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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.

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Episode 15 - As You Were

1 August 2013

Sam and Riley

Synopsis: Riley appears at the Doublemeat Palace telling Buffy that he needs her help to fight a Suvolte demon. They track it to a dam where Riley's wife Sam joins them and Buffy kills the demon. Unfortunately it has lain eggs nearby and they have to search Sunnydale to find them. Xander and Anya are stressed out with the wedding a week away and their relatives coming to stay. Buffy feels bad about herself and runs to Spike to sleep with him. It turns out though that he is keeping the eggs in his crypt.

The Good: The three major emotional beats of this episode were all hit with precision.

Seeing how happy Riley is with his work and his wife Buffy is feeling as low as ever about herself. So she goes to Spike and pushes him to tell her how much he loves and wants her. It was a very sad seduction as we know how selfish her use of him is. It was a clear rock bottom for their relationship, Buffy is unhappy and he is nothing more than a band aid to her.

Riley sees them together which adds to her humiliation but he doesn't see it that way. When it's time to say goodbye he movingly restates the reasons he fell in love with her. He still has her up on a pedestal and thinks she's wonderful no matter what she's going through.  He is able to see her existence without the depression and self pity that clouds her view. It was nice to be reminded that despite the problems with the Riley character the love they shared still has power within the story.

His declaration of her worth forces her to confront her relationship with Spike. She feels bad for using him and not being able to love him. And of course she remains ashamed that she turned to a soulless creature for comfort. She breaks up with him using the firm moral centre that has always guided her. She acknowledges their intimacy and the good parts of him by calling him William as she says farewell. It was a very well chosen word and underscored this as a sad but ultimately positive moment. Clearly he won't see it that way.

Aside from those three moments this was an unusual episode but quite entertaining at times. The structure was rushed so that the first act had no Riley in it and the final one was all about the concluding speeches. So in the middle we had some very dense scenes to give exposition to the Suvolte demon threat and Riley's relationship with Sam. Most of it worked ok. Riley's appearance at the Palace was suitably surprising. Buffy's stunned and embarrassed reaction was perfectly played and relatable. Then Sam's arrival came equally out of nowhere. She made quite an impression and was an interesting bit of casting. She gave off the same dual strengths as Buffy (attractive and strong) while also having an Oz-like quality of knowing just what to say to put everyone at ease. She was almost too perfect but with an almost-Brooklyn accent she seemed to have just the right edge of earthy-ness to pull it all off.

The Bad: Riley forgetting to tell Buffy that they needed to keep the demon alive rather undermines his status as a crack soldier. While both Sam and Buffy seem unconcerned by the urgency of the situation. Sam gives up on their casual stroll in the graveyard to see what Riley’s up to while Buffy makes time for sex.

The Unknown: The Suvolte demon was not the most convincing looking creature but the back-story they gave it was suitably threatening. It was convenient that Spike would offer to hold them for a friend (or just opportunistically cash in). It tied him into the story and seemingly ignores his desire to protect Buffy and her friends from such a threat. But I could also buy that he would do something like that given his nature and need for cash.

I thought the Anya-Xander story ended on a pleasant note with them agreeing that once the wedding was over they could enjoy marriage at last. Before that I was unimpressed with their one-note chip eating stress.

Best Moment: Riley's pep talk of a speech about how great Buffy is. It really was moving and made great use of Riley in the ongoing story of Buffy overcoming depression. 

The Bottom Line: A good return for Riley and an important step for Buffy. The plot was pretty clunky but the emotions worked and you just know Spike won't leave it at that.

 

Cordia's Second Look
As You Were
Season 6, Episode 15

Original airing: 2/26/2002

My Rating: 48

The Good-ish: Overall, I was underwhelmed by this episode. I thought most things were overdone while a few things were just ok. The only bit I really liked was Sam’s apology to Willow in the kitchen. But the reason I liked it was how Sam seemed to indicate that it really is BLACK magic that’s so bad and addictive and damaging. I feel like this draws a bit of a line between what Tara does and what Willow did before and after she started visiting Rack. It helps me feel like all the years of Willow’s magic advancement leading up to now weren’t completely kicked out the window by the connection to drug addiction.

The OK: I’ve added a third category this week to cover Anya and Xander’s blah-ness and the Buffy/Spike stuff.

Anya and Xander are stressing about their wedding and I didn’t find it particularly entertaining. I suppose it’s good to tell the audience the wedding is coming next week, but the perpetual chip eating wasn’t funny.

The real struggle for me with this episode was Buffy and Spike. Obviously, this is a big moment for them and a shift in the whole show for Buffy taking back some of her morality and self-confidence. But it all fell flat to me. I failed to get swept up in the moments as I normally do and I had no emotional connection. I think a part of that was how it felt like Buffy was making all of these decisions in reaction to Riley – who the show seemed to be presenting as the type of person she should be with. We already know a relationship with a thick-headed Type A isn’t going to work for Buffy, so I didn’t really buy into that.

The Bad: It’s hard to bring back a character who wasn’t beloved and use him in a role of such importance. Riley comes across as incompetent and, at times, stupid. I was not happy to see him and I wasn’t thrilled with the idea that he’s the catalyst to “fixing” Buffy’s life. I’d have preferred Giles or Oz or someone of similar connection to who Buffy REALLY is. Riley never saw her fully; he saw her as his girlfriend.

Riley’s inability to tell Buffy not to kill the demon or that he’s married made him look stupid. These are important facts to bring to Buffy’s attention and I feel like this was the show trying to implicate how great Buffy and Riley were together. See them working as a team again? See them staring longingly into each other’s eyes? Isn’t it wonderful? No. No it’s not.

Now, I might have actually liked Sam, if she wasn’t so incredibly perfect. A flaw or two would have really helped round out her character, but instead she says the perfect thing to each character at the perfect moment to help calm them or lead them to a realization. It defines her as a plot point and not a person. It’s frustrating to me as a viewer because I know the show is capable of doing so much better than that, even with a minor character.

And to round out the complete and utter use of a character as plot filler, we have Dawn. In the beginning of the episode, she’s suddenly sweet, sympathetic, respectful, and understanding. It’s a pretty sharp contrast to the Dawn we’ve seen the rest of the season. Where did this change come from? And yet, it all goes away too. As soon as Riley walks in she’s sullen and spiteful again. It’s understandable for a teenager to be moody, but the broken record with Dawn is how the show never shows us anything from her point of view. She’s always flat and two-dimensional and created to suit the situation. It’s a true disservice to any character in a show as multi-dimensional as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment is the only one I really liked in the episode, which was Sam talking to Willow in the kitchen. See The Good-ish.

The Bottom Line: This is an important episode to the Buffy/Spike arc, but it falls flat. Perhaps it’s left over feeling from hating Riley, but I disliked his involvement and the hint that he was still the perfect guy for Buffy. Dawn and Sam are too on the nose while Anya and Xander are just annoying.

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Comments

  • Words cannot express how much I hate this episode and it's all because of Riley. The non-Riley scenes were fine. I did like meeting his new wife Sam, and I did like the conversation between Willow and Sam about magic addiction. Other than that this whole episode was a big fail. Riley acting better than Buffy. Riley's scar(not sure why the scar bugged) Spike selling demons on the black market (he should know better). I wish I could say more but my hatred of Riley clouds my mind. I'm just glad he's gone.

    On to a different subject.
    Season 6 is about Buffy coming back to life and suffering from financial troubles. She gets a job at the Doublemeat Palace to pay the bills.....BUT Willow and Tara were/are living in the house. What are they doing? What are their jobs. They're witches so why can't they just magically conjure up the money so Buffy doesn't have to suffer so much?

    Viewer score: 45 / 100

    Posted by Andrew The Geek, 26/07/2013 8:58pm (4 years ago)

  • The thing I want to say about this episode is welcome back to a missed character. I don’t mean Captain Cardboard even though I liked the closure to his character and even Mark Blucas’ performance. I say welcome back to high school Willow. Every character needs growth but in this episode I think Willow portrayed in the same way she was early on, which is a good person who is completely devoted to being Buffy’s friend. In her first scene Willow realizes being around Riley’s wife could be hard for Buffy so she assures her that she [Willow] will act petty since Buffy will understandably be respectful. When Sam calls Willow a “major league Wicca,” she makes a scene. Willow’s good person shows when she accepts Sam’s acknowledgement of her strength. What makes Willow great in her last scene is how she combines her two personality traits by being kind to a good person (Sam) but still petty for Buffy’s sake.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Jarrid, 26/07/2013 3:36am (4 years ago)

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