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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 19 - Empty Places

7 April 2014

No one actually tries to kill her

Synopsis: The residents of Sunnydale begin to flee. Xander recovers in hospital. Caleb meets Buffy at the school and punches her through a wall. Spike and Andrew head off to a church Caleb visited and discover an ancient inscription. Faith takes the Potentials to the Bronze and has a run in with the police. Buffy declares that they will again attack the Vineyard but everyone refuses.

The Good: To see people fleeing town is a logical way to demonstrate how serious the coming apocalypse is, especially given what these people have lived through so far.

Xander and Willow trying to indulge in gallows humour but getting emotional was well performed by both.

The Bad: Buffy being exiled by the Scoobies and Potentials was unconvincing. Yes, she led them on an unsuccesful assault that cost Xander his eye. But frankly they've all been hugely fortunate to suffer only a couple of broken bones in six years on the hellmouth. I can definitely see from that incident why the Potentials would vote for Faith to take charge. And perhaps given the recent friction Giles would also want a coup d'etat. But I don't buy Willow or Dawn suggesting that not only is Buffy unfit to lead but also needs to leave her own home. And quite where Anya finds the nerve to accuse Buffy, self sacrificing Buffy, of just being lucky I don't know. It felt contrived and emotionally false.

Given this season's shaky narrative it seems like this is just a phase on Buffy's leadership journey. It can't be anyone else who leads the troops into battle on the hellmouth so surely this is just a temporary rejection where she will learn an important lesson.

I wish someone had told Principal Wood to mind his own business. He really got stuck into Buffy's leadership when he wasn't even around for the last two episodes. He and Faith shared no chemistry in their slightly odd, I know what you did last summer, conversation.

Why do the monsters employed by the First just beat Buffy up and leave? In previous seasons Buffy has been the key to beginning the apocalypse so I suppose it could be that again. It always feels a bit contrived and this season it feels positively irritating.

Would anyone have noticed if Andrew wasn't in this episode? He was like a fly here, buzzing around contributing nothing. And why did we need yet another recap on the Turok-Han from Anya?

The Unknown: The idea that police officers sent to track Faith down would try to kill her was interesting. Under the hellmouths influence and the stress of the town exodus they decide to enact some harsh justice with their guns. Ok. Then Faith and the Potentials beat them up. Ok. Then Buffy arrives and doesn't ask what Faith was doing whaling on the boys in blue. She doesn't seem to care. It was a bizarre omission that would have taken a second to clear up.

What did the inscription that Spike found mean? What will she wield? Is the she Buffy? Does he read Latin? Did we know that? Was it in Latin?

Best Moment: Xander and Willow try not to cry.

The Bottom Line: Not only was this poor but the Caleb story feels like a rehash of the Turok-Han plot. Buffy gets beaten up, everyone doubts her, she overcomes it. Why would we think it will be any different this time?

 

Cordia's Second Look
Empty Places
Season 7, Episode 19
Original airing: 4/29/2003

My Rating: 66

The Good: This episode treads a very fine line. Everyone is justifiably stressed out and on the verge, but it still makes me feel great empathy for Buffy when she is evicted.

The majority of the story here is how Buffy has elevated herself above everyone else. She begins this me versus you dynamic with her bossiness. While I agree with her that there needs to be one overall leader, her manner of doing so is more appropriate to hardened soldiers than terrified teenage girls. Faith makes a good point about Buffy’s lack of involvement if she’s right that Buffy never even learned their names.

Willow and Faith are the most believable in this story. Their points that Buffy is too distanced and too stressed are right on the mark. She needs to find a way to let off steam and get her perspective back. I wasn’t a big fan of Xander’s snappy remark of Buffy’s point being to his left, but I don’t find it at all a stretch to think he might be mad at her about the loss of his eye. And while I want to punch Kennedy and Rona in the face, their comments are appropriate to their perspective and maturity.

I thought Dawn was used excellently as well. She’s feeling very excluded from Buffy’s confidence and it’s obviously difficult for her to ask Buffy to leave, but it makes sense as well. She’s not wrong in saying Buffy shouldn’t stay if she’s going to try and fight the tide of everyone else’s opinion all the time. That will not make for a strong and solid team. And I absolutely loved her telling Rona to shut up.

Through all of this, I felt so sad for Buffy. It truly feels like she’s doing the best she can and I don’t blame her for feeling completely lost and alone.

The rest of the episode was primarily Spike and Andrew. I thought this was quite cute. They play off each other very well and it’s fun seeing Spike act calmly around an over the top person. The discovery feels important and I’m excited to see the news make its way back to the gang.

Finally, it’s always nice to see the villains progressing on a plan. Caleb obviously has in mind how he wants things to go and is taking the necessary steps. Whether or not he intended Buffy to be separated from her friends, I’m sure he’s quite pleased.

The Bad: The glaring flaw in this episode is Anya’s attempt to dismiss Buffy’s life as the Slayer. Buffy has died for the world twice, made huge personal sacrifices, and done everything she ever can for the last seven years to protect everyone in the world. Anya saying Buffy hasn’t earned her place when any viewer can see she’s earned it over and over again makes everything else feel false. Suddenly, the organic nature of the usurp is gone and it seems contrived to purely drive Buffy away from the support of her friends and family. I think this could have still been achieved just by everyone being as upset as they are. Attempting to make the argument that Buffy isn’t special is never going to fly.

That being said, I didn’t find it at all shocking that Anya would be against Buffy. Her motives are true, I just think her reasoning is intrinsically flawed.

Giles also made me want to claw his eyes out. I think someone failed massively on his character in this season. He just spent several episodes telling Buffy to stand up and make the tough decisions. He abandoned her in her greatest time of need and depression in Season Six to try and make her stand up. While this was extremely annoying, it does express his complete faith in her ability to make difficult decisions. However, now he’s willing to completely disregard her and take over. After all they’ve been through, I just didn’t buy it.

All of this almost made me forget the opening scene. Clem was fine, actually. His character was good and his comments fit well with a demon trying not to get on Buffy’s bad side. But it can’t be ignored that he’s having this conversation while driving a VW bug down the middle of the street surrounded on all sides by every resident in Sunnydale.

Favorite Moment: The honest emotion in the hospital when Xander asks Willow not to cry brought tears to my own eyes.

The Bottom Line:  I actually think a lot of this build up was excellent. Aside from Giles, I think the episode did a great job of expressing appropriate feelings for a very large cast of characters. That’s darn impressive. I’m even down with the results. But I can’t push aside the feeling that the writers tried to go too far with Anya’s speech. The idiocy of it stands out far too much for this episode to truly shine in my eyes.

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Comments

  • Typo alert. "Then Buffy arrives and doesn't ask what Faith was doing wailing on the boys in blue." I'm pretty sure that should be "whaling", not "wailing".

    Posted by Faheem, 07/04/2014 8:29pm (3 years ago)

  • It's very telling to me that my favorite scenes were Spike and Andrew discussing onion blossoms, and Faith being Faith, dancing with a group of guys at The Bronze. In Season 7, Buffy is morose and prone to idiocy, Giles almost too wooden to bear with none of the "wise old man" quality he displayed as the librarian, the Potentials don't really do anything but complain... And why, if the First can simply imbue anyone with super strength, are there not more Calebs? I don't want to be stuck on the bad instead of the good, but I miss the campiness of the early seasons, precisely because their campiness made their eventual darker drama stand out that much more.

    Viewer score: 55 / 100

    Posted by Matt E., 11/03/2014 3:12am (3 years ago)

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