Overall Rating: 7.3
The major feature of this episode that hits hardest for me is Buffy's impassioned speech to Spike after he begs her to kill him to save the innocent from his rampage. The rest is still in the vein of merely establishing the playing field.
Wikipedia has the details here - at about this point, if you miss any episodes, you will get lost, so if you're gonna watch any, watch them all.
This episode is thematically strong, but pretty neutral beyond that. A good message is of course very important to me, so I have no trouble slogging through all of this work they're having to do to build up and establish the magnitude of the threat posed by the First Evil, but it's not exactly a thrill a minute yet. Kinda ballsy of them to tear down their entire ethos though by attacking the potential slayers and the watcher's council and upending the whole of Sunnydale. I'll give them credit for doing the work needed to end their story on one hell of a bang.
As I noted above, the strong message score for this episode derives mostly from Buffy's message of faith and hope (yes faith, at least, faith in people). Spike asks her to kill him to protect the group and she adamantly refuses on the grounds that Spike has it within him to be a better man now that he has a soul. Emphatically, she ends this speech with "I believe in you, Spike." And almost immediately, after being captured by the First and its' bringers, we will see Spike take that faith in him and make a shining beacon of hope and a barrier against the cruelty of the First. I don't think Spike ever had anyone tell him that they expected more from him that he was putting out, even before he became a vampire. This is why Buffy is the hero.
A well-organized transitional episode - filler with a purpose, let's call it. But hardly an emotional thriller.
Marsters does some good work, as does Tom Lenk (Andrew)...the rest of the cast doesn't make you leap to your feet, but keeps the flow going well enough.
Though this episode doesn't deliver the payoff for Buffy's faith in Spike, seeing it expressed was highly enjoyable, at least to me.