Tuesday, 18 November 2014

BUFFY: 6.20 ‘VILLAINS’


A lovely tribute to Tara & Willow

WRITER: Marti Noxon
DIRECTOR: David Solomon

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

After Warren's shooting spree at Buffy's house Buffy is rushed to hospital seriously wounded while unbeknownst to the rest of the Scoobies Tara lies dead in Willow's bedroom. Willow, overcome by rage, and with dark magic in her system, takes off alone in search of more power which she intends to use to hunt down and kill Warren. Soon she has all the power she needs and Dark Willow is born. Warren (and the entire world) are in for it now.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

The almost banal hideousness and heartache of real and regular everyday evil.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

Warren. And Dark Willow.

WHY IT ROCKS

Hunting Warren: This episode is basically all about Willow, fuelled by rage and hate and the blackest of black magics, relentlessly hunting down a fleeing Warren as her friends try in vain to stop her from killing a human being and from being consumed for good by darkness. They have no chance though. And this story can only end one way. And so it does.

Dark Willow: If nothing else about this episode...nay...this entire season was any good then Dark Willow and Aly Hannigan's portrayal of her alone would make it all worth while. Our newly raven haired, black eyed, blood thirsty uber powerful goddess of revenge is a wondrous thing to behold. Aly Hannigan is clearly loving playing this version of Willow who is not afraid to tell her friends some home truths and to go toe to toe in a knock down drag out fight with her best friend Buffy. The look is great too – the black hair, black eyes, white face, veins showing... Brrr. Creepy. But also kinda...hot? Oh I'm such a bad man. Anyway, Dark Willow is up there with Vamp Willow as genius creations by Joss and Ally; two awesome aspects of an already awesome character.

Sucking out the magic: the sequence where Willow sucks out all the magic from the books in the Magic Box is brilliant! A terrific visual effect that shows all of the words and spells traveling over Willow's skin.

Warren the joke: Warren finally discovers the truth about himself and his sad little gang when he is gloating at a demon bar about how he 'killed' the slayer. He soon finds out from the gathered demons that Buffy is alive and will be out to get him. The demons have never heard of him or his gang and find him and his predicament hilarious. So hilarious they don't want to kill him as it will be far more fun to see what the slayer does to him when she finally catches up with him. Although unbeknownst to them all it isn't Buffy that Warren should be worrying about. It's Willow!

Clem: More Clem goodness as Buffy drops Dawn off at Spike's crypt only to find Clem now living there since Spike upped and left town. Buffy asks Clem to watch Dawn and the kindly demon happily agrees suggesting they rent The Wedding Planner and play Parcheesi.

Skinned alive: Warren's eventual death at Dark Willow's hands is fittingly nasty as, tied up Evil Dead style by creepers and vines, Warren is first tortured by Willow who, using magic, slowly pushes a bullet in to his chest. Then, with the immortal words “Bored now!” uses her magic to rip his entire skin from his flesh in one agonising go, before then burning him up in a fireball. And yes, this is just as gruesome as it sounds. So much so that it was so heavily edited when shown on the BBC that viewers were left wondering what exactly happened to Warren. Answer: nothing good.

Cliffhanger: the episode ends with Willow, having killed Warren, telling a shocked Buffy and Xander, “One down...” before vanishing in a cloud of black smoke and fire. The next episode is titled 'Two to Go'. Meaning Jonathan and Andrew are next.

WHY IT SUCKS

How did Warren know that he'd killed Tara? In fact, how did he kill Tara from that angle? Magic bullet time. Someone call Oliver Stone.

How did Spike get all the way from Sunnydale USA to Uganda in Africa in the timespan between Seeing Red and Villains seeing as how Villains follows on directly from Seeing Red? Has he developed teleporting powers??

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

“Bored now.”

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Andrew: He's coming up with a plan. Like, "War Games." Remember that decoder that Matthew Broderick used?
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. That was rad. The one he made from the scissors and the tape recorder?
Andrew: I miss "Ferris" Matthew. Broadway Matthew? I find him cold.
Jonathan: Really? No, I- Shut up!

Buffy: We love you. And Tara. But we don't kill humans. It's not the way.
Willow: How can you say that? Tara is dead.
Buffy: I know... I know. And I... can't understand... anything. Not what happened... a-and not what you must be going through. Willow, if you do this, you let Warren destroy you too.
Xander: You said it yourself, Will... the magic's too strong, there's no coming back from it.
Willow: I'm not coming back.

Xander: I just... I've had blood on my hands all day. Blood from people I love.
Buffy: I know. And now it has to stop. Warren's going to get what he deserves. I promise . But I will not let Willow destroy herself.

Willow: Wanna know what a bullet feels like, Warren? A real one? It's not like in the comics.
Warren: No. No.
Willow: I think you need to. Feel it.
Warren: Oh god! Stop it!
Willow: It's not going to make a neat little hole. First, it'll obliterate your internal organs. Your lung will collapse. Feels like drowning.
Warren: Please! No.
Willow: When it finally hits your spine, it'll blow your central nervous system.
Warren: Oh please, stop, god! Please-
Willow: I'm talking! The pain will be unbearable, but you won't be able to move. Bullet usually travels faster than this, of course. But the dying? It'll seem like it takes forever. Something, isn't it? One tiny piece of metal destroys everything. It ripped her insides out... took her light away. From me. From the world. Now the one person who should be here is gone... and a waste like you gets to live. Tiny piece of metal. Can you feel it now?

Willow: Bored now.

AND ANOTHER THING

The song playing in the demon bar Warren visits is Die, Die My Darling by the Misfits.

When Buffy flatlines on the operating table after getting shot in the chest, this is the third time she has died on the show. Surely some record for a TV show's main character.

HOW MANY STAKES?

I'd be skinned alive if I didn't give it five. 5 (out of 5)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

BUFFY: 6.19 ‘SEEING RED’


James Marsters on THAT scene

WRITER: Steven S. DeKnight
DIRECTOR: Michael Gershman

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

The Trio steal a pair of magic orbs which will grant their wearer super strength and invulnerability. Warren takes them for a spin in a bar macking on ladies and beating up guys...only to run in to Xander. Xan makes it out in one piece...just...and goes to tell Buffy only to find our girl, suffering from a slaying related injury, lying on the bathroom floor after having had a shocking and deeply disturbing encounter with Spike. Nevertheless Buffy sets out to confront Warren and co. and stops them from robbing an armoured truck. A fight ensues and Buffy manages to win after destroying Warren's magic orbs. But he gets away leaving Andrew and Jonathan behind. The next morning a blissfully happy Willow and Tara watch from their bedroom window as Xander appears in the back yard and reconciles with Buffy. But tragedy soon strikes when a crazed Warren suddenly appears brandishing a gun. Shots are fired, some going wild but with two of the bullets finding there targets: one in the back yard and the other in the bedroom above. And as a result things will never be the same again.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

Male ego and misogyny – power, control, domination with rampant testosterone running wild. But also genuine love and friendship with good people who love and care for each other sticking together no matter what.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

Warren & Spike

WHY IT ROCKS

Script: Simply Steve DeKnight wrote a great script. It treads a fine line, a balancing act between daft and goofy and dark and disturbing. But it does so brilliantly. The character work has depth and pushes our heroes to even greater places of darkness and turmoil than before while also managing to bring them back together, to reignite the spark of genuine love and friendship between them. Well, all except for one.

Performances: across the board they are great. But special mention goes to SMG and James Marsters who have to play what is the darkest and most ghastly scene this series ever did. And they are both fabulous. Oh and Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson are beyond cute together...right up until the end when they will break your heart.

Jet packs: Heh. The sequence where Andrew tries to escape using his hidden jet pack...only to hit the roof and collapse to the ground is hilarious. A terrific sight gag.

Saws: when Buffy searches the Trio's abandoned lair she is attacked by multiple huge circular saws requiring her to engage in some Spider-Man-like acrobatics to avoid being sliced and diced. Its a great sequence and looks very cool.

Clem: Yay! Spike's nice guy demon pal Clem shows up to be a sounding board for a confused and distraught Spike. Gotta love Clem.

Two moments: “Ask me again why I could never love you!” and “Your shirt...” If you aren't hurting inside then your heart is cold.

Warren: Oh he makes such a wonderfully evil villain. So easy to hate. And what he does in this ep arguably makes him the worst and most hated villain in all Buffydom. Kudos to Adam Busch who does a terrific job in the role.

Balls: The blatant testosterone metaphor of Warren and his pair of super powered orbs...and Buffy smashing them to defeat him. YES!!

WHY IT SUCKS

It doesn't suck. At all. But it is one heck of a cruel episode both for the characters and for the audience. Three awful things happen in the space of forty two minutes. It is almost too much to take. Almost.

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

Buffy's victory over Warren, throwing his misogynistic insult right back at him before kicking his ass to the kerb. “Good night, bitch.” Yeah!!

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Andrew: “I don't trust that leprechaun.”

Buffy: “Ask me again why I could never love you!”

Willow: “We were able to decipher pretty much everything except these.”
Tara: “It isn't written in any ancient language we could identify.”
Xander: “It's Klingon. They're love poems. Which has nothing to do with the insidious scheme you're about to describe.”

Spike: You know, everything always used to be so clear. Slayer, vampire. Vampire kills Slayer, sucks her dry, picks his teeth with her bones. It's always been that way. I've tasted the life of two Slayers. But with Buffy... It isn't supposed to be this way! It's the chip! Steel and wires and silicon. It won't let me be a monster... and I can't be a man. I'm nothing.”

Warren: “I was wondering when Super Bitch would show up.”
Buffy: “You've really got a problem with strong women, don't you?”

Andrew: “I really want to get my hands on his orbs.”

Warren: “Say good night, bitch.”
Buffy (crushes his magic orbs and knocks him down): “Good night, bitch.”

Tara: “Your shirt...”

AND ANOTHER THING

The scenes at the amusement park were specially filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain, 35 miles north of Los Angeles.

The following tracks were featured in Seeing Red: The Leaves by Daryll-Ann, Stranded by Alien Ant Farm and Displaced by Azure Ray.

James Marsters says to this day that the Spike assault/attempted rape of Buffy scene is the worst thing he has ever had to do in his career. He found it deeply traumatising and it left him an emotional wreck.

For the one and only time since she joined the show Amber Benson gets her name in the opening credits sequence. Kind of a sick joke considering her fate.

When Buffy explores The Trio's lair, she discovers several action figures – grimacing in particular at the one of Vampirella, a comic book superhero from the planet Drakulonn who devoted her life to destroying all vampires - and wearing very skimpy red outfits.

HOW MANY STAKES?

A painful 4.5 (out of 5)

BUFFY: 6.18 ‘ENTROPY’


Teaser

WRITER: Drew Z. Greenberg
DIRECTOR: James A. Contner

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

Anya returns to town having been reinstated as a vengeance demon and is determined to find someone who will wish ill on Xander allowing her to enact a curse on her behalf. It doesn't go so well for her though, and when Spike comes to see her at the Magic Box looking for a spell to ease his own hurt over being dumped by Buffy, the two end up in a clinch, finding solace in each other. Unbeknownst though to the intimate pair the whole thing is being broadcast via secret cameras the Trio have set up all over town including one at the Magic Box. A camera Willow has just managed to tap in to which suddenly allows all the gathered Scoobies including a stunned Buffy and horrified Xander to watch the vampire and vengeance demon getting it on together.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

As the episode's title suggests this is about disruption and disorder, how things seem to be falling apart. It's also about dealing with personal hurt, lashing out, making mistakes and trying to cope with the consequences.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

The Trio. And Xander...kinda.

WHY IT ROCKS

Emma Caulfield: Anya is back with a vengeance...literally. And this is her episode and Emma Caulfield is terrific. Poor Anya is consumed by anger and hurt at what Xander did to her (justifiably so) and is looking for vicious payback. However you can tell that beneath the surface she feels somehow responsible, that she was somehow to blame and that Xander never really wanted her. She hates what Xander did to her. But she hates herself even more for allowing herself to be put in that position in the first place. Emma plays every scene with layered nuance even when she is being hilarious and trying to get unwitting people to wish horrible things on Xander.

Real world shopping: The scene near the start where Buffy and Dawn are out shopping together was filmed on the Santa Monica promenade in the heart of LA . It is kind of jarring but also very cool to see Buffy being filmed off set and in a real city location that's bustling with people. This is something that unlike Angel Buffy rarely did.

Temple of Doom: Warren calling Jonathan Short Round is most amusing.

Willow and Tara: They get back together. And it is beyond cute. Yay!

WHY IT SUCKS

Soapy: Okay, so there is no real story this week. It is all about the consequences of what the characters have been doing to each other and behind each others backs. Who has been sleeping with who. Who dumped who. Who kept secrets from who. Yes, it is all very soap opera-ish. But that's just about okay here as the characters and story up until now have earned it and we are invested. However it does make you think you are watching an ep of Spike's beloved Passions!

Xander the Dick: Okay, so Xander being all self righteous and angry over Anya and Spike and what Buffy has been up to is very annoying. He has no right at all to judge either of them, not after what he pulled only two eps ago. Nothing against Nicky Brendon who is really good but, like with Buffy, it feels like we are losing the character this season. Xander has become 'gulp' unlikable.

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

Anya hilariously trying to convince Buffy why she should hate all men, especially Xander.

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Anya: I... I wish you had tentacles where your beady eyes should be! I wish your intestines were tied in knots and ripped apart inside your lousy gut!
Xander: They are.
Anya: Really? Right now? Does it hurt?
Xander: God, yes. It hurts so bad it's killing me. Anya... I love you, I want to make this work.
Anya: Those are metaphor intestines! You're not in any real pain! What's wrong with me?

Willow: Well, if there's anything we can do, just let us-
Anya: Actually... um... there is an eensy something I could use a little help with. You're lesbians, so the hating of men will come in handy. Let's talk about Xander.

Buffy: I don't think he could feel any worse.
Anya: Let's test that theory.
Buffy: Anya, Xander's my friend. I know what he did was wrong, and... if it had happened to me, I'd-
Anya: Wish his penis would explode?

Tara (to Willow): There's just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again, on both sides... You have to learn if... if we're even the same people we were, if you can fit in each other's lives. It's a long... important process, and... can we just skip it? Can-can you just be kissing me now?

AND ANOTHER THING

When Tara is talking to Willow at the end Willow's dress from the episode Once More, With Feeling can be seen hanging on the door.

After Xander leaves with a weapon Willow sees the open door and open chest. The weapons chest she sees is the same one Xander made for Buffy's birthday in Older and Far Away.

HOW MANY STAKES?

A chaotic 4 (out of 5)

BUFFY: 6.17 ‘NORMAL AGAIN’


Slayer, Interrupted

WRITER: Diego Gutierrez
DIRECTOR: Rick Rosenthal

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

While out searching for the Trio Buffy is ambushed by a demon conjured by Andrew. Amidst the ensuing fight the demon stings her and Buffy starts having intermittent flashes of herself in another life – as a normal Buffy Summers who's been locked away in a mental hospital for six years undergoing treatment for believing she is a super powered chosen one who fights monsters and saves the world. What's more, in this 'other' reality Buffy's mom is there as is her dad both pleading with her to reject her fantasy and come back to them, back to reality. Soon poor Buff doesn't know what is real and what isn't which puts everyone involved in great danger.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

The difference between reality and fantasy. Escaping from reality, from responsibility.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

The Trio, the waxy looking demon who stings Buff. Oh and Buffy herself towards eps end.

WHY IT ROCKS

High concept: the idea of challenging Buffy's (and the viewers) concept of what (if anything) about Buffy's life is actually 'real' is great. This sort of thing has been done before in genre television notably in the great DS9 episode Far Beyond the Stars. Making the audience believe that it is possible that everything they have watched and loved for six years might not be 'real' but rather the delusions of a very ill young girl is quite the thing. It's just a shame the ep isn't as successful as it could have been at doing this.

SMG: Quite simply she is magnificent. She single handily raises this episode above where it otherwise would be by turning in a damaged, tormented, scary and highly affecting performance. Her revelation to a shocked Willow that as a child she did spend some time in a mental hospital is achingly effective. A teary, fragile, vulnerable SMG really hits you where it hurts.

Mom: Kristine Sutherland makes a welcome return as Joyce Summers even if it is in the other world flashes. It's always great to see her though and we feel for Buff as she is tempted to reject Sunnydale and everything in it for the chance to be with her mom again.

WHY IT SUCKS

Lack of commitment: It is frustrating that this episode won't commit fully to its high concept. The idea that Sunnydale and all the supernatural stuff is really just the delusions of a sick girl is a scary and terrific idea. It would be great if we really were made to believe that the entire series truly could be the result of a very troubled and ill young girl's delusion. If the entire episode was played from Buffy's pov then that would likely be the case. But it breaks away all the time and makes it quite plain that her flashes are definitely a result of the demon sting and this renders the final emotional scene of 'real' Buffy in hospital, falling for good in to deep catatonia as her helpless and heartbroken parents look on, pretty much redundant. A real shame.

Dawn: ARGHH! Yet again youngest Summers manages to make everything about her. She whinges, sulks and storms off when she finds out that she is not around in Buffy's 'real' life. Jeez! Also Buffy tells her that she hasn't been doing her chores lately. Um...when has Dawn ever done any chores? Buffy is the only one who ever seems to do any stuff around the house, not Dawn or Willow. Kick em out, Buff!

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

Buffy tearfully admitting to Willow that she did spend time in a mental institution.

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Willow: "Hi, uhm.. Tara. How are you? I was wondering.. do you want to go out sometime? For coffee? Or food? Or kisses and gay love?"

Buffy: "I could wrestle naked in grease for a living and still be cleaner than after a shift at the Doublemeat."

Xander: “Oh, come on, that's ridiculous! What? You think this isn't real just because of all the vampires and demons and ex-vengeance demons and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy?”

Spike: “Oh, balls. You didn't say he was a Glarghk Guhl Kashma'nik.”
Xander: 'Cause I can't say glar- “

Xander: “Hello! I'm back! Clean and with the better smell now. Friends? Romans? Anyone?”

AND ANOTHER THING

When Buffy looks at the photo of herself as a child, it's Alexandra Lee, who also played young Buffy in season five's The Weight of the World.

Normal Again marks the only script for Buffy by Diego Gutierrez who prior to its writing was Joss Whedon's personal assistant. He would go on to write scripts for other successful TV shows including Dawson's Creek and Warehouse 13

This is one of two episodes of Buffy directed by Rick Rosenthal (the other being season 7's 'Help'). Rosenthal is perhaps best known as the director of Halloween 2, the first sequel to John Carpenter's original horror classic. He also went on to direct 2002's Halloween Resurrection.

HOW MANY STAKES?

A pretty normal 3.5 (out of 5)

Saturday, 15 November 2014

BUFFY: 6.16 ‘HELL'S BELLS’


Buffy & Spike

WRITER: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
DIRECTOR: David Solomon

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

It's Xander and Anya's wedding day. The bride and bridegroom's families are all there with tension between them mostly exasperated by Xander's ghastly father who spends his time being rude, obnoxious and drunk. Pre-wedding jitters are present too which only get worse when a mysterious old man turns up and secretly tells Xander that he is in fact old Xander from the future come back in time to warn his younger self not to marry Anya as their life together will be hellish and awful and that he'll end up hurting her in the worst of ways. Seriously spooked young Xander takes off leaving poor Anya unaware of the situation and Buffy and Willow panicking as to what to do next.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

It's pretty obvious – the fear of commitment, of creating a binding future together and all that doing so entails. It's been subtly and not so subtly portrayed throughout the season that both Anya and Xander have issues with each other, fears about their future together. He can often show her little respect in public, correcting her, siding with others against her. And she can be borderline obsessive and needy. Many of these issues were aired in Once More With Feeling so it should come as no real surprise what happens in this ep. Though when it does it is still horrible and ghastly thing to do to someone you are supposed to love.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

Old 'Xander', Xander's ghastly family, and Xander himself. Oh, the toxic looking bridesmaids dresses are pretty darn scary too.

WHY IT ROCKS

Emma & Nicky – both Emma Caulfield and Nicky Brendon are great. Anya is so weirdly cute and sweet especially when practicing her rather un-PC vows. And when she realises at the end what is happening the look on her face might just put a crack in your stony old heart.

SMG juggles – Yep, SMG is a good juggler (who knew?) and gets a chance to show off while Buffy tries her best to entertain the waiting guests as Willow hunts for Xander.

Spike – Okay, no idea who actually invited him. But his attempt to make Buffy jealous by bringing a date and then owning up to it along with his and Buff's subsequent borderline affectionate truce is kinda sweet.

Emotionally invested – it is telling how much we have invested in these characters, so much so that to many of us they feel like genuine family or friends. And when what happens happens as a result we really do feel the hurt of it. Poor An.

WHY IT SUCKS

Story (lack of) – There isn't much to the story here. The basic plot of the old Xander thing ends up being a non-event and paper thin not to mention all the wedding farce clich├ęs we've seen a million times before get trotted out of storage for use here.

Light on the funny – not much in the way of witty sparking dialogue here. A few chuckles but nothing to write home about.

Weddings – I'm someone who doesn't have much patience for weddings and all the hoopla that goes on around them. Thankfully the Anya/Xander one is a pretty low grade affair so not much silly extravagance to annoy me. But wedding shenanigans can still grate

Spike – Yeah, I know. I love Spike...but who actually invited him? Xander hates him and wouldn't want him anywhere near his big day. Plus it's broad daylight and he appears not to have a blanket (just a trashy looking date designed to make Buff jealous) so why isn't he roasting nicely?

Bad Xander – Look, I love the Xan man...but really?? What he does here is pretty much unforgivable. And his reasons are the lamest, most self centered baloney possible. It was his idea to get hitched. So he's just been stringing poor An along all this time? Jeez!

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

Buffy juggles

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Xander: I must wear das cummerbund!

Anya: 'I, Anya, promise to cherish you...' Ew, no, not cherish. Uh, 'I promise... to have sex with you whenever... I want, and, uh... uh, pledge to be your friend, and your wife, and your confidant, and your sex poodle...'

AND ANOTHER THING

SMG's talent as a juggler was especially incorporated into the script.

In a scripted but unfilmed scene, it was revealed that Giles remained in England to fight demons, and was thus unable to attend. But he did pay for all the flowers.

We finally get to meet Xander's legendary Uncle Rory who has been name checked several times throughout the series. Uncle Rory was always the black sheep of the family and Xander first referred to him in Season 2's The Dark Age as, "The stodgiest taxidermist you'll ever meet by day. By night it was booze, whores and fur flying."

George D. Wallace, who plays 'old' Xander, had a long career in Hollywood appearing in many films and TV shows. One of his early and notable appearances was as the Bosun in the scifi classic Forbidden Planet alongside Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen.

HOW MANY STAKES?

Bad Xander! 2 (out of 5)

Monday, 18 August 2014

BUFFY: 6.15 ‘AS YOU WERE’


Episode dailies

WRITER: Doug Petrie
DIRECTOR: Doug Petrie

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

Out of the blue Buffy's former lover Agent Riley Finn drops back in to Buffy's life asking for her help to track down an especially nasty demon he's followed through central America and back to Sunnydale. Riley is also after a rumoured local black market dealer known only as 'The Doctor' who is planning to sell the demon's highly prized eggs to a foreign power. But Agent Finn hasn't come back alone. He has brought his new wife with him.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

Re-evaluating what a healthy relationship actually is. Moving on. Self forgiveness.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

A Suvolte demon. The Doctor.

WHY IT ROCKS

Riley's back! I always liked Riley and Marc Blucas' portrayal. I thought Riley had a rough ride from the fans just cuz he wasn't Angel. I mean, God forbid Buffy should ever have a healthy relationship with an honest to goodness human being who is just a nice, reliable, dependable guy. Sheesh! This time Riley is in full-on 007 stealth mode but is essentially the same nice, thoughtful, gentleman he always was...except now with a brand new wife, Sam, another special opps soldier who is just as nice, respectful and capable as he is. Nice one Agent Finn.

Action/stunts: There are quite a few good fight sequences here and I especially liked the dam rappelling stunt. Kinda reminded me of the opening of Goldeneye, though not a bungee but rather Riley and Buffy doing a line drop down the face of a rather high dam. Cool.

Willow: Willow is almost back to her old self in this episode. She is chirpy and gets positively giddy in places chatting to Sam. Loved how she wanted to hate her being Riley's new love but just couldn't.

Buffy sees the light: finally, seeing what a good and healthy relationship looks like (Riley and Sam) Buffy forgives herself and decides to move on by ending it properly with Spike, leaving his dark crypt at episodes end and literally walking out in to the light. It's a beautifully written and played scene between Buffy and Spike with Buffy calling Spike by his real name, William, with the look on his face showing that he knows she means it this time.

WHY IT SUCKS

Dawn: Again, Dawn manages to make everything about her...even Riley's leaving Sunnydale in season 5. Arghh!

Questionable parenting: Buffy lets Dawn go out with Willow to the Bronze until 11pm on a school night? Really? Good parenting Buff. Plus earlier Dawn reminds Buffy it is trash day. Cue we see Buff chasing after and missing the trash collection. In a previous episode we've seen Dawn swanning off to school leaving a sink full of dishes for Buffy to clean after working a double shift. Um, does Dawn actually do anything at home? Does she have any chores at all? Sheesh! And for that matter what about Willow? She still lives there too. If I was Buff I'd kick em all out.

Wedding plans: is it just me or is the whole Anya/Xander wedding planning thing getting to be really tiresome? I have a low threshold for wedding fluff anyway (giant waste of money I say) so it just makes me roll my eyes and groan.

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

Buffy's dazed reaction to seeing Riley back. “My hat has a cow!”

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Riley: “I want to explain, I just don't have time. I've been up for 48 hours straight tracking something bad, and now it's come to Sunnydale.”
Buffy (dazed): “My hat has a cow.”

Sam: “We better regroup. Buffy, I hate to impose further, but... you got a safe house?”
Buffy: “I, I have a house. I-I think it's safe. Sometimes you can't even leave.”

Willow: “Just so you know? I'm prepared to hate this woman any way you want.”
Buffy: “Thanks, but no. I don't wanna seem all petty.”
Willow: “Well, that's the beauty! You can't, but I can. Please. Let me carry the hate for the both of us.”
Buffy: “Go nuts.”

Sam: “I gotta tell you, Buffy, I'm a little bit intimidated. I mean, patrolling with the real live Slayer, you're like... Santa Claus, or Buddha, or something.”
Buffy: “Fat and jolly?”
Sam: “Legendary. And it's not just slayer status I'm talking about. It's you.”

Riley: “Wheel never stops turning, Buffy. You're up, you're down... it doesn't change what you are. And you are a hell of a woman.”

Buffy: “I'm using you. I can't love you. I'm just... being weak, and selfish...”
Spike: “Really not complaining here.”
Buffy: “...and it's killing me. I have to be strong about this. I'm sorry... William.”

AND ANOTHER THING

Spike's record collection can be seen in the moment before Buffy shoots it - "The Keller Family Sings" plus the soundtrack album to "The Wiz" are visible.

On Buffy's rejection letter for readmission to UC Sunnydale, her address is printed as 1630 Crestview instead of 1630 Revello. Oops!

Ivana Milicevic who plays Riley's wife Sam played the small villainous role of Valenka in Bond film Casino Royale (2006)

HOW MANY STAKES?

It's a Finn old time for sure. 3 (out of 5)