Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 10, 2011

Robin’s Review: S1, E10 – Nightmares

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 110 – Nightmares

Synopsis: Students nightmares start coming true and Buffy keeps seeing a mysterious young boy. She and Giles discover that he is a local boy, Billy, who was beaten into a coma after a kiddy league game. Now it seems that his nightmares and everyone else’s in Sunnydale are coming true. Giles gets lost in the library and then forgets how to read. Xander walks into class naked and is then attacked by a clown. Buffy’s Dad swings by to tell her that she was responsible for her parents splitting up. Then she is buries alive by the Master and turned into a vampire. Finally she helps Billy overcome the “Ugly Man” who has been tormenting him and he wakes from his coma.

The Good: There were a couple of good things here. The Master hasn’t played a very important role in the season so far and it was nice to see him interact with Buffy even if only in a nightmare. Buffy’s nightmares were more interesting than anyone else’s and seeing her as a vampire was an interesting sight while the scene with her father was brutal (see Best Moment). The choice of spiders made sense to kick us off as they could plausibly be in a school and are an obvious nightmare scenario. Cordelia’s obsession with her hair gave her a nice shallow nightmare to play.

The Bad: This was a bit of a mess. The nightmares felt too random to build up a sense of real tension.

They built up fairly gradually but then suddenly we were being asked as an audience to accept too much all at once. The “Ugly Man” looked silly and so it was tough to take him seriously even though he had put a girl in the hospital. We had some nightmares played for comedy like Willow being whisked into an opera performance and then others were serious like Giles seeing Buffy’s grave. That shift in tone was awkward because it wasn’t clear how seriously anyone was meant to be taking their nightmares. Giles seemed fully aware of what was going on when he practically delivered Buffy’s eulogy. Surely he knew she wasn’t dead? Then Buffy appears as a vampire and he clearly doesn’t fear that the transformation will last. Similarly why is Willow so scared of the opera audience when it’s clearly not real? Or indeed why is Xander so embarrassed when he is essentially standing in his swimming gear? In the middle of this terror he stands up for himself and knocks out the clown attacking him. That felt like a counterproductive moment as it undermined the power of the nightmares at the moment when they were supposed to reach their climax as a threat.

The tone and content were all over the place and it led to a conclusion that seemed inappropriate and underwhelming. Billy’s baseball coach had been so angry at losing a game he had beaten Billy into a coma. That’s pretty serious and yet when Billy wakes up he tells off the coach for blaming him for costing them the game. The implication being that the real nightmare was the guilt Billy felt. That he had carried the burden of guilt that somehow he deserved to be beaten for costing his team the game. That moral seems a stretch when child brutality of any kind is self evidently wrong. The coach then makes no strenuous effort to escape despite the fact that he is about to be put in prison for a long time. In fact he kind of shrugged as if he didn’t want to hear the moral of the story about blame. Umm, surely the moral of this story is about beating children?

The Unknown: The Master explains to the Anointed one that vampires are scared of crosses. That’s pretty interesting and hasn’t been explored before. Now we know that the cross causes fear and not just pain it does help explain why vampires all seem to jump at the sight of one.

Best Moment: Buffy’s Dad comes to tell her that he left the family because of what a disappointment she was to him. He kind of lays out the horrible paranoid story many children of divorce fear they might hear. He talks about all the trouble she caused, adding genuine facts to the list of lies and then tells her he doesn’t want to see her anymore. She plays it beautifully looking utterly heartbroken. It’s the one part of the nightmare story which worked perfectly.

The Bottom Line: The writing utterly failed to make anything of this episode. For once the comedy and drama tripped all over each other and ruined a story which had potential. It’s the second dud in a row which isn’t a great sign.

42/100

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