Sunday, 24 March 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Listening to Fear

“Because it is a killer snot monster from outer space. I did not say that.”

I’ll be honest; this is the weakest Buffy episode for some time. That doesn’t mean it’s awful, just not up to the current excellent standard. If anything, that’s a testament to the quality of this season. Certainly, we get an awful lot of arc stuff going on.

This episode is essentially about Joyce’s illness, showing us how serious it is, and graphically demonstrating the effects of serious illness on people and their families. This week’s monster/metaphor is the demon that preys on people with mental health issues. It’s shocking for us to see Joyce switching between lucid phases and nonsensical ranting. To see a mother figure reduced to this, a childlike dependence, is terrifying for us, especially as we see it from the point of view of her two daughters.

This in itself puts pressure on Buffy to the extent that her college work appears to be slipping alarmingly. This, together with patrolling, is too much. This stressful confluence of events highlights how she instinctively does not confide in Riley. She doesn’t love him. Riley, meanwhile, is establishing contact with his old mate Graham from the Initiative and his gang of soldiers. He is also, of course, still visiting his vampire brothel. This can’t end well.

It’s nice, among all this foreboding, to see such a lovely scene between Willow and Tara in which they come up with silly names for constellations. These two, seem to have no problem between them. They’ll be happy ever after, right?

It’s fun to see the metatextual fun the script has by teasing us with the fact that the demon arrives in a meteorite. We’re made to ask whether or not to expect a science fiction based threat in this fantasy show. This seems to confuse the characters as much as it confuses us.

We end with two interesting events. Joyce, now lucid still remembers that Dawn is not real, but still loves her as her own daughter. Worryingly, she makes Buffy promise to look after Dawn should anything happen to her. Foreboding much? We also learn more about Ben, the hospital orderly, who turns out to have summoned the Queller Demon. He does it “because I’m cleaning up Glory’s mess, just like I’ve done all my life.” What does this mean? If this isn’t enough drama to end with, Joyce is about to go in for brain surgery. I love this season.

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