Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buffy Wednesday Continued

Tyranist and I continued watching "Buffy" well beyond the usual two, three, or even four episodes we usually take in on a Wednesday. He said he was willing to stay up until three if it meant getting through them all. That sort of dedication should be lauded, but instead, I detest myself for my weakness.

Next up was "Dirty Girls," written by Drew CLOVERFIELD Goddard and Joss WONDER WOMAN R.I.P. Whedon. It begins with a new Potential running through the woods, being chased by Bringers. She runs into the street and is picked up by a pickup truck (hence the name, I guess), being driven by a young man dressed as a priest. He's got Nathan Fillion's face, but speaks with the creepy cadence of a Southern preacher.

His name is Father Caleb, and he seems supportive for about two seconds before he begins commenting on the corruption of this generation, especially young women, and refers to her as a whore. The Potential tries to get out of the truck, but the door handle's been removed (surely for this very reason). He's got a ring on his finger that he holds up to the cigarette lighter . . . and then to her neck. It burns a gross symbol onto her, and he tells her to go to the Slayer and give her a message. Then he stabs her in the stomach and tosses her out onto the road.

The next car to come along is Willow and Faith, coming back from L.A.. They pick up the girl and take her to the hospital, where Willow stays with her. Faith goes to the cemetery to find Buffy, and the first thing she finds is Spike attacking a girl. She fights with Spike until he tells her that he knows who she is. She knows who he is too, and he insists they're on the same side. She tells him she's not bad anymore and Buffy comes out and defends Spike. There's a beautifully surreal moment where Faith wonders if somehow Buffy has gone bad, and that makes her the Good Slayer now, but when she sees that the girl Spike was chasing is a vampire (and stakes her), she puts two and two together.*

Apparently there are too many Potentials to stay at Buffy's and many are at Xander's place, and have never felt the touch of a man. Or maybe that's just a dream.

Buffy takes Faith back to her own house, where she greets Dawn with recognition (I wonder what they're relationship was like). Pretty much everyone there eyes her with distrust, but there's a lot of that going around, as Buffy looks at Giles that way too.

Caleb is headquartered in a big wine cellar at a vineyard on the outskirts of town, and the First Evil appears to him, looking like Buffy. He was the one, it seems, who blew up the Watchers Council, and he appears to have deep-seated and unapologetic issues with women. For example, he asks the First Evil to take the form of pretty young things he's killed over the years, so that he can relive their murders. The First has found a real match made in heaven with this guy.

For the uninitiated, Andrew explains Faith's history of violence and unpredictability, culminating in her unprovoked attack on poor Mister Spock. The Potentials point out that it was a vulcanologist, not a Vulcan, but I think the point is made.

Faith goes down to the basement for a cigarette (see, she's still bad!), and finds Spike there. She mentions that she met him once before while she was in Buffy's body, and there seems to be some kind of chemistry between them. Of course Buffy comes in at that point, but I didn't really want to see Faith and Spike hook up. I'm not sure who I'd like to see Faith hook up with. Kennedy maybe.

Buffy goes to work, and Principal Wood tells her she's fired. Guess that first date could've gone better. Maybe she should've considered putting out.

Actually, Principal Wood thinks Buffy should focus on her real job, which is protecting the world from demons and vampires, and lets her know that the high school might not be open much longer anyway.

Buffy goes to the hospital to see Shannon, the downed Potential. Willow points out the symbol burned into her neck (and isn't in this episode much, probably 'cause she was off making the "Angel" crossover). The message Caleb had for Buffy is that he has something of hers.

Well, Buffy wants to find out what it is (she thinks it might be another girl, and Giles thinks it might be a stapler), so she and Faith follow a Bringer back to its lair, which is in the vineyard. There's some tension between them (not sexual this time), and Faith asks if she'd rather she weren't there. I'm not sure if Buffy can see how she's become abrasive and is pushing people away, but she does thank Faith for being there (and I get the impression Faith has a pretty thick skin, I wish I could've seen what her relationship with her Watcher was like).

Knowing where Caleb is holed-up, Buffy tells the Potentials they're going to go in there in-force, and do as much killing as is necessary to get back what he took. The girls are scared and many of them have never been tested in battle. Giles thinks they need a better plan than that, but Buffy is set in her plan.

Later, Xander gives the nervous girls a much more effective speech, where he tells them how great Buffy is and that she's died saving the world twice and they owe her their loyalty. It was lovely, and Faith artfully undercuts it with "Damn, I never knew you were so cool."

So, Buffy, Spike, and Faith take the strongest Potentials (and Xander) to the vineyard, leaving Xander and Faith to guard the door in case it's a trap. Well, there's plenty of Bringers there, and the fight is on, but once Caleb steps out . . . it's fair to say the fight is finished.

This guy is unbelievably powerful, and takes Buffy out with one deft move, smashing her against the wall. He mocks the idea of goodness and Slayers in general, and I NEVER would have believed Nathan Fillion could be so scary. I love the dude, and have remarked on the several times I've seen him in person that he's kind of goofy-looking, but wow, Caleb is a truly chilling being. He grins while attacking, headbutting Spike and smashing him into a wine barrel. He backhands Kennedy unconscious, snaps Rona The Potential With Tude's arm like a dry branch, and does the same to another Potential's neck. Faith fares a little better, getting a few punches in before she's down for the count. He preaches constantly, having a gay old time, and before Buffy can recover and fight him a second time, he kills Molly the Cockney Potential with her own knife. Buffy does manage to knock Caleb down, and everybody moves to retreat.

Xander helps Kennedy to her feet, but is grabbed by Caleb. He recognises Xander as "the one who sees everything," and sticks his thumb in Xander's eye, popping it like a bloody grape. Spike pushes Caleb out of the way and Buffy grabs Xander and gets him out of there. Caleb just watches, smirking, and does not follow.

The survivors are battered and bruised, and obviously Buffy feels responsible. Caleb boasts to the First Evil about how easy it all was, and that he'll kill them all before the end. Buffy goes walking alone, the weight of the world she normally carries even heavier than usual. The end.

This one, my friends, had the darkest ending since . . . well, probably since the Dark Willow stuff, if not the Buffy-finds-her-mom-on-the-couch show. And it's weird, the Xander eye thing was just inexpressibly horrible. I knew, too, that at some point in the series he started wearing an eyepatch, but until it happened, I had completely forgotten about it.

And I don't know if it was because it was Xander or because it's an eye (hey, we've all been poked in the eye before and know how sensitive that is), but it was a moment that just bothered the hell out of me. When I related it to my niece (as she insists I do every Saturday when I see her), I was emotional in describing the scene to her** and she gasped, "So Xander died?"

No, he didn't die, but the eye thing is a permanent mutilation that, well, it's just one of those things that we've not seen a lot of, and I'm grateful for it.

Again, we probably should have quit there (we both had a lot of stuff to watch, and we've completely abandoned "Twin Peaks," which I was so keen on watching through just a few weeks ago), but tyranist wanted to continue, and I didn't even try to stop him.

The next episode was called "Empty Places," written by Drew Z. Greenberg, and begins with the people of Sunnydale quickly packing up and clearing out of town. Even Clem, Spike's floppy demon friend, is in the line of cars headed out. Buffy encounters him while on her long walk, and he suggests she leave too...the apocalypse is really coming this time.

Willow and Giles get everything the police have on Father Caleb, and when they leave, the cops--influenced by the Hellmouth and itching to do some violence--decide to go after the escaped prisoner who has apparently been seen in Sunnydale.

Willow sits beside Xander in the hospital, holding his hand, and just being there for him. He makes light of the situation, but it's all Willow can do to not break down. It's a great moment, and Buffy comes by to get the paperwork, but leaves to give it to the others, leaving them alone.

The Potentials are really freaked now that Caleb is going to get them all. Buffy thinks the police information might help, but she's becoming increasingly tired and humourless. Kennedy wonders how Caleb was able to render Buffy "useless in just one punch," but regrets saying it. Buffy gets up and leaves the house.

She goes to the high school (now closed) and packs up her desk. And Caleb walks in, mocking her tears. The guy is just as bad as it gets, kids. He tells Buffy that history is going to remember these days, and the role Buffy played in the changing world. When Buffy tries to fight him, he simply picks her and throws her through the window, then goes his way.

Giles and Dawn are doing research, and he sees the symbol of Caleb's brand in one of them. There's a church up north that was suddenly abandoned, and asks Spike to go there an investigate. Giles's reasoning is that Spike's the only one strong enough to handle himself if there's trouble (though I believe there's a second Slayer around with just as much history of following Giles's orders). Because Andrew is still annoying, he sends him along with Spike.

Seeing how stressed out the girls are, Faith takes them to the Bronze, where they party it up and dance and drink. A group of cops come in and arrest Faith (who all the girls now love).

When Buffy staggers home--the poor girl claims to have actually enjoyed being knocked unconscious for the rest it gave her--Giles tells her where he sent Spike (she's unhappy with that decision) and where Faith took the girls (ditto that). She goes back out into the night to get them for another attack on Caleb Manor.

Faith "resists arrest" and ends up getting billy clubbed by several cops, but she and the other girls start beating them up. Buffy walks up just as the last cop goes down. Of course she accuses Faith of being irresponsible, and Faith reminds her of the vineyard incident in return.

Spike and Andrew ride Spike's motorcycle to the abandoned church and are attacked by a priest who's hiding there. He has that Caleb mark burned on his cheek and explains that Caleb was there a while back and discovered an inscription on a secret wall in the church. The priest ran and hid while Caleb killed all the other priests there. The inscription reads "It is not for thee, but for her alone to wield."

Principal Wood meets Faith when she goes back to Buffy's, and they discover they have a thing or two in common. Xander comes in (with Willow and Anya), and pretty much the whole gang is gathered to hear Buffy's announcement: they're going to go to the vineyard again and attack Caleb. She's convinced that there's something there he's protecting, his power center, and that needs to be knocked out.

But nobody agrees with her. First it's Faith, then Wood, then Giles, then Rona, then Kennedy, all telling her the plan (or she herself) is flawed. Even Willow says she's worried about Buffy's judgment, and then Anya throws in a particular grimy pair of cents that Buffy always thinks she's better than everybody else, but she's not.

Of course we turn to Xander to clear everything up, and after last week's "up with Buffy" speech, you know he'll know what to say. But he isn't with her either. Rona the Potential with Tude thinks Faith should be in charge, and Kennedy thinks there should be a vote. But Buffy won't stand for any vote, and looks around for someone to see it her way (or at least to see reason). Nobody gives on this (you'd think Giles could at least say, "We'll come up with a plan, we'll do some research and find Caleb's weakness, or at least wait until Spike comes back to find out if he learned anything we can use," but he--and everyone else--just stares at the floor while Buffy feels betrayed), and finally Dawn stands up and tells Buffy that it's her house too, and "I need you to leave."

Buffy tells Faith to protect the girls and walks out into the night. The end.

Again with the dark, sober unpleasant endings. Now, tyranist was pretty sure that Buffy's plan was exactly what Caleb wanted her to do, in order to kill more of the girls or I don't know what.*** I wasn't so sure, and it was really hard to watch people (including the other three core characters) turn their back on her in that moment.

I guess it's natural for people to argue or disagree, but it always bothers me when it happens on "Buffy." I don't know why, but that's probably the main reason I didn't like "Dead Man's Party" or any of the inner-strife episodes from Seasons 5 and 6. It may be that I've just grown too close to these characters, and am now thinking of them as real friends of mine. And it sucks to see your friends fight.

Tyranist didn't think that was a good note to end the night on (and he was probably right), so we went on to the next disc . . . the last disc of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Only three more to go, and the first of those was "Touched," written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner.

Everybody at Buffy's house is arguing and trying to talk over each other. Faith suggests that they gets some rest and think about things tomorrow.

All over Sunnydale, people are packing up and leaving town. Buffy walks through the night until she goes into an abandoned house to sleep. Turns out it's not abandoned, but she tells the owner to leave.

Andrew and Spike are stuck in the church when the sun comes up, and as much as he'd like to get back and help Buffy, they apparently have no cellphones or transportation (other than his motorcycle).

The second Potential town meeting goes as badly as the first, with everyone arguing about what they should do next. Kennedy is particularly hostile, and thank M. Night Shyamalan that Rona the Tude Queen isn't there to make me want to shed blood. Finally Faith tells everyone to shut up, that they put her in charge and she's giving the orders now. Her plan is to capture a Bringer and find out what it knows about the First Evil's weaknesses.

They use Kennedy as bait and capture one of the three Bringers that go after her (good thing it wasn't Caleb or an Ubervamp, huh?), killing the other two. Unfortunately, Bringers have no tongues.

Dawn thinks they should cast a spell to read its mind, and Willow gathers the ingredients. Spike and . . . the other one return and he asks where Buffy is. They stutter through an explanation of what happened, and he calls them a bunch of ungrateful traitors and a couple other colourful insults. He and Faith have a fight nearly as pointless as the ones from the MATRIX sequels.

Spike leaves, but smells her out, going down the block to find her. He finds her upstairs in the house she appropriated, lying in bed. He disses Faith and the others, and tells her what he learned at the church. She finds no comfort there. He tells her Caleb is hiding something at the vineyard, but Buffy is sort of broken. He tells her she's not one to give up, and the others took something from her, but she can take it back.

Willow casts the spell on the Bringer, and it begins to talk through Andrew. He explains that the Bringers are preparing the way for the inevitable war, working to destroy the Slayer line, storing up weapons for the battle, and obey their mop-topped leader Caleb. They make it elaborate about the weapons stockpile and it begins to wax poetic about how many of them there are out there. Giles cuts the Bringer's throat, and I have to wonder if he was just frustrated, foolish, or if that was genuinely all the Bringer had to tell them.

They figure out where the Bringer was talking about and Faith plans on going there tomorrow morning. As soon as she's alone in her room, the First appears to her in the form of the Mayor. He tells her what a good job she's doing and how smart she was to kick Buffy out. It's weird, 'cause the First Mayor is pretty much exactly the way the real Mayor was, affectionate, oddly old-fashioned, even-tempered, and yet a bad guy. He tells Faith that she took what Buffy wanted (respect, leadership, big hair), and she'll use it as an excuse to kill her.

Spike tries to explain to Buffy that she can't give up. She tells him she's tired, and she never gets close to people because she always has to stand alone. He talks about how he sees her, how she's the only thing he's ever been sure of in his long unlife full of mistakes and bad decisions. He tells her he loves her and that she's a hell of a woman, and to get some rest. She tells him to stay with her and hold her, and he does.

Principal Wood hears Faith talking to herself and asks if she's alright. She brushes him off, afraid of looking vulnerable, then tells him it was the First. They exchange experiences and fears, and he tells her nobody wants to be alone, that everybody wants to be touched. And then they start touching, and I mean in a ask-the-kids-to-go-to-their-rooms sort of way.

Kennedy maneuvers it so that she and Willow get a romantic night alone as well, and it gets all kissy and stuff too. Willow is afraid of letting loose, that she'll lose control. But Kennedy tells her to trust her and just let go, and I guess she does. There's a great deal of groping and kissing in the scene, and I'd say more, but I might start to blush. And we can't have that.

Downstairs, Xander and Anya hear all the sex going on around them and are jealous. So they do it too. Seems there's just something in the air, and I told tyranist I prayed Giles and Andrew didn't end up in a room together.

Spike just holds Buffy, and it seems to be exactly what she needs.

The First Evil (looking like Buffy) sees all that's going on, and while Caleb dismisses it as sins of the flesh and all that, she wishes she could touch and be touched. For about a quarter of a second, I almost pity the First. Then it says it wishes it could take some innocent neck and feel what that's like to snap it.

The next morning, Spike awakens to find Buffy gone, a note (that we don't get to read) in her place. Buffy has gone to the vineyard, where she surprises Caleb (and the First), asking what he has that belongs to her. He tries to fight her, but she just stays out of his way, Spider-manning around while he punches and kicks walls, wine barrels, and the air. As far as I remember, he doesn't lay a hand on her, and she discovers a trapdoor leading down below the wine cellar.

She slips through it and finds some sort of . . . blade weapon device thing halfway imbedded in stone there. Perhaps the Excalibur for Slayers?

Elsewhere, Faith takes a few of the Potentials to the sewers, where the Bringers have their arsenal. It turns out to be a trap, and several Bringers pop out, fighting our girls. The girls hold their own . . . but that wasn't the trap. The trap was the cache of explosives and the timer counting down right in front of them. The end.

Well, that was interesting. And another cliffhanger.

Tyranist said we couldn't quit there, and was more than willing to sacrifice a night of sleep and stay up till two or three if he had to to get through it all. I've got to say that it's just a curly black hair short of a bona fide miracle that we didn't finish the whole series tonight. I had to practically beg to get tyranist to--you know what, I DID beg. I begged him to give me one more night, like the Phil Collins song. One more Buffy Wednesday, which we could celebrate in style, making an evening of it, and watch the retrospect documentaries afterward.

And I could tell he wasn't happy about it, but somehow I got through to him and he turned it off. A couple days later he told me he was just going to watch it all himself, but I seriously doubted he would. He's had the DVDs for years and not watched them.

Because I knew there was no way he'd let me postpone "The Last Buffy Wednesday" another week or two, I did what I could to finish up these blog posts before the week was through. As it stands, I've got about ten minutes before it's time to head for his place.

Maybe I can stretch that to twenty.

Rish Outfield

*Hey, I love Faith, really, but I wonder sometimes if she could put one and one together.

**She seven and has never seen "Firefly." Sadly, I think Caleb loses a bit of his menace when I describe him as "The guy who plays Captain Hammer."

***Sure enough, he mentions as much to the First Evil, sure that Buffy will come running like a veal to the slaughter.

No comments: