Previously: Spike was abducted by rage ninjas and sliced open by the First, raising “real vampires.”
Bring on the Night
Sweeney: Xander is cleaning up the broken glass, lamenting that he’s trapped in a “loop” in which he replaces the Chez Summers windows for all of eternity. (K: This is hilarious because he spends most of the rest of season 7 repairing those fucking windows.) This joke acknowledging the recurring destruction of the Summers home is obviously fantastic, but the word “loop” makes me twitch because I’m trying to learn actual code so that I can fix all the things that keep breaking on this website, but failing because it all looks unsettlingly like math. I feel you, Xander. I sometimes wonder if Snark Squad database errors are going to be ruining my life forever, too.
Lorraine: I really hope it isn’t rage ninjas breaking our website.
Sweeney: The rest of the gang is doing research, but coming up with nothing and beginning to doubt that Buffy heard the name right. Buffy insists that it’s The First and “the original evil.” Anya jokes that she heard people claim bullshit like that all the time in her demon days and it’s a nice little callback to when Buffy met Dracula. More direct callback as Buffy reflects on when she encountered The First and it almost got Angel to kill himself. That wasn’t one of the standout episodes of that season, but I’d still take that over pretty much everything that’s happening over on his show right now.
K: YUP YUPPITY YUP YUP. At least in the good old days, we didn’t have to worry about Oedipal sex scenes.
Sweeney: Xander and Anya learned that The First is holed up at The Seal of Danzar, but Andrew’s passed out now and can’t tell them anything else. Dawn decides to punch him to be sure, but yes, apparently, asleep. I’m not sure what kind of deep sleep this kid’s into if he can sleep through being punched in the face – the fact that he didn’t respond to that seems more like confirmation that he’s faking it than not.
Buffy tells Dawn to get back to research so they can rescue Spike. Dawn becomes our spirit animal because her reaction is, “That’s probably the least helpful motivation you possibly could have given me.” I’m making that up – I’m pretty sure her reaction is mostly to not getting to punch Andrew anymore, or whatever.
K: Given the choice between helping rescue Spike and punching Andrew in the face, I’d take punching Andrew in the face every time. So I like to think of her reaction as disappointment about both what she has to go do AND what she’s missing out on.
Sweeney: Headcanon Accepted. As Willow excitedly exclaims that she’s onto something, Buffy is startled by Joyce telling her that she needs to get some rest. Buffy is shaken, but holding firm, insisting that this is The First that she’s talking to. Joyce tells her she needs to wake up, then Xander repeats that command because she was actually dreaming. Xander can tell that she saw something unsettling in her sleep, but Buffy insists that it was nothing.
Some Cavern In The Vast Network Of Undiscovered Dirt Tunnels Underneath Sunnydale: Rage Ninjas are chanting in Latin. Spike’s body is being dragged by an OG Vamp. First!Spike advises the OG Vamp to kick Spike before turning into First!Dru and it’s perfect because Dru is absolutely the best persona for The First. (K: YES. AGREED.) (L: YAY DRU.) The shape shifter thing is cool and all, and they make good use of it, but obviously the best use is MOAR DRU, because that bitch is terrifying. More torture, which, even if it is Spike, 3/3 Snark Ladies hate watching torture, so apparently that’s a thing I get in this episode. YAY!
Anya and Dawn are splashing water on Andrew, and are about to try hot water when Buffy walks in and they scurry back to the couch and play dumb. This is interrupted by Andrew actually waking up and me flailing about Giles coming back because ASH’s name just appeared as a special guest star for the episode. They clue Andrew in on the fact that The First was masquerading as Warren and he sidebars that “The First” is a lame villain name and “Lex” or “Voldemort” would be way better. I’m quoting this solely so we can use our Harry Potter tag. Buffy gets us back on track and asks to know where the seal is.
Basement of Don’t Go In There 2.0. Andrew insists that the scene is more gruesome than last he saw it, but Xander gives no fucks, what with Andrew killing his best friend and all. Andrew tries to insist that Jonathan told him he’s in a great place now; Xander reiterates that the ghosts were fake. Buffy decides that they need to cover the seal, though I’m not entirely sure why, other than setup for the suspicion-raising-run-in that’s about to happen.
K: I like to think that “Don’t leave evil shit lying around in the open” is a good rule of thumb ANYWHERE, but especially in Sunnydale.
Lor: Maybe they want to annoy whoever is trying to use the Seal. “DAMN IT I JUST DUG THIS UP. WHO DID THIS?” Probably not, but it could happen.
Sweeney: Walking back through the basement, Andrew and Xander have a fanboy flail moment, which Xander instantly regrets it. As Dawn and Buffy are trying to regroup they bump into Principal Wood, who is down there returning his shovel. He lies that he was returning it from the courtyard and Buffy lies that she’s no longer sick and also is down there helping Dawn bury a time capsule. Again I say that these basements (that shouldn’t even exist in Southern California) SHOULDN’T HAVE DIRT FLOORS. This is a brand new building! What the hell, Xander’s Construction Company? Anyway, Principal Wood asks Buffy back to work, and she insists that she’ll be there tomorrow and he says, “Good,” but the zoomy cameraman and ominous music mixer suggest that it’s not good.
K: D.B. Wood gives off a really good “Is he evil? WE DON’T KNOW!” vibe.
Sweeney: Chez Summers. Xander is trying to get Buffy to rest, insisting that they’ve faced stuff like this before. As Buffy is swearing that this is totally different, Willow’s computer does a crazy lightning thing and the Terrible Special Effects Team giddily abides the instruction which I can only assume was, “PUT ALL THE WEIRD SHIT ON THE SCREEN AT ONCE!” A possessed Willow shouts, “You only make me stronger,” and then collapses, all the magic going with her. Buffy tries to comfort her, insisting that it’s gone, but Willow’s crying, saying that she can’t use magic at all. She’s terrified that she’s going to hurt somebody, but doesn’t actually use all of words and explain the get-under-your-skin thing that The First told her.
They’re struggling to research this thing, concluding mostly that it’s supremely unresearchable. With that in mind, it’s incredibly frustrating that Willow and Dawn are withholding any piece of their interaction with The First. I understand that the things The First said were designed to touch their deepest fears and also to divide them, but it’s still frustrating that neither of them got up the smarts/courage to own up to the whole of it. I’m not sure how much difference it would make, but when there’s a shortage of information they should be sharing everything they know with the gang. It’s not uncommon for things to hinge upon a particular wording or clue, so all of that should be regarded as potential evidence.
K: I understand the not saying anything in Dawn more than in Willow. I mean, Willow’s interaction at least culminated in “OKAY, FINE, YOU GOT ME. I’M EVIL.” Dawn’s was more ambiguous, and she’s still secretly hoping (ish??) that it was Joyce. Hoping, at least, that it was Joyce with a false message. Or something. You know?
Sweeney: Agreed. I say both of them, but yes, it bothers me infinitely more from Willow.
As Buffy is gearing up to storm after The First, in spite of Xander’s reminders that she not only doesn’t know where it is, but also can’t actually fight it, she opens the door to find that GILES has returned…with a trio of teenage girls. One of the girls [Kennedy] is all sorts of not impressed with Buffy. Giles apologizes for barging in on her, but there’s a slight case of apocalypse going around.
As they come inside I get excited because one of them [Molly] is Tru from the Disney Channel Original Movie, “Tru Confessions,” in which she plays a vlogger before vlogging was a thing and Shia LeBeouf plays her mentally handicapped twin brother.
Lor: It is a dream of mine to recap all of those 90’s era DCOMs. IT WILL HAPPEN.
K: Um, AWESOME. Also, I stop to be momentarily irritated because I saw a thing online recently that Molly was meant to be a chavvy Indian girl, but instead she ended up being a chavvy white girl because Whedon really doesn’t do POC characters as anything but a token gesture. Sigh.
Sweeney: Giles is busy talking about the apocalypse, though, and isn’t interested in my Disney Channel flailing. Giles explains that these girls are all Potential Slayers and more are on their way. Buffy realizes that her murder nightmares from the beginning of the season were the deaths of other Potentials. Snarky Prophet points to Lor for putting that together! (L: Can I redeem them for cash??)
Giles explains that their research has been fruitless in part because The First predates the written word. He also informs them that Council HQ was blown up, but not before he snuck in and stole all sorts of important records on The First, because Giles is smarter than them and figured shit out before they did. Andrew is so into the story that he has an outburst and Buffy has Xander gag him.
Giles goes on to explains that they can only appear as people who have been deceased. Willow has her, “Aha!” moment about the ghosts, but Dawn looks more unsettled than relieved. It pretty solidly sucks either way for Dawnie — either her struggle was for nothing or the warning about Buffy was true. I imagine confirmation of either horrible truth would burn, taking away the corresponding upshots (I saw my mom! / Buffy’s not going to betray me!) to calm that internal debate. It’s easier not to dwell on whichever one is plaguing you most when it’s still a question mark.
The big Giles explanation of Stuff We Already Knew continues with the fact that The First can’t be corporeal, and only works through the people it manipulates, like The Rage Ninjas. And Andrew. Tru Confessions saw one of the Rage Ninjas, but Annabelle, the responsible British girl who was charged with carrying the important documents, tells her to STFU. The basics of The First’s plan are to destroy the Slayer line, and the Slayer, leaving the Hellmouth unprotected and the world’s balance between good and evil effectively destroyed. Now it’s up to Buffy to protect those girls and also the world. “No pressure,” quips Xander.
Kennedy hates this plan and wants to be on the other side of the globe. Buffy agrees that this is a good point, and that finding Spike is the obvious answer to their problem, because reasons.
Lor: Are they even trying anymore? “You’re right. You should be on the other side of the world. LET’S FIND SPIKE!”
Sweeney: Nope. It’s season seven. They’ve given up any pretense of trying to explain Spike’s continued PRIORITY status.
Cavern of Torture. First!Dru creeps some more and OG Vamp tortures some more.
Downtown. Buffy’s leading Giles back to the place she originally encountered The First, which was under a Christmas tree lot. It’s really convenient that she needed to go back there at Christmastime, then. Or inconvenient because more people will be there. I’m not sure which. Buffy jokes that they should decorate the rubble when they get home and asks Giles if he’ll come for a real, non-apocalyptic visit one day, and he promises that he will if they get through this one.
Chez Summers. Andrew’s still tied up, but questioning Xander about following Buffy. Willow’s trying to sort out sleeping arrangements, but Kennedy keeps shooting down her suggestions, so Willow gives her the stack of sheets. “You better not hog the covers,” she winkwinknudgenudges and scampers upstairs. Before Willow can process what just happened, Dawn pops up to say that everyone’s hungry, but she burnt the mac and cheese. In the kitchen we learn that Annabelle is a vegetarian and confirm that she and Tru Confessions have poor accents. Fortunately for them, David Boreanaz has already set that bar so low that they’re doing just fine — comparatively speaking.
K: A+, Sweeney. Nothing is as bad as David Boreanaz’s accent.
Sweeney: ETA: ACTUALLY, YES: KENDRA. I think my mind blocked it out or something because it’s that bad, but a commenter reminded me. Point being: this show has a track record for atrocious accents. Lucky for you, Potentials With Only Moderately Bad Accents.
Downtown. Buffy and Giles arrive at the tree lot which is decidedly tree-and-personless (convenient it is then!) and just as Buffy says she’s sure it was around there somewhere, she falls through the ground. She calls up to Giles that she’s all right, just before being attacked by an OG Vamp. They fight and eventually she stakes it. This halts it for a bit, but then it pulls the stake out of its chest and Buffy panics.
After a Not Break, she starts getting her ass kicked, but manages to break off something to knock over OG Vamp’s head. She climbs up the wall and it grabs her just as she’s about to get free. Where the fuck is Giles? Just as I ask that, he returns WITH THE SUNRISE! That’s a really cool trick. OG Vamp cowers and disappears back into the hole.
Chez Summers, Buffy and Giles return to find the Potentials. Buffy sits down and asks Giles to explain what she was just fighting. He wants to do it privately, but she says that there’s no time to coddle them and welcomes them to the War Room. Annabelle excitedly grabs her notebook.
Giles explains that the OG Vamp is called a Turok-Han. They are, in addition to being primordial vampires, so ferocious that regular vampires fear them. Giles was also pretty sure they were a myth until this morning. Buffy tells the Potentials that she didn’t successfully stake the “ubervamp,” but there’s no time to rest or deal with any of that because she’s got to get to work.
Before she goes, Giles asks what her big work-research plan is, so when we arrive at Sunnydale High School, she’s executing her brilliant plan of googling “evil.” That’s the first step. Unfortunately, her boss is lurking around her cubicle and sees her Questionable Google Search of the Day: “manifestations of evil.” Buffy quickly adds “in the movies.” Principal Wood sits down and gives a heavy handed speech about not liking scary movies because you can’t unsee true evil once you’ve seen it. (That’s like the internal Snark Squad motto.) (L: *shudders*) Buffy nods accordingly. As he leaves, she asks him what type of movies he likes and he ominously replies, “Mysteries. I love finding out what’s underneath it all at the very end.”
K: I desperately wish Giles had been present for this scene, because I can just see him going “Oh, for the love of God, Buffy. You spend three years researching in my library and STILL can’t conduct a Boolean search? Honestly, have I taught you nothing? *sighs while cleaning glasses*”. </random headcanon>
Sweeney: Torture Cavern. Dru creeps that Spike has to choose a side. Spike tells First!Dru that she’s not Dru, and actual!Dru was crazier than this. The First ups its crazy and writhing, before continuing to implore Spike to choose their side. Spike tells First!Dru to “get bent,” and gets some bonus face beatings for it.
Summers Bathroom. Buffy has some good Slayer Businesswear – her suit jacket has zip up sleeves! For the working Slayer. She unzips them to inspect her badly injured arm. Joyce shows up just to rattle her some more. Buffy doesn’t fight with Joyce about who she is this time. She just listens. Joyce again tells Buffy that she needs to rest, adding that there are things she can’t control, like the sun going up and down. (L: UNLESS YOU ARE GILES AND YOU BRING THE SUNRISE.) Buffy says that everyone is counting on her and Joyce says that “They do that. I’m sorry, but these friends of yours put too much pressure on you. They always have.” Joyce goes on to say that evil is all around them and Buffy can’t stop it because its in all of us. “No one can stop nature, not even —”
With that, Buffy’s dream is interrupted by the bell. She asks the kid in front of her what they were talking about. “Only my life — you’re just like all the others.” Womp womp. Roger tells B his name and sulks off. Principal Wood is watching her from his spy-on-my-staff window.
Chez Summers. Xander is boarding up the window, rather than bothering with the glass. They offer some totally not reassuring words to the Potentials. Off to the side, Willow apologizes to Buffy for what happened before, using a lot of “Aaahs” and “eers” to explain. She’s sorry that she can’t help, and hates that she can’t at least do something. Buffy tells her that it’s fine. Willow insists that she needs help but won’t ever admit it. True to form, Buffy does not admit it: “I’ll be OK. OK or better – it’s like my guarantee.”
The Potentials start getting antsy for weapons. Buffy hesitates, but ultimately relents and directs them to the weapons chest. While they go through the weapons, Andrew pleads with them to untie him because he swears he’s totes good now.
Buffy walks off and Giles says all the wrong things, about how they understand that she’s calling the shots and EVERYONE IS DEPENDING ON HER. Buffy tells him how unhelpful that comment was, but before he can respond, Tru Confessions runs in to tell them that Annabelle ran away. Like an idiot. Cut to her, running right into an OG Vamp.
K: I knew there was a reason why I didn’t like Annabelle.
Lor: Where the hell was the uptight responsible one even going?
Sweeney: After a Not Break, Buffy finds the body and is attacked herself. Just as it’s about to kill her, she spits her own blood into its face and runs off. It follows her nice and slow, giving her limping self enough lead time to find a new metal object to hit it over the head with. She continues to destroy the inside of this factory, dropping things on it, none of which succeed in killing it. More destruction. Things collapse on Buffy. Her body is found a little later by Xander, Anya, and Giles, horrified.
Torture Cavern. First!Dru explains that Spike is only alive because The First isn’t done with him yet. Spike insists that he will not be anyone’s puppet anymore. As the Orchestra of Feels swells he adds that he knows this because Buffy believes in him.
K: Man, why couldn’t the First be Darla? That would be fantastic AND give us new and exciting eyeroll gifs to play with!
Sweeney: Darla would be my absolute favorite persona for The First. IF ONLY.
Chez Summers. A very PTSD-looking Buffy sits on a chair, with a blanket wrapped around her, listening to the others talk in the dining room. Giles thinks she may have internal bleeding and they have no idea what to do if she can’t fight it, since Buffy was the whole plan.
As Giles is saying that he doesn’t know if they can fight it, Buffy enternounces that he’s right. They have no idea how to fight it or when it will come. “We can’t pretend its not the end, because it is.” Giles tries to calm this whole train of thought, saying that he knows she’s tired.
I’m beyond tired. I’m beyond scared. I’m standing on the mouth of hell and its going to swallow me whole. And it’ll choke on me. We’re not ready? They’re not ready. They think we’re gonna wait for the end to come, like we always do. I’m done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Well, we’ll give ’em one. Anyone else who wants to run? Do it now. Because we just became an army. We just declared war. From now on, we won’t just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them and cut out their hearts one by one until The First shows itself for what it really is, and I’ll kill it myself. There is only one thing on earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us. Any questions?
End credits. I fucking love a good BAMF Buffy speech. This one was truly all in its delivery, and it was wonderful and perfect. I’d totally have been roused to battle for a good 30 seconds before I remembered to go cower under a bed.
K: Agreed. It’s a pretty great speech, apart from the “we’re all going to die” undertones.
Lor: That was a good speech, and sure, they are going to die, but they are going to die awesome.
Sweeney: This episode had a lot of forward movement, and for that alone I appreciated it. I could have done without all the torture, and as a big development episode, there were a couple points that were inadequately explained. Other than that, though, it was a good one. This episode did a lot of set-up work without really suffering under the weight of that. The Potentials and Giles are in the fray and Buffy now knows just about everything we do, which is nice. We’ve introduced a host of new threads – what The First wants with Spike, what Principal Wood is up to, the fact that there are many OG Vamps and Buffy has to conclude how to kill them, and the impending arrival of more Potentials.
I love the entire concept of bring The Potentials into the fold because they offer this whole meta commentary on the show. In light of our recent post on casting, it’s timely to point out that Whedon used the final season of his badass teenage girl show to implement a device with which he could build an army of badass teenage girls. I fucking love that.
Lor: I really like to see the First trying all of these different ways to get the best of our heroes. I mean, I’m still not 100% sure why keeping Spike alive is integral to any plan, but otherwise, this thing is preying on fears like no one’s business. Seeing it over take Willow and her resulting fear that it was still in her was intense, despite the stupid special effects. It makes me wonder if it really is preying on fears, or perhaps tapping into the bits of evil it claims are in everyone, and that we saw fully manifesting in Willow at the end of last season.
There wasn’t a ton of Spike, as some of you promised, but his portions of the episode were definitely the weakest, despite having Juliet Landau, who is great.
I’m so happy to see Giles back, but I’m pretty sad that he’s being kind of a defeatist. I always thought of Giles as the guy who goes down swinging. Who came to stop Willow full of the magic of others, knowing that she would drain him of it. Ripper, you know. His, “well, Buffy is down! Time to die!” sentiments seemed weird to me. But, like, YAY GILES.
Sweeney: I don’t know – after everything that happened last year, I imagine Giles felt a large amount of guilt (quite frankly, I hope he did) and saw that the last big disaster (Willow…) was one that Buffy actually could not defeat. (Thinking about that finale, Buffy played a relatively small role. After Xander, Giles, and arguablly even Anya made larger contributions.) Regardless of how his relationship with The Council fell apart, that was still a big part of this life and a source of some stability in this crazy world. I take his defeatist sentiments as a nod to all that Giles has lost in recent events.
Regardless, yes, YAY GILES.