Episode Title: Shadow
Original Air Date: November 21st 2000
“Just once I would like to run into a cult of bunny-worshipers.” – Xander
So after a strong start to the series this episode starts to see things get bogged down in issues facing the group distracting from the outside threats we’d no doubt rather be seeing. As such a large portion of the episode is based around Buffy handling her mother’s illness as she undergoes a CAT scan while trying to also deal with Glory’s latest plan to locate “The Key” by casting a Sobekian transmogrification spell.
For the most part most of the heavy lifting of this episode is handled by the Scoobies who are tasked with researching what Glory could be up to only for Giles to unwittingly sell Glory the supplies she needs not realising what she looks like. At the same time if having a powerful villian on the loose in Sunnydale wasn’t bad enough, the group also have to deal with an increasingly rogue Riley who continues to deal with life outside of “The Initiative” as he shuns the planned group patrol to take out the vampire nest himself.
The reasons for Riley’s change in personality are hard to pin down even though we get hints that its linked to his inadequacy that he feels when comparing himself to Angel whose shadow he seems to constantly feel he’s living in, while an attempt to comfort Dawn only leaves him further convinced that Buffy isn’t as emotionally invested in their relationship. This downward spiral only worsens in this episode when he starts hanging out at Wily’s bar and allowing the vampire Sandy to feed off him before he stakes her the detached expression on his face really telling us everything.
While on the subject of men currently feeling hung up on Buffy, this week we get to see Spike back to his creepy obsessional ways as Riley walks in on him sniffing Buffy’s sweater though I think we can all guess what the writers original plan was for this scene. Its kind of a downer to see Spike being reduced not only from a fearsome villian, but to see another vampire hung up on the Slayer especially him it only takes away from his character to see him reduced to essentially a love sick puppy only with Spike its just so creepy to watch.
Glory on the other hand only continues to get better as the season big bad, more so now that she has gained her own devoted follower in the demon Dreg whose so devoted to Glory that at one point thanks to a slight miscommunication he’s willing to have her tear out his tongue. This week though she unleashes a snake demon, which is really just a reworking of the reptile god Machida we saw way back in the season 2 episode “Reptile Boy” over with more of a Cobra inspiration for the head. Frustratingly this cool looking demon is reduced to a punch bag for Buffy to work out her frustrations after a fun chase sequence which while in tone with her characters situation does leave the episode feeling like it ends on alittle bit of a misstep.
Overall this episode while certainly adding plenty in terms of emotional depth for certain characters leaves others feeling lost, more so when the episode never seems to know what direction it wants to take things.
Next Episode: Listening To Fear