Monday, May 28, 2012

Buffy: The Killer in Me (7.13)

It's always unfortunate when a series caves into fan pressure, writing in plot developments to service the audience rather than push a story that feels at all organic. Then again, it's also annoying when series seem to go out of their way to not satisfy their audience, arrogantly lecturing viewers on how they shouldn't automatically get what they want. Willow really suffered as a character in season seven because her one major story arc felt like perpetual fan service, events occurring to quiet down a vocally hostile minority within Buffy fandom rather than portray something that made sense from a character perspective.

Tara's murder created this ridiculous paranoia within fan circles about Willow's further development, the same people whining about Tara's death being a homophobic attack now fearing that the show would try and de-gay Willow, removing not only Amber Benson from the show but also any shred of Will's sapphic orientation. Ignoring the delusion of that particular panic, it's something the show seemed to cave into -- forgoing any internal consistency and instead writing in an obnoxious new female love interest for Willow, not formed on a tight bond or chemistry or attraction, but on the fact that she's essentially the first lesbian to stumble into Willow's life since Tara died. It's a horrible decision.

While their were obvious differences in the genital department, Xander, Oz and Tara were all similar people. All three were slightly introverted, awkward around others and misunderstood by the social majority. Willow saw that in each person, and that was really the foundation of her love for them. Obviously sexual attraction is all relative, but it seems unlikely that Willow would suddenly break this pattern and strike up a relationship with a bratty, petulant teenager who signals her sexual urges with all the subtlety of your average Coors commercial. Even worse, she dubs magic -- the entire focus of Willow's identity and the source of all her confidence -- 'fairy tale crap', something that absurdly doesn't even seem to rattle our favorite red-headed witch. It's just an incredibly forced relationship, the two actresses failing to convey any hint of chemistry, Iyari Limon putting across the most contrived 'I'm really, really into you' vibe that I've seen since middle school theatre productions.

Away from Kennedy's involvement, however, Willow's A-plot wasn't actually as terrible as I remembered it being. Until its twisty climax, it successfully tied into Same Time, Same Place with Willow's belief that she's constantly sabotaging her own existence -- all radiating from her own inner torment at the memory of losing Tara. It's an important story for Willow, and like last week's focus on Dawn, sees the show once again exploring more character-driven stories in a year that is rapidly becoming swamped by Spuffy angst and slayerette whining.

Alyson Hannigan is also especially strong here, rooting her pain in guilt and distrust, as well as working wonders when Warren's personality begins to bleed into her's. She's actually frightening, notably in that chilling moment where she purchases the gun. Amy, turning in her final appearance, also gets an interesting closer. Sure, her story doesn't feel entirely finished and her quick change into villainous pariah is still hard to swallow, but I liked her explicit bitterness over both Willow's abilities as well as her apparent ease in life, despite the pain she inflicted just a couple of months ago. It's similar to Anya's story in Selfless, another example of the series exploring retribution and punishment and how it can be bent depending on your own emotional investment in the person involved. Amy was casually dismissed by Willow last year because she wasn't exactly a huge part of her life, unlike the Scoobies welcoming Willow back with open arms following her rehabilitation with Giles -- and you can understand why Amy would feel wounded by that.

Elsewhere, the rest of the cast are squandered in two weak subplots, both of which feature big ideas that aren't at all given the time they probably deserved. Although, in the case of the Giles mystery, I really shouldn't be complaining. Spike's story is interesting in theory, but it rapidly descends into badly-lit scenes in abandoned government bases. I'm also missing Buffy being actively involved with the Scooby Gang, since she seems so wrapped up with both Spike and the Potentials lately. Additionally, the Sleeper cliffhanger proves to be a major fail. The show spent weeks turning Giles into an emotionally cold and intentionally distant shadow of his former self, all in the service of a story that served absolutely no purpose in the long run and wound up being casually wrapped up with a comedy molestation gag. It's a total crock.

Alyson Hannigan, Elizabeth Anne Allen and the exploration into Willow's psyche provide the only moments of interest here, the rest of the hour being pretty disposable -- and in the Kennedy hoodoo, plain toxic. Then again, it did have a tone that didn't exactly bug me, presumably because the ensemble of potentials didn't make an appearance. That definitely means something, show. C+

Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Adam Busch (Warren Meers); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy Madison); Megalyn Echikunwoke (Vaughne); Rif Hutton (General)
Writer Drew Z. Greenberg Director David Solomon


  1. Hey, Max...

    I've been reading your Buffy reviews for a while, but I never find the time to post comments (they'd be long). But this time I have to say: what an awesome review! You articulated so well what's wrong with Willow's development on season 7. Even though I'm not a Kennedy hater, I loved what you had to say about her as well.

    Great review all around.

  2. It's interesting reading your reviews, because you point out stuff I'm a little oblivious to a lot of the time. Everything you've said here is pretty accurate, and I'm right there with you on the Kennedy/Willow hatin' train. Although, Kennedy herself isn't as horrific as people say she is. I'm glad you didn't mention Amy's comic book appearance. As far as I'm concerned that continuation in no way canon.

    Great review as always.

  3. Lamounier Thank you so much. It's hugely rewarding to hear that, and thanks for finding the site and reading my stuff.

    Panda Yeah, as much as they insist it is, I don't consider the comics canon at all. They're just too alien from the show to work at all. And I actually really dislike Kennedy, and I speak more about her as a character removed from her relationship in the next couple of weeks. It's her actual personality and the way she was really pushed by the show that entirely rattled me.

    1. I know you posted this years ago but Right On! I didn't hate that Kennedy was rude and pushy, that's actually OK in terms of interesting characters. I hated that she was just butted in and her whole reason for being seemed to just be to remind us that *Hey! Don't forget that Willow's gay!* Every other significant other had to Earn their Scooby Membership: Angel had to, Jenny Calendar had to, Anya had to,Tara really had to and Spike never did. All those characters had major story develoment to make us really care about them. So it just rubs me wrong to have Kennedy just plugged in like her opinion matters and we already know her just because she's Willow's new squeeze.