harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

review of BTVS: The Dark Age

BTVS: Season 2, Episode 08

The Dark Age

written by: Dean Batali & Rob Des Hotel
directed by: Bruce Seth Green

Blurb: Giles' past comes back to haunt him when a demon he and Ethan Rayne summoned in their wild days comes looking for them in Sunnydale.

Scene 01: We start with two annoyances right off the bat: The voiceover about the Slayer, which was really repetitive and which we stopped using has returned. But more to the point of this episode, the musical cue for Phillip walking around the highschool is... weird.... It's also the cue that is used when the DVD is loading menus for S2. But it doesn't set the right tone for this scene, at all.

Anyway, Phillip (whose name we don't know yet) is carrying a briefcase and is looking nervous about something. He's seen by janitor, who asks if he needs help. Phillip is looking for Giles and janitor directs him to the library.

As Phillip approaches the door that he believes will lead into the library (it's not the school entrance, could this be the mysterious door to the stacks?), he's startled and frightened by a moan. Instead of dashing into a run for his life, he spins around in circles.

Finally during one of these spins, he sees the shadow of a woman watching him. She comes out of the shadows looking pretty hideous - & zombie-ish. Her eyes flash and she smiles at him in an unpleasant way.

Phillip recognizes her as Deirdre. He makes to dash off, but like a woman in a 50's b-horror, can't keep from tripping over himself.

He recovers, but the mysterious door is locked from the inside. He wastes precious moments standing at the door banging on it, rather than running....

Scene 02: In the library at that moment, Giles is holding his head in his hands. Buffy is doing her aerobicizing to music that he cannot appreciate. They argue over Buffy's workout tune vs. actual music.

Scene 03: Outside, Phillip screams for help, rather than simply running away from the very slow zombie-Deirdre... she chooses to choke him out for his foolishness.

Scene 04: In the library, Buffy has pity on Giles and stops working out, turning off her electronica-workout-beat thing.

Scene 05: Outside, zombie-Deirdre stops choking out Phillip and snaps his neck. Weirdly, as soon as Phillip lies dead, zombie-Deirdre herself collapses. She turns into a pretty poor visual effect, meant to simulate a liquified puddle of organic matter, which slops around Phillip's remains.

Insert Credits and Kickass Theme

Scene 06: We come back from credits with disjointed scenes of horror ... i.e. hippies. There is a male there saying "time to go to sleep", some sort of magic circle and flashes of a demon.

Giles suddenly snaps awake, having been dreaming.

Scene 07: We cut to Buffy and Willow on a bench. Buffy and Willow are swapping tales when Xan comes up and Buffy shares that she and Willow are engaging in a quick game of "Anywhere, But Here".

The trio spot Giles and make jokes about he has probably never played "Anywhere, But Here" or anything else not related to being tweedy.

Commentary: Which, of course, plays very much into one of the themes of this season: Buffy growing up and having to deal with the fact that no one is completely good and even the adults in her life that she trusts are only people, with their own secrets and mistakes.

Buffy calls Giles over to say hi. They walk with him into the school, where Giles is arranging to meet Buffy later that evening. There is a monthly blood truck delivering supplies to the local blood bank that evening, so vampire raid is expected. Giles tells Buffy he'll meet her at the back entrance at 2030.

Jenny comes along and there is a bit of banter, involving Saturday class for students in her computer science courses that have fallen behind ... one of these turns out to be Xander ... and Cordy.

As Giles and Jenny walk away *sigh* Xander makes a few audience-stand-in comments about how much cute is going on between them.

Scene 08: Outside of the classroom, Jenny yanks on Giles' chain by pretending that a 1st edition that he loaned her was ruined by her spilling coffee all over it, after she dog-eared and underlined all of the passages she wanted to discuss more. She takes great pleasure in watching his face fill with shocked horror.

She finally admits the book is fine, she just likes to see him squirm.

She also tells him that Saturday night is going to be "The Night" and they share a very brief kiss before the bell brings all of the kids rushing to class... *sigh*... Oh, Jenny.

Scene 09: Giles goes to the library with a happy smile on his face, which is immediately lost when he finds a detective and two police officers waiting for him. The detective informs Giles about a murder on campus the evening before (this would be Phillip). She tells him the victim had no ID on him, but that he did have a slip of paper with Giles' name on it.

This is interrupted by Cordelia, there to complain about being sentenced to Saturday computer class and that she now has to read a book on computers. Giles tries to point out that he's a little busy at the moment, but the fact that there is a detective there immediately signals Cordy that she should bring up her traffic ticket for driving the wrong way down a one way street. The detective looks at Cordy with "are you kidding me" face, while Giles snaps at her for interrupting something serious with her self-involvement.

Scene 10: Giles is escorted next to the morgue in order to identify Phillip. Phillip shows bruising on his torso and around his throat, suggesting strangulation as cause of death.

Giles tells the detective that he hasn't even spoken to Phillip in over 20 years and had no idea that his old friend was looking for him. As Giles looks over the boy, his attention is drawn to a tatoo on his bicep. The detective asks if he recognizes it, which he denies, but it's kind of hard to believe he's being honest.

Commentary: The make up was well done on Phillip.

Scene 11: Later that evening, Buffy has obviously not heard about Giles' brush with the law, yet. She's at the hospital waiting on the blood bank delivery and Giles is not there to meet her as planned. Buffy watches the blood bank van pull up for the delivery ... (EERRRRRR... come to a screeching halt here ... this is a monthly delivery to the hospital, and they deliver ONE cooler of blood?! That's it? Yikes, it's a good thing that so many people get too drained to bother with a transfusion or disappear/become monsters, anyway. It doesn't look like Sunnydale is equipped for actual surgeries or accidents) ... Buffy at first things are good and quiet, until she starts wondering why doctors would be taking a delivery personally.

Once the van leaves, another car pulls up that had been hidden in a dark alley. The vampires go public over the spoils. Buffy rushes in.

Buffy starts to beat up on the vampires, when she's startled by the arrival of Angel. They beat on the vamps for a bit, who take a little too long to leave, so only one of them survives.

Buffy explains to Angel about Giles and asks him to see to it the hospital gets the rest of the blood.

Commentary: There is some nice eye acting and reaction-acting between Buffy and Angel, as Buffy kinda says with her body language, "You going to be cool with this, or is there going to be a problem with the blood actually making it into the hospital?" and Angel giving her a "I can handle it, don't worry". I also liked the touch of David kicking the cooler shut, while leaning his body away from its direction, like the scent of the ruined bloodbag was a little bit much for him with Buffy standing right there. We know already from the episode Angel, that he had what clearly look like blood bags hanging in his refrigerator, so you have to wonder if last year, he'd dropped in on the blood delivery and snatched it himself. I prefer to think he's just grabbing blood to old to use before it ends up in a medical waste burner, but....

Scene 12: But, anyway, Buffy rushes over to Giles to find out where Mr.-Don't-Be-Late was.

Buffy finds Giles looking quite disheveled and distracted when he answers the door. She presses him on his blowing off their 'date' at the hospital, but after making sure she wasn't hurt, he brusquely tells her he's doing something important and will see her on Monday. She wanders from his door looking confused.

Scene 13: In Giles' apartment, he's making phone calls to his past friends... the ones he shared with Phillip. Giles is shocked at the news that Deirdre is also dead, and very recently. He collapses into a chair stunned as he begins to make connections that of his list in front of him, only he and Ethan Rayne are left. Clearly, this has to do with something that he was involved in with Ethan that has come back to bite them in the ass.

He is clearly upset and worried... and a bit drunk.

Giles goes to a basin to rinse of his face, and when he rolls his shirtsleeves up, we see a tatoo. A mark that is very clearly the same as was on Phillip, that Giles had claimed not to recognize. He leans in toward the mirror and tells something unseen that he's back....

Scene 14: We leave Giles contemplating whatever he was into that has come back to haunt him, by joining Phillip in the morgue. He's appearing a bit less than dead suddenly, as he removes the sheet over him in the cadaver drawer. We see him get glowy-snake-slit pupils....

Scene 15: A bit later, and random morgue worker comes in to take inventory of whose still in the cadaver storage drawers. He's briefly mystified when he opens Phillips, only to find him missing.

Phillip attacks him from behind, bundling him with a sheet and pushing him into the drawer....

Commentary: Okay, that scene was both unnecessary & if they weren't going to have Phillip kill the guy for his clothing, what was the point? Wouldn't it have worked better if the guy opened the drawer, got startled by Phillip's moving, yanked out the drawer while looking like he was about to yell for help, and then have Phillip throttle him before he could?

Scene 16: Saturday morning, Cordelia is complaining about the tutorial class she has to attend with Xander. Willow is there conveniently "to help" ... because Jenny has SUCH the workload with only two students to tutor... seriously, no one else is there.

Buffy shows up, but not for the tutorial class. She's there to probe the gang and Jenny about anything weird that may have been going on with Giles.

Cordelia tells everyone she hasn't seen anything weird when she saw the police questioning Giles the other day in the library, which of course, flabbergasts Buffy that she didn't find that weird enough to mention before now. Cordy remembers that there was something about a homicide, which sends Buffy running off to call Rupert and find out what the hell is going on with him.

Scene 17: Buffy goes into the library for Giles' office phone, but she hears something back in the stacks. A shadow draws her attention and she goes up to check it out.

Buffy wanders through the stacks and we see a male shape shadowing her. After a bit of this, we get a quick flash of Ethan's face, when he tries to tip a bookcase onto Buffy. She easily evades it and Ethan's attempt to run is futile. Buffy quickly has him in custody.

Ethan and Buffy banter a bit, with her punching him for the stunt he pulled on Halloween with her costume. Ehtan reveals he's a very old friend of Rupert's and is wondering where he might be....

Commentary: There is a bit of an issue that I have with this episode in regards to pacing. It feels like the dialog scenes are being stretched out just a little bit to get the episode length to where they need it, and it robs everything of this sense of urgency from the vamp-fight in the parking lot, to the Phillip wakes up in the morgue, to the Buffy finds out something is going on with Giles from Cordy, to the stalking scene in the stacks... nothing has a sense of urgency to it.

Scene 18: We cut away from Buffy and Ethan to find random, jumbled images involving a demon and dark magic. These images are Giles', and they're interrupted by his phone ringing. He's lying at his desk, where he has either fallen asleep... or possibly even passed out the night before due to the boozing.

Giles finds it is Buffy on the phone and his attempt to blow her off are met with a question about the "Mark of Eyghon" ... which gets his tongue. She tells him that she's at the library with Ethan. Giles tries to get Buffy to put the phone down and leave the library at once, but before he can explain anything old-friend Phillip comes busting through a window...

Commentary: Ethan amusing grabs Buffy to use as a shield between himself and Phillip... Ethan was always so amusing. I miss him (S8, y'all, S8).

Over the phone, Giles hears the crash and rushes to the school.

Scene 19: Also having heard the noises, Cordelia, Willow, Xander and Jenny have rushed into the library to see Buffy confronting Phillip-zombie, while Ethan tries to make a run for it. She has the Scoobies stop him (Cordy gives him a kick), while she takes care of herding the zombie into the book cage of indestructible-ness.

Scene 20: When Giles arrives, he finds everyone standing around watching Ethan and keeping an eye on the agitated Phillip - who Ethan confirms is dead, if not gone.

Ripper and Rayne have a confrontation carrying loads of backstory between their words with Buffy trying to get some actual answers. Ethan tells Rupert that he needs to tell her about what is coming for them, when Phillip manages to break the script-specific lock on the indestructable book cage, knocking Jenny to the floor and causing Xander to tackle Cordelia out of the way.

Rupert rushes down to Jenny, while Buffy gives some kick-assingness to Phillip. While this is going on, Ethan makes his quick escape.

Buffy's battle with the zombie is interrupted when Phillip goes into convulsions and falls to the floor... we see him turn into a pile of the horrible CG-goop, like Deirdre did.

What no one sees, except us, and the characters can't hear us yelling at them to look is that Jenny's hand comes into contact with the Phillip-liquid and twitches. Giles helps her up, but she claims to be fine, except a bit stunned and a hurt head.

We can't tell if Jenny was killed - as Deirdre and Phillip both were when they were possessed - but either way, we can determine that Giles is in trouble. Especially when he leaves the group to take Jenny home, alone. For what it is worth, when Jenny gives the camera the glow eyed look, it's green instead of yellow, so she may be alive but possessed.

Scene 21: Buffy confronts Giles about Ethan getting away, Giles' drinking, zombies attacking and the Mark of Eyghon... but he's adamant that this is a private business and as her Watcher orders her to stay out of it. He leaves with Jenny.

Buffy, frustrated, turns to the Scooby Gang and Cordy for research mode to find out what Giles is hiding.

Scene 22: With the gang digging into Giles' life and whatever Eyghon is, he's returned to his apartment, where Jenny thanks him for bringing her there. She explains she's just not ready to be alone yet.

Alone on the sofa with drinks, Rupert tries to get Jenny away from him, but she tells him that when two people are involved, they end up involved in the bad stuff too. It's all very sweet --- which in retrospect gives me chills. Think Drusilla as Jenny.

Scene 23: In the library, Willow finds something. She explains about Eyghon and how those in his sect would induce temporary possession as a way to get a demon high, always using the banishment rituals to keep Eyghon from permanently staying and being born of its host. None of this sits well with Buffy, but she can't understand what this might have to do with her Giles.

The important thing that Willow finds however, is that Eyghon can take possession of the dead ... or the unconscious. The gang immediately realize that Jenny was unconscious on the floor, and was lying very close to the puddled Phillip.

Scene 24: At Giles', Jenny is yanking the phone cord from the back of the telephone.

Giles gives Jenny a spot of tea and offers to drive her home. Jenny counters with his taking advantage of her weakened state in sultry voice....

Scene 25: Back at the library, Buffy has found out that Giles' phone has been disconnected. She takes off for Giles'.

Scene 26: Where he's flattered by Jenny's romantic intents (this was the Saturday that they were supposed to sleep together, after all), but under the circumstances, he's worried about her judgement, because Giles is a gentleman.

Jenny tries to push the issue, but Giles forcefully tells her it wouldn't be right with her being so shaken. Jenny untangles herself from him and complains that he just doesn't change. Rupert gets a growing sense of horror as Jenny continues to berate him for how soft he is. She tells him that he doesn't deserve her, but he's got her ... and with the voice turning very male-demony... says "under your skin" and lip locks him.

When she pulls back from the kiss to ask him if it was good for him, we see that Jenny's face is starting to get suppurating sores. Ms. Calendar, clearly playing host to Eyghon, starts beating up on 'Ripper', when Buffy arrives to intervene.

Jenny throws herself out of a window and takes off, presumably for Ethan to come back to Giles later. Rupert admits to Buffy that he created Eyghon.

Scene 27: In the library, Xander has finished going through Giles' personal files (which are at his place of employment, why?) among which is a picture of Giles as young ruffian and guitar player with the leather.

Scene 28: Giles explains to Buffy that he was rebellious and angry over his father's expectations that he would be a Councilmember and that his destiny as a WATCHER had caused him to seek out anyone that would help him spit on fate. Which, led him to Ethan and the others.

Rupert tells Buffy about allowing Eyghon to possess each of them in turn for the high, but one of their mates, Randall, lost control. Eyghon was able to take him over fully, the way one would think he's currently doing to Jenny. When the rest tries to exorcise Eyghon, they were able to drive it from Randall, but he died in the attempt.

Buffy is... understandably... upset at knowing that her WATCHER isn't quite as straightlaced and true as advertised.

She realizes that it's on its way to Ethan and decides to go to his shop to see if she can head Eyghon off there. Giles offers to go as well, but she shoots him down, ostensibly because he isn't firm on his feet at the moment ... but, you can't help but wonder if she just needs time away from him.

He tells her that he doesn't know how to stop Eyghon without killing Jenny, the way that Randall died. Buffy assures him that she already has the Scoobies working the problem and she'll try to contain the demon until they come up with an answer. Giles expresses how sorry he is over all of this and she says she knows... but that doesn't stop her from looking so very disappointed and angry at him.

Commentary: I really like this scene for the acting that SMG and Tony do opposite one another. Buffy has come to care for Giles, but in this moment, she realizes that she doesn't really know him and you can see Giles is aware that his WATCHER-mystique with her has been blown. It's some subtle stuff going on in their body language and faces.

Scene 29: Buffy arrives at Ethan's empty shop, but he's there hiding out as expected. Buffy tries to formulate a plan. When her back is turned, he knocks her out.

When Buffy comes to minutes later, she's been hogtied to a massage table. Ethan and her trade barbs, but the lowdown is that Ethan is going to tatoo Eyghon's mark on her in order to draw the demons attention toward her. Buffy's pissed. Rayne is smartassen.

Scene 30: In the library, meantime, Willow, Xander and Cordelia are trying to come up with a way to drive Eyghon away and save Jenny at the same time. Working in close proximity has Xander and Cordelia ready to hurt one another, but Willow throws a tantrum and gets them back on track.

Willow suddenly thinks of a brilliant plan, and they rush out to carry it out.

Scene 31: In the costume shop, Ethan has tattooed the Mark on the back of Buffy's neck. With Buffy set up as the beacon, Ethan's next trick is to pour a little acid on his own arm in order to burn off his own Mark.

Scene 32: At Giles' apartment, he can't just sit this out while Buffy puts herself in danger. He gathers up his coat, but on the way out, collapses to the floor. He has a vision via the Mark of Buffy being indoctrinated into the Cult of Eyghon and of Jenny-as-Eyghon being aware of where to go to collect her.

He immediately knows that Ethan has done something to restrain Buffy for Eyghon and runs for his shop in a panic.

Scene 33: Ethan is about to make his exit, when the new and not improved Jenny arrives promising death. Ethan, is able to point out that the Mark is lying on the table waiting.

Buffy is able to break the ropes binding her just in time, but Eyghon has her scent now and wants her. They fight, while Ethan tries to stay out of the way.

Giles in the meantime, rushes in. He tells Buffy to escape, while he offers himself to Eyghon. Buffy tries to get in the middle, but is kinetically shoved across the room. Eyghon tosses Giles to the floor and prepares to either kill or transfer possession to him...

... But, just then Angel bursts in.

He gets in to a toe to toe with Eyghon... and starts strangling Jenny!

Giles starts to intervene, but Willow yanks back on his arm and pleads that he trust her plan....

Commentary: Do I even need to point out how chilling this scene becomes in retrospect once "Passion" arrives? This scene of Angel strangling Jenny is much less tackily amusing now than it was when the episode first aired.

Angel chokes Jenny out, and Eyghon, fearing he's about to lose his grip in this world jumps into the nearest dead body available ... Angel, himself, just as Willow planned. Jenny is left shaken up, but alive.

In the meantime, Angel's vampire demon and Eyghon go toe to toe (and in retrospect, this idea is a bit cooler since we now have a face and name for Angel's dark half... here it's just really funny seeing David pull faces in a not very special visual effect). So, Angel convulses a lot with his face doing the switcheroo between Angel, Eyghon and Vampire until Eyghon obviously loses and discorporates. Angel collapses to the floor.

Buffy cottons onto Willow's plan, and she and Angel confirm it. Angel knew that his vamp-demon has been spoiling for a good fight (which is much, much more meaningful after we find out more about Angelus and how aware he is and how much he hates Angel). Ethan, of course, has vanished again in the melee.

Scene 34: The following Monday, the trio is discussing the weekend's activities. Buffy complains about how she has to take her shoe account to spend on having the tatoo removed and is hoping Joyce doesn't see it first....

Commentary: So, of course, Buffy is walking around in a neckless outfit with nothing but a fancy scarf tied around her throat to keep that huge ass tatoo covered until she can get it removed... because being stylish is far more important than Joyce's wrath, apparently.

Xander and Buffy are both impressed by Willow's quick-wits in coming up with a way to defeat Eyghon and save Jenny. They suggest possible WATCHERhood, but Willow says she couldn't take the stress. They all have a new appreciation of Giles' role, especially Buffy, now that she knows that Giles didn't want this to begin with either and is as tied to a calling as she ended up being.

Scene 35: In school, Giles finds Jenny, but things aren't well between them. Jenny is standoffish. Giles offers his help to her, but she seems reticent and when he goes to touch her shoulder, she backs away and gives noncomittal answers to his talking about it with her 'sometime'.

Behind them, the Buffy sees the exchange and is a bit sad for him. She and Giles do a bit of bonding, she letting him know that his being not perfect is mostly okay.

The Good: The make up effects for Deirdre zombie were really decent, as well as Phillips in the morgue.

It's nice to have Giles' background fleshed out and knowing that there is a bit of a dark rebel in there is both more interesting and it makes his later actions against Angel, Willow and Spike more understandable -- if not exactly likeable.

I like Willow coming up with the brilliant plan... that works!

Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne is always so much fun, even though he's so frustrating to deal with.

The Bad: The CG effects for both the liquified dead people and for Angelus' internal struggle with Eyghon were just badly rendered and cheap looking and tacky.

The green gel light in front of Ethan's shop when Eyghon arrived was just overdone and stupid.

The music for Phillips introduction is just off for the scene -- I don't know what they were thinking.

Other Thoughts: The major problem with this episode, that isn't so bad as to be listed under 'The Bad', is how leisurely everthing seems to be paced. The episode itself has some good ideas, and some interesting backstory for Giles, but it's interesting for these reasons, not for anything that is actually on screen from scene to scene. There isn't any sustained tension or excitement in this episode. And, while some of the dialog is slightly amusing, nothing jumps out at me as quotable so the scripting is missing that Buffy-sparkle as well.

I want to like the episode much more than I do, but the execution of the episode is dull and that drags down the individual scenes.

The Score: 3.25 out of 5 --- this should have been much better.


Tags: buffy season 2 reviews

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