It’s New To Me – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (“After Life” / “Flooded”)

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!

Pics

After bringing Buffy Summers back from the dead as expected in the two-part opener for Season 6, it’s assumed that most viewers expected the Mutant Enemy crew to ease her back into the land of the living and maintain the status quo that they’ve all grown to love for the past five seasons. Thankfully, creator and showrunner Joss Whedon isn’t content to let the show coast on audience expectations, as evidenced by the remarkable third episode of the season, entitled “After Life,” which effectively builds on the sense of unease evidenced on Buffy’s face at the very end of the two-part premiere and reveals some very dark information regarding Buffy’s resurrection at the hands of her friend Willow.

The episode begins with Buffy trying in vain to reacclimate herself to life in Sunnydale, while Spike reacts quite harshly to the news of her revival, telling the gang that some harsh consequences will likely result from their careless tampering with nature. It doesn’t take too long before strange things start occurring in the Summers household, where Willow and Tara moved in during Buffy’s death in order to look after Dawn. While looking at pictures on her wall one night, Buffy notices that several of the faces on the photos are turning into skulls, and Willow and Tara are visited by Buffy that very night and are mercilessly chided by her. When they get out of bed, the vision of Buffy disappears and they notice a moving lump on the ceiling. When Willow calls Xander to report the weirdness, Xander witnesses his fiancee Anya slashing her own cheek with a kitchen knife before collapsing to the floor, where he sees another moving lump. Regrouping the next day at the Magic Box, the Scoobies are unable to find any information that matches what they saw the previous night, but when Buffy excuses herself to go patrolling, the evil force that possessed both Buffy and Anya enters Dawn, who hurls insults at the gang and breathes fire before the force exits her. The gang then begins to suspect that this spirit that is haunting them may have been a side-effect of Willow’s resurrection spell.

buffy-afterlife1

While the gang tries to figure out the cause of this bizarre phenomenon, Buffy visits Spike’s crypt, where they have their first real conversation since her awakening. Spike tells her that ever since the night she died, he has gone over several ways in which he could have saved both her and Dawn in her head. Back at the Magic Box, Willow discovers that the formless demon was created during the resurrection spell and that it can only possess a human body temporarily. When she states that the only way the demon can find a permanent host is to kill Buffy, it jumps into Xander’s body and thanks Willow for the information before venturing off to find the Slayer. The demon catches up to Buffy a few minutes before the Scoobies do, and Willow is able to cast a spell to make the demon corporeal long enough for Buffy to kill it with an axe. The next morning, everything seems to have reverted back to normal, as Buffy publicly thanks her friends for saving her from Hell. We learn just a few minutes later, however, that this was a lie as Buffy admits to Spike that she was actually in Heaven and finally at peace until Willow unknowingly snatched her from paradise and thrust her back into the violent and turbulent world of the living. She makes Spike swear to not let anyone else know about this, choosing to suffer in silence rather than burden her friends with the guilt over what they inadvertently did.

“After Life” rivals “The Body” as one of the most emotionally-wrenching episodes of Buffy that I’ve seen. The final reveal of the episode brings home the theme of the episode in extremely effective fashion, revealing the demon in the episode to be not only a physical side-effect of her resurrection but as a brilliant metaphor for the ugly truth behind Willow’s well-intentioned spell. The abuse of magic and its consequences looks to be a major theme of this season, as spelled out by Spike’s rebuke of Willow’s carelessness, which the writers have smartly shown signs of several times in previous seasons. This also adds a new layer to Buffy’s character and personality, as she is forced to keep a dark and important secret from her closest friends and her sister as she is faced with the challenge of reacclimating herself with a life that she had previously made peace with letting go of. This is all really deep stuff for a show that those who are unfamiliar with it would have mistakenly dismissed as just a fun weekly program about a hot chick that fights vampires. “After Life” is just one more glowing example of how deeply Whedon and company care about these characters and how they are able to create some genuine drama and emotion from what may seem like some to be an overly puerile or insubstantial premise. 5 out of 5 Jet-Lag Comparisons.

Hug

After that gut-punch of an ending, the tone is lightened somewhat in the next episode, “Flooded,” which deals with the more practical consequences of Buffy’s resurrection, primarily all the bills that have accumulated in the five months or so that she had been dead. This reality comes as a surprise to Buffy after she tries in vain to fix a leaky pipe in the basement, an action that ultimately results in the entire lower level of her house being flooded. When she gets the estimate from the plumber, Willow and Tara break the news that after paying for Joyce’s hospital stay and funeral, she’s pretty much broke. She then brainstorms ways in which she can bring some money in, ignoring Anya’s suggestion that she should charge people for saving them from vampires, and ultimately decides to try to get a personal loan from a local bank. After being turned down due to having no job and no collateral, she is ambushed by a demon. After fighting it off, she again asks the banker for a loan.

In addition to the Summers girls’ financial woes, we discover additional tension within the ranks of the Scoobies, especially between Xander and Anya, who are arguing about when they should officially announce their engagement to the rest of the group. Dawn decides to join the group as they research the demon that showed up at the bank and identifies it as a M’Fashnik, which is backed up by the returning Giles, which results in a warm reunion with Buffy. After he gets settled in, however, he becomes the latest member of the Scooby Gang to chide Willow for carelessly breaking the rules of nature in order to bring Buffy back and states that she was the last person he would have expected to do anything so foolish. Willow is understandably shocked at this admonishment and retorts by stating that making her angry may not be the best of decisions, a possible omen of bad things to come. Meanwhile, the M’Fashnik appears at the lair of the three young men who summoned it, at least two of whom are familiar faces within the show. The three are revealed to be Jonathan (Danny Strong), the nerdy guy who had previously hypnotized the entire town into thinking he was the coolest guy in the world; Warren (Adam Busch), the robotics expert whom Spike forced to create the Buffybot; and Andrew (Tom Lenk), the younger brother of Tucker Wells, the disturbed Sunnydale High student who tried to unleash a pack of Hellhounds at the prom. They reveal that they conjured the M’Fashnik in order to rob the bank, but the demon demands that they help him in his plan to kill the Slayer, which they are all hesitant to do.

Flooded

Back at the Summers household, Giles tells Buffy that he will help her catch up with her delinquent bills, and Buffy later has another heart to heart with Spike, the only one who knows the truth behind her resurrection. Later that night, the M’Fashnik invades the Summers home and attacks Giles and Dawn before Buffy and Spike intervene. The fight winds up in the flooded basement, where Buffy drowns the demon. In the aftermath of the fight, the nerdy trio decides that if their plan to subversively take over Sunnydale is to succeed, then the Slayer will have to be taken care of in some form or another. The episode ends with Buffy receiving a phone call from Angel, who apparently has just learned of her resurrection, and then leaving for L.A. to meet with him in yet another obligatory Whedonverse crossover.

While not as deep or focused as the first three episodes of the season, “Flooded” does effectively lighten the overall mood of the season a bit, even though there are omens of trouble to come both within and without the group. My biggest gripe with the episode, aside from the abrupt conclusion that really comes out of nowhere, is not essentially a plot detail but rather a question of why Willow and Tara didn’t step up and try to help Dawn stay current with the bills since they are effectively living in the Summers home and, I might add, have taken over the master bedroom. If I were Buffy, instead of immediately trying to get a load, I would have first demanded that those two Wiccan freeloaders get jobs so that they can earn their keep. For Willow, especially, that seems like the least she could do after all that she’s done already. Additionally, the reveal of what I assume is the “Big Bad” of the season was slightly underwhelming, as Jonathan, Warren, and Andrew don’t strike me as particularly formidable foes, but perhaps in comparison to all the dark and serious things happening to Buffy’s personal life and within the group, perhaps the trio’s antics will serve as some much-needed comic relief and will not be as dire a threat as the main villains of the five previous seasons. For that, I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt and will wait until at least mid-season before I pass judgment on this decision. The return of Giles was welcome, albeit unexpected since Anthony Stewart Head has been removed from the opening credits. This of course makes me think that his return will be somewhat short-lived, especially in light of Willow’s uncharacteristically ominious threat to him during their scene together. Overall, while “Flooded” was a slight letdown after three really great episodes, it established a lot of new information that should make for an interesting and unusual season and earns 4 out of 5 Inconvenient Skirts.

Share

Filed Under: FeaturesIt's New to Me

Tags: ,

Who ARE these people!?

Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

Leave a Reply