: Buffy The Vampire Slayer & Angel The Series News
Buffy and Angel Reviews
« (UN)HOLY S**T!! | Main | A Much Crappier Musical »

The Trouble With Doubles

Buffy Episode 7.8 Sleeper
AirDate: 19th Nov 02

Sometimes I wonder about these Scoobs and all the turmoil they regularly find themselves in. With all the vamps & demons around, do you ever feel like they're their own worst enemies? Take last season, for example. Sure, the nerds did what they could to mess with Buffy, and Amy wasn't much help. But individually, Dawn was a kleptomaniac, Willow got crazy for the juice, Xander panicked and bailed on Anya, and Spike and Buffy both stayed too long in a bizarre abusive relationship (I'm not forgiving Spike for his actions, but let's not forget the number of times while they were still together that Buffy punched him in the face). Tara pretty much kept to the straight and narrow, but that didn't save her from being a victim to everyone else's problems. Giles wisely got the hell out before the nuttiness rubbed off on him, and Anya? Anya remained charming and beautiful while Big Poppa hyperventilated his way out of their relationship, so I'll file her with Tara as an unfortunate casualty (yes, I need help).

It seems no one's learned their lesson yet, either. For a group that's so tight, why can't they ever open up to each other? It would not only lessen their personal burdens, but sometimes it would even speed up the process of figuring out what's going on. I get that Willow chose not to tell Dawn that Cassie was the dead person she had a visit from, because she didn't want to freak the kid out any more than she already is. But by leaving the account as being a conversation with just some random person, Willow has probably given Dawn the impression that her own situation is unique, because she was the only one who came face to face with someone she knows, and therefore her source could be trustworthy. And who knows? Maybe it IS.

Look at 'Once More With Feeling' (the only episode I can think of that's more commonly identified by its acronym, OMWF). It took Sweet and his singin' & dancin' majicks to finally FORCE this crew to open up about what was bothering them. Do we need him to come back (yes please)? Right before Tara was shot last season, Xander expressed his disappointment to Buffy at the realization that "growing up seems to be about shutting up." Sarah wrote me last weekend to say how irritated she'd be if this week's episode turned out to be yet another one where so much crap could be avoided if the characters would just come clean with each other. Sorry, Sarah, but it appears that the streak continues.

And it continues right through to Xander's logic that Spike must be able to attack people, since he attacked Buffy in her bathroom at the end of last season (well, he didn't say the "season" part – that would be weird). This is a major factor in the Spike mystery, so what did Buffy do? Did she say, "No, Xander. It turns out that my molecular make-up was very slightly altered when I was resurrected, and it fools Spike's chip"? No, she averted her eyes and said, "Uh yeah – right." What's the problem here? I understand that at the time Tara first explained it, Buffy wasn't comfortable sharing the news. She was still secretly sleeping with Spike, and this revelation dashed her last hope at an excuse for her distasteful behaviour. But that was a year ago, everyone knows about her relationship with Spike, and she's since kicked the habit. So what's the logic behind withholding such an important piece of the puzzle? I don't know, I guess it would make things too easy.

Despite his madness and the obvious wear n' tear of being Morphy's plaything (Sorry, Schmaff – he morphs, and I'm keeping the name until a better one is revealed), Spike was the one who realized that the best thing to do was go to Buffy with the truth of what he could remember, as soon as he remembered it. Never mind trying to cover it up, since eventually that tangled web would only make things worse. Maybe he's more compelled to do the right thing because he's new to having a soul – the rest of them have had 'em forever, so they're a little better at pulling the deceitful crap.

But I liked the idea that, from Spike's perspective, the chip had nothing to do with it. He's no killer because his soul comes complete with the guilt of every terrible thing he's ever done, and the last thing he wants to do is add to this record body count. He brought up the fact that the chip was forced on him while he chose to regain his soul, but I don't really want to imply that this means he's a better person than, say, Angel, because of it. While it's true that Angel had no choice and Spike did, Spike's whole plan was winning Buffy's love, not becoming a paragon of virtue and a friend to children and puppies everywhere. It harkens back to Tara's referencing of The Hunchback of Notre Dame last season, and how we aren't meant to pity Quasimodo because his heart was never pure – he only did good as a means to possess the woman he was obsessed with, and his death was tragic, but in no way redeemed him. I'm expanding on what she said a little, but the point is the same. It led me to wonder at the time if this was foreshadowing, and Season 6 was going to culminate in Spike's death ("Heaven forfend!", scream the Spike-adoring masses). Well, he's still with us, but if my little theory comes true this year, remember where you heard it.

Okay. With all my bitching and moaning about how frustrating these characters can be, let me say now that 'Sleeper' was a fun and juicy episode, thanks to the tag-team efforts of David "Mustard Guy" Fury and Jane "Probably Couldn't Sing" Espenson. Buffy is a series that effortlessly mixes the crunchy with the smooth, and the most memorable episodes are the ones that have action, big laughs, and moving moments of tenderness.

There was definitely action, and it began early on in the form of our latest glimpse of The Ninjas Who Hate Teenage Girls. It appears they've gotten so irate that they're now willing to kill not only the girls, but any upstanding English gentlemen who might come a-calling. OR, we can look at it by the popular theory, that this girl was another Slayer-in-training, and this time we got a look at her Watcher-in-waiting. I'm guessing he wasn't just her uncle Phil, as he managed to bust some Giles-style moves before taking one of the now infamous curly daggers right between the shoulder blades. Yeeowch! Boy, I'd sure pity any other sucker dumb enough to walk through that door…

Poor beleaguered Spike also got to dish out some damage this week, but unfortunately he only remembers bits and pieces of it. Last week's mystery is solved, though: The chip still works, but Morphy's powers of manipulation had Spike COMPLETELY under his thumb, and that overrides the brain pain. It seems that all it takes is for Spike to hear a few bars of the Friendly Giant theme (better known to people who DIDN'T grow up in Canada as 'Early One Morning'), and the pain chip looks the other way long enough for Spike to dine & dash. The scene in 7.7 where Spike fed on his date was genuine, as we assume was Holden's claim on who sired him. I think it's great that we got these answers only one episode later, but they still only served as kindling for the larger fire. Joss said they'd be returning to the original formula in many ways, and having a plotline based around a Big Bad where things start developing in the very first episode is exactly the sort of classic structure that I love about this show. It just works. It feels like home (yes, I need help).

Spike's fight on the Bronze balcony with the female vamp he had unknowingly sired led to the funniest non-Anya moment of the night, and also one of the few, if not only times I can remember a big name musical guest actually getting to react to the action going on around them. Aimee Mann's big pause when the vamp hit the floor was cool, as was her backstage grumbling about "playing vampire towns." Ooh! Aimee's clued in to the bumpy underground!

So 'Sleeper' had Buffy playing Agent Cooper to Spike's Leland Palmer, and the Twin Peaks comparisons included some fine doppelganger action, with the Big Bad appearing to Spike both as SPIKE, and as Buffy – in what was the biggest twistaroo moment of the night. I predict that this season is going to be full of this kind of shapeshifting craziness, and we're going to see the Scoobs played off each other time and time again as we never really know who's who.
Speaking of who's who, how great was James Marsters AGAIN this week, for deftly handling three personas? He got to play Spike the tortured victim, Spike the smug puppet master (even though it was Morphy in his Spike mask), and Spike the vicious serial killer, whistling the aforementioned theme music as he buried another body in the basement. New York Smets mentioned the other day that this provided the creepiest use of a whistled tune since Peter Lorre couldn't get that phrase from Peer Gynt out of his head in Fritz Lang's serial killer classic, 'M'. Ooh! Good point of reference! Check out what Lorre's character says in that movie when the angry mob finally corners him, demanding his execution:

"But can I … can I help it?" he screams. "Haven't I got this curse inside me? The fire? The voice? The pain? … Who knows what it feels like to be me?"

Sound familiar? Poor William has been dealing with a lot of voices and pain since his African vacation, so it was no surprise that once Buffy disposed of the other vamps in the basement, he welcomed her initial decision to put him out of his misery. But just in the nick of time, she decided once and for all that there's something bigger than both of them messing with Spike in the same way it's messing with all of them, and it's time to drop the shovel handle and focus on the real enemy.

Remember after 'Help' when we were discussing how Buffy is as weak as any of us when it comes to a foe she can't fight with her fists? I was talking about death at the time, but this Bad seems to be of just that variety. His means of attack is to pull everyone's strings and dance them across the stage however he sees fit, but I think it's a key factor in the equation that he also doesn't seem able to physically hurt anyone. Up to this point, it's all been about getting other people to do his fighting for him (I haven't forgotten what happened to Dawn in 'Conversations', but we don't really know whether the arm of the Big Bad was Joyce, or the raspy demon we saw climbing on her). Or maybe he's perfectly capable of dishing it out himself, but this way is just more fun. He also seems to have a solid plan of attack, too, as Spike's flashes of rebellion threw a minor wrench into it. "There's an order", Morphyspike warns him. "The Slayer's out of order."

Does this sound like an important phrase to anyone? Assuming that the robed figures are operating on behalf of the Big Bad, he's obviously aware of the Slayer lineage and concerned about it. Most of you don't need the history lesson, but when Buffy died briefly in Season 1, Kendra – someone who was trained since childhood in preparation for her shot at the Slayer gig, was called forth (she was our first exposure to the idea that there are Slayers-in-training). This meant that the official lineage moved on from Buffy to Kendra, and it was only a fluke that Buffy came back to life (following some timely CPR by Xander), giving us two Slayers at the same time. When Drusilla whacked Kendra in Season 2, Faith suddenly sat up in bed and went "Woah – I feel GREAT!", as she was now the official Slayer. This is why a new one wasn't called forth when Buffy died at the end of Season 5. With Faith currently cooling her heels in the big house, there remains two Slayers. But Buffy is the one that's "out of order." Now if someone had a plan to put an end to the Slayer lineage, that would be a problem, wouldn't it?

As I said, 'Sleeper' had a good share of comedy, too. Most of it came from Anya, as she stepped in as Sunnydale's nosiest babysitter. The whole scene in Spike's bedroom was hilarious, and I think she would have gone through with it (I can hear many of you saying, "Who the hell wouldn't?!?"), had he not gone cold (…) on her, as his heart and his body still belong to Buffy (despite Morphy's efforts). We've been heaping all kinds of richly-deserved praise on James Marsters this season, but I'd like to also point out the excellent work that Emma Caulfield has been doing of late. Her power to break my heart is equaled only by her spot-on comedic timing, and it's the latter that was showcased in this episode. One of the funnier throwaway lines of the night was her response when Willow couldn't find anything about women who'd died of neck trauma on the computer. "No, we can't find that? But that's easy -- the computer's a moron."

Before I address our heart-stopping cliffhanger, I just want to say that I'm a bit disappointed that we last saw the gang sitting in Buffy's living room, and roughly 36 hours after it was COMPLETELY destroyed, everything seemed put back together and spotless. Who exactly did the work, and when? Maybe it was the cops, seeing as how they have so much free time, what with all the ignoring of violent crime in Sunnydale and all. Also, the next time I get a cut, I hope I can find some of the magic Polysporin ™ that Dawn used on her cheek, as that cut has gone from something that looked like it needed stitches to a little scratch that's almost healed. Okay, benefit of a doubt – Willow used magic to straighten up the house (and replace the smashed windows) and heal Dawn's cheek, and the writers just decided that it wasn't important to include it in the script. Yeah.

'Sleeper' concluded where it began, in the London apartment where the assassins claimed their last victims. Only this time it was Giles who went rushing in, obviously aware that something's wrong and time is of the essence. He knew the guy on the floor (identifying him as Robson), which only supports the theory that he's a Watcher. "Gather them", Robson hissed with his last breath. "It's started."

Gather who?!? Or What? The eggs? The surviving members of Grand Funk Railroad? One thought that occurred to me is that Robson might have been referring to Ripper's old gang, which he could have been part of. They'd be a bunch of tough old wizards with a wealth of knowledge, and much more effective than the consistently useless nerds on the Watchers Council. At a time like this, what's better than Giles? How about five or six Gileseses? Actually, it appears you can subtract one from that list, since we last saw Rupert seemingly unaware of the girl-hating ninja swinging a battle axe at his melon. Am I wrong, or was that home run swing about an inch from its target when the blackout came? I guess we'll find out just how quick his reflexes are this Tuesday night, in 'Never Leave Me', which I'm excited to say was written by Drew Goddard – the new Buffy writer who's already such a hero that people are writing fanfic about him (seriously). Judging by the preview, it should be another slam dunk.

Take care, everybody.

PS – Three things I need to say before I forget:

  • I had my facts mixed up last week, and I mentioned in a number of emails to readers that this would be the last Buffy for six weeks. Sorry if it led to any confusion, as obviously it's ANGEL that's finished until 2003, not Buffy.

  • Note to Alan L. You said not to bother responding, but thanks for summing up what you love about this show so eloquently, and touching on what are also some of MY favourite lines and moments.

  • I hadn't heard yet when I wrote the latest Angel review, but Charisma's pregnant!! You think this unexpected real-life twist is the reason for her otherwise inexplicable romp with Connor?

  • About Ron : Email Ron
    Back to the main review page»
    Privacy Policy | Copyright © 1999-2004 All rights reserved.
    "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" TM and © (or copyright) Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication or distribution of these materials in any form is expressly prohibited. This web site, its operators and any content on this site relating to "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" are not authorized by Fox.
    Home | Reviews | Articles | Buffy Episode List | Angel Episode List | Trailers/Promos | Spoilers | Official Buffy Site | Videos, DVD's | Advertise on | Buffy Merchandise | Search | Join Slayage The Mailing List | Contact is free to use, but not free to run. All donations are appreciated.
    Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!
    Show your to or if you buy this stuff through the site it helps out with running costs:

    anything from blackstar, including:
    NEW DESIGNS! t-shirts, mugs, mousepads. Got a suggestion?
    Syndicate articles (XML)
    Syndicate reviews (XML)
    anything from amazon, including:
    NS, DS, KM, VL, CF, ES, SR, AF, SJ, CB, AA, JH, RG, LH, GF, DK, EC, LM, SH, CK, AE, EB, XW, DB, MC, MR in other languages
    Italiano, Deutsch, Espanol, Francais, Português