Follow along in Bite Me!, pp.
And if you’re watching Angel, this week’s episodes are:
Follow along in Once Bitten, pp.
We move to the middle of the season this week with the arrival of new Potentials (who range from okay to positively GRATING), the return of Giles, Buffy’s showdown with the ubervamp (even knowing the real name, I never got used to calling it the Turok’han), Drusilla (!!!), Andrew finally being untied, our Slayer’s new post as General Buffy, and, of course, that speech.
I remember the first time I saw each season, when it aired on TV. Xander was that character who was goofy and loving, but he had moments where you just wanted to hit him. Hard. As I’ve said countless times, he’s the heart of the group, and he wears that heart on his sleeve, so it’s always there when people need him, but he’s going to express himself even when you wish he’d just shut up. He was always there to remind Buffy that she was dating soulless creatures, and he never said these things kindly. Xander always knew how to go right for the gut, and to say the thing you didn’t want to hear.
In “The Zeppo,” we saw him as the group’s outsider, the guy looking in who wasn’t actually a part of the group (Willow could do magic, Buffy was the Slayer, Giles was the research, Oz was the muscle, and Xander was… the other guy). Throughout this rewatch there have been moments where once again I could feel my blood boil and I just shouted, “Shut UP Xander!” but I’ve always defended him. Even when he was telling Buffy to kick Angel’s ass. Even when he was confronting her in front of everyone in “Dead Man’s Party.” Even when he left Anya at the altar. Because Xander did all of those things for love. And there’s always been a small part of him that’s been a little bit jealous and upset that he would never step up. He can drywall them into oblivion, as he put it once, but he’ll never save the world.
Of course, in saying that, he seems to forget a certain yellow crayon speech at the end of season 6.
Seven years, Dawn. Working with the slayer. Seeing my friends get more and more powerful. A witch. A demon. Hell, I could fit Oz in my shaving kit, but come a full moon, he had a wolfy mojo not to be messed with. Powerful. All of them. And I'm the guy who fixes the windows.
I always forgive Xander because I know this speech is coming. Oh, how I love it. We’ve all been there, watching someone else in the spotlight while we stand in the shadows. And you can respond with jealousy or hostility, or you can be proud of them while knowing that you were a part of it, and that you were still essential. Watching it this time, I began crying when he wandered over to Dawn and began talking to her, and I continued throughout the scene.
They'll never know how tough it is, Dawnie, to be the one who isn't chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody's watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today. You're not special. You're extraordinary.
So are you, Xander. So are you.
Now, once again, to shed some light on what it was like watching these episodes the first time they aired (for all of you who watched it on DVD or are watching it for the first time now), there was one thing that was beginning to overshadow everything at this point: Giles. You all saw that axe about to come down on his neck, right? And then… he just… shows up here in Sunnydale? All hands in pockets and not giving Buffy giant bear hugs and acting kinda distant? Sound anything like a certain First that he himself describes to Buffy?
It can change form. It only appears in the guise of someone who's passed away… Also it's not corporeal. It can't touch or fight on its own. It only works through those it manipulates.
This week we are once again joined by Jennifer K. Stuller, author of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors, a look at the modern-day superwoman. Take it away, Jennifer!
I have to admit I’ve fallen behind in the rewatch. Like, way behind. As many of you know, I’ve been involved with GeekGirlCon – an all-volunteer, grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating female fandom as well as creating networking and mentorship opportunities for girls and women in pop culture industries and STEM professions. We recently successfully orchestrated our inaugural annual convention – an event that featured many fabulous guests and panelists including Whedonistas Jane Espenson and Nancy Holder. We also hosted an evening performance of Whedonesque Burlesque .
All in all, the programming was diverse with sessions on crafting, coding, creating community, comics and more. But I wanted to share with you all one complaint we received – a complaint that was self-conscious enough to note it was from an attendee most likely in the minority.
We were too Joss Whedon-focused in our programming.
I thought that’d make you laugh. As programming director for the con, I found this particularly amusing (especially as conversations about Star Wars were much more prevalent – nerds). But a staff member pointed out you really can’t have a conversation about genre that doesn’t include Whedon. From horror to science fiction to superheroes, film, television, webisodes, and comics – Our Mr. Whedon is there.
But back to the girl who saves the world a lot – and the people she’s going to save it with.
I was glad when Nikki reminded me of my commitment to this week’s entry – though this is more of an emotional recap than a smarty-pants one. When I sat down to rewatch the episodes I was surprised by just how much I liked them. No . . . that’s not quite it. I’ve always felt that season seven had narrative ups and downs – leading to one helluva major up. But it was only in this particular rewatch that I found myself moved to tears. During each episode. Repeatedly.
One could claim my weeping was merely a symptom of some fluctuating hormones and that perhaps said hormones intensified the feelings. (Also, I am naturally the type of person who cries at Kodak commercials. Yep.) But in this rewatch of “Bring on the Night,” “Showtime”, and “Potential”, I could really feel that these episodes were both the beginning stages of this television series’ final glorious embodiment of Whedon’s proclaimed mission statement, “the joy of female power: having it, sharing it, using it,” – as well as a nod back to the beginning of the show and what it means to be a female hero. The addition of the potential slayers and the destruction of the Watcher’s Council show that Whedon not only rewrote the hero myth, but through Buffy, continually evolves the Slayer myth itself.
And I think it’s only in having written my book about the journey of the female hero, and in talking with audiences over the past few years about women and heroism, specifically, about women mentoring women, women creating community – and sharing our power – that these episodes could be so resonant for me.
In particular, Buffy’s lessons and motivational speeches – which I remembered as being increasingly tedious (and are commented on as such in one or two future episodes) – were especially poignant, moving and meaningful.
“I'm beyond tired. I'm beyond scared. I'm standing on the mouth of hell, and it's going to swallow me whole. And it'll choke on me. We're not ready? They're not ready. They think we're gonna wait for the end to come, like we always do. I'm done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Oh, we'll give 'em one. Anyone else who wants to run... do it now. Because we just became an army. [Cue sobs - JKS] We just declared war. From now on we won't just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them and cut out their hearts one by one until the First shows itself for what it really is. And I'll kill it myself. There's only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil. And that's us.”
It’s a theme that’s been revisited throughout the series, and as Beth Rambo cited in her recent recap the mission statement intentionally came full circle in the final season. We see this particularly in “Showtime.” Buffy welcomes Rona to the Hellmouth, alluding to Buffy’s own beginnings in Sunnydale and the title of the series premiere. She instills confidence in the girls by example – and proves to them that the Turok-Han is indeed just ash.
I can’t wait for rewatch newbies to get to the end – but a warning, if you’re anything like me, keep a box of tissues close.
Personal highlights from these three episodes include:
Dawn and Anya enabling each other’s torture-lite of Andrew; the uber-nerdiness of Andrew (and Xander); pretty much everything Anya says; Giles’ brown corduroy coat; ethnic diversity – finally; watching the Potentials watch Buffy get the shit kicked out of her, fight back – with skill – and prevail (it’s what we’ve been watching her do for 7 years); the super-hot spark between Buffy and Spike; the juxtaposition of Buffy’s speech to the Potentials in the crypt and Dawn’s own skill in fighting a vamp in the school lab – Dawn has learned more from Buffy than she realizes; and yes, Xander’s speech.
Thank you, Jennifer!
Next week: Beth Rambo, our resident season 7 expert, returns to cover the next three episodes for us:
7.13 The Killer in Me
7.14 First Date
7.15 Get It Done
And if you’re watching Angel, it’s time for a Buffy crossover episode!!
Be sure to check out Alexis Denisof checking her out. ;)