"It'd be simpler if I could just hate him. I think he wanted me to. I think it made it easier for him to be the villain of the piece."
More than any other episode, this one delves into the issues of vampire identity that I mentioned previously. The "villain" of the week is a boy who thinks that becoming a vampire is his best shot at lengthening his life. This, of course, clashes with the perspective the show has taken in the past, which Buffy reiterates here: "That's not how it works. You die. And a demon sets up shop in your old house. It walks and talks and remembers your life but it's not you." And she holds to this through to the end, when she stakes Ford. She doesn't like it, but she admits no ambiguity.
And yet, the episode sets up Drusilla in opposition to this. Angel reveals how he tortured Drusilla to the point of madness before turning her into a vampire, and this accounts for her present state. There is obviously a degree of psychological continuity here, and from the point of view of a secular humanist (such as, for instance, Joss Whedon) psychological continuity is usually more or less synonymous with personal identity. And the show certainly does seem intent on taking Spike and Drusilla seriously as characters, and perhaps even people, "soul" be damned (see what I did there?). But even so, Buffy herself isn't, and the characters in "Lie to Me" who are (the Vampire groupies) are portrayed as idiotic sheep. It's an interesting set of contradictions within the episode, and I can't imagine that it wasn't on Joss's mind when he wrote it.
This week's "relationship monster of the week" (see the previous review) seems at first to be jealousy, as Buffy gets jealous of Drusilla and Angel gets jealous of Ford. This leads to some amusing scenes as Angel teams up with Willow, with whom he had previously had little significant screen time. It's some pretty amusing stuff, but this jealousy thing really only leads to some more interesting issues. Drusilla is not merely a romantic rival for Buffy, but a threat to our perspective of Angel as a heroic vampire. Angel's past sins come back to haunt hum more concretely than before. Whether we should trust Angel had previously been a frivolous question posed by Xander out of his jealousy over Buffy, but the arrival of his old allies in Sunnydale suddenly makes it a legitimate concern.
Ford provides an interesting "monster" of the week. The fact that he's our "bad guy" was obvious from the moment he walked on screen, which is probably why they got the reveal out of the way fairly early, but in the middle of the fourth act the story takes a turn for the complicated when we find out that what Ford really wants is an reprieve from his own impending death. The way Buffy is structured dictates that this sort of revelation will usually fall on the second act break, but putting it at the end of the episode is quite effective, making it more bewildering and less expected. Suddenly, we can't think of Ford as the "bad guy," but he's still got to be stopped, and then at the end of the episode, he's got to be staked. And what a grim scene that is at the end of the episode. It's scenes like this that make Buffy's relationship with Giles one of the most interesting to me.
- At the end of the episode Spike holds up his end of the bargain. I found that a bit surprising.
- Cordelia is absent from this episode except in one scene where she says something stupid in a classroom. Even Joss doesn't know what to do with her in one of his own episodes!
- Chanterelle makes her first appearance in this episode. For some bizarre reason, the writers decided to bring this character back later. Several times. Whatever. She didn't make a very strong impression on me, but clearly she made one on someone.
- The "vampire groupie" concept is interesting and it works well as a source of comedy (look at these idiots! How wrong do they have it!). But it also provides some interesting drama, as we see Angel's strong reaction to it. In a way, he's the one who's suffered most at the hands of the vampires, and seeing that trivialized really rubs him the wrong way. Of course, there's also a really cheap (but funny) gag when Angel rants, "These people don't know anything about vampires. What they are, how they live, how they dress..." and then one of the groupies walks by wearing the same clothes as he's wearing. Not the most sophisticated joke, but funny anyway.