In the twentieth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show makes an entire episode out of the trope of people having sex while the world is ending, and it’s actually quite good. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I like this episode! Kind of a lot? I don’t know that it’s particularly memorable, and the placement of it is awkward. (But necessary, and I’ll concede that I can’t see it working anywhere else in the season.) It really does take a common story trope and expand upon the idea in a much more emotional way than I’m used to seeing. There’s so much here to talk about, so I’m going to split it up that way.
Follow the Leader
Despite that the group was unanimous in asking Buffy to step down and leave, they’re quick to demonstrate that at the very least, Buffy was incredible at keeping people on topic and organized. The Scoobies can’t control the Potentials, and the myriad of voices get jumbled up in the chaos. Faith isn’t suited to be much of a leader, and she’s pretty upfront about that. She’s a boss, but that’s not the same as a leader. In this sense, Faith can use sheer force to get people to follow her, but it really shows us that Faith works best working for other people.
I’m so happy that this episode gives Buffy the space to explore what it means to be a leader and to exercise some necessary self-analysis. Is it awkward that Buffy is essentially moping just (ostensibly) days away from an apocalypse? Possibly. I wouldn’t fault anyone for calling foul. For me, it’s probably the only negative element of this episode. I mean, while Spike and Faith were fighting one another, I was yelling at them to go back to fighting the apocalypse. That was kind of more important?
Regardless, I’m willing to look past it because I love what the show says about it’s titular character here. Buffy is sort of aimless without the Scoobies or the Potentials, and I totally understand that she’s confused about her role in things. I don’t think she doubts her own physical ability. Like she later tells Spike, she’s more concerned about what her actions do to other people. In short, she believes that she’s not cut out to be a leader. She got two girls killed, or at least that’s how she interprets what happened at the vineyard. Consumed and overwhelmed by guilt, Buffy acts incredibly strange. I mean, that’s my own explanation for why just walks into someone’s house and convinces them to leave town. It’s why she chooses to just sleep in some stranger’s bed. Yes, she’s tired and exhausted, but it’s almost like she’s in shock.
When Spike arrives, he misinterprets Buffy’s grief. She’s not upset about being wrong; she’s upset about her worth as a leader. She speaks of detachment, and it’s something we’ve seen over and over again on Buffy. Buffy herself has tried to detach herself from her friends in order to cope with being the Slayer. That happened in season one, and it was a big part of season six. Buffy truly believed that the best way to manage the Potentials was to separate herself from them. Whether it’s true that she thought herself superior to them isn’t the point. Buffy comes to term with the fact that she made herself not one of them. And now she worries that this was the wrong choice.
What I love about Spike’s response is two-fold.
1) It comes from Spike. From any other character, this would have had a totally different meaning. But Spike’s path of redemption from who he used to be when he was first introduced on the show and after what he did in season six is important because it really was Buffy who inspired him to change. Even if things were miserable and awful, she has been a constant in his life for some time now, and so he affirms to her that she is special. Like, okay, I use the word “saccharine” sometimes to describe mushy emotional moments, and it probably fits Spike’s declaration of love, but whatever. I don’t mean it negatively. I think it’s one of the sweetest moments in the whole goddamn series, and it is precisely what Buffy needed to hear. And that’s the second point.
2) Spike tells Buffy the truth. She is a good person. She is special. And she deserves trust after all that she’s done. Well, at least from Spike, that is. The show doesn’t excoriate the Scoobies or the Potentials for choosing to part with her. At least not yet, that is.
Oh my god, I love Faith. THE MAYOR CAME BACK AND IT WAS INCREDIBLE. Like, okay, so… I’m way into what this episode does with Faith, especially when the writers use her insecurities about being “good” to create tension. When the Mayor visits her in the guise of the First, it’s way more terrifying because the Mayor was actually evil. So what he’s saying doesn’t come with that jarring disconnect between what he was once like and how he sounds now. It’s downright eerie how similar he is. (Harry Groener, HOW DO YOU ACT YOU ARE INCREDIBLE). So I want to believe that the First is just trying to trick Faith. Actually, I do believe that. But, like it did with Robin, I’m worried about what element of truth was in his talk with Faith. Buffy won’t come after Faith, will she??? Oh god, NOPE.
I’m inclined to think that it’s a ruse. It has to be! Meanwhile, let’s talk about Faith/Robin Wood. yes please. I like that the writers make no big deal about two people being attracted to one another and having sex because they want to feel momentarily close to someone else. Plus, it’s kind of hot? Sorry, I like D.B. Woodside’s biceps, shut up. But it fits in with a common theme we see across “Touched.” People find comfort in physical affection, whether that affection is sex or simple contact. To me, the fact that Buffy and Spike did not have sex was immensely powerful to see. I just like when fiction shows us that you can love one another without sex, that it can be physical without it being sexual, that love can manifest in different ways and still be valid.
Which brings me to AWESOME TIME. I personally don’t feel all that attached to Kennedy. I wish I knew more about her. At this point in the show, she really doesn’t have much development. It sucks because she has the potential (GET IT) to be fantastic, but I can’t be bothered to care that much about her. I liked the idea of who she might be at first, but now I’m just sort of MEH about her.
However, do you know how awesome it is of the show to actually show Kennedy and Willow having sex??? Honestly, after they showed Anya/Xander (!!!!) and Faith/Robin, I thought they’d show a quick glimpse of the lesbian pairing and then cut away. This is just what I’m used to from shows. Instead, they got an entire scene devoted to them talking about the implications of having sex and then ACTUAL SEXY TIMES.
Bravo. That was awesome.
He’s just like a lost puppy at this point, isn’t he?
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oh my god oH MY GOD!
BUFFY FOUND THE WEAPON THAT’S ONLY FOR HER AND IT IS AN AXE/STAKE AND IT’S GORGEOUS.
OH MY GOD I FELT TERRIBLE ABOUT WHERE FAITH WAS TAKING THE OTHERS, BUT A FUCKING BOMB? ARE YOU SERIOUS? IF FAITH DIES I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUS.
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