[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon and Douglas Petrie | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 12/17/2002]
“Bring on the Night” takes the setup of the season so far and runs with it in fairly entertaining fashion. What we’ve got here is a very dark plot-heavy episode that doesn’t have a lot of time for the characters. Now, being the ‘character’ guy that I am, I won’t lie in that I would have liked more character material here. With that said, I don’t really have a problem with an episode that focuses on plot every now and then, as long as that plot is interesting and that the characters still act in a way that follows from what has been built before. “Bring on the Night” largely succeeds in that area, although it definitely has its missteps as well.
Speaking of missteps, the Potentials have arrived! Oh my! What a shitstorm this group of girls has caused in the fandom. I’ll get my overall opinion of them out there right now: some of them I like, some of them I dislike, and some of them I could care less about. As a group, I can appreciate where the writers were going with the story, but I concede that they were not sufficiently developed enough to make me care about them, yet they were given enough attention to suck up valuable screen time for the characters we really care about. I definitely don’t rabidly hate them like others seem to, but I do think they proved to be a negative at various points of the last half of the season. With all that said, the few that show up here aren’t a problem at all.
While I’m on the subject of the Potentials, I’ll say that while I’m not wild about Kennedy as Willow’s girlfriend, I do like Kennedy as a Potential and a character. Here in “Bring on the Night,” I find her cynicism and pragmatism refreshing. I particularly appreciate it when she responds to Giles’ plan to save the world by saying, “That’s it? That’s the plan? I don’t see how one person, even a slayer, could protect us. I saw what those bringer guys can do. They tore apart my watcher!”
As a side note, I’d like to comment on all the hate I’ve seen directed at many of the Potenials’ various accents. Let me just say that I’m no expert on what certain accents are supposed to sound like. I’ve heard some pretty strange accents in my life so far, and I don’t feel like judging these actresses on how good or bad their accents are, as a general rule. So you’re not going to get much hate from me on their accents (except with Eve in “Showtime” [7×11] : my God that’s an aggravating accent ;)).
One thing I found a little irritating is how Buffy repeatedly overstates how the First made her feel back in “Amends” [3×10] for the sake of drama now. Back in “Amends” [3×10], Buffy pretty much shrugged the First off with a quip and didn’t take it very seriously aside from being concerned for an unstable Angel. I would have preferred a reference to her cavalier attitude towards it before instead of the writers forcing her to grossly exaggerate the truth. To the episode’s credit, it doesn’t just have Buffy tell us about how bad the First is, it continues to show us. When Willow’s spell backfires and the First takes control of her, it directly ties into the First’s warning about using magic in “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07] — it’s playing on her fear — and manages to really creep me out in the process. This effectively shuts Willow down, magic-wise, for a little while. Awesome scene.
Another fun scene is the funny but awkward moment when Buffy, holding a shovel, bumps into Principal Wood in the basement… with a shovel. Their various excuses are amusing, and the ambiguity that’s going on is commendable. What I truly love is what both of their perceptions must be here. Buffy must be very suspicious of Wood, and Wood’s got to be a little suspicious of Buffy. As for why Wood would have been in the basement, I think it’s obvious that Wood knows that evil is brewing around him, which is why he’s checking out all aspects of the school. He’s not blind to what’s going on. As for burying Jonathan’s body, well, that’s just seeing a dead boy on the floor and giving him a proper burial. What, is he going to see that and just leave the body in the basement of the school? I think there’s a good reason for why Wood is doing what he’s doing, and the ambiguity fits the story well.
I also really enjoyed Wood’s conversation with Buffy about true evil, as it really sets up his arc this season with Spike and his dead mother: “I’m only saying that once you see true evil, it can have some serious after burn, and then you can’t unsee what you saw. Ever.” I also enjoyed Wood saying his favorite type of movies are mysteries, as he walks away grinning and Buffy’s left with this look on her face like, “uhhhh…”
One problem that pops up in a couple places is the frequent flashbacks to recent episodes, as if assuming we weren’t even watching. Buffy usually assumes more from its audience. Furthermore, the flashback where Giles is helping the other Watcher and gets an axe swung at his head is particularly annoying, because it doesn’t get a resolution here. This annoyance is, admittedly, mostly a result of knowing that Giles is not the First. The first time I saw this I was getting nervous and excited about the potential of Giles as the First. But knowing that he’s not, I find the game the writers play with him here and in the next couple episodes tedious at best. In an effort to make him ambiguous enough to possibly be the First, we lose a lot of Giles’ personality and wisdom in the process.
For example, why is Giles being so doomsday with his speeches? Giles isn’t one to stew in defeat, he’s one to research and come up with ideas and help in any way he can. I find it hard to believe there’s just nothing useful he has to add here. I understand forcing Buffy into a full-on command role, but that should still be with the assistence of the people who got her this far.
The highlight of the episode for me is probably the two fight scenes between Buffy and the Ubervamp. Both sequences have fantastic choreography. The Ubervamp is well represented as an incredibly vicious fighter and its raw fighting skill and literal tough skin is something to behold. The only problem I had with the underground fight is the convenience of the sun abruptly popping up out of nowhere at the exact moment Buffy needed it to. I would have preferred Buffy to have actually earned her way out of that situation.
The second fight picks up where the last one left off with the Ubervamp just beating the crap out of Buffy. It’s painful to see her being wailed on that hard, and more than a little scary. The fact of the matter is that she is extremely tired and worn out before she even begins fighting the Ubervamp for the first time. Buffy’s got no chance like this, which is why Dream Joyce (the First?) wasn’t wrong: she needs to sleep! My question is why did the Ubervamp just leave her there? Why didn’t it finish her off? I guess an argument could be made that the First wants her alive to go back and demoralize and disorganize the troops. It certainly wants her alive for something, as we will find out in “Showtime” [7×11].
I’m a fan of how completely terrified Buffy looks back in her home, after the big fight, when she’s alone. Her eyes speak a thousand words. Even better, though, is how she takes that fear and twists it into strong motivation. Although many things can be said about Buffy’s speeches throughout the season, I genuinely love the one at the very end of this episode. It turns her fright and near-defeat into marching orders and is simply thrilling to see. I know the First wasn’t expected that reaction out of her. Some may rub it off as overly melodramatic, but I thought it hit the spot and was very well acted by Gellar.
To sum everything up, I’ll just add that I found “Bring on the Night” to be a very entertaining and solid plot-heavy episode. It does an admirable job of setting everything into motion and letting it play out on screen. In light of that, though, we didn’t really get much character insight and/or development. Additionally, I can begin to see the writers making a few too many poor decisions. Sadly, a few of the problems introduced in this episode will only flourish over the next block of episodes, but this one still holds itself together.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Poor Xander having to continuously repair the Summers home. No surprise he just boards up the windows this time.
+ Dawn wanting to slap Andrew. “Anya gets to hit him.”
+ The First’s psychological attacks having an effect on Buffy. She’s now dreaming what may or may not be the First. Buffy clearly does need to sleep though.
+ Spike telling the First as Drusilla that the real Drusilla is crazier than her. Haha.
+ Andrew continuing to be funny.
+ Andrew pointing out that “The First” doesn’t sound very ominous. Nope, it really doesn’t.
+ Kennedy quickly hitting on Willow. I love Willow’s surprised reaction.
+ Andrew actually beginning to look pained about what he did to Jonathan.
+ Xander and Andrew briefly bonding over Wonder Woman.
+ The little conversation between Buffy and Giles outside. Just nice to hear that they still care about and miss each other.
+ Spike telling the First to “get bent.”
+ Joyce giving a very Angelish Holland Manners-like speech about the nature of evil being inside all of us.
+ Spike not budging one bit for the First. Buffy’s faith in him is his strength.
– I wish that Buffy had told the Potentials the whole story about her fight with the Ubervamp. Something like, “I did stake it right in the heart, but it didn’t dust. It’s still not happy about sunlight though.” More communication is needed.