Overall Rating: 5.0
Holy....crap! Sometimes being bold is a bad thing!
They really went there...if you like feeling your stomach flip and your skin crawl - feel free to read this description.
Let's compare, shall we? In the fifth season, while fighting a hell-god - an essentially invincle hell-god with incredible speed and strength who was going around tormenting her friends and sucking out people's brains as a midday snack - the First Slayer made it clear that Buffy's strength came from LOVE. The love she had for her friends made her unique in the entirety of Slayer history - it burned brighter than a fire and it was her gift. She showed her love for Dawn by falling, arms outstretched in the shape of Jesus on the cross, into hell's gate so that Dawn might live. You want to talk about glorious and beautiful messages to send about the nature of real power! Here, Slayer strength comes from BEING RAPED AND SPIRITUALLY IMPREGNATED BY THE SPIRIT OF THE DEMON WORLD?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! WHAT?!?! Petrie et al...did you just FORGET your WHOLE HISTORY?? Holy crapping CRAP!! And, as if to further make your point that your entire previous love motif was for sissies, soul-infused Spike has to remember his bad-boy roots to be a hero this week. Great.
Although a U.S. Marine would certainly agree that you have to get in touch with your anger and your survival instinct to "get it done," they will also tell you that platoons where the men do not love each other like they would their own brothers are less likely to survive and "get it done." Buffy's furious, indignant speech following Chloe's suicide really made me uncomfortable - she's not wrong that Chloe did the cowardly, selfish, and frankly, stupid thing. But good Catholics know that you do not answer such sinful behavior with hatred and anger - you answer it with love and kindness. What her troops need now is a leader who is capable of both reaching into their anger at The First for putting them in their current predicament AND connecting with them as a great matriarch might - showing love and compassion in their times of greatest need. What they don't need is someone to scream at them that their recently departed friend was an idiot and the rest of them are incompetent. Truly shocking that the writers would put those words in Buffy's mouth.
At any rate, you can tell they were putting their full creative energies into making this a great episode - I just flat out disagreed with the core message - which seemed to be that in the battle against evil, the only response is to meet evil with evil. Buffy turned down the "gift" of being raped and transformed by evil into a better fighter, but, at least in this episode, there was no refutation on her part of the thesis that strength and power come only from evil. It tempers my anger at Petrie here that future episodes will, thank God, make a much healthier case that love, not evil, is where our true strength lies.
This one is not poorly written - though some elements come across as a tad melodramatic. I actually like the work they do with Kennedy and Willow - and the groundwork they put down for the Spike vs. Wood battle. I just don't see this as the pure gold that some fans do.
An average-solid acting performance by Marsters, SMG and Hannigan - the guest stars were...only OK.
This script takes a big gigantic dump all over the singular core value that has defined BtVS since season 1. All of the ritualistic violence and demonology of the Watcher's Council is not the way. Buffy. with her unique desire to stay in the world and seek love, despite her calling, is the way. Except in this episode. Yeeeeesh.