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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.

66
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Viewer
70
/100

Episode 12 - Potential

19 January 2014

Those Summers women love the inspiring speeches

Synopsis: It emerges that a new Potential is already in Sunnydale. Willow performs a spell to discover who it is and it seems to be Dawn. Overwhelmed by the implications she heads out and runs into Amanda from school. Amanda tells her that she was attacked at school by a vampire and locked it in a classroom. Meanwhile Buffy takes the Potentials out for training sessions with Spike.

The Good: This was much better. Whittling the Potentials down to four recognisable characters helped and then we got a thorough introduction to the fifth.

The training sessions were satisfactory and gave everyone a moment to be funny or scared. The transition of Buffy from pupil to teacher as part of the seven season arc became much clearer here. It feels like the writers jumped the gun with her defiant speeches. But given the proper context it made huge sense to see her passing her wisdom to the next generation. I was also rather pleased to see Buffy lock the Potentials in the crypt with the vampire. Perhaps she sees value in the Cruciamentum (312) after all?

The Dawn-Amanda story was good, it could have been even stronger but had its heart in the right place. Early on in the season it seemed like Dawn would finally become an important member of the Scoobies but the arrival of the Potentials has put her firmly in the shadows. It was nice to see that addressed and she conveyed the entirely understandable feelings of isolation and jealousy well.

Her decision to take charge of the school vampire fit with the belief that she was now a Potential. And she acquits herself well, naturally trusting her instincts (as Buffy instructed the others to do) by running and then using her environment (the science lab) to attack the vampire. The real climax comes though when she realises the truth and empowers Amanda to fight for herself. As Xander movingly comments it was this selflessness that really confirms Dawn in our hearts. He speaks well about the value of those who can only help the super powered from the sidelines.

The Bad: Irritatingly Dawn marched into Sunnydale High with no weapons and no plan to kill the vampire. For a character who has so often been portrayed as foolish this was a poor bit of writing. Even with a stake in hand I would have been far happier with her headstrong decision to face down a vampire (because she thought she had Potential strength). Equally annoying is the vampire's decision to stay in the classroom. As he soon proved he could easily have smashed the door down or jumped out of a window. Yet he stayed as if he knew someone was coming back. But why would he think that? It was night, no one would come back until the sun came up.

The Unknown: At several points during the episode the Spuffy romance was given an airing with Buffy obviously conflicted. It's a tricky one because although many viewers cheered them on when Spike was evil I always felt the tone was clearly anti-Spike because of his evil nature. So to "reward" his selfish love by hinting at potential romance now does feel odd. Of course we've also been here before with Buffy and Angel so you'd think she would know better. Then again with the world about to end why would I want to stop her grabbing some intimacy along the way?

Since when are Buffy and Clem that close?

Best Moment: I didn't quite tear up at Xander's speech. It felt like it had all the ingredients to be deeply moving but it didn't quite happen. Perhaps he didn't drive home the sacrifice that researching all the time requires and its contribution to saving the world. But this was Dawn's Zeppo episode so it still felt like a meaningful and emotive conversation.

The Bottom Line: Despite some nitpicks this was a strong story that gave us nice focus on a couple of characters while deepening our connection to everyone in the Summers household.

 

 

Cordia's Second Look

Potential

Season 7, Episode 12

Original airing: 1/12/2003

My Rating: 63

The Good: This episode was a definite step up from the past five or so as we got to spend some time with a few people instead of jumping around amongst a cast of 10 or so people for thirty seconds each. It also finally spent some time with one of the potentials which highlighted for me how needed that has been.

I thought Dawn’s isolation was incredibly well done. From venturing ignored suggestions during training, being the only one still going to school, up to being the only girl under 20 in that house with any real demon experience - she’s different from the potentials. And she feels unsurprisingly left out by her big sister. It’s heartbreaking to think back to the beginning of this season when Buffy was so determined to teach Dawn how to protect herself. Now she hasn’t got the time or apparent inclination.

Dawn’s handling of her potential-ness was quite good as well. Her immediate concerns are the realization of the danger and that she’ll never reach her potential without Buffy dying. I thought it worked for her to want to be alone in her room. It didn’t come across to me as sulking or hiding, just needing a moment. Things went downhill when she climbed out the window (see The Bad).

However, she redeemed herself at the end by recognizing Amanda as the potential and encouraging her to stand up and fight. Giving away her chance to be special in that moment was powerful for a character like Dawn who has had issues in the past with feeling ignored. And, of course, it was wonderful to see her decision acknowledge by Xander (see Favorite Moment).

Dawn’s foil in this episode was the slow introduction of the newest potential. Amanda was brought in as lost, awkward, confused, and helpless. Then she flipped the script and turned out to be a staff-wielding master. While I didn’t take to her or her presentation personally, I really appreciated the show’s attempt to spend some time with a potential before she knows what is going on. As Willow says, someone’s life has just changed majorly. It was nice to see that moment.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the middle of Dawn’s story was a horrifying pile-up of stupid Dawn moments. It felt like we were back in the early days when she just wanted to be involved and continually made things worse. At this point in her knowledge and development, there is no excuse for her to climb out her window in the middle of the night without even a stake to protect herself. She knows the Bringers are out there. She assumes they’re now after her. And yet… off into the darkness empty handed she goes.

Her decision making at the school is particularly poor and just goes on and on. Please enjoy the following list.

  • Dawn decides to go after Amanda’s vampire solo.
  • She doesn’t even attempt to inform Buffy or the other Scoobies.
  • She, in fact, encourages Amanda to come with her WITHOUT informing anyone else.
  • She doesn’t try to be sneaky or silent during their entrance to the school.
  • She still doesn’t have any kind of weapon.
  • During the chase, she’s screaming instructions to Amanda concerning where they should go and how to defend themselves.
  • She doesn’t seem to actually have a plan when the vampire breaks in.
  • She arms herself with a broken bit of wood, then swings it like a baseball bat instead of jabbing at the vampire’s chest.
  • Her “plan” after hitting the floor is to scream for help.

The one thing she does right is give Amanda a timely pep talk and a bit of broken wood.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike seem determined to put on a show for a bunch of 15 year old girls. I thought Spike’s uncomfortableness in the graveyard was from Buffy straddling him, but I’m sure it got worse when she tried to take off his shirt. The “that’s so hot” comments from the girls were especially grating and out of place.

The reappearance of Clem was awkward. When did he and Buffy bond to the point of hugging and Tivo’ing things for each other? And where did he get those snakes in his face?

But what bothered me the most after Dawn’s failures, was Buffy’s decision to lock the potentials into a crypt with a baby vampire. After her experiences with the Watcher’s Council, I just can’t see her putting them in this kind of danger. Stepping back and letting them fight, sure. Stepping outside where they could suffer a broken neck before she hears the scream…. Not so much.

It was particularly irksome after the first scene of the episode featured a Buffy Speech concerning how the potentials didn’t possess any actual Slayer gifts yet. They don’t have super strength, healing, speed, durability… anything. So how is this different from the Cruciamentum she was so against in Season Three? Not to mention, at that time she was 18 with three years of full Slayer experience. These girls are 15 with no experience. Unfair, Buffy. Unfair.

Favorite Moment: Xander shows Dawn he knows just how she feels and addresses his own position within the Scoobies for the last seven years. As he points out, even Oz could work the powerful mojo once a month. Xander’s been nothing but human the whole time and that’s been hard. But it’s good and worth it and it makes both himself and Dawn extraordinary people for going on in the face of impossible situations.

The Bottom Line: The episode benefits from slowing down and focusing on Dawn and Amanda. Despite my issues with the character motivations, I found myself engaged and interested. But there were still quite a few issues present with the decision making of our main characters that left a sour taste after the credits rolled. I don’t know if I can take this as a ray of hope for the future or not.

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Comments

  • Finally a Dawn episode where I don't find her annoying and can actually tolerate her.

    This episode has 2 of my favorite moments of the series. The first one being Clem freaking out the Potentials with his scary-face routine. Very Beetlejuice. Random moment in the episode but still pretty funny.
    The second is Xander's talk with Dawn at the end. Xander and Dawn are the same. They are surrounded by Slayers, Witches, Vampires and ex-demons but they are the ones who have nothing special about them except for their heart and loyalty and that is what makes them special. Xander doesn't do much in this episode but that speech totally makes up for it.

    A little thing bothered me about Buffy and Spike training the Potentials. They decide to leave them alone in a vampire's crypt so they can tap into their Slayer power. What if the plan had backfired and the vampire had killed a couple of them? Sure they outnumbered the vampire 5-1 but it was still wasn't very logical.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Andrew the geek, 17/01/2014 7:50pm (4 years ago)

  • Xander’s talk with Dawn at the end. This is not just my favorite moment of Buffy, but it’s the one that hits me the most. The reason is it is Xander assuring Dawn that her selfless actions and importance are not only noticed but deemed “extraordinary.” Take Xander, he started out in the first season as a selfish boy who was oblivious to the fact that Buffy didn’t love him romantically. Now seven years later he has seamlessly transformed into a man who puts the ones he cares about above his own interest and takes the time to notice and assure them that they are special. Now there is Dawn. I always liked Xander, Dawn not so much. She was winy and self-centered. This season though she has taken a backseat to her own desires and tried to just be there for Buffy and a greater good. What Dawn does after Xander is done talking to her is near perfect. Her face shows how grateful and appreciative she is. She then compliments Xander on his special quality and goes right back to work. (Just realized in “Same Time, Same Place” Dawn teased Xander when he mentioned that he saved the world. She might regret that moment now.)
    The fact that my favorite Buffy moment and one of the most heartwarming moments I’ve seen on TV takes place in a meh episode of an alright season makes me smile.

    Posted by Jarrid, 14/01/2014 2:37am (4 years ago)

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