Friday, 4 July 2014

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 5.18 & 5.19 – 'Intervention' & 'Tough Love'

Friday, 4 July 2014
XANDER: No one is judging you. It's understandable. Spike is strong and mysterious and sort of compact but well-muscled.
BUFFY: I am not having sex with Spike, but I'm starting to think that you might be.
I didn't like the storyline with Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) being taken into the desert by Giles (Anthony Head), because she's feeling unsure about the impact of her Slaying duties on her emotional well-being, because it felt like a lazy way to have a mystical First Slayer (Sharon Ferguson) appear and deliver some finale-baiting mysticism about Buffy's "gift" being "death". It was good to see two characters out of Sunnydale and somewhere more visually appealing than usual (although stray crew members kept wandering into shot on my 16:9 ratio DVD), but it lacked enough substance in this case.

However, there was a lot of entertainment and laughs to be found in INTERVENTION (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's latest plot involving a lead character's doppelgänger). This time the duplicate was Spike's (James Marsters) newly-manufacturer 'Buffybot', programmed to fulfil his sexual desires for the real deal. The show just about made this tasteful, but there were a few instances where it was a little uncomfortable to watch Spike fool around with the world's greatest sex toy. Still, it enabled Sarah Michelle Gellar the opportunity to play a Stepford Wife and the Buffybot's encounters with her circle of friends was very amusing, as the robo-Slayer could only interact using limited biographical information and a fixed smile.

I also enjoyed how Glory's (Clare Kramer) storyline intersected with Spike's, when her minions came to the wrong conclusion that the Key-in-human-form must be the blonde vampire "Buffy" is besotted with. It was probably the best use of Glory for quite some time, and the sequence where Spike was tortured for the information about the real Key's whereabouts worked very well—with him managing to escape using that sharp tongue of his.

But the best scene was saved for the end, with Spike's embarrassing Buffybot now exposed and him returned to his crypt to slowly heal from the wounds inflicted by Glory's torture. It was a bit obvious the returning 'Buffybot' was the real Buffy playing a trick, but the intention of the scene wasn't spoiled. Spike's been trying to impress Buffy all season with altruistic acts, which have all felt fake or part of a game-plan, to prove he can be as noble as her ex-boyfriend Angel, but his refusal to let Glory learn that Dawn's (Michelle Trachtenberg) the Key was the real deal. And as a reward, he received a kiss from the real Buffy and an acknowledgement that his actions won't be forgotten. It was a very touching moment between the two, and I hope it signals a strengthening of their relationship. Spike may have his flaws and ulterior motives, but he's a decent enough person thanks to that behaviour-modifying chip in his brain.

written by Jane Espenson | directed by Michael Gershman | 24 April 2001

GLORY: Did anybody order an apocalypse?
Finally, Glory's interminable search for The Key comes to an end with TOUGH LOVE, almost by accident. If there's been one failing of this fifth season it's how the Big Bad's arc has played out, because the mystery of Dawn was perhaps revealed too early to viewers. This means we've been several steps ahead of the Big Bad, so it's been very hard to take Glory seriously. She was introduced as a super-strong and super-sassy babe, and it was exciting to learn she's actually a powerful goddess with more power than vampires and Slayers, but a lot of that's been neutered because her personality's so vapid and she hangs around with those silly monk-like minions of hers. I know BtVS is largely a comedy, but will this show ever deliver a frightening recurring villain

This was an hour of noble intentions, but poor execution. I've been waiting for an episode dealing with Buffy essentially rising to the challenge of being a surrogate mother to her younger sister, but it was tackled here in a pretty boring way. Dawn's a big of a brat who needs discipline, and Buffy doesn't have the backbone to deliver it. Blah, blah.

A big thing happened between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson), too, with Glory once again getting bad intel on the Key's identity and targeting Tara. This led to Willow's girlfriend having her mind, uh, fiddled with, resulting in Tara becoming the latest Sunnydale loony. And while it's certainly a good thing to be tackling mental health on the show, with Willow now becoming nursemaid to her lover... there was just something about the story that felt very weak to me. Maybe it's because I don't rate Amber Benson as an actress. Or that Willow's strength of feeling for Tara always seems very exaggerated somehow. I don't actually feel this deep connection between the actresses, no matter how many times the scripts give them gooey lines of conversation. There was just something a little funny about seeing Willow end up spoon-feeding Tara jelly, seemingly okay with the possibility her "girl" may never get better. I mean, yeah, it's supposed to be heart-warming... but it also smacks of being very unrealistic and, therefore, a bit sappy and immature.

But hey, I guess it was fun seeing Willow channel Jean Grey in Glory's apartment, unleashing powerful spells nobody knew she had before. (I guess Xander was glimpses reading an X-Men comic to foreshadow Willow's Dark Phoenix moment?) I did wonder why Willow's never demonstrated anything close to those powers before now, or how a relatively amateur witch can successful tussle with an ancient goddess without being swatted dead. Of course, in general, BtVS always has a tough time explaining why most of the Big Bag's find it such a struggle to just kill Buffy and her gang while they sleep.

Oh, and I had no clue what's going on with Ben (Charlie Weber) the hospital porter. At first, I assumed Glory was posing as Ben to try and find out information about the Key, but it seems they actually share the same body? Maybe it's just me, but that hasn't been explained adequately on the show. It just seems unnecessarily confusing, too—or maybe Ben is Glory's Achilles Heel?

written by Rebecca Rand Kirschner | directed by David Grossman | 1 May 2001