Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 17, 2011

Robin’s Review: S1, E11 – Out of Mind, Out of Sight

Synopsis: Those close to Cordelia are being attacked by an invisible force. Buffy and company work out that it is one of their missing classmates Marcie. The world paid her so little attention that she turned invisible and has gone mad. Cordelia comes to Buffy for help while Angel comes to talk to Giles about some prophecies. Marcie’s jealousy of Cordelia’s popularity leads her to attempt to permanently disfigure her.

The Good: This is a pretty strong episode on all fronts.

The Marcie story isn’t the most compelling tale in itself but it does touch on some very intriguing themes. The idea that a girl could feel so ignored by the world that she would actually turn invisible is a clear metaphor for the isolation and misery that many teens experience. For once though the metaphor does its job superbly as Marcie’s tragedy becomes more than a simple monster-of-the-week story. The very idea of her disappearance is deeply tragic. The more you think about the issues of loneliness, isolation and insanity that she suffered the more heart breaking it seems. This is definitely one of Buffy’s best concepts so far, where the exaggeration of the science fiction only deepens the reality of what people actually go through.

The presentation of the story was good, never being played for laughs, always focussed on Marcie’s story as tragedy. The flashbacks showing her life gave us a picture of her to help fill in the invisible character. Her ‘nest’ above the music room was another good idea giving us insight into her mindset and existence since she disappeared. The way Buffy and the Slayerettes realised that they were also responsible for her situation was yet another intelligent bit of writing. She was no mere mindless villain; she was a manifestation of the rejection which the world had heaped on her. Willow pointed out that she had written “Have a great Summer” instead of the simple “Have a nice summer” that everyone else had filled her yearbook with. It was a line which suited her sweet nature but also pointed out that mere politeness was not enough.

The concept of the invisible enemy is an interesting one too. Humans are more reliant on their sight than other animals and the fear and tension felt authentic as characters began to realise that they could be being watched at any time. Most of the action scenes were fairly predictable but played out just fine.

Marcie was a different kind of villain to all the others this season. She was genuinely sympathetic and so the choice of the unlikable Cordelia as her target juxtaposed them nicely. We start the episode seeing Cordelia at her most self absorbed as she misses most of the point about Shylock and later sees her boyfriends beating as mainly an affront to her vanity. Yet we finally see some depth to her character as she comes to Buffy for help (see The Unknown). She admits that popularity doesn’t make her happy and after Buffy saves her she is sincerely grateful. Yes she won’t turn her back on her life of cool, which makes sense. It was a good story to humanise her and it threw us a reminder about Buffy’s life too. Buffy looked at Cordelia’s May Queen success and was reminded of the life she lost once she was called to be the slayer.

The reappearance of Angel was needed. He brought the Master back into the story once more and made it clear that he has been avoiding Buffy since their kiss. It was nice to see Giles’ reaction to him too. He seemed understandably scared but soon rather pleased to be able to speak to someone who had the same reading list. Angel was also able to smoothly weigh in on the Marcie issue and point out the dehumanising effect of not being able to see your own reflection.

I liked Snyder saying “There are no dead students here!” emphatically and then adding “this week.”

The Bad: No one thanked Angel for saving them from the gas. How ungrateful.

This isn’t the kind of gripping spectacle that you can imagine other TV shows might make out of an invisible villain. The structure of Marcie’s attack on Cordelia is sensibly predictable and you know Buffy will save the day with little issue. There is almost too much material that could be mined from the concept to make the episode feel truly satisfying. Rather like Angel, a villain with emotions and conflicts will always be more intriguing than a bug or hyena.

The Unknown: The appearance of the FBI (apparently) to take Marcie away to be rehabilitated was a very interesting moment. We have already learnt that techno-pagans are aware of the supernatural and now it would seem the government is too. It was an interesting choice because Marcie was a human, not someone who could be slayed. It’s difficult to think how else her story could have been resolved without her death or everyone in school having to accept that she was invisible.

Which brings us to Cordelia’s swift acceptance of the fact that she was being attacked by an invisible girl. In this case I liked the way the issue was handled. Unlike the brutal death that was ignored two episodes ago, here the school was very aware of the strange occurrences taking place. Cordelia’s acknowledgement that Buffy was strong and plugged in to the weird and wacky was an intelligent way to handle the situation. Cordelia presents us with the kind of behaviour we can accept as an audience. She knows that unusual stuff goes on but she chooses not to think about it. She is asked to believe in an invisible girl, which is perhaps easier to accept than vampires or demons and it did fit all the evidence.

It was probably a detail too far but you wonder what Marcie’s parents knew about her disappearance and why she chose to live at the school instead of being at home.

Best Moment: Angel’s arrival in the library was a clever moment. Giles is fairly aware now of who Marcie is so when he is alone in the library and hears creaking he freezes and calls out “Who’s there?” There is no reply and so he turns to look in the reflection of a glass case. He sees nothing and so turns around only to walk slap bang into Angel giving him a fright. It made me jump too, even though I knew it was coming.

The Bottom Line: A great improvement on recent episodes and an example of how the world of Buffy can shine a different light on an ever present teen problem.

65/100

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