Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- The Initiative

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

11/16

Season 4
“The Initiative”


Cast:
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Spike: James Marsters
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
Riley: Mark Blucas
Prof. Walsh: Lindsay Crouse


Prologue
Cute TA Riley and his frat brothers ponder the odd beauty that is Buffy (“I don’t know,” Riley says, “she’s... peculiar.”), while Spike the Vampire, recently returned to Sunnydale, wakes up from his Slayer-killing dreams to find he’s held prisoner in a vast, white compound of countless vampire cells.

Act 1
Willow is moping about Oz’ recent departure while the Gang try to figure out who the strange Storm Troopers Buffy met in the woods are. Buffy puts Giles and Xander in charge, since they’re human and she plans to take Willow to a cheer-up party.
In the commando compound, Spike thinks Buffy is as fault for his imprisonment and plots an escape.
Willow fights to keep Oz listed on his class rolls, and after Prof. Walsh gives her a dressing down, Buffy lashes out at the woman. “You’re right. A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job.” Prof. Walsh likes Buffy’s pluck.
Riley continues to feign lack of interest in Buffy with his frat brothers, but tips his hand when he punches out Parker for being a pig.

Act 2
A la Hannibal Lecter, Spike busts out of the compound, barely escaping the commandoes. Meanwhile, Riley comes to Willow for advice on how to win Buffy’s heart, as it were. Willow’s briefly overcomes her sardonic mood to reveal that Buffy likes, among other things, “she likes cheese.” Has a stuffed pig, likes Icecapades “with healthy irony,” and will be approachable at the frat party tonight.
Spike comes back to ditzy doormat vampire Harmony “for ever and ever, mon petite crème brulee.” They’re going to Europe, after he kills Buffy, of course.
At the party, Willow tries to help Riley find something to say from Buffy. Riley chokes, completely, and simpers away.
Xander runs into Harmony and the two have the most wonderfully sissified fight ever, ending in a draw, but Xander learns that Spike is back. Xander rushes to the party and manages to pull Buffy away from Riley’s second attempt at a conversation.
Riley licks his wounds with his frat brothers as they take a secret elevator downstairs to the commando compound. He’s actually a Special Agent Riley Finn, demon hunter of the secret project called The Initiative, , and his boss is none other than the white-coated Professor Walsh, who reveals that Spike is out.

Act 3
There’s an army of commandoes under Riley’s command as they hit the campus. Buffy’s also looking for Spike, and she has an awkward moment with Riley in which they try to get rid of one another while the hunt. Spike, looking for Buffy, busts into her dorm room and attacks Willow viciously, going for the throat.

Act 4
But, hilariously, somehow it’s not happening for Spike, he has the desire but can’t bite. (“This sort of thing’s never happened to me before.” “Maybe you were nervous.”) Willow’s concerned that maybe it’s her, but Spike says no, if he could, he’d feed happily on her. Meanwhile, the Commandoes track down Spike using an infrared device (he’s the only cold body around) and assault the dorm.
Amid men, rifles, and smoke, Spike is captured and then lost, Willow is almost “quarantined” but escapes, and Buffy shows up and gets into a mano-a-mano fight with Riley, who can’t make out her face but lets her get away.
Riley has to report his failure to Professor Walsh, but at least her anti-feeding serum is working on Spike. Walsh is concerned about this accomplice who appeared.
Unaware of one another’s secret identity, Riley and Buffy begin the long, awkward road to a relationship. (“Did Willow tell you I like cheese?” he asks. “You’re a little peculiar,” Buffy observes.)

NOTES

You have to admire the efficiency of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer with it’s ability to cram satire, comedy, and action reminiscent of vintage Marvel into about 46 running minutes. This was a fantastic episode.

Lindsay Crouse finally reveals why we’ve been has so much introduction to her character Prof. Walsh this season-- she’s the head of The Initiative, which looks like a secret government project to hunt and experiment on vampires. (Which makes we wonder if her story about “wild dogs” was just a cover when Veruca attacked her.) Crouse is a strangely mannered actress, so unlike anyone else on Buffy that it’s almost bizarre. And the Initiative is a huge addition to the Buffy Universe- - the implications are staggering. Is the university aware it’s the cover for this project? Why don’t’ they know about the Slayer? This thing seems to employ thousands. Why don’t the Watchers know about the Initiative, or do they?

This episode also manages to point Buffy towards a new, demon-hunting boyfriend. (Give it three episodes to happen.) We can just sit back and predict how this will play out, of course, but I’ll admit I didn’t expect Riley to be a secret agent. I thought he was that buff because he’s from California.


Giles and Xander look great on patrol, and it’s interesting to see them take orders from Buffy. Giles’ leather jacket is a great improvement on his old tweed. But what’s with Xander’s Bobby Brady haircut this episode?

Speaking of Bobby Brady, the best moment in the show has to be the slow-motion tussle between Xander and the unicorn-loving ditz vampire Harmony, who finally calls a truce after they pull one another’s hair.

Next best, narrowly, is the gag conversation between Spike and Willow when Prof’ Walsh’s experiments have rendered the vampire unable to “perform” vampirically. (“Let’s wait half an hour and try again!” Willow suggests, before recalling that instead she should hit Spike over the head.) You have to admire James Marster’s Spike character, so incredibly cool and yet, like Doctor Doom, seemingly doomed to fail, over, and over, and over.

Last thought: in the fight in the dorm room, what on earth prompts Buffy to fire a flare-gun? The flare bounces around the hall, and even she has to dodge it when it zings back at her. Since when does Buffy use any sort of gun?


QUOTES

“The Slayer! I knew it! I always worried what would happen when that Bitch got some funding.”
(Spike, in the Commando Compound. He’s wrong, but it’s and interesting thought.)


“I've seen honest faces. They usually come attached to liars.”
- - Willow, wondering why she should help Riley attract Buffy and not liking his first excuse.

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