Tabula Rasa (Rebecca Rand Kirshner)
I’m sad that a character who was so lovable and delightful in high school grew up so wonky. Willow’s behaviour up until now has been consistent with her development over the years (she has always been a fixer: “I can fix it. I know a spell”) but knowing it is all going to be reduced to a drugs metaphor makes it sadder. However, I am getting ahead of myself and “Tabula Rasa” is a great episode.
This is the episode that marked my obsession with BtVS but more importantly with Amber Benson. This is when I became a fan(atic). If BtVS had ended with “The Gift” then it would have been a favourite series like The X-Files was or Battlestar Galactica is now but I would have put it aside as I did with The X-Files and moved on. So why? What happened? Tara happened. A character who I had just liked suddenly become not just Willow’s girlfriend but a person in her own right. The heartbreaking conversation about betrayal and violation and her anger and sadness made me feel so bad for her and I realised I totally loved her and that she had inched her way into my heart.
Tara gets a backbone and tells Willow that she knows what she did and that it’s all too much and she should leave her. It is a tremendous scene from the Birkenstocks to the cut to Buffy and Giles.
Giles’s leaving is less satisfactory. We know that ASH wanted to cut his hours but the reason Giles gives knowing that Buffy was in heaven and is struggling with her mission and her need – big need - for guidance it just makes no sense for him to leave. And if you add in his fears about Willow then it is even more inexplicable.
I just adore that Anya and Tara are thumb wrestling and when Anya gives Tara a sympathetic look when Willow arrives, I find myself once again appreciating Emma Caulfield’s performance.
“Tabula Rasa” is an episode of BtVS that encapsulates the writers’ ability to mix laughter and tears because the next twenty minutes are hilarious. I could pick out all the great bits (like “Oh God, I’m English”, “A vampire with a soul? Oh my God, how lame is that?” and “Oh, bugger off, you brolly.”), but I’ll stick with emphasising two of my favourite BtVS lines and delivery thereof: Buffy’s "I don't know but it was cool!" followed by “I think I know why Joan's the boss. I'm like a superhero or something!”
Well, I wish I knew who to attribute the following thought to but I can’t remember where, when, who made the point that Tara without a memory is a “take charge” Tara. She insists they ought to go to the hospital (I'm not entirely sure why though) and she is the one that leads them through the spacious sewers. It’s as if she has forgotten she is shy and retiring and a bit of a sheep. She has forgotten her ill-treatment from her youth (fill in back-story as per favourite fan fiction) and leads by example. You could also add she has forgotten the literal way she pursued Willow in “Hush” but since that was the only time she was ever “forward” then that was a blip in her character akin to Spike once being evil.
There is one line (“…King Ralph…”) that I so wish had been omitted or rewritten because it is just awful and comes close to breaking the spell cast by the spell being broken. The last few minutes with Tara and Willow’s relationship coming to an end, Giles’s leaving and Buffy succumbing to her unhealthy attraction to Spike (who is evil despite how much we are made to love him) is superbly put together.
For me this is the last great BtVS episode though I am looking forward to re-watching “Normal Again” in an attempt to refute that statement.