Saturday, July 24, 2010

Buffy 2x13 - "Surprise"

I apologize for that little hiatus. Things got away from me. In some ways, reviewing Buffy three times a week is harder than reviewing it five times a week, because there's less momentum to sustain. That shouldn't be a problem in the coming week, as I post new reviews daily (or as close to daily as I can get) until I catch up to the schedule. So, on with it.

"I think we're going to. Seize [the day]. Once you get to a certain point, then seizing is sort of inevitable."


For an episode that was promoted as the first part of a major Buffy two-parter, "Surprise" is actually kind of flat and predictable. There are a few memorable moments, but mostly the episode spends its time moving pieces around to set up the second part.

The episode opens with a very nice little surreal dream sequence, in which we're suddenly reminded of the arc we've been ignoring for the past two episodes. Doing those standalone episodes makes some sense, as we see Buffy and the Scoobies settle into believing that Spike and Drusilla are no longer a threat, but now that they're back they don't seem to be really doing much to actively threaten anyone, except in Buffy's recurring dream when Drusilla kills Angel. So far it's all plotting and planning.

The really significant development in this episode comes at the end, when Buffy and Angel have sex. Or rather, this should be a major development, but it's a storyline that's pretty much dramatically inert. Throughout the episode, Buffy and Angel talk about the fact that they are going to have sex. And then they have sex. It's a significant moment in Buffy's (and Angel's) lives, but in dramatic terms it's pretty uninteresting. The only curve that's thrown in is then Angel learns he has to leave immediately and for a very long time, which results in a rather heartfelt scene between the two lovers. Which, of course, is completely undermined by the fact that he doesn't end up going. It sure looks like Angel is here to stay. So in the end, Buffy and Angel having sex is inevitable, and because of this it plays a little dramatically flat.

Of course, and I don't think I'm giving too much away here, what's dramatically important isn't the events leading up to Buffy and Angel having sex, but rather what happens afterward. The benefit of hindsight alleviates some of my concerns about this episode. I already know that the next episode is fantastic, but that doesn't change the fact that this one's not that great.

It's not all bad, though. On the upside, the episode has probably the most memorable score to date (the Buffyverse isn't exactly known for its incidental music, but there are high points and this is one of them.). And a lot of the subplot material is quite engaging. The sudden reveal of Miss Calendar's ulterior motives is surprising and thought-provoking (I'll keep this in mind for comparison to a certain plot development late in Dollhouse's second season). Xander and Cordelia's relationship is amusing and provides an interesting contrast to the relationship between Willow and Oz, who have great chemistry together. But with so many parts in motion, none of them get enough screen time. We'll see how it all works out in the following episode.


  1. To be honest, this episode is almost a complete blank except for the very end. It's a shame that an episode that climaxes (pun intended) with such an important event is so meh.