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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 5 - Selfless

15 April 2014

D'Hoffryn the pimp

Synopsis: Anya grants a humiliated girls wish and slaughters a whole Frat house. Willow discovers the bodies and Buffy decides to kill Anya despite Xander's protests. Willow talks to D'Hoffryn who steps in to offer Anya a choice. In flashback we see Anya becoming a Vengeance Demon, revelling in her work and then singing of her love for being Xander's wife.

The Good: The main plot was very strong. The Frat house slaughter was suitably horrific to bring Anya's story to the conclusion it's been calling for since she became a demon again.

I really liked the way Willow stepped in and was able to access her power but can't stop the dark behaviour that accompanies it. It frames her struggle nicely and forced her to seek another way to help. Her intervention was especially relevant given how her recent behaviour mirrors Anya's.

The argument that Buffy and Xander had was another strong moment. If you are going to talk about life or death morality than Angel and Spike were always likely to come up in the discussion and Buffy had good answers to Xander's questions. However it was cathartic to hear him point out the obvious, that Buffy doesn't like Anya nearly as much as Willow, Spike or Angel and so to some extent was likely to cut her less slack.

The initial burst of the fight scene between Anya and Buffy was excellent. Intensely staged and fast paced it led up to Anya getting stabbed very nicely. I'm not a fan of the "oh didn't you know this particular demon could survive that" moment. However I thought once D'Hoffryn showed up the story got back on track. Anya's conscience forces her to ask for her actions to be taken back. And despite his polite demeanour D'Hoffryn reveals himself to be the evil pimp he really is and kills Halfrek to punish Anya and then casts her out.

The Bad: I thought the flashbacks were terrible. The old school film effects used to show us Anya's human life were beneath the standards the show has set itself. The endless references to the fate of Anya and Olaf were annoying and contributed to poor sketch-comedy-style dialogue that made her turn to vengeance seem like a joke. Similar but less dramatic problems plagued the other flashbacks including an uninspiring song that makes you even happier that Joss Whedon spent so long on "Once More with Feeling."

I wasn't happy with the idea that Anya had always been very literal. It always came across as her adaption to human life after being a demon for so long. To present her as having been a medieval pedant made it clear to me that they've never really given Anya's character more than a seconds thought. And really that's the point of the story they create for her. She has always latched onto the thing in front of her; be it Olaf, Vengeance of Xander and defined herself in relation to that. That's not a character description it's an acknowledgement of failure by the writers who shoved her into Cordelia's shoes without giving her more to work with.

The Unknown: I guess now the question is will we see Anya much? Will she work toward becoming someone? Will the writers actually focus on that? Will we care?

Finally Buffy discovers that Willow didn't say "Kick his ass" in "Becoming." Will that actually be followed up or was it just a nod toward the hardcore fans?

Buffy tells Spike to leave the basement but where does she think he should go?

Best Moment: The fight between Buffy and Anya was very well staged and dramatic.

The Bottom Line: The writers did well in the present and badly in the past. 

 

Cordia's Second Look
Selfless
Season 7, Episode 5

Original airing: 10/22/2002

My Rating: 68

The Good: It’s nice to see Anya’s backstory, finally. The episode did a good job of tying in what we know about her and twisting her from her original human character. She used to be selfless, but still literal and awkward. She was driven to a lot of her current characteristics by being a societal outcast.

I really liked how the flashbacks showed her tendency to define herself by her situation, instead of finding internal strength and understanding. It’s a sad state, but it feels true for her character.

Willow’s story was blended wonderfully with Anya’s. Having Willow on campus to spot Anya at the frat house worked really well. And I thought Willow approaching Anya at her apartment was a nice connection to Anya and Willow’s scenes in Same Time, Same Place (S7E3) where they had a bit of an understanding. It felt reasonable for Willow to try and help Anya first, before taking her knowledge to Buffy. Willow knows exactly what it’s like to be lost and out of control.

Buffy’s determination to kill Anya led to a great fight scene at the frat. It had a nice punch when Buffy stabbed Anya through the heart and I really liked when Xander tackled Buffy to keep her from doing it again.

D’Hoffryn’s scenes were some of my favorites. His characterization as a father figure to his vengeance demons was hammered home in his first two scenes. He invites Aud to join his “family” and he seems to drop his façade when Willow summons him. But his vile trick on Anya at the frat shows his true nature. He’s in it for the pain and nothing else. It was quite sad to see a happy, smiling Halfrek be suddenly sacrificed for Anya’s sins.

Finally, Spike’s scene was quite interesting. I’m quite curious if his white-clothed Buffy visitor is all in his head, from the Hellmouth, or related to the shape-shifting creature in Lessons (S7E1).

The Bad: I liked Willow’s black-eyed moment and her fearful reaction to it, but it felt marginalized when she turned around and cast a spell to summon D’Hoffryn. She just turned down using magic to help Buffy stop Anya because she indicated she was scared. Then she ran off to do a spell the second she was alone. I couldn’t tell if she was being deceitful in the vein of season six (ala Tabula Rasa S6E8) or if the writers just didn’t think that bit through.

I was disappointed in the final scene between Anya and Xander. Neither of them really came out and said what they needed to say. It felt unfinished and awkward.

Favorite Moment: I really enjoyed the reminder that Willow left England early. The small moment where she taps her magic to save herself and the college girl is all it takes for her personality change to come on. It shows she still has a lot of work to do on herself.

The Bottom Line: I enjoyed finally seeing Anya’s backstory. I thought the writers did a nice job of folding our current knowledge into the scenes and pointing out that Anya truly is a lost soul. But there was a spark missing from this episode that kept it from being great. I’m not sure exactly why I feel a bit flat and let down, but I’m guessing it has to do with my severe dislike of the final scene.

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Comments

  • It's always bothered me that D'Hoffryn was portrayed vaguely as a pimp and the women who were vengeance-demons as prostitutes (Anya's comment to D'Hoffryn after he killed Halfrek: "But she was yours.") This remark, and the way that D'Hoffryn approached Willow about becoming a vengeance demon seemed to me like "grooming behaviors typical of those attempting to lure young women into prostitution. I realize that there's a twist in the situation with the vengeance demons because it's women who are in-fact, offering their "services" to other women but the fact that D'Hoffryn seemed to have so much control over the women who "worked" for him bothers me.

    Otherwise, I have no problem with this episode and I actually find it to be rather entertaining and they show the evolution of Buffy as the slayer and as an independent adult.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Cayte, 15/04/2014 5:09am (3 years ago)

  • I very much liked the opening scene between Aud and Olaf; to have actually bothered with authentic dialect with subtitles, instead of just using spoken English, was a fantastic touch. Is Anya actually afraid of rabbits, or do they simply bring up painful memories? Was Olaf made into a regular troll, or a troll god, as was suggested in "The Gift"?
    I was moved by the plight of Anya/nka, her being caught between the desire to be loved and the pain of losing love, with none of it overplayed.

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Matt E., 22/11/2013 7:41am (4 years ago)

  • It's nice to finally see the backstory of a character we've gotten to know over the last 4 years although I do wish we had gotten to see more. A flashback to seeing The Ascension she mentioned back in season 3 would have been nice.

    A few questions.
    1. Why is Anya still singing in the flashback? I thought Sweet's spell had worn off after the "Where Do We Go From Here" song?

    2. It appears Anya can physically fight toe to toe with Buffy. Why didn't Anya bring out these fighting moves when dealing with Dark Willow?

    3. In the flashback it shows that Anya loved bunnies. Why didn't they show what caused her to be afraid of them?

    4. Just how powerful do you think D'Hoffryn is? He can turn people into demons, bring dead people back to life, and when he brings up "From beneath you, it devours" he says it like it's no big deal to him and doesn't seem afraid of it.

    5. In flashbacks it shows that she is responsible for the Russian Revolution. Why didn't they show other historical events she was responsible for? More history flashbacks would have been great.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Andrew the Geek, 21/11/2013 5:28pm (4 years ago)

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