Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | July 31, 2013

Robin’s Review: S6, E15 – As You Were

Synopsis: Riley appears at the Doublemeat Palace telling Buffy that he needs her help to fight a Suvolte demon. They track it to a dam where Riley’s wife Sam joins them and Buffy kills the demon. Unfortunately it has lain eggs nearby and they have to search Sunnydale to find them. Xander and Anya are stressed out with the wedding a week away and their relatives coming to stay. Buffy feels bad about herself and runs to Spike to sleep with him. It turns out though that he is keeping the eggs in his crypt.

The Good: The three major emotional beats of this episode were all hit with precision.

Seeing how happy Riley is with his work and his wife Buffy is feeling as low as ever about herself. So she goes to Spike and pushes him to tell her how much he loves and wants her. It was a very sad seduction as we know how selfish her use of him is. It was a clear rock bottom for their relationship, Buffy is unhappy and he is nothing more than a band aid to her.

Riley sees them together which adds to her humiliation but he doesn’t see it that way. When it’s time to say goodbye he movingly restates the reasons he fell in love with her. He still has her up on a pedestal and thinks she’s wonderful no matter what she’s going through.  He is able to see her existence without the depression and self pity that clouds her view. It was nice to be reminded that despite the problems with the Riley character the love they shared still has power within the story.

His declaration of her worth forces her to confront her relationship with Spike. She feels bad for using him and not being able to love him. And of course she remains ashamed that she turned to a soulless creature for comfort. She breaks up with him using the firm moral centre that has always guided her. She acknowledges their intimacy and the good parts of him by calling him William as she says farewell. It was a very well chosen word and underscored this as a sad but ultimately positive moment. Clearly he won’t see it that way.

Aside from those three moments this was an unusual episode but quite entertaining at times. The structure was rushed so that the first act had no Riley in it and the final one was all about the concluding speeches. So in the middle we had some very dense scenes to give exposition to the Suvolte demon threat and Riley’s relationship with Sam. Most of it worked ok. Riley’s appearance at the Palace was suitably surprising. Buffy’s stunned and embarrassed reaction was perfectly played and relatable. Then Sam’s arrival came equally out of nowhere. She made quite an impression and was an interesting bit of casting. She gave off the same dual strengths as Buffy (attractive and strong) while also having an Oz-like quality of knowing just what to say to put everyone at ease. She was almost too perfect but with an almost-Brooklyn accent she seemed to have just the right edge of earthy-ness to pull it all off.

The Bad: Riley forgetting to tell Buffy that they needed to keep the demon alive rather undermines his status as a crack soldier. While both Sam and Buffy seem unconcerned by the urgency of the situation. Sam gives up on their casual stroll in the graveyard to see what Riley’s up to while Buffy makes time for sex.

The Unknown: The Suvolte demon was not the most convincing looking creature but the back-story they gave it was suitably threatening. It was convenient that Spike would offer to hold them for a friend (or just opportunistically cash in). It tied him into the story and seemingly ignores his desire to protect Buffy and her friends from such a threat. But I could also buy that he would do something like that given his nature and need for cash.

I thought the Anya-Xander story ended on a pleasant note with them agreeing that once the wedding was over they could enjoy marriage at last. Before that I was unimpressed with their one-note chip eating stress.

Best Moment: Riley’s pep talk of a speech about how great Buffy is. It really was moving and made great use of Riley in the ongoing story of Buffy overcoming depression.

The Bottom Line: A good return for Riley and an important step for Buffy. The plot was pretty clunky but the emotions worked and you just know Spike won’t leave it at that.

67\100

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