Crumbs: Reviews » Dramas » Buffy the Vampire Slayer » Season 5 » Into the Woods
Critical reviews of U.S. TV shows
and analysis of what makes them
good, bad, irritating and enlightening.
61
/100
Viewer
70
/100

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

57
/100
Viewer
72
/100

Episode 10 - Into the Woods

26 November 2012

Synopsis: Joyce’s surgery is successful and Buffy spends an evening in with Riley to celebrate. Spike watches jealously from outside and follows Riley when he leaves in the middle of the night to go meet a vampire. Spike takes Buffy there and she is furious and upset at what she sees. The Scoobies worry about her when she sets fire to the now abandoned vamp-nest. Meanwhile Graham and his unit offer Riley the chance to come with them to South America. So he confronts her and tells her that at midnight he will leave. She is still angry and Xander comes to talk things through with her.Time to say goodbye

The Good: There was a lot of quality acting throughout this episode. Buffy, Riley and Xander handled their big speeches with aplomb while Spike and Anya did very well in supporting roles. The story was solid but not quite what it should have been.

The dynamics were very solid. Spike turns Riley in in order to improve his position with Buffy. Riley nearly kills him but actually can have an honest agreeable conversation about what being in love with Buffy is like. The big confrontation was strong stuff with Riley making a pretty good case for why he felt the way he did. I really liked that he brought up Dracula (501) biting Buffy. She did, to some extent, let that happen and that was tantamount to cheating. Riley made an eloquent and sad case for how the feeding vampires “needed” him more than Buffy did and how she wouldn’t let him take care of her. It’s more than just being the Slayer it’s as if she won’t or can’t love him the way he loves her. She practically admits that by claiming that she is giving all she has and his response “I just don’t feel it” had a brutal honesty which cut both ways.

Then Xander stepped in to tell Buffy things she was too close to really see. He pushes her to admit that she saw Riley as dependable rather than the object of her passion. Recognising her own complicity she rushes out to try and salvage something but it too late. She also lashed out at Anya and after an earlier argument at the Magic Shop Xander feels the need to tell Anya unambiguously how much he loves her. It was a sweet and grown up moment and probably the best Xander has had in two seasons.

The Bad: The problem with the Xander intervention is that it felt entirely contrived. It’s nice that he is growing up and is capable of taking on this kind of role in Buffy’s life but it didn’t feel convincing. This is the guy who last year said he just took people at face value (404) and looked pretty shocked when Riley told him the truth about his feelings (503). Yet now he feels so confident that he can lecture Buffy on how she has neglected her boyfriend and how he saw it all along. His advice becomes so wise and so direct that it no longer sounds like him as he pushes her to choose love. This kind of Xander hasn’t been introduced yet and so this all felt heavy handed.

Riley’s ultimatum and exit were handled very poorly. The structure of the episode made it seem like he told her about his rendezvous within an hour of leaving. We cut from their argument to her walking the streets and if hours were meant to have passed then it was not communicated. It wasn’t clear what Buffy was doing with her time and you can’t blame the delay on the vampire gang as she dusted them in seconds. Buffy looked stupid for “hanging out” way across town at 23.30 if she was harbouring serious thoughts of asking Riley to stay. But worse she then runs after him and he leaves. On a helicopter. Refusing to look back. On a mission where he is un-contactable. The emotion felt all wrong. It felt like a TV show cheating us of a proper conclusion to the story. Instead of Buffy admitting to herself that he wasn’t the one we were left with “cruel fate” keeping them apart. It would have been far more moving to see her unable to convince him to stay.

Spike getting stabbed in the heart with a wood grain stake was pretty cheap. Not only was it a fairly pointless shock tactic but it didn’t seem to hurt him nearly as much as it should have.

The Unknown: I wondered if the writers were trying to draw a link with Xander’s speech to his own past love for Buffy. He would understand what it felt like to adore her from afar and be ignored. But if that was the source of his wisdom then I think it might have been helpful to draw it more clearly.

The tension between Anya and Willow (and Giles) appeared abruptly. The problem with such a large ensemble is that we’ve had little hint of Anya feeling like an outsider so when her outburst came it didn’t feel natural. Of course it didn’t feel implausible. She is an ex-demon who is quite literal. Buffy certainly dismissed her in harsh terms that reminded me of remarks she once directed at Cordelia. I find it perfectly believable that moral compass Buffy would be dismissive of girls without her priorities. However it makes her look mean and hypocritical and I’m not sure those are good colours on her.

The sight of Buffy dusting half a dozen vamps was both cool and disappointing. Thanks to Giles, Willow and Xander giggling through a Slay last week it was impossible to feel any tension even in Buffy being surrounded. But if the story of the season is her powers developing then this was a pretty powerful demonstration.

Best Moment: Although Xander’s love for Anya was touching I actually really admired Riley for speaking the truth to Buffy. To see him open and honest and her swimming in denial put me in his corner.

The Bottom Line: Inevitably this story felt rushed. To have Buffy discover the truth about Riley and say goodbye within one episode just left you thinking that the writers were finally done with Riley. They never successfully integrated him into the Scoobies and the best story he had was the one which led to his departure. He won’t be missed but I think he deserved better than this.

 

Cordia’s Second Look
Into The Woods
Season 5, Episode 10
Original airing: 12/19/2000

My Rating: 62

The Good: I think almost any review of this episode is likely to start with celebrating the “loss” of Riley. I’m so glad he’s been removed from the show. I really tried to give him a shot during this Rewatch, but he’s been consistently presented as over bearing and silly. He just didn’t work with Buffy and I’m thrilled to see the back of him.

That being said, these last few episodes have definitely brought us the best Riley storyline he ever had. And I rather liked this wrap up to it, as well. Riley and Buffy’s implosion felt real because both of their sides felt logical. Riley has turned to vampires to feel needed, something which is very important to him. We’ve had many instances of seeing Riley try to take care of and protect Buffy. But that’s not what she needs or wants. By allowing vampires to feed on him, he feels useful. It leads neatly into the cheating analogy, which gives us Buffy’s side of things. She’s been exploring her own darkness this season, but she still knows vampires are basically evil and they are using Riley.

I also liked Xander and Buffy’s conversation. While it was certainly convenient to have Xander pop into the alley just after the big vampire slaughter, his lecture to her made a lot of sense. We’ve seen Xander grow quieter and calmer since The Replacement. And he also has the unique position of knowing how Riley really feels about his relationship with Buffy. I think having Xander lay it all out there makes a lot of sense.

Xander also has an excellent scene with Anya. After Buffy lashes out at him, Xander makes sure to go to Anya and explicit spell out his feelings for her. As he’s just told Buffy, if you find something real, grab it and hold it with both hands. It also fits nicely with Anya’s literal nature.

Finally, I really enjoyed Spike and Riley’s scene. Spike gets some really good shots in and sums things up in my opinion – covering why Buffy will eventually leave Riley and why Riley couldn’t really stake him – Riley’s just a good guy. “Buffy needs a little monster in her man” is so true. I also liked that the wine sharing allowed Spike to finally voice his feelings about Buffy. That kind of thing can’t stay bottled up inside.

The Bad: The little scene I didn’t like was Anya snapping at Willow. It came out of nowhere and seemed particularly harsh. She just keeps going with line after line and even turns on Xander. Was she just in a bad mood? What was up with that?

But the kicker is the show’s standpoint that Riley is the guy for Buffy. I really didn’t like Xander pushing Buffy to run after Riley. And I really didn’t like that she did it. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the conversation would have been between Buffy and Riley, but it seemed to me like the show was setting it up for Buffy to beg Riley to stay. I really dislike this idea because Riley has never felt right for Buffy. They’ve had an awkward relationship since the beginning. In fact, I think Xander nails it on the head when he calls Riley “State Farm” and asks if Buffy is with him just because he’s safe. Ummm…. Yes! Having Buffy give into Riley’s ultimatum was a rash decision that did not fit with the Buffy presented on the show. When has she ever settled for less?

Favorite Moment: As I mentioned, I really liked the Riley and Spike scene. The second half of it really grabbed me as Spike monologues about Buffy and then commiserates with Riley.

The Bottom Line: I think this could have been a great episode with a different ending. Having Buffy run after Riley with the apparent intent of throwing herself in his arms and forgiving him for everything just felt very NOT Buffy.

('DiggThis)

Feedback

Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.

Post your comment

Comments

  • -I like Riley the most in this episode. It seems kind of fitting. His acting seems good to me and except for a couple of lines it doesn’t take me out of the show. Plus he has two really good scenes with Spike and Buffy. I really like during his scene with Buffy that he doesn’t deny his wrong doings but he doesn’t back down on how he feels about stuff.
    -I remember having a sigh of relief moment when the doctor said Joyce was going to be fine. She is just one of those characters that is likable and I want good things to happen to her, even when the writers wrote her as a harsher mom (“Ted”, “Bad Eggs”, Season 1). The scene between her and Buffy was good as well. It showed her being supportive and giving some voice of reason.
    -Everything Anya says in this episode I like. Almost all if it is hilarious (strawberry ice cream tasting like schnapps) and some of it just makes her likable like when she is defending herself to Willow and Giles.
    -I agree that Graham’s acting isn’t very good and I thought that back when I first watched it but there are two upsides. For one the actor Bailey Chase becomes a better actor on the show Saving Grace, and the other is that the general in this episode makes his acting seem good.
    -I like that Xander is the voice of reason and says aloud how much Anya means to him.
    -Little moments I like, Xander and Giles almost hugging, Buffy hurting the doctor while hugging him, whenever Spike goes from serious to funny at the drop of a hat, Spike acting tough when he grabs the bouncer vamp by the neck, Giles’ reaction to Anya saying he would “wet himself” if she was not there, and Spike changing his mind on whether not Riley is the lucky one.
    -My favorite moment was Anya wanting to watch the monkey movie. I don’t know why but it makes me smile every time.

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Jarrid, 24/11/2012 9:00pm (6 years ago)

  • I have a great fondness for this episode as it is the only one that I watched when it was being aired originally. I had little idea what was going on but the last scene when Buffy misses Riley taking off with his army buddies was so surprising. It was utterly against the formulaic outcome that I was expecting and made me think that at some point I should watch the rest of the show.

    It took me about 10 years to get around to it and this time around was obviously different. Not least was the sense of extreme relief to see Captain Cardboard leave. I also loved the scene with Riley and Spike - the two of them almost, if not quite, bonding over their shared love of Buffy. My favourite moment is when Buffy is going to let the whore vamp get away and then she changes her mind and javelins her. I like that I don't know exactly what she was thinking - maybe I know you're pathetic but I can't forgive you for being intimate with my man or remembering her calling which involves slaying all vampires, or just being in a really angry mood and feeling like another kill. Somehow it just impresses me.

    The timing in episode is all wrong though. She talks to Riley when he gives her the ultimatum and leaves the back of the magic shop, has a quick fight with all the vamps and then a five minute conversation with Xander. At this point she can only be 15 minutes behind Riley at most and yet despite running her heart out she still misses the helicopter - in the same time frame it looks like Riley has managed to pop home, pack and still have a few minutes to anxiously wait. Did I miss something or was that just a bit wrong?

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Kate Mc, 22/11/2012 2:16pm (6 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments