Tuesday, 15 November 2011
BUFFY: 4.03 ‘THE HARSH LIGHT OF DAY’
Spike v Buffy smackdown
WRITER: Jane Espenson
DIRECTOR: James A. Contner
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
Spike is back in Sunnydale. He’s searching for the mythical Gem of Amara - a precious stone that can, according to legend, render any vampire who wears it unkillable. The gang finds out and Buffy sets out to find Spike and stop him before he can find the Gem and become invulnerable. But Spike hasn’t come back alone. Drusilla is AWOL still. So instead Spike has now hooked up with…Harmony! Um, Harmony? Cordy’s one time airhead best friend? Yes indeed. It was a small bit in the ‘Graduation Day part 2’ end battle but Harm got bit by a vamp and is now a denizen of the night, though she is still just as vapid and airheaded as always. And now, for some bizarre reason, Spike has hooked up with her, even though she is steadily driving him nuts with her continual inane chatter and constant demands. Meanwhile, Buffy has hooked up with smooth and seemingly sensitive fellow student Parker Abrams. She spends the night with the guy after they go to a party, only for him to latterly cruelly discard her as nothing more than a bit of fun. Poor Buff is confused and emotionally wounded by this rejection and just doesn’t understand. At the same time, ex-vengeance demon and now cute human girl Anya confronts Xander, saying she wants to have sex with him to try and get him out of her head. Being a guy and apparently unable to resist Anya’s, um, charms, Xander agrees and they do indeed do the deed. But afterwards things don’t quite work out as Anya had planned.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
The emotional implications of sex. Oh, and bad, bad men. We can be such a thoughtless, cruel, unfeeling bunch. Well, at least the guys in this episode of Buffy are. This is basically about emotionally vulnerable girls being ‘taken advantage of’ by predatory men. Okay, in Xander’s case that’s kinda unfair as Anya is basically doing all the predating. But Xander could see she was acting strange and was clearly confused and vulnerable, yet he still went ahead and got his jollies. Meanwhile it is obvious that Spike is with Harmony for only one reason. He clearly can’t stand her and is continually and viciously mean to her, even going so far as to try to kill her at one point. Yep, she is annoying, and a soulless demon, but even so. And then there’s Buffy. Suckered in by ‘sensitive’ sweet talker Parker. He tells her just what she wants and needs to hear, and thus gets her in to bed, getting his jollies, before then cutting her loose and moving on to the next potential conquest. The episode ends badly for the three main women of the piece with the final shot being of Buffy, Harmony and Anya all walking away in different directions, moving slowly, sadly, in to darkness.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Spike and nasty Parker.
WHY IT ROCKS
Jane Espenson. Yep, it’s a Jane Espenson script. So you’re gonna get some great character beats and some big funny amidst the drama and thematic depth. This episode has one of my all time favourite lines in Buffy. After a pouty Harmony says to Spike, “You love that tunnel more than me,” Spike replies caustically, “I love syphilis more than you!”
Spike. It’s James Marsters playing Spike. ‘nuff said.
Anya. Not only do we get the return of Spike – the best character in all of Buffy and (in my opinion) all of TV ever, but we also get the return of ex-vengeance demon Anya and her innocently direct, often horribly rude, yet always hilarious attitude. Emma Caulfield is simply brilliant. Anya rocks!
Music. There are some good tunes in this episode, especially at the party Buffy and Parker go to where for some reason the then already famous singer Biff Naked is playing.
Daylight vamp fight. The daytime showdown between a gem wearing Spike and an emotionally bruised Buffy is small scale but is still an inventive, well-staged battle. The fight blocking and stunt work is top notch.
Crossover. This story leads directly in to Angel episode 1.3 ‘In the Dark’ in which Oz brings the Gem of Amara to Angel in LA as a gift from Buffy only for Spike to show up and try to get it back. Back then, before Buffy moved to UPN from season six, Angel aired directly after Buffy on the WB. Two hours of solid Buffyverse every week. Yay!
Harm’s Way. A special shout out to Mercedes McNab who returns as Harmony and has much more to do now that Harm’s joined the fang gang. She makes for a wonderfully shallow, ditzy vampire.
WHY IT SUCKS
It doesn’t. Spike returns and he is brilliant. As does Anya. My only issues are how come someone as famous as Biff Naked would be openly playing a frat party? And how does Buffy manage to wake up the next morning after a night of raucous sex looking a million dollars and with not a single hair out of place. Only on TV.
Xander’s explosive cranberry juice reaction when he turns around and sees Anya naked. Heh.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Buffy: “Harmony’s a vampire? She must be dying without a mirror.”
Anya: “Sometimes, in my dreams, you're all naked.”
Xander: “Really? You know, if I'm in the checkout lane at the Wal-Mart I've had the same one.”
Anya: “I like you. You're funny and you're nicely shaped, and frankly it's ludicrous to have these interlocking bodies and not... interlock. Please remove your clothing now.”
Xander: “And the amazing thing? Still more romantic than Faith.”
Harmony: “You love that tunnel more than me.”
Spike: “I love syphilis more than you.”
Oz (to Giles): “OK, either I'm borrowing all your records or I'm moving in.”
Spike (to Buffy): “So, you let Parker take a poke, eh? Didn't seem like you knew each other that well. What exactly did it take to pry apart the Slayer's dimpled knees?”
Buffy: “So what I'm wondering is: does this always happen? Sleep with a guy and he goes all evil?”
AND ANOTHER THING
Harmony's last name is Kendall. The character Sarah Michelle Gellar played on US soap All My Children was named Kendall. A little inside joke?
The album that Oz holds up at Giles' place is Loaded, the Velvet Underground's 1970 album.
James Marsters was uncredited in the original airing of this episode (he is later added to the opening credits).
HOW MANY STAKES?
This one’s a Gem (of Amara). 4.5 (out of 5)