Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | May 14, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E10 – Hush

Synopsis: Buffy dreams of a little girl talking about “The Gentlemen.” They turn out to be demons who steal the voices of Sunnydale’s inhabitants. They then glide in and cut people’s hearts out. Buffy and Riley have to patrol the streets and end up kissing. Giles researches and then explains who the Gentlemen are using a slide show. Tara, a girl from Willow’s wicca group, tries to find her during the night but is chased by the Gentlemen. She and Willow combine forces to save themselves. Buffy and Riley also have to fight together to kill the demons.

The Good: The Gentlemen are rightly remembered as one of TV’s most creepy bad guys. The simplicity of their construction is key. They are essentially floating skeletons, a simple psychological suggestion of death. The effete nature of their bowing, nodding and clapping also gives their demonic behaviour a darkly cynical flavour. They have planned their attacks meticulously, are in no hurry and wear rictus grins which leave us in no doubt of the pleasure they find in their work.

Their arrival on the streets is mesmeric and the typical horror effects were used cleverly. First they make the typical unannounced appearance to Olivia at the window to give us a fright. But then the subversion begins. Instead of the usual monster-banter about victims screaming their target cannot make a sound. The horror of the student’s murder is doubled because he has been robbed of his most natural defence system – his voice.

The introduction of the Gentleman is a marvellous achievement because so much else was going on in the episode that we really could only see them take one heart. If those scenes hadn’t conveyed the true danger they presented then the whole episode would have faltered. Instead they were hugely successful and the rest of the episode could coast on the intensity which their creation inspired.

The images of Sunnydale in silence were strong too. Xander blaming Spike, trying to call Buffy but failing and then a kid dropping his drink and everyone turning around because it was the only noise around. Sunnydale falls into despair and anarchy but someone is there to make a buck by selling message boards. We got predictably strong emotional beats as Giles, Buffy and Willow come together and then good comedy ones as Giles sets up a slide show to explain what’s happening. I really enjoyed his needlessly graphic drawings of the Gentleman stealing a heart and Buffy taking offence at the chubby sketch of her.

The long final fight sequence brought everything together with new girl Tara desperate for help but no one opening their doors out of fear. I thought the scene where she and Willow combine their magic to move a vending machine was particularly effective. Suddenly Willow had someone to encourage her passion and help show her what she’s capable of. Xander proves to Anya how much he cares after a misunderstanding with Spike. Meanwhile Riley and Buffy fight well together and her dream (from the opening scene) neatly provided the solution to dispatch the Gentleman.

Riley and Buffy are still an awkward couple but the writers played into that here. The Gentleman provided the catalyst for them to get together and I liked that the crisis they faced broke down the walls and led them to finally kiss. In the end they are left silent as each tries to explain to the other why they were out fighting demons at night.

The Bad: I thought the Xander masturbation joke (as Buffy waves her hand in a staking moment) was an implausible leap for his mind to take.

The Unknown: If Riley explains all about the Initiative then surely Spike will get a stake through the heart right?

I also liked the final Willow-Tara scene where Tara explains the power she sees in Willow. All season Willow has been looking for acknowledgement and pushing to use more magic. Now she’s found someone who encourages that in her and it’ll be interesting to see where their relationship and her use of magic goes.

Best Moment: The original murder the Gentleman commit was so creepy and horrible that it really nailed down the rest of the episode as must-watch. We don’t often witness murders on Buffy. When we do they are usually very effective and this was no exception.

The Bottom Line: A superb episode with a high concept, a very memorable villain, crisp execution and important ongoing plot developments.

82/100

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