Buffy, “Empty Places”

World to Buffy: Get over yourself.

By Sarah Kuhn
April 30, 2003

Hey, UPN? Old buddy, old pal? Could you please stop blaring that Michelle Branch “song” over your promos for the last few Buffys? I know she sang it in that one episode and there was a montage and everything, but hearing it over and over and over again makes me want to stab myself in the eye repeatedly with whatever stick-like object that happens to be lying around at the time, thereby proving that there are certain things that are not preferable to a sharp stick in the eye. I mean, OK, yeah, at least you don’t play the part where she pronounces the word “soul” like “sooooolllllll-uhhhhhhhhh,” but still. I’m going to look like Xander any day now.

Now about the episode… People are leaving Sunnydale — even Clem, who takes off in a very new looking red VW (bye Clem! Sniff…). For some reason, Buffy decides to go visit the abandoned school, where she tussles again with Preacher Mal. Meanwhile, Faith decides the Slayerettes need to blow off some steam, and takes them dancing at the Bronze (re-enactment of the “Faith surrounded by a bunch of guys” scene from “Bad Girls” included!). Schoolmarm Buffy gets all pissy about this, confronts Faith and socks her in the eye. In the end, the Slayerettes and the Scoobies have an intervention wherein they tell Buffy to get over herself and kick her out, electing Faith as their new leader. Oh, and Xander considers a pirate eye patch. (Insert “arrr!” or Johnny Depp joke here.)

Over the course of this season, we’ve witnessed Buffy losing bits and pieces of her humanity, using her Chosen One swagger as an excuse. “I’m going to kill Anya because it NEEDS TO BE DONE.” “Let’s go ambush Caleb even though it’s obviously a trap because it NEEDS TO BE DONE.” “I’m going to wear a black bra under a white shirt because it NEEDS TO BE DONE.” I’m not sure if I completely get where all of this is coming from — is it the fact that we’re dealing with such a huge evil? Is Buff’s need to be strong and stalwart simply out of control? Is she being driven slowly batty by the screechy nattering of the Slayerettes? Whatever it is, I’ve longed for First Season Cordelia to somehow pop out of the woodwork and say, with fine bitch-diva inflection, “What’s your childhood trauma?”

Which, I guess, is essentially what the Scoobs and the Slayerettes say to her in the climactic final scene, and I hope it’s not wrong to feel the tiniest bit of joy that I so often do whenever someone tells Buffy to get over herself. Harsh as it is, I like the way this scene plays out, with Buffy attempting for the umpteenth time this season to do some self-righteous speechifying and then the Scoobs slowly stepping up to question her. Dawn kicking her out is a frighteningly intense moment and the following scene between Buff and Faith broke my heart a little. That said, I still feel like I’m missing a piece of the Buffy’s Motivation puzzle. Maybe I’ll find it when I watch this season in reruns.

Oh, and speaking of Faith, I’m enjoying her development. It’s nice to see a sense of caution here and there, and it’s an interesting little flip to see this bad girl Slayer as the voice of reason. As I’ve said before, the relationship between her and Buff has always been one of my favorites, and it’s nice to see her worry about her formerly sunny counterpart. I am, however, wondering why she couldn’t take out that posse of cops with one hand tied behind her back.

All that said, the two of the best moments in this ep come from a couple of pairings, one vintage and one inspired. The former is Willow and Xander’s tender bedside scene, which gently capitalizes on the W/X friendship and milks it for both humor and melancholy. The latter is Spike and Andrew, who are sent out on a mission together and discover a mysterious plaque that may hold a very important clue. Their discussion of the Awesome Blossom adds a welcome dash of humor to the ep, and hey…I’m a sucker for the Awesome Blossom.

Also, for those who are wondering, yes, that’s Nerf Herder (the band that does Buffy‘s theme song) playing at the Bronze. And they sound way better than Michelle Branch.