Thursday, 30 April 2015

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 6.10 & 6.11 – 'Wrecked' & 'Gone'

Thursday, 30 April 2015
BUFFY: Wil, there's nothing wrong with you. You don't need magic to be special.
WILLOW: Don't I? I mean, Buffy, who was I? Just some girl. Tara didn't even know that girl.
The ruination of Willow (Alyson Hannigan) has been building for awhile now, as she's grown so beholden to her magical abilities. It's become a daily crutch and the root cause of her breakup with Tara (Amber Benson), but in "WRECKED" writer Marti Noxon equates magic to drug abuse. This worked surprisingly well, although it perhaps would've worked even better if Willow's drug-specific arc had been spread out over more hours.

Willow's enjoying nights of magical hedonism with new acolyte Amy (Elizabeth Anne Allen), where she casts spells with cheerful abandon to make her forget the pain of losing her girlfriend. Things take a turn for the worse when she's introduced to an invisible den where a warlock called Rack (Jeff Kober) resides; a practitioner whose bestowed magical energy lasts days, without the need for recovery time. Basically, he's an unpleasant drug lord with the best product on the market, and Willow soon finds herself enjoying the 'top ups' Rack gives her—which are so potent she levitates to the ceiling and hallucinates strange, terrifying visions. Her 'trips' ultimately leave her feeling empty the next day (there was a weird scene where Willow enchanted some of Tara's clothes to inflate to near-human form and snuggle up to), but like all anti-drugs messages she soon can't function without her next fix.

The allegories of this episode weren't subtle, that's for sure, but they worked and gave Alyson Hannigan good material to play. The climax where she almost got Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) killed, after unwittingly conjuring a hideous demon into existence that pursued them both one night, was especially good—particularly in the moments where Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Spike (James Marsters) arrived to save Dawn, and Willow was left in tears over her dangerous actions.

The main subplot also had some mild thematic crossover, as Buffy's now-sexual relationship with Spike was vaguely equated to a drug—in the sense sex with her erstwhile nemesis is functioning as an irresistible escape from her own identity. That was quite interesting, and I'm enjoying the plausibility of how Buffy's choosing to deal with her feelings for Spike—who understandable feels used and abused by the Slayer, but is nevertheless completely under her spell.

"Wrecked" ends with Willow essentially going 'cold turkey' from witchcraft (her bedroom surrounded by garlic with Buffy keeping vigil with a cross), but considering how useful magic's been in defeating recent enemies I'm not sure how this will play out. Unless the writers are aiming to reverse Willow back into being a geek (slotting into the vacant bookworm role that Giles covered), and it's the more level-headed Tara who'll be flexing the magic muscles. Mind you, magic's suddenly been demonised by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so is this the end of its involvement entirely? Maybe it was becoming too much of a narrative shortcut.

Overall, while this hour was a little obvious in its thinking, and Willow's descent into addiction could have played out a bit longer, the issues it raised were good to see being tackled in a genre show with a large teenage fanbase, and Hannigan's always on great form when she's asked to become an emotional mess. (Incidentally, the hour was dedicated to J.D Peralta, who was Noxon's assistant at the time and died of cancer a month before this episode aired.)


written by Marti Noxon • directed by David Solomon • 27 November 2001 • UPN

XANDER: Good Godfrey Cambridge, Spike! You still trying to mack on Buffy? Wake up already. Never gonna happen. Only a complete loser would ever hook up with you. Well, unless she's a simpleton like Harmony or a--or a nut sack like Druscilla...
You quite often get episodes like "GONE", that aren't very good but do fairly important things for the season to come. In this case, Buffy finally gets to meet her 'nemesiseses' (sic)—the bumbling Trio of Jonathan (Danny Strong), Warren (Adam Busch) and Andrew (Tom Lenk)—and, inevitably, is far from impressed after their scuffle in a Sunnydale arcade. And while that was played for laughs, in an hour that was mainly concerned with humour, I find it worrying that we're halfway through the season and there's absolutely no sign of jeopardy or threat. Unless we're supposed to seriously care that social worker Doris Kroeger (Susan Ruttan) may relinquish Buffy's guardianship of her sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg)?

What worked well enough was the continuation of the idea Willow's going through a 'magical clearance', and that Buffy's trying to grow up (symbolically cropping her "Goldlilocks" hairdo) and, after getting accidentally zapped into invisibility by the Trio, finds she can embrace her awkward sexual relationship with Spike only when her friends can't see what she's up to. For all the problems I've having with season 6, I do rather enjoy the Buffy/Spike scenes and think the show's doing a great job dramatizing how difficult it is for Buffy to announce they're seeing each other. Xander (Nicholas Brendan) immediately jumping to the conclusion that Spike was imposing himself on Buffy in her kitchen, when they were actually in a mutual clinch was very good.

And "Gone" had some amusing scenes—particularly when Xander, again, walking in on Buffy and Spike in a compromising position in the latter's bed, and because Buffy was invisible assumed that Spike was practising some moves on thin air. Or "exercising" as Spike claimed. The bit of visual comedy when the Trio tried to vanish in a literal puff of smoke, only for it to quicky clear and be seen having difficult leaving through a nearby door, was also a laugh-out-loud moment. But still, especially coming from David Fury (one of the show's best writers), "Gone" was rarely anything more than mid-season filler. I still find the Trio incredibly annoying as characters, and so completely nonthreatening they feel like a complete waste of time. They're also dumb. In this episode, they successfully turn Buffy invisible, doomed to evaporate into nothingness, and rather than sit back and claim an easy victory... they can't resist overcomplicating matters, setting themselves up for failure.


written & directed by David Fury • 8 January 2002 • UPN