Production 9
Direction 8
Characterisation 9
Storyline 9
Acting 9
Fun/Sexy/Cool 8

The show opens… in Istanbul! Dark-haired girl runs for her life from two guys in dark robes

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: S07E01: Lessons

The show opens… in Istanbul! Dark-haired girl runs for her life from two guys in dark robes. She runs into a dead-end, easily jumps on some step in the wall and climbs up the drain pipe onto the roof, only to discover that one of the robed guys got there first. He pushes her from the roof, she’s hurt but still struggling bravely, and second guy grabs her hands. His pal swings a knife he obviously stole from the LEXX set…

And we cut to one of many Sunnydale cemeteries. Facing an ugly vampire, Buffy says: “It’s about power. Who’s got it, who knows how to use it” She tosses stake to Dawn and quizzes her on the power thing. Dawn does not want to admit that the vampire is one with the power here, because, see, she has a stake, a vampire is new (he has not even fully climbed out of the grave yet) and might not have any martial art skills “they inevitably seem to pick up“. So I’m not the only one who’s wondering is there a vampire tae-kwon-do school? But Buffy insists that Dawn is just a little girl (“Woman!” protests Dawn “I’m taller than you!“) and a vampire is supernaturally strong and skilled with fancy dark powers no human can possibly… (Oh, that’s why BUFFY’s vampire canon is so dodgy at times. No human can possibly grasp everything about vampires, and writers are only humans!)

Just then vampire starts complaining that he is stuck in his grave. His foot is caught on something. He asks girls for help, and Buffy wrenches him on of the grave with her one arm. Vampire thanks her politely, puts on his best villain voice and says: “Unfortunately, it was the last thing you’ll ever going to do!Buffy cuts him off mid-sentence by squeezing his throat and gives us a moment to marvel at how stupid vampires are. He heard them discussing battle tactics. He saw the stake. Buffy lifted him in the air by one arm! How many more hints does he need to understand that those two are not the best prey? Buffy explains that she is the Slayer and lets vampire try his luck with Dawn. Vampire lunges at Dawn, who blood-lustily narrows her eyes at him, stake at the ready. Who knew she had it in her? on impact Dawn rolls onto the ground; vampire looses his balance and flies into a tombstone. Buffy compliments Dawn, who deftly stakes the vampire and looks very happy, until she realised that she missed the heart! She tries again, but the vampire quickly gets hold of her and sinks his teeth into her neck. You know, I was never a Dawn’s fan, but I think I’m starting to like her, because I actually was not cheering for him. Big sis rushes to the rescue, some bone-crushing blows, some impossible flips, and voila – a neat beheading!

Buffy reminds Dawn that the most important thing is to remember, “it’s always real“. Yeah, keep it real, respect! Hm, sorry. She encourages Dawn that she did pretty well and laments that vampires and demons are nothing compared to “what’s coming“. Cue scary music…

and cut to the opening ceremony. The new principal, nice youngish guy in a smart suit, but with an earring, announces the opening of the brand new Sunnydale High, rebuild n the very same ground where the old one was! Scary music rises to an ultra-scary. Credits.

Actually, before we all say how cheesy and tired is the premise that high school is way scarier than any monster (it is scarier, but still), let’s remember that this high school stands on the Hellmouth. Spending day after day not only in high school but also waiting for the monsters to break out from boiler room – that’s really no picnic.

Westbury, England. I guess it’s somewhere down south. Giles in a very peculiar Mac is riding a horse through quaint English fields. Gratuitous, but yum. Giles looses the horse somewhere and approaches Willow, who’s sitting quaintly under a big English tree. Huge ugly pink cartoon flower plops in front of her from the grass and blooms in full Disney-mode. Giles goes through botanic database installed in his brain and classifies this monstrosity as specie of Paraguayan flora. I feel briefly sorry for Paraguayans. Willow asks is there anything Giles does not no everything about, and he reveals his dark secret – he knows NOTHING about synchronised swimming. I bet he’s just being modest. Willow brought the flower straight from Paraguay through the earth, because “everything is connected” – root system, energy and some such. She was taking lessons from women of the Coven. They gave Giles their magic in last season finale, and Willow sucked it out of him (after she killed her girlfriend’s murderer and before she tried to destroy the world – she had a busy day). Powerful magic now became a part of her; even the Coven cannot take it away. Now the Coven is afraid of Willow, because they think she might turn them into bangers and mach, and poor Willow does not even know what it is. Somebody better explain it to her, or she might do it all wrong and turn them into toad-in-the-hole instead.

Willow says that she though Giles brought her to Coven to kill her or lock her “into some mystical dungeon with the torture“. Yay, she’s got imagination.Instead you go all Dumbledore on me. I’m learning about magic, all about energy, and Gaia, and root system“. I have to admit, I don’t get it, why root system? It’s not a planetary network, you know. Giles looks at her sternly and asks: “Do you want to be punished?Kinky!!! Oh, he does not mean… Forget I said anything. Willow considers it for a while, gets a bit teary and whispers: “I wanna be Willow“. Giles sweetly says she still is.

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In Sunnydale Xander (he’s wearing the suit!) gets out of his shiny new motor. Camera practically licks the car. I guess cameraman wants one like that. Xander came to take Dawn to school. Buffy orders Dawn to have breakfast – she made her some cereal! Dawn is so spoiled with fancy home cooking! – and “talk with her mouth full“. Buffy is wigged about Dawn going into “the same school that tried to kill [Buffy] for three years“, but Dawn has to go into Sunnydale High because of some administrative arrangements and because it’s needed for the plot. Xander’s building company is doing the reconstruction of the school, so he produces the blueprints and assures Buffy that his workers did not encounter anything creepy yet. And the Hellmouth, which used to be in the school library, is now situated in the principal’s office! So either principal is evil, or he’s in a lot of danger. Xander reminds us that two previous principals were eaten, so who would even apply for this job? Probably someone inedible, I think. Do you have to be evil to be inedible? Before they leave, Buffy gives Dawn a back-to-school gift. Dawn really hopes it’s a weapon, and Buffy confirms it is. But before Dawn can open the gift…

We cut to Sunnydale High. Dawn is wearing a high-neck sweater because of that vampire bite, nice touch! Buffy goes into crazy-mom mode and blurts out a lot of survival advice, going through most monsters she encountered here and telling Dawn to stay away from them all. Dawn says that trying to scare her on the first day of her high school “is so redundant“, and she has a point. They run into the new principal. His name is Robin Wood. I don’t now should I make fun of the “wood” thing or bring up “Men in Tights”, so I’ll just let it go. Principal says Buffy looks quite young to have such a grown-up daughter. Buffy is understandably crushed by that and asks Dawn if it’s because she has “mom hair“. Well, it is freaky, some kind of lop-sided ponytail with a twist. Also, Buffy is wearing shapeless cheesecloth tunic with slits and ruffles in all the wrong places, so she looks like she’s doing the laundry, but still, the “mother” comment is uncalled for. Principal Wood admits that she knows who she is and knows that she went to that same school. So, he was not tactless and clueless, he deliberately played cruel joke on a woman facing her mid-twenties! It’s settled then, he’s evil.

Dawn leaves for her class; Buffy goes to the girls’ room to check if she really has “mom hair“. on the sinks she finds a voodoo doll of a lollipop. Who’d want to harm a lollipop? While she ponders that, a girl zombie appears next to her and complains that Buffy could not protect her, and then an older male zombie jumps at Buffy making his hands into claws and shouts: “Get out, get out, get out!” He is so bad at being scary, Buffy does not even hit him, just backs a step and turns away, and sure enough, he disappears.

In the class, Dawn introduces herself to new classmates. She’s doing great! She says: “I love to dance, I love music, I’m very into Britney Spears’s early work before she sold out, so I’m mostly into her finger painting and macaroni art, very underrated.” Everybody smiles. All Dawn’s classmates are at least ten years older that her, one is about forty. Spooky. Maybe Hellmouth melted their brains and they had to be held back a lot.

Right on cue Buffy bursts into the classroom and starts screaming that they have to go because it’s not safe. Realising that she looks like an idiot, she bumbles a bit and leaves. Dawn bitterly adds: “I also have a sister.”

Anya is having coffee with her old friend Halfrek. Anya is wearing a very strange high-neck sheer blouse with dangly ruffles. Almost as strange as her last outfit with huge pilgrim-style white collar. And it’s not because vengeance demons have to dress strangely – Halfrek looks fine. Something suspicious is going on here.

Halfrek mentions that the Order thinks Anya’s gone soft with the vengeance. Anya was “a single most hardcore vengeance demon on the raster and everybody knew it“, Halfrek herself used to look up to her. But now she delivers no deaths, no eviscerations, nothing inventive. Halfrek says that one woman wanted her husband to be turned into a frog, and Anya made him French. I don’t see her point, it’s as harsh as it comes! She goes on telling Anya that something bad and very old is raising, and “this is a bad time to be a good guy“. Anya asks if it’s an intervention, and should all her demon friends be here, and Halfrek calmly answers: “Sweetie, they are“. Oh, that was rather cruel.

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Buffy fills Xander in on ghost zombies. Meanwhile, upset Dawn is still in class. A guy asks her to lend him a pencil, and for a moment I think that’ll be her first school friend, until he turns into a zombie and jams the pencil into her eye. Then he disappears, leaving Dawn screaming on the floor in front of the whole class. She blames it all in imaginary bees and runs to the bathroom. Now the class thinks dementia runs in the family.

In the bathroom Dawn finds a scared girl called Kit, who also saw zombie ghosts. Dawn tries to comfort her, but zombies arrive again and drag girls into the basement straight through the floor, which caves easily. Shoddy work, Xander!

Evil principal Wood bumps into Buffy again and casually starts a conversation. I think he’s stalking her. The school board recommended him to read her record. Why? She’s graduated! Are they afraid she’ll still be starting fights in the locker room? Do they read old school records of all parents and legal guardians? Do they have too much time on his hands?

In England, Willow is having some kind of an episode. Giles tries to calm her down, holds her and tells her to breathe. She says: “I saw the Earth, Giles. I saw its teeth“. I’m freaked out, but in a good way. Willow continues: “The Hellmouth is going to open. It’s going to swallow us all“.

Dawn and Kit are alone in the basement; they cannot find a way out. They run into a boy, Carlos, who came into a basement for a smoke (ooh, he’s a rebel!), but got harassed by the dead janitor (that’s the older zombie), ran away and now is lost too. Dawn is taking charge and starts making a plan, but dead janitor is already approaching them. “It’s not real!” screams Kit. Dawn departs some Slayer wisdom on her: “Lesson one – it’s always realI wonder if lesson two will be any less useless.

Now all three zombies are closing in on the kids, and Dawn finally remembers about her weapony present. Guess what – it’s a mobile. What kind of a weapon is that, unless you jam antenna in somebody’s eye? You can probably do better with a finger. Anyway, Dawn calls Buffy, who’s trying to talk the evil wood into expelling Dawn from this cursed school or suspend her for thirty years. Buffy answers the phone, telling Wood that it’s her dog walker. Yeah, I have no idea why. Three dead?” she says into the phone. “Oh my God, your dogs are dead?” gasps Wood. Maybe there’s hope for him, if he likes dogs. Dawn is just excited about the great reception.

Buffy goes to the basement and confronts zombies. They bitch about her not being there to save them. Boy zombie wants Dawn to be his girlfriend, and Buffy corrects him: “Wrong sister. I’m the one who dates dead guys, and no offence, but they were hotties.” She flatly refuses to feel any guilt for not preventing zombies’ deaths, and good for her, she did more than she could as it is. Looks like zombies are bent on keeping Bufy away from the school. Girl zombie says “this place (the school) is ours now. It was built on our graves.Somebody was buried in the SCHOOL? My ability to suspend disbelief is stretched to the limit. Buffy realises that zombies are trying to get between her and some door, and she’s not having any of that. She fights them, and I have to say, fights are meatier this year. Finally she gets to the door, and it opens to reveal – Spike!

What happened to his cool hair? Oh, I guess all his hair dye was in his coat that he left at Buffy’s. He has that eighty’s look with feather highlights. And curls. A lot of curls. Shocked by his hair, Buffy asks “Are you real?” and he lets out a looong, craaazy laugh. He gently touches her face and whispers softly: “Buffy, duck.” She’s still stunned by the hair and just stands there until the zombie clocks her on the head with a pipe. Spike says that he’s not accepting visitors today, being terribly busy, and starts closing the door. Buffy fights off the zombies, runs into the room with him, locks the door behind and hopes it’s safe. Spike assures her that nobody comes here, “it’s just the tree of us.Huh? His math skills were in his hair dye? His shirt is unbuttoned and his chest is all scratched. Oh, right, the third person is his cat! Those do not always like to be cuddled. Also explains the curly hair. Cats choose peculiar places to sleep. He says something that I can’t seem to follow. Let’s just call it crazy talk. Buffy examines his chest and asks: “What did you do?” Apparently, he tried to cut “it” out. Maybe some scarabs from the trials got stuck inside of him, I don’t know. Buffy’s phone rings again, and she and Dawn discuss what the ghost zombies really are. Zombies can’t disappear, and ghosts can’t touch you. Spike helpfully explains: “They are manifest spirits controlled by talisman raised to seek vengeance, a four-year-old could figure it.So he’s crazy but he knows stuff, just like River on Firefly. Food for thoughts. I think River’s a souled vampire as well.

Spike refuses to go help Dawn with Buffy, because this is his home, and he has always been here. Looks like the demon from his trials was, in fact, a Vorlon. Spike also mentions that something is in the wall. Buffy gives him a pitiful look and promises to be back. She calls Xander on the phone.

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Dawn makes a weapon by stuffing two bricks into Kit’s bag. The zombies taunt the kids saying that they picked them because no one will miss them. Zombies are morons. If they have not noticed yet, the Slayer would miss Dawn quite a lot. Dawn successfully attacks the girl zombie with her bag-of-bricks, but the dead janitor hits her and she falls. Macho Carlos and Kit, who’s twice Dawn’s size, wince and whimper in the corner. Wimps.

Xander enters girls’ bathroom, sees the hole in the floor and cheers: “Contractey goodness!” He’s after the talisman – Buffy realised that’s what the lollipop voodoo doll really was.

Buffy finds the kids just in time, grabs the bag and the amazing bag-fight ensues! Ahh, that brings me back. I used to do it a lot when I was eight. Without bricks, of course, but if you add a volume of “The Three Musketeers” to your school books, you can get very satisfying momentum behind it.

Kit and Carlos still shiver in the corner. Dawn tosses Buffy more handy weapons. Xander gets to the talisman, girl zombie jumps him, but he still manages to break the talisman, and she disappears into a cloud of green, possibly toxic smoke. So do the other two, only last time we saw them they were fighting Buffy, and when they disappear, they’re just strolling through the basement. Buffy explains that the talisman must have been destroyed, but when Dawn asks her how did she know it was a talisman, she blurts out: “There is always a talisman. The real question is who put it there.” They get out of the basement and Buffy gives kids a pep talk. It’s very amusing how she’s the shortest of them all. Kit gives her a grateful peck on the check, and Carlos says, “You’re the coolest mom ever.Urgh! Men! Also, he’s a dumb-ass. Buffy is chagrined, but Dawn pulls a sweet, reassuring face and kisses her as well. They leave for classes, and Principal Wood again is on Buffy’s case.

He congratulates her on getting two biggest troublemakers to socialise. Right. Sure. Well, Macho Carlos probably was caught smoking. Maybe even twice! He’s so bad! But I really can’t think of the way for that Kit person to get into the troublemakers pantheon. Any ideas? Wood offers Buffy to work in the school with the students two days a week for a symbolic kind of pay, and she readily accepts, because she wants to keep an eye on the place. Wood is excited about getting a family member to help on his very first day, and proclaims, as he strides away: “I’m going to be the best principal ever!Sounds like famous last words to me. Also – nobody beats Snider!

I think I’ll just transcribe the rest, because it was great. Spike is crouching in his room in the basement. He says: “I had a speech, I learned it all. Oh, God, she won’t understand! She won’t understand.

Dead Warren is prancing around the room, talking. “Of course she won’t understand, Sparky. I’m beyond her understanding. She’s a girl! She’s sugar and spice and everything useless unless you’re baking. I’m more than that. I’m more than flesh…

Warren turns into Glory! She continues: “…more than blood. I’m… You know, I honestly don’t think there’s a human word fabulous enough for me! Oh, my name will be on everyone’s lips, assuming they’re lips haven’t been torn off. But not just yet. That’s alright, though….

She turns into Adam. “… I can be patient. Everything is well within parameters. She’s exactly where I want her to be, and so are you, Number 17. You’re right where you belong

It’s now the Mayor. “So what did you think, you’d get your soul back and everything would be jim-dandy? Soul is slipperier than a greased weasel, why do you think I sold mine? Well, you probably thought you’d be your own man, and I respect that…

He touches Spike’s face, but it’s Drusilla’s hand and her voice: “…but you never will. You’ll always be mine. You’ll always be in the dark with me, singing our little songs; you liked our little songs, don’t you? you always liked them, right from the beginning. And that’s where we’re going.

And now it’s Master, and his nose is even redder than before. “Back to the beginning. Not the Bang, not the Word. The true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride, and I think we’re all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You’ll learn you’re a pathetic shmuck, if it hasn’t sunk in already. Look at you, trying to do what’s right, just like her. You still don’t get it. It’s not about right, not about wrong…

Spike turns his head, and sees Buffy. She says: “It’s about power.

…wow…

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