Overall Rating: 2.7
Were the writers smoking weed while working on this plot idea? Or while deciding to make Buffy seem useless and incompetent as a big part of the lead-up to the big turn of events several episodes later when the Initiative proves to be incompetent instead? This is where fourth season starts making ZERO sense in the context of the rest of the series, folks. Get ready for a lot of bad reviews...as if the first few episodes went well. :\
A full recap can be found here, courtesy of BuffyGuide.com.
So let me see here...we have Buffy - the girl usually known for her levelheadedness and competence - breaking every object in sight and fumbling her way through simple conversations, before declaring that, to make herself feel sunnier, she's going to find something "slutty" to wear. We have Willow - hot off the collapse of her deeply committed relationship with Oz - coming off awesome while she defends her friend from the scary new Iowan corn-husker with the honest face...and then begging a vampire to bite her when she thinks she's not sexy enough to be bite-worthy. Oh but it's worse than that...all of the dialogue made it clear we were supposed to link bite-prowess with sex...so symbolically, Willow was begging her would-be rapist to try again when he couldn't get it up. That's right...you heard it here first on roller-derby. We have scene after scene with ridiculous cliches...the hard-ass professor with a military secret, the incredibly cheesy dating failure by Riley, the badly BADLY telegraphed jokes ("did I ever tell you I liked cheese?" *headSLAMdesk*
We find, when we look up the author that it's Petrie...his scripts have generally not been Buffy's best...but even he's had some successes...this one is just...AWEFUL from an artistic perspective. His characterization is dreadful for the most past (Riley is too goofy to be military, Willow - supposedly terrified of men right now - still wants to be sexy to her vampire attacker, Buffy suddenly wants to look slutty and can't handle a friggin' pen, let alone an ice cream machine...WTF was THAT?? Oh...and since when has Xander been this incompetent in hand to hand combat? I seem to recall Xander taking out vamps as "Nighthawk" while Buffy was lsot in LA). His storytelling is cheesy and formulaic. And there are huge plot continuity problems. How, for example, did we go from Spike having the chip installed, to his being able to perform combat maneuvers with Initiative soldiers and escape, to suddenly, not being able to even throw a punch? How, as well, did we go from Spike arriving and promising to stay with Harmony (and the two of them starting to have sex) to Harmony assuming Spike had left her again and burning his things? And...I thought all vamps were possessed with supernatural strength, if not always skill, when they changed...why was Harmony not even able to get a bite on Xander, who was fighting like a 12 year old girl?? This episode is just lousy on so many levels.
There are a few nice things about it that save it from getting a lower score...I do like how staunchly (and cutely) Willow defends Buffy from the perils of dating. The line "and remember, if you hurt her, I'll kill you with a shovel," was hilarious and adorable. I also liked the scene with Giles and Xander patrolling. And I can't say I was too unhappy with the reveal on the initiative...yet...I know how that plot ends and it makes the early stuff about them being highly skilled and making Buffy less important (as well as her scoobies) seem silly. But who needs continuity and logic when you're telling a really overplayed "military/government fucks everything up" story? *sigh* This is fandom's least favorite season for a reason. Strap in folks...it goes down from here, with a few brilliant exceptional stand-alone episodes mixed in to prevent me from wanting to slit my wrists.
There is no redeaming virtue in the script. Period. As a work to be examined artistically, it gets NOTHING right.
Most of the performances are at least credible, though I think Blucas might actually be worse than the departed Boreanez and Mercedes McNab (Harmony) was still unwatchably overplayed.
Tip, Petrie..women who have recently been betrayed by men do not become so weak and damaged that they will beg for a rapist to rape them harder. That is so offensive as to be amongst the worst things I've ever seen on televsion. Also note...we generally do not approve of the notion that women, to feel better about themselves, should seek out the sexual attention of men and yet should feel no responsibility in the events that sometimes follow when men find them objectively attractive without the emotional component. The only thing that saves this episode form a lower message score is that Riley is supposed to represent the good side of men, and he does do that well...I enjoyed Parker getting a face full of blood when he compared Buffy to a toilet. Good on you, Finn!