“The Dark Age”
Written by Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
This episode opens on a suit-wearing guy with a goatee, a briefcase, and a British accent. He’s trying to find Giles, but before he can reach the library, a zombie lady named Diedre catches up to him and kills him.
The reason Giles can’t hear Philip hammering on the back door to the library is that Buffy doing aerobics with very loud music. When Buffy finally shuts the music off, Giles quotes Hamlet’s last words: “The rest is silence.” (Yeah, maybe don’t quote the dying words of a tragic hero, Giles. Pretty sure this means things aren’t going to go well for you for the rest of the episode.)
Outside, after zombie Diedre kills Philip, she turns into a gross bluish puddle, which overlaps onto where Philip is lying.
After the credits, there’s a really weird bad acid trip sequence with people getting tattoos and doing rituals and then there’s also a demon. It’s a Giles dream sequence!
Buffy and Willow are playing “Anywhere but Here” the next morning at school. After Xander arrives, this turns into speculation on Giles when he was younger. They think he’s probably always been this stuffy. Giles gives Buffy a mission to make sure the Red Cross delivery to the hospital doesn’t get attacked. Jenny shows up to flirt with Giles and inform Xander that he has to attend school on Saturday because he’s falling behind. The two adults walk away together, and the three kids smile, imagining them together. Then their expressions turn to revulsion as they really start imagining them together.
Jenny teases Giles with the idea that she totally destroyed the first edition book he lent her. Then she tells him he’s a sexy fuddy-duddy, and they plan what sounds like their first overnight date. Giles is still stuttery.
He gets brought down from cloud nine rather abruptly when he reaches the library, where police are waiting for him to ask about the dead body outside the library. Cordelia comes striding in to complain about having to go to school on Saturday. Giles gets rid of her as quickly as he can, and the police take Giles to the morgue to identify the body. He recognizes him as Philip Henry.
Buffy goes to the hospital to guard the blood delivery, and she realizes that the “doctors” picking up the cooler of blood are actually vampires! She goes to fight them, and Angel shows up to join the fight. Buffy stakes two with his help, and he beats up the third until he drives away. Buffy charges him with getting the undamaged blood bags to the hospital so that she can go find out why Giles was a no-show.
When Buffy gets to Giles’s apartment, she finds him rather rumpled and distracted, and he quickly closes the door on her. Inside, he’s trying to find out what’s up with Diedre Page, and he learns she’s dead. He crosses her name off of a list of five, which now only has his own name and Ethan Rayne’s left. He goes to the bathroom and rolls up his sleeves to wash his face. We see that he has the same strange little snake tattoo as Philip. His past has come back to haunt him.
At the morgue, Philip pulls the sheet off himself, and his eyes flash yellow and cat-like, just like Diedre’s did. When the mortician finds his locker empty, he covers him in the sheet and throws him inside.
Jenny, Willow, Xander, and Cordelia arrive on Saturday for extra school. Buffy shows up too, concerned about Giles’s sudden weird behavior. None of the others have noticed anything weird. Cordelia in particular thinks he was perfectly Giles-like when he was talking to the police. While they all marvel at her inability to connect the dots, Buffy goes to the library to call Giles.
There, she finds Ethan Rayne lurking in the stacks. He tries to topple a bookcase on her, and she punches him for what he did on Halloween. He’s snooping. He tells her he and Giles go way back. Cut to another chaotic dream of tattoos, violence, and demons for Giles. Buffy calls and wakes him up. He is now thoroughly hung over. She asks him about the Mark of Eyghon (the tattoo, which Ethan also has), and he’s horrified to hear that she’s there with Ethan, because that means she’s in danger.
Sure enough, Zombie Philip shows up. Buffy fights him, and Ethan tries to skedaddle but is stopped by a swift kick in the shin from Cordelia as she and the other Scoobies arrive. Buffy locks Philip in the book cage.
Rumpled Giles shows up and sees Ethan and Zombie Philip. To the shock of all the Scoobies, Giles threatens Ethan rather menacingly. Before Giles can explain himself to Buffy, Zombie Philip breaks out of the cage. The door hits Jenny, knocking her out. Xander moves Cordelia out of the way. Buffy fights Zombie Philip again, and then he goes rigid and turns into a puddle just like Diedre. The puddle spreads and touches Jenny’s hand while nobody’s looking. Her fingers twitch. Giles helps her back up, and she hugs Giles. Her eyes flash the glowy yellow cat pupils!
Giles tries to blow Buffy off when she demands answers. She argues, but he tells her to stay out of it, then leaves with Jenny. Not to be dissuaded, Buffy gives Willow, Xander, and Cordelia research assignments. Willow figures out that the Mark of Eyghon is Etruscan, because it’s older than Ancient Egyptian. (*coughs and pushes glasses higher up on nose* Ahem, the Ancient Egyptian civilization began over two thousand years before the Etruscans became a thing. Why are the writers always so bad at research?) They find out that Eyghon can possess dead and unconscious bodies. If it isn’t ejected from a host, it’ll fully manifest in its demon form. Buffy and Xander realize that the demon jumped into Jenny.
At Giles’s apartment, Jenny goes from quietly grateful and affectionate to disturbingly seductive. Giles refuses to take advantage of her. At some point (not exactly clear when), it definitely stops being Jenny who’s talking. Then, her voice gets all deep and her face starts getting demonic. (She’s also pulled the phone cord out of the wall, so Buffy can’t call Giles.)
Buffy kicks down the door and throws Eyghon-Jenny off Giles. She dives through Giles’s window and escapes. Giles is so horrified about what’s happened to Jenny that he can barely speak. Buffy tries to pep talk him into being helpful, but he doesn’t think Eyghon can be stopped. He would know, because he’s the one who summoned it.
At the library, Xander finds an awesome picture of Tony Head—I mean Giles—from the days of his errant (and super attractive) youth.
At Giles’s apartment, he tells Buffy his backstory. He got sick of Oxford, so he went to London and got as deep into the occult as he could. That’s when Eyghon came in. The reason he doesn’t think they can save Jenny is because the last time a living person was possessed this long (his friend Randall), it proved fatal.
Giles, full of shame, apologizes to Buffy. She heads to the costume shop to make sure Eyghon doesn’t kill Ethan. What she didn’t expect was for Ethan to knock her out and give her the Mark of Eyghon tattoo. (The knocking out is sort of lame. He just whops her over the head with something heavy from behind. Once. She drops like a stone. Our Slayer, everyone!) He also burns off his own tattoo with sulfuric acid, so now Eyghon will go after Buffy instead of him.
Willow, Xander, and Cordelia are looking for a way to dispossess Jenny. Xander and Cordelia are arguing so hard that I’m not sure they’re actually angry at each other.
Willow loses it and yells at both of them in much the same fashion as when she yelled at Giles and Angel in “Reptile Boy.” Can we have more Willow rants, please? They are the best. Something Xander says gives Willow a major lightbulb moment, and they head out to help Buffy.
Giles is still having Eyghon nightmares, but now Buffy is in them because she has the tattoo! He frantically gears up and runs out of his apartment.
Ethan is just about to leave the costume shop when Eyghon-Jenny shows up. She now has pointy elf ears and a very deformed face. Ethan’s trick with the tattoos worked; Eyghon goes for Buffy instead of him. Giles arrives and tries to distract Eyghon. Buffy tries to stop it, and Eyghon telekinetically throws her across the shop. Before it can kill Giles, Angel bursts into the shop and tackles it. He seizes it around the neck.
Willow, Xander, and Cordelia arrive. Giles thinks Angel’s actions will kill Jenny, but Willow is confident that that’s not what will happen. Angel is dead, which makes him a candidate for Eyghon possession. He keeps strangling Eyghon-Jenny, and then, sure enough, the demon suddenly jumps from Jenny into him. Angel writhes around a bit, going from vampface to Eyghon-face to normal. The vampire demon in him wins, and Eyghon is destroyed. Buffy helps him up, and Giles leaves with Jenny.
Outside the school, Buffy laments having to spend her allowance on removing the tattoo, and she and Xander compliment Willow on her brilliant plan. Giles catches up with Jenny inside. She’s having a rough time recovering from her ordeal, and she wants some space from Giles for a while. He’s seriously guilt-tripping. Buffy tries to console him a bit. She didn’t like seeing the Ripper side of him, but she still trusts him. She can even relate to him better now. He does feel better when she provokes him into criticizing some more of her music, proving that their usual dynamic hasn’t been destroyed by these events.
The first truly Giles-centric episode! Hooray! He got a much better one than Xander or Willow have gotten so far. “The Dark Age” is fantastic. Admittedly, Eyghon isn’t terribly scary, but there are still major stakes, and all of the character stuff is good. Giles learns the hard way that he can’t just run and hide from his past; sometimes he has to actually confront it. Buffy learns that there’s more to the adults she respects than just the respectable parts. It’s an excellent follow-up to everything “Halloween” left us wondering about. Ethan Rayne returns, along with two more of Giles’s old friends (even if they’re either already dead and/or don’t stay alive long enough for us to learn anything about their personalities). I think this is also the first time we see Giles’s apartment, and there really couldn’t be a more perfect episode for that. Most high school students don’t really give a second thought to their teachers’ lives outside school, so it’s fitting that we’ve only seen Giles in the library so far. Now, in the episode that finally delves into the rest of his life, we see him in a setting other than the school. (Also, it’s the first episode that intertwines dark magic with drug abuse. This will become important later.)
As much as Buffy always ribs Giles for his stuffy British ways, she depends on him very much. She knows him well enough to realize at once that something’s wrong when he fails to show up for a planned Slayer mission, and she doesn’t let it go even after he shuts his door in her face. I don’t think there have really been many episodes before this where Buffy was shown as the one who really takes charge and gives everyone else their assignments. At least, there haven’t been many where she did it as confidently as she does here. Normally, she brings her suspicions to Giles and then he does the research and the others help. This time, Giles is the one in trouble, so Buffy has to figure out how to make up for his absence from the group. Also, the show is about growing up, and one of the most uncomfortable lessons we learn in the process of becoming adults is realizing that the adults around us (particularly our parents) used to be young and stupid too. Becoming as responsible as present-day Giles isn’t automatic; he had to undergo as much of a transformation as Buffy. She understands that now.
Willow, too, shines as a leader. She’s definitely retaining some of the confidence she found in “Halloween.” When she yells at Xander and Cordelia, she’s much less embarrassed afterwards than when she yelled at Angel and Giles. I think this is also the first time she comes up with the brilliant plan to solve Plot A. And while her solution was brilliant and effective, it was also a major risk. She had no way of knowing for sure that Angel’s demon would be strong enough to defeat Eyghon, or that Eyghon hadn’t already done enough damage to Jenny’s body to leave her dead once it was gone. I think this is our first hint of how, with Willow, confidence in her abilities can turn into dangerous overconfidence if it goes unchecked. It’s subtle here, because it worked without any consequences.
The only character development for Xander and Cordelia is how much more intense their arguments are getting. This is the first time they’ve gotten right in each other’s faces. Knowing what’s coming in “What’s My Line,” I think I can say that the buildup has been effective.
So it looks the Giles we know isn’t a mask after all. Or, at least, not entirely. He does seem to have been hiding his shame and guilt over what he did in his twenties, but it comes out in full force in this episode. It’s really interesting how he thinks all the crap with Eyghon means that he has failed not only Jenny, but Buffy. He knows that Buffy would never do something like summoning a demon for the thrill of it, and he thinks she won’t be able to forgive him. It’s the other side of the dynamic Buffy had with Joyce in “School Hard.” Children don’t want to disappoint their parents, but parents are just as afraid of disappointing their children—maybe even more, because they’re the ones who are supposed to be responsible, the ones the kids depend on. But Buffy already has forgiven Giles. Alas, Jenny is the one who actually suffered the worst consequences of Giles’s actions, and it’s going to take a little longer for her to get past it.
Was Angel really at the hospital to stop the other vampires from intercepting the Red Cross delivery, or was he there to pick up his food for the next couple of weeks? In “Angel,” when Darla opened his fridge, we saw a few bags that looked an awful lot like transfusion bags. How did he get those? Since he didn’t tell Buffy about the delivery beforehand, I’m a little suspicious, but even if he does make regular trips to the hospital to get blood bags, I don’t think he just steals them. It seems more likely that he’s got a contact there he pays to get them. Only if there’s a surplus. Anyway, it’s Angel’s first real fight scene, and he seems like a pretty good fighter. Lots of kicks with those long legs. Mmm. I wonder how his offscreen conversation with Willow went when she told him she needed him to get Eyghon out of Jenny.
“Wonderful. You work on your muscle tone while my brain dribbles out my ears.”
“I’m gonna kill you. Will that blow the whole karma thing?”
11/24/2015 11:34:32 am
Huh, this is the first one where I haven't seen the episode very recently and I actually had to read pretty closely to remember what was going on. On the road to rediscovering Buffy!
11/24/2015 11:35:34 am
I wonder if it would be beneficial for me to not experiment with HTML tags on a post I can't edit.
Lenore Warren, M.A.
11/24/2015 11:59:27 am
Oh, that's definitely young Tony Head in that picture. You can't see the resemblance beneath the puppy fat? (And aside from looking like Tony Head, he also looks like an English Chris Pratt.) I thought everyone just took it for granted that it was a real picture of Tony Head in his twenties.
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.