Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | March 16, 2014

Cordia’s Review – S7, E19 – Empty Places

Empty Places
Season 7, Episode 19
Original airing: 4/29/2003

My Rating: 66

The Good: This episode treads a very fine line. Everyone is justifiably stressed out and on the verge, but it still makes me feel great empathy for Buffy when she is evicted.

The majority of the story here is how Buffy has elevated herself above everyone else. She begins this me versus you dynamic with her bossiness. While I agree with her that there needs to be one overall leader, her manner of doing so is more appropriate to hardened soldiers than terrified teenage girls. Faith makes a good point about Buffy’s lack of involvement if she’s right that Buffy never even learned their names.

Willow and Faith are the most believable in this story. Their points that Buffy is too distanced and too stressed are right on the mark. She needs to find a way to let off steam and get her perspective back. I wasn’t a big fan of Xander’s snappy remark of Buffy’s point being to his left, but I don’t find it at all a stretch to think he might be mad at her about the loss of his eye. And while I want to punch Kennedy and Rona in the face, their comments are appropriate to their perspective and maturity.

I thought Dawn was used excellently as well. She’s feeling very excluded from Buffy’s confidence and it’s obviously difficult for her to ask Buffy to leave, but it makes sense as well. She’s not wrong in saying Buffy shouldn’t stay if she’s going to try and fight the tide of everyone else’s opinion all the time. That will not make for a strong and solid team. And I absolutely loved her telling Rona to shut up.

Through all of this, I felt so sad for Buffy. It truly feels like she’s doing the best she can and I don’t blame her for feeling completely lost and alone.

The rest of the episode was primarily Spike and Andrew. I thought this was quite cute. They play off each other very well and it’s fun seeing Spike act calmly around an over the top person. The discovery feels important and I’m excited to see the news make its way back to the gang.

Finally, it’s always nice to see the villains progressing on a plan. Caleb obviously has in mind how he wants things to go and is taking the necessary steps. Whether or not he intended Buffy to be separated from her friends, I’m sure he’s quite pleased.

The Bad: The glaring flaw in this episode is Anya’s attempt to dismiss Buffy’s life as the Slayer. Buffy has died for the world twice, made huge personal sacrifices, and done everything she ever can for the last seven years to protect everyone in the world. Anya saying Buffy hasn’t earned her place when any viewer can see she’s earned it over and over again makes everything else feel false. Suddenly, the organic nature of the usurp is gone and it seems contrived to purely drive Buffy away from the support of her friends and family. I think this could have still been achieved just by everyone being as upset as they are. Attempting to make the argument that Buffy isn’t special is never going to fly.

That being said, I didn’t find it at all shocking that Anya would be against Buffy. Her motives are true, I just think her reasoning is intrinsically flawed.

Giles also made me want to claw his eyes out. I think someone failed massively on his character in this season. He just spent several episodes telling Buffy to stand up and make the tough decisions. He abandoned her in her greatest time of need and depression in Season Six to try and make her stand up. While this was extremely annoying, it does express his complete faith in her ability to make difficult decisions. However, now he’s willing to completely disregard her and take over. After all they’ve been through, I just didn’t buy it.

All of this almost made me forget the opening scene. Clem was fine, actually. His character was good and his comments fit well with a demon trying not to get on Buffy’s bad side. But it can’t be ignored that he’s having this conversation while driving a VW bug down the middle of the street surrounded on all sides by every resident in Sunnydale.

Favorite Moment: The honest emotion in the hospital when Xander asks Willow not to cry brought tears to my own eyes.

The Bottom Line:  I actually think a lot of this build up was excellent. Aside from Giles, I think the episode did a great job of expressing appropriate feelings for a very large cast of characters. That’s darn impressive. I’m even down with the results. But I can’t push aside the feeling that the writers tried to go too far with Anya’s speech. The idiocy of it stands out far too much for this episode to truly shine in my eyes.

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