Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | September 10, 2013

Robin’s Review: S6, E19 – Seeing Red

Synopsis: Tara and Willow spend the night together and Dawn is thrilled. Buffy nearly gets cut up at the Trio’s hideout but recovers some of their papers just in time. Dawn tells Spike that he hurt Buffy and he comes to apologise. He almost rapes her and returns to his crypt confused as to what he is. He leaves town determined to change something. The Trio recover some ancient orbs which grant Warren power and invincibility. He beats up men at the Bronze including Xander before heading off to rob a truck. Buffy stops him but he escapes while Andrew and Jonathan go to jail.

The Good: This was very action packed and emotive. It felt almost season-finale worthy and leaves the show intriguingly poised with three episodes to go.

The shootout at the end was definitely shocking and unexpected. The use of a gun really felt like a serious turn of events. In part because we never see them on Buffy and in part because the Slayer cannot outrun a bullet. Having begun the season rising from the grave I’m not too worried about Buffy herself who seems to have absorbed a non-fatal wound. Tara however appears to have died. It was a horrible moment to see her fall down. The suddenness of the gunshot had the necessary effect of putting us at least a little in Willow’s shoes as she tried to absorb the horror. The appearance of dark black and red colours in Willow’s eyes make it clear that her dormant magical powers have exploded to the surface again. Presumably with Buffy down and Spike gone, Willow is the only one who can now catch Warren. Perhaps with terrible consequences given what happened the last time she used magic on a large scale (610).

The rape scene with Buffy and Spike was equally unexpected. But it was an entirely logical extension of his psychology. His obsession with her is creepy and unhealthy and we’ve always known that a vampire has both evil instincts and no conscience to restrain it. So Spike follows through on his belief that Buffy loves him by trying to reengage in their passionate sex to make her give in again and admit that she feels the same thing he does. But she doesn’t and what followed was disturbing and a bit scary.

Beyond him being a vampire there was almost no metaphor necessary this time. Buffy let a dangerous man into her life and ignored her own judgment as well as Xander’s words by allowing him into the bathroom. The results were painful and seem to be the catalyst for a major change in Spike’s role on the show. Initially his departure from town (presumably to remove the chip) felt like the last we would see from him for this season but I guess with three more episodes to go we may discover more. His realisation that his behaviour needed to change was well portrayed as ever. I like the fact that, true to the character, he was both upset about hurting her and questioned why he didn’t just go through with the act.

I liked the portrayal of both Warren and Jonathan. It’s a basic character sketch but Adam Busch brings Warren to life as a plausibly bitter creep. I appreciated the detail that the guy he confronts at the Bronze is an old high school bully. Warren has understandable motivations to prove to the world that he can be strong and popular but his morality has become completely twisted. He uses his friends and then plans on shoving his success angrily down everyone’s throats. Jonathan seems to still be along for the ride but more and more sees Warren for who he is. He tries to talk sense to Andrew and eventually helps Buffy defeat him because he knows that she is better for the world than Warren is.

Xander had his best episode for some time. He made great points about how dangerous Spike is and it was refreshing to hear Buffy actually explain the link between her behaviour and her resurrection. Then later on when they made up I really felt like I was watching the old character that I cared about. Their desire to reconnect was sweet and Nicholas Brendan played the emotions really well.

The Bad: I’m not sure anything was bad exactly but there are some things worth questioning.

The Unknown: Buffy’s injury was clumsily manufactured to give her an excuse not to be able to throw Spike off the second he touched her. That could have been worked more elegantly into the plot, like having her injure herself while escaping the Trio’s buzz-saw basement. Speaking of which that wasn’t the most plausible of moments. It was a pretty ridiculous setup that seemed needlessly complicated and equally unlikely to destroy the whole basement. Why didn’t the Trio just shred or destroy anything valuable? Going back to Buffy and Spike for a second, Clem’s arrival in the crypt was another far from organic moment. In part because the close-up shots made it seem like another set and in part because Clem is a silly character. It may have been more dramatic for Spike to just speak aloud like a Shakespearian soliloquy. I’m sure he could have pulled it off.

It’s hard not to see the writers thumb prints all over Tara’s death. Like a classic wrestling angle we get to see what we want, Tara and Willow happy again, only to have the rug pulled out from under us. You can almost trace this back further and feel slightly betrayed that Tara has spent half a season growing in our affections and in confidence only to be killed off as fodder for a Willow story. I suppose there’s part of me that’s just fearful that a Willow magic story (the bad memories of “Wrecked” [610] live on) will be far less interesting than just seeing them as a couple again. It’s also a hard to jump from the harsh reality of loss to the surreal sight of a girl becoming possessed by magic in one beat.

Was the choice of two orbs a bit awkward or was there meant to be an obvious girl-power metaphor there? Andrew makes the obvious balls joke and then Warren carries them in a pouch by his crotch. When Buffy grabs his orbs he loses his power. If it was intentional then it’s a bit cheap.

Best Moment: Spike and Buffy in the bathroom was well shot to convey the darkness unfolding.

The Bottom Line: This was a dramatic and emotive episode which brought a bunch of major stories to the boil. It wasn’t perfect and doesn’t immediately fill me with hope for what comes next. But it was memorable and landed all of its punches.

72/100

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