Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | November 19, 2012

Robin’s Review: S5, E09 – Listening to Fear

Synopsis: Buffy and Dawn are taking care of Joyce in hospital when news comes that the operation will be in two days time. Joyce insists on going home till then. Meanwhile the Scoobies investigate a hollow meteorite which seems to have brought a demon to town. The mental patients of Sunnydale are its target and it follows the Summers home. Riley calls the military who help him track it down.

The Good: This wasn’t a particularly well structured episode. Its plots didn’t flow seamlessly into one another but it did have a lot of good stuff nonetheless

The extra-terrestrial demon ended up being quite creepy despite looking like a weird monkey-seal hybrid. It’s slithering around, ugly face, ceiling walks and slime attacks were enough to make it a palpable threat. The choice of victim added poignancy because the mentally ill seem so ill equipped to defend themselves. To see one literally strapped down was bad but to have Joyce doing all she could to cry out for help and be ignored was stirring stuff. That attack turned out to be pretty dramatic once Dawn got involved.

Speaking of Dawn, her status as a created creature came to the fore once she was surrounded by those who see her for what she is. It was easy to imagine her distress once her own mother was joining the chorus of those doubting her existence. Joyce’s final understanding that Dawn isn’t her daughter but that she is important was quite moving. She doesn’t have time to ask the hundred questions she would need to to understand what exactly is going on. Instead she reaffirms her love for her real daughter and begs her to protect her adopted sibling. It was certainly welling up time when she told Buffy how brave she was and that Dawn was “as precious as you are to me.” It was an unexpectedly touching ending to the episode as Joyce potentially says goodbye for good.

Riley seems so much more comfortable being the action hero that it was once more a punch to his gut to arrive home seconds too late with Spike there instead. I liked that we got a continuation of his experimentation with darkness in a scene which certainly made the link between biting and a sexual act seem explicit. Then once an actual extra terrestrial arrives he understandably calls in the military who really should be involved with that. He then shows off his skills in leading them but sadly Buffy won’t see any of it and they will remain at a distance.

The Bad: Spike looks so suspicious when he loiters round the house like that. I was more bothered though by his lack of intervention to help Buffy kill the demon that was pinning her down. A poor bit of blocking.

I feel the writers have lost the skill of writing a monster-of-the-week story. The demons are no longer the focus of the show and so never seem to be more than a distraction these days. I couldn’t believe a bigger deal wasn’t made of there being a demon coming from space. We have never had the rest of the galaxy mentioned when it comes to demons and hell dimensions. It seemed like a needless use of a cool idea when this demon could easily have popped out of the ground. I didn’t like that the Scoobies immediately jumped to the conclusion that a hollow meteor meant a demon was inside it. I know they live on the Hellmouth but that seemed quite the leap of logic considering a demon has never come from there before (from their perspective). I’ve complained for two seasons now that the research and exposition are glossed over and once more it was all dealt with in one brisk scene. Part of the fun of earlier seasons was seeing the gang’s knowledge of a demon increase over the course of the episode.

Another thing that has been lost is the sense that vampires are a real threat. Two episodes ago Buffy was staked by one and yet now Giles, Xander and Willow can kill two and it’s all a bit of a laugh. They should never have gone without Riley and didn’t seem to be carrying proper weaponry. Vampires should not be treated in such a flippant manner or else what’s the point of having a Slayer?

The Unknown: I think the show is struggling slightly with its tone. It was hard to imagine how poor Dawn was feeling as her mother babbled insane ramblings in the next room. The show has spent five years using demons as analogies for real life problems and it’s hard to switch gears and deal with such a real life scenario. I wouldn’t blame viewers who found Joyce’s extended “conversation” with the demon to be too exaggerated or uncomfortable.

I guess we knew Ben wasn’t just a handsome intern. But the idea that he is connected to Glory is intriguing.

Best Moment: Joyce’s bedside confessions to Buffy at the end were strong stuff.

The Bottom Line: The character work was strong here with the Summers’ and Riley standing out and the E.T. demon giving off good creeps. Just think how great this could have been though if the writers were better able to blend everything together.




  1. Glad I wasn’t the only one who got emotionally touched by that last scene between Buffy and Joyce. It surprised me that Cordia didn’t get as connected with that scene.

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