Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 2, 2012

Robin’s Review: S5, E11 – Triangle

Synopsis: Buffy begins the process of getting over Riley while Spike practices his apologies for upsetting her. Giles heads to England to tell the Watcher’s Council about Glory and leaves Anya in charge of the store. Willow is around to help out too but annoys Anya by using supplies to do spells. They bicker during one of them and summon a Troll which then rampages around town. Olaf the Troll became one because of Anya and threatens to kill both women and Xander.

The Good: I liked the discussion about Glory and the decision to call in the Watcher’s Council in the absence of the Initiative or any other information about her. The earlier scenes with Buffy calmly dealing with Riley’s departure were solid.

The Troll story didn’t hang together well but within it there were good moments. I actually sympathised with Anya quite a bit when she explained how cultural references, that she doesn’t follow, make her feel. Her social isolation was compounded by Willow horning in on her domain (the store). Early on I liked Willow’s attempts to be friendly and brush off Anya’s concerns. Again the magic shop, in Willow’s mind, is her own candy store and she was frustrated by Anya ordering her around. I thought it was a fun idea to have Willow performing a spell while Anya announced the costs of all the items she was using. The revelation that Willow’s underlying concern was what Anya might one day do to Xander was well written. Anya’s continuing misunderstandings of social mores act as a reminder that she was once a demon and could hurt them all.

I did like the climactic moment of that story as Anya selflessly offers to be killed instead of Xander. We know she feels this way about him and it linked nicely to the opening scene where she fretted at the thought that he might one day leave like Riley did.

Spike got the best material though (see Best Moment) and although his obsession with Buffy was portrayed more comedically as the episode went on it maintained the intrigue which the first scene established so beautifully. The way he made conversation with Xander just to talk about Buffy made sense and his attempt to claim credit for looking after the injured at the Bronze drew suitable condemnation from her. I did smile when Olaf demanded to know where the babies were and Spike nonchalantly conferred with Xander “the hospital right?”

The Bad: There was so much needlessly clumsy stuff which dragged this down. The producers really seem to have lost their touch when it comes to finding a balance between comedy and drama in these monster-of-the-week episodes. The bickering between Anya and Willow began as fairly convincing but both then behaved uncharacteristically to crank the tension up. Willow was pretty mean in impersonating Anya in front of the group and Anya then interrupted Willow’s spell when she should have known the potential for terrible consequences. Xander’s refusal to step in and help seemed odd given his new level headedness and the way he complained to Spike made it seem like this feud had been brewing for weeks instead of being essentially three scenes from our point of view (if you include the friction from last week).

Olaf played his part with gusto but he was pitched in a way that was doomed to fail. He was depicted as a comedy figure from the moment he appeared and so it was impossible to feel any tension when he began to, rather brutally, take Xander apart. The choice he then offered Xander (of whether he should kill Willow or Anya) had no tension to it at all. It was far from the subtlest setup the writers have come up with but had Olaf been presented as less of a joke there could have been more to it. Instead I was just looking to the side of the screen waiting for Buffy to intervene.

Speaking of Buffy…yikes. Her sudden collapse into tears and worry over the thought that Xander and Anya might break up was a horrible moment. The writers totally misunderstood the situation in trying to turn her emotions about Riley into a running gag. It left Sarah Michelle Gellar exposed to play her tears as a joke and the result was deeply unconvincing. It was yet another manufactured moment to lead her to give Olaf a good thumping when he, equally implausibly, declares that Xander and Anya won’t last.

Finally Giles, Buffy and Joyce chat about Dawn being the key while she is in the house. I don’t see an excuse for this and I can think of a dozen ways that she could have found out without having to make the characters look so dumb.

The Unknown: I don’t know how Olaf adapted to the twenty first century so quickly if he had been locked up inside a spell for some time. It certainly seemed odd that he talked about burning people’s crops but somehow knew the word “dating.” I didn’t see the need for him to actually be the guy Anya first cursed to become a Vengeance Demon. That seems like it would be quite an emotional reunion for her and yet it played almost no role in the plot. I guess it was there to underline Willow’s fears over what might happen to Xander but those fears were justified without him.

Best Moment: Spike is in his crypt practising an apology for showing her where Riley was spending his nights. He has chocolates and a mannequin to talk to. He imagines her responses and it all turns nasty with him screaming at her for her ingratitude and beating her with his gift. Now this scene worked really well. Of course there was the comedy of a man talking to an effigy and imagining the responses. But what gave it its edge was how creepy it was and how disturbed Spike’s understanding of love is. Inside his obsession with Buffy frustrates him and he wants to beat her as much as he wants to kiss her. That’s twisted and it’s that underlying threat that separates him from the Olafs.

The Bottom Line: I didn’t think much of the opening convent gag either. It was a good example of how the writers seem to have lost the subtle touch of when humour works in the world of monsters and vampires. When you make everything a joke, nothing is funny.

This is a tough one to rank because I kind of liked the story that was told but really didn’t like the execution.



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