Sunday, 24 February 2013

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 2

2.01 When She Was Bad

This is an odd episode. It is far from the best Buffy episode that I’ve seen, and it’s not really that terrible, either. The episode’s central premise is strong, that of Buffy suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it’s not enough to really carry an episode. In the end, though this episode is oddly moving. I never thought the smashing of a skeleton could be such a beautiful moment!
VERDICT: 6.5/10

2.02 Some Assembly Required
There are a number of problems with this episode. For a start, it seems to be trying to tug on your heartstrings, but it really doesn’t, at all. Secondly, Buffy seems to be quite affected by the events on display here, but what she does on her nights is far more unnerving. Unless Buffy has now become so accustomed to the vampire incursions that they no longer terrify her, but encounters with high school weirdos are more terrifying because they are human. If that is what the story is aiming to portray it doesn’t do it very well.  However on the positive side of things we have the return of Jenny and a neat little twist early in the episode. That twist might have worked better had we worked it out the same time as Buffy, as then it would have had more of an impact. As the episode stands, it is not particularly notable in the run and is a relatively uninspiring way to spend three quarters of an hour.
VERDICT: 5.5/10

2.03 School Hard
Not a bad episode, but not one of the all-time greats either. The introduction of Spike and Drusilla is welcomed and they promise to add something quite different to this series, a fun villain. However, the disintegration of the arc plot surrounding the Anointed One ends very suddenly, both adding to Spike’s menace as well as somehow feeling like an unfulfilling arc plot. The actual plot surrounding the parent teacher interviews and having them all locked up together is not bad and there are some genuinely scary moments. I love the moment where Buffy’s mother whacks Spike. It’s such an unexpected but very fitting little moment.

2.04 Inca Mummy Girl
Moderately interesting episode with the added gross-out of seeing a mummy kiss people.Impada is actually quite a sympathetic character and you do feel for her. However, being a murderous woman is not grounds for being likable. Also, the addition of Seth Green’s character, Oz, looks like he might be a nice little love interest to Willow, one of my favourite and most likable characters within the series. Overall, not a bad monster of the week episode.
VERDICT: 6.5/10

2.05 Reptile Boy
Actually not a bad episode. As it was going, it was quite a slow episode with the sense of mystery lacking and being replaced by Buffy’s teen angst for Angel. However, this episode is enjoyable due to its conclusion with Willow finally getting angry and standing up for Buffy which is pretty cool. Also, the demon of the title is visually very interesting. However, he is defeated a little too easily. Overall, not awful.

2.06 Halloween
One of the best episodes of this series yet! A fun concept (people becoming their Halloween costumes) used well, adding depth to Willow, Buffy and Cordelia admirably. Willow particularly makes this episode memorable as she plays a more significant role. As she is already an engaging character, this episode is immensely rewarding. Throw in Spike and Drusilla (I was beginning to miss them!) as well as hints about Giles past and you have a truly brilliant episode. I really hope that Giles’ past becomes a more significant part of the series, because it’s fascinating. Six episodes in and this season truly has it’s A game on. Exceptional!
VERDICT: 10/10

2.07 Lie To Me
This series has blown me away. Two exceptional episodes right after one another. Put simply, Lie To Me is the series at its most spectacular. While the previous episode was fun and amusing, this is anything but with some of the darkest and saddest moments of the series yet. The expansion of Drusilla’s character, taking in Angel’s past, is horrible but fits perfectly with what we know about her character. This episode is all about trust and lies, so to see Buffy’s values challenged by her closest friends is incredibly difficult to watch. There are also some terrifying scenes within this episode, based on the building of tension which this series has always done very well. However, the greatest aspect of this episode is the complicated nature of Ford’s character. From the very first moment you see him, you think something is a bit off and audience suspicions are aroused. This episode is great at doing that, making you completely dislike his character. Thus, the episode-changing revelation about his motivations for doing what he does are both shocking and tragic. We are left like Buffy, completely disappointed, feeling sorry for him, yet disliking him for what he does. His explanation of the people who want to become Vampires as lonely and needing to fit in is oddly moving as is the final scene with Buffy and Giles at Ford’s grave, which must surely rank as one of the greatest in the series so far. The complicated nature of this episode, with rounded full characters that you are never really sure you dislike and a brilliant storyline, makes this an oddly moving and thought-provoking experience. A television series that treats its characters like real people with flaws and problems is rare and it is extremely rewarding in this context. I am finally beginning to see why this series is so highly regarded. Simply beautiful and profound.
VERDICT: 10/10

2.08 The Dark Age
Giles’ past is revealed, but is it satisfactory? Well, maybe. I think they could have milked it for a little longer. After all, major clues were revealed in Halloween, so to have the revelation come so soon after is a bit soon. What is more interesting about its positioning is the fact that the previous story relied on Buffy losing trust in her friends, notably excluding Giles. This episode removes Giles from that trust as his darker secrets are revealed. It’s interesting to see that he is human and made some mistakes, which are only now catching up to him. The tragedy of this episode is that it is the people around him that suffer because of his actions, notably Jenny. It will be interesting to see how this develops throughout the series. However, for such a major episode for one of the stronger characters it feels oddly lacking, a bit formulaic. Perhaps it’s the fact that the episode’s climax is a bit convenient. However, Willow’s logic in working it out is clever, but Angel’s presence is beginning to become a bit of a convenience, showing up to save the day. Another possible reason is that it feels very two-dimensional, with Giles’ plot the only focus, so other characters are sort of neglected and ignored, except for, in some part, Willow, whose disciplining of Xander and Cordelia in the library, is a winning scene. Overall, not an awful episode, just a bit flat.
VERDICT: 7.5/10

2.09 What's My Line - Part 1
Not a bad episode which sets up things rather nicely for the following episode. The idea of relentless bounty hunters is clichéd but nonetheless creepy. However, the first one is defeated incredibly easily. The make-up one is incredibly disturbing and has a gross-out factor. The third one being revealed to be nothing of the sort and is instead another Slayer is an incredible revelation. This works against everything that has been established thus far, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the next episode. One of the significant disappointments in this episode is Buffy’s moodiness. It’s not as if it’s not set up, because it has, with the events of the season taking their toll. However, she is not particularly likable when she is like this. But now, it is time to mention an element of this series that I hardly ever touch upon. The music in this episode is incredible, especially when Buffy is ice skating and sleeps in Angel’s bed. It’s just beautiful. Anyway, the next episode appears to be very interesting.
VERDICT: 7.5/10

2.10 What's My Line - Part 2
After the interest of the previous episode, this episode continues that admirably. The explanation of Kendra is clever and I just love how a seemingly inconsequential (in the long-term storytelling sense, as opposed to the dramatic) moment, such as Buffy’s ‘death’ at the conclusion of last season is shown to have had an effect. The mercenary plot with the disturbing worm guy and the scary police officer (I knew there was something wrong about her last episode) add some of the more frightening moments of the episode. However, by far the most shocking moment in this episode was Cordelia and Xander hooking up (twice). They are not the only new couple though. Oz has finally found Willow. I love this couple already. Anyway, Kendra’s return to South Africa will hopefully close one of the more annoying plot points of Buffy wanting to give up. Now, she has someone to talk to about it all. Also, the final scene with Drusilla as the stronger vampire with Spike in her arms is immensely rewarding and it will be interesting to see how the season pans out with this new dynamic. Overalll, not a bad episode, just a bit lacking.

2.11 Ted
Absolutely horrifying is a very good way to describe this episode. Here we see Buffy’s work interfere with her personal life and the result is electrifying. The titular character is terrifying in a way that is immensely human and thus, makes his death even more shocking. The aftermath of this is huge on Buffy and the viewer as we have identified so much with the character. To face the terribly human challenges that she faces in this episode puts her through such an emotional ringer that killing Vampires is almost a pleasant experience. However, as the episode builds to a climax where it is revealed that Ted is a robot does seem a little bit of a cop-out, but I suppose it’s the only way things could turn out for the best. Quite simply one of the more emotionally shocking episodes yet. There is something so personal and difficult about this episode. It’s not often that such a program can have that effect and so deserves to be rewarded as such. Oh, and seeing Giles and Jenny get together as a couple is perfect. They’re so cute together!

2.12 Bad Eggs

A distinctly average episode. The two main plots of the eggs and the Vampires never quite mesh in a way that is satisfying. Another problem is that the main monster is defeated a little too easily and there are so many things left unanswered (including why was the monster in the school? Why was the teacher looking for a monster in the school? And several others) that it feels like an almost pointless experience. Despite a few scares, this episode couldn’t be more disappointing. After a relatively good run of stories, there had to be a misstep somewhere and this seems to be it.

2.13 Surprise
After the relative disappointment of the previous episode, Surprise is brilliant. Continuing the arc surrounding Buffy and Angel, this episode expands their relationship rather nicely, adding depth. The scene in which they are to be separated is very moving and oddly heartbreaking. Also, the final scene of this episode is both romantic, mysterious and truly excites one for the following episode. Also in this episode is the shocking revelation that Jenny is far more than who she says she is. That she is a gypsy is a nice surprise and the suggestion that she has it in for Angel is interesting. In regards to this, the man tells Jenny, or should I say, Jana, that Angel had taken a young girl and hurt everyone around her. Is it possible that this is Drusilla? Her return in this episode is brilliant as she is intelligent, yet still with that naivety that just adds to her creepiness. It is good to see that Spike isn’t completely defenceless, despite his body’s weakness, which I was worried he wouldn’t be. The Judge is fairly interesting, but he looks like most other non-Vampire villains of this series, weakening his visual impact somewhat. However, the moment when he states that Spike and Dru’s relationship is human in some way is very clever writing. The problem with this episode is that it is occasionally quite confusing. It happens with the Judge’s arm, which left me unclear as to who had organised it; the Vampires (as they could get the Judge. Why do they want him? Did I miss when they explained that?) orthe Gypsies (because then Angel and Buffy would be separated which was their main aim). Also, there is another part later in the episode when the light crashes on the Judge. Where does he go? It’s not explained very well. Another problem with this episode (in fact all of the two-parters in Buffy thus far) is that it feels like very little happens, it’s all set-up for the following. Let’s just hope that the pay-off in the next episode is rewarding.
VERDICT: 8.5/10

2.14 Innocence
This show cannot get more heartbreaking than this episode. As Angel is converted to Angelus via his moment of pure pleasure, Buffy is forced to face the tragic consequences. What makes this more heartbreaking is that Angelus is so unpleasant to Buffy. The moment where she first re-meets him and asks if the reason he is being like this is because she wasn’t any good is one of the more powerful moments of the series thus far. This episode feels similar in some way to the events of Ted, in that both feature Buffy put through the emotional wringer. However, unlike the earlier episode, this story offers no easy resolution and as Giles states, the next few months are going to hurt. That is another scene which must surely rank as one of the best. It is simply Giles and Buffy sitting in the car, reflecting on the difficulty of this episode. Other characters are also allowed to shine in this story, especially Willow who discovers Xander and Cordelia’s affair and Jenny whose past is revealed. It is also good to see that the series is drawing on its own mythology by stating that Xander remembers the events of Halloween. Because of this, the defeat of the Judge doesn’t feel as easy as it otherwise could have. Overall, a magnificently beautiful tear-jerking episode. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
VERDICT: 10/10

2.15 Phases
The Buffy Universe gets its werewolf on! A nice little episode that suffers a little in comparison to the previous episode, but then so would any episode, but this episode works admirably to create an interesting story. The identity of the Werewolf is quite a shock, especially because you truly do expect it to be Larry after he reveals that he has a cut on his arm. The scene where Larry is accidentally outed by Xander is deeply amusing and quite nice as well. However, the true identity of the Werewolf as Oz is completely surprising and adds a bit of heart to this episode. Also, the death of the student reminds audiences of the continuing arc plot surrounding Angel which is painful and the effect that it is having on Buffy is devastating to see. Plus, the sexist Werewolf hunter is truly unpleasant and very easy to hate. To sum up, a relatively good Buffy episode that adds to the arc admirably but also feels like it is missing a spark.

2.16 Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered
This episode is strongly reminiscent of the previous season’s The Pack, with possessed characters in for blood. This time Xander’s the victim as opposed to one of the villains. This episode is actually quite scary as the regular characters attack Xander, Cordelia and one another to the strains of some frantic violins on the soundtrack (reminding one of Psycho). However, where this episode succeeds is some truly beautiful moments, such as when Cordelia lies about having the necklace around her neck (another beautiful soundtrack moment). Plus, there’s some more disturbing stuff with Angel, especially when he rips a heart out to give to Drusilla and his plans to constantly taunt Buffy are extremely disturbing. As well as this, we have some more Jenny scenes which suggest that she is now ready to confront Giles about the future of their relationship. I do hope they can work it out because they are quite a nice couple. Anyway, an atmospheric episode with a brilliant ending, but again feeling a little slight. The return of Amy’s a nice touch though.

2.17 Passion

Jenny’s gone forever. You know when I said that Innocence was as heartbreaking as Buffy was going to get? Well, I was wrong. This episode almost tops that. Jenny’s death is truly heart pumping and it truly shows how different Angel really is. There’s something so unexplainably disturbing that Angel, their source of comfort previously, has turned evil enough to kill one of their own. Giles’ reactions to the death is to want it in for Angel and so we get one of the more devastating fight scenes as we really see Giles’ dark side. However, the death of Jenny isn’t all that’s in this episode. There is the terrifying moment where Angel tries to get Joyce and her reactions to the fact that Buffy lost her virginity to him are incredibly realistic. Despite this, though, it is Jenny’s death that is most memorable and most painful. After this episode, one thing is clear; even if Angel’s soul is returned then it is unlikely that the team will ever see him in the same way again. After this, nothing will ever be the same again. It just got serious.
VERDICT: 9.5/10

2.18 Killed By Death
A fairly frightening episode made even better by monster design is quite rare (look at Phases for an unconvincing monster), but this episode is most definitely it. The monster of this episode, the Child-Killer, is utterly grotesque (and owes quite a bit to Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare On Elm Street, with the long claws), especially with his eyes. It’s good to see a bit of body horror in Buffy as it’s an area that this series usually doesn’t delve into, but here it works very well to creep out the viewer. The suggestion made by Giles that Buffy may be imagining a monster who is Death in order to defeat, especially in the wake of the previous episode’s tragedy, is genius and comes off rather well. The same cannot be said for the plot surrounding Buffy’s cousin Celia which never really comes off as satisfying as it could have been. Overall, a relatively creepy episode with an excellent monster design.

VERDICT: 8.5/10

2.19 I Only Have Eyes For You 
A ghost story that is both scary and incredibly moving is so, so rare and this episode manages it very well. In part it is terrifying because of the various horrifying scenes, such as Willow being sucked into the floor but that is not where it succeeds. No, where this episode truly proves its worth is the fact that the ghost allows the personal tragedies of both Buffy and, to a lesser extent, Giles, to be examined. Giles is convinced that the ghost is Jenny because she died so horribly. As it clearly isn’t, this reveals that Giles is still unable to move on from the pain of her death. Such a commitment to character is good writing as I did think that he had moved on a little too quickly after this tragedy. However, it is the examination of Buffy’s relationship with Angel and the guilt she feels over it that this episode expands. Her inability to forgive James, the ghost student, for killing his teacher is astonishing, especially when it is revealed just how much she and him are alike. The moment when Buffy and Angel re-enact the teacher and the student’s forbidden love is incredibly moving and tear-jerking because the dialogue between the two could easily be their true pain that they are feeling (or at least Angel would be feeling if he had a soul). Truly poignant and with a nice cliffhanger featuring Spike’s regained strength, this episode is far better than the average.


2.20 Go Fish
Not a bad episode by any means, just a bit silly and unbelievable. Okay, it has some weird moments such as when Gage transforms and the revelation that the Nurse and the Coach are in it together. However, there are also some incredibly far-fetched moments, most unusual of all being that Xander is strong enough to lift Buffy with one-hand despite the fact that she is being pulled down by the fish people. Overall, not a bad episode but it feels incredibly lightweight and inconsequential in comparison to much of the rest of the season since at least Surprise. However, I suppose it was an important bit of light relief before the season finale which looks to be incredible…


2.21 Becoming - Part 1
Buffy is brilliant. This episode truly feels like the first half of a series finale because we finally get some answers as to the bigger questions that have been running throughout this season. The multiple flashbacks to Angel’s past revealing his connection to Drusilla, Jenny (told you Dru was part of the gypsies) and, most importantly, Buffy is extremely well done, in both a visual and storytelling sense. As well as this, we have the bad omens surrounding the end of the world and the return of Kendra. The latter is particularly tragic as the final ten minutes demonstrate, throwing the lives of every single regular character into question. The beautiful slow-motion moment where Buffy runs to the library only to discover that Kendra is dead is incredibly well-edited. Overall, an absolutely brilliant episode that sets up the finale very well, but also stands up in its own regard.

VERDICT: 9.5/10

2.22 Becoming - Part 2
“I need a hug”. So says the monster after this episode’s closing credits and by god is he right. After you have finished this, you’re going to need something. I had been told that this episode was sad by other Buffy fans and they were underestimating. Let me try and start making sense. As the Earth is about to be destroyed, Buffy is forced to band with Spike and reveal her identity to her mother (which, by the way, is exactly like the reaction to coming out of the closet, making it even more upsetting for me). However, to be honest, Buffy’s heartbreak isn’t really felt until the final minutes of the episode, but by God, it is heartbreaking. As Angel reverts back to his good self without memory of what he has done in the last few months, Buffy is forced to kill him to save the planet. Buffy had finally become accepting of the fact that Angel was bad and not coming back that when he does and she is forced to sacrifice him for the greater good, it is the worst kind of kick to the guts. Everything about that scene is upsetting, but the plaudits must go to Buffy who keeps Angel in the dark about his fate for as long as possible, just to savour the moment and allow him his happiness. It’s heart-wrenching. Moving on. The supporting characters also suffer in this episode as it is revealed that Willow may die (she doesn’t but it does allow for an immensely beautiful scene in which Xander confesses he loves her) and Giles has been tortured (his desperate hope and pain in seeing Jenny alive again is so tragic and made even more real for the audience because it has been so long since we last saw her as well. The moment when he and Dru kiss though is incredibly disturbing). Then we get to the tragedy of the song at the end and the hope that the regulars have that Buffy will return as she drives out of town. It’s all just terribly sad, overwhelmingly powerful. Without knowing it, you’ve grown to care for these characters and to see them put in such a dark place is one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in quite a long time. I just hope that the rest of the series is this good, even though I seriously doubt that’s possible.

VERDICT: 10/10

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