This is season four's grand explanation episode, the inevitable 'let's stop and actually work out the intricate workings that we've been blindly stumbling through' hour full of elaborate exposition, revelatory flashbacks and mass theorizing. It winds up being more or less a lengthy info-dump, but it's pretty fantastic that so much of it actually makes sense. This has been a particularly dense season, with a story that rapidly unfolded week after week with little breathing room, and it's admirable to see the writers explain away potential loop-holes and some of the wackier characterization this year. As I keep repeating, on second viewing this season is surprisingly logical.
That's not to say that Inside Out is entirely successful, though. It's ridiculously rewarding to see Cordelia take out Manny and the priestesses, as well as bag Angel's soul and misdirect the Angel team with fake visions and shady rituals, but it's during Skip's monologue that the story sort of loses me. When he reveals that seemingly every development over the last four seasons (and presumably everything that happened before that on Buffy) was engineered by this year's big bad, in effect it kind of cheapens all of it. If they had just stated that this mass manipulation started up last season with Cordy's evolution in Birthday and further with her ascension in Tomorrow, it could have still held together. But dragging the entire history of this show into it makes everything seem a little schlocky and ridiculous. Sure, it makes a surprising amount of sense, but it still feels like an elaborate retcon designed to piss everybody off. And while it's canon, like the convoluted mess of the Buffy season eight comic books -- I tend to ignore the damn thing. I like to think this big bad engineered certain things, but is merely taking credit for the others, purely out of her own malevolence.
Elsewhere, this is really the capper to the Connor/Cordelia saga, brought to a chilling resolution with the appearance of Darla and Connor's continued deliberations over his allegiances. Connor himself remains a tragic figure, with so many people desperate for him to do the right thing, but constantly being seduced into committing acts of evil by the crazed succubus that is Evil Cordy. The closer to all this, with Connor dragging that poor girl to her murder and Cordelia hacking into her with a meat cleaver, is terrifying -- the tinkly score, Cordelia's sadistic glee, Darla fading into the background... Gah. It's awful in the greatest possible way.
Inside Out isn't perfect, and sometimes crumbles under the weight of its own narrative complexity, but the ideas present are wonderfully depicted, while it again pushes the season into another unexpected direction. B
Guest stars Gina Torres (Jasmine); David Denman (Skip); Stephi Lineburg (The Girl); Julie Benz (Darla)
Writer Steven S. DeKnight Director Steven S. DeKnight