This is almost entirely a comedy episode, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Any show needs light and shade, and Buffy is beginning to really excel at the lighter episodes, after some early struggles. The reason the show works so well now as a comedy is the new line-up. Anya is funny, Giles is great as part of any double act or other comedy grouping, and now that he doesn’t have the library he seems to be functioning principally as a comedy character in the fourth season, and Spike is a hilarious addition to the gang, who is making us laugh almost every second he appears on our screens. They even somehow roped Elizabeth Anne Allen in for the shortest cameo appearance imaginable. Amy is literally a visual punchline to a joke, and nothing more. That’s some commitment to making us laugh, right there.
The various scenarios caused by Willow’s misfiring magic are all funny, but Spike and Buffy getting engaged all of a sudden is obviously a work of comedy genius. It’s not so much seeing them all lovey-dovey that is so entertaining (although it’s great fun), but it’s Giles’ reactions that make it work so well. Even when he’s blind, which is a very scary thing to happen to him, he keeps coming out with lines like this, which made me laugh out loud:
“Stop that right now! I can hear the smacking.”
… and his reply to Xander’s stunned reaction to what’s going on (“How? What? How?”) is “three excellent questions”. There are so many funny lines, I could fill a review with them, but instead I think it’s worth mentioning that even an episode like this, which exists principally to make us laugh, can be a pivotal one, because this is the moment we see Willow finally break.
She has been putting a brave face on Oz’s departure, but the removal of his personal possessions finally sends her over the edge into behaviour that harms herself and others. Writer Jane Espenson represents the downward spiral of post-breakup misery very well, with Willow turning to alcohol to dull the pain, and lashing out at her friends, belittling their own issues, particularly poor Xander. She is very unfair to him, dismissing as insignificant his basement-dwelling life (and the academic lives of his friends in comparison have to be a constant reminder of his failure to successfully kick-start an adult life), and causing him to walk away. Having lost her lover, Willow almost tries to lose her friends, channelling grief into anger because it hurts a little bit less that way. But the key moment here is the way she turns to magic to solve her problems, and it backfires horribly. It’s pretty obvious by now that magic is being used in this show as a drugs allegory, and it’s also clear that this is just one more step along a very bad road for Willow, because she’s displaying addictive behaviour, using magic as a crutch to lean on when life gets tough, treating it as a quick fix for problems that simply can’t be fixed without the messy business of allowing time to heal. Perhaps most tellingly, she’s not just ignoring Giles when he raises a concern about her use of magic, she’s biting back aggressively, interpreting his concern as a failure to trust her judgement and treat her like an adult. We are obviously now on a path to something very interesting and very dangerous. Even Anya’s former demon boss is showing an interest in Willow’s abilities, and she has a talisman so she can contact him now. It’s delivered with a healthy dose of comedy, like just about everything that happens in this episode, but it’s still a significant moment, and something of a threshold: Willow is powerful enough to get noticed, and to wreak havoc even without really trying.
With great power comes great responsibility. Willow’s grief after Oz’s departure has shown how the power she can wield is not necessarily in safe hands. Let’s just hope nothing ever really upsets her… RP
The view from the Sunnydale Press…
This season hasn’t had the wow factor that we’ve seen in the previous 2 seasons (I exclude season 1 as it was largely cheesy), but there’s still some merit here. Something Blue, with a title like that, was broadcasting that there would be some element of marriage to the story, but I fully expected it to be a return of Oz. When the truth is revealed, it’s far funnier. In fact, the episode is almost completely a joke to give us the pairing of Spike and Buffy, if not for what Willow is going through. Writer Tracey Forbes gives us more of Willow’s grief and Hannigan again aces it. She nails the performance of a grieving woman who has lost the man of her dreams. If there’s a real message in this one, it’s just that you can’t rush through the feelings of loss. The repeat hint of alcohol being bad feels almost tacked on but the rest of what she goes through is a process and she’s trying to get around it. It’s a little different but when I lost my dad, it would have been wonderful to wave a magic wand to overcome the sorrow. But there’s truth in the idea that you have to go through the process to truly heal. Jim Kirk was right when he said he needs his pain – we all do. It helps define us. Waving it away would prevent healthy growth.
Which brings me to Willow who, I think, is growing. Besides learning that you have to deal with the pain, I think we just saw a jump in her progression. Based on her ability to cast the spell she inadvertently casts, we’re already seeing her become a more powerful magic user. Considering I’ve had to do a 180 on my initial opinion of this series where continuity is concerned, I’m willing to bet this will be the start of more Willow-magic. Even in this episode we get a healthy dose of continuity references. Willow says Xander is a demon magnet and sites the Mantis, the mummy girl and Anya as proof. (Teachers Pet and Inca Mummy Girl, for the first two – the other is still going on!) And what of Amy the rat? Not just that Amy is still a rat but that we get to see Amy for a second when Willow accidentally (and unknowingly) changes her back to human form! And Buffy references the effect beer had on her making her go “1 million years BC”. (Beer Bad) So I have high hopes that the token Willow receives is the start of something good.
And that in turn brings me to the humor because the Demon was outstanding. When Willow turns him down, his “oh well” was about the funniest thing in the episode. The hilarity of Buffy/Spike is more comedic in concept. Giles makes it better with his comments, but the laugh out loud line, for me, was “oh well!”. Well, that and the visual of Willow’s t-shirt which says “Speak no evil”, considering that’s exactly what she does in this story. The only other thing worthy of mention is Buffy’s name. I was delighted that this was addressed. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with taking this show seriously because of the name of the main character. Now, having made it into season 4, I see the folly of my ways, but it’s still a silly name and I’m glad Spike addressed it.
Something Blue was hardly a favorite but it has moments of lightheartedness that make up for a lot. I will be ok with it if it advances the characters. I also hope to see Spike becoming a member of the Scooby Gang. Weirdly, it works. But then, that’s just about everything with this show so far, isn’t it? ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Hush