Saturday, 19 February 2011

Buffy: 3.6 ‘Band Candy’

Short and funny tribute vid

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Michael Lange

What's the sitch?

The gang is told by odious Principle Snyder to sell as much chocolate as they can in order to raise money for the school band. However they soon discover that the chocolate they’ve been given to sell is cursed and is addictive to adults and regresses them in to behaving as if they were teenagers again, leading to chaos in Sunnydale. It turns out that this ‘Band Candy’ scam is being managed by Giles’ old friend/nemesis Ethan Rayne. But this time Ethan is being sub-contracted by Mr Trick on behalf of The Mayor, who needs to make a special and particularly horrible tribute to a demon, a tribute he’d be unable to make unless the town’s adults are otherwise distracted. Can Buffy save the day while also contending with Giles and her mom getting it on like frisky teenagers, and a weasely Snyder tagging along, desperate to stay in with the cool kids? My money is on the Slayer.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

Maturity vs. immaturity. We all have it in us. You don’t need to be sixteen to act like a sixteen year old. Buffy is acting immaturely at the start of this episode and gets lectured by her mum and by Giles. But she has an excuse. She is immature. She’s a teen. She has yet to mature. What Band Candy does is to give us a glimpse of the show's so-called adults as teens, to see how they react and deal with things when they were the same age as the Scooby gang. And it’s quite illuminating…and very, very funny. It’s the old Back to the Future thing where mum says ‘I never asked a boy out or parked in cars with boys…’ and then Marty finds out she did all that and more. Likewise Buffy finds out just what Giles and her mum were like at her age. Her mum seems a bit of an airhead and, er, kinda easy, while Giles is pretty much a trouble-making thug. So Buffy is now forced to be the adult and to take charge of things, ordering around her mum and Giles as if they were the wayward teens. Most amusing.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

Mr Trick, The Mayor, Ethan Rayne, and a baby-eating demon called Larconis.

Why it rocks

Like Xander might say: “Mmm, chocolatey goodness! “ Band Candy is simply one of THE great episodes of Buffy. It’s a great concept and is very, very funny.

Giles as teen Ripper. “Ooh, Copper’s got a gun!”

‘Teen’ Giles and Joyce make for a really great pair.

Tony Head (Giles) and Kristine Sutherland (Joyce) are wonderful and are plainly having a blast.

Buffy’s driving skills (or lack of).

Armin Shimerman as weasely ‘teen’ Snyder.

Harry Groener as The Mayor.

Mr Trick making an example of an innocent employee.

Buffy’s horror at her mum and Giles constantly making out.

Ethan Rayne. Gotta love Robin Sachs.

The Bronze filled with raving oldies and Willow’s horror at seeing her doctor stage diving.

Xander wondering why the chocolate didn’t make him immature, saying he’s eaten loads and doesn’t feel any different. Heh.

Why it sucks

The whole band candy thing seems rather a convoluted and elaborate distraction to enable The Mayor to have his henchman steal five or six babies from the hospital.

Where’s Faith? She’s MIA for this episode, mores the pity.

It's Buftastic

Buffy first spying Giles and her mom making out in the street. A greatly timed gag as she at first walks past them, oblivious, then freezes in horror, and turns back, crying out, “Mom? Giles?”

Dialogue to die for

Oz: They're teenagers. It's a sobering mirror to look into, huh?

Snyder: Whoa, Summers! You drive like a spaz!

Buffy: Giles at sixteen? Less Together Guy, more Bad-Magic-Hates-The-World-Ticking-Time-Bomb Guy.

Willow (reading graffiti on the school lockers): 'Kiss rocks'? Why would anyone want to kiss... Oh, wait. I get it.

Xander: These things are selling like hot cakes…which is ironic, ‘cos the hot cakes really aren’t moving.

And another thing

This is the first Buffy episode by the great Jane Espenson, who would go on to write some of the best and funniest episodes of Buffy as well as write/produce for Battlestar Galactica, Caprica and the new incarnation of Torchwood.

How many stakes?

I like Candy. 4.5 (out of 5)

Buffy: 3.5 'Homecoming'

Vote Cordy…or else!

Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: David Greenwalt

What's the sitch?

Buffy gets dumped by dullboy Scott and decides to run for Homecoming Queen to cheer herself up...much to Cordelia's extreme annoyance. The two wannabe queens fall out big time and battle lines are drawn with Xander, Willow and Oz caught in the middle. Meanwhile, Mr Trick, now running solo and freed from his Kakistos support role, has organised a special event: Slayerfest 98, where competing teams pay for the opportunity to take down both slayers and win the grand prize. Using his, er, trickiness and cunning, Trick captures what he thinks is Buffy and Faith on their way together to the Homecoming dance...except it is actually Buffy and Cordy. You see, their friends have tricked them both in to riding the limo together in order to sort out their issues. Unfortunately the pair soon gets dumped in the middle of nowhere and must go on the run for their lives while being pursued by various nasty hunters of the demon and human variety.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

Thematically this is all about Buffy feeling lost and adrift in her life. It's the 'I just want to be a normal girl with a normal life' thing. Buffy’s favourite teacher doesn't remember her and she feels unknown to most people at school. So she decides to reinvent herself as Homecoming Queen in order to become someone again. Unfortunately this puts her on a collision course with Cordy who can't understand why Buffy would even care about such things when she's the Slayer. Cordy being Cordy is wonderfully clueless. And so Buffy has to explain it to her, how she just wants to have some normal high school experiences to look back on, to have been known by people for something other than killing things and beating people up.

Why it rocks

Quite simply this is a great script by David Greenwalt. It juggles teen angst, teen hormones (Xander and Willow getting smoochy), sharp smart comedy and lots of cool action with aplomb. You get the sharp smart funny of a really good high school comedy like, say, 'Easy A' mixed with some angsty drama, real character development, and some mightily cool action sequences, all brilliantly performed by the cast. All in all this is a near perfect hour of entertainment.

Mr Trick is back. Love this guy. Slayerfest '98 is a great 'Hard Target' idea.

Cordy and the spatula.

Giles's joke to a morose looking Xander and Willow.

Cordy and the gun.

The brilliant montage of Buffy and Cordy competing for votes.

The traded bitchy insults. “Vapid whore!” LOL

Buffy's cunning plan to defeat the snipers using wet toilet paper. Love her.

Faith getting back at Scott for dumping Buffy. Love her too.

Harry Groener as The Mayor, my fave Buffy big bad of all. Love him.

Last but by no means least...Charisma Carpenter. She's truly excellent here. The entire cast is great but this is her show. Like Nicholas Brendon, Charisma is a natural comic actor and would have been great in her own situation comedy. The producers felt the same and in Season 3 of Angel she does get to star in her own sitcom…albeit an alternate universe one called 'Cordy'. Its a shame Charisma's post Buffy/Angel career has gone mostly nowhere. I say get Charisma, Nicky Brendon and Alexis Denisof to co-star in their own new sitcom. If only poor Andy Hallet were still with us then he would be in it too. Other Whedonverse peeps can guest star. Oh, and get David Greenwalt and Jane Espenson to write it. Hey, I can dream.

Why it sucks

Oh no, it's a Gorch Brother.

Not enough Faith.

Okay, I'm struggling now. Uh...nope that's all I got. Love this episode.

Dialogue to die for

Xander: Buffy and Faith are in the library getting all sweaty.
Cordelia: They're training.
Xander: I stand by my phrase.

Oz (to Buffy apologetically): As Willow goes, so goes my country.

Cordelia: Rip out my innards, play with my eyeballs, boil my brain and eat it for brunch? Listen up, needle-brain. Buffy and I have taken out four of your cronies, not to mention your girlfriend.
Lyle Gorch: WIFE!
Cordelia: Whatever. The point is… I haven't even broken a sweat. See, in the end, Buffy's just the runner-up. *I'm* the Queen. You get me mad, what do you think I'm gonna do to you?

Buffy (to Cordy): Vapid whore!

It's Bufftastic

Ooh, so many, but I'm going with Cordy and the spatula. It just made me laugh out loud.

And another thing

Chad Stahelski, who played spiny-headed demon Kulak in this episode, was regularly employed on Buffy as David Boreanaz's stunt double.


Buffy vs. Cordy. Gotta love it. 4.5 (out of 5)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Feel the Force (minus midichlorians)

Okay, so, I just finished watching The Empire Strikes Back on TV. I didn’t know it was on and just stumbled across it right as it was starting.

I hadn’t intended to watch a Star Wars movie today, but darn it, Irvin Kershner’s classic drew me in immediately. Those stunning FX, that incredible score, that smart, snappy script, that gorgeous Peter Suschitzky cinematography, and most of all those brilliant characters played to the hilt by the pitch perfect ensemble. Films don’t get much better than this. And when they do they tend to have Harrison Ford in them again, only brandishing a bullwhip instead of a blaster.

I haven’t watched The Empire Strikes Back for a few years now. Watching it again today it struck me just what a timeless, gripping, beautiful, character driven adventure it is from first to final frame. It is the best of the Star Wars saga. And if you disagree then you are just plain wrong. What Kershner and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan did was to make Empire a darker film and more adult in tone and theme, and to push the characters to the forefront. And all without sacrificing any of the escapist fun of the original. They also introduced a rather old fashioned sense of character interplay – especially with the Han/Leia relationship with 3P0 as the clueless gooseberry. It kinda feels like a zippy, witty 1940’s romantic comedy…only set in a galaxy far, far away. Wonderful stuff. And of course this relationship culminates in the famous “I love you”, “I know,” moment - one of the greatest and most perfect moments in cinema history. The entire cast is great but it is Harrison Ford who truly leaps off the screen at you. The guy is a charisma explosion. Han Solo rocks!

Now, one major gripe.

The version shown was the latest messed up special edition version. Along with the 1997 added shots of the Wampa chewing on bloody meat (nice but totally pointless) and some amended shots opening out Cloud City (lovely and adds more scope), Lucas also latterly added in Ian McDairmid as the Emperor and Temuera Morrison’s voice for Boba Fett. Okay, now both of these things I can live with as they make sense in the overall saga.

But now here’s the kicker.

What I can’t abide nor forgive is Lucas hacking away at the editing of the final escape from Cloud City. For some utterly incomprehensible reason George insisted on dropping in two long sequences of Vader getting on board his shuttle on Bespin, then a few seconds later, his shuttle landing on the Star Destroyer and him disembarking. This is utterly pointless. Vader already tells an officer earlier to prepare his shuttle. In the original movie we next see him walking on to the Star Destroyer’s bridge, which works perfectly. C’mon George, the audience aren’t idiots. You already told us what was happening. We can add one plus one and make two. You didn’t have to spoil the razor sharp editing/pacing of the final escape by dropping in two utterly redundant sequences of someone getting on and then off a ship. Ah, but I forgot, you love those shots, don’t you George? The prequels are littered with them. Ships landing and taking off, landing and taking off, landing and…oh, you get the picture.


Okay, rant over.

New rant.

Despite the lousy tinkering mentioned above, Empire shows up just how shite the prequels are.

I rewatched Revenge of the Sith for the first time in ages a couple of weeks back and was shocked at how shit it actually is. And it’s the best of the prequels. Now, I still do enjoy them as they are still Star Wars films and do have some great individual moments and some mighty cool action sequences, but artistically and dramatically they are almost entirely dead weight. They are flashy but hollow, lifeless cartoons based on what feel like first draft screenplays that needed a ton of work to whip them in to any kind of shape. Look, if you don’t believe me just rewatch Empire and witness how to make a sleek, smart, exciting, funny, touching, character driven sci fi fantasy adventure. Then watch The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and laugh for all the wrong reasons and then have a good cry at the right royal butt fucking George gave his own classic myth. And if you still don’t believe me go watch the infamous Plinkett reviews where he dissects each prequel and forces you to understand just how cack they really are. Great looking cack for sure. But cack all the same. Give me Luke, Han and Leia any day over the characterless mannequins of Episodes 1,2 & 3.

Anyway, I dread to think what has now been done to the original films for their Bluray release, or what is being planned for their eventual 3D upgrade. Please, just stop screwing around with the original trilogy, George. They are pretty much perfect…or at least they were until you started ‘prequelising’ them. And please put the Bespin escape in Empire back to how it originally was. And if for some reason you do feel the need to further tinker with your Star Wars films, then go tinker away with the prequels. Better still, dump them entirely and get in some other talented writers and directors to remake them from scratch, the kind of people who still have a grasp of character, drama and theme, who know how to make smart, compelling, emotional sci fi space operas that leap off of the screen. Kinda like what Joss Whedon did with Firefly, or what Ron Moore did with BSG. Just an idea.

May the force be with you. (Minus midichlorians)

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Buffy: 3.4 'Beauty and the Beasts'

WAAHHH! I'm all veiny!

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James Whitmore Jr

What's the sitch?

Corpses who've been mauled to death start turning up around town and Buffy fears it might be down to Angel, who she's found in an almost mindless, feral state after his mysterious return. A return Buffy is keeping a secret, not telling anyone, not even Giles. She also has to regularly see the school’s therapist as part of her re-admittance. Meanwhile Willow fears the killer might be Oz, because in wolf mode he escaped from the library book cage (after Xander fell asleep while on guard duty) around the same time the murders happened. As it turns out neither vampire nor werewolf are responsible for the killings. The culprit is actually Pete, a friend of Buffy’s new beau, dull Scott Hope. You see Pete, a science genius, is also deeply insecure in his relationship with his long-time love, Debbie, who happens to be a platonic friend of Oz's. And so to compensate for his perceived inadequacies, Pete has invented a potion that enhances his masculine, aggressive side so as to (he believes) keep Debbie interested. Unfortunately the potion messes with Pete's mind and physically transforms him in to a strong and murderous Mr Hyde type who is also immensely abusive to Debbie. Pretty soon Oz becomes concerned for Debbie, and Pete starts seeing Oz as a threat to his relationship. So he decides to take some action against our favourite hirsute guitarist. Cue a Mr Hyde vs werewolf showdown.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

More of the old beast within sitch. Oz is an unwilling victim of is internal beast but he manages to control it – mostly because he loves Willow. Angel has reverted to a beast and yet somehow keeps a level of control and instinctual protectiveness of Buffy. But Pete willingly reverts to a bestial state through misguided fear of losing Debbie and is own deep insecurities. The three love struck women in the episode each has a beast of a boyfriend– Buffy with Angel, Willow with Oz and Debbie with Pete. But it is only Debbie who cannot or will not admit to Pete's behaviour. She's become far to dependent and beaten down. Basically this is your abusive controlling boyfriend metaphor given a Sunnydale twist.

Why it rocks

Seth Green. We get to see more of Oz and how he relates to others on a personal level. Turns out he's a great guy, a caring guy. Like we didn't already know.

This works quite well as a mystery whodunit. We aren't sure who is the killer until later on in the episode.

Poor Buffy. Finding Angel returned sends her whole world in to a spin. She was just recovering and now it all goes kaphlooey again. The kid never gets a break.

Why it sucks

This is a dull filler episode that goes nowhere. Feel free to skip it.

The metaphor is too glaring and the overall story just ain't very good. Pete is an idiot and a pretty rubbish beast with his blistery red face. Plus Debbie is the worst kind of simpering victim who is just there to be abused and to suffer. At least Lily aka Chantarelle, another simpering girly girl, develops and grows over time. But Debbie is the worst kind of victim - a willingly helpless one.

The new werewolf design is terrible. It's like a flat faced monkey and about as scary as a pair of socks.

Is it just me or how the heck can such a puny looking book cage hold a ferocious werewolf?

Not enough Faith.

Dialogue to die for

Xander: Oz doesn't eat people. It's more werewolf play. You know, 'I bat you around a little bit. Like a cat toy. I have harmless wolf fun.' Is it Oz's fault, that, you know, side effect, people get cut to ribbons, and maybe then he'll take a little nibble and...I'm not helping am I?

Buffy (arriving at the school shrink’s office): Buffy Summers, reporting for sanity.

Giles: Clearly, we're looking for a depraved, sadistic animal.
Oz: Present. I may be a cold-blooded jelly doughnut, but my timing is impeccable.

Giles (getting accidentally shot in the arse with a tranquilliser dart): Right! Bloody priceless...

It's Bufftastic

Giles getting accidentally shot by the tranquilliser meant for Oz. “Right! Bloody priceless...” then collapsing unconscious.

And another thing

The story uses Jack London's Call of the Wild as a touchstone with Willow reading it to Oz in werewolf form. However the passages read are not actually from the book but are paraphrased from different parts of the book.

Mr. Platt, the school shrink’s smoking reinforces the show's clear bias against smoking. Every character in the show who has smoked has been either evil (Spike and the evil Angel), doomed (Laura in "Nightmares" and the woman who was Angel's first kill after re-losing his soul) or both (Sheila in "School Hard"). And now Mr Platt.

In the locker room behind Buffy is an anti-violence poster that reads 'Most Women Aren't Attracted to Dead Guys.' Oh the irony.

Willow has a Scooby Doo lunch box. Heh.


This beast needs putting down. 1.5 (out of 5)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Buffy: 3.3 'Faith, Hope & Trick'

Clips of this episode to a song by Silverchair.

Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: James A Contner

What's the sitch?

There are two new big bad vampires in town - the ancient, cloven-handed Kakistos, and his whip smart right-hand-vamp, the sharp suited, slick-tongued Mr Trick. Mr Trick sees opportunities aplenty in Sunnydale. He wants to take advantage of modern technology and make the town their's, turning it in to a super efficient vampire haven. But the evil Kakistos is there for one reason and one reason only: he has a score to settle with a slayer. Meanwhile Buffy is being urged by her friends to move on romantically and to accept the numerous invites for a date from nice, normal (dull) fellow student Scott Hope. Buffy resists for a while. But eventually, and after a series of false starts, she caves and decides to go out with dullard Scott but not before her attempted rescue of a girl from a vamp at the Bronze backfires. Because as said girl kicks the vamps ass and then dusts it, it becomes clear that, as Oz says, “I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that there's a new slayer in town.”

Say hello to Faith the Vampire Slayer.

Cordy puts it together for us by explaining that Faith was called when Kendra died. Faith then tells the gang that she's come to Sunnydale as her watcher has headed off to England for an annual watcher's retreat. So, left to her own devices, Faith decided to take off and come find Buffy. All the gang are mighty impressed by tough, sexy, confident, streetwise Faith. Even Joyce sees her as a good role model for Buffy. But Buff is getting jealous of Faith’s effect on her friends. Plus she also smells a rat in her sister slayer's story when she sees that Faith enjoys pummelling vamps a little bit too much. It soon turns out that Buffy is right. Faith lied to them all. She is in fact on the run with her watcher dead at the cloven hands of Kakistos...but not before Faith seriously scarred the old vamp, who now wants bloody revenge on her. But this time the odds are in Faith's favour. So it's double slayer trouble for nasty old vampire dude.

This episode ends with Buffy, seemingly having now put Angel behind her, being ready to move on with her life. But after she leaves his abandoned mansion, leaving behind the ring Angel gave her for her birthday last year, a flash of light in the darkness and a falling body mark the return of a certain brooding vampire with a soul.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

Not much here metaphor-wise as this is primarily a plot functional episode designed to introduce Faith and reintroduce Captain Forehead as Spike would call him. Theme and character-wise, though, this is mainly about Buffy still trying to move on after Angel, while also feeling threatened when this new, hip, sexy, tough as nails slayer hits town and dazzles everyone with her hot looks, cool talk, and raucous stories.

Why it rocks

Faith. What more do you need?

After Spike, Faith Lehane is my favourite character in the entire Buffyverse and the larger Whedonverse. Like Spike, Faith is such a complex and multi-faceted character. You are never really sure where she's coming from or what she'll do next. Also like Spike, she makes for a great hero and an equally great villain. But she is always sympathetic even when doing really bad things. Faith is the flip side of the coin to Buffy. She's how our girl could have turned out without the love and support of her family and friends. Interestingly we get a glimpse of that other Buffy in the forthcoming Season 3 episode 'The Wish' that sees an alternate universe in which Buffy never came to Sunnydale. When she does finally arrive she is much like Faith – tough, cynical, battle hungry. Unlike Kendra who was born in to the world of Slaying, Faith was, like Buffy, brought in much later. But unlike Buffy, Faith came from a background of poverty, abuse and neglect. Her mother was a drug addict and prostitute who eventually died, and her father is in prison. She has no friends and no other family. She's a deeply troubled loner, a heavily damaged young girl. Of course none of this is known in this episode. Most of it comes to light in future episodes and in the excellent novel 'Go Ask Malice' which tells us Faith's story up until she takes off for Sunnydale. It is telling that Faith's reaction to becoming a slayer is the polar opposite to that of Buffy, and also of her predecessor Kendra. For Buffy, being a slayer is a terrible burden and something that is always spoiling her life. For Kendra, being a slayer was a sacred calling and an integral part of who she was. But for Faith, being a slayer is a blast! It's simply the best thing that's ever happened to her. It's one big party and gives her a sense of purpose, of power, and a way to express herself that she has never had.

Eliza Dushku. As Faith, Eliza has 'mad skills' and she's 'Five by Five'. What can I say? I love her. From our first proper introduction to Eliza in this role while slaying a vamp outside The Bronze, she has the dark sexiness and cool charismatic attitude down pat. She's gorgeous and she'll kick your ass in a heartbeat. Or if you're a guy she might just nail you whether you want her to or not. Either way you probably won't survive her. Later on in the season Xander very nearly doesn't. Eliza makes such an impact that she will forever be known primarily for this role. Whether she likes it or not she is, and always will be, Faith Lehane.

Mr Trick. Now here's a cool new take on the vampires in Buffy. Trick is not some old world monster or simple predatory demon. He's a slick, smart, organised, businessman who embraces the modern world and all it has to offer. He's also, after Kendra, the most prominent African-American character (so far) in Buffy. He does make the comment in this ep that Sunnydale is very Caucasian and not so friendly to 'the brothers' (by which he means both black people and vampires). This was something that always bothered me about Sunnydale. It is very white and Caucasian. Would it have killed Joss and co. to include a few more black, Asian, Hispanic faces in the school and wider town? So far the non-Caucasians who have turned up have had the Star Trek red shirt curse and all died – be they random vampires, or poor Kendra (mmm, Kendra). As Trick, K Todd Freeman is immediately a blast. He's a lot of fun to watch and you can't help but like the guy...even if he is a soulless evil monster.

Giles the great. Giles yet again proves what a great father figure he is by subtly pushing Buffy to open up about what really happened with Angel so that she can start to heal properly. At episodes end she finally admits to them that Angel got his soul back when she killed him.

Oz. Seth Green turning taciturn in to an art form.

Why it sucks

Kakistos is a bit crap. He's supposed to be this ancient and terrifying monster...but just looks like a big balding bloke with silly hands.

Joyce yet again fails in her motherly duties to Buffy. She can't help trash talking her daughter, putting her down...this time in front of Faith.

Scott Hope. Yikes! And some fans thought Riley Finn was dull.

Does anybody actually own Angel's mansion? Despite looking like a million bucks it remains abandoned.

It's Bufftastic

Faith's introduction. Yay!

Dialogue to die for

Willow (to Buffy about Scott Hope): He wanted to ask you out last year, but you weren't ready then. But I think you're ready now. Or at least in the state of pre-readiness to make conversation. Or to do that thing with your mouth that boys like. (Buffy glares at her) Oh! I didn't mean that bad thing with your mouth, I meant that little half-smile thing that you... (to Oz) You're supposed to stop me when I do that.

Willow (to Faith): Oz is a werewolf.
Buffy: It's a long story.
Oz: I got bit.
Buffy: Apparently not that long.

Faith (handing back Buffy's stake to her after some slaying): Thanks B. Couldn't have done it without ya!

And another thing

Although Faith looks like the oldest of the youngsters on the show, Eliza was in fact the youngest. She had only just finished High School when she was cast as Faith and had just turned 18 when she started filming.

Eliza already had a career of note behind her prior to Buffy. She played Leonardo DiCaprio's little sister in This Boy's Life also alongside Robert DeNiro, and she was Arnold Schwarzenegger's daughter in James Cameron's True Lies. She temporarily gave up the acting though to concentrate on High School with Buffy being her first proper job after graduating.

The band playing in the Bronze are Darling Violetta who went on to compose and record the theme for Angel.


It's no Trick, Faith is ace. 3.5 (out of 5)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Buffy: 3.2 'Dead Man's Party'

This episode remade in Lego in under 3 mins. Silly.

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James Whitmore Jr

What's the sitch?

Buffy is back in Sunnydale. But things are tough. Her mom is overjoyed to have her home but is terrified her daughter will run off she is also secretly furious at Buffy for what she did. And Buffy's friends, though seemingly glad to have her back, are rather distant and awkward around her. There is a lot of pent up resentment and anger brewing that's about to explode. Only Giles is utterly relieved and overjoyed to have Buffy back, with no apparent bitterness towards her. So, in an attempt to make things better, Buffy's friends along with her mom decide to throw her a welcome home party at her house. Unfortunately that very same night an ancient African tribal mask that Joyce has brought home goes and turns all the recently deceased in town in to lumbering, murderous zombies. And said zombies then proceed to converge on the Summers’ house and crash Buffy's party just as tensions between Buffy, her mom, and her friends reaach breaking point.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

The meat of this episode is the character stuff and the fallout from Buffy's running away. The zombie malarkey is there just to show how when the chips are down Buffy and her friends will fall back in to Scooby mode and be there for each other. The most blatant metaphor at work here is Joyce and Buffy's row in front of a house full of people with Buffy blaming Joyce for telling her to leave when she discovered her daughter was the Slayer. Joyce defends herself by saying you don't just drop such a sudden bombshell on someone and expect them to deal and to act perfectly. This is an obvious continuation of the gay metaphor played up by Joss in Becoming – part 2.

Why it rocks

Lots of great character stuff with anger and resentment bubbling under before eventually boiling over.

A zombie cat. Heh.

Oz thinking the zombie cat is cool and wanting to name it 'Patches'.

Buffy's very funny near-panicked shout-out for her mom after opening the front door to Joyce's new busybody friend Pat.

Giles is so damn cool. He's the only one who doesn't give Buffy a hard time, being just so (secretly) overjoyed to have her back safe.

Snyder is on good odious form. His battle with Joyce over readmitting Buffy to school is entertaining. But he turns out to be no match for a sinister and threatening Giles, Buffy's heroic father figure who will do anything to get her back in school and her life back on track.

Why it sucks

The demon mask/zombie story is pretty lame. It just feels like a needless distraction from the real drama and character stuff.

The trashing of Buffy's house is a bit extreme. How does Joyce get all of that fixed? Oh, and the smashing in of the front door looks terrible. It looks like it's made out of paper.

What kind of museum lets someone (i.e. Joyce) take an ancient exhibit home to be hung on their bedroom wall?

Buffy's friends and her mom are way too hostile towards her and seem only too happy to humiliate poor Buffy in public. I mean what did she really do that was so bad? So she took off for a few weeks. So what? Considering what she went through this is some pretty bloody sadistic behaviour from Xander, Willow and Joyce towards the poor girl. Lest they forget she's a seventeen year old kid with the weight of the world on her shoulders who'd been forced in to doing something utterly awful. Have a heart people.

It's Buftastic

Oz and his zombie cat

Dialogue to die for

Buffy: I'd like to find Willow and Xander.
Joyce: Will you be slaying?
Buffy: Only if they give me lip.

Cordelia (after Giles brings the dead cat to the library): Nice pet, Giles. Don't you like anything regular? Golf, USA Today, or anything?

Giles (muttering to himself as he drives): 'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead.' Americans!

And another thing

This episode introduces a new location, a downtown corner plaza with an espresso bar.

Director James Whitmore Jr is the son of James Whitmore who played prison librarian Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption.


This party's kinda dead. 2 (out of 5)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Buffy: 3.1 ‘Anne’

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon

What's the sitch?

The new school year is about to start at Sunnydale High and Xander, Willow and Oz are valiantly (and only partially successfully) slaying vampires by night while preparing for the start of school by day. And all without thier missing vampire slaying friend who no one has seen or heard anything from all summer. Giles, meanwhile, has been following up potential leads and continually jetting off all over the country serching for Buffy...but to no avail. And as for Joyce, she's been waiting at home, beside herself with worry.

And so just what has become of our runaway Sayer?

Well, turns out she's been living alone in a run down area of LA, working as a waitress in a diner and calling herself Anne, her middle name. She just wants to be left alone to wallow in her misery, but a chance run in with Lily aka Chantarelle from last season’s ‘Lie To Me’ soon gets her embroiled in helping search for Lily's lost boyfriend. This eventually brings Buffy in to confrontation with a bunch of nasty demons masquerading as do-gooders for homeless kids. These demons are in fact kidnapping young runaways and taking them back to work as slaves in their own demon dimension, eventually returning the kids to Earth a few days later, only as old people who are about to die. You see, time moves much faster in the hell dimension than it does on Earth. Anyway, so Buffy ends up following Lily in to the hell dimension and our girl quickly leads a revolt, freeing the young slaves and slaying nasty demon boss ‘Ken’, before returning the captured kids back to our world. Back in LA, Lily takes over Buffy’s job, her room and the name of Anne, while Buffy heads back to Sunnydale to finally put her life together again.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

The main metaphor for this story is the despair and hell endured by kids that, for whatever reason, run away from home and end up living on the streets, becoming targets for abuse and exploitation, making them old before their time. And this is also about Buffy living in hell after what she’s gone through…but then fighting back and reclaiming her life and rediscovering who she is.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

Ken and his nasty demon slavers. And some random vamp that Willow, Xander nd Oz are trying and failing to slay.

Why it rocks

It’s a Joss episode. And it’s all metaphory.

There is one heck of a good and complicated (if very showy) continuous DePalma style take that follows Xander, Willow, Giles, Oz , Cordy and various other kids through and around the corridors of Sunnydale High as they all meet up and restart school.

Julia Lee who plays Lily aka Chantarelle aka Anne is a beautiful girl and makes for a very sweet character. She will come back a few times as ‘Anne’ in Angel, running a shelter for runaway kids.

Michael Gershman’s photography turned more colourful and glossy in this third year. The hell dimension scenes look especially great. After the first two years being shot on 16mm film, Season 3 shifted to the higher grade 35mm. As a result the image became sharper and richer, but also lost the moody grain of before.

‘Anne’ has what is possibly the single greatest fight scene in all seven seasons of Buffy, and one of the best ever seen on TV. Buffy’s run as she escapes the demon horde and then fights them all off in a continuous bone-breaking, knock down slug fest, is bloody marvellous. Seriously, this fight would look awesome in a major Hollywood movie.

The Gellar is back and giving great mope. Plus she has a new haircut with coloured streaks and stuff. Somehow she looks even younger and tinier in this episode than she did last season.

New title design. The ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ title card in the opening credits has been replaced with what is now seen as the definitive design.

Why it sucks

It’s a solid enough story and a pretty good (if unsubtle) metaphor…but it just doesn’t get up to the dizzying heights of Whedon’s last few efforts.

Lily is sweet and cute but is just a tad too simpering.

It's Buftastic

That epic Buffy vs. demons smackdown.

Dialogue to die for

Xander: You don't hide. You're bait. Go act baity.
Cordelia: What's the plan?
Xander: The vampire attacks you.
Cordelia: And then what?
Xander: The vampire kills you. We watch, we rejoice.

Buffy: You know, I just... I woke up, and I looked in the mirror, and I thought, hey, what's with all the sin? I need to change. I'm... I'm dirty. I'm, I'm bad with the... sex and the envy and that, that loud music us kids listen to nowadays. W...Oh, I just suck at undercover.

Demon Slave Master: Who are you?
Buffy: I'm Buffy. The Vampire Slayer. And you are...?

And another thing

Carlos Jacott who plays nasty Ken is a Whedon fave having been in both Angel and Firefly.

Street scenes from this episode find their way in to the opening credits of Angel.

Seth Green becomes a regular cast member in this episode.

This episode features the debut of a new opening credit sequence, with a re-recorded theme, new logo and a new montage of scenes.

Buffy's middle name is Anne. Here in the UK we have a chain of sex shops called Ann Summers. Maybe a little joke by Joss seeing as how he went to school over here for a while.

How many stakes?

Buffy go home. 3 (out of 5)