Monday, May 14, 2012

Buffy: Bring on the Night (7.10)

Bring on the Night succumbs almost immediately to the problems I mentioned last episode, and only gets worse at it goes along. Season seven showcases the perils of reaching for a 'big finish', in that setting up an enormous final battle results in things getting mighty crowded. This episode sees the return of Giles, as well as the shitstorm of suck that are the potentials -- a strange decision that forces most of the actual regular cast to take a back-seat to bad accents, contrived whining and horrible plot twists. Like Never Leave Me, the hour is entirely watchable, but the badness here far outweighs any of its rewarding qualities.

Annoyingly, Giles is a major problem this week, and remains so for the entire season. His return is marred by this ridiculous subplot where we're supposed to wonder if he's dead or not, that end-of-Sleeper cliffhanger given absolutely no resolution -- leading to an hour where we can't help but notice that he's not touching anyone, and therefore could very much be the First in disguise. It's difficult to articulate my opinions on this without traveling to Spoilerville, but Giles himself is woefully out-of-character throughout the episode, not only with his hand-in-pocket isolation from the Scoobies, but also in his casual dumping of the world's problems onto Buffy. He's suddenly clueless, appears to have lost the tact and protective guidance that made his character so warm back in the day, and has also brought with him to Sunnydale a threesome who are about as welcome as a severe case of herpes. Thanks a lot, Rupert.

The potentials themselves are entirely deserving of their less-than-shitty reputation. Kennedy, the loudest of the three introduced here, is brash and instantly obnoxious, bashing Buffy's abilities and being incapable of piping down in situations that don't at all merit her opinion. Then there's her clunky flirtation with Willow, but more on that in the coming weeks. Cockney horror Molly speaks like a Neanderthal, the writing team throwing the whole book of British dialogue clich├ęs at her ("Brill, biscuits!" -- aagghh!) At least uptight Annabelle grants us the pleasure of being a complete moron who runs straight into the claws of the Turok-Han before the end-credits roll. She seemed like she had a real bug up her ass.

The rest of Bring on the Night is more or less a collection of moments of varying impact. Buffy is tired yet determined, leading to a fight with the uber-vamp that leaves her horribly beaten. Her visions of Joyce are actually sort of sweet, and since we never get any follow-through on them, I like to think that it's Buffy's own subconscious speaking to her, not just another incarnation of the First. Considering there are some subtle saving-the-world clues that permeate Joyce's dialogue, it wouldn't make sense for it to be evil incarnate speaking through Mom. Buffy's final speech is also really affecting, a rousing testament to her own power and ability to lead an army. It's grand and melodramatic, but I like seeing Buffy's latest evolution. It's sort of humorless and cold, but it fits in well with her characterization earlier this season and how she needs to grow in order to save the day.

It's always neat to see Drusilla, and while her scenes with Spike seem more like fan-service than anything else, Juliet Landau looks great and always manages to convey abject nuttiness, even if Spike was pretty adamant that the First never quite captured her aura. Elsewhere, Andrew is fun, and Dawn and Anya's brief team-up as torture junkies is ridiculously entertaining.

Like last week though, Bring on the Night isn't the sum of its parts, those individual sparks failing to turn around what is generally a flat or alternately cringe-worthy episode. If anything, it's just frustrating that a season that started with so much subtle intensity and fine character work is about to sacrifice both its remarkable ensemble as well as its narrative resonance. C-

Credits
Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Clara Bryant (Molly); Courtnee Draper (Annabelle); Juliet Landau (Drusilla); DB Woodside (Principal Robin Wood)
Writers Marti Noxon, Douglas Petrie Director David Grossman

2 comments:

  1. You're too funny when you hate something.... so hilarious! Thank goodness no one accepts those two as sounding English, it must have been difficult for Anthony- maybe that's why he was so shifty. But I half like the cranked up English dialogue, it's so funny being reminded of all the obscure words we have being used so determinedly! Kennedy is the worst of them though, what's her problem.
    I thought Buffy's dreams were true versions of Joyce also. It did creep me out a little bit for second though as a reminder of that horrible waking up/mental institution episode they did.

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  2. That's true about Anthony. He could have had at least offered some accent lessons or whatever. Heh.

    And, yeah, the visions were a little Normal Again-ish. But I really disliked that episode, so I was happy we didn't get something like a re-run of that whole thing.

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