Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 19

The world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues to get darker and darker in Empty Places. Oh dear. Pillows and tissues at the ready...

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Caleb stabbed Shannon, Faith came back, Buffy didn’t have time for vendettas or for Giles, Caleb killed some Potentials and gouged out Xander’s eye. Thanks, previously-on editor. I avoided watching that bit in the previous episode, but you just had to include it again here. Damn you!

Buffy walks down the street as a massive traffic jam builds up: everyone’s trying to leave Sunnydale at once, escaping before the apocalypse happens. Can’t really blame them, though I wonder why they never felt the need to leave before? Buffy spots Clem and goes over for a morale-destroying chat; he tells her that she should consider leaving town too, since he doesn’t think anyone could stop the apocalypse this time. Um, does no-one get that if the world ends, the world ends? This is like Buffy’s chat about whether she’d sacrifice Dawn now to save the world – if the world ends, surely everyone’s screwed, not just those who happen to be in Sunnydale? How do you run away from the apocalypse? As an aside, Buffy has a really hoarse voice in this scene, as though she has a sore throat. I’d assume it was plot-related, but whenever the First manifests as Buffy this week, she too has a hoarse voice, so I guess Sarah Michelle Gellar just had a cold or something. It sounds quite painful.

After the credits, Giles and Willow are pretending to be Interpol, using Jedi mind tricks, to get info from a confused policeman. A crazy man is led behind them, in handcuffs, protesting “from beneath you, it..” which is the first time in ages we’ve heard the First’s motto, and when Willow starts to lose control over the cop’s mind, they make a swift exit, just in time for the police to gather round to discuss a photo of a known fugitive who’s run to ground in Sunnydale that they’d like to recapture. Although we’re not shown the mugshot, there’s no reason we couldn’t be – they are obviously talking about Faith.

Buffy and Willow go to visit Xander in hospital. Buffy doesn’t stick around for long after she gets the police files from Willow, obviously uncomfortable with being in the hospital, but Willow sticks around to try to cheer Xander up. She doesn’t do much good, though; after a few jokes about accessorising his eye patch with a parrot or a pegleg, she wells up – and, okay, admittedly, I nearly did, too. Xander really is the only character I really care about this season and everything is going hopelessly wrong. Ouch.

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Back at Buffy’s, Anya is lecturing the Potentials about the ubervamps and how to kill them; she’s a lot better dressed in this scene than the last time I saw her, which is nice. She gets distracted by talking about her sex life, though, and some of the Potentials sneak out of her lecture, bored. Faith is in the kitchen, sitting on the counter and munching something out of a paper bag; Amanda and Kennedy go to talk to her, but obviously everyone’s feeling very dejected and hopeless. Buffy breezes in with the police report and sends the Potentials back down to the basement for Anya’s continuing lecture, and though Dawn tries to ask her about Xander, she refuses to answer, to the point where Faith has to tell Dawn to shh. I’m not entirely sure what this is about; I’m not buying that Buffy doesn’t care about Xander, but I think maybe she’s trying not to, trying to focus on the big picture and not think too much about what it’s costing everyone. She’s really not cut out for this leadership lark, but I only very occasionally feel any sympathy for her, because she’s become so unlikeable. Which is a shame.

After a difficult conversation with Kennedy, Buffy heads over to Sunnydale High to pick up something from her old office, though I’m not sure what it was since she seems to have gotten distracted by a photograph of herself, Xander and Willow, in much younger, happier times. Or maybe that was what she was looking for. Either way, she doesn’t get much of a chance to wallow in her pain before Caleb appears, goading her for being just like a woman, crying as soon as she doesn’t get her way. Again with the scary misogyny, though just to even things out a bit Caleb also says he wants to pop out Xander’s other eye whenever it’s convenient. Buffy says she’ll end him if he dares touch Xander again and Caleb decides it’s time to put her in her place, ripping up her desk and throwing Buffy through a glass door and into a wall, which cracks. Ouch.

Meanwhile, Dawn’s managed to find something in the police files, which she shows Dawn. Andrew whines, irritatingly, in the background, but everyone ignores him, which is totally understandable. What Dawn found was a photograph of a church where something bad had happened – and Caleb’s insignia has been burned into a wall. Giles sends a wary Spike and a reluctant Andrew to check out the church, while the Potentials mope around feeling pointless. Most of this season seems to have involved people moping around feeling pointless, which isn’t the most entertaining thing in the world to watch.

To cheer everyone up, Faith drags all the Potentials off to the Bronze, where not only is there a band playing but the club is packed with young people dancing. Because when everyone left town, they left their teenagers behind? Er, that seems a bit nonsensical.

When Buffy regains consciousness and gets home, she finds everyone’s gone except Giles. They have an argument about him sending Spike away, where Buffy accuses Giles of sending away the one person who was looking out for her; he argues that everyone is on her side, but she says it doesn’t feel that way. He also, reluctantly, tells her where Faith and the Potentials have gone.

There’s another brief and pointless Caleb interlude here.

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At the Bronze, the police have tracked Faith down, and they take her outside to beat her up. Though they’re only men and she’s a Slayer, she doesn’t want to kill them and they have guns, so things actually seem pretty bad for Faith. The Potentials have all been trapped inside with another policeman, who seems quite willing to shoot them all, but naturally in the end the goodies prevail. Unfortunately, Buffy turns up just a bit too late, once Faith has fought off all the police, just in time to lecture Faith on taking the girls into danger and drunkeness. Oh dear. Faith retorts that Buffy wasn’t that worried about leading them into danger when she took them all into the vineyard, which earns her a punch in the face. Oh, Buffy, you’re turning everyone against you.

There’s a brief comedy interlude with Andrew and Spike on a motorbike here. Sigh.

Wood arrives at Buffy’s for a meeting to find Faith sitting outside smoking. The two of them flirt a bit, and then we’re back with Andrew and Spike, who discover that the abandoned church isn’t completely abandoned – there’s still a monk there, and he’s been marked with Caleb’s ring. Uh oh. It turns out, though, that Caleb killed all the other monks who should be there, leaving only one left alive – he was in search of something kept in a secret room in the church/monastery, and was very angry when he found it. Spike reads the inscription left on the wall: “It is not for thee, it is for her alone to wield.” Hmmmm.

Back in Sunnydale, Xander has come home from hospital, and it’s all very touching and slightly upsetting. Oh, Xander. He doesn’t get long to settle in, though, before Buffy’s come in announcing that she wants everyone to go back to the vineyard. She explains that Caleb attacked her, and that she realised that the Hellmouth under the school can’t be the problem, because no-one’s guarding it: they’re guarding the vineyard. She wants to lead her troops back into battle, though everyone else, including Faith, Giles, and Wood disagrees. Buffy gets petulant, asking why, given that everyone’s followed her for the last 7 years, they’re no longer willing to trust her – and suddenly everyone’s arguing. Rona says Buffy’s being reckless, Anya asks why Buffy’s in charge (and she’s wearing something crazy again!) and why she thinks she’s so much better than everyone else. Xander even pipes up, in spite of his support for this plan the last time Buffy suggested it, saying that her methods have a price. Buffy just gets more and more angry – with a sort of hopelessness behind the anger – demanding that everyone falls in line behind her. But they won’t, especially not now that there’s another Slayer in town with just as much right to the title of leader. Tensions are running high, and Buffy snaps at everyone until Dawn steps forward and tells her to leave. Ouch.

I really can’t figure out where I stand on this issue, because Buffy’s plan does sound dangerous and reckless, but then again I don’t see what good waiting around moping and whining will do, either, since the First Evil is busy getting on with all its plans. Still, Buffy leaves, and when Faith follows her Buffy just tells her to go away, to take over and to lead the girls. Which was never going to be a good idea, really.

This was another one of those episodes in which nothing much happens; this debate has gone on and on and on for ages, with everyone doubting Buffy and Buffy valiantly struggling on, trying to do what she always does and save the world. I can feel her exhaustion and frustration at this point far more easily than I can see the point of someone like Rona… except, last time, Buffy’s plans got two girls killed, Rona’s arm broken, and Xander’s eye gouged out. Oh dear. I’m glad the finale is close.

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