Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | November 18, 2013

Cordia’s Review S7, E04 – Help

Help
Season 7, Episode 4
Original airing: 10/15/2002

My Rating: 55

The Good: In a lot of ways, this was an excellent episode with a powerful story. Seven years in, Buffy the Vampire Slayer still can’t save everyone. I really felt Buffy’s pain as she raced and struggled to understand Cassie’s fate and protect her from an untimely death. I was really drawn into this episode for the first three-quarters. Almost everything up to the reveal of Peter and his Red Cloaks was well paced and quite powerful.

There was some logical silliness. For instance, I’m quite sure Buffy would be in trouble for going to a student’s parent in the middle of the night and point blank accusing him of drunkenly assaulting his daughter. However, the majority of the story set up worked great.

Cassie was the perfect sweet note of external acceptance of her fate, while her repeated poems showed just how affecting the whole situation was for her. Her quiet, desperate speech to Buffy and Xander about her lost opportunities brought tears to my eyes.

I thought the show did an excellent job with Dawn’s small arc. Befriending Cassie was originally a mission, but became a goal in itself. Dawn’s desperation to help her and her powerful grief at the end of the episode were very well portrayed. I thought Dawn said it best with her comment that sometimes all you can do is listen and try.

The Bad: Obnoxious Peter’s random plan to summon a demon for riches was a very thin and out of the blue plot. Then, it was completely undermined by the obvious surprise and concern of his cohorts when he pulled Cassie from the shadows. It seemed none of them really knew what was going on and it added a weird layer to the scene that the show didn’t have time to deal with. I found it distracting to wonder what was going on there while the show was trying to move on to the fight with the demon and Spike’s appearance.

Speaking of Spike for a moment, it always felt before like his chip was quite consistent. Hit a human – feel blinding, debilitating pain. Here, he punches Peter in the face a few times and doesn’t seem all that bothered by the chip. It’s disappointing to see such a great, consistent prop be destroyed in its effectiveness for quick plot movement.

But back to the Red Cloaks. The real ending of the episode was ruined for me because of those contrite faces pulled in the library on random dude 1 and 2. Their confusion mixed with the realization that the booby trap was definitely intended to be deadly had me completely out of the show wondering what was going on there – then Cassie collapsed. The huge logical fallacy of the Red Cloaks and their intention to do harm versus their belief that this was a bloodless get rich quick scheme pulled me out of the episode just when the biggest emotional moment was happening. That actually makes me quite angry at the writing.

Favorite Moment: Cassie’s speech to Buffy and Xander outside her father’s home made clear just how terrible the whole situation was for Cassie. Her external acceptance is so peaceful, it seems inhuman. But inside, she’s torn up and experiencing precisely the emotions I would expect from someone who knows their life is going to end early without their choosing.

The Bottom Line: An awesome start crashes into a brick wall of terrible plotting and logical issues. This is unfortunately not the first time something like this has happened on Buffy. This time, it really struck me as a ruination of the end of the episode because the beginning was so very promising and everything after Peter’s reveal was so very poor. The episode did end on a powerful note with Dawn’s grief, but it wasn’t enough to avoid leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

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