[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Douglas Petrie | Director: Bill Norton | Aired: 05/21/2002]
“Two to Go” is a decent continuation of the creepy awesomeness that was “Villains” [6×20] . Unfortunately, it slips up a couple places and just can’t maintain the previous episode’s unique tone, look, and feel. With that said, there’s still a lot to like here including entertaining action, Willow continuing to be creepy, and one particularly insightful character sequence. This is a mostly action-orientated episode that does, indeed, suffer from being the middle episode of a three-part finale.
During the beginning of this episode, Willow is still absolutely terrifying. Tearing up the police station and then cutting off an Anya who’s trying to help her, with lightning. Oh, and that scream… yikes! Jonathan points it out perfectly: “I still can’t believe that was Willow. I mean… I’ve known her almost as long as you guys. Willow was… you know. She packed her own lunches and wore floods and was always… just Willow.”
When Willow later goes to see Rack, she cleverly misleads him into thinking she’s playing his tune again, but then rapidly turns the tables on him and sucks him dry too, killing him in the process. Willow’s “just gonna take a little tour.” What a nicely-staged scene — very aesthetically interesting; wonderful use of CGI.
When Willow confronts Dawn, she’s the creepiest she’s ever been, even threatening to turn her back into a ball of energy. Willow cruely tells her, “maybe that’s why you’re crying all the time, Dawnie … We’ll all be a lot happier without the constant whining.” This dialogue is clearly a bone thrown to the fans who are rabidly annoyed by Dawn. Since the comment totally fits within the context of the episode, I’ll not only buy it, but also be simultaneously scared and amused by it.
It’s interesting to watch how Willow acts in this state. When she’s focused on anger and rage, it’s the magic talking; when she’s focused on her emotions (i.e. when she recalls how Tara enriched her life), it’s Willow talking. This change is very subtle, but is denoted in how Willow refers to herself — in the third person for the former, and in the first person for the latter.
The highlight of the entire episode, especially from a writing perspective, is when Buffy confronts Willow about the situation at hand. Buffy’s entire argument is so weak because she’s ignored her own words all season. Although she’s pulled through her problems and is definitely on the rebound, she’s still in no position to be the morally superior one here, as Willow brilliantly points out. Willow says to Buffy, “Please! This is your pitch? You hate it here as much as I do! I’m just more honest about it. You’re trying to sell me on the world? The one where you lie to your friends when you’re not trying to kill them. You screw a vampire just to feel. And insane asylums are just the comfy alternative. This world? Buffy, it’s me. I know you were happier when you were in the ground. The only time you were ever at peace in your whole life is when you were dead.”
Buffy has absolutely no defense against Willow here. Everything Willow’s said is completely true — this is the precise moment when we, the audience, realize that Buffy is utterly powerless to stop Willow. I love how the key to defeating Willow does not lie in brute force and/or magic, but in human connection and love — things which Buffy is not equipped to effectively communicate to Willow right now.
It’s a real shame that the episode goes downhill after this brilliant scene and instead resorts to cliched dialogue and cheesy one-liners (e.g. “Get off, super #####!” and “Show me what you got, and I’ll show you what a slayer really is!”). The action is serviceable, albeit over-the-top. I’m not wild about the hard zoom-ins on Buffy and Willow before their fist-fight either. I hate to say it, but what should be a crackling insightful moment between the two of them quickly devolves into a mediocre fight scene that’s staged — and fails — to be epic. This lackluster ending really pulls down the episode a notch for me. Even Giles’ supremely thrilling entrance (which always gets an earned audible yell of “Giles!” out of first-time viewers) can’t completely save this ending.
Before I wrap up, I’d like to do a shout-out for Jonathan. Andrew asks him, “Why are you helping them?” Jonathan’s response is perfect: “because they’re savings our lives, moron! … you want an order? Grow up!” Jonathan finally grows up here and I like him more in this episode than at any other point in the entire series. Way to go Jonathan! I love that even some minor characters get their own arc in this series.
As good as parts of this episode are, I can’t help but feel the writers could have done even more and gone even further. What’s such a long-time coming just isn’t fully capitalized on. I just wanted, nay: expected, more from this episode — more insight, better action, elevated acting, and more surprises. With that said, this is still a very entertaining episode to watch and, as a whole, still contains many worthwhile character moments and some mediocre-to-decent action set pieces. I really like “Two to Go,” but it’s just not all it could be and doesn’t have the unique tone and flair that “Villains” [6×20] nailed.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Xander physically ill over the flaying.
+ Anya saying “Jonathan and what’s his face.”
+ I’m exuberant about the scene where Anya so very practically tells and shows the police officier what he’s up against.
+ Seeing the cops freaking out over what to do with Willow. She’s not physically harming anyone and is simply standing there, so they really can’t do anything about it. Haha.
+ The truck chase scene was refreshingly different from what we usually see on Buffy — a nice change of scenery.
+ Spike’s shock at “Walking Action Figure” having flaming hands.
+ Buffy’s pragmatism with Jonathan: “We’re not protecting you. We’re doing this for Willow…”
+ Clem reluctantly helping Dawn because he — adorably — wants to be friendly with the Slayer so she won’t kill him.
+ The episode taking a moment to catch up on where Xander and Anya stand with each other.
– Xander making a virgin joke against Andrew because of his Star Wars-laced sentence. Xander of all people should be admiring the funniest piece of dialogue he’s likely to have heard in weeks. His reaction felt a bit out of character to me.
* Xander’s anger over not being able to help is a theme throughout this episode and will obviously factor in huge in “Grave” [6×22].
* Dawn being more pro-active and demanding that Clem help her find and help Willow is clearly setting up her upcoming arc.