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Different Kinds of Power

Buffy Episode 7.12 'Potential'
Air Date: 21Jan03

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye."
--- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Okay, so by now you've either read my message explaining that I've been too swamped to write reviews for the past couple of weeks, or maybe you've noticed that there just haven't been any. It's now been an unreasonable amount of time since 'Potential' aired and that makes it a tad difficult to get in the proper head space to discuss it. But hopefully I can dive in anyway, and this thing will write itself like it usually does. Can someone hit the lights, please?

Buffy and Spike are both looking all healed up in episode 7.12, which would imply that some indeterminate amount of time has passed since she de-headified the "Chaka Khan" and pulled Spike out of the cave. The word around the way is that it's been a couple of weeks, but since they both heal Wolverine-style, I'm just going to have to take everyone's word on that. William is the new teacher at Buffy's academy for young Slayers-in-Training (let's hope Willow gets the Defense Against the Dark Arts gig). The opening scene in the graveyard was cool, and the whole time Spike was chained up in the cave I was looking forward to seeing him get his chance to really lend his fierce talents to the side of good. Now that he's on the outside, having an in-house vamp is a great teacher's aid in Buffy's NEVER ENDING lecture on defending yourself against the things that get bumpy at night ("blah blah blah…"). My only regret is that he didn't actually finish the job when he had his fangs so close to Vi's jugular. It's been a slow process, but Vi is presently the only potential that I haven't grown to like. Well, not including this episode's slightly annoying late addition to the ranks, but we'll get to her in a bit. Rona is funny as the cranky cynic, and there's something about Molly's clumsy parody of an accent that's endearing. "Aw we spouse t' lawk, mike owt wif 'im?" Cute. Now say, "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plane" and I'll take you to the racetrack (I need sleep). I dig Kennedy, but so do most people I've spoken to.

Question about Spike's chip, though. It's been a pretty vague couple of months, in terms of what exactly he can and can't do. The last time we really saw the chip come into question, it seemed like he could attack people whenever the First was controlling him with the Friendly Giant theme, but as long as he was clearheaded and attacked a human (like when he decked Xander to get out of the apartment), he'd still receive a crippling shot of brain pain. A while back when Buffy had him tied up at Fort Summers, she asked him when his chip stopped working, and his reply was that he wasn't aware it had. Has it? And if so, when? In my opinion, the way he manhandled Rona and Vi would have been too much for the Spike of seasons 4, 5, and 6. If the rule holds true that he can only get rough with the living when it's on the First's dime, should we not still be worried? Buffy seems pretty confident that Spike's entirely on her side for the moment, but maybe the First works in more subtle ways than we've seen so far. Quick! Someone sing 'Early One Morning' and see what happens!

Speaking of subtle, Giles has gone from barely there to not there at all. He's off to Shanghai to pick up another potential (who will no doubt speak perfect English), and I have to assume that he took the Latina potential we saw in 'Showtime' who was absent from this episode. If not, where the hell else would she be? Was it an oversight? Did the actress throw some kind of tantrum and get her walking papers, and M.E. hoped we wouldn't notice her absence this time?!? I might be willing to believe Giles took her along for the trip, since theories still abound that he has no physical form and would therefore need someone to hand over his passport and boarding pass, AND carry his luggage. Then there's the seatbelt to consider, and the conspicuous way he'd be refusing all food and beverages on such a long flight. But this required assistance would imply that the potential understands his status, and OH, GIVE ME A BREAK!! This whole Giles thing is ridiculous. The only way I can imagine NOT being totally irritated is if, upon his return, he scoops Willow up in a big hug and drinks milk straight out of the carton from Buffy's fridge and we learn once and for all that it was one big red herring. I could appreciate the idea that Joss only had his writers script No-Touchy Giles to throw us off and keep us speculating. I was thinking a while ago that there may well have been entire episodes in the past where at least one character made no on-screen contact with any objects or people. It's not impossible, and we just wouldn't have noticed because we weren't looking for it and it wouldn't have meant anything anyway. But I think the idea that Giles has spent all this time in the house and not one single person has noticed his incorporeal state (if it is as such) is quite possibly the stupidest concept in the show's history. Of course there's still the matter of what happened to him when that Bringer in London swung an axe at his head. Boy, Joss, you've dug yourself into quite a hole with this one. I'm one of the most vocal "Trust in Joss" cheerleaders, but my faith is wavering on whether or not this is going to resolve itself in a way that will satisfy me. Please surprise me. Please pull something out that's going to knock me off my couch with its unforeseen craftiness. It's not that I don't think you have it in you, I'm just getting worried that this matter of ghostly Giles will be fraught with illogical and poorly explained goofiness.

There was also nothing new on Principal Wood, but as I said to Chris yesterday, I've recently had the truth of his identity spoiled for me and I would pay someone to suck the information back out of my brain. Damn it. It's a great idea and I applaud Joss (or whoever it was) for thinking of it, but I know how much more thrilling it would be if it came as a total shocker. I'm sure all of you who are tragically addicted to spoilers are tired of me lecturing you, but here it is again. Hearing this stuff in advance decimates the show's entertainment value, and since it's looking more and more likely that we don't have very much show left, can we all just try and keep our mitts out of the cookie jar? If you promise to stop reading spoilers, I have it on good authority that Drew Goddard will french you with his (self-proclaimed) masterful frenching skills. Ultimate Drew, if you're reading this, Kitty B says she is IN for that deal, so prepare to pucker up.

I was pleased as punch to see the return of my man Clem. Yay Clem! I've always been a fan of any glimpses we're granted into the demon underworld, so the field trip to the bar was a nice touch that was made sweeter still by the inclusion of my favourite saggy-faced hellspawn. I don't know which I like more – that he can do that crazy trick with his face, or that he has TiVo. Did anyone else find it strange that he and Spike didn't even acknowledge each other? I thought they were buds.

I guess all that's really left to discuss is the meat of the episode, namely Dawn's whole revolving door moment in the Slayer lineage. I think most of us saw this coming – at least the first half. With all the talk that the show could potentially continue without SMG, or with her appearing as an occasional guest star, many people have speculated that Dawn might be a likely candidate for the chief stake-wielder in an eighth season ("Dawn The Vampire Slayer" is a phrase that many fans have batted around this year). Let's keep in mind that she's rapidly leaving her season 6 self behind and maturing into a wise and dependable member of the team. Admittedly, Dawn's no Buffy, but I could see a lot of great stories spawning from her early training and first adventures as the chosen one. I wasn't so foolish as to assume that the future was clearly laid out when Willow's locator spell illuminated Dawnie, but I also didn't think for a second that it wasn't intended for her. Even when she snuck out (following Andrew's hilarious speech on the ancient joys of womanhood and Xander's desperate plea for its end), I didn't foresee Amanda as the real potential. If anything, as they broke into the school and started heading for the Home Ec lab, I started to get the sense that Amanda was leading Dawn into a trap. Was she already a vamp? Was she an agent of the First? Was she the offspring of Rick "Elevator" White and Shelly Duvall? I don't think I saw a single complete episode of Freaks & Geeks, so tell me – was Millie (this actor's character on that show) a freak or a geek?

I like it when the Buffy & Angel writers incorporate classic horror movie themes and devices. In this case it was the abandoned school at night, and the young girls frantically pushing cabinets against the door to keep the monster out as they scrambled for a plan with the soundtrack screeching and crashing around them. But true to Whedon form, this isn't a world where the girls get caught by the monster and wind up dead (Tell that to Jenny Calendar – Ed.). It was a really clever move to have Buffy's instruction to the potentials in the crypt playing over the scenes of Dawn fighting off her own vamp. It was a great precursor to the revelation that came with the Harbingers' arrival, as it illustrated Dawn's potential as a warrior, regardless of how the Powers that Be may have designated her. She might not be in line for the Slayer job, but her strength, courage and resourcefulness are constantly developing, and Xander is living proof that there's a lot more to the job of backing up the Slayer than just having superpowers. The real essence of this episode was that, in surrendering her taste of power to Amanda at that moment, Dawn ultimately accepted her role as a vital member of the team with only the tools of her own fragile humanity as her arsenal. It might be tough to be the Slayer, but in many ways it's harder to be the Slayer's (seemingly) powerless kid sister. And as Xander pointed out, her willingness to accept this role and the challenges that come with it make her all the more extraordinary. It took me a while to fully appreciate it, but this was Dawn's coming of age episode and an installment that looked on the surface like filler actually contained a pretty heavy development.

Some parting thoughts, before I start on the review for the second last Angel (I HATE being behind!!):

As was mentioned by a few readers, Buffy said something in 'Potential' about how one of the girls will be called if she dies. Do the Scoobs still not understand the current state of the Slayer lineage? I can't personally remember a moment where they've actually discussed the fact that Faith is the rightful Slayer and Buffy is a footnote, but Joss and Marti have both explained it at great length in interviews. Buffy died briefly in season one, which called forth Kendra. Dru whacked Kendra, and that gave us Faith. Buffy's death at the end of season five did bugger all, because the torch had already been passed. For a new Slayer to be called, Faith is the one that has to die. Is it possible that no one on the show has realized this yet? Do they think there might be another Slayer active because of Buffy's second death and that every time she dies a new one is called? OR, as an even crazier possibility, is Joss set to turn Slayer canon on its ear by revealing that there IS another Slayer (a third)?!? Don't hammer me with emails telling me that its impossible, because I'm not expecting it to happen either. But who knows what our man is capable of surprising us with? As Jane Siberry said, I Muse Aloud.

Do any of the potentials, including Amanda – who lives right in Sunnydale, have families? Is the mother that Amanda mentioned going to notice if her teenage daughter suddenly moves into Buffy's little boarding school?

Rebecca brought up an interesting thought. Isn't it time we launched some kind of serious campaign to get Buffy recognized by the Emmys this season? Maybe some of you are already on the task, so let me know if you are. Since this could be the last season, if it's ever going to happen it has to happen now. And I'm not just talking about make-up and special effects. At the very least we need to see nominations for the show's writing, and James Marsters deserves a Best Actor nomination as much as anyone on television. But I'm at a loss here. Who decides these things? Is there a small nominating committee? A massive academy? If it's up to 20th Century Fox, or whoever, to promote the show for possible consideration, they'd better get on it. And if we, as the viewing public, can help matters with petitions and email campaigns, then show me where I sign.

Thanks for the wake-up call, Rebecca, and take care, everybody.

About Ron : Email Ron
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