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  • BtVS rewatch : SEASON 4

    So here's the new thread for the Season 4 rewatch.

    Below is the reference list of those signed up to do the initial reviews and, as always, I'll keep an episode list at the bottom of this post that links to each review when they're posted. A guide date for the weekend the reviews are due is beside each one.

    If anyone is interested I am intending to rewatch AtS S1 alongside BtVS S4. I'm not going to post reviews, I'm just interested to see it again now I know where it is goes and to see if there are any interesting compare/contrasts as they run side by side.

    If anyone has any particular desire to review Living Conditions do shout out, I really won't mind.

    ____

    *post each weekend* Fri date given as a guide

    4.01 The Freshman - Dipstick (13 Feb)
    4.02 Living Conditions - Stoney (20 Feb)
    4.03 The Harsh Light of Day - Stoney (27 Feb)
    4.04 Fear, Itself - Dipstick (6 Mar)
    4.05 Beer Bad - norwie (20 Mar)
    4.06 Wild At Heart - Local Max (27 Mar)
    4.07 The Initiative - Aurora (3 Apr)
    4.08 Pangs - Aurora (10 Apr)
    4.09 Something Blue - Local Max (17 Apr)
    4.10 Hush - Rihannon (1 May)
    4.11 Doomed - Stoney (8 May)
    4.12 A New Man - DanSlayer (15 May)
    4.13 The I in Team - King (22 May)
    4.14 Goodbye Iowa - PuckRobin (29 May)
    4.15 This Year’s Girl - King (5 Jun)
    4.16 Who Are You - King (12 Jun)
    4.17 Superstar - Stoney (19 Jun)
    4.18 Where the Wild Things Are - Sosa (26 Jun)
    4.19 New Moon Rising - Dipstick (17 Jul)
    4.20 The Yoko Factor - Aurora (24 Jul)
    4.21 Primeval - PuckRobin (07 Aug)
    4.22 Restless - Local Max (21 Aug)



    SEASON 1 thread
    SEASON 2 thread
    SEASON 3 thread
    SEASON 5 thread
    SEASON 6 thread
    SEASON 7 thread


    SEASON 4 episode links
    Last edited by Stoney; 19-10-19, 09:09 PM.

  • #2
    Here we are in S4! I'll be reviewing The Freshman.

    I really like The Freshman. I'd say that it's tied with Bargaining for my third favorite opener, after WSWB (1) and Anne (2). I actually rewatched the ep in this full for this review. On rewatch, I came up with the most linky theme for this ep- the deceptions and inauthenticity that people use to cope and accurately define themselves in a New World Order.

    Buffy is a very unreliable narrator in this ep. She justifies her academic procrastination down to just picking out her first semester courses until the night before Orientation by saying it was a very Slay-heavy summer. However, her slaying in this ep is g-d awful until the very end. Sunday, ordinary vamp, easily beat the crap out of her. Xander connected all of the dots in the mystery-solving portion and Buffy was his assistant. Buffy didn't even check her robbed-room to see if the vamps took her slayer's trunk.

    We could argue that Buffy's poor performance as a slayer in this ep comes from college-nerves and sadness/anxiety at not fitting in. (However, the Buffy in the first three seasons consistently acted like slaying is comfort food for her real life woes and she ups her slaying game when her civilian life in turmoil.) However, Buffy was surprised that Giles pulled a first (i.e. reached a new low) and refused to help her dispatch a new demonic threat. And yet, it's not like Buffy indicated that she's been super-close to Giles over the summer. When Buffy walks into Giles's apartment and sees Olivia, it's like Buffy and Giles had been distant over the summer and Buffy is just starting to realize that Giles is taking on a different lifestyle. Even more pointedly, *Willow* was the font on Giles-gossip while Buffy was pretty clueless about what's up with Giles.

    Buffy: It's too bad Giles can't be librarian here. Be convenient.
    Willow: Well, he says that he's enjoying being a gentleman of leisure.
    Buffy: Gentleman of leisure? Isn't that just British for unemployed?
    Willow: Uh-huh, he's a slacker now.
    It beggars credulity that Buffy had a slay heavy summer but her slay heavy summer didn't bring her into closer contact with Giles to know more about his post-librarian life, especially since Giles picks this ep to first argue that he's not going to help Buffy deal with MoTW vampire threats. IMO, Buffy was depressed about Angel leaving her all summer and THAT'S why she did a poor job preparing for college. However, IMO, Buffy was self-conscious about how she and Angel have basically been publicly breaking and airing lots of dirty laundry before the gang since Innocence. Moreover, she's uneasy that Willow has a steady boyfriend. So, Buffy hides the biggest source of her blues under what appears to be lies (like it was a slay heavy summer) or over-reactions to trivia (I don't know where the campus buildings) are. Buffy very pointedly hides Angel-biggest source of her angst in her True Confessions scene with Xander. The show hangs a lampshade on this when Buffy got ridiculously excited to a see a profile that looked like Angel in the Bronze right before she bumped into Xander. I don't want to underestimate how terrific Xander's speech was and how affirming it was that the gang came to Buffy's aid at the end of the ep. However, it's a temporary band-aid on Buffy's issues. Buffy doesn't start getting her slay and academic life in order, until her one-stand in Parker drains some of the poison out of her wound left from Angel.

    I smell similar bullshit in Buffy's rationale for why she hasn't told Willow or Oz about her angst or the gang of the vampires on campus. "No, I don't want to bug them. I mean they're just starting school, and they don't need this." Buffy's unedited body language as she kept things with Willow and Oz was pure unadulterated shame that she wasn't fitting into college like they were and she was beaten up badly by one vampire. It wasn't some protective do-gooder to make Willow's and Oz's orientation as pleasant as possible. Buffy told Xander about Sunday and her anxiety about starting college on a more truthful level than "Poor me is unprepared because I was slaying all summer" because he was also in a Loser Position and he was actually cross-examining Buffy about exactly is bugging her instead of giving her space and expecting her to pull herself out of her funk ala Oz or trying to passive-aggressively nudge Buffy into happiness (Willow) or putting Buffy entirely out of sight and mind in the name Good Parenting (Giles and to a lesser extent, Joyce). Buffy wasn't doing anyone any good by accepting a mission to defeat an entrenched gang of the summer that have been working UC Sunnydale since 1982 where the leader alone beat the crap out of Buffy with solely Xander, while Willow and Oz sit on campus fiddling their thumbs because they have no clue that all of this action is happening to Buffy and Xander. I don't think Buffy was consciously lying but she was telling herself falsehoods that her secretiveness about Sunday and Co. was because Buffy is Such.A.Good.Friend </Gretchen Weiners voice>, instead of Buffy's insecurity about her failures with Sunday.

    In college, the Scoobies are a little disordered. They don't have the routine of reporting to the library in between classes to get the latest skinny. The ep hangs a lampshade when they show that there's no having a Scooby-meeting in the UC Sunnydale. It's big and perpetually crowded with civilians and as a clarifying adendum to Willow's assertion, it may have a much wider selection of most types of books but Giles's special shelves of mystical lore in the high school library has to beat UC Sunnydale's main library. Buffy was trying to clarify the New World Order. Willow and Oz aren't going to come the library between periods and see a battered Buffy discussing the latest threat with her helicopter parent Watcher Giles or automatically see Buffy in class to see her latest shiner. To get their help in the middle of an emergency, Buffy needs to approach them which takes some pride-swallowing (if you're looking at it the WRONG but understandable way).

    IMO, Buffy and Willow both delude themselves by not rooming together. I'd totally get if two high school BFFs who went to the same college decided to room with other people to branch out their social network. However, Buffy and Willow aren't ordinary high school BFFs. Both girls stayed in Sunnydale in college to fight evil in secret. Both of them need a roommate who understands the significance of nightly exits to fight evil, who can both keep tabs on the weapons's chest and accouterments to fight evil, to be vigilant for the other's disappearances. Per the point just above, Buffy conveniently forgets that Willow went to UC Sunnydale to fight evil and Buffy does Willow zero favors by hiding a new threat of vampires working the campus. Willow might as well be in Harvard, if Buffy doesn't make Willow a part of her mission. There's a consistent antagonism between Willow and Buffy when Buffy tries to fight alone, or just with the Initiative or just with Riley and IMO, part of that is that Willow was questioning why she's taking such a significant hit in her academic ambitions if Buffy regards her as a superfluous, at best, or a burden, at worst, in the fight against evil.

    Xander had long arduous practice of pretending that his disappointing, loser-like civilian life is better or funnier than it is. We see Xander doing more of the same, especially since S3. Xander's speech about his summer is vintage Xander. Xander acts like he's over-sharing his life's problems but he spins them all into a joke while holding back on his pain or any of the more humiliating details (what he did besides dish-washing at the Ladies Night Club, how he felt or whether he argued with his parents for immediately charging him rent). In this, Xander tries to avoid being an object of pity by holding back while also providing enough teases of his life's problems that Xander starts to resent how no one sufficiently sympathizes enough with him or regards him as a joke instead of someone who makes jokes to bravely soldier through life.

    Meanwhile, there's a big element of Giles in both how he turns Buffy away and how he runs to the gang, eager to vanquish the evil together. Giles is profoundly ambiguous about whether he wants to be a Watcher. However, a lot of Giles's ambiguity is pure selfishness. After Jenny died, after the Council fired him, and especially after Buffy graduated, Giles turned a sharp eye to how he doesn't have a satisfying personal life. At this point, Giles doesn't have a job or a family and he's damned pissed about that. Giles is no spring-chicken. The world, starting with Giles himself, judges unemployed, single, childless middle-aged guys. At this point, Giles really should have gotten it together and the sad thing is that he *would* have gotten it together but for 70 percent the unfairness of his life (the Council firing him, Jenny dying, having to shackle his location and activities to Buffy's needs, his Watcher-centered training, decades of definitely mental and especially lately physical trauma) and 30 percent his own flaws (unfriendliness, snobbishness about Americans and non-supernaturally acquainted jobs and people, a tendency to mope and drink for months on end when he's sad).

    However despite Giles's sympathetic factors, he's unhappy with his life and IMO, he uses "Buffy doesn't need a Watcher. I'm gonna be a responsible pseudo-parent by abandoning her to deal with everything, starting with confronting epic supernatural threats that would stymie the US Army, all alone with zero aid from me" or "I'm not gonna claim responsible psuedo-parent with Buffy's friends so let's just handwave that they don't need me to confront . I'll just promise to *take Dawn's* calls instead of hanging up or screening her calls and that's really enough." I have unflattering (but IMO, fair and realistic) head-canon that Olivia flew back to England before Giles ran up to Buffy offering to vanquish the evil with her. Nothing changed with Buffy from when Giles turned her away to when he eagerly offered to be part of the fight. However, the opportunities for Giles to do something else (or *someone else*, lol) shrank. Giles does this push-pull for much of the season. He shirks his duty something else comes up to fill his void, no matter how vague or clearly stupid (Olivia, buddying up with Ethan, drinking). However when he has nothing going on, he resents that Buffy doesn't come to him enough with things to do to make him feel important. Fast forward to The Yoko Factor where he's easily the least sympathetic member of the Core Four, as he's drinking himself falling-down drunk on the eve of an apocalypse while he slurs his words that Buffy failed by not training with him so Adam is going to kick her ass.

    It's pretty aggravating coming down from last season where Giles did his best to exclude Wesley and Buffy never gave Wesley a chance out of loyalty to "Giles, Buffy's Sole True Watcher". At this point, Giles is pretty undecided about whether he wants to be a Watcher while Wesley really wants the job to perform fully and exhaustively. Buffy and Wesley never have another substantive interaction but increasingly, it's like Wesley is a Watcher without a Slayer and Buffy is a Slayer without a Watcher and that's a huge problem for both for years to come that will only metastasize.

    Sunday embodies this theme of using inauthenticity and faux-bravado to cope with a new scary world order. It's somewhat veiled because Sunday plays the role of the bad-ass, worldly, expert-on-college vamp. You really have to remember that Sunday's whole gang is a bunch of stupid, stoner vamps and Sunday's just been squatting in a vacant Greek house and living on easy pickins' of homesick, naive freshmen right there on campus, unchallenged by anyone since 1982 at least. Sunday and her gang just keep what they steal from the freshmen that they kill; they don't go out and make some noise by robbing a store to get non-hand-me-downs from college freshman (who tend to bring cheapo Spartan stuff to school). Sunday's "Hi, I'm Sunday and I'm going to be killing you today" bravado is Sunday playing the part of a Spike or Angel or Master-like super-old vampire who goes out to look for epic challenges.

    However, the facts tend to support that Sunday was only interested in bumping off Buffy to preserve her easy, low-hanging fruit life where she just lives off college freshman and surrounds herself with stoned, idiot sidekicks. If Sunday and her vamps have just been squatting at UC Sunnydale to live off of freshman for over two decades, they're not interested in challenge or seeing the world. Sunday gleefully announces that she's going to kill Buffy. Buffy handled her fight very poorly and Sunday won and got Buffy to run away. However, Sunday can't even seize on the victory enough to go out and capture Buffy and feast on her delicious slayer self with her gang.

    FatVamp: I still think you should've let us have a piece, we could've finished her off.
    Sunday: She's not gonna last the night, she's a done deal. In fact, guys, you're gonna hit the tunnels.
    There, we learn that Sunday just delegated her side-kicks to steal Buffy's stuff to demoralize Buffy into leaving. LAME.

    I have little to say about Willow, Oz, and Riley. Granted, those three characters can also be inauthentic, to deal with a new world order. However, this isn't the ep for that. Willow is definitely OTT social and Oz is classic on-campus-boyfriend in a way that's pretty OOC for both of them partly because they're in a relationship and they're living up to each other's expectations. However, IMO, Willow is pretty genuinely excited about being social and interested in parties for the moment because Oz makes it all very appealing, (a) because he's there and can make crowded, unseemly frat parties all musical and romantic and witty and stuff that Willow actually likes and (b) he's her comfy person-blankie, per her own words, because she's cool-by-association as long as she's dating him. College classes and getting a degree, in and of itself, doesn't rock Oz's boat but if it comes in a package deal with Willow and his band and music, he's genuinely into the lifestyle. The inauthenticity is more about how Willow's interest in being social and Oz's interest in school so heavily rests on their relationship. As long as their relationship as unsinkable (as it appears in this ep), it feels real. Once it's flimsy, the college lifestyle turns into pumpkins for both of them.

    Much of Riley's S4 story is getting him to realize that he's in a New World Order in the first place. For now, Riley treats Maggie Walsh as your typical hard-ass professor/drill sergeant and Sunnydale's demons as weird animals. For now, Riley can be authentic (except for having a secret identity as a soldier) because his life really does feel like a logical outgrowth of what he'd been preparing for in ROTC and as a teenager that IMO, likely aspired to join the US military.
    Last edited by Dipstick; 15-02-15, 10:15 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for starting the season off Dipstick . I have to say that I did enjoy this episode more than I remember doing so in the past. I didn't dislike it before, but focusing mostly on following Buffy to lay out the new setting and see how she feels somewhat lost does leave me feeling that it is all a little awkward and new to me too.

      Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
      It beggars credulity that Buffy had a slay heavy summer but her slay heavy summer didn't bring her into closer contact with Giles to know more about his post-librarian life, especially since Giles picks this ep to first argue that he's not going to help Buffy deal with MoTW vampire threats. IMO, Buffy was depressed about Angel leaving her all summer and THAT'S why she did a poor job preparing for college. However, IMO, Buffy was self-conscious about how she and Angel have basically been publicly breaking and airing lots of dirty laundry before the gang since Innocence. Moreover, she's uneasy that Willow has a steady boyfriend. So, Buffy hides the biggest source of her blues under what appears to be lies (like it was a slay heavy summer) or over-reactions to trivia (I don't know where the campus buildings) are. Buffy very pointedly hides Angel-biggest source of her angst in her True Confessions scene with Xander. The show hangs a lampshade on this when Buffy got ridiculously excited to a see a profile that looked like Angel in the Bronze right before she bumped into Xander. I don't want to underestimate how terrific Xander's speech was and how affirming it was that the gang came to Buffy's aid at the end of the ep. However, it's a temporary band-aid on Buffy's issues. Buffy doesn't start getting her slay and academic life in order, until her one-stand in Parker drains some of the poison out of her wound left from Angel.
      I think the specter of her relationship with Angel is the crux of how unsettled Buffy is feeling here and a way into S4 tbh. Buffy left the council, Giles has pulled away and she is spreading her wings in living independently. She feels out of place in part because she is getting thrust into this new living environment which, as you say, doesn't fit as conveniently to the slaying anymore. And that is a huge, unavoidable aspect of her life that will always command her time and attention. I think feeling uncertain in that areas just emphasises the other and this pressure she feels to make a success of this 'normal' life that Angel left her to have and that she didn't think she would necessarily ever get the chance to experience.

      I smell similar bullshit in Buffy's rationale for why she hasn't told Willow or Oz about her angst or the gang of the vampires on campus. "No, I don't want to bug them. I mean they're just starting school, and they don't need this." Buffy's unedited body language as she kept things with Willow and Oz was pure unadulterated shame that she wasn't fitting into college like they were and she was beaten up badly by one vampire. It wasn't some protective do-gooder to make Willow's and Oz's orientation as pleasant as possible. Buffy told Xander about Sunday and her anxiety about starting college on a more truthful level than "Poor me is unprepared because I was slaying all summer" because he was also in a Loser Position and he was actually cross-examining Buffy about exactly is bugging her instead of giving her space and expecting her to pull herself out of her funk ala Oz or trying to passive-aggressively nudge Buffy into happiness (Willow) or putting Buffy entirely out of sight and mind in the name Good Parenting (Giles and to a lesser extent, Joyce). Buffy wasn't doing anyone any good by accepting a mission to defeat an entrenched gang of the summer that have been working UC Sunnydale since 1982 where the leader alone beat the crap out of Buffy with solely Xander, while Willow and Oz sit on campus fiddling their thumbs because they have no clue that all of this action is happening to Buffy and Xander. I don't think Buffy was consciously lying but she was telling herself falsehoods that her secretiveness about Sunday and Co. was because Buffy is Such.A.Good.Friend </Gretchen Weiners voice>, instead of Buffy's insecurity about her failures with Sunday.
      I think this 'normal life' that Buffy is feeling going on in a rush around her that she doesn't feel she fits well into but sees the others readily doing so makes her feel abnormal and that is why she withdraws. Her slaying life doesn't fit in there and consequently she feels like a square peg. Angel in many ways bridged her two lives with her, as she did for him, and losing that connection emphasises the discord she feels on arrival that neither aspect is going to work in easily/obviously. That she really isn't sure who she is going to be here but seems to be the only one that feels so out of place does genuinely create a sense of isolation for her I think.

      In college, the Scoobies are a little disordered. They don't have the routine of reporting to the library in between classes to get the latest skinny. The ep hangs a lampshade when they show that there's no having a Scooby-meeting in the UC Sunnydale. It's big and perpetually crowded with civilians and as a clarifying adendum to Willow's assertion, it may have a much wider selection of most types of books but Giles's special shelves of mystical lore in the high school library has to beat UC Sunnydale's main library. Buffy was trying to clarify the New World Order. Willow and Oz aren't going to come the library between periods and see a battered Buffy discussing the latest threat with her helicopter parent Watcher Giles or automatically see Buffy in class to see her latest shiner. To get their help in the middle of an emergency, Buffy needs to approach them which takes some pride-swallowing (if you're looking at it the WRONG but understandable way).
      I think they did a really good job in the first half of the episode in showing why Buffy would be feeling so at sea through moments like you identify, the loss of structure to the slaying daytime research and team preparation meetings.

      Buffy conveniently forgets that Willow went to UC Sunnydale to fight evil and Buffy does Willow zero favors by hiding a new threat of vampires working the campus. Willow might as well be in Harvard, if Buffy doesn't make Willow a part of her mission. There's a consistent antagonism between Willow and Buffy when Buffy tries to fight alone, or just with the Initiative or just with Riley and IMO, part of that is that Willow was questioning why she's taking such a significant hit in her academic ambitions if Buffy regards her as a superfluous, at best, or a burden, at worst, in the fight against evil.
      I can see this but I just think Buffy is so thrown off by how badly her usual routine clashes with her new environment and yet how smooth it feels for the others that a false but very much genuinely felt barrier comes down where she does feel like it would be a bother to try and interrupt them.

      Xander had long arduous practice of pretending that his disappointing, loser-like civilian life is better or funnier than it is. We see Xander doing more of the same, especially since S3. Xander's speech about his summer is vintage Xander. Xander acts like he's over-sharing his life's problems but he spins them all into a joke while holding back on his pain or any of the more humiliating details (what he did besides dish-washing at the Ladies Night Club, how he felt or whether he argued with his parents for immediately charging him rent). In this, Xander tries to avoid being an object of pity by holding back while also providing enough teases of his life's problems that Xander starts to resent how no one sufficiently sympathizes enough with him or regards him as a joke instead of someone who makes jokes to bravely soldier through life.
      I think it is good how they use Xander to pull Buffy back. She does get directed in his wake to a degree but I think there is a point of comfort in it for her, to be coddled through the structure of dealing with it together. She doesn't want to take point, she wants to feel supported and Xander gives her that assurance again and she leans on him because he hasn't moved on. The (pretty uncomfortable to air imo) reference to him fantasising about her still in many ways calls back to how things were, rather than how they are now. Xander has during his time with Cordelia and will more so with Anya, moved on from his crush on Buffy. But it again gives her that arm around her shoulder feel that not all aspects change completely.

      Giles does this push-pull for much of the season. He shirks his duty something else comes up to fill his void, no matter how vague or clearly stupid (Olivia, buddying up with Ethan, drinking). However when he has nothing going on, he resents that Buffy doesn't come to him enough with things to do to make him feel important. Fast forward to The Yoko Factor where he's easily the least sympathetic member of the Core Four, as he's drinking himself falling-down drunk on the eve of an apocalypse while he slurs his words that Buffy failed by not training with him so Adam is going to kick her ass.
      Giles comes across as two extremes in the episode. He is standoffish in his apartment with Buffy. He has almost a Hugh Hefner thing going on and he shows a real lack of regard for the trials and dangers of Buffy's life all of a sudden rather than showing any real awareness of having lived it for the preceding three years with her. As you say he broke down the watcher support she could have had from Wes and then retracts his own. The pseudo parent pushing their child out of the nest relates to Buffy starting college, there is no reason why the extra duty and burden in her life should suddenly be solely her own to bear when that is never how the life of the slayer was run and I think that it shows Giles' jealousy about being cast adrift himself whilst Buffy gets to go and explore new horizons tbh. He is wallowing at home not dressed/drinking and taking visits from past acquaintances whilst he visualises her out in the bright sunshine making new ones. But then in contrast his eager puppy routine when he runs over to help comes across as a totally different person. I don't know if it just illustrates the maelstrom going on for him internally or if it was just too incohesive in the acting.

      There, we learn that Sunday just delegated her side-kicks to steal Buffy's stuff to demoralize Buffy into leaving. LAME.
      The thing that I like about this is that I think it works with what Buffy says about college actually being very like high school in the end. Sunday takes the Cordelia role in being the person who deems themselves the one who judges and slots the newbies into pigeon holes. It is lame because Sunday is effectively bullying Buffy and treating her like a weak peer rather than the Slayer who only needs to get her balance back to remember that she can stake her with one hand and although she is shocked at being the one who is getting picked on, it only hurts, and it failed to break anything at all.

      Much of Riley's S4 story is getting him to realize that he's in a New World Order in the first place. For now, Riley treats Maggie Walsh as your typical hard-ass professor/drill sergeant and Sunnydale's demons as weird animals. For now, Riley can be authentic (except for having a secret identity as a soldier) because his life really does feel like a logical outgrowth of what he'd been preparing for in ROTC and as a teenager that IMO, likely aspired to join the US military.
      I think they introduce Riley nicely at first in that he notices and remembers Willow because she stands out to him with her level of interest/knowledge. It is right that she would I'd say as an aside, she was an exceptional student that had the pick of where she could go, so their conversation and its natural flow is a nice touch. I've never been keen on Riley though, but mainly because his relationship with Buffy becomes very cheerleader/jock from what I remember and he very quickly becomes super smitten when he initially had more reserve and mature distancing that fitted better with his role in The Initiative I felt. I can't remember how they transition from one to the other though so I'll have to review how it plays and see if it comes across differently to me when I'm watching with more attention!
      Last edited by Stoney; 17-02-15, 04:13 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Stoney View Post
        I think it is good how they use Xander to pull Buffy back. She does get directed in his wake to a degree but I think there is a point of comfort in it for her, to be coddled through the structure of dealing with it together. She doesn't want to take point, she wants to feel supported and Xander gives her that assurance again and she leans on him because he hasn't moved on. The (pretty uncomfortable to air imo) reference to him fantasising about her still in many ways calls back to how things were, rather than how they are now. Xander has during his time with Cordelia and will more so with Anya, moved on from his crush on Buffy. But it again gives her that arm around her shoulder feel that not all aspects change completely.
        Moreover, it's a paean to Xander's nosey, cross-examining nature and his high expectations for Buffy. ;-) Buffy does try to put him off asking too many questions about her but Xander doesn't let that happen until he wears Buffy down into opening up and then, re-accepting her mantle as the hero who's going to get her stuff back and waste Sunday and her gang.

        Giles comes across as two extremes in the episode. He is standoffish in his apartment with Buffy. He has almost a Hugh Hefner thing going on and he shows a real lack of regard for the trials and dangers of Buffy's life all of a sudden rather than showing any real awareness of having lived it for the preceding three years with her. As you say he broke down the watcher support she could have had from Wes and then retracts his own. The pseudo parent pushing their child out of the nest relates to Buffy starting college, there is no reason why the extra duty and burden in her life should suddenly be solely her own to bear when that is never how the life of the slayer was run and I think that it shows Giles' jealousy about being cast adrift himself whilst Buffy gets to go and explore new horizons tbh. He is wallowing at home not dressed/drinking and taking visits from past acquaintances whilst he visualises her out in the bright sunshine making new ones. But then in contrast his eager puppy routine when he runs over to help comes across as a totally different person. I don't know if it just illustrates the maelstrom going on for him internally or if it was just too incohesive in the acting.
        The "two different Gileses" are partly why I think Olivia left for England after Giles's first scene. When Giles came running up to vanquish the evil, he seemed like a guy who was suddenly available and looking for something to do as much as someone who reconsidered parenting techniques. And not to be gross, Giles was no longer in a lazy, haze from a sexy afterglow in "I don't wanna get dressed. Back to bed?" mode.

        I'm not defending Giles. However, I will add that Giles didn't pull this "You're old enough that you don't need me anymore unless it's serious" out of his ass. He got it from Buffy when Buffy said that she was a such an adult (with a LOVAH) that she doesn't need a Watcher or the Council. However implied in Buffy's "graduation" was Buffy's supposition that part of Buffy's maturation as a slayer was Buffy recruited a team who would help her, whether the Council was paying them or not. Essentially, Buffy was rejecting Wesley's research and cross-referencing skills and willingness to put in the time to train and create maps and charts and stuff because Buffy already has people to do that who don't come with the Council's strings- their control, the Cruciateum, their dangled promise that never come to fruition, their Gwendolyn Post type screw-ups, Wesley's status as a dead-weight non-fighter and annoying personality who Doesn't.Get.It that Buffy doesn't sacrifice loved ones for expediency.

        However, Buffy was relying on the fact that her team wouldn't flake out on her so she could continue to be in the position where she could reject the Council instead of having to put with possible Cruciateiums and working with people that she doesn't like for some dead-language translations. In a small way, it could be a argument for the Council. If Buffy's teenage friends flaked out on the mission or irreparably fought with Buffy, as teenagers tend to do, or Buffy's demon friends and vampire-paramours reverted back to evil nature, a Council-retained Watcher would be contractually obligated to Buffy and additionally, the Watcher would also manipulated from childhood and taken oaths to accept helping the Slayer as his or her destiny. Of course, it doesn't quite work out like that. The whole organization can't be counted on in practice and Giles left even when he was a salaried-Council-employee in S6.

        Moreover, I'm not defending Giles, even though he was there to witness Buffy say, "I can focus on Angel instead the Ascension BECAUSE I'M A GROWNUP" partly because his role in the scene works against him. Giles very conspicuously closed ranks against Wesley to position himself as the Good Watcher Who Was Buffy's True Ally.

        Buffy: They're in England. I don't think they can tell which way my back is facing.
        Wesley: Giles, talk to her.
        Giles: (while walking to Buffy's side) I've nothing to say right now.
        Buffy: (long pause) I like to think of it as graduation. Giles, I can't stay here any longer. I'm gonna see if I can help the others.
        Giles: Of course.
        Buffy: You'll watch him?
        Giles: I'll call if there's any change.
        IMO, even more than the teenagers (except Willow who very recently pledged to attend UC Sunnydale to help Buffy), Giles made implied promises that he'll always be there to help Buffy, even if it's nursing *Angel*, let alone figuring what vampire gang is picking off innocent college freshmen.

        In Giles's real defense, he does change his mind at the end of the ep and goes to help. For the rest of the season, Giles doesn't make a peep that he refuses to enable and infantalize Buffy with....help to fight prenaturally strong, old evil demons to save human beings. That's good. However, I do think his job performance in S4 is lacking and erratic (for reasons that I'll go into as the season progresses) because of his ambiguity about being Buffy's Watcher that Buffy didn't know about when she turned her back on the Council.

        The thing that I like about this is that I think it works with what Buffy says about college actually being very like high school in the end. Sunday takes the Cordelia role in being the person who deems themselves the one who judges and slots the newbies into pigeon holes. It is lame because Sunday is effectively bullying Buffy and treating her like a weak peer rather than the Slayer who only needs to get her balance back to remember that she can stake her with one hand and although she is shocked at being the one who is getting picked on, it only hurts, and it failed to break anything at all.
        I agree that Sunday takes the Cordelia role. Sunday is a classic Mean Girl, like Cordelia. Sunday judges new-comer Buffy, like Cordelia did early on the show. However, I think there's something to how Sunday is a total hipster who's not classically beautiful like Cordelia. Sunday bluntly states her bitchiness; she doesn't elegantly sugar-coat her insults in front of the right people like Cordelia. Like Cordelia, Sunday's minions are clearly her inferior but Sunday appears to have selected minions for how they fit into college's off-beat stoner kinda cool underworld while Cordelia selected pretty cheerleaders who'd be among the preeminent trophy wives of tomorrow to be Cordettes. Sunday toots her horn as someone who can pass judgement on people's appearance, like Cordelia, but Sunday is much more assertive on judging people's ability to fight or the idiocy of freshman.

        The goal posts change in college from high school. A girl can be popular in a Queen of Mean way in college just if she seems like the most clued in person who knows where the find the good drugs are and where the best parties are and seems sarcastic and assertive enough to never be taken in college's party scene but instead to *dominate* it. The standards for conventional attractiveness are much more relaxed from high school but a girl needs to be more streets-smart in the wider world of college and its surrounding community and its greater abilities for hedonism but room for mistakes. Sunday aces that, even if she's plain-looking and her clothes are "cool" than "beautiful and expensive". Cordelia was a relatively sophisticated high schooler who was bright and socially talented and had a wealthy childhood that enabled her to travel and own a car from the beginning. However, some of Cordelia's appeal to guys (and by extension the school) did rest in Cordelia's naivette about sex and drinking and how she was enough of a partier to be fun but not enough to be seriously regarded as a bad girl or ironically, wise enough to dangers to put off the Darryls and Reptile Boy frat guys.

        Buffy faces that challenge. Buffy had "look like a conventionally pretty cheerleader and I like to party but I'm lady-like naive about hard-drinking and sex" assets to be popular in high school. However, some of that makes a vulnerable mark in college. IMO, that frat guy seeks a visibly lost and overwhelmed Buffy out to pointedly give her the "free jello shots for freshmen women" flyer because he thinks she's the type to go to the party, get drunk because she doesn't know her limits, and be a fine but easy bed-stand notch for him or his frat brothers. It's a popularity of a kind, but not the kind where a girl becomes Queen of a school and can command female minions and trade attention on guys for status and courting like Cordelia had in high school. (BTW, Cordelia faced a similar challenge in City Of where her beauty was turned against her to render her assumed-powerless by Russel Winters and his ilk instead of powerful.)

        The vampire metaphor somewhat evolved along similar lines. I think Sunday is overrated but yeah, she's more intimidating than Harmony and Sunday's Mean Girl bon mots cut deeper than anything Harmony had to say (other than to Cordelia in The Wish). Vampires are college on steroids in that the best vampires are street-smarts on how to seek out the best hedonism but without losing control of themselves so much that they fail. TV Series Harmony sucks at that and she should have been staked many times in the series based on her own FAIL but for writers' fiat.

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        • #5
          Hey guys,

          Thank you, Dipstick, for your great review (and re-review below.)

          This is my first time posting in the Buffy rewatch and I'm very excited to participate in the discussion.

          I'm sorry I haven't posted my thoughts yet, but I've been so busy and suffering from a bad cold - and the weather outside is frightful! I have some time tomorrow though and I want to address all your thoughts in detail, so I'm going to hold off till then. But just wanted you to know I agree with a lot of what you said and a lot of it made me think - I'm going to watch the episode again tomorrow as well. Great job!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
            (BTW, Cordelia faced a similar challenge in City Of where her beauty was turned against her to render her assumed-powerless by Russel Winters and his ilk instead of powerful.)
            I'm going to rewatch City Of... tomorrow, as I said I'm going to view them concurrently to look for these similarities (and also to reread my initial reviews and see how cringe worthy they are in hindsight, ha ). There is an obvious parallel between Buffy and Angel in the touches given towards the other hanging over their behaviour since the end of S3 and tbh it would have been bizarre if they hadn't been left with that effect and longing for each other. Nice observation about the similarity Cordelia gets where an asset can make you the target in a different situation, I doubt I would have picked up on that.

            Looking forward to your thoughts on The Freshman Aurora and your involvement in the rewatch, great to have you join us.


            EDIT: I watched City Of tonight and don't have anything to add beyond what we have said but I just had to express out loud that, wow! the vamp makeup was bad!
            Last edited by Stoney; 20-02-15, 03:41 AM.

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            • #7
              Thanks, Dipstick for the great review. It must be scary to start of the new season thread.

              The strongest sense I get from the Freshman is the meta-commentary on the series itself.

              The show started on the metaphor of "high school is hell". Then the show started to grow away from the relatively simplistic Manichean good vs. evil dynamic with the whole Angel storyline, both the romance and then the threat of and later guilt over Angelus. A storyline that despite whatever shipping allegiances were to later form - certainly added an element of romance that captivated viewers. Now the high school was gone. And Angel was gone onto his own spinoff. The two most defining elements of the show --- poof.

              So, what to do? Well, in some ways, they resist the trope to carry on as nothing had happened. Xander doesn't get into their college (or any college for that matter). Giles doesn't take over the campus library. Buffy and Willow's discussion about how it's too bad that Giles can't be the librarian shoots down the kind of plotting most sitcoms would take.

              Graduation Day was about Buffy gaining independence -- stepping into a new world, new possibilities, a bigger world. And there are elements of that scene. In terms of scale, the US government as supervillain is about as big as you can get.

              But as heroic as Buffy's defiant statement of independence and her rejection of the rules and regulations of the Watchers Council (and the Mayor) was at the end of last season, when it comes to actually being independent, well that's scary.

              And "The Freshman" does try to hold onto the tropes of the past. I think Buffy's visits to her mom and Giles are again meta-commenting on this. So, is that glimpse of faux-Angel. That trying to go back is unsatisfying. And Giles' running up and saying he'll be there as always seems a bit pathetic, and not just as an episode ending gag. Giles and Xander flounder their way through much of the season. Neither character can as easily slot into Buffy or Willow's lives as they once did. It takes a while before both men are reshaped into status quos that works. (And I do think when they eventually hit upon Giles buying "The Magic Box" and the steady carpentry/construction work for Xander that these are good choices.) This season explores the tension between independence and the group/team dynamic that would define Buffy for its entire 7 (or 10) season run.

              But some attempts to hold onto the past aren't quite as meta. Whedon tries to adapt the old mission statement "high school is hell" as now "college is hell". Buffy's disorientation in this episode, and the Mean Girl (as Stoney and Dipstick said of Sunday) the roommate from hell in the next episode and reaching the absolute nadir in "Beer Bad". It all seems a bit quaint and unsatisfying now. "The same old trips why should we care?" as Buffy would later sing. I remember really liking season three during its initial run, and when this episode aired I felt "Oh, is this all?" Yes, there were great episodes like "Hush" to come. But this first episode felt awkward. And watching it after rewatching Graduation Day shortly before, "The Freshman" still feels like a let down.


              Meanwhile, there's a big element of Giles in both how he turns Buffy away and how he runs to the gang, eager to vanquish the evil together. Giles is profoundly ambiguous about whether he wants to be a Watcher. However, a lot of Giles's ambiguity is pure selfishness. After Jenny died, after the Council fired him, and especially after Buffy graduated, Giles turned a sharp eye to how he doesn't have a satisfying personal life. At this point, Giles doesn't have a job or a family and he's damned pissed about that. Giles is no spring-chicken. The world, starting with Giles himself, judges unemployed, single, childless middle-aged guys. At this point, Giles really should have gotten it together and the sad thing is that he *would* have gotten it together but for 70 percent the unfairness of his life (the Council firing him, Jenny dying, having to shackle his location and activities to Buffy's needs, his Watcher-centered training, decades of definitely mental and especially lately physical trauma) and 30 percent his own flaws (unfriendliness, snobbishness about Americans and non-supernaturally acquainted jobs and people, a tendency to mope and drink for months on end when he's sad)
              Reaching Giles's age, I'm not sure everyone truly outgrows what he's going through. Midlife crisis is pretty common.. I don't think Giles wants a traditional family or job. But he is lost at sea. It's a departure - but a logical one - from his arc in season three. Back then, Giles found his departure from the Watcher role empowering. He was more confident, letting a bit more of his Ripper side out, not being so repressed. Becoming more American. (As for his snobbishness, I'd say the negative cultural stereotyping goes both ways.) He was breaking free of rules and traditions and was his own man. To me it's the lack of structure that has led to the more slovenly, Hugh Hefner style of independence. Although the Hugh Hefner crack was unfair. Why shouldn't Giles have a relationship with Olivia? Does Buffy really think Giles is bad if he doesn't remain celibate? (I'm speaking of the Giles of season 4, not the young-old Giles of season 10, of course. That's a whole different story.)

              The whole idea of wanting Buffy to completely stand on her own here, but far more so in season 6 does ring false to me too. It makes sense to a point, but Giles goes far past that point. And his return at the end seems hollow. I think it's meant to be comedic, but comes off more as the sad clown. I do wonder if Giles's behaviour here and in later seasons is a much lesser form of the Bad Dad syndrome we get with Hank Summers, Wesley's dad, Xander's dad, Angel's dad, Tara's dad ... hell, pretty much every male parent except Roger Burkle. I think Giles is supposed to be the ideal pseudo-dad and he's still very flawed in the later seasons.

              More thoughts tomorrow. I have to get up early for vision tests. At some point in my life a broken-hearted witch complained that I "just don't see".

              Comment


              • #8
                Here we are in S4! I'll be reviewing The Freshman.

                I really like The Freshman. I'd say that it's tied with Bargaining for my third favorite opener, after WSWB (1) and Anne (2). I actually rewatched the ep in this full for this review. On rewatch, I came up with the most linky theme for this ep- the deceptions and inauthenticity that people use to cope and accurately define themselves in a New World Order.
                Dipstick, I really love your phrase – New World Order – to define the theme of The Freshman. I think it really fits the theme of the entire season as well. It’s a great historical term that’s been used for everything from conspiracy theories of various “Others” taking over the world to Christian millennial theory to U.S. Imperialist dreams of power. It’s a dark but comforting fantasy that the world can be neatly ordered and rigidly controlled by some dominating force – whether evil cabal, religious order or government entity and is antithetical to the notion of ancient scribes, existential philosophers and quantum physicists that our world is governed by chaos and reaction.

                I think that this entire season is dominated by the tension between science and magic – which, of course, once shared the same small domain of esoteric knowledge and elbowed each other vigorously right up to the Enlightenment. Buffy was always a show that had one foot in both worlds – literally in Willow’s case – her innate genius for creating workarounds to circumvent the hidebound disciplines of science and magic shines as she balances both chemistry/computer nerd and spell-casting witch with equal aplomb. But I think that it’s no coincidence that the first and last episodes of this season are framed by the two polar opposites of The Initiative and The First Slayer – as personified by Riley and Buffy.

                In a sense, the Initiative is The Watcher’s Council gone futurist rogue – an ancient attempt to rid the world of vampires through reliance on an extensive rulebook and vigorous training by an accomplished Watcher assigned to a mystical Slayer becomes twisted into a nightmarish dystopia in which primal magic is “constructed” by technological means into a monstrous Adam and demons are either “controlled” through dubious scientific experimentation or hunted down by militaristic execution squads. And poor William the Bloody, Master Vampire, becomes a metaphor for the uneasy amalgamation of science and primal magic designed by Maggie Walsh and The Initiative, the agonizing pain that rips through his skull from a behavior modification chip a constant signifier for the unnatural alliance between the two.

                This is all counterbalanced by the mystical enchantment of The First Slayer, a representation of Buffy’s power that taps into primal forces through ritual and sacred space. If the Initiative is an attempt to test the boundaries of the known through behavior modification and restricted territory, The First Slayer encompasses a limitless dreamlike space peopled by ghosts, demons, witches that rejects the sterile prison cell and militaristic machinery for a chaotic state of cosmic fluidity and formlessness. I think that the final episode, Restless, is actually a brilliant way to end the season – instead of a straight-forward narrative, Whedon tries for an expressionist style of dream imagery that complements the chaotic forces of Buffy’s Slayer legacy and demonstrates its final dark supremacy over Adam and the Initiative.

                But I think this is nothing new. For the last three seasons, magic has been paramount as the driving force of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After all, the show is about a lead character who battles half-human, half-demon hybrids imbued and sustained with magic. And she defeats them not with guns or body armor or advanced weaponry - but with mystical powers that she has inherited through no fault of her own. Sure, she uses a big-ass military weapon (thanks to Xander) to blow the Judge away – but for the most part, Buffy relies on Slayer strength and instincts to defeat her opponents.

                And in many ways Buffy’s journey in Season Three was an exploration of her role as Slayer – her evolution from student to accomplished graduate. It was an attempt to define herself against her alter-ego, Faith - a renegade Slayer who worked with the Big Bad to destroy Sunnydale – a mirror image of the darkest aspects of her own demonic Slayer nature. And counter-balanced against that was the increasingly despotic Watcher’s Council, who insisted upon taking control of her life for her own good and using her for their own means. And once again, it was the support of Buffy’s friends and family and circle of allies who enabled her to defeat the Mayor and Faith and reject the highhanded demands of the Watcher’s Council.

                Despite being the Chosen one, Buffy never had much choice in the matter of becoming a Slayer and her unhappiness at her inability to have a “normal” life has always been the center of her character’s heartache for the past ten seasons. Buffy’s desire to gain some measure of normalcy despite her duties as a Slayer in the first three seasons was somewhat fulfilled by her relationships with her two best friends, Willow and Xander, her Watcher, Giles, and her vampire-sometimes-with-a-soul boyfriend, Angel.

                But in Season Four, she’s adrift again. Now that high school has ended and she’s rejected the Watcher’s Council and Angel has run off to Los Angeles, Buffy finds that the small degree of security and stability that her companions provided has evaporated. Xander runs off to find America, Willow throws herself into college life and Giles has moved on from the Watcher’s Council and Buffy to have fun on his own. Even her Mother, though supportive as always, has already designated her bedroom as a storage unit for her gallery collection. And I think this is why Buffy is at a loss.

                Buffy is a very unreliable narrator in this ep. She justifies her academic procrastination down to just picking out her first semester courses until the night before Orientation by saying it was a very Slay-heavy summer. However, her slaying in this ep is g-d awful until the very end. Sunday, ordinary vamp, easily beat the crap out of her. Xander connected all of the dots in the mystery-solving portion and Buffy was his assistant. Buffy didn't even check her robbed-room to see if the vamps took her slayer's trunk.
                I agree – Buffy really is a mess in this season opener. Without her support system, she’s utterly lost.

                We could argue that Buffy's poor performance as a slayer in this ep comes from college-nerves and sadness/anxiety at not fitting in. (However, the Buffy in the first three seasons consistently acted like slaying is comfort food for her real life woes and she ups her slaying game when her civilian life in turmoil.)
                I think that the opening scene (as always in a new season, it’s a graveyard scene) in which a vampire sneaks away right under the noses of Buffy and Willow as they discuss various classes (directions in life) that Buffy could take kinda says it all. Buffy is so bereft at the moment that she’s even lost her connection with her own innate power. All that saves them from the eager vamp behind them are the various accessories of the Slayer scattered about – they represent the Slayer in outward form and he freaks – but internally Buffy herself is no longer really tapping into that power.

                I like the cute mention of the courses on the Modern Novel and Pop Culture that Willow mentions at the beginning of the episode – I think Whedon is trying to make an analogy between the popular forms of the past (Dickens, Hugo, Twain) and the popular forms of the present (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as artworks to be studied with equal validity.

                However, Buffy was surprised that Giles pulled a first (i.e. reached a new low) and refused to help her dispatch a new demonic threat. And yet, it's not like Buffy indicated that she's been super-close to Giles over the summer. When Buffy walks into Giles's apartment and sees Olivia, it's like Buffy and Giles had been distant over the summer and Buffy is just starting to realize that Giles is taking on a different lifestyle. Even more pointedly, *Willow* was the font on Giles-gossip while Buffy was pretty clueless about what's up with Giles.
                Buffy: It's too bad Giles can't be librarian here. Be convenient.
                Willow: Well, he says that he's enjoying being a gentleman of leisure.
                Buffy: Gentleman of leisure? Isn't that just British for unemployed?
                Willow: Uh-huh, he's a slacker now.
                I think that now Buffy’s removed herself from the Watcher’s Council, Giles feels that she needs to stand on her own two feet. This is a theme that seems to grow larger and larger through the series, culminating in Giles’ attempt to leave for England in Season Six.

                It beggars credulity that Buffy had a slay heavy summer but her slay heavy summer didn't bring her into closer contact with Giles to know more about his post-librarian life, especially since Giles picks this ep to first argue that he's not going to help Buffy deal with MoTW vampire threats.
                Is it possible that Giles has been deliberately avoiding her?

                IMO, Buffy was depressed about Angel leaving her all summer and THAT'S why she did a poor job preparing for college. However, IMO, Buffy was self-conscious about how she and Angel have basically been publicly breaking and airing lots of dirty laundry before the gang since Innocence. Moreover, she's uneasy that Willow has a steady boyfriend. So, Buffy hides the biggest source of her blues under what appears to be lies (like it was a slay heavy summer) or over-reactions to trivia (I don't know where the campus buildings) are.
                I agree with this. I think the absence of Xander doesn’t help much, either.

                Buffy very pointedly hides Angel-biggest source of her angst in her True Confessions scene with Xander. The show hangs a lampshade on this when Buffy got ridiculously excited to a see a profile that looked like Angel in the Bronze right before she bumped into Xander. I don't want to underestimate how terrific Xander's speech was and how affirming it was that the gang came to Buffy's aid at the end of the ep. However, it's a temporary band-aid on Buffy's issues. Buffy doesn't start getting her slay and academic life in order, until her one-stand in Parker drains some of the poison out of her wound left from Angel.
                Interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing the Parker episodes.

                I smell similar bullshit in Buffy's rationale for why she hasn't told Willow or Oz about her angst or the gang of the vampires on campus. "No, I don't want to bug them. I mean they're just starting school, and they don't need this." Buffy's unedited body language as she kept things with Willow and Oz was pure unadulterated shame that she wasn't fitting into college like they were and she was beaten up badly by one vampire. It wasn't some protective do-gooder to make Willow's and Oz's orientation as pleasant as possible.
                I agree that Buffy is very self-obsessed in this episode. I did note her complain to Willow that she has to keep her slayer persona a secret. That’s interesting. I also think it’s interesting that unlike Angel and Spike, Riley’s first vision of Buffy is unmemorable – he can’t even remember her face or name the next time he sees her. Her Slayer power that mesmerizes the two vampires doesn’t even register for him.

                Buffy told Xander about Sunday and her anxiety about starting college on a more truthful level than "Poor me is unprepared because I was slaying all summer" because he was also in a Loser Position and he was actually cross-examining Buffy about exactly is bugging her instead of giving her space and expecting her to pull herself out of her funk ala Oz or trying to passive-aggressively nudge Buffy into happiness (Willow) or putting Buffy entirely out of sight and mind in the name Good Parenting (Giles and to a lesser extent, Joyce). Buffy wasn't doing anyone any good by accepting a mission to defeat an entrenched gang of the summer that have been working UC Sunnydale since 1982 where the leader alone beat the crap out of Buffy with solely Xander, while Willow and Oz sit on campus fiddling their thumbs because they have no clue that all of this action is happening to Buffy and Xander. I don't think Buffy was consciously lying but she was telling herself falsehoods that her secretiveness about Sunday and Co. was because Buffy is Such.A.Good.Friend </Gretchen Weiners voice>, instead of Buffy's insecurity about her failures with Sunday.
                In college, the Scoobies are a little disordered. They don't have the routine of reporting to the library in between classes to get the latest skinny. The ep hangs a lampshade when they show that there's no having a Scooby-meeting in the UC Sunnydale. It's big and perpetually crowded with civilians and as a clarifying adendum to Willow's assertion, it may have a much wider selection of most types of books but Giles's special shelves of mystical lore in the high school library has to beat UC Sunnydale's main library. Buffy was trying to clarify the New World Order. Willow and Oz aren't going to come the library between periods and see a battered Buffy discussing the latest threat with her helicopter parent Watcher Giles or automatically see Buffy in class to see her latest shiner. To get their help in the middle of an emergency, Buffy needs to approach them which takes some pride-swallowing (if you're looking at it the WRONG but understandable way).
                It is interesting that Buffy doesn’t mesh well with the small insular world of a University. Do you think some of it might be her anti-authoritarian impulses – college also acts like a mini-world in which rules and regulations and deadlines can be repressive? And sadly, college also pushes learning the “right” kind of knowledge while curtailing true expressions of individuality. The students who consistently try to win others to their point of view, the same five posters that every student seems to have in their dorm collected by the vampire gang, the arrogant teachers who threaten students in their classes and take pride in beating them down - Buffy’s experience in trying to take the class in pop culture was a classic example – all might contribute to Buffy’s resistance.

                A small personal note here – I am a graduate of the UC System, born and raised in San Francisco (yay, Buffy Season Nine and Ten comics!) and former student of UC Santa Cruz (where Marti Noxon attended school – we are fellow Banana Slugs.) I laughed when I recognized the mention of buildings at UC Sunnydale – although it was filmed at UCLA, they’re using almost all UCSC names. I can tell you that they haven’t done such a bad job of depicting the UC system considering all things.

                IMO, Buffy and Willow both delude themselves by not rooming together. I'd totally get if two high school BFFs who went to the same college decided to room with other people to branch out their social network. However, Buffy and Willow aren't ordinary high school BFFs. Both girls stayed in Sunnydale in college to fight evil in secret. Both of them need a roommate who understands the significance of nightly exits to fight evil, who can both keep tabs on the weapons's chest and accouterments to fight evil, to be vigilant for the other's disappearances.
                I lived off-campus with a friend, but I can say that UC often forced people to room with people they didn’t know – some rot about meeting new people and forging new relationships. Bleah. It was almost always a disaster and everyone simply changed roomies in their sophomore year.

                Per the point just above, Buffy conveniently forgets that Willow went to UC Sunnydale to fight evil and Buffy does Willow zero favors by hiding a new threat of vampires working the campus. Willow might as well be in Harvard, if Buffy doesn't make Willow a part of her mission. There's a consistent antagonism between Willow and Buffy when Buffy tries to fight alone, or just with the Initiative or just with Riley and IMO, part of that is that Willow was questioning why she's taking such a significant hit in her academic ambitions if Buffy regards her as a superfluous, at best, or a burden, at worst, in the fight against evil.
                I’d say she was ashamed that Sunday beat her and frightened that she’d lost her Slayer power. That’s why she didn’t want to tell Willow. I think there’s also some envy there that Willow is adjusting far better than her.

                I think the scene where Buffy meets Eddie is interesting. They both look at a map of the college – a man-made world not unlike some kind of academic Disneyland. They both admit that they’re lost – and Buffy goes one way and Eddie goes the other – and Eddie takes the wrong path. It’s a mirror image of all of Buffy’s fears. When Sunday and her vampire minions strip the rooms and leave notes on the bed, it’s almost like a metaphor for death complete with suicide note. When Buffy returns home, temporarily running away from life, she comes back to find that she, too, has been declared dead. Gone.

                Xander had long arduous practice of pretending that his disappointing, loser-like civilian life is better or funnier than it is. We see Xander doing more of the same, especially since S3. Xander's speech about his summer is vintage Xander. Xander acts like he's over-sharing his life's problems but he spins them all into a joke while holding back on his pain or any of the more humiliating details (what he did besides dish-washing at the Ladies Night Club, how he felt or whether he argued with his parents for immediately charging him rent). In this, Xander tries to avoid being an object of pity by holding back while also providing enough teases of his life's problems that Xander starts to resent how no one sufficiently sympathizes enough with him or regards him as a joke instead of someone who makes jokes to bravely soldier through life.
                This is a GREAT reading of the Xander scene.

                Meanwhile, there's a big element of Giles in both how he turns Buffy away and how he runs to the gang, eager to vanquish the evil together. Giles is profoundly ambiguous about whether he wants to be a Watcher. However, a lot of Giles's ambiguity is pure selfishness. After Jenny died, after the Council fired him, and especially after Buffy graduated, Giles turned a sharp eye to how he doesn't have a satisfying personal life. At this point, Giles doesn't have a job or a family and he's damned pissed about that. Giles is no spring-chicken. The world, starting with Giles himself, judges unemployed, single, childless middle-aged guys. At this point, Giles really should have gotten it together and the sad thing is that he *would* have gotten it together but for 70 percent the unfairness of his life (the Council firing him, Jenny dying, having to shackle his location and activities to Buffy's needs, his Watcher-centered training, decades of definitely mental and especially lately physical trauma) and 30 percent his own flaws (unfriendliness, snobbishness about Americans and non-supernaturally acquainted jobs and people, a tendency to mope and drink for months on end when he's sad).
                Yes, I agree completely with this. And Giles must in some ways blame Buffy because of her relationship with Angel. And that continues up to the current comic season now, I think.

                However despite Giles's sympathetic factors, he's unhappy with his life and IMO, he uses "Buffy doesn't need a Watcher. I'm gonna be a responsible pseudo-parent by abandoning her to deal with everything, starting with confronting epic supernatural threats that would stymie the US Army, all alone with zero aid from me" or "I'm not gonna claim responsible psuedo-parent with Buffy's friends so let's just handwave that they don't need me to confront . I'll just promise to *take Dawn's* calls instead of hanging up or screening her calls and that's really enough." I have unflattering (but IMO, fair and realistic) head-canon that Olivia flew back to England before Giles ran up to Buffy offering to vanquish the evil with her. Nothing changed with Buffy from when Giles turned her away to when he eagerly offered to be part of the fight. However, the opportunities for Giles to do something else (or *someone else*, lol) shrank. Giles does this push-pull for much of the season. He shirks his duty something else comes up to fill his void, no matter how vague or clearly stupid (Olivia, buddying up with Ethan, drinking). However when he has nothing going on, he resents that Buffy doesn't come to him enough with things to do to make him feel important. Fast forward to The Yoko Factor where he's easily the least sympathetic member of the Core Four, as he's drinking himself falling-down drunk on the eve of an apocalypse while he slurs his words that Buffy failed by not training with him so Adam is going to kick her ass.
                Yes, the end of the episode shows Giles in overkill as he tries to make amends for abandoning Buffy. He’s really torn between trying to be a father figure to Buffy and feeing that she needs to stop relying on him. I think Giles determination to do what’s best for Buffy, regardless of the consequences, ultimately leads to his failed attempt to circumvent Buffy’s mercy in Lies My Parents Told Me by giving Robin Wood the opportunity to kill Spike.

                It's pretty aggravating coming down from last season where Giles did his best to exclude Wesley and Buffy never gave Wesley a chance out of loyalty to "Giles, Buffy's Sole True Watcher". At this point, Giles is pretty undecided about whether he wants to be a Watcher while Wesley really wants the job to perform fully and exhaustively. Buffy and Wesley never have another substantive interaction but increasingly, it's like Wesley is a Watcher without a Slayer and Buffy is a Slayer without a Watcher and that's a huge problem for both for years to come that will only metastasize.
                Great reading of Wesley’s dilemma – but I think that he learns, like Buffy, that the Watcher’s Council is not to be trusted.

                Sunday embodies this theme of using inauthenticity and faux-bravado to cope with a new scary world order. It's somewhat veiled because Sunday plays the role of the bad-ass, worldly, expert-on-college vamp. You really have to remember that Sunday's whole gang is a bunch of stupid, stoner vamps and Sunday's just been squatting in a vacant Greek house and living on easy pickins' of homesick, naive freshmen right there on campus, unchallenged by anyone since 1982 at least. Sunday and her gang just keep what they steal from the freshmen that they kill; they don't go out and make some noise by robbing a store to get non-hand-me-downs from college freshman (who tend to bring cheapo Spartan stuff to school). Sunday's "Hi, I'm Sunday and I'm going to be killing you today" bravado is Sunday playing the part of a Spike or Angel or Master-like super-old vampire who goes out to look for epic challenges.
                However, the facts tend to support that Sunday was only interested in bumping off Buffy to preserve her easy, low-hanging fruit life where she just lives off college freshman and surrounds herself with stoned, idiot sidekicks. If Sunday and her vamps have just been squatting at UC Sunnydale to live off of freshman for over two decades, they're not interested in challenge or seeing the world. Sunday gleefully announces that she's going to kill Buffy. Buffy handled her fight very poorly and Sunday won and got Buffy to run away. However, Sunday can't even seize on the victory enough to go out and capture Buffy and feast on her delicious slayer self with her gang.
                FatVamp: I still think you should've let us have a piece, we could've finished her off.
                Sunday: She's not gonna last the night, she's a done deal. In fact, guys, you're gonna hit the tunnels.

                There, we learn that Sunday just delegated her side-kicks to steal Buffy's stuff to demoralize Buffy into leaving. LAME.
                I think that Sunday and her vampires are just as stagnant as Buffy is – they have no ambitions other than to exist. Aimless and directionless, like the dead students who “checked” out of the dorms complete with note.

                I have little to say about Willow, Oz, and Riley. Granted, those three characters can also be inauthentic, to deal with a new world order. However, this isn't the ep for that. Willow is definitely OTT social and Oz is classic on-campus-boyfriend in a way that's pretty OOC for both of them partly because they're in a relationship and they're living up to each other's expectations. However, IMO, Willow is pretty genuinely excited about being social and interested in parties for the moment because Oz makes it all very appealing, (a) because he's there and can make crowded, unseemly frat parties all musical and romantic and witty and stuff that Willow actually likes and (b) he's her comfy person-blankie, per her own words, because she's cool-by-association as long as she's dating him. College classes and getting a degree, in and of itself, doesn't rock Oz's boat but if it comes in a package deal with Willow and his band and music, he's genuinely into the lifestyle. The inauthenticity is more about how Willow's interest in being social and Oz's interest in school so heavily rests on their relationship. As long as their relationship as unsinkable (as it appears in this ep), it feels real. Once it's flimsy, the college lifestyle turns into pumpkins for both of them.
                Yes, Willow thinks that she’s got everything all worked out – her deep insecurities assuaged by her relationship with Oz. But once she loses him, she feels that she loses the patina of “cool” that he gave her. Not true, but that’s how she sees it because of her deeply-held feelings of unworthiness.

                Much of Riley’s S4 story is getting him to realize that he’s in a New World Order in the first place. For now, Riley treats Maggie Walsh as your typical hard-ass professor/drill sergeant and Sunnydale’s demons as weird animals. For now, Riley can be authentic (except for having a secret identity as a soldier) because his life really does feel like a logical outgrowth of what he’d been preparing for in ROTC and as a teenager that IMO, likely aspired to join the US military.
                I agree with you about Riley. He’s completely enthralled by Maggie Walsh’s Initiative Project and has ingested all of the prejudices of his unit.

                The ending to this episode is fascinating – it’s such a reversal of the theme of the entire series so far. Instead of a vampire attacking an innocent victim, the vampire himself becomes the victim. And the whole black and white world of Buffy becomes a little grayer. When I read Whedon’s last words – even though it is a vampire who is the hunted here, it disturbs me.

                EXT. ANOTHER PART OF CAMPUS - NIGHT

                Tom, The silent vampire, makes his way through the shadows, afraid for his life. He stops. Hears something. Turns.
                A TASER shoots out at him, wires attaching to his body and sending massive jolts of electricity through his body. He collapses to the ground, unable to do anything but look. He sees:

                ANGLE: THREE FIGURES

                Emerging from the darkness. They are dressed much like commandoes -- camouflage pants, sweaters -- with ski masks and infrared goggles covering their entire faces. The two not carrying the taser carry shiny hightech rifles. They all move silently, gracefully, approaching the fallen vampire.

                His paralyzed face. His terrified eyes.

                BLACK OUT.

                END OF SHOW
                Last edited by American Aurora; 20-02-15, 09:00 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
                  To me it's the lack of structure that has led to the more slovenly, Hugh Hefner style of independence. Although the Hugh Hefner crack was unfair. Why shouldn't Giles have a relationship with Olivia? Does Buffy really think Giles is bad if he doesn't remain celibate? (I'm speaking of the Giles of season 4, not the young-old Giles of season 10, of course. That's a whole different story.)
                  Do you mean my reference to Giles being Hugh Hefner-ish was unfair? I didn't actually criticise it, it was just a statement of observation that he had that image and was showing disregard towards Buffy's troubles. I didn't judge him for having a Hefner moment in and of itself.

                  I think you are right that his return at the end was supposed to be comedic. I'm not sure how much of the two scenes with Giles were directed to be as extreme in opposite tones (standoffish to eager puppy) and how much that difference was in the way ASH played it, but either way it is too much and does just come across as foolish and false rather than funny.

                  I'll come back to read Aurora's post later as I've run out of time this morning.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Do you mean my reference to Giles being Hugh Hefner-ish was unfair? I didn't actually criticise it, it was just a statement of observation that he had that image and was showing disregard towards Buffy's troubles. I didn't judge him for having a Hefner moment in and of itself.
                    No, I meant Buffy was unfair. She's the one who used the phrase, and called Giles "really, really old". (Old? As a friend of mine is fond of saying "I don't think so.") Giles hooking up with Olivia wasn't in itself creepy. His outright dismissal of Buffy was wrong and misguided, and a mild example of the father figures in the show -- either too neglectful or too controlling, or sometimes in a bizarre way both neglectful and controlling at once. Somewhere between making a thematic point "she must stand on her own feet" (really, a lesson Buffy surely has known since at least her "Me!" scene in Becoming Part II) and "the rule of funny" in the end scene, his character got lost. Although I suppose being lost is an appropriate place for someone in midlife crisis to be.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ha that is really funny because I didn't register her saying that but put it as a note at the start of the scene when Buffy first arrived when I was watching it. It was so clearly intended in styling and that is probably why I instantly thought it and her saying it didn't register for me. Yes, I agree with the mix you get in the neglect and control from the father figures (and as an aspect I don't like in her relationship from Angel too). They do fall for playing the comedy note too loudly sometimes but on the positive side, well kinda, most suffer from this treatment at some point.

                      Originally posted by American Aurora View Post
                      I agree that Buffy is very self-obsessed in this episode. I did note her complain to Willow that she has to keep her slayer persona a secret. That’s interesting.
                      And interesting that it comes alongside the impression that her and Giles haven't been around each other much. Yet coupled with him expecting her to go and get on with it is this instruction given at some point about how she is to do that as well. I'm not fully questioning the logic of hiding who/what she is to some degree, but it does throw up Dipstick's point about the illogical choice to not room together. But also, not only for the impractical issues in trying to hide her unusual lifestyle, there is also the risk that Buffy's life would unfairly put on an unsuspecting roommate (even though it is actually the opposite way to how that plays next episode).

                      It is interesting that Buffy doesn’t mesh well with the small insular world of a University. Do you think some of it might be her anti-authoritarian impulses – college also acts like a mini-world in which rules and regulations and deadlines can be repressive? And sadly, college also pushes learning the “right” kind of knowledge while curtailing true expressions of individuality. The students who consistently try to win others to their point of view, the same five posters that every student seems to have in their dorm collected by the vampire gang, the arrogant teachers who threaten students in their classes and take pride in beating them down - Buffy’s experience in trying to take the class in pop culture was a classic example – all might contribute to Buffy’s resistance.
                      It is part of her internal dichotomy and highlights really I think the false illusion in the focus she has on 'normal'. Part of her internally longs to be unknowing and have the comfort of ignorance back. To be the student who is totally engrossed with college life and doesn't fight evil at night, to be simply 'normal', and the other part of her would never want to be that clueless and pushed around to conform and baa her way through life. If you think of how Buffy arrived in high school, she didn't have her support system established then either but she was coming into an environment she knew well, and she was very confident in how she would and wouldn't conform. She didn't take Cordelia's directions of who she could speak to as law like the Cordettes no doubt did. But her start to college life is from a very different starting perspective and in part I think comes from the loss of Angel and how much that is affecting her but I think it also relates to how disassociated Buffy feels from the environment straight away. She never expected to get to do the college thing, the idea of working towards her future doesn't really compute with the reality of her life and longing for her lost vampire lover and not really feeling she has a future, she feels separate and abnormal the moment she steps foot on campus.

                      I can say that UC often forced people to room with people they didn’t know – some rot about meeting new people and forging new relationships. Bleah.
                      That would make more sense if it was forced/encouraged.

                      The ending to this episode is fascinating – it’s such a reversal of the theme of the entire series so far. Instead of a vampire attacking an innocent victim, the vampire himself becomes the victim. And the whole black and white world of Buffy becomes a little grayer. When I read Whedon’s last words – even though it is a vampire who is the hunted here, it disturbs me.
                      The creature experimentation, the unnatural restraint/torture that the Initiative impose really does have interesting moral greyness to it. And they use this of course to start to press/turn audience attitudes and expectations of Spike.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Sorry I missed much of the discussion. I only have a bit, so a few quick thoughts:

                        I really like Dipstick's theory that Buffy's statement that it's been a slay-heavy summer is purely false. In a lot of ways, the structure of the first four season premieres is somewhat similar: Buffy has recently undergone a trauma, wants to make a serious change in her life and has had a break from slaying and from her full-on commitment to the mission, which leads to her having to be re-called to adventure, a moment of recovery/triumph "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" recovery, and a new kind of support system emotionally. This makes some degree of sense in terms of season structure; each gap between seasons follows the real-life jump of a couple of months, but also functions narratively a bit like a flashforward over the parts of a person's life that are essentially stable, and over which Buffy, Our Hero, has the "important" part of her life more or less stop for a period of time. This is somewhat true of the last three TV season premieres as well, but they are special case in different ways. The traumas/losses Buffy is recovering from, and her attempted method of recovery, are:

                        Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest: Trauma: her calling and first bad encounter with vampires; the death of her Watcher (though this is not made explicit in the show, and so arguably is not actually true within series continuity -- we don't know if her watching in Becoming Part I is actually supposed to be the movie version's Merrick and whether he meets the same fate); burning down the school gym and being kicked out of school. Strategy: Start at new school, reset to pre-slayer popular girl. Call to re-adventure: the discovery that vampires have followed her. That her new friend Jesse dies pulls Buffy in. That the Bronze is threatened with destruction seals the deal. Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment: The killing of Luke, I think. New emotional support: The Scoobies are formed, she comes to trust her new Watcher, and Angel offers cryptic help.

                        When She Was Bad: Trauma: her death in Prophesy Girl, which was motivated partly because of her desire not to see her friends suffer and die (particularly Willow); possibly that the emotional gap between her and her father has widened. Strategy: Shopping in L.A. A retreat to L.A. over the summer, and an overt desire to emphasize her Mean Girl qualities and ability to hurt her friends when she gets back. In this case, Buffy is willing to be The Slayer when she returns, but she is deliberately attempting to exorcise her kindness in the hopes that hardening herself will set her free. If she pushes her friends away, she doesn't have to be vulnerable to choosing to sacrifice herself for them again. Call to re-adventure: This strategy gets her friends hurt emotionally, and then her desire to cut out any advice from her entourage leads to her running into a trap, not realizing that it's not a trap for Buffy but for Willow, Giles, Jenny and Cordelia. They are in it, whether she likes it or not, and whether it puts her or them in danger or not. She goes to save them. Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment: the double-kill during the big "kill 'em all" fight, and then smashing the Master's bones. Emotional support: Angel's consoling her over the Master's bones, with the gang looking on, followed by the restoration of her closeness with Xander and Willow.

                        Anne: Trauma: her having killed Angel in Becoming, as well as the feelings of betrayal related to the "kick his ass" line, especially when coupled with Willow's apparently contradictory reensoulment of Angel; her being kicked out of the house, out of school, wanted for murder. Strategy: run away from town, back to L.A., but this time not retaking a prior identity but deliberately creating a new, absent one, working to provide the monetary ability to survive. No desire for any future. Continuing to "live fully" only in dream/nightmares with Angel. Call to re-adventure: Lilly asking for her help, recognizing her as Buffy, and her reluctantly being sucked in. Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment: "I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And you are?" Emotional support: Joyce's hug when she gets back to town, followed eventually by the reconciliation with the gang in general and Willow in particular at the end of Dead Man's Party -- note that her months-long departure makes the readjustment process more difficult.

                        So The Freshman sort of follows these beats, in a weird way. But something is off about them, and I think it is off in a way related to the way season four reconfigures the series. The literal read goes something like this:

                        Trauma: Angel's departure, her having been nearly killed by Angel, having killed Faith. Graduation, and the emptiness it produces -- what does she have next?
                        Strategy: Emotional retreat to "slay-gal," in a way that is similar to her early-When She Was Bad attitude where she's slayer, but without the deliberate cruelty. It also means secret-identity-gal again.
                        Re-call to adventure: The investigation of disappearing students after her one, first friend goes missing.
                        Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment:

                        Oz: Hey, Buff. Need a hand?
                        Buffy: (Brandishing a stake with a twirl.) No thanks, (She twists around throwing the stake into Sunday's heart.) I'm good.
                        Emotional re-support: The gang's all together at the end! Yay!

                        This all plays more or less comically, in contrast to the serious drama underlying the first three premieres, especially Anne. Anne is referenced explicitly:

                        Willow: Buffy wouldn't just take off, th-that's just not in her nature. Except for that one time she disappeared for several months and changed he name, but there were circumstances then. There's no circumstances.
                        Kathy: Does Buffy have a history of emotional problems? 'Cause on my request form I was pretty specific about a stable non-smoker.
                        Oz: I don't think this is her handwriting.
                        Willow: I bet there were circumstances! We've probably been so wrapped up in our own petty lives that... that we totally missed the circumstances. We're bad friends!
                        Oz: Let's think this through.
                        Willow: How can you be so calm?
                        Oz: Long, arduous hours of practice.
                        I had to quote that whole thing just because it made me laugh. Ha. OK, so the problem, I think, is that there *are* "circumstances," but it's not the same as after Becoming. Buffy has quit the Council, has distanced herself from Giles, is distancing herself from her mom, nearly stabbed her sister-slayer/shadow to death, and has lost Angel. It makes sense that she's not fully cheery. However, she also ended season three pretty triumphant; she defeated the bad guy, got the Class Protector award and thus the long-awaited recognition from her peers, is now free from the Council's yoke, and gets to attend university with her best friend. Her life is tragic, but it's a distant, weird kind of tragic, and there's only so much moping she wants to do, and, in fact, her preference really mostly is to pretend that things are fine, partly because the Angel thing just went on for goddamn ever and that's the biggest thing. Admitting that almost killing Faith did damage to her would mean admitting that almost killing Faith was a bad thing, or that she lost something when Faith went to the dark side, and I don't think Buffy's willing to do that yet. She can't really feel bad about no longer working for the Council, can she?

                        And so Buffy is sort of disaffected, and sort of off her game, but she's also not even fully admitting to herself what the problem is. Now, one can lay blame on others for not noticing enough -- Willow, for instance, definitely has some real condescension in her "You made a friend? Good for you!" line -- but it's also, it's worth noting, the first (and very nearly only) time in which Willow fits in more easily and naturally than Buffy, and her brief period in which she's the one of the two who is the more noticeable naturally makes her a bit on the insensitive side. Xander's absence, I agree, was also a factor. And I tend to think that while Giles is harsh to Buffy, it may in fact be that Giles is reacting to Buffy's apparently not checking in with him as much as Willow did (as Dipstick points out in the early scene) and to the harshness of her Hugh Hefner putdown. Giles goes back and forth on whether he wants Buffy to continue treating him like a Watcher or not, but I think some of the time he's reacting to the fact that Buffy can't rightly expect him to be her Watcher only when it's convenient for her, which is/is not fair. Buffy's attitude toward Giles is a lot like her attitude toward Joyce, or, indeed, most teenagers toward their parents: she loves them dearly, relies on them when times are tough, and takes them a little for granted when either they don't need them, or don't know how to talk to them about what is bothering them.

                        Computer's almost out of batteries so: I think that the resolution here is not fully meaningful because I think Buffy's treatment of her funk is only surface-level; the big, deeper problem in some senses is that Buffy has shut her heart down, and has somewhat reinvented herself as Buffy, but with somewhat shallower feelings and passions, in the light of Angel's departure and the loss of her dream of being able to get out of Sunnydale. I think that is part of why Riley doesn't notice her, eg. -- Buffy doesn't feel that sense of self and passion and drive, and that will sort of hang over the Buffy/Riley situation overall.

                        This is one of my favourite episodes ever in terms of line-to-line dialogue. "I didn't mean to...suck." "Yes, first there is the painful nowning process." "And no power on this Earth will get me to tell you that story." "I'm all for spurty knowledge."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Great comments, everyone. Welcome American Aurora and PuckRobin to the Rewatch. American Aurora, that's such a cool perspective that you've actually been to a UC. I've met a bunch of UC grads IRL- but we've never compared BtVS notes.

                          I don't think Buffy's "Hugh Hefner" insult is too naughty. First, Buffy and Giles are one of those twosomes who communicate with sarcasm. I mean, they can go over the line. Like, Buffy beating a dead horse about how Giles is a fuddy-duddy with crappy music taste when he's bravely joining the group at the Bronze at Wild at Heart while the rest of the gang has moved on with an eye to making Giles feel comfortable. Or Giles saying with jovial drunkenness that Adam is going to kick Buffy's ass. However, a one off line comparing Giles to Hugh Hefner is still very much in a safe zone for two sarcastic people who trade jibes as part of their familiarity and love. Moreover, Buffy only went there as "OK, do you remember before you became Hugh Hefner when you used to be a Watcher?" i.e. Buffy only brought that up because she was rightfully taken-aback and disappointed that Giles was starting to break an implied contact that he helps her defeat vampires and demons. Giles really "started it" and IMO, Buffy's response was actually quite mild.

                          Plus, man, Olivia was prancing around the unlocked house without pants and Giles came out in a robe for obvious sexcapades in the middle of a work-day. It's something that invites comment. It's also something of a puncture of the Tragic Myth of Giles. Certainly, I'd been assuming that Jenny was his first true romantic life since his Ripper days. However Olivia introduces the possibility that, Giles has some kind of sex-Rolodex of women about over a decade his junior who'd make a special stop to pork and call him "Ripper" as a still-welcome nickname. I mean, later eps indicate that it's hardly a "sex-Rolodex" and we don't know the Giles/Olivia story. However from Buffy's POV, it does seem like such a reversal from what she knows about Giles that it demands snarky comment.

                          Although, per Local_Max's point, if my supposition about Buffy's summer was correct, Giles would have a genuine beef if Buffy was avoiding him all summer because she got wrapped up in her Angel-woe. Giles does a much better job of quashing any of Buffy's feigned interest in his life as a way to avoid dealing with her responsibilities like dealing with her own roommate in the next ep. There's a nice and reasonable way to push children out of the nest to take responsibility for their own lives. Like, I didn't have a problem with Joyce temporarily using Buffy's room as a holding space for her gallery. It may have hurt Buffy's subjective feelings but it was totally fair. (Although, it makes me wonder what Buffy and Joyce used Dawn's bedroom for in S1-4. You'd think Joyce would have put the messy crates in a spare room before Buffy's bedroom that needed to be cleaned for Buffy's announced arrivals.) Did Joyce operate in S1-4 with an obvious "need" for a study or a sitting room or craft space (Joyce is a craft space type) to herself? Then come Dawn's arrival, did Joyce "believe" that extra rooms are a luxury far beyond a single mother who has to house two girls who need their own rooms? I've thought way too much about this....

                          I agree that Willow's "Aw, you made a new friend!" sounded condescending. Except, I think that's how Willow congratulates herself for stuff like that in her head. LOL. It's shades of "I think that went very well! Don't you think that went very well!" in FH&T or her over-explaining basic stuff to Tara in NMR or in one of my favorite tiny comedic moments from this ep:

                          Willow (loudly exclaims): This is a real library!!! (Someone shushes her.) (whisper but excited voice) See we even have to whisper. It's like a whole new world.

                          When Willow is feeling awkward on the inside but super-optimistic and happy about hers and her loved ones's chances to ace Being A Well-Adjusted Person with some more good steps, she tends to break down the challenge in tiny steps with OTT cheer which can come out sounding kindergarten teacher.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Buffy's line about how it would "be convenient" if Giles were on-campus at UCSunnydale in an official capacity (so that he could also continue to act as her Watcher and they wouldn't have to go very far to go to him for Watcher-ly reasons) had a probably-unintentional meta level to it; during the summer in-between seasons, it was a seemingly widespread fanon assumption that Giles would simply (conveniently?) and quickly get hired on the UC Sunnydale campus's faculty or staff. Some thought he'd get a job at the university library, but the more widespread fanon theory was fueled by some spoilers for the season that turned out to be false, namely that the season-long story-arc would involve (probably in an antagonist's role) a "professor of demonology"; some versions of the theory had Giles himself being the new professor of demonology. Personally, I like to think of myself as reasonably open-minded, but I can't imagine any school, even in California, actually offering a class in demonology, much less to undergrads. Much less Giles being quickly hired onto a college's staff when his last job was as librarian to a high school that just got blown up a few months ago.

                            However, Giles's position as a "gentleman of leisure" and his season-long 'arc' of not knowing what to do next while also flip-flopping from "stand on your own two feet, Buffy" and "it's rather rude of you to come to me only when it's convenient for you and then you stop ignoring me" is, for me, kinda undermined by the fact that, now that the high school library can no longer be Slayer Central, Giles's own apartment becomes the de facto central meeting place for Buffy and the Scoobies regarding all manner of Scooby and Slaying business throughout the season. It at the very least assures the audience that Giles will still have plenty of screentime and be present for much of the plot. And while it does get addressed as a main plot in A New Man, it does so in a largely comedic episode that appears to tie things up in a bow by the end.

                            Xander, on the other hand, experiences his nadir both personally in-show and in terms of how the writers treat him as one of the cast. Look, we all know Xander's my favorite character, and I've made clear in the past that I'm...quite displeased with how the writers treat Xander this season. After Season Three, media attention on the show had really ramped up. During season four, there was a periodic series of interviews with each writer online, and one of the questions asked of each of them was "Who are your favorite characters?" Each of them answered with a mix of regular cast and recurring characters, and some characters overlapped answers more than once. To this day, the thing I remember is that Xander was the one regular cast member that none of the writers called a favorite. Hell, during that year it was something of a minor miracle if any of the writers mentioned either Xander or Nicholas Brendon in even vaguely positive terms, and it usually was nothing but a variation of "Nick's good at comic relief."

                            Which is okay if you ignore the fact that in the first three seasons NB had also proven he could be good at that fancy-schmancy dramatic acting, too. And also that the tenor of comic relief given to Xander to provide changed in Season Four. As wwolfe of the all-but-dead Buffy Cross and Stake boards put it at the time, "The writers went from inviting the audience to laugh with Xander to inviting them to laugh at Xander." That the writers chose to frame it in terms of "Xander's a townie, and that makes him a pathetic loser" that season, didn't help them look like they weren't exercising some rather mean-spirited social class issues of their own. Season Four was the first time I'd ever heard the term "townie"; watching it be used on Xander as though it were a lower-than-low caste name, and later learning that "underdog townies come into conflict with and beat arrogant college types" was a story trope, made me question whether the writers (all of whom I'm sure went to college themselves) were using Xander as a proxy for venting some "how dare they make us look like the villains in Breaking Away, etc." spleen.

                            Couple that with interviews with the likes of David Fury in which he said that "humiliating Xander is so much fun!" and that the writers were deliberately cutting down on his screentime (in a year in which, taking both shows into account, almost every other regular cast member saw both their screentime and opportunity for character growth and storyline grow and expand), and the fact that Xander had been the subject of ever-growing audience hostility for more than a year....and you have the perfect storm for me to respond to anybody who claims that Season Four was a carefully planned and well-executed storyline for Xander with the more commonly used term for "male bovine fecal matter." If anybody can find on the Season Four DVDs' Season Overview where Xander or his treatment gets discussed in greater depth than the 30 seconds spent talking about bringing Anya on as his love interest, I will eat a hat of your choosing. With hot sauce.

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                            • #15
                              4.02 Living Conditions

                              I’m not a big fan of this episode I have to admit although there are some aspects I quite like in it. I’ll get my most disliked one out of the way first I think.

                              The problem for me comes down to the writing touching on an area of verse mythology really badly. The way they chose to write Buffy becoming soulless and the way they made such a point about her behaviour and her going into the ‘red zone’ I found weak. Her irritation and snappiness really doesn’t support their sudden concern to the level of ‘follow her and keep watch’ I don't think. But it is written to pay off because she does get to a dangerous level of behaviour when she is outwardly expressing her opinion that Kathy should be slayed.

                              I actually think it fits neatly with Sunday last episode who was the soulless college Cordelia, but cutting remarks and bitchiness has never been a mark of soullessness before yet Buffy was ‘bordering on Cordelia-esque’? Harmony is written to be pretty much the same human to vampire, more so than anyone else but I think that is a comment on her human character rather than her vampiric one. Sure Buffy has a touch of Hemery cheerleader in her but are we really saying that that trait emerging is the main thrust of the worst version of herself? She wants to carry on doing her duty but might have a temper and be over enthusiastic about it?! I just find it an area they choose not to really explore, and the ended twitch over her sandwich being eaten (gasp she really is a little like that it wasn’t just an immediate dislike of Kathy) I just think falls flat.

                              A soul isn’t a life essence I don’t think and Kathy certainly didn’t expect the soul loss to kill Buffy. She was in fact relying on her being mistaken for a demon and taken away. It is just disappointing that they were going for such a light treatment of it. I can hand wave some away because her soul wasn’t completely gone and we can also wonder at what effect the slayer demon essence would have. If we take her inner slayer to have become a driving force the dark edge to the slaying could be seen in there in her desire to kill Kathy, to crush her like the symbolically labelled and squished hard boiled egg!! That works better I think than just putting it down to becoming soulless because she is still looking to perform her 'job' as the Slayer. But it just still leaves me feeling unsatisfied by it, even though I don’t think it is as bad as the cop-out of Nightmares. The partial soul loss and the presence of her slayer-side are more legitimate ways to use for treating it more lightly in its effect on her. In Nightmares the fear manifestations overruled reality and so Buffy’s fear of becoming a vampire should have meant her behaviour too rather than it being reduced to ‘eek I’m fugly’ as she didn’t feed off her friends which is surely part of the nightmare, and she just continued to be the Slayer after a moment's pause. So in some ways this is better, it makes more sense, but it still doesn’t hit the notes well for me that I wish it had and I find it is still disappointing. There, now you can all tell me why it is incredibly insightful and important.

                              The thing that I like the most about this episode is the play on the bickering siblings. Kathy declares that they are almost like sisters now when Buffy’s only child status is also pointed out as relevant by Giles. It is a nice insight to the dynamic her/Dawn will often show and the one in fact to which we are originally introduced to Buffy’s new sister with that classic moment in S5 where both of them call for Joyce’s intervention. It even in some ways follows on from the S3 exploration of Buffy’s darker side through Faith (although really this is where the earlier mentioned disappointment lies for me due to the lighter treatment). Kathy and Buffy are annoyed at any little thing the other does, they don’t want to share space and they don’t want to compromise. They are like chalk and cheese, forced together by the cellmate finding computer! And it very quickly devolves into actually winding the other up. The shared room and the whole possessive attitude seen in labelling the food, inviting herself along to what Buffy was going to do, the pettiness in Buffy taking the milk, annoyance at little habits and tapping to irritate right back, it is all a great depiction of classic sibling tensions. (My sister and I actually once did literally put tape down to split our shared bedroom, I kid you not!) Even down to the physical fighting and the wild accusations against Kathy that others mostly dismiss because of Buffy seeming to always exaggerate about her and take an extreme stance against her.

                              Kathy’s seemingly friendly chirpy manner is of course an act. Her pointed comments about the thief that took her milk make that clear very early on as they are mixed with saying it isn’t a problem when quite clearly it is. That would get irritating very quickly and I like that Buffy calls her on it straight away. It is made clear when Kathy’s dad eventually comes to collect her that she is rebellious and young and acts like taking petty revenge in borrowing/staining Buffy’s clothes even despite knowing what else she is doing to Buffy is again I think a nice play on the sibling, teen bickering dynamic where behaviour is often unreasonable in response to perceived injustice. It also works of course on the level of classic issues in sharing space/accommodation and trying to manage the minutiae of living together, organising yourself and your finances. But the comparison we are given is Willow/Giles working to save Buffy, to sustain her, against the dominating parental figure appearing to demand Kathy returns home.

                              I have to say though, and I’m sure Kathy would be annoying and her and Buffy quite clearly were not going to get on, but (soul sucking aside) Willow had it far worse imo. Her partying roommate would be pretty unbearable to live with. Although I have to just acknowledge how ridiculously over the top that whole constant dancing/party in the room was.

                              As Dipstick said there are degrees to which the parent pushing the child to get on with it works and I think in this episode it does. Giles questioning Buffy’s true motivations for hovering around were fair. It wasn’t about pushing her away so much as making her face the truth. (I also agree Joyce wasn’t doing anything wrong in using currently vacant space to store gallery items). In some ways the break away from the shelter of the parents seems to elicit more childish behaviour as the process of learning to deal with day-to-day details has a selfish response kick in and a reluctance to manage everything. As Giles says it is about learning to tolerate other's idiosyncrasies and that is a process of maturing. It focuses on the changes her environment demands of her and it is interesting to consider that it runs alongside her also having to return to trying to sneak out to go slaying again, which in terms of her slayer-life seemed a step backwards so luckily is a development that is lost by her and Willow sharing at the end.

                              And of course we meet Parker. Running alongside Lonely Hearts in AtS, Cordelia is looking fondly on the ease of high school where everyone knows each other and have so much in common when Angel considers the modern social life as being brutal. Buffy may have likened college to high school at the end of The Freshman but her class protector status is broken. There is more at play and we have our brief glimpse of the Initiative soldiers to remind us of that. College isn’t as anonymous as the big bad city as Doyle puts it, where everyone’s a stranger, but it is when you start. And here we meet Parker who mirrors the sexual predator in AtS, disguising his true self and using the scenario of the freshman intake to prey on those that are new and unsuspecting. He is charming from the get-go and when he offers to watch Buffy’s back in the lunch queue he checks her out and it is almost like you can literally see him (with hindsight) deciding to start his play. He is being funny and helpful and is in it for the result, so he is happy to take his time with his tried and tested routine.

                              And the first Parker moment leads on to Xander’s inclusion in the cafeteria. I find Buffy’s (assumed to be fully souled) sarcasm directed at him about his presence on campus really annoying. In many ways he is satisfying what she would rather have in presenting the opportunity to keep her routine with meeting up with the gang and it was him being there for her last episode that boosted her confidence. But it seems getting interest from Parker is a step towards fitting in here where she hasn’t felt at ease and so perhaps Xander’s presence as a reminder of her slay-life reality is unwelcome straight after. The fact that his reply that his parents are asking him to pay for food is ignored is horrible. It can be seen as a perfect Xander moment fitting what Dipstick was pointing out about the effect his humour defence has and that this is why no one seems to register or react to what is very probably a truthful statement. NB’s slight flickered small smile looks so sad though it was, imo, for once said with a real note of pain to it that was hard to ignore. And it is not just Buffy, it is also followed up by Willow changing the topic to Parker. I think Willow wants to focus on Parker too because she wants Buffy to feel more comfortable in college like she is and, as we discussed around Faith, Hope and Trick, Willow tends to want to see Buffy paired up because she perceives an active romantic life as needed to be completely happy. So now, in the wake of Angel yet again, she is encouraging Buffy to look for a new guy and focusing on that. She is probably also somewhat desensitised to Xander’s rubbish family life too.

                              Buffy’s attitude towards Xander could also be put down to a degree as dismissing him as someone that is still at home and therefore not branching out into ‘mature adult life’ like she feels perhaps she/Willow are. The comment he should ‘get out of the basement a little more’ in the cafeteria scene uncomfortably follows the earlier questioning of why he is there and ignoring his reality and sounds judgemental. Xander is not being supported emotionally or it would seem particularly financially by his parents and he will spend the season trying to find direction and it does mirror the situation Cordelia is in who also is without parental support and living a far more gritty day-to-day reality compared to what Buffy and Willow are experiencing I think. But they are just different paths to growing up and sometimes one highlights areas of remaining immaturity in the other and vise versa.

                              So it is clear that the gang are still in this interim adjustment period and I like that it is shown in interesting little ways like the dissonance between Xander and Buffy/Willow. Also, as Skippcomet noted, Giles’ apartment will become Scoobie central and Buffy turning up there again this episode is a starting hint. The way the gang have a couple of meetings in the communal spaces at college shows how they are trying to nudge and find what works for them. But Willow’s perceived need to explain Giles’ presence - “He’s our grown-up friend. N-not in a creepy way” – emphasises that it seems strange and inappropriate even for them to gather there, a group that are theoretically keeping a secret identity. I also feel sure Kathy was listening in before she came forward and played her line of also having had the same nightmare as Buffy which underlines the downside to such busy open places like there/the cafeteria. It gave her the opportunity to play a pretty smart deflection from herself as she was then lumped in as another identified victim. As an aside Kathy is playing it pretty well and also looks to set up the expectation that Buffy might take off/disappear too. There is a bit of an unsettling repeat there to last episode that the ‘you’ that arrives at college can be forever lost, but that does work as a truth alongside branching out and growing up.

                              I find Oz’s comment about fitting in to do the girly best friend thing an interesting moment as it is totally in support of Willow and about being sensitive to her worries. So really he is doing the girly best friend thing for her through doing what she needs to support Buffy. Perhaps this side of Oz, the more stereotypically feminine traits in being perceptive of moods and sensitive, is part of what attracts Willow to him that fits alongside her future sexuality. It is somewhat at odds though with his blind spot in the risks his wolf side will bring up and yet ties with his own need to get away to get more personal control in that area of his life and feel more level with it before he wants to be back around Willow again. And that choice happens then regardless of how much it hurts Willow in the way he shuts her out to focus on doing that. So it works well that this moment where he is heading out to do Willow’s girly best friend thing is also the moment in the episode that we see Oz and Veruca first pass and sense each other.

                              Couple of odd comments, I quite like that pretty randomly Kathy sees the bag full of weapons in Buffy’s closet but is seemingly totally disinterested and stays focused on getting her sweater revenge! Also, in a follow up to last episode, despite being somewhat worried about her manner and somewhat disbelieving of what she is telling them, the gang comes together and solves the danger with Willow and Giles restoring Buffy’s soul just in the nick of time (although I think the skinless face would have given it away anyhoo. ).

                              Favourite line in this ep…
                              
Oz: Nobody deserves a mime, Buffy.

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