Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Hush   Rewatch 
August 26, 2015 9:14 PM - Season 4, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Scary monsters The Gentlemen steal all of Sunnydale's voices so that they may harvest seven hearts under cover of silence. Buffy and Riley come face to face with the secrets they've been keeping. Willow meets Tara, a shy witch impressed by her power.
posted by yellowbinder (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, “Hush” is one of the big ones.

I think this might be the creepiest episode of Buffy. The Gentlemen are eerily effective villains in their precise movements and creepy smiles, and with their more animalistic counterparts to show that, as genteel as they may be, there is a savage brutality underneath. Camden Toy plays all of the scariest villains, so of course he’s playing one of them.

There’s so much analysis here, but “Hush” has a place in my heart due to this silly story: I used to be embarrassed about watching Buffy at home with my parents (this episode aired four days before my 15th birthday), so sometimes I would close the doors to the TV room in our basement when I was watching it. “Hush” happened just before the time that my dad started watching Buffy and then got really into it.*

So I’m watching “Hush” in a darkened basement with one window to the dark corridor at the side of the house and JUST as that Gentleman pops up in the window when Olivia is looking out (the biggest jump-scare in all of Buffy) my dad throws open the door with a plate of dinner for me and I screamed super loudly (and I was a very quiet teen). The ominous shadow in the doorway responded, “…I thought you liked omelets.”

*(Actual thing my dad said once, after my kitten Willow dragged the bag of catnip from its hiding place and strewed it all over the house on a high spree: “Well, if you didn’t want the cat to be addicted to drugs, then you shouldn’t have named her Willow.” He’s the greatest.)

Children creepily singing are the creepiest. No thank you.

Willow messing with Buffy after the lecture she slept through is a nice indication that their friendship is largely repaired from the previous episode, and that Willow is in a much better headspace. I think the playfulness of that scene is necessary, because otherwise we would absolutely get whiplash from Willow suddenly being interested in someone after the angst of “Something Blue.” On the other hand, this episode/scene also throws into sharp relief that BUFFY IS DATING HER TA. I really hope he’s not marking her work at this point, though I guess they threw us a bone by saying that there are no more papers, only the upcoming final, so his role as her superior is almost done. (Yes, mystical creatures are ripping out people’s hearts, and this is what I care about.)

Spin-off series: Spike and Giles star in The Odd Couple! Watch Giles cringe as Spike strews cereal all over the house and never buys his own.

There are lots of thematic moments supporting the “less talk, more show” school of relationship communication. However, it’s not denigrating talk when talk is clear and honest conversation (something the show has been a major proponent of in the past). It is both important and necessary that the episode concludes with Buffy and Riley agreeing that they need to talk, and their silence now being an issue. It’s important enough that they talk that the next episode doesn’t gloss over the hard conversation and start after it, as most shows would have done; “Doomed” picks up right where this episode ends, and so the characters actually have to do the hard work of communicating.

“Yes that's exactly the most appalling thing you could have said" is probably my favourite line of the episode. (Well, there are fewer lines than usual.)

Speaking of dialogue, the random Wicca group member’s "Oh yeah, then we could all get on our broomsticks and fly around on our broomsticks" is a stupidly redundant line, but it actually does a great job of showing how unimaginative and dull the character is. I like it because no competent script writer would actually leave that in a final draft, but it conveys a lot about a very minor, one-note character, and strengthens the “talk, all talk” theme. (Speaking of new characters, yay, it’s Tara, everyone! Remember zig-zag hair parts?)

Giles, pick up your orgasm friend from the airport. Come on, man. No wonder she leaves you. Again, theme: “That’s enough small talk, don’t you think?” Then, near the end, "All the time you used to talk to me about witchcraft and darkness and the like - I just thought you were being pretentious." Even if talk is true, it's a two-way street; it has to be believed by the listener.

The scene where Xander’s first reaction to having no voice is to call Buffy is a nice touch, because in its own way it shows how much we rely on these things and take them for granted. Now, of course, Xander would just text Buffy, and actually everyone would just text everyone else and nobody would even notice there was a problem. Another plot ruined by technology. Forrest writing “Come On Come On” on a notepad as Riley struggles with the override code is ridiculous.

The use of diegetic sound in the episode is really neat, not just because people watching know there’s nothing wrong with their televisions. The broken bottle being such a loud, intrusive sound highlights how quiet it is without voices.

The scene with the transparencies and everyone’s silent reactions is definitely a classic. I do wish we hadn’t seen Giles as a competent artist as recently as in “The Initiative,” though. It’s a great twist on the usual exposition, complete with Anya eating popcorn and Buffy’s enthusiastic staking motions.

The Willow and Tara chase scene is genuinely suspenseful. The scene where the Gentlemen’s heads explode is genuinely gross. It is genuinely a shame that Giles was not a member of Pink Floyd.

One more story: my first year of college, I came home for Spring Break and I had organized a big party at home. I developed laryngitis slightly before the break, with the final nail in the coffin being a loud bar on St. Patrick’s Day on my return. I didn’t want to cancel my party, so because of this episode, instead I bought a whiteboard and hung it around my neck. It works less well in social situations when everyone else can talk except you. (Willow writing “hi Giles” on her board is absolutely adorable, though.)
posted by ilana at 10:28 PM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Speaking of dialogue, the random Wicca group member’s "Oh yeah, then we could all get on our broomsticks and fly around on our broomsticks"

You know thinking on it I don't love the show picking on Wiccans, as in the real life versions who don't have actual magical powers. I mean, Willow mocks them and all, but as far as they know actual magic doesn't actually exist, so their attitude is hardly completely insensible. Admittedly I'm not sure how you could be a Wiccan in Sunnydale and not know that magic is real (apparently it's on the internet too), but there you go.

Forrest writing “Come On Come On” on a notepad as Riley struggles with the override code is ridiculous.

I kind of love that moment, just because I'd love to know what's going on in Forrest's head that he thinks that writing that is the best use of his time.


Yeah this is absolutely brilliant episode. No doubt. As Ilana says, it's straight up scary at points, and the Gentlemen are the best character design the show ever does (along with the asylum patients as helpers, which is just this creepy added detail that is never remarked upon). It's well plotted, intense, and simple. As with all the best episodes of Buffy, it manages to accomplish the episodes plot while moving forward lots of stories at the same time: Buffy and Riley's relationship and their secrets, Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya, even Giles and Olivia (the last romantic interest Giles will ever have).

This episode also introduces Tara. By having Willow be the dominant partner of her relationship with Tara, and Tara somewhat be a version of shy Willow from school, we get a new dynamic for her relationship. Tara doesn't get a great deal to do this season, but she's likable in spite of that. We never get a full view of who she is exactly, but this was true of Oz as well. The whole weird "no gay lovin!" the network has going on leads to a bit of a confusing time with their relationship as we will observe as this season progresses, but I'm glad Whedon pushed for this relationship. It seems unexceptional now, but at the time it was a really huge deal (although I'll note that the UK had already had it's first lesbian kiss at it's point, on the soap brookside).

-"you know I do an empowring bundt." I would love to see that.
-"You mean an orgasm friend?"
-I like that Buffy doesn't realise immediately. It's a lovely slow reveal of what's happened
-Walsh pointing to the stairs
-Willow writes "Hi Giles"
-How did Giles manage to get everyone to the auditorium?
-I love Giles' art
-I love how proactive the terminally shy Tara is here, thinking of a plan and trying to find Willow.
-I love Riley breaking the wrong thing
-Bye Olivia, we hardly knew ye.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:18 AM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This one knocks the ball out of the park. Monsters don't come much creepier than the Gentlemen.

actually everyone would just text everyone else and nobody would even notice there was a problem. Another plot ruined by technology.

Oh my God, that never occurred to me before. Buffy doesn't seem like that long ago, but there are definitely times when the late '90s-ness suddenly hits you and you realize that some crucial aspect of the episode's plot is totally not a thing anymore.

When most shows do a "stunt" episode the results are maybe fun for a week but then they tend to date badly. Buffy is a rare show where the stunts almost always worked and are still regarded as series peaks. I'm thinking of Hush, Once More with Feeling and The Body (which is arguably not a stunt episode but definitely feels apart from the rest of the series, what with the all-too-realistic death of Buffy's mom, the lack of music and the lack of anything supernatural until the very end). The only one I can think of that maybe didn't work was the dream episode, which I remember thinking was a little strained and cute. Are there other Buffy "stunt" episodes I'm forgetting?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:14 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are there other Buffy "stunt" episodes I'm forgetting?

The various Halloween eps, kinda "Band Candy", "Restless"... depending on how you define it, there's a fair amount, none of which really bomb.
posted by Etrigan at 4:54 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love how most of the silent dialogue nevertheless comes through very clearly, and for the most part they're not even overacting. I also love the cuts between the Scoobies and the Initiative, Giles and Prof Walsh effectively finishing each other's sentences. (Bonus points for using the Kurzweil!) The sign about using the stairs in an emergency cracks me up every time! And all the lovely moments people have already mentioned.

Also today Giles would have done a PowerPoint. And not everyone who can draw well draws well all the time. I do a mean line in stick figures even though I can also draw properly. This wasn't the time or place for works of art.

Olivia turns to booze when the going gets tough. Obviously not a stayer. Apparently the Bible verse referenced is along the lines of 7 angels appearing with 7 plagues. Reinforces the 7 theme, but of course the Gents are not angels. Or from a real fairy tale.

A classic top episode without a doubt, and deservedly so. And Ursula Hitler, you are of course entitled to your opinion on Restless, but it is THE BEST. Just sayin'.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:20 AM on August 27, 2015


When I first saw this episode, I had no idea what the joke was when Buffy mimes staking in the auditorium. When I rewatched years later I lost my damn mind. (The same is true for the many lesbian jokes forthcoming...)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:28 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


(although I'll note that the UK had already had it's first lesbian kiss at it's point, on the soap brookside).

There had actually been several lesbian kisses on US TV by that point, but Buffy was the first to have it happen outside the context of "the lesbian kiss episode" where it was a one-and-done thing rather than part of an ongoing relationship. From that link:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) writer Marti Noxon encountered resistance from television executives when setting the groundwork for the long-term relationship between Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara Maclay (Amber Benson). Noxon spoke of the resistance Buffy writers encountered in 2002, saying in an interview, "You can show girls kissing once, but you can't show them kissing twice… because the second time, it means that they liked it."

Note that they don't actually kiss onscreen until The Body.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Buffy has so many stunt/gimmick episodes, and they are almost all great. I'd add The Zeppo, The Wish, Tabula Rasa and the upcoming (to us) episodes Who Are You and Superstar. These all have great fun disrupting the normal drama of the show, playing with the format and making jokes about the conventions of Buffy and TV in general.
posted by skewed at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Note that they don't actually kiss onscreen until The Body.

But they were clearly in a relationship before then, right? I know they played coy about the relationship for a while, but IIRC by The Body it had been clear for a while they were a couple. At the time it seemed like the big breakthrough was that the show was taking one its main characters and putting her in an ongoing lesbian relationship, as opposed to a one-off smooch. I do remember when that seemed like a huge, controversial thing, and it is gratifying that it totally would not be a huge, controversial thing now.

Buffy has so many stunt/gimmick episodes

Yeah, those weren't quite as stunt-y as a musical episode or a silent episode, but they were pretty odd and exceptional too. "Stunt" or "gimmick" sound more negative than I mean, though. So does "very special episode". What do you call an episode that is really bold and experimental, but isn't just a stunt for stunt's sake? I mean, these weren't like Moonlighting doing their own production of The Taming of the Shrew. (Hello, fellow old people who get that reference!) These were excellent hours of television, very much a part of the continuity of the series, and they took a big risk and made it work.

And Ursula Hitler, you are of course entitled to your opinion on Restless, but it is THE BEST.

I remember (and it has been a while) feeling like I hadn't learned anything much about the characters and that the surreal imagery wasn't as surreal as dreams really are. I remember getting to the end and thinking, "Huh. Well, I guess they got that out of their systems. Hopefully next week we'll get a proper episode." So it wasn't something painful for me, but I just wasn't feeling it.

I don't think anybody has done a dream episode better than MASH. There was some pretty on-the-nose imagery there, but it's still weird and creepy as hell. An armless Hawkeye in a boat without oars, adrift in a sea of severed limbs. That's some creepy shit.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:11 PM on August 27, 2015


I always liked the part where Buffy is trying to do sign language for staking and then ah, has to clarify what she meant :)
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:38 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really would have liked to have seen how Mr. Laconic Oz would have handled this episode, but he's off in Tibet or whatever.
posted by Windigo at 7:14 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


But they were clearly in a relationship before then, right? I know they played coy about the relationship for a while, but IIRC by The Body it had been clear for a while they were a couple. At the time it seemed like the big breakthrough was that the show was taking one its main characters and putting her in an ongoing lesbian relationship, as opposed to a one-off smooch. I do remember when that seemed like a huge, controversial thing, and it is gratifying that it totally would not be a huge, controversial thing now.

Yeah they were absolutely explicitly in a couple. It's made fairly clear in Bad Moon Rising, and then is made completely explicit in the Yoko Factor.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:52 PM on August 27, 2015


This episode is a flawless gem. It's everything this show should be, and similar to Once More With Feeling, you can't just throw Hush at a non-Buffy watcher and expect them to get it. It's the long setup that makes this episode really pay off.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:29 PM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh I actually used this as an intro a lot. You have to pre-blurb a little about why Spike's tied up and brief the secret identities bit, but it is so scary and effective and interesting that it plays to newbies fairly well. Agreed on OMWF but I knew at least two fans who got into the show when that aired.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:13 PM on August 28, 2015


Oz was actually my favorite character in the entire show. I would love to see him in this ep.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:30 PM on August 28, 2015


Yeah, sometimes, if something is good enough, it will inspire you to seek out more even if you're not quite sure what you're looking at. You don't have to understand everything that's happening in a good Buffy stunt episode to realize you're watching something special.

I could be wrong on the specifics here, but I remember this episode getting a lot of press and TV critics starting to really hype the show around this time. It took a while for people to give it a chance. A WB show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a hard sell for grownups.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:34 PM on August 28, 2015


It's an amazing ep. I mean to have a show where people can't talk that takes huge balls.


I only wish doctor who was this good.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:44 PM on August 28, 2015


I take it back a bit … I think you can throw Hush or OMWF to a new Buffy watcher, but it's just so, so great when you land upon it for the first time with all the nuances and backstory in place. I think it would have felt bittersweet (not at the time, but later, once I'd seen the episodes leading up to them) if I'd not had that experience; I saw both those episodes in order.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:50 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is genuinely a shame that Giles was not a member of Pink Floyd.

His other gig was pretty Sweet though, and think of all the things he wouldn't have cooked up on the slab in the lab.

It's made fairly clear in Bad Moon Rising

I'm not sure how much clearer "her scent is all over you" could possibly have been without a hitachi wand.
posted by phearlez at 1:02 PM on August 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I adore this episode. I just wish they hadn't used strait jackets - I wish so hard - but otherwise it's a flawless episode. If you have the CDs, the author commentary is awesome as well.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:46 PM on August 31, 2015


I just wish they hadn't used strait jackets - I wish so hard

Why?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:39 PM on August 31, 2015


I've definitely used this to turn new viewers on to Buffy, and it worked. Two highlight lines for me:

- (silent) "Boobs?"
- the perfectly written ending - "I think we should talk." ... silence.
posted by transient at 4:36 PM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Re: strait jackets, though obviously I can't speak for deoridhe, I know I find them troubling too. It has to do with the whole frequent representation of mentally ill people as violent and dangerous.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:52 AM on September 5, 2015


This is my favorite episode, for all the reasons everyone else mentioned, plus the class commentary, with The Gentlemen pretending that a snazzy suit, graceful manners, and minions to do the more visceral dirty work made them a higher order of being than other people. And honestly, there's a part of me that buys into that, despite knowing better.

I'm pretty sure that when they're not eating hearts, The Gentlemen are working for Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, or some other "too big to fail" capitalist venture.

Also, grateful Anya's touching pantomime to Xander after he "rescues" her from Spike is brilliant. I don't know how Emma Caulfield didn't end up a star because her comedic timing is consistently spot on.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:06 PM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


His other gig was pretty Sweet though, and think of all the things he wouldn't have cooked up on the slab in the lab.

I had to pull up his wikipedia profile .... OMG, I had no idea he was in RHPS!
posted by bunderful at 5:24 AM on January 11, 2016


Something that strikes me about the ending of this one is how Buffy doesn't really ever scream elsewhere. In fact, the series is defined by subverting the trope of the screaming-victim-girl, so when Buffy screams at the end of this one, to destroy the Gentlemen, it's a forceful, primal thing rather than out of fear.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:22 PM on September 22, 2018


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