Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 9

Sarah forces herself through yet another episode of Buffy season 7, but is starting to feel impatient with it. C'mon, people, make something happen!

Buffy

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Andrew and Jonathan came back from Mexico, Joyce warned Dawn about Buffy, Spike was insane in the basement, some guys were running around in black robes, Spike was eating people again, and the black robe guys attacked Giles. Dun dun dun!

Because this is supposed to be a real series and not just an episode of Tom and Jerry, the episode opens with everyone helping clean up Buffy’s house. While discussing what they should do with Spike, of couse. I’m not sure why they’re bothering, because they should know by now that Buffy will make up her own mind, without paying attention to what anyone else thinks. Anya, though, is firmly in the Spike-is-evil-let’s-kill-him camp, which again makes me uncomfortable about how, y’know, she just pressed the rewind button on her own massacre and everyone accepted that. This is really, really messed up.

Elsewhere, Andrew is stalking around in a floor-length leather trenchcoat, feeling like Neo. The First-Warren walks alongside him, encouraging him to keep going with the whole opening-the-seal thing. Andrew says he feels bad about killing Jonathan, at which point The First morphs into Jonathan and says it’s okay, it didn’t hurt too much. Um, right, here’s my problem with this: all of the Scooby gang who say visions of The First were able to keep their wits about them – Willow managed to realise that Tara wouldn’t tell her to kill herself, for example. Spike has been completely snookered by The First, but that’s because he was already vulnerable due to the return of his soul and the fact that he was living in the basement next to the seal. What’s Andrew’s excuse for not noticing that one of his dead best friends just morphed into another one? How come he doesn’t stop to think, hey, maybe that’s not really Warren or Jonathan? There’s gullible, and there’s delusional, and then there’s downright stupid.

Upstairs at Buffy’s house, Buffy is tying Spike to a chair, and he urges her to tie the knots tighter, because if he get loose, he’ll kill someone. Dun dun dun! Or, y’know, credits.

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Post-credits, Principal Wood is threatening some kids in order to scare them into repainting a wall they’d vandalised when Dawn interrupts to tell him that Buffy won’t be into work today since she’s got a stomach bug. Or, as Dawn puts is, she has “stuff coming out of both ends.” Ewwww. Good thing that’s a lie, or this would be a lot more gross. Actually, Buffy’s just staying home and running up a massive phone bill by calling the Watchers’ Council, where Quentin Travers lies his ass off to her, telling her they don’t know what’s going on nor where Giles is. As soon as she hangs up, he starts issuing orders to people to find Giles, ASAP…

Having exhausted that line of enquiry (read: made her one phone call) Buffy goes to check on Spike, only to find out that he’s having “withdrawals” from human blood. Er, blood is addictive now? I thought it was just vampire food. Which they need for, like, survival and not starving to death and stuff. Spike even explained that at one point. But no, for the purposes of this episode, blood is addictive, and so the Scoobies will have to find some blood for Spike to drink. Willow volunteers to go to the butchers, because she’s fed up of Xander’s lectures on tool maintenance. Poor Xander. He must really be falling apart. Every time we see him he’s talking about being broken-hearted and lonely and then as soon as he’s off-screen everyone makes fun of him. Harsh. What happened to Buffy, Willow and Xander being best friends, anyway?

Speaking of trios of best friends, Warren is currently encouraging Andrew to kill a piglet. Awwww. Andrew argues that Babe 2: Pig in the City was vastly underrated then lunges at the pig with a roar of “That’ll do, piggggg!” but it runs off. He figures there must be an easier way to get pig’s blood than this – but at the butcher he runs into Willow, literally. Blood goes everywhere and Willow chases him down for a really bizarre face-off, where both of them ramble grandly about magical powers, all of which is patently bullshit. Willow wins the argument, though, and brings Andrew back to Buffy’s house, where Xander and Anya indulge in some good-cop-bad-cop nonsense with him.

I know I keep complaining about this, but can someone pick a tone and stick to it, please? Season 7 is quite dark and depressing because everyone’s all damaged and broken, which makes it difficult to watch, but what makes it worse is the fact that the writers keep throwing in these pathetically light-hearted skits that seem more desperate than funny, and somehow makes the whole thing all the more upsetting. I’m not sure if this is intentional – possibly, sometimes – but it’s exhausting.

The next few scenes show Buffy trying to interrogate Spike in one bedroom while Xander and Anya try to break Andrew in the next room, with lots of quick cuts between the two to signal that the two scenes are about to get merged together. And so they do – when Anya knocks Andrew to the floor, Buffy leaves Spike alone to see what’s going on and The First nips in to sing that weird song to Spike, causing him to flip out, break the chair apart, smash through the wall, and sink his teeth into Andrew’s neck. Er, he didn’t used to be that hardcore, did he? I mean, maybe, in season 2, but any time recently? Hmmm. It’s probably like how Xander’s usefulness fluctuates depending on whether the script calls for Buffy to have help in a fight or for a bumbling idiot to screw things up.

Ugh. Anyway, seems Buffy overheard Spike singing to himself this time, and twigs that the song does something to him. Xander helpfully supplies the information: seems the military uses songs to program soldiers to flip personalities at the drop of a hat, and it seems that’s what’s happening here. Spike’s become a sleeper agent. (Which is why the last episode was called Sleeper. Not this one, though. This one’s called Never Leave Me, which is what the song’s called. Those two titles should maybe have been switched, I think.)

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The final few moments of the episode see something finally happen. At last! Principal Wood finds Jonathan’s corpse in the basement and buries it in the middle of nowhere, suggesting something’s not entirely right with him; the Watchers start to mobilise to fight the rising evil and get blown up for their troubles with some really, really bad CGI fire, and after Buffy gets to touchingly tell Spike she believes in his ability to reform himself, the black-robed ninja guys turn up and wreck havoc. Buffy manages to fight most of them, but they take Spike – and, finally, the Scoobies know what they’re up against this season, because Buffy’s fought the black-robed guys before, way back in season 2. It’s The First Evil! (Which I already knew, so not so much of a shock, but, er, never mind.)

The very, very final scene shows The First, initially manifesting as Spike and then morphing into Buffy, cutting up Spike and hanging him up above the Seal of Danzalthar. Somehow, I feel like I haven’t been paying the appropriate amount of attention to the stuff about the Seal; probably because it was all tied in with Andrew and Jonathan and let’s face it, they never quite seem relevant, do they? Spike’s blood does what Jonathan’s couldn’t – it opens the seal. And a really fucking scary thing comes out. Yay! Finally! Something is happening beyond people being depressed and insane in the basement! There’s a monster to fight! Yay!