Written by Marti Noxon, David Fury, and Jane Espenson
Directed by James A. Contner
Buffy and Riley are still working on having that talk about their secret identities as evil-fighters. Buffy is kind of annoyed that Riley suddenly seems to be defining her by her supernatural qualities. Also, his attitude about his own work is “it’s classified.” So Buffy tells her what she already knows about the Initiative. He’s kind of alarmed that she knows so much. He was telling the truth about his own name and background, though. To Buffy’s surprise, Riley and the Initiative have never heard of Slayers. The conversation turns in a direction that I guess is supposed to be laden with sexual tension, except that I’m not sensing much tension. Buffy wants some time apart to process what they’ve just learned about each other. Riley agrees. Then Amy the rat (which is a male rat…whoops) starts freaking out, and an earthquake hits! Buffy and Riley move to the closet doorway to ride it out. Riley finds it kind of exciting, but Buffy is pretty freaked out. The last time there was an earthquake, the Master killed her.
Version three of the S4 credits! Now Riley’s in them too. Yaaaaay.
A pipe in Xander’s basement is leaking because of the earthquake. He instructs Spike to fix it and do some chores, since he’s not exactly paying rent, and then he leaves to go to work. This week, work apparently means some kind of fast food cart.
Willow and Buffy are at the dorm, and Willow is reporting on earthquake problems around campus. One dorm is throwing a party. Willow wants to go, and she wants Buffy to come and bring Riley. Buffy just wants to go talk to Giles about her worries.
Giles isn’t worried at all, and he’s trying to being patient with Buffy’s anxiety. Also he has some ideas about the army guys. Warning bells go off for Buffy, who has been sworn to secrecy by Riley. She tries to force the subject back to the earthquake, but he he’s more interested in talking about the army guys. And is it just me, or does his voice sound a bit off in this scene? Was Tony Head recovering from a cold when they filmed it?
Riley and Forrest are in the Initiative facility, and Riley’s trying to find out about the Slayer. Forrest has only heard of her in context of demons being afraid of her, so he thinks she’s just some demonic urban legend. Forrest doesn’t believe in the supernatural. He thinks demons are just animals. One of the aforementioned animals gets away from the lab coats holding it, and Forrest and Riley have to subdue it. A bunch of the other demons in the cells are making a ruckus, and they’ve been doing it ever since the earthquake.
It’s dorm party time, in a building with a power outage. Willow is finding it less fun and more awkward than she was expecting, particularly because Buffy hasn’t arrived yet. She spots Percy, who is in Sunnydale visiting a girl. Said girl not-so-subtly drags Percy away from Willow. Wow, she’s rude. A demon sneaks into the building and kills a shirtless dude who’s getting drinks for his friends. Willow wanders around the party and overhears Percy’s girlfriend complaining about him flirting with Willow (wow, that’s definitely not what he was doing). He assures her that Willow is way too nerdy for him to have been interested in her ever. Willow is rather offended and hurt. She makes her way into an empty room, curls up on the bed, and is about to maybe fall asleep there when the power comes back on, including the lights in that room. The dude the demon killed is lying on the other side of the bed. Willow rolls over and sees him and leaps up. A symbol has been carved into his chest.
Xander gets home from work and finds that Spike not only hasn’t fixed the pipes as asked, but his clothing shrunk in the wash, so now he’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. Bahahahaha.
Xander gets all in Spike’s face when Spike threatens to tear up his stuff if Xander doesn’t go buy him more blood and better clothes. Seems like it touches a few nerves.
Buffy makes it to the party in time for it to be over, with ambulances. Willow tells her about the creepy symbol on the corpse.
Riley is in a funk about Buffy, trying to make up his mind if he wants to keep dating her, and among other things it’s making him bad at shooting hoops with Forrest in their room. Graham comes in to alert them of the situation with the dead guy. Hi Graham! Riley volunteers to take care of the recon side of things while Forrest and Graham report to Walsh.
Willow is in a funk of her own, more about Percy’s dismissive attitude towards her than about having been lying on a bed that a dead body was also on. She’s indignant that he called her a nerd. Come on, have a little nerd pride, girl! This isn’t the eighties! Nerds are awesome, especially in college. She says that the body was propped up, possibly for efficient blood drainage, and I have no idea what she’s talking about, because the dude was just lying all sprawled out on his back. Not propped up at all. She should’ve said that he looked way too pale for a freshly dead corpse. Which is true. That would’ve been a better reason to assume someone kept a bunch of his blood. She shows Giles a drawing of the symbol on the guy’s chest. It’s looking like an apocalypse. Again.
It turns out that the reason the symbol is familiar to Buffy is that it’s carved into one of the mausoleums at a cemetery she frequently patrols. She finds a demon much like the one who killed that dude at the party inside it, and she fights it. It manages to subdue her long enough to escape, though, and then Riley shows up. He’s impressed by her fighting moves, and then he reports to some guys on his walkie-talkie. Buffy is feeling like she can’t date Riley because he’s so involved with the supernatural already that she thinks she’ll only put him in more danger, or something. I’m not sure her worries are entirely based in logic. She doesn’t think she can date someone who views the thing that’s her destiny as some kind of fun adventure.
The Scoobies do their research thing with old leather-bound books, while Riley gives a very technical report of the same demon. Willow finds a ritual that looks like what the demon is up to, and if he finishes it, the world will end. Riley is confident that he can track the demon using its pheromone signature. Both groups break to gear up.
Spike is about to kill himself on a stake when Willow and Xander arrive. Xander’s annoyed that Spike would’ve dusted himself while wearing one of his shirts, but he’s more than willing to help Spike die if that’s what he wants. Willow isn’t okay with that. (WHY?) They make him come with them to get magic supplies.
Buffy encounters Riley outside the coffee shop that evening. Riley very inarticulately tells her that her fatalistic idea about not being able to date him is nonsense. She’s had so many bad experiences that she’s starting to think she can’t have a good one. Riley makes a mistake by calling her “self-involved,” which is the point when Buffy has had enough. She tries to walk away, but he follows her. She wants him to leave her alone, and he finally does.
Willow, Xander, and Spike haven’t found anything useful, and Spike has found a way of weaponizing his new pessimism and aiming it at them. He tells them they’re both completely useless, so they shouldn’t be trying to cheer him up. (No, they shouldn’t. They should be staking him.) He walks away with a bit of a spring in his step after insulting them.
Giles realizes that the final ingredient for the apocalypse spell is in his own trunk of mystical doodads. Crap. And the demons are already there to take it from him. Buffy returns to his apartment far too late to prevent this. Giles is in bad shape. The ritual will happen at the Hellmouth. So it’s time to go back to the high school.
Which hasn’t been demolished yet, for some reason. It’s a half-destroyed, extremely structurally unsound wreck, and it’s coated in rancid burned Mayor meat. Buffy is annoyed that Willow and Xander felt the need to bring Spike, since it’s not like he can help. Eventually, they find the library, where three demons are chanting over an ominous crack in the foundation. Buffy jumps in to fight them, and the others try to grab the ritual items and get them away from the demons. The first demon jumps into the crack with one of the ingredients, triggering another earthquake, and the Scoobies realize that the ritual involves the demons sacrificing their own lives. So they can’t let the other two fall in the hole. Spike hits one of the demons in self-defense, expecting pain, but none comes. Hooray! He can hurt demons! He’s very happy about this, and in his jubilation, he throws the demon in the hole. Oops. Buffy’s fighting the last demon while the next earthquake starts, and Willow, Xander, and Spike leave. Then Riley arrives! They keep fighting, but the demon succeeds at jumping down the hole.
Buffy hooks on to Riley’s tow cable thingy and dives in after it. This may be the most absurd part of the episode. The demon had like a five second head start! There’s no way she can catch up to it before it hits the bottom. That’s not how gravity works.
Also, Riley actually catches the cable with his BARE HANDS and tows both Buffy and the demon back up. There is NO WAY he’d be able to do that with such a narrow cord. There would be no skin left on his palms at all. But whatever. The demon is dead and not in the Hellmouth, so it’s another apocalypse averted.
Buffy and Riley catch up to Willow, Xander, and Spike. Riley tries to pretend he’s a civilian, which is hilarious and not remotely convincing to Willow and Xander. Spike fakes an American accent (very poorly) to stop Riley from recognizing him as Hostile 17. (Pretty sure the Hawaiian shirt is the more convincing part of your disguise, dude.) Willow remarks that the high school seems smaller than she remembers.
Buffy visits Riley in his room later. He’s super frustrated about having blown his cover with not only Buffy, but Willow, Xander, and Spike too, and it’s hilarious. Buffy’s outfit is really cute.
It seems that she’s over her issues about not feeling like she can date him, which she demonstrates by kissing him. Hooray.
In Xander’s basement, Xander and Willow are trying to watch TV, but Spike wants to go out and fight some more demons. He’s pumped and really wants to go be violent, and he doesn’t care what the context is.
“Doomed” is not an episode I’ve ever really liked, and I’m still not a huge fan of it. I’m not sure I know why I didn’t like it before, but some things that stand out now are Willow’s efforts to make Spike feel useful and included, and Buffy’s melodrama with Riley. I am not remotely interested in Buffy’s relationship with Riley, so any time they’re a major focus in an episode, I’m likely to spend those scenes bored and slightly annoyed. But that’s a fairly minor quibble compared to the one I have about Spike, which is similar to the problem I had with him (and Willow) in “The Initiative.” I wish Willow hadn’t started being all supportive and encouraging until after he killed a demon. He’s tried to kill her and he has no soul! Why would she be sympathetic towards him? And why are any of the Scoobies trusting that the chip in his head is going to keep working? They’ve gotten all the information out of him they can, and now he’s just a very obnoxious drain on their resources. The reasons for not staking him at this point are extremely flimsy at best. Now, despite my dislike, the episode is actually rather unified in its story. There’s a major theme about not being able to move on from your past. Plot A forces the Scoobies to literally return to high school, and everyone’s Plot B involves a lack of forward momentum. Willow can’t shed the geeky image she had in high school, Xander is still in his parents’ basement and working crappy jobs, Buffy fears she’s stuck in a cycle of doomed relationships, and Spike can no longer do any of the things he likes doing. Only after they defeat the threat at the high school can they get back in gear. Spike finds a new sense of purpose in his ability to inflict violence on something and Buffy is willing to take the risk of a new relationship.
Even when Buffy was with Angel, her attitudes and actions have never reminded me so much of the melodrama-y relationship stuff that happens on a regular basis in The Vampire Diaries as they do in this episode when she preemptively gives up on a relationship with Riley because she’s convinced it’ll fail. Maybe it’s just how utterly non-dramatic Riley is that makes this stand out so much, but I’m glad she got over it in the space of an episode. I can put up with that stuff on The Vampire Diaries because my expectations of that show are far lower. One thing I do find interesting about her attitude is her reaction to Riley’s approach to fighting demons. He’s all gung-ho and lighthearted about it, but definitely not in the same way Faith was. And when he’s actually out on a mission, he’s very serious and focused. I’m not sure Buffy has seen him in action enough to know this. He’s not being irresponsible or reckless, he just got his training from the government instead of a British guy and a bunch of ancient books. Her arguments might’ve held more weight if he was a little too into it, but he actually seems very well-adjusted.
I think I might actually admire Xander’s willingness to keep getting all these crappy jobs. I have no idea why they’re all so short-term. Is he quitting because he can only take so much of any particular crappy job? Is he getting fired because he sucks at them? Are they only temporary positions? Whatever it is, it takes a certain amount of dedication and effort to pursue employment like this. I try to change jobs as infrequently as possible because that’s how much I loathe the job hunting/application/interview process, but Xander is evidently willing to go through that process on an almost continuous basis, and he doesn’t even seem that depressed about it. Respect. We even have an idea of his motives for it. A couple of episodes ago, he mentioned that he’s doing this partly because he wants to give Anya stuff. It’s all kind of adorable. And I like that he seems much less phased by Spike’s insults than Spike is by his. At least a little of the imperviousness he gained in “The Zeppo” is still there. Or maybe it’s just that he only takes crap from people he respects.
Take pride in your nerdiness, Willow! It’s not something you have to outgrow in order to become an adult. Adults are in many ways even better at being nerds than kids are. What she should be working on are some of her actual flaws, like impatience, thinking she automatically knows best just because she’s smart, and feeling like emotions (especially those of other people) are things it’s okay to manipulate with magic. But, of course, she’s only going to get introspective about that stuff after serious consequences come of them. I’ve already grumped about her unwarranted sympathy for Spike, so I don’t need to do that again.
Riley is in the opening credits now, so I’ll have to figure out something to say about him. Fun. I do feel that Buffy’s attitude about relationships is absurd, so I have to give Riley points for not wanting to put up with it. I like that we know more about him than his interest in Buffy and that he’s an Initiative guy. In the Buffyverse, love interests are rarely allowed to just be love interests. They’re fully developed characters in their own right. Unfortunately for Riley, that doesn’t make him especially interesting. Which is weird. He’s basically Captain America—earnest, gentlemanly, idealistic, patriotic—, and I love Captain America, so why don’t I love Riley? To be clear, I don’t dislike Riley, and the only thing I can think of that’s wrong (currently) with him is that he’s interested in Buffy while not being Angel, which isn’t something he can help.
There’s a weird parallelism between Buffy’s attitude and Spike’s in this episode. They’re both being very fatalistic in a depressed sort of way. “We’re doomed to fail, so why bother trying?” That kind of thing. I find it fascinating that Spike actually misses the violent side of being a vampire enough to attempt suicide, but that raises a question: was he genuinely trying to kill himself, or did he stage it to get sympathy from Willow and Xander (whom he may have heard coming with his vamp hearing)? Either way, I think it would be pretty much in character. He can’t have any of the things he wants and he’s become an object of pity and ridicule, so what’s the point of going on? And on the other hand, maybe he can get the Scoobies to appreciate him if he acts all woebegone. But as soon as he gets the violence back, even if it’s not violence against humans, he suddenly has something worth living for. It’s still kind of absurd, though. If I were in his position, I would’ve run off and beaten up some other vampires until they agreed to be my minions, and then I would’ve worked on getting the chip out. The contortions the writers put the characters through in order to keep Spike around are ridiculous, and it makes all of them less effective. The same applies to their failure to eliminate Harmony, only more so, because she is still killing humans offscreen.
I always find it weird when Giles is the skeptic about Plot A stuff. I mean, I guess there’s not really a character who’s a better fit for that. You have to be very knowledgeable about a topic to be skeptical without coming across as an ignorant tool. And in S1, at least, it made sense for him to be dismissive of Buffy’s ideas, because she hadn’t quite shattered his initial impression that she was just a ditzy American teenager yet. But now that he’s known her so long and knows perfectly well how capable and intuitive she is, couldn’t he be a skeptic without acting like she has no reason to worry whenever she brings her concerns to him? Couldn’t he be like “Well, I’ll research it just in case, and you can investigate if you’d like, but try not to get too worried until we know something for sure.”?
“What’s a Slayer?”
“Slayer? Thrash band. Anvil-handed guitar rock with delusions of Black Sabbath.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.