Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | April 29, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E08 – Pangs

Synopsis: At the opening of the new Anthropology building Xander falls into an old Mission. He releases a vengeful Chumash spirit who begins killing those who oppressed his people. Angel watches Buffy from the shadows trying to keep her safe. Xander contracts several diseases which the Chumash had suffered from while Willow and Buffy debate the ethics of hurting the spirit. Spike turns up at Giles’ apartment begging for help. Buffy is determined to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal but the spirit calls on reinforcements and storms the building.

The Good: This was another episode which I was just too familiar with to recapture quite how I felt about it on first watch. I know then I was wrapped up in a fun story which captured that Season Two spirit really well.

That memory was formed by a lot of plot elements coming together nicely. As with the best monster-of-the-week stories we had good Scoobie banter and developments to compliment the usual research-slay stuff.

The white guilt led by Willow was a new slant on things and flowed well from what we know about her mother. The entertaining responses from Giles and Spike led to good back and forth dialogue about whether to kill the spirit. Then we had Buffy, determined to capture a childhood memory by planning the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. This also gave us some fun lines (particularly when she broke off mid-sentence to give cooking instructions) and provided urgency to proceedings.

More comedy came in the form of Spike and Angel joining in the action. Angel’s role was peripheral but the assumption that he had turned evil was an entirely plausible running gag. Spike’s requests for brandy and demands for better treatment were all typically well scripted. I loved his description of vampires who don’t drink blood as “like famine pictures from those dusty countries. Though not half as funny.” Finally you had Xander’s syphilis which was the comedic cherry on top.

With all these ingredients in place the Chumash themselves didn’t need to be very memorable and they weren’t. However their attack on Giles’ apartment was one of the more entertaining sequences the show has done (see Best Moment) with each character getting some time to shine and plenty of comedy.

The Bad: It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed with the Spike story. At what point do you say he is too dangerous to trust or give shelter to? I would say he has more than crossed that line. I can’t imagine in earlier seasons anyone wanting to be in the same room as a tied up vampire. How do they know he is neutered? Willow of course can attest to this but shouldn’t she be more freaked out by seeing her ‘rapist’ so soon after a traumatic attack? For more on that last point check out the previous review. The bottom line here is that as entertaining as he is, something is lost when Spike is brought into the fold and patted on the head instead of being treated as the violent demon he is.

It’s convenient that the Chumash didn’t storm the house when only Buffy, Giles and Spike were in it wasn’t it?

The Unknown: Some episodes have grabbed me on Rewatch with the same or even greater force than they did when I first saw them. This didn’t and I always have to investigate why. Is it simply that I knew what was coming? Was I distracted, tired or disengaged somehow? Possibly. Logically though I wonder if the Chumash were a big enough threat or if Buffy’s constant cooking talk was a bit silly or if Angel’s cameo was pointless or if the moral debate was irrelevant given the killing of innocent people. I don’t remember feeling that first time out but here I can see there was just too much going on. We didn’t get time for a proper investigation of the Chumash spirit which made the debate about how to deal with them feel flimsy.

Best Moment: I remember loving the whole Chumash attack on the house. It was still a fun and exciting scene and the cut to Spike with three arrows sticking out of him made me laugh out loud.

The Bottom Line: Another tough Rewatch episode for me. I thought it really captured the Season Two formula well and was entertaining throughout but it probably never was one of the best episodes. Now I can see too many flaws in its construction to go higher than a 65.



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