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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 18 - Dirty Girls

4 March 2014

Caleb is not going for a high five

Synopsis: A Preacher called Caleb rescues a new Potential on her way to Sunnydale. But he then stabs her and tosses her in front of Willow's car with a message for Buffy. Willow brings Faith back to town and she joins the Scoobies as Buffy tracks down Caleb. The ensuing fight is a disaster.

The Good: This was very strong. Caleb felt like a Turok-Han upgrade. He was equally strong but represented a far more specific threat to the Scoobies and Potentials.

The choice of a Preacher who enjoys killing "dirty girls" feels intrinsically Joss Whedon as a choice. If you believe that powerful men and organised religion have tried to control women and their sexuality then Caleb seems a perfect representative. He worships the First in all its evil and almost lusts over the chance to do its bidding.

It's interesting to wonder who would have been cast in this role if Firefly hadn't been cancelled. As it is ultimate nice guy Nathan Fillion does an excellent job at playing evil. It helps that Caleb is well written and effective. Unlike the Turok-Han he kills those he's tormenting and targets Xander specifically for shocking mutilation. His introductory car ride was superb. He lectured and tortured all with a smile and a sureness of purpose.

I enjoyed the scene where the First allows him to relive his past kills. It was like a strange form of seduction with the First indulging Caleb in his murderous memories. That sequence had an interesting echo in Faith's conviction that all men have hidden sexual fantasies (and I suppose to Xander's literal ones).

The writing was solid throughout this. Faith really felt like Faith as she talked about her time in prison and her willingness to fight the good fight. Her flirtatious chit chat with Spike crackled with unsurprising chemistry. Giles' caution was entirely understandable and perhaps accurate. Xander's passionate defence of Buffy's motives was believable and of course pitifully foreshadowing.

The big fight scene was very well constructed. The barrels of wine made for a fresh dynamic as bodies smashed into blood coloured rivers. The choreography of the heavy hitters taking on Caleb was dramatic. While the brutal killing and maiming were suprising and effective. It ended the episode with the Scoobies vulnerable and disunited just as the end begins.

The Bad: I know he was telling the truth but I wasn't too thrilled with Andrew telling stories again. I don't believe he's stupid enough to claim Faith fought a Vulcan.

The Unknown: If Caleb is human where does his power come from? Earlier this season we heard about Xander seeing things (712) but how did Caleb know that?

Best Moment: Caleb reliving his Greatest Hits. It felt like the first time the First has really come across as properly creepy.

The Bottom Line: This was exactly what the season needed. Finally there are consequences and serious losses on the Scooby side. Now they have to pull themselves together and find a way to save the world.

 

Cordia's Second Look
Dirty Girls
Season 7, Episode 18
Original airing: 4/15/2003

My Rating: 76

The Good: This episode does an excellent job of introducing a physical threat to the gang and reintegrating Faith at the same time. It also ends on a powerful note of disharmony and separation within the Scoobies which I hope will have far reaching repercussions in the last bit of the season.

Caleb is an interesting villain. The basis for his character is very in line with Buffy mythology. He’s a man in a traditionally male role which dominates a traditionally male focused religion. Now, he’s attempting to go after literally the strongest woman power there is – the Slayer. I also like the disillusioned Godly man finding his way into the thrall of the supreme evil. It’s a nice symmetry.

The reveal of his joyful violence in the first scene really set the stage for him as a danger to our major players. But I loved how it hid his real strength until he effortlessly knocked Buffy across the cellar. I’m very excited to learn more about Caleb and what he’s capable of. He finally feels like a villain who can have a real effect.

I’m a big fan of Faith’s return. The show does a great job of subtly explaining her time in jail, why she stayed there, and why she’s here now. Even without watching Angel, her appearance makes sense and is tied into the story. Her conversation with Spike in the basement was a huge highlight. It gave a lot of backstory without her just sitting down and explaining herself to someone like Andrew. It also showed that in a lot of ways, she hasn’t changed at all. Her core of who she is remains intact.

I felt Buffy’s plan to attack Caleb was justified and appropriate. Her information indicates he’s just another human working for The First (ala Andrew) and she doesn’t want to risk any more dead potentials, if he has one in his power. She takes the best of her army and pulls a surprise attack. I’m on her side.

Whether or not she was being stupid, it ends in the same place. With two dead and two severely injured, Buffy’s army isn’t happy with her and she feels isolated and beaten down. Having this come at the same time as her rift with Giles really feels like it gives her no place to turn and is a compelling start to the end of the season.

The Bad: Andrew is a bit too much of an idiot in his belief that Faith fought a Vulcan. He seems quite convinced it’s actually true.

While the death of Molly and the other potential did a great job of illustrating Caleb’s brutality, I didn’t feel any particular pang from their loss. Molly hasn’t appeared for a few episodes and the other character was never introduced with a name. It’s an unfortunate example of how poorly the potentials have been endeared to the audience.

Favorite Moment: Even though I knew it was coming, I cringed when Xander’s eye was gouged out. It’s a very painful looking process, but it also hits to the core of Xander’s character and Caleb knows that with his comment about Xander being the one who sees things. This moment is made even more gut wrenching when compared to his impassioned speech about trusting Buffy. Well played, writers.

The Bottom Line: This episode is the beginning of the end and it pulls it off with a bang. Caleb is an excellent, creepy, unexplained threat, Faith is nicely brought into the fold, and we end with some pretty serious consequences. Where could it go from here?

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