Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 16

3.10 Amends
3.11 Gingerbread
3.12 Helpless


So... when I posted on last week’s trio (Revelations/Lover’s Walk/The Wish) I was thinking it might be my favourite week of season 3. No... that was trumped by this week. Amends, Gingerbread, and Helpless may be as perfect a trio of episodes in the centre of a season as we’ll find in this rewatch, highlighting both the hilarious highs and gut-wrenching lows this series has to offer.

“Amends” shows us that the crimes of Angelus weigh heavily on Angel’s heart. Where it seems to come a bit from left field, I’ve never really questioned it before, and it would explain his constant Tai Chi and why we keep seeing him reading existentialist books, as if he’s longing to find some sort of meaning to his life. We have the Angel/Buffy showdown on the hill, the miracle that happens to break it up, and a Buffy plea that equals the one she gives to Giles (also followed by a punch, oddly enough) outside the factory in “Passion.” While she’s desperately trying to keep the world safe, the men in her life keep attempting to abandon her, and she can’t handle it.

Another highlight of this episode is the lovely Oz/Willow talk in the classroom, as he expresses his emotions to her while she delicately speaks back, careful not to overstep her boundaries and remaining sensitive to his feelings. This lovely little scene is countered by the equally lovely but also sadly hilarious one of Willow offering herself to Oz on her couch, with a bottle of Sprite stuck in an ice-filled champagne bucket while she’s got the Barry White workin’ for her. God, I love those two.

Faith sits alone in her hotel room, with her tiny little Christmas lights failing to cheer up a dreary and dingy room (I don’t know why this gets me every time... I went and looked up what I wrote about this episode in Bite Me, and was surprised to see that I also focused on those sad little lights, after I’d jotted a note about them while rewatching it this time).

Xander sleeps outside tight in a sleeping bag because of the sinister suggestion that he might be beat up if he remains in the house (the suggestions that Xander has had domestic abuse in his life will continue throughout the series), and my heart always feels a tug when we see him in that sleeping bag out in the open, without even a tent to cover him, with a little plate of cookies by his side that he no doubt scrounged up on his own. I just wish he’d go and live in Buffy’s basement or something.

But of course the centrepiece of the episode is Angel and his past. We see him as a monstrous Barry Gibb, hunting down servant girls without remorse (I wondered at one point... do Angel’s dreams actually have a “Dublin, 1838” title card on them?), and in the present, a broken person standing on a hill, saying to Buffy, “It’s not the demon in me that needs killing ... it’s the man.” Heartbreaking. See below for this week’s guest post, which focuses on the emotional reaction this episode creates in fans who love it (and it surprised me to discover this is NOT an episode beloved by all!) Highlight for me: Joyce, snapping Buffy out of a sex reverie with Angel: “Angel’s on top again?” Buffy: “What?!” Least favourite moment: The snow looking like shaving cream at the end. ;)

“Gingerbread” has always been an episode in my top 10 faves. You’ve got to have some funny in with your angst-ridden, and DAMN this episode is funny. There are SO many moments where I’m laughing out loud in this one, and the jokes never get old for me. Buffy’s frantic, high-pitched, sing-songy, “Did I get it?! Did I get it?!” is probably my favourite line of dialogue in the series, and I probably say it four or five times a year, exactly the way she does (whether it’s me smacking a fly with a fly-swatter, or reaching under a bench to knock out a toy with a broom... if I can find an opportunity to use this phrase and say it like her, I do).

Highlights:
• Snyder’s locker checks: “This is a glorious day for principals everywhere!”
• Willow: “A doodle. I do doodle. You too. You do doodle too.” Dr. Seuss would be proud.
• Giles on Snyder confiscating his book: “I won’t take this from that twisted little monkey person!”
• Willow talking to her Mom: “Mom, I’m not an age group. I’m me. Willow group.”
• Mrs. Rosenberg talking about the patriarchal nature of the puppets on Mr. Rogers, with King Friday lording over the lesser puppets.
• Buffy: “And nice acronym, Mom.”
• Buffy: “Like that story of the kid who stuck his finger in the duck.” Angel: “Dyke.” Buffy: ???? Angel: “It’s another word for dam.”
• Xander coming up behind Giles, who is on the computer: “Frisky Watchers Chatroom, why GILES!”
• Oz, after finding out Hansel and Gretel are real: “What do we do?” Xander: “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sell my cow for some beans.”
• Giles and Cordy are a match made in heaven: “God, you really WERE the little youthful offender, weren’t you? You must look back on that and cringe.”
• That final scene, where Giles and Cordy crash into the room, Buffy impales the monster, and Oz and Xander come crashing through the ceiling. Oz: “We’re here to save you.” It’s the perfect riotous climax to this episode.
• Buffy after the spell to de-rat Amy fails: “Maybe we should get her one of those wheel thingies.”

What makes the funny of Gingerbread such perfect timing is that it’s couched between the sweet sadness of Amends, and the sad sadness of Helpless. This is another episode that hurts just to think about it, but I love it. There has always been something about Giles and Buffy that I adore (and no, not in a weird slash fanfic sort of way... that always gave me the heebies). For anyone watching and thinking that Giles has always been like a substitute father to Buffy, this was the episode you’ve been waiting for. When Buffy’s dad lets her down (we’ve moved away from the good ol’ Almanzo Wilder from S1 and over into sleazebucket “went to Mexico with my secretary” deadbeat dad territory) she’s upset, but hides her feelings from Joyce and instead turns to Giles, suggesting none too subtly that perhaps HE could take her to the Ice Capades. Giles, however, is too caught up in the terrible task that he’s performing to notice what she’s doing. This episode could perhaps stand as a metaphor for all those bad things parents are forced to do for the good of their children – let them go because they need to go out in the world. As a parent, I watch it very differently than I did when I wasn’t one. I now see that he was in pain while he was doing it, but felt he had no choice. It’s like when you “Ferberize” your baby and your heart is breaking while she is screaming but they need to learn how to sleep... or when you leave them behind at daycare because they need to learn how to socialize... or when you give them space and use tough love to try to help them overcome an obstacle. Parenting is damn hard, but in this episode, Giles fights back, says no, and helps Buffy do what she needs to. He refuses to accept that love necessarily needs to have the word “tough” in front of it, and he gives up his vocation, his job, and everything he’s lived his life for in order to be there for her when she needs him the most. That scene where Buffy backs away from him is the mirror scene from last week’s Revelations. In that episode, Giles tells her that she has no respect for him or the duty he performs. Buffy stands there, knowing that she does show him a lack of respect often, despite her deep, deep love for him. In this scene, the opposite happens, when Buffy tells him that he’s betrayed her trust. Again, he knows she’s telling the truth, even though he cares for her more than possibly anyone else in the world, and would do anything for her. Everyone else sees it, too, including Quentin, who tells Giles, “You have a father’s love for the girl.” In each case, Buffy and Giles strive to right the wrong they had done to the other person.

As we’ve heard many a time on Buffy, connections are seen as the thing that holds you back. Buffy was supposed to be a Slayer and not tell anyone what she does. Giles was supposed to maintain a rigid distance from his Slayer and not become emotionally involved. Vampires are for slaying, not for... laying. And friends and family are unimportant. But if there’s one thing Lost and so many other shows have taught us, that’s all bunk. Connections to others are what make us stronger – Buffy is a strong Slayer because of the way Giles cares about her, not in spite of it. And his love for Buffy makes him a stronger Watcher.

Highlights and Notes:
• Buffy telling Angel that she’s going out with a man who’s older, handsome, “likes it when I call him Daddy”
• “Brian Boitano doing Carmen is a life changer.”
• Notice when Buffy goes into the house with Kralik, she’s wearing the overalls of sadness. She will transform them into the overalls of badness.
• For the Lost fans, if Kralik looked familiar to you, that’s because he played a bit part in S6 of Lost as the mechanic who takes off Kate’s handcuffs in the sideways world after she escapes the airport.
• “If I was at full Slayer power I’d be punning right about now.”
• Willow: “I’m writing an angry letter.”


This week’s first guest writer is novelist Robert J. Wiersema. Where most of the bios begin with, “I met so-and-so at Slayage,” Robert is neither a Slayage peep, an academic, nor someone I actually know personally. He is a friend of a friend, and someone I’ve known to be a Buffy fan just from reading other things he’s written. He may or may not know this (and I think I mentioned this once before) but he actually gave me my first review, waaaaaay back in 1998 when my first book on Xena came out. His review came out in Quill & Quire (the trade paper for the publishing industry), which is the first and last time that one of my books was deemed review-worthy in that publication. I still have a copy of it. I posted an article he wrote recently about rewatching the series with his son, Xander (who he says was not named after the character on Buffy). Robert is the author of Before I Wake and Bedtime Story, both national bestsellers, and the novella The World More Full of Weeping, which was shortlisted for the Prix Aurora in 2010. A respected critic and reviewer, he lives in Victoria with his family. I’m absolutely thrilled to have him as part of this rewatch.


Amends and Miracles
Robert Wiersema


“I believe in miracles.” — Pearl Jam

“If I can’t convince you that you belong in this world, then I don’t know what can.” — Buffy

And the snow starts to fall.

* * *

For me, it’s all about the snow.

I think if you asked most people I know, they would call me cynical. Pessimistic. Dark. And they’d be right. I tend toward the maudlin on a pretty regular basis. I brood. I mutter negatively. I am, a lot of the time, a moody, cantankerous bastard, seemingly limited in my ability to see the positive, to embrace the good.

If you were to ask me, point blank and to my face, whether I believed in miracles, I would probably laugh, and say something along the lines of “It’ll be a miracle if I ever get this book finished.”

I’ve actually been confronted with that question. My first novel Before I Wake centered on a very young girl who, in the wake of a car accident, seems to have the ability to heal. After the book came out, people would ask about my own beliefs, and I would do everything I could to dodge the question, usually saying something about the nature of fiction, or the importance of looking at different viewpoints, or vague comments about how sometimes things happen that we can’t understand.

The thing is? I do actually believe in miracles.

You can’t really say that to people, though. For a cynical, urban, maudlin atheist such as myself, it’s the equivalent of being fourteen years old in the schoolyard and letting it slip that you still believe in the tooth fairy. The word itself, “miracle”, has so much weight to it, so many connotations and layers of implication that admitting you believe puts you, in many people’s minds, just to the left of the snake handlers and the television evangelists. When I think of miracles, I think of crappy TV movies and cheap, rushed-to-market paperbacks. I think of people who don’t have the strength to stand on their own, waiting to be rescued. Sure, that’s a cynical, pessimistic and highly judgemental way to feel, but I’m a cantankerous bastard.

And I do believe in miracles.

I don’t attach any faith to them; I have none to attach. Rather, for me, they’re a glimpse of the mystery that underlies the rational world. They’re a momentary awareness of the magic that underpins everything we do. If they could be logically explained, they wouldn’t be miracles, and I revel in that mystery. I revel in the magic.

To my mind, there are two miraculous moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and owing to the almighty power of “Dibs!” I’ll be writing about both. The second is a few months from now.

The first comes in “Amends.”

There are few episodes of Buffy quite so divisive as “Amends”.

A few months ago, I did an online event ostensibly promoting my new book, Bedtime Story, which included a live-blog simulcast commentary of a Buffy episode. (It’s a long story, but the short version: the interviewer, Julie Wilson knew that I was a fellow Buffy fan, and a bit of a scotch aficionado. In that “my uncle’s got a barn, let’s put on a show!” spirit, we decided to incorporate a Buffy viewing into our interview. The scotch -- before noon on a Monday -- helped.)

A few weeks prior to the interview, I put out to Twitter a general inquiry as to what episode I should watch. I suggested “Amends” as it’s one of my favourites. The response was... galvanizing. There was so much vitriol directed toward the episode. So much loathing. And I get it at home, too. My son Xander and I have watched and rewatched the series, and “Amends” is the one episode he always demands we skip.

I decided to go with “Hush.” It was safer.

People hate “Amends”.

And I love it.

I should probably hate it. It should set off my cynicism, and my pessimism. It should offend me as a writer. But it doesn’t.

Instead, it embraces the mystery. It doesn’t attempt to explain away the miraculous, even with the logic of the Buffyverse.

It’s that snow...

“Amends” is about forgiveness, and coming to terms with the sins of the past. It is not about atonement; it’s not about making things right. It’s about accepting that things aren’t. When Oz offers forgiveness to Willow, having caught her in flagrante with Xander weeks before, he does it with the acknowledgement that her feelings for her longtime friend aren’t, as she tries to argue, in the past, and he’s come to terms with that. When Giles invites Angel into his apartment, and decides to help him figure out who or what is tormenting him, it’s with the acknowledgement that, yes, this is the same vampire who tortured him, who killed his love.

And then there’s Angel himself.

Driven by his visions of the First Evil, and haunted by dreams of his horrific deeds, he must face himself, and come to terms with who - and what - he is. It is only when Buffy appears in his dreams, however, witnessing the atrocities of his life as a vampire, that he fully realizes the depths of his depravity. The horror in her eyes, the shame it elicits, drive him to despair. As the First intends, this awareness chips away at his humanity, revealing how very fine a line it is between man and demon for him (for us all), and how it will be his humanity -- his capacity for love -- which destroys those things he loves. “It’s not the demon in me that needs killing,” he tells Buffy desperately, “It’s the man.”

His acceptance of this is what drives him to the hillside to wait for the sun to rise. In order to fully embrace his humanity, he must sacrifice himself for those he loves.

The confrontation between Buffy and Angel on the hilltop is one of my favourite scenes in the series (and it’s a hearty rebuke for the “SMG can’t act” crowd.) Everything is laid bare for both Buffy and Angel; neither has anything left to lose. Buffy’s speech is heartbreaking. Shot from above, she looks small and frail, innocent. Her voice catches when she asks “what about me?” before professing her love for Angel, and the scene is suffused with the same power as the final moments of their fight in the Season Two finale (“I love you. Close your eyes.”).

Set early on Christmas morning, and with dialogue that verges on the Biblical (“Am I a thing worth saving?” Angel asks. “Am I a righteous man?”), we’re in the realm of miracles. And we get one.

That snowfall that saves Angel is, of course, more than a freak meteorological event: it’s a moment of grace, a benediction. It not only saves his life, but it baptizes him in his new one. From that moment forward, he is a new man. Without that moment, he would never have left Sunnydale. He would never have become the hero of Angel The Series. He would never have become a hero, period: he wouldn’t have been capable.

Watching “Amends” breaks me every time (and I’ve watched it a lot in the last few weeks).

There is something so primal, so pure, about the moment the snow starts to fall. Buffy’s pleading, her desperation, brings a tear to my eye, but the first flutter of snow destroys me. It is as if, for once, the universe is unfolding as it should.

And people call it hokey.

They scoff. They scorn.

I think the root of the aversion to “Amends” is that people feel that it’s too pat, too easy. But there’s nothing easy about it: the five minutes before the snow starts to fall are undiluted agony and pain, two broken, distraught human beings reaching out for one another, and pushing each other away. It’s anger and despair and beauty and love and desperation.

And when the snow comes...

Look, I know it’s deus ex machina: people say that like it’s a dirty word. In this case though, that’s not a literary failing, it’s just a description, and it’s an accurate one, which will be borne out by the remainder of season three and the whole of Angel the Series. We’re talking about elemental, divine forces at play here: the First Evil, and whatever brings the snow, whether you call it God or the universe or the Powers that Be. Of course it’s deus ex machina: what else could it be?

This is starting to sound like a defense of “Amends,” and it really shouldn’t be. There’s nothing to defend. We all like what we like, right? And we don’t like what we don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with that. Somewhere out there, I’m sure, is someone who adores “Doublemeat Palace.” Don’t scoff; it could happen.

For me, “Amends” is a moment of grace and meaning in a sea of chaos and confusion. It’s a soft, cool refuge in a world of fire and pain. It’s a balm for broken souls.

And it makes this cantankerous old bastard cry, every single fucking time.

Yeah, I believe in miracles.

But let’s keep that between us, shall we? I have an image to uphold.


***

Thanks, Robert! And now someone who is as much a part of this rewatch as I am, our music specialist Janet Halfyard! Rather than giving us a slice of gouda this week, she’s given us the entire wheel. I for one can say I’m now listening to the score more closely, noticing snippets of one motif or another being reworked to evoke meaning through the music, so I’m really appreciating her analysis throughout this exercise. Here is her take on the music in this week’s trio:


Mothers, fathers, lovers: problematic relationships at the heart of season 3
Janet Halfyard

These three episodes mark the dead centre of season 3 and as such they have a lot of work to do in terms of bringing earlier problems to a head. ‘Amends’ resolves (if only temporarily) a lot of the problems that have plagued the first half of the season, such as the antagonism between Faith and Buffy that has been particularly problematic since Faith was fooled by Mrs Post in ‘Revelations’; and the rift between Oz and Willow from ‘Lover’s Walk’; but most importantly, it marks a climax of the problems between Buffy and Angel. ‘Gingerbread’ marks a similar moment in Buffy’s relationship with her mother; and ‘Helpless’ does the same for her relationship with Giles. Each episode therefore marks a moment of crisis in her relationship with the three adults who feature most significantly in her life and who, literally or figuratively, fulfill the roles of lover, mother and father.

‘Amends’ is a musically extraordinary episode. I am not going to mention the creepy little theme used for the First; nor the utterly gorgeous folk-like viola melody used during the flashback in the opening sequence; nor, indeed, the insanity of having Pachelbel's Canon playing in the background of a 19th century party (it would never happen!). No, what makes ‘Amends’ special is that it brings back the different themes that have so far been written for Buffy and Angel as he reaches his own crisis point. Firstly, it brings back what I can only call the Buffy/ Angel sex theme from ‘Innocence’ in Season 2, the music we heard over Buffy’s dream-memory of having sex with Angel, the events that led to him losing his soul. Like the first time round, it’s a dream sequence. This time, we hear it as Buffy falls asleep in the library, while Angel is asleep at the mansion, and they share the dream in which they are in her bedroom and start to make love. The theme itself is reproduced exactly but the instrumentation is different. The exotic/ erotic duduk from the original is replaced by the western flute, and the heartbeat drum sound that we heard in ‘Innocence’ disappears. Instead, we have a celeste, like a music box, accompanying the flute.

The music is an essential part of recreating the circumstances under which Angel previously lost his soul. It’s almost as if the First has stolen the music itself, disguised it with the deceptively innocent-sounding flute and celeste and is using it as part of the overall plot to try and seduce Angel into losing his soul again. The instrumentation is part of this idea of the music (and the events) being magical rather than a real memory or event: the celeste has a very long standing association with magic and fantasy in film scores from Edward Scissorhands to Harry Potter. In season 2, when this theme was part of Buffy’s memory, the heartbeat sound grounded it in physical reality. That is now gone, and the magical celeste contributes to the illusory nature of this second sequence, a trick being played on Angel. We hear this particular theme in the only two moments in Buffy itself that we see the couple fully engaged in a romantic and (ahem) adult relationship. I should also mention that we get it a final time as a sort of naughty joke, as Buffy is helping her mother decorate the Christmas tree. Lost in thought, we hear a hint of this ‘sex theme’, which cuts out as Joyce says ‘So, Angel’s on top again?’. No question what Buffy was thinking about, then.

The climax of the episode is Angel’s attempt to kill himself, and to mark such an extraordinary moment, Beck reunites the thematic material of the original love theme with the reduced ‘This is what is left’ theme that he previously extracted from it. In ‘Amends’, on the hill side just before dawn, the two themes are combined, the melody of the new theme being interspersed by the distinctive falling sixths of the Love theme itself. Narratively, this brings everything together: what they had, what they lost, what they have now. The cue (beginning at the point that Buffy says ‘Angel, please, the sun is coming up’) starts with the usual version of ‘this is what is left’, and then as Buffy says ‘What about me? I love you so much’, we hear her fear that she is going to lose even the little she has left of Angel being articulated in the way that Beck places the falling sixth of the Love theme within the fabric of ‘This is what is left’, between the first two notes, and then again between the second two notes, so bringing back the idea of the love theme itself in parallel with the stripped down ‘This is what is left’ version. The past and the present collide as Buffy tries desperately to stop him from killing himself and, for the first time, tells him how much she still loves him, at last admitting now what she denied to Spike when she told him in ‘Lover’s Walk’ that she and Angel were just friends. And then the snow falls, and the episode finds resolution in the shot of Buffy and Angel walking down the snowy street (well, wading thigh deep through foam, if you look closely) as a major key melody allows them a moment of respite in their otherwise doom-laden relationship. The fact that this melody bears a surprising resemblance to ‘Going through the motions’, Buffy’s own moment of existential gloom from ‘Once More, With Feeling’, is curious to say the least.

‘Gingerbread’ and ‘Helpless’ explore issues to do with mothers and fathers: coincidentally, they occupy the same position in the season (episodes 11 and 12) as ‘Ted’ and ‘Bad Eggs’ in season 2, another pair of episodes that have ideas of problematic parenthood at their heart. ‘Gingerbread’ brings to a head Joyce’s process of trying to come to terms with Buffy as the Slayer, founding MOO (great acronym, Mom) and attempting to burn her daughter at the stake (nice way to deal with things, Joyce. Very Sunnydale). The music does something unusual and interesting in the way it complements the narrative: it falls silent. Not the whole way through (we have to wait for season 5 for that) but nonetheless, after the first scene following the teaser, the music falls silent for a full 8 minutes, from the point that Buffy goes to Giles to demand action, to the point that Joyce starts to speak at the vigil. Music, as many film music writers have noted, is important in imbuing characters with agency, the power to act. In a film score, the way music is used will tend to point to one specific character as the narrative agent, the one who is at the centre of the film, driving the story forward. In Buffy, the music tends to point to her as that narrative agent, whether it is scoring her fighting, loving, planning or speechifying to rally the troops (always more effective when not wearing yummy sushi pyjamas). Now, it turns out that the evil doers of ‘Gingerbread’ may not be something she is allowed to fight. It may be a someone with a soul rather than a demon; and so she has her agency stripped for her, and with it, all the music that underscores her actions and points to her power. Instead, when the music returns, it is scoring Joyce as she speechifies to rally her own troops, leaving Buffy disempowered. The general (not exclusive) absence of music continues right the way into act three, when Buffy meets Angel in the playground where the children were killed, with the episode theme for the dead children playing gently underneath their dialogue. She is depressed, demoralized, has been convinced by her mother’s comment that being the Slayer is fruitless (No fruit for Buffy) – but then Angel delivers his ‘why we fight’ speech, giving her back her agency, her reason for doing what she does. After this, she gets both her mojo and her music back: we have normal amounts of music for the rest of the episode as Buffy finally twigs that something is very wrong with the whole story surrounding the murdered children and gets back into action – what more proof of agency do we need than that she can kill demons when tied to a stake and surrounded by the still slightly smoking remains of the recent attempted immolation?

‘Helpless’ is the episode on which I very nearly did my entire 60 minute keynote at last year’s Slayage conference, which will come as a surprise to some people, as I’m not sure it is generally regarded as a particularly important episode, but in terms of the music, it is pivotal; and actually, in terms of the plot (her relationship with the Council), it is as well, even though I don’t think anyone’s ever put it on their favourites list. Buffy turns 18 and is put through the Council’s test. Giles suppresses her strength and coordination with injections of some mysterious substance, the plan being that she is then trapped in a house with a vampire and has to kill him to escape. A reference underlying this episode is Hitchcock’s Psycho: the house she is to be trapped in has a distinctly gothic appearance, resembling Norman Bates’s house above the motel; the vampire she has to face admits he has a thing about mothers, having killed his own; he kidnaps Buffy’s motherwith the intent that Buffy will kill her. Whedon and his writers then add fathers into this mix: the episode juxtaposes Buffy’s numerical transition to adulthood with a narrative that is about good fathers, bad fathers, absent and present ones.

Motherhood comes out well: Buffy saves Joyce and Joyce in turn displays evident confidence in her daughter and her abilities. Fatherhood is more difficult. When Buffy comes home to find that her father is not coming to take her to the ice show, we hear her disappointment at his absence in a slow clarinet melody with pairs of piano chords over the top. We have a brief hint of it at the end of the scene where Giles tells Buffy what he has done to her; and then at the end of the episode, when Giles has been fired by the council for caring too much about her – Quentin Travers specifically accuses him of having ‘a father’s love for the child’ – we hear the theme again as Giles and Buffy are more or less reconciled. The theme connects two scenes at opposite ends of the episode, making the connection between Giles and fatherhood explicit, but it also poses a questions which it does not fully resolve about whether Giles is any more successful and reliable a father than her actual dad. The theme was first used to score the idea that her father had let her down; and there is no question that Giles has let her down as well; but by transferring the fatherhood theme to Giles, who is present rather than absent and who is trying to offer comfort and make amends (that word again), it not only confirms his symbolic fatherhood but reminds us how complicated and difficult his relationship with Buffy is, just as the relationship with her actual father is difficult and complicated. These ideas carry on well into season four and beyond: does she still need him, has she outgrown him, will he end up standing in her way? So one very small theme, but it feeds into the whole trajectory of Buffy and Giles’s relationship and points to the issue of not just the father’s love but the daughter’s trust. The theme is about Buffy’s disappointment – themes tend to represent Buffy’s point of view, so the issue of her trust is just as much at stake as that of Giles’ paternal role.

This is essentially an episode-specific theme: I would be the first to admit that the fatherhood theme in this episode is ultimately not hugely important in the greater musical scheme of things (although it will come back in odd circumstances in season 4). But Helpless also contains a theme that is seriously important: it runs for the rest of the season. We first hear it just after the credit sequence at the start. Buffy has very nearly been killed by a vampire with her own stake. She’s not just hurt: she is shocked at how close to death she came. As she picks herself up, we hear a slow three note motif which although short is actually quite distinctive.



We hear this on about half a dozen other occasions in the episode, such as at school when she attempts to defend Cordelia and is knocked down, and then Willow helps her up; and as she walks home, miserable and alone in her red coat like Little Red Riding Hood (more complicated familial relationships there) just before she is attacked; and during the scene where Giles confesses. The meaning it seems to generate in this episode is the idea of Buffy’s mortality: let’s be cheerful – let’s call it the Death Motif. She is at considerable risk of dying in this episode because she has been literally disempowered; but the same motif appears in later episodes as the particular threats to Buffy’s mortality make themselves known. [To be continued…]

***

Next week: Three more brilliant episodes:
3.13 The Zeppo
3.14 Bad Girls
3.15 Consequences

Guest commentary to be provided by Ensley Guffey and Michael Holland

48 comments:

Marebabe said...

In “Amends”, I loved Giles’ crossbow, which he apparently keeps in his umbrella stand by the front door. And who can blame him for wanting to be heavily armed when chatting with Angel!

I kept noticing the music in this episode, starting with that beautiful cello in the opening Dublin scene, straight through to the snowfall montage at the end. And since they told us that the Dublin scenes were in 1838, I found myself wondering if the use of Pachelbel’s Canon in D could’ve possibly been accurate. So I looked it up. I knew that Johann Pachelbel was a German Baroque composer, so maybe... It turns out that the famous Canon did exist at that time, having been written (some musicologists hypothesize) around 1694. But it remained forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered in the 20th century. It was first published in 1919, and only after its first recording in 1940 did it become popular. So alas, it would not have been heard at any party in 1838. But I know why the Buffy crew chose it. It’s a very beautiful piece, and extremely popular.

One more music reference: Willow’s selection of Barry White for her attempted seduction scene. Riot!

The clue, “Nothing shall grow above or below” doesn’t really work when you consider that fresh-cut Christmas trees are no longer growing. They’re all 100% dead, it just takes some time for them to shrivel up and turn brown and dead-looking. Now, if it had been a garden center with dozens of potted poinsettia plants, that would’ve been pretty awesome to have a large section of dead plants. But why any vendor would leave crappy, dead plants on display for even a day is beyond me.

The Mutant Enemy monster was looking dapper and festive in his Santa hat! So cute.

Marebabe said...

Without knowing what’s ahead, I get the feeling that the Buffy saga turned a major corner with “Gingerbread”. I was too enthralled to take notes during this one, but I can sum it up in just... wow.

When I encountered the featurettes at the end of disc 3 of my DVD set, I thought, “How fun!” I watched the one where the writers are talking about stuff they love about Buffy, but I decided not to watch any more until I’m finished with S3, especially the segment called “Season 3 Overview”. I’m pretty sure that one will be chock-full of spoilers!

In “Helpless”, the sight of Giles injecting goodness-know-what into Buffy’s helpless arm felt like a worse betrayal than Joyce trying to burn her own daughter at the stake. I’ve noticed that there’s very little black-and-white in Sunnydale. Demons, monsters, vamps, and Principal Snyder make up the black group, and everyone and everything else seems to come in varying shades of gray.

I noticed Buffy wearing her Overalls of Sadness again. (And on her BIRTHDAY! Such a shame.) What were Kralik’s pills for? And what ON EARTH was the point of the test? It seems like a senseless waste of a well-trained Slayer. If it’s meant to be an ingenuity and/or courage test, wouldn’t it be better to put someone through it before she actually became the Slayer? I’m just sayin’.

Anne said...

Liz

i think the uses of the pills is because when he was human he had a mental ilness and this was powerful medication to treat or slow the degradation process. Highly addictive the Council used them as a way to control the vampire (do as we say and you will get your pills) as i imagine becoming undead would heal his brain since vampires have regenerative properties.

As for the test I believe it is the test the slayer on a more foundamental level (battle strategies, ressourcefulness, power and strenght within) Exemple: if she is injured in a fight is she still capable of winning, regrouping, devising stategies? It is also possible that the Council felt that she was getting to comfterble with the slaying, not training as hard, not taking it seriously enough, they want to make sure that she's ready all the time. Tuff job she has.

I also believe it is a way to intimidate the Slayer, making her fear the Council, this way they will have control over her, but Buffy is strong mentally and tell them to leave.

"Bite Me"

Indeed she is a colorful girl that's why I like her so much.

Anne said...

I don't know why I wrote Liz I meant to say Marababe (even though it is quite obvious)

Sorry for that

Marebabe said...

@Anne: No problemo! :)

Page48 said...

Ah, I remember the days when Barry White used to actually occupy a place on the radio.

The snow that looked like shaving cream indeed. That was like no snowfall I've ever seen. But, Sunnydale is that kinda town.

I love the pain (the fictional pain, not the real deal), so "Amends" and "Helpless" were my faves this week. If you can watch 7 seasons of BtVS and not shed a few tears along the way, you're just not watching it right.

How many respectable slayers does the Council lose on their 18th b-day because of this asinine test? It's actually pretty disturbing to watch Buffy screaming for help on the mean streets of Sunnydale, unable to climb a fence or come up with a decent pun.

Bunny Summers! Ha! Willow's mom is piece of work.

"I'm way off my game, my game's left the country". I love me some Buffy (but I hate it when she says "shtrength")

The Question Mark said...

I really liked "Amends", I'm not sure why so many people would have a problem with it. It involves flashbacks, Jenny Calendar is back, and it has one of the most heavyweight acting scenes we've seen so far. Though, I CAN understand people hating on the shaving cream snow LoL
Oh, and Robert, your review was excellent. :)

My fave this week was "Gingerbread" though, hands down. The comic timing in this one was absolute gold, I don't think I can remember any other Buffy episode that made me laugh this hard. From Oz's "We're here to save you" to Buffy's "And nice acronym, Mom!" to the very last line before the credits, everything was delivered with pitch-perfect comedic excellence. 10 out of 10 on this one!

Now, I have a question about "Helpless", which I think Nikki may have already answered last week, but I'm not sure: was the writer the same David Fury from the LOST staff?

Dusk said...

Question Mark: yeah, it's the same David. He's total writer of I think 17 Buffy eps (Sorry if that's too big a spoiler). Great analysis both of you.

The Question Mark said...

Oh, and yeah, Giles & Cordelia are HIALRIOUS together. They should have had their own spin-off, "The Giles & Cordelia Smile-Time Adventure Hour". I can just hear the theme song now:

"One of them's a Watcher/the other one's a shopper!
One of them wears Prada/the other wears tweed!
They get in sticky messes every single week!
It's the adventures of Giles & Cordelia!"

......I'D watch it.

Also, did anybody else notice how radically different Sarah Michelle Gellar's hair looked in "Amends"?

The Question Mark said...

@DUSK: Wicked, the two worlds are colliding! LoL This literally feels like the flashbacks in LOST Season 2, when we started seeing like Jack Shephard in the background during Shannon's back story :P
Go David Fury!

Dusk said...

I feel like we should compare Buffy and Jack's leadership styles or something when the year of watching ends.

Stephen said...

Mr. Dress-up? Silly Canadians, it's Mr Rogers... :)

Missy said...

'Amends'
Not a fav(I just feel like there are better episodes),but I truely appreciate it.
Angel & Buffy bring the angst.
and the appearence of The First masquerading as a higher power.
Not to mention Jenny...being a broken Angel's guide.
The Xander campout scene is a fav(and so very telling).
'Gingerbread'
I don't watch often ....but I have an affinity with Amy(way back when 'Witch' was my first ep or as time goes on the 1st I remember watching all those yrs ago),so I never put it down even though in terms of story it's not one of Joss&Co's best.
Plus everytime I hear the word MOO I wanna punch someone(and I'm a Joyce fan).
Sheila Rosenberg is the worst scoobie parent we've met so far(though she will be out done).
Amy Rat...possibly the best use of a ancillary character ever.
'Helpless'
out of these three ...it is my fav(so I was shccked to read that it's not that highly regarded).
We finally see the all powerful Watcher's Council...they put Buffy through a Cruciamentum(Latin* Torment/Torture Test) and use Giles to do it.
The most heartbreaking Giles/Buffy ep so far(It will be topped).
Zachary Kralik is one scary ass vamp.(I'm a Big Jeff Kober fan)
I like Buffy don't enjoy seeing her powerless...but Angel is right she'll never just be a girl.She'll ALWAYS be Buffy.

Efthymia said...

"Amends":
I find myself more willing to believe in the existence of vampires and other supernatural creatures than of such a mature and wise 18/19-year-old as Oz...
I neither love nor hate this episode; I really like Willow and Oz getting back together and the awkwardness of it, but the Angel storyline leaves me kind of cold, probably because I never really cared much about the character. I do like that they suggest that it is Evil behind Angel's return from "hell", I guess it would have made not-spoiled-to-the-spin-off-show people wonder what's going to happen next with Angel and if he's bound to turn evil again.
The snow after the heat wave (and especially the sun not rising --I don't remember ever the sun not rising due to snow) does annoy me a bit and leave me disbelieving, but I guess whoever brought Angel back didn't want him to die, so they worked their mojo...

"Gingerbread":
Another favourite episode! I'm surprised that most focused on the humour of this episode and consider it one of the funny ones, because I find it one of the scariest ever! Witch-hunting and book-burning --BOOK-BURNING! brrr...-- and parents turning against their children and personal freedom being suffocated, I find all that very creepy and frightening. It's an example of the worst in human history: being prejudiced against a group (be it jews or communists or immigrants or whatever) and then being violent against them and then against anyone who supports them and is against you etc.
Poor Joyce, trying to understand and connect with Buffy and her Slayer duties... I think I've said it before, but I like Joyce, I think she's trying to be a good parent. I also like the awkwardness between her and Giles after the events of "Band Candy" --"Rumour? About us? About what?" :)
The appearence of Hansel & Grettel every 50 years and its consequences remind me of Stephen King's "IT".

"Helpless":
"I throw knives like... -A girl? -(angry look) like I'm not the Slayer." --YAY for the feminism in the show!
Now, forgive my following delirium, but I view this episode as a metaphor on old patriarchal rules that try to tame female power, bring it to male standards and control it, and the need for this to change. Even if being empowered and independent and not abiding by patriarchal rules is difficult (Buffy often complaining about Slayer duties), a woman doesn't want to lose her power once she's gotten it. The fact that both Buffy's fathers (the biological and the "adoptive") are so disappointing in this episode adds to my theory --after all, "patriarch" means "ruling father".
Maybe I'm alone in this...

Missy said...

@TheQuestionMark

Legal Custodians?Lol(Scrubs)

Though Ironically a Future Ats reference.

Are you a newbie?

Lisa(until further notice) said...

When Xander was camping out on Christmas Eve, I think those cookies next to him were meant for Santa...it would be just like Xander to believe that in a world where demons, vamps, and slayers can exist, why can't Santa and Rudolph too.

Even though this is a rewatch for me, and a recent one at that, "Amends" felt new. So either I missed it somehow the first time around, or I forgot about it. But I don't think that could be the case. It was an astounding episode. Angel waiting for the sun at the top of the hill was heartbreaking. Giles true character shows in this episode, as he is still willing to help Angel in his time of need.

I love the Cordelia line in "Helpless". "oh God, is the world ending? I have to do a research paper on Bosnia for tomorrow, but if the world is ending, I'm not gonna bother."
And then, after Buffy tells Giles..."I don't know you." as she
walks away, Cordelia asks Giles "Did something take her memory?" "He's Giles...JI ULS. He hangs out here a lot."
I love that girl.

Also, another point about "Amends.". Xander's turn around in wanting to help with Angel's problem seems really almost like a set up and out of character at this point. Was he really feeling guilty for all his Angel bashing, with the recent knowledge that he really isn't one to talk on the subject of honesty and openness with his friends? Nor is he all that admirable of a guy after what he did to Cordy and Oz. Or, was Joss starting to worry that Xander was becoming
unlikeable at this point and needed to bring him back into
the fold? Either way, it felt disingenuous to me.

JS said...

Question: Why was the book and witch burning happening INSIDE?

Lisa(until further notice) said...

JS: I know, right? And with all those books on the pyre, that fire should have gotten a bit bigger a lot faster than it did. And all easily put out by one, small, mishandled, fire extinguisher. LOL.

Marebabe said...

@JS and Lisa: I'm with ya on that indoor fire that somehow didn't grow any bigger. What the...!

StephenC said...

first time poster, been reading your blog for about a year though nikki.

As an irish man, i feel obliged to point 2 things.

Firstly, the dublin in Amends, looks like no place that could possibly be in Ireland (architecturaly speaking, spelling?)

also, and most importantly, what is it with these terrible irish accents, that all irish characters in all amereican tv shows/ films have ?

NO ONE IN IRELAND SPEAKS LIKE THAT!!
NOT ONE!!!

really enjoying the rewatch btw, keep up the great work :)

Hunter said...

Small fire extinguisher? She has a giant fire hose!

Also, for those Cordy fans out there, you should follow Charisma on Twitter. She tweets a lot of pictures and fun random stuff. DB does the same as well, but expect a lot of hockey material during the playoffs.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

Hunter, thanks for the correction about the fire extinguisher/fire hose. It took me four times to get through the episode as I constantly had to pause and restart due to grownup/parental duties and obligations. Grrr, why can't my kids cook their own dinner, do their own laundry and start their homework without threat of dismemberment? JK. I do love that scene though...Charisma is awesome.

Nikki Stafford said...

D'oh on my Mr Dressup/Rogers screw-up. In my mind I was picturing Rogers, and I wrote Dressup. Sigh... the perils of writing these when you're tired. You should have seen some of my Lost posts (poor Sawyer, trapped in a wheelchair because he was on the run for accidentally killing his stepfather).

And yeah, if Sheila had been writing a paper on Mr. Dressup, it probably would have been more along the lines of the gender confusion of Casey.

Nikki Stafford said...

Lisa: I always found the little plate of cookies sad, but now even sadder!! ;) Although something tells me Santa probably never visited Xander. I can't imagine his parents ever put any presents under the tree for him.

Nikki Stafford said...

StephenC: Angel's Oirish accent is one of the most irksome things on the show. It's truly awful (especially considering Boreanaz was married to an Irish woman at the time, if I remember correctly).

Marebabe: excellent find on Pachelbel's Canon!!

Question Mark: Yes, I brought up the Fury factor before, but he is the same David Fury from Lost, who debuted on that series with the brilliant "Walkabout."

Nikki Stafford said...

JS: LOL! Another great question. Well, on a purely storytelling level, it was inside so A) Cordy and Giles would have to pick the locks; B) Xander and Oz could get into a ventilation system; C) the parents would feel trapped once the moster actually revealed itself.

But if I had to come up with a defense for the writers here, there are two things I could argue: one, that one of MOO's mandates is to prove that it's too dangerous outside, and they're moving all activities inside. And two, that deep down, MOO knows that what they're doing is no better than what the baddies are doing, so just as the monsters lurk in the shadows, so do they hide themselves in a locked room.

EBethToThePowerOf? said...

This trio of episodes has long been my least favorite in Season 3, so, as has been commented upon many times in other weeks, I want to thank you all for helping me gain a new appreciation for this trio of episodes!

JS said...

@Nikki - thanks for defending the writers. I know it probably would have been a 20 min episode if all the action were outside, so I appreciate the obstacles the writers had to build in. But I had suspend more disbelief than usual to buy that they needed to be IN city hall instead of just at city hall.

I did love these episodes BTW. Amends was touching, Gingerbread was creepy (I hate Willow's Mom, neglect being the worst form of underrecognized abuse), and Helpless made me fall in love with Giles even more.

G1000 said...

I've been reading these posts every week for a while, but haven't commented mainly becaue I don't have all that much to say. I like "Buffy" a lot (and its significance in TV history cannot be overstated), but I don't feel the same passion for it that most do.

However, I felt compelled to say something about "Helpless" (which is a top ten episode for me). After reading the post and perusing the comments, I find it hard to believe that almost no one is pointing out the episode's biggest virtue: the fact that it's downright terrifying.

There's some great character development in the episode, for sure. But the scenes in the house are something else entirely. I knew Buffy would get out alive, but the sustained sense of terror these sequences create is rivaled only by a few of the greatest horror movies. The only other "Buffy" episode that comes close to delivering this level of tension is "Passion" (which admittedly does trump "Helpless" as far as character and story development goes).

One of my favorites. Also, I don't care for "Gingerbread".

The Question Mark said...

@MISSY:
I am indeed a newbie, this was my first time ever sitting down and watching Buffy. I'd seen snippets of the show before, back when it was on the air, but never a full episode. My first introduction to the Whedonverse was Firefly, and that was only after it was cancelled and the Serenity movie was just coming out.
But I'm lovin' me the Buff and I'm excited for Angel, too. My friend (who has seen them all before) says that while both shows are amazing, "Buffy" is more like Dawson's Creek, and "Angel" is more like Batman.

Suzanne said...

@Efthymia, you made two points that I completely agree with and felt myself while watching. First of all, Gingerbread really scared me the first time I watched it since it seemed so horrible that Joyce could be caught up in something like that enough to do to Buffy as she did. As a first-time watcher last year when I first saw it, I could barely even enjoy it since I was so upset about what Joyce (and Willow's mom) appeared to be willing to do to their daughters so easily. Of course, we find out at the end that the monster is brainwashing them in the form of the little children, but when you watch it the first time, it doesn't sink in until almost near the end. This makes it hard to absorb the humor until the very end. Watching it this time around, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the humor and adored the episode, which kind of surprised me since I hadn't remembered enjoying it as much the first time. Now it is one of my favorites.

As for you point about a patriarchial body such as the Watchers trying to control feminine power, I completely agree. This is one of my favorite themes that runs through the show. I wish I could get my young daughter to watch with me since Buffy is one of the most empowered females we see on television or in the movies for that matter. She struggles to get there as many women do in real life. As you mention, there are times when she isn't sure if she wants her power or independence, yet in this episode it is clear that if she is faced with losing the power, she is devasted about the possibility.

I adore the way she stands up to The Watcher's Council leader and even to Giles (although it broke my heart to see the tear in their relatiohshop) because it was such a powerful move. She has come so far from the girl who seemed to give in so easily to the Master in Season 1.

When she lost her powers and had to go to save Joyce without them, I kept thinking why doesn't she bring the Scooby Gang, why doesn't she bring Angel? Yet, I was so glad that she didn't!! This was the ultimate act of courage since she needed to prove to herself that she could rely on herself to face any fear and handle it. Even though "Helpless" isn't my favorite episode, I love so much about it that I rate it very high. The message in it is wonderful, especially for women.

Suzanne said...

@G1000, I am glad you pointed out how terrifying "Helpless" is because it is something I thought about while watching it, too. I am not usually a big fan of horror movies since I can't stand to be scared while watching something. This is one reason why I didn't watch Buffy when it first aired. However, as you say, most Buffy episodes are not really terrifying in the way this one was. I was on the edge of my seat while watching the scenes in the creepy hotel even though this was second viewing and I knew the outcome. It had a real Silence of the Lambs feel to it.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Did you know that Mr. Dressup and Mr. Rogers were best buds (in a Mr. Rogers was his best man way) and that Mr. Rogers started in Toronto? When he moved back to the States, Ernie Coombs stayed here and opened his tickle trunk. But I digress.

I hate Amends. There, I said it. The previous time I rewatched it, I thought maybe I liked it a little. But that's gone, now. It's the cheesiest of the Buffy cheese, and the snow is lame.

The scariest thing about the episode is Buffy's bangs.

Angel has never been whinier or mopier. The scene with Buffy and Angel couldn't be more over the top if they tried. I've seen less melodrama on Days of Our Lives.

Okay, got that off my chest. Love the other two episodes, though, and 2/3 ain't bad.

I did like the First saying "Dead by sunrise," which I assume is a nod to the Evil Dead's "Dead by dawn."

In Gingerbread, Buffy takes the place of the mother in the relationship with Joyce, the second time since Band Candy. Though she's pretty naive if she thinks that adult humans don't do terrible things to children.

The episode is co-written by Thania St. John of Lois and Clark.

Buffy's birthdays are just as successful as Mary Richards' parties.

Buffy is the only one of her circle to be close to her parents. That may also apply to Giles, who is neither a grocer or a fighter pilot.

The affliction seems to be shared by adults with teenagers being immune - much like Band Candy. I'm beginning to wonder what Jane has against grown-ups.

The first time we see the dead children talking to Joyce, we might assume that it's the First again.

Helpless is the best of this set. Such a sad episode, and yet also very exciting with Buffy in the house with the vampire. A vampire who has more polaroid film than I've ever seen in one place. There's only 10 pictures in a pack.

I wonder if the Council did something to get Hank to cancel. His presence could have spoiled their plans.

I have a new plan - lets lock Travers in the house with the crazy vampire. Did he eat his mother before or after he was turned, btw?

Dominic Keating, who plays the Watcher who is turned, was signing my Buffy book (a little something called Bite Me by Nikki something) when his Enterprise castmate looked at him and said "You weren't on Buffy!" He sounded impressed.

Oz is right about gold kryptonite - it takes Superman's powers permanently.

Buffy's not a bit concerned that Angel said he loved her when she was 15 (or was it 14?)

Giles is more squeamish than Buffy - he almost vomits when he sees the Watcher's body, while Buffy barely glances at it. Granted, Giles did know the guy...

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I forgot to mention one thing in Amends that confuses me. One of the victims that the First impersonates is wearing a suit that is too modern to be from the time before Angel got his soul, but not modern enough to be from the time in season 2 when he lost it. So who is that guy?

Aw. My verification word is 'bless'.

Witness Aria said...

Just wanted to say great reviews, everyone. Really enjoyable. Robert, especially thanks to you for a beautiful summation of Amends. I'm with you 100%, but have never been able to state it so well.
(And I'm generally a right bastard too.)

Tom D. said...

One of the victims that the First impersonates is wearing a suit that is too modern to be from the time before Angel got his soul, but not modern enough to be from the time in season 2 when he lost it.

I always figured that guy was just somebody who Angelus victimized in season 2. What is it about his suit that makes it not modern enough to have been worn by a middle-aged guy in 1998 or thereabouts? (I'm honestly curious, I know bugger-all about suits despite being a dude who has to wear them sometimes.)

Steve Halfyard said...

Lordy, like Nikki, I have misidentified (seems to be the week for it!) - Marebabe is right, it's Pachelbel in the party scene - but regardless: apart from Bach and Handel's choral music, there was practically no interest at all in baroque music (most of which lay forgotten in private archives/ attics) until the 20th century and you simply never would have heard Pachabel, Vivaldi or any of their contemporaries being performed at this time (although it is definitely a viola, not a cello, at the start of the epsiode!)

Nikki Stafford said...

@Steve: I've gone in and changed it to Pachelbel's Canon. Isn't it strange how your mind is thinking one thing and your fingers typing another? Happens to me... daily. Problem is, when I do it on the blog, it's ALWAYS noticed. Sigh.

Maybe I need to start purposely slipping up and seeing who catches it, and then when I slip up for real, I can say, "Ha! I was just testin' ya." ;)

Nikki Stafford said...

Hey Colleen: I deleted it for you. But I did so before checking if you were able to cut and paste it over to the spoiler board... I hope you were able to, it was good stuff! (And I'll admit, as I was reading it I was forgetting I was on the non-spoiler board, too!)

myeck said...

Another possible reason for the Gingerbread bonfire being indoors is that it could be the demon's idea: get a bunch of people to lock themselves in a room and set it on fire? Priceless.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Thanks Nikki. I'd already posted it there, thinking that blogger had eaten the comment again. Then I came to this side and found it here. No idea how that happened.

Stephen said...

I also love Cordelia's lines in Helpless, but especially how, despite all her insults to Buffy and the scoobies, when Buffy asks Cordelia to take her home, she says yes, no questions asked.

Page48 said...

@Stephen: I was struck by that as well re: "despite all her insults to Buffy and the scoobies, when Buffy asks Cordelia to take her home, she says yes, no questions asked"

Cordelia gave the same "of course" the night Jenny was murdered, when Buffy asked Cordy to drive them to Giles's house.

When Buffy needs a lift, she can count on Cordelia, The Vampire Slayer Driver.

Missy said...

@Colleen

The Modern Suit Guy has bugged the hell out of me for yrs.
Why I never thought of the brief Angelus "Fun" being the reason is beyond me....It's perfectly logical compared with what the other possiblities are.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I just don't think the suit and hair look right for late 90s. Guess I could be wrong.

Gus Brunetti said...

I really love this episode. It's the one that frightens me the most, I guess. Sometimes the subtext in Buffy "rapidly becomes text", and they are dealt too heavy-handedly (like the witch hunt last episode, or frat boys in Reptile Boy). In this one, the subject of rape and the helplessness that comes with it is never mentioned per se (except when Giles tlaks about the big vampire's past), but it can be felt throughout the episode.

In the teaser, Buffy is almost penetrated. Later, when those gross guys ask for a lap dance, she's wearing a Riding Red Hood, as you pointed out. Little Red Riding Hood is a cautionary tale against sexual predation. To add to the intertextuality, Zachary's lines inside the boarding house resemble those of the Big Bad Wolf. And it's not only young girls he preys on: lacking a grandmother, he victimizes Joyce as well.

The worst part is that it's socially accpeted, according to the series. It's inflicted on women by undermining their power and taking it as a fact of life. It's disgusting how Quentin can be so cavalier about all that violence.

Fotunately, we have Giles to act as our "hunter in the woods" and partially save them at the last minute. He's the control group of the episode, to show that not all men are pigs. Fortunately, because I don't like to think of myself as one.

RosieP said...

"
And people call it hokey.

They scoff. They scorn.


I call it hokey. I scoff. I scorn. Why? For me, the Buffy/Angel romance is an exercise in adolescent angst and I find it immature and over-the-top. And two, because Angel's remorse is manufactured, thanks to a spell created by the Kalderash gypsies. When people talk about Angel's redemption, why do they forget this one factor?

mythgirlnf said...

I'm slowly catching up! I watched these three eps this week, and, yes, what a great trio! 2 simple comments: I had NO idea that anyone didn't like Amends! And, Helpless is absolutely one of my favorite episodes. :)
The "other" Nikki ;)