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12 July 2006 @ 08:39 pm
2.08 The Dark Age  
Xander: Giles lived for school. He's actually bitter that there are only twelve grades.
Buffy: He probably sat in math class thinking, 'There should be more math. This could be mathier.'
Willow: C'mon, you don't think he ever got restless as a kid?
Buffy: Are you kidding? His diapers were tweed.

Hi, it's tx_cronopio here! Many thanks to the moderator for the chance to guest-moderate, especially for The Dark Age, one of my favorite episodes.

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The Dark Age
Writer: Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Airdate: 11-10-1997

So You're a Real Person, Are You?
Buffy: I'm not gonna lie to you. It was scary. I'm so used to you being a grownup, and then I find out that you're a person.
Giles: Most grownups are.

This episode signals some major developments in the relationship between Buffy and Giles. As far as I can recall, this is the first time he angrily shuts her out of some information that she needs to know. Did we see this coming? Who is right? Was Giles right to keep his past from Buffy as long as he did? Would it have eased her burden to know that he had struggled with his own duty as a watcher in his younger days? Does Buffy ever understand what it takes for Giles to confide in her the way he does in this episode? How does this foreshadow the changes to come in their relationship?

Don't Mess with Redheads
Willow: Hey! We don't have time for this! Our friends are in trouble! Now, we have to put our heads together and get them out! And if you two aren't with me a hundred and ten percent, then get the hell out of my library!

This is one of the first episodes where we sense how strong our Willow is becoming. It was signaled in Reptile Boy, when she rebuked Giles and Angel for their treatment of Buffy, but in that episode she instantly backed down, she "felt bad." She doesn't here. Did this episode make you think that Willow was meant for a future Watcher? If so, why do you think this idea died in favor of the witchcraft angle? How does this episode suggest future developments for Willow? Or was it just a plot device?

It All Comes Back To Bite You
Angel: I've had a demon inside me for a couple of hundred years...just waiting for a good fight.

This entire episode focuses on things, actions, beings, decisions from the past that turn up in the present to cause trouble and heartache. Truly a theme that will recur throughout the entire run of Buffy and Angel. Just for a sample, Ethan comes back, just two episodes after the pesky problems he caused in 2.06, Halloween. And he brings even worse tidings, the news that Giles' toying with Eyghon long ago had come back to hurt the people he loves. In a bit of foreshadowing, we see a hint of Angel's demon, which will come back to wreak havoc all too soon. How does the staging of the episode support this theme? How does this fit into the whole Ethan story arc? How does this fit into Giles' story? Do you see this as a recurring theme in S2? Or are these stand-alone episodes that some folks put too much meaning into?

You Only Hurt The One You Love
Jenny: I just love to see you squirm.
Giles: Yes, well, I, uh...trust I gave good...squirm.

This episode contains two huge transition points in the Giles/Jenny relationship...first, they acknowledge their sexual attraction, and then at the end, they are estranged by events. Were you surprised that our buttoned-up (at this point) Giles actually kissed her at school? Were you surprised that he still liked her after the Monster Truck Rally? What is your opinion of her reaction to him at the end? Were you surprised? Approving? What other points do you see in this episode that foreshadow the course of their relationship?

Other themes:
How does this episode contribute to canon re the Ethan/Giles backstory? Did you love or hate Xander's Uncle Rory speech? Do you see any foreshadowing in the danger of the use of Magicks? How do lies and mistruths continue to disrupt the Scoobies? Have you seen anything hotter than Xander and Cordelia's fight? How does this episode contribute to the continuing use of nightmares and fantasies (aka "anywhere but here") in the Jossverse?

In other notes, this is one of five scripts by Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel...the others are Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, The Puppet Show, Phases, and Killed by Death. A mixed bag to be sure. Do you see any common factors in these scripts?

And, one last trivia note, Dean Batali is now active in a group called Act One, a coalition of Christian TV writers who strive to make Hollywood reflect more Christian values in movies and TV. He has stated in interviews that he finds the idea of a teenager having sex with a vampire to be very "damaging." Discuss among yourselves
Purple: Giles--Watcher (qtmjbcs)psychoadept on July 13th, 2006 03:56 am (UTC)
About this bit: Were you surprised that our buttoned-up (at this point) Giles actually kissed her at school? Were you surprised that he still liked her after the Monster Truck Rally?

I think Giles is a big, mushy romantic at heart. At least when approached in the right way. And of course he liked the Monster Truck Rally. He just couldn't *admit* that he liked it.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
Hee! My sentiments exactly!
lusciousxanderlusciousxander on July 13th, 2006 12:39 pm (UTC)
The hints of Xander's home life pretty much started since Nightmares:

Buffy: I just can't believe a kiddie league coach would do something
like that.

Xander: Well, you obviously haven't played kiddie league. I'm surprised
it wasn't one of the parents.

Then in Inca The Mummy:

Xander: My dad tried to sell me to some Armenians once. Does that

And now we discover that his uncle is drunk and Xander's way of using jokes to hide.

And Xander/Cordelia? Totally sexy.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
That riff on Uncle Rory and the whores is one of my favorite bits in the whole ep. I was surprised when I read a couple of online commentaries that many hated it and thought it was inappropriate. Takes all kinds, I guess.
your royal pie-ness: xander duh faceentrenous88 on July 13th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
Huh -- I'm interested! What did they dislike about it? Did they think it was intrusive on a teen!show? Derogatory towards Giles?
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
You know, it wasn't clear to me what was wrong -- I saw that in a couple of places, but the only one I can find today is here:
where it's simply noted as "out of place."
beccaelizabethbeccaelizabeth on July 13th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
I'm always amazed at the patience you must have to do these -- thanks! There were some really good changes in this one, weren't there?
your royal pie-ness: cordy/xander iconentrenous88 on July 13th, 2006 06:58 pm (UTC)
I'm just jumping in to say that I've always loved how Jenny holds a Saturday review session to go over computer basics with the students who have fallen behind, and the only students on deck are Cordelia and Xander.

And of course she needs Willow to help corral those two. O_o

I just can't help it; all this season, but from around this point in particular, I really start looking forward to the Cordy/Xander hook-up.

More later when I have more focus.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
That scene with Xander and Cordelia arguing in the library? Such sexual tension! I had to stop and think, "wait, are they already together?"
your royal pie-ness: xander duh faceentrenous88 on July 14th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
Yes! Oh, it's so coming! *rubs hands together gleefully*
She Who, Like a Dragon, Mostly Hides in a Cave: Fredravenwings_7 on July 13th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
Don't Mess With Redheads

I think the difference between Willow's immediate post-rebuke behavior in Reptile Boy and Dark Ages comes down to social status. In RB, she was addressing two authority figures; in DA, she was dealing with peers. However, I should note that I don't remember Willow "backing down" (deflating, perhaps, but backing down implies that her point was being argued against) in RB; I also don't believe that she was completely comfortable putting down Xander & Cordelia, either (after her short lecture, she sits down very quickly and refuses to look up from her computer - this seems like a very uncomfortable reaction to me).

While I do think there was a distinct Watcher-to-be vibe about Willow from the very beginning, I've never felt that that vibe was any stronger in DA than in any other early episode. The witchcraft angle, IMO, was developed for various reasons. The strongest of which was the need to move Willow out of the "sidekick" role (a decision that, in turn, created a compelling character arc for Xander); other considerations might have been the need for a spellcaster within the Scoobies, as well as the lack of need for another Watcher.

DA, in my mind, was one of the few episodes that really brought to light one of the less noticed elements of Willow's character: that she is an alpha-type personality, despite shyness in early seasons. I've always felt that many of her problems in later seasons at least began with the situation of being and alpha but operating in a beta-type role among the Scoobies.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, very good insight with the Alpha/Beta sides of Willow. I hadn't thought of it that way before.
She Who, Like a Dragon, Mostly Hides in a Cave: Fredravenwings_7 on July 15th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)

A lot of people, even if they do pick up on it, don't think of it in Alpha/Beta terms. Ie, some of those less kindly inclined towards Willow might describe her as "manipulative" - not an inaccurate term, but one with enough negative connotations that I don't like to use it in regards to Willow - due to her tendency towards trying to maintain an equal-to-submissive social role while still taking charge of the Scoobies. Other than a few semi-random outbursts, her dominant nature primarily shows in her relationship with Tara.

Oh, great. Now I'm thinking. I have to get up early tomorrow, dammit!
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
OK, I didn't want to put this in the main body since many might disagree, but was I the only one who found Jenny's cold should to Giles at the end a bit disproportionate? She had been involved with the Scoobies for a while, she's a techno-pagan, she knows the risks...she got hung upside down by the master, for crying out loud. And yes, this possession was due to something Giles had done, but years and years before. Interestingly enough, I found her response when she was demon!Jenny (These things happen, nothing is safe) more in character.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 13th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
Oops. That would be cold SHOULDER.
beccaelizabethbeccaelizabeth on July 14th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
She had someone inside her she hadn't invited. Plus the demon in her tried to use her for sex, with Giles. He said no, but it sexualises the whole thing. As post-rape behaviour her reactions look rather mild.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 14th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
Interesting perspective, I never thought of it that way before. Thanks for sharing.
we still sing songs of the great tribble hunt: Doctor Who Gilescake_horse on July 14th, 2006 03:07 am (UTC)
I really, really love the heck out of this episode (actually, I'm pretty sure I can say that about any season two episode). However, it has been a pretty long time since I last saw it, so some of my memory of it is kind of vague, so I'll answer what I can.

Buffy and Giles' relationship: I think this episode was where Buffy and Giles started becoming equals, something that was dropped later in favor of Giles-as-father-figure.

Buffy knew before that Giles hadn't always wanted to be a Watcher. In "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date," he tells her,

"I was ten years old when my father told me I was destined to be a Watcher. He was one, and his mother before him, and I was to be next...I had very definite plans about my future. I was going to be a fighter pilot. Or possibly a grocer."

But she didn't know then that he struggled against his destiny, the way she often does, especially in the early seasons. I think that the knowledge that Giles wasn't 100% the Council's man did ease her burden, at least a little.

Giles and Jenny: I never really liked Jenny; I don't know why. I loved Giles when he was with her: flustered, happy, sad, whatever, but for some reason I just didn't care for her. And I definitely think her giving him the cold shoulder at the end was disproportionate, for all the reasons tx_cronopio stated above. Seriously, WTF, woman? You've been kidnapped and all sorts of things before, you know all about magic, and yet you freak out because something Giles did in his twenties hurt you in the present (not even hurt; she was rescued just fine by Giles, Angel, and co.). Seriously, if you want to hang out with these people, bad things are going to happen to you.

That's kind of disappointing to hear about Dean Batali. I really liked some of his episodes, especially this one and "Phases." I wonder if he disapproved of Buffy while working on the show or had a change of heart later.
Trepkostrepkos on July 14th, 2006 08:12 am (UTC)
That's kind of disappointing to hear about Dean Batali.

Also, the actress who plays Jenny has said she was uncomfortable with her character becoming a demon - she's a Christian, and din't like doing it.
I never really liked her character either, but she was the only one of the actors I've met who I disliked! (Attention-seeker).
I agree about her reaction post-demon - it seemed very harsh.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on July 14th, 2006 05:59 pm (UTC)
In all fairness, I should add that what I saw of Act One's website indicated that they were a pretty reasonable group, not knee-jerk at all.

Still -- I bet he cashed those paychecks.