Friday, April 8, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Anne"

“Anne”, the title of this Joss Whedon written and directed episode, is, as we learn for the first time in this episode, Buffy Summers middle name. Buffy, as you may remember, left Sunnydale at the end of season two when her mother, Joyce, who had discovered that her daughter was the slayer, the chosen one, tells her in a fit of anger not to come back home if she leaves the house to save the world from the apocalypse that Angelus and Dru are trying to bring about. Buffy, of course, does leave the house, does save the world by killing Angel, the man she loves, and does leave that wonderful craftsman house on 1630 Revello Drive in Sunnydale, California.

Buffy is now living in Los Angelus waitressing at a local greasy spoon. She is no longer the Slayer. She doesn’t even react in typical Buffy fashion when one neanderthal man comes on to her and another smacks her arse at the restaurant at which she works. She is no longer Buffy. She is Anne.

Someone, however, knows that Anne is Buffy. Chantarelle, who we last saw in “Lie to Me” early in season two as one of those who “worshiped” vampires, comes into the restaurant at which Anne works. She is with her boyfriend, the boyfriend who takes care of her because, as she says later in the episode, she can’t really take care of herself, Ricky. Chantarelle, now calling herself Lily, asks Anne if she, Lily, knows her. Buffy tells Lily that no you don’t know me. But one can’t help but think that Buffy recognizes “Lily” since she suddenly leaves work claiming she is sick. Lily, as we learn later in “Anne” does recognise Buffy.

“Anne” is a mystery tale. At the centre of the episode is the disappearance of Ricky. After Ricky disappears Lily comes to Buffy for help in finding Ricky. Buffy initially hesitates to come to Lily’s aid. She is no longer the Slayer. Buffy, however, after Lily’s pleas decides to help Lily look for Ricky. Her Slayer instincts are starting to kick back in.

After looking for Ricky at one of those establishments that pay people for their blood (it always seems to be about blood in Buffy) or plasma--the look on Buffy’s face seems to suggest that she doesn’t fully buy the claim of an employee at the blood centre that Ricky hasn’t been there--Buffy finds a dead Ricky in an old decaying building inhabited by LA’s homeless. But the Ricky Buffy finds, the Ricky with the tattoo heart with Lily written in it she saw at the restaurant, is no longer young. He, says Buffy, “looked about eighty”.

Lily, upset at being told that Ricky is dead and blaming Buffy for her boyfriend’s death leaves Buffy’s tiny apartment in a squalid part of Los Angeles. Running into Ken, the dogooder from Family Home who we met earlier when Buffy inadvertently ran into him after saving a man from being hit by a car—Buffy is, as Ken tells her running from something. Ken tells Lily that Ricky is alive and at Family Home.

Taking Lily to Family Home Ken prepares Lily for the “cleansing” of her past (Lily asks Ken if it is “like a baptism”). Buffy, in the meantime, has broken into the blood centre and discovered that Ricky is numbered among the “candidates” in the blood centres files. Candidate for what? Joan, the blood centre employee, gives Buffy the answer. I give “him” the names of the healthy ones (earlier in the episode Ricky tells Lily that they must eat healthy to keep healthy), she tells the Slayer.

“Him”, of course, is Ken. Buffy shows up at Family Home feigning, quite badly, a need to cleanse herself of her sins. Fighting her way past the guards at the door of Family Home Buffy breaks into the room in which Lily is being cleansed. Buffy fights with Ken as Lily is pulled through the “dirty” cleansing pool. Buffy and Ken fall through the same portal during their fight.

Lily and Buffy now find themselves in what they soon learn is a hell dimension. Ken, "Anne's" monster of the week, is a demon who lures those many street people and runaways in LA who chose to lose themselves into his hell dimension. Once there he and his black clad Nazi looking colleagues work these lost people to near death or death.

The hell dimension Buffy and Lily enter against their will is a combination Christian, capitalist, and Nazi hell. The script describes the hell dimension as having more than a little of the Spanish inquisition in it. Workers all wearing the same nondescript garb are used as captive and exploited labour to turn lead into molten lead that runs into vats in this industrial hell dimension where one day is like one hundred years.

Buffy, of course, has no intention of remaining in this Christian capitalist hell dimension for even a day. Our Slayer eventually leads her work group into rebellion (the revolt of the toiling masses) and after battling with the demon guards in this hell, this place with a total absence of hope (note the existentialism here), she and the others escape from this dimension of hopelessness. Other captives, however, are not so fortunate.

This being Buffy “Anne” is not simply an action adventure tale that follows our Slayer as she helps herself and helps others escape from a hell dimension (the first hell dimension, by the way, we see in Buffy). The central themes of “Anne” are, just like Buffy in general, identity and empowerment.

Buffy has left Sunnydale and turned herself into Anne. She is, as Ken notes at one point in the episode, running from something. She is running, among other things, from being a Slayer, the Slayer who she really is.

Chantarelle is also running from something. Chantarelle has turned herself into Lily—she was once Sister Sunshine she tells Buffy at one point in “Anne”—a Lily who has little in the way of an identity—she keeps changing it—and little in the way of an ability to help herself in the absence of her boyfriend Ricky or later Buffy.

Anne and Ricky aren’t the only lost ones in “Anne”. Twice in the episode we hear an elderly man and an elderly woman proclaim that they are “no one” while wandering aimlessly around the streets of Los Angeles.

It is not until Buffy is in the hell dimension that she once again becomes who she is, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a guard prepares to take his slave detail to work he asks each prisoner who they are. The first slave answers with his real name. The guard kills him. Next the guard proceeds to ask all the other slaves who they are. Everyone says "no one" until the guard comes to Buffy. Anne answers the demon’s query with “I’m Buffy the vampire slayer. And you are?” With this Buffy’s rebellion against this industrial and capitalist inquisitory hell begins. With this Anne has once again become Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy’s rebellion, Buffy’s decision to fight, eventually inspires Lily to fight as well. When Ken captures Lily and launches into a speech about what he is going to do to the rebellious Buffy Lily pushes him from the walkway above the work floor and escapes. At the end of the episode Lily, the Lily who has been empowered by Buffy to fight, takes the name Anne, an Anne who is about to embark on a path she hasn’t walked before, a path of self help. The next time we see Anne will be on the Buffy spin off Angel where she will be running a teen shelter in East LA (Angel “Blood Money”).

At the end of “Anne” Buffy, once again the Slayer, returns home. Joyce opens the door and hugs her daughter.

Music: The Buffy/Angel theme makes an appearance as Buffy dreams that she and Angel are on a beautiful beach near, presumably, LA. For me it has a certain romantic quality thanks to that piano. Think romantic piano concerti. Note the over the top romantic music that plays as a Cordy and Xander finally get their love groove back (they have been imaging that each other had affairs during summer vacation and are on the outs) in the middle of “Anne”.

Welcome Back: Larry is briefly seen talking about how if the team can keep sudden mysterious deaths down the football team may be able to achieve the best football season at SHS ever.

Memories: Buffy is still impacted by what she had to do to save the world at the end of season two, kill her love Angel.

Awesome: the scene where Joyce tells Giles she doesn’t blame herself for Buffy’s running away from home (Joyce, of course, actually told her to not come back home if she did her Slayer duty). She tells Giles she blames him. Look at Anthony Stewart-Head’s face as Kristine Sutherland says her lines. Superb acting by Stewart-Head. Superb acting by Kristine Sutherland as well in this scene.

LOL: look at all the students in the library. I have never seen so many SHS students in the SHS Library. Clearly it is the first day of school.

Punning We Really Miss Ye: Love the wonderful scene (and the tease that Willow’s legs might be Buffy’s) as Willow, Xander, and Oz fill in, not very successfully, for Buffy the slayer missing in action during the teaser. And I love that Xander realizes that the Scoobies have taken Buffy’s puns for granted. Puns give Buffy power.

The Happy World of Waitressing: What is it with Buffy and restaurants? She works as a waitress in a greasy spoon in “Anne”. In season six Buffy will get a job at a fast food restaurant (“Doublemeat Palace”).

Leavings and Returnings: “Anne” continues the tradition of Buffy coming and returning to Sunnydale. In “Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest” Buffy comes to Sunnydale for the first time. Between the first season finale “Prophecy Girl” and the second season premiere “When She Was Bad" our Slayer spends her summer with her Dad in LA and returns to Sunnydale just before school begins again. Between the second season finale “Becoming” and the third season premiere episode “Anne” Buffy leaves Sunnydale for LA. At the end of “Anne” she returns home again. The hero’s return?

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