Monday, February 20, 2012

Buffy: Tabula Rasa (6.8)

It makes sense that hot on the heels of so many revelations comes an episode that tries to stall total fallout of said revelations. It makes even more sense that Willow is the source of the stalling. Tabula Rasa is all over the place in terms of structure, with a weak opening, an even weaker start to the main crux of the episode, a fun third act, and a strong montage finale. It's pretty schizophrenic, which nicely sets up the messy quality of the rest of season six. But the dark places Tabula Rasa takes some of our characters is worthy of acclaim.

Tara has grown on me so much this season, especially considering I wanted to drive a high-speed train at her towards the back-end of season five. The storyline she's currently part of allows a real inner strength to shine through, a major improvement on her lovestruck eye-roll-worthy characterization when she was simply 'Willow's girlfriend'. Her argument with Willow is wonderfully played, with Amber Benson conveying so much nervous pain as she comes clean about her knowledge of the memory spell. Willow is still behaving outrageously, completely lying to Tara and refusing to even try and ease back on the magic. She's become insufferable, and I love that Tara finally called her on it and left the relationship. It's absolutely what she needed to do.

Elsewhere, I love the Buffy/Spike relationship. Buffy is still hostile towards him, but it's now rooted in her array of emotions after their kiss. She feels guilty, she's turned on by it, she hates that he saw her like that, she wants it to continue. It's a barrage of different feelings, and that closer with them in their own little world making out at the Bronze was such an effective shot. What they're doing is so challenging and in some ways wrong, but they can't help it.

The rest of Tabula Rasa is fine, if dented by some appalling writing. The loan shark demon was cringe-worthy (Charmed called and wants its villains back), and the dialogue as the Scoobies all woke up under their 'blank slate' felt contrived and ridiculous: a whole bunch of lines involving variations on "wha?", "huh?" and "who?" Gah.

But there's also a lot of fun in the gang piecing together their identities, from Anya's accidental conjuring of all the bunnies, to some of the silly dialogue ("Take it easy, Joan"; "Stay away from Randy!"). On a semi-related note, what is up with that painfully long shot of Willow and Tara getting all close in the underground sewer? It literally lasts for almost a whole minute as they're fumbling around looking both uncomfortable and mildly aroused. Yeesh. Tabula Rasa has some wonderful characterization, but falters a little at times. B-

Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Amber Benson (Tara Maclay)
Writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner Director David Grossman


  1. I didn't want the next one to be a stalling episode, kind of annoying that it was, probably mostly down to the waking up scene which I agree wasn't good at all! It felt like a group improvisation exercise.

    I didn't mind the loan shark villain too much actually, I thought it was terrible but he was so out of place and weirdly non consequential, it became a bit funny.

    I liked this review, summed everything up very nicely!

  2. Thanks, Maya. And I agree about the loan shark, thinking about it. He's pretty irrelevant despite being so incongruous as a character.

  3. I'm prolly about to be completely bias here because she is my favourite character, but I honestly feel bad for Willow in this episode. Obviously I feel bad for Tara too, but I always saw it that Willow had this reliance on magic because it sort of defined her, since before that she was good on a computer but that was pretty much it (aside from he general adorableness). It just always seemed to me that sometimes Buffy and Xander were written to be a bit insensitive towards her, particularly in the earlier seasons, and nobody ever called them on it. And she just developed a kind of dependance on magic that nobody actually actively ever tried to help her stop. All anybody did was ask her to stop!
    Sorry, rant over! But I just found your blog and have recently been on a re-watching spree myself!

  4. I agree with you, to an extent. I feel like she has a lot of inner turmoil, especially when it comes to how insecure she is and her worry about how others see her, but I think she took the magic thing way too far -- which probably goes without saying. She began messing with things beyond her control and ignoring the consequences, and completely violated Tara.

    But I agree that the Scoobies could have offered her a little more help. It's like taking away the stash of a junkie and then just walking away and letting them deal on their own...

    And thanks for reading, too.