FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Doomed
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike has been neutered by the Initiative and can no longer hurt humans, but they are still looking for him before he can reveal any of their secrets. Buffy now knows that Riley is in the Initiative and he discovers her demon-hunting abilities after the pair bumped into each other whilst out in Sunnydale trying to stop the Gentlemen.
Riley and Buffy are still trying to deal with the fallout of finding out each other's secrets when an earthquake rocks Sunnydale. Buffy immediately recognises it as a sign of a potential apocalypse, but Giles isn't convinced. However, when a student is ritually murdered at one of the parties on campus, the gang realise it is the work of a demon cult hell bent on bringing about the apocalypse. Again. As Buffy deals with Riley trying to make their relationship work, she also has to work to stop the demons, but it might be easier if she doesn't have to do it alone.
It's all about going back to high school in this episode of Buffy as Buffy's relationship with Riley hits another bump in the road when she realises he has no idea of what she's faced in her past. There's an apocalypse on the way that just happens to originate on the Hellmouth in the burnt remains of the high school with added Mayor meat, extra crispy. Percy shows up and calls Buffy a nerd and the gang are mobilised to stop the end of the world once again. Like much of the fourth season, it's about moving on and ensuring the Scoobies stay working together, just as they did back in high school.
Most of this comes through in Buffy's character stuff in this episode; her relationship with Riley, now revealed to be a part of the world she inhabits and not, as she believed, separate from it, gives her all sorts of Angel associations and how badly it all went. She also keeps reiterating the point that this fight is hers and hers alone, despite knowing she needs the gang around her to help. It's one of the central conflicts in her character all the way through and I love how it comes out more in the extreme situations. Of course, she can't do it alone and the episode once again proves that by not only having the gang with her, but having Riley come to her rescue and then work in partnership with her to save the world.
Having the big fight go down in the high school is also a clever piece of thematic work that allows everyone to realise how they don't really need to hang on to it anymore. It's smaller and "more charred." It may take Willow, Xander and Giles to the end of the season to realise how they are still needed, but it's a recovery process that starts, at least for Willow and Xander, right her. They're essential parts of the big fight at the end; Xander realises that the demons themselves are the sacrifice and Willow does a good job of getting hold of the bag of bones. Even if Spike undoes it all by throwing them and the second demon into the hole anyway.
It's also a big development for Spike in this episode. Initially seen trying to dust himself with a curious stake-in-a-vice contraption, he's feeling pretty low as a result of his chip implant and Willow's adorable pep talks don't really work. However, during the final fight, he discovers he can actually hit demons whilst implanted; it only restricts violence towards humans. Although Spike won't make the shift into being good entirely until next season, it's the start of the path here. Before then though, he stills gets to be a thorn in the Scoobies' collective side.
It's another strong episode in the season then, though perhaps not as memorable as Hush in its lasting Buffy legacy. Then again, few episodes are. It's one of the episodes focused on the thematics of the ongoing series as well as shedding Sunnydale High School further from the gang's memory. They've moved on and see it for the rotting, hellish institution it always was.
Quote of the Week:
Giles: It's the end of the world.
Buffy, Xander and Willow: Again?!
Let's Get Trivial: The continuity is hilariously all over the place in the Library fight scene; in the background of one shot, Spike has his vamp face, but in the close up straight after it's gone. Try keeping track of the bag of bones too. Nigh on impossible. Also, keep an eye out when the Scoobies are walking through; Catherine Madison's statue is still there...
Sunnydale Who's Who: We find out that Percy, Willow's former Sunnydale High tutee, survived the battle against the Mayor, took his scholarship at USC and is visiting his bitchy girlfriend at UC Sunnydale. He's mean about Willow. Git.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Hush, here.