Thursday, January 7, 2016

BtVS: Doom: Season 7, Episodes 15-17

Covering from “Get It Done” to “Lies My Parents Told Me,” in which how could they use a poor maiden so?

“Get It Done” ends with Buffy proudly and defiantly proclaiming that no level of power is worth the loss of her humanity. Moving. Or it might be if she hadn’t earlier in the episode longed for Spike to return to his murderous ways and for Willow to go back to slinging magic all over (even though she sort of has been?) while proclaiming a despairing Potential who kills herself “weak” and “stupid.” She might as well have taken the power up the Shadow Men offered, there’s not a lot of humanity left to the character at the moment.
            “Get It Done” continues the season’s tradition of being a mess of muddled nonsense, but decides it should be really ugly as well. I recall this War with the First garbage being really tough to take back in the halcyon days of 2003, but in the here and now with hindsight, it’s almost impossible not to see this story of an end-conditionless war against an enemy who is planning…something as a laughable and poor reaction to 9/11, in ways the show is unable or unwilling to interrogate seriously—Xander barks “jawohl” when Buffy proclaims herself the Decider, but that’s about the extent of it. We meet Chloe first (and last) in an utterly embarrassing scene where all the Potentials stand in rows doing “martial arts forms” on command, which we are supposed to, I guess, think is bad ass and impressive despite how silly it looks. The similarities between this performance and the pointless Watchers test Buffy endured should strike us as strange, given how antithetical that test was to Buffy’s way of doing things, but then again this is the episode where she declares that her friends don’t mean shit to her unless they’re useful and do exactly what she says. Anyway. Chloe fails to turn the same direction everyone else does, so Kennedy berates her and calls her “maggot,” which Kennedy thinks is extraordinarily cool. Don’t we just love this charming new character? Anyway again, Chloe later turns up dead, having been driven to suicide by the First. How did she end up with so much alone time in a mid-sized house currently holding somewhere between 25 to 30 occupants? Good question, but it remains a mystery. The First brings up the maggot business, but that’s it. Buffy dubs Chloe weak, and no one pushes back against this, noting how badly she was failed by Buffy handing her stupid training regimen over to an idiot eager to live out Full Metal Jacket. Can you tell I hated this episode? I hated this episode.
            Next up is “Storyteller,” an episode whose jaunty editing and fluid reality reminds me of nothing less than Farscape classic “Scratch n’ Sniff.” One small problem, though—it’s an episode about Andrew, and Andrew has never been funny, amusing, or interesting, and is certainly lacking in the depth to carry this story that hinges on him honestly dealing with his actions. None of his internal cut-aways are particularly funny, or especially enlightening, and while the idea that the Hellmouth seal needs to be plugged up with honest tears is fairly clever and evocative, the story has Buffy acting like a brutal sociopath again to get there. I hated this episode, too.
            Also continuing a season 7 tradition, “Lies My Parents Told Me” draws unflattering comparisons to a series high episode, this time “Fool for Love.” Wood reveals his mommy issues, and for the sake of thematic connection, Spike gets some mommy issues as well, giving us a flashback to just before and after his death as William back in the 1880s. Do we see anything cool? No. We do not. The flimsy excuse for this trip is that the First has used memories of William’s mother as a trigger in the process of brainwashing him, and I’m getting a headache from how often I have to say this or something similar, but that’s not how brainwashing, which is made up, is supposed to work. Anyway, after becoming a vampire, Spike decided to sire his mother so she’d be healthy again, but she turns out to be really cruel and incest-y, so he staked her. There is nothing to glean from this, and it adds exactly nothing of value to Spike’s character, and it actually kind of muddies the simple elegance of his origin as he tells it in “Fool for Love,” so I prefer to pretend this episode didn’t exist. Besides, Spike’s conclusion is that his mother loved him and it was the demon in her that said all the mean stuff because that’s what vampires are is demons, which ignores that William as a vampire acted out of love for his mother, so it seems he’d rather ignore this, too. Whatever, there’s a decent chance he’s lying just so he can dig at Robin about how his mommy didn’t love him because she didn’t stop being the Slayer. We are meant to give this credence, as it’s supposed to emphasize the tragic, all-encompassing solitude that is the Slayer’s existence, but it’s more than a little clumsy.
            That same all-encompassing solitude is supposed to be feeding Buffy’s Decider behavior, which by episode’s end has seen her freezing out Giles and warning Wood she’ll let him die if he seeks vengeance again. She’s talked a lot of game about how strong and useful Spike is, and that’s quite true, but Giles is no less useful. And this only serves to highlight why I find this bit so hard to swallow—despite all the talk of how Buffy, as the Slayer, has to make the hard choices and the hard decisions, she never actually makes any, or sacrifices anything, but she sure as shit expects others to. She makes the hard choice that Giles needs to trust that Spike is fine, the hard choice that Wood needs to fight alongside his mother’s killer, that Spike and Willow need to imperil their souls and their minds, but when she is called upon to sacrifice something to win the day, she doesn’t do it. She chastises the Shadow Men for their cowardice, forcing someone else to fight. Granted, Buffy is always on the front lines, but at this point there’s far more commonality than difference between her and them.
            Also, Spike telling Wood he’s killing him of his own free will, and going vamp-face, and going at his neck before commercial, and then revealing after a long, drawn out scene that, no, Spike didn’t actually kill Wood? That’s some bullshit cheap trickery, show, fuck you.
            Every hundred years, a little bird comes and sharpens his beak on the diamond mountain…

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