Sunday, 16 November 2014
BUFFY: 6.17 ‘NORMAL AGAIN’
WRITER: Diego Gutierrez
DIRECTOR: Rick Rosenthal
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
While out searching for the Trio Buffy is ambushed by a demon conjured by Andrew. Amidst the ensuing fight the demon stings her and Buffy starts having intermittent flashes of herself in another life – as a normal Buffy Summers who's been locked away in a mental hospital for six years undergoing treatment for believing she is a super powered chosen one who fights monsters and saves the world. What's more, in this 'other' reality Buffy's mom is there as is her dad both pleading with her to reject her fantasy and come back to them, back to reality. Soon poor Buff doesn't know what is real and what isn't which puts everyone involved in great danger.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
The difference between reality and fantasy. Escaping from reality, from responsibility.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
The Trio, the waxy looking demon who stings Buff. Oh and Buffy herself towards eps end.
WHY IT ROCKS
High concept: the idea of challenging Buffy's (and the viewers) concept of what (if anything) about Buffy's life is actually 'real' is great. This sort of thing has been done before in genre television notably in the great DS9 episode Far Beyond the Stars. Making the audience believe that it is possible that everything they have watched and loved for six years might not be 'real' but rather the delusions of a very ill young girl is quite the thing. It's just a shame the ep isn't as successful as it could have been at doing this.
SMG: Quite simply she is magnificent. She single handily raises this episode above where it otherwise would be by turning in a damaged, tormented, scary and highly affecting performance. Her revelation to a shocked Willow that as a child she did spend some time in a mental hospital is achingly effective. A teary, fragile, vulnerable SMG really hits you where it hurts.
Mom: Kristine Sutherland makes a welcome return as Joyce Summers even if it is in the other world flashes. It's always great to see her though and we feel for Buff as she is tempted to reject Sunnydale and everything in it for the chance to be with her mom again.
WHY IT SUCKS
Lack of commitment: It is frustrating that this episode won't commit fully to its high concept. The idea that Sunnydale and all the supernatural stuff is really just the delusions of a sick girl is a scary and terrific idea. It would be great if we really were made to believe that the entire series truly could be the result of a very troubled and ill young girl's delusion. If the entire episode was played from Buffy's pov then that would likely be the case. But it breaks away all the time and makes it quite plain that her flashes are definitely a result of the demon sting and this renders the final emotional scene of 'real' Buffy in hospital, falling for good in to deep catatonia as her helpless and heartbroken parents look on, pretty much redundant. A real shame.
Dawn: ARGHH! Yet again youngest Summers manages to make everything about her. She whinges, sulks and storms off when she finds out that she is not around in Buffy's 'real' life. Jeez! Also Buffy tells her that she hasn't been doing her chores lately. Um...when has Dawn ever done any chores? Buffy is the only one who ever seems to do any stuff around the house, not Dawn or Willow. Kick em out, Buff!
Buffy tearfully admitting to Willow that she did spend time in a mental institution.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Willow: "Hi, uhm.. Tara. How are you? I was wondering.. do you want to go out sometime? For coffee? Or food? Or kisses and gay love?"
Buffy: "I could wrestle naked in grease for a living and still be cleaner than after a shift at the Doublemeat."
Xander: “Oh, come on, that's ridiculous! What? You think this isn't real just because of all the vampires and demons and ex-vengeance demons and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy?”
Spike: “Oh, balls. You didn't say he was a Glarghk Guhl Kashma'nik.”
Xander: 'Cause I can't say glar- “
Xander: “Hello! I'm back! Clean and with the better smell now. Friends? Romans? Anyone?”
AND ANOTHER THING
When Buffy looks at the photo of herself as a child, it's Alexandra Lee, who also played young Buffy in season five's The Weight of the World.
Normal Again marks the only script for Buffy by Diego Gutierrez who prior to its writing was Joss Whedon's personal assistant. He would go on to write scripts for other successful TV shows including Dawson's Creek and Warehouse 13
This is one of two episodes of Buffy directed by Rick Rosenthal (the other being season 7's 'Help'). Rosenthal is perhaps best known as the director of Halloween 2, the first sequel to John Carpenter's original horror classic. He also went on to direct 2002's Halloween Resurrection.
HOW MANY STAKES?
A pretty normal 3.5 (out of 5)