[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: David Fury | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 05/04/1999]
I really, really enjoyed this episode. No, there weren’t any powerful scenes. No, nothing big really happened. But you know what? There wasn’t a moment of the entire thing that left me uninterested. The action was exciting, the drama was interesting, and the penultimate scene with Buffy and Willow warmed my heart. So even though I have no complaints with this one I can only rate it so high because ultimately it’s just an arc episode which moves things along and gives characters more interesting things to do and say.
Early on Buffy is talking with Angel about their future together. Both of them at this point, deep down, know this relationship is never going to work. They are both trying their best to hide from that reality though. Buffy is the first to question it when she asks him, while fighting in the cemetary together, “So this is our future? This is how we’re going to spend our nights when I’m fifty and you’re … the same age you are now.” It’s the Mayor, however, who is the one to finally finish off their relationship.
As fundamentally evil as the Mayor is, it doesn’t mean everything he says is wrong. He actually says a lot of truthful things. His speech affects Angel a lot even though Angel hides it from Buffy at the end, and she completely ignores it. He says, “You’re immortal, she’s not. It’s not. I married my Edna May in ought-three and I was with her right until the end. Not a pretty picture. Wrinkled and senile and cursing me for my youth. Wasn’t our happiest time. And let’s not forget the fact that any moment of true happiness will turn you evil. I mean, come on. What kind of a life can you offer her? I don’t see a lot of Sunday picnics in the offing. I see skulking in the shadows, hiding from the sun. She’s a blossoming young girl and you want to keep her from the life she should have until it has passed her by. My God! I think that’s a little selfish. Is that what you came back from Hell for? Is that your greater purpose?” This is the best summary of the problems Buffy and Angel are faced with that I could ever think of.
The middle of the episode has a ton going for it. We get the wonderfully fun break-in scene where Buffy is lifted down into the Mayor’s conference room to snag the box. That doesn’t work out so well so we get an awesome little fight scene. Then we find out Willow’s been captured so discussions begin on trading the box for Willow. I love that the thing that convinces everyone to make the trade is Oz actually getting angry and pushing something over. All they needed to see was that amazing–coming from Oz–show of emotion. Wonderful characterization.
After all that we get treated to Willow staking a vamp using the floating pencil spell she was using back in “Doppelgangland” [3×16] . Then we even get to see her stand up to Faith with words like “I know that some people think you had a lot of bad breaks. Well, boo hoo! Poor you. You know, you had a lot more in your life than some people. I mean, you had friends in your life like Buffy. Now you have no one. You were a Slayer and now you’re nothing. You’re just a big selfish, worthless waste … I’m not afraid of you.” Everyone, a cheer for Willow.
If all of that wasn’t enough we also get a very suspenseful trade scene at the high school. The creatures in the box are very creepy and it is fun watching the good guys, the bad guys, and the guys in the middle (Snyder and the police) all working together to kill off the two that get out. This is also the scene where the Mayor imparts his unique wisdom on Angel and even manages to get in a few hilarious lines. This episode really does entertain!
Some nice smaller touches include Xander failing to resist the opportunity to see Cordelia shopping and throwing verbal jabs at her, Cordelia beginning a new part of life now that she has no money, Buffy realizing after the previous night she’s going to have to protect the hellmouth her whole life, and Willow deciding she’s going to attend UC Sunnydale not because of Buffy but because she likes they way she felt when helping out in the fight against evil. Plus, she hopes to be a bad-ass wicca (S6, wink). Overall this is just a whole lot of entertainment. Once again, nothing huge or powerful happens here, it’s just an arc episode that really delivers the stuff, and is wrapped up in a beautiful, balanced package.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ The Mayor giving Faith a stylish knife wrapped up as a gift.
+ Joyce’s reaction to Buffy getting accepted to Northwestern University.
+ The post high school chat between the Scooby Gang. Adorable.
+ Faith still using the longbow she was admiring in “Bad Girls” [3×14] .
+ Buffy’s hilarious plan to gain information. She breaks the window of a limo and in a peppy tone asks the vamp, “So, what’s in the box?”
+ Snyder barging in during the trade scene thinking everyone’s doing drugs.
+ Willow wisely having pulled out pages of the Books of Ascension.
+ Buffy and Angel having a picnic at night by a tombstone. Very amusing.