In the fourth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, HOW IS ALL OF THIS HAPPENING IN THE FOURTH EPISODE OF THE FIFTH SEASON OF BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER?
I can’t believe this. This is the same caliber and intensity of the episodes leading to the end of season four, and WE ARE AT THE BEGINNING. Do you know how this upsets me? And that’s not a complaint about the quality of any of this, but for real, if this is how far this show is willing to go in the first four episodes, then perhaps I have never, ever been more unprepared for anything in my entire life.
It’s just all so uncomfortable already. Knowing that Riley believes Buffy doesn’t actually love him makes his appearance in the graveyard depressing. Is he trying to make sure he’s right? Or is he trying to win her over? Is he checking in on her? I think I may have rushed to the conclusion that Riley was right about how he felt towards Buffy, as I think this episode demonstrates that Buffy most certainly loves Riley. It’s just that she chooses to express this in her own way, and Riley, obsessed with his perception of being inadequate, basically refuses to see this. The worst part? There are two distinct moments where it’s clear that he’s already made up his mind. The first happens when Buffy steps into her new training room at the Magic Box. (Which, okay… I need to discuss this. Despite that we haven’t seen much of Giles and Buffy interacting this season, this moment is just so HUGE to me. Giles has gone FAR out of his way to make this room a reality, and he and Xander did so just because they care about Buffy’s new journey. UGH WHEN CAN WE HAVE A GILES-CENTRIC EPISODE THIS SEASON.) It’s on Riley’s face: he believes that Buffy has already decided to move on. The second occurrence is even worse than the first, though, because it’s at the very end. When Buffy tells Riley that she’s hurt by the idea that Riley believed she would only stick around with him because he was strong, I thought this would calm his mind. As soon as she walks away from him, though, you can see it in his eyes. He’s already made up his mind, too.
This episode doesn’t deal with this journey of Riley’s in a reductive, simplistic way, though, so I don’t want to distill his story down to just these two moments. As Riley’s body basically begins self-destructing because of what was done to him, he has a very rational justification for not seeking treatment: he does not trust the government. WHO COULD BLAME THE GUY. After all he’s been through, how on earth can he believe that the military doctor will actually do what he says he’ll do? Plus, when you combine this with his desire to keep Buffy around, you have one horrific mixture of doubt and fear. This combination is what makes Riley do a whole host of things that aren’t rational. You know, like leaving a hospital when your resting heart rate is 150. No, what are you doing, Riley?
And now it is most appropriate for me to bring up Joyce Summers, since we’re talking about hospitals. I don’t like this. I AM GOING TO TAKE A GUESS AT SOMETHING. Right before Joyce collapsed (and I had to bury my face in my pillow so as not to awake my roommate because DON’T YOU DARE DO THAT TO JOYCE), she said something weird. “Who are you?” She says that to Dawn, and it’s the very same goddamn question I have been asking. Okay, is this a hint towards who Dawn is? Was Joyce momentarily aware of the fact that Dawn just showed up in the story, entirely unexplained? THAT LINE HAD TO BE INTENTIONAL. So, it’s a clue, right? I’M TRYING TO PREPARE MYSELF, EVERYONE. I don’t often make huge guesses like this while watching, as I generally just try to enjoy the show as it unfolds, but this was too much to pass up. So, is Dawn like… an insert? Like maybe she isn’t really Buffy’s sister and the result of some spell? I DON’T KNOW. It’s something along those lines, isn’t it?
I also think there’s something to be said of Willow and Tara’s scene inside the remains of Sunnydale. First of all, Willow is getting really good at using magic. This is genuinely exciting! I am very happy with this! It’s fantastic to see that she’s finding her place in the world, and that she’s rather good at what she loves. But I actually rewound this scene to look at Tara’s face. AND NOT JUST BECAUSE IT’S A GOOD FACE, OKAY. Tara looks momentarily happy for Willow, and then what the fuck is that expression. Is she concerned? What for? Because Willow is getting more powerful? Does Tara have a secret concerning magic that we don’t know about? LOOK, I AM TRYING ONCE MORE TO BE PREPARED TO LESSEN THE PAIN, OKAY.
Though I don’t think that’s going to be something that I can accomplish. Because even though a good portion of “Out of My Mind” concerns Riley, I’m pretty sure Spike steals the show. And I’m pretty sure Spike’s story has introduced a plot that I don’t know how I will ever deal with ever. This is now the fourth episode in a row where someone tries to kill Buffy. Can’t these characters just accept that it’s four years straight now that no one has been able to get rid of the Slayer? The odds are literally the worst possible at this point. And even while I like both Spike and Harmony, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to get yet another plot concerning both of them trying to kill Buffy. Okay, you’re going to fail because you’re both the most rubbish vampires of all time. How is joining forces going to change that?
And then Spike kidnapped Riley’s doctor to get his chip removed and this whole episode was suddenly not that funny. And I had to think about a world with Spike having his powers back, and it wasn’t a good ol’ laugh to think about him despising the Scoobies. Yeah, he’s been building up his hatred for them, particularly Buffy, for a really long time. AND NOW HE’S NOT GOING TO BE THE BUTT OF A JOKE ANYMORE. I honestly thought something would happen before the doctor got the chip out of Spike’s brain, so the moment when I heard that clink in the cup, I just thought OH NO THIS IS REALLY BAD. The entire lead up to his fight with Buffy is just so tense. Is it really going to work? How will this season change if Spike is able to violent towards a living creature again?
Thankfully, the doctor faked removing the chip, and he’s also able to save Riley, who collapses just after this reveal. It wasn’t a bad story at all, and I was pleased that the episode explored the idea that Spike could be something else in the very near future. I almost felt bad for him when he was complaining to Harmony about how Buffy pretty much ruins his life. Then I remembered that he’s a murderer, so whatever? And then I felt bad for him again when Buffy showed up to his crypt and was determined to stake him, and he wanted it, just so that he could be done with this constant frustration in his life, and then he –
what is thi
you are supposed
this is not the
what the fuck
but this isn’t
no buffy pull away and
whya re you coming back
no make it stop
no make it stop i can’t
i feel like pain
this is the
no help me
NO WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON
it doesn’t even help that it’s a dream
OH GOD NO
NOOOOOOOO WHAT THE FUCK
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