In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
Despite being mostly disappointed in the first half of Buffy ‘s problematic fourth season, I remained optimistic that the show would right itself midway through and finish strong. That wish was strengthened with the highly entertaining pair of episodes covered today that all but eschew the ham-fisted moralizing of the weaker episodes of the season and returning to the show’s greatest strength – its characters. “Something Blue” and “Hush” both contain the same blend of humor and plot development that mark the strongest episodes of the series, and “Hush” especially managed to provide some genuinely creepy moments, which have been noticeably absent from this season so far.
“Something Blue” centers on Willow’s continued depression over her recent breakup with Oz, which isn’t helped by watching Buffy and Riley’s relationship continue to progress. Her added melancholy leads her to do some very “un-Willow” things such as drinking at a local club and shirking on her promises to help the group get vital information on the Initiative from Spike, who remains a prisoner in Giles’ apartment. Fed up with her situation, Willow conducts a spell that she hopes will allow things to finally go her way, which backfires considerably when things she says out of anger and/or sarcasm start to come true. While lashing out at Giles by claiming that he can’t see how much she’s hurting right now, she unknowingly strikes him bling, and while deriding Xander’s relationship with Anya by calling her a demon magnet, she unwittingly causes him to be followed and attacked by a number of demons. Her spell-spiked words also affect Buffy and Spike when she jokingly asks whether Buffy should go ahead and marry Spike since she’s been spending so much time with him trying to get information about the Initiative instead of hanging out with her. This comment leads to the two sworn enemies getting engaged and acting increasingly lovey-dovey, much to the chagrin of the blind Giles, who hilariously comments that at least he doesn’t have to see what’s happening. Things get even more complicated when Riley comes upon Buffy while she stares dreamily at a wedding dress in a store window and is distressed by the news of her upcoming nuptials.
When Xander uncovers the truth behind all the crazy things happening to them, Willow is approached by D’Hoffryn, the demon who turned Anya into a vengeance demon, and he transports her to his dimension. He offers Willow a chance to become a vengeance demon herself, having impressed him by her ability to create chaos with her spells. Willow tells D’Hoffryn that she is flattered by the offer but kindly refuses. She is then surprised when D’Hoffryn nonchalantly accepts her refusal and transports her back to Sunnydale, where she quickly reverses the spell and brings everything back to normal, resulting in a funny moment between Buffy and Spike, both of whom snap out of the spell while kissing each other. Willow attempts to make amends for her careless use of magic by baking cookies for the gang, and Buffy convinces Riley that her wedding announcement was just a joke.
While the majority of Season Four’s earlier episodes were either too silly or too serious, “Something Blue” restores the balance of light and dark that the show pulled off so well in its first three seasons. It’s definitely one of the more lighthearted episodes of the season so far, but having the main threat spring from Willow’s personal turmoil added a dash of pathos that made the blatantly humorous moments a lot more palatable than they were in some of the least successful episodes. I was also relieved that the show hasn’t forgotten about Amy, their former classmate who was turned into a mouse during the previous season and makes a brief appearance as a human during the spell before turning right back into a mouse. It’s nice to know that Whedon and his writing team didn’t forget about that unresolved plot thread and made me confident that it’s going to be tied up somewhere down the line. Overall, “Something Blue” was a welcome breath of fresh air after the recent glut of disappointing episodes and hopefully is a positive omen of how Season Four will progress from now on. 4 out of 5 Mugs of Pig Blood.
“Something Blue” is immediately followed by the even more impressive “Hush,” which not only offers one of the creepiest villains featured on the show so far but also provides an extremely well-done homage to silent film. The episode begins with Buffy asleep in Professor Walsh’s Psychology class and dreaming of her and Riley making out on the Professor’s desk in front of the entire class. Suddenly the lights in the classroom darken and the rest of the class disappears, and Buffy finds herself walking down a hallway facing a young girl who holds a small box and chants a dark nursery rhyme about a group of mysterious individuals called “The Gentlemen.” When Buffy wakes up, she calls Giles and gets him to research these “Gentlemen,” given her knack for creepily prophetic dreams. When talking to Willow about her budding relationship with Riley, Buffy says it’s going fine but that things don’t seem to be progressing the way she expected. Xander and Anya’s relationship also seems to be hitting a rough patch, with the former demon berating Xander for not being respectful of her feelings and accuses him of just wanting their relationship to be physical. The only member of the Scooby Gang that seems to be having any luck in love is Giles, who convinces Xander to take Spike in for a few days so that he can entertain his lady friend Olivia.
Willow, still stinging from Oz’s departure, tries to find solace in her Wicca group meetings but is disappointed to find that most of the members aren’t open to the idea of practicing actual witchcraft. The only other member of the group who shares her enthusiasm for casting spells is a shy and quiet girl named Tara (Amber Benson). That night, after everyone in Sunnydale has gone to bed, a group of pale, emaciated ghost-like figures gather around a box that looks very much like the one Buffy saw in her dream. When they open it, a force from within the box captures the voices of everyone in town and brings them all back into the box. The next morning, everyone is shocked to find that they are unable to speak. This sudden and unexplained phenomenon makes things particularly difficult for Riley and his roommate Forrest, both of whom find it quite difficult to enter their secret Initiative base by using their elevator’s voice recognition software. They eventually meet up with Professor Walsh and, using computers and old-fashioned pen and paper, make plans to find out what’s causing the wave of silence that is plaguing the town. The Scooby Gang regroups, having seen firsthand the negative effects the wave of silence is having on the town, and they meet up in a nearby classroom where Giles uses a series of transparency displays to share what his research has uncovered about these “Gentlemen.” His presentation explains that they are a group of demons found in a fairy tale that travel from town to town collecting human hearts, stealing the voices of the townspeople so that they are unable to scream, due to the fact that a human scream will kill them. Giles states nonverbally that they need seven hearts before moving on to the next town, and the group plans an assault to help stop the “Gentlemen” from harvesting those organs.
While prowling for hearts, the Gentlemen come across Tara, who runs from them and seeks refuge in a nearby dorm house, knocking on doors until she finally gets the attention of Willow, who lets her hide in her room before they both hide in a laundry room. Meanwhile, Buffy infiltrates the Gentlemen’s base of operations in the school’s clock tower and winds up fighting their grotesque minions alongside Riley, who was planning a similar attack. Both are shocked to find out the truth about each other but of course are unable to verbalize it. Back at Giles’, Spike enjoys a mug full of pig’s blood and moseys into the living room just as Xander arrives and finds Anya asleep on the couch and Spike with blood on his mouth. Incensed, Xander pounces Spike and punches him repeatedly in the face before Anya wakes up and reassures him that Spike didn’t bite her. Extremely turned on by Xander’s expression of care over her well-being, she makes a hilarious gesture suggesting that they should go to his place and do it. Back in the dorm laundry room, Willow and Tara both manage to telepathically move a soda machine towards the door to use as a barricade, giving them enough time to make their escape. Fighting alongside Riley, Buffy is able to break the Gentlemen’s box, which restores everyone’s voices. When she lets out a loud scream, the Gentlemen’s heads explode, saving the town for the time being. The episode ends with Buffy and Riley, now free of having to cover up their secrets and having shared a brief first kiss during the previous night’s battle, still finding it hard to talk to one another.
Like most of the better “one and done” episodes of Buffy, “Hush” succeeds in telling a fun story that contains a lot of important details for the season’s overall plot. Here, the big change is of course the would-be couple of Buffy and Riley discovering the truth behind their “extra-curricular” activities. Aside from that important development, however, this episode is just flat-out funny. As expected, Joss Whedon wrote and directed “Hush,” which is commendable since his decision to make it mostly silent forces him to use something other than his usual whip-smart dialogue, and he proves to be up for the challenge. The exaggerated facial expressions and gestures used by the cast to express their thoughts and ideas match the bigness of actors in silent movies, all of whom had to rely on big performances since they could not recite dialogue, and in both cases, they result in some genuinely humorous moments, such as the aforementioned misunderstanding between Xander, Anya, and Spike. The silent movie influence is also felt in the appearance of the Gentlemen, who look like something straight out of a German Expressionist horror film from the Twenties. The scenes in which they attack students of UC Sunnydale and remove their hearts are effectively scary, mostly because of the lack of screaming and the heightened musical score accompaniment. “Hush” uses all of these elements to showcase Whedon’s immense talent as a director as well as a writer, which the majority of American viewers would discover twelve years later with The Avengers. His impressive technical proficiency and playfully referential humor make “Hush” the first great episode of Season Four. 5 out of 5 Inadvertently Lewd Staking Gestures.