Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Doomed   Rewatch 
September 2, 2015 10:05 PM - Season 4, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Buffy and Riley debrief each other on their secret identities, but are interrupted by an earthquake. It's tied to another group of demons trying to open the Hellmouth, so it's back to school time for our gang. Spike searches for purpose, and finds it.
posted by yellowbinder (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a bit of a transition episode. It's a funny one, in that its one in which Buffy saves the world, but it doesn't feel particularly consequential. It's fine, and fun, but nothing to write home about really. We explore Buffy and Riley's relationship, and they have to determine whether they share each other's secret's more widely. Riley doesn't come across brilliantly in the whole "but you're tougher than me omg!" discussion, but there you go.

The one thing this episode illustrates again is the separation of Buffy from everyone else, as they are off researching while she keeps her secrets. This means the gang are there for the Spike subplot. For some reason they won't let an evil being take his own life (I dunno, it probably would be morally wrong, but morality isn't actually well equipped to deal with an instrumentally evil being), but fortunately this episode finally gives everyone a motivation for keeping Spike alive, making him a fellow slayer of demons.

-Giles having the word of Vallos is funny, but the demons steal it, knock him out and leave. The only reason Giles survives as long as he does is demons seem inexplicably averse to just killing him.
-"Buffy fights the forces of evil, you're her groupies."
-Buffy leaping in after the demon is incredibly, incredibly stupid, especially as it all happens off stage.
-Riley says he doesn't see a scratch on Buffy. But there isn't one on him! Sure he says he's a walking bruise, but glass houses steroids boy.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:44 AM on September 3, 2015

This one’s all about returning to high school, where “everything looks smaller,” both figuratively and literally. “Doomed” as it refers to relationships was mentioned when they were in high school, and that line of thought is still present. Percy returns, only to be a jerk (well, to be fair, he didn’t think she could hear him). I think this is a nice way for the writers to remind us of Season 3 and to shake Willow up a little (earthquake notwithstanding). It reminds her (and us) of Doppelgangland, her real self-discovery-and-growth episode, and how much she thinks she’s changed but is afraid she hasn’t. It spurs her to take further action. That episode ends on a big win for her against Percy, and this one takes part of that win back. I love that Buffy immediately focuses on “Percy called you a nerd?” and not the blood, and that Xander does too. Willow has changed in many ways, though, and we can see this because she is fairly quick to bounce back from the dead student in the bed to complaining about Percy, which is a marked departure from Season 1’s “it wasn’t our world anymore.”

This coincidental appearance gives Spike the chance to really go for the jugular (metaphorically, of course) when he tells her, “you can take the loser out of high school, but…” and starts sowing the seeds of dissent (you’re her groupies) that were already there early in the season. Riley (Smallville reference!), on the other hand, works on Buffy, underscoring the concept that she is more and more guarded and closed off. Buffy having to keep stuff from Willow, as she does early on in the episode regarding Riley, is never good.

Spike in a Hawaiian shirt is pretty hilarious, coupled with the melodramatic “don’t look at me.” It shows just how much of character is styling, particularly because the previous scene had me thinking of Doppelgangland and Willow’s radically changed look, so it underscores the issue that everyone here is “dressing up” their real selves or pretending to be something they’re not. “I’m just an old friend of Xander’s, here.”

Mausoleums = big freaky cereal boxes of death.

I love the juxtaposition of the Scoobies reading the qualitative, rhyming, storybook descriptions of the Vahrall demon and the Initiative’s much more quantitative description. Can we say set-up of conflicting worldviews? This also happens in the “Look it up: Slayer, comma, the” conversation, where Buffy speaks using a fantastical term and skewers the Initiative’s “official sounding euphemisms”

I think the main reason they keep Spike on the show (the characters, not the writers, who keep Spike on the show because he’s entertaining and delightful) is basically explained by the “it’s ooky. We know him” factor. Now that he’s basically helpless, it essentially would feel like straight-up murder to kill him, and if they can get him to fight demons, well, bonus. He also probably gets some points for the Season 2 apocalypse aversion (it shows how hopeless he’s become that now facing an apocalypse is looking on the bright side. Guess there’s no point in a world filled with Happy Meals on legs if you can’t eat them).

I imagine the show is also trying to make a point about humanity/human nature; it reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where Q is turned into a human. He’s essentially a mass-murderer and a huge asshole, and Picard tears him a new one, but he’s still going to do the best to save his life because that’s what HUMANS DO and it’s our great STRENGTH. (Oh good, now I want a new Star Trek starring Anthony Stewart Head. Thanks, brain.)

I have said “oh, as usual, dear” more times than I care to admit. Giles, one day you really are going to wake up in a coma.

The whole “jumping in the whole and ignoring the laws of physics” part is pretty dumb, but on reflection this episode mostly does a good job and has quite a lot to say.
posted by ilana at 11:48 AM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Now that he’s basically helpless, it essentially would feel like straight-up murder to kill him, and if they can get him to fight demons, well, bonus.

Except in real-world terms, how could they possibly know for sure that the chip would permanently render him helpless? My computer chip is only warranted for 3 years, and it's not a brand-new experimental chip implanted in a demon by a mad scientist.

We also saw in Family that the chip doesn't prevent Spike from hurting humans, as long as he's willing to accept the pain from the chip.

It feels incredibly naive and negligent to assume the chip makes it ok for him to continue to live. Like, how could they possibly be sure that if the chip stopped working or Spike got around it some way, that they could stop him before he started eating people again? Hell, if he hadn't been such a romantic sap, he could have killed Buffy in Fool for Love.

This coincidental appearance gives Spike the chance to really go for the jugular (metaphorically, of course) when he tells her, “you can take the loser out of high school, but…”

And this is why I roll my eyes so hard at the Spike uberfans who complain that the Scoobies were so meeeean to Spike before he got a soul. Compared to the vitriol he doles out, Buffy and Giles and Xander snarking at him from time to time seems entirely reasonable. Willow is way more polite to him than he deserves, given the way he treats her.
posted by creepygirl at 7:03 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are so many occasions that chipped Spike almost kills a person, either with violence or manipulation. It's ridiculous that they let him live. I do enjoy his presence on the show, but it requires a suspension of disbelief.
posted by chaiminda at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2015

I actually really liked the dialogue between Riley and Buffy here. I mean, sure, he's all sparky and bright-eyed, unaware of how much crap she's been through, but he also has a point. Being human means continuing to make those connections with your fellow humans, no matter how much you've been hurt and how doomed you think those relationships and connections are. The show explores that time and again, and doesn't shy away from the pain, but always comes down firmly on the side of yes, but what else can you do?

Or maybe that's just me, having overcome my own personal fear of everything going completely pear-shaped again and risked another human connection.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:07 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the rewatch, Riley's line "if you weren't so self-involved, you'd see that" made me sure they'd planned Riley's departure already.
posted by esker at 6:55 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is this the single most forgettable episode of the series? I vote a resounding yes.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:37 PM on September 22, 2018

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