Thursday, July 15, 2010

Theater Thursday: "Conversations with Dead People"

I'm talking about several episodes of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series. Consider yourself warned.

Chances are you are familiar with the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show ran from 1996 to 2003 making it one of the shows I grew up watching as a teenager. Vampires, demons, fighting, mysticism, sex, drama, violence. Everything a teen would want.

Well when talking about favorite episodes most people go right to "Hush" and "Once More with Feeling". Personally I think those episodes are way overrated. "Hush" really didn't hit on much until the last few minutes where Buffy and Riley, after being silent for the whole episode, simply stare each other in the face knowing they have to to talk (this is the episode when Buffy and Riley found about each other's side activities). Other than the song where Buffy sang about how she felt about being in heaven (after she died in the season 5 finale) but then taken away (when Willow and friends resurrected Buffy at the start of season 6) "Once More with Feeling" wasn't all that great. Personally I think all the hype was just because it was a musical episode. No my personal favorite is from early season 7, "Conversations with Dead People".

In this particular episode we see Buffy have a conversation with a former classmate who has been sired (near the end of the episode it is revealed Spike was his sire), Willow have a conversation with a classmate of Dawn's named Cassie who died a few episodes earlier, and Dawn be visited by what she thinks is the spirit of her mother (as well as some evil force trying to stop their reunion).

The point of this episode, IMO, was for The First to get a preemptive strike on Buffy and crew and it does so by way of playing on their fears.

Throughout the series there's been an ongoing theme of Buffy being destined to be alone. Despite having the loving support of friends and family in the end the Slayer dies alone. The former classmate really pushes this home during their talk. He calls out her seemingly self destructive behavior and really puts her psyche through the ringer.

After the events of season 6 Willow, while getting help with controlling her powers, is still scared of using her powers for fear of what may happen (at the end of season 6 she tried to raise a temple from beneath the ground in order to kick start another apocalypse). Cassie reminds Willow of how dangerous her powers are and how even the tiniest use could have catastrophic results.

While watching the tv and chatting on the phone at home strange things start happening in the house all around Dawn. TV working with no power, things moving on their own, and ominous knocking sounds. By communicating with the knocks on the wall Dawn learns that her mother is there and trying to contact her, but something is working against her.

Ultimately what these conversations serve to do is undermine our three characters here by playing at their weaknesses. Get Buffy to turn her back on her friends since she knows when the final shot goes off she will stand alone (which thankfully the exact opposite happened). Make Willow so afraid to use her powers that The Slayer crew would lose one of its most powerful weapons. Convince Dawn that when it all goes down Buffy won't be at her side when it really counts.

Pretty sneaky I know.

But things like this really make me think sometime. If I were a part of an army of Slayers fighting against the original source of all that is evil and The First wanted to take a crack at me what would it do? What form (The First has the ability to take on the form of anyone who has died) would it take. What weak point would it strike at and exploit?

I think in that situation The First would go after my self doubt. Something similar to Willow's conversation I can imagine The First whispering in my ear asking me, "But what will you do when at that final moment, when all the chips are down, the moment when the battle is won or lost and all eyes and hopes are on you to score the winning goal...and you fumble. How could you bear to live with yourself, live with yourself for a few seconds mind you, knowing that the world fell, that I took over, and that everyone you know and love and all of humanity will burn in the fires of anguish and torment all because you fouled up? Perhaps you shouldn't burden the others by being here. Maybe its best if you just leave and take no part in the coming battle. Leave it to the pros that know how to save the world like its supposed to be saved." But I have to say I'm drawing a blank on exactly what form the first would take. Other than my mom I've never lost someone I deeply and whole heartedly care about so much but like how Willow knew Tara would never do such a thing I know my mom wouldn't either.

Personally I enjoy pondering such things because it gives me the chance to do a little bit of soul searching and introspection.

So how about you? If the original evil were to commence psychological warfare on you what form would it take and what would it say?