Wednesday, December 30, 2015

BtVS: Doom: Season 7, Episodes 12-14

Covering from “Potential” to “First Date,” in which you all love Kennedy, don’t you? Isn’t she just the coolest?

Buffy was never afraid to mention or draw connections to previous episodes, understanding as it did the power of a well-deployed call-back. At this point, however, the effect seems less about creating a living universe with knowing characters than about reminding us, desperately, of the glory days, no matter how flimsy the justification. Hey, remember Giles’ gory slides, and oh how we laughed at that? Remember “Hush,” guys? Well what if they came back, except this time everyone can talk about them? Wouldn’t that be a laugh?
            That is simply one expression of a growing issue I’ve already hinted at but is coming into stark relief—unable to keep us enrapt with compelling new stuff, the show keeps reminding us that we once loved it by mentioning those old times, often awkwardly and clumsily. As such, those reminders are just irritating in their obviousness.
            Also irritating is the continued sloppiness and strained logic that’s crushing the show at this point. Everyone in “Potential” makes much hay over Dawn possibly being a potential Slayer, except, well, it’s right there in the title, isn’t it? Potential Slayer. Possible Slayer. There is no actual power, acumen, or ability involved, yet everyone seems to act like there is all of the sudden, as though being a potential was in itself a gift instead of a nothing with a now-added death mark (which makes little sense for reasons I can get to in a minute). Regardless, the revelation prompts an argument, with Anya being assigned to bring up the downsides while Willow is assigned with enthusing about how great this is. The case could be made for Anya taking the dim view, though it does feel a bit like her blunt tactlessness has been confused for pessimism, but would Willow, after 7 years of watching what Buffy went through as the Slayer, actually feel that way?
            That character issue throws the clay feet of season 7 into stark relief—so much of it is about the mechanics of the Slayer, and mechanics has never, ever, ever been the show’s strong suit. The First’s master plan is to kill all the Potentials before killing Buffy and Faith, thus ending the Slayer line, which…how does that track? Shouldn’t there constantly be Potentials being born? And why does ending the Slayer matter at all? As we saw in “The Wish,” it’s quite easy to create an evil dominion even with the Slayer existing—it’s one girl, after all.
            All this business just detracts from the bit of “Potential” that is pretty good, which is Dawn trying to help Amanda(?) deal with a vampire until she realizes Amanda is the actual Potential. As a window into what it must have been like for Buffy when she discovered vampires, it’s pretty good. As a story about Dawn wanting to get closer to Buffy, it’s not bad. Too bad much of it gets drowned out by one of the season’s least appealing elements, the Buffy Lecture. You might be tempted to connect Buffy’s counselor job with her newfound role leading the Potentials, but that temptation is more effort than was actually put into the idea.
            In the end, Xander commiserates with Dawn about their role, or lack thereof. Theoretically, this hearkens back to “The Zeppo,” and is meant as some sort of heartwarming character growth, but once again, it just leaves a sour taste as it emphasizes that Xander’s main purpose this season has been to fix windows. But it also seems odd for Xander to talk as though he is divorced or separate from the supernatural world, especially since it’s constantly trying to kill him. I can’t help but feel, coupled in with all the Potential business, this speech reflects the show abandoning its democraticness a bit. Being a potential Slayer used to be nothing, and Xander had special ties to the supernatural world simply by virtue of his being aware it existed. Now there are people who are Special and people who fix windows, and in a season I’ve already noted features Buffy uncomfortably being the Decider, well, I’m not happy with it.
            Given how much time they are given, it’s shocking how indistinct the Potentials remain individually. The one who stands out the most is Felicia Day, who stands out by virtue of being Felicia Day. The charitable would call Rhona “sassy,” the less charitable might question the wisdom of making the sassy one also be the African-American one. Chao-Ahn doesn’t speak English, which, hilarious, knocked that one out of the park. There are others, too, but unfortunately the one who stands out the most, as I’ve noted earlier, is Kennedy. And that’s unfortunate because Kennedy positively reeks of Poochie, making her budding relationship with Willow extra hard to take. This is about as far removed from the sweet, building grace of Willow and Tara as you can get, because rather like we’re just told Kennedy is coolest, we’re also just told she’s going to be Willow’s new love interest.
            Here’s some irony: while the show has been really aggressive regarding Kennedy’s supposed awesomeness, no one has bothered to identify her age. This creates something of a problem in “The Killer in Me,” because while she’s obviously supposed to be one of the older Potentials, and she was able to get drinks at the Bronze, unfortunately she was one of the Potentials identified as a “bunch of fifteen year old girls in a bar” in the episode right before. Like I said, sloppy, critically sloppy. Anyway, some vague revenge spell cast by Amy upon Willow turns the latter into Warren, and isn’t it always a treat when he gets to come back? So Willow needs to turn to some old friends for magical help, who turn out to be the college Wiccan group. Remember them, also from “Hush,” and how they mocked and derided the very idea that magic could exist? Yeah, them. Willow goes to them for magical help.
            Amy’s wants to get back at Willow, by the by, because she’s always been envious of Willow’s power. You’d think it would be over the rat business, but no, apparently when Amy was successfully turning people and herself into rats and Willow was straining to levitate pencils, Willow was the more powerful, for whom magic came easily.
            I feel like my point has been made, so some bullshit happens, and it’s supposed to, somehow, be about Willow’s guilt over considering a new relationship. Meanwhile, Spike’s chip starts firing at random, and when Riley can’t be contacted, Buffy and Spike return to the Initiative base, which is suitably claustrophobic and creepy, and then the actual Initiative turns out to, I guess, to have set up a part of the base next to the part full of demons and dead bodies at Riley’s behest, ready to help Buffy with Spike. Also meanwhile, everyone else fears Giles is the First, and thinking he might be their intangible tormentor, they tackle him.
            Finally there’s “First Date.” Wood is revealed as the son of a Slayer, and in the end the son of the Slayer killed by Spike no less, which is actually pretty damn cool. Also Xander goes on a date with would-be R&B diva Ashanti, who turns out, unsurprisingly, to be a demon, which is pretty damn rote. To move the plot along, he manages to text Willow that he’s in danger (or getting laid) with a secret code the two friends set up long enough ago for Willow to forget the specifics, so, when did these two get cellphones? Because they sure as shit-
            No. Never mind. I’m done with these episodes. They’re dull and sloppy. They suck and I hate them.
            How many seconds in eternity, shepherd’s boy?

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