Monday, March 26, 2012

Buffy: Normal Again (6.17)

There's an interesting story in here somewhere, and you can understand why the writers would want to explore what in general is a cool idea, but Normal Again struggles to be coherent as an episode. The pacing is horrible, certain elements of the story fail to resonate, and there's a gradual sense of redundancy to the whole thing. It's the first and only episode credited to Diego Guttierez, and it's unfortunate that the script stumbles from one strange subplot to another, failing to produce a ton of internal logic as the whole thing spins into weird, unexplainable directions.

The wonderful Sarah Michelle Gellar runs into the episode with total conviction, and she perfectly conveys that sense of her world rapidly crumbling to pieces around her, as well as her gradual coming-around to the possibility that there's an actual explanation for why so much of her life has been miserable lately. That is actually the strongest element of the story, Guttierez referencing the recent woes of Buffy and her friends, as well as Buffy's own death and the weakness of the Evil Trio as antagonists. It's that final acknowledgment that season six has been a little choppy, things happening for no discernible reason a lot of the time.

However, everything kind of runs away from the episode soon after. There's that ridiculous moment where Buffy confesses that she once spent time in an institution after telling her parents about vampires (continuity be damned...), as well as a series of painfully repetitive scenes in which Buffy rounds on every single damn one of her friends and knocks them unconscious. It almost becomes a running joke after a while -- yep, Willow's down. Then Xander. Then Dawn. And hey, there's Tara inexplicably showing up!

Throw in some more fugly Dawn whining and a weirdly inconsequential Evil Trio appearance, and Normal Again slowly grinds into nothingness. Sarah gives it her all, but she's let down by an annoying script that never seems to justify the episode's central premise. D+

Guest stars Danny Strong (Jonathan Levinson); Adam Busch (Warren Meers); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Dean Butler (Hank Summers); Michael Warren (Doctor); Kirsten Nelson (Lorraine Ross); Amber Benson (Tara Maclay); Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers)
Writer Diego Guttierez Director Rick Rosenthal


  1. I haven't seen this in a while, but I only ever have great things to say about it.

    You made some interesting points though, I'm curious to see if my opinion changes when I watch it again.

    Great review, they always make for a fun read.

  2. How weird Max. I haven't seen this in years although I remember liking it, but more importantly, it's always on EVERYONE's best episodes list! You have quite the controversial opinion on this one! I am now dying to rewatch it and see if it holds up!

  3. Really, Nad? I'm aware that some people love this episode, but I don't recall it being some huge episode that everybody ranked up there with the very best?

  4. This review is interesting in contrast with the Brain Drain one you did for Charmed. I actually liked the idea of them leaving the door open on that cliffhanger but in the Charmed review you praised it for letting the audience know it was a scheme. I agree that the pacing of this episode wasn't the best but its strong enough for at least a C rating.

  5. Well, I've mostly heard people complaining about the open ending because they felt offended by the writers let them think, after 6 seasons, that it was all a madwoman dream.
    I was bored by the Charmed episode because that was just another big bad guy of the week, wherease in Buffy there was more at stake. It starts the same way, it's the villain who starts it all but as the story unfolds you have legitimate doubts about what's real or not. Things have been so tough on Buffy lately, and here are her parents (Joyce! Alive!), willing to take care of her, and I really wanted her to be better, to be okay. So I did feel the dilemma she had. Buffy confessing she's been in an institution seemed a little bit out of the hat, but the scene was crushing and gave ground to her own doubts. Was she in an institution all along? It's horrifying just to think about it. This season is really meta, and this episode, by acknowledging all the crazy fantastic stuffs that happens all the time in the show, is on track.