and take care of Spike's chip. And by "take care of," they give her the option of repairing the chip or removing it.

Back at Buffy's house, the phone rings and the Watcher we saw attacked in the episode Giles died in is calling, warning them what he saw. Xander and Anya decide that Giles must be the First Evil, since no one can remember him touching anything (Anya even asks if anyone hugged Giles, not that there's an excuse for not doing it), and they load into the car, taking Dawn and Andrew with them.

Andrew is attempting to endear himself to us by being dorky and shunned by the rest of the group, and I hope it starts working soon, 'cause he strikes me as quite useless and even more annoying. We'll see.

Willow goes to the college campus, where--speaking of useless and annoying--that Wicca group that she used to visit still meets. Well, I guess she met Tara there, so the group wasn't totally useless. None of the girls look familiar to me . . . except one. It's Amy, who has joined the group to get control of her mini-addiction to magic. Or so she claims. She apologises to Willow for what she did, and Willow is a bit distracted by having man parts, but accepts it anyway. Oh, and none of the girls can help Willow, 'cause they're, like, still into incense and black outfits and not shaving their legs.

Willow says something rather un-Willowlike and realises that she not only looks like Warren, but she's becoming like him. She storms off and when Kennedy tries to follow, she puts up a magic shield there. I can't tell you how many times a girl has done that to me (and often, they weren't even witches). So Kennedy goes back to talk to Amy, and finds that not only does Amy know who she is, but she seems a heck of a lot less contrite when she's not in front of her little Wiccy buddies.

In the desert, we find Giles sitting by himself beside a campfire, the Potentials still unseen in their tents or in the wilderness. Xander and Anya and Dawnie and the other guy jump out and tackle Giles. They are all surprised to find that he has physical form, and Giles is surprised they thought he was evil (and that Andrew got grabby with his crotch). Even though it's not explained until the next episode, I'll just say that Giles had heard the Bringer's squeaky shoes and caught the axe when it was swung at his head. He pulled it away and killed the Bringer with it, end of story.

Ho hum.

Wilren goes to the gun shop where he bought the pistol that killed Tara. The gun shop owner recognises "him" and sells him another pistol.

Amy reveals to Kennedy that SHE was the one who caused this to happen to Willow, just to bring her down a peg or three. She cast a spell that would turn Willow into what she most feared, and is quite proud of how it worked out. Her reasons are a) she's a really horrible person, b) it's not fair that Willow gets to be loved after all that she's done, and c) she's a really horrible person. To prove her sincerity, she magically transports Kennedy to Buffy's backyard, just as Wilren comes around the corner, saying the same thing Warren did when he shot Buffy (and Tara).

Kennedy is able to talk Wilren out of shooting her, and Willow cries, realising that when she kissed Kennedy, she finally and truly let Tara be dead in her heart. It's odd to see Warren cry like that, and I gotta admit they did a good job in making the actors behave believably.

Kennedy theorises that because it works in the fairy tales, she can break the spell the same way here. She kisses Wilren . . . who becomes Willow again. And it's funny, I'm perfectly fine with that. The end.

I might ought to talk about how much I didn't want Kennedy to show up on the show, how bothered I was that they would give Willow another love interest so soon, and what a stupid first name Kennedy is (for a boy or a girl), but I'm running low on time, so I'll just leave it for later. Or never.

The third episode we watched was called "First Date," written by Jane Espenson.

After explaining how he didn't die when we saw him die, Giles finds out that Buffy has had Spike's brain-chip removed. He doesn't think that was a wise decision, but Buffy explains that Spike has a soul now, and more importantly, he was able to kill people just fine under the First Evil's influence even with a chip. I guess Giles doesn't really have a say in anything now that he has become Mr. So Timid And Adviceless That We Thought He Was Dead.

And . . .

Basically, this show was about a couple of first dates. Xander meets this Ashanti-looking chick in a hardware store and they seem to hit it off enough that he asks her to dinner and she accepts.

Anya is not at all pleased with this turn of events and would've much preferred that Xander commit seppuku or join a monastery,
and I gotta wonder if maybe there isn't still some potential for a semi-happy ending between those two.

Also, Buffy starts to believe that Principal Wood is up to no good, and goes snooping about his office. When caught, he asks her out to dinner too. She accepts, but doesn't know if she's interested in him or suspicious of him. Spike does the complete opposite of Anya, and tells her to go out and have a nice date with the man. It's weird how all over the board Spike has been this season.

While they're gone, Jonathan appears in front of Andrew, obviously the First Evil again, and tells him it's not too late to kill all the Potentials and get to live forever in peace and happiness (or whatever their deal was when the First was Warren).

"Jonathan" tells Andrew where the gun Willow bought last episode is, and it appears that Andrew's going along with it for about three seconds, before he begins to ask the First if it has any weaknesses he should be aware of. It would seem that Andrew told Willow what was going on, and she put a wire on him, so they could find out what it is planning. The only thing that we learn before it disappears is that it's not time for Spike to play his part yet.

Principal Wood (who I think I'll just call "Wood" from now on) takes Buffy to this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that just happens to go through one of the thousands of dark alleys crawling with vampires that Sunnydale boasts (honest, I think it's on their tourism brochures). The vampires jump out, and while Buffy takes them on, so does Wood, managing to dust one or two.

It turns out that he's a rogue demon hunter, like our man Wesley was, and has been fighting them his whole life, like your man Gunn was. His mother was a Slayer, who was killed by a vampire when he was just a boy, and he was raised by her Watcher. I think this took tyranist completely by surprise, but I think I heard someone mention that the disco Slayer Spike killed in the subway had a son that showed up on the series later, so I sort of knew. I think this makes Buffy more interested in Wood romantically, and probably opens up her world a little knowing that there have been Slayers who had children.

Cut to: Xander's date, also in a restaurant. This Ashanti-looking girl really seems to be into him, and he can't believe it, since every chick to ever show interest in Xander has either been a demon, an ex-demon, or worse, Cordelia Chase.

Sadly (and it's not sad at all, but pretty darn funny), the Ashanti-looking girl also turns out to be a demon, that takes Xander down to the seal under the high school, ties him up, and cuts into him with a knife, hoping to open it up again. Poor guy.

Xander did manage to send Willow a text message when the date started to go south, and she interprets it that his companion is probably a demon. Spike goes to the restaurant to get Buffy, and meets Principal Wood there. They are introduced, but Buffy doesn't tell Wood Spike is a vampire, and sure as hell doesn't tell Wood which vampire Spike is. Though it's possible she doesn't know. I mean, there's probably a new Slayer called more often than the Olympics.

They drive to the school and rescue Xander, killing Ashanti good and proper, and revealing Spike to be a vampire. Wood doesn't understand why Buffy would allow him to live, and is uncomfortable to see they have some kind of "thing" between them.**** Principal Wood goes home, and the First Evil appears to him in the form of his dead mother (it may be at this moment that the home viewers first realise which Slayer his mother was, and that we've seen her before*****). It tells him that he just met her killer that night, and hopes he is man enough to do something about it. The end.

I still feel like these episodes are moving rather slowly, but I am still enjoying the ride. To the complaints that this seventh season has too many characters, I may have to agree on that one, but I'm not really complaining. To have many, many regular characters is to create something intricate and special, but more importantly, leaves it open to kill a few of them off. Which, knowing Joss Whedon as well as I do, I'm sure will happen anytime soon.

Rish Sebastian Outfield

*At this point, tyranist insisted that Faith has to die, not Buffy, for the next Slayer to be called. While the show has never said anything to support that statement, he does know what's coming at the end and I don't so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

**Of course, Dawn has only existed as something other than a ball of light for two years, but I'm glad he didn't mention that small detail.

***Turns out I was right. Hoorah for me.

****Notice I didn't say "thang" between them? I think I'm growing as a person.

*****Although to be absolutely fair . . . she ain't the same actress. I checked.

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