Buffyversed is a week by week, episode by episode, re-exploration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look for it every Friday on Goomba Stomp.
After a couple of weeks that have been mostly used to stall us from the conclusion of “What’s My Line, Pt. 2”, a conclusion that saw Dru and Spike rising from the wreckage of a burned out church, “Surprise” is the game-changer we’ve all been waiting for.
Even today, almost 20 years past the original air date, the final image of “Surprise” remains as mysterious and foreboding as ever. As occasionally mentioned in this column, I’m doing this re-watch with my fiancèe, who has never seen this show, and despite her modern TV twist training, she has no idea what’s coming next week. All the better for her.
Of course, anyone who has seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer through before has been waiting on this moment with baited breath. Why? Because this is the point that the saucer breaks, and after it’s broken, there’s no putting it back together. This is the moment when Buffy breaks the show you’ve been watching up until this point, and from now on, things will never be the same.
I suppose we oughta back it up a smidge though, and go over the meat of all this extrapolation. “Surprise” begins with the ultimate Buffy foreboding tool, that of the dream sequence, and uses it to its best effect yet. Sure, we’ve seen elaborate dream sequences before on Buffy, but up until now, they’ve been near exact replicas of the scenes we will later see.
This week, they’re much more cryptic and random in their design, much like dreams themselves. This connection brings them closer to Twin Peaks in the background, and The Sopranos in the foreground, marking them as a much more veiled attempt at presenting story elements to the audience through a subconscious lens. Buffy doesn’t know what to make of these portents, and neither does the audience, yet both are very aware that each bit that comes true brings us closer and closer to whatever unforeseen cataclysm is looming on the horizon.
Amid all of this doom and gloom, however, we’ve got Buffy’s 17th birthday to center us around the group, and how their friendship with Buffy is there main uniting element, as they plan her surprise party. “Surprise” brings Oz into that same fold, as Buffy slays a vampire in front of him… and he takes it awfully well. “That actually makes a lot of sense” he says when Xander breaks the truth to him.
What doesn’t make sense is Spike and Dru collecting a series of wooden boxes… well, until it does. Angel puts it together first, but once he paints a picture, everyone is privy to the whole apocalyptic view: an unkillable demon, called “The Judge” was once dismembered by an army of soldiers, his pieces sent to all the corners of the earth — but, if they should ever be re-assembled, The Judge would return and cleanse the earth of humanity.
And yes, before you ask, Drusilla is definitely crazy enough to kill off all of humanity just to take out the slayer. This might not actually seem that crazy, if you’re not thinking about it too deeply, but imagine a world where vampires don’t have humans as an easy food source? I mean the creatures of the night don’t exactly strike you as a general hunter-gatherer type, do they? That’s true madness: the kind of short-sighted obsession that could kill you by proxy.
So, despite Buffy and Angel’s best efforts (Angel was even willing to peace out with an arm for months or years, if that’s what it took to keep all 6 pieces from uniting), The Judge is assembled at last, and reveals his power to burn the feeling out of any living thing by torching a vampire with his bare hands.
Elsewhere, relationships advance in other significant ways. Oz and Willow go on their first date (“I said ‘date’!’, Willow exclaims, after asking Oz out), Xander asks Cordelia out (and is subsequently shot down, due to their differing social statuses), and finally, Jenny Calendar is revealed to be a member of the Romani. Not just any Romani though; it turns out that Ms. Calendar is actually here to watch over Angel, and make sure the curse that restored his soul remains in effect.
How’s she doing so far?
I guess that leads us back to that climactic ending: after Buffy and Angel escape certain death, yet again, they declare their love in words, and use the momentum to fuel their passion. After they sleep together, something seems amiss, and a desperate Angel fleas out into the pouring rain, screaming Buffy’s name.
Aaaaaaaand noted credits bastard/cliffhanger master, Joss Whedon, chuckles to himself as we wait for next week, when things get really intense.
“Cristina Says,” is based on observations my fiancèe makes. This is my 4th time through the series, but Cristina is a first-time watcher with modern TV sensibilities.
“Oh hey! I just have my shirt off! What’s up with you?” (Cristina mocks Angel’s constant, and convenient, shirtlessness.)
“What’s up with his face?” (Cristina had forgotten about Spike and Dru’s presumably permanent demise in the black church.)
“Oh yeah! He doesn’t know!” (Cristina kind of freaks out as Oz is brought into the fold.)
“Sorry! Surpriiiiiise! Angel’s going away!” (Stop enjoying Buffy and Angel’s turmoil so much! Gahhhhlll!)
“What’s wrong with him?” (What indeed? I suppose we’ll find out next week!)
Whedonisms are a sort of term for (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon’s style of dialogue, and something we’re using as a catch-all for particularly fun or witty lines.
“‘I wanna see you at bedtime?’ You actually said that? Man, that’s like moxie or something!” (Willow gushes over Buffy’s Freudian slip.)
“You think he’s too old because he’s a senior? My boyfriend had a bicentennial!” (Buffy and Willow compare age differences for their prospective love interests.)
“He looks like Mr. Caution Man but the sound he makes is funny.” (Xander goes a mile with the stuffy Giles-mocking this week.)
“Hey! Did anyone else see that guy turn to dust!?” (Oz reacts to some vampire slayage.)
“What? Only Xander gets to make dumb jokes?” (Willow gets stunned silence when she drops a stupid joke in the middle of a serious conversation.)
Better get ready mother fuckers, because next week is “Innocence”, and by the time it’s through, you won’t have any left.
(Featured image credit: Basement Rejects)