Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Surprise

I’m not a fan of dream sequences in drama because they often seem like a cheat, an excuse for directors, writers and actors to have a bit of fun for the sake of something that ultimately doesn’t count for anything. The world of Buffy provides us with an exception to that rule, because Buffy’s dreams can be prophetic, so she could be witnessing a sneak preview of what her future holds. The problem is how she can figure out what matters and what doesn’t. As Angel points out, all dreams are not prophesies, as illustrated amusingly by Buffy’s admission that her other dream the same night was about her and Giles opening an office supplies shop together. When Joyce repeats verbatim a line from Buffy’s dream and a cup smashes, it looks like her worries are coming true, but then the problem is as intricate as figuring out what parts of an individual dream mean something, unless we are going to see Willow hanging out with a monkey at the Bronze any time soon. So Angel getting killed by Drusilla might or might not mean something, but at the very least it’s a sign that she is a troubling presence for Buffy.

It’s not hard to understand why that might be. Drusilla is not much more of a physical threat than any other vampire. After all, Spike has already given up on being able to defeat Buffy just by fighting her, and Drusilla offers a similar prospect. But that’s not the point. Drusilla represents the horrors of Angel’s past, and at the moment Buffy is about to embark on a physical relationship with him, Drusilla is a walking, talking cautionary tale of how Angel’s love has manifested itself before. Of course, love isn’t quite the right word. Drusilla was an obsession, but that’s the dark side of the same coin.

Meanwhile, there is a general sense of relationships heading for a crisis or at least some kind of a change. Xander is starting to realise just how bad his emotionless fumblings with Cordelia are for his self esteem. She is still somebody who is embarrassed to be seen with him, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. There also surely cannot be a rosy future for Giles and Jenny, when it is revealed that she has been keeping a huge secret from him and everyone else. Oz and Willow provide a happy contrast, at the start of their relationship journey, with Alyson Hannigan playing her role with an innocent joy that is heart-warming to watch.

“I’m going to ask you to go out with me tomorrow night, and I’m kind of nervous about it actually. It’s interesting.”
“Oh, well if it helps at all, I’m going to say yes.”
“Yeah, it helps. It creates a comfort zone.”
“Do you want to go out with me tomorrow night?”
“Oh, I can’t.”

They are the cutest couple ever, and funny as well. And then we have their polar opposite, Spike and Drusilla, with Spike now confined to a wheelchair and scarred from the fire, while Drusilla swaggers around, and yet Spike is still trying to appease and please her. She still hovers on the verge of a psychotic breakdown, her twisted happiness dependent on the birthday present of an apocalypse, which is the potential offered by the reassembly of the Judge. Here again, we surely have hints of a relationship built on shaky foundations, almost as much as Xander and Cordelia. Dru is all about the apocalypse, while Spike shows no respect for the Judge’s ancient power and just wants to have fun. So far, his obsession with Dru has crippled him. How much more will he suffer for her?

But the focus is ultimately on Buffy and Angel, who finally consummate their relationship after endless tedious scenes of them locking lips. We are about to explore a fundamental relationship question in the most spectacular way possible: will they be the same people in the morning?   RP

The view from the Sunnydale Press…

Well let me tell you, I was surprised by this episode.  We had two really strong episodes in a row but this episode came along and gave me a ton of tedium.  Or should I say a “tongue” of tedium?  I mean, I get it, the show is good at looking at real life issues teens face and a crush is a big thing for a teenager.  But did we need to watch Buffy and Angel making out to that extent?  What was this, Torchwood?

What really bugged me is how well this started.  That nightmare sequence was right out of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, complete with slow, jazzy Julie Cruise music.  There’s also the major victory of Oz seeing his first vampire death, which was handled brilliantly.  Let’s face it, Seth Green is a fun actor and he pulls off Oz’s casual surprise really well.  But my head actually tries to unscrew from my neck and run away sometimes.  Let me go over some of the things that take me out of a good story and ruin Buffy’s 17th birthday party…

First, watching Buffy and Angel make out for a full third of the episode was boring.  I couldn’t help but wonder how many takes that took and if they were enjoying it.  How awkward must that be to film??  Then we have Buffy telling the team that she thinks Drusilla is still alive because “no body was found”.  Now if, in this same episode, we didn’t see a vampire pop and turn to dust, I might have overlooked it, forgotten in an interesting story, but if Dru is dead, what body would be found anyway???  Does Buffy typically go back after each episode and collect the dust and weigh it to see if it amounts to the vampire she killed?  I mean, no body being found should be a good sign for her.  Giles then says he’ll “read up on” Drusilla.  Again, I go back to a former complaint: this guy has the reference works of all mankind in the school.  The Library of Alexandria looks up to The Library of Sunnydale!  I’m interviewing people for a job; I want Giles library.  I wish I could tell my manager: “Let me do some reading up on Joe Josephson to see if he’s a good fit for the team!”  You know why I can’t?  Because books don’t exist that tell us about every person throughout history, ever!  But in Sunnydale, Giles does find his book!

Phew, that’s it?  NOPE!  I just put a paragraph break to give the reader a breather!  Buffy gets her vampire slaying backside handed to her almost every episode, but she gets a scratch on her back and Angel needs to provide a little TLC to make it better?  I have a cut worse than that on my finger and it hurts when I type; you don’t see me stopping do you?  Somehow Buffy knows that ½” cut is really ruining her day by being on her back.  And what about Jenny Calendar?  We’ve had the better part of 2 season to get to know her and now they decide, “hey, she’s really a gypsy from a family that needs to hurt Angel for some reason, even if it means killing Buffy.”  After everything she’s been through and her ordeal with Giles, she actually has a secret alter-ego???  Jenny has had plenty of time to kill Buffy over the last 2 seasons but it’s so evident that this was a last minute idea that I lost any hope of seeing a story arc akin to those of Babylon 5!  I bet next week we will learn that Willow is actually a covert agent for the Eskimo secret service, and that was why she wore that parka a few episodes ago.  The ESS believe the walruses are hunting the eggmen from the last episode and send top secret Willow, code named The Red Nerd, to find out what’s really going on, goo goo g’joob!  Come on!!!!  And how did Buffy’s dream not only have her find Drue and Spike so easily, but walk in, watch from above and then not see the two swarms approaching them from either side??  Scooby Doo has more logic to it!

Even Brian Thompson, as Buffy’s version of Doctor Who’s The Destroyer (Battlefield) added nothing.  The whole idea of him was utter nonsense.  He’s dispatched by a falling TV.  Never mind that, he’s buried in boxes that were based on Voltron: put them together and they form the mighty morphin’ power Judge!  No, this show has been on a roll so the biggest surprise I got was that this episode was SO BAD!  I realize we’re not done with the story but even the ending has me whimpering in a corner.  Buffy has woken from sleep at the idea of a bump in the night, but Angel screaming during a particularly stormy night and Buffy sleeps through it?  What woke Angel anyway?  Was it the sudden realization that his room has a window in it for the morning sunlight to come through?   (That just hit me when I was typing this!  I remembered the rain off the window!  I don’t know if it’s better or worse that I missed this idea while watching it!)

The only part I really liked was Willow’s concern that Oz might be too old for her being one year her senior.  To alleviate her concern, Buffy says that her “boyfriend had a bicentennial!”  But is that enough to say it saved the episode for me?  No.  Even the cast, typically so charismatic and likeable, can’t save this one.  I hope this isn’t what’s in store for the future.  I wanted to see the series grow into something special.   Maybe that was only happening when Buffy was 16; now she’s 17.  Is our only hope for these episode to be found in her days of innocence?   ML

Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Innocence

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Surprise

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The older examples of dream sequences in TV drama, like yesterday’s review of The Twilight Zone: King Nine Will Not Return, may have been easier to take in for their time. Around Buffy’s time, it’s considerable how they might become wearisome. I don’t see dreams as prophetic either. It can be healthier to see them as cautionary messages at least without anything being necessarily fixed. So how far such genres can still go in this generation with dream sequences may be debatable. But it can take a most subjective understanding of dreams to find something of value in such a story. As for how outgrowing the days of innocence can affect the story value for Buffy and her team, I may have adapted to that as I did to Beverly Hills 90210. Youth can be a flexible concept and a show of such youthfully adventurous dynamics like Buffy can be beneficial in that sense. Thanks for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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