BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER   SEASON PREMIERE PREVIEW

Hey Jeff,

I send greetings to you and yours down in the Surf Report bunker, and I've also come to tell you that things aren't quite so sunny in Sunnydale. As you may remember from an earlier discussion, I acquired a copy of the season-opener of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and I know how the slayer is brought back to life ("rescued" in the eyes of Willow), and any other dirty little secret a fan may want to know about the first two hours. Before I get into details I will sum up the show as follows: The way Buffy is brought back is lame (not as lame as Bobby Ewing in a shower, but lame nonetheless), but to give credit, I can't think of a better way to bring Ms. Summers back either; the show itself is pretty solid, which means the jump from the WB to UPN is off to a smooth start.

The episode--both parts are titled "Bargaining"--opens with this huge vampire running through Sunnydale's cemetery. This bloodrat is huge, and I don't mean in a Charles Atlas way either. In the days when you and I were school kids, this vampire would be called fat, a tub of lard. But he's outrunning Spike, Tara and Giles. I guess that shows all you overweight kids out there that if you turn into a vampire, you'll gain some of that athleticism that eluded you in your mortal days (I'm not endorsing that anyone turn into a vampire, however, and I'm sure your friends at the WVSR feel the same way. Legally speaking of course. Other than that, I don't give two shits about you).

BuffyThe funny thing about this scene is that Spike--the chain-smoking, beer-drinking vampire--is outrunning Tara and Giles. Now Tara, I can understand because she's already thinking about all the fun things she and Willow are going to do when they "call it a night." Giles is a different story. This character is a Watcher--he personally trained the Slayer and despite her death, should still be in some semblance of shape. Plus there's this whole dark history of his that the show alludes to every now and then. His days of being called the Ripper.

So this huge vampire leaves the three of them in a trail of--well, I would say dust, but vampires so hate that term. As they bicker and heckle each other Willow's voice booms in that Fat Albert is circling back and heading toward them. The camera zooms over to Willow, atop some huge tomb or mausoleum--I can never tell the difference--surveying the landscape giving out instructions telepathically. Willow is in charge now that Buffy has passed on.

This is just me riffing on a theory, but I have a feeling that someday, before this series comes to an end, Willow will switch over to the dark side and become Buffy's most feared enemy. Kind of like most comic book heroes with his/her most deadly foe, and especially like Obi-Wan and Darth Vader.

Fatty does indeed show back up and Willow instructs the trio to divert him over to some area where he will be cornered. And this is about when the Slayer shows up. I won't be cruel in teasing you people--it's not the Slayer, but rather it's the Buffybot from last season. Seems the gang has been keeping it quiet that Buffy isBuffy no longer on the living side and the bot has been filling in her role. So the two humans, vampire and Buffybot commence to bully this tub of lard just like the kids did in the playground.

Xander and Anya, meanwhile, are in another part of the cemetery, following--and freaking out to--Willow's mental instructions. She is leading them to another vampire and trying to help them get the jump on him. These two lovers will bicker throughout the two hours about when will be the right time to come out to the public with their engagement. You have been warned.

This whole set-up--which takes place before the opening credits I might add--shows the gang going about its business as if nothing major had ever happened. It's after both vampires have been dusted do the members show how empty their lives are without Buffy. They can barely speak to each other without being reminded of who's missing. Willow has tried to program Buffybot to think and speak as close to the original as she can, but it's not the same. And then the opening credits cue up.

I would just like to send my thanks to those involved for keeping in the snippet of Buffy and Faith dancing together in the opening montage. I still miss that evil slayer.

The show resumes the next morning at the Summers house. Willow and Tara have set up house there to watch over Dawn. They are even keeping Buffy's death a secret from her father so he won't come and take the Key--I mean Dawnie--away and sell her to some freak show. OK, I'm a little bitter because I liked Glory too. Give me a second. I'll be fine.

One of my favorite moments of this episode happens here. Willow and Tara meet in the hall and exchange a hug and a quick kiss. No big deal, but I can still see uptight fundamentalist clutching their chests at the sight of this, and geeky boys who can't tell fiction from reality saying over and over, "She sticks flutes up her pussy. She sticks flutes up her pussy."

The big concern at the Summers household is how will Buffybot do at parents/teacher day, or parents/student day. It's called one of those. Willow has prepped the bot as best she can, but hell, who can be properly prepared for one of those things? It turns out, it was all for naught. In an homage to "Being There," Buffybot's literal answers are taken to mean something deeper than they really are and she becomes the hit of the whole shindig. Yay for the good guys.

Xander, Anya, Tara and Willow keep alluding to "the moment," and anyone with any sense knows that Willow has found some spell to bring Buffy back. A tricky spell, mind you. Willow has rationalized that Buffy isn't dead, but rather in another dimension--possibly one similar to where Angel was when Buffy killed him--and she needs to be rescued. The four of them have agreed to go behind Giles, Spike and Dawn's back to "rescue" Buffy on the hush-hush. There is a scene where Xander starts to have doubts that something can go wrong. Buffy could come back as a zombie and eat all of their brains. This scene is key (sorry Dawn) because it lets us know that Buffy can be brought back zombie-free, unlike her mother when Dawn tried to bring reanimate Joyce. The loophole is that Buffy did not die a natural death, so that basically gives the gang the green light to keep this series alive for a couple more seasons.

Xander and Anya find the urn of Osiris on eBay, which is a key (sorry again Dawn) element of the spell. Willow later goes out and SLAUGHTERS and innocent deer--possibly THE Bambi--for the last ingredient to the spell. I mean, Willow takes a huge fucking knife and guts this poor animal. Don't tell me she's not going to be evil someday.

Everything is going smoothly for the gang except for the fact that Buffybot goes out on patrol and lets a vampire WEARING A HANSON T-SHIRT hit her over the head with a bottle, screwing up her navigational abilities and exposing some wiring. May I take a moment here to add to your mother's old saying about wearing clean underwear in case you're in an accident? Well, before going out, ask yourself do I want to be caught undead wearing this outfit? Let me tell you: I learned my lesson. All of my Debbie Gibson T-shirts are now in the dumpster.

The Hanson vampire ends up at some demon biker bar and starts blabbing about how he kicked the Slayer's ass and how she's not even real, but some robot. The demon bikers dig the idea of the Hellmouth being unprotected. So they mount up and head toward Sunnydale. Thankfully they separate the Hanson vampire's head from his body before they leave.

Oh yeah, by this time, Giles is feeling useless so he tucks his tail and heads back to England. I like the old boy, but I don't feel like talking about him much. Still haven't gotten over him being in those Taster's Choice commercials I suppose. I mean really, who gets laid because they serve freeze-dried coffee.

And let me update Spike. Spike is my favorite character, but if they don't do something about his brooding attitude, then I'm going to vote for the stake in the heart goodbye. Spike has that chip still in his head which keeps his evil impulses suppressed. You may remember he developed a thing for Buffy last season too. Well now he sulks around like a blond Angel because if he had protected Dawn from getting cut, Buffy wouldn't have had to sacrifice her life like she did. Get over it Spike. Women never stick around. You should know that by now.

OK, the gang gathers together at Buffy's grave at midnight. Willow pours all of the ingredients into Osiris' urn and chants a few words asking the god or gods responsible if they would be a dear and let Buffy come back to life. It ain't that easy, Red. She is slashed repeatedly and bugs crawl under her skin and this huge snack comes slithering out of her mouth (I wonder if that will cause tension between her and Tara). Willow is being tested. These gods don't just adhere to anyone's wishes. If she's strong enough, then her request will be granted and Buffy will come bouncing back into her friends' lives.

Nicholas BrendonThe demon bikers are in Sunnydale now and they are having a grand old time taking over the town. Smash smash smash. Vroom vroom vroom. It almost looks like Sunnydale's pro team either won the Super Bowl or World Series with all of the looting, vandalism and rioting going on. Buffybot intervenes, but in the process she gets injured again. By the way, Willow programmed Buffybot to seek out Willow whenever she becomes injured so the bot heads out in search of Willow with the demon bikers in hot pursuit.

Back at the hidden Buffy grave, the spell is in full force with Xander looking freaked, Anya pretty much the same way and Tara looking all starry-eyed at her woman (I was glad when she finally killed a demon biker later on. She is the blandest character on the show. Hopefully the writers will give her a personality). And then Buffybot comes crashing through the woods and shouts these immortal words that no doubt caused Tara to become jealous: "Willow, I need service."

The demon bikers show up and immediately the urn of Osiris is destroyed. Willow collapses into a heap. Xander scoops her up, and the gang tears ass into the woods leaving Buffybot behind. They are naturally dejected because they think the spell failed since it didn't finish. And Buffybot is getting the shit kicked out of her. But they're wrong about the spell.

The camera pans away from the dejected kids and makes a journey under the ground--oh about six feet under I would guess--to a coffin with a mummified person in a black dress. And through the magic of special FX (to be added in, I only had a rough cut to see), our beloved Buffy reanimates (into a redhead??) and awakens. Of course it's got to suck to awake from the dead to find out you're buried alive, and your chicken-shit friends have scattered. That's how the first half ends.

There's not a lot of drama in the second half. It's mostly action with the gang trying to thwart the demon bikers. Buffy does manage to claw her way to the surface. She's in a bit of shock, but who wouldn't be in that state? The thing I like about her being brought back to life is the camera from her point of view looks exactly like my vision looks in my dreams. You'll understand when you see the episode. And if anyone knows what that means, feel free to share.Cordelia

While Buffy staggers back to Sunnydale, her Buffybot didn't fare so well. The bikers have captured her. When the newly revived Buffy shows up, her bot counterpart is about to be drawn and quartered motorcycle style. It's a sad ending for the bot. She/it was starting to grow on me. Buffy screams, the bikers see her and chase after her. Buffy's friends find her cowering in an alley eventually. Their elation is short-lived when they realize they left her alone and six-feet under. She's not particularly fond of them at the moment. Of course she may not who they are either. That whole shock thing.

Dawn and Spike (he's been reduced to being her baby-sitter. Someone order up a stake) have been tooling about on one of the biker's motorcycles because it ain't safe to be indoors when some demons are trying to burn down a town. They come across the remains of the Buffybot and before she shorts out for good, she alludes to seeing the real Buffy which gets Dawn all worked up.

AND Xander, Willow, Anya and Tara are still pretty much hating themselves for leaving Buffy alone when the demon bikers show up to finish them off. Still in some shock, Buffy still manages to rely on her Slayer skill to polish the demons off almost single-handedly. When her friends rush up for a group hug she takes off running.

For some reason, Glory's tower from last season's finale is still standing. A little wobbly, but standing nonetheless. Buffy goes to it and climbs to the very top. Dawn also stumbles upon the tower and she follows Buffy. It's not made evident, but I'm pretty sure Buffy is contemplating suicide. She stands close to the edge while memories of her death come back to her, and when Dawn speaks to her, Buffy's first full sentence is "Am I in hell?" Yes, it appears Buffy was in a happier place when she was dead. Now there is a dramatic moment when Dawn reaches out to Buffy, but I'm more interested in what the show is going to do about the tower collapsing. The shot I saw looked somewhat similar to what happened on Sept. 11, and I imagine the show will cut the scene of it collapsing. But the thing starts shaking and Buffy's maternal/sisterly instincts kick in. She rescues Dawn. Again. And before the show goes black the two sisters hug, and we see this look on Buffy's face that pretty much says it's going to be awhile before she's a happy slayer again.

That's about it Jeff. I hope I didn't give away too much since I know you like surprises. But I'm sure you'll be sitting in front of the TV on Oct. 2, ignoring all of your responsibilities in this world for two hours. Maybe that would be a good time to heat up some of those pork rinds. Just a thought.

Your Pal, Bradley Monk

 

                                                               
            
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