Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Buffy: Lie to Me (2.7)

An important feeling that rattles through most of season two is the sense of ambiguity that the show repeatedly explores. Characters throughout the season exhibit multi-faceted qualities, a complexity that several of the characters amusingly make reference to themselves. Even as we enter season two, the days where things are simply black or white are long gone. We've entered the scary area of moral ambiguity, where decisions are made based not only on what is right or wrong, but are affected by the fact that real people are involved. Ford isn't a nice person. He's willing to sacrifice his best friend, he's willing to sacrifice the lives of dozens of deluded teenagers. But he isn't a villain. He's wounded by the cancer that is destroying his body, and in his desperation is prepared to do something abhorrent. Joss Whedon forces complexity on his leads, pushing Buffy into an unsure world where morals aren't as distinct and obvious as she once thought.

At the same time, Buffy is forced to discover who Angel really is. There are the illusions that he's a 'good vampire', a naïve belief that he's exactly the person Buffy has known for the last two years, and that's pretty much him. But Lie to Me forces Buffy to see Angel not just as a shadowy, mysterious love interest, but an otherworldly creature with a horrifying history of murder and sadistic torture. While she's still in love with him, there's that feeling of reducing him to the deeply flawed vampire that he is, not the tortured romantic of a teenage girl's dream.

Lie to Me is also notable for being the first episode to remove certain elements on the show from their traditional 'zones', fitting with the theme of deceit running through the episode. We see Willow's bedroom, we get insight into her home life, and through Angel asking her for help, we watch as she splits away from the Scoobies when she believes things there are a little 'off'. Angel himself is also becoming less restrained to Buffy's world, continuing to interact with several of the rest of the cast in the process, something that feeds into the rest of the season as a whole.

This episode quite beautifully contrasts the horror carnage of the series with the more character-driven storytelling. Sunnydale itself is explored slightly via The Sunset Club, a group of sad Goth-y teens who believe vampirism is their salvation; while Spike and Drusilla are utilized far more successfully than they were in Halloween last episode. Drusilla, in particular, is terrifying here; the opening teaser sequence a masterclass in sustained tension and horror.

But the characterization is where the episode becomes a classic. The cast are becoming so rich and dynamic as the show goes on, a bunch of deeply flawed people slowly coming to terms with the trauma of adult life and the occasional bouts of misery that comes along with it. The final sequence is beautiful, Buffy desperate to cling onto that last sliver of innocence she has. Another masterpiece. A+

Guest stars Robia La Morte (Jenny Calendar); James Marsters (Spike); Jason Fehr (Billy Fordham); Jarrad Paul (Marvin/Diego); Juliet Landau (Drusilla)
Writer Joss Whedon Director Joss Whedon

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