Overall Rating: 8.0
Thank goodness...we're back on the right track.
Wikipedia, we love you!
It's such a huge slice of delicious moral pie when we get to see Buffy taking on her real mantle as the leader of this group. How many of the readers here know an Andrew - someone who behaves questionably, can't face the consequences of his/her actions, constantly makes excuses, and looks for ways to place him or herself into a larger narrative that alleviates their personal responsibility. I've known many such people in my life - heck, for a while there, I WAS one of those people (during my less mature days) and when I look back at some of the things I said back then, I wish there'd been someone there to (metaphorically) hold a knife to my neck and force me to admit the role I played in my own misery. Of course, Buffy only did this because the situation forced her hand - most of the time, the fate of the world doesn't rest on us being personally responsible (though the quality of the world does). But right from the beginning, Buffy, unlike the rest of her friends, knew there was something unsettling about Andrew's delusional faux-journalist storytelling nonsense. And when the chips were down, she was able to intuit the reason it was unhealthy.
I happen to really like this part of the episode because (a) Andrew must finally show true penance for his crimes (now that he's proven he is no longer enthralled by The First), (b) this is not portrayed as a heroic act - actually he looks rather pathetic while he's crying over the seal - contrition and penance are the things we do when we've hit rock bottom...the beginning of our journey out of the pit, not the end, (c) it echoes the major theme of the entire season, as seen in Spike's character, and (d) the real power of The First is in full swing now - it's not his vampire army (though they certainly are a big obstacle) - it's his capacity to incite in fallen humans their darker impulses. I especially liked how Wood was susceptible to the seal but Buffy was not. Wood still has demons to fight (his thirst for vengeance is wholly unhealthy and very easy to sway toward evil deeds by true evil sources) - Buffy fought most of hers in the sixth season.
The piece of this episode that I did not much care for was the Xander/Anya plot. Why do Hollywood people seem to love this concept of reconciliation sex? The "one last time" f*** has appeared in almost every genre show I've reviewed here, and it annoys me every time. It implies that sex is just an emotional tool - a way to reach emotional health through pleasure or some other nonsense. Who among the readers here can really say that they've ever done this with an ex-partner and had it make things simpler/healthier/more final rather than opening up a huge, confusing can of worms and leaving both sides seriously hurt? They have really got to drop this crap from the entertainment lexicon. They also need to quit jerking their fans around for no reason. This felt like a good time for Anya and Xander to reunite...rather than to finally go their separate ways. Ugh...sorry...I hate this trope with the fire of a thousand suns.
I liked everything about the writing in this episode EXCEPT the annoying circumspect (and highly cliche) dialogue between Anya and Xander on film.
But even that crappy plot device included some good acting - Emma Caulfield was brilliant as always and Tom Lenk (Andrew) filled his role PERFECTLY.
They were cruising toward feature status if they just dropped the goofy and dishonest "f*** goodbye" plot and focused on the penitent Andrew story.