Monday, June 11, 2012

Buffy: Lies My Parents Told Me (7.17)

I touched on it in my review for Get It Done, but Buffy's isolation is continuing to be the driving force this season. One of the most important moments here is Buffy's insistence that, in hindsight, she should have sacrificed Dawn in order to save the world back in The Gift. And that, with the final battle right around the corner, she is prepared to sacrifice the lives of her loved ones for the greater good. It's by far the most successful element of this season -- Buffy becoming the lone, emotionless warrior that she was always fearful of turning into, and her determination to ignore personal problems in a time of crisis. Just like I said two weeks ago, it's not particularly fun to see Buffy wind up this way, but it's an interesting direction to take her in... because it's Buffy becoming the person she assumes she has to be: "It's war, so I'll be the general." She's harsh and frequently creating dissent, but she feels as if she shouldn't care. She's the leader, and those feelings are what leaders should experience... right?

Another theme that runs through this episode involves parental roles, and how they can evolve over time. Wood only knew his mother as a child, a time when everything remains pretty black and white. Nikki, to him, was this beacon of virtue -- her killer, therefore, is a monster that deserves to die. Which, to be fair, is an absolutely valid opinion. But without his mother around and raised by a watcher presumably devastated by the death of his charge, he grew up without that moral ambiguity, still firmly believing Spike's guilt even after discovering all the good he's done.

Spike, on the other hand, only became truly soulless once he discovered his own mother's cruelty. Even after his siring, he still held a candle for her. But when Anne (an interesting name given the oedipal undercurrent running through the episode) became a vampire and taunted him over his weaknesses and what she considered his incestuous desires, any emotional ties Spike had to the mortal world were cut. What further changes this is his eventual epiphany about the literal monster within his mother, and how it was the vampire that was speaking, and not the woman he once knew as a human.

Further folding into this is Buffy's fluctuating relationship with Giles, but that's also the one area in which Lies My Parents Told Me crumbles. I refuse to believe that Giles would actually lie to her like he did, especially over something so uncertain. He argues that Angel left Sunnydale because he knew that being with Buffy was too risky, but there isn't a risk that Spike could lose his soul, and isn't his 'trigger' just as vague and potentially threatening as, say, Willow being consumed by evil again? Or Anya switching sides again? Even further, considering how close Buffy and Spike are, how exactly could Giles think killing Spike would do anything but distract Buffy from the epic war that he keeps whining about in the first place?

It's an entirely illogical story, sacrificing seven years worth of development and just adding more bullets to Giles' character assassination this year, especially in light of his warped detachment from everybody in that recent 'First fake-out' subplot.

But the good far outweighs the bad here. The Spike flashbacks are wonderfully perceptive, full of sinister layering and featuring a remarkable guest spot from Caroline Lagerfelt, who manages to portray two extraordinarily different personalities in just a couple of minutes on screen. The climactic battle in Wood's vamp torture shack is also powerful, with its brutal violence and prolonged intensity. Lies My Parents Told Me has a lot of interesting things to say, and the Buffy/Wood/Spike dynamics are incredibly successful. It falters hugely whenever Giles is on-screen, and it would be wrong to ignore how horrible it is that he's being written so badly, but the rest of the hour remains strong. A-

Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Indigo (Rona); Caroline Lagerfelt (Anne); K.D. Aubert (Nikki Wood); Juliet Landau (Drusilla); DB Woodside (Principal Robin Wood)
Writers David Fury, Drew Goddard Director David Fury


  1. I wouldn't say it was out of character for Giles to do what he did. He has lied to Buffy before in Helpless (write David Fury who wrote both LMPTM and Helpless call this episode "Giles' second betrayal of Buffy) and he has always had the "it needs to be done" mentality (The Gift being a great example).

  2. I don't know, I feel like that mentality stopped relating to Buffy after the events of Helpless. All that respect and tenderness sort of flew out the window in season seven, and I felt it spoiled Giles' character in the process.

  3. Further folding into this is Buffy's fluctuating relationship with Giles, but that's also the one area in which Lies My Parents Told Me crumbles. I refuse to believe that Giles would actually lie to her like he did, especially over something so uncertain.

    He has betrayed her before. Remember "Helpless" in Season 3? At least in that episode, he felt remorse for his actions and helped her in the end. Remember his insistence that Buffy kill Dawn in late Season 5? If Buffy had not sacrificed herself in "The Gift", I believe he would have killed Dawn, given the chance. And in Season 7, he was more frightened than ever, thanks to the destruction of the Watcher's Council. His betrayal of Buffy struck me as very likely. I realize that many fans find it hard to believe this, but Giles is not her father. He never was. Doing the done thing in regard to the supernatural world has always come first to him.