PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on television spoiler-free ... good luck with that.

REVIEW ARCHIVES

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ritual Sacrifice with Pie



Episode 4.8: Pangs. Original Airdate 11.23.99


"On Thanksgiving, Buffy encounters the spirit of a Native American warrior whose people were wiped out by settlers."




Zelda's Thoughts:


  • "Why don't you just go back where you came from? Things were great before you came!" Uh ... huh? She's been here four years? Did he mean campus? Because that only sprang into existence over the summer? I really don't understand this line except as a heavy-handed nod toward one of the themes of the episode.
  • Xander's arms do look pretty good in that tank top.
  • So ... I know our next episode is Something Blue, where we deal directly with Willow's heartbreak again, and we dealt with it last week in The Initiative but it seems to be on hold this week while we take a break for Thanksgiving. I'd say if they weren't doing the holiday ep, Something Blue would have naturally come after The Initiative instead of this. The one nod we get toward it is when she yells at Angel for leaving for Buffy's "own good."
  • Ugh. Angel. I'm so done with you, Angel. blah blah blah stalking from the bushes blah blah blah
  • aww hey Willow still has her Dingoes poster up. That's interesting.
  • It's cute how they explain away all the parents' absence for Thanksgiving - Joyce is off visiting Aunt Contrivance, Willow's mom is against it on principle, and Xander's family sucks.
  • "We could not invite Anya." That was kind of unnecessarily mean, Willow. I mean, I get you're still holding a grudge from Doppelgangland, but like ... she's dating your best friend. Then again, Xander was always a shit about Angel, so maybe that's just the semi-gross culture of their friendship.
  • Awww Xander has funny syphilis.
  • Emma Caulfield has such amazing delivery. See!! Even though she's awkward and lacking in tact (being the new Cordelia and all - hey, Xander has a type!), she loves Xander and when he's sick, her instinct is to take care of him, not to run away.
  • I like that for a hot second, when the Chumash spirit shows up, the scientist lady looks kind of turned on, before he kills her.
  • You know what's cute? If you ask anyone in the audience, the Chumash spirit is the A plot. But were you to ask Buffy, she'd say making Thanksgiving dinner was the A plot and the Chumash stuff was background.
  • So has Buffy always been able to sense Angel like this? Is it a result of her vampy sense? Or some deeper connection from that time he drank her blood?
  • Seriously, it makes no sense for Angel to be in this episode. Like no sense. He does NOTHING useful, he just lurks and talks to everyone except her. Was the entire point just to have him come over to set up the (admittedly amazing) Angel episode I Will Remember You? Yeah, that's the reasoning I'm going with. It could have been any episode, they woulda just had him lurk somewhere. He adds so little anything to this episode.
  • Snerk. Bereft, blanket-clad Spike watches through a window at a vamp family enjoying a meal together.
  • I do like Willow's reaction to Angel. "You're evil!"
  • Aw Harmony standing up to Spike for his shitty boyfriend behavior.
  • Also HA to his reaction to her wielding a stake. "You had that in our bed? Do you know dangerous that is?"
  • "Still trying not to refer to you lot as bloody colonials."
  • What the hell's a ricer? This, Apparently
  • Ew, peas are gross.
  • "I like mushy peas." Yeah apparently mushy peas are a British thing and I DO NOT GET IT. THIS IS WHY WE SECEDED YO.
  • "I think perhaps we won't help the angry spirit with his rape and pillage and murder."
  • "That's not terribly stealthy of him." // "He's lost his edge." And here we have proof that once Angel got his own show, everyone had free reign to mock him forever and I approve of this.
  • "Xander? You look like death." // "Are you okay?" // "You didn't bring rolls?" I stand by my Dinner As A-Plot theory.
  • On the plus side, Willow's fluffy sweater this week is more Big Bird colored than pink.
  • "Sarcasm accomplishes nothing, Giles." // "Sort of an end in itself." Giles, once again proving he is my spirit animal.
  • "He's a vengeance demon! You don't talk to vengeance demons; you kill them." Oh damn, don't say that in front of Anya.
  • Poor Buffy. Everyone is fighting. She just wants foods and family.
  • "Buffy, Xander is in real danger. Are you sure the solution is pie?" Oh Giles, the solution is always pie. Or cake. Yeah, strike that, the solution is totally cake. And ice cream.
  • Spike, the slowest-burning vampire since ... other Spike.
  • I can't decide who looks grosser right now, Spike or Xander.
  • "So you're saying you haven't murdered anybody lately? Let's be best pals!" Apparently that's the writers' plan. I mean, I'm not complaining much, because I love Spike and I love his arc, but this is a bit contrivey, guys.
  • Tied up Spike is pretty damn funny, though. I'm going to enjoy him as Giles's tenant.
  • "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it."
  • So Joss talked somewhere about how they couldn't figure out what to do with Spike once they made him a regular, and the original plan was to make him the new Cordelia, the one who said "you guys are being really stupid and I'm not afraid to tell you." And that's super clear in this episode with Spike's telling them how dumb they are about fighting (or not fighting) the Chumash spirit. What they didn't realize, of course, is that Anya was the new Cordelia and was way better at it. Spike's funny and awesome, but he ain't Cordelia.
  • "Do you know what else has blood in it? Blood."
  • Seriously, Spike all tied up and impaled with arrows during the fight is never not funny.
  • But also TINIEST HEART EVER. Couple this with his lack of burning, and the only vampire less destructible is Angel.
  • "We're under siege now, actually, thank you."
  • Thanks, show, for not showing the actual arrow removal from Buffy's arm. Considering I got tricked into watching some torture porn last night, I'm super grateful.
  • With all the head bashing Giles is receiving, I'm impressed he's still conscious.
  • Wow Buffy is fighting a giant stuffed animal. I mean totally realistic bear.
  • "An entire siege, you'd think one of you would bleed a little." Just a reminder that Spike is still evil, even if funny and all tied up.
  • NO XANDER DON'T oops too late now Buffy knows Angel came back.

Daniel's Thoughts:


  • Buffy’s being watched! It’s Angel!
  • Ok, this whole episode is a lame excuse for Angel to come back.  She’s been in worse danger than this.  But I’m still glad he’s back :)
  • Anya! Emma!
  • Xander looks pretty good in that t-shirt.  This is why Anya still finds him sexy.
  • What’s with the cowboy hat, Buffy?
Cowboys & Indians theme?

  • “To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal.  It’s ritual sacrifice.  With pie.”
  • “Imaginary Xander is quite the machine.”
  • Oh, Angel.  I've missed your skulking.
  • She senses him!
  • Already, Willow is hateful towards Anya.  I don’t like this part of her personality.  She’s big on grudges.  I mean, sure Anya tried to kill her.  But that’s in the past.
  • Back away from the green mist, lady.  Whoops, too late.
  • I would have liked to have seen that scene – where Buffy uses her slayer powers to shop.
  • “Why aren’t we doing this at your house?” Because they got rid of that set for a while…
  • Giles was hiding Angel!
  • Cordelia shout out!
  • And Angel is jealous! Hee. I like jealous Angel.
  • "Iowa….that’s one of the ones in the middle right?"  Heh, that’s what I always say.
  • Harmony!  It’s…a sweater…but it’s a midriff and…has a turtleneck..and also no sleeves?  Also the pink and the blue. 
I don't understand this...

  • I love how obsessed over this Thanksgiving dinner Buffy is.
  • Funny syphilis!
  • Anya’s being incredibly helpful!  I think they’re not quite sure what to do with her yet.
  • “You can have casinos now!”  Oh, Buffy…
  • SHENANIGANS! “So this is Angel.  He’s large and glowery, isn’t he?”  She’s met him before.  In Dopplegangland.
  • Giles has an amazing apartment.  That’s what I’m getting from this whole fight.
  • It’s kinda sad that Angel’s in this entire episode but has no scenes with Buffy.
  • Such an amazing shot of everyone at the end looking at Buffy after Xander accidentally reveals Angel was there. Also, if anyone was going to fuck that up, it would be Xander, wouldn't it?

Crossfire!
Zelda: Ooh, dead human comin' up!
Daniel: You got way too excited.

Favorite Lines:

Zelda: "A bear! You made a bear!" // "I didn't mean to!" // "Undo it! Undo it!" - Spike/Buffy
Daniel: "To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice. With pie." -Anya

Arc/Continuity Stuff:

  • Recurring: Angel, Anya, Harmony.
  • In The Bachelor Party, Doyle had a vision of Buffy in trouble, so Angel came a-calling because of contrivance.
  • Willow refers to the buried church the Master hung out in.
  • Xander calls Anya his girlfriend BECAUSE THEY'RE IN LOVE.
  • Willow asks if Cordelia's really working for Angel (a fact we assume she learned from Oz after In the Dark

Stats:
Anya's Hair - long, brown, straight
Xander's Job - construction worker (and a shout out to previous of free hot dogs on sticks)
Dead Humans - 3
Dead Undeads - 1
Giles Unconscious - 0
Giles Cleans His Glasses - 0
Buffy Breaks a Door - 0
Evil Reveal - 1 (schmuck bait from the teaser is a vamp)
Unevil Reveal - 0
Shenanigans Called - 1
Apocalypse Called - 0

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Girl's So Hot, She's Buffy



Episode 4.7: The Initiative. Original Airdate 11.16.99

"Spike finds himself targeted by a group of commandos after he escapes from a military lab underneath the Sunnydale campus."









Daniel's Thoughts:


  • Riley has friends!
  • "That girl is so hot, she’s Buffy!" That should always be a thing. 
  • “Mattressable?”  Really, Forrest?
  • “There’s something wrong with her.”  “Maybe she’s Canadian?”  I don’t think Graham is even joking.
  • So it’s been at least three days since Spike got tasered.  Is he really just waking up? Or is this happening within the same week as Wild at Heart?
  • Shenanigans! Mirrored hallway making it seem like there are more cells then there are.  It just looks…bad. 
Some Mirror magic for ya...

  • No more Oz in the credits – but there’s Spike.
  • How can Giles and Xander both be going through the same mid-life crisis?
  • “I always wondered what would happen when that bitch got funding.” Heh.  If only.  Stupid Initiative.
  • Oz’s first name is Daniel!  Like ME.  I love that we find that out after he left.
  • “You’re right.  A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job.” Oooh, burnnnn
  • I love that Riley keeps calling Buffy odd and peculiar BECAUSE HE LOVES HER!
  • Shut up, Parker.  YAY RILEY!
BAM! Bitch went down!

  • Riley is such a big giant puppy dog.
  • “I need to go see a girl” – Riley and Spike said the same thing!  *Horrible eye roll*
  • Depressing Willow is Depressing.
  • It’s never a good idea to ask a recently dumped person for dating advice.
  • Riley uses the word “courted!” This is why Riley is awesome!
  • “She likes cheese.”  Heh.  Who doesn’t?  Except for that one friend of mine that doesn’t.  Weird-o.
  • Willow is obviously as charmed by Riley as I am.
  • Hey! Harmony’s back!
  • Xander’s bored.  Where’s Anya?
  • Aww, Riley.  I’m sure you can dance better than Angel can.
  • The Harmony/Xander fight is hilarious.  Though – ok, I know she’s Harmony but she should have some skills now that she’s a vamp.  She at least has the super strength.
  • Riley has such 90s hair.
  • Why isn’t Buffy hanging out with Willow? Didn’t she drag her to this party to help her get over Oz?
  • Oooh, look at that huge hangar space!  The initiative had its home.
  • Riley has secrets!
  • “Riley’s a doof.  He’s not Teutonic.” Aww.  She likes him back.
  • Did Spike just quote Barbara Streisand? “Hello Gorgeous.” 
Spike loves Babs

  • This Buffy/Riley scene is so awkward and funny.  I’m superhero and trying to hide it!  Except in Riley’s case, just a hero…
  • Spike is actually pretty scary in this bit.  And I know it’s supposed to be comical but the way he throws Willow is pretty terrifying in more than a vampire way.  More in a – college-date-rapey kinda way.
  • “It’s me, isn’t it.”  Yeah, we get it – the whole funny self-conscious-can't--get-it-up bit – but again – it’s fucking creepy.
  • Quarantine?  The Initiative doesn’t seem up with vampire lore.  Buffy can explain it:  It’s a whole sucking thing.
  • Riley couldn’t see her properly, because it was stunt Buffy.
  • Man, Graham is hot.  Boring, but hot.
  • “Can’t hardly even hit anymore.”  Riley, your Midwest is showing.
  • Buffy thinks that Riley is peculiar!  Riley is okay with that because peculiar is code for loooove!




Zelda's Thoughts:

  • Hi Forrest. I'm kind of whatever about you, honestly.
  • I do enjoy the Buffy spaz of breaking the frozen yogurt machine.
  • Graham has three milks on his tray.

  • "Maybe she's Canadian." I forgot that Graham had any funny in him. I'm used to thinking of him as more cardboard than Captain Cardboard himself.
  • HI SPIKE I MISSED YOU. Also, already dreaming of Buffy, are we? I thought that wasn't until Season Five.
  • Man, this lighting looks awful on Spike's skin. Which, good job makeup guys. It makes sense a vampire would look all bloodshot and sickly in bright light.
  • Love Spike's look of growing panic as he realizes he's super not in Kansas anymore.
  • The music is all cool and spirally too.
  • To be fair, Giles's portrait of the commando is way better than all the rest of his art ever. Like, EVER. Remember how Cordelia was randomly good at drawing? And Angelus was, too, but he's evil so I assume that goes with the territory?
  • Xander and Giles hanging out being useless.
  • Spike, the walls of your cell aren't that big. Stop chewing them. (I mean, I love you, but you are being kind of really over the top right now). Though I do respect that he spends the whole scene not just idly standing there but trying to see if there's a way out.
Lookit the special effects!

  • Buffy really is super spazzy today.
  • God, Walsh, you're awful sometimes.
  • "I like her." // "Really? You don't think she's a little peculiar?" Blah blah blah Riley has a crush on Buffy but is in denial blah blah blah
  • Hey Giles knows how to load a gun!
  • "Is it raspberry fruit punch?" Oh Giles, you're so British. Raspberries are gross.
  • Parker is a pig yo.
  • See, Riley, if you keep punching Parker, I might start liking you some more.
  • Graham actually is pretty fun as the dry guy. Why didn't they write him as funny more often?
  • Daniel is full on CLUTCHING HIS HEART as Riley realizes he has a crush on Buffy, you guys.
Daniel, pictured here.

  • So what's our theory on why Spike is able to throttle the Initiative doctor and fight his way out? Was the chip not active yet? Is it remotely activated? Did they wait to activate it until he escaped? Or was it delayed, and hadn't fully set in yet? Also, WHEN DID THEY INSTALL IT IF HE WASN'T KNOCKED OUT BY THE DRUGGED BLOOD? Was it the night they abducted him? I NEED TO KNOW THE THINGS.
  • Okay, I take some of that back, because I did see him recoil from some actual physical contact. Okay rethinking this. Most of his fight was throwing and flipping but not landing actual punches, so I'm willing to allow his escape. But not so much the throttle?
  • Our dormitory doors automatically locked and slammed shut. No fancy wooden unlocked dorm doors like at UC Sunnydale, no sir. I'm just saying, it would be much harder for Spike to stalk and kill me. I mean, unless I went outside. Then I'd be really super dead.
  • Aw Riley, asking Willow for help courting Buffy. But bad timing, what with the Willow heartbreak.
  • "I've seen honest faces before. They usually come attached to liars."
  • Buffy likes cheese. MY HEAD CANON IS THAT THIS IS WHY THE CHEESE MAN IS IN THE RESTLESS DREAMS.
  • Harmony's hair is cute. They're so awesome with her hair.
  • "My little foam latte ... mon petite creme brulee ... my little mentholated pack of smokes" Spike, your endearments could use some work
  • Haha, Harmony's so over Spike's obsession with the Slayer.
  • Aw Spike has head pain when Harmony grabs his head. Hey! That's a plant for the brain surgery he doesn't know about yet!
  • Willow is super cute as she gives Riley his instructions at the party.
  • "A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend." This episode, so much good.
  • Buffy, leaning against the snack table for easy access. A woman after my own heart. Though clearly she was planted there so Riley could grab some cheese.
  • This is a halter top? Don't those tie behind the neck?
Did they expand the definition of halter?

  • TIME FOR THE EPIC FIGHT OF HARMONY AND XANDER.
  • Harmony might be the most useless vamp ever, srsly. Like I'm not seeing any superstrength, superspeed, or even the random jujitsu skills so many vamps seem to pick up. I mean it's kind of a contrivance, honestly, that she can't just snap Xander's neck, but I'll allow it because of that fight.
  • Okay, I gotta say, Buffy brought Willow to this party to distract her from sad feels, and is busy dancing while Willow sits on a couch. That's ... kind of neglectful?.
  • Riley gets the music changed, to make us continue to like him for being nice and stuff.
  • YOU GUYS IT'S TIME FOR THE BIG REVEAL.
  • Seriously this was so exciting the first time, and it's still exciting now, before they ruin what was cool about the idea of the Initiative.
  • THEY'RE SUPER SOLDIERS. THEY KNOW ABOUT DEMONS. THEY FIGHT THEM. A GIANT UNDERGROUND MILITARY ORGANIZATION.
  • Also Spike's new nickname is Hostile 17. It's not that catchy, I gotta say.
  • Man, I'm remembering how excited I was the first time I watched this season. And after Buffy gets brought inside the Initiative, and it looked like it was going to be this really cool seasonal exploration of the rugged independent individual vs the big government military operation, and which is more effective at demon control, widespread or otherwise. Too bad it got all fucked up. We'll discuss this more anon.
  • BUFFY CALLED RILEY A DOOF. THAT MAKES IT SHOW CANON. RILEY IS A DOOF, YOU GUYS.
  • Riley is basically twice Buffy's size. It's kind of terrifying.
  • Heh their banter is so cute. "Are you drunk?" // "Yes, go and report me."
  • "You think boys can take care of themselves and girls need help?" // "Yeah" boooo Riley
  • hahaha one scream and off they both run
  • Oops Spike found Willow.
  • So Spike is able to throw Willow against the wall because ... I'm gonna go with the chip only activates when the intention is pain? He was just keeping her from leaving. It's all about intention, I guess? Like how he can't even aim a gun at a human (as we see later)
  • God the scene of him straddling her on the bed is uncomfortably rapey and I think I just didn't pick up on it when I was younger. Because it's really hard to watch.
  • But then it's hilarious impotence banter. I'd quote the whole thing but I've already written a lot today.
  • Spike: "That fuzzy pink number?" WHICH ONE, SPIKE? WHICH ONE?
Note: During Wild at Heart I declared that to be #9.
That was actually #10. Sorry guys. I do hate inaccuracies.

  • "You know this doesn't make you any less terrifying." // "Don't patronize me."
  • Yeah Willow you smash his head with a lamp.
  • Oh NOW all the dorm doors lock. Gee, THANKS, Initiative.
  • Yeah, Buffy, you kick those commando butts. Oh but also you let Spike escape oops. This is why we need to communicate, guys.
  • It's a pretty cool fight, all things considered. The soundtrack agrees with me.
  • "Whoever he was, the guy was big." Ohhhhhhh Forrest, you're adorable. And very very extremely very wrong.
  • "Stupid fraternity prank," eh? Is this the new PCP?
  • Yeah see the writing of the Riley/Buffy stuff at the end is cute, but MB's delivery is off. It's just ... I dunno, it's just ... not as good as it could be? The timing was weird. I wish I could phrase it better, but I just don't think he's that good. He's not *nearly* as bad as some guest stars (oy, that shark), but he's not good.


Crossfire!

Forrest: Hey, Parker!
Daniel: Ugh.
Zelda: Goddammit
Daniel: I totally forgot he was back.
Zelda: Me too.
Both: Ugh.

This is what happened when we hit pause. Even Parker agrees with "Ugh."

Favorite Lines:

Daniel: "You're right.  A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job." - Buffy being awesome.
Zelda: "And remember, if you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun!" - Willow



Arc/Continuity Stuff:

  • First appearance: Forrest and Graham
  • Recurring: Riley, vampire from Sunday's gang, Walsh, Parker, Harmony
  • Spike replaced Oz in the credits and WE'RE BOTH HAPPY AND SAD ABOUT THIS OKAY.
  • The vampire who warns Spike about the drugged blood packet is the last survivor from Sunday's gang in The Freshman. Way to be continuous, show!
  • Oz's real name finally revealed after his exit: Daniel Osborne.
  • Xander refers to his military guy time in Halloween.
  • Mr. Gordo gets a shoutout, as does Buffy's love of ice capades.
  • Harmony likes unicorns. But she doesn't like Spike anymore. Oh wait she does.
  • Spike, aka Hostile 17, has a chip which prevents him from harming humans and also from getting written off the show.


Stats:

Oz's Hair - gone, but not in the balding sense. just in the sense that our hearts are BROKEN
Dead Humans - 0
Dead Undeads - 0
Giles Unconscious - 0
Giles Cleans His Glasses - 0
Buffy Breaks a Door - 0
Evil Reveal - 0
Unevil Reveal - 0
Initiative Reveal - 4 (Riley, Walsh, Forrest, and Graham are commandos whut)
Shenanigans Called - 1
Apocalypse Called - 0

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oz, Don't You Love Us?

Because we choose to remember the happier times



Episode 4.6: Wild at Heart. Original Airdate 11.9.99




"Oz finds himself unable to control his attraction to Veruca, a sexy singer who just happens to be a werewolf."





Zelda's Thoughts:


  • Actual quotation from me as the episode loaded: "No! Noooo! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
  • Poor Buffy's puns go unappreciated.
  • Spike's back! To make villain speeches until nope oops abducted by the Initiative. And we laughed so much.
  • I'm going to keep tracking Willow's pink sweaters because I cannot let go.
#9

  • AHAHHA GILES IN THE BRONZE I LOVE IT.
  • "I'm ... down with the new music." Poor Giles.
  • For the record, Giles is looking pretty attractive right now as they all mock him.
  • Willow, grabbing Oz's hand territorially while he watches Veruca sing, STOP IT'S SO SAD.
  • Buffy's in good observant friend mode, seeing that there's a problem, trying to help distract Oz.
  • GODDAMMIT SHOW WHY ARE YOU GIVING US CUTE OZ AND WILLOW IN BED WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE PLANNING TO DO TO US.
  • So Willow's going to a Wicca group thing tonight ... but we don't see it. Does that mean we actually miss Willow and Tara's first meet?
  • "Bring them up with one of the TAs" ONE of the TAs? There's more than Riley?
  • Aw Willow, both jealous and thrilled for Buffy's academic success.
  • GO AWAY, VERUCA.
  • Ugh it's so awkward. Veruca is awful. Poor Willow trying to follow the conversation.
  • And then Oz bails. STOP IT, OZ.
  • Parking lot! Do a shot.
  • TAWIST! Two werewolves! No waiting!
  • TAWIST! Veruca's the other wolf!
  • Sorry guys, I'm just trying to distract from my despair.
  • Gosh, that was lucky Veruca was able to find matching underwear and bra that fit while she and Oz pilfer other people's laundry.
  • Veruca, you are wrongface about this "wolf all the time" nonsense. I'm just saying, if you're a wolf only three nights a month, and human the rest of the time, I'm gonna go with the majority of the time wins for identity.
  • She has the same "we're better than human" arrogance that Faith had.
  • Heh the conversation of Walsh telling Riley is well-cut so we don't see that she was probably telling Riley it was wolves and switched to wild dog when Buffy showed up. I SEE WHAT YOU DO, SHOW.
  • Oh Willow no please don't it makes me sad.
  • Also Oz it would be super helpful if you were honest right about now. I get that you're scared, but this moment here is when you decided to not save the relationship. Willow probably would have eventually forgiven werewolf cheating, since he was in wolf-mode at the time, but this next night, since he didn't tell her, since he invites Veruca to his cell and has more of the sex, that's a choice he made, and with it he threw away the relationship. Even though he's the one who officially breaks it off two days later, he threw it away in this moment.
  • Xander, with the good advice - ask Oz about it. It's too late, but good for Xander again (HI DANIEL HI)
  • OZ WHY ARE YOU LYING TO BUFFY. WEREWOLVES ARE DANGEROUS.
  • I'm sure Oz thought this was a good plan, but I'm also very sure he's deliberately not thinking about the other part of his motivation - he is attracted to Veruca, and this is a way for him to cheat without thinking of it as cheating, since it's as the wolf. But guess what, Oz, it's still cheating.
  • Nooooooooo Willow my heart.
  • Alison Hannigan has the biggest saddest cryingest eyes in the history of television.
  • And Veruca's not the least bit guilty or embarrassed, because she thinks she's above human morality.
  • "But you did! You coulda told somebody!"
  • "I knew, you jerk."
  • "I know how it feels. I remember." // "What happened with Xander, it doesn't compare. Not with what you and I had. Not with whatever you've been doing with her."
  • I'm too sad to even yell about doing a shot about the parking lot graveyard oh oops.
  • Aw I like Riley right now hey. That was nice of him to save Willow and tell her nothing was worth hurting herself over.
  • Fucking Veruca. I hate you so much. It's partly the actress's fault, in all honesty. The only fleshing out of not-mustache-twirling villainness we get, is her superiority complex mentioned above, but when we get to her actual attack on Willow, she's just full on evil.
  • CGI, you are not good and you are distracting from good episode. 
The Green Screen means something's about to change

  • God, poor Willow. Oz saved her from Veruca, but in his feral state, he would have attacked Willow too. This is so sad, you guys.
  • Oh good, Buffy is finally telling Giles about the commandos.
  • So the continuing question I have, since Oz is the one to ultimately do the leaving, rather than Willow telling him to go (she in fact begs him to stay), is would Willow have forgiven him? How long would it have taken? He hurt her deeply, and she points out it's way worse than when she hurt him by kissing Xander. Would they have been able to reconcile if he had stayed? Or would she have broken up with him? I seriously don't know.
  • "That's your solution?" // "That's my decision." // "Don't I get any say in this?"
  • SHE'S CRYING AGAIN, NOT OKAY
  • As exit episodes go, this is one of the best written ones, but THIS IS SUPER NOT OKAY WITH ME.
  • They even do that last moment of manipulation. He looks back at the house, we cut to her crying, and you think for one second, maybe just one second, that he's about to come back in the door. And then he drives away.


Daniel's Thoughts:


  • Ha! Sunnydale University is so crowded that it’s hard to find a good place to slay.
  • Spike posturing and then getting cut off by…tasering…is kind of awesome.
  • Is Buffy drinking beer? I'd consider it a slap in the last episode's face if we actually got to see what was in the cup.  Could be soda...
  • Giles is a Scooby in his mid-life crisis-ness
  • First mention of the wicca group that we’ll only see a couple of times…
  • I love when Willow gets excited about academics.  And Alyson plays it so well.
  • You know what sucks in TV shows and movies?  When women are like, “I love to eat! I hate chicks who diet and stuff”.  Except they’re skinny and the types that actually can eat whatever they want without consequences.  The same is true for the men who are like, "I love women who eat and don't diet!" except the women they're talking about are either supermodels or Gwyneth Paltrow. [I'm ... confused that this is Daniel's rant and not mine. - Z]
  • Oz has to bail…even though he had lunch plans with Willow.  Why? Just to make it awkward with Willow and Veruca.
  • Where is that cage?  Sunnydale U parking lot?
  • Veruca is a werewolf! What a surprise!
  • Oz has got some pretty sick abs.
  • Wild dogs?  If she’s the leader of the Initiative – wouldn't she have a better idea of what she was dealing with?  Z has a theory up there but...I'm not sure I buy it.
  • Oh, Giles.  He should…open up a magic shop or something.
  • It’s nice that Oz has welding skills.
  • Veruca sings like she’s constipated.
  • While I think this story line is valid for conflict, I think it’s lame for an exit.
  • And its also lame for Oz to bring up the thing with Xander.
  • Poor Willow.  She does crying well.
  • Riley saved the day!
  • “Oz, now may be a good time for your trademark stoicism.”  Mmm hmm.
  • I don’t like Willow beginning to use magics irresponsibly.
  • There’s just really absolutely nothing to like about Veruca.  She’s just awful.
  • You know the transformation is coming when you see the bad green screen…
  • The continuity on this show is fantastic.  The writers obviously see and study their coworkers’ episodes.  I love that Buffy brings up the military guys she saw on Halloween.
  • Again – lame reason to leave. “The wolf is inside me all the time”.  Except this is the only real evidence of that.  What was I just saying about continuity?
  • Bye, Oz , don’t forget to come back when your girlfriend realizes she’s a lesbian.


Favorite Lines:

Zelda: I don't have one. I'm too sad. Daniel suggested one from the alternate universe where Oz doesn't leave, so we're going with, "You're right, it's unfair of me to make all the decisions. I'm gonna stay here and meditate and whatnot and we're gonna try to work this out oops Tara's here."
Daniel: "People? Kind of an epidemic." ~Willow

Arc/Continuity Stuff:


  • Recurring: Spike, commandos, fucking Veruca, Walsh, Riley
  • Giles still has a TV - with rabbit ear antenna - but now he keeps it on his table so he can watch while he eats.
  • Willow goes to her first college Wicca group meeting, but no sign of Tara yet.
  • Oz refers to when Willow cheated on him with Xander.
  • Willow continues her pattern of using magic to solve her emotional distress, with her attempted spell against Veruca (the first time was trying that delusting spell with Xander).
  • Buffy refers to her heartbreak coping mechanisms of running away and going to Hell.

Stats:
Oz's Hair - red
Dead Humans - 0
Dead Undeads - 2
Giles Unconscious - 0
Giles Cleans His Glasses - 0
Buffy Breaks a Door - 0
Evil Reveal - 0
Unevil Reveal - 0 
Werewolf Reveal - (because it doesn't count as her being evil til she tries to kill Willow) 1 (Veruca)
Shenanigans Called - 0
Apocalypse Called - 0


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't Make CaveSlayer Unhappy



Episode 4.5: Beer Bad. Original Airdate 11.2.99


"Xander finds employment as a bartender at a pub where some of Buffy's friends turn into terrifying Cro-Magnon creatures." [I do believe I have to call a shenanigan on that description, imdb. - Z]




Daniel's Thoughts:

  • I don’t hate this episode like most people seem to.  Sure, the metaphor is heavy-handed but I think it's meant to be...for comedy's sake.  But there's a lot of funny & I love the Willow/Parker conversation.
  • Haha, I totally forgot about this amazing opener where Buffy fights an impressive amount of vamps….and it’s totally for real.
  • Psych!
  • And I hate so much that she’s still hung up on Parker because he’s such a douche.
  • And then harsh reality … college.
  • Is Professor Walsh quoting a Janet Jackson song?  Nope,  it’s an actual psychological term… The Pleasure Principle.
  • “I’m the new bartender at the pub."  That…one pub in Sunnydale…?  In a college town? (With that one Starbucks, I know...)
  • And who the hell would hire Xander?  He doesn't have a bartending license, I’m assuming.  Also, who the hell would hire Xander?
  • Stop it Buffy.  Please stop being pathetic.  I want you to be better than me.
  • And what a surprise,  Xander is terrible at his job.
  • RILEY IS A BIG BIG TREE.
  • He’s so goofy and lovable and HOW CAN ANYONE HATE RILEY?
  • Shut up douchey college guy.  Leave Xander alone.  (Did I just say that?)
  • You don’t need ID, Xander.  That college student is at least 35.
  • Man, freshman year of college can be so wonderful and so horrible at the same time
  • Hey! It’s Kumar! 


  • They have really strange lighting at the Bronze that makes a big spotlight on the table.


  • Ick, Veruca.  We hate Veruca.
  • Faith mention!
  • I love Willow’s impression of the Veruca/Oz meeting that we didn’t see.  I imagine it was similar.
  • Sorry, if someone just stole your sandwich out of your mouth, wouldn’t you do something about it?
  • Aww.  Don’t like Oz/Willow awkwardness.
  • What an interesting pub.  It looks like a wilderness society.
  • How come these four and Buffy are the only ones affected by this beer?
  • And starts my favorite part of this episode.  The Willow/Parker scenes
  • Willow, “I’m tired of you men and your manness.”  Spoilers!
  • The thing is, I don’t hate Parker’s philosophy.  Except he can’t assume that everyone feels the same way.  There’s nothing wrong with casual sex as long as both parties are honest with what they want. And he's lying about being sorry that he misled Buffy. That's part of his strategy. Though sometimes I feel he actually believes what he's saying.
  • I wonder what Kathy would have had to say with Buffy drawing on the walls.
  • Willow’s face.  Oh my God.  When Parker grabs her hand.  She’s trying so hard not to laugh.
  • “Just how gullible do you think I am?”  I love it.
  • Ah Willow, nailing the plot on its head.
  • Where is the staff of this cafĂ©? And…the other patrons?  And why are they not just at the Bronze?  THERE ARE OTHER PLACES TO HANG OUT IN SUNNYDALE?
  • "Blonde, about this tall, walks with a sort of a sideways limp." That extra’s face, omg.

  • Oh fake town. 
  • Willow is so pleased, as am I, with the end of Parker.


Zelda's Thoughts:

  • Apparently everyone but Daniel and me hate this episode? I think it's funny.
  • Oh yeah the Parker dreams. I totally forgot about this.
  • Stunt Buffy's hair is looking lovely and flowy tonight.
  • Parking lot graveyard! Everybody do a shot!
  • So um why is Parker, an upperclassman, in Buffy's freshman Psych class? Shenanigans!
  • Thank you, Professor Walsh, for telling us the themes of the episode. Id, Ego, and the other thing.
  • I admit, Parker with ice cream and an open shirt had me laughing like a moron.
  • "Come on, Buff, be a lonely drunk!" Xander, predicting the future.
  • "Mon frere means brother." Hey, Buffy learned French!
  • "I don't believe this is entirely on the up and up." // "What gave it away?" // "Looking at it." The banter is awesome so far. Why the hate?
  • Buffy, stop stop stop. Let go of Parker. You're projecting your Angel-heartbreak and it's uncomfortable for everyone.
  • "NOTHING CAN DEFEAT THE PENIS." I freaking love his delivery. I make no apologies. This is a line I wish I could use in regular conversation, except, you know, not.
  • Hey, an Asian person! With lines! You go, UC Sunnydale!
  • Oh hi Riley. I kind of forgot about you during our hiatus.
  • I can't wait for Buffy to stop crushing on Parker. Even if it means Riley time.
  • Oh hey a pretentious college bar douche. Was this before or after Good Will Hunting? [After - imdb]
  • "I'm a slut." // "No." HEY, Xander saying right things! Let us not slutshame Buffy for making a mistake with a horrible man.
  • GODDAMMIT GO AWAY, VERUCA, NO ONE WANTS YOU HERE. Also stop eyefucking Oz.
  • God, poor Willow. She can see it happening, and she's trying to pretend she's not seeing it happen. 
  • SMG is good at playing starting-to-get-tipsy as she keeps fidgeting her hand to try to look like she's following the conversation.
  • "I'm suffering the afterness of a bad night of badness."
  • I like that Willow doesn't judge Buffy when she thinks she had group sex with four guys, just asks if she can help. Good friend Willow.
  • Willow's reference to Parker being in class confirms he wasn't sitting in class to perv on another freshman, so I reiterate WHY IS HE IN THAT CLASS WITH THEM.
  • Yes, because when I am secretly poisoning beer, I like to have random vials of different-colored water randomly bubbling.
Half of these vials aren't even connected to anything.

  • What's extra sad is, I think Oz doesn't see what he's doing, what's going on. He doesn't see that Veruca's kind of hypnotized him, even though Willow does. He doesn't see the danger and it's SO AWKWARD AND SAD.
  • Okay, so now we're in the campus coffee place, which is different from the campus bar, which is different from the Espresso Pump, which is different from the Bronze. I guess that's cool, that Sunnydale has more than one watering hole. But hey how can I track all the things when there are so many things?
  • "People shouldn't have to preface casual sex with 'just so you know, I'll never grow any older with you.'" Yeah, but they should maybe preface it with "beeteedubs this is totes casual, 'kay?"
  • aaaaaaaand it's caveman time. Well, almost. Buffy as a caveperson cracks me up, but the four neanderthals are kind of whatever to me.
  • Hey where's Giles? This random thought brought to you by Zelda Being Bored with Cavemen.
  • "Fire bad. Fire pretty. Fire angry!"
  • Haha Xander's just like "...you do realize you're a crazy person, right, boss?" Xander's always the one discovering the evilness of purveyors of food and beverage, isn't he?
  • "You're a bad, bad man!" Hey, I'm totally calling that as a musical theater reference, and no one can take that from me.
  • Giles! Hi Giles!
  • "I didn't know it was evil!" // "You knew it was beer!" // "Well, excuse me, Mr. I-spent-the-sixties-in-an-electric-Kool-Aid-funky-Satan-groove." // "It was the earlie seventies and you should know better." I like the buddyness of Xander and Giles this season, both of them feeling a bit useless.
  • Willow's dopey smile. The first time I watched this I was so mad at her for falling for Parker's shit, but now I know what's coming, so it's okay. "Just how gullible do you think I am?" I freaking love it. Willow for the win, y'all. "This isn't sharing, this isn't connecting."
  • Although the "men haven't changed since the dawn of time" followed by Attack of the Cavemen is, you know, a little blunt.
  • haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Buffy in the rolly chair.

  • SMG clearly had so much fun with this episode.
  • Everyone's been knocked unconscious EXCEPT Giles this episode. I'm impressed, show.
  • I wonder if Kal Penn ever looks back on his time on Buffy and goes "...humyeah."

  • I'm gonna take Buffy's "Fire bad" as a shoutout to Graduation Day.
  • Aw CaveSlayer thinks "hey, fire extinguisher fights fire right? um..." *throws*
  • I like that even when she's CaveSlayer, she still has her hero instincts - stop the fire, rescue the Willow. Whereas the caveboys are just like "cower cower hey escape! let's do that!"
  • So like where the hell's the fire department.
  • Hey Xander helps with the rescue. Go Xander! (sometimes I just say things to try to get a rise out of Daniel)
  • Buffy knocking Parker out: never not funny.
  • Oh hai firemen. You're only an hour late to the party. SUNNYDALE'S NOT THAT BIG.
  • "What did we learn about beer?" // "Foamy." // "Good, just as long as that's clear."
  • She did it again! She knocked Parker out again! GO BUFFY GO.
  • Parker's apology might mean more if we didn't know he's gonna be a shit about Buffy behind her back in The Initiative.


Favorite Lines:

Daniel: "Just how gullible do you think I am?" - Willow being awesome.
Zelda: I can't find a gif, but after Buffy knocks Parker out (the second time), and all the Scoobies look at him with satisfaction, then turn to leave, CaveSlayer turns the wrong way and has to be corrected by Xander. Subtle and adorable.



Arc/Continuity Stuff:

  • Recurring: Parker, Walsh, Riley, Veruca
  • Willow compares Veruca to Faith.
  • Xander reminds us that Smoking Is Bad.



Stats:

Oz's Hair - red
Xander's Job - Bartender
Dead Humans - 0
Dead Undeads - 0
Dead Fantasy - 6
Giles Unconscious - 0
Giles Cleans His Glasses - 0
Buffy Breaks a Door - 0
Evil Reveal - 1 (Jack the barkeep)
Unevil Reveal - 0
Shenanigans Called - 1
Apocalypse Called - 0

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Evolution of Demon Morality in Sunnydale

The Evolution of Demon Morality in Sunnydale,
or, 
how I learned to stop worrying and love the Hellmouth

When we first enter Sunnydale proper, the lines between good and evil, demon and human, souled and ... the other thing, seem pretty starkly drawn. As Xander says in The Harvest, "I don't like vampires. I'm gonna take a stand and say they're not good." And this is the running mentality of the show, at least at first. While humans are not the universal paragon of all things good and proper (Amy's mom in The Witch being our first evil human of the series), they are the only species that has the potential, to say nothing of the inclination, toward goodness. Much like the contrast of Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll, demons are pure evil, whereas humans have the choice to be good, evil, or somewhere in-between.

Angel's presence is the chink in that armor. He is a demon - a vampire, the show's titular villain du jour - but he fights on the side of good, because he has a soul. And there we get our first stipulation in the Demons Bad, Humans Less-Bad dichotomy: the soul is the key to morality (or a conscience, as Angel's soul seems to manifest). Our new distinction for the rest of Season One is: vampires and other demons evil unless they have a soul. This continues until Phases in Season Two, when we have our first werewolf. I think werewolves are a bit of a caveat to the question of demon morality, because they are fully human for the majority of their lives, and when they are werewolves they are feral, non-sentient creatures, without the volition for good or evil, unlike most of our demon fare. They're more animal than anything else - werewolves are dangerous, but they're not innately evil, in either form (unless they choose to be, like terrible awful we-hate-her Veruca). So I would argue that, even with the complication of werewolves, soulless demons are still considered strictly evil.

Season Three is when the morality really starts to murk itself up. We've had evil humans prior to this, but this is our first time watching a human turn evil (if not ultimately irredeemably so), in Faith's fall from grace. Faith started on the side of good as one of humanity's warriors against evil, but she willingly chooses to side with the Mayor, a decidedly evil force. This, coupled with a few sympathetic demons (I point to the newly-human Anya and to Skyler (Skyler? Really?) the Horned Demon whom Faith violently kills for the Books of Ascension - he's not particularly evil, more of a survivalist), is important in two key ways: it paves the way for the spinoff show, Angel, as well as for the main conflict of Season Four of Buffy.

And it's very important that we, along with our core Scoobies, have made this transition into murkier distinctions of evil in time for Season Four - otherwise, we wouldn't appreciate just how cut, dried, and semi-ignorant our original mentality was. But when Riley, and the rest of the Initiative, expound the views of Demons Bad All the Time, we roll our eyes - how simplistic! Because we know better now. I mean, we're still not - and Buffy's still not - yay-demons-all-the-time-let's-hang-out. But Anya's managed to integrate herself into the gang and not much is said about it (granted, we remember more of Anyanka's hijinks than the Scoobies do because of magic, but still - they remember the events of Doppelgangland). And Anya's integration is important: while she is biologically human again, and accepted as such - soul-having, and therefore not innately evil - she still thinks like her demon self, especially at the beginning. It falls on Xander and the Scoobies to teach her, not just social mores, but what it is to have human morality again.

But what all this moral equivocation means for our Scoobies is that we've redefined whom we kill and why. Most of this problematizing of Soulless Demons Are Evil comes in the form of Chipped Spike. While it's clear the writers were grasping for excuses to not kill off this exceedingly popular character and actor, Spike poses a huge moral problem that perhaps is never really adequately addressed until later seasons. Chipped Spike is harmless to humans - at least physically - a containment method employed for unexplained reasons by the Initiative. This is Buffy's rationale for not killing Chipped Spike - he no longer poses a threat, and he can offer useful information on Adam and the Initiative (sort of - being evil, he's only helpful enough to be kept out of the sun). One could argue that the rationale goes along with not killing Season Three Angel for the crimes of Season Two Angelus - he's not the same man, and shouldn't be held to the same accountability. And while I agree with that assessment regarding Angel - especially as we saw Buffy was willing to kill Angelus for his deeds, and actually did "kill" Angel, to save the world - I don't know that it translates adequately over to Spike. Chipped Spike may have had his wings clipped, but he still yearns to fly. Spike would rather Adam won that battle than Buffy, and even into Season Five Spike is attempting to have his chip removed so he can enact bloody vengeance (you know ... before he gets that pesky crush). Spike can't harm the Scoobies, but he still plots for their downfall. He's not a reformed demon - not yet. And honestly it seems like the only reason he's not killed in Primeval - when his betrayal is blatantly obvious - stems more from weariness on the part of the Scoobies than anything else - "He's clearly not going anywhere, we'll get around to him later." By the end of Season Four they don't consider Spike enough of a threat to worry too much about taking him out.

But back to the Initiative. In addition to our seeing just how simplistic our viewpoint was in Season One, as represented by Professor Walsh's army brats, and realizing how much more complex that can be, we're also gifted with some more nefarious human activity. I mean, come on - scientific inquisitiveness or no, there's no non-evil-intent reason I can come up with for creating a hybrid demon-human-robot soldier thing. A super soldier? But made out of demon scraps? If nothing else, it exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of the Initiative - demons are evil toys for us to experiment on, they say, but also let's see if we can build some hybrid monster things for the side of good oh wait we can't control a sentient thing oops I got stabbed and now I'm bleeding to death. More or less. The short version here is: we're seeing more evilish humans, and one of them is even a human-demon-hybrid type of thing.

But we've also got the possibility of redemption - Faith returns to the narrative, waking from her coma with a vengeance, and at first it seems more evil is afoot - certainly she feels that's the only port left for her in the aftermath of the Mayor's failed Ascension.. But we see her cracking at the edges, hiding inside Buffy's skin, and that arc continues on her crossover episodes on Angel. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has been trucking along, full of sympathetic demons (dammit Doyle. dammit Joss.) and evil-minded humans (Lindsey and the rest of Wolfram & Hart). Angel has been busy muddying up the line of good and evil more and more even as it starts all that "Champion" nonsense. In the world of Angel, demons aren't guaranteed evil. Humanity and souls are by no means guarantors of good. This is the only place that Faith could hope to achieve redemption - the lines are still too clearly drawn in Sunnydale for her to pull out of her hole. For it is in LA that Faith realizes, with such muddied distinctions, she can choose to be good again. But, unlike Chipped Spike, she has to pay for her past actions, and accepts her incarceration with far better grace than she did in Season Three of Buffy.

Season Five's two big morality explorations come in the form of (again) Chipped Spike and Ben. Chipped Spike is at first continuing on his merry bloody path until he develops his awkward crush on Buffy. I actually have an entirely separate essay I'm drafting on the Arc of Spike (and Why He's Better Than Angel), so for the sake of brevity and non-redundancies, I will be brief. Spike's feeling for Buffy begin as an infatuation, but as they develop into love, they teach him a new morality. He's always been love's bitch and as such will do whatever he can to win the heart of the woman he loves. To win Buffy's heart he must learn to be heroic, and to fight on the side of good. At first, he Truly Doesn't Get It (pointing out how he's not feeding on victims? Not the way to anyone's heart, dude), but by the time of Intervention, even with the creepy-if-hilarious icky sexbot, he demonstrates that he will protect Dawn, someone in whom he should theoretically have no stake, because he doesn't want Buffy to be in any more pain. He's still not necessarily a good man yet, but so long as his compass point follows Buffy's north (that came out way dirtier than intended), he can do good deeds.

Then we have Ben. Ben is an ordinary guy (a doctor who can't pronounce the word muscles, but otherwise fairly ordinary). Were he not placed in extraordinary my-sister-is-a-God-and-also-shares-my-body circumstances, he would probably stay ordinary and never be tested to see just how good of a person he wasn't. Joss Whedon, describing Firefly character Jayne Cobb, said that he was a good enough man to realize he wasn't a good enough man - meaning, aware enough of the morality at stake to realize he wouldn't always make the right choice. I would say that Ben isn't ever a good enough man to realize just how much he's not a good enough man. He's not self-aware enough (ironic, since his transitions to his sister are wiped from the memory of anyone who sees them). Because here's the thing about Ben - he, unlike any other humans around him, is aware of Glory. He's aware of her powers, he's aware of her penchant for sucking brains, and he's aware of her plan to suck everything into hell to get home, once she finds the Key. His problem solving techniques include summoning evil snot monsters from outer space to kill the surplus of crazies in Sunnydale, so, you know, he's also a killer. So much for Do No Harm, amirite? He's not entirely evil or anything, but his goodness is strictly on the mediocre level - yes, he tries to get Dawn to run when he realizes she's the Key and that Glory is coming. But when he gets summoned to help an injured Giles in Spiral, wouldn't it have been easier for Ben to offer to send a doctor who wasn't also the evil God chasing them? I'm just saying. He showed poor judgment. But his failure to be a good man, or at least a good enough man, comes to fruition in The Gift - we see him try to rescue Dawn, but after a fight with Glory, he chooses to go along with the plan, to sacrifice Dawn and any other collateral damage, on the promise from his insane unreliable sister that he will be permitted to live. Giles is the one who clarifies this failure of goodness, of course, when he says to Ben, of Buffy, "She's a hero, you see. She's not like us," and then he does what Ben was not a good enough man to do: he takes Ben - and thus Glory - out of the equation by smothering him to death.

In this moment Giles also further clarifies for us Buffy's own morality - she won't kill a human. More specifically, she won't kill someone - or something - with the potential for goodness. And so by the end of Season Five, that too is why Spike lives. She not only recognizes his potential for goodness, she also demands more of him. She is aware, though perhaps unconsciously, that he is learning his morality from her - a challenge for a soulless demon. And so she asks him to protect Dawn, a promise he takes so seriously that he continues to honor it even after Buffy herself is dead, with (as far as he knows) no hope of ever being brought back. This, more than anything else in the course of Season Five, is the beginning of Spike's true arc of redemption - he has lost his Buffy moral compass, and chooses to fight on the side of good regardless, to protect Dawn. Sure, he plays kitten poker and enjoys watching the mayhem of the demon bikers - but he makes Dawn wear a helmet when they go on the motorcycle.

Season Six returns again to the question of the potential for evil in humans. While Spike's behavior throughout the season is by no means sparkling - his relationship with Buffy (much as I ship them) is toxic on both sides, that ridiculous plot with the eggs in As You Were, and the horror of Seeing Red - there is still a track of growth; in fact, these very pitfalls is the point the writers are trying to make - while Spike seems to be unique among vampires, in that he seeks redemption even soulless (and then seeks a soul when that doesn't work out too well), he serves as a very clear reminder that a soul is still key to being a true hero, to having any potential of being Not Evil.

But Spike's plot is secondary to the larger question of the villains of the season. Both versions of the Big Bad of the season - the red herring of the Trio, and the much worse villain of Dark Willow - are importantly humans; the demons have now truly taken a backseat to the danger of humans who are embracing a more amoral viewpoint. While Warren is clearly much more of a sociopath and a raging misogynist than either Andrew or Jonathan, they do make it their mission to torment the Slayer, the recognized defender of humans against the dark (I mean, come on, Jonathan, you gave her a freaking parasol three years ago! Stop what you're doing. Look at your life. Look at your choices), as well as some petty theft and less-petty rape. And then they accidentally kill Katrina, except probably not that accidentally because did we mention Warren was a sociopath?

Anyway, we have these three humans with not much else going on in their lives but mischief and little but comic relief to redeem them. As pointed out in Normal Again, the villainy has gotten somewhat less epic this season. But part of the reason for that, of course, is that they really are mere distraction - as well as a good set up demo of evil-minded humans - from the plot of Willow's magic addiction, which has been brewing all season. While my opinions on this metaphor are many, what we see is someone who has chosen, for the past six years, to fight on the side of goodness, gradually increasing her skills and thus usefulness in that fight. Unfortunately, that increase in skills has taken its toll. Not even touching the addiction part of it, we see Willow's dependence on magic to solve all her problems in a frankly amoral manner. Setting up the birthday decorations with a wave of her hand? Sure, whatever. Transporting people in and out of dimensions so she can have different music at the Bronze? Not so cool. WIPING HER GIRLFRIEND'S MEMORY OF A FIGHT? EXTREMELY NOPE. While she spends half of the season climbing out of this, the lesson is not yet well-learned - after Tara's murder, Willow spirals out of control, killing Warren (or ... not, if you read the comics), attempting to kill Jonathan and Andrew, and striking out at anyone who gets in her way - Anya, Dawn, Buffy, Giles, and even Xander. And then she decides it'd be easier if she just destroyed the whole world. Xander is eventually able to pull her back, reminding her of that which makes her vulnerable and human, and - we can assume - reactivating the guilt and grief and soul-type stuff.

While Season Six explored the evil potential in humans, Season Seven returns us yet again to evil demons, and Grand Epic Final Season Villains, like the First Evil, the UberVamp, and uh Nathan Fillion. They're ... well, they're pretty straight-up evil, without much equivocation. As the First said, in the guise of the Master, we're going back to the beginning. The beginning, when the lines of evil were clearly drawn. We also have several souled characters - Willow, Faith, and Souled Spike (sort of Andrew? kind of? I don't really care) - attempting to make amends for their pasts, earn back the Scoobies' trust, and to avoid getting pulled in as tools or puppets by the strength and manipulation of the First Evil.

And we have one character, who has always walked the line of human and demon, treading water on both sides, having to wrangle yet again with her identity. Anya started her time in Sunnydale as an evil demon. After being forced into humanity, she struggles through the rest of Season Three, and through Season Four, to understand how to be human again. Even up until she returns to her demon ways at the end of Hell's Bells, Anya occasionally says things which reveal how much her thinking still follows the amoral-at-best mentality of a Vengeance Demon. What's striking about Anya in Season Seven is what a complete reversal she's made - now she is a demon again, but thinking all too frequently as a human. This thinking is hurting her work as a demon and causing gossip among the other vengeance demons; it is, however, significant that her thinking is still hybridized - enough so that Buffy considers her morality ambiguous at best, and not at all trustworthy. This finally comes to a head in Selfless when, in addition to Buffy making it clear that Anya cannot be allowed to live if she continues this behavior, Anya herself  is horrified at the deaths she has caused, and begs D'Hoffryn to reverse the spell. He does, at the cost of Halfrek's life and Anya's powers, and Anya is once again human. It is also in this moment that we see D'Hoffryn take a definitive side with the evil branch of this final fight, further solidifying the Soulless Demon = Evil mentality. Back to the beginning indeed.

And so as Season Seven draws to a close, our lines are once again firmly drawn on the evilness of demons, returning to our Season One stance.

Except Clem. Clem is awesome. But all the other demons are evil.