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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 20 - Villains

22 September 2013

Willow goes dark

Synopsis: Willow heals Buffy and demands that she and Xander help her track Warren. Warren goes to Rack for assistance but nothing he gains is enough to fight off Willow. Buffy leaves Dawn with Clem and Anya reveals that she is a vengeance demon again.

The Unknown: This was an unusual episode of Buffy. We are not used to seeing one of the Scoobies become the major threat within the narrative. Of course there was Angelus but it was clear that he was evil. Willow seems to have re-accessed the part of her that believes she can manipulate the world with magic. The part of her that thinks the rules are subordinate to her will. It was definitely an interesting story but it’s not clear yet what the emotional takeaway is.

The practical result of seeing all-powerful Willow stalk Warren was to thoroughly confuse my sympathies. Buffy’s moral code: that humans, no matter how heinous, should be dealt with by human society was the clear through line. On that logic I ended up feeling slightly sorry for Warren. I didn’t want him to get away but the prospect of him being tortured to death was distinctly unappealing. It was clear that he needed incarceration and rehabilitation. To watch him be flayed alive didn’t feel like justice and I guess that was the point. Willow’s final words were “One down” which means she is going after Jonathan and Andrew. Their pathetic position in jail adds to the sense that they don’t deserve to be butchered and so I assume the story next week is Buffy trying to stop Willow from becoming a monster.

I don’t know what this tells me about Willow. What is the metaphor for her seizure of immense power? Does this say that she has a permanent character flaw? Or is it just that access to magical power has a corrupting effect on her normal moral code? Is that drugs in our world? Or power? Or an analogy for a mighty military? I’m reaching. Hopefully the next episode finds the emotional core to pull this together.

The special effects were very strong throughout with the floating books and words coursing across skin particular highlights. However having “Osiris” speak directly to Willow about Tara’s death couldn’t help but trample on the real emotions of her death.

If Willow was tracking Warren’s essence it’s hard to understand how she mistook a robot for him. Anya’s revelation that she is a Vengeance demon should surely cause Buffy some problems? I assume she will use the same principal she applied to Spike. As in if I don’t see your evil I won’t do anything about it. It’s lame but there has been a precedent set. How far has Spike travelled?

Best Moment: Warren’s torture and brisk flaying, complete with “Bored now” was compelling if confusing.

The Bottom Line: An episode that requires the next two to flesh out the context of its meanings.

Cordia’s Second Look
Villains
Season 6, Episode 20

Original airing: 5/14/2002

My Rating: 63

The Good: Truly, I liked a lot of this episode. But it’s a set up episode for the end of the season, so everything I liked falls more in The Unknown category. 

One thing I did like was Warren’s deviousness. It fit well with his character to abandon Jonathon and Andrew to their fate, then try and talk himself up in a demon bar. I also thought it was completely believable that he would have a robot of himself lying around to be a decoy. But the ending was difficult, because while I agree Warren deserved to die, I’m not sure anyone deserves to be tortured. And the main thing I want to know about the fallout of Warren’s flaying is how it affects Willow (see The Unknown).

The Bad: I wasn’t a fan of the big Osiris face directly answering Willow. It felt really out of place. I think the desperation of that moment could have been conveyed without it. 

I was also definitely disappointed by the use of Clem. It doesn’t make sense for Buffy to leave Dawn alone with him and I find it confusing that the show has introduced him as basically comedic relief, and yet he’s a demon. I would really like for him to be explored and fleshed out a bit more because other demons on the show who are the exception to the “evil” rule have a reason for that; ie, Spike’s chip, Angel’s soul, and Anya’s history with the Scoobies.

The Unknown: Several things were set up in this episode that will need to be resolved before I know how I feel about them. 

I’m intrigued by the reveal to the Scoobies that Anya is a vengeance demon again. I figured it was coming eventually, but it happened during a crisis and they didn’t really get to work the situation out. I’m interested to see how the Scoobies will treat Anya now.

I also enjoyed the little Spike teaser. Many questions were raised here, such as: where is he? Who is he talking to? What trials will he undergo? How will those trials affect him? When will he return to Sunnydale? It’s very interesting. 

The main thing about the “new” Willow is we don’t know if it’s really her or not. It seems a bit ambiguous at this point if Willow is truly making her own decisions, or if she’s let the magic take control of her body. I think it’s possible this is a similar situation to when Angelus the demon takes over Angel’s body. I don’t know how Willow really feels about murdering and torturing Warren, because the Willow presented at this point is not the regular Willow.

Favorite Moment: I thought Warren’s death was appropriately gruesome and shocking. It really set the stage for the new Dark Willow’s moral ambiguity and truly does make me wonder what’s going to happen to Jonathon and Andrew next time. 

The Bottom Line: This is very much a set up episode. Much of this needs to go somewhere before I can determine how I feel about it, but I’m definitely looking forward to the resolutions.

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Comments

  • I already commented before but I have a few more random comments.

    1. Last podcast one of the commenters said that Tara is the most most tragic and heartbreaking Joss Whedon. She needs to watch the Hole in the World episode of Angel. That death just hurts.

    2. How do you feel about Xander and Dawn as a couple? They're now a couple in the comics. I find it a bit weird.

    3. How often do you think witches heal someone in the hospitals of Sunnydale? Willow comes in the middle of Buffy bullet removal surgery and takes the bullet out and leaves with Buffy and the doctors while startled barely react to it.

    4. Whistler, who only appeared in a couple episodes in season 2, has returned in the Angel comics. He's evil now but evil for the right reasons. He's trying to return magic to the world but at the expense at 1/3 of the world.

    Posted by Andrew the Geek, 13/09/2013 2:38pm (4 years ago)

  • "HOLY SH*T. Did that just happen?"
    That was my reaction the very time I saw this episode. Holy sh*t combined with a literal water spit take.
    Villians is one of my favorite episodes and the scene where Willow tortures Warren is one of the best, most intense, and uncomfortable scenes in TV history. It's hard not to feel a little squeamish as Willow tortures Warren with the bullet. The torture scene also shows just how good of an actress Alyson Hannigan is. While her face is emotionless you can tell how much pain she is in just by her voice alone.

    This episode may cause a few arguments and I don't know how many people will agree with me but I have to side with Willow, Xander, Anya, and Dawn over Buffy. Warren is a murderer and murderers deserve to die. As brutal as Warren's death was he did deserve it.
    I also have to point out that Warren is a terrible murderer because while he killed 2 women they were both killed by terrible accidents....that he caused.

    *Spoilers* Warren comes back in the season 8 comics. Still skinless, still a mysoginist dick, and alive due to the magic of a certain witch-rat.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Andrew the Geek, 12/09/2013 9:51pm (4 years ago)

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