Episode title: The Dark Age
Original air date: November 10, 1997
“Ooo, gang, did you hear that? A bonus day of class plus Cordelia, mix in a little rectal surgery and it’s my best day ever.” – Xander
If like myself you’ve been hankering for the return of Giles former best friend Ethan Rayne since he made his first appearance in “Halloween” your no doubt be delighted that the chaos worshiping trickster is back this week, as he’s forced like Giles to deal with an event from their past. The bad news though is that this is possibly one of the more lacklustre episodes to date but atleast Ethan’s back and that’s a good thing….right?
A couple of episodes back in the episode “Halloween” we were given a hint of Giles’ dark and wilder past before he became the tweed loving watcher we all know and adore. This week we get to find about alittle more about his past aswell as his friendship with Ethan in particular the parties that they used to throw with their group in which they would take turns being processed by the demon Eyghon and which lead to the death of one of their group. Now it seems Eyghon as come for the rest of the group as it possesses the members and using them to kill each other.
It’s a Giles –centric episode this week and to an extent it works as we get some nice developments in his relationship with Jenny, which seems to be one of the hardest relationships in the show to try and track seeing how one week they are going on a date and the next neither seem to be able to make a move on the other. That being said they do get a hallway kiss and a promise of making Giles “Squirm” from Jenny. The kiss in particular is quite a nice scene as its teased out only for the class bell to ring at the crucial moment, which normally would be the end of such a moment but here atleast they do kiss regardless of the bell before going on in opposite directions. Sadly by the end things have gone back to square one it would seem, but then getting your girlfriend processed by the demon you raised in your wilder days will no doubt do that.
Equally fun is that we finally get an insight into Giles past, shown here with some trippy flashback flashes which goes away to how they manages to get away with demon worship and possession on prime time tv, even if it’s pretty confusing to the viewer what exactly is supposed to be happening. It’s from here we also learn more about his relationship with Ethan which here is still none the better even with a shared threat. It probably doesn’t help thing that he kidnaps Buffy to offer as a replacement sacrifice to Eyghon as part of his plan to save himself.
Ethan once again is a great character, even if he lacks much of the presence he did on his previous appearance thanks to a more limited screen time. That being said we do get to see his psychotic side as he burns his tattoo off with acid while tempting allude Eyghon by removing his tattoo used to summon him, while tattooing it onto Buffy with little regard for the outcome. The confusing part was just how easily he was able to subdue her, but its something I was willing to let slide for the sake of the plot.
Buffy and the Scoobies however seem more at a loss here, especially with so much focus being put on Giles and revealing his past. That being said Willow does start to show her leadership side as she takes control of the group when Buffy is kidnapped. Other than that though they are mainly on humour duties here, with Buffy sharing a fun scene defending the blood bank delivery, while Xander gets to learn about old timey cures. The most amusing part of filler though comes from the group discussing their fantasies in a game of “Anywhere but here” which thanks to the age of the show now comes off abit dated with Buffy wishing to Gavin Rosendale rubbing her feet on a beach and Willow holding out for eating Ziti with John Cussack. The appeal of these two crushes no doubt lost on those young enough to not see the episode when it was originally released.
Ultimately the episode plays like abit of a mess with the various plotlines that they are attempting to cover, while Ethan’s character feels alittle wasted especially as he’d not at the heart of the issues here.
Next Episode : What’s My Line