Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Season Seven Showdown - The Reckoning

Hello all! After a month long break here at Buffyfest, we're back and ready to finish this particular bitch off. Many of you might remember that last year we embarked on a grand television experiment to weigh and compare the progress of two very similar programs: Buffy and Supernatural. After years of strange parallels culminating in nearly identical fifth season finales followed by a passing off of the reins to another creator for the sixth year, we decided to scientifically attack the issue by painstakingly analyzing the seventh season of each show week by week, noting what they had in common and measuring the differences in quality between the two - naming this: The Season Seven Showdown.

Several of you may also notice that this ambitious experiment petered out months ago, and updates of any kind have been scarce of late. But no more! In honor of the upcoming premiere of Supernatural's eight season this Wednesday, Buffyfest is preparing for you a concise but swift resolution to the great Showdown! The lightning round begins!

For the rules of the lightning round, our format will shift slightly in order to see that this gets completed this time. Some of you are calling this a cop-out. Well, yes. Yes it is. But it's our cop-out, and to be honest no one really asked your opinion anyway, George. You always have to crap on everything. So where were we? Oh that's right...

Supernatural Episode #12 - "Time After Time"

But first, previously on Supernatch: Dick friggin' Roman, Leviathan, Bobby dies.

The Lightning Round Recap:
So Sheriff Jody Mills contacts the boys about mummified bodies in Ohio which leads to Sam & Dean staking out a demon in a Fedora. While following him down an alley, Dean gets sucked through a red glowy portal and into 1944. There, Dean teams up with hunter Eliot Ness when they realize they're working on the same case - hunting the Greek Titan of Time, Chronos.

Meanwhile, Sam and Sheriff Mills miss Bobby with whiskey and try to get Dean back. For his part, Dean is inspired by the underrated Back to the Future 3 and gets a message to Sam by leaving message behind the crown molding of the house they're squatting in the present. The note mentions that out Chronos is "banging some chick named Lilah Taylor." Since she's now an old woman, Sam and Mills go to talk to her and she divulges that the clocks stopped on Nov 12th at 11:34 (hell!) Sam summons Chronos just as he's trying to kill Dean and Eliot tosses him the stake that can kill him, which slides across the floor when they get to the present. Sam grabs the stake and kills Chronos. His death is accompanied by some cool lit up vein effects and a warning that the boys future is "covered in thick black ooze" and that the Leviathan are everywhere.


Buffy Episode #12 - "Potential"
The Lightning Round Recap:
Buffy and Spike are in hardcore training mode, trying to prepare the Potential Slayers. Buffy is also in rousing speech mode, telling all of the girls how special they are while Dawn watches on. Meanwhile, Willow learns that there is another Potential Slayer in town and it still annoys me that Buffy's death will call the next slayer. How's that? It should be Faith's death. Kendra's death called Faith, so why it would revert back to Buffy is upsetting. Oh Season Seven. Anyway, Willow casts a spell that leads half of the Scoobs to think Dawn is the new Potential.

While walking around, Dawn runs into her friend Amanda from school who tells her strange things have been happening to her and that she basically trapped a vampire in a room. Dawn believes thinks she can handle the situation so they go to school to investigate. Bringers show up, there is a fight and Dawn realizes that Amanda is the true Potential, not her. Amanda stakes the vamp, they escape and Buffy Spike and Xander arrive to kill the Bringers. Back at the house, Amanda gets to know the other Potential Slayers while Dawn secretly watches on from the other room. Xander catches on to Dawn's disappointment and relates to being a non-supe. He reminds her that she doesn't need to be special with powers, she's "extraordinary" just the way she is. Shades of early Xawn, perhaps?

Final Ruling: 
While Dean looks extra handsome and snazzy in his 1940's 3-piece style and there are not one but two references to Justin Timberlake, this retro pastiche episode could've been a tad bit better. As far as campy throwbacks go, Charmed's own Season Seven's "Charmed Noir" was much more effective, imo (although I'm sure my fellow Buffyfest Brethren will balk at that). And really where the hell is the car already? Still, it beats the bucket of poop that was "Potential." Honestly, this episode is when Buffy hits the wall hard and really starts to stink up the joint. There are plot holes, Andrew is annoying and so are the Potentials. They both bit it, but Supernatch barely gets this one.


Supernatural Episode #13 - "The Slice Girls"

The Lightning Round Recap:
The episode opens with a man getting attacked, his hands and feet severed and a symbol carved into his chest. Sam and Dean learn this is a pattern and investigate at the local college and bar. There Dean meets a redhead named Lydia and the two go back to her place to the tune of ACDC's "Shook me all night long"...classic Supernatch. The next morning, Redhead is 9 months mystically pregnant and acting all kinds of shady. Dean visits and sees the child then go from toddler to "Hannah Montana (early years)" in a matter of hours.

Back at the college hey! It's the Mayor! In a nutshell, the symbol carved on the victims' bodies is a sign of the Amazon warrior women, who breed quick and have a blood mission to kill their fathers. So Dean's in trouble. When his now adult daughter Emma visits him, Dean hesitates in killing her so Sam steps in and does the deed instead, reminding Dean of what he said after the Amy Pond incident "You kill the monster". The rest of the Amazon women disappear.

Note: This is also the first appearance of Bobby's flask, wielded lovingly by Dean.


Buffy Episode #13 - "The Killer in Me"
The Lightning Round Recap:
Giles takes the Potentials on a vision quest, but Kennedy and Willow go to The Bronze instead and they end up making out. During the kiss, Willow is magically transformed into Warren, freaking us all out especially Andrew. While this is going on, Buffy learns that Spike's chip is malfunctioning and causing him major pain. When she can't reach Riley by phone, they dig down to The Initiative where they encounter a demon, which is confusing because I swore they said "The Initiative itself will be filled in with concrete. Burn it down, gentlemen. Burn it down and salt the earth". Oh Season Seven. Soldiers show up and Buffy decides to rid Spike of the chip forever, even though it could've been repaired. Good idea? That's still debatable to this day.

Xander gets a phone call from England which prompts the Scoobs to suspect that Giles is The First, like we all did at the time. Since the Potentials are alone with him, they set off to the desert and tackle Giles to the ground, thus proving he's himself. Meanwhile, Willow-as-Warren visits her old college coven to try to fix her situation where she finds Amy, who is claiming to no longer be rat or evil, but Kennedy discovers otherwise. This prompts a whole re-enactment of Tara's murder scene which is neither comfortable to watch or entertaining. Basically, Willow feels guilty for having feelings for someone other than Tara but Kennedy's kiss brings her back to herself, "just like in Fairy Tales." Blasphemy.

Final Ruling: 
Oh I don't know. Buffy is just so bad at this point. I don't think anyone I know would argue against "The Killer in Me" being one of the worst episodes of the series. "The Slice Girls" is actually a decent monster-of-the-week episode but at this point, I'm struggling to understand why Cas isn't here, why the effing car isn't here and why they thought killing Bobby would be smart at this particular time. I'm frustrated that I have to give this one to Supernatural, because compared to some of it's better eps, this one isn't all that.


Supernatural Episode #14 - "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie"

The Lightning Round Recap:
Sam and Dean investigate a series of mysterious murders in Wichita, Kansas such as an fatal octopus suction, unicorn impalement and ball crawl shark attack! Sam and Dean figure out that the deaths are the result of kids drawing their childhood fears at a kid's restaurant chain called, you guessed it, Plucky Pennywhistle's. Turns out it's all the fault of some old fashioned hoodoo and a disgruntled Redheaded Plucky's employee named Howard, hell bent on ridding the world of parents who ignore their children. Lots of evil redheads this season. Throughout the episode Sammy, who as we know has serious clown-fear, is subjected to all sorts drama including a CGI glitter fight with a couple of demonic green haired clowns sent by Howard himself. In the end, Dean eventually kills him by setting Howard's own worst fear on his ass...his dead brother who drowns him and leaves.

After Dean laughs that Sam looks like he "got attacked by some PCP crazed strippers" he apologizes for dumping him at places like Plucky's when they were young while he chased girls. Man, this episode sucked.


Buffy Episode #14 - "First Date"
Giles is very upset about Buffy's feelings for Spike, he says wants more for her. So Buffy ends up going on a date with Principal Wood. But she's concerned, telling Willow that Wood is "being showered with evil. Only from underneath. Like a bidet. A bidet of evil." This is hilarious for all the wrong reasons and just the type of top notch writing we get from Season Seven. Fast forward to the date, where Buffy learns that Wood was the son of re-cast Slayer Nikki Wood, whom Spike killed in NYC in the 70's. Over at a random construction site, Xander meets Lissa poorly played by Ashanti, popular R&B singer of the aughts. They go on a date, but she ends up a demon, no shock Spuffy + Wood save the day, just before Wood finds out the truth of his mother's death.

Other highlights: The First fails to force Andrew into killing all the Potentials, he fails to record The First on tape and Giles has lactose intolerant related communication problems with the new Potential, Chao-Ahn.

Final Ruling: 
Here's the deal. This episode of Buffy had too much going on and none of it was good (except for Anya)...but it still really was better than "Plucky's". I don't think I ever want to see "Plucky's" again. Buffy takes it!


Supernatural Episode #15 - "Repo Man"

The Lightning Round Recap:
Four years ago in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Sam and Dean helped a good witch named Nora exorcise a women-killing demon from man named Jeffrey's body . But as Ruby explained around that same era: getting possessed by a demon leaves a human "rode hard and put away wet", which I always thought was squicky wording but hey, gets the point across. The boys dropped a beaten up Jeffrey off at a hospital and said to never tell anyone about what just happened, but he talked....and four years later he's finally leaving the loony bin for a halfway house. At the same time a slew of new serial killings has returned to Coeur d'Alene and the boys have to visit poor Jeffrey to see if the Demon has in fact, returned. Jeffrey remembers a list of all the women the demon planned to kill as well as his hideout. So the boys split up, hardly ever a good thing.

Meanwhile, Lucifer is back and tormenting Sam with horrible visions and in a surprise twist, has been doing this all season long behind the scenes. But when Sam is keeping tabs on the next potential victim, it turns out that Satan's actually quite helpful with the case. Sam finds out that Nora helped Jeffrey with some demon business when she found out he been kidnapped her son. See Jeffrey is actually a psycho killer himself who was in love with the demon who possessed him and the power it brought him! His big plan is to be reunited with the demon by tying up Dean at the hideout and using his blood for the summoning spell, but the demon chooses to possess Nora's son instead. When Sam and Nora finally arrive at the scene they exorcise the demon from Nora's son while Dean shoots and kills Jeffrey dead. Back at the motel, Dean falls straight asleep but unfortunately now that Sam opened up to Lucifer, he now has a strong hold on Sam's mind once again.


Buffy Episode #15 - "Get it Done"
Principal Wood gifts Buffy with a bag that he got from his mother so she brings him over to the Summers home, which is pretty overcrowded at this point with Potentials and Andrews and whatnot. She introduces Wood to the gang, including his newfound enemy Spike. Later that night Buffy finds Potential Chloe dead, having hung herself, which pisses Buffy off royally. So the Scoobs proceed to use a set of shadow figures in the Slayer's bag to trigger a portal. The shadow puppet theater is actually pretty cool. When Buffy goes through the portal, a demon pops out.

In the shadow world, Buffy's meets the men who created the First Slayer . They tell her of the origin of the Slayer and offer to infuse her with more power, which she refuses. It's right here that the cannon is established: The slayer line was basically formed by men raping innocent young girls with dark demon energy. Nice one, show. Take away the main thing that makes the series awesome.

Anyway, with Buffy stuck in the shadow world, Willow has to tap into her witchiness and Spike has to kill a demon. Anya's pretty awesome again here, I don't remember liking her this much at the end. And the Shadow Men? The leave Buffy horrible vision of what the future holds, thousands of Turok Han.

Final Ruling: 
I do think Supernatural missed an opportunity here - taking us back to season 3 meant they could've thrown in some fan service/continuity porn in the form of Ruby herself (or something similar.) But it was nice to see a good 'ole classic demon episode, something we haven't seen much of in many seasons. For Buffy's part, it's nice that there have consistently been vampires peppered throughout every season, the show never really lost sight of that. This is a pretty good episode of Buffy Season Seven, but I feel I can't give it to them based on the First Slayer Demon Rape. We longed for this origin story for so long and it was a fail. Supernatural gets it.

Season tally so far:

Got a problem with this score so far? Let me quote Dean's alliterative and to-the-point outgoing message, "Leave your name, number and nightmare at the tone." Or rather sound off in the comments.