Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Week 48

7.10 Bring on the Night
7.11 Showtime
7.12 Potential

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp.

And if you’re watching Angel, this week’s episodes are:

4.10 Awakening
4.11 Soulless
4.12 Calvary

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!

Bring on the Night, Showtime, Potential
“It’s almost like this metaphor for womanhood, isn’t it?”

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!!
4.13 Salvage
4.14 Release
4.15 Orpheus

Be sure to check out Alexis Denisof checking her out. ;)


Marebabe said...

Something smelled really fishy in “Bring On the Night”, and I am deeply suspicious about Giles. It’s because they so conspicuously didn’t show what happened right after the cliffhanger moment when we saw the axe swinging at Giles’ head. I found myself intently watching Giles in this episode, looking for the tiniest false move that would show that this is really The First in Giles’ clothing. He was saying all the right things, and every mannerism was perfect, but that’s how it was in “Conversations with Dead People”. All of the apparitions were perfect copies.

Buffy’s big speech at the end, and the background music, were amazing. All at once, my brain was flooded with memories of many great, inspirational speeches from various war movies, like “Braveheart” (before the Battle of Stirling); “Patton” (the opening speech to the new troops); “Independence Day” (the President’s pep talk before the planes took off); and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (Aragorn rallying the Men of the West before the assault on the Black Gate).

Marebabe said...

In “Showtime”, I was happy to see Felicia Day as Vi. (She should lose the hat, though.) I had read that she had some part in Buffy, and lately I’ve been wondering when we would see her. It’s getting pretty late in the series.

Since when can the A-list characters have a telepathic conference? That came out of nowhere with no explanation or setup. Please, there’s enough weird, freaky stuff going on! (LOL, I promise I’m not making this up. When I ran Spell Check just now on the previous sentence, “Please, there’s enough”, Spell Check suggested changing it to “Please, there be enough”. On Talk Like a Pirate Day, I would totally go with that suggestion!)

I’m still concerned that Giles might actually be the worst possible version of “not himself”.

The ending, when Buffy quietly rescued Spike, was so subtle and wonderful. The look on Spike’s face said more than a whole soliloquy.

Marebabe said...

I would like to take a moment to dedicate today’s discussion of “Potential” to Xander Harris. Since the beginning of the series, he has been witty, funny, flawed (like everyone), dedicated to his friends, supportive, special AND extraordinary. Not so long ago, he saved the day (and the world) from Dark Willow. My point is, what would Buffy and the Scoobie-Doos ever do without him?

That was all by way of saying that I loved his words to Dawn at the end of this episode!

Nice fake-out at the beginning. Since The First is impersonating people left and right, one can never be sure of what one is seeing. I somehow never guessed that Spike had become so much of a team player now that he would be participating in Slayer training exercises. (Watchers used to train their Slayers. Have we completely run out of Watchers?)

I’ve always enjoyed Spike’s British accent. In the demon bar with the Potentials: “Nice job of blending in, gulls.”

For me, Clem has been an acquired taste. Now, he lights up the TV screen, and lights up my face with a big ol’ grin!

When Dawn and Amanda went to deal with the vampire in the classroom, what did Dawn think she would be able to accomplish without a wooden stake? She rushed into that situation completely unarmed, as near as I could tell.

I’ve spent some time pondering the imponderables in this story, and I’d be lying like Ben Linus if I claimed to have even a CLUE of how the good guys are gonna win this one. (Assuming they will win.) It looks pretty bleak. When I was thinking about “good guys”, I remembered one of my favorite movies, “Rustler’s Rhapsody”, in which [SPOILER ALERT] the bad guys figure they can defeat the good guy by hiring another good guy. “I guess the most-good good guy will win.” I got to thinking that MAYBE the way to defeat the First Evil is to enlist the help of another super-evil entity. Y’know, maybe the one pulling the strings of the Beast over on Angel. (Just being silly. But seriously, if you’ve never seen “Rustler’s Rhapsody”, you will LOVE it!)

That reminds me, it is HARD for me to keep the story threads in Buffy separate from the story threads in Angel. When I sat down to watch this week’s Angel episodes, I was really confused for a few minutes. I had to deliberately picture the First Evil and then the Beast, and compartmentalize the Buffy and Angel arcs in my tiny brain. The two Big Bads seem to be equally Big and equally Bad, and the level of peril seems about the same, and the two stories are moving forward at about the same pace. Even though I’ve lately been watching three Buffy episodes followed by three Angel episodes, I still have to work a little bit to keep them in separate corners.

Marebabe said...

On Angel this week, at the end of “Awakening” when Angelus was laughing, all I could think of was Dr. Horrible’s emphasis on the importance of the evil laugh. I think it’s a toss-up, who had the better laugh – Angelus or Dr. H.

I was pretty excited when I saw that “Soulless” was directed by Sean Astin! Rudy? Sam Gamgee? Et cetera?! Maybe you can tell, I’m a big fan of his work.

“Calvary” presented us with many puzzles, some of which I’m not at all happy about. I thought Lorne’s ability to read people was 100% reliable. And the title is a TYPE-O?! A thing like that would’ve been so easy to fix. WHY DIDN’T THEY?!!! (Sorry. I’m getting a little emotional. *breathing* Better now.)

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s going on with Cordelia. So far, I got nothin’. I just never expected Lilah to be dispatched like that. And what’s up with the cold-blooded murder of a human being, Cordy? Huh? You wanna explain yourself, Missy?!

I consulted with my husband on some of this week’s conundrums, and he came up with a fascinating possibility. What if Angel is only PRETENDING to be Angelus? (I would LOVE to hear the explanation for that one, if it’s true.) That could explain the reading that Lorne got. Yes, it really was Angel, re-ensouled. One of the most compelling arguments for this scenario is that the writers like nothing better than giving viewers whiplash with the bizarre, shocking PLOT TWIST. So, maybe Angel has an extremely clever plan, which he’s already put in motion. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that. Fake Angelus could do an awful lot of damage, but if it’s for the greater good, then I think the writers could probably sell that one, in the end.

One thing’s for sure. I’ll never be a television writer. I’m nowhere near devious enough.

Page48 said...

Maybe it's a guy thing, but I like Buffy's speech way more than Xander's. Xander has a way of speaking that often triggers my gag reflax.

All that drivel about the Niblet being extraordinary because she had the presence of mind to hand off the broomstick to Amanda and now she's hitting the books while the Potentials group hug in the basement? C'mon, Xand, Dawnie's extraordinary for a host of legitimate reasons (ball of energy, fabrication of Monks, willing to jump off Glory's tower to save the world), but facing up to the reality that broken broomstick might be more effective in the hands of a Potential than the kid sister of the absentee Slayer? C'mon, Xandman.

Buffy, on the other hand? Locked away in a dark room, beaten to a pulp, listening to the doubters and the dwindling morale in the next room, summons her courage and determination and, through her pain, rises to her feet and delivers a rousing, inspirational declaration of war on The First. Rock on, Buffy.

Dawnie, in 7.10 finds a hairdresser in the school basement. When she walks away from the wheel that Spike was bled on, her hair is completely different than when she approached it.

Buffy 'counselling' Amanda at Sunnydale High was hilarious.

Clem's demonstration for the Potentials was shocking. Who knew he had all that going on in his head? He didn't speak to Spike. Did they have a falling out?

Buffy's cage fight with the uber-vamp was epic.

Andrew continues to win me over.

C'mon, Giles. You're in Shanghai picking up a Potential? There's 10 episodes to go your personal role of a lifetime, and you're not on board for the entire homestretch? Please come home.

I'm not a fan of the Potentials, but these were 3 great episodes, IMO.

Nikki Stafford said...

Marebabe: Great commentary, as always! You rock. I just wanted to mention that at the beginning of season 6, I think it was, when Buffy wasn't around and everyone was fighting the vampires without her, we saw Willow standing on top of a crypt and shouting instructions telepathically to everyone on the ground (I think Xander grabs his head at one point and tells her not to be so loud). So it had been established that Willow's able to do this and if she can make the phone call, I guess she can set up a conference call when she's at it. ;)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Buffy doesn't tell Dawn to stop hitting Andrew because it's wrong - just because it isn't working.

You'd think Buffy would want to investigate Robin. His excuse is pretty lame when there's dirt all over his shirt.

There used to be a Buffy online radio show called The Succubus Club where they sometimes interviewed the writers. I can't remember if it was Jane or Rebecca who said that the Potentials were supposed to be an irritant for Buffy - they didn't mean them to be one for the audience. It all got a bit out of hand because Joss wasn't around much. Maybe if he had been they would have stopped making the 'line goes through Buffy now' mistake. Even Buffy gets that wrong - unless it's just too complicated to try and explain Faith to the girls.

Did they introduce Kennedy to get the fan pressure off Dawn?

Why does holding Spike under water have any effect? He doesn't need to breathe.

The lack of Christmas celebration is even bleaker when you see all the ornaments in the town.

I was in a production of Bye Bye Birdie once - there was never any food left backstage. Teenage girls are like locusts.

Buffy says "Love those evil, evil movies" - like The Grudge, The Return, I Know What you Did Last Summer, Scream...

Why is 'Dru' calling Spike Daddy?

Does Anya keep changing her hair because it's her barometer of likeability? She lacks self-confidence.

Where are the middle-aged Potentials?

I watch Bones. Eve looks really good for a body that's been decomposing in a sealed room for a few days.

"I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about" - Doctor Who?

Buffy quotes Spike - "Here endeth the lesson."

Buffy sure looks like she's got the look of love, it's in her eyes.

Buffy asks Spike "Are you okay?" I think that's a first.

Andrew makes a Dragonball Z reference - years before James Marsters stars in Dragonball.

If Dawn's made from Buffy, why ISN'T she a Potential?

Amanda's Marching Band plan reminds me of Angel and a certain room full of lawyers.

Marebabe said...

@Nikki: OHHHHH! Now I remember. When you're right, you're right. :)

The Question Mark said...

You can really feel that "on the home stretch" feeling on Buffy. The Potentials are getting geared up and the final battle is looming just over the horizon.

Watching Andrew slowly but surely integrate himself into the Scooby gang is a pleasure unto itself. There's hope for the guy yet, and you can't help but wonder that (if things had turned out differently in the past) Andrew and Xander might have been good friends!

I can't wait to find out more about Principal Wood; we know he's up to something, it's just a matter of what. And the First continues to be such an intriguing villain! It reminds me of the Man in Black from LOST, how he could transform into dead people and sway others to do his evil bidding.

In L.A., everything is a mess! I don't know what's up with Cordelia, but her twist was pretty jaw-dropping.
And I gotta say, I really don't like Connor. Every single one of his lines can just be replaced with "Whine whine whine, bitch complain whine". And I can't stand that dumb "Evil grin" he always does.

Christina B said...

Is it just me, or is Rona a HUGE PITA?
Argh she's taken Dawn's place this season as 'annoying little ingrate'.

I like Vi (but I might be biased because I have a big girl-crush on Felicia Day), and I don't mind Kennedy, although she is a little pushy.

I adore Andrew...he grew on me very quickly. Every time he opens his mouth, I laugh. He and I have very similar senses of humour. "Two men enter, one man leaves." Ha!

You know after my first BtVS viewing earlier this year, if you'd asked me who my favourite character was, I couldn't have chosen.
I loved them all so much for so many different reasons and I wouldn't have been able to single just one out.

But because of this rewatch, and now that we're almost through what's my second viewing, I can finally choose.
It's Xander, the heart of the Scoobies.

I realized it first after the yellow crayon speech, and his talk with Dawn in Potential (tears!) solidified my choice.

I say it loud and proud, I heart Xander best! ;)

I wasn't a fan of Showtime at all. Buffy came across as arrogant, and that's not the Buffy I know.

But! The look of relief and love on Spike's face when he realizes that it's the real Buffy come to save him after he's almost lost hope...That made the whole episode worth watching.

Over on Angel--

GAH. It's like watching a train wreck. I actually find I have to prepare myself before I push play so I can get through them.
It HAS to get better soon, right? Right?!

Awakening just confused the crap out of me, Soulless could have been so much better if Angelus had been the Angelus of old.

Connor is just whiny and annoying...Question Mark took the words out of my mouth, although I was going to say, "Blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine..."

Connor and Dawn would have gotten along smashingly. ;)

See, the problem is that I just don't care.
Cordy seems to have been taken over by someone and killed Lilah? Don't care.

Gunn and Fred are breaking up? Don't care.

There's a Beast on the loose? Don't care.

I need SOMETHING to care about this season! Please!

Oh, and unrelated...Was Charisma hiding a pregnancy this season?
Lots of coats, baggy clothes, no shots below the chest....and her boobs are suddenly huge!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Charisma was indeed pregnant, which led to some changes in the storyline. Be patient, because things will improve, but most of season four is the lowest point of the series.

I loved Soulless because that's the kind of show I've always liked - the locked room sort of thing where the actors play against each other. I told Sean Astin that it was my favourite season four episode and he told me that he had NEVER had feedback from Mutant Enemy about what they thought of his work -- that made me sad.

Dave said...

My thoughts on episodes from Gone to Bring On The Night are here.

Dave Wrote This

Missy said...

'Bring On The Night'

I Heart Buffy's Speech,It never fails to make me teary.It's also the last GREAT Buffy speech that means a damn thing.The next 20 are dull and repetive.(Without spoiling she comes through with an awesome Ra Ra speech in the finale)


Has the awseome knock down drag out fight between Buffy and the Turok'Han ,showing those annoying little potentials whos boss around these parts.Way to go Buffster.
And I love the nod to 'Bargaining' with Willow's uber cool telepathy.


Poor Dawnie,She really steppedup this season ..fighting more ,helping with research and being less irratating.

And Xander ..How can anybody hate someone soooo incredibly selfless and heartfelt.Another tear jerker.


I dislike this episode...always have always will and you know why?They gave me everything I wanted,Cordy and Angel ,Defeating the Beast and living happily ever after..except IT WAS ALL BS.
Fury and DeKnight are brilliant writers but I hate having the rug pulled from underneath me.


God I love that Manpire,He's sooo deliciously evil.
Awwwe Newbies ,the events of Soulless will make sense soon I promise.
And now Angel's SOUL is missing :P Who on this beautiful earth could possibly have it? ;)


That scene still makes my spine tingle.Poor Wes he really cared for Lilah and he's going to have to do some upsetting things to her body,that I don't think he'll ever get over.

And more of Angelus spilling the secrets of AI crew.How are they EVER going to be able to look at each other again?Only time will tell.


I swear S4 knocks it out of the park during the finale and S5 is something NOT to be missed.

Efthymia said...

Season 7 is my second least favourite BtVS season (although, thankfully, the final episodes are great), and I think I've discovered one of the reasons why: for ALL past seasons, every time I see an episode title I can remember pretty much what happens in the episode; Season 7, I can do that with about half of them, and the rest are kind of a blur -I remember some details but I can't really place them in specific episodes. "Bring On The Night" and "Showtime" are two of these episodes.

"Bring On The Night":
Joyce, Drusilla... yep, even after all the rewatches I still really enjoy seeing these people from past seasons.
Special Guest Star: Anthony Stewart Head - P.A.R.T.Y!
I miss you too, Giles!
OK, namewise, the Turok-han HAS TO have been inspired by the Uruk-hai!
"I went over to the dark side just to pick up a few things" -Season 7 Andrew is more fun than Season 6 Andrew...

Boy, are these Potentials whiners!

I was already fond of Sarah Hagan from "Freaks & Geeks", and she's still fun here.
Listen to Buffy talk about a mission and destiny... The same Buffy who always protested and reacted negatively when these words were directed at her.
CLEM!!! :)
With the "yellow crayon" and now this, Xander's probably had the best speeches in the show (plus, extra points for mentioning Oz!).
I hadn't thought about it, but I think you expressed my feeling towards Xander exactly, Nikki. I considered him one of my favourite BtVS characters after my first watch, and while I was often disappointed at him while rewatching, I still considered him one of my favourite characters in the end.
The Potentials who didn't have watchers assigned to them and had no idea they were such beforehand (like Rona and Amanda, for example), how do they explain their leaving (and in Amanda's case, living in another house while in the same town) to their families?

What's up with this season? Andrew is likeable, Dawn is -OK, I can't say likeable, but she's not as obnoxious as she used to be- while Spike is more drama, less fun. My world is all upside-down!

Dusk said...

You have now just met the character I Loathe on Buffy. My detailed reasons for this feeling will come next week. I like her slightly better then the end of Apocalypse Nowish and I had to think aboutwhich was better. Yes, Kennedy is that bad-for me at least, and I know I'm not the only one.

S7 does have that problem of episodes blirring together in the middle. I remember Showtime because of the cool way she took out the Ubervamp.

Xander was cool in Potential.

Small thing that's bothered me. People sometimes look down on Angel for killing evil humans. Putting him in Buffy moral code doesn't work. The blind killer and Fred's evil Proffesser wouldn't be held by human means, and wouldn't just turn good all of a sudden like Andrew. What would Buffy have down if it was her team being attacked in Sleep Tight I wonder?

Dusk said...

@Christina: The next 3 episodes are considered by many to be a bright spot in S4.

Quarks said...

The main reason why Season 7 isn’t one of my favourite seasons of ‘Buffy’ starts to become apparent this week. My biggest problem is that this season, much more than any of the others, is now almost entirely focused on the plot and the Big Bad, and to some extent I feel that this causes some of the other aspects of the show (the humour, the character development, the emotion) to take a back seat. That’s not to say that they aren’t still a part of the show, it just seems to me that they don’t take up such a big part of it as they have in the past compared to the amount of time dedicated to the plot.

From what I have just said, you could be mistaken for thinking that I don’t like these episodes, which isn’t the case. I enjoyed both ‘Bring on the Night’ and ‘Showtime’, and I love ‘Potential’. And I’m not saying that they aren’t funny or emotional (I defy anyone to watch the last scene of ‘Potential’ without feeling something), it’s just that normally the season gets a lot closer to the finale before the fight against the Big Bad takes up so much screen time. That’s also not to say that I don’t like the plot, I do, I just don’t think it needed to be focus of so many episodes.

We meet the Potential Slayers for the first time in ‘Bring on the Night’, which I think is quite a good plot point. It makes sense that there are hundreds of girls all over the world who could be the next Slayer, so the idea of creating an ‘army’ of them to fight the First is fairly clever. If only they weren’t so annoying. I love Vi (Felicia Day!), but all the others really get under my skin. Part of that is due to the fact that they have a wide range of incredibly annoying accents. But a larger part is that they act like the Council did in ‘Checkpoint’, constantly questioning Buffy’s plans and capability to protect them.

I know I said earlier that the humour on the show isn’t quite so prominent this season, and I stand by that, but both Andrew and Anya are hilarious. In particular, I loved the scene where Anya and Giles tried to get the demon to open the gateway to the Beljoxa’s Eye, and the scenes of Anya and Dawn trying to wake Andrew up. One of my favourite Anya lines here, when the Beljoxa’s Eye tells her that it can’t see the future, only the truth of now and before: “Yes, we’ve all got that – it’s called memory.”

At the end of ‘Bring on the Night’ we experience Buffy’s first motivational speech. And I have to say that by the end of this week I’m already fed up of them. I think it’s because we’re used to Buffy being a relatively normal person except for having the Slayer abilities that it seems strange that she’s now become a ‘general’ in an army.

I don’t really have much to say about ‘Showtime’ that I haven’t already covered. It’s a fairly enjoyable episode which further develops the plot in relation to the First and the Potentials, but I can’t really say that there are any key moments in it which really stand out to me as worth talking about.

Quarks said...

‘Potential’, however, is one of my favourite episodes this season, certainly of the middle of this season. And, although it is one of my favourite scenes in the series, that’s not just because of Xander and Dawn’s conversation at the end, which I will talk about later. I don’t really care about the Buffy and the Potentials plot in the background of this episode (aside for Clem’s appearance), but I think that the main plot is fantastic.

I feel like I’m saying almost the same things every week at the moment, but once again I shall talk about how much I like Dawn in this season, particularly this episode. This is probably the one Dawn-centric episode which shows her in a good light. It’s not as easy to define character-centric episodes in ‘Buffy’ as it is in ‘Lost’, but I would say that the Dawn-centric episodes are: ‘Real Me’ (where she gets kidnapped), ‘Blood Ties’ (where she runs away and nearly gets killed by Glory), ‘Forever’ (where she risks everything to try and bring Joyce back),’All the Way’ (where she nearly gets killed by a vampire), ‘Older and Far Away’ (where she makes a wish to a Vengeance Demon), and ‘Him’ (where she tries to kill herself while under a ‘spell’). So ‘Potential’ is really the first episode where she is the hero of the piece.

Admittedly, in this case when I say ‘hero’ I don’t mean that she saves the world. But the reason why she is the hero in this episode is because of her attitude. After an initial wobble, Dawn accepts her responsibility as a Potential, knowing what it could mean, and then when she realises that she isn’t “Miss Sunnydale 2003” she hands over the power to Amanda without a second thought. She is very much like Xander (who I will come to in a minute) in the sense that she isn’t ‘special’ because of anything she can do, but because of her personality and attitude. But, unlike Xander, the series doesn’t give her as many opportunities to shine.

Of course, one could argue that Xander himself doesn’t get that many opportunities. As Nikki said in her post, a lot of the time Xander is the character who you really want to just shut up. But then he gets moments where he does get to save the day (‘Prophecy Girl’, ‘The Zeppo’, ‘Grave’ and probably others). Many of the moments, however, when Xander really comes through are those more character-driven moments. I mentioned ‘Grave’ just now, where he did save the day but he didn’t do it using magic, or a weapon. He did it using his heart. And many of the other less world-saving best moments require just that. His conversation with Dawn in this episode is an obvious example, but the key one I always think of is in ‘Into the Woods’. Although I’m sure that many people disagree with what he was arguing in that episode, it doesn’t change the fact that he was the only person who noticed what was going on between Buffy and Riley, and he was the only one able to get through to Buffy. It really supports what Dawn said about him being the one who sees everything.

The conversation between Xander and Dawn at the end of this episode is one of my absolute favourite scenes in the series. It shows just how important Xander is as a part of the Scoobies, and also how both he and Dawn have grown as characters since they were introduced. The dialogue is perfect, and the scene is fantastically shot. I may have said earlier how I feel that some emotion is missing from this part of the season, but moments like this certainly make up for it.

Overall, two quite good episodes and one really good episode. I have to say that, in my opinion, next week (for ‘Buffy’) is the weakest week of this season. On the other hand, for the first time in this rewatch I am planning to watch next week’s ‘Angel’ episodes. This isn’t the greatest season for ‘Angel’ but I really like the three episodes next week (well, as long as I burn all the Connor-Cordy scenes from my brain). And for anybody losing faith in ‘Angel’, if you keep going it will be so worth it when you get to Season 5, which is probably my favourite season in the whole of ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’.

Quarks said...

I also just want to point out that the crossover next week in ‘Angel’ technically takes place between episodes 7.17 and 7.18 of ‘Buffy’ which don’t appear in the rewatch until the week after. I don’t think there are any spoilers in the episode for episodes of ‘Buffy’ which haven’t been seen yet, but it’s something to be aware of.

@Nikki: I mentioned earlier about how awesome Season 5 of ‘Angel’ is. Are you planning on covering it in the rewatch, even though there isn’t a season of ‘Buffy’ at the same time? Also, I mentioned this a few weeks ago but I don’t think I got an answer: are you planning on covering the Season 8 comics and/or ‘Angel: After the Fall’ in any form in the rewatch?

Delvin Anaris said...

Marebabe said:
“Calvary” presented us with many puzzles, some of which I’m not at all happy about. I thought Lorne’s ability to read people was 100% reliable. And the title is a TYPE-O?! A thing like that would’ve been so easy to fix. WHY DIDN’T THEY?!!!

Actually, "Calvary" is another name for Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified. It is a frequent typo for "cavalry", but in this case, it's absolutely correct. It is often used to indicate something terrible.

JavaChick said...

I always forget how much I like the beginning of season seven; then things just start to get really hard. Buffy really takes a beating this season, more than we've ever seen I think. Things get really desperate from here on out.

Bring On The Night
Kennedy arrives. The speechifying begins. I think this marks the beginning of the downturn for me.

'Try picking on someone my own size.' I love that.

Felicia Day!

At the end of this episode, when Buffy is rescuing Spike, the look on Buffy's face certainly seems to speak of caring. Buffy may not know how to sort out her feelings for Spike, but there are feelings there.

I like the Amanda character, and I think this is a good Dawn episode. And it is a good speech from Xander.

I really dislike Kennedy. I can never quite decide if it's the writing of the character or the actress, but the character just never feels real to me - I never forget that I'm watching someone act a part, and that's unusual in a Whedon show. If there was one character that I could remove from the Buffyverse, it would be Kennedy.

Blam said...

Xander's speech to Dawn at the end of "Potential" would be a little more stirring if I weren't still aghast at him saying, when he, Anya, and Willow think that she's a chosen one, "You're important now." Way to feed into Dawn's "life"-long insecurity, dude! Not that she registered any reaction to the remark, which I think was less a function of her being overwhelmed by her apparent newfound status than the writers not really realizing how the line came across (to me, anyway).

"Bring on the Night" is, by the way, the name of an excellent 1986 live album that Sting recorded in France — billed as "M. le Sting et les Tortues Bleus" — with the band from his first "solo" effort, Dream of the Blue Turtles: Omar Hakim, Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkman, et al..

Repeat after me, Writers' Room: Dawn being the Slayer doesn't mean that Buffy has to die. For Spike's sake, people, Faith is the active Slayer! She's just, um, inactive at the moment. Although...

I know that this stretch of Angel is tough, but "Awakening" has what might be the coolest... fake-out... ever. The bad news is that everything that happened in that episode was such pitch-perfect "fan service" that it's preferable to what's really going on (and on and on).

Connor has always been miles more annoying to me than Dawn is even at her admittedly worst. Joss forbid I should ever meet Vincent Kartheiser, because between Connor and Pete Campbell, I think I'd just smack him upside the back of his head. (Nothing personal.)

Lorne's reference to Lilah as a "succubitch" reminded me of watching an episode of The Gates — ABC's short-lived Desperate Housewives / Vampire Diaries mash-up — with family last summer. Mom had apparently never heard or didn't register the word "succubus" and said "Wait... Suck-you-bitch?" It's not an inapt description. (Of course the male version would then be tattoo artist.)

VW: redlythl — A hot color in organic chemisty.

Blam said...

Time for... Miss Quotey Fantastico!

Buffy 7.10 "Bring on the Night"

Willow: "Hey! Here: the First... Bank of Delaware, sorry..."

Buffy: "Y'know I didn't even realize it was December? Maybe when we get home we should decorate the rubble."

Buffy 7.11 "Showtime"

Buffy: "Welcome to the Hellmouth."

Buffy 7.12 "Potential"

Molly (I think), after Buffy's vamp-fighting demo in Spike's crypt: "So... We're supposed to, like, make out with 'em or something?"

Buffy: "He's not evil. But when he gets close to it, he picks up its flavor, like a... mushroom or something."

Dawn: "Maybe you did it wrong? Was it ambiguous in any way? Didja maybe say potential sailors? 'Cause... I- I do like the water."

Angel 4.10 "Awakening"

Gunn: "He's got somethin' on him, all right."

Lorne: "Is there any part of this guy that doesn't have writing all over it? Eh... Scratch that; I don't wanna know."

Angel: "Wood. Why did it have to be wood?"

Wesley: "It's not their numerical value. These are the fist letters of the nine antediluvian patriarchs in Genesis."
Cordelia: "That would've been my next guess."

Angel 4.11 "Soulless"

Angelus: "Doin' your mom and tryin' to kill your dad. Hm! There should be a play."

Angel 4.12 "Calvary"

Cordelia: "Does everyone have their talisman?"

VW: reesen — Get your chocolate in my peanut butter (or vice versa).

Blam said...

Nikki: even knowing the real name, I never got used to calling it the Turok’han

Turok'han lemme rock you
Lemme rock you Turok'han
Lemme rock you, that's all I wanna do
Turok'han lemme rock you
Lemme rock you Turok'han
Lemme rock you 'cause I feel for you
Feel for you

Yeah, I know, Buffy already made the joke herself, but it's just so ripe.

Nikki: Xander always knew how to go right for the gut, and to say the thing you didn’t want to hear.

Maybe that's why Anya fell for him. "Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain."

One thing that Whedon shows do well is disprove the old adage that words can never hurt you — although his characters do lots of damage with the sticks and stones too.

And just as you say, Xander's words — lots of folks' words — can heal as well, through the inspiration or just the well-timed funny.

To be fair, also, you do need a guy who fixes the windows.

Blam said...

JKS: 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.

Well said, Jennifer. It's always a treat to read your analys— an— analysises.

Marebabe: Watchers used to train their Slayers. Have we completely run out of Watchers?

Kinda, yeah. There was that explosion at the home office, plus the Bringers with all the hunting down and killing worldwide (of Potentials and their Watchers, I think, when there were Watchers assigned). It does seem a little weird that the Sunnydale gang and the LA group on Angel haven't conferred about their respective apocalypses – sure, they each have their hands full, but you'd think that Wesley and the Watchers Council would both have their metaphorical ears to the ground in their respective ways; it's not like they know they're on competing networks.

As Nikki said, we do get the first inklings of crossover next week; the combo-rewatch schedule I've been using — I don't remember these things — says to watch Buffy 7.17 before Angel 4.15 and then Buffy 7.18-7.20, Angel 4.16-22, and Buffy 7.21-22.

Marebabe: I’ve always enjoyed Spike’s British accent. In the demon bar with the Potentials: “Nice job of blending in, gulls.”

Same here. I know that the singsongy lilt of it can seem a bit over-the-top at times, but when I first watched Buffy I didn't know that James Marsters wasn't British; same with Alexis Denisof. To this day I still think that they both sound to me like they're putting on an accent when they speak in their native American English. Marsters has all those hard Rs — I always hear "I'm a frrriend of Xandurrrz" — and Denisof, well, I get a kick out of his pompous broadcaster on How I Met Your Mother but on commentaries his voice just sounds weird, like a nerdy Hannibal Lecter.

Marebabe: “Calvary” presented us with many puzzles, some of which I’m not at all happy about. I thought Lorne’s ability to read people was 100% reliable. And the title is a TYPE-O?!

I'd bet that a fair amount of Angelus's victims were Type O, but the jury's out on whether the title is a typo. (Would that make it a typo negative? Ooh! Typo Negative is my new band name.)

Lorne's inability to read Angel here is puzzling.

Secto — The magician who specialized in sawing people in half. Putting them back together is another story.

Blam said...

I'm totally with you on Dawnie's hair, by the way, Marebabe.

Nikki: So it had been established that Willow's able to [make with the telepathic talky] and if she can make the phone call, I guess she can set up a conference call when she's at it. ;)

I don't mind the usage of the ability, but it would've been nice if we'd seen in onscreen at some other point in the intervening year-plus worth of episodes.

Colleen: You'd think Buffy would want to investigate Robin.

That's what the kids are calling it these days? 8^)

Colleen: Why is 'Dru' calling Spike Daddy?

Good question. He looks nothing like Martin Landau.

Quarks: I feel like I’m saying almost the same things every week at the moment

That's the issue that I have with this season. Like you said, the run-up to the final confrontation starts earlier than usual, and even though there are plenty of twists — as well as great little moments — to come I remember thinking as the episodes aired that it seemed like they were unrelenting yet running in place at the same time. I wonder if that sensation will be ameliorated or exacerbated by watching them in rapid succession on DVD.

Ameliorated or Exacerbated is the name of my failed game show, by the way. (It crashed and burned at the start of the very first taping when we tried to get the audience to shout out the title.)

Delvin: "Calvary" is another name for Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified. It is a frequent typo for "cavalry", but in this case, it's absolutely correct. It is often used to indicate something terrible.

That is true and would be fine if it weren't for the fact that Lilah, I don't think intentionally, mispronounces the word "cavalry" as "calvary". I'd love to be wrong. And knowing this group of writers I might be.

JavaChick: I never forget that I'm watching someone act a part, and that's unusual in a Whedon show.

Hello, Eliza Dushku! I will take your Kennedy and raise you Faith.

Suzanne said...

I don't have a lot to say this week. I am finding that watching Season 7 the second time through is just not as fun as the first. My expectations for it were low the first time through since I had read negative fan comments on it prior to watching. As a result, I found myself liking it quit a bit more than expected the first time through. However this time, I am finding many parts of episodes to be slow, especially this week. Something just seems to be missing even though I adore many of the moments many of you pointed out already - Buffy saving Spike, Buffy's first awesome speech, Xander's awesome talk with Dawn, Buffy fighting the Umber Vamp and winning, and the great Anya and Andrew humor. I even like Dawn much better this season. Yet somehow I am finding something to be off about the show in this season. And the potentials really grate on the nerves!

JavaChick said...

@Blam - while I don't adore Faith as much as many fans seem to, I don't think Eliza Dushku is bad in the part. I can still watch the Faith arcs and get caught up in the story. Not so with Kennedy. She takes me right out of the story. This may, of course, be influenced by the fact that I strongly dislike the character. Faith may not have been my favorite character, but I don't actually dislike her.

Nikki Stafford said...

I held back on talking about my true feelings about Kennedy, because I didn't want to sway any of the new viewers. Next week, gloves will come off. ;)

Quarks: I'm so sorry, you're right, I didn't answer that question. I think because I was thinking about it for so long that I didn't actually get around to answering it! I think I'd like to complete Angel, not in a big way (I don't know if I'll have time to rewatch them) but I'll at least give you guys the forum to do so. Season 5 is stellar, and since I've been pushing ChristinaB to keep watching, the least I could do is keep things moving. So I'll put up some posts to give you guys the comments forum to discuss them, and I'll occasionally chime in with my own thoughts. How does that sound?

I'd love to do something for the comics, but if I do, there will be a break. This rewatch was REALLY time-consuming, and I've kinda been looking forward to January for a bit of a breather. ;)

Marebabe said...

Aw, Blam, you coiner-of-phrases, you! Right now I’m bummed that our Buffy rewatch is nearing its conclusion, because I would LOVE to sprinkle conversations with the newly-minted “For Spike’s sake”, “Joss forbid”, and “Miss Quotey Fantastico”. Anywhere else, people would just look at me funny.

I had no idea that Alexis Denisof wasn’t British! I’ve been avoiding Buffy and Angel commentaries because of possible spoilers.

I’m now wondering, can vamps distinguish different blood types? Do they have blood-tastings, complete with a spit bucket? “A timid entry, but with a hint of mellow smoothness.” (Steve Martin once put his ear to a glass of wine as if listening to it, then pronounced it “Humorous, yet flaccid.” I’ve always loved that one.)

LOL “Ameliorated or Exacerbated”. I would tune in to that, just out of curiosity. ;)

Christina B said...

Hooray! I'm so happy we'll still be together for the last season of Angel!!

Thank you, Nikki!!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Alexis is American, but he did live in England for a while. As did Joss.

devilscrayon said...

I actually cried real tears just READING Xander's speech in the rewatch post. No lie. When I watch that scene it has me just about sobbing, every time.

I also remember thinking that S4 of Angel was a painful slog the first time I watched it, but it actually gets a little better on repeat viewings..