Monday, March 19, 2012

Buffy: As You Were (6.15)

This is another example of the show dumping all over Buffy for no reason other than making her more miserable than ever. While you can still understand a lot of her sadness, this is really the point where her constant humiliation becomes almost laughable. It's bad enough that she's working at a burger joint, but here comes her uninterested ex, then some awkward flirtation on her part, then the arrival of his wife, and finally an awkward bedroom encounter between the ex and her sleazy new lover. It's all overtly fetishistic, as if the writers were intent on dragging her down to the lowest ebbs of human crumminess.

Riley, of course, represents freedom and excitement, something the restrained Buffy energetically throws herself into. Not only does Riley fly around South America with his Initiative buddies, he's also still handsome and strong and far easier to handle than any of her other romantic possibilities, including the tricky vampire she's engaged in an abusive love affair with. Of course, Buffy essentially throws herself at Riley through several scenes of embarrassing sensuality, only for it all to come crashing down on her when Riley's new wife appears on the scene, as well as the moment when Riley discovers that Buffy's life has spun into some pretty depressing corners.

Atypically for season six, As You Were actually ends on an emotional high note, with Buffy gaining a new sense of perspective and finding herself again. Riley comes off really well throughout the episode, seemingly together as a person and eager to help Buffy regain her confidence and self-belief. Their final scene is filled with that tender awareness of the love they once shared, as well as the obvious acknowledgment of how far they've moved on as people, and I thought it was brilliantly performed by both actors.

With that in mind, it's unfortunate that so much else here is pretty disposable and contrived. The demon element is particularly asinine, especially the superfluous twist with Spike revealed as a black market demon trafficker known as 'the Doctor'. And Sam Finn's brief bonding session with Willow only drives home how lame her entire 'magic addiction' arc was.

But As You Were, on its most obvious level, succeeds in bringing to a close most of Buffy's season six lethargy. There are problems along the way, but the end result and Buffy's final break-up with Spike are both pretty rewarding. It's about damn time that the show moved onto a new chapter. C+

Guest stars Marc Blucas (Riley Finn); Ivana Milicevic (Sam Finn)
Writer Douglas Petrie Director Douglas Petrie

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