Mark Watches ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: S07E16 – Storytelling

In the sixteenth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Andrew begins to document (and wildly embellish) the upcoming war against The First. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.

I ended up enjoying “Storytelling” so much because it takes a very silly, funny idea, and then shows us why it needed to happen. The joke of Andrew’s awkward exaggerations is not simply here to entertain us. There’s a very necessary moment at the end of this episode: Andrew has been using humor and denial to avoid responsibility for what he did.

Well, and the Mutant Enemy logo sings, “WE ARE AS GODS!” That’s necessary. Very necessary.

“Storytelling” is framed as a largely one-off, humorous story about how Andrew is desperate to document the Slayer and her day-to-day activities of fighting evil. It’s a smart move in terms of Andrew’s characterization, especially considering what role he’s played this season. He might be a “guestage” of the Scoobies, but he certainly hasn’t found a way to be accepted into the group. The people around him tolerate him, barely most of the time. And so he distracts himself by picking up a camera and documenting what’s going on around him. It’s a way of artificially inserting himself into everything. He doesn’t have to wait around for someone to invite him to be a part of things. He hides behind the camera as a way of talking to people who largely despise him. He even manipulates Xander, Anya, Dawn, and Spike into performing for him. These moments aren’t even about Andrew winning the approval of the Scoobies. He simply has people paying attention to him, even for such a superficial reason.

And so we watch as he continually embellishes the world around him. It is funny, and I won’t deny that. (The “gods” sequence in the field is so gloriously weird that I can’t help but love it.) I’m sure that when I watch this a second time, it’ll still be funny. The Masterpiece Theatre vibe, combined with his willful over-pronunciation of simple words, is just too perfect. But this entire portrait we’re given is one of denial, and I think it’s fascinating to view Andrew’s actions in “Storytelling” through that lens. The man relies on humor to avoid reality. Even when he is discussing the violent basis of Buffy’s war against the First, he uses cartoonish reproductions of Sunnydale High, the Hellmouth, and the Bringers. While it may seem similar to Giles’s slides in “Hush,” I think they have a far different context. By making the terrifying elements of this world seem so silly, Andrew doesn’t have to face them.

For example, it’s true that Buffy’s motivational speeches are a little hard to handle lately. Still, look what he does when she starts telling the others of the Turok Han: he makes the video all about himself, purposely misrepresenting what he did. His confrontation with Willow is heroic. His interview with Xander and Anya takes the attention off of him and on to their relationship. Nearly every interaction he has in this episode is an escape. This whole story is about his constant flight away from reality. He relies on the absurd stories he tells to do this over and over again.

And that’s the true brilliance of that final climactic scene above the Hellmouth. This whole time, even the writers of the show seem to have ignored the fact that Andrew killed his best friend. It’s rarely been made out to be this big, significant thing. Buffy, on the other hand, knows that Andrew’s stories are just him lying to himself, and she exploits this in order to close the Seal of Danzalthar. She, in essence, forces Andrew to be responsible for what he did to Jonathan. It was chilling to watch Andrew admit that the fear and terror he felt with Buffy was exactly what he made his best friend feel.

This is clearly setting up growth on Andrew’s part, and I’m excited to see how he’ll change in this last stretch of episodes. But “Storytelling” is not only about Andrew. His interview with Xander and Anya inspires them to reconsider a relationship. After having sex, though, they both come to realize that while they may love one another, they simply aren’t a good match anymore. I admit that I do miss them being a couple, but it was pleasant to see them come to this mutual decision without a fight being attached to it. I guess they really are over now. 🙁

I’m also teased by another confrontation between Spike and Principal Wood. Spike pretty much confirmed any lingering suspicion Wood might have had, and I knew when Buffy left them alone that something would happen. I get the sense that the show is saving some big fight between the two of them because THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. Oh god, how are the writers going to deal with such a huge disaster? IT CAN’T END WELL, CAN IT?

This episode was a damn great time, even with it ending on such a sad note. I mean, Andrew is admitting that he’ll probably die and he deserves it, too. I guess I’m going to have to deal with that uncomfortable reality myself. There are only SIX EPISODES OF BUFFY LEFT. Oh my god, spelling that out is depressing. I can’t believe I’m almost done. 🙁

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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