Overall Rating: 9.8
Dude...those demons were $%^&($^%&(^$%&() scary!!!
(Stephanie S. adds: INORITE? Did you scream at least once? Y/Y)
After a freaky, prophetic dream, Buffy awakes in her psych class and talks briefly with Riley. Though they almost kiss, the "moment" keeps getting interrupted and both are left unsatisfied. Willow is similarly unsatisfied when she goes to a meeting of the campus Wiccans and realizes they're full of crap (and not magical power). One other girl from the group - Tara - does seem to take notice of Willow, though, but is too afraid to say anything. Also note - Giles and his girlfriend are apparently at odds because she doesn't take his demon-fighting calling all that seriously. Everyone expresses their mutual displeasure with the meaningless talk they've been enduring. Oh how they're about to miss those words.
When some creepy, smiling demons steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale, silence ensues. No one can make a sound. Buffy is uncertain what is going on, but the wiggins is definitely an understatement for how the quiet impacts her. The whole town is filled with an eerie, unspeakable (literally) fear as, for two straight nights, innocent bystanders are murdered in their beds - the hearts removed! (eeeeep!) After a bit of research, Giles uncovers the likely culprit - "The Gentlemen" - demons from fairy tales who have come to their town seeking seven hearts (there is some unspecified criteria for which hearts they take) to complete an unknown evil ritual that will surely spell doom for the world. Their only weakness - a human scream.
Both Buffy and Riley get to work in their respective ways trying to find and destroy the demons - Riley with the Initiative (they'll hunt and use their zappy gun doodads), Buffy on patrol (swords and stakes...at least she knows what the box containing their voices will look like from a prophetic dream she had at the start of the episode). That night, the grinning menace invades the dorms yet again - they skip Willow's room, but go after Tara (rooming nearby, evidently), who escapes and hides with Willow. Buffy and Riley wind up tracking the demons to the clock tower and do furious battle...Buffy is about to get her heart cut out when she manages to communicate to Riley that the voices of the town are in a box that he should destroy. With her voice back, Buffy screams like no one ever has and the demons' heads explode.
After the carnage, Tara explains to Willow that she, too, is a real witch like her mother and that she could feel Willow's power (and it impressed her). Meanwhile, Giles' sweetheart Olivia admits that she never believed him about his watcher background. They mutually wonder whether this life is too much for her. And that leaves Buffy and Riley. Both of their secrets are out...but that story will wait for next week.
SABR Matt - I normally would have said something more philosophical...or at least possessing more perspicacity...in the overall comment. But my entire reaction to this episode is neatly summarized there. HOLY S*** those are some scary f***ed up demons! LOL. The eerie, long-faced grins, the gentleman's attire, the floating through the air past unsuspecting rooms, the gleeful removal of internal organs, the eerie and INGENIOUS score for this episode...it's all really...REALLY scary. This is absolutely the best pure horror episode that Joss and his team ever managed to create.
The primal fear (amplified by all of the stuff I mentioned above) that makes this episode work has to do with utter powerlessness. We take our voices for granted, but there are similar situations that give us INTENSE nightmares. For example - when asked, most patients will say that their greatest fear about undergoing general anesthesia and an operation involves the anesthesia not working and them being fully conscious, but paralyzed (and silent) while doctors cut into their bodies. This does occasionally happen, mind you. And there's something truly HORRIFYING about being vulnerable to a knife-wielding invader and not even having the power to resist by screaming. "You're gonna die screaming, but you won't make a sound"...we've all had nightmares like that. Just as we all have nightmares about losing our ability to communicate with loved ones.
The theme of the episode (non-verbal communication and the importance of saying the things that actually matter) is worth mentioning as well. I mean it is true that we - the mass of men - lead lives of quiet desperation as first voiced by Thoreau. We are full of sound and fury, talking endlessly over the internet, over the phone, over the airwaves, and face to face, and yet saying very little that relates to who we are at core - signifying nothing. This is immediately personified by our politicians (*cough*Obama*cough*), but even the process of developing an intimate relationship undergoes the awkward transition from saying what we think the other person wants to hear (to give us a chance to form a bond) to telling the whole truth about who we are. Obviously, the ramifications of real honesty and true communication are great...but this episode does stand as a needed (and powerful) argument in favor of talking less and speaking more.
At base, though, the show works mostly because it's truly bone chilling and leaves you on the edge of your seat from moment one. I actually can't think of anything I've seen on television (maybe a few movies...) that I recall being haunted by more than this episode. I had nightmares for WEEKS about these demons.
Stephanie S. - Because I was curious, I just used my Google-fu to ascertain whether the Gentlemen are real fairy tale monsters. According to the Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies, they aren't, but the fact that people still question whether they are real testifies to the high quality of Whedon and Co.'s homage. Well done!
Beyond that, I don't really know what else to say. My reaction to this episode can best be summed up by several minutes of unintelligible gibbering. You know that scene in which Giles' girlfriend wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to take a peek out the window? Holy crap, I have had that nightmare. The Gentlemen really are seriously scary, f***ed up demons, as SABR Matt so eloquently put it.
Writing: 10.0 / 10.0
Do you know how hard it is to write a story that involves about 8 minutes of dialogue and 36 minutes of silent action? But this one is so well told that you spend the hours after watching it looking over your shoulder and shuddering with fear when entering a dark room! Bonus production points for the score and the choreography.
Acting: 9.5 / 9.5
Can I just say that the gentlemen (Camden Toy, Doug Jones, Don Lewis, and Charles Brumley) acted their butts off, despite being masked the whole time and never saying a word? The way they moved their limbs, their general presence, conveyed pure evil. The regulars- and newcomer Amber Benson (Tara) - all did a nice job as well...my only beef continues to be Blucas (who may actually possess LESS chemistry with SMG than David Boreanez did...and that's saying something)...but otherwise...bravo all around.
Message: 10.0 / 10.0
Speak, don't jabber...say what you mean, mean something relevant, and cherish the power of your voice. A message well worth receiving in true monstervision fashion.
NO HIGHLIGHTS today...the show was silent, so...hard to highlight it.