“I saved the world with talking! From my mouth! My mouth saved the world!” – Xander
While season seven might not be anyone’s favourite and hence a lack of enthusiasm for myself in having to revisit a season which I’d for the most part erased from my memory including it would seem this episode which shockingly is actually really great especially in terms of the monster of the week which this time sees Buffy tasked with hunting down a skin eating demon when a skinless body turns up at Xanders construction site.
Of course skinless bodies turning up is nothing new in Sunnydale but with Willow due to arrive back from England at the same time as this body being discovered, Buffy and the Scoobies are quick to assume that Willow has returned to her dark ways because seemingly you need only skin one person for you to be scapegoated with all the skinless bodies in town. To make matters worst Willow has somehow managed to turn herself invisible to her friends only furthering their suspicions.
What is actually to blame is the Gnarl possibly one of the greatest Buffy villains ever along with “the gentlemen” from “Hush” and here looking like he’s escaped from Ridley Scott’s “Legend” and played by character actor and Buffy regular Camden Toy so pitch perfect its a shame that he’s lost in this final season. Still speaking in rhyme nearly the whole time and with a penchant for paralizing his victims before eating their flesh this parasitoid (not parasite as he’s wrongly called on the show) is truly creepy with the scene of him eating Willows flesh easily being one of the boundary pushing moments for the show.
On the lighter side of things the trio of Buffy, Xander and a newly promoted Dawn works surprisingly well with Dawn taking on the research role, before ending her first outing being used for some pretty spot on paralysed humour at the hands of Anya who this week find unable to idely teleport due to still being shunned by the demon community. Dawn’s promotion to patrol duties really feels like a natural evolution for her character and at no point does she feel like the bratty sister tagging along and instead an actual member of the group even if she might have life expetancy for a red shirt crew member on “Star Trek”.
Outside of having a decent monster what also makes the episode so great is that finally we are not dwelling on the previous seasons events, or getting bogged down in mad Spike’s ramblings even though he is used well here in his limited form here. Infact the generally upbeat nature of the group and the episode outside of the Gnarl scenes really makes it feel like a throwback to the golden era for the show which really is what was needed at this point.