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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 9 - Smashed

3 June 2013

Time to bring the house down

Synopsis: Spike hounds Buffy about their kissing and is surprised when he punches her and his chip doesn’t activate. He tries to attack another woman but it seems to work. He asks Warren to check on it and it seems to be functioning fine. So he concludes that Buffy came back as something other than human and he taunts and attacks her. They begin fighting and then having sex in a crumbling home. Meanwhile Willow realises that she has the power to turn Amy back into a human. Amy wants to go out and party and they use their magic to light up the Bronze before becoming bored. Dawn spends time with Tara and hopes she will reconcile with Willow.

The Good: This was a really enjoyable episode showing Buffy and Willow delving deeper into their respective darkness.

It seems like there’s no end to Buffy’s dislocation from the world. Now we discover that she may not be entirely human, resurrected as something a little different just as Doc warned Dawn about (517). But instead of focussing on Buffy, we stay on Spike for most of the episode and once more are treated to a tour de force. We are reminded from the start of the episode that he is a vampire, someone whose instincts are bad. When Buffy brushes him off he yells after her that she’s “got no one else.” Not exactly the uplifting sentiment he was able to sing to her (607). Then he rushes off to kill someone (when he thinks the chip has stopped working) just after telling Buffy that he was a changed man. We then get good comedy as he threatens Boba Fett in order to get the trio to help him and then he’s off to see his beloved.

Once more Spike proves to be one of the most watchable characters ever created. He is positively giddy at the news that Buffy is not human. Again a deeply inappropriate reaction for someone claiming he can be her boyfriend. Yet he still sees it as an act of love. Somehow he is bringing her the truth – that she is more like him than ever and no one but him can understand. As they begin beating on one another you know this is foreplay to him and she seems dead on when she says “You’re in love with pain.” But she can’t resist the release which he offers and their fight turns to sex but becomes no less violent. In a surprising and memorable image the house they’ve brawled into collapses around them. It’s a moment you sense the writers have been building to for two seasons now and everyone delivered. It's one of those occasions when a very direct metaphor, Buffy's world falling apart, is so well executed that it doesn't seem on the nose.

Willow turning to the dark side has been planned even further back. With Tara the narrative demanded a partner who would take her further down this path and so Amy pops back into existence. The choice was fine and fit the theme of Willow’s developing power. Their playtime at the Bronze felt less significant than the fact that they were out in the open turning the world into their own fantasy camp and yet it didn’t satisfy them. What’s next?

Having complained about most of the comedy in Season Six so far I thought the writers hit their straps throughout this. Amy talking about Larry taking her to Prom was a nice call back while Buffy telling Spike she was thinking of Giles (when they kissed) was a soft ball. Spike threatening the Trio was easy stuff while his creepy phone call to Buffy which went wrong was beautifully plausible (“Yes it’s me”). The most memorable exchange was of course Buffy seeing Amy. “How have you been?” – “Rat. You?” “Dead.”  

The Bad: Nothing definitely bad but I have some concerns.

The Unknown: I was borderline on Dawn’s irritating attempts to reconcile Tara with Willow. They’d be cute if she were ten and not capable of understanding how serious the issue is. The two creepy guys at the Bronze trying to push Amy into dancing was an odd moment. I know they had to be objectionable somehow but it wasn’t the most inspired piece of writing. My eyebrows also rose at Amy and Willow playing pool without cues in full view of everyone. Magic has certainly grown in its ease of use and its apparent power. Willow didn't break sweat transforming Rat into Amy and then Amy can click her fingers and alter someone's will in a way which once formed the basis of a whole episode (409).

What does the diamond give the Trio and what is their plan? I had to laugh at Spike telling Buffy to meet him in the cemetery. Which one Spike? Come on!

Best Moment: It’s hard to look past the closing scene but Spike is so good in so many scenes. Look at that phone call and listen to the oozing self confidence that somehow isn’t diminished by the comic disappointment which interrupts it. His flexibility as a character allied to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s chops make them wonderful to watch.

The Bottom Line: This was a big step for Buffy who now has to deal with a whole new wrinkle in her depression. But for Willow you get the impression this was only the first step. Good stuff.

 

 

Cordia's Second Look
Smashed
Season 6, Episode 9

Original airing: 11/20/2001

My Rating: 48

The Good: The good of this episode rests squarely on James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Their interpretation of the shift in the Buffy/Spike relationship is incredibly well done. I love the mini-arc of Spike discovering he can hit Buffy and what that means for his personality. Once free of the chip, he immediately heads out to eat a human. That doesn’t work, so instead he uses his new knowledge to attack Buffy. I think it’s clear the show is saying that Spike is evil through and through. Give him an inch and he’ll take five or six miles.

I really like how the show points that out because it makes Buffy’s eventual decision to sleep with Spike that much more heart-rending and compelling. All episode Buffy is pushing Spike away from her and it hits a high point when she demeans him by calling him a thing. She’s fighting her own attraction. At the end, she just lets go and allows the violence of the fight to fuel her passion. I feel like her decision to have sex with Spike is an actual decision and she realizes it fully when they first get started. That pause and eye contact is very powerful and she makes a very deliberate decision to go forward with the event.

I personally viewed this as complete shock on Buffy’s part. She’s so used to not feeling at this point I think she was amazed that she could have such a connection to Spike.

I also enjoyed the presentation of Amy. While it’s obvious she’s being used as an impetus to propel Willow into more and more magic use, I still think her reintroduction to the show was pretty well handled. I like her twitchy and manic behaviors. I feel she is being presented as outwardly adapting while obviously in deep denial.

The Bad: Unfortunately, I feel like the rest of the episode fell flat. The Trio was again over-the-top nerdy and are feeling more and more like caricatures instead of characters. Tara is overly blunt, Dawn is overly childlike, and Willow is overly insensitive. I’ve said before that I feel like I can see the fingerprints of the writers on a particular scene. In this case, it was more like a backhand across the face. There was absolutely no subtlety.

The Trio is just way over the top at this point. Warren’s ineffectual attempts to work the words “Freeze Ray” into the conversation with the guard are topped only by Jonathon and Andrew’s inability to pick up on his blatant hints. The whole thing is ludicrous. But the worst was the scene with Spike where he threatens BobaFett. The seriousness with which the scene is treated is just too much. Why in the world wouldn’t Spike just threaten them? They don’t know he can’t hurt them. And Warren acts as if Spike is killing a person. The absurdity is too much for me to find amusing.

Tara and Dawn were just as bluntly characterized. The metaphor of divorce couldn’t be more strongly presented. Tara even uses the clichéd terms of “It’s not your fault” and “I’ll always love you.” I kept waiting for Dawn to remind Tara she’s been through this all before… you know… her estranged father and dead mother. But instead Dawn is presented as having the tact and understanding of a six year old.

The worst offense, however, was Willow. Having her just suddenly call a spell into existence which can turn Amy back into a human after three years is the laziest writing I can remember seeing on the show. And then suddenly both of them can do any magic they wish with a wave of their hand. Prior to this, the show has made it pretty clear that magic has to be earned for a human. Every other thing has required an incantation or components. I'd be fine with Willow becoming strong enough for certain things to be easy for her, but I need that presented. Instead the show just made her capable of this all of the sudden.

What hit me the most was her complete disregard for every person in the Bronze. Amy and Willow treat them like play things and Willow apparently decides this is fine since they can turn everything back to normal with a wave of the hand. This type of amoral behavior is so far from the Willow we know and should be a big deal. Instead, the show basically makes a joke out of the whole scene. Even the attempt to express the seriousness of Willow’s problem through concern from Xander and Anya is brief and played for humor.

Favorite Moment: Buffy and Spike were the saviors of this episode, as much as they could be. The sex scene at the end was incredibly well constructed, filmed, acted, and presented.

The Bottom Line: One the one hand, this episode has a much anticipated moment where Buffy and Spike finally deal with their sexual attraction to each other. This particular scene is raw, passionate, painful, and vulnerable. Unfortunately, a lot of the lead up to this scene is silly. And the rest of the episode suffered from lazy writing and poor execution. Overall, this episode was a major letdown and I just can’t give it a high score.

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