Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, with Feeling

"Uh, so did anyone, ah, last night, you know... did anyone, um, burst into song?"

Freaking brilliant. If this episode doesn't get Joss Whedon an Emmy, nothing will.

Why was it brilliant? Because Whedon got past the stumbling block of people bursting spontaneously into song by making its cause part of the story, and roping us in right at the beginning. Because it was a master stroke to have each character sing only the truth. And mostly because it covered every single major plot point they've been working on this season so far, and advanced the story to a brand new place.

Plot points, such as:

-- Buffy's depression after her actual-death experience ("I don't want to be / going through the motions") culminating with her telling everyone the painful truth at the end.

-- The cohesiveness of the gang, which may be falling apart ("What can't we face if we're together").

-- The evil thing that Willow has done to Tara, in what was probably the best song ("I'm under your spell"). Such incredibly ambiguous lyrics illustrating the darkness between them, while they walk through that preternaturally sunny park in Ren Fair dresses on their way home to make love. And sexy? "Spread beneath my Willow tree?"


-- The problems with the Xander/Anya relationship ("I'll never tell"), especially illustrated by the lyrics, "The vibe gets kinda scary, like she thinks I'm ordinary, like it's all just temporary" and "Am I marrying a demon?" Well, yes, Xander, you are. Unless you back out, which I now see coming.

-- Dawn's increasing misbehavior. She only had a few lines to sing, but she did well with the dancing. And she even got to dance with the "Lord of the Dance – not the scary one."

-- Giles coming to realize that Buffy will never become an adult while he's there to be her father ("Wish that I could stay here, but now I understand... I'm standing in the way"). This particular song brought me to tears, especially when Tara joined in and she and Giles were singing about leaving Willow and Buffy, who couldn't hear them.

-- Spike's painful and unrequited love for Buffy, in what was the other candidate for best song ("Let me rest in peace"). It was obvious that Spike had reached his limit and couldn't handle it any more, because she's still rejecting him all the while that she keeps seeking him out. He tried so hard to get her out of his crypt before he started singing, didn't he? The look on his face when he did start singing was priceless.

Has Buffy suddenly realized that she's in love with Spike? No. I think Buffy is attracted to him and maybe always has been (there's that bad boy thing that she has) but I think she finally succumbed to Spike because she's desperate to feel anything at this point. He's there, he's gorgeous, he understands her and is still crazy about her, and she might think he's safe because he's not human. Will she ever really love him? Hard to tell; stranger things have happened. But I don't think so. Poor Spike.

A lot of love and attention went into every moment of this episode, and it showed in the details: like the bizarre credits and the fifties feel, the discordant note when Buffy sang the word "heaven," the fire truck going by as the gang sang the word "burn," even the hairy toes and skeezy cheeses.

The voices. Anthony Stewart Head, James Marsters, and Amber Benson in particular were all wonderful. Sarah Michelle Gellar, as usual, did a large part of this episode and even sang and danced well; she's so good at everything that I often take her for granted. And Emma Caulfield more than held her own, too.


Bits:

-- The "grr argh" at the end was sung.

-- Loved Anya and the bunnies. "They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses / and what's with all the carrots?"

-- Spike: "I hope she fries / I'm free if that bitch dies / I'd better help her out."

-- Why are baddies always putting Dawn in exotic dresses?

Wonderful, moving lyrics and serious moments:

-- Tara: "Willow, don't you see / there'll be nothing left of me."

-- Spike: "If my heart could beat / it would break my chest."

-- Buffy: "I touch the fire and it freezes me / I look into it and it's black / Why can't I feel? / My skin should crack and peel / I want the fire back."

-- Willow's face when she realized that she took Buffy out of heaven. I noticed that Willow didn't sing much, which was appropriate for her character since we still don't really know what's going on inside of her.

Other wonderful quotes:

Xander: "Respect the cruller. And tame the donut."

Xander: "Merciful Zeus!"

Man: "They got... the mustard... out!"

Dawn: "You will never believe what happened at school today."
Buffy: "Everybody started singing and dancing?"
Dawn: "I gave birth to a pterodactyl."
Anya: "Oh my god, did it sing?"

Tara: "I'm cured! I want the boys!"

Xander: "Somebody set people on fire? That's nuts!"
Anya: "I don't know. One more verse of our little ditty and I would've been looking for a gas can."

Spike: "I've seen some damn funny things in the last two days. A 600 pound Chirago demon making like Yma Sumac, that one will stay with you. I remain immune, happy to say. Drink?"
Buffy: "A world of no. So any idea what's causing this?"
Spike: "Oh. So that's all. You've just come to pump me for information."
Buffy: "What else would I wanna pump you for? (pause) I really just said that, didn't I?"

Buffy: "So. Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday."

Anya: "Dawn may have had the wrong idea in summoning this creature, but I've seen some of these underworld child bride deals and, and they never end well. Well, maybe once."

Buffy: "I thought you wanted me to stay away from you. Isn't that what you sang?"
Xander: "Spike sang a widdle song?"
Anya: "Would you say it was a breakaway pop hit or more of a book number?"

Spike: "You should go back inside. Finish the big group sing. Get your kum-ba-yayas out."

I could do another few pages, but I'd better stop here. It's only Thursday and I've already watched this episode three times; the third time I even had the close captioning on so that I could catch every word. I think this is one of the best episodes of the entire series.

Five out of four stakes,

Billie
---
Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.

11 comments:

Minuet said...

This is my all time favorite episode of the series. I remember feeling like it was going to be one of the worst mistakes, but then I was completely blown away.

I will always remember this series fondly, and I'll be sure to read your reviews when I inevitably re-watch it.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw this episode on dvd and there were extras lines and scenes that I don't remember on the broadcast version. Neat.

Billie Doux said...

That's right, Anonymous. The full version aired only once.

Jess Lynde said...

This is definitely a fantastic episode. I love that Joss made it really work for the overall story and didn't just go with a one-off stunt episode. That's what really makes it special.

If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend the "Buffy Horror Picture Show" thing they do with this episode at some cons. It is quite an enjoyable experience to sit in a room packed with Buffy fans singing along to all the songs and reciting dialog.

Mark Greig said...

Singing, dancing, fighting, heartbreak and a song about the evil of bunnies. What more could you possibly ask for in an episode of Buffy?

I love it. In fact, because I love it so much, I think I'm going to watch it again.

Gus Brunetti said...

Ditto, Jess.

I've recently rewatched the entire series and found out that almost all episodes get better on a 2nd watch, but this one is the one that improves the most.

Sooze said...

Just watched for the first time - fantastic! Laughed out loud AND cried...that's how you know it is a good show.

So, "musical episodes" were popular for a while - was this one of the first done?

And - did this episode win any awards?

Billie Doux said...

This wasn't the first. But I think it was the best. It didn't win any awards. If I remember correctly, it was because someone forgot to send in the nomination paperwork.

Panda said...

Billie, just thoght you'd be curious, I just had a peek at the top 20 syfy uk thing, and interestingly this as #1. (Hush was #2 and Becoming part 2 was #3). I'd love to have seen the rest, too. I know that Graduation Day part 2 was all the way down the list at #15. Weird, that.

Mallena said...

Most excellent. Have watched this too many times to count. Bought the music CD and always replay Giles' s and Tara' s song the most. Willow needs to get herself under control. Tara singing "There'll be nothing left of me" is so moving. The songs and staging, perfection.

Lamounier said...

This is a wonderful episode. I know SMG was afraid and she clearly doesn't have a great voice, but she delivered a great performance overall. The entire cast is really good here.

I don't know what else to comment here that hasn't been said already. I'll complain that Netflix in Brazil doesn't have the full version... Why, God, why? Oh, well, pretty soon they won't have any Fox show on the catalog so what am I complaining about?

Back when I first watched the show, Latin America Fox also broadcast the shorter version of the episode. I was so mad at it, especially after 24 started to have one hour long premieres and Fox respected that. Why Buffy didn't get the same treatment? I mean, during its fifth season, Buffy was the most watched TV series on Brazilian cable TV. It took me ages to watch the full version of musical.

A fun fact: Warner Channel, another cable channel here, held the premiere of Smallville to go against Buffy's musical. To this day I wonder who won the competition. They never released that information.

Boyfriend report:

"I liked it. But it's no Phantom of the Opera." Well, it's not supposed to be, his blasé reactions to episodes I love drive me crazy, lol.

He was surprised by Buffy and Spike's kiss. "Is it really happening? It's not a dream?"