Trying to watch Beneath You caused my DVD player to have a mini-meltdown – for whatever reason, hitting “play” just caused seizure-inducing flashing lights in bright green and grey to pulse onscreen. Happily, I managed to get into the scene selection menu and watched the episode from there. Nyah, DVD player!
Anyway. Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, love sucked. The extra-long previously-on recaps the Buffy and Spike situation, i.e. that she used him for sex and then he tried to rape her before getting his soul restored; the Xander and Anya situation, i.e. he left her at the altar and she reverted to her vengeance demon self; and the Willow situation, i.e. Tara got shot and then Willow killed people. Then there’s a quick recap of everything that happened in the previous episode, too. Whew.
The episode proper opens in Frankfurt, Germany, where the hooded guys from last week chase a pink-haired goth, eventually cornering her. She fights them off for a while, but there are too many of them and eventually they stab her to death. Though not before she’s turned to the camera and creepily intoned “from beneath you, it devours.” Ooh. Then suddenly we’re in Sunnydale, and Dawn’s waking Buffy up from the nightmare she’s having… about a pink-haired goth girl in Germany getting killed by creepy robed guys. She has a premonition about how lots of other girls are going to die, but then a CGI earthquake cuts her off, and the opening credits roll.
Post-credits, crazy Spike stalks a rat, spouting Drusilla-style nonsense, before he gets all shaken up by the earthquake too.
And suddenly we’re in the car with Xander, Buffy and Dawn, because all three of them are off to the high school. Awww. I think. Xander gets a couple of random lines about how terrible it is that he’s single nowadays, and Buffy reminds him that that’s because he left Anya at the altar, and then there’s some joking about how they all keep dating demons, but really, wasn’t Xander just kind of reaching out and telling his best friend that he’s lonely? And she just… mocked him? Harsh, Buffy, harsh.
Once they get to the school, Buffy gets her own cubicle and Principal Wood natters on about how she’s the youngest and least stuffy member of staff (he wants to say “hottest”, you can tell) so kids will totally want to talk to her about their problems, but that she shouldn’t judge them, or try to make friends with them, or they’ll eat her alive. She makes a quip about Principal Flutie, who was literally eaten alive by his students way back in the first season, and I’m really thinking Buffy has a problem with knowing when it’s appropriate to say things. And she’s just been employed to help troubled kids. Oh dear.
… Not that it matters, because as soon as the principal’s gone she’s running off to the basement to find crazy Spike. He’s not there, though. Ha.
Over in Westbury, England (this is a very international episode, isn’t it?) Willow’s confiding in Giles that she’s scared to go back to Sunnydale. Partially because she knows something evil is on the way, but also because she doesn’t know whether Buffy and Xander will forgive her. Um, don’t they have e-mail in Westbury? Or, like, telephones? Shouldn’t part of her rehabilitation include talking to her friends? I don’t know. Seems a bit weird.
Annnnyway. Back in Sunnydale, a woman is walking her dog when it suddenly falls into a hole in the ground. Something is obviously pulling it, and she gets dragged along the floor because she’s too stupid to let go of the dog’s lead. Whatever it is stops pulling before she reaches the hole, and when she gets up to run, she runs smack into Xander, who drags her off to tell her story to Buffy. In the middle of explaining, an oddly lucid Spike shows up, and there’s a weirdly self-conscious argument between Buffy, Xander, Dawn and Spike, with the woman (her name’s Nancy, it turns out) sitting confused in the middle of it all. Buffy being Buffy, she brushes off Xander’s concerns and goes to speak to Spike in private – he offers his help with whatever’s coming, and then Dawn threatens to kill him in his sleep, and it’s kind of awesome. I know – Dawn, being awesome. It’s unsettling.
Buffy sends Xander to take Nancy home while she and Spike go to investigate the hole in the ground. Xander is understandably concerned, given that the last time Buffy saw Spike, he tried to rape her, but Buffy assures him it’s all okay. Until Spike touches her, then she freaks out, and there’s a flashback which seems rather more explicit than I remembered it being. Buffy actually uses the word “rape” to Spike, too, which surprised me, but, well, good for her, because that’s what happened, and I didn’t really remember that they ever dealt with that. He blusters a bit about being a changed man, and Buffy quips that he’s right, but she doesn’t know what he’s changed into.
At Nancy’s house, she’s busy trying to hit on Xander when the underground monster thing shows up again. It looks kind of like a giant CGI cock with teeth which, given the general theme of the episode, might well be intentional. When Nancy admits that she’s just broken up with an abusive ex, whom she wishes would just leave her alone, something clicks and Xander figures out that a vengeful Anya might well be behind all this. There’s a brilliant moment when the gang all turn up at the Bronze to confront Anya, and she exclaims “Oh, penis!” See, I told you the phallic monster wasn’t just a coincidence.
Anyway, Spike tries to strong-arm Anya into fixing the worm problem, and she tells him not to touch her, causing the gang’s convoluted sexual history to get dredged up in front of Nancy, who wonders aloud “Is there anyone here that hasn’t slept together?” This is completely irrelevant to anything, but I’m mentioning it because I enjoyed the look exchanged between Xander and Spike. Anyway, Anya then notices something about Spike – er, that’d be his soul, then, though she never quite manages to say it in those exact words – and he reacts by punching her in the face. Repeatedly. Buffy jumps in and there’s a full-on brawl, during which Nancy walks out, declaring, quite rightly, that they’re all freaks. There’s a moment between Xander and Anya where he tells her that eventually the “you left me at the altar” excuse for her evildoing is going to wear thin. He has a point, but then again, wasn’t she a vengeance demon for centuries because of one man’s actions? I’m thinking she can use that excuse for a good long while yet.
The fight with the giant worm monster ends up being a damp squib – Anya turns him back into a man just at the exact moment Spike stabs him with a pole, causing Spike to lose all his remaining composure. He repeats the “from beneath you, it devours” line, and somehow Buffy and Spike end up alone in a spooky, run-down church. Through a deranged monologue, during which he at one point tries to have sex with Buffy again, which is really really disturbing, she manages to glean that he’s had his soul restored in an effort to earn forgiveness and love, and the scene fades out as Spike drapes himself, shirtless, over a large cross. It’s a pretty striking image, but considering the rest of the episode, it seems sort of out of place. Nice note to end on, though…
Feeling nostalgic yet? If you missed the recap of Buffy season 7 episode 1, you can catch up here.