[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: Michael Gershman | Aired: 04/24/2001]
In a nutshell, “Intervention” is set up to be an all out laugh-fest and while it is very funny, there’s also a surprising amount of substance present as well. With that said, however, it’s also got some problems which is honestly a shame. I really want to give “Intervention” a better score, but one thing in particular is holding me back: how the Scoobies react to the BuffyBot. This is a significant flaw and represents a rare time when characters are acting, well, out of character and is something I’ll go into more in a bit. Besides that and some other smaller issues, this is a winner. From much more self discovery by Buffy to Spike going all the way for Buffy to just the overall humor, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. “Intervention” has both big character revelance and big laughs while still managing to keep a little dark undertone that hints of what’s to come.
The opening scene between Buffy and Giles really captures the main point of the episode. We see Giles keeping frequent checks on how Buffy is doing and gets Buffy to admit things are a bit better now that her and Dawn have found a routine. In times of tragedy, routine is always a great way to help temporarily lose some of the pain of loss. But when Giles asks Buffy about starting up her training again there’s much hesitation–there’s just too much on her mind and she isn’t ready yet.
This leads to her coming out with her ultimate worry and verbalizes it by saying, “I’m starting to feel like being the Slayer is turning me into stone.” This gets her spilling her entire case (which she’s obviously been thinking a lot about) to Giles. Riley’s departure plays heavily into her consideration and says, “Just think about it. I was never there for Riley. Not like I was for Angel. I was terrible to Dawn … Riley left because I was shut down. He’s gone. And now my mom is gone, and I loved her more than anything. And I don’t know if she knew … To slay, to kill. It means being hard on the inside. Maybe being the perfect Slayer means being too hard to love at all.” This is a fantasic question from Buffy, and one which is answered later in the episode but not at all understood until “The Gift” [5×22] . The questions brought up here reverberate throughout the entire four-part finale.
All this talk leads Giles to help Buffy embark on the Spirit Quest, which in presentation at least is fairly cliche and bland. It makes up for this by providing a chilling piece of unique meaning for Buffy and linking itself thematically with Buffy’s dream in “Restless” [4×22] , of which she even remembers herself. Remember “You think you what’s to come? You haven’t even begun.?” Well, she’s been learning all season and will finally know what all this adds up to in “The Gift” [5×22] . The appearance of what looks like the First Slayer tightens this connection even more. The Spirit Guide tells Buffy some intriguing and haunting stuff when she asks it “What about love. Not just boyfriend love.”
But what does it all mean? Well, Buffy’s understably quite confused about the response she gets, so I’ll help explain with my mystical retrospective abilities. The Guide tells her “love is pain and the Slayer forges strength from pain.” This is something Buffy should already know through her experiences being the Slayer. Big life-changing experiences such as the events of, but not limited to: “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] , “Innocence” [2×14] , “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] , “The Prom” [3×20] , “The Harsh Light of Day” [4×03] , “Into the Woods” [5×10] , and “The Body” [5×16] . The pain Buffy has been through has made her a tremendously stronger person than she was in the beginning of the series; a much more experienced, intelligent, mature, and stronger person.
This is why the Spirit Guide (SG, not to be confused with Security Group, which only I would do so just ignore me) tells her “You are full of love. You love with all your soul. It’s brighter than the fire, blinding. That’s why you pull away from it.” Buffy responds, “I’m full of love? I’m not losing it?” The SG comes back, “Only if you reject it … Love. Give. Forgive. Risk the pain. It is your nature. For it will bring you to your gift.” It’s at this point when Buffy understably completely misses the point. She says, “Okay, no. Death is not a gift. My mother just died, I know this. If I have to kill demons because it makes the world a better place, then I kill demons. But it’s not a gift to anybody.” As we know, the SG meant that her death in the aptly named “The Gift” [5×22] is is her gift–a gift of pure love to the world, all her friends, and family, specifically Dawn.
The SG also tells her three vital words: love, give, and forgive, which already has an affect on her by the end of this episode, but an even bigger one in the finale. This is very heavy thematic development and it rounds out Buffy’s season-long exploration of what it means to be the Slayer, even though she doesn’t fully know it until “The Gift” [5×22] . Amazing writing here, just amazing. This is a huge chunk of foreshadowy goodness. One change Buffy makes right away is in her attitude to Spike after what he does for her and Dawn. So then lets talk about Spike!
Ah, Spike and the BuffyBot: short lived and surprisingly hilarious. I just can’t help but be amused by SMG’s chipper acting of the BuffyBot, which I’d think she probably loved playing in contrast to all the sad stuff happening. The BuffyBot is simply the pure embodiment of what Spike wants from the real, “not so pleasant,” Buffy even though it’s obvious the bot is a poor substitution that I bet even Spike would bore of fairly quickly. Like Warren before him, Spike doesn’t just want a sex toy (although Spike doesn’t necessarily want “the perfect girl” either), he wants something that emulates the real thing: “She looks good, but what about the rest? A little walk, a little talk… perhaps a zippy cartwheel…” He even has her programmed to slay vampires! Of particular interest in some of the dialogue they share. The BuffyBot says, “You’re evil … It excites me. It terrifies me. I try so hard to resist you, and I can’t.” Spike replies, “You know I can’t bite you.” The BuffyBot comes back, “I think you can. I think you can if I let you. And I want to let you. I want you to bite me and devour me until there’s no more.”
There’s a lot going on here. Spike wants something that’s afraid of him just a bit, but that revels in that fear and lets it sexually excite them. Curiously, he also wants to feel that exact same way. When the BuffyBot hops on top of him, tears his shirt off, and puts a stake outside his heart, he’s getting off on the fear. All this tells me is that he wants a mate that is an equal to him–someone that can stand up to him and fight back, both with words and physical strength. He doesn’t want Harmony, who is weak, annoying, and far too accomodating. As he says in “Crush” [5×14] , he wants “Heat. Desire.” This is why the BuffyBot is programmed the way it is and isn’t just a helpless sex bot–heck, that was Harmony. Spike wants “no programs. Just be Buffy.”
Buffy’s situation and Spike’s situation line up at the end of the episode. Spike lets himself be tortured and beat to such a bloody pulp that even Xander has sympathy for him, and that’s saying a lot. When Buffy, dressed up as the BuffyBot, confronts him on whether or not he told Glory about the Key she discovers that he truthfully did not and would have died with that knowledge. With Buffy learning from the SG earlier to “Love. Give. Forgive,” she gives Spike that nugget of hope he wanted in “Crush” [5×14] , only here he genuinely deserves it. Buffy, the real Buffy, kisses Spike as gratitude for his heroic behavior. It’s telling that Spike can recognize almost immediate that this is not the BuffyBot, but the real thing. Buffy nails it when she tells him, ” The robot is gone. The robot was gross and obscene … That thing… it wasn’t even real… What you did, for me and Dawn… that was real. I won’t forget it.” Wow!
Moving onto the plot front, we find out that apparently Ben is getting stronger, which thankfully helps explain why Glory hasn’t been appearing as much. Glory’s four episode absence is still too much after what the Scoobies did to her in “Blood Ties” [5×13] . It seems really odd to me that Glory would just be putting together the pieces now and not much ealier. I have to say that this is one of the season’s few problems.
As for the rest of this episode, though, we get Dawn stealing a necklace from friends, which is kind of silly for her age. The one biggest thing that bothered me in the entire thing and what robs it of some good pointage is Willow’s initial chat with the BuffyBot. It quickly becomes unbelievably obvious that what Willow is talking to is not really Buffy. The same group that got together and unanimously agreed “robot” with the AprilBot is completely dumbfounded by the BuffyBot. That unfortunately reeks of poor writing, as much as I hate to say it. This problem alone costed the episode 5, maybe 10 points. Aside from the one glaring flaw, “Intervention” is an excellent episode that really caps Buffy’s season-long journey, furthers the plot arc of the season, and moves Buffy and Spike’s relationship into an entirely new realm. Overall I’m an extremely happy camper and really wish I could have graded it higher. Regardless, let the four-part finale commence!
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Giles is cooking for Buffy and Dawn!
+ How quickly Spike is pleased by the BuffyBot. “She’ll do.”
+ Giles’ hokey pokey ritual in the desert. “And that’s what it’s all about.” Hilarious.
+ Xander and Anya catching what they think is Buffy having sex with Spike.
+ Glory’s minions think Spike is the Key. haha.
+ The Bob Barker lines. What make them so funny is that that Glory and all her minions know who he is.
– Clunky, sluggish, and overall unimpressive fight scene at Glory’s mansion.
* The spirit guide tells Buffy, “love will bring you to your gift” and that “death is your gift.” Both of these phrases play heavily in the upcoming episodes, but especially in “The Gift” [5×22].