Thursday, 29 August 2013
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER 6.8: TABULA RASA
Welcome to the nancy tribe
WRITER: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
DIRECTOR: David Grossman
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
And the fallout from the events in OMWF begin to take shape. Giles tells an angry and petulant Buffy that he is going back to England permanently as he knows he is now standing in the way of her personal growth. Tara and Willow take a break from their relationship with Willow promising Tara that she'll give up magic for a week to prove that she doesn't have a major problem. And Spike pursues an in denial Buffy determined for them to talk about their big kiss...only to be interrupted by the arrival of a demonic loan shark demanding kittens he says Spike owes him. Later that night, the entire gang (including a hiding out Spike) gather at the Magic Box where Giles is about to tell them he's leaving permanently for England. But before he can break the news a spell Willow has secretly cast backfires and the gang suddenly lose all memory of who they really are. Meanwhile, outside the store, Mr Loan Shark and his goons have arrived looking for final payment from Spike.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
Are we simply the sum of our memories and experiences or is there something else at work? Tabula rasa is Latin for 'blank slate' and in 1607 philosopher Francis Bacon put forward the idea that we are all born in to the world as a blank slate, knowing nothing and that personality is imprinted upon us through memory and experience. However Charles Darwin went on to put forward the idea that our emotions and actions are at least in part based upon instincts which are hereditary. These two competing ideas are tested in this episode with Joss and co. seeming to come down on the side of Darwin. Although Buffy and the gang have no idea who they are, they soon adopt roles based upon instinctual reactions (once they've gotten over the initial fear and confusion of not knowing who they are). For instance, Buffy and Dawn pretty quickly figure out they are sisters and Buffy takes on a leadership role as well as her muscle memory seeming to kick in what with her unthinking ability to fight and slay. But as well as the nature/nurture thing this episode is also about pushing the characters in to new and not so fun places. If OMWF exposed the lies and the secrets they'd all been concealing, then Tabula Rasa forces them to confront those lies and secrets head on and then do something about them. The most obvious examples being with Giles leaving Buffy, Tara leaving Willow, and Spike and Buffy finally (at least in part) resolving the emotional and physical dance they've been doing with each other.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Loan Shark and his vamp goons. And Willow too I guess.
WHY IT ROCKS
A perfect example of Buffyness: By which I mean that while it's not the best episode of the series ever, Tabula Rasa manages to encompass all of the things that are great about Buffy the show. For a start, the episode is about something with a central idea and theme. It is also character driven and pushes the characters forward (or possibly backward), delivering serious personal drama and serious emotional pain while also managing to be being gloriously silly in places and very, very funny thanks to a clever script and pitch perfect performances from the cast.
Randy Giles: James Marsters as Spike is on top form. After having his memory wiped Spike thinks he is Giles' son named Randy (due to them both being English and the label inside his tweed jacket that says 'property of Randy' – part of a disguise he's wearing to elude the loan shark). Spike aka Randy then acts all disgusted with his name and immediately assumes he and 'dad' have major father/son issues.
Giles and Anya sitting in a tree: Giles and Anya believing they are an engaged couple who run the Magic Box and that Anya is 'Randy's' new young step-mother-to-be. Much bickering ensues leading Giles to discover his one way plane ticket to London, thinking he was about to flee the engagement.
Bunnies: Desperately trying random spells to help the situation Anya accidentally conjours up a plague of bunnies which sends her atop a table in yelping horror.
Skeleton sword fight: in a wonderful homage to Jason and the Argonauts Giles sword fights a skeleton after another attempted spell of Anya's goes badly wrong.
Randy the Vampire: Spike aka Randy, in the midst of a fight alongside Buffy (calling herself Joan), suddenly goes all vamp faced much to both his and Buffy's surprise. This leads Spike to tell Buffy he is probably a good vampire, one with a soul, searching for redemption. To which Buffy snorts and says that is just so lame.
Xander's comedy faint.
Willow and Tara: Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson are both superb in their scenes together dealing with Willow's abuse of magic and their growing estrangement. But it is Amber as Tara who is the driving force and who makes the big decisions. She is terrific and really does bring on the lump in the throat moments.
The final few minutes: the sad conclusion to the episode is played out with no dialogue while Michelle Branch sings her emotional acoustic ballad 'Goodbye to You' live at the Bronze.
WHY IT SUCKS
The loan shark being an actual man with a shark's head is just a bit too silly for its own good. Plus they really want kittens that bad? What is it with kittens?
Buffy and Spike engage in a big, violent and noisy brawl with several of Loan Shark's vamp goons in the middle of a suburban street full of houses with their lights on and cars in the yard. And yet nobody comes out to see what all the ruckus is or at least calls the cops? Weird.
Goodbye to You: an emotional dialogue free denouement.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Xander: I just feel weird feeling bad that my friend's not dead. It's too mind-boggling. So I've decided to simplify the whole thing. Me like Buffy. Buffy's alive, so, me glad.
Anya: Holy moly!
Spike (dressed in Tweed and bow tie): You need to give me asylum.
Xander: I'll say.
Giles: We'll get our memory back and it'll all be right as rain.
Spike: Oh, listen to Mary Poppins. He's got his crust all stiff and upper with that nancy-boy accent. You Englishmen are always so... Bloody hell! Sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks. Oh, god. I'm English.
Giles: Welcome to the nancy-tribe.
Spike: Oh, great -- a tarty step-mother who's half old Daddy's age.
Giles: Anyway, what did I call you?
Spike: (looks at jacket label) "Made with care for Randy." Randy Giles? Why not just call me "Horny Giles" or "Desperate-for-a-shag Giles"? I knew there was a reason I hated you.
Spike: Dad can drive. He's bound to have some classic mid-life crisis transport. Something red, shiny, shaped like a penis.
Buffy: Hey, stay away from Randy! (stakes Vamp)
Buffy: Ready, Randy?
Spike: Ready, Joan.
Buffy: I kill your kind.
Spike: And I bite yours. So how come I don't want to bite you? And why am I fighting other vampires? I must be a noble vampire. A good guy, on a mission of redemption. I help the helpless. I'm a vampire with a soul.
Buffy: A vampire with a soul? Oh my god, how lame is that?
Giles (surrounded by white fluffy bunnies): Clearly, that is not a helpful book, darling. Come down and we'll go about fixing this in a sensible fashion.
Anya (standing on a table): Sensible? You think it's sensible for me to go down into that pit of cotton-top hell, and let them hippety-hop all over my vulnerable flesh?
Xander: (laughs) Sorry, I just got back the memory of seeing "King Ralph".
AND ANOTHER THING
The tweed suit Spike wears for most of the episode is similar to the one he wore in Xander's dream in 4.22 Restless. In the dream Giles said he looked upon Spike as a son.
The tweed jacket and bow tie combo of Spike's bears a resemblance to Matt Smith's first costume as The Doctor in Doctor Who. Plus James Marsters played Captain John in the DWH spin-off show Torchwood while Tony Head appeared as an alien baddie in the David Tennant DWH episode School Reunion.
Michelle Branch's song Goodbye to You which she sings in the Bronze at the end of the episode was a pretty big hit taken from her platinum selling album The Spirit Room.
Giles does indeed have a red and shiny sports car. We first saw it in Real Me.
Buffy quotes Macbeth when she says 'What we did is done'.
Buffy names herself Joan. After Joan of Arc maybe? Seems she has something of an instinctive martyr complex having died twice already.
HOW MANY STAKES?
A hilarious and heartache-y 4 (out of 5)