FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Lie To Me
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy and Angel's relationship looks to be going well, but the Scoobies are still under threat from Spike and the now roaming Drusilla.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, Lie to Me is another strong entry in the first half of the second season, slowly starting the emerging theme of innocence, or rather, the loss of it. In this episode, Buffy's old friend from Hemery High, Ford (Jason Behr, Roswell alum and future co-star with SMG in The Grudge) transfers to Sunnydale for senior year and immediately seeks out his old friend. However, Ford has an ulterior motive; he wants to be a vampire and is willing to do just about anything to make that happen, including making a deal with Spike for Buffy's life.
Following on from Halloween was never going to be an easy task, but Lie To Me succeeds by going down the nostalgia route. Everyone has that one friend or crush you used to idolise and follow without question and this episode touches on that with Buffy discovering her friend isn't so great anymore. It is also one of the first episodes to really explore death and its certainty. Although Prophecy Girl dealt with Buffy's death, that was more from a supernatural angle because she is always fated to die (and it would be bad even by Whedon's standards to kill of the title character). In this, Ford is dying from a brain tumour and decides he wants to stay young and pretty forever. His reveal to Buffy is an emotional moment, one in which Buffy is forced to confront a person she can't save for the first time though she does her best to make sure he does the right thing.
There's a few moments in which we start to see the crashing realities about to hit Buffy and the gang this season. Perhaps the biggest of all is the revelation that Drusilla is alive and wandering around, talking to Angel no less. The Angel/Buffy relationship is a lot rockier than I remember and after they seemingly get along famously at the end of Halloween, they're back in a rough patch here as Buffy confronts Angel and he tells her the truth about his past with Dru. It's a big, important reveal and starts to illustrate just how evil Angelus was back in the day (though of course, everyone's going to find out soon enough). It's interesting to see the pieces slowly fall into place this season; in a sense, it's amazing that the Angelus reveal is so huge because it's all here to find in the build-up. But we're not there just yet and Buffy is still fairly unaware of how bad its all going to get.
Ford's desire to be a vampire leads to an episode absolutely steeped with pop culture vampirism, even more so than it is usually. Ford is a person well versed in movie lore, living everything out like its his own personal film, particularly in his scene with Spike. There's The Lost Boys in there with Ford's reference to dying young and staying pretty, Dracula gets some screen time whilst some of the costumes have to be seen to be believed. However, the most fun is the skewering of the Anne Rice vampire type (already present in Angel's duality); Chantarelle makes references to The Lonely Ones, vampires as tortured souls alone in the world who are more interested in brooding than hurting anyone. It does lead to a great Angel joke as he derides their misconceptions and has a person walk past in the same outfit. If this is what Whedon does to vampire fandom in the wake of Anne Rice, imagine what he would have done with Twilight? Now that is something I want to see.
It's also an episode full of great smaller moments; Cordelia's sympathy with Marie Antoinette, Giles and Jenny's Nitro-Burning-Funny-Cars date, Angel's disappearing trick, Willow's realisation about The Divinyls' 'I Touch Myself' (I didn't get that joke for the longest time until I too had a similar moment of realisaton and it all made sense) and Angel in Willow's bedroom; "Ours is a forbidden love". There's a few dodgy moments too, mostly to do with Xander who is a real dick in this episode. I mean, Xander always straddles the funny/irritating line, but here he's just plain annoying with his knowing comments and rampaging jealousy. It gets tired very quickly, though I suppose he's in line with teenage boys and it builds towards his actions in the season's finale. But still, he's just ugh.
Largely though, it's another strong episode in the season and one that is not afraid to start tackling the darker themes. Everyone always goes on about the darkness of the sixth season, but there is a lot to be found in this one if you're looking for it, if not quite on the same scale.
Quote of the Week (had to print the entirety of this):
Buffy: Does it ever get easy?
Giles: You mean life?
Buffy: Yeah... Does it get easy?
Giles: What do you want me to say?
Buffy: Lie to me.
Giles: Yes, it's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats and we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and everybody lives happily ever after.
Let's Get Trivial: That's Jack Palance playing Dracula on the television in a 1973 adaptation.
You can read Becky's look at Halloween here.