Episode Title: Into The Woods
Original Air Date: 19th December 2000
“Well, I guess everybody jumped ship once the word got out that the Slayer found their crib. (Pause) I just want to apologize for the use of the word “Crib.” – Xander
So the previous episode was kind of a heavy one despite the sci-fi elements and seeing how we open to Joyce pulling through her surgery and looking to be on the mend you’d expect that this week would be maybe a little lighter…..sadly this isn’t the case especially in Sunnydale were one problem solved is often followed by another as Buffy and Riley’s relationship heads towards a crossroads.
Buffy and Riley really have not had the best of times as of late with Riley struggling to adjust to life outside of “The Initiative” let alone his own insecurities regarding his relationship with Buffy, especially her relationship with Angel who he not only butt heads with but also sent him down a dark path of secretly having vampires feed on him. Buffy meanwhile has been caught up with her mothers illness let alone the fact that her sister isn’t actually her sister but the Key which Glory is so keen to claim.
Riley has always been kind of a dividing character for a lot of Buffy fans with many viewing him as being too nice and lacking an edge to his character so to see him on the lack few episodes, slowly develop this addiction to being fed on my vampires was an interesting angle for his character to take. Unquestionably though the screenwriters are driving home the idea of Riley being an addict as we get to see him being fed on in what could be described as being a vampire crackhouse. This of course is the perfect location of Buffy to find Riley as if you want to show someone at their lowest than this would certainly be it, especially for someone as clean cut as Riley.
Unsurprisingly if anyone was going to bring about his downfall it would be Spike, especially with the two having spent the last couple of episodes butting heads. So taking a break from moping over Buffy, here he actually has a purpose for a change as he gets to be the one who discovers Riley’s secret and yet he doesn’t exactly gloat in his downfall like you’d expect from him. Instead the focus is purely on Buffy struggling to deal with what her relationship with Riley actually means to her a decision she is forced to realise quicker than she would like when Riley takes the breakdown of their relationship as a sign to leave town with his old unit.
The final scenes of Buffy running through the woods to try and reach Riley before he leaves in the Helicopter is still a great scene and constantly leaves you thinking each time you watch it that this is the time she gets there in time, which sadly for the Riley fans is never the case. Its also strange that the so called idiot of the group Xander is the level headed one to bring sense to the chaos erupting around the group and its touching that we end with him confessing to Anya just how much she means to him.
So with Riley now gone Buffy is free to move on and focus on defeating Glory but as we leave her at the end of this episode her future is unclear and in many ways that’s exciting to see even though its leaving her in far from the best position.
Next Episode: Triangle