Sunday, August 21, 2011

Classics: BtVS 5:17 - Forever

Overall Rating: 9.9

This is a strong contender for the best BtVS episode of all time. Nuff said.

Plot Synopsis:

The full description of this episode can be found at Though I recommend you skip their reviews unless you want a good mix of stupidity and narrow-mindedness to entertain you.

The Skinny:

Here is, if I can summarize the bulk of fandom's reaction to this episode in a few bullet points that make me want to cry, what most fans of this show seemed to think of this episode. (note, I've read other reviews on this after being annoyed by the ones at BuffyGuide...the reactions are a little mixed but mostly disappointed)
  • The Body was so innovative from a directorial perspective that this next episode feels boring to watch.
  • Dawn whines too much...this is a Dawn episode and she's at it again.
  • Spike's decision to help Dawn was in character, but not entirely interesting apart from a few good one-liners.
  • Angel's return seemed pointless if he was just going to leave right away.
  • Anya and Xander's plot was cheesy or boring, depending on who you are.
  • Willow and Tara had different views on why not to do the resurrection spell. This is very telling and interesting...but we wish they'd spent more time on it.
  • The final scene was nice, but not worth the rest of the episode to get to.
May I just people have no taste, and a very good skill for missing the bloody point. So let me explain to you why you bloody well missed the point for each of your objections.
  • If the episode's only claim to fame is clever direction and artistry, then it's not a masterpiece. The Body was great because it combined creativity in filming with a gut-wrenchingly real portrayal of the shock and devastation of sudden death. Not just because they used nifty new filming techniques and chose to forget about any scoring. This episode was great because it told the very real story of how different people grieve in different ways, and each person's decision fit perfectly into their character.
  • Dawn is a 15 year old girl. They all whine too much. That's called realism. Also note...if you haven't experienced a tragic death at a young age, you can't know how difficult it is (that includes me...I've been lucky to avoid such things). I happen to think that Dawn's actions made perfect sense for a normal girl surrounded by extraordinary people.
  • Spike's in this one because he actually did like Joyce...and it reveals something about his future potential. Once he earns back his soul through true repentance, this kernel of goodness within him will be what defines his character. This aspect was necessary.
  • For those of you idiots who are still clinging to the whole Buffy/Angel 4evah thing, let me see if I can gently explain to you why he was there...and why he left. He returned because Angel absolutely would. That's who he is. He cares about Buffy too much to ignore such a tragedy. He left because he had to. For those just joining us...if he has a moment of true happiness, he will lose his soul again. We saw the results of that bit of fun. Buffy, having matured a great deal since Angel left, knows that in her vulnerable state, she might be prone to sleep with Angel again...she has the capacity to overpower him after all. She cares about Angel too much to let that happen. They're continuing with the theme of "if you love someone enough, you'll let them go."
  • If you think Anya and Xander's bit was cheesy, you have no concept of proper sexual morality. This bit might have been the best part of the whole wonderful episode. Anya is still learning what it is to be human. It makes sense that she would try sex first to see what everyone was so excited about...not quite understand it...then confront death and realize that sex is the other end of death. Anya...of all the people in this cast, is the one best qualified to make the realization that sex is about life...not about two bodies smooshing together. The sooner the rest of you get this, the better off you'll be.
  • The Tara/Willow plot can't all play out here...they have to build it up slowly. Tara does seem very concerned when Willow is evasive regarding the history of witchcraft. And they will build on this more as we go. Have some patience, you vidiots.
  • The final scene would have been worth the price of admission if it was the last five minutes of a two-hour 15 dollar movie. It wasn't merely was BEAUTIFUL.
All in all, this is a very well acted, well directed (in this case, the gimmicky direction stuff wasn't necessary...we had a brilliant plot to get through), and well written character piece, and everyone in the cast had their moments. Even Giles, who was not heavily featured, but did have a nice vignette where his grief over Joyce came out in the form of drinking and listening to classic rock. :)

You Buffy fans wouldn't know great TV if it hit you in the face repeatedly.

Writing: 9.7

While not as booming with the dialogue itself, the show still delivered a mastery of character and emotion that equals the work from last week.

Acting: 10.0

Even Michelle Trachtenberg hits this one out of the park...and she's still relatively inexperienced for such a weighty role. BTW, a little shout out to Joel Grey, who's portrayal of the creepy "Doc" - a demon with knowledge on resurrection spells - was spot on (and made my skin crawl). As well, Clare Kramer is really coming into her own as Glory. She was over the top early on, but that may have been a directorial thing. Now she's playing crazy hell-God from the bitch dimension perfectly.

Message: 10.0

Two huge weights on the plus side propel this score upward. First, the show's message that sex isn't just for pleasure, but for LIFE...and that when you realize this, sex becomes all the more meaningful...needs to be seen and heard more often. Second, the final conversation between Dawn and Buffy hammers home the point (that will get finally hammered down for good at the end of the sixth season) that protecting someone from grief and loss is an impossible thing to do...that the better course is to show them the world and let them know you're with them every step of the way.


DAWN: What are going to do...after...
BUFFY: After?
DAWN: Where will we go...after the service. We just going to come back here?
BUFFY: I suppose (looking very stressed).
DAWN: I don't want to be here. (while Buffy and Giles discuss the message in Joyce's funeral announcement regarding the lack of a wake, Dawn turns to Willow) Can I stay at your place after?
WILLOW: Tomorrow? My place? I mean...maybe you and Buffy should...I don't mind, but Buffy...
DAWN: Buffy...can I go to Willow's after the service?
BUFFY: Uh...I guess that's OK...if you want to...(Willow looks very concerned)

XANDER: It's all just so frustrating. (sees Spike walking up the path to Buffy's front door) Speaking of...I don't believe this, Spike.
SPIKE: I'm not going anywhere.
XANDER: Do you actually think that you'll score points with Buffy this way?
SPIKE: This isn't about Buffy.
XANDER: Bull. We're all wise to your little doomed obsession with Buffy, Spike. It's not going to work.
SPIKE: (looking truly hurt and holding up the flowers he'd brought) These are for Joyce. She was the only one of the lot of you I could stand.
XANDER: You're not leaving those here.
SPIKE: (looking even more bruised) I liked...the lady! Got that, monkey boy? She was decent. And she was the only one who didn't treat me like a freak.
XANDER: Her mistake. (Spike slams the flowers to the ground and leaves in a huff) Unbelievable.
WILLOW: Uh, Xander...he didn't leave a card.

WILLOW: Oh Dawn...I wish we could do more to help. But the thing gets better.
DAWN: You don't know that.
TARA: Sure we do...we're witches...we know things.
DAWN: goes on? And I forget Mom? Is that it?
WILLOW: No! You don't
TARA: You make a place for her in your heart. It's like she becomes a part of you. Does that make sense? (such a sweet thing to say)

ANYA: Wow...that was different.
XANDER: was...more intense.
ANYA: It's because of Joyce.
XANDER: Right...huh?!
ANYA: Well she got me thinking...about how people are always dying...and being born. And how you can't have one without the other. Well that made it more exciting.
XANDER: Again, I say, huh?
ANYA: Well it's just that I feel like I get sex now. It's not just about two bodies smooshing together. It's about life...about making life.
XANDER: Right...when two people are older, richer...and way less stupid. (LOL!)
ANYA: Breathe. You're turning colors. I'm not ready to make like with you, Xander...but I could. We could. Life could out of our love...and that's beautiful. It all makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger. Like I'm more awake somehow. You know?
XANDER: Yeah...I know. ( just don't hear this kind of thing on TV often enough!)

TARA: Dawn, I know you want to bring your mother back...but you can't...we can't.
DAWN: You're do magic all the time.
WILLOW: Not this...
TARA: Wickens can't mess with the natural order of things.
DAWN: But all you guys do is mess with the natural order of things. You make things float and disappear and stuff. Why can't you do this?
WILLOW: Dawn..I don't even know if it's possible. I've seen things on resurrection...I mean there are books...but...I guess spells backfire (turns to Tara for help)? (you can see why Willow is getting into trouble)
TARA: That's not the point.
WILLOW: That's not the point. The point is...
TARA: We can't be allowed to mess with the fabric of life for selfish reasons, Dawn. Wickens took an oath a long time ago...
DAWN: So it's possible. To bring someone back. You wouldn't have taken an oath if you didn't think you could do it.
TARA: Maybe someone can...but we can't.
DAWN: You said you wanted to help me!
TARA: We do! But this isn't the way. (Dawn throws herself into her sleeping bag and refuses to look at either of them)

BUFFY: Everyone expect me to know what to do because I'm so strong.
ANGEL: You just need a little, Buffy. They all understand that.
BUFFY: Time isn't the issue. I can stick wood in vampires. But Mom was the strong one in real life. She always knew how to make things better...just what to say...
ANGEL: It'll be OK,'ll find your way.
BUFFY: I keep thinking...if I'd gotten there ten minutes earlier...
ANGEL: But you said they told you it wouldn't have made any difference.
BUFFY: Probably, was what they said. The exact words they used were probably wouldn't have made a difference.
ANGEL: That doesn't make it your fault. You couldn't have done anything differently.
BUFFY: I didn't even start CPR until they told me how. I fell apart. That's how good I am at being a grown up.
ANGEL: Buffy...
BUFFY: It wouldn't be so bad if it was just me I had to worry about...but Dawn...
ANGEL: Listen, I know you don't believe this right now, but you are strong. You'll figure this out. Maybe not all at once, but little by little.
BUFFY: It'll be light soon.
ANGEL: I can stay in town as long as you want me here.
BUFFY: How's forever. Does forever work for you? (realizes what she's saying) Bad idea...I'm seriously needy right now.
ANGEL: Why don't you let me worry about the neediness. I can handle it. (they kiss...and it becomes very passionate until Buffy stops herself)
BUFFY: See what I mean? No...we can't do'd better go.
ANGEL: I'm sorry...
BUFFY: No! I'm so grateful that you came today. I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the night.
ANGEL: Well...I still have a few minutes before I have to go.
BUFFY: Good...(curls up in his arms and cries softly)

DAWN: Is there anything else?
GILES: Um...well, if you'de like I can teach you to run the cash register...ring up sales.
ANYA: Ring up sales? With the money? She gets to fondle the money? (LOL!)

SPIKE: (seeing Dawn in the graveyard) I hope it's just dirt you're after, little one. Because if the spell calls for more than that, you're into zombie territory...and that's bad news.
DAWN: I so wasn't...
SPIKE: I know good and well what you were doing. That book you've got is infamous.
DAWN: Please don't tell Buffy, Spike...I just...I have to get her back. I just have to!
SPIKE: Not gonna tell, little bit. I'm going to help. (so we have Willow, who doesn't doesn't understand the dangers of dark magic...and we have Spike, who doesn't care about the danger...good team, you're building, Dawn)

DAWN: You don't have to be all nice to me. I know why you're doing this.
SPIKE: Oh? And why is that?
DAWN: I'm not stupid, Spike. You're like stalking my sister. You'd do anything to get in good with her.
SPIKE: Hey, you don't tell her anything about this, do you understand? If she knew what I was doing, she'd drive a redwood through my chest!
DAWN: Then if you don't want credit...why are you helping me?
SPIKE: I just don't like seeing Summers women take it so hard on the chin is all. And I meant what I said. You breathe a word of this to Buffy and I'll make sure you end up in the ground. Understand? (is this genuine selfless concern??)

GLORY: Where is he? He's been gone for hours!
MINION: I'm sure Jinx will return're splendid...newness! His loyalty is above reproach!
GLORY: Hey! He'd better be loyal. (two more minions bring Jinx into Glory's chamber) Jinx?! Oh you poor little the blood it's a bitch to clean. (LOL) Who did this...was it the Slayer? I'll pull her wings off!
MINION: was...Ben!
GLORY: Ben? Ooooh (fit of rage overtakes her) pointless little LOSER! (she rips huge chunks of her own hair right out as she shrieks her frustration) I hate you, I hate you!!
MINION: He told me...the key...
GLORY: The key? (suddenly, she's all happy again...LOL...I love this character!)

DAWN: Can you buy this...Gora egg?
DEMON: If it were as easy as making an omelet, everyone would do it. have to steal the egg from the nest of the beast. And she won't be happy about it.
SPIKE: Where do we find this demon?
DEMON: First thing's first. We'll need an image of your mother. A photograph or picture?
DAWN: Not a problem.
DEMON: Once you're gathered the ingredients, put them inside a sacred circle and say this incantation three times. She won't'll take a while. But she'll come to you. Oh...and the only way to reverse the to destroy the image of your mother.
DAWN: I'll do it right.
DEMON: It's a tricky spell. I can't guarantee she'll be exactly like you remember. Sometimes these things...get a little off.
DAWN: But she'll still be my mother...won't she?
DEMON: More or less. (eeeep)

BUFFY: Dawn. Dawn! You have no idea what you're messing with. You don't know what you raise...what's gonna come through that door!
DAWN: No...I'll be her.
BUFFY: Dawn...Tara told me these spells go bad all the time. People come back...wrong.
DAWN: He told me her DNA...
BUFFY: Who? Who told you. Who's helped you!
DAWN: Nobody...let me go!
BUFFY: Dawn! You know this is wrong! You can't let this happen...not to Mom.
DAWN: But I need her, Buffy. I'm not like you. I don't have anybody.
BUFFY: What? Of course you do, Dawn. You have me!
DAWN: No, I don't. You won't even look at me. It's so obvious you don't want me around.
BUFFY: That's not true!
DAWN: is. Mom died...and it's like you don't even care.
BUFFY: (savagely wounded) Of course I care. How can you even think that?
DAWN: How can I not? You haven't even cried. You've just been moping around like it's all some big chore. Cleaning up after Mom's mess. (Buffy slaps her across the face as hard as she can)
BUFFY: (looking remorseful almost immediately) Dawn...I've been working...I've been busy...because I have to!
DAWN:'ve been avoiding me.
BUFFY: (starting to break down) Dawn...I'm doing all of this...because do these things. Because...when I stop...Mom's really gone. (crying hard now) And I'm trying...I am trying so hard to take care of things. And I don't even know what I'm doing! Mom always knew!
DAWN: Nobody's asking you to be Mom.
BUFFY: Who's gonna be Mom if I'm not? Did you ever think of that, Dawn? Huh? Who's gonna take care of us?
DAWN: Buffy...
BUFFY: Oh God, Dawnie...I didn't mean to push you away...I didn't! I just...couldn't let you see me like this...
DAWN: Buffy...
BUFFY: What are we gonna do now? (zombie Joyce hits the door hard) Mommy! (she races to the door...Dawn, finally realizing the magnitude of her error, rips the picture in half just as Buffy opens the door to empty space)
DAWN:'s OK. (and they both bawl as they hug...finally able to grieve)

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