Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Potential Slayers were being killed, Buffy vowed to take the fight back to the First, who can be anyone, including Jonathan; Andrew refused to help the First hurt the potential Slayers living with Buffy; Kennedy and Willow made with the kissage; Spike got a soul and Buffy wants to give him a chance; Principal Wood turned out to be the son of a Slayer -- killed by Spike; Buffy doesn't want Spike to leave.
A dark night in Casa Summers, and Buffy roams the house, patrolling. Potential Slayers sleep literally everywhere, outnumbered only by the various language-to-English dictionaries. All's quiet... until Buffy hears someone crying. She finds Chloe, huddled in on herself in a corner, sobbing helplessly, but before she can help, she's tackled from behind and tumbles down the stairs. She looks up into the face of the First Slayer, who rasps, "It's not enough." Buffy wakes with a start in her own bed; potential Slayers are still sprawled everywhere, but they all seem to be sleeping peacefully. Buffy sits alone in the dark, scared and confused.
Elsewhere, Spike and Anya wander together through the streets, Anya whinging about being a human again. Spike's not much help with that one, though he sympathizes with how many people are living in Casa Sumers, and does offer a temporary solution -- go get drunk. Anya establishes that this is not a date, it's all about the alcohol, not sex, and Spike tells her to get off the topic. "It's not like I was proposing, " Anya huffs. "Time goes by, a girl gets hungry." Spike looks past her and sighs, "Oh thank god." Anya: "Huh?" Spike, "Demon." Big, nasty one, too, who shoves Anya to the ground and commences looming. "D'Hoffryn says you die," it announces. Spike instantly attacks; he knocks the demon down and leaves it, getting Anya to her feet and running.
In school the next day, Principal Wood and Buffy are busy double-teaming a pair of guys who started a cafeteria fight; after suitable intimidation, they're released -- they're only a sign of a worse problem, anyway. Vandalism, violence... "It's started, hasn't it?" Principal Wood asks. Buffy sighs agreement. "The Hellmouth has begun its semi-annual percolation. Usually it blows around May." They're a little ahead of schedule, she acknowledges; Principal Wood's not sure he's up for it, being just a guy and all. ("Granted, a cool and sexy vampire fighting guy, but still....") So he gives Buffy something he thinks she can use -- an "emergency kit" his mother the Slayer left him. It's a heavy leather duffle that Buffy is reluctant to accept, but Principal Wood says it should have been hers anyway. He doesn't know what's inside, but knows it has something to do with the powers of the Slayer. As thanks, he wants her to call him Robin, and to see where she works. Her real work.
Buffy briefs him on the Potentials as they enter Casa Summers; he gets to meet Andrew right off, lucky him. He's a little hard to explain, especially his brand-new "big board." To his credit, Robin does not run screaming, and Buffy leads him out to the backyard, where Kennedy is running something like 25 Potentials through a kata. She's really into it, including calling Chloe a "maggot" and ordering her to drop and give her 20. Robin is impressed, but Buffy isn't. "They're not all going to make it," she says in resignation. "Some will die, and nothing I can do will stop it." The angst fest is broken up by Willow's arrival with an armload of crossbows and stakes, which she's relieved to not have to explain. Robin makes polite inquiries into her experiments with magic, which Willow assures him are fine; she's just hitting the "lighter" stuff. "So much cooler than Snyder," she gloats as she heads back inside. Robin has a little trouble aligning Willow with She Who Almost Destroyed the World: "Remind me not to make her crabby." Buffy sighs, "Might be better if you did." She's really unhappy with how her "army" is shaping up; Robin ties to reassure her, but has another goal. "Show me the vampire."
The vampire is in the basement arguing strategy and tactic with the ex-vengeance demon. Anya's pissed Spike let her assassin run away to try again another day. Spike reminds her that if he'd gone down in the fight, she would be quite dead this time; he did the safe and sane thing. Anya huffs out. Robin keeps his distance from Spike, barely even looking at him, except to question, "Is that what you are? A good guy?" Spike doesn't help with jokes about killing people; the tension is so thick it's amazing the room hasn't exploded. Spike is not thrilled that Buffy told Robin about the soul, and less thrilled with Robin's ensuing less-than-subtle interrogation re: the state of said soul.
That night, Dawn fills Buffy in on the contents of the "emergency kit" Robin passed along. Trinkets, weapons, a big textbook in ancient Sumerian, and a big unopenable box that probably has the good stuff. Buffy gives Dawn a hard time about doing actual homework, Dawn retaliates with jokes about flunking out and they wander down the hall into the next room -- and Dawn screams, falling backwards as they see Chloe, hanging from the ceiling, a noose made of sheets around her neck, her face swollen and dead.
Dawn's scream brings Kennedy, Amanda and Rona running. Buffy tells Dawn to get a knife to cut her down, but before Dawn can move, Chloe is standing next to her own body, grinning. The First has come to gloat. "We just talked all night. I did most of the talking. But Chloe is... I'm sorry, was a good listener. Until she hanged herself. Like when you called her a maggot, she really heard that." Kennedy flinches, and the First gets cockier. "The only reason Chloe offed herself is because she knew what you're not getting. I'm coming. You're going. All this? It's almost over." Buffy assures her, "We'll be here." The First grins, and recites Buffy's own words back at her, in Buffy's voice: "They're not all going to make it. Some will die, and nothing I can do will stop it." It grins and blinks out.
Buffy works alone to bury Chloe, then returns to a house of shell-shocked and weeping potentials. Everyone's there when she walks in; Buffy asks if anyone wants to say a few words, then jumps in herself. "Let me. Chloe was an idiot. She was stupid. She was weak. And anyone in a rush to be the next dead body I bury -- it's easy. Just think of Chloe. Do what she did. And I'll find room for you next to her and Annabelle. I'm the Slayer. The one with the power. And the First has me using that power to dig our graves!" Yes, the Slayer's on a rampage, her voice harsh and merciless as she surveys her 'army'. "I've been carrying you, all of you, too far, too long. Ride's over." She looks specifically at Willow and Spike, and Kennedy takes instant offense, getting in Buffy's face to defend her friend, although Willow says Buffy's not wrong. Kennedy shakes her off. "Willow, she's not even the most powerful one in this room. With you here, she's not close." Buffy looks at her coldly. "You're new here. And you're wrong, because I use the power that I have. The rest of you are just waiting for me."
Xander and Anya take their turns to try to talk down the insane woman, and get unjustifiably slapped down, particularly Anya. Buffy tells them to, "Be as scared as you like, just be useful while you're at it!" The First is laughing at them, she says. "You want to surprise the enemy? Surprise yourselves. Force yourself to do what can't be done, or else we are not an army. We're just a bunch of girls waiting to be picked off and buried." Spike stirs himself to head out to patrol, and makes himself Buffy's next target. She informs him that getting the soul has made him useless to her, good only for "getting weepy or whaled on." He's not into the kill, and he was a better fighter before. "What I want is the Spike that's dangerous. The Spike that tried to kill me when we met." Spike snarls back, "Oh, you don't know how close you are to bringing him out." Buffy says with contempt, "I'm nowhere near him." She tells Dawn to take the potentials upstairs and break out the emergency kit before stalking off. [ED: And now I have to go take a nice long break, until the urge to wrap my hands around a certain sanctimonious Slayer's throat subsides, and my keyboard and monitor are out of risk for being thrown across the room.]
Later [ED: not enough later for my taste, but here we are], Robin has been invited over for the ceremonial opening of the emergency bag. Which has already been opened once by Dawn, but what the hell. Buffy breaks open the box with little fuss, and they remove large metal shadow casters, "You put them in motion and they tell a story," Research Girl Dawn informs him. "It says you can't just watch -- you have to see." Whatever that means. Xander moans, " It's cryptic. I don't like it. Every time instructions get cryptic, someone gets hurt. Usually me." Dawn thinks the story is an origin myth, that of the First Slayer; they light up the candle in the center of the spinner and go to it. First, there's the Earth -- Xander puts the caster in place, and drums begin to play, but no one can see where from. Then come the demons (with accompanying sound effects), and Dawn reads from the Sumerian book, "After demons, there came men. men found a girl. The men took the girl to fight the demon. Um, all demons. They.. they chained her to the Earth."
Dawn stumbles as the last shadow caster is put in place and the base begins to rotate by itself, then recovers, reading, "It says you cannot be shown, you cannot just watch, but you must see. See for yourself, but only if you're willing to make the exchange." The book isn't in Sumerian any more; under Dawn's panicked eyes, the words change to English. The shadow casters spin faster, the noises growing into screams; then a bright blue-white light flares, and where the shadow caster stood is a big square... portal. "I have to go in there," Buffy says. Everyone else objects strenuously, with the very good point that they don't know what the exchange is, or how they'll get her back. "Find a way," Buffy says, and dives forward into the portal, which closes behind her. Then the lights flare again, and the "exchange student" is standing where Buffy disappeared. All seven feet, green-scaled, tentacles and tusked of him. He grabs Xander and throws him across the room as greeting.
Willow is the next to get thrown, then Kennedy and Robin jump into the act, Kennedy with weapons. But she and Dawn are no match for it; Spike jumps out of it's back from nowhere and yells at the others to run; he'll "do what [he] does best." He gets in some good hits, until the demon throws him up and off, then escapes through the front door. "Is getting thrown through the ceiling what he does best?" Kennedy asks. Dawn ascertains that everyone's in one piece, but the demon is on the loose, and Willow is their only weapon. Anya points out the odds of Willow going of the deep end, but Willow is determined to try to reopen the portal -- which has just dumped Buffy out in the middle of a very familiar desert. Willow gets started right away, considering she has no idea where to start, but everyone else's reactions are mixed -- Kennedy doesn't quite get the consequences and is all in favor, the rest want some discussion. "We have a choice," Anya points out. "We can risk Willow's life and the rest of our lives to get Buffy back, or we can leave her there." Robin objects and Anya stares at him. "You missed her 'everyone sucks but me' speech. If she's so superior, let her find her own way back." Xander points out that they need Buffy against the First, and Dawn starts talking Willow through a portal spell. Willow breaks it down to physics, transference of energy, but Anya says she needs a catalyst. Kennedy remembers the whole exchange thing -- they need to find the demon and send it through, Robin agrees. Over Kennedy's objections, Spike heads out alone to go demon hunting.
Buffy wanders the desert and runs into three old men in ancient African clothes -- shamans who've been expecting her. "We have been here since the beginning," they tell her in Swahili, which she understands, as they stand and begin to circle around her. "Now, we are almost at the end. You are the Hellmouth's last guardian." Buffy tries to get them on track with the whole 'the First' thing, telling them, "I came to learn." One shaman replies, "We cannot give you knowledge. Only power." In frustration, Buffy concludes none of this is real. It's a good theory until the shaman conks her over the head with his staff. She falls to the sand, unconscious. [ED: Yay! I wanted to do that last act! Talk about instant gratification.]
Portal preparations continue at Casa Summers; Willow takes her place in the center of a circle of sand and starts chanting in Latin. At first, nothing happens; then, suddenly, Dawn and Kennedy, the closest to Willow, are knocked backwards by a blast of white light. Willow's eyes go dead black as she begins screaming. Buffy wakes to more light, shining in her eyes in a weird, hyper-intensely filtered landscape. She's chained in a circle, the three shamans standing around her, in "the well of the Slayer's power." They begin thumping their staffs in a drumbeat; one picks up a box like the one in the emergency bag, and advances towards her, laying it on the ground and opening it. "Herein lies your truest strength," they take turns telling her. "The energy of the demon. It's spirit. It's heart." This is how they made the Slayer, Buffy realizes, as something oily and black floats up and out of the box. Snakelike, it makes it's way over to Buffy; she struggles to escape, but the shamans tell her "It must become one with you. This will make you ready for the fight." Buffy: "By making me less human?" Shaman: "This is how it was then. How it must be now... This is all there is." The black snake reaches Buffy, and begins wrapping around her.
Buffy screams, and the snake jumps back, coiling in the air above her before wrapping her up again. Buffy tells the shamans to make it stop, but they refuse. In the basement below the school, Spike has stopped to find his hunting gear -- specifically, the long black duster he once took from a Slayer's body, and hasn't worn since he assaulted another for the last time. He swirls it on with all the old arrogance and strides out after his prey. He passes Robin's office on the way. "Nice coat," Robin comments as he passes, "where'd you get it?" Spike never breaks stride as he tosses back, "New York." Robin stares after him in the darkness, the First's words confirmed. Willow's eyes are still black, eldritch winds whipping her hair as she keeps up then Latin, then abruptly switches to English. "Screw it! Mighty forces, I suck at Latin, okay?! But that's not the issue. I'm the one in charge and I'm telling you, open that portal now!" It's not happening, until Willow suddenly reaches back, and grabs power from Anya and Kennedy. Both collapse, and the portal opens. Xander pulls Wilow back and away, as Spike battles the demon -- he's losing, but he's not giving up. He fights like a demon himself, laughing wildly even as he bleeds.
Buffy gives up fighting the demon power; she has a new target. As she snaps her chains free from the floor with contemptuous ease, she informs the shamans, "I can't fight this; I know that now. But you guys -- you're just men. Just the men who did this. To her. Whoever that girl was before she as the First Slayer... You violated her, made her kill for you because you're weak, you're pathetic, and you obviously have nothing to show me. She swings the chains around, and they become her weapons as the shamans attack. She battles her creators as Spike battles the demon they exchange for her -- and Spike comes out on the winning end. "I don't know your feelings, big guy," he snarks as he strikes a match off the body to light his cigarette, "but to me, a tussle like that, is good for the soul." Buffy finds her own victory, breaking the staff of the lead shaman. Black demon snake disappears. "We offered you power," he says. Buffy: "Tell me something I don't know. Shaman: "As you wish. He lays his hand beside Buffy's face; light flares around her and around the living room, as Spike wrestles the demon's corpse towards the portal. He throws it in, and Buffy is home again, her eyes wide and terrified. Her friends and allies surround her in various states of shock and pain.
Kennedy makes her way carefully upstairs sometime later; Willow stops her with a touch. "You've been kind of quiet since--" Kennedy: "You sucked the life out of me?" Kennedy has just had her first taste of Willow's true power -- and its true consequences --- and she needs time to deal. She leaves Willow standing alone in the hall. Willow finds her way to Buffy's room, where the Slayer acknowledges that she was hard on everyone that day; Willow says she needed to be. Buffy is very quiet, and admits she thinks she made a mistake in not accepting the power, no matter what the cost to her humanity. Willow tries to reassure her, but she didn't see what Buffy saw, what the shaman showed her -- what power they have together, it isn't enough.
Not to fight the army of turok-han, thousands of them, teeming below the Hellmouth....
The First Slayer was created by literally imbuing a girl with the essence of a demon.
Robin has been introduced to the crowd, and now has confirmation that it was Spike who murdered his mother.
Chloe committed suicide, talked into it by the First.
D'Hoffryn seems to be trying to kill Anya.
Willow and Kennedy are on the outs, Kennedy having to deal with the reality of Willow's magic.
Buffy was a total bitch at Spike, thus leading him back into some of his darker character traits; that's just never good for a relationship.
Okay. Calm. Breathing. Saving SlayerGirl for last because I'm going to rant.
Everyone else came off fairly well in the episode; I'm particularly liking Robin's approach to it all. He's not going off half-cocked on the First's accusations -- he scopes the situation out, tries to acquire all available information, and generally makes damn sure of what he's doing before he acts. I respect that; forethought is so refreshing around this bunch. Plus, there's the whole thing where he's got a sense of humor, and passing off his mother's "emergency kit" to Buffy can't have been easy, but it was definitely the right thing to do. (Might have been better if he'd revealed himself and passed it off earlier, but that's picking nits.)
Poor Willow -- caught between fear of destroying the universe if she uses her power, and fear of the universe being destroyed by someone else if she doesn't. And, of course, when Buffy forces her to use that power, she ends up succeeding by hurting one of the people she least wants to hurt. She's walking a very delicate line, and succeeding so far, which is a testament to her willpower, but her life is just not going to get any easier in the near future.
Kennedy had a very understandable reaction to the first evidence of what Willow is capable of -- she freaked out. Magic is suddenly not just cool party tricks, but something real and dangerous, and Kennedy is wigged. Very wise. I do hope she gets her head around it -- I'm still in favor of her and Willow -- but Kennedy's a tough little thing, so I have hope. But the drill sergeant routine has got to go, at least in the ridiculous extremes it's being taken to; training is all well and good, but this is just silly. Chloe was one of the earliest Potentials to arrive, and Kennedy has known her longer than 80 percent of the others; no chance of losing her in the crowd. Yet she refers to her as "that girl"? "Maggot" I can almost understand as getting carried away, but "that girl"? Very weird.
I continue to love Dawn as Research Girl, although I'd like to know how she's been adding things like ancient Sumerian to her knowledge. (Actually, I wrote fic about it, but I'd like some canon exploration.)
Spike. Spike, Spike, Spike. So, he grew a brain and has been fighting smart instead of courageously and stupidly. His tactics were sound when he grabbed Anya and ran; it wasn't like killing one demon would stop D'Hoffryn from sending another one after her. And considering that there's really nothing to fight against the First except Bringers, which Spike has been more than ready to take on, trying to egg him onto into more "demonic" fighting doesn't seem all that pointy at the moment, especially considering how much everyone freaked when he was killing under the First's control. So, it's okay for him to be a murderous monster when he's doing it for Buffy, but not otherwise? Yeah, that sounds like Slayer-logic, which I was hoping we'd gotten past. Not happy about Spike relaxing control -- I'm sure it'll be entertaining, but long-term? So not of the good.
So, here we are. Buffy. Any and all of Buffy's "attagirls"'s from last week have now been cancelled out by one very loud and vehement "Bitch!" Damn it, just when she was starting to behave like an intelligent human, she has to do a total reversion, ruthlessly attacking people -- allies -- who can't fight back. And I don't just mean Spike, although she was totally out of line there (from "I'm not ready for you to not be here" to "I'll call you if I need someone to get weepy or whaled on"? Niiiice). But she also got on Anya's case about being useless -- my ass. How many times has Anya risked her butt to help them? Like the others, she's a volunteer, but she was chanting her butt off to keep EvilWillow in check, she raced in to fight Glory with nothing but a baseball bat, and she's got 1,100 years of demonic knowledge which she shares. And her contribution is sarcasm? That's not just Bitchy!Buffy, that's careless, offensively stupid writing. We won't go into the way Buffy went after the Potentials -- you're great with criticism and speeches, Buff, but as usual, you're low on concrete thought. What, exactly, are the girls supposed to be doing that they're not, O High and Exalted Slayer? Maybe checking on baby slayers after they wake up from prophetic dreams where they're crying in a corner? Or would you prefer that they go jumping into portals to god-knows-where for god-knows-what without making sure of the escape route, possibly stranding your best weapon against the First in another dimension? Wonderful planning, O Great Leader.
I'm aware of Buffy's control freak tendencies, and that they display in the worst possible way when she's stressed. I can deal with that; I even applaud it as a continuing character flaw that keeps her from being any kind of Saint Buffy. What I can't deal with is the way that she's allowed to get away with it; being the Slayer apparently excuses being a bitch every time ('cause no one else is scared or under stress or in mortal danger or anything). Maybe you can make a case the ends justified the means with Willow and Spike, since both of them were jolted into action; my opinion is that the consequences just may not be worth it. But there is no apology to Anya or the potentials, no acknowledgement that "I was stressed, I was wrong, I'm sorry." One half-assed, "I shouldn't have--" to Willow, and nothing else. Almost the entire second act was character assassination in the highest form; four years ago, I would never have thought that I'd have had to spend the last year accusing ME's writers of that, but here we are, wanting to bitch-slap Buffy. Again.
Spike and Anya off to get drunk. Lovely bonding there.
Buffy's crack about the Hellmouth blowing in May. Nothing like a little in-joke to lighten things up.
Andrew and his funnel cake; for some reason, that entrance just cracks me up. Tom Lenk is just doing wonderful things with this character. Actually, Robin's entire tour is quite fun.
The tense confrontation between Robin and Spike in the basement was just excellent -- a gorgeous study in contrasts. Robin's rapid-fire questions, Spike's short answers, the tension arcing everywhere... Awesome stuff.
Dawn and Buffy bantering about flunking out. It was snappy and fun and bonding; the transition from that to Chloe's body was brutally effective.
Setting up the shadow casters. Very spooky and cool effects, and Michelle T. did a wonderful job.
Everyone working together to build the portal spell; very nice teamwork.
Willow and the Latin-to-English incantation. < snerk >
Questions and Comments:
The "exchange demon" bears more than passing resemblance to the Predator.
When Willow cast the portal spell, Kennedy and Anya were most powerful people nearby for her to draw from? With Dawn-the-Mystical-Key-Between-Dimensions laying only a few feet away? Unconscious, sure, but if that made a difference I'd like to know. (It was good for storytelling purposes, obviously, both to give Kennedy and Willow some trouble, and because of the whole "need blood to open, need blood to close" thing. But it's something that should have been at least mentioned, if not explored.)
Rating: 3.5 our of five. The background on the Slayers was interesting, and everyone did a good job with what they were given, particularly Michelle T, DW Woodside and James Marsters. But since most of what we took out of the ep consists of a nightmare vision of the future and Yet Another Buffy Rant, I'm not feeling the pointiness.
They've all got carpel-tunnel disease, and can tragically no longer use a keyboard. Translation: nobody said nothing.
Back to Episodes.
They've all got carpel-tunnel disease, and can tragically no longer use a keyboard. Translation: nobody said nothing.
Back to Episodes.