January 8th, 2021

Spoils of War Spoil Your Thyroid Artery

The Appeal of Simpler Fiction

I'm still watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I'm now seven episodes into season 2. "Lie to Me", which first aired in November 1997, was written and directed by Joss Whedon and is the first really interesting episode from him so far, not counting the pilot. There's more to it than jokes and pulp, you start to get a bigger sense of emotional stakes largely thanks to a one-off character, an old classmate of Buffy's called Ford (Billy Fordham).

He shows up at Sunnydale High at the beginning of the episode much to Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) surprise. She's surprisingly candid in explaining to Xander (Nicolas Brendon) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) that she'd had a massive crush on Ford in fifth grade. She even mentions listening to know "When I Think About You I Touch Myself", lamely adding that she didn't originally understand what the song meant. Could a fifth grader in L.A. really have been that innocent in the 90s? It seems implausible--though not as implausible as Willow just at that moment figuring out the song's meaning. It comes off more like coy burlesque humour, which I can kind of appreciate.

I found it a little more difficult accepting the fact that, when Ford reveals he knew Buffy was the Slayer, no-one asks how he came by that information, not even Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). But I can forgive the episode its faults when its plot about a vampire worshipping cult naively bargaining with vampires pays off so tragically.

It's the first moment of moral ambiguity on the show--suddenly Ford seems to have a point when he wants to live forever, and the vampire being a demon concept suddenly seems especially cruel. And it adds an intriguing shade to the subplot about Angel (David Boreanaz) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau) advanced in this episode.

It feels like, with this episode, Whedon finally caught up with reading Anne Rice as the layers of tragedy in Drusilla's past have that kind of operatic despair. She's almost Claudia from Interview with the Vampire. There's an interesting juxtaposition, now that I think about it, between Angel recalling how he obsessed with the exceptionally pure innocence of the human Drusilla and the innocence Buffy exhibits chatting about her crush on Ford. Adding another layer of intrigue is the fact that we've not yet been told that Angel has regained his soul in the years since he turned Drusilla into a vampire.

The episode also continues a satisfying development for Willow from throughout the season. I love the scene where she invites Angel into her room--he walks in all in satin and leather while she's wearing a big shirt and bunny slippers.

What a fun way to break the Anne Rice vibe (and I say that as someone who likes Rice's early books). Yet it's not so ironic as to break the fourth wall. Willow's personality always comes off as authentic, that's part of her charm.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available in a lousy cropped format on Amazon Prime.

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