Episode Title: Listening To Fear
Original Air Date: November 28th 2000
“You got her a book on spells? The girl who can break things by just looking at them, now has a book to teach her to break things by looking at ‘em?” – Buffy
Something of an odd mix of genres we get here this week as Joyce awaits her operation to remove her brain tumour as her condition only worsens leading her further into bouts of babbling. At the same time a meteorite hits Sunnydale containing a nasty little alien which feeds on crazy people.
Opening to Xander, Giles and Willow covering Buffy’s slaying duties while she looks after her mother in the hospital, the trio are left to deal with a pair of rather muscular vampires who really give the trio the run around, though you would have expected them after all these years assisting Buffy that they would have their slaying game down more than we see here. At the same time its still strange to see Tara and Anya being pushed into the background especially in the case of Anya who you’d expect to be more use to the group with her magical abilities but I guess the writers had other plans.
Equally noteworthy for his absence is Riley who in the opening of the episode we get to see continue his personal decline as we see him allowing another vampire to feed on him, though its unclear if he dusts this one the same way that he did with Sandy in the previous episode. At the same time he continues to distance himself further from the group by turning to his old friends at “The Initiative” to help with the hunt for the interstellar demon which we learn is called a Queller demon though why it couldn’t just be an alien is unclear.
The design for the Queller demon is quite basic as essentially its just a humanoid cockroach, yet at the same time there is something pretty unnerving about this creation. Perhaps because it spews slime onto its victims face to stop them screaming while frequently showing up on the ceiling above its intended victims. At the time its appearance ties nicely into the Glory storyline as its been summoned to help clean up the crazies that Glory has been creating. We also find during the twist that the nice hospital Intern might not be as nice as first seemed as its revealed that he’s connected to Glory, though at this point what that connection is unclear.
The scenes with Joyce are pretty rough going in this episode and was it not for her moment of clarity in which she realises that Dawn is not actually her daughter it would make this episode one to skip the second time around. Kristine Sutherland really gives an exceptional performance here alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar who again really sell the emotional side to Buffy as she struggles to deal with her mothers worsening condition.
An episode which somehow manages to mix real emotional content with a fun monster of the week and yet it somehow it still works, even if at times its far from the easiest episode to watch, while Spike’s sudden appearance could easily have been cut from this episode as instead it just feels like unnecessary.
Next Episode: Into The Woods