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