Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buffy Season 8 Episode 2 - 8.02 The Chain Review

Issue 5 The Chain
Buffy Anne Summers is dead, again... again.  The sad thing isn't Yamanh's clan's war-stomp but that Buffy hasn't ever even met herself.  Buffy has a special friend and Tinkerbell she ain't.  This foul-mouthed fairy laid her eggs in Buffy's ear.  That's right folks, Buffy's ear is preggers.  There is some random girl who is trying to be way too cool for school gets whacked by the Slayer magic mushroom and goes on a trip involving past Slayers and the G-Man.  Andrew and Vi are bitten by the Hollywood bug and have their very own infomercial.  Rona and Giles decide who will be on the next episode of Extreme Facial Reconstruction Slayer Edition.  One of Andrew's Slayers of the Vampire, Simone knew the Slayer formerly known as someone other than Buffy and she's still got a big honking boner for packing heat.  Leah, Satsu and Rowena try to rescue NotBuffy-Buffy from Yamanh but don't get there in time but that's okay because NotBuffy-Buffy knows who she is and oh yeah, Dawn is still a giant.
Well here we have episode two, also written by Joss Whedon and let me say boy does it live up to every single bit of the hype Buffy Season 8 has been getting.  Those who are familiar with Joss’ work, and Buffy for that matter knows that  Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a long history of disappointing season openers along with Buffy usually needing a few episodes to really get into the swing of things know to just give Joss a little bit of time before you make your judgment.

While I complained in the last review about it taking four months to tell an entire ‘episode’ slowed down the momentum too much and was frustrating; now I am actually glad that it took us five months to get to the second episode.  All of the usual kinks that Buffy has each season that take about a month to iron out are done and over with starting with The Chain.  This episode feels like it’s the payoff to a season long story arch instead of what it was – a stand alone filler episode.

The funny thing is that this isn’t uncharted territory when it comes to Joss, some of the most powerful episodes have almost always been stand alone episodes: Hush, The Body, Once More with Feeling, and Conversations with Dead People  just to name a few.  The Chain is no exception when it comes to powerful emotionally resonating episodes.  Where Joss takes a risk is that this is the major re-launching of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we’re only on the second episode and the titular character is no where to be found. Not only that, but the main cast is MIA as well.  Giles makes a brief appearance, but Andrew, Rona and Vi all manage to have more screen time.

We don’t even get the new characters, Satsu, Rowena and Leah that were established in the previous episode for more than the very last second of the episode.  Instead we get an entire episode focused on a character that we’ve never seen before and have no idea even what her name is.

There is a line that is shared between Rona and ‘Not Buffy’ Buffy that is the main focal point of not only this particular episode but also manages to reiterate what has always been the message of Buffy’s character in a nutshell.  “I’m lookin’ at you for this so I gotta figure you want the truth.  As in…  Why me? Did I get the hardest, darkest path to walk ‘cause I’m strong, I’m good, I can handle the heavier burden?  Or am I weak, expendable.  The one that won’t be missed.  The truth?  There is no truth.  There’s just what you believe.”

No matter how outlandish Buffy gets with it’s story telling when it gets back to that very basic point is when the series shines.  A character dies, she sacrifices her life, not to stop a God, not to fight The First Evil; she laid down her life to save the life of a clan of fairies and a slug creature.  And in that one brief act of self sacrifice a character’s -who we had known for all of twenty two pages (which in this case amounts to about thirty minutes of a TV episode)- death every bit as powerful as when Joyce died after five seasons, Tara’s death or both of Buffy’s deaths.


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