Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | April 22, 2012

Podcast #63: The Initiative

Here’s the podcast for Season 4, Episode 7 – The Initiative

Spike on the floor

Spike on the floor

Download: The Initiative

RSS Feed: The Buffy Rewatch

The next podcast will appear on Monday 30th April 2012 for episode eight of Season Four: “Pangs.” That’s the one where Angel comes back and Xander falls into a sacred Indian burial area.

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  1. Although the episode has its moments, it suffers from a vanilla villain and some odd stylistic choices.

    The Good
    I like that Anya and Xander relationship is progressing in a healthy, normal way. They acknowledge his slip of the word “girlfriend” and later argue about slaying the vengeance spirits. I just wish that later moment had some more screen time because it got lost among the other arguments.

    Angel and Giles have a nice back and forth about staying with Buffy now that the boyfriend/girlfriend and Watcher/Slayer relationships are over. Good dialogue aside, I think the two of them are commenting that there is no “Big Bad” threatening Sunnydale. By now we know that the initiate is going to be a major player this season, but I like that neither Giles nor Angel see that.

    Speaking of Watchers, who is Buffy’s Watcher? Isn’t it the Council’s job to keep watch over the Slayer? Is Giles secretly back on the job after last year’s debacle?

    I really enjoyed how Spike was woven into the Thanksgiving story. Right before they jump to him, a character says a line that puts into relief what a bad Thanksgiving Spike is having. Friends? Nope. A place to call home? Nope. He doesn’t even have a plate in front of him at Thanksgiving dinner! I love it. BTW, Harmony’s character growth is great.

    Finally, pincushion Spike and Giles’ line about sarcasm were two things that made me smile.

    The Weird
    So being hungry makes vamps cold? Until he’s tied up, Spike looks sick, not starving.

    The “Demons/Spirits/Small Bads of the Week” weren’t menacing at all. They are supposed to be bad enough to trigger Angel’s friend’s vision, but Buffy was never in any real danger. The only advantage the spirits had over Buffy was that they couldn’t be harmed by normal weapons, but that wasn’t revealed until the last fight. If we learned that at the church fight, the tension could have built when the Scoobies argued about slaying them. Willow’s refusal to research would have had meaning. Why was it so important for Angel to be there? One was about to stab her in the back, but any of the Scoobies could have thrown a knife or tripped him or something.

    Why did the Scoobies think they attacked authority figures? Besides the father, the other victims just happened to be there for the spirit to attack.

    Even the bear failed to be menacing. Spike’s reaction sold the danger at first, but I got sucked out of the fight after I noticed the filmmakers switched back and forth between a real bear and someone in a bear costume. Now I know how Cordia feels when she spots Buffy’s stunt double mid-fight.

    Why does everyone think Angel is evil when they see him? There wasn’t a reason for the Scoobies to think that, and the joke wasn’t that funny in the first place.

    It felt like the filmmakers tried to make some stylistic changes for the “arguing” scenes. First of all, it is uncharacteristic for the Scoobies to squabble amongst themselves, and they do it several times in this episode. Each time, the camera does a slow zoom on Buffy while the arguments rain around her. While I don’t mind this style (reminiscent of Robert Altman), it is unusual for BTVS. I also didn’t connect with Willow’s desire to help the vengeance spirits. I appreciate Spike squashing the argument.

    The fashion I noticed this episode was not the best. Buffy’s cowboy hat wasn’t bad, it was just an unusual choice for her. I guess it could have been related to the Cowboys vs. Indians theme of this episode. Willow’s yellow top reminded me of Vamp Willow calling her “fuzzy”. Finally, Harmony’s sleeveless turtleneck sweater was plain ugly, and it didn’t even do a good job of keeping her warm.

    Favorite Moment
    I enjoyed the final scene of “Pangs” the most. There house is wrecked, there are arrows everywhere, a starving vampire is tied up at the table, and all of the Scoobies are together. It wrapped up the episode nicely, and Xander’s “oops” left the episode on a good note. Did you notice that Spike had an evil grin on his face when everyone turned to Buffy? I think this implies that he spotted Angel during the fight or sensed him or something. My only critique is that they used a fish-eye lens in the last shot, making me feel like I was looking through the bottom of a glass.

  2. Hey Rewatch Gang (of two)!
    I’ve been catching up on all your great podcasts in an effort to assuage my Buffy withdrawals after a winter of marathoning through the entire seven seasons. I really love what you guys bring in commentary to each episode, and am very much looking forward to what you two will discuss in the later part of the series (when sh*t invariably goes DOWN).

    I totally agree with what you both said about this episode in terms of Riley (just derpy) and the logical inconsistencies. It felt like it was written by entirely different writers doing their best at a Whedon impression. Not my cup of tea either.

    I do want to add a bit more about the Spike/Willow scene, however. I agree that it was such a strong and horrifying setup before the joke hit. Really, that setup is the kind of thing Buffy does best–portraying the gravitas of social experiences (in this case, rape) through the mythos of an ass-kicking vampire show without coming off as trite. The ensuing joke absolutely failed on this level though. As part of the narrative, as you both pointed out, it made no sense for Willow to start sympathizing with Spike. As social commentary though, I think this is even worse. Are we supposed to laugh at a vulnerable, rejected girl becoming a rape apologist? I think the writers wanted us to understand her plea about being “bite-able” as her asking if she’s desirable ( or, you know, “bang-able”). But in this case, when the biting is clearly alluding to rape, it seemed more like she was insecure about being “rape-able”. I dunno, that scene made me really uncomfortable on both of my viewings.

    Just a thought about one of the themes that come up throughout this show that I know is pretty controversial for the viewers. Thanks for all you do, and can’t wait for more!

  3. This episode really didn’t do a whole lot for me. Angel really has no need to be in this episode at all, the spirits aren’t that threatening and I don’t really see a moment where Buffy is in more danger than usual. The argument over the ethics of killing the native american spirit was interesting idea but it kind of fell flat for me. It could be that it simply dragged out too long to become interesting besides that, the spirits are killing innocent people. I feel it would be a similar argument if someone said Buffy shouldn’t kill vampires because they used to be human, these spirits are just going to keep killing innocents even they were wronged in the past, I did see what was so up for debate. This was more a debate about real history than a debate about the fictional situation the character were in.

    I am desperately trying to like Riley (after last week’s podcast I do realize it was Willow not Riley that made me like his scenes) and while he wasn’t that terrible in this episode it is hard to find him really endearing because he is just so boring. Riley is not interesting to me. I don’t really want to root for a guy who wears face paint and body armor in suburban California thinking it will make him incognito. Why does the initiate think these outfits are good disguises? But still I keep trying to like Riley but it is pretty likely that my weekly comments will contain a section called This Week in Riley’s A Wet Blanket.

    • By the way I guess I’m giving this a 50 for the week, because I think from what I remember about the scale is that is a episode that is just an average episode.

  4. Still catching up – on paper, the Spike/Willow scene fails. It’s totally out of character for Willow, it’s a joke about metaphorical attempted rape, and it’s the kind of humor that would fit better on a more absurdist show like Scrubs or American Dad, where we understand that the show’s narrative is more flexible. On the other hand, it’s really funny on first watching. I think it’s a classic sitcom scene – Willow and Spike get caught up in this crazy shared reality, then Willow catches up to real reality and hits Spike on the head – that is played very well by the actors.

  5. I’m not sure why, but when I first watched this episode I didn’t take the joke they were going for with Willow and Spike as a rape joke of any kind. I can easily see how people could see it that way after it was pointed out, but I didn’t take it that way.

    To me, it was just a moment of poor writing, the writers probably wanted some comedy or something to pad out the episode a little longer so they decided to use the analogy of a guy who couldn’t preform in bed equaling a vampire being unable to bite a human. When Spike mentions “I thought about you before.” I didn’t take it as “I thought about raping you before” in a realistic situation, but more of a “I thought about having sex with you before.”

    Looking back it was some pretty careless and offensive writing, but I remember laughing when I didn’t really think about it on my first watch… although now whenever I rewatch it I can’t help but think about the huge discussion this podcast sparked about it…

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