6.1 & 6.2: Bargaining I & II
Well here we are again at the start of another Season of Buffy. This is the first time that the opener has been a 2 parter and though most seasons end on some sort of cliff-hanger or loose ends (apart from Season 3), this is really un-new viewer friendly as it is a continuation of numerous story strands from Season 5. Which I like, but it may be a put of for those coming in late. A couple of things surprised me with these 2 episodes. First of all, no Giles in the credits. That is just strange, but I understand ASH's reasons for coming back to blighty and you would have to question whether he would have had anything to do this year. But I hope Ripper (or Watcher or whatever the hell it's called this week) will follow up on the killing of Ben. Yes, he had to do it and we know he's got a dark side, but this is still a big thing and should be addressed. The other thing was the fact Joss never wrote these opening episodes. I know he would have been largely involved in them and no doubt the funny lines belong to him, but still, it is a fairly major storyline. Marti Noxon has also been bumped up to joint executive producer. I'm not sure how I feel about that. She has written some of my least favourite episodes. But she has also written some of the strongest as well. We'll need to see how it plays out, but I did like her Riley leaving episode (which was also her director debut) so I'm fairly confident it will work out. And no Tara in the credits? What the hell's up with that? Unless she is leaving/getting killed off/becoming a guest star. Still very odd.
6.3: Afterlife (or Bargaining Part III)
First of all, let me say what a scary episode this was. No, really, this was genuinely creepy. The scene where Buffy is standing at the bottom of the bed and shouting things at Willow, her face in shadow and voice distorted, was well spooky. Anya with her white eyes and knife in hand with a mad grin on her face was unsettling as well. Unfortunately when the demon is finally revealed it turns out to be a CGI monstrosity and is largely unimpressive.
The other main twist in this episode was Buffy confiding to Spike that she wasn't in fact in Hell, but was in Heaven. And she does not feel the least bit grateful to be torn away from her mother and the feeling of contentment, that she had fought her last battle. And it's eating away at her. This is a big enough shock in itself, but actually telling Spike and trusting was the other. Out of everybody, he seems to be the one that she seems most comfortable round.
Spike was also on the money when he told Xander that Willow might not have been entirely truthful with what the spell was and any possible side effects. It remains to be seen whether she will be the big bad. Not a bad wrap-up episode, but it was more "Bargaining part III" than an actually new story. - 3/5
The main story was the return of Giles, if only for a few episodes. His reaction to seeing Buffy and comforting her was very nicely played. More surprising was his confrontation with Willow. She actually threatened him, which was very odd to see. But I still fell she isn't going to be the main bad guy/girl. It could be I'm wrong, but it seems too early to establish her as the menace.
I don't usual comment on how hot the actresses look, but I've gotta say that SMG looked gorgeous is the bank. Yowza!, Hoo-hoo!, etc.
The trio of failed "villains" was very funny and I was genuinely surprised that they weren't caught. Surely they can't really be the big bad? But with this show you never know. More nice scenes with Spike and Buffy make me think that just maybe these 2 might hit it off. A couple of years ago I would have though it was a terrible storyline, but now I'm all for it. The cliffhanger was interesting in that we will never see what happens. Buffy goes to meet Angel, but since no crossovers between networks is allowed, we won't be able to watch the reunion. This is just plain stupid and though it's better than simply ignoring Angel, it's still very unsatisfactory. A good episode then, but not outstanding. - 3/5
6.5: Life Serial
Quite a funny episode, if a bit light. The hapless trio of wannabe villains are back and decide to test Buffy just as she is trying to find a career. The nerds conversations is always funny, especially the long conversation on Bond, but the Death Star scene is good as well. Very reminiscent of Kevin Smith.
As for Buffy, this was a bit like work experience, trying on her friend's lives and seeing how they fit. In order as they appeared then: Willow's life is still a student, something Buffy herself should be able to relate to. But she's overwhelmed by the questions and subject matter, simply because she hasn't been attending. It's like she's walked into a movie halfway through and is expected to answer a pop quiz on it. The test was funny (liked the "What the fu-" comment from the Buff) but the more you think about it the less sense it makes. Was she simply frozen in time, standing still and motionless? Did she disappear and only come into contact with others when they invaded her space? How the hell do you create a time freeze machine anyway? Funny stuff, but not good if you cross-examine it.
Going to the site with Xander, Buffy actually finds something she's good at, with her super strength, though you think the workers would be amazed and shocked rather than simply grunting acceptance. The rubbery demons are lame and easily disposed, but result in her getting sacked. Still it could have worked out if they hadn't appeared.
The magic shop scene was the funniest of the tests, with the Groundhog Day loop (and the geeks referencing Startrek & X-files was great too) driving Buffy slowly insane. But she really wouldn't have been cut out for the job any more than she could have been a Librarians assistant.
And finally trying out Spikes life, drinking heavily (loved the 'blearghh!' everytime she took a gulp of whiskey, off camera as well) and hanging about seedy bars. Not as glamorous as it sounds and technically not even a paying gig.
In the end, she's back at square one, but Giles gives her money so she has a few more weeks to work stuff out. But the look on Giles face says he really doesn't want to live through another Season 4, where he did less than nothing, no matter how much he loves Buffy. It'll be interesting seeing how pans out. A funny episode and good to see that Buffy isn't simply fitting back into society after her death. - 4/5
6.6: All The Way
I always look forward to Halloween episodes on Buffy. They don't celebrate it every year (like The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror) but there's a nice feeling of continuity to them. Which is all the more surprising how disappointed I was with this episode.
Dawn sneaks out the house and goes to the park with her friend to meet boys. And that's pretty much it. The A plot, of Dawn having her first kiss and the possibility that she might go 'all the way' quite frankly bores me to tears. It's a good moral story, and kids watching it might feel that maybe they shouldn't have underage sex, but as far as entertainment goes, it fails.
Of much more interest is the subplot with Willow who is gradually using her magic for the most mundane activities. Instead of buying decorations, she magic's them up. This isn't that big a deal, but when she suggests that she remove everybody from the Bronze into a parallel universe the way you or I would turn on a light, then yeah, she's lost all respect for the magic arts.
She really crossed the line, if she didn't do it with the slaughter of the deer, when she wipes Tara's memory of the fight they had. That is the first time she has actually used her magic for her own selfish devices that can't in anyway be justified. It's mind rape, pure and simple. Affecting someone's memory is surely the biggest taboo. You're effectively rewriting that person's personality, the sum total of experiences, good and bad. Start messing around with that and you're on that rocky road. Maybe Willow will be the big bad this season after all, but I can't help feel that something else is yet to come.
Buffy was largely sidelined this episode, though she is still getting quite pally with Spike. Her innocent comment "Good Fight" spoke volumes for the simple fact that she would have never have said it before. Giles is also feeling that Buffy can't accept ownership of her problems if he sticks around, a case in point being dealing with Dawn. It's still a bit of a contrived way for him to leave, but after Season 4 I don't think anyone could blame Giles or ASH for wanting to leave before he becomes entirely superfluous.
So, the main plot, for me sort of sucks (though I liked the red herring of the spooky old toy maker being innocent and the 2 guys being Vamps). But the Willow out of control plot is starting to simmer nicely. Plus next week is the big Musical, so I'd like to just cut to next week please. - 3/5
15th Feb '02: A small but large site administration note. Due to money problems (i.e. a lack of any) I've had to cancel my Cable TV. So no more Buffy for a while. It will be on the free-to air channels eventually, but not until August and they won't get around to showing new episodes for me 'til Oct '02. So, there will be a break until I start viewing then again. Just to confirm, the sites note closed or dead, just on a vaction. If you want to contact me, use this e-mail as I won't be visiting the other one for a while.
Cheers, and I'll see you'se in October.