Monday, May 21, 2012

Buffy: Showtime (7.11)

Rewatching a series again gives you a unique perspective far removed from the one you held when the show originally aired. You have the benefit of hindsight, as well as the ability to form opinions that aren't necessarily clouded by rapid fandom experiencing it at the exact same time, week by week. Maturity also plays a more personal role for me, since I had barely hit my teens when I first watched this way back in 2002. I bring all this up because the potential slayers are almost universally maligned, and I use the word 'almost' purely out of respect for the, what, two or three people out there who actually dug them. But before I watched season seven again, I wondered if fandom had created that opinion for me when I was just an impressionable kid -- a sort of pack mentality that we all ran with? Were the potentials really that terrible?

Showtime, as bad an episode as it is on its known, only goes to prove that the potentials really are that terrible. But the problem with them runs far deeper than simply bad casting or horrifying accents, the potentials being truly ill-conceived characters from the get-go. The main thrust of this episode involves Buffy being unable to convince the slayers-in-training that she can guide them to safety, especially with a seemingly unstoppable uber-vamp hot on their tails. David Fury's script portrays this with a ton of dialogue in which the potentials gripe about Buffy and undermine everything she does or says, believing that they'd be better off elsewhere. The fact that this doesn't work at all is at the very crux of the potentials themselves: we don't know these girls, and their obnoxious attitudes don't exactly make us want to know them either. As a result, who really gives a damn if Rona (who complains in literally every line of dialogue she has -- and I'm using the word 'literally' correctly) skedaddles and gets carved up by the Turok-Han? Our sympathy doesn't lie with any of the girls here, and therefore their entire purpose and the pushing of them as the Scooby Gang's first and only line of defense fails miserably.

Sure, the show could have better introduced them and made their personalities a little more palatable and multi-dimensional, but that would have taken even more screen-time away from our leads. And it already feels wrong that characters like Xander, Willow, Dawn and Anya are getting filler dialogue on their own show. In general, the entire creation of the potential slayers was a terrible idea that never, ever could have worked coherently, whichever way the writers could have chosen to run with them.

Showtime itself doesn't really work in spite of the potentials, either. Iyari Limon's delivery hits Rose McGowan levels of incoherence frequently, while too much of the Scooby-centric stories feel like weaker remakes of the events in Bring on the Night -- Spike's torture wasn't hugely absorbing last week, but at least we had Juliet Landau around to offer some semblance of spark. Finally, the big fight sequence is technically impressive, but can't salvage the overall weakness of the story and the inadequacy of the Turok-Han as a nemesis for Buffy.

The one glimmer of interest, in which we're told that the First's plan was only set in motion due to Buffy's resurrection messing up the slayer line, is rendered moot as it's shockingly never mentioned again. It's an idea that suddenly turns what has been up till now a non-charismatic antagonist into an all-together more personal big bad for Buffy, as well as those of her friends directly involved in the events of Bargaining -- but it's completely forgotten about after this episode, for unknown reasons.

I came into season seven with real hope that it would turn out slightly better than I had remembered it, and the early episodes were universally spectacular -- but settling into this current arc, it's just as annoying and dramatically ineffectual as it was ten years ago. And, for me, that's really sad. D

Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Clara Bryant (Molly); Indigo (Rona); Amanda Fuller (Eve)
Writer David Fury Director Michael Grossman


  1. One of the things that always bothered me about the whole potential thing is that they mentioned many times that they were waiting for Buffy to die for one of them to possibly become the Slayer. But this is not true. Buffy already died and activated Kendra, who died and activated Faith. Buffy died again and there was no new Slayer.
    I don't know why Buffy, Giles, or even Willow or one of the others that actually lived thru this and understands it never said anything.
    Even when Faith arrives nothing is said to clarify things. they only tho out some line about it being complicated that there are two Slayers.
    I kinda actually am one of those people that dug the potentials. One of the reasons was that they were dipping into the Disney show reservoir for their actresses and I had watched the shows from which they had come. But I agree that it wasn't handled as well as it should have been or that I would have expected for Buffy.

  2. I've always loved this episode, just based purely on the whole excitment of it all, with the big showdown with the turo-khan and that fight scene at the end, but you made some great points about this season's flaws. The potentials were never going to work THAT well, like you said, but I was never that bothered by them. I didn't love them, but there was the odd moment of fun with them, especially later on, so I could never really hate them, even during subsequent re-watches.

    Just in response to the comment above, I think that Buffy's second death didn't activate a slayer because she had already died, and activated her replacement, which made her second death null and void as far as a replacement goes. As far as the slayer line goes, she had been dead since Prophecy Girl.

  3. There's definitely an error in there, but it's more to do with them pushing Buffy as the active slayer, when she's actually entirely irrelevant. The line goes through Faith now, and her death would activate a new slayer.

    But I guess they couldn't have Buffy be written as irrelevant this season. Then again, they sort of ditch the whole 'slayer lineage' thing and focus more on Buffy's isolation as time goes on, so maybe they recognized their own goofage.

  4. urgh, I hated the potentials. Especially Kennedy. Where exactly does she get off telling Buffy, an actual slayer, what to do? Like Kennedy has done anything ever. She's just some stuck-up, selfish girl. And after Tara as well, who was so nice and sweet.

  5. It was her arrogance that just blew up any chance of her being likable. I write a lot about her in the coming weeks, especially with The Killer in Me and her general presence on the show soon after. It's wrong, wrong, wrong. Heh.

    Thanks for reading, Kay.

  6. I'm also no fan of the potentials. My question is how the writers ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. "Hey, let's go round up a big group of super average, completely unknown, annoying, and uninteresting girls and throw them in every one of the precious last few episodes - we could even have them constantly complain about all of the beloved main characters. Wouldn't the fans just love that?" Ugh!

  7. I get what they were trying to do with the message of the final run and the themes that they ended up conveying really well, but the girls themselves were badly cast and written especially bad. They didn't ingratiate themselves well at all.

  8. I too find it immensely frustrating that they never revisited the reason this was all happening being a result of bringing Buffy back especially in "Empty Places"....."Empty Spaces?" Whichever. That's the exact thing that got my blood boiling. I feel like that would have been the best thing for Buffy to throw back in their face in the midst of the most ridiculous mutiny I have ever witnessed. That scene, to this day, still makes me scream at the screen.