Overall Rating: 7.5
Laying the groundwork for later dramatic fun, but feels somehow underwhelming compared to last week.
Wikipedia has the details - that'll do for us.
I really like the introduction of Spike's trigger song here. At first, it seems like passing background noise...then it seems like perhaps a simple delusion, and finally, it seems like something crucial. The more we hear it, the more it scares us. The vampire hunt has never really played as particularly horrifying on Buffy the Vampire Slayer...which is funny, given what the show is about. But we have our hero, who is supposed to EASILY dispatch vamps and struggle with bigger, uglier demons. So even a guy like Spike, who is an expert Slayer slayer, doesn't normally scare us. Until now. Now, with this haunting little ditty drumming away in our ears as we watch him turn at the blink of an eye into something twisted, we start to actually feel fear for his potential victims and for him. *shudder*
So that part was well executed - as was the fake-out with Buffy stalking Spike and then turning into the evil version of her goading him to his next kill. I think, however, that the rest of the stuff hinted at in this episode was too circumspect and too brief to really make the impact they wanted. Other than the last second apparent killing of Giles in the slaughter of the watcher's council, which will be exceedingly well-used in a slightly later episode. The bulk of this episode is just good atmosphere and plot establishment. There is better stuff to come.
I am actually going to give them a lot of credit for (a) being patient in the telling of this coherent and complex story and (b) executing beautifully with the ever-increasing intrusions of the Fist Evil into the lives of the characters. It's a filler script done very well.
Marsters and SMG actually do a nice job playing their good and evil personas...the rest is just filler (good filler, but still).
Messages will have to wait for deeper scripts.