[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson | Director: Douglas Petrie | Aired: 10/16/2001]
In short, “Flooded” is unexpectedly decent. Upon initial viewing I didn’t particularly care for this episode, but this time around I noticed a lot more going on. There’s still a handful of things that really bug me, but those aside it’s actually quite good. Buffy’s emotional detachment is still here in full force, although bits and pieces of her personality are finally returning and being mixed into her dark state in the form of excellently written morbid humor. There’s also a scene between Willow and Giles that is one of the most frightening displays of Willow’s chilling development in the entire series. The Trio is introduced here to excellent comic effect as well.
I’m going to jump into this by beginning with the things I really didn’t care for. Early in the episode Buffy’s plumbing problem causes the subject of money to become a big deal. This is something the entire season tackles: mundane, adult issues like nagging finances, bills, jobs, chores that you don’t have parents to do for you, etc. I honestly love this concept, but unfortunately the execution of the details leaves much to be desired. An example of this is how much of a hypocrite Willow and Tara are in this early scene, having the audacity to tell Buffy’s she’s nearly broke but don’t even offer to get jobs themselves to help her out. They’re living in her home for God’s sake! At least Xander often helps rebuild broken stuff in Buffy’s house for free. I fully understand why Buffy would never ask them, but it’s a problem with the writers that they dropped the ball with Willow and Tara. If attention is going to be brought to these issues, then everyone must be looked at, not just Buffy.
This is one of the problems of S6 as a whole, although it’s made the most evident in episodes that choose to focus on the domestic issues like this one. I do like the result of Buffy having to be forced to deal with everything on her own, but the writers really should have found a way to make it more plausible. Another thing that bugs me in this episode, and is brought up again in a couple places, is Buffy’s whole sloppy “guns, never useful” message. What about the incredibly useful tranquilizer gun Buffy herself used in the early seasons? What about the Initiative’s taser guns? What about Wesley in Angel? This all adds up to a sloppy political statement which simply doesn’t make any logical sense within the confines of the series, regardless of your personal thoughts on guns. I expect a lot more than this from Joss Whedon.
The main plot involves a hokey demon hired by the Trio to get a bunch of cash from a bank, and then said demon’s random wish to tear apart Buffy. This demon is annoying in more ways than I can count including his unbelievably unbarable roar, awful dialogue, and random intentions. Fortunately he takes up a very small portion of the episode. The rest of the content is thankfully much, much better than the problems I’ve already brought up. So, onto the good stuff!
Buffy gets more excellent continued development from the aftermath of “After Life” [6×03] here. It begins with the pipe explosion in the teaser which causes her to just stand there in defeat. I really enjoyed a lot of the small touches that continue to mark how altered Buffy is. When she’s staring blankly at a running faucet we, and the rest of the Scoobies, can see she’s still not all there. At least some of Buffy’s personality is re-emerging here, mainly her sense of humor, although it’s being mixed with her darkened state thereby producing very, very morbid jokes. These jokes end up scaring the Scoobies rather than amusing them, and rightfully so. An example of one of these concerning jokes is when Willow says, “Um… Buffy, I-I know you’re still getting back on your feet after…” and Buffy responds, “Lying flat on my back?” Most of these ‘jokes’ seem to directly involve her being a corpse, or dead, or in a coffin. When really thinking about this, it’s really quite disturbing, sad, and it actually kind of frightens me to hear Buffy saying these things.
In discussion about how to pay all of Buffy’s upcoming expenses Anya, a character very similar to Cordelia, actually comes up with amusingly the same idea Cordelia did involving forming Angel Investigations. Should Buffy charge the people she saves? It’s certainly an interesting question, but ultimately completely against what Buffy’s about. There’s also some issues surrounding the fact that Sunnydale is massively smaller than Los Angeles. I’m sure Buffy would get a few customers, but overall she’d still have to do her nightly patrols — “the daily grind” — without getting paid or more innocent people would die. As unfortunate as it is, this really isn’t a realistic solution in Buffy’s case as it is for Angel.
A little later in the episode we see Buffy talking to a loan officer about getting a loan to help her with all the expenses. This scene is not only amusing, but also important in relaying the message that just because you’re in need of help, people don’t just suddenly become nice and help you. I also appreciated how the loan guy didn’t even help her after she saved his life. Her fight with the demon is another fun display of how Buffy can still be incredibly feminine while also being a warrior. The result of this loan rejection is a scene in the training room between Buffy and Willow. While whacking a punching bag we can see Buffy visibly angry about not getting help with her finances, and Willow wisely picks up on this. This is the first extended sign of a normal emotion from her since she was resurrected and it makes Willow happy as she starts to try go get her angry again. What Willow’s attempting to do here is commendable (and funny) until she decides to back off when she gets concerned that Buffy might actually tell her something she doesn’t want to hear.
Eventually Giles returns while the gang is gathered at the Magic Box. This reunion between Buffy and Giles is a quiet and powerful moment. Right after showing a brief moment of happiness (which Spike is able to get out of her later on), Buffy says two particularly noteworthy things: “I take getting used to” and, more importantly, “I’m still getting used to me.” Both true statements, as she’s a different person than she was. A small thing to note here is Willow’s proud grin in the background. She’s got this “hey Giles! Look at me! Look at what I did!” look on her face. This will come into play soon. Right now, in the training room, Buffy says some more interesting things that really quickly clue Giles to some problems. The first is when she asks him “I can start. How was England? How was… life?” As becomes more and more evident soon, Buffy’s lost her ‘fire’ and spark of life, and is searching endlessly to find it again.
Giles warmly asks Buffy, “how are you doing, really?” Buffy again tries to hide her true feelings with humor, but the darkness and sadness inside her uncontrollably seep into her humor: “Me? Nah. Fine. I mean, yeah, you know, sleeping’s hard, but… just because of the whole waking up in a box thing. So maybe waking up’s the problem.” Waking up from heaven would, indeed, be problematic for any individual. Wisely, Giles notices that Buffy looks “tired” and that she’s not at all alright. Even though this is true, Giles is also correct when he points out that Buffy is holding up well for someone in her situation (and even more than he thinks), but she’s on very, very loose foundation that will soon crumble beneath her.
This leads to another conversation between the two of them that fully confirms to Giles that Buffy’s having serious issues and is very damaged, although he’s still not sure why. What really tips him off is Buffy’s heavy, depressive breathing — as if she’s struggling to live each moment of her existence, which is what she told Spike in “After Life” [6×03] . Then Giles offers Buffy a hand of friendship and comfort and she simply gets up and leaves. Later on, Spike finds Buffy alone and is even able to make her chuckle with some of his own dark humor: “You want me to take them out? Give me a hell of a headache, but I could probably thin the herd a little… Knew I could get a grin.” Buffy goes on to say that trying to hide her depression is exhausting and then asks Spike why he’s always around when she’s in pain. Appropiately, he responds “‘Cause that’s when you’re alone.” This whole scene is a bit of a throwback to the final scene in “Fool for Love” [5×07] where they also shared a tender moment, only this time Buffy breaks the silence by asking Spike what he knows about finances!
At the end of the episode, with a mess in the house resulting from the demon attack, Giles points out that Joyce got through all this day-to-day stuff without any superpowers, and so can Buffy. Unfortunately, Buffy isn’t in a receptive state right now. So, when Angel calls her she uses this opportunity to immediately ditch all the responsibilities she doesn’t want to have to deal with and go see him. What’s left in the wake of her quick departure is a messy situation, in more than one way. The continuance of Buffy’s depression, the addition of her dark humor, and her overall desire to not think about life issues is all great, new, and fascinating development for Buffy. “Flooded” really succeeds in accomplishing these things.
In addition to Buffy, there’s some mighty interesting things rumbling with Xander and Willow. Anya is still complaining that Xander won’t announce their wedding yet. Xander points out that, “the way I understand this marriage thing, it’s kind of a forever deal.” In the era of the easy divorce, I have to say I respect Xander for taking this responsibility seriously — a lot more seriously than most people do. The reason Xander is stalling the marriage is because of all his insecurities: his parents, how he relatively recently moved out, getting used to having a steady paycheck, etc. I have to say I feel for Xander this season. He’s clearly not ready for marriage yet, and it’s just sad it takes him right up until the wedding day to act on this reality.
Moving onto Willow, there’s a scene where her and Giles have an argument in Buffy’s kitchen about her dangerous use of magic. At first, Giles just tells her she got lucky. Willow scarily responds, “I wasn’t lucky. I was amazing.” After years of simply showing concern for Willow’s magic use, Giles is justifiably furious here at what she did (especially after seeing how damaged Buffy is) and calls her a “rank, arrogant, amatuer.” Willow then responds with an icy-cold detachment that directly foreshadows her behavior in “Villains” [6×20] and is actually downright scary: “You’re right. The magics I used are very powerful. I’m very powerful. And maybe it’s not such a good idea for you to piss me off.” Wow. As I was talking about in “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] : follow through! This scene would not have worked in almost any other series yet, because of the expertly crafted backstory, it soars here.
The one other important thing that happened in this episode is the introduction of the Trio: Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew. These guys are hilarious here having the Nintendo 64 classic Goldeneye running in the background of their opening scene. The Trio’s basic desire, as established here, is simply to get whatever they want without ever having to work for it. This villainry isn’t something physically tough that Buffy can’t fight, but at this point represents ideological villainry to Buffy’s desire to sacrifice herself so that others can survive. This difference is summed up at the end of the episode when Buffy says, in regard to the big mess around her, “This is going to take forever, isn’t it?” Anya replies with the entire point: “Not forever. Just a very long time.” The Trio, on the other hand, wants everything right now, and they certainly don’t want to sacrifice of themselves to get any of it.
As I’ve hopefully brought to light, “Flooded” has moments of sheer genius while also unfortunately sharing some moments of pure pain. The demon, some theme logic issues, and Buffy’s silly gun comment all drag this otherwise wonderful episode down to solid B-level work. All that aside, there’s a lot of excellent material in here that I think often gets overlooked by the episode’s more unsavory parts. In the end, there’s a little bit of dire bad but a lot of really really good, but there’s certainly no denying its importance.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Hilarious opening scene involving “Mr. Drippy” and Dawn screaming away while getting sprayed by broken sewer pipes.
+ The Trio voting by raising their hands with the Vulcan salute from Star Trek.
+ Buffy trying to kill the demon while keeping the furniture in one piece, which she never had to think about when her mom was around.
* The Trio’s “To Do” list contains things very similar to what they end up actually doing. The Shrink Ray turns into an Invisibility Ray in “Gone” [6×11] so they can look at naked girls, Warren ‘hypnotizes’ Katrina in “Dead Things” [6×13], and Warren and Andrew end up using Workable Prototype Jetpacks in “Seeing Red” [6×19].
* Warren gives the demon Buffy’s address without telling Jonathan and Andrew. This hints that Warren’s morals are much murkier than the other two and that he could care less whether or not Buffy lives.
* The striking Willow/Giles scene in the kitchen is the first giant clue that Willow’s going to go full-on dark soon and, more importantly, directly foreshadows the magical confrontation these two have in “Grave” [6×22].