I don’t want any trouble. I just want to be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cozy. I don’t even know what a tea cozy is, but I want one. Instead, I keep getting trouble, which I am more than willing to share.
Oh, hey, y’all. It’s been a while since we checked in with Buffy and the gang. Long time fans can probably pick up with these season 3 recaps and know right away why Buffy is hanging out in L.A. this episode, but if you need a refresher on what lead up to these developments, all of my Season 2 recaps are collected here.
Also, a note about spoilers and spoiler warnings: I don’t generally believe in spoiler warnings, since I think the concept of a “recap” should be enough of a warning in and of itself. However, I have noticed that there are a large number of P-Mag readers who have only just started watching Buffy and may be coming into these posts with unspoiled eyes. My posts will or may include references to all aired Buffy episodes (that is, all of them), including plot points or characters who may not have been introduced as of the current recap episode. I do not generally refer to “Season 8” (the comics). Please be forewarned.
All that said, let’s check in with the Scooby Gang:
Since Buffy disappeared after the events of “Becoming,” the gang has been trying to fill in for her as best they can. But three (and four, when Cordelia comes back from summer vacation) regular human beings do not equal one Slayer, no matter what the math says. The best Willow and the boys can do is not end up dead. Which, according to their “body count,” is about all they’re doing.
There’s actually a really great moment where Oz hefts up a stake, looks focused and professional, and then hurls it inefficiently after a fleeing vampire. It’s a played for laughs moment, but it’s a very clever commentary on just how special Buffy is – we see her do similar attacks so often it looks deceptively easy. But she’s the Chosen One. She has just chosen to not be in Sunnydale right now.
The gang is almost entirely B-role in this episode. Their purpose is to remind us of the Slayer-shaped hole Buffy’s absence has left – no one has heard from her, and from the few glimpses of Joyce we get, I don’t think she mentioned to them that she had kicked Buffy out of the house. No one really knows what happened at the mansion, but it’s going to be a cloud over most of the season.
So let’s talk about Buffy. She’s returned to L.A., but not to the privileged part of it she grew up in. She’s down in the gutter, slinging pie at “Helen’s Kitchen” (a none-too-subtle nod to Hell’s Kitchen), living in a one room apartment that she pays for by the month. No one knows she’s the Slayer here and that’s what she wants – she even traded in her first name for her middle one, “Anne.” There’s a really fantastic montage of the first day of school at Sunnydale, full of people and conversations and hopes (“If we can focus, keep discipline, and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna *rule!*”) contrasted against Buffy sitting alone in her room, depressed.
Ken, our villain of the episode, says later on that hell is the absence of hope, and that’s where Buffy is in that shot – hopeless, alone, no one.
Plotting happenstance brings Buffy into contact with a face from her past – Chanterelle from “Lie to Me,” the fragile blonde who thought Spike might make her into a vampire. She’s going by “Lily” now, living on the streets, but in love with her boyfriend. She recognizes Buffy and reaches out to her, trying to thank her for everything Buffy did in the vampire club. The Slayer is bristly, on guard, and unsure of how to respond to the overture of friendship. This is not our girl.
Later, Lily’s boyfriend disappears and she asks Buffy to help find him because “that’s what you do. Help people.” Lily is the hook back into Buffy’s old life – she tries to get out of helping, but Lily knows her nature. She can’t refuse. And as Buffy investigates what’s going, we see more of our girl peeking out of the shell. She literally looks more alive, her language is wittier, and she falls easily back into Slayer mode.
Ricky, unfortunately, is dead – and about 80 years older than he was the day before. This is weird even by Buffy standards. When Lily freaks out upon hearing the news, wanting to know who will take care of her now, Buffy snaps at her, chasing Lily from the apartment. Guilt can do awful things to you.
Ken, our demon, who is masquerading as some non-descript do-gooder, invites Lily back to his teen haven for some treachery. Buffy’s not far behind them, having deduced that the haven house is the source of Ricky’s untimely end. She tries to enter the house undercover:
You know, I just – I woke up and I looked in the mirror and I thought, “Hey, what’s with all the sin? I need to change. I’m-I’m dirty, I’m-I’m bad with the sex, and the envy, and that-that loud music us kids listen to nowadays. B-” Oh, I just suck at undercover.
That’s our girl.
She busts the door in, beats up the guards, and finds Ken just in time to see Lily sucked through a dimensional portal, and in her struggle with Ken, they both fall through afterwards. They find themselves in an alternate reality, where Ken is a fascist demon-faced, uh, demon, kidnapping healthy kids to work in his factory that seems to make fire or people hitting stuff or whatever. But because it’s an alternate reality, 100 years will pass on that side to one day on our side, which explains what happened to Ricky.
The overlords attempt to press Buffy and Lily and Random Teenagers into their workforce by robbing them of their identities and their hopes, asking the kids what their names are and bludgeoning the ones who haven’t figured out the right answer is “I’m no one.”
When the Head Beater stops in front of our girl, she gives a wry little smile and reclaims her name and her purpose. “I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.”
Then she beats the snot out of them.
The fight scene in this episode is one of my favorites in the entire series. It powerful and athletic, well choreographed. And this is my favorite part: during the fight scene, when Buffy is attempting to overthrow the overlords, she grabs a hammer and a sickle to wield against them. Revolutionary weapons.
Ken brings the fight to a halt by threatening to kill Lily, then casts her aside to make a grand pronouncement about how he will cru ““ oh, never mind. Lily shoves him off the platform. I seriously love Lily. (She shows up on Angel too.)
Buffy, Lily, and Random Teenagers make a break for the portal, when Ken tries to head them off, accidentally getting himself impaled by a gate in the process. Buffy stands over him:
Buffy: Hey Ken, wanna see my impression of Gandhi?
[beats him to death with a club]
Buffy: Well, you know, he was really pissed-off.
Everyone gets home alive, except for the people they didn’t bother to rescue. The portal closes. Yay, good guys!
Before heading back to Sunnydale, Buffy does the last bit of caretaking Lily will need to get on her feet. She gives her the job at Helen’s Kitchen, the rest of the lease on her apartment, and her old name, “Anne.” She gives Lily-Anne hope.
At home, she doesn’t go see Giles first, or the gang, or school. She rings the doorbell at her own house and embraces her mother.