FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Dark Age
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: An old friend of Giles', Ethan Rayne, has already shown up and caused chaos on Halloween, leaving an ominous note. 'Be seeing you'.
Oh it's been a while hasn't it? I do apologise for the considerable gap between posts, but it's been a mad couple of months for me. Who knew applying for things would be so much work? Anyway, we are back, we are enthusiastic and we are raring to go. And what better way to kick it all back off again than with one of the best episodes of the (rather excellent anyway) second season run.
The Dark Age finds Giles front and centre as one of his friends from university arrives at the library looking a bit/a lot perturbed. It turns out that a demon they once summoned from the nethers has arrived back in town to take them one by one. Philip (friend at the library) is being pursued by the considerably worse for wear Deirdre, who turns into a puddle of blue goo before the credits hit. Each of Giles' friends share the Mark of Eyghon (said) demon and now all but he and the returning Ethan Rayne are dead. A confrontation with the demon leads to it possessing Jenny Calendar and with Giles out of commission, it's up to the gang to work out how to solve this week's feature creature.
Anthony Head has been the quiet stalwart of the cast so far, only really getting one chance to display any major depth to Giles during Halloween when he kicks the crap out of Ethan. There was a nice interplay there, hinting at something lurking in Giles' past that he isn't keen to see let out. An inner demon, literally speaking, is a really effective way to get under the character's skin and see him unable to make the clear-headed decisions he's usually known for as both he and the woman he loves with are pursued by the demon. It's also the first major insight into the 'hates the world ticking time bomb' Giles that we will later see more of in the sublime Band Candy.
It's also an important episode for Buffy's development. In the second season's theme of growing up, this is the moment in which you realise your parents aren't so dull or boring as you might think, that they too had a life before they started taking care of you and one day, you are actually going to have to fend for yourself. Giles' parental figure hasn't really been challenged in Buffy's eyes just yet, but here she is forced to confront his past as a hard-drinking, black magic performing bad guy whilst also having to solve the mystery herself. It's a big step for their relationship, one which is never quite as smooth as people tend to remember; there's an inbuilt reliance between the two of them on them staying within their roles, the slightly wayward daughter and the stern but fair father. When that balance is rocked, sparks fly.
The chemistry between Head and Gellar has always been one of the best elements of Buffy, perfectly capturing that surrogate father/daughter dynamic and one in which the audience invests a huge amount. I still remember feeling the same sense of betrayal writ over Buffy's face when Giles answers the door all drunk and dismissive. However, it's a necessary moment in their relationship, one that won't really be put to the test in the same way until later seasons, and both actors handle it brilliantly. It also proves to be a stronger relationship than either of them realise as Buffy defies him at every turn to try and save his life, jeopardising hers regularly in the process.
Elsewhere, it's one of the first major Scooby moments for Cordelia as she jumps into help Giles in his hour of need because she cares. Always skirting around the inner circle, Cordy seems to join in out of a genuine, if not vocalised, desire to help and it's at this point that she starts becoming more actively involved in the Slayerettes. Note in particular, the chemistry with Xander at this point; it's the classic "we hate each other so obviously we're going to kiss at some point." We also get another hint to Angel's dark side as the demon in him is just dying for a fight, and gets one, when Willow figures out that Eyghon will jump into the nearest dead person.
It's another good 'un as we draw ever closer to where the season really takes a plummet in the light and fluffy stakes. Next week, it's careers advice...
Quote of the Week:
Giles: "Wonderful. You work on your muscle tone while my brain dribbles out of my ears..."
Let's Get Trivial: Sarah Michelle Gellar's stunt double does some odd grunting in this episode. Speaking of which, SMG'S stunt double is Sophia Crawford, who was also the stunt double for the Pink Ranger. Go go 90s kids.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Lie to Me, here.