Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Listening to Fear" (Buffy 5.9): The episode that upsets my stomach

I have a visceral revulsion reaction when I see this title come up in the queue. I always think it's because of the hideous pus-vomiting space slug (or, as Giles puts it, the killer snot monster from outer space) that is this week's monster:

From the Genus Ew.

But what I'm repressing is the truly scary part of this episode: Joyce losing her mind. Reluctantly I give you the Buffy guide to trying to deal when, as Tara puts it, "life stuff" slaps you like a bitch (that last part was me).

DO lean on your friends. As Joyce awaits her brain tumor surgery, Buffy is having to take care of her mother's scary symptoms and her little sister's anxiety, confusion, and fear.

Slayer strength is no match for this.

Doesn't leave much time for slayage. So it's up to the Scoobies, and Riley the Douche (more on that later) to figure out that the pus-vomiting space slug is a Queller demon, summoned by a mysterious adversary (more on that later) to slaughter the mentally ill. Unfortunately, as the tumor presses on her brain, that includes Joyce.

DON'T be afraid to cry it out. During the episode, Joyce blurts out inappropriate, cruel, and rage-filled criticisms of her daughters and her medical care. It's unsettling and upsetting for viewers who have gotten used to Joyce's even-keeled supportive sweetness.

She's helpless and petty and mean. It's tough to watch.

Jenn nicely encapsulates why Buffy's breakdown while doing the dishes is such an emotionally resonant moment: "The most significant moment is when Buffy breaks down while doing dishes. As viewers, we rarely get to see her fall apart. In fact, the only times that come to mind are during "Passion" when Buffy learns that Angelus killed Jenny Calendar (however we only see her shut down in shock) and "The Prom" when she sobs telling Willow that she and Angel are over. Because we so rarely get to see how her burdens and her pain can in fact get to her, it is incredibly heartbreaking every time. I have found myself watching SMG's eyes a lot this season because that is where Buffy's panic and helplessness seep through, but watching her lose it while trying to do such a mundane task like dishes, god, so real and devastating."

Yes. Real and devastating.

DO take a break from the nightmare and heartbreak to appreciate the return of Graham.

Bitchin' beret.

DON'T let the nightmare and heartbreak distract you from being annoyed by the two d-bags in this episode. First, the lesser d-bag: Turns out Boring Ben summoned the Queller demon. This is the first intimation we get of the unusual relationship between Ben and Glory, which falls squarely into the category of stuff I don't give a shit about.

Ben and the obsequious monk. Two characters that only annoy me more as the season goes on.

And now d-bag the greater. Riley continues to dwell in a den of suck, both literally and metaphorically.

I think we're supposed to feel empathy for him. It's not kicking in for me.

He begins to come back to life when he calls his erstwhilie soldier boys to clean up from the Queller. Spoiler alert: this will reverberate into the next episode. Big time.

No comments:

Post a Comment