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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 10 - Wrecked

15 October 2013

Magic Tara Hugs

Synopsis: Buffy is ashamed and Willow is exhausted after their respective nights out. Amy takes Willow to see Rack who has a supernatural hangout where he gets people high on magic. Willow is wiped out by the experience and gets scared by a demon who keeps appearing in her visions. However she can’t help but return and incidentally takes Dawn with her, leaving her in the waiting room for hours. When Willow emerges she is drunk on magic and drives them into a wall while trying to escape the demon who has now materialised.

The Good: The Buffy-Spike story remains strong and very interesting. Without getting graphic the story being told is that by exploring a side of her sexuality that wouldn’t be possible in a loving, human relationship Buffy is able to forget herself and deal with her depression. It’s a very interesting idea and Spike’s utter self assurance makes you feel certain that it’s set to continue. The sight of Buffy cowering behind garlic and a cross on her bed seemed a clever way to underline that really it’s her own desires she ought to be afraid of not Spike breaking in.

The Bad: Willow’s dangerous addiction to magic has been building for years so you can imagine my disappointment when the writers just grabbed the steering wheel and literally and figuratively drove it into a wall. The way last week’s Bronze playtime suggested magic as an analogy for drug use was something which flowed fairly organically from the way magic has been presented on the show. Here though the writers reached for their bag of clichés and just poured it all into the script. The wall crawling, shivering, shaking, the crack den, the crying in the shower, the stealing stuff to feed the addiction, the car crash and finally the endless apologies while in tears on the floor. I wouldn’t have batted an eye lid if Willow had driven past Amy selling herself on a street corner.

To be so derivative is problematic but doesn’t automatically lead to bad television. To cram all of it into one episode really does. It seems like such an odd and bad decision to push Willow’s addiction to magic into the iconography of drug abuse in just one episode. I think you probably could have stretched the elements of this story across three or four episodes and I would have felt far happier with seeing most of Trainspotting transplanted into Sunnydale. As it was though it felt obnoxious. To see Amy, only days after returning to human form stealing magic supplies while quivering felt utterly cheap. The junkies in Rack’s waiting room were an insult too. Where was the attempt to show them as fellow magic users? The use of Jeff Kober (he played Kralik in Helpless) was problematic too as I recognised him easily and his comment that Willow tasted like strawberries was irritatingly familiar.

I really began to resent Dawn during this episode too. She can’t cook for herself, she has no friends and apparently no backbone as she sits passively in the waiting room. Now sure she was scared and awkward, that’s fine. But her presentation as a weak person meant I didn’t believe she would actually slap Willow. Yet another moment that felt clichéd and flat. In fact as the demon stalked her it finally felt like Dawn had transitioned from the Key to just a prop. She is now “Victim Girl”, someone familiar to be in peril so that Buffy dispatching yet another demon won’t seem quite so predictable. 

Finally we had Buffy giving Willow the cold turkey pep talk which felt pretty naive given all we knew about addiction then (and especially now). But worse was the attempt to make everything Willow was going through an analogy for the Buffy-Spike story. It left me with the impression that Willow was an unimportant minor character whose story was raced through in order to be merely a warning sign for Buffy. I’m sure we will get more from Willow’s addiction and maybe this will lead to something good but right now it’s a black mark against the writing of the show that this was so abrupt.

The Unknown: When Willow explains her motivations to Buffy she brings up the idea that magic made her seem cool. That's something that had been referenced every now and again but I don't completely buy it. She implies that Tara wouldn't have noticed her without magic. I suppose the confidence she gained from being a useful Scooby could have been a part of what attracted Tara. But Tara was even more of a social outcast than Willow so it seems unlikely she would have felt differently. And before that Willow was with Oz who seemed like a pretty cool guy. To suggest that the fear of being seen as her old geeky self is the core reason for her magic use just doesn't feel like enough. The character is being short-changed.

Spike claims he is sleeping off his big night with Buffy. But wasn’t that at least a couple of days ago given that Willow had spent the next night with Rack and then slept that off before going back?

Best Moment: Spike and Buffy had two good scenes debating the nature of their relationship. His certainness in the second one probably pipped it for me as he seems to understand her desires better than she does at this point.

The Bottom Line: A wild departure from the patient story arcs which had up to this point made Season Six more enjoyable than the previous two.

 

Cordia's Second Look
Wrecked
Season 6, Episode 10

Original airing: 11/27/2001

My Rating: 52

The Good: Buffy and Spike continue to make the show worth watching. Most of this episode was a disappointment, but the evolution in Buffy and Spike’s relationship is fascinating. The initial scene really shows how Buffy feels about things. She’s not happy with her decision to sleep with Spike, but she’s easily swayed physically. In her hunt for reconnection to the mortal world, the best she’s found so far is sex.

Spike is practically back to his pre-chip self in terms of his confidence and swagger. He has a new outlook on the whole situation and definitely reflects that in his body language and tone of voice to Buffy. He acknowledges his love for her, but also knows that the power has completely shifted.

Otherwise, I was really frustrated with this episode. I love the concept of Willow’s continuing descent into magic and the effect it has on her and her decision making skills. But the execution of that story can be described as poor at best.

The Bad: The majority of this episode just happens way too fast. But the worst of it is the complete lack of subtlety. Coupled together, these two things make the episode seem silly when it’s supposed to be a very serious situation.

The writers didn’t attempt to disguise the connection between Willow’s magic use and drug abuse. She went from completely competent to completely addicted to rock bottom to recovery in less than 40 minutes. It’s just too much to take in and take seriously. And the effects are much closer to being drugged or drunk than anything we’ve ever seen on the show relating to magic. It feels like they introduced this summation of the story purely to parallel Buffy’s relationship with Spike.

Amy is used to highlight the story and purely as a prop to Willow. She introduces Willow to Rack and tells Buffy about Rack, thus bringing the story full circle. The silliest part, though, is when she’s stealing generic magic spells supplies which someone could buy at any old grocery store. It’s too silly.

Finally, I really hated watching Dawn in this episode. She’s the most understanding teenager ever, apparently. She doesn’t really get worked up about anything or try to do anything. She’s purely a plot device at this point and that’s a huge disservice to a character that’s supposed to be a main part of the show.

Speaking of main characters used purely for plot purposes, for the second episode in a row Xander and Anya sit in the Magic Box and complain about Willow’s magic addiction without actually doing anything about it. Why are they here again?

Favorite Moment: In a very rushed episode, I appreciated the slow moment they took to show just how lost and lonely Willow is at this point. When she comes out of the shower and uses magic to inflate some of Tara’s clothes to cuddle with, I can’t help but feel for her. I love the complete lack of dialogue and the time the moment takes to show the clothes inflating.

The Bottom Line: This episode over all was a rushed mess. Several of our main characters are used purely for convenient plot purposes and to further Buffy’s story. It’s a huge departure from the show’s ability to truly balance its cast and made me have little to no feeling about the struggles of Willow’s magic addiction.

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  • I wanted to like this episode, but I just couldn't. I really hated the heavy-handed magic as mind-altering drugs metaphor. I get why they wanted to make this analogy, but I resented being hit over the head with it. In a way, it reminded me of Superstar, in that a few minutes into it, I felt as though I had seen all that the episode had to offer. I knew where it was going, and just had to wait it out.

    It really bugged me, too, that they changed the metaphor. In the past, magic represented great power, or was a stand-in (thanks to prudish network execs) for lesbian love. Now all of a sudden it represents drug use?

    I think it is a cool idea to show Willow struggling with an addiction to magic, but I wish they had shown it as more like a sex addiction or an addiction to power, both of which would have been supported by the way magic was used in previous seasons. This sudden change in how magic is shown felt contrived, and though I was meant to feel sympathy with Willow's plight, I just felt manipulated.

    Good think Buffy and Spike are keeping it interesting (and hot!) or I may be tempted to tune out.

    Viewer score: 45 / 100

    Posted by DrewP, 15/10/2013 1:30am (4 years ago)

  • Very slow day at work so I wanted to add something, RE: Dawn

    The scene where Willow nearly gets Dawn killed is a perfect example of how they continually pay her character lip service.

    Willow collapses against the pillar after killing the gross, hairy demon. Buffy and Willow share a significant moment. Spike and Buffy escort Dawn away from the scene. Dawn slaps Willow. Willow breaks down. And then there's another Buffy/Willow moment.

    I love the scene but IMO it is entirely sculpted such that you feel badly for Willow. But what about Dawn, who had been lying there on the ground all beaten up?

    In season 2 when Angel lures Buffy to him so that the vampires can attack his friends, that is played as a horrific ordeal from the perspective of Willow, Xander, Cordelia, and Giles.

    I didn't feel that here for Dawn because Willow was the focal point of it all. And this is one of the better Dawn scenes.

    She's very much a "major minor character".

    Posted by Romit, 04/06/2013 11:48pm (4 years ago)

  • By the way... There is a slight chance you have the name of the episode wrong. My Netflix said it was called Wrecked.

    Posted by Romit, 04/06/2013 7:59am (4 years ago)

  • Hey Robin,


    First of all, sparing you the voicemail this week. Loved the preview you had up on this website for Smashed. “The one where Buffy and Spike do something to bring the house down.” Thought that deserved some recognition. Very clever. Also, I figured no one really comments on the Buffy episodes on this website and they really should. So I’m gonna be that guy that comments over here this time.

    This is heresy because I’m scoring this higher than the Game of Thrones episode that just aired. It’s even worse because I feel like this is one of those episodes people really just do not like. I can’t help it, though. The Willow story was just so strong thematically and the episode was so well-acted by Alyson Hannigan that I would say it wildly succeeded based on those two things alone.

    I suppose we should get the bad stuff out of the way first... So here goes:

    1. The on-the-nose symbolism. Very ham-fisted. Willow is a junkie prostitute witch? Well, okay, but since you’re going to pull this out of nowhere, what are the mechanics of this magic drug industry? The real world equivalent of the transactions that take place at a place like Rack’s would involve SEX going one way and DRUGS going the other. What we have here is MAGIC going one way and... MAGIC going the same way? The effect of it is the same, with Willow getting high and Rack getting his rocks off, but I have to call the sustainability of his business into question.

    This is the scenario: Willow taps herself out; runs out of magic. Rack restores her magic. Rack then “takes a tour” via the use of MORE magic. A room full of junkies outside await their turn for their own magic fix. How fast does this guy run out of juice? Where does he get his restock from? Eh, perhaps it’s not worth fixating on it...

    2. How does Amy know about Rack? She was a rat for the last three years!! Are we meant to believe she was into some sketchy stuff when she was a high-schooler? We didn’t see any evidence of that back then.

    Is there a time jump in the middle of the episode? Amy & Willow go to the bronze. Amy & Willow go to Rack. Amy and Willow are immediately junkies and Amy is stealing MAGIC WEED!!!!

    MAGIC WEED!!!!


    Now the good stuff:

    Willow goes on a downward spiral and hits bottom. It takes Dawn nearly getting killed for Willow to admit to herself and to her friends that she has a problem. Finally! I can stop hating her!
    The heartbreaking scene in the middle of the episode where Willow fills Tara’s old clothing with magic and cuddles up to it. This is where I realized the irony of the whole situation. Tara left Willow because she was doing too much magic. Willow’s only way of coping with the loss was to do more magic. Ouch. I wonder if the breakup didn’t just accelerate her spiral?

    Willow’s “high” scenes at Rack’s. These remind me of a movie. I’m not sure what movie, but I’m pretty sure I liked it. It might just be the Massive Attack/trip-hop vibe of the music that plays... But I like the effects, and I’ve always liked the full-black contacts that they like to break out on occasion for the more intense witchery.

    All of the other character moments for Willow. Crying in the shower. Breaking down and apologizing profusely to Dawn. Going through the drug withdrawals in bed. I was moved by all of them.

    “If you could be plain old Willow or super Willow, who would you rather be?” Willow, summing up her character in one sentence. Gave me chills.

    Buffy, curled up, looking afraid and alone at the end of the episode like she could use a mother or a father. The perfect ending.


    I am SO interested to hear what you two think of this. I think you can go either way with this one. I’m going to guess that Cordia hates it (again) and Robin likes it.

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Romit, 04/06/2013 7:55am (4 years ago)

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