Tuesday, 2 July 2013
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER 6.1: BARGAINING (PART 1)
WRITER: Marti Noxon
DIRECTOR: David Grossman
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
And we’re back!
It’s been several months since Buffy died, sacrificing herself at Glory’s Tower to save her little sister as well as the rest of the world. Things in Sunnydale seem to have settled in to some sort of slaying routine, even without our deceased heroine being around. The gang, led by a mystic all seeing (and telepathic) Willow, are a well oiled slaying machine…kind of. They are all present and correct – Tara, Giles, Anya, Xander and Spike, all following Willow’s instructions to hunt down and slay a big fat vamp in the cemetery. Oh, and they have an ace up their sleeve. The Buffybot. The gang are using our reprogrammed electro girl to make the supernatural world think that the Slayer is still alive and kicking…their arses. And RoboBuffy has been doing a mighty fine job of it too, even cracking wise in a fight just like the real Buffster.
But no matter how good a copy she is, Buffybot is not the real Buffster.
The truth is Buffy’s demise has left a gaping hole in the lives of all the Scooby gang. They miss her terribly. Guilt is rife, especially from Giles and Spike. And poor Dawn, while putting a brave face on her loss, at night sneaks in to the room where the Buffybot recharges and secretly cuddles up to the robotic copy of her lost sister.
But unbeknownst to Dawn, Spike and Giles, Willow has a plan.
She’s refused to give up on the lost Slayer and has vowed to use whatever magic she can to bring Buffy back! Working secretly with Tara, Xander and Anya, she is preparing a dark and very dangerous spell to rescue Buffy from the eternal torment of the hell dimension in which she thinks Buffy is trapped. Willow declares that because Buffy died an unnatural death through mystic energy, they have a very good chance of bringing her back to life. Xander though is unsure, worried about the morality of what they plan to do. But Willow convinces him, mostly with the simple words: “It’s Buffy!” Xander can’t argue with that and agrees to help. The plan of resurrection is on for that very night.
Meanwhile, a weaselly little vampire has managed to cause a slight injury to Buffybot, exposing her electrical circuitry and damaging her navigational system, thus allowing the little monster to get away. He escapes with the knowledge that the Slayer is in fact nothing more than a machine and he ends up at an out of town bar where he tells his story to an ugly and vicious gang of motorcycle demons who all now know that with the real Slayer gone the Hellmouth is ripe for the taking. The vile gang heads off at top speed, violence on their minds, destination: Sunnydale.
Also meanwhile, Giles has decided to leave. He’s realised that with Buffy gone he has no real reason to stay. And so he secretly heads to the airport to catch a plane back to England. But the Scoobies discover what he is doing and they just about manage to get to the airport for a heartfelt goodbye before the G man’s flight is called. And so Giles leaves, not knowing that Willow and co. are planning on Bringing Buffy back that very same night; a plan he is not informed of as Willow knows that he would try to stop her.
And so later that night, gathered around Buffy’s grave, Willow begins the ritual with Tara, Xander and Anya looking on concerned.
Said ritual is dark, and it is extremely painful on Willow. Her flesh is slashed, bugs crawl under her skin, and she vomits up a snake! Xander tries to stop it but Tara stops him, saying Willow told her this would happen, that it is a test. But just as the ritual is building to its climax the demon biker gang shows up pursuing the Buffybot who is damaged and has automatically sought out Willow for repair. Then, right at the crucial moment of the ritual, a demon’s motorcycle goes and breaks the Urn of Osiris, abruptly ending Willow’s resurrection spell. Heartbroken by the perceived failure and terrified by the rampaging demons, the Scoobies flee in to the woods leaving behind the damaged Buffybot to be taunted and tortured by the evil horde.
Meanwhile, underground, inside her coffin, the withered corpse of Buffy Anne Summers is enveloped by mystical energy and begins to regenerate. After a few shimmering seconds, the now newly regenerated slayer opens her eyes and gasps for air. She’s alive! ALIVE!
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
Not too much in the way of underlying theme or subtext here. I guess the only obvious one is about how we each deal with loss - the refusal to believe it, to accept it, the guilt, the anger, the simple terrible absence in your life. All are shown here, though they are not explored in any great depth.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Demonic motorcycle gang The Hellions. Ugly bunch of suckers.
WHY IT ROCKS
Life goes on: the gang are all stepping up and dealing with life after Buffy. The world still thinks the Slayer is active. With Willow and Tara now living at 1630 Revello a new family unit has been created to look after Dawn and to keep things afloat. It all seems plausible and workable. And with Buffybot around, life, though different, appears not to be so bad. At least on the surface.
How we deal: There are some nice character beats throughout the ep. showing how the Scoobies are (and are not) dealing with the loss of the Buffster. Willow refuses to believe she is gone, being determined to put things right via magic at any cost (a portent of her fall from grace this season). Giles is feeling guilty and is full of self loathing, thinking he has finally achieved a Watchers role in life – to watch his Slayer die. Spike is angry with himself for having failed to save Buffy, for having failed to keep his promise to her to protect Dawn, and as a result has now turned in to Dawn’s constant babysitter, refusing to leave her on her own and unprotected. And Dawn, she is quietly accepting, though in secret she pines desperately for her sister. Only Xander seems to be the voice of reason and true acceptance. Of course that doesn’t last after Willow convinces him otherwise.
The set up: part 1 is of course all about showing where everyone is, physically, emotionally and mentally, and about getting them to the point of bringing Buffy back. The emotional beats provided by Marti Noxon’s functional yet emotionally engaging script are all honest and affecting. We feel the Scoobies sense of loss, of pain. We feel awful for poor Dawnie as she cuddles up at night to the Buffybot. We feel Giles’ stoic anguish, Willow’s stubborn refusal, and perhaps most of all, Spike’s barely restrained fury and pain. Soulless? No way.
Buffybot: Aw, I love her so much. The innocent, smiley, chirpy, ever helpful Buffybot. So cute. And SMG is fabulous at playing her. It’s such a great device to keep your star in the episode and the character around when she really isn’t. Plus she’s just so darn adorable. I especially like how Spike can’t look at her properly anymore and is devastated when a bit of her old ‘I adore Spike’ programming rears its head. It’s all about character.
The funny: for what could be a very depressing and mawkish episode Bargaining Part 1 defies those expectations to actually be very funny and charming. Much of this is thanks to Buffybot and to some great lines of dialogue from a cast so in tune with their characters and with each other.
Stylish: Willow et al sure do have stylish wardrobes this year. World of leather must have signed them up for a discount. They all look great. All the girls look gorgeous, dressed and made up to the nines. The lads all look great too, cool and handsome. The photography is glossy and lush and the FX top notch. The move to UPN seems to have done them all the world of good.
WHY IT SUCKS
Um, demon bikers? Okay, the demon biker gang The Hellions are a goofy idea much like the Knights who say Nee from season 5 (or whatever they were called). They are just a bunch of dumb violent lugs and nothing more. And how do they exist and operate in a world that is still largely unaware of the supernatural? They seem to ride around and hang out in bars without giving their appearance to humans a second thought.
Where are all the cops? So the demon gang discover that the Slayer is no more and decide it is open season on Sunnydale. They show up in town and promptly run riot, looting, destroying, burning… And where exactly are Sunnydale’s finest while all this is going down? Have they all gone out for doughnuts? Are they all on summer leave? C’mon! Buff wasn’t the only protection Sunnydale had from bad guys.
The headstone: So, if the gang are trying to make the world think Buffy is alive and well and still slaying, why then do they plant a great big headstone with her name on it in the cemetery where all can see, effectively telling the world she is dead? Duh!
Lots of great moments but for pure shock value it has to be Willow, the cute baby deer, and the BIG knife! Oh my god, she killed Bambi!
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Spike: Oh, poor Watcher. Did your life pass before your eyes? Cup of tea, cup of tea, almost got shagged, cup of tea?
Buffybot: That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, Bingo!
Willow: And I got her off those knock-knock jokes.
Buffybot: Ooh, who's there?
Xander: You know, if we want her to be exactly...
Spike: She'll never be exactly.
Xander: I know.
Tara: The only really real Buffy is really Buffy.
Giles: And she's gone.
Buffybot: "You know, if we want her to be exactly, she'll never be exactly, the only really real Buffy is really Buffy, and she's gone" who?
Xander: House of chicks, relax. I'm a man, and I have a tool. (pause) Tools. Lots of plural tools, in my, uh, toolbox.
Spike (to Dawn): She responded to Buffy-Bot because a robot is predictable. Boring. A perfect teacher's pet. That's all school's are, you know. Just factories, spewing out mindless little automatons. (Guilty pause) Who go on to be very valuable and productive members of society, and you should go.
Tara: You found the last known Urn of Osiris on eBay?
Anya: Yeah, from this desert gnome in Cairo. He drove a really hard bargain, but I finally got him to throw in a limited-edition Backstreet Boys lunchbox for...
Anya: A friend.
Buffybot: Sorry I questioned you, Spike. You know I admire your brain almost as much as your washboard abs.
Anya (to Giles): I'll take really good care of your money.
AND ANOTHER THING
In the US part 1 was originally shown with part 2 as a feature-length special to celebrate Buffy's re-launch on the UPN network. On the UK DVD set it also plays as one long double episode.
Responding to the Buffybot's comment about "That'll put marzipan in your pie-plate bingo", Spike asks "Why the Dada-ism?" referring to the German absurdist art movement of the 1920s. Not many prime time US shows would casually refer to such things. Love it.
Tara gives Giles a little rubber monster as a leaving present and says "Grrr, argh" - clearly a reference to the monster in the Mutant Enemy logo at the end of every episode.
This episode is the first time that Anthony Stewart Head is listed as a guest star in the credits. Alyson Hannigan now appears in the opening sequence in the spot he used to occupy. Tony had decided to leave the show full time in order to spend more time with his family back in England and to pursue other roles. But he remained a big part of the show for its remaining two seasons.
Season six sees the writer of this episode Marti Noxon promoted to co-executive producer alongside Joss, taking on the day to day running of the show as Joss moved on to do other things. Thus her name now appears alongside Joss' in the end credits.
The scene where Willow kills the deer is nasty enough but originally it was a lot gorier and had to be cut back in order to be suitable for transmission. Interestingly, the music playing during this scene is listed in the production notes as "Willow Stabs Bambi". Alyson Hannigan found it extremely difficult to film this scene. She was very upset at the thought of Willow doing such a thing and Marti Noxon says that Alyson cried the whole day it was being filmed.
In this episode we discover that Anya and Xander are engaged, but Xander doesn’t want to tell the others yet, causing tension between him and Anya.
Franc Ross, who played the lead hellion demon Razor, played ‘Monty Reynolds’ in Joss Whedon’s Firefly episode ‘Trash’.
The vampire who discovers that Buffy is a robot is wearing a Hanson t-shirt. Vampire or not, he is clearly evil.
HOW MANY STAKES?
It’s a bargain at 4 (out of 5)