SPIKE: I had a... muscle cramp. Buffy was, uh, helping.A trifling episode that served as a budget-saver because most of the action didn't leave the Summers residence, when Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) is tricked by vengeance demon Halfreck (Kali Rocha), posing as a school guidance counsellor, into wishing her friends would stop leaving her—et voila! During Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) birthday party, the guests find themselves unable to leave the house—which is a huge problem when a demon Buffy mistakenly thinks she killed returns to life and attack the revellers.
TARA: A muscle cramp? In your... pants?
There isn't much to say about "OLDER AND FAR AWAY", as it was a largely generic hour that doesn't have much bearing on the season as a whole. I actually found it slightly odd that Dawn wishes everyone would stop leaving her, as I've never got the impression she feels isolated or easily discarded before now. The characters actually spend most of their time rescuing her, don't they? Throwing in a scene where Dawn's friends evade going shopping with her, in this one episode, doesn't mean I'll suddenly accept this is a longstanding issue.
The reveal that Dawn's a kleptomaniac is certainly interesting, although season 6's decision to toughen the Scoobies by giving most of them big character flaws (Buffy's sickened by her own sexual appetites, Willow's magic became a dangerous addiction) is a bit much. I see what's intended, but the show doesn't handle that stuff well—perhaps because Buffy the Vampire Slayer still feels like it's the same show from its shallower high school era (season 1-3), only now the characters are supposedly growing up. The balance isn’t working for me. One week there's a more mature hour that works surprisingly well (usually when a few of the resolutely sillier characters are marginalised), but then we have the desperately ridiculous Trio as the year's geeky villains. If the season wanted to go darker, pushing the gang into adult life, why not echo that with a villain to match?
I'd actually love to see a more grown-up version of BtVS, but the evidence so far is the writers can't bridge the gap between the old ways and this new way. And the actors don't always seem up to the challenge of making their characters feel deep and fascinating.
written by Michael Gershman | directed by Drew Z. Greenberg | 12 February 2002 | UPN
SAM: You're like Santa Claus, or Buddha, or something.I'm not part of the Riley (Matt Blucas) hate mob, so when it became obvious he'd be returning in "AS YOU WERE" I was looking forward to seeing what he's been up to, since flying away in a helicopter the moment Buffy realised she loved him. Unfortunately, after a promising start—with Riley appearing at the Doublemeat Palace to recruit Buffy in his hunt for a monster—this story just fizzled for me. The idea that Riley's life has moved on, while Buffy's has stagnated, was quite good, but it was a shame Riley's wife, Sam (Ivana Miličević), was a charisma vacuum. Miličević and Blucas were terrible together and didn't convince me they were in a new and exciting relationship. And the whole hour gave more fuel to the infuriating storyline of Buffy giving Spike (James Marsters) the runaround—one minute she's convinced he's the perfect lover for a woman like her, the next he's a terrible addiction and someone she feels dirty about sleeping with. I'm just glad "As You Were" at least ended the whole thing, because the writers clearly had no idea what they were doing. It could have been great, but they let a promising idea die through repetition of Buffy's seesawing desires.
BUFFY: Fat and jolly?
The basic idea behind this episode, of having someone from your past re-enter your life and force you reevaluate your current situation, deserved better than the story Doug Petrie came up with to hang it around. There were a few nice moments (such as Riley's speech about Buffy's awesomeness, or the fact the story at least took us out of Sunnydale's dull environs to a huge dam), but "As You Were" was a bad execution of good intentions. Still, at least a loose thread with Riley's been tied up, Buffy's self-esteem's on the rise, Spike categorically knows where he stands with The Slayer, and I trust we'll never get to see soldier Sam ever again.
written & directed by Doug Petrie | 26 February 2002 | UPN