Sunday, August 5, 2012

Buffy Blog: "Out of My Mind"

Many of the Scoobies appear to be, literally out of their minds in the appropriately titled “Out of My Mind”, the first episode written for Buffy by Rebecca Rand Kirshner and directed by one of Buffy’s veteran directors David Grossman. It is this out of mindedness that appears to be the Buffy monster of the week.

“Out of My Mind” is primarily a character arc driven episode of Buffy moving along, as it does, the character arcs of most of our Scoobies during its 43 or so minutes. Joyce, while getting breakfast for Dawn, drops a plate, looks at Dawn and asks her, “who are you”. Is she out of her mind? After Joyce collapses she is rushed to the hospital where an intern, Ben, tells Buffy that Joyce’s fainting spell could have been, according to the doctors, a “dizzy spell, low blood sugar, that sort of thing.” Out of body?

Riley, hunting demons in Buffy’s “sector and interfering with her very First Slayer like hunt and kill, is hyperwired and superstrong, out of his body, and out of his mind, still feeling that “The Replacement” moment that Buffy is growing ever more distant from him, a fear symbolised by the exasperated look Buffy gives Spike, who too has shown up to hunt when Riley says that Spike shouldn’t be out patrolling, a Spike who realizes, thanks to this look, that neither he nor boy Riley are really welcome in Slayer territory. Riley also has, as Dawn discovers while playing with a stethoscope at the hospital while her mom is being taken treated for her sudden collapse, a very very fast heartbeat. Riley’s “tachycardia” turns out to be a consequence of the “chemicals and crap”, as Graham says, Walsh pumped into the soldiers of the Initiative, Riley, of course, included. Buffy, worried about Riley and thanks to a suggestion from sister Dawn, gets in touch with the Initiative through Riley’s tapped phone—we see his apartment for the first time in “Out of my Mind”—and after some tense moments, tense moments during which Riley is missing—he retreats to the womb like caves of the Initiative where he once felt safe and useful—tense moments, after Buffy has found Riley in the cave, which give us a glimpse into Riley’s inner fears, fears that if he is no longer super strong like Buffy, the Buffster won’t want him. Eventually Buffy takes Riley to a doctor who is working with the Initiative to fix the problems Walsh’s chemicals and stuff created and after still more tense moments with Riley hurting, he is cured. Is Riley’s hyper fast beating heart a metaphor for the problems of the heart Riley is suffering?

Buffy seems to be out of her mind and out of her body, as she has been since “Buffy vs. Dracula”, with hunting and killing, a hunting and killing that has moved to more intense and more athletic levels in season five. She is worried, if not obsessively so, yet, with Joyce’s fainting spell. And she is worried about Riley’s health making sure he gets the medical help he needs from the Initiative. In the womb like cave into which Riley has retreated Buffy does try to assure Riley that she loves him and needs him and that she has opened herself to Riley in ways she never has to anyone else. And while Buffy may believe what she says I am not sure Riley does.

Harmony is out of her mind with fear that her “arch-nemesis” Buffy is hunting for her so the Slayer can kill her. She returns to one of her old obsessions, one that no longer seems to obsess her any more, Spike, to seek protection from the Buffster. Perhaps Harmony is a changed person.

Spike continues to be out of his mind (he is watching Dawson's Creek after all when the episode begins) with getting that emasculating chip out of his grain, out of his body. With Harmony’s help he kidnaps the doctor who is working with the Initiative and who is waiting to operate on Riley, and forces him to take the chip out of his head. Well not really. When Buffy and Riley find Spike and Harmony in the medical school—Sunnydale has a medical school?—Spike, in full I am going to kill you Slayer mode engages Buffy in fight learning, thanks to that old pesky splitting head pain, that the chip is still in his brain. Spike continues to be obsessed with the Slayer. After Buffy asks Riley if he wants to go back and kill Spike for fun in the teaser Spike says to himself and to us viewers, of course, that “I will know your blood, Slayer. I will make your neck my chalice and drink deep”, right before he, in patented Buffy undercuts intense drama with humour fashion, falls into an “empty grave”. Spike’s obsession with the Slayer takes a rather surprising turn in act four, well perhaps not so surprising if you have been watching Buffy since, as we know from the Xander and Cordelia relationship of season two, nasty sniping can be of the hatred attracts opposites variety, has a dream in which he kisses Buffy and wakes up from this “terror” saying “God, no. Please no.” So Spike’s obsession with killing the Slayer is lust? Love?

Willow’s magicks continue to grow in power and Willow is relying more and more on her magicks. Is it only me or did Tara seem a bit concerned over Willow’s increasing magical powers and her increasing reliance on magicks to make things easier?

Giles, Xander, Anya, and Tara seem to be fully in their minds and in their bodies. Giles is still getting the Magic Box ready for its grand re-opening. Xander is helping Giles prepare for the opening by putting his carpentry skills to work building a display shelves for the store. In the shooting script Xander makes mention of two other carpenters, Harrison Ford and Christ. Giles and Xander, with a little help from Riley, have “set up with all sorts of training apparatuses: gymnastics equipment; various bulls-eye targets; straw dummies; exotic weaponry etc.” Buffy’s Slayer training gym in the back room of the Magic Box. Xander and Anya, using the old I have a friend who metaphorical strategy, express comfort with their relationship.

“What’s to come”? “Out of My Mind” moves and may be moving, if very subtly, several season five arcs along arc along. By the end of “Out of My Mind” it is unclear where Buffy’s and Riley’s relationship is going. Buffy does seem to distance herself from Riley. It is unclear where Willow’s increasing reliance on magicks that are better than “using a flashlight like some kind of doofus” is going. It is unclear what is going on with Joyce. Last week in “The Replacement” she had a headache and a pained look on her face, this week she drops a plate, shades of “Surprise”/“Innocence”, and faints. And it is unclear where Spikes hate/love/hate/love obsession with the Buffster is going. I assume season five will tell?

The Chorus. “Out of My Mind” may not be among my favourite episodes of Buffy but it does what it sets out to do. It moves several character arcs along and sets up several character arcs that presumably are to come.

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