Story by: David Zahir, CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by: CN Winters
Directed by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Produced by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by: Kate
Sound Department: Steff
Art Director: Chris Cook
Artists: Chris Cook, David Zahir, Chantal, Mytryk, Cynthia Taz, CN Winters
Edward Woodward as James Tyrell, Peter Woodward as Jordon Tyrell, James Spader as Mr. DeVeer, Brad Dourif as Brell, Indigo as Rona and Felicia Day as Vi.
Teaser: Taking off directly from where the previous episode ended, Giles is being placed in cuffs by INS on suspicion of travel visa fraud. The IRS are investigating Robin's tax returns for the last 7 years and Kennedy's sister (I believe we find out later, she's actually a half-sister) has been kidnapped by parties unknown (certainly connected to the London Council, however) and taken to an indeterminate place.
Thankfully, Faith has a very powerful friend, which I won't spoil here because its a nice little scene involving the FBI. And very cool of WaTchers to be cognizant of and to recognize our desire for them to acknowledge others in the Buffyverse, even if they're not featured players here.
Act One: Fencing lessons for Willow... Giles makes a great point that there may come a time when magic isn't going to cut it (prophetic words, trust me) and we see again that both Giles and Allister are very comfortable with a foil. The real treat here however is the bonding that happens between Faith and Kennedy. These two remain relatively strong throughout the series as pals, mentor/pupil (sort of) and best friends... even when they're beating the crap out of one another... but that's another story (evil grin).
Of course, Tyrell is entirely NOT put off by his failure to deport Giles. James is a pale shadow of the repugnant human being his son, Jordon turns out to be, however. Act one closes by revealing another secret of the already duplicitous Mr. DeVeer.
Act Two: We have another threatening visit to the Clevelanders by James... Giles is having about enough however, and I love this exchange:
"Know this," Giles began. "I’ve faced demons far greater than a group of retirees who think they understand the fight today. I’ve faced them all and I’ve won. But my true battle isn’t with you, Mr. Tyrell. It’s with the evil that faces this world. That’s what the Council should be battling – that’s why the Council was put into place. Now if you’ll excuse us we have real monsters to face, not a group of pompous, long winded has-beens."
Ahh, Giles, how we love you!
And once again, Brell comes to the Council with valuable information. This time its one of DeVeer's secrets... the one from Act One, not the one about the Presidium/Bonnie connection. I'm not sure why Brell faded so from prominence, except that the cast does get really large as the seasons go by. This incident also shows us more about Ro... not only is she resourceful enough to have survived The First incident, but she's also a pretty logical thinker. This trait has already, and unfairly, led to her being labeled a 'cold fish'. She's not, there are just other things going on in her background that has made her so reserved.
Ro and Brell later get a lucky break and are able to follow DeVeer. They're hoping to learn where the Old Guard is holing up while they decide how to play the DeVeer situation (related to his second secret I don't want to blow here... too bad too, cause the pic of him is pretty darned cool).
Act Three: Another attack on the Cleveland Council!
A gas attack on the Council!
Ro and Giles are abducted, while meanwhile DeVeer sees Brell stalking around and stabs him in the back. Brell goes down and Giles and Ro are in the Old Guard's custody. No more kid gloves and annoyances, it seems.
And what's this? Hmmm... the first of many uncomfortable moments between Kenn and Willow as they clash over what to do when the pressure is on. Willow is snappish here with Giles' abduction, but Kenn can be hard-headed, too. Still, I'd say Wills is in the wrong here and she's being a real hard-ass and snappish to everyone. A bit over the top, especially when she tells Kenn that if she leaves (to go on a rescue mission without planning first) that she might as well not come back... HARSH, much? She's also out of line with Andrew in this scene. But, it's with Kennedy that she really steps in it.
"Yeah really," Willow said, cutting her (Kennedy) off. "So fall in line. I’m the Watcher. You’re the Slayer. And you’ll do as I say. Is that understood?"
Oh, yes, that will definitely not go over well.
An interesting tidbit in this act, is that there is definitely some sort of past involvement between Jordon and Ro. Romantic? It almost seems so by the way Jordon touches her hair, but the way she swats his hand away, whatever happened, it wasn't pleasant.
Act Four: Jordon tortures Ro... I mean he really beats the crap out of her while she's strapped to a chair... bastard. He's also into burning her with a cigarette. I did warn you, way worse than his father. But lest we think this is just about the Londoners wanting the Clevelanders out of business... this time its actually about that book that has received a few mentions: the Opus Obscurum. The senior Tyrell was always sure that Ro had the Watcher Lore book, and his son intends on forcing her to reveal its location. This really leads to a great scene (another one, I'm telling you this creative team knows good dialog) between Ro and Giles as she expresses her admiration for him and he learns that his instincts about her were right on. Ro also tells Giles that she already sneaked the book into the Cleveland Council library. Something that shouldn't surprise us, considering that she's been leaning toward Cleveland over London for the past two episodes. The question is... will it lead to her death before the Slayers can mount a rescue?
I love, love love this... from Ro to Giles after they're mutual admiration is voiced,
"Okay Giles, with that bit of business out of the way, do you mind if I just pass out for a little while?" she asked as she rested her tired, battered body against him. -- Beautifully written.
While the rest of the Council is breaking into the Old Guard mansion, the Tyrell's have it out... not only about torturing Ro (which wasn't authorized), but its obvious that the junior feels the senior was far more invested emotionally in Rowena than ever in his own son. Of course, Jordon turned out to be such a shit, who could blame him?
Thanks to DeVeer, Giles first hears of the mysterious new group... the Presidium. Of course, he plans on killing both Giles and Ro now, so like so many bad guys, he feels the need to blab more than he should, first.
The save comes from out of left field and made me smile. I won't ruin it here.
Things end with our gang rescued, of course, and the Cleveland Council dominant. Rowena Allister officially joins the Council of Watchers (Cleveland branch, that is).
Ro didn't fare well against Jordon Tyrell's "questioning".
The Good: The story. Very strong writing, not just from a character standpoint, but plot-wise. Ro's turning from the London Council to the Cleveland branch is logical after the way they treated her, but the writers also make sure she earns it by keeping loyal to Giles' group even in the face of physical torture. The twist with DeVeer was inventive (I'm talking about his picture to reveal his true face) and we're left to wonder how long it will be before the Tyrells show up again. The story is resolved, but not necessarily James and Jordon's roles on the show... I like it when not everything is tied up in a bow. The rescue mission is excitingly written, the character conflicts are surprising and remembers that even heroes are only people. The torture of Ro is intense and shows real grit by her.
The Bad: Even though the Londoners have been escalating things over several episodes in a step by step fashion, during the gas attack all I could think is "another attack?" Maybe it's just me, but it seems like some of the intermediary escalation could have been skipped over to move the plot along a bit faster. There are three inserted pictures that have problems and probably should not have been included - Willow in fencing gear during the teaser (just looks bad); Group shot of the gang as they get ready to go after Giles/Ro (act 3) (they're very awkward-looking as the artist try to cram in disparate images of people who, of course, were never actually in a room together like this); Jordon Tyrell and Ro (act 4) (Ro is unclear and scratchy looking while Jordon is crisply clear... it just doesn't work). Also, as much as I love the pic of post-torture Ro (included above), her hair is so utterly different from earlier pics that it's too obvious and stands out that the source of this one was different than the others.
Verdict: A great story full to bursting with dynamic character interaction. There are elements that were exciting and disturbing. We wrap up with new allies (Brell) and new members (Ro) and Vi and Rona are finally given some dialog scenes in which they actually do something. Since I'm only issuing ratings based on story/plot/characters, this is easily rates 4.25 stars out of 5.