Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “The Dark Age" Review (2x08)

Brief Synopsis: “The secrets of Giles' dark past come back to haunt him when an old friend turns up dead in Sunnydale. As a troubled youth, Giles (known then as "Ripper") and his friends summoned a demon called Eyghon, The Sleepwalker. Now, Eyghon has returned and is hunting down the people who used to raise him for their amusement. The only two left are Ethan Rayne...and Rupert Giles.”

"Lie To Me" (2x07) quick link here                                                    "What's My Line Part One & Two" (2x09 & 2x10) quick link here

Two quick notes before we get started...

1)    I will be reviewing the episodes in bullet point form. This is because it makes the reviews simple to read, and helps break up the text.
2)    If you are watching the show for the first time along with these reviews, please be warned that there may be a few spoilers for things that haven’t happened yet.

With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

This is the first Giles-centric episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. In essence, it’s an exploration of Giles’ past before he moved to Sunnydale. I was very surprised to see that Giles’ backstory was explained so quickly after the events at the end of “Halloween”. It’s the exact opposite of the Tara-thinks-she’s-a-demon story in season four/five, which took almost an entire season to explain why Tara didn’t do the demon-locator spell with Willow.
Eyghon being inside Deidre (giggity) is so damn creepy. Seriously! I first saw this episode when I was nine years old (at night) and the opening scene terrified me. I mean terrified me!
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Eyghon sounds like “I gone”. That’s what this episode is about; how Giles’ previous actions are completely different to the man that the Scoobies have grown to know and love.
Giles: “I know music! Music has notes! This is noise!”

I could genuinely listen to Giles’ dry, sarcastic English humour all day. Plus, Giles is right! That din that Buffy was listening to was not music. Someone needs to make a “Giles has a grumpy rant” compilation video. Please?  “ work on your muscle tone while my brain dribbles out through my ears” can also be added to the video. Giles makes me so proud to be English.

There’s a Gavin Rossdale reference in this episode. Is anyone else a massive fan of “Bush” (keep your minds out of the gutter, people. I meant the band!)? He later goes on to sing “Out Of This World” in the Buffy season six episode  “Dead Things” (The amazing scene where Buffy and Spike are either side of Spike’s crypt).
Jenny: “I’m lying Rupert. The Book’s fine...I just love to see you squirm.”
Oh Jenny, you big TV-14 tease.

I’m not sure if this is a popular opinion or not, but I love Giles and Jenny together. It’s nice to see Giles in a happy relationship with someone. Up until recently, Giles has (as far as we’re aware) spent all of his time in Sunnydale alone, except when he’s with the Scoobies. That must have been a brutally lonely existence. Giles finally has someone. Of course, this means that Joss will tear them apart instantly, as happiness isn’t allowed on a Joss show for more than half an episode.
There is a sixteen year age-gap between Anthony Head and Robia LaMorte. I’ve never really noticed it before. It doesn’t look like that much. I’m not sure why though. Robia is 27 here...she looks older than 27. That might be why. However, Robia is 43 now and doesn’t look a day older than she did on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”.
Cordelia: “I didn’t think it was important.”
  Xander: “We understand, it wasn’t about you.”

This is the first episode that I sensed a certain amount of attraction and chemistry between Xander and Cordy! When you really think about it though, it’s been building for a long time. Joss Whedon has stated that it was all a big coincidence that Cordelia and Xander’s history worked perfectly into their relationship. Xander and Cordelia’s relationship wasn’t planned out. It wasn’t decided that they would start dating until the “What’s My Line Part One” script. Exchanges such as the one above, and the one below, weren’t included because a relationship was looming, but after they start dating, every interaction they’ve had before it makes sense! The constant arguing, the constant’s that weird young male mentality of ‘I like her, so I’m going to be mean to her’. That’s true, by the way. We do that. I have no idea why we do, but we do. How is being mean to someone going to help?...

Xander: “That’s it! Twelve years of you and I’m snapping! I don’t care if you’re a girl or not, I’m throwin’ down! Come on!”
Cordelia: “I’ve seen you fight, and don’t think I can’t take you.”
Xander: “Give it your best shot.”

I am so happy to have Ethan Rayne back in the Buffyverse! Especially so soon after “Halloween”. After just one episode, Ethan had made an impression that few guest actors had done at that point. The fact that Robin Sachs has (had...*sad face*) such a hypnotic voice certainly didn’t hurt his chances of being memorable.
How funny would it be if Cordy’s theory that Giles is called “Ripper” due to his hair-pulling turned out to be true? We never actually find out how Giles earned that nickname, so until told otherwise, I’m considering Cordelia’s theory to be canon, as it makes me exuberant. At the ‘Hallowhedon 5’ convention I attended (full review is here), Jane Espenson and K. Todd Freeman took part in a commentary for “Band Candy”. In that episode, a teenage-acting Giles says he wants to go out and “tear things up”. Jane Espenson says that was her idea about how Giles earned the nickname ‘Ripper’. In her mind that was Giles’ catchphrase during the ‘Ripper’ years.
Xander: “Okay, Giles and orgies in the same sentence....I could have lived without that one.”

Jenny being possessed by Eyghon was a great addition to the episode. His past actions have come back to destroy his current relationship in the most uncomfortable way possible. I find it highly disturbing that Eyghon-Jenny was flirting with Giles. It  was trying to get Giles to sleep with her (it?)! I really dislike these mind-rape stories because they’re so disturbing.
The part where Jenny’s voice changes to Eyghon (“Under your skin....”) is superb. I’ve always found it memorable.
I love hearing about Giles’ past. Probably more so than any characters in the Buffyverse except Angel and Spike. Giles has always been the dependable Scooby. He’s always been shown as a character who is so in control of his own life. He’s highly organised, very focused, very intelligent, and thus far into the series he’s been played as a character who is (dare I say it) a little mundane. In the first 20 episodes of the show, Giles has been intentionally shown as a character that is a little boring in his social life. He loves reading, he loves tea, and he loves research. This episode explains why Giles is like that! Giles enjoys a quiet social life and would rather spend a night in reading a good book than being out in the world partying because he was partly responsible for killing a human. Let that statement sink in for a minute. Giles was partially responsible for the death of his friend Randall. In just three episodes’ time, Buffy thinks that she’s killed Ted (who we all think is human), and the show plays it as the most shocking, horrid thing to ever happen. Ted turns out not to be human...but Randall was. I don’t think we should gloss over this fact at all, as it helps shape so much of Giles’ life and personality. If Randall hadn’t died, would Giles have continued to rebel against being a Watcher? If that’s true, he’d have never arrived in Sunnydale? Would he and Ethan still be friends if Randall hadn’t died? In a lot of ways Giles’ guilt over Randall’s death is the most important thing that ever happened to his life. It certainly changed Giles’ behaviour forever. It robbed him of his innocence. It’s a twisted irony that we get to see how Giles was robbed of his innocence, when in just 6 episodes’ time, there is an episode called “Innocence” that explores Buffy losing hers.

It’s such a nice change of pace to see Giles so chaotic in this episode. Like I said above, Giles is usually so calm. He’s the one who knows everything; he’s the one who solves everything. When Jenny gets possessed, Giles falls apart. He can’t think of anything to save Jenny because he’s too emotionally invested in the situation to think straight. Luckily, his protégé, Willow, comes up with the solution for him.
DON’T WALK IN FRONT OF ETHAN, BUFFY! IT’S SO OBVIOUS THAT HE WAS GOING TO HIT YOU! Sometimes she’s so naive that I want to throw things at the television. Where are your Slayer instincts?!
It is not lost on me how much the mark of Eyghon looks like the Dark Mark from Harry Potter. I always suspected Giles was a Death Eater in his youth...
Cordy tells Xander that he needs a year’s supply of acne cream...he doesn’t even have acne! I don’t think I’ve seen a single spot on his face for the entire run of the show. Cordy is being mean for the sake of being that what females do to show attraction to males as well?!
Angry Willow is back! We only had to wait three episodes since she yelled at Giles and Angel in “Reptile Boy”. Angry Willow is always, always welcome. I get such joy in Willow yelling at Xander and Cordelia, and telling them to get out of her library.
The green glow around Eyghon as it approaches the shop that Ethan is in is simply terrible. It’s so cheesy! Not that cool X-Files type of cheese, either. Why is Eyghon glowing green? Is Eyghon suddenly radioactive?

At this point in the episode, I was caught up in the story. I was wondering “How are they going to get around Eyghon possessing Jenny without Jenny getting killed off?” I didn’t think of the demon inside Angel at all! It was a really clever way of resolving the plot, whilst still keeping a certain sense of realism to the story. Whoever came up with that idea is a genius. Does this count as Angelus doing some good? He did destroy Eyghon and save Jenny.
Poor Giles. His past comes back to bite him in the ass and makes things awkward with Jenny. Not the best episode for Ripper. Even now, all these years later, Giles’ past actions are still haunting his life. I would like to point out that Jenny is a total hypocrite for being upset with Giles about not being honest about his past. She’s doing the exact same thing, as we find out in “Surprise”.
How the hell could Buffy afford tattoo removal from just her allowance?! How much money does Joyce give her?!
I appreciated the adorable scene between Giles and Buffy to close out the episode. That’s two cute Buffy-Giles endings in a row. I think this episode is instrumental in the development of Buffy and Giles’ relationship. Buffy realises in this episode that Giles and herself have a lot in common. It makes Giles more relatable and human in Buffy’s eyes. They both come from a background of having a destiny they can’t escape, they both rebelled against that destiny, and neither of them seems capable of holding onto a stable relationship. Buffy can see what her future could hold if she doesn’t remain in control of her life and emotions. On the other side of the coin, Giles gets to appreciate what a terrible position Buffy is in. Giles sees things through Buffy’s eyes more clearly than ever because it’s his life that is getting destroyed and complicated for once. Buffy is constantly having to juggle two lives, whilst being a teenager and trying to save the world.

Giles:  “Baycity Rollers, that’s music”
  Buffy: “I didn’t hear that.”

The perfect ending to such an intense episode. With this being such an intense, dark episode, and the fact that “Lie To Me” had a rather depressing ending, this episode really needed something a little humorous and light-hearted to end on.
To conclude, this episode held up really well. It’s one of those odd episodes that gets better and better every time I watch it. I’m not sure why it gets better, but I just enjoy it more. Perhaps it’s because the older I get (I’m 24 now), the more I can relate to Giles. This episode did a good job of exploring Giles’ backstory. However, this episode is far from perfect. The execution can be distractingly cheesy at times (I’m looking at you, green glowy light and Giles’ flashback dreams), and the pacing of the episode leaves a lot to be desired. These imperfections are only a minor detail though. The important parts of this episode are Giles’ backstory, Giles and Jenny’s relationship, and Giles and Buffy’s relationship. All three of those elements were executed well.

Quote Of The Episode

Xander: “Yup. I knew this would happen. Nobody can be wound as straight and
narrow as Giles without a dark side erupting. My Uncle Rory was the stodgiest taxidermist you ever met by day, by night it was booze and whores and fur flying... were there any whores?”

Buffy: “He was alone.”

Xander: “Give it time.”

...did anyone else just go to a scary visual place? Giles, booze, whores, and fur-flying. Like an upper-class librarian version of Fifty Shades Of Grey.


So what are your thoughts on "The Dark Age"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!


  1. First of all, after watching this: , it kinda makes a clear image of what a booze, whores and flur-flying Giles would be lol.

    About the epidode it's one of my favorite backstories in the show, I didn't even remember the demon thing going on until I read your review, what I will always remember is Giles past, cause as you said, he's the most reliable and responsible character along with Joyce, and I think it was brilliant to give him a more rebellious youth, that side of him that made him who he is in the present. Sometimes it takes one to make some bad moves and bad choices to realize you have to be more responsible and straight with your life.
    Also I think it's really good for the Scoobies to know about this so that they can relate with him a little and understand that all the advice he gives them comes from a more experienced point of view.
    Good review as always, Shangel! :)

  2. Was definitely a great episodes in terms of fans getting more insight into Giles. You realised he wasn't just a boring old sod ;)

  3. I think Lie to Me and The Dark Age are the best in describing and probing the most important relationship of BTVS, Buffy and Giles. In LTM, the end at least how Buffy's best friend from her past has betrayed her in the worst way and she turns to Giles for emotional healing (after solving the issue herself) and reassurance that the world is a safe place emotionally. She repeats these lessons audibly when she states in later seasons: "The hardest thing to do in this world is live in it." and other notable quotes. The Dark Age's underlying theme was that parents are people too. Giles had a shady, albeit supernatural like past when he was younger. He also made mistakes and wasn't always the calm and adult tweed wearing man he is now. The best thing about BTVS is it's character development. I loved the fact that he fell apart after learning Jenny was possessed whereas with anyone else even a Scoobie member he would have thrown himself into research in order to try to save them

  4. Pretty much my post from last night, that never posted: You're only 24!!! Holy moly - how do you do all that you do?? Do you sleep? At all. Wait, you had your sleep removed didn't you?
    Really feel for Giles here, It's nice to get some Giles backstory.
    Loved this ep - that voice coming out of Jenny - eek!!
    Oh and "canon" what does that mean - haven't really heard it before.
    Tash McInnes

    1. Hi Tash! found out my secret :P

      "canon" is a term used to describe 'real' events. For example, the Buffy season eight comics, as they have involvement from Joss Whedon, are canon. However, some of the other comics (usually ones that don't have input or approval from Joss Whedon), aren't canon. They're not a part of the 'real' timeline. They're just, in essence, high-quality fan fiction :P. So above, I'm pretending that Cordy's theory about how Giles earned the nickname 'Ripper' to be genuine fact, even though it's never proven to be true.

      - Shangel

  5. Nine years old and watching Buffy! That's impressive. I think I was around that age when I started watching it, but I watched it a little backwards. I think I saw the last two or three seasons first, then later on saw the earlier ones. I love Buffy so much! :) I agree with you that Eyghon inside Deidre (giggity comment awesome here) was very, very creepy, even though I'm not a youngster anymore!

    Awesome job with the review though! You definitely produce a great read :)

  6. Well, when this ep. first aired my daughter was 7 and I was 42. Quality TV appeals to quality viewers at any age. Actually when she was 9 was when she gave up on the show, sending me out of the palyroom and back to the living rom and my future ex's real-life trauma shows.
    Adding hypocrisy to another sin is standard for TV, ergo Jenny.
    I actually liked Olivia, and was opriginally having Giles mend fences with her in my Children Of the Dale futurefics, but I liekd Jenny too and when I had to resurrect the rest of my cast I brought her along.

    Buffy does specify she's been saving up for a while for a designer outfit, so the finaces are *supposed to be* relaistic. Now, expenses like that the Council or Giles *should* cover. D'C'A'