Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | November 18, 2013

Robin’s Review S7, E04 – Help

Synopsis: Buffy begins work at the school and tries to offer good advice to the students. She is shaken when one of them, Cassie, says she is certain of her own impending death. Buffy asks Dawn to befriend her and furiously investigates.

The Good: What an extraordinary episode. This felt like a sort of amalgam between the roots of the show and the darkness of Season Six. A monster of the week episode that was actually about the tragedy of mortality.

The casting of Azura Skye as Cassie made the episode. Some actors have the gift of being able to play a recognisable person without much direction from the script. Her natural softness made Cassie’s sad resignation seem even more touching than it might otherwise have been. Buffy’s utter determination to save the day was typically strong and Dawn really shone here. I actually felt a lot of sympathy for her. Back in high school the other Scoobies would occasionally have to force their existing friendships to get information out of their classmates. But new to school poor Dawn was asked to encroach on someone else’s business alone and that’s a really intimidating mission. So for it to succeed and leave her with a new friend who was destined to die is very hard on her.

The structure of the story was very solid. The opening montage showing us Buffy’s new job gave us hints of silliness in between real problems so that Cassie’s revelation would stand out. Then the use of her poems, again in montage, as the group researched furiously gave the story depth and emotion. The picture was drawn clearly of her impotent frustration with the life she could never have.

The crescendo was a little clumsy. The revelation that Peter was trying to gain immense riches from a demon was thin and the subsequent fight, including Spike’s involvement was too brief. However it did successfully distract the viewer long enough that Cassie’s heart failure was enough of a surprise to grab the emotions. It was absolutely the right conclusion to an episode that lingered so long on tragedy that an upbeat ending would have been an anti-climax. To cap it all off the final shot was absolutely perfect. All the best Buffy episodes bring the story back to her calling. “What do you when…you can’t help?” she asks. And then a shot of her back at her desk the next day. You just keep trying.

The Bad: After Gnarl stole the show last week we were back in the land of dodgy effects. Particularly the moment when the demon knelt with his arms out wide so that very fake fire effects could be transposed on to him.

The Unknown: Cassie predicts that Buffy will “make a difference” and will one day tell Spike something. It’s something he clearly wants to hear and given his guilt ridden self mutilation I assume it would be forgiveness. As for Buffy making a difference well she’s done more than enough already but I assume from beneath you it may not devour thanks to her.

Best Moment: Cassie’s speech about all the things she’d like to do in life which she never will. Delivered like a sweet apology. That tone of resignation was the key to the tragedy. If she had played it angrily, railing against the world then the vibe would have been quite different.

The Bottom Line: This showed the kind of focus and intensity that I wish Buffy would use more often. However the story that was told and the actress who brought it all together made this something very special.

72/100

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