Fool For Love: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #4

 

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I. Love. This. Episode. It’s my favorite episode of Season 5 (my fave season) even though it doesn’t involve the Big Bad, because it shows Spike’s backstory, establishes a majorly important theme, and captures the nature of Spike and Buffy’s relationship. If you ever wonder why the heck I ship Spuffy, this is one of the episodes I would show you.

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The episode starts out with  Buffy fighting a really badly dressed 80s vampire. Buffy does her usual snarking but right before she gets to staking, the vampire ends up staking her in the gut instead. Buffy punches the vampire in the face and removes the stake from her gut as she runs. 80s vamp catches up to her and you’d think Buffy is on the ropes, but Riley ends up saving her.

 

 

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Again, apologies to Marc Blucas, but you can pretty much replace this scene with any other character and it would’ve been the exact same thing. Buffy isn’t usually the damsel in distress but given that she had to deal with a major stab wound, you can allow Buffy to be vulnerable for a bit. I am gonna do my best to be nice to Riley, but I’m not gonna make any promises.

 

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Riley patches up Buffy back in her bedroom. Riley asks Buffy if there’s something special about the vampire who got her, but Buffy says it was just a regular vampire. Dawn and Joyce come in and Dawn covers up for Buffy. Buffy shows the wound to her sister and makes her promise not to tell. Riley decides to take over for patrol. Buffy accepts under the condition that he takes the rest of the Scoobies with him.

 

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I won’t go into detail on the scenes with Riley’s patrol because honestly, this is not what the episode is about. The scenes where Riley goes after the 80s vamp and his friends establishes how Riley’s “demon hunting” style is different from Buffy’s. Riley was trained in the military, so he uses guerrilla tactics and some major overkill. Buffy  in contrast, has a more improvised style. Yes, she does research but she usually thinks on her feet.

 

 

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Said “thinking on the go” applies to the next two scenes. After pouring over tons of Watcher Diaries with Giles, Buffy laments that the Slayers’ final battles were never recorded. Giles says it’s because the Watchers found themselves unable to detach from the pain of losing a slayer. Pop quiz: Who in this show has killed two Slayers and lived to tell the tale?

 

 

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Right on cue.

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Buffy and Spike go out to the Bronze to talk about the two Slayers that Spike killed in exchange for cash. He tells Buffy that it’s not about the moves and demands that she order a plate of buffalo wings. I know Spike is coming off as a jerk in this scene, but, well, Buffy is acting equally jerkish to him. And as sad as it is to say, Buffy is not gonna get any easy answers from Spike. Spike brags to Buffy that he was always bad. We’re about to find out, however, that Spike is lying.

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The flashback shows a very adorable William Pratt working on a poem. He sees a beautiful woman named Cecily walk into your typical Victorian England party and goes to talk to her. He finds her with some of his “friends,” ask him about some strange disappearances happening in London. He tells them that he prefers to think of things of beauty, referring to his poem. The upper crust frenemy reads the poem out loud and, well, it’s bad: “My heart expands, ’tis grown a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty, effulgent.”

 

 

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It might just be my long experience with my own bad writing, but it wasn’t actually bad. Regardless, everyone starts laughing at William’s couplet, so he takes his poem and follows Cecily to a sitting room. Before he leaves, though, we find out that William was called “William the Bloody” because of his bloody awful poetry and not because he was already some kind of pugilist or serial killer. The upper crust bully who read the poem says that he’d rather have a railroad spike through his head than listen to that awful stuff. He’s gonna regret those words.

 

 

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William goes to Cecily inside a sitting room. Cecily asks if the poems are about her and is aghast to find out that they are. William professes his love to her only to get shot down. She says “You’re nothing to me, William. You’re beneath me.”

 

 

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William leaves the party sobbing, tearing up his poem as he walks. He crashes into a trio of very well-dressed aristocrats. (Spoilers: The aristocrats are Drusilla, Angelus, and Darla.) He ends up inside of a barn where Drusilla ends up finding him. William mistakes Drusilla for a pickpocket, but that’s not what she has in mind. William is intrigued by her, but, well, Drusilla has a way with getting what she wants. And, well, you know what happens after she starts biting his neck.

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Spike explains the allure of becoming a vampire over a game of pool. My personal theory about vampires in the Buffyverse (and in general) is that vampires are human souls corrupted to varying degrees by the demon that takes over their bodies. And not all vampires are the same.

 

 

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This is clearly shown when Spike joins Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla. Angelus and Darla aren’t exactly keen on Spike because “William the Bloody” (which has now taken on a more sinister tone) likes starting riots for the sake of, well, having a riot. Angelus, for those who don’t know, is a lot like a stylized serial killer. He likes playing mind games and putting a lot of thought and effort into the way that he kills people. Spike, on the other hand, is a rough-and-tumble kind of vampire. And yeah, David Boreaneaz’s Irish accent sucks. (Apologies to the David Boreaneaz fangirls.)  The two vampires start fighting and when Angelus starts realizing that Spike has a point on the appeal of the rough-and-tumble fighting style, he tells Spike that he’ll probably end up killed by an angry mob or the Slayer. Now usually, vampires go running from the Slayer. Spike is a unique vampire because he actively seeks out Slayers. The first lesson that Spike tells Buffy is that she always needs her weapon at the ready. He then starts telling the story of his battle with the Chinese Slayer.

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Way back in the days of the Boxer Rebellion in China, Spike fought a Slayer named Xin Rong whose swordfighting skills gave Spike the scar on his eyebrow. The fight scene is amazing, like something out of, well, a really good action movie. But ultimately, Spike gets the upper hand and kills her. Drusilla comes in very turned on by the fact that Spike killed a Slayer. Spike tells Dru that the blood of the Slayer is a powerful aphrodisiac and shares the blood with her. Then, well, you can guess what happened after that. Even if they are vampires, they are also very much in love.

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The two of them meet with Darla and Angelus out in a town square and Drusilla announces Spike’s latest victory. You might notice that Angelus is a bit odd in this scene. Let’s just say he’s not himself right now.

 

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The shot of the Whirlwind doing a slow walk through the town is nothing short of epic, especially for fans who’ve wanted to see Darla, Angelus, Drusilla, and Spike all together. And Spike says that the night he killed the Chinese Slayer for the first time was the best night of his life. Buffy is disgusted that Spike and Dru got off on the kill, only for Spike to snark back “And you haven’t?” Incidentally, another Slayer would say something about how slaying gets a girl “hungry and horny” but I digress.

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Spike tells Buffy that the one thing all vampires hope for is one good day and that Buffy is starting to think that she’s invincible. Buffy says that she can handle herself. Spike points out the wound in Buffy’s gut and they take things outside.

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Buffy starts sparring with Spike and Spike tells Buffy Lesson Number Two: Ask the right questions. It’s not “Why did he win?” It’s “Why did they lose?”

 

 

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Cut to the 1970s where a very cliche disco track plays over 1970s Spike’s battle with the New York Slayer, Nikki Wood. The flashback is interspersed with Spike and Buffy’s sparring in the alleyway. Spike explains that Nikki was more cunning and resourceful, similar to Buffy.

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“I could’ve danced all night with that one.”

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“You think we’re dancing?”

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“That’s all we’ve ever done.”

 

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Spike points out that the only thing about the dance of the Slayer is that the Slayer dances with death and it never stops. He knows that sooner or later death will catch up to Buffy. Every Slayer eventually has a death wish. What makes Buffy different, the reason she’s lived longer than most Slayers, is that she has ties to the world.

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Spike makes one more intimidating glare to Buffy, boasting to her that when she gets that death wish, he’ll be there to grant it.

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You can tell by Buffy’s face that Spike really got under her skin this time. And, well, even if Spike wasn’t a potential love interest, I would’ve been okay if Buffy died by Spike’s hands because he is a worthy opponent.

But…

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DAMMIT BUFFY HE WANTS TO KISS YOU! KISS HIM, YOU IDIOT!

Okay, I am gonna save the feels for later. Calm down.

 

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Buffy shoves Spike away and tells him that he’ll never get to her and says

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“You’re beneath me.”

Now, I’m not sure if Buffy knew how much hurt those words had on Spike. The episode never shows how exactly Spike told his origin story to Buffy. But she knew that they would hurt. I don’t blame Buffy for wanting to have the last word because, let’s be honest, Spike scared her. But I end up feeling sorry for Spike at the end of this scene instead of siding with Buffy and usually I am on Buffy’s side.

 

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Spike gets a shotgun at his crypt and plans on killing Buffy once and for all, but Harmony (Spike’s really lame “girlfriend”) points out that he won’t be able to kill Buffy because of the chip in his head that prevents him from really killing people. And she yells that even before Spike got the chip, he was never able to kill Buffy even though he had plenty of chances.

 

 

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Cut to a flashback with Drusilla, who still sees Buffy in Spike’s life. She’s cheating on him with a demon with antlers because she still sees Spike as covered with the Slayer. This flashback, by the way, takes place in Rio, where Spike and Dru went to after Season 2. The aftermath of this argument would lead to Spike appearing in Season 3’s “Lovers Walk.”

 

 

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The episode ends in Buffy’s house, where Joyce is packing for an overnight stay at the hospital. Joyce explains that she’s getting a CAT scan for whatever she has in her head. Buffy heads out to the back porch, burdened with the knowledge that something is wrong with her mother and that there’s nothing she can do about it. She starts crying as Spike slowly walks towards her, gun in hand. He starts arming himself when Buffy looks up at him with tear-filled eyes.

 

 

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Instead of killing her, he asks Buffy “What’s wrong?” She replies that doesn’t want to talk about it, so Spike goes to sit next to her, setting his gun aside to comfort her.

 

 

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Even though the two of them never exchange words, this final scene captures the nature of the Spike and Buffy relationship. In spite of Buffy not wanting to open up to Spike, Spike will always be there anyway because, unlike all the other vampires in the show, Spike has some levels of empathy.

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In several interviews, James Marsters has confessed that in spite of what Joss laid out about vampires being soulless, he always played Spike as having a soul. Spike having at least an echo of a human soul is clear in this episode. As I said before, I always interpreted the nature of the “soul” in vampires to be like souls of humans in a completely fallen state. The nature of the vampire brings out a person’s dark side and the human soul is still part of the vampire, but in a corrupt form. Humans, after all, are capable of horrific deeds in spite of the fact that we are created with souls.

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Buffy and Spike’s “relationship” from Seasons 2-7 takes on different natures. I’ll explain more as to how in another post. In Season 5, Spike is in love with Buffy, and yes, in spite of his idiotic actions in later episodes, I do think he’s in love and not just obsessing. He just acted in a very misguided manner because in my honest opinion, vampires don’t exactly lack souls as they do a moral conscience. The only reason he acts so rude to Buffy is because she’s acting rude to him. And yes, there is still a part of Spike that wants to kill her. But Spike fights against that nature more and more as the series progresses.

 

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I know I’m probably sounding like a blind fangirl here. I understand that some people see Spike as an evil being whose actions in Seasons 4-5 are like a criminal in a straitjacket, being forced to do good against his will. And well, a certain episode in Season 6 doesn’t help things. But when you look at the scene at the end of the episode, you can see that Spike hates seeing Buffy crying. And I think it’s because there’s still a part of William in Spike that empathized with Buffy’s sadness.

 

 

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It says a lot about James Marsters’s performance that Spike was able to capture the hearts of at least half the fandom. Spike wasn’t supposed to be sympathetic and yet he changes way more than Angel does. And Angel was given his own show. Five whole seasons of Angel and the brooding blockhead is still a brooding blockhead. By Season 5 of Buffy, Spike became complex and layered. It’s really no wonder why I have a Texas-sized crush on him.

 

 

 

So if you’re a Spike fan like me, check out this episode. It’s actually a good standalone compared to the rest of Season 5. It shows the stakes that Buffy has to deal with and, as I said before, shows the complicated nature of the Spike/Buffy relationship.

Screencaps are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

 

The Body: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #5

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS SHOW ENSUE! Also, if you’re a long-time fan of the show, there will be feels. Get tissues.

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“The Body” is the episode that I wish could’ve won an Emmy. Unlike most of the episodes here, this one is an out-and-out tear-jerking, dramatic episode. There isn’t any musical score in this episode, but to me, this episode didn’t need it. Music was necessary in “Hush” because it basically narrated throughout the silent parts. But this episode didn’t need music because the acting and story pretty much told you how to react. Lazy movie writers often use musical score as a manipulative way to tell people how to feel about a scene. Heck, even the theme song playing feels jarring compared to the silence of the rest of the episode. So yeah, in spite of what one of my friends said, I don’t mind the lack of musical score in this episode. The sounds of fans crying their eyes out is enough.

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The episode opens where the previous episode left off. Buffy returns home to find that her mom received flowers from a guy named Brian. She calls to her mom about picking up Dawn from school and then looks into the living room to find her mother on the couch, lying down, staring at the ceiling. If you’ve ever watched NCIS or any crime-scene procedural, you already know what happened to Joyce. But that doesn’t make the fallen expression from Buffy’s face any easier to take.

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After the opening, we see a flashback to Christmas dinner. It’s the last time that this show would make a reference to Christmas, by the way. It’s a happy memory, with Anya telling Dawn about what Santa Claus is really like and Buffy joking about Giles and Joyce staying away from the band candy. When it cuts back to Joyce’s blank expression and Buffy trying to wake her mother up, it’s really upsetting.

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Buffy calls 911 and tries to administer CPR to her mom, not accounting for the fact that her Slayer strength made her break one of her mom’s ribs. When Buffy gets off the phone with 911, she makes another call to Giles. The paramedics come in. Buffy explains that Joyce had a brain tumor that was operated on. Joyce starts coughing and regains consciousness and you think everything’s gonna be okay, but it’s just a cut-away daydream. The paramedics tell Buffy that Joyce is dead due to an aneurysm or a complication from the surgery. They plan to call the coroner’s office to take the body. What’s interesting is that the paramedic’s face isn’t shown as Buffy is looking at him and his tone is seriously cold.

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Buffy wanders around the house and vomits in a sitting room between her living room and kitchen. She looks outside to her backyard and the camera shows the despondent expression on her face. The only sound we hear is the windchimes until Giles comes in. When he finds Joyce on the floor, he goes to her until Buffy yells: “We’re not supposed to move the body.” There’s complete silence as Joyce’s body is taken out.

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Cut to Dawn crying over a boy teasing her. She and her friend complain about a mean girl who’s spreading rumors about Dawn. Dawn heads into art class, where there’s a class on negative space. The camera makes use of negative space throughout the episode. She starts making conversation with the cute boy next to her when Buffy comes in to deliver the bad news. Negative space is used again as Buffy takes Dawn out to the hallway. Instead of the scene being shown in close-up, we watch the scene through the window of the art classroom and the camera pans to show Dawn’s drawing of the statue, which looks like those dead body outlines from CSI.

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The next scene shows Willow and Tara in their dorm room. Willow is trying to decide what to wear. Xander and Anya are on their way to pick them up. Willow breaks down in tears, leading Tara to comfort her with the very first on-screen kiss between the two lovers. Now please don’t fire up the comboxes about LGBT issues. Willow and Tara’s relationship is a major part of this series and no matter what my personal feelings are about gay marriage, I loved them as a couple. And I’ll give Joss credit for showing this kiss as a completely natural thing between Willow and Tara and not just a thing for Sweeps Week.

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Xander and Anya arrive. Anya has no idea what to do. Willow, Xander, and Tara wonder if Joyce’s death was caused by the Big Bad of season 5, Glory, but that’s not the case. Xander blames the doctors for not taking care of the post-surgery complications. Anya keeps asking questions that make everyone uncomfortable, but she’s at a loss at understanding how she should deal with everything. Her monologue is one of my favorite moments in this episode because in spite of the fact that Anya’s a former vengeance demon, the things she said are very similar to what it feels like to experience loss for the first time.

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Xander punches a hole in the wall and the scene ends with a bit of comic relief as Xander, in his usual comic relief fashion, jokes about the hole in the wall. The gang all heads out as we see a police officer putting a parking ticket on Xander’s car.

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At the hospital, the doctor tells Buffy the results of the autopsy. Joyce died of a sudden aneurysm. Even if someone was with her, it would’ve been too late to do anything. There’s a quick scene that shows what might’ve been, but it was just another daydream, another empty wish. The doctor gives Buffy and Giles paperwork to fill out and leaves. Xander, Anya, and Willow all try to find words to comfort Buffy, but decide to go off to find Dawn, who went off to the bathroom. Tara, who lost her mother in the past, is the only one who stays with Buffy. Tara tells Buffy about how she lost her mother and says that she can help if necessary. Buffy asks Tara if her mother’s death was sudden. Tara says “It’s always sudden.”

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The last scene of the episode focuses on Dawn in the morgue, looking at her mother’s body. A vampire comes to life. Buffy rescues Dawn from the vampire and the two of them look at their mother’s body. My friend Welshy says that this last scene felt completely unnecessary and I can’t help but agree with him. Yes, this show is called Buffy the Vampire Slayer but aside from the fact that I wish Spike was in this episode to see how he handled Joyce’s death, there was no need for a vampire to come into this episode. This entire episode feels the most realistic and the vampire attack in the end just felt out of place.

“The Body” is a seriously wonderful episode in how everything was written. For me, it portrays how everyone tries to cope and deal with actual death. I don’t know how other people deal with the death of a loved one who died of old age or of cancer or some other kind of slow death, but for me, my first loss was sudden. In spite of the deaths and supernatural stuff that happens in Buffy, there were only two deaths in the show that made me cry. This was one of them. I don’t want to talk about the other one. And don’t guess in the comments either or I’ll be seeing red.

This is not an episode I recommend to casual viewers and most Buffy fans still have a lot of feels when they watch this one. But it’s a mark of a good show when the audience is affected so much by the death of a beloved character.

Hush: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #6

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Hush is a unique episode in the Buffy lineup. It’s the only episode that was nominated for an Emmy and it feels like a mix of a silent movie and a Doctor Who episode. The episode is written and directed by Joss Whedon and it shows his range as both. Joss Whedon is known for his memorable dialogue and wit, so an episode where the characters are silent for most of the time is seriously different from that.

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The episode starts out with Buffy in psychology class. Professor Maggie Walsh is lecturing on communication and language. She calls Buffy down to the front and tells her to lie down on the desk. She calls her TA, Captain Cardboard  Riley Finn to help her with the demonstration. The two of them share a kiss as the sun goes down. Apologies  in advance to Marc Blucas, by the way. Out of all the love interests in this show, Riley is one I particularly dislike. Anyway, the sun goes down and Buffy hears a girl humming from the hallway.

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I have to wonder if Steven Moffat ever watched Buffy because this scene feels very much like the creepy scenes in the scarier Doctor Who episodes, with a little girl singing a creepy nursery rhyme about something called “The Gentlemen.” We get a quick glimpse of the Gentlemen only for Buffy to wake up in class.

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Turns out that Buffy fell asleep in class and the whole previous scene was just a dream. Willow heads off to Wicca group and watches Buffy and Riley make conversation. Yes, she ships it. I don’t. Buffy and Riley’s conversation is majorly awkward even with Buffy wanting to kiss him and Buffy leaves, miffed that she didn’t get the guts to tell Riley about her feelings.

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Buffy calls Giles about the dream that she had, since Slayers like her often have precognitive dreams. Spike, who is staying in Giles’s house, acts like your typical sitcom annoying neighbor, complaining that they’re out of Weetabix. Xander and Anya come around in the middle of having a “where do we stand in this relationship” argument. Anya doesn’t exactly have a filter on her mouth, which leads to the argument being a source of humor for Spike. Giles tells Xander and Anya that he needs Spike to stay with them since he’s having a friend over, much to everyone else’s chagrin.

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Willow attends a Wicca group meeting that is about as authentic as, well, a really bad youth group meeting. (No offense to actual youth groups.) Willow wants to study magic, catching the attention of a shy blonde named Tara.

 

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Every other girl in the group, however, is dismissive of Willow’s suggestion. Willow complains to Buffy about how they’re all a” bunch of wannablessedbes.”  They walk back to their dorm, where Willow eggs Buffy to get to the making smoochies with Riley already. Buffy wants to open up about her secret life as the Slayer, but can’t. Riley, of course, has his own secret life as a soldier of the Initiative.

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Xander ties Spike up inside his basement and no, in spite of the dialogue there won’t be any bromance between the two of them. Although memories of Nicholas Brendon admitting to having a crush on Spike still makes me giggle, especially with this scene. Spike mocks Anya’s voice to keep annoying Xander while Giles greets his girlfriend Olivia.

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Over in a clock tower, a creepy white hand opens a box. All over town, voices escape from people’s bodies, flying inside the little box. The creepy hand closes the box to reveal an equally creepy face that reminds me of the Smilers from Doctor Who.

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The next morning, Buffy gets ready and hears someone crying as they walk down the hallway. Willow wakes up and Buffy greets her, only for both of them to realize that they have no voices. Willow thinks she’s gone deaf, but both of them realize that they just don’t have voices. Xander wakes up with no voice and thinks it’s all Spike’s fault. He calls Buffy and Willow, but since neither of them can talk, it’s a major problem. Riley and his friend Forrest head on over to the Initiative and panic when the elevator stops working. They make it down to the base to find Maggie Walsh, who points to the “In Case of Emergency, use stairs” sign. Keep in mind, btw, that this episode takes place before the invention of social media and text messaging. So it’s not like these guys can just Tweet each other.

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Buffy and Willow walk around town to find Sunnydale in complete chaos. The liquor store is open but other places are closed. There’s a priest telling his flock to open their Bibles to Revelation 15:1 “Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.” This verse is relevant because, if you remember the rhyme, the Gentlemen need to take seven somethings. 

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Buffy and Willow buy a couple of white boards and head over to Giles’s apartment. In spite of the fact that there’s no dialogue, the key relationships between everyone are clear to see. Buffy checks to see if Giles found anything in his research, but there isn’t anything. Willow writes “Hi Giles” in her sweet adorable little way. Buffy thinks that the Gentlemen may have something to do with everyone being silent. Xander draws everyone’s attention to the news and it turns out that Sunnydale is the only place affected, with the town put under quarantine. Buffy tells Giles to keep researching while she goes on patrol. Maggie Walsh tells her soldiers via text-talk to make sure that the town doesn’t descend into chaos. Buffy finds Riley out on the town and hugs him. Then Riley kisses Buffy as he goes to take care of someone breaking into a store.

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It’s at this point that the Gentlemen finally come out in all their Slender Man/Smilers/Silence-type creepiness. They float around town with their minions looking for…well, something. Olivia sees one of the Gentlemen through a window and gasps. Two Gentlemen float down to the dorms of UC Sunnydale and you’d think they’d go after Buffy and Willow or even Tara, but instead they go into the dorm room of a random college student, knocking on his door. Once inside, they literally steal the poor guy’s heart, ripping it straight out of his chest with the help of some surgical tools. Thankfully we don’t actually see the heart-ripping thing. When we return to the clock tower, we see that the Gentlemen already have three hearts.

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The next day, Buffy goes to the dorm room of the student whose heart got ripped out while Olivia, in Giles’s apartment, draws a picture of the Gentlemen, prompting Giles to grab a book of Fairy Tales.

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The scene in the classroom, with Giles on the projector, is one of my fave scenes in this episode. Giles plays “Danse Macabre” on a stereo as he tells everyone what the Gentlemen are. Willow knows that the Gentlemen are after hearts, pointing to her chest, but Xander thinks of boobs instead. Giles explains via slides and crude drawings that the Gentlemen come into a town, steal everyone’s voices, and rip the hearts out of seven people. Everyone is grossed out over Giles’s drawing of a Gentlemen killing a human and ripping out his heart except for Anya, since she used to be a vengeance demon. She eats popcorn, sitting a few rows away from everyone else. Xander asks “How do we kill them?”

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Buffy makes a motion with her hand that we know looks like staking but the way she’s pumping her hand makes everyone else think of something else until Buffy takes out her stake. Giles says in another slide that the Gentlemen can’t be killed by any weapons, just a human screaming. Willow thinks they can use a CD of screams, but only a real human voice is capable of killing them. So Buffy asks “How do I get my voice back?” Giles’s next slide says “Buffy will patrol tonight” with another crude drawing. Buffy scoffs at how big her hips look in the drawing. Over in the Initiative Base, Riley and Forrest prepare for their own patrol.

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Out on the town, nobody’s around except for Buffy and Riley. Inside a dorm room, a list of phone numbers lies on top of a page that says “Spells of Speech and Silence.” Willow’s number is highlighted. Tara is shown leaving her dorm room, probably heading to Willow since she has Willow’s dorm room number written on a Post-it. As she leaves her room, you can’t help but think “Uh oh,” especially when the Gentlemen find her as she walks around the UC Sunnydale campus. Tara starts pounding on doors in Stevenson Hall, looking for Willow as the Gentlemen follow her. Tara starts pounding on one door and the editing tricks you into thinking she’s pounding on Willow’s door until the door opens revealing a Gentleman with a heart in his hand. Willow steps out of her dorm, literally crashes into Tara, and the two of them run away from the Gentlemen.

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Meanwhile, Buffy fights off the Gentlemen’s minions and Riley inspects the clock tower. He fights off a couple of minions and Buffy crashes in with the minions she was fighting. The two of them have a stand-off with their weapons, but decide to keep fighting the minions first.

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Over in Giles’s apartment, Spike sips some blood out of a mug, going into vamp face, and goes into the living room, where Anya is resting on the couch. Xander walks in and finds the vamp-faced Spike looking like he bit Anya and drained her. He starts beating Spike up to a pulp, which wakes Anya up. Anya breaks up the fight and Xander kisses her as romantic music swells. Then Xander and Anya decide to go off to get a room.

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Willow and Tara make their way down into the laundry room and try to push a soda machine over to the door to no avail. The Gentlemen are pounding at the door. Willow tries to make the soda machine move, but it’s not working. Then Tara holds Willow’s hand and the two witches combine their magic to move the soda machine and succeed. Tara doesn’t let go of Willow’s hand, however, which hints at the relationship the two of them will later have.

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Back in the clock tower, Buffy follows a minion up the stairs to the Gentleman’s base. She gets captured by the minions and the Gentlemen move towards her, only for Riley to taze them. Buffy and Riley fight off the minions and one of the Gentleman cuts her. A minion gets Buffy in a chokehold as she recognizes the box on the table as the box from her dream. She motions to Riley to break the box, but he doesn’t get it right the first time. When Riley actually gets it right, Buffy gets her voice back and unleashes a loud, piercing scream, causing the Gentlemen and their minions to die via head-explosion.

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The next day, Willow and Tara make conversation about being real witches and magic. It’s clear from this scene that Tara is seriously attracted to Willow and that Willow is picking up on Tara’s interest. Giles and Olivia have a small moment, but given that Olivia doesn’t appear again until the comics, she’s not gonna stick around after this episode. The episode ends with Riley entering Buffy’s dorm, telling her that they should have a talk. Instead, the two sit across from each other in awkward silence.

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I seriously love this episode, Captain Cardboard aside. It’s suspenseful and scary without actually being gory. You never see the Gentleman’s victims, just Giles’s crude drawings. I also love the way that everyone plays off of each other. It takes a lot of chemistry and good acting to convey how everyone relates to each other without having any dialogue whatsoever.

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who and have never seen Buffy, check out this episode. I also recommend this episode to those who want to see Joss Whedon do silent film. (Until he does an actual silent film, that is.)

Band Candy: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #7

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Band Candy is a fun episode to watch. The whole “adults acting as teens” has been done before, but this one is unique in just how it executes the idea. It’s basically like “Freaky Friday” without the body switching. This is also notable for being the first Buffy episode written by Jane Espenson, who would go on to write for Torchwood: Miracle Day and is currently a producer for Once Upon a Time. She also wrote Firefly’s “Shindig” and several episodes of Buffy that didn’t make this list, but I still love nevertheless including “Intervention” and “Storyteller.”

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The episode opens with Buffy studying for her SATs with Giles out in a cemetery. She fights a vampire and stakes it with a pencil. Giles gives her the answer to the question she was going over: “All things tend towards chaos.” Buffy laments that nobody else is working as late.

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The next shot shows the Mayor (Season 3’s Big Bad) working late with his right hand vampire Trick. Trick plans on hiring out a “distraction” so that the Mayor is free to pay tribute to a demon. You may notice that the Mayor has a bit of a Mitt Romney/Donald Trump feel in how disturbingly cheery he is, even when he opens a cabinet filled with preserved dead things and occult items.

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The next morning, Buffy laments with her friends about her SAT-related anxiety and the pressure her mother and Giles are putting on her. They walk to the cafeteria to find Principal Snyder handing out candy that everyone needs to sell to raise money for the band.

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After school, Buffy begs her mom to let her practice driving. Problem is that Joyce doesn’t want Buffy driving off somewhere and never coming back. Buffy jokes about how she ran away on a bus in the previous season, which is still a sore spot for Joyce and most of the fandom that hasn’t gotten over “Becoming Part 2.” Buffy goes off to spend time with Giles but gets out of her training by saying that she needs to be home. We know that she’s lying to both of them. Wanna guess why?

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Yep. Angel. Back from Hell and practicing tai chi without a shirt. I can completely understand Buffy wanting to spend as much time as possible with Angel, but can he at least put a shirt on? (And yes, call me a hypocrite because if you showed me a scene involving the other hot shirtless vampire, I would be drooling. I’m just not attracted to David Boreneaz. Never was.) Pointless fanservice aside, the Bangel subplot was one of the things I didn’t like about Season 3. While I can relate to wanting to be with the ex you never get over, Buffy is kind of proving her parents right about her lack of responsibility.

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When Buffy gets home, she gets in major trouble with her mother and Giles for lying to them and to Willow about her whereabouts. Buffy decides to lie to her parents about where she was and complains about how much time both of them demand from her. Buffy gets sent to her room after Giles tells her to not “freak out.” This is a nice scene for both Giles and Joyce because they both want to protect Buffy, but have no idea how. If you notice, this is when both Giles and Joyce start eating the candy. Keep that in mind. Over in some mysterious factory, Giles’s old frenemy Ethan Rayne is managing the band candy assembly line. He tells one of the workers not to eat the candy, which sends up a red flag.

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The next morning, Cordelia and Buffy wonder where Giles is while Xander and Willow play footsie under the table. The scene between them would be adorable but the problem is that they are in perfectly happy relationships with other people. Another lament I have with this show: They played around with Xander and Willow having more-than-friends moments, but never actually let them have a relationship or gave either of them closure on why they can’t be in a relationship. Principal Snyder whines about Giles not showing up and gets Ms. Barton to substitute.

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After school, Buffy goes over to Giles’s apartment and finds her mother there with him. The two of them tell Buffy that they were talking about making a schedule that would accommodate to Buffy’s needs.  Joyce gives Buffy the keys to the Giles (another red flag) and Buffy takes off faster than you can say “Bite me!” Then Giles lights up a cigarette while Joyce takes out a bottle of wine. Later on, they are seen smoking and listening to old records. Can you say “Uh oh.”

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Buffy drives with Willow to the Bronze and find the place is packed with older adults, even as Oz and his band are playing. Buffy and Willow wonder what the heck all the grown-ups are doing at the Bronze. They come across a very ditzy Ms. Barton and a very dorky, fun-loving Snyder. Buffy, Willow, and Oz watch the night turn into a squick-inducing spectacle and Buffy decides to figure out what’s going on. Snyder tags along with Buffy as they head out into town.

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Out on the town in the shopping district, Joyce admires a jacket in a store window and Giles breaks a window to get it for her. They get held at gunpoint by a cop who’s under the influence of the candy. Giles fights off the cop and takes the gun. Then the Giles/Joyce ship turns into a steamboat as they make out on the hood of the cop’s car (and do a lot more off-camera).

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When Buffy and company look around town, Buffy notices that no vampires are out attacking the vulnerable adults. When Snyder whines over someone stealing his candy, Buffy asks Snyder about where the candy came from. She sends Willow and Oz to the library while she goes off to the factory.

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At the factory, a small group of adults are raving over getting more candy while Buffy gets a major gross-out at the sight of her mother making out with her Watcher. Buffy has a spat with both of them and fights the guy handing out the candy, taking her mother and Giles inside. Snyder follows in, wanting a piece of the action. Inside the factory, Buffy finds Ethan on the phone. Ethan, at the sight of his old frenemy, runs off. Buffy and Giles give chase and eventually find Ethan hiding inside a crate.

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Giles wants Buffy to punch Ethan’s light house while Buffy interrogates Ethan about what he knows. Ethan admits that he was hired by Trick to create the candy as a diversion while Trick collected a tribute for the demon Lurconis. When Buffy asks Ethan what the tribute is, the camera cuts to a group of vampires collecting babies from a hospital.

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Buffy asks Willow to get some further info on Lurconis.  Ethan tries attacking Buffy but Giles holds him at gunpoint and Buffy knocks Ethan to the ground. Still on the phone, Willow tells Buffy that Lurconis has a ritual every 30 years and that he eats babies. Joyce gives Buffy handcuffs to use on Ethan and the four of them head out to the hospital. Giles remembers something about Lurconis, that he’s a glutton who lives in the sewers. He starts sniping off at Snyder but Buffy quickly takes control of the situation. She tells Snyder to go home and tells Giles to come with her to the sewers and stop making out with her mom.

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Down in the sewers, Giles and Joyce rescue the babies while Buffy takes care of Trick’s minions and burns Lurconis to a crisp. Trick escapes with a snark. At the Mayor’s office Trick tells the Mayor that Ethan left town and that he doesn’t have to worry about owing anything to Lurconis. The Mayor hints at his darker side, but we won’t get to see that until later this season.

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Things at Sunnydale High are back to normal, with Snyder asking Willow, Oz, Cordy, and Xander to clean up a “Kiss Rocks” graffiti on the lockers. Buffy laments to Giles about how “nothing made sense” and how she felt “so alone”…about taking the SATs. She meets her mom outside and sighs in relief that nothing happened between them. Of course, her mother and her father figure know otherwise.

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I gotta give kudos to Anthony Stewart Head and Kristine Sutherland for how awesomely they acted in this episode. It was awesome to finally see Ripper in action and it’s hilarious to see that Buffy and her mother aren’t all that different. The only thing I wish is that the writers would’ve taken advantage of the Giles/Joyce romance. It’s also good to see Buffy taking responsibility when the situation calls for it, but I still wish she wasn’t sneaking around because of Angel.

I recommend this episode to casual as well as die-hard fans of the show because it doesn’t really have any major plot points, but it doesn’t feel like a “filler” episode the way other episodes in the show feel.

School Hard: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #8

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If someone were to ask me what episode I would show to someone who’s never seen Buffy before, I would show them two episodes: “Prophecy Girl” and “School Hard.” Prophecy Girl is the Season 1 finale and it introduces the world that Buffy takes place in and all the characters really well. However, the reason I choose “School Hard” for this blog post is because this episode establishes the theme of the season, establishes the main cast, and introduces two characters who will be a staple of the show for years to come.

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The episode starts out with Buffy in the Principal’s office with a delinquent named Sheila. Principal Snyder wants the two of them to work together to decorate and make refreshments for Parent-Teacher Night. Buffy meets up with Xander and Willow and Xander tells Buffy to not worry so much. “As long as nothing really bad comes along between now and then, you’ll be fine,” he says.

 

Buffy and Willow are quick to point out that now something bad is gonna happen in an almost self-aware sense. Xander thinks this time may be different. He’s totally wrong, of course, because in the next scene we see a black car running over the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign and an intimidating, black leather duster wearing, punk-rock vampire steps out, lighting up a cigarette.

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Ladies and gentlemen, meet the vampire that stole my heart.

In the previous season, there was a minor villain called the Anointed One who is scene in his lair with his cronies. They all plot on killing the Slayer on something called “the Night of Saint Vigeous” and one of them says it’ll be the greatest thing since the crucifixion, bragging that he was there. Spike, of course, is not amused. Neither am I, for obvious reasons.

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When Spike walks in the room with the other baddies, the attention is all on him. Mostly because all the other vampires in the room are about as interesting as the back of a cereal box. Spike starts bragging (he likes to brag) about the Slayers he’s killed when a haunting music box type melody takes over the room. Spike turns around and we get to see his human visage for the first time as his lover, Drusilla, walks in the room.

 

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Like Spike, Drusilla is a vampire that you can’t help but be drawn to. She reminds me of those creepy ladies in horror movies that talk nonsense and walk like ballerinas. There’s a certain fragility to Drusilla and the love and affection the two of them have for each other feels genuine even when you take into account that vampires supposedly “can’t love.” When Drusilla asks Spike to kill the Slayer, Spike tells her “I’ll chop her into messes.” Shakespeare buffs might recognize this line from the play Othello in which the titular character says this line in reference to the woman he loves. However, Spike is saying this line in reference to Buffy.

 

In the next scene, Buffy has a short conversation with her mother regarding Parent-Teacher Night in which Joyce wants to believe in the best for Buffy but worries about her being irresponsible, since she’s totally unaware of Buffy’s life as an unofficial superhero. Our favorite Slayer laments about the responsibilities she has to deal with as she paints the banner for Parent-Teacher night.

 

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My internet friend Ian AKA Passion of the Nerd points out that there’s an interesting parallel between Spike and Buffy, when Dru cuts Spike’s cheek and Buffy shows up in the next scene with a line of paint on her cheek in that same area. Trust me when I say this will be the first of many parallels between Buffy and Spike. But to go any further would make this a mile-long Spuffy post. Moving on!

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Giles and another teacher, Jenny Calendar, come in to warn Buffy about the Night of St. Vigeous which is supposedly a night when vampires (after three days of fasting and rituals) are at their strongest. I’m honestly not gonna go into much detail beyond that because the show never actually showed the Night of St. Vigeous happening. It’s honestly just a MacGuffin that goes nowhere.

Later that night, Buffy tries studying at The Bronze to no avail because she’s pining for Angel. She goes off to the dance floor with Willow and Xander and a very telling song plays as Spike watches Buffy dance.

 

Spike does a stage whisper about calling the police about someone getting bitten outside, which prompts Buffy and company to make for the alley. Buffy beats up the vamp and stakes him easily (with a bit of Xander’s help) and Spike walks in, applauding her.

 

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“Who are you?”

 

"You'll find out Saturday."

“You’ll find out Saturday.”

 

"What happens Saturday?"

“What happens Saturday?”

 

"I'll kill you."

“I’ll kill you.”

Spike goes off to another nightclub to catch Shiela while the Scoobies convene in the Sunnydale High School Library to research on Spike. Angel comes in to warn everyone about Spike, but leaves before giving any actual useful information. Meanwhile, Spike returns to Drusilla with Sheila in tow and a bit of backstory gets revealed. Dru was attacked by a mob in Prague which left her in a weakened state, prompting Spike to take her to the Hellmouth and help her recover. Spike goes off to perform the rituals with the Anointed One and tells Drusilla to feed, shoving Sheila at her.

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The next day, the Scoobies prepare for battling the vamps while Buffy preps for Parent-Teacher Night. Cordelia, Buffy’s high school rival, shows up in the scene as sort of a “frenemy.” Joyce inevitably meets with Principal Snyder and it’s clear that Buffy will be on a one-way trip to Grounded-ville. Of course, just as things are about to go south for Buffy, Spike and his cronies break into the school. Why? He was bored and has major impatience issues.

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Now the reason the episode is called “School Hard” is that the ensuing moments are reminiscent of the movie Die Hard, in which a bunch of people get trapped in a building while the hero saves them from terrorists by sneaking on the enemy through air vents. Buffy takes initiative and hides the adults and teachers in a classroom. Giles and computer teacher Jenny Calendar hide off in the library, Xander goes off to get Angel’s help, and Willow and Cordelia hide in the janitor’s closet, which they still end up staying in by the end of the episode.

 

When Angel gets Xander’s help, Angel tries to use Xander as bait. Spike recognizes Angel as his “sire” and calls Angel “Angelus,” which was his old vampire name. In the Buffyverse, a sire is the vampire who creates another vampire, their Childe. It’s later established that Drusilla was the one who created Spike but that Angel was Spike’s mentor in all things evil.

 

Spike takes down a vamp and fights off a newly vamped Sheila while getting her mother and all the other adults out. Spike’s minions give chase to Angel and Xander, but Spike stays behind when he smells Buffy’s blood.

 

The scene in the hallway between these two is majorly important and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Spuffy shipper. The banter between Buffy and Spike is laced with innuendo, establishing that the theme for this season is about relationships, sex and the consequences thereof. Fellow Spuffy shippers, take this bit of dialogue as a word of warning. The Spuffy ship ain’t all puppies and rainbows, but by God it is beautiful:

 

"I'll make it quick. Won't hurt a bit."

“I’ll make it quick. It won’t hurt a bit.”

 

"No, Spike. It's gonna hurt a lot."

“No, Spike. It’s gonna hurt a lot.”

But enough swooning. Time for a fight scene! Spike and Buffy spar out in the hallway while Angel and Xander fight Spike’s minions outside. But just as Spike was about to get the upper hand on Buffy, Joyce hits him on the back of the head with an axe and says “You get the hell away from my daughter,” prompting Spike decides to make a run for it.

 

Snyder and the police talk about what the “cover story” of the attack on the school will be while Joyce and Buffy have a heartwarming moment in which Joyce realizes that Buffy is capable of taking responsibility when the moment calls for it.

 

The episode ends with Spike pretending to ask the Anointed One for mercy, but we all know that Spike isn’t one for apologizing when he doesn’t actually feel sorry. He throws the Anointed One into a cage and lifts the child vampire into the sunlight, establishing that he’s the new Big Bad in town. I seriously love his bravado!

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If you’re not familiar or a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I highly recommend you watch this episode. If there was one thing about this episode that I wish could’ve gone differently, it would’ve been that Joyce would’ve found out about the vampires and decided to accept Buffy’s life as the Slayer. But overall, I love what this episode had. For old school fans, it’s a major nostalgia trip because you get to see the characters in the earlier days and think of how things could’ve played out differently and for newcomers, it’s a good way of learning who everyone is and what exactly Buffy is about. So yeah, go watch it!

Tabula Rasa: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #9

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“Tabula Rasa” has a similar plot to “Something Blue” because the events of the episode are triggered by a spell cast by Willow gone awry. But whereas “Something Blue” was mostly a hilarious episode, “Tabula Rasa” is both the funniest episode and one of the saddest episodes in the entire series. How the heck does that happen? Read on further to find out.

SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or haven’t seen this show in a long time, stop reading right now. Major plot points are gonna be revealed here.

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The episode follows straight after “Once More With Feeling.” Spike finds Buffy on patrol to try and talk about how they kissed in the previous episode, but Buffy isn’t up for talking. Spike gets attacked by a literal loan shark named Teeth and his cronies, leaving Buffy to save his sorry pale butt. (It’s a show with monsters. Just go with it.)

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Meanwhile, at Xander’s apartment, Xander, Anya, Willow, and Tara are feeling majorly guilty about ripping Buffy out of Heaven. (While I personally believe that Buffy wasn’t actually in Heaven, the show never says otherwise, so for the sake of argument we’ll just go with what the show says.) They think about how to help Buffy adjust to not being dead anymore. Willow, of course, wants to use magic to fix things, considering a spell that would make Buffy forget about Heaven. This angers Tara, who doesn’t want Willow to abuse magic anymore. 

One major complaint from the fandom is that Season 6 portrayed magic as a drug, which isn’t actually how magic is. In reality, Willow’s addiction isn’t to magic in and of itself, but the power and control it gives her. Willow always wanted to find a way to fix problems without actually having to deal with them, which is a really bad way of thinking. So yeah, I’m siding with Tara in this episode.

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Tara even says outright: “You did it the way you’re doing everything, Will. When things get rough, you don’t even consider your options – you just do a spell. It’s not good for you – and it’s not what magic is for.” Willow pleads for Tara to stay with her, but Tara knows that as long as Willow has the control freak complex, things aren’t safe for her. Tara contemplates breaking up if Willow can’t go without magic for a week. And she’s not the only one who wants to leave.

Before I cut to the next scene, I’ll tell y’all right now. Just because I love an episode doesn’t mean that it’s perfectly written. Every episode of any show will have its flaws. So forgive me for not liking this upcoming scene.

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Giles and Buffy are at the Magic Box’s training room. Giles is telling Buffy how he’s planning on leaving for England. Now in the context of the behind-the-scenes stuff, Anthony Stewart Head wanted to leave the show to go back to his homeland. But the writers made a really bad decision in having Giles leave because Buffy can’t handle things without constantly turning to him for help. To some extent, yes, Buffy needs to learn how to make her own decisions. But Buffy already has abandonment issues bigger than the state of Texas and she has depression on top of that! The last thing she needs is her father figure, one of the few people she feels she can still trust, leaving her. As much as I hate saying this, killing Giles off would’ve been more believable than having him abandon Buffy for what feels like a seriously contrived reason.

But maybe it’s just because Giles leaving is the start of everything getting worse for Buffy and the Scoobies.

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The next morning, Willow casts the Tabula Rasa spell, but leaves the whole bag of Lethe’s Bramble in front of the fire. The fire consumes the whole bag, which foretells some major consequences ahead.

In the magic shop, the Scoobies are all gathered and Buffy urges Giles to just announce his eventual departure, only for Spike to interrupt things. He comes in looking like this:

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Spike is still on the run from the loan shark but the conversation soon returns back to Giles who tells everyone of his plans of returning to England. Buffy can’t take any more bad news, so she starts to leave. Willow’s crystal starts glowing black, which means the spell is about to take effect. And take effect it does. Everyone in the room suddenly passes out.

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Day turns to night in the next scene. The way that everyone is arranged is important. Giles is leaning on Anya’s shoulder. Tara is asleep in her chair. Willow and Xander are asleep next to each other, with Willow wearing Xander’s jacket. Dawn is curled up on the floor. Spike is asleep on the store counter. Buffy is slumped on the stairs and is the first to wake up. As she turns on the lights, everyone else starts waking up with complete amnesia. This is where all the laughs really start coming.

 

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First of all, Giles finds magic to be “balderdash and chicanery,” which is pretty hilarious if you remember that Giles’s young, rebellious youth consisted of using dark magic as a drug high. Buffy instinctively comforts Dawn while Giles realizes that he’s British. Spike snarks at Giles about being all “Mary Poppins” only to realize that he’s British as well. His little bit gets me laughing so hard, my stomach literally hurts because James Marsters is actually American and he does the British thing so well, it’s hard to believe that he isn’t. (The fact that he does the British thing in Torchwood doesn’t help much, either.) Giles and Spike wonder if they’re related and Spike thinks that Giles is his father. This is a shoutout to a scene from a previous episode in which Giles refers to Spike as “like a son to me.”

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Spike also thinks that Giles and Anya are together due to seeing them waking up together. Anya looks at her ring and remembers that she’s engaged. Problem is she’s engaged to the wrong man! The ensuing argument about Giles apparently marrying someone half his age leads to everyone checking for their driver’s licenses and IDs. Unfortunately, Buffy, Dawn, and Spike don’t have any. Buffy points out Dawn’s necklace, which has her name on it. “Or Umad,” Dawn joked. Spike checks his jacket and thinks that his name is Randy, leading to yet another gut-busting hilarious line.

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“‘Randy’ Giles?! Why didn’t you just name me ‘Horny Giles’ or ‘Desperate-for-a-shag Giles’? I knew there was a reason I hated you!”

Willow thinks that she and Tara are study buddies while Xander is her boyfriend. But since Buffy doesn’t have a license or a student ID, she decides to name herself “Joan.” Dawn’s snarking at Buffy’s lame name leads them to realize that the two of them are sisters. Buffy decides on everyone going to the hospital but when they open the door, they are greeted by vampires. Leading to this hilarious shot:

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The amnesia everyone has made everyone forget that they live in a world where vampires exist. Giles proposes using magic to fight back, even as the vampires bang on the door, demanding for Spike and the Slayer to come out. Xander finds a trapdoor that leads to the sewer. The vampires break into the shop through a window, since they can’t actually enter a door without being invited. In the ensuing fight, Buffy stakes a vampire and seriously loves the power she has.

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As the other vampires run back to their loan shark boss, Buffy formulates a plan. She and “Randy” will go out to fight the vampires while everyone else goes to the hospital through the sewers. Anya and Giles decide to stay in the shop and use magic to ward off anyone else who might come after them.

Buffy and Spike run out to fight the vampires. As the fight ensures, Spike instinctively goes into vamp-face and thinks that he’s a superhero, only for Buffy to go running, scared at the sight of his vamp face.

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Down in the sewers, Xander, Dawn, Willow, and Tara try to navigate around a place they’ve never been to and come across a vampire. Up in the Magic Box, Anya does a spell that summons a rabbit, which she is completely terrified of. Meanwhile, Spike catches up to Buffy to try and talk things out with her. Buffy tries to keep him away and then this happens:

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Spike realizes that he doesn’t want to kill Buffy, nor does Buffy want to kill Spike in spite of the two of them seemingly being natural enemies. Spike thinks that he’s a vampire with a soul, but Buffy thinks the idea is totally lame. (Take that, Angel!) Sparks kind of fly between the two of them. And they’re not the only ones.

Giles and Anya are still fighting as her attempts at magic keep going awry and Giles thinks that the plane ticket in his pocket was an indicator that he was getting out of the relationship. Giles eventually finds a way to reverse all the magic and the two of them kiss and make up.

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Down in the sewers, Tara and Willow are instinctively drawn to each other as the vampires in the sewer  Dawn and Xander try fighting the vampires only for Xander to step on the crystal that fell out of Willow’s pocket.

And it’s at this point that the laughs stop (except for Giles and Anya being grossed out about their kissage) and starts turning to tears.

When I was in middle school, I was seriously into an artist named Michelle Branch. So imagine my surprise to find her being the musical guest of the week, playing in the famous Buffy nightclub The Bronze. The song that she sings plays as Tara packs up to leave, Willow cries in the bathroom, Giles flies back to England, and Buffy turns down Spike only for her to make out with him as the episode ends.

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This episode is something TV Tropes calls “fanfic fuel.” Mostly because there were so many possibilities that this episode could’ve explored but chose not to, which behooves fans of the show to write fanfics that explore said possibilities. It would’ve been interesting to see the amnesia last longer than one episode. It would’ve been interesting to see Giles and Anya in a relationship. There were even hints of Dawn and Xander having some potential. Dawn had a crush on Xander before, after all. I wish I knew how Buffy went from not wanting to talk to Spike to actually kissing him. I wish that Tara stayed and Willow left the house. I wish that Giles would stay. I wish that Xander and Anya realized that they didn’t exchange any conversation while they lost their memories. Part of me wishes that the amnesia could’ve gone on a little longer, at least long enough for Buffy to realize that she was instinctively attracted to Spike in spite of the fact that he’s a soulless vampire.

But in spite of what I wish could happen, I love this episode. It’s not one I would show to casual fans or people who haven’t watched the show. For major fans of the show, it’s a favorite. It’s hard to find a show that can make you laugh and cry in the span of one episode and Buffy is definitely one of those shows.

Screencaps are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

Something Blue: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #10

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On paper, “Something Blue” should have been a bad episode. It was written by Tracey Forbes, who also wrote “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” two of the least-liked episodes in the whole series. The episode is about Willow using magic to get over her broken heart, only for the spell to go totally awry. But something about this episode just had me laughing out loud. You wanna know what it was? Read the recap to find out!

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow’s boyfriend, Oz, broke up with her and left Sunnydale in the hopes of taming his inner werewolf. Former Big Bad Spike has now become the Sitcom Annoying Neighbor when the mysterious government organization called The Initiative put a chip in his head that prevents him from hurting or biting humans. Also, Buffy has a new potential boyfriend in the form of one Riley Finn, who in my opinion is as boring as a cardboard cut-out. But I digress.

The episode starts with Willow going to Oz’s empty dorm room, sniffing out one of his shirts and missing him badly.

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Cut to a daytime shot of the UC Sunnydale campus, where Riley is found hanging a banner for the college’s lesbian alliance.

 

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Riley asks Buffy out on a date, a picnic on-campus. And Buffy is definitely all for going out. When she goes out on patrol with Willow later that night, however, she admits that while Riley is safe, there’s still something missing. Willow points out that Buffy doesn’t feel like she’s in misery the way she did with Angel. Buffy fesses that something in her associates love with pain and fighting.

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It’s clear that Buffy never heard the CS Lewis quote “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” One reason I never invested in the Buffy/Riley relationship was because they lacked serious chemistry and were never completely open and honest with each other. Besides that, Riley had major competition in the eye candy department:

 

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Spike is currently chained to Giles’s bathtub as part of Buffy interrogating him about the commandos. Spike, however, doesn’t exactly recall much. He’s fed blood via a “Kiss the Librarian” mug since the chip in his head renders him unable to bite people. Giles and Buffy want to be certain that Spike isn’t a threat to him and Spike isn’t taking the fact that he’s now been reduced to comic relief all that well.

And then Buffy teases him. And then a giggle escapes from my mouth. An then there’s a certain look in Spike’s eyes-

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But enough of that. Willow proposes using a truth spell on Spike. Buffy and Spike think that Willow’s doing alright, but Spike says that she’s hanging by a thread. The bleach blonde vampire turns out to be right. Willow goes to Oz’s room again to find it empty. She finds out from a friend that Oz has asked for his things to be shipped to wherever he moved to. Buffy tries to give advice to Willow, but it’s clear the redhead is in pain.

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The next day, Giles calls Willow to check on whether she has the ingredients for the truth spell and Spike whines about missing Passions. Buffy and Riley have their picnic and Willow arrives all mopey.

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Later that night, the Scooby Gang goes out to the Bronze as Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” plays. At first, everyone thinks that Willow’s doing okay and Willow boasts about her newfound resolve only for a small beer bottle to spill out from under her skirt. Willow asks Buffy “Isn’t there some way I can make it go away? Just ’cause I say so? Can’t I make it go poof?” Buffy gives Willow a look that says “No.” But that doesn’t stop Willow from trying anyway.

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The next morning, Giles visits Willow to check on why she forgot about doing the truth spell. The two of them have a minor argument and Willow declares “You don’t see anything!” to him.

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Later on, Giles tries doing the truth spell on his own, only for his vision to worsen. Spike takes advantage of the situation and escapes. Giles quickly calls Buffy to tell him of Spike’s escape, just as Buffy was trying to help Willow get over the fact that she seemingly failed the “Will be Done” spell. Buffy finds Spike and drags him back to Giles’s house where the two start arguing. Meanwhile, Willow mopes at Xander’s house and Xander tries to help Willow understand why Spike is necessary to have around. Which leads Willow to say: “Well fine! Why doesn’t she just go marry him?”

Back in Giles’s apartment, Giles finds Spike kneeling before Buffy. A strange feeling starts rising inside of me. As Buffy says “Yes” to Spike’s proposal, Spike stands up and they kiss for the first time. Then Buffy shows Giles her ring and says: “Giles! You’ll never believe what’s happened.”

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And in that moment, I gasp three little words:

“I SHIP IT!”

Yep, dear readers. This was the episode in which the “Spuffy” ship attacked my heart and never let it go. For the purposes of this blog, I will try to keep my squee to a minimum, but I can’t make any promises.

Willow continues moping at Xander’s, calling him a demon magnet. Meanwhile, Giles calls Willow and Spike and Buffy start planning their wedding. The kissing scenes between these two turn me into a pile of bubbly giggles and I’m still grinning as I write this. I mean LOOK AT THEM!

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Okay, okay. I’m gonna try and hold back my giggles now. Moving on!

Giles discovers that he’s gone completely blind, so Spike offers to help while Buffy goes out to get some ingredients from the local magic shop. As she wanders around town, she sees a gorgeous wedding dress on display.

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Riley comes across her and the two of them have the most hilarious conversation, in which Buffy tells Riley she’s not interested in him because she’s getting married to Spike and invites Riley to the wedding.

Xander and Anya get attacked by demons and make a run for Giles’s apartment. Buffy announces her upcoming nuptials to them and Xander goes:

"How?! What?! How?!"

“How?! What?! How?!”

Three excellent questions, Xander. But in the midst of trying to figuring out what’s going on, Xander realizes that all the weirdness goes back to Willow, who got kidnapped by a demon named D’Hoffryn. According to Anya, D’Hoffryn turns humans into vengeance demons and Hoffy, as she calls him, makes Willow an offer. As demons rampage on the Scoobies, Willow decides to turn down D’Hoffryn’s offer. She undoes the spell and Spike and Buffy go right back to hating each other again.

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Willow bakes cookies to make up for the mess that she made. Spike teases Buffy about how she wanted “Wind Beneath My Wings” to be their song. Buffy blames the spell, but I know she’s lying. In spite of the fact that Spike and Buffy were only this adorable under the influence of a spell, and Buffy quickly went running into Riley’s arms at the end of the episode, my mind was already made up. I stepped onto the Spuffy ship and never looked back.

The episode shows that you can’t use a quick fix for your problems. It also shows that Spike and Buffy have enough chemistry to set off a nuclear warhead and have the power to divide the fandom for days to come.

I realize, of course, that I am horribly, horribly biased. But give the episode a watch if you want to see the mindset of Spuffy shippers. And if you’re not a Spuffy shipper:

 

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Screencaps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

A Night at the Movies: Avengers- Age of Ultron

 

So yesterday, I finally went to the movies to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. Whenever I go see a movie, I’m usually able to still think and talk like an actual person. Some movies, however, have the power to leave me breathless. Serenity was one of those movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron is another one. It’s no surprise, though, given that they’re both directed by Joss Whedon.

I’ve been a fan of all things Whedon since my college days, but it’s not until recently that I learned about the kinds of cinematography he likes to use and the themes he carries with him. So for this post, I’m going to look into the movie as a fan of Whedon and showing where he made his mark and what I think of it.

SPOILERS ABOUND. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

First of all, Whedon is very fond of the one-take. He did this in the opening shot of the Angel Season 5 episode “Conviction” as well as the opening shot of Serenity. So it’s no surprise that the opening shot of Avengers: Age of Ultron is a breathtaking single shot, ending with the money shot shown in the trailers:

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I need this as a poster for my room.

 

Although this movie stands well on its own, you have to have seen some movies to get what’s going on here 100%. Aside from the first Avengers movie, the action prologue continues on the storyline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The team of Avengers located the HYDRA base that was teased in Winter Soldier in the hopes of infiltrating it and getting Loki’s scepter.

When HYDRA’s men start attacking the town nearby, Tony sends out his Iron Legion, created from Iron Man 3. However, the robots aren’t received with open arms. It’s shown that the town does not like Tony Stark. This becomes important later.

We also see, in the action prologue, that the team developed a way to get the Hulk under control. In a scene reminiscent of Dollhouse, Black Widow uses a trigger phrase to calm the Hulk down and change back into Bruce Banner.

Inside the HYDRA base, Tony Stark downloads any information he can get. Then he discovers a secret passage where Loki’s Scepter was kept hidden. Scarlet Witch plants a seed of fear in his mind, giving him a vision of his friends dead and the Chitauri invading again. Driven by this fear, Tony takes the scepter and returns with the other Avengers to Avengers tower.

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You’d think that Tony would learn something after learning about “Phase 2” in the last movie, but Tony has major PTSD issues. So when he and the rest of the Avengers team return to Avengers Tower, he and Bruce examine the scepter and discover an artificial intelligence in the stone. Tony decides to use the artificial intelligence to create Ultron, a global defense artificial intelligence. Cue Science Bros montage!

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After the Science Bros montage, it’s time for a party. There are cameos from James Rhodes, Sam Wilson, and Maria Hill. Pepper Potts and Jane Foster, however, are way too busy with their own lives to appear in this movie. Thankfully, their boyfriends are not above bragging about them. Stan Lee makes his cameo as a WWII veteran chatting things up with Captain America. He asks Thor to give him some Asgard-level liquor and ends up getting dragged out of the party in a drunken stupor, slurring his catchphrase “Excelsior!”

Eventually, the Avengers have their own little after party where they play around with Thor’s hammer, as seen in one of the trailers. It was a hilarious scene, but I barely had a moment to breathe before Ultron made his entrance and crashed the after-party. It’s sad that Ultron was evil right from the start. The usage of Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings” from the trailers plays out here as Ultron’s units awaken, culminating in the building in Sokovia lighting up with a snippet from the original version in the best usage of soundtrack dissonance.

Once Ultron uploads himself onto the internet and into his robot drones, he meets Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver inside of a church.

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Throughout the movie, Ultron makes a lot of biblical references and has a major God complex. This is something that Joss has done before, such as creating The Anointed One in the early seasons of Buffy. But in actuality, Ultron reminds me a lot of Angelus, with his desire to break the Avengers on a personal level, childish demeanor, and desire to ultimately destroy the world.

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I will also use this scene to indulge in a bit of Slayerette fangirl squee. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch remind me a lot of Spike and Drusilla. Like Spike, Quicksilver is blonde with a hot accent who doesn’t exactly think of the long-term consequences. Like Drusilla, Scarlet Witch can hypnotize people and prey on their worst fears. The two of them have way too much chemistry to be just siblings, but that’s just the actors, I guess. However, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s motivations in this movie are revenge-based instead of wanting to cause chaos. They have a grudge against Tony Stark because his weapons killed their parents. Never mind that it was probably someone who stole Stark’s weapons. The name on the weapon was Stark’s, so he became the target of their vengeance.

The three of them go to the base in Africa where vibranium is developed by an arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue. The Avengers show up at the base, but Scarlet Witch gets into most of their heads.

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Of course, Hawkeye saves the day with a “No sell! So last season!” move, electrocuting Scarlet Witch with one of his arrows. However, that comes after a lot of hallucinations. Thor hallucinates Heimdall falling into a state of decadence and also gets glimpses of four gems. Captain America hallucinates that he’s in a USO party, where Peggy Carter is waiting to dance with him. Coming off of Agent Carter, I start bursting into tears. But by far, the worst hallucination was Natasha’s. Instead of showing her worst fears, Natasha relives the worst moments of her life: being trained as an assassin and “graduating”from her training by being sterilized.

Eventually, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver escape from the factory and Scarlet Witch implants her fear spell into The Hulk. Hulk is then seen rampaging in the city, prompting Iron Man to use his Hulkbuster suit. The battle is long with a lot of collateral damage and the Avengers are forced into hiding.

Clint flies the team over to his house on a farm, where it’s revealed that he has a wife and two kids, with one more on the way. My Clintasha ship sunk fast with this scene. It’s also in this quiet scene where Natasha and Bruce share backstories. Bruce tells her that he can never have kids because the Hulk renders him sterile and Natasha reveals that she was forcibly sterilized.

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The whole Bruce/Natasha ship along with Natasha’s backstory is the reason tumblr and twitter got all up in arms over Whedon. I was honestly surprised to see Natasha flirting with Bruce at the party, but the fact that Natasha was sterilized is not anti-feminist. It’s called backstory. She was trained to be an assassin. I saw in Agent Carter an earlier version of the training that Natasha went through. It makes sense that Natasha would be sterilized as part of a “graduation” ceremony because they want their assassins to put the mission first. Women like Natasha would be sleeping with many men as part of gaining information and babies, sad to say, get in the way of that.

Meanwhile, everyone else mulls over what to do. Hawkeye has a lot of quiet moments with his wife. Thor goes off to England to consult with Erik Selvig. Stark finds out that Nick Fury is still alive. Fury proceeds to motivate the team into stopping Ultron. Bruce looks at a picture of a butterfly that one of Hawkeye’s kids drew and realizes that Ultron wants a human body  and they know someone with the technology to create that.

Cut to Seoul, where Ultron puts scientist friend Helen Cho under the influence of the Mind Gem and asks her to create a body that he can upload himself into. In the process, Wanda uses her mind reading powers and sees that Ultron wants to destroy the world, not just the Avengers. Wanda snaps Dr. Cho out of the mind gem’s control, but it happens too little too late.

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The fight gets taken to Seoul as the Avengers fight to get the “cradle” as they call it to safety. But once the cradle gets taken back to Avenger’s Tower, the first thing Tony wants to do is upload JARVIS into it. He gets into a fight with Captain America over it. Ultimately, Thor comes in and literally charges the body inside the cradle to life. JARVIS comes out of the cradle with the Mind Stone at the center of its forehead. He isn’t JARVIS anymore, either. Thor explains that he went to London to consult Erik Selvig about the hallucination he saw. After a fanservicey trailer scene, Thor receives a vision of the Infinity Stones, foreshadowing the oncoming Infinity War. The Avengers debate as to whether or not Vision should help them out, but that question gets resolved as Vision gives Thor his hammer.

Everyone in the audience gasped at the cutaway shot that shows Vision easily holding Thor’s hammer. I had no clue that the little Hammer Pick Up scene at Thor’s party would actually be referenced again later. It was enough for me to believe that Vision was on the side of good.

The Avengers go back to Sokovia where Ultron plans on raising the capital city to the sky, using it as a meteor to destroy the world. The race is on to get all civilians to safety. Many Avengers are quick to put civilian safety as their number one priority (take that Man of Steel), including Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Fury arrives in a Helicarrier in one of the best Big Damn Heroes moments since, well, Firefly. In the midst of this fight, Hawkeye helps Wanda as she gets into a mental breakdown, overwhelmed at the fight.

“You step out the door, you’re an Avenger,” he said.

Cue Wanda stepping out just in time to save the day.

There’s this epic shot of the Avengers fighting off all the robots as they protect the flying city from falling that left me breathless and overwhelmed, but it was gorgeous cinematography.

There’s also a wonderful scene where Bruce saves Natasha from Ultron’s lair. She kisses him and then pushes him over the edge to bring the Hulk out. Fans are also up in arms about Natasha being a damsel in distress, but  I’ll let it slide because Natasha was still active even while she was captured. The two of them move on to help out with the Battle of Seoul.

Throughout the movie, lines that are called “death flags” are scattered throughout, making everyone think that Hawkeye was going to die. However, as everyone continues to rescue civilians, it’s actually Quicksilver that dies instead. (So yes, Quicksilver is also like Spike in the sense that he died helping to save the world. No, I’m still not over it!)

The city starts falling, but Thor and Iron Man work together to shatter the city and Vision confronts Ultron’s last body. It’s here that we see Joss Whedon using Vision as another Ubermensch. Ultron represents a dark version of the Ubermensch, but Vision is the more straightforward version.

In the midst of the aftermath, the Hulk goes into a stealth jet and disappears, even with Natasha wanting to communicate with him. The movie comes to an end in upstate New York with a new base and a new Avengers team.

First of all, the credits were amazing. I want that statue that appears at the end. It’s something worthy of Michaelangelo. And the mid-credits scene? Yep, I am definitely hyped about Infinity War now.

So now for my overall analysis.

I feel like this movie was amazing. It’s just a heck of a roller coaster ride. I feel like some of the characters were a bit underrused and there’s a reason I felt breathless at the end of it. The movie gives you very little room to breathe because everything happens at a breakneck pace.

I’ll admit that Bruce and Natasha’s romance wasn’t well-paced in this movie, but I feel like Joss did his best given the number of plots he had to juggle in this movie. It actually made a lot of sense once I thought about it because they have a lot in common aside from not being able to have children. I’m also okay with her being captured because, as said before, she wasn’t particularly in distress. It could’ve happened with any other character.

Joss puts all the female characters in the movie in active roles. Helen Cho is more than just Asian eye candy. She plays an essential role in the creation of vision and she doesn’t die. Iron Man and Thor compare their girlfriends instead of their own accomplishments. You see Maria Hill playing an active role in keeping things running smoothly. But the breakout female character in this movie is actually Scarlet Witch, who starts out evil but earns her redemption within the movie just because she doesn’t want to destroy the world.

I know that Joss isn’t perfect. But I still respect and love him as a person, which means that I’ll be that fan who will defend Joss Whedon when it comes to his wonderful line of female characters.

Whether you’re a Whedonite or a Marvel fan, I highly recommend that you see Avengers: Age of Ultron. Just make sure you remember to breathe after it’s done.

Still images are copyright to Marvel Entertainment and Joss Whedon and are used for editorial purposes only.

Firefly Month: The Wisdom of Serenity, the Big Damn Movie

Ladies and gentlemen and Browncoats of all ages, we have come to the end of my Firefly Month. And the only way I can properly end this is with a recap and analysis of the Big Damn Movie Serenity.

I hadn’t seen this movie for a long time, so watching it again gave me thrills and chills. I think it’s a great way to bring newcomers into the fandom and it’s a sneak preview of what Joss had to give the world in Avengers. Keep in mind that the last time Joss made a movie, it was Alien Resurrection and before that, it was the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie starring Kristy Swanson. So to say that this movie is one of Joss’s best is saying a lot.

The prologue of the movie opens with a universe-establishing history lesson from Cam from Bones. Young River talks back to her teacher. Cut to River at the Alliance Lab, where she is in the middle of being lobotomized. The men at the Academy explain to Simon what they’re doing to River.  They intend on turning her into a living weapon. Simon activates a blast wave and the two of them escape the Academy.

It turns out to be a video seen by the bad guy of this movie, The Operative. He’s accessing the records and asks the Academy Doctor what his sin is, pointing out that it’s pride. The operative thinks that River picked up government secrets as she was experimented on. The Operative proceeds to kill everyone in the room in a disturbingly clean and precise manner and then asks about a way to get to River Tam’s triggers.

After the titles, we see Serenity preparing for a landing. Of course, the landing involves the usual atmospheric burning which included a hull scorching. This opening scene is majorly awesome. Former internet critic Welshy does a wonderful analysis of this opening shot in his Scene It video.

Mal plans to take River out on a job and Simon isn’t all too keen on it. This is a great intro for newcomers, but I’m very certain some of us are wondering where Book and Inara are. Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and River are planning a robbery of a security firm. River’s purpose in the robbery is to use her psychic powers to make sure the job goes smoothly.

Unfortunately, the job goes south when Reavers attack. River gets into a psychotic breakdown. The 4 head back to the ship as fast as possible. The Reavers are a LOT smarter and faster in this movie, making them all the more dangerous. They make it to the ship by the skin of their teeth, with only one Reaver on board. The Reaver gets dispatched of easily and Mal tells Wash to set a course for Beaumonde. Simon punches Mal in the face and tells Mal he wants off the ship.

Mal and Zoe have a conversation about why Mal chose to mercy kill a bystander instead of letting the guy onto their hovercraft. Mal has pretty much hardened. In the cargo hold, Kaylee says that the ship is falling apart in more ways than one. Not only does the ship need a repair, but Mal has seemingly drove away Inara like he’s pushing Simon and River out.

Once Serenity lands on Beaumonde, Kaylee gives Simon and River some tips before she and Mal go off to a bar/club called Maidenhead. Kaylee begs Mal to keep Simon and River on the ship, whining about how she hasn’t gotten laid in at least a year. She chastises Mal for letting Inara leave and walks out.

Mal meets up with Fanty and Mingo. River wanders into Maidenhead just as a commercial for fruity oaty bars plays. The commercial triggers her “living weapon” mode and she proceeds to she-fu everyone. Jayne tries to get her to calm down only for her to hit him below the belt and knock him out. Simon arrives and says a phrase in Mandarin that makes River fall asleep.The Operative watches from a distance.

Back on Serenity, Mal handcuffs River to the catwalk. He and Simon get into a fight again. Wash decides to ask Mr. Universe, a communications expert. They look over the footage and realize that the commercial had a subliminal message that activated her trigger. Simon takes care of River and she mentions Miranda. Simon thinks it might be a person or an alternate personality. River contemplates suicide, but Simon comforts her. We then cut to The Operative meeting with Inara, which can’t be any good.

Serenity lands in a moon called Haven, where Shepherd Book is waiting for them. Mal talks to Book about what to do with River. Book says that belief is going to help him get through this. Mal decides to walk out at the mention of faith, but Book points out that he wasn’t talking about God. Book, given his past with the Alliance, points out that whoever is after River is gonna strike from the shadows and won’t ask any questions.

Inara video calls Mal as the rest of the crew eavesdrops on them. She invites everyone to the Companion Training House where she’s staying and brings up the fact that she left some luggage on the ship. (Classic ex behavior.) When Mal enters the cockpit, Zoe deduces that it’s more than likely a trap and Mal agrees.

Mal arrives at the Training House and Inara chastises him for willingly going into the trap. The Operative comes in. He and Mal have a talk. Once The Operative mentions that he is unarmed, Mal shoots him. Of course, The Operative is wearing full body armor, which leads to him getting into a brawl with Mal and Inara. Just when The Operative thinks he has the upper hand, Inara points out that she wasn’t lighting incense. Cue a flash bomb that allows Mal and Inara to escape to the shuttle. Serenity sends out a handful of decoys and high tails it outta there.

On the ship, Inara points out that the reason that The Operative is dangerous is because he believes that killing River is the right thing to do and won’t stop until he finishes his mission. Jayne points out that Mal is being reckless, acting like he’s still in a war. Zoe orders Jayne to leave. Inara and Mal get into a fight of their own as the ship heads back to Haven. River has a dream of a distant planet and being attacked by Reavers.

In the kitchen, Jayne hears something from the other room. He gets his gun ready and looks for River. The rest of the crew hears a gunshot and find the kitchen locked. They search the ship for River, only for River to come out from the kitchen. She punches Simon in the throat and knocks Simon out. Mal finds River in the cockpit. She holds him at gunpoint. Mal asks River if she’s a person. She shows Mal what Miranda is: a planet.

Mal says that Miranda was an uninhabitable planet. But even though they’re close to Miranda, they would enter into Reaver territory if they were planning on landing on the planet. The ship lands on Haven to find the encampment burned by the Alliance. Mal finds a dying Shepherd Book. Book went down fighting to defend himself. Book says that he isn’t part of Mal’s crew but Mal says otherwise. Book begs Mal to believe in something, anything, and dies.

Zoe realizes that The Operative is probably tracking down everyone who’s ever worked with them. Mal is at the cockpit, looking at the footage of the people The Operative killed to get to them. Mal asks The Operative why he’s doing what he does. The Operative says that he believes in a world without sin. Then Mal gets a wonderful, awful idea.

Mal starts ordering his crew to disguise Serenity as a Reaver ship. The crew starts to protest, but Mal stops the fight once and for all by saying that he wants to make his stand against the Alliance and he wants to go to Miranda. So Serenity dons her disguise. As the ship gets closer to Miranda, they hear distant screams of nearby ships, leaving The Operative in the dust.

Once the crew is on Miranda, they find that the planet was properly terraformed and well developed. Their search for a beacon signal leads them to a public area with corpses all around. River goes through another mental breakdown.

They make their way to a research and rescue building where the beacon signal was sent. River activates a recording of a researcher assessing the damages. The people of Miranda died because of a chemical called the Pax which was put into the atmosphere as a way to lessen aggression. Only problem is that the chemical worked too well, taking away everyone’s desires and drives until they let themselves die. However, a tenth of the population had the opposite reaction and turned into Reavers.

River throws up and realizes that she finally gained clarity. Mal makes it his mission to get that message out to the entire verse and aims to misbehave. They decide to reach out to Mr. Universe, who already has the Alliance in his house. The Operative tells his men to destroy everything.

An epic space fight ensues as Serenity makes its way out of Reaver territory. On the other side, The Operative waits with an entire Alliance army, ready to fire. Serenity comes in with a fleet of Reavers behind her, forcing the two armies to fight each other.

Wash maneuvers Serenity through the artillery fire and blasts in a seriously awesome scene. All the while, The Operative gets into an escape pod and heads for the planet. Serenity prepares for a very crashy landing but Wash is able to maneuver the ship and glide it into landing. The ship shakes, rattles, and falls apart inside, and comes to a stop at the hangar. But just before the audience gets a chance to breathe, Wash says “I’m a leaf on the wind, watch how I-” and gets impaled in the chest by a Reaver ship, dying instantly. Zoe and Mal make a run for it and head inside with the rest of the crew to a bunker.

The crew creates a strategy. Zoe says they have to bottleneck the Reavers and prepares herself for battle. Mal asks Jayne for grenades as Reavers close in and sends a few out the door. Mal tells Zoe to hold the line as he makes his way into Mr. Universe’s room. He walks in to find the whole place wrecked up. However, the robot tells Mal that there’s a backup hidden and that the signal is still going.

As the Reavers close in, River breaks down. Kaylee laments dying while Simon decides to tell her how he feels about her. With the promise of finally consummating her relationship with Simon, Kaylee gains the will to live and prepares to fight.

Back at Mr. Universe’s, the Operative and Mal confront each other. Mal declares that he believes in getting the message out there and that he’s willing to die for it. Thankfully, Mal is a very quick draw.

The crew falls back as the Reavers close in on them. Jayne throws his last grenade. Kaylee says that the door can be shut, but only from the outside. Then Simon realizes he left his bag outside and gets shot.

Cue the beginning of River’s most epic moment in this entire movie.

Serenity_2286

You take care of me, Simon. You’ve always taken care of me. My turn.

Then River jumps out there, closes the door, and tosses Simon’s bad to the crew, all the while, she fights off the Reavers in the most epic fight scene since “Chosen.”

Mal continues to fight the Operative. During the fight, the Operative asks Mal if he knows what his sin is. Mal says “Hell. I’m a fan of all 7. But right now, I’m going to have to go with wrath.” The Operative stabs Mal in the side and prepares for his final blow, but we all know that Mal doesn’t go down without a fight. He refuses to kill the Operative and sends the message from Miranda out into the verse. When Mal returns to his crew, opens to River standing on the corpses of Reavers. The Alliance closes in, prepared to kill, but the Operative tells them to stand down.

A funeral is held. Zoe wears a beautiful white dress as she sends off the rocket. The crew gets to work repairing and repainting Serenity. Simon and Kaylee finally consummate their relationship while River watches, the little voyeurist that she is. And finally, on a rainy day, the Operative warns Mal that as of now, they’re all fugitives. The Operative is no longer working for the Alliance. Zoe says that Serenity is ready to go. Mal asks Inara if she’s ready to leave, but Inara isn’t so sure. Then Mal makes his way to the cockpit, where River is there, as his copilot. And the film ends with the ship flying through the rain into the black.

In the DVD commentary of this movie, Joss outed himself as an atheist and an absurdist. One theme prominent in this movie is the concept of belief. It’s telling that Joss chose to kill off Shepherd Book and Wash in this movie because Wash, like Xander in Buffy and Topher in Dollhouse is Joss’s Author Avatar. Symbolically speaking, Joss was killing off his belief in a higher power and his time with Firefly through this movie.

There’s this theme in Serenity of the “right to be wrong” because the Alliance was trying to take away free will in Miranda. During the Easter Vigil, one of the many readings is the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Fr. Robert Barron said this in one of his Lenten Reflections:

“The serpent places in the minds of Adam and Eve the conviction that unless and until they determine the meaning and purpose of their lives, they will not be free. To put it in modern terms, their lives will not be lived to the fullest. But the knowledge of good and evil is the godlike prerogative to set the agenda for one’s life, to determine the difference between right and wrong. And this belongs to God alone. Just as he breathed life and being into us, so he breathes moral and spiritual purpose into us.

When we convince ourselves that we live on our own terms, we cease to be truly free and alive. When Adam and Eve grasped at this knowledge, they were expelled from the garden, not because God is vindictive, but because it is the natural consequence of making oneself into God. When we grasp at divinity, whatever life we have dries up. We become small souls, locked in the prison of our egotism, victims of the Great Lie.”

The thing is, though, is that Whedon isn’t anti-religious. He just hates bad religion. He includes Jewish characters in Firefly such as Amnon and Mr. Universe. And while Book has a dark and troubled past, he still advises Mal in spite of Mal’s hatred for God. It’s telling that Book’s last plea was for Mal to believe in something, anything, because Mal did find something to believe in: the right thing to do. The Alliance doesn’t represent God, but rather Man having a God Complex. As Paul said “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Make a world without sin, and you also remove grace. The name of the planet is also an allusion to this. Miranda is the name of the heroine from The Tempest. As in “O brave new world that has such people in’t.”

Kyle Cupp and I discussed the themes of Serenity and sin and he had this to say:

“When Mal says he aims to misbehave, he’s not defending moral anarchy or nihilism. He’s defying the Alliance’s false concept of what’s right. And their demand that everyone obey. It’s not God he really opposes, but idolatry. [The Operative] bought into the lie. He believes a world without sin is possible, for others if not himself.

The Operative: I’m sorry. If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. You should have taken my offer. Or did you think none of this was your fault?
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I don’t murder children.

The Operative: I do. If I have to.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Why? Do you even know why they sent you?

The Operative: It’s not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: So me and mine gotta lay down and die… so you can live in your better world?

The Operative: I’m not going to live there. There’s no place for me there… any more than there is for you. Malcolm… I’m a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

He’s almost a Moses figure for the false paradise promised by the Alliance.

I’ve been talking a lot about the Serenity Prayer and alluding to this during my Firefly recaps. If “The Message” was about acceptance and “Objects in Space” was about courage, the movie as a whole carried with it the theme of wisdom. Wisdom, as I’ve learned, is very different from knowledge. To put things simply, knowledge is the desire to know everything while wisdom is the desire to only know what is important.

In Serenity, the Operative and the Alliance represent knowledge. They used Miranda as a test site for gaining the knowledge of having as much control over everyone as possible. In contrast, Mal and his crew represent wisdom. Mal knows he’s in over his head and they all know that the odds are stacked against them, but they also use wisdom to press forward.

Zoe gains wisdom in this movie through the loss of her husband. She gets herself injured during the fight with the Reavers and there are some points where you wonder if she has a death wish, but ultimately, she moves on. The last line she says in the movie about Serenity also applies to herself as well. And it’s a relief to know that in the comics, Zoe eventually has a child.

Jayne doesn’t get much to do, given that he’s the muscle, but it’s interesting to see the number of times he goes out of his way to help River. It’s a really big character development given his misgivings for the Tam siblings. And while he keeps an eye out for River, he still acknowledges that they’re dangerous to the crew. But this time, he does this with a layer of sympathy for both of them.

I knew what was coming the first time I heard Wash say “I am a leaf on the wind.” I wanted to stop the movie there. But I didn’t. We get to see Wash be active in combat, albeit only through flying the ship in dangerous situations. But his landing of Serenity was still a wonderful moment in spite of what happened.

Kaylee was right to call Mal out for becoming such a cold-hearted person, especially towards Inara. Her desire to get laid is a source of humor and some eye-rolls from me. But hey, she gets to fight and she gets the guy in the end, so all’s well that ends well.

Inara doesn’t really do much in this movie aside from help Mal escape from the Operative. But it’s nice that she decides to return to Serenity. Sadly, given the length of the movie, their will they/won’t they will have to sadly never be resolved. Thank God for fanfiction!

But really, the movie is about three people: Mal, Simon, and River.

I think it was wise of Mal to bring River during one of his heists because he wants to make her useful in the hopes of getting her to function like a normal person. Simon is so protective of River that he borders on smothering her. However, it’s not until River goes to Miranda and finds the message left behind that River actually starts to gain the healing she needs. And once River gains her clarity, Simon decides on making his own life, starting with having a relationship with Kaylee. The movie starts out with River and Simon being the focus and crux of the movie centers on Mal’s belief that River was still human and still in need. In spite of him being hardened, helping River gives Mal and Simon some sense of purpose.

I think my favorite line from the movie is the one from the end. I think this shows what Mal believes in more than anything else.

Mal: It ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying is? Well, I suppose you do, since you already know what I’m about to say.

River: I do. But I like to hear you say it.

Mal: Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse… but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love… she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she ought to fall down… tells you she’s hurting before she keels. Makes her a home.

And with that, my Firefly month comes to an end.

Attributions: Screenshots are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy Productions and are used for editorial purposes only.

Firefly Month: Who You Are In the Dark in War Stories

The episode opens with Book and Simon debating on who the people that experimented on River were in terms of ethics. Book wonders if they wanted to see what kind of person River was by constantly tortuing her while Simon thinks they were being more specific. Meanwhile, on a distant planet, Niska (villain of the week from The Train Job) gets word that Serenity is in the vicinity. He’s torturing someone who neglected a payment. The works of a warrior named Shan Yu get brought up in both scenes.

River and Kaylee chase each other around the ship like two sisters, fighting over an apple. Apparently Jayne bought apples for the rest of the crew. Kaylee notices that Zoe always cuts her apples. And this is where the titular war stories start. Zoe said that the reason she cuts her apples is because of tiny grenades placed inside apples given by Alliance troops. When the Captain comes on deck, Wash brings up the fact that they could’ve made more money by cutting out the middlemen, but Mal brings up the fact that they need to play nice. Wash and Zoe  argue about this later because Zoe lied to her husband about not mentioning Wash’s idea. Wash is naturally jealous of how Zoe accepts Mal’s authority without question and is willing to lie to him. Wash feels like Mal is another husband.

When Zoe gets to a shuttle to deliver the last of the medical supplies, Wash decides to volunteer to help Mal to keep Zoe and Mal apart. Unfortunately, what starts out as a “milk run” turns into an ambush.

Back on the ship, Zoe takes Jayne and Book to check on where Mal and Wash are. Shepherd is able to identify the kinds of shots taken and recognizes that the men who attacked were professionals. They also quickly realize that it wasn’t a robbery…it’s a kidnapping. And Zoe knows who the kidnapper is.

Mal and Wash are taken to Niska’s lair and start arguing, with Wash thinking that Zoe always supports the Captain’s orders without question. Of course, Mal points out that Zoe married Wash in spite of him ordering her not to. (Again, would’ve like to have seen that story.) Niska puts the two men into his electrical torture machine and the two of them are still arguing. (Which is kind of funny in a dark comedy kind of way.) It turns out, though, it’s Mal’s way of making sure that Wash is still alive.

Zoe comes onto Niska’s space station to buy back the Captain and her husband and asks her to choose. Zoe chooses Wash without hesitation. Niska cuts off Mal’s ear (I have to wonder did they really do that to Nathan Fillion in real life) and sends both of them back to Serenity. Realizing that he owes the captain his life, Wash and Zoe decide to get the captain back. Jayne tells the two of them that it’s suicide. The rest of the crew surprise Zoe by volunteering to be armed backup, including Shepherd Book who says that while he isn’t intending on killing the Bible “tends to get fuzzy on the subject of kneecaps.” Zoe’s order as they arrive on the space station is “If it moves, shoot it, unless it’s the captain.”

The assault on Niska’s space station plays out like a really good video game with Zoe, Jayne, and Wash leading the full frontal assault and the rest of the crew holding down the main gate and providing cover. Book holds true to his word and shoots at the kneecaps while River surprises Kaylee by shooting three people down with her eyes closed.

Mal struggles to escape Niska and Viktor as Zoe, Jayne, and Wash make their way in. Zoe thinks that the captain needs to take care of Viktor himself. Mal replies: “NO! NO IT’S NOT!” and the three of them proceed to shoot him down.

All screenshots are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

All screenshots are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

Back on the ship, Simon reattaches Mal’s ear and Zoe makes her husband a bowl of soup. Then Mal attempts to fulfill his word by ordering Zoe to sleep with him and the two of them flirt in the most uncomfortable way possible. Of course, they have about as much unresolved sexual tension as Captain Hook and Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time. By that, I mean they have none at all. Even Jayne thinks it’s unsettling. Wash, of course, has no choice, but to steal Zoe away and declare to the Captain “We’ll be in our bunk.”

The underlying theme of this is “who you are underneath.” The reason that the warrior Shan Yu comes up is that he believed that you don’t really know a man until you torture him. The concept also applies to the rest of the crew of Serenity when they are put into a combat situation. We see that Zoe is cool under pressure, but loves her husband and her captain, albeit in different ways. We see Wash’s jealousy and vulnerability. We see hints of Book’s past by his knowledge of famous torturers and uncomfortably good marksmanship. We can see that Simon isn’t good with a gun, but his sister is. Most of all, we see why Malcolm Reynolds is the captain. He’s able to endure hours of torture and helps his comrades stay in line. His decisions may not be understandable, but they work out in the long run. The way that the crew works together will play a majorly important role next episode.