In the nineteenth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, HEART. BROKEN. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Well, Sunnydale is now empty, and so is my heart.
The last ten minutes of “Empty Places” might be the most agonizing thing I’ve had to endure from this show, and that’s saying a lot. This show is upsetting all of the time, but good lord. To watch the deconstruction and ultimate rejection of the character this whole show is based on is just too much for me. I knew the Potentials and Faith were frustrated with Buffy over the course of this episode, and I know that the events of the previous episode were a disaster, but I didn’t expect this.
Clearly, shit has gotten real. Sunnydale is seeing a mass exodus. (Wow, that happened fast, didn’t it?) The police are antsy. (It’s never explained why they are so horrific in this episode aside from them getting “Hellmouthy.”) Clem is leaving town. (NOOOOOOO.) And Xander… sweet babies, I can’t. It all makes me so sad. There are only three episodes left after this, and there is NO JOY to be found here. This is clearly the worst thing all these people have faced, and for the most part, we’re not give a single sign of hope. And then Willow starts crying at Xander’s bedside, and I nearly lost it.
I’m going to have to seriously strap myself in if my emotions are going to survive the next three episodes.
Initially, I thought this episode would set up Buffy to restructure how she commanded the Potentials. Repeatedly, the people in her life unintentionally made her feel awful about recent events. She’s distant. She looks depressed. She hasn’t checked out, though. I never got that feeling. I think she was confused because she had no tactic left to use. How was she supposed to fight The First and Caleb if she didn’t know how defeat either? So she returns to a place that was once familiar to her, where the villains she faced all had weaknesses she could exploit. In the halls of an empty, desolate Sunnydale High, she gets no closer to any answers. All she does is reminisce on the past and GODDAMN IT DO NOT SHOW ME THAT IMAGE OF THE TRIO WHEN THEY WERE YOUNGER this is EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION Y’ALL.
And then Caleb just shows up. God, does he exist just to torment everyone? Who the fuck is he? Where did he come from? I have not the slightest clue about his character, aside from the fact that Nathan Fillion scares me. I’ve never seen him play a villain. THIS IS TOO MUCH.
Actually, wait, there is one thing that’s goddamn awesome and joy-bringing about “Empty Places”: Andrew and Spike. I FORGOT SPIKE WAS REALLY INTO ONION BLOSSOMS. And Andrew actually helped Spike at one point! And they discover that Caleb found a message that makes no sense to me! I assume the “her” that inscription refers to is the Slayer, but IDEK WHAT THIS MEANS. What’s only meant for “her” to hold? omg what if it was about Jasmine IF ONLY. Wouldn’t it suck if the people escaping Sunnydale went to L.A. and then got taken in by Jasmine? What a shitty life, for real.
Anyway, while I suspect that the inscription is super important, this episode focuses mostly on Buffy’s role as the leader of the Scoobies and the Potentials. While Buffy’s away, Faith takes the group to the Bronze for a chance to let out some of the ridiculous tension they’re under, and that backfires when a group of cops go after Faith. Okay, so is this show’s explanation of the rogue cops simply that they’re on the Hellmouth? I was confused by this. That’s not important, I suppose. When Buffy finds out what’s happened (and that Giles sent Spike and Andrew away to Gilroy, where the best garlic fries in the world exist GO THERE, DUDES), she, understandably, freaks out. Decisions were made without her. Faith risked the safety of the Potentials. Sort of?
And here’s where I felt super conflicted. Both sides had really, really good points. You know, even if I didn’t like what Buffy said during “Get It Done,” I respect her position in general. It’s true that she has gotten everyone out of trouble countless times before. It’s also true that Buffy doesn’t seem to trust anyone but herself. But that’s also because people like Giles, Faith, Willow, Robin, and Anya have all done things to Buffy to earn some doubt. But then… OH GOD I COULD GO BACK AND FORTH ON THIS FOREVER. For every good point that one side made during that gut-wrenching confrontation at the end, I’d feel like I could decide where I stood, and then the other side made an equally good point.
But you know what? I get that the Potentials and the Scoobies disagree with Buffy. Her plan is a bit too flimsy for me to accept, given that they have to go back to the vineyard. It’s a good idea, but look what happened the last time they went. Two Potentials were murdered, Rona had her arm broken, and Xander’s eye was gouged out. Can’t Buffy understand why these people might be reluctant to go back? And yet, despite that I got why these people were so upset, as soon as Dawn rejected Buffy, I was 100% done with all my emotions. Nope. I knew how hard it must have been for Dawn to tell Buffy what she did, so I believed that it must be important to her. And I sat there in shock as the entire group gives Buffy a vote of no-confidence of sorts.
I don’t want this. Is Buffy’s plan shaky? Yes. Do the Potentials/Scoobies have a point about Buffy’s behavior and her decision-making? To an extent, certainly. Should they have kicked her out? Oh gods, NO. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? She’s an ally! She’s your best ally, the one most dedicated to this mission. But then… if the mission is the most important thing, and it’s really true that the others can succeed at the mission without her, is that why she steps down? Is that why she doesn’t begrudge or insult Faith outside the house? Has she accepted that maybe this isn’t the way?
I honestly don’t know. I’m confused, I’m heartbroken, and I am SUPER, SUPER SAD. I really respect Buffy, and after spending seven seasons worth of time with her, I trust her. I expect her to lead. And perhaps I should have questioned that before, but I don’t know y’all. This is such an awful situation, and no one wins, and I just want to curl up with forty puppies and not watch this.
How the hell is this show going to be resolved in three episodes? BUFFY MY HEART MY HEART.
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