Monday, June 11, 2012

Buffy: Dirty Girls (7.18)

Dirty Girls represents a necessary shot in the arm, especially in light of a run of episodes that didn't seem to know how to work around the First's issues as an antagonist. Caleb, as overblown as he is, is a more tangible threat -- somebody with personality and physical force, who could provide the upcoming finale with at least one villain that can be dispatched on screen. He's also a character that fits strongly into this season's major themes, if lacking any real subtlety. Caleb represents male patriarchy, a caricature of an extreme misogynist who makes Warren look like Gloria Steinem in comparison, the complete antithesis of Buffy's feminine strength and an important antagonist for the last run of episodes.

However, it goes without saying that Buffy's feminine strength ends up hideously backfiring here. Ever since mid-season, Buffy has been trying to discover the right approach for the coming war, settling on this balls-to-the-wall military general vibe, barking orders and becoming emotionally detached. In other words, it's stereotypically male behavior. But by failing to listen to her friend's worries and by using the potentials as cannon fodder, Buffy is left alone and vulnerable, the raid on the vineyard resulting in mass dissent, bloody murder, and eye-gouging.

Xander's attack has been foreshadowed all year, with repeated references to the source of his power (his 'sight') as well as his ability to fix and emotionally heal the wounds of those around him. The gouge-party itself is horribly brutal, with Nicholas Brendon's scream blood-curdling in its awfulness. Brutal is pretty much the right word for that entire scene, especially Caleb casually tossing everybody around. Although a very bad, bad part of myself couldn't help but cheer when he broke Rona's whiny arm. Or when he killed that British chippy. Heh.

Even before the carnage, Dirty Girls perks up with the arrival of Faith, who is entirely badass here. Her presence naturally resuscitates the drama, especially since Eliza Dushku seems to have chemistry with anyone who crosses her path. Her interaction with Buffy is always sort of catty and ambiguous, but it's her chemistry with Spike that's the real surprise here. Like Angel, Faith seems to bond easily with similarly reformed villains, but there's also this intense sexual charge to her banter with Spike. They bounce off each other so well, especially when they're discussing their prior interaction in Who Are You?, as well as the heat generating right before Buffy turns up. As Andrew would say, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife! Aww, Faith.

I'm still having overriding problems with season seven, especially when it comes to the frequently invisible Buffy ensemble, but Dirty Girls marks a step in the right direction for the show. Some of it is wildly overblown at this point, but the writers are taking Buffy into some dark directions -- the distress and self-doubt before the storm. You can't help but feel for her. A-

Credits
Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Eliza Dushku (Faith); Nathan Fillion (Caleb); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Indigo (Rona); Clara Bryant (Molly); Sarah Hagan (Amanda); Kristy Wu (Chao-Ahn); DB Woodside (Principal Robin Wood)
Writer Drew Goddard Director Michael Gershman

3 comments:

  1. I've always loved this one, mostly because of Caleb's arrival, which you already discussed. I really liked what you wrote about him representing some misogynistic opposition to the whole Slayer empowerment. And having a physical threat makes things a little more exciting.

    Great review. And, hey, only two more weeks of Buffy reviews 'till you've finished the series; that's nuts!

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  2. Three, actually. Next week is my big annual commentary thing, so normal scheduling is postponed for a week. But, yeah, ending soon!

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  3. Great, looking forward to reading those!

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