Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Buffy vs. Dracula" (Buffy 5.1): When Buffy fights Dracula, everybody wins

This episode (plus "The Body") might be the only reasons 6 nudges this season out of the basement in my personal Buffy rankings. But they are very, very good reasons. Season 5 starts strong with the Buffy guide to rebooting a classic.

DO make the hero in question hot enough for a rebooting call. I went a long way for that pun, but puns are never unwelcome in the Buffyverse. And the actor they cast as Dracula, Rudolf Martin, is dead sexy. Another pun, totally intended.

The cheekbones, my God, the cheekbones.

DO highlight the power and the adaptability of the original text. This episode keeps a lot of details from Stoker's novel--we've got a creepy manse, three vampire brides, and Drac himself, able to turn into a bat or a wolf at will, and arriving in a coffin full of, as Spike terms it, "special dirt."

Went up as fast as a Bed Bath & Beyond.

But the legendary text also fits pretty seamlessly into Sunnydale. Dracula wastes no time in selecting Xander, a "butt monkey" to the supernatural from way back, as his bug-eating Renfield.

You can't tell in the screencaps, but, perhaps in an eerie foretelling of Twlight, this shirt sparkled.

He also enters the bedroom of a sleeping girl to ravage her. Except in this case, that girl is our Slayer, who is getting another reminder of the dark roots of her power.

I wish this is how I was reminded of things.

Though I'd give this a skip.

My intrepid co-watcher Jenn feels that the "killer vs. slayer" debate in which Buffy and Dracula engage when they're not drinking each other's blood is an articulation of the central question of B's identity. What is the difference? Is the line always stable? Something to consider as the season(s) continue.

DO heed the warning signs. This has nothing to do with Dracula. This has everything to do with Riley. He's jealous of the Count in a really annoying and red-flag-y way. Spoiler alert: He will spend most of the season either berating Buffy or pouting.

He also uses the phrase "cow me," to ask for a hamburger. Unforgivable.
Full disclosure: My hatred of Riley reaches supernova during this season, and Jenn's patience is also wearing thin. She adds "okey dokey" and "no more chick pit for you" to the absurd and witless lines he utters during this episode.

DON'T let your own story fall by the wayside. This isn't just a stunt episode. Some serious work gets done, story-arc-wise, and it's not at all unrelated to rebooting, for that matter. We learn that Giles's sense of marginalization and impotence from last season has led him to decide to leave Sunnydale, convinced that Buffy doesn't need him anymore. Luckily, her brush with Drac prompts B to realize how much she still doesn't know, and she very sweetly asks him to be her Watcher again.

And he doesn't even hesitate to say yes. Love!

Oh, and there's also this little situation.

Do you remember where you were when you first said, "WTF?"

Jenn points out that the episode begins in the very familiar space of Buffy's house with a mother-daughter dinner, making the audience feel very comfortable and secure, only to fix our little red wagons but good with this reveal. You've got to admire the ballsiness.

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