Story by Zahir al Daoud and CN Winters
Written by Zahir al Daoud (with additional writing by Susan Carr and CN Winters)
Directed by Zahir al Daoud and CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by Sharon Kierein and Angie Wilson
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook and Zahir al Daoud
Artists – Zahir al Daoud, Chris Cook, CN Winters, Chantal, Jinn, Sarah, Rob, Humaira
Guest Starring: Jennifer Connelly as Althenea Dimmons and Brad Dourif as Brell
Scene 01: We open in the Cleveland Watchers library, with Kennedy entering to see Willow sitting surrounding by books. Willow looks awful, obviously not sleeping since she lost her young Slayer, Marsha, last episode. Kennedy tries to tell her that it isn't her fault, and Will says she knows that, but Kenn doesn't believe she really does. She points out that Willow has checked and re-checked her counter magic to block the Presidium from trying the line of attack again dozens of times and that the other Councils and the Devon Coven have also confirmed that the spell was successfully cast.
Rowena comes in with a tray, insisting that Willow needs to eat, though she denied being hungry. After Kenn leaves, Ro holds Willow and sympathizes with what she is going through, calling back to the fact that Rowena's prior potential Slayer was also killed (This would be the Istanbul Slayer Potential killed by the Bringers in BTVS: Lessons).
Scene 02: A 'Video Hut' store under new management is our next location. Within, we find that the store is now demon owned and is servicing a demon clientele. Naturally, the horror titles are now on the children's shelf, while anything featuring cute kids is sold as adult-oriented horror.
In comes Brell, looking for something to watch since his family is out of town. We meet the new owner, who is a member of a demon race known as the Vl'hurg. Brell obviously knows him well, so we can make a assumption that he isn't of the crush-kill-destroy type.
Scene 03: In an alley, where Reteesk is leading Brell to a demon-serving restaurant for dinner, the bulky demon laments the state of Human/Demon relations. He blames the vampires for making it impossible to travel freely on the streets, not to mention Homo Sapiens' instinctual bad reactions to beings who don't look like themselves.
As they travel, they see another demon, who neither recognizes. Reteesk greets the stranger, but the other ignores him completely. When he steps in the way with an admonition against being rude, he is shoved out of the way. Due to his bulk, we can assume that the other demon is super strong.
He also isn't talkative and appears single minded. We can tell this latter because a rusted hulk of an abandoned car is torn in half to allow the creature to pass, rather than it simply walking around the obstruction.
Commentary: I like the sense we get of what sort of 'person' Reteesk is here. I can imagine him being very much like an upper crust Giles and hope that if he becomes a recurring character, we see them speaking to one another at some point. His dialog definitely gives me the impression of 'Britishness', which I find amusing.
Scene 04: The next morning, we join Xander in the dining room of the Council HQ. Discussion seems to be centering around a general update. Giles mentions that the European branch has reported the destruction of a very old vampire, Baba Yaga (a witch
from Russian folklore), which impresses Giles. In addition, a shout out to Kakistos is mentioned.
Giles reports that he's heard from Althenea (Devon coven liason and mentor of sorts to Willow) that the defenses against the dream assault magicks of the Presidium are holding up. He mentions a congratulations to Rowena for her and Willow's progress, which for a split second she takes as him commenting on how far they've come in their relationship to each other which causes her to choke on her tea and quickly make her exit with a lame excuse. Read this:
"Well, I simply wanted to note that the two of you have demonstrated real maturity," continued Giles. "The situation between you could easily have led to destructive patterns, from power games to petty jealousies to elaborate deceptions while pretending to be friendly colleagues. That you have behaved with such honesty a-and courage, as well as genuine wisdom, does both of you very great credit. The fact that you’re helping Willow at this difficult time Rowena, w-with recent events, I am...well...I'm terribly proud of you both."
Commentary: Now, this small section is really confusing to me, because I don't know what Giles is referring to exactly. I don't believe that the rest of the Council knows about Ro and Willow, yet, unless it was brought out between episodes which doesn't seem right. But, the interactions between Ro and Kennedy in the teaser seems to indicate that Kenn might have guessed (or she simply thinks they've grown more friendly, but doesn't know the extent of the relationship yet - it is too vague). And Giles' follow up comment about how both women have shown maturity instead of falling into destructive patterns comes appropo of nothing unless he is talking about their burgeoning relationship, unless he is calling back to Ro and Willow's butting of heads over Marsha back in S1 E13, Rash Decisions... again, it's too vague and his statements don't make sense unless he's trying to bring what he's guessed into the light from S2, E3 Checkmate... which doesn't fit Giles' character as being discreet when it comes to personal relationships. I'm confused, here. Since last episode, Dream Warriors, Willow was swearing Marsha to secrecy regaring her and Ro's current hidden relationship, I'm now lost about just how much the others know and why they're speaking as if they all know what is going on and it's been made public knowledge already..., which seems belied by Rowena's reaction.
Scene 05: Later that day, Dawn and Skye are talking about how distracted Willow has been. Skye points out that a lot has happened lately, including Marsha's death, but Dawn says it's more than that. Skye mentions that Willow is still in love with Rowena - to which Dawn agrees...
Commentary: And, this scene makes it clear that they don't know about Ro's reciprocated feelings, which makes Giles' comment even more confusing... and makes Ro's misinterpretation (assuming it was meant to be misinterpreting) of his comment entirely natural since I'm as confused by what he was commenting on as she was....
Skye and Dawn give us a little insight into their early relationship, comparing the looks that Willow gives Ro when she thinks no one is looking to the glances she used to direct at Skye. But, she adds, Willow also looks like she's holding some resentments over something, mentioning Willow's reaction to finding out that Xander and Cordelia had been secretly dating.
The conversation is interrupted by Brell arriving at the Council to report the silent, new demon he and Reteesk encountered.
Scene 06: Next is a comedic scene with Brell, Willow, Skye and Dawn as Brell uses a new program that Willow took from an FBI database that will allow them to create a composite image - she's included images of demonic features as well.
Scene 07: Rowena is leading Vi and Mia toward the library, as we find out that they are also reporting a new demon that saw on the night patrol. Vi reports it seemed to ignore everything around it, except an unfortunate rat.
Actually, when they reach the library, we find out it was the same one that Brell is currently reporting. Ro pulls down a book from the stacks that turns out to be her thesis paper from the Watchers Academy and she reports the demon is a Mizor - an incredibly strong demon - so strong in fact that all Slayers who've been reported to engage them in the past have been killed in the line of duty.
Ro gives a tutorial on Mizor habits, reporting the only time they bother anyone is when they swarm to mate - unfortunately, when that happens, it is always over a Hellmouth and they can wipe out whole civilizations - the Mayans are offered up as an example.
Everyone nervously hopes that this Mizor remains single and passing through....
Scene 08: Later that afternoon, around dusk - Kennedy and Faith are patrolling together. These two are pretty close, so they do a lot of talking. In this case, it's Faith making some observations about her relationship with Mia.
The conversation is cut short by Kennedy spotting a demon - a female demon - matching the general parameters of the one which Vi, Mia and Brell reported ... they follow it.
Scene 09: Back at the Council, Giles speaks to Willow about her losing Marsha and the difficulty of losing a Slayer and about how to cope with that loss....
Commentary: I wish I liked this scene more. First let me say how much I like that Marsha's loss has really impacted the Council, especially Willow. I appreciate also that everyone is still doing their jobs - as they must - while this cloud seems to be draped over them all. I really like how Willow is being written, here.
Here's my problem: We find out here that Giles lost a potential before being assigned to Buffy, which isn't exactly breaking any continuity - but, it is stated here that Travers assigned Buffy to Giles meer weeks after Shawna's ambush by vampires. I really wish that a longer period of time was chosen instead - say a year or 18-months. 'Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest' just doesn't present a Giles who is struggling with a recent loss. And, though Giles could easily be hiding his feelings about this traumatic event, it just doesn't figure that it was never mentioned before if it had occurred so soon before his assignment in Sunnydale. I appreciate the filling in on backstories and expanding the histories of our characters (as I've pointed out repeatedly in prior reviews) but this particular detail, being so close to BTVS: S1, comes off more as a clumsy ret-con than an expansion which I appreciate far less....
Again, giving Giles a prior potential doesn't upset continuity and would work fine - it is just the timing when fitting it into what we saw of BTVS that presents a minor problem for me (minor enough not to affect the scoring for the story).
My other issue is Giles' jokey dialogue, which strikes me as more Xander-like than Giles as phrased here.
Scene 10: Faith and Kennedy duck behind a dumpster near a courtyard and spy on the new demon. Within, she joins several others of her kind (as we suspected when Ro made it clear that more than one Mizor together was bad). All of them stand, waiting for something, and each with its own mutilations, but all appearing to have had their leather clothing sewn into their skin....
Commentary: Think a more emotionless version of the Cenobites... with one of them tipping into Borg territory. I'll say that with their lack of personality they don't make the most engaging villains, but their description is great and the photowork is excellent.
Scene 11: On the way into a meeting, where Faith and Kenn are waiting to report what they've seen, Xander asks Ro out for coffee. This puts her in an uncomfortable position for a minute, until Xan says suddenly it is just 'friendship' coffee. There is a deliberate callback to Ro's going away between season 1 & 2 (See the end of S1: Another Apocalypse and S2: Everything Old).
Commentary: This is nice, because in S1, Xander was shown to have a possible romantic interest in Ro at the same time as Willow, but the idea sort of petered out without much resolution. I like that it's being picked up again here - and that it puts Ro in the same position (at least for a moment) that Willow has been complaining about - unable to be truthful about their not-single status.
Scene 12: Giles and Ro are horrified by the fact that there are seven Mizors in Cleveland, suggesting that a swarm is about to break out, which we get explained in detail here (they are like the Borg!). Rowena informs everyone else that as far as the Council was aware, they were indestructible and no one had ever managed to destroy them before thousands died.
Giles informs them that there was a case where they were defeated but rules it out as an option - which shocks Rowena as she had written a thesis paper on them and hadn't come across such information. Giles explains she didn't have the clearance for that file when she was with the Old Council, but they had pulled quite a lot of strings in 1945 with the U.S. government.
That is why Hiroshima was chosen as one of the sites for the nuclear attack on Japan to end WWII, in place of Kyoto. A swarm of breeding Mizors was wiping out the city and putting the whole island at risk.
Commentary: I enjoy little asides like, showing that a) the Old Guard was operating with the highest levels of world government, b) that those world governments have been aware of supernatural threats for far longer than BTVS: S4, and c) that the Old Guard, pompous as it was, was also effective and saved the world plenty of times long before Buffy came along. Not only do these things give much more 'flavor' to the Buffyverse (in the same way flashbacks to before Buffy work in BTVS), but sometimes the Old Council was portrayed as nearly clownish in their stupidity leading you to wonder how in the hell Earth managed to not be destroyed in an Apocalypse long before now - see: BTVS Helpless and BTVS: Never Leave Me.
(BTW: You can also tell that this is a Zahir story, because he loves to tie historical events into WATCHERS lore - see the main plot arc for S5 -grin-)
Rupert very quickly takes control of the situation, dispatching Slayers to distract (but not engage) individual members of the Mizors as they will not swarm until an undefined number of them have gathered in place. Willow and her coven are sent to consult with Althenea in Devon on any magic they can find, while Ro is sent to review all known information. In the meanwhile, Giles seems distracted, as if he has an idea forming....
Scene 13: Faith, Mia and Xander keep an eye on the gathered Mizors, while Lori and Vi are instructed to delay another that is approaching. There are now 9 gathered in a circle staring at one another and waiting. In the meanwhile, Mia and Faith work on blocking the courtyard entrance.
Scene 14: Around 4am the next morning, Robin looks in on Ro but they both report utter failure in finding anything they can use to stop the Mizors, with the exeptions of a several megaton nuclear blast. After Robin leaves, Ro discovers something in the files that causes a fresh wave of horror and tears for her. She copies whatever she finds onto a floppy disk, and then with hesitation chooses to mysteriously delete whatever the information is from the original computer file.
Scene 15: Vi joins Faith and her team, following the female Mizor as it approaches the courtyard - Faith teases Xan by wondering if he's going to ask the demon out.
Scene 16: In the computer room, Ro has locked the door. She burns her notes... notes which indicate how to stop the swarm, but whatever it is (presumably, not the nuclear strike) she insists to herself she can't do it.
Scene 17: Back in the alley leading to the courtyard, the Mizors start an atonal humming causing the humans to get closer to see what they're doing. Xan has a sudden vision from his magic eye, seeing Mia attacked by filaments from the demons. He tries to shout a warning, but the attack comes anyway - Vi and Faith are able to pull her away, but Mia begins to vomit.
"We need to get out of here," warns Xander as the demons stop ignoring them.
Scene 18: At dawn, Becca finds Giles standing, hot chocolate in hand, at her bookstore door. He warns her that things are looking particularly grim and he asks her to stay in her apartment. He further tells her that if he calls her, she needs to get to the freeway immediately and leave the city.
She protests (as she always does) but he informs her that if he calls her, it is because they're evacuating the city. He further informs her that the Council will be retreating also, if at all possible once they've helped get everyone else out. But he doesn't want her to risk herself or the baby trying to wait for him - after noting how frightened he is, she reluctantly agrees.
Scene 19: The Mizors begin to spread out from the courtyard and infect their first victim. The Council contingent retreats when Robin pulls up in a Council van.
Commentary: The Mizor look terrific and this picture is particularly well done... the bubbling green slime from the mouth is a good touch.
Scene 20: Behind the van, the Mizors continue the slow, implacable march throughout the city in order to co-opt people into becoming more Mizors. In the van, the doctor had also joined Robin, and he now begins an IV drip to Mia, who is looking badly.
Scene 21: Rowena is wandering the hallways of the Council in shock over what she has learned (and is hiding) when the Council van returns. Mia goes into convulsions as the Doctor orders the Slayers to hold her down. As the medical staff begin trying any treatment they can think of to slow down the infection of Mia until her Slayer healing can kick in, Faith takes control of the situation.
Vi and Xander are sent out to begin clearing the streets of people, while she summons Robin to join her in the 'war room'. Ro, seeing Mia and becoming more distraut at their deteriorating situation wanders off again.
Scene 22: Faith breaks the news to Kennedy that Mia is in a bad way, calling her in to see her girlfriend in case the doctor can't stop what is happening.
Scene 23: In the meanwhile, the Watchers at HQ are watching news reports coming in of "gang wars" and "rumors of chemical or biological weapons being used".
With everyone at a loss as to what to do, other than flee indefinitely until the swarm peters itself out, Skye notes that Ro has buried her face in her hands and has started sobbing. Under pressure from the others, Ro admits to finding something from one of the earlier attacks and then admits she deleted the information from the file.
Everyone is outraged at this, but push that aside to insist she tell them what she knows - she reports that to stop the swarm, Willow will have to die.
Commentary: I suspected it was going to come down to a self sacrifice and that it would be Willow because of Ro's reaction. But since I don't believe for a minute that Willow will be permanently written out of WATCHERS (future me: She isn't) this lacks any sort of emotional reaction from me. Ro's reaction is powerful, but all I can come up with is 'meh'.
Scene 24: Faith and Robin work in tandem to direct teams to get people out of the way of the coming danger, if they can.... Which, Lori can't - a police officer is graphically killed when he (in keeping with most monster movies) stops to reload his gun instead of running.
Scene 25: Meanwhile, at the infirmary, Kennedy rushes to Mia's side. After getting a status from Doctor Miller, she chooses to return to the streets rather than stay uselessly in the infirmary.
Commentary: I'm not sure how to take this scene. Is Kenn leaving Mia's side because she just doesn't feel as strongly about her as she had about Willow - or does she just need to be doing something? Both I could see as in character for her. Especially since something like the former point is what Faith brought up earlier.
Scene 26: In the library, Ro tells the others about how a previous attack was halted by a coven in London, 1666. It turns out that Ro has discovered not only why he former swarm was stopped in its tracks (a witch died) but because of a very particular circumstance (a witch who was born on one Hellmouth and moved to another Hellmouth died), but not only did the circumstance cause the stopping of the swarm, it actually STARTED IT! That is why the swarms are so rare... it requires a witch born on a Hellmouth to move to another in order to activate the mating drive in them.
Commentary: I think I like this aspect of the story the most, just because its such a unique twist. And, it makes more sense of why Willow would need to sacrifice herself to put a stop to things. As per usual, however, a nitpick leaps out at me. Jeff mentions that two other witches are present which were born on the Sunnydale Hellmouth and are now living in Cleveland - Andrew and Dawn. Andy shoots down himself as the cause/answer because he was actually born in Oxnard, CA. Dawn tries to deny she could be the answer because she was born in L.A. - but that is not true!
The monks didn't perform a time warping spell, they only affected memories. On top of that, Dawn can't be said to have been 'born'. She was already existing (though in an energy form) and then sent to Sunnydale from Europe. A fact that Jeff knows too, since he knew her history when she first visited in S1, E7 In Love and War.
Ro further demonstrates she's learned nothing in the year and a half she's been with the New Council by insisting she deleted the file because she couldn't let them kill Willow with the Council's "one life for thousands" philosophy. She does concede she didn't destroy the data, having saved it to disk first.
Giles, very rightly, is livid that she allowed people to die to protect Willow - needlessly as the New Council had never given her any reason to make her think that they'd turn on their own like that. He points out that they would never sacrifice any human being as if they were tools, the way the Old Council would (and I love that he calls her Ms. Allister). But when he tells her that he doesn't believe in using Council resources for personal gain, she just as angrily points out that lie. Faith was allowed to take the Council jet for a personal reason to Boston and Giles had left the Council with no Slayers protecting it in order to save Becca's life (point one is specious- there is a huge difference between killing a council member and borrowing a jet. Also, I can't find an episode off hand where Giles deliberately left the Council open to attack to retrieve Becca - but that doesn't mean it didn't happen).
Angrily, he orders her to retrieve the disk for them, and then orders her immediate suspension pending an official review!
Oh, yeah - and during Ro's heated response about Becca, she asks why Becca is different for being Giles' fiance, while Willow is only her lover, finally blowing that secret (But again, her argument is utterly false - Giles didn't suggest that Willow be sacrificed for the greater good. She was the only who falsely suggested that he would sacrifice Willow for the greater good.).
Commentary: As I pointed out, Ro's argument for endangering the entire city is pretty damned flimsy here - and in direct opposition to all of the evidence presented about who the New Council is. For being such a sensible woman, she really acts rashly stupid here and Giles is entirely correct in ordering her suspension (though I might have waited until after the crisis). I can't decide if this is an out of character violation for Rowena, or if it's character development that Ro's judgement can be severely flawed if Willow is placed at risk....
Scene 27: Willow tries to defend Rowena with a weak argument (she wasn't malicious) but Giles shoots that down, mentioning that destroying Council property is an actionable offense in and of itself. Meanwhile Dawn and Skye are hovering outside of Giles' office where the two are arguing over the situation.
Giles yells at Willow for not telling them about their relationship, which Willow yells back was none of his business. He counters that it is because their relationship has put them in direct conflict with the Council, but his arguing with her is suddenly cut off as he grabs his arm, collapsing to the floor!
Willow yells for help.
Commentary: Okay, again the argument here is pretty silly - a) Willow's is ridiculous. Ro didn't act maliciously, so she shouldn't be punished for destroying Council property?? b) Giles' is equally ridiculous - Willow didn't know that Ro hid information on her behalf because of their seeing one another. In addition, knowing about they were seeing each other prior to this incident would in no way have made them suspect that Ro was hiding information in order protect Willow's life. And, to be blunt to Rupert - he doesn't need to know the ins and outs of everyone's sleeping arrangements until there is a clear conflict of interest, which in this case would have fallen on Rowena to disclose, and obviously that wasn't going to happen since she wasn't going to reveal the reason of the conflict. Willow is entirely guiltless in this whole situation.
And, I have to wonder what the hell Giles is doing arguing about this when they have some critical information to save the whole city to review and a plan to formulate!
I do like how the act ends though with Giles' apparent heart attack (I recognized immediately when he grabbed his arm before collapsing).
One last thing - I have to object to Willow not running for the intercom, the phone or the door though. She has no way of knowing that anyone is anywhere near Giles' office so yelling for help was a silly, time wasting course of action. And though in a different context I could buy the "she was in shock by the suddeness of what happened" excuse, Willow has way too much time under her belt under extreme circumstances to react this way, I think.
Scene 28: Back on the streets Vi and Xander are trying to get people to retreat. Xander abandons his attempt to get a blind man to safety in order to tackle Vi before she can be barbed into the back by the Mizor. The blind man gets attacked instead and we see him transformed into another Mizor and join in the relentless 'mating call', stalking after Xan and Vi.
Scene 29: Faith has rushed in to aid Giles and is giving him CPR. As Rowena arrives in his office with the disk she was sent to retrieve, she sees Giles respond to Faith's 'breath of life'. Dawn fills her in on the argument and collapse. Ro sends Jeff out to retrieve Becca as the Council emergency medical team arrives to take over care of Giles.
As Giles is rushed out, Willow retrieves the disk from Ro, who tried to apologize, but Willow isn't hearing it. In addition, Faith is also angry at Rowena for hiding information after Mia's attack. She roughs her up, before Willow calls her off. Ro tries to help, but Willow reminds her she's suspended and sends her to her apartment, leaving with Andrew and the disk.
Scene 30: Out on the street, a school bus is boarded by one of the Mizors, despite the heroic efforts of the driver. A ten year old girl gets a barbed tendril....
Commentary: While short, this scene is well done, capturing the chaos in a few lines of the city inhabitants reacting to the chaos caused them by the Mizors. In addition, I appreciate when children aren't spared because of their cutsey-kid-shields (see my review for 'Revenge of the Creature, scene 28' for an example).
Scene 31: A short time later, in the Coven room, Andrew is hypothesizing that what has drawn the creatures to the Hellmouth is the magical change caused by Willow's presence. Her magic has changed the 'aura' of the Hellmouth's energy. He further states that if Willow simply left, those energies would return to their 'default' and stop the Mizor mating drive. But, Dawn has to shoot this down as it has been tried during swarms in the past.
Jeff has returned by this point, while the gang is trying to come up with a way for Willow to not die, and he offers that if Andrew is correct, then what they need to do is seperate Willow from her magic, not her life. As Skye points out, however, Willow is one of the most powerful witches in the world - so how do they do strip her of her magic.
Willow has the answer - a spell that she cannot cast herself, as each spell is a part of their caster. But the coven could cast it upon her. This isn't without significant risk, however. Stripping her of her magic when its become so much a part of her could also kill her.
Commentary: I like this complication, because it ties so nicely with 'Lessons', in which Giles also made it clear that simply removing her magic wasn't an option - she had to learn to live with and control it. I also like that everyone in the coven is given some good lines to suggest that they're used to working together by this point to strategize and work through problems. The scene is also used to build on previous attraction between Jeff and Dawn - he reaches out and lays a hand on her knee while he's explaining what he wants to do, and then quickly removes it while looking guiltily (something that surely won't escape Skye's attention).
Scene 32: Willow gets on a trans-Atlantic call to Althenea Dimmons to learn the exact mechanics of the ritual that will be needed to cut Willow off from her magic, and the counter-spell to undue the sundering once the threat is over.
Scene 33: In the Presidium's Citadel, the Lover remains very aware of Willow on Earth. We meet a new operative, The Dreamer, who appears to have the gift of precognition. She asks him to tell her if Willow will die in her attempt, but he is unable to give her an answer.
She instructs him to forget about her and not to be distracted from the tasks which their Lord has given him (presumably, she speaks of the Unmaker here).
Commentary: The scenery is always a pleasure when we shift to Vor and the Dreamer's complicated mystic lattice is no different. And, although one could think that this scene servers no real purpose, I like the subtle hint that the Lover is taking an especial interest in Willow. Not only that, but you could be tempted to read between the lines here and think that she wishes to hide her fascination with the witch from the Unmaker. The way she insists that whether Willow lives or dies is of no concern to them, after she's made a special trip to ask about her fate, seems to directly belie her words - and the way she insists that the Dreamer not concern himself with her any further seems a little to forceful to me here, to not have meaning.
Scene 34: Now, we check in on Giles and Mia in the infirmary. Rupert is stable, with Becca at his side. Mia is unconscious and twitchy, but alive....
Scene 35: In the coven room, Willow sets up for the ritual and has a mild confrontation with Rowena about the latters being there. Willow is afraid that Ro will intervene and there is too much at stake for the spell to be interrupted because of emotional considerations. In the meantime, she taps Xander to be the fifth person required for the ritual.
Commentary: Though a small thing, I really like that Willow specifically taps Xan because he has worked magic in the past and it seems too right that if Will is going to sacrifice herself for the greater good, that one of her closest friends should be there (which I think should have been done in BTVS: Chosen when Willow cast the Slayer-activator spell, rather than have Kennedy at her side).
Scene 36: A quick check on Kennedy and Lori show that the implacable demons are tiring them out as they continue retreating, shepherding a group of survivors....
Commentary: There isn't anything wrong with the scene, per se, but it doesn't add anything we're not already aware of. What I really want to comment on is the timing of it, however. Wouldn't this be a perfect scene to follow directly from the Giles/Becca scene where Rupert specifically mentions that he expected Kennedy to stay at Mia's side, while Becca points out he's done a very good job at making Kenn the Slayer she is, aware of her greater duty... why put this here? I especially think it was a poor move to break up the tense "let's try to kill Willow now" ritual...
Scene 37: ... which is returned to, now. The spell to sunder is cast..., but again, we're interrupted to return to Kenn and Lori. Kenn and Lori are cornered after sending the civilians up a fire escape ladder. Though Lori batters the demon with a tire iron with all her strength it barely notes the attack. Instead all of its attention is focused on Kennedy as she is barely able to dodge its tendril....
Scene 38: Back in the coven room, Willow's magical energy streams out into the ether from her mouth and she collapses.
Scene 39: While back in the alley, the Mizor attacking Kennedy suddenly comes to a complete stop. It slowly turns away, and marches off.
Scene 40: In the coven room, Willow's powers are restored minutes later and Rowena rushes to scoop her into her arms from the floor. She deeply kisses her, with Xander suddenly being aware that there is something going on that Willow hadn't shared with him. He leaves to get Dr. Miller for Willow, but is angry as he notes no one else seems shocked by the romantic display of Rowena.
Scene 41: We wrap up in the infirmary with Giles recovered. Mia is still unconscious but the doctor gives her a promising prognosis. Willow is suffering exhaustion, and Giles also make it clear the sundering cannot be completely undone - Willow's magic has been weakened or damaged in some unknowable at the moment ways, which offers some story possibilities for later. Rowena has damaged her relationship with the rest of the Council by placing the public at large at risk by her destroying and hiding of Council information to protect Willow.
Commentary: Alas, Giles' main point while he gives them both a dressing down, is their hiding their intimate relationship from the rest of the Council, which as I've already argued, is the wrong argument. The relationship itself and its level of public knowledge is irrelevant and none of his business - on that I'm firmly on Willow's side. It would not have mattered if they were public before because that in no way would have put Rowena under suspicion that she found and hid information about a possible resolution to the crisis.
His whole demeanor here is non-sensicle because he doesn't focus on Rowena's transgression without also being angry at Willow for going along with the secrecy of their personal involvement and that makes zero sense to me. I also find it inconsistent with Giles' previously established opinions about personal relationships (he always pointedly didn't want to know the details of the Scoobies' sex lives), but I'm almost willing to accept his opinion could have undergone a change post Spike/Buffy due to S7 of BTVS. But, if his point was that their keeping things secret inheritantly creates conflicts of interest that the Council must know about, he should have mentioned the problems they ran into when Spike/Buffy complicated their job of fighting the First Evil. As it is, it's just not credible for him to be focused on their relationship, rather than specifically on Rowena Allister's actions in and of themselves, for whatever reason.
The Good: The implacable bad guys had some good moments with the attack on Mia and the cornering of Kennedy and Mia. I also like that they didn't ignore children victims with no obvious explanation.
I like the plot twist of Giles' shocking heart attack.
I like a lot that Rowena's credibility has been so severely damaged by her actions. Giles doesn't allow her clear violation to be skated over for 'true love'.
I really like the story possibilities of a weakened Willow and I like that Persephone's Knot was considered by the Devon coven as a possibility between BTVS: S6 and S7. I also really like the interaction of the Cleveland coven members and Xander being included.
I love nearly all of the artwork, but especial mention goes to the Vl'Hurgs, the various Mizor and the effects after an attack.
I really like that Marsha's loss is not short-shrifted and the affects on Willow specifically, but the rest of the Council also are clear.
I like all of the writing involving Giles confronting Rowena and his palpable anger and disappointment in her.
The Bad: Scene 04. I still have no idea, after re-reading the passage, what Giles is talking about, here. It seems designed rather clumsily to make him more disappointed in Ro and Willow later, but in context its impossible to get where he's coming from.
Including Willow in his anger and disappointment and his insistence the Council needs to know who is romantically involved with whom is just senseless. I'm not sure why this angle was taken - surely it would have been just as effective if he was only angered at Ro, while Xander could then be angry at Willow for hiding what was happening in her life. I might even have bought Giles' disappointment in Willow's secret if it had been divorced from his anger at Ro and if he'd had a line such as, "After all we've been through, I thought we were closer than that, Willow" but his anger directed at her doesn't make sense. Basically, Giles and Xander should have the same argument for being upset at Willow for not sharing, but no more than that.
Other Thoughts: The timing of Giles' heretofore loss of a potential before arriving in Sunnydale doesn't work for me, as nothing I see in the first few episodes makes me believe Giles would be suffering such a loss recently. In addition, I find it impossible to buy that it wouldn't have come up, unless it was an event that had happened long enough in the past to no longer be pressing on his thoughts.
I also have a hard time buying Rowena's belief that Giles would willingly kill off Willow to reach a speedy resolution to their dilemma. Yes, if this occurred in S1 - no this late in the game.
I would have structured the final half of the last Act a bit differently, but no negative points there.
The Score: I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. While the plot is certainly good, the threat that the Slayers cannot stop will be used to better effect in later stories. I also found too much of Giles' arguments against Willow to be nonsense, when everything can and should have been focused on Rowena instead. I liked Reteesk, but the bad guys simply had zero personality so it was hard to care what they were doing, until they started to actually act. I liked a lot of what was here, but it was dragged down by some of the inconsistencies just plain silliness of some of the character conflicts. It is always nice when secondary characters get some scenes (in this case, winners include Vi - who may be coming into main character status here, and Lori Carew). The attack scenes were also well described and the interlude with the Presidium was intriguing for what was under the surface of The Lover's dialog.
Much as I think the direct threat to Willow, Giles, Mia and Kennedy - not to mention the overwhelming threat - should have put this over 4, there are just too many nagging issues...
3.50 out of 5.