Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 10, 2012

Robin’s Review: S5, E12 – Checkpoint

Synopsis: The Watcher’s Council arrive in Sunnydale demanding that Buffy complete a series of tests in order to prove she is worthy of their help with Glory. They interview her friends and test her training. Ben refuses to help Glory but she finds Buffy’s house on her own. She threatens to kill Buffy’s family if she doesn’t tell her where the Key is. Buffy takes Joyce and Dawn over to Spike’s Crypt and is then attacked by the Knights of Byzantium.

The Good: The Watcher’s Council story was very solid and enjoyable. The idea that the Council has been sitting impotently on the sidelines and used Glory’s appearance as a chance to reclaim their authority made a lot of sense. The threat to deport Giles was just the kind of consequence which was needed to explain why Buffy would cooperate (and led to yet another emotive father-daughter reassurance for Watcher and Slayer). The questioning of the Scoobies was pleasant comedy although only Spike (“little nip of blood out of some stray victim”) made me laugh.

It all led up to a tremendous monologue from Buffy which wove together the story of the Council’s involvement in her life with her own personal voyage of discovery this season. While they were questioning her she was feeling inadequate but once she realised that without her they had nothing she turned the tables in spectacular style. It’s not easy to pull off grandstanding self righteous speeches. The danger to sound pompous, over-scripted or cheesy are ever present but the writers and Buffy pulled it off. Buffy at her best is focussed and clear thinking and it was neatly constructed that Glory’s threats to her family were what put her in a position to tell the Council off. Giles’ quick cough demanding retroactive pay was a nice touch and the news that Glory is a God fits with what we’ve seen of her so far.

Glory certainly had her best scene as she threatened Buffy’s family and friends while poking around the Summers’ house. She suddenly seemed menacing in a more authentic way. We also saw her fatal flaw exposed more nakedly as she looks like she is starving and dying without a fresh victim to suck the sanity out of.

I liked the references to Riley (Spike calls him “What’s his height”), particularly the way Xander pointed out phrases which Buffy used which she had adopted from him. It was a nice way to show the effect he had on her life.

The Bad: The Knights of Byzantium seemed silly dressed in chain mail and wielding swords in the twenty first century.

The Unknown: Plus if they had killed Buffy how would they have found the Key?

Glory remains a little problematic though. Although Buffy is taking her physical threat a lot more seriously than she did with Adam, the same delay tactics are apparent. Adam wandered around in the background waiting for the season finale when he could pop up and take his ass kicking. Glory has largely done the same. Her minions tell her that the time to find the Key is now and yet for some reason she gives Buffy a warning. Why not kill Dawn right then and there to get the information from Buffy? Maybe she thinks she needs to let the threat simmer to persuade Buffy of the need to confess but that seems a bit nuanced for a God doesn’t it?

The scenes with Glory and her minion don’t reveal anything interesting about her. It’s hard to care about a God who babbles about clothes and makeup and says nothing specific about what the Key will allow her to do. We all know Buffy will defeat Glory in the end so the writers have to make her entertaining in her own right. Just raising the stakes by making her a God doesn’t change the realities of TV show dynamics.

I still can’t reconcile myself to Spike being a figure of trust in Buffy’s life. It was especially difficult to accept after he went hard at her with very personal insults earlier in the episode. To be fair I preferred seeing Spike childishly taunting her to the way he begged for her attention last week. Still Buffy is one thing and the Watcher’s Council is another. Why would they not kill him?

I wasn’t sure why Buffy was shown at College being humiliated by her history lecturer. If it was meant to add to the sense that everyone was telling her how small she was then it seemed heavy handed and not entirely relevant. It also seemed odd that she would be in class arguing that various historical figures were demons. How and why would one make that argument? Talk to Willow about it, not your professors.

Best Moment: Buffy’s speech was excellent in writing and delivery.

The Bottom Line: This wasn’t perfect but it did a better job than recent episodes at telling a standalone story which also fitted with the season long arcs.

65/100

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