September 4th, 2010
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Marti Noxon faced certain challenges in “Forever,” transitioning from the tragedy of “The Body” into the season’s conclusion, but Jane Espenson faces more substantial obstacles with “Intervention.” She’s given the task of bringing back the series’ sense of fun and its second of humour, qualities that seem particularly incongruous with the grieving process still unfolding. The episode is going to be awkward no matter what you do with it, which is what makes it a difficult task for any writer.
However, Jane Espenson does awkward pretty damn well: her episodes are always strong at mixing the dramatic with the comic, and here she adds the tragic into the mix with little difficulty. “Intervention” picks up the story where “I Was Made To Love You” left off, comfortably settling into the path which will lead the season to its end and delivering some meaningful laughs along the way
I don’t think that “Intervention” is a classic by any means: this isn’t to suggest that it’s a weak episode, but rather that you can feel Espenson rushing through story material. It’s interesting to see the First Slayer return in order to deliver Buffy some advice about the importance of love and death in a cryptic fashion (yet another example of where “Restless” comes back into play), but the scenes fairly static with Buffy just sitting on the rock waiting. Even the opening scene, where Buffy and Giles discuss what to do next in terms of their training, feels expository and functional rather than natural: the awkwardness of having to re-enter the traditional rhythms of the series should be evident within the story, but I think it’s a bit too evident in the earlygoing and throughout “real” Buffy’s side of the story until her return to Sunnydale.
But once she does intersect with the “Robot Buffy” side of the storyline, things get a lot better. It helps that the humour of Robot Buffy is quite welcome: not only is Sarah Michelle Gellar very adept at playing a caricature of Buffy who’s madly in love with Spike, but the design choices in terms of the Terminator-like breakdown of each character was just a very smart piece of writing from Espenson. Yes, the big laugh comes from a fairly broad bit of comedy (Willow’s “Gay 1999-Present”), but there’s also smaller moments like Anya’s appreciation for Buffy asking about her money – Espenson is always strong with detail-oriented humour, and I felt that this was a fine example of that. And even when they do come together, and the story amps up into a more dramatic space, there’s still room for a few gags like “Guy-ulls” to help keep the comedy moving.
And yet, at the same time, Espenson gets some legitimate romantic mileage out of the scenario: it’s somewhat hard to believe that an episode where Spike creates a robot Buffy to have sex with would result in a real emotional connection to his beloved, but by golly Espenson made it happen. There’s nothing particularly surprising about the final scene: it’s obvious for the audience that it’s really Buffy, and so our surprise regarding the kiss comes before Spike’s, and the weight of the moment sinks in almost immediately. That’s the difference, really, between someone like Spike and someone like Riley: while Buffy’s relationship with the latter was perhaps meaningful, it never felt as if it had a great deal of weight within the story, and what weight it did have seemed contrived. And while, as mentioned, early parts of “Intervention” felt a bit rushed, the ending felt pretty darn natural considering how antithetical it could have seemed, which makes the episode particularly accomplished in that area, and in general.
- Maybe this is just a continuity thing, but would Spike have been able to tell Warren to program RoboBuffy to not know that her mother had died? It was bugging me throughout that the robot never asked about Joyce, and never responded to Willow’s mention of Joyce within their conversation on the balcony – did Spike update her programming when Joyce passed away, or was this simply a contrivance to keep Joyce’s memory from hanging too heavily over the episode? There was certainly room for a scene where RoboBuffy walks into her house and asks where Joyce is, bringing all of that back to the surface, but it’s likely something they chose to avoid in moving forward.
- Loved that, out of all of the programming done on the robot, the only part in which Spike’s voice is directly apparent is in her response to Angel (“His hair goes straight up, and he’s bloody stupid!”)
- Yet more dangerous curiosity from Willow, as she notes her ability to put the robot back together despite the fact that it would be creepy – I know enough about what’s to come for Willow that this, coupled with “Forever,” is heading in a certain direction, so it’s interesting to see it thrown in here in a subtle fashion.
- Neat little visual parallel in Spike being thrown onto the bed by Buffy in the midst of their foreplay and then tossed onto the bed by Glory in the midst of her torture.
- I always approve of a Bob Barker reference.