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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 14 - Older and Far Away

23 July 2013

Anya freaks out

Synopsis: Dawn wishes that no one would leave anymore in conversation with Halfrek who she thinks is a guidance counsellor. Buffy fights a demon who disappears into his sword when she stabs him with it. At Buffy's birthday Dawn's wish takes effect and the whole gang plus guests are trapped and can't leave. Anya becomes particularly stressed and suggests that Willow use her power to get them out. Rebuffed by Tara, Anya searches Dawn's room and finds all the shoplifted items.

The Good: Nothing.

The Bad: This was the worst episode of Buffy I've reviewed so far. You get the sense that the writers committed to the idea of everyone being trapped at Buffy's birthday without thinking through how any of the plot dynamics would work. On every level this failed.

- The curse was clumsily enacted, only taking effect scenes after Dawn made the wish. I can see why they chose to do it that way but it was far less effective than in "The Wish." It didn't help that Dawn was in the dark about what was going on. She should have been surprised that everyone was staying the night.

- It wasn't clear how the curse actually operated. Initially the party guests genuinely didn't want to leave. Then that switched and they all really wanted to leave but physically couldn't. Halfrek condemns them to live together forever. Were they trapped in stasis or were they going to keep getting food delivered to stay alive?

- The episode was dull. Characters hanging around someone's living room was never going to feel life threatening and the way the Sword demon jumped in and out of the plot and the walls was a lazy attempt to add tension.

- The focus of the episode was not clear. Although it appeared to be about Dawn she was forgotten once the party began. It would have made sense to show her having a great time at the party and clearly giddy that everyone was paying her so much attention. Instead the episode became more about Buffy for a while. Then Anya took centre stage to bitch about Willow not using magic to help them. Again the addiction analogy made its unhelpful presence felt. There are no drugs an addict can take which might help save the world. Yet Anya has a point when she says that Willow could probably save them from this unpleasant scenario.

- What we did get of Dawn made her even less sympathetic than she had been. Again she stormed out of a room. Again she yelled "Get out!" in high pitched tantrum mode. Again she made everything about her and how no one wants to spend time with her. Does she not have friends at school? As we never get to see any Dawn-centric stories she remains a paper character. Her whining about loneliness make me resent the writers for making her this way rather than relate to her situation.  

- The end of the episode was completely flat. Dawn's shoplifting is exposed but we get no time to deal with it. The moral focus is more on Willow needing to get rid of the last of her magic supplies but again the analogy irritates me.

- The choice of party guests was awkward and counterproductive. Richard was simply a prop to make Spike jealous and expressed interest in Buffy in an embarrassingly blatant way. Sophie was meant to provide comic relief but was a one note character. Clem received no real introduction despite the fact that we've met him before. Are he and Spike friends? If he is a demon shouldn't Buffy slay him? To have him introduced to non-Scoobies was an abrogation of the sense that regular people should be protected from darkness. Poor Richard looked even thinner when he failed to be freaked out by the sword wound he suffered from the creature leaping at will through the walls. More than their individual issues the inclusion of these three characters simply made it harder for the Scoobies to have significant, open interactions.

The Unknown: Halfrek is played by the same actress who played Spike's "efulgent" love Cecily in "Fool For Love" (507). Their recognition of one another would imply that she is the same person. Although the moment wasn't played in a dramatic or significant way.

Best Moment: Spike teasing Buffy about Richard's interest in her was fine.

The Bottom Line: I don't remember a Buffy episode failing at every single thing it attempted. Now I do.

 

 

Cordia's Second Look
Older and Far Away
Season 6, Episode 14

Original airing: 2/12/2002

My Rating: 63

The Good: Buffy’s birthday always goes poorly and this year is no exception. This time around Dawn unwittingly trapped the Scoobies and a few extras in the house along with a sword wielding demon. This worked well for creating tension and drama in the episode. It also led to my favorite moment.

Overall, I liked how this episode built up some Scooby drama. Having everyone trapped together for 48 hours forced some interesting confrontations. I think the demon was underused, but the sounds he made in the wall and his occasional attacks did keep everyone on edge.

Spike was fun to watch while he stalked Buffy around the house. It’s interesting to see him acting so jealous over the boy toy Richard. He seems to have been completely understanding of Buffy mangling his face as he doesn’t even mention it, despite the continuing blemishes he’s sporting. What doesn’t make as much sense is his complete non-reaction to Tara revealing she knows about his relationship with Buffy. It wasn’t particularly bad, but it was curious.

I enjoyed Halfrek’s involvement in this episode. Her attention to Dawn worked, and was called out well by Anya, as an over involvement in cases concerning ignored children. What didn’t make sense in her case was everyone’s suspicion over her being a guidance counselor, which is really a pretty normal thing in a high school.

One thing I really appreciated was the moment with Dawn in her room. We don’t get to see much of Dawn that isn’t yelling and running away, so her vulnerability in this scene was great. As she pulls the stolen items out of her pockets, I get the impression that even she doesn’t know why she’s stealing. More moments like this would make Dawn a much more relatable and sympathetic character.

I also really enjoyed Anya in this episode. Her delight at setting up Buffy was wonderful as was her enjoyment in presenting a gift she didn’t work on. But her shining moments come when the stress is on. Her scene with Xander where she is overheating is a wonderful moment for them as a couple. Xander really works to help her calm down. Her absolute best stuff is when she finally speaks up about Willow (see the Best Moment).

Finally, I really liked Tara in this episode. She’s become even more confident since her break up with Willow, except when they are face to face. Then it’s easy to see they have no idea how to talk to each other or how to handle the situation. Despite all that, she comes to Buffy’s birthday party because Buffy wants her there. She cuts Spike down a bit and even stands up to Anya after being disappointed by Willow hoarding magic supplies. She’s really showcasing her ability to be the defender when people need her.

The Bad: Unfortunately, there’s a lot going on in this episode that didn’t work.

While the demon in the walls was interesting, his lack of motivation was a problem. Why wasn’t he just attacking all the time? Why would he ever go into hiding? Why could he take his sword through a wall with him, but not through a floor? There was a lot of potential that went to waste here.

Other useless characters were Clem, Richard, and Sophie. Clem’s appearance was completely random and didn’t make any sense when the Scoobies knew there would be humans at the party. Buffy should have chased him and Spike out the door immediately upon their arrival.

Richard was good for giving Spike a focal point, but his characterization was lacking. Buffy didn’t seem at all interested in him and he still pursued her. It made him seem even more one dimensional. On top of that, he was a complete idiot and didn’t figure out something was wrong until well into the curse. Would anyone really buy that Clem’s look is from a skin condition??

Sophie was also quite pointless. Her utter awkwardness did not work and it even disappeared later. A lack of characterization doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The worst offender in this episode is the continuing drug analogy for Willow’s magic use. I was particularly put off by the mention of Willow’s support group – Spell Casters Anonymous. It implies that lots of other people are going through the same problems Willow is experiencing and also potentially implies this is a large problem. If it’s based on things such as Alcoholics Anonymous, it could be worldwide. But before all this happened for Willow, there was never any hint of witches becoming addicted to magic. I’m sure this was meant to only be a small joke, but it really blew the whole thing to a new level in my mind.

Finally, it didn’t make sense for Willow to continue to deny her abilities when it was the only option left for attempting to escape the house. There is no indication that something truly bad could happen to her. Xander’s argument that she’s surrounded by people who will support her is completely valid and the show makes no argument against it aside from Willow’s fear.

Favorite Moment: The best moment was when Anya spoke up about Willow and Tara defended her. Anya has often been used to say the things other people are socially afraid to say. And here it made complete sense because everyone turning a blind eye to Willow was actively hurting them all and putting them in harm’s way. I thought she came across as completely reasonable, although stressed out. But I also really liked when Tara stepped in. I might not agree with Willow concerning her use of magic, but Tara is definitely the character to defend the fact that Willow made a decision, no matter what it is.

The Bottom Line: Overall, I was disappointed in this episode, but not terribly. It certainly had it’s moments for Tara and Anya, but the crux of it all fell quite flat with Dawn being particularly hard to connect to and the obnoxious extra characters.

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  • I believe this episode follows the similar patterns of “Killed by Death” and “Triangle.” All three episodes follow a game changer episode and take a step back in plot momentum. Among other reasons, episodes like these three seem to get a bad rap yet they are in my top ten favorite episodes. I’m guessing the mindset behind whoever chose the order for these episodes wanted them to be less intense/serious and more entertaining. For me they succeeded. I was entertained throughout “Older and Far Away” due to having very funny moments mixed in with strong character moments.

    There are two characters I want to discuss. The first is Tara. I couldn’t be happier with her characterization. The moments she had last episode with Buffy really meant something. While not on the same level, Tara may be close to Willow and Xander in the friend category. Though things between Tara and Willow seem rough, Buffy she still needs Tara to be at her birthday. And thank goodness she is. I love seeing Tara take such joy in knocking Spike down a peg. She couldn’t really help Buffy emotionally last episode so she takes every chance to do it this episode. I also can’t help but cheer when I watch the once stuttering girl stand up for Willow. The second is Anya. While I did cheer for Tara, I was not against Anya at all. She gets pretty harsh with pressuring Willow to do magic and almost comes off as an antagonist. I feel the main reason she doesn’t seem like the bad guy to me is she is not wrong in what she says. Bad things are happening in the house and they have tried everything but the powerful witch. Wanting Willow to try something is very logical. She is also right in pointing out Willow’s misuse of magic. Because of poor choices Willow can’t be a big asset to the Scoobies when it comes to power. I think back to “The Gift” when she helped by doing the brain suck on Glory. She can’t… I mean won’t do things like that at the moment. I am glad she speaks the harsh truths. Because of that scene and little moments like showing how scared she is with Xander, I am fully behind Anya.

    Viewer score: 78 / 100

    Posted by Jarrid, 18/07/2013 3:01am (4 years ago)

  • So I'm sure you guys or your feedback will be all over this but just in case it slips by, I thought it worth pointing out that based on Spike's and Halfrek's awkward interaction, I'm 95% sure that Halfrek's was Cecily since it's the same actress and that they probably ended up ummm... becoming more familiar with each other at some point after Spike was vamped. Always loved that connection.

    Posted by Joe, 17/07/2013 5:09pm (4 years ago)

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