“Spike we need muscle, not color commentary” – Xander
Season six really is somthing of a troublesome beast as just when I’m ready to write the season off for it’s overwelming focus on relationship issues than monsters or general lack of a big evil it pulls out an episode like this one which sees the audience questioning their perception of the show when Buffy is stung by a demon she is left believing that she is in an asylum and that Sunnydale, her friends and her slayer powers are all in her mind.
Alongside the “Groundhog Day” episode its almost inevitable at some point that any long running show will also do an episode like this which makes a character questions the reality of their world and here its safe to say its a concept that this episode really does well even giving us one of the best endings of the show as we the audience are left questioning what is the true reality much like Buffy.
What makes this episode such a standout really is in how grounded the two worlds are with Buffy and her Asylum counterpart either reality could be the right one, not that the writers are willing to let the audience off by revealing which one is real of course. Still its really fun to flash back and forth between the two as Buffy’s friends fighting to cure here is shown as sinking asylum Buffy deeper into herself and vice versa. The asylum world also having that emotional grounding of being the one were here mother is still alive needless to say making it only harder to decide which world you give up.
Of course the choice to stay in the asylum world has that delightful dark edge of Buffy needing to eliminate the so called delusions which bad luck for the Scoobies means locking them in the basement with the same demon who she was stung by.
Outside of the main plotting we do get more of the ongoing relationship issues as Xander returns to pick up the pieces of his relationship with Anya after he ran out on their wedding. Willow continues to mope after Tara and Spike is still pining for Buffy which really is hard to care about and really is quite astonishing how much of this season has been spent on these relationships, especially when you compare it to the previous seasons which managed to include these romantic plotlines without the feeling that its overwhelming the main plotline.
Elsewhere we find were “The Trio” have been hiding as Buffy unwittingly stumbles across their new rental were they are now hiding in the basement and essentially just looks the same as were they were previously which seems like a wasted opportunity to do something more with the group who continue to feel like a throwaway plot point than the main villains of the season we know they are supposed to be. Okay yes those who have seen the season before might know were things are heading but viewed from the perspective of the first time watcher they really are wasted once more here.
The b-plots aside this is a really solid episode and unquestionably a standout for the season especially as it trundles towards its climax.
Next episode: Entropy