God didn’t make me see again so that I could just watch*

Dollhouse – “True Believer” (Tim Minear)

A delicate operation

A delicate operation

This was my favourite episode so far although it was full of flaws. I may have relaxed a bit and accepted it for what it is.

The lack of a sexual element in relation to Echo really improved my reaction to the episode. I was quite nervous at first and I urged them to cut to the chase as Echo was accepted by the cult until I delightfully realised that the cult and its leader were actually okay – apart from the being religious nutters and the hitting women aspect. Echo may get hit in every episode (so it seems) but she always gets her own back (so that’s all right then…).

While I don’t really buy Topher’s pathetic inability to use medical/clinical terms the scenes between him and Dr Saunders were hilarious. Amy Acker’s delivery was perfection.

Why?

Why?

I’ll say again that Enver Gjokaj is really cute and that was before his awakening.

Dollhouse - True Believer - Enver Gjokaj
Tahmoh Penikett aimed for Nathan Fillion in his first scene with his fellow FBI officer but failed but still managed to be his most endearing so far. The scenes with Mellie were just stupid – a huge dish of something Italian is a daft thing to bring into someone’s workplace, her inability to get that the man in the corridor was a postie was insane and allowing her to hang around in the office was bonkers. As it stands Mellie seems simple rather than sweet and smitten so I just hope it is all going to be switcheroo’d on us very, very soon.

Adelle’s attitude to Echo is suspicious and Lawrence is right that she is a threat. It is a pity he is such a creep. I did enjoy Adelle telling him to take the stairs.

*I wish Eliza had delivered that line better.

I have places to be!

The Gift (Joss Whedon)

The Gift - Buffy dies

“The Gift” could have been the downbeat conclusion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Should it have been? We wouldn’t have had “Once More, With Feeling” but then we wouldn’t have missed what we didn’t have. The pre-credits sequence is one of the best with the previously on to end all previously ons. Buffy’s casual rescue of the boy: “Hey, what’s going on?”, the funny quips and “That’s what I keep saying.” is excellent but back indoors it’s old grim face again. The attitude towards an Anya who is actually trying to do something is rather snotty and I do like her remark “Here to help. Want to live.”

The Gift - Buffy depressed

The “I don’t know how to live in this world” speech shows that Buffy is depressed and should probably see a therapist. She is in no fit state to do her job: it is an awful burden no matter what support she has and who can say she is irresponsible to want to give it up (despite the fact that the other Slayer is banged up).

The Gift - Xander and Anya

“I had the pleasure moment.” Emma Caulfield looks particularly attractive just before Xander proposes.

Buffy remembers that Willow hurt Glory but actually no, Willow shouldn’t have been spending her time trying to help Tara (even though this does prove very useful). Tara’s mind is really screwed since kind gentle Tara wallops Willow quite some.

“You’re a killer!” Tara snaps at Giles: maybe that gave him the idea…

Who came off worse in the last few episodes? Tara in her PJs or Willow in her green polo neck? At least she lost the studded plaid shirt.

“Band of buggers”.

Sometimes BtVS is so sloppy but I am forgiving. When does Willow pick up her jacket? Well, would you look at that tiny tower? You would never have spotted that sooner.

The Gift - Willow “she’s with me”

Oh boy, a favourite, favourite moment : “She’s with me.” says Willow (and I love her again). Anya’s wielding of a baseball bat is inappropriately amusing. Oh, and another favourite moment :“I got so lost”… “I will always find you” (and boots).

The Gift - Tara “I got so lost”

Glory got the best funny lines: “The Slayer’s a robot. Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?”

They didn’t really go anywhere with the telepathy maybe because it was a bit contrived. I know, it’s a programme about vampire slaying and telepathy is a bit much… And were we supposed to think Spike thought he was listening to Willow through that cylinder?

Giles murders Ben. Giles is a bad-ass.

What is Doc’s motivation? I love Buffy’s casual shoving aside of him when she gets to the top.

Oh look, Alien like monsters.

The score as Buffy decides on what she must do and tells Dawn of her intention is beautiful and makes the scene even more moving. How does she end up on her back?

The Gift - Buffy decides

This is a fantastic conclusion to a mediocre season by BtVS standards. Of course, there was the brilliant “The Body” but otherwise only “The Replacement,” “Blood Ties” and “I Was Made to Love You” were outstanding. There were far too many indistinguishable episodes, cheap laughs at the expense of carefully developed characters, and the harsh treatment of a dull but nice character led to one of my least favourite episodes ever, “Into the Woods”. And, let me add just how hard it was finding any decent Tara dialogue episode after episode. So here’s hoping that season six is better!

The Gift - Buffy dead

The world is spinning

Weight of the World (Douglas Petrie)

The Weight of The World - Buffy

Spike warns the Scoobies that “You waste time with kid gloves. I’m willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough.” Are these lines written with intent? Or do obsessives just seize on the innocent?

Willow gets cranky but not very convincingly. Alyson Hannigan’s charm is wearing off. I feel so bad writing that. I would have loved Willow taking charge at any other point in BtVS but not in season 5.

“Ben is Glory. Glory’s Ben.” This is vaguely funny but once again it makes the Scoobies look like idiots.

Glory goes all Dawn when she shouts “Get out! Get out! Get out!”. I do owe Clare Kramer an apology when I dismissed her performance earlier in the season but I have grown to appreciate her moods, vanity and humour. She is particularly good in this episode as the barrier between herself and Ben breaks down. And this speech is quite something:

“Who’s not crazy? Look around: everyone’s drinking, smoking, shooting up, shooting each other or just plain screwing their brains out because they don’t want them anymore. I’m crazy? Honey, I am the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts.”

The Weight of The World - Buffy killing Dawn

By far and away the best thing about this rather plodding episode are the inside Buffy’s mind sequences. They are nicely photographed and it is good to see Joyce and Hank again. The little girl who plays Buffy looks more like a young Britney Spears: she isn’t nearly as convincing as Mimi Paley in “Killed By Death”. More importantly the sequences reveal Buffy’s feelings about her burden very clearly and she can’t wait to lay it down.

The Weight of The World - Willow and Buffy

She explains why she going to become increasingly more miserable (“I would grieve and people would feel sorry for me. But it would all be over. And I imagined what a relief that would be”) and it’s no wonder she’s peeved in season 6.

Horsies!

Spiral (Steven S. DeKnight)

Spiral - Tara

“Horsies!” cries Tara as she looks out of the window of the Winnebago. She may have actually seen a shark and a ramp. I use the word may because BtVS does recover from this but it did colour my first viewing of the rest of season five to the detriment of “The Gift”. After the episode in which a bad thing happens to Tara in both seasons five and six, there are one too many episodes (ahem): Dark Willow goes on and on and on while this one shouts out “filler!”

Spiral - Buffy

The most interesting thing in this episode is Buffy’s increasing depression. Her final reaction when she realises the implication of failing to keep her promise to Dawn is understandably one of devastation.

Spiral - Glory

There is a certain enjoyment in Glory being hit by a truck.

Anya has been amazingly bad lines in this: “We should drop a piano on her. Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he’s running from that nice man with the speech impediment.” (yeah, yeah, yeah, rabbit reference, blah, blah but it isn’t funny) and “Shouldn’t somebody be asking, “Are we there yet?” No wonder Xander looks sick. Xander spends his time in the Winnebago (is it actually a Winnebago?) looking queasy and doing no fighting whatsoever and that seems a rotten thing to do to his character.

I don’t like having a female minion suddenly turn up. It could have been a lot of fun having the male ones not fawning for a change.

Buffy justifies Spike’s presence by saying that “If Glory finds us, he’s the only one besides me that has any chance of protecting Dawn.” which is rather insulting to the be-flannelled one sitting right behind her.

Spiral - clerics

What were they thinking when they introduced the Knights? The idea of them is so naff and awkward and boring and stupid. The clerics hilariously reminded me of the priests in Age of Empires.

It pains me to diss two things I love but Tara in “Spiral” is as annoying as this Tara. Cats get more affectionate as they get older which is bit worrisome.

“Don’t hit the horsies!” cries Willow as if she likes them or something. Perhaps, off screen, Tara had indeed guaranteed “safety and fun”.

Sorry, it’s nitpick city here. However, in “Go Fish” a soaking wet Buffy managed to leap out of a pool and get out of hatch while here she needs Xander’s help to get onto the roof of the RV.

I do like seeing Dawn administering to Spike. That does seem like something she would do. I also like Xander being nice to Spike but also managing to pocket his lighter.

In a scene reminiscent of a rotten scene in Serenity, Giles gets impaled, though rather less convincingly (just watch it bounce).

The whole Ben will he?, won’t he?, thing just didn’t work because Charlie Weber is not a subtle enough actor. It was a relief when Glory turned up.

In summary, Adam enjoyed this very much.

Oh, it’s so pure! Such pure green energy!

Tough Love (Rebecca Rand Kirshner)

Tough Love - Tara and Willow

Tara and Willow need to have a fight so that Glory can suck Tara’s brain to force the season finale and, of course, bring out pissed off magical Willow.

So they have Willow behave badly again and in a most unsatisfying way.

The fight between Willow and Tara just confuses the heck out of me. It makes no sense and while I appreciate that in real life arguments can leap all over the place and aren’t necessarily logical. However, this isn’t real life but a carefully crafted script and it doesn’t add up without Willow appearing to be looking for a fight just because she feels inadequate, insecure and left out.

She starts off whinging about not having the experience that Tara has accumulated (as if that is well placed jealousy). Tara points out that in terms of magical ability Willow has surpassed her. She says “it frightens me how powerful you’re getting” and at this point Willow is justly allowed to be a little miffed by that phrase. Tara tries to defuse the situation but Willow attacks by asking if she trusts her. Tara says yes but admits that she feels inadequate herself because she doesn’t know what direction Willow is taking. Willow completing loses my sympathy when she then completely changes tack and asks if Tara is accusing her of experimentation. When she directly asks Tara if she thinks that, Tara is obliged to answer with “should I?” because Willow is the one that suggested it, not Tara. Willow then completes her me, me, me moment and walks out complaining of not being taken “seriously”.

I hate that scene so much.

In other news: Buffy drops out, Glory takes a bath, Anya embraces capitalism, Buffy and Giles have a lovely scene when she tries to evade responsibility which leads to a less lovely scene when she is mean to Dawnie and the human triangles, Giles goes all Ripper (but off screen), and Tara is seen holding hands with another woman.

Tough Love - Buffy and Giles

Anya has a couple of lines in the hospital which marks the start of a period when she was given the most crass lines to say: “I don’t think I can sleep without her.” “You can sleep with me…well, now that came out a lot more lesbian than it sounded in my head.” – a lead balloon.

This is so awful because it is so wrong, unfair and selfish: “When, Buffy? When is? When you feel like it? When it’s someone you love as much as I love Tara? When it’s Dawn, is that it?”

Tough Love - Willow

“I owe you pain!” – great line but the first time I saw black-eyed floating Willow I laughed.

Tough Love - Glory

Glory has some good lines: “Now, I asked for the key, and you brought me a vampire. A pulseless, impure, follicly-fried vampire. Loofah!”, “Did anybody order an apocalypse?”, “Fine. Let’s get crazy.”, “Now, sucking on your girlfriend’s mind? That was something to treasure.”

The minions get good ones too: “I am in thunderous agreement, oh glittering, glistening Glorificus.” and “Begging your pardon, and begging in general, but…”

And here are Tara’s: “They kill mice.”, “Plastic and their six sisters. Six sick sisters.” and, naturally, “Oh, it’s so pure! Such pure green energy!”

Tough Love - Tara

What are you, kidding? She’s nuts!

Intervention (Jane Espenson)

Intervention - Buffys

In order for this episode to work you just have to accept that Willow and Xander are the worst friends ever. They can’t tell that Buffy is a robot? That’s sad but having said that, it still manages to be very funny with a great ending.

Intervention - Buffy and Giles

Buffy goes on a quest to find her humanity which leads to the same patch of desert as seen in Restless, Giles shaking a gourd and Buffy’s rather sad sounding, “and that’s what it’s all about”.

I love the line “Weird love’s better than no love” and then the cut to Spike and Warren. Weird love may sum up the rest of BtVS. (And yes, Warren is packing.)

SMG is so good as Buffybot that I remember thinking she must have been having a quiet time this episode because she wasn’t in many scenes…

That is one domesticated looking cougar: it has a belly like Wash. Not that one.

I love how Emma Caulfield delivers these lines in this episode: “So really it was only bad for the falsely accused, and, well, they never have a good time” and “Buffy’s boinking Spike”. The Anya love comes to a screeching halt in Tough Love.

Is this our first sign of klepto Dawn?

Oh, Spike, you’re the Big Bad” makes me chuckle.

Intervention - Willow and Tara

Tara and Willow are intimate on the sofa but then, oh dear koalas, and the great leap sideways. “Oh, well, Tara’s right. Grief can be powerful, and we shouldn’t judge…” “What are you, kidding? She’s nuts!”

We really, really, really could have done without the blow-job.

“Buffy, there is something seriously wrong here.” Yes, your total inability to work out your friend is not your friend, Willow.

One of my favourite lines: “Angel’s lame. His hair grows straight up, and he’s bloody stupid.”

Spike being tortured is horrible.

Anya asks “shouldn’t we have guns?”.

When they send Buffy upstairs to change (which she doesn’t), I thought this was the point that the Scoobies were going to crack their extremely puzzling conundrum but, no, they continue to be extremely stupid instead. However, we would been deprived of “The who whatting how with huh?” and “Spike is strong and mysterious and sort of compact but well muscled.” “I am not having sex with Spike! But I’m starting to think that you might be.”

Intervention - Buffy and Spike

The final scene is one of the best (even though Spike looks gross) with some fine acting. “What you did, for me, and Dawn, that was real. I won’t forget it.”

But we don’t mess with life and death

Forever (Marti Noxon)

Forever - Buffy and Dawn

Willow’s behaviour is outrageous but in character. Someone is in pain and she wants to fix it for them. Or at least help. What she doesn’t consider is the consequences. The divide between Willow and Tara is stark and sets up their estrangement.

“This is different. Magic can’t be used to alter the natural order of things.” “But all you do is mess with the natural order of things. You, you make things float, and disappear, and…” “But we don’t mess with life and death. Dawn, I know how bad you hurt.” “You don’t. They put her in the ground.” “They did, and it’s awful and unfair, but this isn’t the way.” “I’m not even sure it’s possible, Dawn. I mean, I’ve seen things on resurrection, but there’s books and stuff. But I guess, the spells, backfire?” “That’s not the point.” “That’s not the point. The, the point is it’s bad, because…” “Because witches can’t be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons. Wiccans took an oath a long time ago to honour that.”

Willow just doesn’t see it like Tara does. She is dangerous.

The first half of this episode makes sense but the second half doesn’t. Dawn steals the books ridiculously easy. My biggest problem is that I don’t get why Spike helps Dawn to resurrect her mother. The explanation he gives isn’t good enough: “I just don’t like to see Summers women take it so hard on the chin, is all.” Not only does it seem stupid of him, it also leads to one of the poorest fighting monsters somewhere underground scenes in a long time.

Ben’s pathetic attempt at murdering Jinx is also an extremely weak plot point. There must have been a better way of revealing the key is human to Glory.

There is also a terrible scene between Willow and Tara which may be badly written or directed or edited or all three. Willow is behaving so obviously guilty that Tara’s apparent inability to pick up on this seems bizarre. It feels like Alyson Hannigan was reading one draft while Amber Benson was reading another and it was cut together.

Forever - hopeful Buffy

The Monkey’s Paw ending is creepy and moving. And I do like that when it comes down to the knock at the door, Buffy does want it to be her mother.

It hurts

The Body (Joss Whedon)

The Body - Buffy

Maybe the best 40 odd minutes of TV ever.

There are certainly consistently good serials like I, Claudius and Edge of Darkness but surely no long running series comes close to producing anything like this remarkable episode. Joss Whedon created three extraordinary episodes in “Restless”, this and “Once More, With Feeling” and while episodes like “Hush” and “Doppelgangland” are outstanding they are not as unusual as the aforementioned and even “Restless” and “OMWF” couldn’t have been difficult to pitch because they are recognisable as being part of the BtVS world while “The Body” (except for one key moment) is entirely ordinary.

There are some objections to the intrusion of the supernatural but I think the vampire in the morgue is a necessary moment because it clearly states that no matter what happens to Buffy she still has a job to do and nothing should stop her from her duty. She is no longer the same girl who ran away to LA at the end of season two.

There are two things that jar in this: the first time Buffy imagines Joyce’s recovery pulls me out of the drama and irritates me as a gimmick and Dawn’s tears in the toilets are a heavy-handed way of contrasting adolescent troubles with the real ones to come.

The scenes following Buffy’s discovery of Joyce are unsettling: the camerawork and the diegetic sound create an eerie and tense atmosphere reminiscent of a horror film like The Innocents. The small details like Buffy cracking a rib, pulling Joyce’s skirt down, throwing up, opening the back door and soaking up the vomit are richly observed.

We’re not supposed to move the body!

Dawn crying is boring anyway and knowing the real pain to come it is really hard to emphasize. I feel like a rubbernecking car crash spectator as I watch Buffy telling Dawn as if I am one of the pupils watching through the glass.

The dorm scenes have several of the most exceptional moments in BtVS with superb acting from Alyson Hannigan, Amber Benson and Emma Caulfield.

God, why do all my shirts have such stupid things on them? Why can’t I just dress like a grown-up? Can’t I be a grown-up?

The Body - Willow and Tara

Willow’s hunt for a suitable top is payback for all the stupid clothes she has ever worn and ever will wear. She gets increasingly distressed and then Tara does what every lover would do: she comforts her. The kiss between them is quite something on a variety of levels. At its basic level it is the first kiss we see between them and Joss Whedon is smart enough to get the hottest kiss on mainstream US TV by disguising it as a comforting moment. Of course, it’s not just a disguise, it also illuminates the relationship between the couple that suddenly doesn’t seem quite so one-dimensional. Tara is behaving as a person in her own right, as an equal partner giving her strength and support to Willow. Any complaints about a lack of chemistry between the actresses are surely dispelled when we see them relating in a way that any hetero couple would be seen doing as a matter of course.

The Body - Anya

Anya’s angry and confused outburst is perfectly pitched by Emma Caulfield as she speaks for many of us and asks how and why it happened. That downwards inflection she uses in her voice works effectively towards the end as she grows sadder:

I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s, there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid. And, and Xander’s crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.

The Body - Buffy and Tara

Andy has an interesting idea as to why everyone decides that they need to get food and drink urgently leaving Tara and Buffy alone. They sit there with one definitely thinking “Don’t leave me alone with her!” and the other possibly thinking the same when the most beautiful exchange occurs. It is a lovely scene and both of them are tremendously awkward and poignant.

I’m sorry, you have to go through all of this.” “You don’t have to worry about me.” “Everybody wants to help. I don’t even know if I’m, here. I don’t know what’s going on. Never done this. That’s just an amazingly dumb thing to say. Obviously, I’ve never done this before.” “I have…my mother died when I was seventeen.” “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” “No, no, I didn’t mean to…I’m only telling you this because, I know it’s not m-my place, but, there’s things, thoughts and reactions I had that, I couldn’t understand or even try to explain to anyone else. Thoughts that made me feel like I was losing it or, like I was some kind of ho-horrible person. I know it’s different for you because it’s always different, but, if you ever need…” “Was it sudden?” “What?” “Your mother.” “No. Yes…it’s always sudden.

The Body - Dawn

In the meantime, Dawn has been forgotten. She needs to see her mother and she needs to know the truth that her mum has gone. The final shot of her reaching out is the perfect way to end a truly brilliant episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I personally can’t see that Joss Whedon will never write or direct anything as honest and heartfelt.

There are a multitude of other points to note or discuss about this episode including Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance but this’ll do for now.

Just…trying a little spicy talk

I Was Made to Love You (Jane Espenson)

I was made to love you - Buffy and April

This is such a good episode. It makes you care about the demise of a robot and that is some feat. It also has some of the best dialogue, interactions and smart moments that we have seen for a while.

I was made to love you - Tara and Anya

And it’s no coincidence that there are lots of nice Tara moments. I do like the opportunities Tara gets as a character in scenes with people other than Willow: she does a super eye roll after Anya describes her website with its “huge photo” of herself. Tara spots April’s roboticity before the others which is consistent with her spotting Buffy wasn’t herself in “Who Are You?”. Her particularly good intuition doesn’t go any way to excuse the pathetic behaviour of the others in “Intervention”. I’m not sure why she apologises for her “genuine moulded plastic on her ass” line but maybe that’s me. Tara is protective of Dawn when Spike comes to the Magic Box and that reminds me that season 8 has such a cheek making out Willow was like a mother to Dawn. I’m not sure I like her being jealous, though.

I was made to love you - Tara and Dawn

There are two giddy scenes with Joyce that are in retrospect quite cruel. Buffy and Dawn teasing her is fun and I love the scene when Joyce teases Buffy: “I left my bra in his car.” “Mother!” “I’m joking.” “Good god, that’s horrible. Don’t do that.” “I left it in the restaurant.” “No more! No more! No more!” “On the dessert cart!” It seems that even joking about sex in BtVS can lead to death.

I was made to love you - Joyce

April throwing Spike through a window is just wonderful particularly since he has been so annoying just before: “You cannot make those suggestions to me. I have a boyfriend”.

Is Warren such an unusual name? He is a totally “creepy little dweeb” though and I think it was a waste of Adam Busch to have him as part of the execrable trio.

I was made to love you - Willow

The round table discussion in the Magic Box is a superb example of ensemble acting with each actor giving lovely subtle performances. Alyson Hannigan looks with varying emotions at her embarrassing girlfriend and looks discomforted by Xander mentioning Oz. Nick Brendon burbles on as Emma Caulfield looks on proudly at her self control. Amber Benson makes faces as she tries to say that April may be a sexbot (something Xander manages to say). Anthony Head looks amused and Sarah Michelle Gellar looks pained as she contemplates her life.

I was made to love you - Spike and Giles

And later, we are treated to another marvellous ensemble scene when Giles tells Spike in no uncertain terms that “We are not your friends. We are not your way to Buffy. There is no way to Buffy.” – pity it wasn’t true.

The picture quality in two scenes near the end is abysmal: when Xander talks to Buffy about carpentry and she blows Ben off and when Spike asks Warren to build him a Buffybot.

I was made to love you - Buffy comes home

Also, you can tell it’s not going to have a happy ending when the main guy’s all bumpy

Crush (David Fury)

Buffy and Dru are restrained, Harmony lurks around, Spike talks a lot, Buffy slams the door in his face.

Well, that’s it, isn’t it? Spike talks a lot about himself and if you care then this is a great episode.

It opens with hilarious dancing – first, Anya with the typical hands over the head grooving and then Willow and Tara’s…, I don’t know, it’s sort of dancing, swaying and holding hands, and funny.

“I’m down with that. Let’s just call “she who will not be named” another name. Let’s just call her-” “Ben!” (well, it made me laugh)

Crush - Buffy's disgust

I did enjoy the part when Buffy realises that Dawn is right and Spike is crushing on her. “Is this a date?” she asks incredulously and Spike can’t wriggle out of it.

“What, that chip in your head? That’s not change. That’s just…holding you back. You’re like a serial killer in prison!” “Women marry them all the time!”

The last time Harmony is funny: “Or Charlize Theron.”

“Honey, did you…somehow, unintentionally, lead him on in any way? Uh, send him signals?” “Well, I…I do beat him up a lot. For Spike that’s like third base.” (of course, it’s the victim’s fault that they are being stalked)

Well, that was as pathetic a review as this cardigan cruelty:

Crush - Willow's cardigan