Friday, September 30, 2011

Person of Interest: "Ghosts"

Welcome to week 2 of our Person of Interest blog with Chris Doran, who has graciously agreed to join me week after week to discuss J.J. Abrams' latest effort. This week, I'll let Chris go first!

Well, Nikki, I thought tonight’s episode got off to a promising start with our first peek at the new credits sequence. Very high tech, very sexy – and it took all the relevant information from Michael Emerson’s monologue last week about The Watching Machine and condensed it down to under a minute! The short scene that followed was a blueprint for what this show COULD do well – play with our expectations and deliver a little wry humor to go with the action sequences. Jim Caviezel forces his way onto an elevator, flashes that killer smile and the audience thinks the man with the flowers is in trouble. Well, he is … but not in the way that we expect. Bonus! A lawyer joke!

Sadly, the scene that immediately follows brings the enthusiasm to a screeching halt. Srsly? Caviezel following Emerson on the streets of New York while talking to him on the phone? The dialogue is painfully dull, the tension non-existent, and even Emerson’s disappearing act can’t liven things up. This scene, like the alley scene with guest star Natalie Zea in last week’s pilot, appears to have been spit out by TV Procedural Central. Unfortunately, there are a few of those in this week’s episode. Person of Interest needs to lean on its strengths more or pretty soon The Watching Machine will be coughing up Reese & Finch’s social security numbers.

But wait! Is that backstory I smell cookin’? The timeline shifts and LOST fans immediately recognize Goodwin –er, Brett Cullen as Ben –er, Emerson’s partner way back in 2002. Finch has yet to acquire his limp, The Machine is taking shape and optimism abounds that it can be a force for good. Good luck with that, fellas! As if this shout-out to Emerson’s previous series isn’t good enough, the next interlude serves him up to us standing on a pier overlooking a marina. Desmond, look out! That milk carton won’t stop a bullet!

… Um, Nurse Ratched, I think it’s time for my medication now. Over to you, Nikki! How did you find our second installment?

Haha! I definitely had my “oh my god, it’s Goodwin!” moment, too. (Oh, this show just won’t let go of the shackles of Lost, will it?) I wonder if “Our Founder” died in 2010 because he was impaled on a spear?

You know, I actually liked this week’s episode more than last week. I watched last week’s a second time and found the dialogue even more stilted the second time through, but this week’s wasn’t as bad. Sure, it had some wincey moments:
• The hitman looming towards Ben and Teresa at the end, holding up his gun, and… getting hit with a hail of gunfire EXACTLY the way he had half an hour earlier in the Laundromat. Seriously?
• The fact that Reese could take out two hitmen in an elevator but a kid on a skateboard evades him. Sigh.
• Michael Emerson’s walk. What… was that?! He changed the limp entirely, and now it’s not just a limp a la House, but more like he’s got a steel rod jammed up his ass that’s made his entire body rigid and unmoving, and he turns his entire body to the side instead of moving his head. I said to my husband, he moves like Pee-wee Herman, the way Pee-wee would always have his arms bent at the elbows with his hands limply hanging around his shoulders, moving his body rigidly from side to side and acting like his head didn’t turn. But maybe I was just getting Pee-wee vibes from that new haircut. (He was also wearing new glasses.)
• Why was Finch in the hotel room with the girl sans gun or the two bodyguards he had with him last week?

But overall, I really enjoyed this one. It moved away from the more mundane courtroom drama of last week’s (I remember being disappointed that the person of interest was a lawyer because it gave the episode a distinctly Law & Order feel) and to a family. The mystery was interesting, and while the solution was a little pat, I really liked the reunion between the aunt and Teresa at the end.

And the use of Roisin Murphy’s “The Truth” was FANTASTIC at the end. I’d never even heard the song before and immediately looked it up.

What did you think of the visual cues we got for segues? I thought they were a lot tighter this week, and they’ve developed that style for shifting from one scene to the next that seems to mark most Abrams shows (like the overview of buildings in Alias or the buildings with the block letters over them in Fringe).

Well put, Nik. While the scenes themselves lacked a bit of the visual flair of the pilot, the segues were fantastic. These drive the premise of the show extremely well and carry us past some of the slightly creaky elements with great panache. I’m sure it would be distracting but I would actually like to see some more monitoring to get a sense of how The Machine is parsing the data and screening out the “irrelevant” information.

The bits of plot surrounding this week’s case were more or less successful by turns. Scenes of Reese surveilling the uncle were a bit blah while Finch interviewing the aunt was more interesting. Ultimately, the story is Theresa’s and things move a bit better when we’re with her. It was hugely enjoyable to see Reese get his butt kicked in the Laundromat (it was getting a bit stale to see him so easily overpower/outgun opponents) even if gunplay did save his bacon. Overall I see the show settling into a bit too much of a well-worn groove with the case-of-the-week elements.

Mr. Finch remains the more compelling character. Reese’s discovery of his “double life” as a Cube Nerd was interesting and the later flashback to another scene with Brett Cullen definitely had me wanting more of this kind of thing in future episodes. Did I ever tell you that I once saw Brett Cullen at the Long Beach airport? I resisted the urge to bother him and just reveled in my private LOST Geek Moment. I’ll save a few last thoughts and ask you how you feel the series is progressing. Getting better? Showing promise to break out of the formula? Tell us, O Goddess of the Nitewatch!

I’m the same as you: I’ve had spottings of famous people up close and I tend to keep my distance, because I’m always worried that if I walk up to them and say something and they’re total jerks, it’ll be a ruined experience. I tend to just revel in being close to them, like when I was in a customs lineup next to Stephen Fry last year. ;)

I thought Caviezel was excellent last week and really carried the show, with Emerson being a great sidekick. This week it was Emerson who carried the show, and Caviezel came off as a bit formulaic and dry. I think the cop who is tracking Finch is so separate from the story that every time I see her I go, “Oh yeah, right, she’s in there, too.” So they need to fix that if she’s going to be essential. Maybe she’ll be like the cop in the first season of Angel, who was hovering around him, trying to figure out his secret (even becoming a love interest) only to be dropped when she just came off as annoying.

So I think next week we really have to see both of the key players come to the fore. Lost’s first true masterpiece was in the third week, fourth episode, with “Walkabout,” so here’s hoping next week gives us the jawdropping excellence. For this week, I liked the laugh I got from Finch’s dry, “Guess I could use the miles,” when Reese says he booked the entire floor of the hotel. I thought moving the person of interest story to something more personal worked a lot more than the lawyer story did last week.

But mostly, I was intrigued by the backstory, as you say. Why wasn’t he limping back then? What happened to him? Does it have something to do with the Machine? I was so intrigued by the idea that this very wealthy man who owns a software company is so isolated that he actually pretends to be one of the office drones working for him. There were definitely elements that were added in this week that hadn’t been present last week, as if they showed the pilot and responded to audience requests and altered things. Among them:
• Give Finch severe scoliosis on top of the limp.
• Make Finch evasive, so where he sought out Reese in the first episode, now he keeps away from him as if he’s keeping secrets.
• Give Finch a darker backstory.
I half expected him, after dumping the box in the lobby when he was talking to Reese, to go through the revolving door and walk away, limpless, a la Keyzer Soze in the Usual Suspects.

Okay, let me finish with a few Random Thoughts:

- We get another peek at the ASR (Awesome Server Room), this time tracking from a wide angle to the flashing LED on a specific server, the inverse of last week’s shot.
- From the looks of the hotel room where Reese brings Theresa, I’d be a little suspicious of that “$50 cheeseburger”. Does that come with the $20 fries or the $17 side salad?
- I have GOT to get that cool “Wiretap Established” app for my iPhone. I don’t even care if it WORKS. I just want to walk into offices, stare at the screen for a few seconds and say, “Yep, it works. We’re good here” and walk out.
- We went almost the entire episode without Reese shooting someone in the leg. Then, at nearly the Last Possible Second, he takes out the hitman with a shot to the knee. An almost sober night for the Legshot Drinking Game.
- I’m with you on Michael Emerson’s “limp”. He’s got to get some therapy or something. The poor man will need a body brace before the end of the season.

Overall, I think POI needs to find a way to integrate Taraji P. Henson into the main storyline more effectively and tighten up the scripts for the weekly case stories. That and ratchet up the direct connection to the Watching Machine. Who is running it now? What were the circumstances of Mr. Finch’s departure from active involvement? I feel that the show needs to step up its game or more viewers will be clicking over to the post-Steve Carell-Office. Thanks for sharing the blogverse, Nikki! See you next week.

Thanks, Chris! Tune in next week, where Finch will either be dragging his leg behind him or in a wheelchair, and Reese will, I hope, show the same charisma he had in the first week’s episode. I’m looking forward to it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 39: Once More With Feeling!!

6.7 Once More With Feeling

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 286-289.

And if you’re watching Angel:

3.7 Offspring

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 209-211.

I hope you’ve set some time aside for tonight’s Rewatch, because it’s a doozy!! I’ve been planning it since the beginning of the year, and it’s taken more time to put together than any of the other weeks, but it’s been worth it. I think almost every song in the episode “Once More With Feeling” will be covered in some form below, so sit back, turn up your speakers, and enjoy!!


Previously… on the Buffy Rewatch:
Before we discuss this week's episode, maybe it's a good time to recap the story so far. (I apologize that I look like a kindergarten teacher singing to children... I think it's from seven years of singing to children...)

Of course, with each week, I know you’re expecting some analysis, so before we begin to unlock the talents of the other Rewatch guest hosts, let’s have an analysis from the one person who can tackle the musical side of Buffy better than anyone: Janet Halfyard. Take it away, Janet!

Something to Sing About: music and myth in “Once More, with Feeling”

I am prepared to state with considerable confidence that there is not single episode of Buffy that has been written about by more people than “Once More, With Feeling” (OMwF). It is possible, thanks to Matthew Pateman writing an entire book about “Restless”, the season 4 finale, that there are episodes that have more words written about them, but the number of people who have written about the musical episode at some point is significant enough that it got its own session at both of the first two Slayage conferences; and there were another three chapters on it in Music, Sound and Silence, the book I coedited on music in Buffy to add to all the existing ones in Slayage and elsewhere. So no pressure on me then to find something interesting to say.

The idea of a musical TV episode was not original – it had definitely been done before, not least the excruciating episode “The Bitter Suite” in Xena: Warrior Princess where (not unlike in OMwF) magic led to a great deal of singing, including Xena and Gabrielle singing an appalling rock-ballad duet to each other with some of the most cringeworthy lyrics ever written. [Editor’s note from Nikki: I loved that episode… So melodramatic and maudlin and over-the-top crazy. It was everything Xena was about.] OMwF is different: it is one of the best episodes of Buffy, one of the televisual experiments that made Buffy great, the third of the experiments that centre around sound in significant ways – the other two are “Hush” in season four, where music replaces the sound of voices, and '”The Body” in season five which has no music at all, and which 'composes' its sound design instead. Together, they point to Joss Whedon's sensitivity to the sonic as of equal importance to the visual, and I can't underplay how unusual that is in television as a whole, a medium whose name privileges the visual over the sonic. So the first thing that comes out of OMwF is that it reveals Whedon's creative interest in sound and music; and the fact that this episode is all about singing brings in the element of performance too.

There is, actually, quite a lot of performing in the Buffyverse, from the wonderful Greek tragedy and Cordelia's singing in “The Puppet Show” and Willow's failure to sing Madame Butterfly in “Nightmares”, back in season 1; Oz as the boyfriend in the band; Giles singing songs in the coffee shop; Spike doing his impression of Sid Vicious singing “My Way” in “Fool for Love”; and there's even more singing and performing going on in Angel, mostly thanks to Caritas, the demon karaoke bar. Add to that the fact that Mr Whedon wrote the theme song for Firefly, plus the lovely “Ballad of Jane” telling of the heroic deeds of one of the characters who had become a folk legend on an obscure planet he'd actually been trying to rob; and that he wrote a whole other musical show with Dr Horrible's Sing-along Blog, and his interest in music is pretty convincing.

OMwF remains his best known and most written about musical venture, and one of the many reasons it is so interesting is the episode's peculiar relationship with (Jargon alert!) musical diegesis. Quick explanation of that: essentially, there are two types of song possible in film and television: diegetic song (where the characters are perfectly well aware that they are singing) and non-diegetic song, where they aren't. In diegetic song, the song is as real and as normal to us as it is to the characters ie: characters know they are singing or being sung to and the source of musical accompaniment is likely to be visible, be it a karaoke machine, a band or a guitar. Non-diegetic song, on the other hand, relies on the suspension of our disbelief to accept that the characters are essentially unaware that they are singing or being sung to and the musical accompaniment is also usually invisible, coming from the underscore. In these circumstances, we are asked to accept that sometimes in musicals characters will burst into song because their emotions have become so intense that they simply have no other choice if they are to express themselves properly (e.g. Dorothy breaking into “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). However, these types of song, whilst clearly being sung, are not perceived as being outsides the normal course of communication by the characters; nor is the sudden sound of music from an invisible source perceived as unusual. At some quite profound level, the characters do not know that they are singing or have lost the ability to know that singing and music are not normal in this context.

Another important distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic song is the element of volition. In diegetic song, the character must choose to perform. Sometimes this decision is made under forms of duress, but consent is still given. Rose’s first strip-tease in the musical Gypsy, when she is cajoled by her mother into performing is one example of this, as is Willow’s attempt to sing Madame Butterfly. However bad, half-hearted or unwilling the performance, the character has made a conscious decision to (try to) perform. Non-diegetic song, however, is imposed from outside the narrative: the character makes no decision to sing, but sings nonetheless.

Buffy has played some quite intriguing diegetic games, “Once More, with Feeling” (OMwF being one the most elaborate (“Normal Again”, later in this season, is going to take that to a whole new level), although this was not the first occasion that something of this nature was introduced. In the season four finale, “Restless”, Giles’s dream, like Willow’s, takes the form of a performance event, if a very strange one. We see him performing, as we have done earlier in the season, but now he is on stage at The Bronze, and instead of singing a song, he simply sings his dialogue. This creates a somewhat tangled diegetic web. On one level he is clearly perfectly aware that he is performing: he climbs onto the stage, the audience cheer, there is a visible band accompanying him. He grasps the microphone, and his body language bears all the hallmarks of a straightforward diegetic song, an impression reinforced by the fact that the audience responds to his singing by holding their lighters aloft, flames glowing in the semi-darkness. Yet at another level, what he actually sings, which is his continuing dialogue with Willow and Xander, makes it clear that he and his audience are unaware that this really isn't normally diegetic (Giles singing a song in a club) or non-diegetic (Giles compelled to express himself through song). It's a lovely reversal: in a conventional non-diegetic song, the characters’ actions usually indicate that they believe themselves to be speaking their thoughts, whereas in fact they are singing a song. Here, Giles’s actions indicate that he believes himself to be singing a song, although he is in fact delivering his dialogue. Effectively, this song manages to be both diegetic and non-diegetic simultaneously. Although Giles does clearly know he is singing, he and everyone else fail to perceive what is clear to us, the audience, namely that the song itself is abnormal, the usual rules of musical diegesis having been suspended by the dream-state.

A comparable circumstance underlies OMwF, although here it is a spell rather than a dream that suspends the normal rules, and the web of diegesis is further complicated by the nature of the relationship between a character and the actor who plays it. Normally, if a song is non-diegetic, the actor knows that he or she is singing in a situation where singing would not be considered normal, but the character does not, and this situation remains fixed. It creates a very clear boundary between them, placing the actor in the privileged position of having knowledge the character does not share. There is always going to be an imbalance of knowledge between character and actor, but it is normally hidden by the fact that the actor is rendered largely invisible by the presence of the character being played.

In non-diegetic song, only the character has the abnormality of the singing concealed from them. Both the audience and the actor are aware that singing is occurring in a fictional environment where it would not be occurring in the real world; and the act of singing can itself render the actor slightly more visible than usual. The suspension of disbelief is stretched a little further, with the technical demands of singing potentially making us more aware of the artifice of performance. In fact, the production of OMwF demonstrates an awareness of the heightened level of separation in the actor/ character relationship in a musical, as the episode's trailer combined clips from the forthcoming show with footage of the actors both rehearsing in a dance studio and singing in the recording studio, out of costume, out of the Sunnydale diegetic context and therefore evidently out of character. This would seem to be highlighting the extent to which the actors were occupying a privileged position in the context of non-diegetic song, threatening to undermine the coherence and credibility of the characters they had been playing for just over five seasons by this point.

However, in the episode itself, songs are only non-diegetic whilst they are being sung. Whilst the songs are in progress, the characters generally behave as if singing in this context is perfectly normal behaviour, as one would expect in non-diegetic song: but once the songs are finished, they realize that they have been acting abnormally, that they have been singing despite having made no decision to sing, a sleight of hand that allows a non-diegetic song to become retrospectively diegetic.

This, in effect, renders the actors invisible once more as the characters reassert control over knowledge of their actions. The characters become aware that their universe has been infiltrated by the non-diegetic (even though, by the end, all elements have been accounted for within the series’ diegesis) and so the characters themselves are allowed to share the awareness of the actors who play them that they are singing non-diegetic songs. Rather than destroying the fabric of the Buffyverse, this scenario manages to reinforce the credibility of Buffy’s world, because the characters are able to perceive the abnormality of this externally imposed singing in a situation when normally, fictional characters would remain oblivious, a kind of diegetic double bluff.

There's a second area that is worth mentioning that connects to music but takes the idea in a different direction, and that's the idea of myth. This episode is the culmination of an exploration of the Orpheus myth that goes right back to season 1, although I have neither time nor space to go into all that right now. However, the important elements of the myth are that Eurydice dies and Orpheus, the great musician, is so distraught by her loss that he ventures into the underworld to find her. Hades and his mortal bride Persephone are so enchanted by his music that Hades agrees to release Eurydice, on the sole condition that Orpheus does not look at her until they have crossed back into the world of the living. It all goes wrong, Orpheus looks at her and she is lost once more.

The idea of the hero crossing the threshold into the underworld to undergo trials is at the heart of the idea of the hero's journey that we find again and again throughout Buffy (pretty much every episode) with Buffy as Orpheus the hero; but OMwF alludes to the myth while at the same time reversing essential elements of it, reinventing it. Firstly, we have the fact that Willow, Orpheus-like, has retrieved Buffy from what Willow thinks was hell, casting Buffy as Eurydice, this time rescued (and did Orpheus ever stop to ask Eurydice whether she wanted to be rescued?). Meanwhile, a demon has been summoned to Sunnydale, apparently by Dawn, and the demon asserts his right to take the summoner back to the underworld as his bride. This brings in a new myth: now, Buffy plays maternal Demeter to Dawn’s Persephone, bargaining with Hades to save her daughter; but the Orpheus myth is laid over the top of this. Buffy sings and dances her willingness to take Dawn’s place, so casting herself also as Orpheus singing to Hades to release Dawn as Eurydice – the actual staging of the scene precisely mirrors the staging of this section of the various operas written on this myth, with Hades and Persephone on thrones on a raised platform, looking down at Orpheus as he performs in front of them. Buffy reveals to the rest of her friends for the first time that they tore her out of heaven, so putting Willow back into the role of the selfish Orpheus to Buffy’s own reluctantly returned Eurydice; and finally, as Buffy is about to dance herself to death (a bit of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring thrown into the mix), Spike steps in to save her.

Spike pulls her back from death, an Orphic reversal where his sudden capturing of her gaze pulls her out of hell rather than sending her into it, giving us another suggestion of and variant on an Orpheus/ Eurydice pairing here too. If Willow is the bad Orpheus in Buffy’s resurrection scenario, Spike is the antidote, the anti-Orpheus who truly brings Buffy’s Eurydice back to life, who saves her by seeing her.

So, we have myth, and we have music, and we have a myth about music underpinning this most remarkable episode in the remarkable Buffyverse. The third and perhaps most important point about this episode is that it is a good musical, with fantastic lyrics and music that, while it's not quite up to Sondheim's standards, holds its own and manages to be catchy and witty, exploring song genres at the same time as pointing out just how many genres there are (re: Anya's anxiety that her duet with Xander was not a breakaway hit but merely a book number, whilst Giles muses on witness arias and Marti Noxon laments her parking ticket). And as if that in itself was not enough, it is not an aside in the season arc, but an essential part of it. The songs are not isolated moments where characters sing about their feelings, while all the action and development remains in the dialogue: the songs themselves push the narrative forward, and set up ideas for future episodes (spoilers - highlight to view) – Giles's decision to leave; Tara's discovery of the spell Willow has cast to remove her memory of an argument, leading to Willow's final and disastrous attempt to use magic to fix her relationship with Tara in “Tabula Rasa”, which in turn reveals her spiralling addiction to magic and the terrible events following Tara's death; the collapse of Anya and Xander's relationship on their wedding day in an episode where we revisit the events of the musical for Anya's heartbreaking “Mrs Xander Harris” song; the beginning of Buffy's complex sexual relationship with Spike. For all these reasons, “Once More, with Feeling” is not an experimental digression away from the main business of the show but a pivotal episode in the development of the central characters and their relationships with each other that will have repercussions until the end of season 7.

Thank you, Janet!

And now, onto the pure entertainment portion of the Rewatch!

Going Through the Motions
When my daughter was younger, I would play the soundtrack in the car and she’d listen along. Of course, I’d say something to her, like “So, how was school?!” very loudly every time Anya would sing, “His penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe,” or when Spike sings later, “I’m free if that bitch dies!” So I think to this day she’s a little foggy on a couple of the lines. But she LOVED Going Through the Motions. She’d sing it all the time in the car and around the house, so two years ago, when she was just five, I recorded her singing it, and the result was hilarious. Here’s that recording from two years ago (her then-two-year-old brother is behind the camera with me, singing and humming along; my husband is on the couch beside her, and interjected unexpectedly, hence the surprised look on her face). Watch for the “How can I repay?” bit, which had me in stitches.

I’ve Got a Theory
I’m cheating a bit on this one, because I’ve already posted it here, but in case you missed it, here’s my whole family performing “I’ve Got a Theory.” For those of you who watched it when you hadn’t yet seen the episode, NOW you know what we were doing!

They Got the Mustard Out!
In one of my “last-minute” contributions (read: I realized that I was this close to having every song represented so I recruited people at the last minute to fill in some blanks), I sent a note to Matthew Pateman just yesterday asking if he might sing “They Got the Mustard Out!” on video and send it to me. I didn’t realize he was on his way to the airport when he got my message, but he was a trooper, and went into an airport bar with a friend and they recorded a zany little sketch that they sent to me an hour later. What can I say, the man is brilliant. (And I think the glass of beer in the background may be a clue to what you’re about to see…) For everyone who thinks of Matthew as the scholarly Brit, now you can see the side of him that I’m far more used to. ;)

Under Your Spell
Amber Benson’s beautiful voice, the dancing girls, the bridge. And oh, some pretty euphemistic language. What IS this song about?

When Tara sang that song so
Beautifully we were in awe
Her voice was like an angel’s
You couldn’t pick out one flaw
But read between the lines
And find all the euphemistic signs

This song’s about sex!
How else could it be
Oh my god, why can’t you see?
It’s so darn obvious
Talk of ecstasy
and “spreading”
And being “come”-plete.

Oh sure the sexual metaphors
Are hidden all over the place
With talk of “donuts” and “crullers”
And Anya’s tight… embrace
Network censors are spry
But these just slipped right on by

This song’s about sex
They’re making whoopee
These lyrics were quite gutsy
Oh Joss I’m damn impressed
Bowing before thee
As I have throughout Buffy

You make me

Incidentally, when I went on the Buffy tour back in 2003 that I mentioned a few months back, one of the places we visited was the park where they filmed “Under Your Spell,” and my friend Sue and I sang to each other on the bridge like nerds, and then went down to the water’s edge and danced around like bigger nerds. It was awesome.

I’ll Never Tell
The wonderful Evan Munday, he of the amazing “Ted” and “Hush” videos earlier in our Rewatch, was going to tackle “I’ll Never Tell” with a friend of his, and they were going to do the complete song and dance routine that went with it. But time got away with him, and he very apologetically emailed me this past weekend to say he wouldn’t be able to do it. I knew he would have done something genius with it, but I also thought this one was too good to just skip. So I hit up the only two people I thought could do an equally brilliant job: Dale and Ensley Guffey (you last saw this married academic couple on “The Body” rewatch). So, two days before the Rewatch, I was begging them to try something. They emailed back to say they couldn’t sing, but they’d definitely come up with something. And a few hours later, I got it: their version of an overwrought telenovela, complete with Ensley doing the accent. God, I love these two. And you will, too!

Parking Ticket
When I sent out my note to contributors asking who would be up for it, Rhonda Wilcox wrote me back to say she’d love to, but she was swamped, and wished me the best. I knew she was the lead singer of a band (oh yes, the Mother of Buffy Studies has many, many talents!) so I emailed her and asked if she might be able to record herself singing a song, and suggested “Parking Ticket” as a lark. She totally took me up on it, and delivered in her beautiful voice. Did I mention our guest hosts are immensely talented?!

Rest in Peace
One of the first people to sign up was Cynthea Masson, who has written some brilliant posts for us on the Rewatch so far. I was excited about what she was going to do, and all she said was she was going to give me a parody version of Spike’s “Rest in Peace.” What I didn’t know was that she’d rewrite it, recruit people to do other parts, and film the entire sequence in a hilarious send-up of what goes on behind the scenes when pop culture academics are trying to pitch a television course to the department. So THAT’S how you guys do it!! Watch this one, Slayage peeps: you’ll love it.

Dawn’s Lament

Dawn: Does anybody even notice?
Me: NO.
Dawn: Does anybody even care?
Me: NO!!

Dawn’s Ballet
I just wanted to mention, in case you saw his photo in my book (I have a longer analysis of the episode in Bite Me), that Adam Shankman was the choreographer of this episode. As in, that hyperactive adorable guy on So You Think You Can Dance who was absent for most of last season and who I missed terribly. Come back, Adam!

What You Feel
I wanted to stop with the videos for a second and look at Sweet’s song, which is the perfect number to look at and get a sense of Joss’s writing style. What I loved most about the way Joss wrote the lyrics in this episode is how not only created a/b/c/b rhymes, but a/b/a/b ones, and even rhymes within the lines. Look at the beginning of this song.

Why'd you run away?
Don't you like my style?
Why don't you come and play?
I guarantee a great big smile

I come from the imagination
And I'm here strictly by your invocation
So what do you say?
Why don't we dance awhile?

Check out that rhyming pattern: a/b/a/b/c/c/a/b. All of these lines have perfect end rhymes. It’s remarkable, and never feels forced. He does the exact same pattern in the next bit (and I’ve always been in love with rhyming “a-running” and “fun in”).

I'm the hottest swing
I'm the twist and shout
When you gotta sing,
When you gotta let it out
You call me and I come a-running
I turn the music on; I bring the fun in
Now, we're partying
That's what it's all about

The real fun begins a few stanzas later, when Dawn joins in and her halted and nervous rhymes are carried over a stanza apart, and she follows an a/a/b…a/a/b rhyme, with him interjecting in between.

Cuz I know what you feel, girl

No, you see
You and me
Wouldn't be very regal

I'll make it real, girl

What I mean
I'm fifteen
So, this queen thing's illegal

And once again, it never feels forced.

Not only is “Once More With Feeling” an episode with amazing dancing, catchy tunes, and a devastating ending, but the lyrics themselves are rather extraordinary. It’s one of the reasons people consider it Joss’s masterpiece. (I reserve that term for “The Body,” but “OMWF” is a close second.)

Standing in the Way
I asked my husband if he could try this one. The guy’s been recording an album for months. MONTHS. He’s got all the effects, pedals, four electric guitars, two acoustics, a bass, loop pedals, you name it, all in his office, and I said here are the chord changes, could you do it? No problem, he said. I asked him again a few weeks ago, when the producer was actually here and staying at our house. Sure, we’ll do that and we can do it all fancy in the midst of recording, he said. They didn’t. I asked him a week later, “Of course!” he said. Finally, I nabbed him on the weekend and he did a quick version of this, which frankly I thought was pretty awesome despite him knowing the chord changes for all of 3 minutes before we did it. He's about the furthest thing from a perfectionist that I know, except when it comes to his music, so he needed to do several takes of this. And somehow the kitten just sat there through all of them. So please welcome my husband, Robert!

Walk Through the Fire
Here’s a newcomer to our Rewatch, but he may be one of the best known people in it. If you haven’t heard of Tony Burgess, you should go look him up. He’s a Canadian writer of horror fiction whose most well known novel was turned into a brilliant zombie film by Canadian director extraordinaire, Bruce McDonald, called Pontypool (even if you don’t like horror films, go see this; it’s the thinking person’s horror film, and it’s stunningly brilliant. And I say that NOT liking horror movies very much).

Years ago, when "Once More With Feeling" first aired, I was working with Tony as his editor on a book of short stories called Fiction for Lovers (a book we both won the ReLit Award for!). Tony lives up north in cottage country in Stayner, Ontario, and he’s joined a community theatre group. He loves to sing and act – and he’s really good at both – and after this episode aired, he’d call the office during the day, I’d pick up, and he’d immediately begin belting out a Buffy number. If no one else was in the office, I’d sing back, but since that was rare, I generally just sat there giggling and listening to him sing away. One day we were discussing the lyrics themselves and he said to me how much he loves the moment in “Life’s a Show” where Buffy looks directly into the camera and says, “And you can sing along…” So when I was watching the episode last week to prepare, the episode got to that part and I thought, “Tony! I bet he’d do something!” One email exchange and a couple of hours later, I had this video in my inbox. He went with “Walk Through the Fire” after I gave him the choices, and I could NOT stop laughing when I watched it. This is funny if you don’t know Tony. If you do know him, it’s even funnier.

So watch Tony as he gets ready to save the day, or maybe… get distracted at the end by other things. Love ya, Tones. (Please ignore the weird watermark at the top corner; the file came to me in an odd format and the only conversion program I could find embedded that stupid thing there…)

And go see Pontypool! Now that you’ve seen Tony, he’s in the film three times; can you find all three appearances?

Life’s a Show
One of the hardest things about writing books about TV shows is that you have to explain to people what you mean when you say you write books about TV shows. I can’t get my family to understand it, so it’s hard to explain it to a stranger. “You write books… about… TV? What do you mean? What more is there to say? Do you, like, write scripts or something?” Once I went in for a parent-teacher conference with my daughter’s teacher, and the teacher laughed at one point and said my daughter had said the funniest thing. “She said you wrote books about the TV show Lost, hahahahaha!” I smiled, and said, “I do, actually.” “Haha… ha… ha. Um… really?” For me, it’s become more of a fun challenge to see how I can explain it to the next person. So that’s how I tackled this next song, since many of the guest hosts have also written books about TV shows – and have taught courses on them – so we’re all in the same boat.

“Just a show,” I’m so sick of that phrase
“It must be just a phase”
No, I’m really this crazed.

I love TV, and I’m glued to that screen
From Slayers who are teens
To Flight Eight-Fifteen

Watch the shows
Then blog
Pitch the show
Write book
Go to Slayage
Write ano-
-ther book
And then
Try to

Explain just what I do
Because people will always ask you,
“Books on TV?
What can that be?”

I write books about TV shows!

Why not novels
Or books of poetry?
I mean, they’ve gotta be
More posterity

Mom and Dad
Are mightily confused
When their friends ask for news
They say I’ve hit the booze.

“Oh she’s do-
-ing well
She tells us that
she’s swell.
She’s writing on
some shows
Lost, or… something
Who knows?
We just

That soon she’ll change her mind
Maybe she’ll become more inclined…

To be a lawyer
Or maybe a doctor! [Yes, a doctor!]”

[skip to "there was no pain" part]
In between books
Find your next show,
You never know
When it’s co-ming…

You watch everything
Hoping you’ll look
And find your next book

It’s got to be forthco-ming…
‘Cause everyone is ask-ing…
What your next book will be…
Even though you’re taking a break…

So give me something to write about!
Please… give me something!

Where Do We Go From Here?
If you thought I was a huge nerd already, you’re about to find out I’m even more like the Troika than I’d like you to know. Yes, I have Buffy action figures. Lots of them. I have a Willow shelf that’s just various versions of Willow, through her various incarnations right up to the end of season 7. What I don’t have is Dawn. (Who wants Dawn?!) So for my next trick, I decided to pull them out of their cabinet and use them to act out the big group sing. Unfortunately, Xander, like the Tin Man, had been standing in his position for so long I couldn’t get the hatchet out of his hand, so I apologize that he looks rather menacing. And I went into my daughter’s Barbie drawer and found the most insane-looking doll I could find (confession: it was mine when I was a kid. I think I might have been the one who did that to her hair) and that was going to be Dawn. I used the first and only take of this, and so it’s not the best, but hey, I was getting to the end and running out of ideas! ;) I draped a purple towel over the couch and was reaching under it, but in this clip I appear to be wearing it. I assure you, I do not have a sweater that makes me look like Grimace. ;)

The Big Kiss
And hey, if action figures are good for a group sing, they’re good for a snog, too. Here are Buffy and Spike, bringing us to the big finish!

Cue end credit music! (And if you didn’t watch all the way to the end of the credits, make sure you do… the Mutant Enemy guy is worth it!)

Thanks to everyone who helped me out, many of you very last minute! I really, really couldn’t have done it without you! ;)

Next week: Back to being SERIOUS. Dale Guffey, she of the Telenovela, will be here to walk us through the next three episodes.

6.8 Tabula Rasa
6.9 Smashed
6.10 Wrecked

And on Angel, we’ll be watching:

3.8 Quickening
3.9 Lullaby
3.10 Dad

See you next time!

Buffy Rewatch Week 39: Spoiler Forum

And once again, here is the spoiler board where we can talk about the implications of Willow's magic, or Anya and Xander expressing their worries about getting married, and what happens between Buffy and Spike, all without fear of spoilage.

But really, do you want to be here when you can be watching all those awesome videos? ;)

Dead Kid Detective Agency

Hey all! I hope you're excited for tonight's very special musical edition of the Buffy Rewatch! I know I am. Make sure you set aside some time to get through all of it... it'll be worth it!

To get you excited and ready for it, I wanted to present the following book trailer from our beloved Evan Munday. You will remember him from the weeks where he covered "Ted" and "Hush" with his very funny videos. His book, The Dead Kid Detective Agency, is now available. I'd mentioned it back during the Rewatch, and now it's finally out. This is the story of October, a 13-year-old Goth who suddenly discovers the dead people in the cemetery behind her house aren't all dead, and the undead Nancy Drewing they all end up doing with their supernatural powers. It's a great read (confession: I was the proofreader on it) and it's full of Evan's dry wit.

As an example of that wit, check out his new book trailer to promote it. Hilarious! (Watch all the way to the end.) And be sure to check in tonight at 8pm for the Buffy Rewatch!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fringe: "Neither Here Nor There"

Hello everyone, I can't believe it's taken me two days to actually watch this week's Fringe episode! And this will be short, because it's after 11 and I'm super tired yadda yadda... but here were a few observations.

Overall, I really liked it, and they've created a mystery for us as viewers -- what really happened in this world and what didn't? Olivia began talking about her former partner who died, but didn't mention the double-cross. Does she know that he double-crossed her? DID he double-cross her in this timeline?

I'm happy about Lincoln playing a more prominent role; I love the actor who plays him. He was great all last season in the alt-verse, but I've loved him since he was the effed-up Jeremy Darling in Dirty Sexy Money. It'll be interesting to see him step up now. New love interest for Olivia? (Part of me kind of hopes he's not, but we'll see what happens.)

Things I noticed:
- The credits were yellow, which is the new urine-coloured in-between state of the worlds. Interesting: I thought if you mixed blue and red you'd get purple, but apparently it's sunshiny instead.
- It's nice to see Astrid working in the field, and seeing her working with Walter through a bluetooth was very funny.
- I thought the people actually looked a lot like Olivia's partner's skin had looked -- I remember it being very translucent, where you could see the blood moving through his veins. I thought they were going to link it back to that, and it's interesting Olivia actually mentioned it within that context but then added, "But different."
- The glyphs at the commercial breaks spelled out APPEAR.
- Strange that Olivia meets another girl named Olivia. Until about 10 years ago, that name was practically obsolete. It would be more realistic to have women in their mid to late-30s named Jennifer, since you can't throw a rock without hitting one of those.
- I loved that Walter keeps seeing Peter in things that show a reflection that would be the opposite -- much like the Looking-Glass world of Lewis Carroll, an allusion that's been made several times on the show.

- As mentioned, how much of this world will be rewritten? I liked the Observers almost acting as narrators, helping us through our transition.
- One of the big questions hanging over the show at the end of last season was, if Peter never existed, then Walter couldn't have stolen him from Walternate, so why is Walternate so pissed at him? But now, the Observers have altered what they're saying: instead of saying he never existed, they're saying he didn't become a man and time was rewritten because of August pulling the two of them out of the water. Does this mean that Peter DID exist, Walter DID take him from Walternate, but Peter drowned in the water coming over to this world? If that's the case, Walternate would still have a reason to be angry, and Walter would have a reason to be loony, because that would have certainly sent him over the edge. However, it turns the "never existed" comment from the end of season 3 into a big cheat.

Before I finish, I just wanted to remind you all of the Fringe book that I worked on over the past year with author Sarah Clarke Stuart, as her editor. I've mentioned it a few times, but it's officially out now (even though the pub date wasn't until October, it's available and is shipping) and you can go here to order it from Amazon. It's a great look at the show's first three seasons, from a thematic point of view rather than episode-by-episode, and Sarah's done an amazing job. She's got a Lost background; on the blu-rays, she taught one of the Lost University courses, and she's the author of Literary Lost. Be sure to pick up a copy!

What did you think of the season 4 return?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Person of Interest: Ep 1

Welcome to the first post on Person of Interest, J.J. Abrams’ latest show, and one I hope will last longer than most new series. I plan to blog on this show every week, with the help of my friend Chris Doran, who has generously agreed to come on here with me every week in the form of a discussion about the week’s episodes. Those of you who used to join us in our Lost discussions will remember Chris as “humanebean,” which is the username under which he would comment. But this week he steps up to help me out with the post itself. We’ll do it in a back and forth fashion, much like the way I did the Game of Thrones post with Christopher Lockett earlier this year.

I first met Chris back when he was posting as humanebean, and we often chatted off the list. We'd talk about Lost and other series, old and new, and he was a Mac guy who was constantly telling me to dump the PC and go with Apple. So when I finally did so earlier this year, it was met with a Hallelujah chorus from Chris and he's been awesome at always being there whenever I have a question. Of course, in between technical questions and answers we continue to chat about TV (and we even met up in both Toronto and his hometown of Boston this past summer to chat in person) and so I thought it would be great fun to tackle a new series with him! If you'd like to see what Chris does when he's not giving me tech support or talking about TV, go here to see his latest project, which has been getting amazing reviews, for good reason!

So let’s start!

Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way right off the top: how much people are going to compare this show to Lost:
• It’s produced by J.J. Abrams.
• It premiered on September 22.
• It stars Michael Emerson as an enigmatic individual who seems to know a LOT about things, wears round glasses, seems to keep files of information on the people he deals with, has a physical disability (it’s a limp rather than cancer this time), is obsessed with numbers (“The numbers never stop coming!”), and who is the sort of guy everyone just wants to beat up.
• Reese looks a lot like Jack Shephard, and I couldn’t help but smile when he refused to listen to Ben Finch and instead walks away from him, calls him a liar... and then tries to beat him up.

Was anyone else wondering if the names had extra meaning, or were searching for repeating numbers?

That said, I don’t see any of this as a drawback. I love the little elements that gave this show weight, and made it a true successor to the other J.J. Abrams shows that preceded it. I really, really enjoyed this pilot episode, and I typically don’t like pilots at all. I don’t care about the characters enough, there’s usually too much exposition, etc. But this took a basic premise and then built it up through the first episode. What did you think, Chris?

I have to say that I was apprehensive going in. The early buzz on the show was rather mixed (there seem to be a lot of Caviezel-bashers out there) and as much as I was looking forward to seeing Michael Emerson again, a part of me was worried that I might find his character (and the show) rather ordinary. I can happily say that I enjoyed the pilot episode, thought that Ben –er, Mr. Finch was a compelling character and that the groundwork was laid for an interesting series.

There’s a fine balance to be sought (certainly on network TV) between offering the familiar and comfortable and the slightly edgy and off-kilter. The concept for Person of Interest name-checks a plethora of paranoid someone-is-watching movies of the last decade or so: from Enemy of the State to Deja Vu to Eagle Eye. And yet writer Jonathan Nolan (brother of director Christopher) brings subtle touches to the familiar theme that range from the Samurai film Caviezel is watching in his seedy, flop-house hotel room to the knowing way that Caviezel coaxes the good out of fallen cop Kevin Chapman and sets him up to be his “man on the inside” in the future. I was reminded of a much older character, first introduced in pulp magazines before appearing on radio and in movie serials of the 30’s and 40’s – Lamont Cranston as The Shadow, a flawed but heroic figure who set out to protect the vulnerable from the powerful and corrupt.

Wow – that was an awful lot of pop-culture references to cram into my first thoughts on the show! I’ll pause for breath here and let Nikki jump back in. Back to you, Nik!

I will admit I’ve heard a lot of crazy things about Caviezel – that he’d made comments he was born to play Christ, and that he’s really intense, but then again, Matthew Fox isn’t exactly laidback. ;) But I thought he was pretty fantastic, and as you pointed out, I think the two leads are the main reason why the show really works. Caviezel pulled me in right from the beginning, and I think I’d watch Emerson in just about anything. They work very well together, with a familiar yet interesting chemistry.

The production values were impressive as well, from the camera work and the great long shots (like when Reese strides out into the street with the gun and just stands there waiting for the car to get closer) to the gritty, loud music that played throughout the episode. The only misstep, in my opinion, was the use of Massive Attack’s “Angel” in the scene where Reese and the cop are facing off, holding guns to their prisoners’ heads. That song is almost 15 years old, and was overused in television, movies, and movie trailers at the time (the best use of it was in one of the early seasons of the original Nikita TV show with Peta Wilson, where at the climax of the song a boat blew up), so it seemed a little dated to be using it again.

But that’s a very small nitpick about an otherwise well-crafted visual sense of the series.

What did you think of the actual premise, with a machine that can watch and pinpoint people in a Minority Report kind of way?

I think that the premise of the show played better in the execution than it did in the explanation. The use of intercut surveillance camera views from various angles opened up the plot and set it well in a wider context. The way in which graphics tracked over the views to indicate the individual subject of the surveillance – or showed how many people could be monitored at the same time – piqued my curiosity about who was monitoring the footage and how it was accessed. This sold the premise, in my opinion, and made me eager to learn more.

The explanation for the all-pervasive Watching Machine didn’t quite capture my imagination. While I felt that Michael Emerson did the best he could with the dialogue given in these scenes, I didn’t find the backstory for the creation of the machine as compelling. When he and Caviezel where shown strolling through the oft-used tunnels of Central Park as he described the twin tracks of the machine (“relevant” and “irrelevant”), I half expected to hear Ben say “You got me monologuing!” as they emerged into the light. Still, the fact that Ben has access to a secret “back door” for the Matrix –er, Machine, does provide a Point of Interest for future storylines. Is the Government aware that someone else has access to the database? Will Caviezel need to come to Ben’s defense if some mysterious personage comes sniffing around? Inquiring minds want to know.

I agree with you about the production values, Nikki. I generally liked the look and feel of the show and really enjoyed some of the camera angles and lighting effects. Did you know that the director of this episode, David Semel, is a veteran of many pilots and TV series, including episodes of Buffy and Angel?

Oh yes, I remember his name from my episode guides. ;) He was a big WB guy at one time, handling Buffy, Angel, Dawson’s Creek, Roswell, and others all at once. I think he also did a couple of Heroes episodes early on. So he was a good guy to do this pilot.

Agreed about the long exposition. They kind of lost me there a bit, and it’s the sort of thing that annoys me in pilots, but as you say, it wasn’t too annoying this time around. Emerson handled the monologue well, but it was still rather convoluted. When the camera would show us the p.o.v. of one of those CCTVs and we’d see it zoning in on Finch and Reese every time they walked by, that was far more disturbing and creepy, and you assumed every word they were saying was being listened to somewhere.

J.J. Abrams has incorporated real-world events into his shows before, with Alias, Fringe and Lost reflecting the zeitgeist of a post-9/11 world, but I found in Person of Interest he was using that even more, and showing the long-term repercussions of the terrorist act. I thought it was handled very well without being exploitative of that day.

I also really liked the guest stars – the lawyer was on Dirty Sexy Money and Justified and I was excited that William Sadler would be in it (he had been the sheriff dad in Roswell) but he just had a bit role as the older man with the guns in the backroom asking the kids who the hell that crazy guy was.

If I had to list off what I didn’t like, I thought some of it was a little too pat. The dialogue was flat for me in many of the scenes (which surprised me a lot considering Nolan is helming it) and there were certain scenes where they got away with stuff that went unexplained. How did Reese get away from the guys surrounding him when he tossed his phone into the guy’s backpack? Are we just to assume he made mincemeat of them like he always does? Why wasn’t he back in jail the way he’d been after the subway incident? How was Finch on the roof of a building, spying on the lawyer, and the moment he noticed she was leaving he somehow made it all the way down to the street in no time and was in a car and following her? How did he manage to sneak into a closed courtroom and switch the recording so it would be the woman’s voice instead of what she’d been expecting? And why would they force Emerson to walk with a limp knowing he’ll have to do it for years if the show takes off? ;) (It reminded me of ER where they put Laura Innes’ character on crutches, only for her to become a lead who had to stay on those crutches for years.)

I know we’re not supposed to ask most of these questions, but I do anyway. I hope they soon rely less on perfect coincidence and instead have these things become roadblocks that the characters overcome, rather than something they gloss over so they can tie up the episodes neatly.

But as I said, I think the true strength of the show is in the two leads. Caviezel is menacing and terrifying, and Emerson is brilliant. The ending was majestic, and I’m excited about next week’s episode!

I absolutely agree with your bones of contention in the pilot and the overriding desire to see past them and want more of the good stuff. I wasn’t as high on Natalie Zea (as ADA Hanson) as you were, although I love her as Timothy Olyphant’s ex-wife and current love interest on Justified. Her scenes were less believable to me and her ‘twist’ near the end fell a bit flat.

Random thoughts:
- As Ben Linus, Michael Emerson often brought touches of menace and pathos to his portrayal. I was extremely glad to see his nuanced characterization of MISTER Finch (given the sometimes ham-fisted dialogue) that quickly established him as a new entity without straying too far from what we’ve come to know and love about his acting talents. Oh, how I loves me some Benry.
- LOST call-back #1– this time, Michael Emerson has the lists, not Jacob!
- Loved how he tells Caviezel that others have lied to him but “I never will”.
- LOST call-back #2 – Michael Emerson characters have more passports than anyone on the planet.
- Jim Caviezel sets some kind of TV record for shooting people in the leg. If this becomes a drinking game, I’m in a LOT of trouble.
- The final image, of the endless banks of servers monitoring data in some anonymous government bunker, immediately brought to mind the iconic image of the warehouse in Raiders of the Lost Ark. *phew Thought I was going out without another pop-culture reference for a moment there!

Thanks for inviting me to share the blogverse with you for this series, Nikki. I look forward to a long and successful run for Person of Interest. Oh my gosh … I just “kissed of death” it, didn’t I? ; ]

Hahaha! And thank you for joining me! (And I just laughed out loud at your Raiders of the Lost Ark reference because I thought the very same thing!!) Maybe at some point the computer will go all HAL on everyone. This IS J.J. Abrams, after all.

See you next week!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy 7th Anniversary, Losties!

Seven years ago today, Oceanic 815 crashed onto a mysterious island, and we were watching it happen on our TV sets. I still remember sitting in the big chair in our living room (which is no longer there) with my one-month-old daughter and tuning in for the first time.

Three years later, to the day, I was in a hospital in full-on labour with my son, and no matter what I did, he just wasn't complying. (Turns out he was wedged in the wrong position.) My birth coach, who was a big Lost fan, was by my side, and I looked at the clock on September 22 as it neared midnight and groaned and said, "Why won't he come? He could have been here on the Oceanic crash day!" and through the next contraction we both laughed (I screamed a little, too). But as soon as that contraction passed she said, "Hey, look on the bright side, if he comes past midnight, on the 23rd, then... Hurley number!" And sure enough, that's what he did.

Happy anniversary, everyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Emmys Office Sketch

Aside from Kyle Chandler winning Best Actor (yeeeeaaaahhhh!!!) this was the best moment of the Emmys for me. Jesse! LOL!!

The Rules of Slayer Succession

A couple of weeks ago, one of our regular posters on the Rewatch (it's a rare week when someone beats Marebabe to the first comment!) asked about Slayer succession in response to Buffy's death at the end of "The Gift." I answered her extensively in the comments section, and then made a mental note to answer it more fully in the following week's post, and then completely forgot to. This week another commenter asked the same question, so I thought I'd break it out for y'all in a separate post before I forget again.

There is only supposed to be one Slayer at a time. That's the way it's been for centuries, since the very first Slayer. One girl in all the world is the Slayer, and when she dies, the mystical forces call forth the next girl in line, who is then activated with mighty powers and she becomes the Slayer.

Back in "Prophecy Girl," Buffy died. In that very moment, Kendra was called. But Buffy did the unthinkable -- she came back to life. One of the tropes in the show is that a Slayer is expected to work alone, but because Buffy had Xander near her to perform CPR, she came back to life. She still had Slayer strength, and still had a need to slay vampires, but technically, she was no longer the active Slayer. She could die a thousand times and no other Slayer would be called. Kendra was officially the active Slayer.

Kendra died in "Becoming, Part 1," and the moment that happened, Faith was called forth. She was then and is still the active Slayer, and it will require her death for a new Slayer to be called. So when Buffy died at the end of "The Gift," I know many people were likely waiting for a new Slayer to show up on the scene, but no Slayer can be called until the active Slayer -- in this case, Faith -- dies. And when the Angel gang (minor spoiler if you're not watching Angel!) put her in prison, it's made it even more difficult, because the active Slayer is off-duty, putting more pressure on Buffy, the non-active Slayer, to do the work. With Buffy dead at the end of "The Gift," there is technically no active Slayer on duty, which is why the Scoobs were attempting to do the patrol on their own.

As I said in the comments a couple of weeks ago, I've often thought that, knowing what they know about Buffy's death, you'd think they'd try to medically create Slayers by stopping their hearts for a moment, bringing forth a new Slayer, and then starting the heart again. Then do it to the next, and the next, until you have a massive army of Slayers. This is something fans had been talking about for ages at this point in the series, and in an upcoming episode you'll see the issue addressed. ;)

I hope this helps clear up the confusion!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Week 38

6.04 Flooded
6.05 Life Serial
6.06 All the Way

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 281-286.

This week’s Angel episodes are:

3.04 Carpe Noctem
3.05 Fredless
3.06 Billy

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 202-209.

I’m writing this in 10-minute spurts over several days leading up to rewatch night as I recover from heart surgery (don’t tell my cardiologist you saw this), so forgive me if it’s all out of order and rambling. (I’ve already had to cut and paste a bunch of things to move them around when I realized I wasn’t making any sense…)

I’ll say this off the top of season 6: where I said outright that season 4 was my least favourite, but contains some of my favourite episodes, and season 5 is my second favourite season after season 2, but it’s not so much for individual episodes as the way they all come together to tell one long story, I like the arc of season 6 a lot, but it contains a lot of hokey episodes. The season goes up and down and has problems finding its place, but it’s always held a strong place in my heart, because I LOVE the end of this season, and the ways it shows the harshness of growing up. The season 6 finale is my favourite of the series (after season 2, of course). ;)

The one thing I do like about the placement of these episodes is how light they are – while on the one hand the comedy seems out of place, on the other, considering how unbelievably dark the first trio of episodes of season 6 are, it’s a welcome change. But I will add to this that the reason Flooded has always bothered me is because of the way everyone looks at Buffy like she has to solve the issue. Um, hi, Willow? You and Tara have taken up quarters in the largest room in the house, and you’ve been living off Joyce’s insurance money, and you haven’t gotten a job? Did you bring Buffy back because you loved her or because you needed a worker bee in the house to pay your bills? Sell the house, get an apartment. Cripes.

But besides that irritation, I really enjoyed Flooded, and I thought Sarah was great in it. And Willow redeems herself when she lamely attempts to piss off Buffy. Hilarious.

In the not-so-hilarious but wonderful category is Giles returning. I melt whenever I see the look of fatherly love on his face, but also the way she closes her eyes and falls into his arms, as if she knows that FINALLY someone is there who might be able to help her, rather than relying on her to solve the situation. And then the flip side of that scene is the one where he confronts Willow. For me, that’s always been one of the most painful episodes of the entire series to watch. Willow has always occupied a soft spot in Giles’s heart, right from the beginning. When Buffy was young and impetuous, Willow was the one who listened to him and helped, who had a connection to Jenny Calendar like Giles did. And now he faces her and calls her stupid and a “rank, arrogant, amateur.” And if that isn’t difficult enough to watch, she threatens him menacingly at the end of the scene. Beautifully acted by both of them, but that scene drives a stake through my heart every time.

Flooded and Life Serial introduce the evil trio of nerds: Jonathan, Warren, and Andrew. When these episodes first aired, the Evil Trio, who became known as the Troika within the fandom (and I believe Joss nods to that later in the season when one of them refers to themselves that way) were reviled among fans. Not all fans: there were many out here in the fandom who actually thought they were very funny, and posed a serious threat to our Slayerettes. And I was one of them. I thought they were hilarious, and frankly, as much as I love The Big Bang Theory, I’ve often thought that show stole a lot from these guys and their antics in season 6 (yes, in case you thought they were a one-off… they are not). But other fans thought they were too goofy, not menacing enough, and detracted from the darkness of the season. Perhaps it’s because their true menace won’t be apparent until later. Or because they were all regular joes who appeared on the series before. Or perhaps because Jonathan was so sweet (he gave Buffy the UMBRELLA!!!) and now he’s turned on her after she saved his life. OK, I’ll give you that one… that always bugged me a bit.

But without spoiling, I will say this: these guys will be a menace throughout the season, but they are not the season’s ultimate Big Bad. You’ll have to wait a bit longer to see that one. And when you do… it’s a doozy.

Life Serial is a tad disjointed, but it has some great moments: Buffy drinking alcohol is laugh-oud-loud hilarious to me, and Jonathan’s Magic Bone makes me giggle every time. And kitten poker!! And Clem!! And the James Bond smackdown. And that snarky mummy hand.

Oh, and this scene:
BUFFY: I don't really know how to say this, but it's a little like having Mom back.

GILES: In this scenario, I am your mother?

BUFFY: Wanna be my shiftless absentee father?
GILES: Is there some sort of, um, rakish uncle?

Oh, Giles. ♥♥♥♥

And that brings us to All the Way. Featuring Amber Tamblyn before she was Joan of Arcadia or on House or in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, this is my least favourite of the three Halloween episodes. But it’s important for opening up two storylines: Xander and Anya’s engagement being rife with anxiety, and Willow playing with magic against Tara’s wishes.

This week I’d like you to welcome Graham F. Scott to the Rewatch! I didn’t actually know Graham prior to the Rewatch, but he came to me with interest in participating, and I was thrilled to have him be a part of it. Graham is a writer, editor, and designer based in Toronto. He edits This Magazine, Canada's premier magazine of progressive politics, opinion, and culture. This is his first venture into amateur Buffyology. His website is here and he tweets @gfscott. Take it away, Graham!

The secret of comedy: timing

Graham F. Scott

When asked by a colleague what politicians fear most, British prime minister Harold MacMillan is recorded (apocryphally) to have said: “Events, dear boy, events.” Meaning that any plan, no matter how careful, can be sideswiped by sudden, unpredictable occurrences. Based on the start of Buffy season six, I would say the same applies to TV production.

Both Nikki and Elizabeth wrote last week about the ways that 9/11 loomed over the premiere of the sixth season of Buffy. I’m a latecomer to the Buffy party: I watched my first episode in 2009 and burned through the whole series in about six months. So I can only imagine in retrospect how eerie it must have been to tune into Buffy the Vampire Slayer in early October, 2001, and see so many echoes of September 11, some implicit (a darker, more graphic, more apocalyptic tone), and some unintentionally overt (um, a big collapsing tower).

What I mean by bringing up MacMillan’s old trope about “Events” is that TV producers, like politicians, are often at the mercy of larger social and cultural shifts, and even a show about a wisecracking vampire hunter and her plucky sidekicks isn’t immune.

Season six would have been outlined sometime the previous spring; scripts written soon after; and I understand shooting started in June or July, months in advance of the attacks on New York and Washington. There was no way for Joss and Co. to predict that the darker tone they were establishing for the new season would resonate so chillingly with current events. Sometimes you just catch the zeitgeist, no matter how much you might prefer not to. (An interesting side note: Fox’s high-concept terrorism fantasia 24 also began shooting during summer 2001, and began airing in early November. There is probably no show that better encapsulated the post-9/11 cultural moment, but just like Buffy season six, it was pure coincidence.)

Season six is notable for being somewhat uneven in tone and quality, veering haphazardly from grim pathos to cheerful absurdity and back again. I think the first six episodes, last week’s and this week’s, starkly illustrates the trend.

In the first three episodes we got a comprehensive array of horrors: Buffy as decomposing corpse; Buffy having to claw her way out of her own grave; biker demons tearing the Buffybot’s limbs off with motorcycles; the same biker demons threatening the female Scoobies with rape and genital mutilation; a possessed Anya slashing her own face with a knife; the revelation that Buffy has been ripped from eternal bliss and now regards her old life as, literally, hell on earth; plus a little snake-vomiting for good measure.

But take a look at this week’s episodes: three light, comic confections, goofy diversions as things settle back into some sort of routine. In “Flooded,” Buffy meets her match in the form of utility bills and property taxes, while newly introduced self-styled supervillain doofuses “The Trio” summon a demon to rob banks for them (with wacky results). In “Life Serial,” Buffy tries to get a job but is foiled by the Trio’s meddling (more wackiness). And in “All the way,” Dawn inadvertently goes on a date with a vampire on Halloween (terminal wackiness achieved).

Outside, the real world of autumn 2001 had morphed into bad fiction — a sinister mastermind in an actual mountain lair plotting global chaos — while on TV, we have three nerds in a basement playing mean pranks on an unemployed single parent with money problems. This is the flipside of catching the zeitgeist: really, really not catching it.

Don’t get me wrong: “Flooded” and “Life Serial” are enormously entertaining episodes, showcasing Sarah Michelle Gellar’s underappreciated gifts as a comic actress and the kind of snappy banter and winking fan-service that makes Buffy so great. (“All the way,” however, must be the worst Halloween episode Buffy ever did, from the fakeout creepy-old-man premise to the lame vampire-makeout twist. I don’t know what else to say about it.)

But the tonal shift from the dark and violent first three episodes of the season to the comparatively frothy fun of the next three is, I would say, a tad jarring in itself; the effect is heightened in a cultural context that’s abruptly turned threatening and paranoid. And that’s always going to be a risk with a cultural product that takes six months to make it from idea to broadcast. In this case, it meant true villainy flooded the news, while Buffy introduced the goofiest, least intimidating villains the Scoobies have ever faced.

The goofiest, least intimidating villains for now, anyway. I don’t think it’s a spoiler at this point to say that things are going to take a turn for the worse; this is a Joss Whedon show, after all. Among all the fun and games — such as “Mr. Drippy,” “evil lint,” drunk Buffy, kitten poker, mummy-hand hijinks, Death Star-airbrushed van (“That’s a flawed design!”), and “Stop touching my magic bone!” among many other lulzworthy moments — the introduction of The Trio is important in one key respect, which is that this enemy is not supernatural.

Sure, The Trio use demons and magic and far-out technology as means to an end, but they themselves are three ordinary human beings with a taste for power and Star Wars trivia and not much else. That’s a subtle but significant difference from the vampires and demons and gods and rogue slayers that have played the role of Big Bad so far. It implies that the threat is closer to home, something terrestrial and banal and icky and human. Without a supernatural big bad, it’s no longer a clash of good and evil; it’s just a bunch of people trying to murder each other.

In other words, perhaps it caught the zeitgeist after all.

Thank you, Graham!

Next week: Everything comes to a head with the fantabulous Buffy musical we’ve all been waiting for!!!! And trust me, both the episode and the Rewatch itself is worth the wait. (Next week’s Angel episode will be 3.7 Offspring.) See you next week!

Buffy Rewatch Week 38: Spoiler Forum

Whoops, almost forgot the spoiler forum. This is where you can talk openly about Buffy and Angel without fear of spoilage.

We're seeing the beginnings of Dark Willow in these episodes, for sure. For me, her being the Big Bad (if that's how you see it, and I've seen many interpretations of the season) is SO dark the Troika were almost necessary to keep from the season being dragged down into some depressive place.

But I'm still not a fan of how they'll treat it as a drug addiction.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Breaking Bad meets Lost

There are clearly Lost fans on the set of Breaking Bad, either in the writing department or just in the props department. I can't take the credit for spotting this, but when someone showed me this picture and said nothing more, I took one look at it and squealed. This is a screen capture from an episode a couple of weeks back:

UPDATE: Wah. Turns out it was totally photoshopped and passed off as true. Well, I guess I don't feel disappointed in myself for not having noticed it. This is the real screen capture.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Week 37

6.01 Bargaining, Part 1
6.02 Bargaining, Part 2
6.03 After Life

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 277-281

This week’s Angel episodes are:

3.01 Heartthrob
3.02 That Vision-Thing
3.03 That Old Gang of Mine

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 197-202.

I’m very pleased that this week’s guest host is Elizabeth Rambo, because she’s the editor of a book exclusively on seasons 6 and 7 of BtVS called Buffy Goes Dark, and I always thought that was such a brilliant title: not only does the series itself “go dark” at the end of season 7 because it’s over, but Buffy herself certain goes dark in these final seasons. Exhibit A: This week’s episodes.

I posted this week about the Buffy Lives posters to try to recreate the anticipation that viewers felt back at the beginning of season 6. But in a very strange bit of timing, we’re actually only a couple of weeks away from the 10th anniversary of season 6 beginning. And today is a couple of days after a far more important 10th anniversary: September 11. That horrific day in world history changed everything, and one of the millions of things it changed was the way we watched the premiere of season 6. The show was darker, edgier, more violent, and people were finding September 11 significances throughout the season (despite the fact the episode had been filmed long before the events of September 11). I still remember the comments that followed the two-part premiere (both parts aired together): Willow is wearing a shirt with the #11 on it!! (To which someone from the show, it might have been Joss, replied that Xander’s shirt had a 13 and Dawn’s had a 9, and maybe they’d just gotten a deal on numbered shirts…) Everything is so dark and awful! A gang comes to town and acts like… terrorists!

But for me, even today, it’s that tower crashing down that conjures up September 11. I heard (this may or may not be true) that UPN had considered excising that scene from the episode so we wouldn’t see another tower come crashing down so soon after the Twin Towers had fallen. But they left it in.

I remember the fans reacting to the violence and graphic nature of this episode. The gang is extremely violent… we see a decomposed Buffy (that still makes my stomach turn)… Willow is tortured by the dark powers that be… and worst of all, Razor threatens to rape the women of the group in an extremely brutal way, suggesting that the men of their group have penises that will rip the girls apart from the inside. Good god…

But this is a new world. Not just in our world, but in Buffy’s fictional one. Season 5 ended Buffy’s childhood completely. From here on out the monsters and vampires and things that go bump are no longer metaphors for teenage angst or parents not understanding or the harshness of trying to see a future when you’re 16 – it’s about trying to make a living and watching life become difficult and responsibilities overwhelming you. It’s about life walloping you so hard you can’t believe you ever complained about anything before the age of 20. It’s proof that, as Buffy said, the hardest thing about this life is to live in it.

Buffy died, and she believed she was in Heaven. She was happy and comfortable and knew her job was complete, that she had fulfilled her Slayer destiny and had died saving the world. She wasn’t defeated, she was victorious, and her friends will go on and live their lives, and be happy because of what Buffy did.

But now she’s back. Ripped out of Heaven, as she puts it, by the people she loves. Of course, Willow thought she was saving her friend from a Hell dimension. Willow will resent Buffy for not thanking her for doing her such a great service; Dawn will resent Buffy because her sister is not overjoyed to be back with her. Buffy had finally found peace – but now she’s back, and just as the BuffyBot was drawn and quartered in the town square, Buffy is being ripped in many different directions, until she no longer knows what she wants. Dawn tells Buffy she needs Buffy to live.

Buffy is loved, immensely. Willow is willing to let horrible things happen to her to bring Buffy back. Dawn curls up with a recharging robot every night just to be close to her sister (that image broke my heart). Everyone has changed, and is different, more somber, more serious. Willow is much darker than we’ve ever seen her… the same girl who last season said, “Don’t hurt the horsies!” during the battle in “Spiral” now kills Bambi without blinking. Giles leaves town because he feels there’s nothing there for him without Buffy. (Sniff… at the time I remember seeing “Special Guest Star” at the beginning of the episode for him and was more upset that he was leaving the show than I was about Buffy dying.)

Of course, they miss one key thing in their plans: that Buffy will come back to life inside her coffin, and will have to claw her way to the surface just like a vampire. What a horrifying, terrifying moment that is, and the way it’s handled in the episode is brilliant. Of course, it’s Xander who figures it out (too late) and the looks on Buffy’s friends’ faces is beyond description.

Buffy won’t have long to recover before she’ll be back doing what she does best: taking care of everyone around her. It’s not about what Buffy wants or needs; it never has been. Buffy is back, and must return to a life of living it for others. In seasons 6 and 7, Buffy will go dark indeed.

• Spike. I just love that this guy stepped up and took Buffy’s responsibility onto his own shoulders. He helps the gang fight. He doesn’t complain when he’s asked to babysit Dawn. In fact, he’s a hell of a good babysitter. He misses Buffy terribly, and he feels responsible for the fact that he couldn’t save her. I remember when Buffy came back, all I cared about was seeing the look on his face when he saw her again.
• Spike asking if Giles’s life passed before his eyes, in one of the most oft-quoted lines in Buffydom: “Cuppa tea, cuppa tea, almost got shagged, cuppa tea?”
• Anya complaining that they can’t resurrect Buffy the following night: “Tomorrow? The Discovery Channel has monkey and our tape machine is all wonky!”
• Xander says, "Great googly moogly!" I now recognize that as the oft-repeated line from The Beast in the children's cartoon, "Maggie and the Ferocious Beast." I watched it this time and thought, "Gasp! Did the Beast's line originate from Xander?" But then I googled it, and it appears to be a line used in blues music, and was made popular by Frank Zappa. Which makes that children's cartoon way cooler than I thought it was before. ;)
• Anya saying the BuffyBot is the descendant of a toaster.
• Tara holding the little monster puppet and doing Joss’s “Grr… Argh…”
• The geek vampire wearing a Hanson shirt.
• The camera effects of Buffy’s distorted and fuzzy point of view. Beautiful.
• Even in the face of all the bad things that happen, Dawn saying, “The tower was built by crazy people and I don’t think it’s holding up very well” has always made me laugh.
• Xander to Willow: How long have you known your girlfriend is Tinkerbell?

And now let’s welcome Elizabeth Rambo back to the rewatch! Take it away, Elizabeth!

As you might guess, since I’m partly responsible for a book on Seasons Six and Seven, these are two of my favorites. I’m not going to detail every scene of these first three episodes, but just try to put them in their original 2001 context, and comment on how they set the stage for the remainder of Season Six. When one is watching or re-watching Buffy on DVD and can go straight from the heartbreaking ending of season five straight to season six, it may be hard to understand or recall what the first episodes of Season Six meant back in 2001. Buffy had died before, of course. Remember the end of Season One, “Prophecy Girl”? She’s revived by Xander and comes up saying, “I feel strong. I feel different. Let’s go!” The first episode of Season Two, “When She Was Bad,” reveals that she does have some residual post-traumatic stress, but Giles deals with it, and we’re all good. Buffy is emotionally devastated at the end of Season Two, leaves Sunnydale, and tries to leave her Slayer identity behind. As Season Three opens, she is Anne the waitress in LA, but a trip to a demon underworld reminds her that she is not “no one,” but “I’m Buffy. The Vampire Slayer,” able to save the hapless victims and smash the demons. Another episode in Sunnydale, “Dead Man’s Party,” wraps up her issues with her family and friends. One or two episodes for Buffy to reclaim her mojo, and then the season swings into action. Right?

Wrong. Joss Whedon, king of subverting expectations. King of “give the viewers what they need, not what they want.” (I can hear some of you still saying, “No, no, give us what we WANT.”) But in addition what some may see as perverse Joss-ness (or genius Joss-ness, you decide), there are some real differences between the beginning of Season Six and all previous seasons. The greatest difference in terms of narrative: Buffy has been dead for a little over four months—a “hundred-forty-seven days,” according to Spike, “longer,” according to Buffy (“After Life”). Even a Slayer doesn’t just bounce back after that, and Willow says as much. Of course, the Scoobies believe Buffy has been in a “hell dimension,” an experience more analogous to Angel’s after being sucked into the vortex of Acathla, and after the Powers That Be mysteriously returned him to Sunnydale it took at least four episodes for him to be fit for human society again. We get a hint that this is wrong when resurrected Buffy’s first words in “Bargaining,” at the top of the tower “built by [Glory’s] crazy people,” are to ask Dawn: “Is this Hell?” But when Buffy reveals (only to Spike) that her “afterlife” experience was not at all hellish, we should understand that this comeback will take more than three or four episodes:

I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time…didn't mean anything…nothing had form…but I was still me, you know? And I was warm…and I was loved…and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or…any of it, really…but I think I was in heaven. And now I'm not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out…by my friends. Everything here is…hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch…this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that…knowing what I've lost…. They can never know. Never. (“After Life”)

If every slayer comes with a death wish, it must be to reach this sense of being “finished. Complete.” Buffy has always been ambivalent about her calling, and as she tells Dawn, standing at the top of the rickety tower in “Bargaining,” “It was so…clear…on this spot. I remember…how…shiny…and clear everything was,” as she recalls saving Dawn and the world by sacrificing herself in “The Gift.” And now, she’s wondering if that was all for nothing.

Two other factors were different when Season Six was first broadcast:
1. New network. The show moved from the WB to UPN for the last two seasons. Whether this made a difference or not has been debated (for example, by Edwards and Haines in “Reality Bites: Buffy in the UPN Years,” Buffy Goes Dark). The show did become more controversial during Seasons Six and Seven, for many reasons. However, for some, this transition marked a definite change in mood and content. However, I’d say the narrative itself, along with the second external factor accounts for more of those changes.
2. September 11, 2001. Lynne Edwards, James South and I note in the Preface to Buffy Goes Dark:
The first episodes of Season Six premiered in October 2001, less than a month after the stunning September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Although Joss Whedon had stated that plans for Buffy’s sixth season were mapped out as the fifth season ended [in May 2001], viewers may have been expecting their favorite show to provide an escape or antidote to the real world horror and devastation the daily news brought closer every day. (7-8)
I knew many people who started watching Buffy for the first time that fall, relying on the FX reruns to catch up with previous seasons and simultaneously watching Season Six.

When things change, people look for signs of the familiar. Season Six begins by sending numerous defamiliarizing signals that it’s going to be “the anti-Buffy,” as I call it in my essay in Buffy Goes Dark, which you shouldn’t read unless you want to be spoiled for the entire season. For example, the fact that the “power shot” of Buffy that ends the Season Six credit sequence is the BuffyBot, not Buffy (also see David Kociemba’s “‘Actually, it explains a lot’: Reading the Opening Title Sequences in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but beware of spoilers), and in “Bargaining,” the perky, feisty Buffy we’ve come to expect is also enacted by the BuffyBot. Kudos to Sarah Michelle Gellar for playing living dead (but not a zombie!) real Buffy and lifelike android Buffy so well. “That’ll put marzipan in your pie plate bingo!” is one of my favorite lines.

Among the other characters, the main thing that describes their interactions is withholding information or outright lying, even if it’s lying to spare one another’s feelings.

Giles doesn’t tell the gang he’s leaving, just leaves them a note, “trying to avoid a scene.” When the Scoobies manage to stage a farewell at the airport anyway, they try to keep it cheerful and “stiff-upper-lippy,” trying to reassure him that they’ll be all right without him, but after his plane takes off, Xander admits, “My face was getting sore from all that faux smiling.”

Willow doesn’t tell Tara the full extent of the sacrifice she’ll have to make for the resurrection spell, killing a faun, or if she tells Tara, she certainly doesn’t tell the others. We’ve seen Willow go dark before, when she took revenge on Glory for brain-sucking Tara. But I never thought I’d see her go do any of this stuff. No wonder she didn’t tell Giles.

Xander proposed to Anya at the end of Season Five; she thinks announcing their engagement will cheer everyone up, but he wants to keep the secret. Is Anya out of sync again, or is Xander ambivalent about the relationship?

Spike seems to be part of the team at the end of Season Five, and chases down vampires with them in the “Bargaining” teaser, as well as taking care of Dawn, but he is left completely out of the loop on the resurrection spell plans, although he’s clearly the one who understands Buffy’s ordeal best. Dawn, too, can’t be told the truth, even though the consequences of the resurrection spell immediately concern her.

The BuffyBot is also a lie, of course, and eventually that lie is exposed, starting a train of events that end with Buffy coming face to face with her dismembered robot torso, adding to her disorientation.

“After Life” seems to present the gruesome “consequences” Spike warns will result from Willow’s magic spell, the “thaumogenesis demon” that is swiftly dealt with, but Buffy’s effort to fulfill expectations continues the “lying” theme. When she makes Dawn’s lunch (another “normal” action), Dawn says “it'll be better now. Now that they can see you being happy. That's all they want.” And so Buffy tells the Scooby gang what they want to hear. But she tells Spike the truth. And there will be more consequences.

Thank you, Elizabeth!

Next week: Buffy discovers what it’s like to get a job, we meet three goofballs from the past, and Dawn is annoying. Must be Tuesday.

6.04 Flooded
6.05 Life Serial
6.06 All the Way

And on Angel, we’ll watch:

3.4 Carpe Noctem
3.5 Fredless
3.6 Billy

See you then!