Sunday, August 5, 2012

"I Was Made to Love You" (Buffy 5.15): How set up one of the greatest episodes in TV history

It makes sense that I would open the post that discusses the fifteenth episode of the fifth season with mention of the sixteenth. Up next is "The Body," one of the most critically acclaimed episodes not just in the Buffyverse, but in broadcast television history. Because "The Body" is such a monumental achievement, "I Was Made to Love You" often gets overlooked. But this Jane Espenson-penned show knows exactly where it's taking its characters--to the kind of grief and loss that cannot be slayed. My thinking about this episode was profoundly altered by an essay I read while researching some other topic years ago, and now I can't find it or recall the name. So if this rings any bells, thanks to the author and pass me the link! But in the meantime, please accept my apologies for this unintentionally stolen Buffy guide to setting us up for a gut punch.

DO change your tune about Buffy's love life. But it would be nice if you admitted as much, Xander. Both Jenn and I noted his rather abrupt turnaround. For example:
  • Xander Quote from "IWMTLY": "The problem is not you."
  • Xander Quote from "Into the Woods": "But you missed the point. You shut down, Buffy. And you've been treating Riley like the rebound guy."

[In response to Buffy's fear that she's too self-involved]
  • Xander Quote from "IWMTLY": "I don't think you're like that." 
  • Xander Quote from "Into the Woods": I think you took it for granted [Riley] was going to show up when you wanted him to, and take off when you didn't."
Maybe the puffy sumo suit blunts some of that self-righteousness.

Okay, now that's out of my system.

DON'T think love is something you can control. This episode concerns itself with a robot named April who has been created by some dude named Warren to be his perfect girlfriend, except, of course, when he meets the right girl, he abandons her. She comes to Sunnydale looking for him, and wreaks some havoc at some sort of luau-themed party at The Bronze.

Havoc-wreaking here takes the form of throwing Spike through a window.

Which begs the subsidiary question, why is everyone, including Ben, ostensibly a grown man with a job, hanging out at an all-ages club packed with highschoolers? [**Update**: Jenn has just informed me that this party doesn't take place at The Bronze, but rather at UC Sunnydale. Oops. Though it's still strange that Ben's there, yes? And the question below still stands.]

And why is Willow wearing a turtleneck to a luau?

But no mind. The primary question is, how can you protect yourself from losing love? Warren's interested, Spike's interested, and next week Buffy's going to learn the answer: You can't.

DON'T make my mistake. And assume this episode is in any way a throwaway. Not only does the poignancy of watching April's batteries die as Buffy sits with her guide us into a much more devastating and personal loss in "The Body,"

Makes sense she's on a swing set, since these are the last moments of her childhood.

but Warren and a robot that looks like a chick

As well as Spike's continued failure to heed the Do's and Don't's of this episode as well as "Crush."

 are both going to have serious and wide-ranging implications for the rest of this season and the next.

Next week: The pain is brought.
Jenn calls attention to April's last words, which also will be resonating for quite some time. Here's her take. April: "It's getting dark. It's so early to be getting dark." --> I could not help but read this line in terms of how the episode ends. Somehow I don't think we're meant to. She is so prophetic even if she's a robot because of Joyce, Glory, and "The Gift." It would definitely explain why she dies before she can finish the cliche about it getting darkest before it gets better because it won't. From here until Season 7 it is just one long 30 episode descent into darkness.

And of course, the word that April doesn't say to finish that cliche is "Dawn." This re-watch is really reminding me of how crucial Little Bit's appearance is in the show as a whole.

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