[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: David Fury | Director: Michael Grossman | Aired: 01/07/2003]
I’m going to just come out and say it: “Showtime” is a poor episode, and it’s pretty easy to explain why. The first 75% of the episode is pretty much a waste of space. While I very much enjoyed the last act of the episode, involving the big Ubervamp fight, I can’t say as much for very much else in the episode. “Showtime” is yet another very plot-heavy episode, only it’s not nearly as well-written, paced, and structured as “Bring on the Night” [7×10], feeling largely made up of padding to the big showdown. That padding is not even all that entertaining on top of it. While there are a few scenes and some bits and pieces I appreciated, there’s just, sadly, not a lot here.
To begin explaining the problems, I think I’ll start with Eve, who I found to be excessively poorly acted, almost to the point of being cringe-worthy — and I don’t often use that term. A lot of the episode seems built around the First talking its head off while masquerading as a Potential, but the actress casted to play Eve simply cannot handle the part. That’s just where the problems begin, though. Moving onto Giles, I’m still not too happy that he is apparently bankrupt of ideas. He keeps saying he’s exhausted all his leads, but I don’t get a sense of what he actually makes of all this. At the very least Giles could help offer up some tactics or a generic plan of attack for Buffy — just to contribute in some way.
Anya and Giles’ little side adventure with the Beljoxa’s Eye thing is silly from the start, although it does give Giles at least something to do. I mean, after we see Anya and Giles go in this vortex, I have to wonder why Anya was so adament they couldn’t go there. It’s not like they have to suffer years of torture to go talk to the thing. It actually seems pretty simple. Getting the portal open seemed pretty ridiculous too. Any demon just happens to know how to open it? It just takes a little skin, some blood, and a few words? Ugh, this whole thing just feels really sloppy to me.
As for the conversation with the Eye itself, well, it’s a bit over-the-top for one. The thing that probably bugs me more than anything else is that I found the information it had very revelatory and fascinating, but it was never brought up again! I mean, seriously, why even have this sequence in the episode if this very interesting piece of information is never even going to be told to anyone else? This adds an entirely new layer to everything that happened last season, yet it gets pretty much pushed under the rug. This is one of the few times the Buffy staff slipped up on the core stuff that makes the show so great. Stuff like awesome continuity, character follow-through, and emotionally real stories. I badly wanted to see everyone’s reaction to this news, and would have liked to see it play more into the season’s plot.
Adding to my issues with the episode is the Spike scenes with the First. Although I can understand that Spike would be dreaming of seeing Buffy while being tortured, we already know he’s got faith Buffy will save him. All of the scenes with Spike here (except the final one) feel like redundant filler. Why’s the First wasting its time with Spike at this point, anyway? It should really just kill him off if it can’t convert him. I guess as long as the trigger’s working, it can activate him at the ideal moment, but it almost doesn’t seem worth the risk.
On the brighter side of things, the episode gets some well earned points for the big battle with the Ubervamp towards the end. The big Ubervamp fight is a really entertaining spectacle, and I really dig the point Buffy makes about the Potentials’ fear and how to win this war. Her smackdown with the Ubervamp is painful, long, hard, and rough, and that’s precisely what everyone else must be committed to if they want any hope of succeeding moving forward. It’s a thrilling moment when Buffy lops the Ubervamp’s head off. I just wish the rest of the episode held up to the level of excitement of this sequence.
The episode fortunately ends on a touching note, with Buffy saving Spike — she certainly earned it. The acting really made this little moment kind of special. When Spike touches Buffy’s shoulder to prove that she’s real, it also serves as a symbolic gesture in signifying that their bond and belief in each other is real; that together they’re a powerful team.
Overall, “Showtime” is a pretty unsatisfying episode. There is next to no character development, and the focus on plot doesn’t do it any favors. An explosive final act saves it from the episode wasteland, but it sadly doesn’t make it a good episode. The only thing that’s even sadder is the fact that this marks the beginning of a mid-season slump. It’s a big shame both S6 and S7 suffer from this, as both have excellent starts — S7 having one of the best starts in the entire series. All is not lost though! I feel S7 does pick up steam in its final episodes.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Kennedy continuing to hit on Willow; Willow continuing to be offish and unsure.
+ We get Eve in this episode, which is a negative, but to counter-balance her we also get Felicia Day, or Vi! I’d say overall it’s a net win, because Eve doesn’t stay long.
+ The complete control of the Ubervamp that the First has. It very much seems like a vicious animal.
+ Dawn has a real point: “I’m just not sure more scared Slayer wannabes translates as help.”
+ Dawn and Andrew’s conversation. Hilarious.
+ Creepy seeing black-robed Bringers surrounding the house.
+ Kennedy’s continued optimism. I really like how she’s helping Buffy keep the other Potentials from getting too complacent in their worry.
+ Willow having to prep herself for doing a big spell.
+ Kennedy trying to have some fun by saying she’d almost like to see “big bad Willow.” Willow’s response is dead on.
– Telepathy? Really? Couldn’t they just excuse themselves from the room for a private chat?