Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | April 8, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E05 – Beer Bad

Synopsis: Xander gets a job at the pub on campus but gets abuse from college guys who look down on him. Buffy ends up drinking with them to help take her mind off Parker. After a heavy night of beer she seems a lot slower than normal. Willow is worried by Oz’ sudden interest in the female singer of another band. She also comes across Parker and has a go at him. They are interrupted by the now devolved college boys who barricade themselves in and start a fire.

The Good: I really liked Buffy’s day dreams about Parker. We all fantasise about what we can’t get (as Professor Walsh neatly explains) but what made her imagination so interesting was the inversion of the male fantasy of being the rescuing hero. It made sense that she would see herself in this role and it also showed off the part of herself that he never saw, something she would doubtless ruminate on. The ending has some base satisfaction too as devolved Buffy smacks Parker over the head twice. The supernatural usually steps up to allow Buffy the chance to beat her problems into the ground and this was a different take on that formula.

The comedy which worked was brief but did include cave slayer spinning in her chair and Willow briefly thinking about group sex. Parker continued to be a very well constructed character. He was smooth and had intelligent sounding excuses to cover for his crass manipulation. The Oz-Willow story walked the line of plausible miscommunication just fine.

The Bad: At some point in our lives we’ve all attempted the kind of acting that Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kal Penn and the others did here. The duh duh duh routine is something that probably came up during childhood or perhaps even more recently during an unimaginative moment of sarcasm. It’s a performance which will never ever look convincing because it isn’t based on anything real. It’s much easier to act drunk, hung over or confused because those are all real states. Whereas trying to simulate the behaviour of someone whose brain is smaller than your own just isn’t something we’ve ever experienced.

That’s the technical explanation for why this episode was such a horrible idea and why everything looked so dumb. There’s really nothing the actors could do because, as I said, there is no such thing as convincing cave man acting. As soon as Buffy began monosyllabically praise her TV the story became comically silly. The antics of the cave men was a grind to get through as a result. It didn’t help that we had no clue what the cave men were thinking. With the average Buffy demon we know roughly what they are up to and so what the danger is. It was tedious watching the cave men discover trees and cars because there was no way any of this was building to something interesting. Initially they were afraid of fire and then for some reason decided to start one after barricading themselves in one of the common areas on campus. There was no explanation for any of this and Buffy’s retention of some intelligence conveniently allowed everything to wrap up with little fuss or shock from any civilians about this devolution.

Neither the lead college guy nor Jack the bartender was given any characterisation beyond their basic socio-economic disparity.

The Unknown: Riley’s character is slowly coming into more focus. The lines he’s being given sound a bit too like Xander for someone so tall and strapping. His gentlemanly self deprecation just doesn’t sound as convincing as it’s clearly supposed to.

Best Moment: The opening dream sequences.

The Bottom Line: This is comfortably the worst episode of Buffy up to this point. Rather like Joey not realising he can’t speak French (Friends 1013) there are some plots which are just too dumb for TV.

38/100

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