Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 19, 2014

Robin’s Review – S7, E12 – Potential

Synopsis: It emerges that a new Potential is already in Sunnydale. Willow performs a spell to discover who it is and it seems to be Dawn. Overwhelmed by the implications she heads out and runs into Amanda from school. Amanda tells her that she was attacked at school by a vampire and locked it in a classroom. Meanwhile Buffy takes the Potentials out for training sessions with Spike.

The Good: This was much better. Whittling the Potentials down to four recognisable characters helped and then we got a thorough introduction to the fifth.

The training sessions were satisfactory and gave everyone a moment to be funny or scared. The transition of Buffy from pupil to teacher as part of the seven season arc became much clearer here. It feels like the writers jumped the gun with her defiant speeches. But given the proper context it made huge sense to see her passing her wisdom to the next generation. I was also rather pleased to see Buffy lock the Potentials in the crypt with the vampire. Perhaps she sees value in the Cruciamentum (312) after all?

The Dawn-Amanda story was good, it could have been even stronger but had its heart in the right place. Early on in the season it seemed like Dawn would finally become an important member of the Scoobies but the arrival of the Potentials has put her firmly in the shadows. It was nice to see that addressed and she conveyed the entirely understandable feelings of isolation and jealousy well.

Her decision to take charge of the school vampire fit with the belief that she was now a Potential. And she acquits herself well, naturally trusting her instincts (as Buffy instructed the others to do) by running and then using her environment (the science lab) to attack the vampire. The real climax comes though when she realises the truth and empowers Amanda to fight for herself. As Xander movingly comments it was this selflessness that really confirms Dawn in our hearts. He speaks well about the value of those who can only help the super powered from the sidelines.

The Bad: Irritatingly Dawn marched into Sunnydale High with no weapons and no plan to kill the vampire. For a character who has so often been portrayed as foolish this was a poor bit of writing. Even with a stake in hand I would have been far happier with her headstrong decision to face down a vampire (because she thought she had Potential strength). Equally annoying is the vampire’s decision to stay in the classroom. As he soon proved he could easily have smashed the door down or jumped out of a window. Yet he stayed as if he knew someone was coming back. But why would he think that? It was night, no one would come back until the sun came up.

The Unknown: At several points during the episode the Spuffy romance was given an airing with Buffy obviously conflicted. It’s a tricky one because although many viewers cheered them on when Spike was evil I always felt the tone was clearly anti-Spike because of his evil nature. So to “reward” his selfish love by hinting at potential romance now does feel odd. Of course we’ve also been here before with Buffy and Angel so you’d think she would know better. Then again with the world about to end why would I want to stop her grabbing some intimacy along the way?

Since when are Buffy and Clem that close?

Best Moment: I didn’t quite tear up at Xander’s speech. It felt like it had all the ingredients to be deeply moving but it didn’t quite happen. Perhaps he didn’t drive home the sacrifice that researching all the time requires and its contribution to saving the world. But this was Dawn’s Zeppo episode so it still felt like a meaningful and emotive conversation.

The Bottom Line: Despite some nitpicks this was a strong story that gave us nice focus on a couple of characters while deepening our connection to everyone in the Summers household.



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