re: The Dark Age

I completely agree with Joelle that this episode does drag in spots. It is certainly not my favorite. But what was interesting to me about it is that I think I liked it a lot better when I was younger, and I think that the reason why is because it is really written more for teenagers than for adults. At least this is my theory about why it doesn’t work so well for me now, Joelle may feel totally different.

Maybe I'm just no longer as charmed by Giles's striped pajamas.  I'm just kidding, that is clearly not possible.

Maybe I’m just no longer as charmed by Giles’s striped pajamas.
I’m just kidding, that is clearly not possible.

This is ultimately an episode about realizing that your parents/caregivers are human beings who made mistakes in their past. Sometimes terrible mistakes, things they are still paying for, things that have impacted who they are today. But that’s not news to me at 31. I’ve known just how human and flawed my parents (and every more grown-up person than me that I have) are for a long time. The kick of discovering that when you’re a teenager, which is certainly when it most frequently happens, should not be underestimated and I am really glad he did an episode on it. But I think it just doesn’t hold the same punch when we are the adults. At least not for me.

So let’s get into this.

This is a great spot to go looking for someone. Not his home.

This is a great spot to go looking for someone. Not his home.

I have never, ever understood why Phillip goes looking for Giles at the school in the middle of the night. Or evening. It’s probably evening, we’re looking at after Halloween I suppose, so it’s getting dark early. What it certainly is not is anywhere near school hours. There’s no reason to assume he lives here and since they’re going to introduce Giles’ house in this episode, it seems particularly silly.

I have always found it especially charming that Phillip asks Deirdre if it is her, while her face is clearly dead and basically disintegrating. I mean, probably it is not her, Phillip. I’m just suggesting. What I have not found charming is the fact that he didn’t actually run instead of pounding ineffectually at a door until she slowly ambled up to him and unimpressively strangled him to death. It just seems so dumb.

Presumably this is not what Deirdre normally looked like.

Presumably this is not what Deirdre normally looked like.

I have to say that I am 100% on the side of Giles in the aerobic music battle and I don’t care if it makes me old. Whatever the fuck Buffy is listening to is TERRIBLE and my ears actually ring with appreciation when she turns it off. Why couldn’t she be listening to 90’s pop or something? That had a beat too! I do love her work-out clothes however.

Remember him?

Remember him?

I would like to say that Joelle did not mention how astonishingly dated their game of “anywhere but here” is. It cracks me up every time. I mean, Gavin Rossdale? John Cusack? These are hard 90’s picks. I love John Cusack but he is nowhere near an anywhere but here list for me these days. I never cared for Gavin Rossdale. But either way.

I do like that they all assume that Giles could never have been restless in school. It’s a good place to start it, because it is that concept of who the adult in your life is that cannot be shaken. It frustrates you, it often gets under your skin, but at the same time, there is a certainty to it that you can tell gives them comfort even as they are mocking it. It is that exact certainty that will be shaken during this episode.

I would love to know why Xander was unaware he was going to have to be in school that Saturday. I would think that was something that you would be required to alert students to in advance.

Giles makes a lot of great expressions in this moment, but this was one of my favorites.

Giles makes a lot of great expressions in this moment, but this was one of my favorites.

I adore Jenny teasing Giles about his book. I would love nothing more than to do this to David but I would never be able to keep a straight face like she does. Also, sexy fuddy duddy makes COMPLETE sense to me, for reasons I will not go into because a certain person would probably murder me when I saw them this week. I’m just saying.

As Giles is being confronted in the library about the homicide and Cordelia breezes in… I just love her obliviousness to everything. It is my favorite. I particularly love her “Why is everyone always yelling my name?” She just sounds so hurt.

So yes, it is Giles friend that is there and I think it is a funny thing that the woman

Being a homicide detective in Sunnydale must be the WORST. Mostly I'm taking note of her because she is one of the only people of color we see in this show.

Being a homicide detective in Sunnydale must be the WORST. Mostly I’m taking note of her because she is one of the only people of color we see in this show.

asks him if this friend he hasn’t seen in 20 years would “have any reason to contact him?” Instead of the much more obvious question of “so… would your friend have any reason to fly to a different continent and show up at your place of employment with no luggage or identification of any kind?” Speaking of which, how did he get to America with no identification?

Buffy is waiting for the blood delivery. It all seems kind-of silly to me. I mean, as far as vamp hijinx go, this seems fairly low key and also confusing. Do vampires who do NOT have souls even like to drink cold blood? Like it cannot taste the same, right? Why not just go eat people? Also like… I know hospitals need blood but it’s one delivery and can probably be replaced. Just don’t make a habit of it, you crazy fellows. And finally, when it comes to things that are biological in nature, don’t they keep a closer eye on them than dropping them off in a deserted back alley parking lot in the middle of the night? Oh, Sunnydale.

Awww. Sad Buffy. Door.

Awww. Sad Buffy. Door.

Worried Buffy goes to Giles house and I was so excited to see it for the first time! I love Giles house. It has very strong vibes of any number of 90’s television shows and it’s clearly on a stage and I just love it. I love his door. I love all of it. Anyway. Poor Giles, all muddled up and not okay and it’s freaking Buffy out because his entire job is to be okay and be predictable.

More crazy questions about how corpses and British people travel. It really is a pretty gaping plot hole. Also, I know we don’t see the tattoo on Giles again, but does he ever roll up his sleeves again? I mean, seriously, I’m not sure.

That is SUPER high up his arm...

That is SUPER high up his arm…

So Buffy goes to school the next morning to sound the alarm because something is wrong with Giles. While yes, I understand drinking alone is fairly low on the scale of things he could be doing, as a kid this would have sent me into a spiral of absolute panic. It screams of an adult who is having a breakdown or who cannot deal with what is happening to them. It is a situation of possibly having to take care of an adult instead of having them do the taking care of that they are supposed to do and that is the most profoundly frightening thing ever. It makes sense to me that they are all freaked out by that possibility. To be fair, it really is out of character as far as anything they’ve ever seen of him.

I am personally thrilled to see his face. Awwww. <3

I am personally thrilled to see his face. Awwww. ❤

IS it weird that Buffy punches Ethan in the face immediately? Because I love Ethan as a villain a lot and I love his face but he really did sell them costumes that almost got all of them killed and also he just greeted her by trying to throw a bookcase on her head. Punching him in the face seems like the exact thing that I would assume Buffy would do, to be honest.

I don’t have a lot to say about much of the middle goings on here, except that sometimes I feel like the young dialogue is heightened in this episode. I particularly took note of Cordelia’s “I’m going to be in therapy till I’m 30,” which now seems like such a high school thing to say. Who could possibly think beyond 30? I say from 31.

So whatever. Zombie Phillip inexplicably breaks out of the book cage, knocking

I just love everything about this picture.

I just love everything about this picture.

Jenny unconscious and sealing her fate, and temporarily the fate of her and Giles’ relationship. I do assume they reinforced the book cage when keeping a werewolf in there? Of course, they also kept crazy strong hyena possessed Xander in there and he couldn’t break out. Maybe Zombie Phillip was much more cunning than we gave him credit for. Or… let’s be honest. This villain is just really poorly constructed. Like Joelle said. None of it makes much sense, it’s pointless to break your brain on the specifics.

So pretty. I really just dig her whole look.

So pretty. I really just dig her whole look.

I do think Jenny looks extremely pretty in this episode before she sprouts strange blue gem things all over her head area. Like she just has a lot going on that I appreciate. And while I in theory appreciate the general idea of Giles not being willing to “take advantage” of a situation, that actually… does not make a lot of sense to me even from this perspective, to be honest? And in fact I am kind-of frustrated by it. Like before he knew she was a demon, obviously. Clearly it ended up being the right call, but if she had not been possessed by crazed demonic energy, I don’t actually see anything about this situation that makes her incapable of making an adult decision to want to have sex. She’s not drunk, she’s not incapacitated. She’s had a bad and frightening day, but you can still make decisions with that. As a grown-up. Now, if this is GILES saying that he does not feel comfortable with this being their first time, that is totally different. And in truth, I think this has almost nothing to do with Jenny at all and has everything to do with what Joelle was saying about Giles being frightened of his own moral compass, but I think this is actually an example of him going overboard and I find it frustrating. Again, because of what we know, it ends up being the right call and it’s good that they don’t have sex, obviously, but sans demon I think it would have been kind-of shitty to make his issues about her.

I would also like to know if in olden days the operator could really tell you that a phone was out of order when someone broke the cord. That never made any sense to me. Surely it would just ring, right? Is there something I’m missing there?

So whatever, big drama, big demon, running away and then Buffy having to deal

So hard. :(

So hard. 😦

with a breaking down Giles. I think her line here about “Don’t be sorry, be Giles!” is probably the most telling line. Watching the people who are supposed to be the grown-ups have the freak outs and break downs and have to take care of them is a lot to take for any teenager. Giles is her strong place and demons she can handle, but Giles as a blubbering mess on the floor is not something she actually wants to deal with.

I had a hard time finding a picture that showed it but I really think it's the same one.

I had a hard time finding a picture that showed it but I really think it’s the same one.

So she goes running off to rescue Ethan and she still does not really realize how much of a glorious and delightful asshole Ethan is. God, I love him so much. I am so sad at how few episodes he appears in. Also, I would like to know how he got the table that they used in the marionette episode to tie Buffy up on. Like Joelle, I’m more than a little confused why Giles and Ethan both didn’t just have their tattoos removed ages ago? I mean, I know they thought they were rid of the demon but surely better safe than sorry? Also, has anyone noticed the rather huge plot hole where they never explain why they weren’t rid of the demon? Like did Deirdre or whoever the other one was summon it again for old time’s sake, or did it magically regain power somehow or…? This is never addressed at all and it doesn’t make sense. Sigh.

So you know. Whatever. Angel has an interior demon battle, which mostly consists of pretty dreadful CGI. Ethan runs away, like he does. I know Buffy wanted to punch him, but he obviously had to run away because like… there was nothing else plot-wise they could have done with him. They can’t exactly put him in jail at this point. Dark Giles might kill him but I think we’ve got some time to get to that. Also, this means he’ll be back, which is the best. Hooray!

I would like to only note in closing to this long and rambling thing that if Buffy

There is no way that the tattoo is not clearly obvious in this shirt.

There is no way that the tattoo is not clearly obvious in this shirt.

would like to hide her tattoo from her mother, perhaps she might consider wearing a shirt that does not expose her entire upper back? I think it is a cute shirt, but perhaps a cardigan could be considered until she convinces whoever she is going to convince to do a tattoo removal without parental consent.

And finally, I don’t know how I feel about Jenny breaking up with Giles. I feel like they decided she was going to have secrets about Angel later (maybe not, but it always felt written in suddenly to me) so it’s hard to read it that way. And also, I have no real concept of how she experienced the possession or if she has much experience with trauma that might have made it more difficult for her or… anything really. Like we don’t actually know much of anything about Jenny for as much as I enjoy her. I can think of a number of reasons I might need a break after something like that. I don’t really hold it against her, but I wish I understood more of her perspective.

Tentative re-bonding. Growing up. <3

Tentative re-bonding. Growing up. ❤

In all, I feel like this show sets up a lot of themes that will in some ways be explored better in next season’s episode Band Candy? That will have these same ideas of kids being absolutely terrified by the adults in their lives being people with pasts that are unacceptable and hard to cope with (and being able to see them in full color, which is the worst nightmare), as well as having to take care of them instead of being taken care of. It will also be a more fun episode. AND it will have Ethan. I’m just saying. This feels a little like a practice run in some ways.

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Lie to Me

Buffy has many formative episodes for me, but in all honesty this is probably one of the first. I am totally cool with saying that I still cry through large portions of it. This is one of the first episodes to look at the wrenching and horrible pain of growing up and finding out that life is full of choices that you don’t want to make, that maybe you should never have to make, and having to make them anyway. There are a lot of wonderful things about growing up, and I’d never go back. But those adolescent years in particular of realizing just how complex and painful life was actually going to be… it was not a fun time.

This image is very strong in that it somehow talks about both childhood and DEATH at the same time.

This image is very strong in that it somehow talks about both childhood and DEATH at the same time.

Not that this episode has no fun in it! Because it totally does. But that is maybe not the key point. We start out with a playground. Because Joss is not shy about hitting home symbolism and to start with a playground and end with a graveyard is pretty damn symbolic, I suspect. In this playground is a little boy whose parents clearly hate him or are incapacitated by severe addiction problems. Seriously, who leaves their small child alone at night in Sunnydale? Like I am not a fan of helicopter parenting, but people drop like flies in this town.

He is approached by Druscilla. She is appropriately creepy and delightful. She tells him about how her mother used to sing to her and wonders what song his mother will sing over his dead body. I love how he responds to that by saying “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” which would have been a completely reasonable response earlier in the conversation, but at the point where the crazy lady is talking about your dead body may not quite be high enough on the panic level.

But just before he is about to be turned into a meal, Angel jumps in to save him. He tells him to “run home” which did not necessarily seem to be the way to go to me? Like I get that he has saved him from immediate danger but we know there are plenty of beasties and monsters on the streets of Sunnydale, and who knows how far his home is! Although… more on that later.

In the meantime, Angel has a weird and intimate conversation with Dru, seemingly just so that Buffy can see them from the rooftop and get hurt and jealous and upset and not ask him about it directly because that is a thing that a grown-up person

I am actually not always convinced that his face makes another expression.

I am actually not always convinced that his face makes another expression.

would do and Buffy has just not quite made it there yet. I feel like the way David Boreanez plays this scene is really weird because it’s almost played as sexual tension? Which makes less sense for Angel to have with Dru. Like I know at one point he did have… something with her and that when he reverts to Angelus he seems to be all down with that, but as Angel I would think his primary feelings would be more of guilt. It makes sense that Spike is so crazy attracted to her because he seems to be attracted to her crazy. But Angel would not be, and without that, she really is just kind-of bonkers. Like I love her with all of my heart but she is really not all there. Anyway. Whatever. Dru tells him he’s in love with Buffy and whispers sweet nothings, while Buffy feels betrayed on a rooftop into the credits.

Look at their cute flirting faces. Awwww.

Look at their cute flirting faces. Awwww.

When we jump back in, we are at school and Jeny is tormenting Giles with the date she won’t tell him about. This date will later prove to be monster trucks. I love that this happened but I refuse to believe that Jeny, who is clearly a very intelligent woman, could ever have believed that Giles might have been into monster trucks. So I choose to think she just enjoyed the idea of seeing him all freaked out about it. Which, to be fair, does sound like a lot of fun. I will also say as a sidenote that the only times I can remember seeing this storyline in the past, of someone refusing to tell the other person where they were going on a date, the person worrying, even asking what they would wear either seriously or a way to get an answer, the genders were always swapped. I don’t know if that has always been true but I feel like generally the man is assumed to be taking the woman somewhere so I certainly think it is often true. So that’s just a note.

Buffy is mopey and sad and generally not super responsive. Which, to his credit, Giles notices. I don’t know if this is supposed to be him trying harder to look out for her since Reptile Boy but maybe? Either way, he says maybe she should take the night off and maybe she should go spend time with Angel. It is weird to me to remember that at some point Giles encouraged their relationship. But Buffy gets even more mopey about that and wanders away.

This is not exactly subtle, you two.

This is not exactly subtle, you two.

Note passing between Willow and Buffy about all of the lowdown, while Cordelia explains her deep and amazing thoughts on Marie Antoinette. I am always fascinated by the passing notes in a class where maybe you will get caught and in trouble thing. Incidentally, if that is a risk, maybe they shouldn’t be writing “vampire?” on one of them. But either way. I have only ever passed notes in church or in college classes, when it is more writing in notebooks and sliding them back and forth. No real danger.

As they wander out of class and Xander is stupid and they make plans for that night, here is Ford! I love Ford. I love his little 90’s gold hoop earring. Buffy talks about her schoolgirl crush on him (it is easy to see that he was probably a very cute kid) and how she used to listen to “I Touch Myself” while thinking about him in fifth grade. Before getting very awkward. I definitely did not know that song as a kid but this whole thing amused me, especially Willow only just figuring out what it was about. It’s a silly thing but I actually remember moments like that in high school (and sometimes later)? Of like… suddenly realizing something was dirty and being like OMG!

Look at the tiny little hoop! I knew so many guys who had this.

Look at the tiny little hoop! I knew so many guys who had this.

In The Bronze, Buffy asks Angel kind of but not really what he was up to last night and he lies and says nothing much, just reading and brooding silently and alone like always. Buffy is so overwhelmed by this that she basically drags Ford out the door in front of him so they can go for a walk. Willow adorably tries to get Angel to socialize, unsuccessfully, obviously.

“Whating a what?”
One of my favorite lines.

As they’re walking, Buffy hears noise and asks Ford to go get her purse. He does not and instead goes around the corner to see her killing a vampire at which point he tells her that surprise! He’s totally known she was the Slayer all along, he figured it out right before she left L.A. but never had a chance to tell her. I’m interested in how he would have figured that out, like were there mystical texts he found or something? I mean, I get how he could have found out there were vampires, Slayer just seems more specific.

Buffy is relieved to have a person to talk to, they proceed to apparently walk all over Sunnydale in one night. The geography is Sunnydale is always in flux. Later I think they’ll say that there are 7 cemeteries, right now there is just the one. There is a college that I think just manifests when Buffy needs to go there. So right now it is a super tiny town that maybe just grows really fast? So maybe that little boy really could have just run home really quickly. Anyway.

Also Angel shows up at Willow’s house to ask her to use her magic webbernet skills

Seriously. There is SO MUCH MAKE-UP ON THIS FACE.

Seriously. There is SO MUCH MAKE-UP ON THIS FACE.

to research Ford. He is wearing a lot of make-up in this scene. Like a lot. He goes on a little bit about how he didn’t used to get jealous, he just used to sit around and brood all the time and then there was Buffy and that made everything different but also he totally has a sixth sense about people and he knows Ford is bad news. He is not in the school system so that seems probable.

And in point of fact he is bad news, because he is part of a vampire cult. I love the vampire cult. They all dress in ridiculous costumes and have silly movies playing presumably 24/7 and also Chantarelle is there. Chantarelle has a very small part in this but she will come back. She has one more cult in her future and after that she is going to become amazing. She was never in Angel enough. Still, it was exciting to see her. It is clear Ford is up to devious things.

Willow is extremely nervous about not telling Buffy that she is researching Ford. She acts exactly as she has every single other time she has ever lied about anything. Still, this does not seem to tip off Buffy. Which is a bit confusing. Perhaps she is distracted by Ford.

This sweater is... a thing. You can't tell but she is also wearing yellow tights.

This sweater is… a thing. You can’t tell but she is also wearing yellow tights.

Ford, using a vampire’s directions, is able to find Spike’s lair. Spike is not thrilled to see him. Ford begs him to speak in movie-talk. That is all Ford wants, really. He has a very specific concept of himself and his story in his head and it seems important to him that it play out in that way, because even being a villain has rules. Some villains are better than others. It’s interesting, I’ve always liked Neil Gaiman’s line about how “no one is a villain in their own story.” I think that is typically true. But I also think that what Ford does here is a way to feel better about his actions by making that his place. If he IS a villain, than he is not making this really pretty awful choice, it’s just who he is. It’s just his place in a story. We can all tell ourselves pretty amazing stories when we need to.

Buffy is devastated when she sees Druscilla’s picture in a book and realizes that’s who she saw with Angel. I am not convinced she could recognize Dru from that distance but sure, whatever. Also Ford is lying to her, because the vampire he said was dead has stolen a book from the library. Buffy’s problems with trust are always pretty out there in the open. This hits her where it hurts.

She looks so pretty and it's just such an interesting shot.

She looks so pretty and it’s just such an interesting shot.

And so that night, when Angel comes to see her, immediately opens badly with it being about Ford and about how Willow and Xander were also in on this whole thing, she is betrayed and hurt and angry. I love the way they film her in this scene. They’ve been filming her very soft and very innocent this season and the shots here really heighten that. Dressed in white, mostly her face, she looks helpless and hurt and vulnerable. She looks like she’s going to be crushed.

Angel talks about the idea that some lies are necessary, that learning that is part of living long enough. He asks her if she loves him, and she finally says she does love him but she is not sure if she trusts him. I hated that line when I was younger, I thought it was not possible to love someone without trusting them. I have a more holistic view of relationships now. Certainly it doesn’t seem healthy to do that, but I wouldn’t say impossible. So he tells her about Druscilla and she is broken up, another horrific thing to forgive and get past. Everything she trusted seems to be falling apart. But it’s going to get worse.

When she sees Ford the next morning, she once again looks very beautiful but she is wearing black. When she goes down into the basement, she’ll be wearing a white coat over her black shirt. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but in an episode that highlights the idea of black hats and white hats, I have to assume it’s possible.

Chantarelle because I love her. You are going to be SO MUCH COOLER someday, hun. Also, you will wear a lot less make-up.

Chantarelle because I love her. You are going to be SO MUCH COOLER someday, hun. Also, you will wear a lot less make-up.

It’s that afternoon that she finds his hideout and he locks them all into the basement. She begs them to come to their senses. Chantarelle is the only one who really stands out here. She’s so far from where she’ll be. She’s so genuine and so anxious. Who knows what she came from that made her think she needed this, but chances are it is the same thing that will lead her into Reverend Sunshine’s cult next. She has some things to work through.

And then there is Buffy’s conversation with Ford. The rest of the people really should be able to hear them but we’ll ignore that. Ford tells Buffy what he’s really been waiting to reveal all along. That he has cancer, that he’s dying. He says he does not need to justify himself to her but that is all he’s trying to do. Buffy is heartbroken, you can see her take it almost as a physical hit. But she gathers and says the True Thing. “You don’t have a good choice, but you have a choice.”

Say what you want about SMG's acting, but she makes devastated face SO WELL.

Say what you want about SMG’s acting, but she makes devastated face SO WELL.

He will not make the right choice. In the end Buffy will threaten Dru, realizing that’s who matters to Spike. She locks them all in. Everyone escapes but Ford. They do actually give him what he wanted, but they leave him in the basement so they must have known what would happen to him. I guess Spike is a man of his word… kind-of. I will say I always wondered what happened with Ford’s family. Where did they think he went? How did they think he died? Did Giles pay for his gravestone?

Finally we just have Buffy and Giles, standing by a grave. She doesn’t know what to say.

“It’d be simpler if I could just hate him. I think he wanted me to. It was easier for him to be the villain of the piece. But really he was just scared.” 

And that is one of the worst parts about growing up, if also one of the most important. Realizing that the monsters aren’t monsters, learning to empathize with the people who have done horrible things, even though you do not condone the horrible things. She stakes Ford when he rises and she begs Giles to tell her that maybe this gets easier, that she won’t have to keep doing this. He doesn’t know what to say either. So she takes Angel’s advice —

Lie to me.

Lie to Me 12

And Giles tells her what we would all like to hear and believe, even when we know it is not true. You will always be able to tell who is good and who is evil. No one ever dies. We will all live happily ever after.

It’s one of the first, hardest, and best stories about growing up that Buffy ever told me.