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Back In Black

Buffy Episode 6.20 Villians
Air Date: 14May02

To borrow a phrase Willow used in an early season, HOLY POTATOES!! Is it just me, or did last night's episode feel like it lasted about ten minutes? I think it might just be because, after a whole season of fussing and fidgeting and false starts, the payoff we've been waiting for is finally upon us. Was there one moment last night that wasn't heavy on emotional content? Okay, maybe a few, but they were each equally important in driving the plot(s), and they served to demonstrate how adept the people behind Buffy are at balancing comedy with drama. If I lived in an apartment building, the neighbours would've been banging on the walls with all the noise I was making - most of it being utterances of a vulgar nature.

This one was called 'Villains', and for once I don't have much to say about the title (Was that the best you could come up with Marti?). Okay, there were some villains in it. Am I missing some irony here?

Herc, the main Buffy Spoiler Guy on Ain't-It-Cool-News, kinda shrugged 'Villains' off - mainly due to it's similarity to an episode in the action-packed home stretch of Season 5, when Glory "sucked" Tara's brain and left her a spaced-out idiot (must... ignore... easy... joke...). In that episode, Willow also went to the Magic Box, read up on the nasty spells, and went ballistic on Glory in ways we never expected our sweet little buddy to be capable of. Remember? The flying, the first glimpse of the black eyes, the bag of knives, and chilling lines like, "I owe you pain!" I remember being particularly moved by her effort, largely because a) We'd never seen her mess with the Dark Arts or cast spells that major, and b) She was attacking a GOD fer cryin' out loud! One that had been tossing Buffy around like a perky rag doll! There's been a consistent build-up since then relating to Willow's skills as a witch, so last week when she "saw red" at the end, we already knew fully well that she was capable of major damage, and Warren was toast. Badly burnt toast.

But, Herc's jaded opinions aside (by the way, Julie, I didn't read his spoiler column until this morning), 'Villains' was still immensely satisfying, and it provided one hell of a juicy set-up for next week's two hour finale.

As I was saying, Willow's come a long way. Glorificus was nasty, but she was a dual-gendered Hell-God trapped in human form (and a strapless red party dress). Were we to take from that scene in Willow's bedroom last night that she actually spanked Osiris, Egyptian God of the Dead and a universally acknowledged heavy hitter, with a well-timed shot of supernatural bad breath? And that was even before she went to the Magic Box to fuel up. Just how powerful, exactly, has she become? Could it be that sweet little tongue-tied Willow, lover of hugs & cookies and Xander's Snoopy dance, now stands alone as the mightiest force Sunnydale's ever seen? Who's supposed to stop her now - An ex-cheerleader who's really strong & knows kung-fu, and her chubby construction worker sidekick? What are they gonna do - hit her with a big hammer? Maybe they need to bring Oz back - He can turn into a doggie, which might come in handy against someone who could probably flatten the newly-redecorated Bronze with a glance (Hey now! You think she could actually do that?).

Lots of black clothing got worn last night, huh? Willow, Buffy, Anya, Spike, Andrew and Jonathon, all done up like the Cure were in town. Maybe that's an aspect that connects to the title - with bad guys traditionally wearing black, this episode raised questions of morality and perspectives on justice. In light (light?) of Willow's gruesome torture and execution of Warren, are her actions justified because of his prior sins, or is she now guilty of a far deeper evil? Who's the villain here? Depends on who you ask - doesn't it, Dawnie? Warren's worst crime is murder, and suddenly we had Dawn eager to kill and Xander two steps behind. Willow is so convinced that what she's doing is right. If Buffy & Xander try to protect Andrew & Jonathon from her furious vengeance, as they pretty much have to, won't she end up seeing it as guilt by association? What must be going on in Anyanka's head right now? This sort of thing is what she (once again) does for a living, so how can she condemn it? As Xander pointed out, Warren's as bad as the average vampire that Buffy would dust without a second thought, so why should she show him mercy? With the severity of their broken hearts, Xander & Anya are presently each other's worst villains, and poor Spike has gone all the way to Africa because all he wants is to once again BE a villain. I have to wonder how many characters could have echoed Xander's sentiment about having blood on his hands, "and it's the blood of people I love." Whether we're talking about real blood or metaphorical, last night's episode was the first of three where a lot of guilty souls are going to have to face up to their crimes.

Did I say I had no comments to make about the title? Scratch that.

They've set up a nice little subplot in Spike's quest to ditch the chip. It'll be great to see what sort of challenges the cave demon has in mind for him and, while I have no doubt that he'll prevail and get what he came for, I think it'll lead to one of two possibilities. Either he'll regain his freedom to choose and realize that he really is a sentimental fool who's going to be the proudest uncle at Dawn's high school graduation, sniffling under his blankie, or the old Spike will be back. In a recent interview, Joss said that his idea for next season is Buffy: Year One --- Get everything resolved and return to form. Since there's a very real possibility that Season 7 will be the last (Joss has two more series going into production soon, plus he's faced with a number of restless actors with contracts that are up after next season), he wants to get back to basics. A show about a group of friends who live on the Hellmouth and protect the locals from vampires and demons. If that's the case, and there's only time for one more Big Bad, who's more appropriate than the most important vampire on the show -- the one with the most personal history with the Scoobs and the biggest axe to grind?

Unless of course my earlier prediction comes true and Spike returns to Sunnydale just in time to die trying to protect Buffy from an out-of-control Willow, bringing to fruition Tara's earlier allusion to the Hunchback of Notre Dame ("We shouldn't feel pity for Quasimodo when he dies, because his intentions were never to do good - he was only driven by a selfish need to possess the woman he loved."). Here's a thought: What if we only THINK Tara is the Big Scoobie Death that people have been discussing all season. Maybe Joss wants us to relax and think we've seen the worst he had planned, only so he can SLAM us with an even bigger casualty!

Speaking of big casualties, I haven't actually said it yet, but HOLY SHIT!! SHE SKINNED HIM!!!!!!!!!!

As for the funny stuff last night (which that clearly was not), Jonathon & Andrew were great as cellmates (loved Andrew's Matthew Broderick comment). I'm going to miss the comic relief the Trio ("I'm sure you've heard of us") have provided this season, and when I look back on season 6 as a whole, some of my favourite moments will be theirs. Too bad the Big Bad Witch is coming to make the surviving members wear each other's pelvises as hats. Where's your aunt NOW, Andrew?

Warren's first big oh-shit moment in the demon bar was classic, and I don't know why, but I was really happy to see Rack make an appearance for the second one. I guess it's because I like it when there's continuity and, as much as the whole "magic crackhouse" thing initially annoyed me, it served a really appropriate purpose last night (Bless the foresight of Mr. Joss Whedon & company). I was also especially chilled by the performance of the actor that plays Rack (I'm drawing a blank on his name, but I don't care at the moment). He's great, and totally scary. Imagine being so evil and plugged in to the dark & nasty that you're actually excited about Willow's big promotion. Yikes. If Rack's around, I have to assume Amy's not far behind, and won't she be happy to hear that Willow's back in black?

"Willow - what did you do?"

"One down..."

And we'll all be fidgeting like rats in cages until 8pm this Tuesday, when the first hour of the big finale airs, appropriately titled, 'Two to Go.'

Good weekend, everybody.


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