Monday, February 25, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 12

Day 12: Least Favorite Episode

So I know I am so enormously behind at this point.  I spent the weekend finishing up Angel and I have many thoughts, so I'm going to commit to powering through this meme so I can get to 30 Days of Angel next.  Anyway, today is Least Favorite Episode, and it wasn't easy.

Normal Again

I didn't select any of the weird one-shot episodes like those from Season 1 or "Go Fish" from Season 2 or any of those because I think they have a place and I actually enjoy a lot of them.  This episode...I really just don't like it.

I recognize that it is a marvel of television writing.  It's incredibly well put together and the ending with all of its ambiguity is really brilliant.  It's a great episode.  But I have actually skipped it upon every rewatch because I just really HATE it.

Season 6 is a super dark season.  The darkest of all of them, in my opinion, and Season 2 is pretty damn dark.  Even "Once More With Feeling", which is a MUSICAL, is really dark in its themes and what it reveals about its characters.  We have Willow's magic addiction, Buffy's deep depression and her mutually abusive relationship with Spike, Giles leaving, Katrina's attempted rape and successful murder by Warren, and Dawn's kleptomania and general dysfunction.  "Normal Again" comes after an episode that would already on its own seem to be piling onto the darkness--the one happy beacon of Season 6 is the impending nuptuals between Xander and Anya, and when Xander leaves her at the altar it would seem to be just one step too far into Everything Going To Hell.  "Normal Again", one of the darkest episodes that COULD exist in this show, comes directly AFTER the wedding episode when the gang is still reeling from that particular plot twist.  It just seems like piling on. 

It also seems like piling on to remind us that Buffy was originally an only child.  And to bring back both of Buffy's parents, seeing as one is now dead and one estranged.  As if the hallucinations weren't enough on their own, we have to be reminded of the tragic aspects of Buffy's family life as well.  This episode just plays on everything bad about this season.

And by that I mean that we're reminded of Xander's mistakes, of Anya being incredibly wounded by being jilted, of Dawn's issues with her sister--who is now a surrogate mother--and her adaption to a difficult life, and of Buffy and Spike's tumultuous and problematic relationship.  There are no bases here that are not covered.  

And things only get darker after this, too!  Tara dies, Spike attempts to rape Buffy, Willow turns evil, Anya and Spike get it on, it's too much.  No one catches a break.  That's why, on rewatch, I think to myself "there's another set of bullshit depressing episodes coming after this and I just dealt with a slew of bullshit depressing episodes, this is too much the straw that breaks the camel's back" and I skip it. 

Also, from a Reading Too Much Into It feminist perspective, it seemed inevitable that the super-strong heroine of the show's sanity would be undermined and her abilities completely brought into question.  Clearly she's crazy!  That's the way this makes sense.  Because strong women aren't called crazy enough as it is.  We just needed to add possible credence to that paradigm.  And the show really does leave it entirely ambiguous as to whether or not Buffy is crazy--whether everything in the show is just a made-up delusion in her schizophrenic head.  It undermines everything, and that really pisses me off.

So there it is.  One of the most well-written episodes in the show and I really really hate it.  I'll do Day 13 later's gonna be a tricky one. 

1 comment:

  1. I think Joss said that he never meant for it to be ambiguous. The only part that bugged me about this episode is when Buffy was like "I was only in [the mental institution] for a couple weeks." Um...that's actually a pretty long time.