Friday, 26 October 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Replacement

"If Xander kills himself, he's dead!"

I suppose we can say that the four core characters of this show are Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles. All other characters are to some extent secondary. And yet, of those four, Xander arguably has the least depth by some way. His role is of the archetypal clown, the comic relief, and as the other characters become ever more superpowered and uber-cool, it's becoming increasingly urgent for the character to get some development beyond his well-established self-doubt, notwithstanding Nicholas Brendon's superb performance.

Convenient, then, that Brendon should happen to have a twin brother to share on-screen duties, because this episode may be a first step in exactly that direction. The conceit is quite clever; we're led, by misdirection, to suppose that a demon imposter has stolen Xander's life and is humiliating him by living it better than he can. Yet it turns out that both Xanders are real, it's just that one has all the confidence. But it's Xander, not one particular half of him, who gains the promotion and gets a really, really nice apartment. He's moving up in the world.

Incidentally, this is an interesting time for me to watch this episode; I've recently found a new flat myself, and on Monday I'm going to move in, along with a certain lovely lady. I have to say that the viewing went a lot more smoothly for me, but my place is about a tenth the size of Xander's palatial luxury penthouse! I suppose that's the difference between the USA (population density 89 people per square mile)) and the UK (population density 663 people per square mile). Land is much cheaper over there./ Although I'm still not sure that a construction worker would really be able to afford a place like that.

Anya, too, gets a modicum of character development; she's becoming aware of her own mortality, and wants to settle down and do stuff. Meanwhile, Giles is now running the magic shop and Willow seems to be puzzlingly Tara-less. Spike's anger at Buffy continues to fester while his lifestyle gets grubbier and grubbier. Oh, and Riley gets the best line in a sparkling Jane Espenson script: "Doesn't it make everyone want to lock them into separate rooms and do experiments on them?"

But the main concern is the appearance of obvious cracks in the Buffy / Riley relationship; the line "Shall we split up?" is uttered at one point, which seems ominous. And the episode ends on Riley confessing how much he loves Buffy but admitting that "She doesn't love me." They're going to split up next episode, aren't they...?

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