[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg | Director: David Solomon | Aired: 02/04/2003]
There’s no polite way to put this: “The Killer in Me” doesn’t get much right and is easily the worst episode since “Where the Wild Things Are” [4×18]. The good news is that I think this is going to be the low point of the season. As for this episode, though, oh where do I begin? There’s tone problems, pacing problems, and plotting problems all over the place. I think there’s something worth exploring somewhere inside here, but that vision is far too muddy to make any sense of it. I take it you probably want some more specifics though, right? Well, okay, but just this time…
Before I dig into my many problems with this episode, let me just say that the moment when Willow and Kennedy kiss only to have Warren say “well, that was nice,” is so insane that I can’t help but laugh. Poor, poor Kennedy did not deserve that! Also, a lot of the early scenes with Willow as Warren are tapped quite nicely for their inherent comical possibilities, with a particularly inspired moment involving Andrew — always extremely fond of Warren — grabbing Willow as Warren on the “boobs.” This moment is extremely funny because of how much it plays with everyone. Think about this for a moment: we have Andrew, a sexually confused, likely gay, guy grabbing the boobs of Willow, a lesbian, who has the visage of Warren, the guy Andrew was kind of into. Ahhh!! 🙂
So Spike’s chip is malfunctioning, huh? I suppose this could help explain some of the inconsistencies with it not firing off lately. My problem with this is simply that it wasn’t made clear in previous episodes. This major of a change in Spike really should have been plotted much better than it has. I also find it to be a little bit of a stretch that Spike is just now having extreme pain in his head — this feels a little abrupt for me. In general, I love the idea of Spike needing to get his chip removed, and Buffy being the one to make that choice, but the implementation here is sadly lacking in both reason and emotional pull.
As for Willow and Kennedy, I can appreciate that the writers are at least making an effort to address Willow’s past and hesitations about starting a new relationship. But, I have to say, it makes me feel a bit awkward seeing Willow being able to so quickly jump into another relationship, not just because of the circumstances of Tara’s death, but also because Kennedy is simply so not Willow’s type. I, in no way, can see the two of them really sticking it out long term. Tara was an excellent fit for Willow — they complemented each other extremely well. I don’t feel that with Kennedy. The big scene at the end of the episode tries hard to get us to see Willow’s pain in letting go of Tara, all in an effort to convince us she’s now free to start something new with Kennedy. The problem is that I can’t help but feel this whole resolution is far too pat and manufactured. So, while I appreciate the effort, it still ultimately falls flat for me. I don’t feel this episode at all earns what it set out to do.
Unfortunately, the problems with this episode run even deeper than I’ve already mentioned. The attempt to distinctly separate the humor from the drama did not work. Buffy, as a show, works best when it’s able to blend its humor with its drama. This is something “Killer in Me” fails at, badly. We have a funny scene one moment, and then uninteresting drama the next. The episode is so split between its plot threads that it doesn’t amount to anything engaging. Buffy and Spike going back down into the Initiative, and having people still be there is also pretty darn ridiculous.
On the Willow thread, we see Alyson Hannigan and Adam Busch as Willow, but it switches between the two actors so frequently that what’s left is just a bunch of uninteresting mush. It’s like they didn’t trust Adam to pull off a good Willow for a very long period of time. Then there’s the completely unnecessary shoe-horning of Amy into the story. Why is Amy the one doing this to Willow? Why now? Why is this the last time we see Amy? Why didn’t the writers make much better use of Amy after mid-S6? Why am I so bored by all this? Then there’s the abrupt “resolution” to the worry that Giles is the First. When we find out that he’s not, it only makes us feel cheated and mislead rather than relieved. Why’d they even go there if all they had planned is a cheap gag?
Altogether, this is honestly a complete mess of an episode. It started out alright, with some decent intentions and a bit of humor, but it quickly devolved into nonsense. Sadly, this episode really doesn’t even feel like a Buffy episode. If there’s one moment where I agree with all the complaints leveled at S7, it’s with this episode. While I’ll give it due props for at least trying to do something, it ultimately doesn’t succeed at very much of it.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Buffy teasing Willow about bringing tea to Kennedy.
+ A mention of Willow’s parents — it’s been a while.
+ Spike having brain pain in the background of the scene where Buffy is on the phone with the Initiative.
+ Everyone having fun poking at Willow as Warren while Spike’s brain is exploding in the background.
– The Amy “oops” moment. How is Amy knowing Kennedy is a Potential at all implicating her in doing something to Willow? Just plain sloppy writing.
– The pointless demon down in the Initiative.
– I highly doubt a recent murder suspect would be allowed to just pick up another gun at the same store he bought one at before. The Sunnydale police must still be completely incompetent I guess.