Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 24, 2013

Robin’s Review – S7, E08 – Sleeper

Synopsis: Buffy returns home to find out what happened to Dawn and Willow. She wonders if what Holden told her was a lie. She follows Spike and then discovers that several girls have gone missing. He doesn’t remember anything but we see him burying bodies.

The Unknown: This was a curious episode. It felt like there was always something missing to actually ignite it. The kindling was there but no spark.

In essence I suppose we already knew the conclusion of the episode before we even started. We saw Spike in the basement being tormented by the Big Bad in the final scene of the season opener. Since then we’ve seen Spike being confused by talking spectres on more than one occasion. So at the end of the previous episode when we saw him feeding on a woman there was one obvious conclusion we could jump to: the big evil of the season was somehow making Spike kill people. And that’s what was happening. So we spent a whole episode establishing something we already knew and at no point did the episode add anything else of undisputed value.

We got a little light comedy which was fine. Xander making comments under his breath and Anya pretending to come on to Spike were solid scenes. Similarly Buffy following Spike and then watching him confusedly kill people was intriguing. But once Spike began to remember I was waiting for either the big reveal or the big judgment.

The Bad: The big reveal would have been some kind of plan to kill Buffy. I actually thought the simplicity of burying a bunch of vampires in one dingy basement to trap the Slayer was brilliant. If the big evil had hatched this cunning scheme just to kill her then the episode could have concluded with a real desperate fight as Buffy struggled to survive. Spike would have held the key to tipping the balance in her favour and his struggle with sanity would have provided good tension.

That didn’t happen though. Instead Spike was overwhelmed with guilt and Buffy dispatched the vampires as if they were a minor nuisance. So perhaps the big judgment was coming. After all, Spike had just murdered nearly a dozen people. Not only that but turned them so that the Scoobies would have to face even more enemies. Sure, it wasn’t his fault. He was under a spell. But perhaps Buffy was going to conclude that such a dangerous weapon couldn’t be left on the Hellmouth to be toyed with. Even if she wasn’t going to kill Spike perhaps he needed to be sent away or strapped down or something. But no, instead she says she’s going to get close to him so she can learn about the big bad. Ok…is that why this episode existed? To justify why Buffy would suddenly be willing to be around the guy who nearly raped her. It was an unsatisfying conclusion to an unsatisfying episode.

Spike’s fight with a vampire that he turned was bizarrely filmed with arty cuts to the band playing in the Bronze. It might have been an effective change of pace if the fight mattered. But we knew Spike would win against an anonymous opponent and so it appeared like the whole sequence was simply designed to plug the band.

The Unknown (again): The expansion of the attacks on outsiders was interesting (as some Brits were hacked down in London) and the return of Giles is always welcome. However the cliff-hanger of his impending demise was weak. Major characters don’t get murdered with a to be continued tag mid death-stroke.

Did those vampires all rise at the same time on purpose? In which case why was this too early to bring Buffy down there?

Best Moment: Dawn and Willow discussing their respective night and Dawn trying to work out whether to believe what Joyce told her.

The Bottom Line: An episode in search of a purpose. It ended with apparently no forward momentum. Spike is exactly where he was seven episodes ago: a confused, potentially threatening mess.

Another thing this episode seemed to imply is that this season is about Spike and not Buffy. So far he is the one with a recognisable character arc. Perhaps hers will become clearer soon but right now he is being protected and coddled as if he is the chosen one.

52/100

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