FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Choices
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith's on the dark side, Buffy and Angel's relationship is now very serious and the Mayor is hurtling towards his ascension as the gang look on without knowing what to do.
Another aptly titled episode finds the gang with offers from colleges on their respective doorsteps. Buffy has been accepted to Northwestern, Willow's got into just about every university going (including Giles Factory, Oxford) and Xander's decided to go full Kerouac. The Mayor is also a step closer to ascending, having to digest an entire box of weird demonic spiders. With Buffy wanting to take the fight to his door, the gang put a plan into action. This being an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it doesn't go entirely to plan.
It's the episode in which Buffy and the Mayor finally meet, a union that crackles with all the tension that has gone before it. Unable to attack her directly, he plants the seed of doubt in Angel's mind about his relationship with Buffy. It's an insidious technique and one which forecasts Angel's departure loud and clear. Of course, Buffy is trying to leave herself but realises before the end that she is unable to. The threat of their looming future is reflected in the threat of the Ascension itself and it's that darkness that hangs heavy over the episode.
That threat doesn't carry quite so well in the earlier scenes because the episode goes into a full-on thriller homage, beginning with Buffy's desire to steal the Box of Gavrok. The heist itself is a nice little Mission Impossible style spoof, from Wesley's plan to synchonrise watches foiled by Buffy and Willow not wearing one to Buffy's harness jamming in her Tom Cruise moment. The jovial attitude to it doesn't always quite work, particularly when Willow gets captured (though her interaction with the vampire is great and clearly an early prototype for Agents of SHIELD's Simmons' attempts at remaining cool under pressure).
There are many little moments in this episode that I love. It's in the emphasis on the character quirks; Willow drawing diagrams for Xander and Oz's magic prep, Giles bringing a flask of tea on the Box heist and Snyder's war on drugs. The episode may not work entirely as a whole, but the character stuff is so good that the sudden shift in tone from jovial heist to hostage situations doesn't jar. Especially when Snyder barges in and begins accusing of everyone of being on a drug deal. For a man clued into the Sunnydale situation, he's remarkably silly. But that is why we love to hate him.
In fact, this is such a great Willow episode, despite it not being entirely about her. Given her growth over the course of the season, it's hardly surprising that she will readily stand up to Faith. Her speech about how Faith threw away pretty much any advantage she had is such a kickass character moment as well as going on to be the saviour of the day by stealing pages from the Books of Ascension. The episode is also the point at which Willow's future as a badass Wicca is cemented, deciding to stay in Sunnydale and help Buffy fight the good fight. That squeal and hug when she tells Buffy she's staying? Adorable.
Quote of the Week:
Mayor: Where's the courier? I'm supposed to pay him.
Faith: I made him an offer he couldn't survive.
Let's Get Trivial: The death of the security guard marks the 8th death of a Sunnydale High employee since the series began.
You can read Becky's look at Earshot here.