In the twelfth episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, well, that was interesting. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
So… okay? What a fucking weird episode of Buffy. Tonally, it’s almost nothing like any other episode of the show. There are long stretches of almost no action and only sparse bits of dialogue, all meant to convey just how boring and degrading the work at Doublemeat Palace is. Hell, until the moment that Willow discovers that the “meat” isn’t actually meat of the human or non-human variety, I didn’t even find this story to be all that suspenseful. In a way, I wonder if that was intentional. Were we supposed to feel bored by the narrative so we could feel what Buffy was feeling? Were all the characters at Doublemeat Palace portrayed so bizarrely so that we would appreciate the fact that Buffy still decides to work there at the end of the episode?
I have no idea, y’all.
There’s certainly some stuff here that’s important to the ongoing story being told in season six. We see a further development in Buffy and Spike’s relationship, and I continue to feel utterly confused by everything that’s happening. I want Buffy to be happy with Spike if she wants to be with him, but I felt so uncomfortable by the dynamic present in this episode. Spike is his usual self, meaning he hits on Buffy within ten seconds of starting a conversation with her. He does mean well, though, when he suggests that he can provide for her so she doesn’t have to work at minimum wage. It’s also not lost on me that this episode comes after “Provider” on Angel, and I like the symmetry between the two. Both Angel and Buffy struggle with the need for money. But can Spike really provide that for her? She clearly goes to him for physical comfort, but even during that awkward as hell sex scene, she doesn’t even seem to enjoy that anymore.
And I love that this is being explored! It’s just that I wish this episode was more… awesome? Like, okay, it wasn’t terrible, but I was far more interested in most of the moments that had nothing to do with the main plot than anything else. I loved that small moment where Dawn vocalizes Buffy’s future to Willow. It was a raw emotional realization on the part of Dawn, who’d never stopped to think about what Buffy’s like was going to be like. How can Buffy ever have a normal future as long as she is the Slayer?
I’m glad that “Doublemeat Palace” finally gave us more story for Xander and Anya, who, like Dawn, feel underused this season. I didn’t really feel like their constant tension was addressed enough after “Once More, with Feeling,” especially since they both made their issues with one another public. Still, it feels like they’re both avoiding a substantial conversation, one that they need to have or these problems are going to continue boiling to the surface. And that’s what I think is going wrong here! Instead of discussing these moments as they happen, they put them off, ignore them, and then never bring them up again. Xander should tell Anya how he feels about her demon past. Anya should tell Xander how he hurts her when he makes comments about Hallie’s face.
But they don’t, and these emotions are going to continue to ferment under the surface. I don’t like this. 🙁
I admit that Willow’s story made me miss Tara, but I was impressed that Willow was still able to do what was right here. I’m glad that the show is dealing with her struggle so honestly, especially since she’s tempted so unfairly in this episode. God, when Amy gave Willow her birthday present, I was just furious. WILLOW IS REALLY TRYING TO NOT DO MAGIC. WHY ARE YOU BEING SO INSENSITIVE. And that’s really what hit the hardest. Willow is truly learning why her use of magic was wrong, and why she was so dependent on it. It was easy. It was a way for her to not only have power over others, but to get out of doing even the most mundane of actions. Her withdrawal from magic is painful, difficult, and tiring, but she commits to it.
So it’s why Amy’s gift upsets her so much. I think my favorite moment in all of “Doublemeat Palace” is when Willow nervously confesses to Buffy over the drive-thru speaker that she did magic, even though she didn’t want to. That is a clear change in Willow’s thought process, and I was SO PROUD OF HER! She didn’t even have to tell Buffy what had happened, especially since the effects had worn off, and no one would have known what happens. She chooses to be honest to her best friend, and she chooses to tell Amy to stay away from her.
Willow is growing up, y’all. A little late, but IT’S STILL HAPPENING.
I just don’t feel much of anything for the rest of the plot. The reveal that Wig Lady was behind everything was cool for like five seconds, and then it was just too weird for me. I have worked many minimum wage jobs in my life, so I know how absurd and strange they can be, but I felt that “Doublemeat Palace” didn’t really develop the characterization beyond that. In the end, I didn’t care about the place.
I did care about Buffy, and I was touched to see her put aside her own feelings towards the job and admit that she still needed it. It’s a remarkably mature thing for her to do, and at the very least, she’ll have some money to take care of any immediate concerns. Plus, she can be somewhat independent, and that’s always a good thing in this context.
So yeah, this episode was weird as fuck, y’all.
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