Friday, 6 January 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Lie to Me

“Everybody lies.”

Interesting, isn’t it, how Joss Whedon can take a fairly ho-hum premise for an episode and, in both scripting and helming the thing, turn it into a sublime thing of beauty? This episode is, at first glance, a fairly standard brief; everybody lies to Buffy and there’s a bit of subtext about how vampires being evil is far cooler and less dorky than any of that Anne Rice stuff (and, I’d imagine, Whedon would probably apply such thinking to Twilight today, not that I’m likely to ever experience that particular series of novels / movies).

Even the opening shot, with the abandoned playground in the dark, is utterly gorgeous. As is Ford, Buffy’s curiously never-before-mentioned old flame / friend from LA. He’s a good looking man. I probably might, and I’m not even gay. He’s certainly a cuckoo in the Scooby nest though; I love Xanders’s comment that he’s imposing himself “only in the literal sense”. Still holding that long-extinguished candle for Buffy, I see.

The basic theme of this episode, which ties right into the character stuff, is that everyone lies to Buffy, and none of them for the best of reasons. Ford is plotting to betray and incidentally kill her from the start. Angel lies about speaking to Drusilla, because (arrogantly making the decision for her about what she needs to know) he doesn’t want to know that it was he who originally drove Drusilla mad by psychological torture, finally turning her into a vampire on the day she becomes a nun. That’s some fairly heavy shit, and most definitely is the sort of thing that a girl ought to know about a potential boyfriend.

You have to give him credit for the best line in the episode, though: “A hundred years just hanging out, feeling guilty. Really honed my breeding skills.” I love Joss Whedon scripts. The only trouble is that everyone else’s scripts just seem so unwitty by comparison.

Angel, Willow and Xander all lie to Buffy as they keep her out of the loop while investigating Ford’s dodgy dealings. Xander, in particular, doesn’t exactly have the best of motives. Even Giles lies to Jenny Callendar about enjoying their date with the, er, monster trucks, although in his case he can hardly do otherwise.

The naïve kids in the goth / metal club are also liars of a sort, especially as it’s themselves they’re lying to. Deluding themselves into thinking that vampires are drippy, handsome, cute fluffy bunnies who will make them immortal. I’m loving the dig at a popular culture idea of vampirism that has since become annoyingly ubiquitous, although I’m a little annoyed at the negative portrayal of goths / metalheads; aside from their dorky leader, Ford’s friends are rather sexily-dressed, attractive and look like the sort of people you’d find in a perfectly normal late ‘90s rock club. I mean, this place is the spitting image of Nottingham Rock City back in its ‘90s heyday. (I don’t mean to say that Rock City has declined in any way, just that I no longer frequent the place, being nearly 35 and no longer living in Nottingham). Oh, and this is the first time we meet Chanterelle.

Ford comes across as quite fun in his meeting with Spike; we have the lovely metatextual joke that he demands clichés while Spike finds them utterly tiresome. But, just as we think he’s a fully-fledged, black hat-wearing baddy, he pulls the rug from under us; within six months he’ll be dead from brain cancer at seventeen. And he genuinely missed Buffy. That doesn’t, as Buffy says, excuse mass murder, but suddenly there are shades of grey and Buffy learns again that life is complicated.

There’s a nice ending for Giles, who really shows what a great father figure he can be now that he’s seemingly decided to cut Buffy a bit of slack after the events of Reptile Boy. We end on another of his lies but, again, it’s a little white one.

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