Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | April 15, 2013

Robin’s Review: S6, E04 – Flooded

Synopsis: The Summers home needs new pipes and between that and mounting debts Buffy feels overwhelmed by her financial situation. Giles returns to comfort her and issue a stern rebuke to Willow. Meanwhile a demon causes chaos at the bank while Warren, Jonathan and Andrew steal money. Xander admits to Anya that he has been stalling over announcing their engagement because he is scared of commitment.

The Good: As with last episode this gave us more good characterisation coupled with a poor demon and bad comedy.

Buffy cuts a pretty tragic figure right now. As if being pulled from heaven to fight demons wasn’t bad enough now she has to be the financial provider. Understandably she seems depressed and even Giles’ return can’t solve all her problems. Spike is still the only one she can confide in (recreating their seated positions at the end of ‘Fool for Love’, 507) as the others irritate with their desire to make sure she is ok. The burden was well portrayed and SMG was on top form as usual. The end of the episode was underplayed as Buffy gets a call from Angel and rushes out the door. It was kind of a big moment because despite Giles’ attempts to get her to deal with pressing problems she couldn’t get out fast enough. We’re so used to seeing Buffy suck it all up and do the right thing that to see her make a selfish choice and escape was a genuine surprise. Her return from the grave has so far been handled in an impressive and consequence-rich fashion.

The reunion with Giles was emotive and sweet as you’d expect. Again though there was no joy. Giles sees that Buffy is not happy (or well) and gives Willow a much needed dressing down. That confrontation was terrific (see Best Moment) and revealed to us the depths of Willow’s denial about what magic is doing to her. For Giles this is all quite a blow. He had clearly found closure with his life as a Watcher and is also unhappy to be dragged back into the same role. It’s a mature decision by the writers, whether it was enforced by Anthony Stewart Head’s wishes or not. Being a Watcher was a calling and unlike Buffy’s, it wasn’t for life. He made his peace with it but now is forced to become father to Dawn as well as mentor to Willow.

The Bad: The demon M’Fashnik was a slight improvement on the nameless demon from last episode. However he essentially served the same purpose, giving Buffy something to slay, while presenting almost no actual threat. The way Warren managed to get rid of him without suffering undermined M’Fashnik’s credibility as a demon.

A plot hole that needs to be closed is why the Watcher’s Council aren’t paying Buffy’s expenses. I can imagine they would attach strings and she wouldn’t like that but it’s awkward to not bring them up given that Anya suggests the Slayer be compensated for slaying.

The Unknown: The men who paid him represent a more complicated trio. So far this season comedy has been a problem. The writers decided that the answer was to contrast the gloom amongst the Scoobies with broad in-your-face gags from three geeks playing super villains. I know many people enjoyed “Superstar” (417) while I ranked it as one of the worst Buffy episodes. This was far from that bad but some of the same problems were present. The comedy fell flat repeatedly because our point of view on the three guys was that they were inherently silly. If you are already silly, it’s hard to then be funny by being silly. It didn’t help that they were meant to be funny in every scene.

On the surface geeks making pop culture references might feel like a very Buffy thing to do. But it’s actually the opposite of how comedy has worked well on this show. All the best jokes on Buffy have been about the very human, ordinary reactions of the Scoobies to the very serious, dark, supernatural realities of life on the hellmouth. The new trio seem like ‘TV geeks’ rather than real people. They are implausibly intelligent and capable while simultaneously being cowardly and foolish. They also know about demons already and their reactions undercut the threat they are now apparently a part of. This is still very much an “Unknown” issue until we see more of them but no part of their introduction was good. The moral dilemma they had which allowed them to steal but not kill makes it hard to see them as a threat to Buffy and seemingly a bizarre choice as the new Big Bad (if they are).

Elsewhere the comedy was equally broad. The opening visual gag as Buffy’s basement flooded was cartoon-like while her tight skirt at the bank preventing her from kicking M’Fashnik was very believable. The final battle in the house as Buffy tried to avoid breaking too much furniture didn’t sit well with her very real depression over her financial problems.

Xander’s admission that he is a bit afraid of the commitment he made when the world was about to end (522) gave me mixed feelings. It makes sense of why Anya was presented as irrationally pushy over the last few episodes. She was not meant to seem unreasonable. Instead it was a setup to reveal that Xander has some worries. That’s all fine if Xander becomes a featured character again. He hasn’t been for over two years though and so to show us these brief snapshots of him maturing and then suddenly remind us that he is a very young man was abrupt.

Will we find out what Angel wants to talk about or do we have to watch Angel for that?

Best Moment: Giles is predictably furious with Willow for raising Buffy. The story was told so well that we knew this was coming. He points out the danger to everyone from using magic so powerful and says that those with similar power are all evil. Willow responds to that with a threat which she then instantly backs down from. But she’s not backing down (“I was amazing”) from what she thinks is right. And clearly that extends in her mind at this point to a might makes right scenario. It was a moment we’ve been expecting given the trajectory of the story and it was well executed. I particularly liked the childish way she described the spell. It felt like Willow was falling back into her old dynamic with Giles. Around him she plays up her cutesiness in the hopes of a pat on the head from her old mentor. It was a great contrast to the very adult way she behaved when brow beating Xander and the others into going through with the spell (601). The new trio of villains are presented as little boys who don’t realise the moral consequences of their actions. Now Willow is in a similar position which is an unpleasant contrast for her.

The Bottom Line: This was a very entertaining episode but not necessarily a good one. Season 5 was built on episodes where Buffy’s story held things together and the rest was poor. This felt just like that even though the Scooby dynamics were very strong.

63/100

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