[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 04/30/2002]
“Entropy” represents the core of what is at just about every episode of Buffy: character work. This episode has much in the way of nothing for a plot, and instead opts for cleaning up some loose character threads before heading into the four-part season finale. I must say that it does an admirable job at this even if it ends up being slightly unspecial in the process. What we get, though, is the very definition of solid methodical character development. I can’t help but be reminded of “Choices” [3×19] , which is also an episode that isn’t particularly mind blowing, but is solid, useful, and entertaining nonetheless.
Over the last several seasons, the Scoobies have slowly drifted apart and have lost that tight integration they once had. The title here, entropy, represents this “inevitable and steady deterioration” of the Scooby’s internal little society, which happens to most high school groups and friends as time and external responsibilites grow. This episode has the characters identifying and addressing many of the current issues between them. This is most strongly represented by the superb scene outside the Magic Box at the end of the episode.
“Entropy” opens with Buffy doing some patrolling while Spike hilariously holds back a vamp to ‘theaten’ her into telling her friends about them. Spike knows the vamp poses no real threat to Buffy, which is what makes this ultimatum so funny. I love how even though Buffy won’t tell her friends about their relationship, she’s clearly alright about it if he does. Buffy trusts that her friends will react with overall support: “I tried to kill my friends, my sister, last week. Guess how much they care? Zero.” I can understand Buffy not preferring to have her friends find out about her involvement with Spike, but still being able to deal with it if they do. Even though she accepts her actions, she still prefers not to spread it around to everyone she knows.
Spike asks Buffy why she won’t sleep with him anymore. Her response, “because I don’t love you,” says a couple things. First is that Buffy really doesn’t love Spike right now, which I believe is true. Second is that she really isn’t in a despression anymore, which was the main motivation to sleep with Spike in the first place… to feel something. As I’ve thought before, I really don’t think Buffy can love Spike without a soul. Frankly, I couldn’t love someone without a soul either — just knowing that their capacity to love is limited and that they feel no remorse or regret for evil actions, even though those actions don’t happen to hurt me, is a barrier I couldn’t get by. I don’t feel this is immaturity on Buffy’s part, but actually her being very mature. Sometimes it takes time to learn that having that kind of wildcard for evil in your life doesn’t exactly make the best long-term relationship, which is what Buffy truly wants with her lovers — the hope for a partner that will be with her forever.
The moment Spike gets a soul, though, everything changes. It’s at this point that Spike has the potential to genuinely be what Buffy needs and wants. The whole theme of the “potentials” in S7 really applies to Spike as well — his potential to be a man worthy of true commitment, love, and selflessness. All of this outlines Spike’s need for a soul if his relationship with Buffy is to continue. What’s the only thing that will drive Spike to get a soul? Doing something horrendous to Buffy might just do the trick (I’m saying this from a writer’s perspective here), hence “Seeing Red” [6×19] .
Buffy brings the Trio’s spy cam to Spike, half-way accusing him of spying on her — something she should know better than to do. Buffy’s right about him being willing to hurt others and “lie and cheat and manipulate.” But Spike’s absolutely right too: “I don’t hurt you.” That’s Spike for ya, at least until he reaches a breaking point in “Seeing Red” [6×19] and we see something new. Although Buffy says “I know,” Spike’s not so convinced (and he shouldn’t be). He says, “No you don’t. I’ve tried to make it clear to you but you won’t see it. Something happened to me. The way I feel, about you. It’s different. And no matter how hard you try to convince yourself differently, it’s real.” Buffy responds with, “I think it is. For you.” Spike looks massively hurt by this. Buffy then essentially tells him to move on, which is pretty harsh considering what they did together. Buffy’s trying to treat him like she did towards the end of S5, but with a complete disregard for what’s happened in between. She should treat his feelings with more respect. In the end I don’t think she’s wrong for not having a real relationship with him, but the manner in which she casts him off here is kind of unfair.
Later on, when the gang catches Spike and Anya going at it on camera, each person’s reaction proves to be fairly interesting. Willow’s shocked which just shows how oblivious to everyone else’s problems she’s been, as she’s had her own issues to deal with. Willow is oblivious here in the same way that Buffy was oblivious to Willow’s growing problem earlier in the season. Xander, on the other hand, is purely furious and ends up grabbing an axe to kill Spike with. Dawn just goes “oh!,” a good reaction for a girl who probably hasn’t seen a lot of (if any) sexcapades first hand before.
Buffy’s reaction, the most important here, is also the most interesting. I see in her a mixture of sadness with a look of grand disappointment. I can’t help but feel that Buffy doesn’t really have a right to feel disappointed in him, not after she just hours before told him to “move on.” Well, Buffy, you got your wish — doesn’t feel so great, does it? This all plays into when Spike reveals to Xander and Anya his relationship with her. Buffy’s clearly not thrilled with Xander and Anya finding out like this, but she still seems very accepting of it, and doesn’t say a word to defend herself or to put Spike down. Spike even gives her a little nod like “I’m sorry, but this really needed to come out now, and you gave me the go-ahead.” I really like the way this scene at the end played out — everyone’s emotions just exploding out into the open.
I really enjoyed, in general, Buffy and Dawn’s interaction throughout the episode. Early in the episode we see them having a very happy, quippy, and normal conversation. You can tell they’re on much better terms now. Dawn stole a bunch of stuff and caused them all to get trapped in “Older and Far Away” [6×14] , and Buffy tried to kill Dawn and all her friends in “Normal Again” [6×17] . Mistakes were made (ok… big mistakes), but now they’re past it. Lovely to see, and some great follow-up from what has come before, especially “Normal Again” [6×17] .
Buffy spends a lot of time in this episode making a genuine attempt to reconnect with Dawn, so much so that she scares herself into thinking she’s the “embarassing mom who tries too hard,” but I totally applaud her for the effort. I’m so happy they’re directly discussing what Buffy did in “Normal Again” [6×17] . Dawn says, “I don’t blame you. It wasn’t you.” Buffy response, “That’s not it. I just want to spend time.” Also, a big happy squeal from me (hey, I can squeal! It’s not without… manliness… err…) that Buffy’s quipping again! And in a mad rush! Sweet, she’s really back!
All this newly found attention from Buffy inspires a little open insight from Dawn. Turns out Dawn doesn’t want to just hang out with Buffy, she wants to actively help Buffy and help with her struggle as the Slayer in any way she can. This turns out to be the main theme of Dawn’s S7 story. I like this growing interest from Dawn, which is something that finally gets recognized by Buffy in “Grave” [6×22] and then capitalized on in “Lessons” [7×01] . From this point on, I think Dawn continues to once again be a very interesting character on her own rather than being defined by the events around her, like she was for most of S6.
Despite there being a lot of solid material for Buffy and Dawn in this episode, Anya got quite a bit of attention as well. Anya appears at Xander’s place (yay for teleportation or unlocked doors) where her and Xander have a very well written conversation. At first Anya’s under the false impression that Xander’s apologizing for not getting married, but that’s not the case at all. Xander’s apologizing for his timing. I’m happy he’s not chickening out and is telling her the truth here. Xander made the right decision not to get married yet, but his one biggest fault is his timing, which was utterly awful and ended up being unintentionally cruel to Anya. This is what Xander’s genuinely sorry for and is explaining to Anya here. This is still a bit of a shock to her, though, who doesn’t seem to fully understand Xander’s behavior. So, she tries to unleash some anger/vengeance on him instead… only she can’t do it herself.
This leads to the truly entertaining sequence where she tries to get someone else to make a wish for Xander to be hurt. Anya says to Willow and Tara, “you’re lesbians, so the hating of men well come in handy. So let’s talk about Xander … Men like to watch [girls] … men like Xander … [Don’t you] wish his penis would explode? … So, tell me more about wishing Xander’s brains and guts would be caplooey.” At one point Anya tries to play on Buffy’s bad luck with men, to which Buffy entertainingly responds: “Guys!? There’s only been 4… 3! Only 3! That’s barely even plural.”
Anya is bewildered by everyone sticking up for Xander in the midst of her pain. Both her and Spike are linked in their lack of ability to understand why the Scoobies stick out for each other through thick and thin. This is why Spike entering the door right when Anya needs to find someone who hates Xander is so much more than just a convenient way for Anya to curse Xander — they have much more than that in common with each other. The thing I love about this pairing here is how much they’ve been able to relate all the way back to S4 (and is the only large redeeming value in “Where the Wild Things Are” [4×18] )! They’re own personal growth and redemptive arcs coincide for this one episode, and it makes complete and awesome sense to me.
Anya pulls out the liquor to help cure Spike’s pain over his situation with Buffy. Although at first Anya is trying to get him drunk enough to make a wish for her against Xander, it ends up leading to something else: a sharing of pain. Although I don’t think it was particularly good of the two of them to do what they did, considering the tenuous situations they’re in with other people, I can certainly understand it. Also, as I think I’ve made a case for, I feel this is completely in character for the both of them. I like both Anya and Spike’s worried reactions after the deed is done, and then their mutual recognition of the comfort they gave each other.
The effect Anya and Spike’s pairing has on Xander, though, cannot be overlooked. Poor Xander is so lost in this episode. Although when we first see Anya we think she’s there to talk to Xander about mending their wounds, it turns out she just wants to reap vengeance on him. Actually, though, that’s just a red herring for her pain — she’s in so much pain that she feels the need to lash out at Xander in any way possible. I sympathize with her and find that she’s not completely unjust in her attempt to get back at Xander. Unfortunately, that’s not going to help either of them.
After Xander almost kills Spike over his sexcapades with Anya, Anya’s reasoning to him for it was “I was sad… and he was just… there.” Wow, parallel Buffy much? Buffy can certainly sympathize a bit with Anya’s actions here. Anya rails Xander when she says, “No, the mature solution is for you to spend your whole life telling stupid, pointless jokes so that no one will notice that you are just a scared, insecure little boy!” Although I really do feel sorry for Xander having his world crumble down around him, Anya does have a valid point, which makes this a huge moment for him. It allows him to accept the situation he’s in maturely along with being forced to take Buffy off the massive pedastal he has her on and recnogize her as a flawed human being. Although rough for him now, it will end up bringing him even closer to her later. It’s interesting that Anya doesn’t even want Spike to wish harm on Xander any more after this. This entire scene is just phenomenal.
The last point I want to touch on is that of Willow and Tara reconnecting. It’s so nice to see in a season of so much pain. Enjoy it while it lasts though, ’cause the season finale is quickly approaching and things get sad pretty quickly thanks to “Seeing Red” [6×19] . Willow and Tara’s coffee date is hilarious. Willow says, “Well, let’s put it this way, if I wasn’t gay before…” Tara’s speech to Willow at the end is also really beautiful, and I have to say, in this season, I’m really happy she decided to just skip past all the “reintegration” baggage.
“Entropy” is a very solid episode with no real flaws other than its own relative uneventfulness (besides that one big scene). Yet, just about everything we get here is valuable character work that propels things forward. If it had packed more of a punch, I’d be giving this an A, but as it stands, it misses the full marks. Despite that, though, this is really good, solid television that very much embodies the aspects of TV I enjoy the most.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ The episode spending just a little bit of time setting up the plot for the next episode. Little things like this add up and go a long way in creating a believable whole.
+ The Trio chasing vamps down with staked vehicles.
+ The random vampire’s puzzled reaction when he hears the Slayer was sleeping with Spike.
+ Anya says, “I wish there were tentacles where your beady eyes should be.” I love the little reference to Xander’s beady eyes, which she sang about in “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] .
+ Jonathan’s concern and anger continuing to grow.
+ Anya starting to hang out with Hallie a ton now.
+ Spike and Anya both admitting to each other that they have a “sexy dance.” Haha.
+ Spike says to Anya, “they’ll miss the water now that the well’s gone dry.” Maybe, but that’s really skimming over the greater issues here. Then again, they’re both drunk and about to console each other.
+ The Trio being so shocked about catching Anya and Spike on camera that they don’t even shut down the tap on their system.
+ Now that Buffy’s out of her funk, she can actually focus all her attention on the Trio: “I want to find these guys.”
+ Buffy and Dawn’s chat outside is really nice. Buffy openly admits what she did and says “I kind of didn’t want to admit it to myself.”
– What in the world is Willow looking at on her laptop!? She says, “lots of advance stuff,” yet all I see her doing is typing with absolutely no corresponding response on the screen. Instead we just see a weird target on a black screen with a moving line. I don’t know how Willow ever does anything with the “software” she’s running on that thing.