Buffy The Vampire Slayer – tape 2253

Now here’s a small puzzle for me.

This tape was labelled Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and indeed that’s what it contains. But the tape number in my database says the number belongs to The Langoliers part 2. Unfortunately, since the tapes are all packed in large boxes in inaccessible places in my garage, and also not in any particular order, it’s virtually impossible for me to find the tape to check the label and number, and see if it’s simply a case of me not having updated my database (quite possible) and, sadly therefore, having taped over part 2 of The Langoliers. Which would be a small shame, because much as I love Buffy, I’ve got them all on DVD, but I don’t have The Langoliers. Oh well, maybe it’ll turn up. For now, I’m sticking with this tape number.

First, Lover’s Walk. Willow is horrified by her test scores – 740 verbal. I don’t know what that means. Buffy also gets a good score, but this doesn’t seem to excite her. Cordelia is delighted, as it’ll mean Buffy will leave Sunnydale for college and never come back.

“After all, what kind of moron would ever want to come back here?”

Yes, Spike’s back. And he’s a mess, since the last time we saw him was the end of the previous season, when Drusilla turned agains

Xander and Cordelia are a couple, as are Oz and Willow. But Willow and Xander have unresolved relationship issues, from a previous episode. So Willow decides to cast a spell to make the love go away.

But Spike captures Willow and Xander, and wants her to make a love spell for him, to make Drusilla love him again.

He also pays a visit to Joyce, who clearly doesn’t know his past, and there’s an amusing scene when Angel can’t come in because he hasn’t been invited.

Willow and Xander being imprisoned and possibly in mortal danger naturally brings them together, which gets embarrassing when Cordelia and Oz find them.

Worse is to come when Cordelia falls through the rotten floor and is impaled on an iron spike. There’s a heartwrenching moment as Xander begs her to hold on, as she closes her eyes, breaths out, and the camera pulls up slowly.

Cut to a funeral. Then Buffy and Willow walk past in the foreground. “So Cordelia’s going to be OK?” “Yes, she lost a lot of blood, but no vital organs were punctured.”

I love this show so much. And for some reason, I care so much more about their various relationships than I ever do about the people in Roswell High. Possibly because, as characters, they’re just more interesting. But also, more happens to the arcs of the characters in this single episode than seems to happen in five episodes of Roswell. At the end of this episode every single character’s relationships has changed significantly, including Spike’s.

Next is The Wish. Cordelia’s still ignoring Xander’s phone calls, and burning his pictures, as she recovers from her injury.

First day back at school, and Cordy’s friends are their usual bitchy selves, suggesting Cordelia should start dating, and suggesting she start with Jonathan.

Danny Strong makes regular appearances in various episodes. He’s now an Oscar nominated screenwriter.

This episode also sees the first appearance of Anya, here in her original form of Anyanka the vengeance demon who grants vengeance wishes for wronged women.

Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. This creates a terrible alternate world. Remember what I said a couple of tapes ago, about alternate universe stories being great. Well here’s Exhibit A, and we’re off on a horribly dark version of Sunnydale if Buffy had never come there.

Among the highlights are: Xander and Willow are vampires and, to rub salt into Cordy’s wounds, still a couple.

Mark Metcalf is back as The Master, killed by Buffy in the old world, but still reigning over Sunnydale here, where all non-vampires are cowering at home at night.

Giles is still there, although of course he’s not had to be a watcher because Buffy never came. Cordelia tries to tell him that this world is wrong because she wished for no Buffy, but before a plan can be formed, she’s killed by Xander and Willow. Giles recognises Anya’s amulet around her neck, starts doing research, then has to go home to check more books, but on the way sees a group of humans being corralled into a truck by some vampires, so he tries to help, and is almost taken himself when the vampires are taken out but an unseen figure. It’s Buffy.

They went for a scar. I’m an alternate universe purist, and would have preferred an eyepatch (see Doctor Who: Inferno) since a Star Trek goatee was out of the question.

Buffy decides to go after The Master, since she’s there anyway, and doesn’t believe Giles’ thoughts about the alternate reality. She doesn’t find him at his lair, in The Bronze, but she does find Angel, who’s happy to see her, as he’s been waiting for her to come to Sunnydale all this time. He’s been kept as a pet by The Master, and tortured by Angel and Willow.

The Master is setting up a factory to do mass processing of humans to extract their blood. Buffy and Angel crash the party, free the humans from their cage, and a huge fight ensues. And because it’s an alternate reality, the stakes are huge, and pretty much everyone starts dying.

Lucky, then, that Giles has summoned Anyanka, and when she won’t restore things, he takes her necklace and destroys it, just as Buffy is killed by The Master.

Everything is back as it was, Anyanka’s power is gone, and it was all a bad dream.

It’s strange. A story which basically pushes a big reset switch at the end should really annoy me, but this is still one of my favourite episodes of the whole series. I think, because it takes the premise seriously, and the jeopardy the characters are in is still very real, it has dramatic heft. And I’ve just noticed that this is the second episode in a row that ‘kills’ Cordelia.

Next it’s Amends. Starting off with Oirish Angel back in the 19th Century. I confess, there’s a small part of me that thinks the Angel backstory can sometimes skirt very close to being this show’s ‘Klingon Bollocks’. Boreanaz’s Irish accent in particular is on very shaky ground.

Angel’s dreaming about his past, and when he’s awake, in town talking to Buffy, he sees the man he killed in his dream, a man from his past.

It’s Christmas in Sunnydale, complete with an unseasonal heatwave, so the Christmas Tree vendor has to improvise.

Willow and Oz have something of a reconciliation. Cordelia, on the other hand, is still rightfully angry with Xander.

New slayer Faith is around. She and Buffy aren’t hitting it off, though.

Angel keeps having dreams about his past which he doesn’t understand so he goes to the only person who  can help him – Giles. But because the last time Giles saw Angel, he had just murdered his lover, Jenny Calendar, Giles isn’t happy to see him. This scene is electrifying right from the off. The episode where Angel killed Jenny was shocking, so however we feel about the new, improved, good again Angel, we know exactly what Giles is feeling, and somehow because Anthony Head plays it with all Giles’ English reserve, the emotional undercurrent is even stronger.

Angel wants to know why he’s been brought back. Giles isn’t sure he should help him achieve peace of mind. “The last time you became complacent about your existence, it turned out rather badly.”

But while they’re talking, Angel is seeing someone else from the past. Jenny Calendar.

Giles can’t see her but Angel can, so he leaves quickly. Cue another dream from the past. But this time he sees Buffy in the dream. And Buffy sees the same dream.

The gang start researching, while Angel is visited by visions of the people he has killed, telling him all the awful things he’s done. Whoever is tormenting him wants him to get back with Buffy, and kill her. The gang find something in Giles’ books about a group of priests with no eyes summoning the First Evil. And the bartender in the local bar frequented by demons and vampires says that he’s heard there might be something nasty somewhere underground.

Willow and Oz have a ‘netflix and chill’ evening. OK, it’s videos, but you get the idea. I love this scene. Willow is ready, with the nice dress and Barry White on the stereo, but it’s Oz who’s not ready, and is willing to say they should wait until they both ‘need it to happen’. I love Oz so much. Come to that, I love Willow, but that kind of goes without saying.

Angel’s tormentors are driving him to kill Buffy, so Buffy has to find whoever is doing this. Angel is fighting the impulses – he’d rather die at sunrise than kill Buffy. Buffy and Giles find something that leads her to a spot under the Christmas Tree. She confronts the First Evil, in Jenny’s form, who tells her Angel will be dead by sunrise. She finds Angel on a hill overlooking Sunnydale, minutes before sunrise.

Angel wants to die, Buffy wants him to fight, to live. “If I can’t convince you that you belong in this world then I don’t know what can. But do not expect me to watch. And don’t expect me to mourn for you because…”

And then it starts snowing.

The snow means the sun’s not coming out any time soon. If Angel wanted a sign, I think he got one.

Another really good episode. The show really was firing on all cylinders this year.

Finally on this tape, Gingerbread. Joyce brings Buffy a snack while she’s out on patrol. She witnesses a fight with a vampire. “Oh my God. It’s Mr Sanderson from the bank.”

While Buffy is busy with the vamp, Joyce discovers the bodies of two young children, dead in the playground.

It’s a shocking thing, even for Sunnydale. Giles thinks it might be cult related, and not demons.

Side note: This episode’s story is co-written by Thania St John, one of the Roswell High writing team, who also worked on The New Adventures of Superman.

Joyce and the local parents mobilise the local community to protest against the horrific murder. The rumours going around is that witches are responsible. And when Joyce addresses the town meeting she strikes an ominous tone. “This isn’t our town any more. It belongs to the monsters, and the witches, and the slayers.”

But then, we see Willow and her friends enacting some type of ritual, around the symbol that was on the dead children’s hands.

At school, one of Willow’s friends, a boy goth wizard, is hassled by some jocks. “People like him have got to learn a lesson”

Willow’s other friend Amy stands up for him. “What about people like me?” “Get in my face and you’ll find out.”

Then Buffy’s head comes into frame next to Amy, and the jocks back off. I love little moments like this.

But pretty soon the police are raiding lockers, and Amy and Willow are summoned to the Principal’s office. And Giles’ library is ransacked by the police.

Willow is grounded. And Joyce forbids Buffy to see Willow. She’s founded MOO – Mothers Opposed to the Occult. But we know there’s something else at play, because Joyce is visited by the ghosts of the two dead children.

Buffy asks Giles what they know about the two dead children, and nobody seems to know anything about them – who they are, who their parents are, where they went to school. Some online searching finds references to the same two dead children, reports that pop up every 50 years going back centuries.

Willow’s mother talks more to her. She’s discussed it with MOO. “So you believe me now?” asks Willow. “I believe you, dear. Now all I can do is let you go with love.”

It’s a potent theme, the parent convinced of their child’s evil or guilt, and it always scares me.

Pretty soon, the town hall is rigged for a good old fashioned witch burning, and Joyce manages to drug Buffy with some chloroform so she’s tied up too. I love that they’ve got old fashioned torches. It wouldn’t be an angry mob without lit torches.

Amy takes matters into her own hands and turns herself into a rat to escape, leaving Willow and Buffy still tied up. So it’s up to Giles and Cordelia to race to the rescue, Giles with a spell, and Cordelia with more practical help.

Giles reveals the true form of the two children, and Buffy manages to finish him off. With that, the collective delusion vanishes.

Not quite as wrenching as the previous episodes, but this was still top notch stuff.

Following this, recording continues with World’s Most Incredible Hostage Rescues, the kind of tat that Sky One ran all the time. The tape ends during this programme.

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2 comments

  1. She also wrote for another show you’ve looked at, “VR.5.”

    I wish someone could have convinced Joss Whedon that it’s fine to let a couple remain happy sometimes.

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