Saturday, 9 July 2016
BUFFY: 7.1 “LESSONS”
Big Bads are back!
WRITER: Joss Whedon
DIRECTOR: David Solomon
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
In Istanbul, Turkey a young girl is chased through the streets by a group of creepy looking people in cloaks before being caught and brutally killed. Back in Sunnydale and it's a new school year and Dawn is starting at the all new Sunnydale High 2.0 which has been built on the site of its exploded predecessor. However, based upon her own experiences at the school's previous incarnation, Buffy is having a serious case of the nerves about her lil sis starting at the new Sunnydale High. At first Dawn thinks her big sis is being way too over protective and is worrying needlessly but a run in with a group of apparently vengeful spirits soon has Junior Summers and some new friends calling for emergency Slayer assistance. Meanwhile in England a remorseful Willow is learning to be herself again under the tender tutelage of Giles.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
On one hand this episode is about fear. Fear of the past, the future, the unknown. Fear that your own life experiences, your own past will repeat and come back to haunt those you love and are responsible for. Buffy is afraid for Dawn. She is scared that Dawn will suffer the same high school traumas she did. But Buffy also knows that that is often unavoidable in life and that all you can do is to prepare youngsters as best you can before sending them out there, which is what she does by training Dawn in how to handle a vampire by herself. But Buffy also knows enough to let Dawn know to never be afraid to ask for help if she needs it as is shown by the cell phone she gives Dawn as a gift at the start of the Ep. and which comes in very useful later on. On the other hand this episode is also a short presee of what this entire season will be about: Power. Finding it, sharing it and using it.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Sunnydale High's vengeful spirits who seem to blame the living for their unnatural deaths and want to make them all suffer.
Creepy robed people hunting and killing a young girl.
An evil entity who appears to loony basement living Spike by taking on the forms of all previous Buffy Big Bads (minus Angelus) as well as, finally, the form of the Buffster herself.
WHY IT ROCKS
It is a Joss script so has some solid thematic depth, strong character work, funny moments and also sets up where everybody is both physically and emotionally while also laying the thematic and story groundwork for the rest of the season.
Director David Solomon manages to create at least two genuinely effective jump scares.
James Marsters gets to play a credibly loony Spike.
All previous Big Bads cameo (with the exception of Angelus) – great to see them again.
Cell phones finally make it to Sunnydale.
Buffy gets to make an effective weapon out of a handbag and some bricks and then wields it in a short but pretty cool fight scene.
Willow and Giles in England. Yes, actual real England.
WHY IT SUCKS
The basic story of the vengeful spirits at the school is pretty thin and in and of themselves they are not very scary.
This Ep. has a lousy phlebotnum i.e. "any magical or mystical force or event that arises in the process of inventing the Buffy mythology/or advancing the plot". It is just some random talisman Buffy finds lying around in the school bathroom which needs to be broken in order to vanquish the spirits. No explanation is ever given as to what it is or where it comes from or who put it there.
After a nice establishing matte shot the streets of Istanbul are clearly that overly familiar 'generic foreign town' set on the Universal back-lot.
The end monologue of the evil entity to poor nutty Spike as it lays out what it wants and what is to come while purposefully transforming from one previous Big Bad to another, ending finally as Buffy herself, telling Spike that none of this is about right or wrong, it is about power!
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Xander (To Buffy): "The last two principals were eaten. Who’d even apply for that job?"
Vampire (to Buffy & Dawn whilst trying to get out of his grave): “Excuse me. I think I'm stuck.”
Buffy (after Xander asks how she is): “My sister's about to go to the same high school that tried to kill me for three years. I can't change districts, I can't afford private school, and I can't begin to prepare for what could possibly come out of there. So peachy with a side of keen, that would be me.”
Buffy (to Dawn): “Oh, we have to leave, though. Do you have everything? Books? Lunch? Stakes?”
Drusilla (to Spike): "That's where we go."
Master: "Right back to the beginning. Not the bang, not the word- the true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride, and I think we’re all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You’ll learn you’re a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn’t sunk in already. Look at you. Tried to do what’s right. Just like her... You still don’t get it. It’s not about right, not about wrong..."
Buffy: "...it’s about power."
AND ANOTHER THING
Joss wrote this episode but did not direct. He only wrote and directed one episode this season – Chosen, the series finale. He was kinda busy with a little show called Firefly.
Dawn's school friend Kit is played by Alexandra Breckenridge who most recently played Jessie Anderson in seasons 5 & 6 of AMC's the Walking Dead.
The character of Principle Wood as played by DB Woodside was written as gender non specific and with the gender neutral name of Robin Wood as Joss didn't know at the time what they were going to do with the character. It was only after casting DB Woodside that Robin Wood became male and developed the back story he would go on to have this season.
The scenes of Willow and Giles in England were indeed shot in England. Joss, Alyson Hannigan and her soon-to-be hubby Alexis Dennisof were in England in summer 2002 and were staying with Tony Head at his home just outside Bath. The house and the land you see in the scenes are Tony Head's actual house and farmland.
HOW MANY STAKES?
It's a hard lesson so 3 stakes (out of 5)