In the twentieth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s road trip time! I guarantee it’s not as funny as that sounds. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Oh my god, a Sergeant Rock reference. I love this show.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the main reasons why “Spiral” is one of the finest hours of this show:
Outside of Sunnydale
I’ve come to accept that Buffy takes place IN Sunnydale all of the time. It’s actually one of the more endearing realities of this show. It’s a portrait of a small town in California, and the show has always distilled that experience through the paranormal and supernatural. I don’t the show would have succeeded without that, especially since the first three seasons are about what it’s like to go through high school.
And that is precisely why it is so ridiculously fun to see an episode that takes place almost entirely outside of Sunnydale. It’s just something we’ve never experienced, and it honestly highlights the desperation of the Scoobies. They’ve made the choice to run away. That’s a huge thing! Actually, let’s talk about that.
Buffy Admits She Can’t Win
There’s a beautiful parallel to “Reprise” / “Epiphany” from Angel in this action of Buffy’s, even if it does seem to be unintended. Buffy says there’s no winning with Glory. Yes, that’s not the same as Angel realizing that there’s no winning in life, but it’s really amazing to me that two characters on different shows can both step back and admit something like this. But that’s what makes Glory so horrifying. She doesn’t have any weaknesses. It’s not like Adam from season four, and Buffy makes that point. There’s nothing to exploit. She will beat them every time. Hell, why haven’t they thought of this before?
Spike Is Now A Part of This
You know, I’m not completely on board the “Spike Is Totally Good and Will Only Do Good Things From Here On Out” train, but I’m fascinated by the writing for this character. Like, you’re navigating someone who fundamentally is evil because they’re a soulless demon, so you have to strip him of a lot of basic tenets of humanity. At the same time, we see more and more how much those tenets can bend when it comes to Spike. He did an undeniably good thing by getting the Winnebago. It was even more courageous (but foolish) of him to stop a sword with his bare hands. So what else can he do? By what terms should he be measured? THIS IS SO COMPLEX.
The Nature of Ben and Glory
Okay, finally. I finally understand the logistics of these two. Ben is the human shell within which Glory is encased after she was kicked out of her hellish dimension. The Glory we see is what happened after she “woke up” inside of Ben, so it’s another manifestation of her. What’s important, though, is the existence of an actual weakness: if Ben dies, so does Glory. There’s a problem I see with this, though. Buffy is more attuned than ever to the power that she has as a Slayer and the death the she brings with this role. I don’t think she’s going to simply murder Ben, who is still a human being. (Though she did kill one of the Knights of Byzantium in this episode. Hmmm.) She likes Ben! But Ben changed right in front of them all (IN A SCENE THAT HAD ME SHRIEKING AT THE TELEVISION), so now she knows the secret. I expect lots of angst over this.
Now Everyone Knows Willow’s Secret
Or at least the fact that she is one damn powerful witch. FUCK.
The Threat of Death
So, at this point on this show, I basically feel like anyone who isn’t Buffy can die. Especially after “I Was Made To Love You,” I’ve grown increasingly nervous about who is going to survive this season, let alone the whole show. It’s genuinely had to make that risk seem real because we expect these characters to be safe. But Buffy makes that threat intensely real, and that’s why I just became quietly furious as soon as one of the Knights’ spears pierced Giles’s side. Nope. No. No, you cannot take Giles away from Buffy. You just took her mother away, and now you want to take away the only father figure left for her? I seriously thought that Giles would die after that tense scene right before Buffy confronts the Knights with her plan to stabilize him.
Oh, right. Then Buffy calls someone to help, and I’m wondering who the hell is left to call, and then there’s a car, and I don’t know who is in it, and then WHAT THE FUCK NO NO NO GO BACK DON’T INVITE HIM OH MY GOD WHAT A DISASTER.
Yeah, so she can open every gateway to every dimension? That’s certainly not a horrifying idea. How the fuck are they going to get out of this?
The final sequence of “Spiral” hurts to watch. In seconds, Glory kills General Gregor, dispenses of all the Scoobies, jumps through the force-field with Dawn, and then kills all of the Knights of Byzantium. ALL OF THEM. I didn’t expect Glory to take Dawn until the final episode, so I was overwhelmed by the bleak end to this story. It was made even worse by Buffy collapsing in tears, knowing that after all her hard work, she failed. She tried to save Giles, and in the process, she lost Dawn.
This is extremely fucked up, y’all.
I basically believe that this can end only one of four ways, and in the interest in embarrassing myself in the process, I’d like to list them.
1) Ben is killed, thereby stopping Glory and keeping Dawn safe.
2) Dawn is killed and used as a key to open all the other dimensions.
3) Ben AND Dawn are both killed, and I’m distraught.
4) Neither Dawn nor Ben is killed, and something totally out of right field happens.
It’s probably #4, let’s be real here.
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Mark, your unpreparedness is precious.
I am absolutely loving reading your reactions to Buffy and am on tenterhooks for every new review. Is it weird that I’m kind of envious that it’s all new & shiny for you?
I’m not going to comment on the ep because I can be a total dolt sometimes and I don’t want to accidentally say anything spoilery.