Doublemeat Palace is a strange beast, something that looks and feels a lot like something the show would casually dispense in its first season, only with the depressive melancholy that has become season six's trademark. Even after watching it at least a couple of times since it first aired, I'm still unsure whether it's a good episode or not. To praise it, Jane Espenson's script is pretty funny, while the most inventive element is the use of meat as metaphor. Lengthy shots show Buffy watching as the burger meat becomes processed and identical, an unfortunate depiction of burger joints pushing the idea of conformity, turning employees into meat-dispensing machines and stopping any shred of individual identity. It's a strong message, but the rest of the hour feels a little contrived.
As this season progresses, it feels a lot like the writers have a pocket of ideas but are struggling to run with them in a logical way. I talked about it more in my review for Flooded, but it seems silly that Buffy would toil away at a greasy burger bar when she could earn more and not feel as soulless working as a bodyguard or even a cop. I don't believe Buffy would end up at the Doublemeat Palace, and unfortunately it's that idea that you need to run with in order to totally enjoy this episode.
It's also plagued by the same problem that affected episodes like All the Way and Ted, in that the 'suspected' antagonist is actually far more interesting than the actual bad guy. Here it sounds pretty squicky and interesting if the Doublemeat food was in fact 'people'. It's a total Soylent Green pastiche, but at least it would be something fresh for the Buffyverse. Instead, it turns out to be an elaborate red herring; the real bad guy being some demonic old lady with a huge penis on her head. Blah. It's a missed opportunity.
Don't get me wrong, there are some amusing parts to this episode (I love the Halfrek debut), but too much feels lazy and anti-climactic, like the weird Amy subplot ('Abracadabra! Now you can, um, melt things!') and the out-of-place discussion about Dawn's future. I also don't think there's any Buffyverse image more depressing than the sight of Spike and Buffy porking against the wall of a burger bar, right next to a dumpster. I need a shower after seeing that. D+
Guest stars Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy Madison); Pat Crawford Brown (Wig Lady); Brent Hinkley (Manny); Kirsten Nelson (Lorraine Ross); Kali Rocha (Halfrek)
Writer Jane Espenson Director Nick Marck