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The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

Buffy Episode 7.13 'The Killer In Me'
Air Date: 04Feb03

I'm going to skip the usual tale of woe about how behind I am on reviews and how I feel like I'm never going to get caught up and the stress of it is making it very difficult to write anything at all. See my next Angel review for the full-scale rant, assuming I ever get around to writing another Angel review (at this point I'm four behind and it's not looking good). Instead I'm going to try to cover 'The Killer in Me', since catching up with Buffy is still within the realm of possibility.

What was everyone's problem with this episode? I usually prefer to write my recap before I read what the usual suspects have to say about the hour in question, but as it's been a week since it aired, I ended up doing the circuit and reading everyone else's review, and I was surprised that a few of my colleagues in the geeky underground thought 7.13 was weak and largely filler (high fives to the crew of the U.S.S. Chesapeake for "getting it"). It might come back to the spoilers, as I remember being disappointed with a number of season six episodes that probably would have been a lot more entertaining if I didn't know every twist before it happened. In this case, I hadn't even managed to see the UPN promo (see above re: Way Too Busy), so I went in as pure as the driven… okay, that's a bit much – let's say I had no idea what was about to transpire.

It was fun right off the bat. My appreciation of the potentials continues to develop in a comfortably gradual fashion, and to the credit of Golden-Age Drew, they were a fun part of the episode without even being onscreen. From a Joss standpoint, this was entertaining AND economical! Yes, Dawn – Smack Vi in the head with her notebook (and you just KNOW she did!). I loved the mental image of Rona stuffing Molly in the trunk, and Anya's comment about never noticing before how compact Molly is made me laugh. Anya was a bit bland in 'Potential', so it was good to see her dishing out her fair share of funny again. There were plenty of gifts to those of us who were obsessing over Ripper's vital statistics, too (now Giles – if you were to fill out a job application, would you check DEAD, or NOT DEAD?), like having Dawn grab the notebook, and the whole expired-license-shucks-I-can't-drive thing.

The guest star credits should have included the frog in SMG's throat! Not sure what was up there, but I guess when they shot that living room sequence she was either getting over a wee cold, or she'd been out all night drinking tequila with her famous friends (I'm leaning toward the former). Regardless, it seemed to be all better in the rest of her scenes. Sometimes it's cute when her voice gets squeaky, as it did when Giles busted her for speculating with the potentials as to what he was taking them out to the desert for (excellent nod to season five's 'Intervention').

As I've said previously, I find Kennedy the easiest to like among all the potentials, and I know this is a widely held opinion. Shaun, one of my consistently vocal readers who's been contributing articles to The Buzz, seems to be holding position in the anti-Kennedy camp, largely due to the fact that he feels it's way too soon for Willow to get involved with someone new (and, by his own admission, he finds Kennedy annoying). I think this is one more case where the characters, like real people, aren't following any mapped-out pattern of behaviour. I got an overwhelming response to my summation of the way Willow's been grieving over Tara's death (thanks for the kind words, everybody – I had no idea I was touching such a nerve), and I'll say again that I think the whole process has been very raw and real. It's not even unheard of for someone who's tragically lost his or her partner to quickly get involved with someone new, and I don't feel it's an affront to Tara's memory. Needing someone doesn't mean you aren't grieving. Seeing as how it takes a barely-averted apocalypse to get this crew to hug each other, it stands to reason that Willow's been not only lonely, but desperate for someone to physically cling to. Sure, by our standards, Kennedy isn't holding Willow's relationship with Tara in high enough reverence, but she wasn't there and she didn't know her. She seems like she doesn't understand because, frankly, she doesn't understand, and I won't fault her for that. I don't want to skip onto 7.14 yet, but I think they're a nice match and if Willow's taking something more than baby steps, you might agree that the events of 'The Killer in Me' kind of threw them together faster than either of them expected.

It was a great shock when Red first turned into Warren. There I was, in perfect synch with Kennedy, stumbling backwards, knocking over lamps. Nice to see Adam Busch again, and it's funny how Warren's taken his place among Buffy's A-List rogues gallery. Even though he was just a basement-dwelling nerd, I find his sudden presence in a new episode as compelling as that of any returning Big Bad. He's full of devilish charisma, and he got more interesting as they upped his psycho-factor. In this case, it added a great new dimension as Adam B did his best to convince us that he was actually Willow – a sheep in wolf's clothing.

And no, before you write me to say, "Are you calling Willow a sheep?!?", I'm definitely not (just taking the shots as they present themselves). In fact, I remember thinking as she stormed out of the Wiccan meeting what a cool and confident character she's evolved into, and I don't just mean in this episode, because of course she was a tad out of her mind for a lot of it. As a result of everything she's been through in the past 7 seasons, our girl has grown up and it's been a long time since she's seen the softer side of Sears. It's the best long-term character development this side of David Silver.

By the way -- Reasons to Ditch Spoilers #375: I was as shocked as Willow when Amy stood up from the circle in that meeting. I was wondering when we'd see her again, as we had no reason to think that she'd left town or abandoned her wicked ways. All we knew was that Willow took out Rack, so Amy probably had to seek out a new supplier. For… magic. Can I say again that I HATED that magic-as-a-metaphor-for-drugs thing? Goofy. At least in the way they ended up doing it.

Hold on. This is the third time I've been through 'Surfer Rosa' since I started writing this, and it's time to change the music.

Okay, there. I've rediscovered 'Little Plastic Castles', lately, and it's become almost a daily ritual. What was I talking about? Right – Amy. I expected her to play a much larger role in things last season, even speculating that she'd end up joining forces with the Troika. But as usual, Joss threw us a curve and made Amy disappear until a moment when I had all but forgotten about her. Like many people, once Kennedy did her Columbo act and figured out that Amy knew more about this hex than she was letting on (how DID she know Kennedy was a potential, anyway?), I assumed Amy was going to turn out to be some kind of agent of the First. Not the First itself, as we already saw her holding hands with her fellow witches, but she could still have been under its control, the way Spike was (is? Whatever), or possibly the way Andrew was manipulated into shanking Jonathan. Based on her confession, it sounds like her motivation was merely sour grapes, but are we sure? As has been implied a few times this season, everyone's choosing up sides, and you're either fighting for good or evil. Did we really expect Amy to knock on Buffy's door and ask for a Scooby membership card?

OH! It just occurred to me that I forgot all about the juicy subplot of Spike's malfunctioning chip. Poor Spike has done a lot of suffering this season. First he was battling insanity, a broken heart, and the guilt that comes when a vampire gets his soul back, then it was the confusion and remorse of a First-controlled killing spree. That ended just as the Bringers, um, "brought" him to the First for a couple weeks of intense torture, and after an equal period to relax and heal up, it was time for the chip to start filling his head with a boatload of hurt at regular intervals. If the writers were looking to punish him for past crimes this season, they're doing a smashing job. When Willow in Warrenface rushed downstairs with Kennedy in tow and all hell broke loose, Spike provided physical comedy almost on the level of the rocket-launcher scene in 'Help', as he staggered around the room, grasping his head in searing pain and finally collapsing, completely escaping the notice of Buffy or anyone else. That whole scene was great, with Buffy the hothead decking Willow (and just like when Faith punched her in season three, no bruise whatsoever), and Andrew running up to put his hands where mine can only dream of going…

So yes, Buffy opted to give agent Finn a call (this is a bit out of sequence, but bear with me), and I was hoping he'd actually make an appearance. Despite all the shuddering and head-shaking people do when his name comes up in conversation, I'm hereby outing myself as someone who appreciated Riley's role in the show's mythology. Even if the character itself was a tad bland (which was entirely intentional, I'm sure), the journey he went on was a fascinating one, and as a hopeless romantic, his season five departure was a heartbreaker (remember Xander's impassioned speech to Buffy and her frantic run to the lift zone?). For a well thought out testimony in Riley's defense, I recommend you check out Daniel Erenberg's Slayage exclusive, 'Captain America', up in the Articles section. Buffy's apparent inability to reach him at the flower shop was a clever fake-out, and it was another good surprise when the Initiative showed up down in the old HQ, with an offer to do whatever they could to help "assface" (BIG laugh!).

A few people wrote me to say that they felt this whole scenario presented a gross inaccuracy on Mutant Enemy's part, as season four's 'Primeval' concluded with the government deciding to fill the Initiative's Sunnydale base with concrete and pretend it never existed. I have no real problem with the fact that they didn't get around to this operation. Some Pentagon number-cruncher came back with how much all that concrete would cost, and they opted instead to just roll some sod over the entrances. At least that's how I'd expect Joss to shrug it off.

Meanwhile, back at good guy central, the phone rang and no, it wasn't the comic shop announcing the arrival of the new 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (was that a marketing tie-in? Who's releasing the movie, anyway?), it was ROBSON (Huh?!?), calling to inform the gang that something nutty happened in London. It seems he knows as much about that day as we did, which is that one second the Bringers were about to open Giles' head like a coconut, and the next Giles was gone. Suspicion was officially aroused (I gritted my teeth as these morons realized that no one had touched Giles in weeks), and after a HILARIOUS Andrew scene (Go, Tom Lenk, Go!) where he threatened to do something evil "like, burn something or… glue stuff together", the gang jumped in the Contracty-mobile and headed for the desert, where the still-enigmatic Rupert Giles sat alone in front of the campfire, looking so evil that he could have cackled maliciously and it wouldn't have made things any creepier. Good set-up.

You wanna talk creepy, how chilling was Aly Hannigan's delivery of her last line in the gunshop when the Warren side had all but claimed her completely? Her whole re-enactment of the afternoon that Tara died was a brilliant move on Drew Greenberg's part. Yes, it was bizarre, yes it was illogical, and yes, it was heavy-handed. But I couldn't imagine a more horrifying nightmare for Willow to spin up in her tormented mind, and there she was playing it out for real. The resolution of the scene has fallen under a lot of criticism for being too "fairy tale". HELLO! They pointed it out themselves, and it was exactly the type of plot device they were going for, as cliché or as traditional as you may choose to label it. Have they never opted for a fairy tale ending before? The same yellow crayon scene in last season's finale that had all of you weeping in your popcorn was pretty much as simple and storybook as this moment between Kennedy and Willow. I thought having the glamour broken in the same way it started provided a nice even structure to the episode, and Willow's explosion of grief and the degree to which she attacked herself for even contemplating loving someone after Tara touched me very deeply. So shush, you hardhearts.

It was agonizing but clever to end the episode with the matter of Spike's chip unresolved. Repair or remove? For the record, my prediction was that Buffy would want it removed, but Spike would talk her into having them fix it. It's no secret that she trusts him more than he trusts himself (this is the same guy who chained himself up at the beginning of the episode).

And what of the road trip? A teenager, a powerless ex-demon and two geeks (and a pizza place – never mind) made it out to the desert to find that Giles hadn't brought the potentials there to leave them open to a Bringer attack, or for any other nefarious purpose. Remember in my review for 'Potential' when I said that the only way I was going to be satisfied was if the whole incorporeal debate ended up being a giant red-herring designed to keep us guessing? THANKS, JOSS! I was as relieved as the Scoobs were when they tackled him to the ground and felt him up. It still left the matter of how he escaped Robson's apartment up to speculation, but at least one big concern was settled. Giles is not the First, and he's not a ghost. Whew!

Before I go, I want to take a second to come out in defense of his much talked about "camping with girls" joke. I thought it was smart and funny, and I don't understand why everyone thinks it was out of character for him to say such a thing. Giles has been funny lots of times, and this even fell in with his traditionally dry sense of humour. Besides, we've learned over the years that there are a lot of facets to old Ripper's personality, and it's best to just keep your perceptions of him open.

That's it. A great episode with everything I look for in this show. Comedy, terror, tension, poignancy, strong character development, and a cliffhanger (in the form of Spike's chip). Tell me again that 'The Killer in Me' was filler.

Take care, everybody.

PS – Kennedy has really pretty eyes. Pass it on.

About Ron : Email Ron
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Latest Comments

Oh, and one more thing-

GREAT Douggie Adams reference.

Could you BE cooler?

Posted by: Edie on March 13, 2003 07:16 PM

YES YES YES! I feel exactly the same way as you do about this episode. I just loved it.

Buffy IS cheesy lots of times, the show's charm is that the characters are intensly engrossing, but the plots always verge on cheese. But it's GOOD cheese. No velveeta here, we're talking BRIE baby!

As for kennedy, I wanted to smack her in the FACE in episode (gosh I can't remember)

-spoiler if you haven't seen past killer-

the one where she yells at Buffy for lecturing the potentials and everyone because of the suicide of a potential. Okay, Buffy was so mean in that scene I though she was the first, but FUCK YOU kennedy. Just cause you're banging Will doesn't mean you get to question Buffy! Your ass would be MONTHS dead without her-andyou're a newbie!! So go sit over in the corner with Andrew and behave like a good little pre-scooby. Good girl.

Love the review!
-Edie(Not Eddie)

Posted by: Edie on March 13, 2003 07:15 PM
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