Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | September 30, 2013

Robin’s Review: S6, E21 – Two to Go

Synopsis: Willow attacks the jail while the Scoobies help Jonathan and Andrew escape. Dawn convinces Clem to let her go to Rack’s. Once there Willow drains Rack and threatens Dawn. Buffy shows up in time to save her but Willow transports all of them to the Magic Box where Anya has a protection spell protection the Duo. Willow and Buffy fight while the Scoobies run again.

The Good: This was the first time in a long while that I enjoyed the Dawn story. Her desire to be involved actually included a relevant plan to help track down Willow. Then once she was threatened I felt genuine sympathy as Willow turned nastily on her.

Anya and Xander had a good scene together as they attempted to read the last book left in the store. Their tension was well presented and I particularly liked two retorts she had for him. Faced with another apocalypse she commented bleakly that he would probably propose to her again (as he did in 522). Then when he explains his hurt over her night with Spike she explains that it wasn’t meant as vengeance but merely “solace.” The explanation for why a Vengeance Demon would have a human conscience remains inadequate but Anya’s decision to help a group who haven’t always done right by her was noble.

Spike’s trials remain mysterious and one-note but you can’t beat him quoting Nirvana (“Here we are now. Entertain us”) to begin things can you?

The Bad: There remains no obvious emotional context for Willow as the Big Bad. It’s not clear whether she is possessed, high or if the worst parts of her personality are just running the show. When she discovers that the Duo have escaped jail she lets out a piercing animal scream adding to the sense that it’s no longer her. If she is no longer herself then why is this story any different from Buffy’s recent behaviour under the influence of demon venom (617)? Buffy bragged about how quickly her friends forgave her (618) so why would they treat Willow any differently?

Another comparison would be to Angel who began using his knowledge of the Scoobies to torture them, after he turned, making for compelling and emotive viewing. But when Willow threatened to turn Dawn back into energy it held no weight. We know it won’t happen and we have no understanding of why Willow would hurt her friend.

The Unknown: The results were again neutral. It wasn’t a dull episode but nothing about it was strong. The magical battles also had the problem of trying to simulate entertaining fights while breaking the laws of physics. This gave many scenes an Anime feel with characters standing still and delivering cheesy sounding dialogue before special effects fired across the room or stunt doubles smashed into flimsy book shelves. A Giles appearance is always pleasing but only added to the sense that this was a comic book story with the old sensei returning to discipline his wayward protégé.

I continue to be unconvinced by the implication that fuelling Willow’s behaviour is the self loathing of being a geek for years. During the first three seasons of the show Willow’s morality and resolve were key parts of her character. In fact Seasons three and particularly four saw her mature into a confident young woman who saw her intelligence as conferring great benefits outside of the high school arena. Yet here the implication is that her self esteem was propped up by her relationships with Oz and Tara. I know she grieved hard for the loss of both and I can imagine a story where she turned to actual drugs to feel better. But the mixture of drugs with magic leads to this awkward place where the analogy is under a desperate strain. Is the metaphor that Willow is now on a desperate heroin binge which might destroy herself? It feels like a story being stretched too far. And I remain uncertain how Willow’s insecurities lead to evil behaviour.

Jonathan and Andrew are not characters I particularly care about. Throughout this episode they hit the Jonathan-repentant, Andrew-not notes a little too repetitively.

Best Moment: Probably Dawn being threatened which surprises me.

The Bottom Line: I feel like this will have no real consequences for Willow or the Scoobies. I believe they will get old Willow back and she will apologise and get better. Until they convince me otherwise I will be disengaged from the story.

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