Overall Rating: 8.7
A good action episode...the fast-paced lead-up to the much more impressive final two.
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Although this episode doesn't quite hit the emotional buttons the way others have (there really isn't time for much, though I'll mention a few big highlights, because it's nonstop action)...it's good TV, there's no doubt. I can tell it's good TV because when I watched it again for this review, my friends all wanted me to immediately put the next episode on. "Next episode! Next episode!" It does the job...that's for sure. I think that, in order to give everything that is about to happen credibility (in order for us to buy the enormous emotional stakes and the seeming impossibility of defeating Glory - not to mention the SPECTACULAR battle that will take place and lead to her eventual defeat), we needed this pure action story as the transition to bigger and better things.
It wasn't entirely without emotional intrigue. We aren't naive enough, for example, to believe that Ben (Glory's human prison) is innocent or entirely trustworthy. And moments like his discussion with the General of the Knights of Byzantium (and apparent emotional struggle over whether to kill Dawn while he has a chance - to win himself freedom) lead up to his eventual decision to betray Dawn and to Giles' eventual decision to murder him in cold blood to protect the innocent. This episode also begins to establish that, in order to beat Glory, Buffy is going to have to rely on her greatest strength - her love and her supportive friends. The battle to take the tower two weeks from now is a truly team effort and we see the team cooperating - even Spike (and for some rather selfless reasons, it seems) - in this episode (and even more so in the next).
Snappy gallows humor ("With all that's going on...it can't get any worse, can it?" - arrow flies past her head - "You know this is your fault for saying that, right?!"), heart-thumping action (albeit it does stretch the limits of believability at times...since when do horses outrun RVs?), and a few good moments of suspense, leading to a brutal cliff hanger.
Top marks to the usually unimpressive Charlie Weber for his guest appearance...he had me going there when he was preparing to inject Giles. Otherwise, solid performances all around.
Buffy is hard on herself for running from Glory, but Dawn has it right...being willing to throw down your lives and run to protect someone...that's a heroic sacrifice.