Overall Rating: 8.9
*Very* clever episode that seamlessly weaves two completely distinct mythologies into one, continues the development of the characters that was so brilliantly summarized in Restless, and delivers a healthy helping of belly laughs along the way. Thank God in Heaven fourth season is over.
Enjoy this summary from BuffyGuide.com!
Restless set up a lot of themes at the end of the fourth season to be watching for as the show progressed. Willow's casual overuse of powerful magic, Xander's feelings of helplessness and failure in crucial situations, Riley's emasculation, Giles being torn between wishing Buffy would need him again and wanting a family and life of his own, Joyce feeling left out and lonely, the impending arrival of a new power in Sunnydale (Dawn), the need to better understand the root of the Slayer's power...it's all touched on again in this nice little break bookender. Willow tampers with the elements and upsets mother nature, Giles threatens to go back to England until Buffy pleads with him to help her learn about the source of her power, Xander gets made into another bad guy's butt monkey (as he so colorfully puts it) and expresses his frustration, Buffy confronts the darkness at the core of her slayer strength (and again chooses the side of good over temptations after getting just close enough to the darkness to know fear)...it all comes together nicely to set up the big fifth season story line (plunked in at the end in jarring fashion).
The use of Dracula was potentially dangerous. That mythos includes rules that seem to contradict many of the rules on BtVS. For example, Dracula legend suggests that a vampire can only rest in the soil from the grave where he or she was buried when they were changed (and thus died for a time). They cleverly dismiss that as a wives tale that Dracula clings to just to be different. In Dracula legend, vampires are metamorphs. They can change into bats and wolves and all manner of evil animal watchmen, or simply waft in as vapor. Buffy writers made those parlor tricks that Dracula uses in his game of seduction...after all, none of those things would be impossible for a powerful Wicca, right? The incongruities go from hazards to things that make this particular story a bit more special. And Dracula is not the only vampire with psychokinetic or telepathic abilities. Drusilla made good use of them herself...so...that's not even an inconsistency - it actually helps sell the danger.
There were a lot of attempts, BTW, in the fourth season, to bust out the humor...but most of them fell flat due to cornball writing, bad characterization, or bad plot-relative timing. But the classic wit is back this week. Xander is an ideal comic relief, but even his laugh lines don't compare to Giles in the pit of succubi! Or denying that moment later on. :) This was a nice blend of humor and jeopardy for once, and that is the start of a major turn toward fantastic storytelling that will dominate this series from this point onward. We'll have forgotten fourth season entirely by the time we reach the finale.
The challenges of writing in Dracula (which the writers have said they tried very hard to avoid for a long time due to the radically different nature of the two myth arcs and the different feel of the message in each) are met and conquered with ease. The character positions are set perfectly between Restless and Buffy vs. Dracula to prepare us for a wonderful season of Slayer drama, and the episode is very satisfying all around.
SMG and Nicholas Brendan were the lead performers in this one, though Tony Head has some great scene work as well. The big downfall of this episode that keeps it from feature status is the disappointing performance of Rudolph Martin (Dracula)...who I think was cheesier than he should have been, to be honest.
Buffy is REALLY growing up NOW. One step on the road to adulthood is striking out on your own...the next step is the one that counts...the realization that you still need help from friends and loved ones to succeed as an adult.
Buffy: Xander...get out of here...now.
Dracula: Leave us.
Xander: No, we're not going to (imitates Dracula's accent) leave you. And where'd you get that accent Sesame Street? One, two, three — three victims. Mwah, ha, ha, ha!
Buffy: Xander...I'm pretty sure that's Dracula.
Xander: Oh...(almost excited)...really?? Well...uh...sorry about that...(LOL)
Xander: Great...great...my night just keeps getting better.
Xander: Yes, Master. Wait...no?
Dracula: You will be my emissary to the Slayer...my eyes and ears in the light.
Xander: I will be your emissary...right...
Dracula: Serve me well. You will be rewarded. I will make you immortal...a dark one...feasting on life itself...on blood.
Xander: Blood...yummy...sign me up!
Dracula: I find you strange and off-putting. Go now. (LOL!)
Willow: Hey Buffy, I think we've got Dracula factoids.
Xander: Like any of that is going to be enough to take on the dark master...(all look on surprised)...bator. (LOL)
(and a bit later)
Xander: See...she didn't feel it! I think you guys are jumping to a lot of unfounded conclusions about the dark prince (they look at him stunned again)...bator. (oh yeah Xander...sly...)
Xander: Where is he? Where's the creep that turned me into a spider eating man bitch?
Buffy: He's gone.
Xander: Damn it! You know what? I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats insects and gets the funny syphilis. As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt monkey!
Buffy: Check. No more butt monkey.
Riley: It could have been worse...at least you didn't end up hanging with a pit of vamp chicks like Giles.
Giles: I say, I was not "hanging"...I was just about to make my escape and kill the lot of them.
Riley: Uh huh...how were you gonna do that Giles...cuddle them to death? (LOL!)