The Freshman

Wow, rather like Buffy being a freshman, that was awkward. Getting back into the Buffyverse wasn’t as smooth as I assumed it would be. Being re-immersed in a pop/culture world where Buffy references Dada and Xander knows about the Renaissance but Buffy doesn’t is a bit of a shock. It’s very stylised and arch, and a bit irritating.

That said, I am looking forward to getting back into it because there are some crackers coming up by anybody’s standards. I love, love, love several episodes of season 4.

Random notes: I remember liking Sunday more; Klimt versus Monet still funny; Willow has nice hair; would a lecturer be that mean?; when will I ever not wince at the word “bitch”?; the location for UC☼D is lovely; watching it 16:9 with a technical eye does expose framing issues.

Quiet! You’ll miss the humorous conclusion

Restless (Joss Whedon)

Restless - Buffy

Whatever you think of Restless, and I can imagine it rarely provokes a neutral reaction, it must be one of the most extraordinary programmes ever shown on mainstream television. How did Joss Whedon get away with it? It is complex, pretentious, metaphorical, gorgeously photographed and scored, weird, clever, beautifully acted, funny and silly. It’s never dull or boring.

Restless - Willow is "very seldom naughty"
Restless - Giles and Harmony

But, it’s not an episode I love despite Willow painting on Tara’s back, a giant Miss Kitty Fantastico, Willow being “very seldom naughty”, Giles and Spike on the swings, Anya’s emphatic steering, Snyder as Colonel Kurtz, Anya doing stand-up, Spike posing in black and white, Amber Benson’s bare midriff, Sarah Michelle Gellar looking beautiful in the bright, sun-drenched scenes, the fight in the desert sands and Buffy’s final eye-roll as the First Slayer attacks her yet again.

Restless - Xander in the bathroom

I appreciate the fantastic thing it is but I can’t love it. I think the cheese man is a mistake because he literally and figuratively gets in the way. The episode never awes me. I want to use the word it lacks emotion (it’s an umbrella word like nice but it’ll do) and goes for the intellect instead. Oh, I dunno really, it is funny and endlessly rewatchable so what am I complaining about?

Restless - Anya driving
Restless - Spike

Two reviews worth reading: Mikejer (“and the Cheese Man appears for the first time. This guy rocks!“) and Kip Manley (“I’m not even going to dignify the Cheese Guy. Nor does Buffy”).

Restless - Tara in the desert

Well, piffle, let’s move on

Primeval (David Fury)

I’m on record that season four is my favourite but I think I was mistaking a whole buncha good episodes for a good series of episodes. It didn’t help that Professor Walsh departed rather abruptly which lead to Adam taking centre stage which made season 4’s big bad a big bore.

Feel free to skip the following witterings: I’m fairly confident that seasons 5, 6 and 7 won’t be my favourite seasons so it’s now between 2 and 3. My first thought is 3 because of Faith and the Mayor but then I remember Dead Man’s Party and Beauty and the Beasts. Then I remember Bad Eggs and Killed by Death. Then I remember Amends, Helpless and The Zeppo and then I remember Inca Mummy Girl, Reptile Boy, and Go Fish. So do Faith and the Mayor beat Kendra and Angelus? Does preaching beat MOTW episodes? I think I may in danger of getting great episodes like Innocence/Surprise, Phases, Passion and Becoming I and II mixed up with a great season and as much as I hate DMP and BATB with a passion there are few routine episodes and the others I mentioned have much to recommend them (except, I’m sorry to say, The Zeppo). Season 3 is my favourite.

Primeval - Buffy is the Scoobies

I think this is the poorest finale of all BtVS seasons with its X-Files lite coda summing up the crappiness of the idea of the Initiative. I was surprised to see the military turning up in Season 8; did Joss not learn anything? (Restless isn’t really the finale in the truest sense.)

Zombie Walsh and zombie Forrest are just horrible while Riley ripping out his chip (which just remember is directly attached to his nervous system) is plain daft.

Primeval - the Scoobies are caught

However, the true power of the Scoobies is harnessed and it is genuinely moving to see them working together.

Primeval - Willow and Buffy

Buffy and Willow’s chat in the lift shaft is sweet but really: “Let’s promise to never not talk again.”

Primeval - Anya looks under the sheet

“So what if they are? You’re a good person, and a good boyfriend, and…and I’m in love with you. Whatever they think of you, it shouldn’t matter.” Anya is so lovable (and sensible) when she’s allowed to be, well, human.

She’s crafty. Her and her little friends.

The Yoko Factor (Doug Petrie)

Riley says that Buffy told him this about Angel: “Everything. More than I wanted to know sometimes. She loved him. He turned evil. He, uh, killed people. She cured him. He left. Interesting little curse.” and then when Xander mentions “One moment’s happiness.” he gets upset. Therefore that means that Riley is more upset about the sex than the love…which is bonkers.

Spike’s work on the Scoobies is very clever but the position they have got themselves into over the season has helped a great deal. Buffy not wanting to talk about Angel is annoying but reasonable behaviour for her in season four.

What is Doug Petrie on? First the Riley misplaced jealously and now Willow wanting to study drama? Hello, Nightmares?

I don’t like Forrest but this is pretty accurate: “Such a big head on that skinny little body.”

Willow is a whizz in The Yoko Factor
“I am a whiz.” “She is a whiz.” “If ever a whiz there was.”

Of course Willow (“I knew Buffy was freaked.”) ignores the wise advice from Tara “You should talk to her, cause I’m sure she…” in favour of presuming the worst. (Aside: Buffy et al, actually take Willow’s outing very well, much better than you would expect from people who had little clue that she may be gay and much better than many fans of the show.)

The scene in Buffy’s dorm room between Riley, Angel and Buffy is funny and very well played by the trio.

Adam in funny moment: “Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the Beatles?” “I have. I like Helter Skelter.”

Tara and Anya in the bathroom in The Yoko Factor
“Like the tile.” A lovely moment between the two outsiders.

Giles is drunk in The Yoko Factor
“Bloody hell!” Giles (or should I say ASH) makes a great drunk.

“So…I guess I’m starting to understand why there’s no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One…and her friends.” The yelling and fighting is almost funny except that it’s too sad and close to the bone.

This episode ends on a cliffhanger and has a definite air of being incomplete in all other ways too (issues that are a bit too easily glossed over in the next of the series). And I still need to know just how cold are the evenings in SoCal?
Buffy wears a jumper in The Yoko Factor
Xander (and Willow) in The Yoko Factor

I’ll have the less confusing waffles right now

New Moon Rising (Marti Noxon)

I have seen some scenes many, many times but overall too much of this episode is poorly thought out and developed.

Oz can’t control the wolf when he’s affected by strong emotions like jealousy or pain and so even if Willow had decided that she wanted to be with him that couldn’t have happened.

However, even if you didn’t know Seth Green had decided to leave the series the evidence is there in the episode that Willow would choose Tara. There is no woo or hoo because despite it being Oz (you know) she is not thrilled about his return which is why she chooses waffles and whatever happens during the cardigan swapping scene makes Oz’s nose tingle.

The acting in this episode is tremendous: we expect the best from Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green but Amber Benson is wonderfully touching (stutter notwithstanding). The scene between Oz and Tara is tense and exciting and you can feel their individual pain acutely and I love that even in his anguish he warns her to run.

New Moon Rising - Oz says run to Tara

My version of the Tara and Willow story is that Tara is totally smitten with Willow as soon as she sees her: it is love at first sight. In fact, Tara actively pursues Willow and is rather forward when she tells her she is special in Hush. Consequently, what she does in New Moon Rising is self-sacrificial and brave (she even says she wants to be Willow’s friend no matter what) and noble.

I understand there are some people who think the opening scene is a bit cute and sick-making but I think it’s so sweet. And they hold hands!

New Moon Rising - Willow and Tara hold hands

“I’m overhelping, aren’t I?” I do regret not calling this blog overhelping but I can’t change it now because a search on Google with the keywords let’s fold scarves brings up his site first.

More snark between Anya and Giles and then Oz turns up: “Oz” breathes Tara as the happiness swooshes out of her body.

New Moon Rising - Willow says no new guy

Willow is a witch and interested in Wicca and there is no way she wouldn’t have realised it was a full moon. Alyson Hannigan is very, very good: listen and watch as she says “No. No new… guy.” And oo, a green choker alert.

New Moon Rising - Buffy gets a clue

The scene between Willow and Buffy when Will comes out is superb: just perfectly written and acted:

“Okay, I’m all with the woo-hoo here, and you’re not.” “No, there’s “woo” and, and “hoo.” But there’s “uh-oh,” and…”why now?” And…it’s complicated.” “Why complicated?” “It’s complicated…because of Tara.” “You mean Tara has a crush on Oz? No…Oh! Oh. Um…well…that’s great. You know, I mean, I think Tara’s a, a really great girl, Will.” “She is. And…there’s something between us. It-it wasn’t something I was looking for. It’s just powerful. And it’s totally different from what Oz and I have.”

Apparently, other stuff does actually happen in this episode like Riley quits the Initiative and Buffy steels herself to actually tell him about her relationship with Angel (“an unconventional relationship”, indeed).

And Oz leaves:

New Moon Rising - Oz

And this is now it ends and it is adorable:

“No candles? Well, I brought one. It’s extra flamey…Tara, I have to tell you…” “No, I-I understand. You have to be with the person you l-love.” “I am.” “You mean…?” “I mean. Okay?” “Oh, yes.” “I feel horrible about everything I put you through. A-and I’m gonna make it up to you. Starting right now.” “Right now?”

New Moon Rising - extra flamey

Very smooth cheek you have there. Do you exfoliate?

Where the Wild Things Are (Tracey Forbes)

This is the other candidate from season four for the least liked episode. Where the Wild Things Are - Giles singingAnd like Beer Bad I can defend it or, at least, list good things about it. For one thing, the Buffy and Riley having sex scenes don’t take up that much screen time (though they do seem endless). And surely an episode with Giles singing can’t be a total wash-out? By the way, Giles singing isn’t actually a good thing but it was a great BtVS moment (“Um, could we go back to the haunted house? Cause, this is creeping me out.”)

There is a lot of excellent character interaction between Xander and Anya, Anya and Spike, and Tara and Willow. In fact, reviewing this episode was more fun than doing Superstar.

  • Anya and Xander argue in front of children and parents: “You want sex? Let’s have sex. Right here. Hot, sweaty, big sex.” (OK, question, why is the ice cream van a right hand drive? Are all ice cream vans right hand drives in the US?)
  • Where the Wild Things Are - ice cream van
  • “They, they’re probably going to…” “Yes, thank you Willow, I did attend university in the Mesozoic era, I do remember what it’s like.”
  • Anya and Spike begin their relationship with a funny scene: “What are you doing? You made me yell really high.”
  • Where the Wild Things Are - Anya and Spike
  • “Hey, Buffy, this might be a good time to mention that someone, so not me, spilled something purpley on your new peasant top which I would never borrow without asking. Still love me?”
  • “You should ride with me sometime. I guarantee safety and fun.” “Well…if you promise you’ll look after me.” (Subtle)
  • “Anya, this is crazy. We had a little fight. It just means that we have to work our way through some stuff. It doesn’t mean that we rebound with the evil undead.” (I’d almost feel sorry for Xander except it’s his fault she does rebound.)
  • “I know I’m not the first choice for heroics…and Buffy’s tried to kill me more than once. And, I don’t fancy a single one of you at all. But…actually, all that sounds pretty convincing. I wonder if Danger Mouse is on.”
  • Xander is very brave by at least trying to help his friends.
  • “No. They’re probably dead.” “Unless they’re too busy doing it to answer.” “Doing what?” “You know, for a god of acoustic rock, you’re…kind of naive.” “I didn’t think you meant …in the midst of all that, do you really think they were keeping it up? Oh, for a different phrasing.” “Well, see, that’s the thing. People all over the party were starting to act…weird. Sexually.” “In what way?” “You know…ways.” (Subtext alert!)
  • Where the Wild Things Are - You know, ways
  • Mrs Holt being a child abuser wasn’t a surprise but it’s was nice to see Mrs Landingham being evil.
  • “What do you feel?” “Sad, afraid of being without you, and a little hungry.” “I meant about the house.” “Oh. Still haunted.”
  • “We’re just lucky no one got injured.” (Er, what about that thorn through Anya’s hand and that scratch on Xander’s face?)
  • Where the Wild Things Are - Anya and Xander
Where the Wild Things Are - Tara looking over her shoulder
Totally gratuitous picture of Amber Benson looking gorgeous

Actually not needing validation right now, but thank you

Superstar (Jane Espenson)

I enjoyed this episode a lot except for the last leaden minutes but I haven’t much to say about it.

Jonathan says watch out for southpaws but this may have been the proof the Scoobies needed: he isn’t one. And he may not know how to deal with his own inadequacies but he does give Buffy and Riley sound advice.

Superstar - Buffy has no gaydar
Oblivious Buffy

The scenes with Anya being a metaphor-for-autism are classic: “Oh you’re still here. That’s nice.” and later: “Stop with the shrimp I am trying to do something here!”

Superstar - Xander speaks Latin
“Xander, don’t speak Latin in front of the books.”

“Did anyone else feel way too tall? I felt way too tall.”

Our m-mothers and-and tiny, tiny babies!

Who Are You? (Joss Whedon)

This is probably my favourite ever episode of BtVS but it isn’t entirely perfect: the actors who play the three Watchers’ Council men may or may not be British but they sure sound awful and it’s distracting. Plus Adam…and the spit that runs down Buffy’s face.

As I write these reviews (notes?) I surf around the Internet for various reasons (in this case to find out the preferred terms for Faith and Buffy which I decided not to bother with) and I come across other websites and blogs that cover the same ground. I am constantly struck by the near hatred that BtVS can provoke. Some people are so angry, proprietorial, and demanding; it’s as if they believe the series and its creators personally owe them something. Season four and six are the targets of the most venom and I wonder why they bother with something that they dislike so much. Then I wonder if my gripes could be conceived the same way so in order to make it clear: I love BtVS and even the problems I have with season six don’t stop the love I have for it and all that came before it. Maybe any hatred I may have is reserved for season seven but I even though I have never seen an episode from that season again I still remember liking a lot of it. I have noticed a bit of the above coming out in reviews of the season eight comics with folk demanding less Andrew, who Amy’s boyfriend’s should be, etc, as if Joss and co should or could please everyone.

Here’s a list of reasons why it’s a favourite:

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar is outstanding as Faith in Buffy’s body. Eliza Dushku doesn’t come close though she tries hard.
  • Faith takes a bath and practises “because it’s wrong”
  • “I am, you know.” “What?” “Yours”
  • “On her way to the big house. Cops took her off my hands about an hour ago. Poetic justice.” “How’s that?” “ Well, she did all those crimes, and now she’s being arrested…I guess that’s just regular justice.”
  • Faith stabs Willow and I get all shivery when she stabs Willow where Buffy stabbed Faith.
  • “Well, I’m glad you called us all here because that information could never be conveyed by telephone.” I love the snark between Anya and Giles.
  • “You know why I really hate you, Summers?” “Cause I’m a stuck-up tight-ass with no sense of fun?” “Well, yeah, that covers a lot of it.” “Cause I could do anything I want, and instead, I choose to pout and whine and feel the burden of slayerness? I mean, I could be rich, I could be famous, I could have anything. Anyone. Even you, Spike. I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I’ve got muscles you’ve never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you popped like warm Champagne and you’d beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don’t? Because it’s wrong.” This scene is just incredible: just one more example of “how did they get away with that?”
  • Who Are You - because it's wrong

  • “So Willow’s not driving stick anymore.” Heh, in two minutes Faith sees more than the Scoobies.
  • Who Are You - not driving stick

  • Faith walks after the vampire and I just love the swishing sound as she picks up the pool cue.
  • Faith is conflicted as the woman she has saved says thank you but surely Faith has heard gratitude before?
  • “Yeah. You give her whatever she needs.” Meow.
  • “She’s not your friend.” “I may have overestimated the “you liking her” factor.” “No, no. I mean, I don’t…I don’t think she’s…her.” “You lost me.” “Well, a person’s energy has a flow, a unity. Buffy’s was fragmented. It-it grated, like something forced in where it doesn’t belong. Plus, she was, um, she was kind of mean.” In two minutes, Tara sees more than the Scoobies.
  • “I-I think there’s a way we can, hmm…The passage to the nether realm. There-there’s a ritual. If you can find Buffy there, you should be able to see.” “If it’ll help her. What?” “Well, the nether realm exists beyond the physical world. Accessing it is…It-it’s kind of like astral projection. It’s very intense. I’d have to be your anchor, keep you on this plane. “I trust you.” “It-it’s not like anything that we’ve ever…” “I trust you.”
  • Riley, Riley, Riley, make a note of this: if your girlfriend comes on to you in a weird and out-there manner and she has never behaved like that before. Ask yourself is she all right? Is her mind where it should be? Is she herself?
  • Okay, the Nether Realms ritual is just a spell. Oh all right, it isn’t, it’s a metaphor for sex. So magic = sex not magic = addiction, right? Anyway, it’s an outrageous scene that is in truth rather explicit because in most love scenes on TV we don’t usually see a participant actually have a (flaming) o.

  • Who Are You - flaming o

  • Faith is in turmoil after having sex with Riley. What are we to think? Is she amazed by his tenderness? By his profession of love? By how much she enjoyed it? Was her mind invaded by Willow?
  • “Yeah, you’re a killer.” “I am not a killer! I am the Slayer! And you don’t know the first thing about me.”
  • “Who’s president?” “We’re checking for Buffy, not a concussion.” …“Giles, you turned into a demon and I knew it was you! I mean, can’t you just look in my eyes and be all … intuitive?” … “How did I turn into a demon?” “Oh! Cause, uh, Ethan Rayne. And-and you have a girlfriend named Olivia. And you haven’t had a job since we blew up the school…which is valid, lifestyle wise. I mean, it’s not like you’re a slacker type, but … Oh, oh! When I had psychic power, I heard my mom think that you were like a stevedore during sex. Do you want me to continue?” “Actually, I beg you to stop.” “What’s a stevedore?”
  • Riley was on his way to church.
  • “Damn it, man! We have to get inside! Our, uh, uh, families are-are in there! Our, uh, m-mothers and-and tiny, tiny babies!”
  • “You’re nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You’re nothing! You’re disgusting!” I feel it’s a shame that Five by Five and Sanctuary were basically rehashes of This Year’s Girl and Who Are You? because I was looking forward to much more than we did get.
  • Who Are You - disgusting

Little sis coming

This Year’s Girl (Douglas Petrie)

This Year's Girl - Xander almost fried

Xander almost fries himself and no one notices and I don’t think it is stretching to say that this reflects the minds of the BtVS creators who didn’t have a clue what to do with the character who didn’t go to college (not that Buffy, Willow or Riley seem to have done much work recently) and Riley fixing it so easily is just another sign of contempt for a character who, although I have a lot of problems with, deserved better than this.

“What did you tell him?” “The truth? That she’s my wacky identical cousin from England, and whenever she visits hi-jinks ensue?” “It’s good you guys have such an honest relationship.” “No, I told him the story. I vagued up a few bits, but no flat-out lies.” Sigh, this so sums up BtVS.

I love the conversation between Willow and Tara about Faith, that is, I love it when I focus on the words and not the clothes. They are not the worst outfit either wear (see Willow’s After Life‘s “You’re welcome” red top and Tara’s “that’s my cue to put some clothes on” but-please-not-that-Sam-Browne-belt-blouse in Seeing Red) but it’s the worst duo of outfits. The insane costumer must have said something like this: “Amber dear, you are actually slim but you have a big bottom so, wear this sash to diminish your breasts and make your hips look vast. Oh, and Aly, here’s a tablecloth that’ll look super” (…on a table).

“This is strictly recon. What?” “You said “recon”. You’re like Cool Monster Fighter!”…“Don’t worry, we’re sure to spot Faith first. She’s like this cleavagey slut-bomb walking around “Ooh, check me out, I’m wicked-cool, I’m five-by-five.”” “Five-by-five? Five what by five what?”

Faith vs Joyce: Faith nails the distance between Buffy and Joyce (not seen since Fear, Itself) but Joyce shows a bit of pep: “Were you planning to slit my throat any time soon?”

This Year's Girl - Buffy and Faith

Buffy coming through the window is silly but a brilliant touch. Cue another great fight (despite the stunt doubles there is something elemental about seeing these two evenly matched people (women) bashing the heck out of each other). I’d love to try my hand at analysing their relationship and the similarities and differences between them but I know someone with more time and talent than me has already done it.

The final twist (“five by five”) is proper cliffhanger material.