Episode Title: Hush
Original Air Date: December 14, 1999
“All the time you used to talk to me about witchcraft and darkness and the like – I just thought you were being pretentious.” – Olivia
So here we are only four season into the run and here we have the best Buffy episode ever. Seriously if you’re looking for a high water mark for the series then this episode would be it!
What makes this episode so great though is the setup as a group of fairytale monsters known as “The Gentlemen” steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale as part of their plot to collect seven hearts leaving Buffy and the Scoobies with the dilemma of how to stop them when none of them can speak.
If you where to write a list of iconic Buffy villains then “The Gentlemen” you’d expect to top that list, while it only makes it all the more surprising that they are another one shot villain who you wished came back only for this to remain sadly their only appearance in the series. At the same time they are in many ways a response by Joss Whedon to repeatedly being told that the dialogue was the most crucial aspect of the show and as such challenges it by removing nearly all the dialogue from the episode. At the same time he also felt that “The Gentlemen” were the scariest thing to appear on the show, which is certainly something hard to argue with especially as they slowly float around Sunnydale communicating between themselves in slow exaggerated gestures, while being accompanied by straightjacketed minions who despite appearing like they were pasted in from another episode here somehow work perfectly with these smartly dressed and permeantly smiling demons.
The fact that three quarters of the episode takes place in perfect silence is unquestionably unnerving to watch especially when we have the attack on one of the students whose screams of absolute terror can’t be heard as we watch the grim spectacle of them cutting out his heart. The silence aspect though outside of the obvious horror elements is also perfectly utilised throughout the episode as we get great comedic moments such as Riley and Forrest not realising that the Initiative lift requires voice commands to work as they suddenly find themselves triggering the facilities security. There’s even a fun little joke of the guy in the background selling whiteboards and marker pens.
While “The Gentlemen” might be the most remembered aspect of this episode, it should equally be noted as being an episode which really saw some major developments amongst the Scoobies with Riley and Buffy finally discovering the truth about each other, Xander finally admitting that his feelings for Anya are deeper than a casual fling and most importantly we have the introduction of Tara!
Tara for those of us rewatching the series we know already how much of a lynchpin this softly spoken witch will play in the series, but for now her importance can already be felt through the magic bond she shares with Willow recognising her power as she compares her to her own mother which we can only assume is how she learned to control her own (still limited) powers. Rewatching this episode its kind of touching to see this first connection between Willow and Tara as they meet at the college Wicca meeting where amusingly Willows ideas of performing actual magic are dismissed as her buying into a fake idea of what Wiccan’s are. Tara is instantly likable from the start, especially when she reminds us so much of Willow in the early seasons, before the writers gave her a huge confidence boost for seemingly no other reason than she got laid. Tara on the other hand remains likeable throughout and never needs any major boosts to her character to grow.
Something I seemingly forgot about this episode is the return of Giles “Friend” Olivia who returns in this episode after her appearance in the first episode and while certainly not an unwelcome return, it was kind of sad to see her leave the series in this episode as she realises that she can’t deal with the supernatural elements of Giles life. A confusing query to say the least especially when you would have thought that she knew this about him already, especially when his Ripper days can be traced back to his wild youth, meaning that she would have likely encountered these elements previously when they originally met, making it only the stranger that she would decide that it’s now an issue.
Unquestionably this isn’t just a standout episode for this season but the show aswell, as like the best episodes it works on multiple levels while somehow managing moment of genuine horror against a frequently comedic background. This episode really reminds us of how good the show could be when it was firing on all cylinders with episodes like this unquestionably being the reason this show is still so fondly remembered.
Next Episode: Doomed