Jan 13 2014 2:45pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: This is Slayerdome

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Kennedy

“Showtime,” by David Fury

Night in oh-so-safe Sunnydale, California. A cute young Potential named Rona gets off the bus. A bunch of Bringers are waiting to meet her, but fortunately Buffy is there too. Soon enough she’s stepping past the bodies to pick her latest recruit/dependant/apprentice off the tarmac, and from there leading her homeward.

Back at the Summers house, Kennedy is trying to lure Willow—who is on the floor in a sleeping bag—into easy cuddling range. Willow isn’t having any, and so instead they talk about the ever-growing number of Slayettes and the looming shortage of bathrooms. This in turn leads to some chatter about Kennedy’s wealthy upbringing, her many childhood homes and their many wings. It doesn’t lead to any kind of suggestion that maybe she should have her parents send a truckload of food and toilet paper, or the deeds to the house across the street. It’s sad, in its way, that Anya isn’t in the room. She’d get them to ante up.

Downstairs, Molly is, almost gleefully, telling some of her peers about how snarky British Annabelle gave in to the fear, and thereby got herself killed when she ran into Noseless the ubervamp. One of said peers is Felicia Day, as Violet (Hi, Felicia Day! It’s nifty to see you). The others are named Chloe and Eve. Should I be learning their names? How long can they possibly last? The girl talk is keeping Xander up; Andrew too. By the time Buffy shows up with Rona, the whole household has pretty much given up on the idea of sleep.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime

The current order of Slay business is research: an all-out hunt for information on the First and the Turok-Han. Buffy knows they have to get past the latter, see, if they’re going to rescue Spike from the former.

To which, the Slayettes say: Why rescue Spike? They’d also like to know if there’s any further plan in the works, preferably one whose aim is to keep them from being tenderized, minced and devoured.

Giles’s research suggestion is to go consult a guy... wait, no, that’s an Eye, by the name of Beljoxa. Anya for the record is against this plan, which requires a demon to open the vortex. But Buffy says please, because Spike’s running out of time. She doesn’t much care if the Slayettes want to meet him or not. She’s bent on saving him.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Spike

In his heart, Spike knows this. He dreams of unchaining himself from the cave wall and escaping under his own steam, but there’s no possibility of that. Usually the workmanship on these bondage set-ups is pretty shoddy, but the First had its minions find a nice solid part of the cave wall to drill those restraints into.  It’s there with Spike, of course, usually dressed as Buffy. It really wants to undermine his faith. She tells him that the Slayer will never come past Noseless to retrieve him.

“She will come for me,” Spike insists.

Giles’s plan to consult Beljoxa seems like a good enough place to start, especially as they have no other real options, and soon Anya is trying to sweet-talk a demon named Torg—some guy-creature she had a one-night stand with—into opening the required vortex. She offers Torg sex, which doesn’t work. Then Giles threatens to send Buffy around, next time she’s in a bad mood. Needless to say, Torg opens the portal just to be rid of them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime,Giles, Anya

(In the end, there’s no real problem with asking Beljoxa for information, beyond the humiliation Anya feels at having to suck up to her old compadres in the demon community. He doesn’t ask for a nibble of their bone marrow, or anyone’s firsborn, or even demand cash.)

While they’re gone, Willow fields a call from the coven about another new Potential, and Buffy and Xander have a little heart-to-heart with Andrew. It’s a quiet reading of the Riot Act, basically—they’re telling him to stay with the group and behave so they don’t have to continually bind and babysit him. And making threats is the theme of the day: if he doesn’t keep his head down, Buffy says, he’ll get hobbled. Misery-style hobbled.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Andrew

Willow hangs up the phone. Hurrah, another Potential! More help! But help with what? Dawn has become the one who asks the obvious questions, the ones all of us are probably asking too: does having ever more scared pre-Slayers around really aid their cause?

There’s nothing for it, though, unless they all want to send the girls to prison so that Faith can defend them from whoever shows up. Instead, they put a bit of hope into the idea that at least some of the Slayettes might learn to fight. The basement has been set up as a danger room, and some of them are even training. Eve and Rona, though, are wondering if there’s any point. None of them has any real vampire-slaying experience, they insist. They’re probably doomed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Eve

Eve dials it up, freaking out the others by speculating about which of them might be activated if Buffy dies (they mention Faith, but they don’t deal with the fact that the Slayer line now descends from her). By the time she shuts up, all the kids are scared and primed to be really uncooperative and useless.

This demoralizing isn’t accidental, because Eve isn’t really there. She’s at the hotel, across town, the place where Willow’s coven has sent BuffXander. She is also, unfortunately, lying in a pool of her own drying blood. Buffy zooms back across town and bursts in on the demoralized Slayettes. Fake Eve taunts them all, and mentions that she’ll be sending Noseless around, so he can have a little quality fun with their entrails, just as soon as the sun goes down.

How’s everyone else making out? Well, Andrew is asking Dawn why there are no boy slayers and wondering how come nobody wants his help fighting the First.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Dawn, Andrew

“I’m so alone,” he whines, and Dawn reminds him that he shouldn’t have killed Jonathan. So true!

Over in the vortex, the Eye of Beljoxa is, likewise, a barrel of laughs. It tells Giles and Anya that the First cannot be destroyed. Evil is eternal, see, and has been around for all time. Okeydoke, Giles says, but why is it going after the Slayers now?

The reply is that the mystical forces surrounding the Chosen line have changed. Oh! And the Slayer was the one who changed them.

There’s a more pressing problem at hand right now, though: the anticipated arrival of Noseless at Buffy’s front door. Nobody has found a handy Turok-Han weakness to exploit—he doesn’t dissolve in water, he isn’t allergic to bee stings, his heel is as tough as the rest of his body, he’s had his measles shots and he’s fine with the music of Slim Whitman. Plan B is to get Willow to do a barrier spell to protect the house. The heartily frightened Slayettes want to know if that’ll work. The not very reassuring answer is: “Who knows?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Willow, Xander

As the newbies continue to freak out, Willow sets up a psychic chat room for herself, Buffy and Xander. The three of them make a plan, but we don’t hear it. On the upside, neither do any dead, illusory people who may or may not be hanging around listening.

It’s all coming together just in time. Fake Eve sends Noseless off to kill everyone at the Summers house. The girls all get weapons. Kennedy, as the Potential who has been in training for the longest, gets a crossbow. Andrew wants a weapon too, so Buffy gives him holy water.

There’s just enough time for a quick scene capturing Willow’s fear of having to do the barrier spell, and showing as Kennedy tries to bolster her confidence.

Then Bringers surround the house. Noseless arrives. Willow throws up a barrier. It’s not going to hold, though, so Buffy tells the kids to run. They fight their way past a handful of Bringers and flee, with everyone’s favorite pug-faced ubervamp in hot pursuit.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Giles, Anya

Giles and Anya are missing all of this; they’re just stepping back into the real world. They discuss what they learned: Buffy’s resurrection is what’s changed the rules of the game. Or, really, their entire universe. This means, Anya realizes, that she, WillTara and Xander are to blame for the First’s arrival.

“The world would have been better off,” she says, “If Buffy had just stayed dead.”

It’s an interesting point of divergence, actually. Willow probably couldn’t have become a world-destroying force if she hadn’t used those dark, Slayer-raising magics. But the surviving Scoobies would, I bet, have intervened in Warren, Jonathan and Andrew’s silly schemes. So... Tara might still have died. Willow got rampage-y on Glory when Tara got brain-zapped, so it’s possible Warren would have still found himself skinless and dead in the forest.

Since it was Xander that stopped Dark Willow, and not Buffy, some things might have unfolded just as they did in the canonical S6.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Willow, Xander

With no back-from-the-dead Buffy to trigger a major update and bug fix to the universe’s operating system, meanwhile, what we’d be left with in terms of story options for S7 might have been Willow’s struggle to stay good as she assumed a Buffy-like role as Acting Guardian of the Hellmouth.

But all of that is just me tossing out AU ideas for fun. What actually happens is Buffy and the others lead the Slayettes to a construction site. Noseless runs in gladly; he made out well in last week’s work-site fight, even when she dropped a palette of steel pipes on his head. Besides, all the yummy Potentials are here, so where else would he want to be?

It’s a staged showdown, though. Buffy appears and tells him she’s the thing that monsters have nightmares about. The horrified Slayettes watch as she tackles the monster.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Willow, Dawn

As her big sister lets the Turok-Han bat her around the site for awhile, Dawn realizes this didn’t just come together accidentally. We then get a flashback to the psychic conversation between Willow, Xander and Buffy. She wanted the Potentials to see her kill Noseless with her bare hands. Somewhat more selfishly, she wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t bring what’s left of her mother’s house crashing down expensively on all their heads.

It’s a play to restore their belief in her, is my point.

The fight doesn’t start well. It looks for awhile like Noseless is going to pummel her to death. Turok-Hans are strong and nimble, after all. As vamps go, he’s not even especially stupid. But Buffy rallies, as she always does, and eventually garrottes him with a string of barbed wire.

It’s important here for Buffy to overpower this vampire physically, without drawing on Xander’s wrecking ball, Willow’s magical powers, or even her own bag of tricks. The message to the Slayettes is, essentially: he’s tough, but he’s not that tough.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime

This is something that wouldn’t have worked on Glory, who dished it out much as Noseless does but, on the taking it side of things was conveniently invulnerable. He’s a vampire; he’s the thing Buffy was actually built to kill. She kills him.

(This episode also lowers our respect for the Bringers, as agents of evil, to about Andrew’s level. Basically, they’re useless except when they’re fighting single unarmed scared little girls.)

Buffy wraps up her fight with a speech to the Potentials, telling them their side is going to win. Then they all walk away, leaving Poor Dead Eve looking angry behind them. Buffy heads for the cave, where Spike tells her she’s a bloody figment, until she cuts him down, puts an arm around him, and hauls him off to her teen-infested house.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Spike

The use of telepathy in this episode is deeply interesting. Buffy is the one who initiates the conversation, with an unspoken, “Willow, can you hear me?” Presumably she knows that Willow can hear her. Does that mean she hears everything, all the time? Could she hear them from England? Either way, this little bit of misdirection demonstrates how fully Willow, Xander and Buffy have come to trust each other. Despite everything they’ve been through, they’ve recovered to a great—even inspiring—degree.

Next: Living up to your Full Potential

A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth of fiction up here on! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales. (Watch for the second of The Gales, “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)

Or if you like, check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
Willow's telepathy made it's first appearance in Bargaining. I think it's directional. Buffy didn't just think about Willow, she projected her thoughts TO Willow. So no, Willow wouldn't have heard them from England, unless she was working really hard, or someone was projecting really hard.
Marty Beck
2. martytargaryen
I'll have to go back and watch this for the exact wording of the Beljoxa, but something Sophist said makes me think there was a misunderstanding in-show and in fandom. Could it be that he "ressurection" that put the Slayer line out of whack be Xander's CPR? It is from that which gave us a second Slayer.

As for the very interesting hypothetical about if Buffy stayed dead the second time: I am of the belief that Tara was the cosmic price Willow had to pay in order to bring Buffy back. Also, I think Willow would not have sunk so deep into the Dark had she not channeled her inner Osiris.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
@2, Yeah, I could never understand why THIS resurrection was the big one?

Maybe, everyone is right, and the Slayer line still runs through Buffy(as well as Faith), because Willow brought her back in her role as "warrior for the people"? And now there are two concurrent Slayer lines running? Is that what caused the upset, because if not I don't see what the deal is between NOW and later.

Then again, the First knew back in S3 that an ensouled vampire would be the key to it's destruction, so that indicates its plans were in play then.
Alyx Dellamonica
4. AMDellamonica
I'd like it better if Faith's place in the Slayer line were acknowledged in a way that made more sense. At least she'll be in the mix soon!
5. Sophist
"Could it be that he "ressurection" that put the Slayer line out of whack be Xander's CPR? It is from that which gave us a second Slayer."

Yes, in my view it's the presence of 2 Slayers which opens up the issue.
Noneo Yourbusiness
6. Longtimefan
I always felt there should have been a third Slayer since Buffy still had Slayer powers when she died the second time.

It does make sense that the Slayer line runs through Faith but then could that mean that returned Buffy would have been ordinary Buffy with training but regular strength and endurance instead of Slayer strength and endurance.

And that show would have been different.

Buffy the Vampire Inconveniencer with her team of helpful friends.
7. Dianthus
Not much to say about this ep., except for the ending (you're shocked, I know). How much do I love, love, love the ending? Buffy looking at Spike with her heart in her eyes as he manages to scrape up a little attitude, despite being beaten, carved up, and starved. A beautiful moment amidst all the ugliness.
I have to say tho' I think it's the magical nature of Buffy's 2nd resurrection that made the difference. I just don't see Xander doing CPR being on the same game-changing level as Willow's spell. Plus, in the 1st case, she was only gone for a minute or two. In the 2nd case, she'd been gone for months (or 147 days, and we know who was counting).
8. Alex C.
"Showtime" is an episode that I think is rather like "Enemies" from Season 3. It holds together fairly reasonably on a first watch, but doesn't work quite as smoothly on a re-watch because advance knowledge of the switch-out with Eve makes the plot seem a bit phoned-in.

It thus falls into the category of being an episode that is mostly so-so for purposes of drama, but important in terms of what it does for the plot.

The re-watcher knows that there is never going to be any specific follow-up to the Eye of Beljoxa and its cryptic assertion that there is a connection between the Slayer and the growing power of the First, so it can feel a bit superfluous, like Joyce's appearances earlier in the season. Nonetheless, I think that it does offer a fuzzy but important clue to making sense of the story of this season.

Insofar as this development requires analysis, I lean very strongly toward the view that the Eye's words get misinterpreted both by Anya/Giles and the fandom. It's not the how of Buffy's resurrection that matters, it's the simple fact that there are two Slayers running around at the same time in glaring contradiction of the fact that she was deliberately and specifically created to be the Chosen One. This contradiction is what gives the First its open to operate in the world (I think we should read significance in the fact that it first appeared in Season 3, when Faith was such a big part of the show).

The central irony of the story then becomes that Buffy is ultimately going to play on this very thing to achieve her ultimate victory. I know that the plotting of Season 7 often gets maligned (heck, on a given day I'm one of the maligners), but I do think that the writers ought to be given credit for doing a very solid job of crafting the main character's arc over the course of the season, even though it often gets played through some rather flawed episodes.

What we see again and again in the latter part of the season are attempts to reassert the former core principle of the Slayer: that there Can Only be One (which is of course the very thing Buffy spent six seasons chafing against). Giles decrees that Buffy must become "the general", and harden up her attitude to match the new title, Wood interjects a new unfortunate concept "the mission" into the group's lexicon, and just for good measure the Shadow Men show up to force supreme enhanced powers on Buffy (at the expense of course, of her humanity - that expendable thing that has only saved her in every previous season).

Naturally, every single part of this ends badly. Buffy winds up becoming so alienated from the group that she's supposed to be leading (although she does manage to save most of them a couple of times along the way) that they wind up kicking her out. They all then show that they've learned absolutely nothing from what went wrong, by trying to do the same thing all over again, only replacing Buffy with Faith as the new general. Needless to say, this turns out disastrously, because while Buffy wasn't exactly great shakes as a leader, she looks like Julius Caesar when compared to Faith. That leaves us at a real low-point.

It's at this juncture though, in "Touched", that Spike really steps up and saves things. It's not just that he helps bring her back to the best part of herself (though he does that), or that she developes a mutual trust and respect in him that's stronger than anything she has with any of her friends (though that happens too). He winds up pointing her in the real direction she needs to go to carry the day in this season. He's always been the rule-breaker, and in order to win she needs to stop taking the advice of traditionalists like Giles and Wood, who have nothing left to teach her, and start breaking the most important rules of the Buffyverse. "The Slayer must be the One"? Her game plan is to supply her best friend, a witch (and ex-Big Bad) with the means to turn them into Many. "Vampires are the Enemy"? Her closest ally (and ex-lover) is a vampire, and so is her back-up on other network who supplied her with the means to arm him. That's what I think lies at the heart of "Chosen", and it's why I think the finale winds up feeling so successful, despite not being as tightly written as previous season finals.
9. Alex C.
Getting back to "Showtime" specifically, despite most of the episode being somewhat so-so, I still consider it to be a good one, for reasons that have entirely to do with the ending, specifically the last two scenes.

Regardless of one's thoughts about the role that the Turok-Han play in the story of Season 7, the big fight at the end of this episode is one of my favorites from the show. It's always lovely to watch Buffy beat the stuffing out of something large, powerful, and scary, and this victory felt particularly satisfying and earned.

That pales next to the last scene though, when she rescues Spike from the cave. I'm completely with Dianthus on this one - this is an absolutely beautiful moment, one that I like almost as much as the church scene at the end of "Beneath You". SMG and JM are both pitch-perfect - the volumes of emotion they manage to convey purely by expression is a testament to the strength of both actors.

This is the point where I think it's safe to say that Spike has reclaimed his status as Buffy's seasonal love interest, regardless of the fact that they never exchange an on-screen kiss (although I've seen some fairly compelling arguments made that they resume having sexual relations offscreen later in the season).
Alyx Dellamonica
10. AMDellamonica
I look forward to hearing you all argue for off-screen sex at various points to come!
11. Alex C.
On a very different note...

Sarah Michelle Gellar on Sesame Street.

It's strange - I could swear that she hasn't aged a day since Buffy ended. She almost looks as young as she did in Season 7.
Ryan Jackson
12. KakitaOCU
Buffy uses the "Chosen One" to figure a solution to this, but unfortionately, if you've read the comics (And I don't even nessecarily mean Season 8, I mean the ones set way in the future). This is playing into the First's hands too.

Step One: Take out Potentials causing them to swarm to Buffy and unite.

Step Two: Set up an "Unstoppable" army beneath Buffy's feet to push her to extremes.

Step Three: Let her know about the Scythe, have her take it from a powerful minion to add importance to it.

Step Four: Buffy activates all Potentials into Slayers causing a major upswing in the good guys in the short term.

Step Five: Let the good guys get cocky and over confident due to early success.

Step Six: Steadily wipe out Slayers left and right. As more and more die younger and in battle less and less have familes or children to continue passing down the Slayer Line.

Step Seven: End it, take victory.

This it the first. If it has a concept of time it certainly doesn't use it the way we do. It has all the time in the world, it's has eternity. A plot lasting several hundred years is still probably a short game from its perspective.

While I love the wrap up on the season and the general message, I really think it's a case of Fridge Horror the more you look at it. Specially if you start taking in some of what we learn about Evil's nature on Angel. Where you can't ever win, you can only fight.
13. Alex C.
@12. Interesting idea, but it falls apart on Step 6. As far as I'm aware, there's no indication that being a potential Slayer has anything to do with ancestry. The 'line' that they talk about is mystical, not biological.
Ryan Jackson
14. KakitaOCU
In revisiting Fray I realize my error, I didn't think far enough forward.

I remembered that by Fray's time we have no slayers at all and then she ends up as one. I had thought it was due to them dying out. But in re-checking it's something done later on in the progression of this war that specifically cuts off all magic. (Not spoiling details in case anyone's reading or wants to).

But again, all of this starts based on what the First does. Elder Evil immortal with eternity to plan. "Lose" on purpose to win seems more likely than Buffy beating him.
Marty Beck
15. martytargaryen
Alex @11....Thanks for the link. I haven't seen it yet and can't at, is there an Angel muppet???
gina gatto
16. gcatto
The first time I saw this episode I remember thinking that Eve was the most gratingly annoying character and then when you find out she's the First you're like, oh ok, she was the First.

On re-watch I found myself wondering if she was supposed to be extra annoying (mostly accent-wise) so you'd be annoyed and then the reveal all makes sense or was it just all a case of really bad acting. At any rate if one of the potentials had to be the First I'm glad it was her.

Other than Eve's over the top accent I like this episode. The telepathic chat room, thunderdome and rescuing Spike are all great scenes.

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