“Get It Done,” by Douglas Petrie
Buffy wanders through her own darkened house, dressed casually and taking in the camping Slayettes all over her floor. Her general vibe is den mothery. There are a lot of girls now. One, Chloe, is crying in a corner. Before Buffy can ask what’s wrong, the First Slayer knocks her down the stairs and tells her: “It’s not enough.”
At this point I’d be wishing I could have prophecy dreams set in Tahiti. I mean, she can roam through the Potential-infested house when she’s awake.
Elsewhere, Anya and Spike are ambling through one of Sunnydale’s finer alleys, and Anya is beating herself up for having decided to become human again. She’s not enjoying the prospect of being mortal and vulnerable. Nor does she love living with a dozen or more teenagers. So instead she is attempting awkward banter with Spike about their plan. Which isn’t crime solving, patrol or research. No, they plan to blow off tension by drinking themselves stupid.
Having said that, I submit that choosing to go anywhere on foot in this town means banking on being attacked. Anywhere else, this would be victim blaming, but I’m sure that by now none of the Scoobies even notices that they build combat time into every trip: Okay, I want to be at the Bronze by eight o’clock for the first band. So: fifteen minutes to get there, ten to fight off an average of two point six vampires and/or demons, and then another five to make sure none of them’s got an amulet, mystic weapon or tattoo-type sigil. Add five in case someone’s woozy or needs active bandaging and… we need to leave at seven, right?
The awkwardness between Spike and Anya, as they stroll toward the inevitable dust-up, comes from their having spanged each other that one time. Anya’s all stirred up. Mostly, she’s annoyed that Xander went out on a date last week, and is trying to feel Spike out about whether he had any sexual motive whatsoever in suggesting the two of them go for a drink.
Happily, one of D’Hoffryn’s assassins turns up, right on time, and tries to kill Anya. Defeating it—Spike declines to actually go for the kill—puts an end to that conversation.
Over at the school the next day, Robin suspects that the Hellmouth has, as Buffy puts it, begun its semi-annual percolation. Students are tense, fighting, committing minor crimes and in some cases vanishing altogether. Robin is far from thrilled with this trend. He gives Buffy his mother’s weapons bag, and asks to see her base of operations.
The first person he meets at Chez Slay is, alas, Andrew. Buffy introduces him as their hostage, and he makes his usual stunning first impression. Then she takes Robin out back where the girls are training, under Kennedy’s drill-sergeanty tough-hate tutelage.
Willow is next. Caught by surprise, she attempts to conceal what they’re all up to. It’s cute, and unconvincing. Buffy reassures her that all the cards are on the table.
Except, of course, the ones Robin has up his sleeve. What he really wants is a good look at Spike, who is downstairs arguing with Anya about his non-lethal handling of the previous evening’s assassination attempt. Robin’s not overly impressed about Spike having gotten all soulful. The two of them have a tense, sparky energy as they size each other up. I enjoyed it.
By now, Dawn has examined Nikki Wood’s slayer bag of tricks, which contains a bad smell and a big locked box. The group has barely begun to explore what it might be good for when a gruesome and bummerific discovery brings all their preparations to an abrupt halt. Chloe, the weeping Potential from the prophetic dream, about whom Buffy has done absolutely zilch, has hanged herself. The First, now appearing as Chloe, has been camping the corpse. It treats the whole gang to a big ol’ trash-talk about how ineffectual they are.
This is no happy moment in Slayerville, and the fact that Buffy has to bury the poor kid in an unmarked grave, out in the boonies, doesn’t help her overall state of bonhomie.
She come home and lays into the upset and demoralized Slayettes—plus everyone within earshot—accusing them of being a defeatist cadre of slackers who need to up their game. Up it? Heck, find it! Willow’s being all timid with the magics. Soulfulness has not helped Spike to become an ever-more effective slaughterer of wicked monsters. Even Anya’s tendency to heckle gets a steaming share of snark. Concluding on a general theme of “We have to do something, dammit!” Buffy hauls the team upstairs to open up Nikki’s slay box. This contains shadowcasters that tell the story of the first Slayer. The shadows themselves are creepy and cool, and they open a vortex. Buffy jumps in, telling the others to find a way to get her back.
Sadly, this particular vortex comes with a party favor: a decently mighty demon pops out and attacks them. He’s something like a bottle deposit. If they want Buffy back, they have to return him. This particular demon would rather explore the streets of Sunnydale, killing unwary pedestrians. He flings the Scoobies around, tosses Spike through the ceiling and runs off, chortling, into the night.
It’s Dawn who has to get the team onto the task of retrieving Buffy from wherever. She’s remarkably graceful as she pep talks them into it. Spike assigns himself to demon-catching duty, noting he needs a little something first. Willow is obliged to figure out that vortex, homicidal urges be damned.
On the other side of the vortex, Buffy is still not in Tahiti. She has instead found a couple old African gents who say they know why she’s come and what she needs. And yet neither of them is brandishing a loaner copy of THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO DEFEATING THE FIRST EVIL. They announce they’ve been hanging around in this desert since the beginning, and they refer to Buffy as the Hellmouth’s last guardian.
“Latest,” she corrects, incorrectly.
The guys also say they cannot give her knowledge, only power before bonking her on the head.
Back at home, Willow tries opening the portal and gives herself a zorch of scary, eyes-go-black Evil Willow mojo. She shrieks so loudly that it wakes Buffy. It turns out the three wise guys have chained her to the earth. This is a reprise of their original Slayer creation ceremony. Their idea, which they’re pretty convinced is fantastic, is they’ll load Buffy up with even more power by imbuing her with a bunch of smoky CGI essence-of-demon.
Buffy is emphatically not keen on becoming more demonic and less human. They try to force the smokey demon essence into her all the same. “This is what you want,” they tell her. The parallels to sexual assault are clear. Still, we’ve all seen squickier things on this show.
By now, Spike has retrieved his black leather coat from the basement of the school. I’m sure you all remember where he got this garment: he pulled it off Nikki Wood’s cooling corpse. Robin asks about it as Spike saunters past, and he tells him he got it in New York.
Oh, William. This, as far as Robin is concerned, is as good as a signed confession, along with a general invitation to swing by the crypt and stake him sometime. (Normally I might call that a misunderstanding. But Spike is, in fact, guilty.)
Spike chases the bottle deposit demon down, whales on him, breaks his neck, and lights a cigarette on his tusk before dragging him back to Chez Slay. Willow reopens the portal by sucking some handy life-energy and spiritual power out of the others, including Kennedy.
Back in ye ancient past, Buffy has by now broken the chains binding her to the ground, and told the Slayer development team that she does not want to download their useless, uninformative update. She breaks their leader’s staff, and demands information. He touches her head, lighting up the cave and giving her a vision. Then she’s home, and the Scoobies are all around.
We got her back! We don’t suck! Yayyyyyy!!!
Where does this mostly moral victory leave the gang? Willow finds that Kennedy is freaked out by her psychic vampirism, but seems to feel it was necessary for her to understand how the magics worked. Buffy admits to having turned down the power-up, and to being scared it might have been a dumb choice.
The regrets are because of what the old dudes showed her: there’s a ginormous army of Turok-Han vampires waiting on the other side of the Seal of Danthazar.
“Get it Done” may not be either a laugh riot or an edge-of-the-seat adventure, but there’s not much wrong with it either. It’s spectacularly okay, as episodes go, which is rather sad in and of itself. Still, it nudges a number of storylines forward. It brings us closer to an obvious—even on first watch—Robin/Spike showdown. It fills in some necessary background on the Slayer myth, and shows Buffy making a critical choice: her humanity over an increase in her raw power. Even as she does so, Spike and Willow risk their humanity, by reaching for darkness and power at her behest.
The little snippet of Dawn onscreen shows her filling Giles’s role, essentially, by attending to the few clues they’re able to acquire and by giving the team their marching orders when Buffy is gone. This will lend authority to her voice, later, in the argument that gets Buffy booted out of the house.
Finally, “Get it Done” gives the First another chance to strut its stuff. It not only gets to show us that ugly-butt army festering within the Hellmouth, but it kills Chloe without ever laying a claw on her.
Next: Storytime and a nice white whine
A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth of fiction up here on Tor.com! 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”!)