Tuesday, 14 February 2012
BUFFY: 4.22 ‘RESTLESS'
Some of the best funny bits of season four
WRITER: Joss Whedon
DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
With the battle against Adam and his demon horde won, an exhausted Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander return to Buffy’s house to relax and chill out. Soon, though, they all fall asleep, in to what will turn out to be very, very strange and potentially deadly dreams in which something angry and primal is stalking them — the spirit of the First Slayer, furious that her power was invoked for the gang's enjoining spell. And original slayer wants to make ‘em pay.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
Where to start with Restless?
It’s perhaps the strangest, weirdest, (arguably) smartest episode of the entire series. Joss decided to end season four in a way no one expected, or that had been done before to my knowledge on a major US TV series. Here we delve deep in to Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander’s subconscious’s through their dreams. Dreams which play out just as dreams usually play out – disjointed, apparently nonsensical, surreal.
There’s a lot here to explore, to think about.
Joss says he pretty much sat down and wrote by free association, letting it all tumble out of his head on to the page. And you can tell. That kind of writing works well here as dreams are often like that - a jumble of images, of ideas, hard to interpret. But there’s also lots of foreshadowing of future events in Restless – mostly from season five with a certain unexpected arrival, but also from season six and what happens to Willow. And then a certain major event from season seven concerning Spike. It’s subtle but it is all there.
For Willow it seems her fears are of being a major player in all things Scooby and that she’ll not be truly accepted for who she is by her friends. Her biggest fear, though, seems to be that underneath the cool, cute, magiced-up College girl Willow, she is still really the mousy, insecure little geek from school.
On to Xander, whose fears are mostly about him being trapped in a loser life, stuck in bad low paid jobs and never escaping his parents’ basement. Oh, plus some guilt around being kinda hot for both Willow and Tara and, ahem, Buffy’s mom.
Giles, meanwhile, seems to focus on how he treats and relates to Buffy, seeing her as a little girl, an innocent, naïve daughter who he must be hard and strict with in order to keep her safe.
Finally, Buffy herself deals with issues such as marginalising her mother (who literally becomes part of the building, living inside its walls) and confronting the source of her power as well as the question of who and what she really is.
In the end Buffy confronts the First Slayer who is furious that Buffy isn’t like her: a pure primal power for killing and nothing more. Buffy settles in her own mind that she is much more than that, and that she has to have her friends back, that she needs them to be strong, to keep her as her and not as something similar to the First Slayer. This fundamental realisation forces the dreams to come to an end and the gang to wake up, disturbed but in one piece and with lots to ponder over, just like the audience.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
The First Slayer
WHY IT ROCKS
1. Original. Restless is like nothing else I’ve seen on TV. Sure, other TV shows have gone weird and trippy, but not with the same depth of meaning, clues, signs and portents which do pay off in future seasons. Often weird and trippy is just weird and trippy for its own sake. Not here. Joss’s idea was to as accurately as possible capture the look and feel of a genuine dream but to layer it with meaning and with ideas and clues to be argued and debated over by fans until time itself ends.
2. Direction. This episode is beautifully directed. The camera work, composition, cinematography is quite something. Individual shots are quite stunning as are the dissolves. It kinda reminded me in places of a Tarsem Singh film, just not quite as visually batty. The use of the interconnected sets at the studio Buffy was filmed in is quite ingenious too, allowing characters to, in a single unbroken shot, literally step from, say, the Bronze right in to Xander’s basement, then on in to a Sunnydale U hallway etc. Its how the studio space was arranged for real but is also quite odd and jarring when watched as part of a constructed narrative. Two of my fave directed bits are the black and white Spike-striking-poses sequence and the single slow motion close up shot of Ms Kitty Fantastico walking towards camera. Joss was really rockin’ the camera on this one.
3. The First Slayer. Actress/model Sharon Ferguson does a great job as the First Slayer being full of so much wordless, primal power and lethal ferocity. With her animalistic movements, long wild hair and war paint she makes for a truly scary figure. Thankfully we will see her again in future eps of Buffy.
4. The Cheese Man. Perhaps no other character in Buffy outside of the core group has been more discussed/debated/pondered than the mysterious cheese man, a happy bespectacled chap who turns up now and again to talk about and offer to the Scoobies some slices of processed cheese. Bizarre! I have nothing. Joss…?
5. Spike’s b&w photo shoot. As mentioned earlier, really cool sequence. James Marsters is clearly having way too much fun striking those cheesy poses.
6. Guest stars. Yay! Oz is back, albeit a dream Oz in Willow’s head seen canoodling with Tara in class. Still, it’s Oz. Big smile. Plus we get Phina Oruche back as Giles’ on and off girlfriend Olivia playing mommy figure to Buffy in Giles’s dream. But best of all is the excellent Armin Shimerman back as odious (now eaten by giant snake demon) Principle Snyder doing his best Marlon Brando/Colonel Kurtz impression. Love it.
WHY IT SUCKS
It doesn't suck. But I get why some people wouldn’t like it. It is weird. It is rather self indulgent. It is mostly about Joss getting to play in his sandbox and doing what ever the hell he wants to do. But so what? Joss doing what he wants to do almost always ends up being out of this world awesome! Just as it is here.
Spike striking a pose
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Xander: “Apocalypse Now is a gay romp. It's the feel-good movie of whatever year it was.”
Xander: (to Willow) “So whatcha been doin'? Doing spells? (to Oz) She does spells with Tara.”
Oz: “Yeah, I've heard about that.”
Xander (dreamily): “Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell... and then I do a spell by myself.”
Buffy: “But what else could I expect from a bunch of low-rent, no-account hoodlums like you? Hoodlums, yes, I mean you and your friends, your whole sex. Throw 'em in the sea for all I care. Throw 'em in and wait for the bubbles. Men, with your groping and spitting. All groin, no brain. Three billion of ya' passin' around the same worn out urge. Men... with your sales.”
Cheese Guy (to Giles, while wearing two slice of cheese on his head): “I wear the cheese, it does not wear me.”
Giles: “Somehow our joining with Buffy and invoking the essence of the Slayer's power was an affront to the source of that power.”
Buffy: “You know you could have brought that up to us before we did it.”
Giles: “I did. I said there could be dire consequences.”
Buffy: “Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast.”
AND ANOTHER THING
1. This episode marks Seth Green’s final ever appearance in Buffy, though not Oz’s. The character returned in the Season 8 comic book series where he was living happily in Tibet with a wife and child…until Buffy and her band of on the run slayers turn up.
2. The outfit Willow wears in her dream, after Buffy rips off her "costume," is the exact same outfit she wore in Buffy 1.1 'Welcome to the Hellmouth.'
3. A quote from Joss re. The Cheese Man: "The cheese man means nothing. He is the only thing in the show that means nothing. I needed something like that, something that couldn't be explained, because dreams always have that one element that is just RIDICULOUS. Thus, man of cheese. Plus funny. (to me)"
4. When Giles is singing at the Bronze, Buffy composer Christophe Beck and Four Star Mary (the real band behind Dingoes Ate My Baby) are all onstage with him.
HOW MANY STAKES?
Cave Slayer is very angry! 5 (out of 5)
And so ends my Buffy Season Four retrospective. It’s on to season five soon.