Buffy, The Vampire Slayer
Season 4, Episode “Doomed”
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
Riley: Marc Blucas
Spike: James Marsters
Buffy and Riley have their first honest talk. Buffy’s pretty much worked out the nature of the Initiative, but Riley has never heard of the Slayer. Buffy needs a little time, since she’s looking for a “nice, normal guy,” not a demon-hunter. Then a mild earthquake shakes the city.
Spike and Xander react to the water damage in Xander’s basement. Xander wants Spike to do more around the house and Spike wishes the Initiative’s tampering hadn’t rendered him unable to crush Xander’s skull.
Buffy, meanwhile, thinks the earthquake is a sign of her own death, but Giles thinks it’s “shifting land masses” and wants to concentrate on finding the Initiative. Buffy hides her own knowledge.
Riley finds out the Initiative regards the Slayer as a myth.
Willow attends a dorm party and gets a little frozen out by her old jock tutorial student Percy and his gal-pal while a demon arrives and begins killing people in the kitchen.
Willow gets to overhear Percy refer to her as “Queen of the Nerds” and wanders to an upstairs bedroom, where she finds a dead student with occult carvings on his chest.
At Xander’s place, Xander is tired of taking care of Spike, who’s too demanding and spoiled and for someone who’s longer dangerous.
Buffy and the Initiative both mobilize separately, but the Slayer Gang is ahead: Giles interprets the symbol carved into the vic’s chest as “the end of the world.” (Everyone responds, “Again?” and even Giles seems bored by the prospect.) Buffy intends to stop it and heads for the mausoleum where she’s seen the symbol. She finds the demon there, but it gets away and she ends up talking to Riley, who’s come looking for her. Buffy still thinks they shouldn’t date because everyone she ever dates so far has died or gone nuts. Besides, what for him is a job, for her is destiny.
The Demon, called a Vahrall, was trying to dig up the bones of a child, and the Slayer Gang set out to prevent his collecting a special book called the Word of Valios. Meanwhile the Initiative have no idea what it’s up to, but can track the demon better.
And Spike tries to stake himself, but Xander and Willow interrupt him.
Riley and Buffy meet again and argue more about dating since they’re both “Fry cooks” (the code they choose while in public.) “Yes, but you’re an amateur fry cook and I come from a long line of fry cooks that don’t live past 25.” Riley thinks Buffy has a bad attitude, but he’s making no progress.
Neither are Willow and Xander at the library, but Spike, who wants to die and suggests that they're useless to Buffy, cruelly dresses them down. Giles, meanwhile, finds out the Word of Valios is not a book but a talisman he happens to have in his drawer-- so the demons bust in and beat him up, stealing it.
As Giles recuperates, the gang learns the demons will sacrifice to open the Hellmouth in a familiar place-- the High School Library. “Looks like we’re going back to high school,” Buffy says.
Sunnydale High is still destroyed from last season, which makes the Hellmouth a lot more accessible. While Buffy attacks the gathered demons, Willow and Xander steal the amulet back. And Spike, who’s supposed to be unable to fight, learns that he can use violence against demons without his Initiative reprogramming kicking in to cause headaches. By the time everyone understands that the demons themselves are the sacrifice, all but one have jumped into the Hellmouth (essentially, a big foundation crack), and that last one has a newly arrived foe in Riley, in full Initiative regalia.
But the last demon jumps with the amulet. Buffy jumps after it, but not before Riley clips a life wire to her belt. Soon he reels her back up with the amulet.
The Gang think Riley’s “GI Joe” outfit is fab.
Riley is horrified that “everybody knows about me.” But it’s not the end of the world, because Buffy is coming around.
As we fade out, Spike is back in his standard blacks, and he’s hopping eager to go kill some evil-- who needs Buffy?
And now we begin an arc that will allow Joss Whedon to inject what must have been perceived as a much needed-paramilitary angle in the Buffy universe: In this episode, Riley and Buffy each go about their jobs, allowing us to see the differences between how the Slayer Gang and the Initiative work. One of the best moments is when the two teams review the “Vahrall Demon.” Giles and the Gang read a poetic description (Brother to Blight and Thief of Lives) as we move to Riley, saying, “The meters tall, about 120 kilos by my visual observation.” It makes you aware what kind of show this could have been-- or, predicting, what Whedon's next choice for a spin-off will be.
Fascinating that the Initiative don't know Buffy exists (I wonder if Professor Walsh does?)
The episode itself is really just a connector, a moment for the characters to reflect on how far they have or haven't come. Spike gets the best lines, welcoming the coming apocalypse and telling Xander and Willow that they've never really left the tenth grade. But the fact is, Spike is wrong, illustrated by the visit to the High School, which Willow acknowledges as smaller than she remembers ("and more burnt and ruinny.")
The best part of the episode is Spike's realization that he can be safely violent towards demons-- only attacking humans makes him ill. So suddenly he's raring to demon-hunt. And voila, the creators have given us "Angel the Nice Vampire Mark II," that is, a vampire you can have on the team who, for one reason or another, you can trust.
At his lowest point, by the way, Spike is forced to wear Xander's shirts and cutoffs, a look that does not chill the blood.
Brief note: Buffy mentions Faith for the first time in a while, saying she's still in a coma. Faith will be back. (There's a TV rule that you don't mention an old character-- ever-- unless they'll be back.
Last shot: at one point in the graveyard fight, the demon body slams Buffy against the top of a thick gravestone. Her response to this is “Unnh!” I know Buffy’s strong and fast, but since when does she have bones of adamantium?
“You’re not the big bad anymore. You’re not even the ‘kind-of-naughty.’”
-- Xander, to Spike in cutoffs
Willow: "There was so much blood. There was a symbol. And Percy said I was a nerd!"
Buffy: "Percy called you a nerd?"
“Wow, that flippy-thing that you did.”
-- Riley, who's still new to the whole Slayer thing
Willow: “We’re not useless. We help people. We fight the forces of evil.”
Spike: “Buffy fights the forces of evil. You’re her groupies.”