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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 21 - Two To Go

30 September 2013

Willow makes the room spin

Synopsis: Willow attacks the jail while the Scoobies help Jonathan and Andrew escape. Dawn convinces Clem to let her go to Rack's. Once there Willow drains Rack and threatens Dawn. Buffy shows up in time to save her but Willow transports all of them to the Magic Box where Anya has a protection spell protection the Duo. Willow and Buffy fight while the Scoobies run again.

The Good: This was the first time in a long while that I enjoyed the Dawn story. Her desire to be involved actually included a relevant plan to help track down Willow. Then once she was threatened I felt genuine sympathy as Willow turned nastily on her.

Anya and Xander had a good scene together as they attempted to read the last book left in the store. Their tension was well presented and I particularly liked two retorts she had for him. Faced with another apocalypse she commented bleakly that he would probably propose to her again (as he did in 522). Then when he explains his hurt over her night with Spike she explains that it wasn't meant as vengeance but merely "solace." The explanation for why a Vengeance Demon would have a human conscience remains inadequate but Anya's decision to help a group who haven't always done right by her was noble.

Spike's trials remain mysterious and one-note but you can't beat him quoting Nirvana ("Here we are now. Entertain us") to begin things can you?

The Bad: There remains no obvious emotional context for Willow as the Big Bad. It's not clear whether she is possessed, high or if the worst parts of her personality are just running the show. When she discovers that the Duo have escaped jail she lets out a piercing animal scream adding to the sense that it's no longer her. If she is no longer herself then why is this story any different from Buffy's recent behaviour under the influence of demon venom (617)? Buffy bragged about how quickly her friends forgave her (618) so why would they treat Willow any differently?

Another comparison would be to Angel who began using his knowledge of the Scoobies to torture them, after he turned, making for compelling and emotive viewing. But when Willow threatened to turn Dawn back into energy it held no weight. We know it won't happen and we have no understanding of why Willow would hurt her friend.

The Unknown: The results were again neutral. It wasn't a dull episode but nothing about it was strong. The magical battles also had the problem of trying to simulate entertaining fights while breaking the laws of physics. This gave many scenes an Anime feel with characters standing still and delivering cheesy sounding dialogue before special effects fired across the room or stunt doubles smashed into flimsy book shelves. A Giles appearance is always pleasing but only added to the sense that this was a comic book story with the old sensei returning to discipline his wayward protégé.

I continue to be unconvinced by the implication that fuelling Willow's behaviour is the self loathing of being a geek for years. During the first three seasons of the show Willow's morality and resolve were key parts of her character. In fact Seasons three and particularly four saw her mature into a confident young woman who saw her intelligence as conferring great benefits outside of the high school arena. Yet here the implication is that her self esteem was propped up by her relationships with Oz and Tara. I know she grieved hard for the loss of both and I can imagine a story where she turned to actual drugs to feel better. But the mixture of drugs with magic leads to this awkward place where the analogy is under a desperate strain. Is the metaphor that Willow is now on a desperate heroin binge which might destroy herself? It feels like a story being stretched too far. And I remain uncertain how Willow's insecurities lead to evil behaviour.

Jonathan and Andrew are not characters I particularly care about. Throughout this episode they hit the Jonathan-repentant, Andrew-not notes a little too repetitively.

Best Moment: Probably Dawn being threatened which surprises me.

The Bottom Line: I feel like this will have no real consequences for Willow or the Scoobies. I believe they will get old Willow back and she will apologise and get better. Until they convince me otherwise I will be disengaged from the story.

 

Cordia’s Second Look
Two To Go
Season 6, Episode 21
Original airing: 5/21/2002

My Rating: 45 

This episode fell mostly flat to me due to the overbearing nature of the Dark Willow story and presentation. The only really good moments were quite small or just left me wondering.

The Good: The only thing I really liked in this episode was the moments of strength given to Anya. She’s straight forward as always, but it’s easy to see she’s helping despite being forced to spend time with Xander. This is difficult for her, but she knows it’s important. I think it’s an important moment for her character when she chooses to stay behind and keep chanting. I don’t know if she makes this choice to help Buffy, stop Willow, or just because it’s the right thing to do, but either way, she does it. I was particularly moved when Willow spots her and Anya just stares her down while continuing to chant. There is actually a feeling of real threat in that moment as I wondered if Willow might kill Anya. 

The Bad: Mostly, I felt let down by this episode. Nothing was particularly terrible, but nothing sucked me in the way a story about Willow going evil should.

One big problem is a lack of threat. I’m honestly not worried about Willow managing to kill Jonathon and Andrew. They are essentially non-characters at this point and it wouldn’t have much impact either way. I see them as window dressing and I have no emotional connection to this supposed threat. Instead, I see Willow prancing around and spouting stupid catch phrases. I’m strongly reminded of Warren’s characterization. Everything either of them said was intended to come across as supremely evil, mean, and sarcastic. But instead it just seems silly. 

I’m also pretty convinced at this point that Willow is more possessed by dark energy than she is making these choices independently. This leaves me to feel that this isn’t Willow at all. Or, it’s more as if Willow had been turned into a vampire and a demon was using her body and memories. Because of this, I feel disconnected to the threat source. I don’t know the energy’s motivations or end goal. I don’t even know if it exists. Everything is so nebulous I’m again left just watching Willow act stupidly in dark hair and eyes.

Finally, I was kind of annoyed with Dawn again. I understand her desire to be involved and perhaps her belief that she can talk to Willow, but she of all people should know how unlikely this is to work. She’s been to Rack’s. She’s experienced Willow under the influence and wasn’t able to talk to her then (S6E10). Why would she expect this time to be any different? And to make it all just a step beyond annoying, she’s dragging along Clem who comes across to me as just incredibly inept and uncomfortable. He just doesn’t work for me as comic relief, so I find him grating. 

The Unknown: I’m still into the Spike storyline. Whatever he’s doing, it’s painful! Can’t wait to see where this goes.

The true surprise of the episode though is definitely the arrival of Giles. It’s nice to see him again as I really feel he’s been a missing element from the show. This probably isn’t important, but I’m curious if he knocked Willow back with an item or all by himself. We don’t know what he’s been up to the last several months and it’d be interesting to see if his own magic dabblings have led to similar effects as Willow’s. 

Mostly, I’m curious as to why he’s there. Seems unlikely that he heard about Tara dying and hoped a plane to arrive just in time. Possibly in TV land, I suppose, but mighty convenient. I’m kind of hoping he has an alternative agenda which could add some dimension to this currently unexciting season finale.

Favorite Moment: I really liked how Anya stood up to Willow in the Magic Box. I felt like it was an incredibly strong moment for her character.

The Bottom Line: This just isn’t hitting home for me. There are too many questions. And the presentation is way too brash and loud in style to have an emotional impact. I don’t know if this will be capable of turning around in the last episode, but we’ll see.

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  • Hi Guys,

    I have listened to every episode but haven't written in since "The Body", when I first got caught up with the podcast. Thanks for doing such a great podcast, really enjoy it.

    I have one observation to make, Robin has stated in several episodes now that Buffy had not introduced the thought that demons have varying levels of evil and that it is out of place at the wedding and in this season.

    While Buffy doesn't explore this concept nearly as much as Angel but Angel is a show for grown ups and Buffy is a show for growing up. As Buffy has matured so has her view of demons. Here are a few examples of the show mentioning this.

    Angel: Good demon, right up front int the first season, now the only good "vampire" but it certainly opened us up to question if all demons are evil.

    Enemies: When the demon who is selling the "Books of Ascension", as he is running off, Buffy stops Faith from killing him and says "Let him go, I don't think he falls into the deadly threat to humanity category." Also the demon who faked Angel's ensoulment, was introduced to his wife by Giles. Giles seems to be friendlyish with him.

    A New Man: Giles is the demon, with vengeance demons and spells, who knows how demons became who they are now.

    New Moon Rising: figured I would just pick this one to sum up Oz. Early on in the story, there was a werewolf hunter who very much wanted to kill all of them and then Veruca showed us that unlike Oz a werewolf could choose to use their situation to commit murder. Then Riley wants to kill the wolf, etc.etc..

    Plus all along the way, there is a lot of playing with the idea that some humans are bad/evil and can be redeemed. For the most part, unless she knows a Vampire is rising for the first time from the grave (guaranteed no soul?) Buffy doesn't sneak up and kill them, she hunts by letting demons come after her.

    While this season really brings out the question, Buffy has been questioning Willy for years, frequently with plenty of demons in the background.

    It seems to me that Buffy is pretty fair with her ultimate judging and doesn't kill unless as she told Faith the demon is a "deadly threat to humanity".

    Sorry for being so long winded here and thanks again for having such thought provoking discussions.

    Yours in Buffy,
    Kate

    Viewer score: 68 / 100

    Posted by Kate Davis, 17/09/2013 10:53pm (4 years ago)

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