Monday, April 16, 2012

Buffy: Beneath You (7.2)

Buffy's attempted rape was such a huge plot development that it couldn't realistically be swept under the carpet, as much as I'm sure everybody hoped it would. Spike drove the story here, and improbably the show managed to make that horrible bathroom scene last season the root cause of so much Spike-centric pain. While it furthers that unintentional side effect I mentioned last season (forgiving the man who tried to sexually assault you), Spike's madness quickly becomes remarkably affecting. While his nuttiness occasionally nose-dives into silly rambling, there's a human quality to it explored in that gorgeously photographed final scene -- Spike wanted to become the man he hoped Buffy would love, thinking gaining a soul would release him of his inner guilt. But the pain is still there. Even putting on his Spike 'costume' doesn't work out anymore. It's aggressively powerful, and lays groundwork for an interesting year for Spike.

Beneath You generally plays on the rumbling warning signs hinted at last week. We once again get a kick-ass teaser (this time a techno-music Run Lola Run/Alias pastiche), the eerie introduction of season seven's trademark catchphrase ('From beneath you, it devours'), Willow fearful of what's to come, and uncomfortable earthquakes hitting Sunnydale. Of course, the latter is one of Anya's victims, inadvertently turned into an enormous Tremors monster by his wronged ex-girlfriend. Naturally.

The story remains one of my favorite standalone demon plots, with cool CGI, an awesomely comic book rescue scene at the end with Buffy becoming a Batgirl clone, Xander's inquisitive new love interest (who is unfortunately never seen again), as well as some fun banter derived from the Scooby Gang's incestuous dating history -- that look Xander and Spike share is hysterical. Anya is also being used really well this year, fully back in demon mode and attempting to salvage her rapidly-crumbling reputation in the vengeance community, while still holding tight some of those pesky human values that she's desperate to suppress.

Thinking about it, the entire cast is being used well this season. Even if they're more geographically scattered than ever before (Willow isn't even back in the country yet), they feel far more together than last year, Dawn in particular granted new dimension as a Scooby-in-training, and Xander having greater presence on the show. It feeds into the idea that this is a lighter, tighter Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The knowledge of imminent awfulness is crushing, but right now everything is pretty spectacular. A

Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Kaarina Aufranc (Nancy); DB Woodside (Principal Robin Wood)
Writer Douglas Petrie Director Nick Marck


  1. I honestly wouldn't consider whats to come "awfulness". It gets preachy and up its ass a little, but on the whole its fairly alright. It's weirdly gratifying when you write a positive review of an episode I like, so I hope you liked the finale to some degree!

    I love these two episodes, nothing you said is contestable really. REALLY anticipating re-watching (and reading your thoughts on) Help (a beautiful stand-alone) and Selfless (one of my all-time favourites).

    Great reviews =)

  2. I don't know, I'm nearing the end right now and it's become really scattered, and the character work isn't strong, either. The themes are there, but I think the execution has been pretty bad.

    But, yeah, this opening stretch is spectacular, especially the ones you mentioned.

  3. So disturbing..
    There was so much awkwardness in this episode and discomfort between everyone which I think was right actually. I wasn't so keen on Nancy at first but as soon as she became the onlooker I thought she was a good character, that's a shame she never appears again but I don't think I'd want her hanging around for too long anyway if she was going to be involved with Xander no thank you!
    It probably isn't unintentional though, uncomfortable but somehow Buffy does have to find a way into some kind of forgiveness- forgiveness but not forgetting. Who's to say how it should manifest itself but I just think it's the only way to move on because if you keep holding onto that it destroys you and continues to hurt again. Trust is the only true forgiveness and I don't think he'll be truly trusted in a long while. The assault was shocking and awful, but Spike's done a lot of terrible things too. Not on the same level, but I always thought his treatment of Harmony was horrible. I don't know what other plot devices they could've worked with instead but it does make these scenes and his return of his soul have some kind of a contrasting point. I think it makes more sense as a reason for it happening rather than just to have something bad happen to Buffy because I didn't quite know what to make of the assault at the time, it was confusing but it didn't make me hate him and think he should be vilified despite it being so upsetting and shocking. He was going slightly crazy then from the chip and Buffy's abuse towards him so it was another reminder to us in what ways he was evil and what being a vampire is. I think it was quite interesting that they didn't stop what was possible affecting Buffy just because she was Buffy but of course it's hurtful.

    He's a pitiable creature now.. I know they wanted to make it feel jarring but that sudden appearance of him in their house was so weird a bit ghostly, I think it would've been interesting to see how he got to that point of remembering how to look and act and where he got the bleach and clothes from. I knew something was up when he turned up wearing a blue belly top (how cruel do those words sound!) because it was off- just too tight and weird- plus the wrong colour- an exaggeration of himself, so that was really good work from the costume department =( plus the cinamatography was excellent in that final scene like you mentioned! How saddening though! =(!

  4. Absolutely. In these circumstances, you do sort of need to forgive, and at least (no spoilers) she spends a while trying to figure out her feelings for him, instead of instantly getting over it... which I don't think would be realistic or particularly moral. But Spike has always played an important part in her life, and they both abused one another last year. I don't know, I still have issues with that whole assault, but the follow-through wasn't as terrible as it could have been.

    And, yeah, weird clothing. But I think he was trying to find his 'costume', even though he was still crazed.

    Great episode, though.