Sunday, 22 December 2013

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "I Only Have Eyes For You" Review (2x19)

Brief Synopsis: “As the Sadie Hawkins dance nears, Buffy faces inner demons as she feels responsible for Angel losing his soul. Meanwhile, Sunnydale High is even more dangerous than usual as students and staff begin spontaneously reliving an old Sunnydale tragedy.”

"Killed By Death" (2x18) quick link here                                                                                                  "Go Fish" (2x20) 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? 

“I Only Have Eyes For You”, simply, is a masterpiece. The unique thing about this episode for me is that I didn’t overly care for it in my teenage years. When I first saw this episode (at nine years old), I found it to be entirely average. I think a lot of the subtleties and intricate plot points of this episode were lost on me for many years. However, for the past 5 years or so (I’m 24 now), I’ve grown to truly love this episode. Everything about it works. Everything. From the beautiful scene that gets acted out four different times (the last of which being Angel(us) and Buffy), to the James and Grace backstory, to Giles finally getting a little bit of acceptance over Jenny’s death, to the brilliant special effects and flawless acting by everybody in this all works. When I think of the most underrated episodes of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” amongst the fandom in general, this episode and “Ted” are usually right at the top of that list.
This episode also holds a significant point in time for a different reason. This is the episode where the seeds of an Angel spin-off were first planted in Joss Whedon’s mind.
Splendid – “Charge” plays at The Bronze! My love of this song knows no bounds!
Willow’s overexcitement and sheer joy at making  the students laugh while teaching her class deserves its own bullet point.
Willow giving Giles the rose quartz was a very nice touch. This episode is the first one that really looks at Giles dealing with Jenny’s death. I think he goes through stages 3-5 of grief during this episode. He already had denial and anger in “Passion”, and in “I Only Have Eyes For You” he reached bargaining (convincing himself that the poltergeist is Jenny), depression (go and look at his face when he realises that it’s not Jenny and that she’s really gone), and finally some form of acceptance by the end of the episode. I’m so glad that the show explored Giles’ reaction to Jenny’s death so openly! I get infuriated with so many shows after someone dies because by the next episode, everyone is happy again and has moved on! What a load of crap that is! Speaking from the experience of losing my two closest friends, you never really get over all of that heartache and loss. It took me years to start to deal with it. Plus, Jenny was dead in Giles’ bed! He should still be having problems letting go.

“He’s so dreamy”. Does anyone ever use ‘dreamy’ in that context? Ever?! It might be the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard this show produce...and after you’ve seen season one, you’ll know that it’s quite the feat to be able to boast that.
Creepiest moment of the episode: That mummified arm reaching out of Xander’s locker and attacking him. I was not expecting that at all!
Go Giles! Tackling that gun-wielding janitor and everything...very manly of you, Ripper.
It’s realistic that Giles would think that Jenny is the poltergeist. Firstly, Jenny died on Sunnydale High grounds under very disturbing conditions. More importantly than that, Giles is clinging to hope, to anything that could mean that Jenny hasn’t left him forever. He’s not ready to leave Jenny behind yet. He misses her. The idea of an angry Jenny-poltergeist that is possessing people is a more comforting one than the idea that Jenny is truly gone.
I know James is a murderer, but Buffy’s harsh on him when she’s talking about him to the Scoobies. It’s obvious before the re-enactment later that there are some major parallels between Buffy/Angel and Grace/James, which is making Buffy act more irrational than she usually would. 

Loved all those snakes appearing in the cafeteria! I need to take a minute to say how consistently enjoyable season two has been since “Halloween” (episode six)! Every single episode has given us something to hold onto. Every episode (bar “Bad Eggs”) has told a coherent plot, been well written, challenged the audience, and allowed the Scoobies to grow as characters. It’s such a huge step up from season one.
This episode is the very first one to mention The Mayor. A little foreshadowing for season three! I believe that Joss had decided by this point that The Mayor was going to be the ‘Big Bad’ of season three.
I think I’m starting to see why ‘Sunnydale Syndrome’ (a phrase I created for when everybody in Sunnydale forgets anything supernatural that they’ve seen) is so overwhelming in Sunnydale. The Mayor, Snyder, and half the authorities seem to know about the existence of the big government conspiracy! It makes the Initiative in season four look much more realistic.
The scene where Angelus is teasing Spike and flirting with Drusilla (very seductively, might I add) is the scene which tips Spike over the edge. This is the scene where Spike decides once and for all that he wants Angelus gone and dead, which leads to him going to Buffy for help in “Becoming Part One”.
“I shall confront and expel all evil. Out of marrow and bone, out of house and home, never to come here again.” Love it! Love that entire incantation. The visual effects of splitting the four Scoobies into separate locations works superbly well.

“To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it; it’s done because they need it.”

The look of sadness on Giles’ face as he says this is brutal to watch. He looks like he has so much to say to Buffy on the subject, but is keeping it all inside. “I Only Have Eyes For You” is one of those rare episodes that works as both a standalone episode and an episode that holds significance for the season arc. If season two was a play, “Surprise”/Innocence” would be Act I, “Passion” would be Act II, and “I Only Have Eyes For You” would be Act III. Buffy’s journey in this episode is what finally prepares her for facing Angelus in “Becoming Part Two”.

Buffy doesn’t feel like James deserves to be forgiven for what he’s done, but that’s exactly what James needs to move on. Buffy doesn’t think James deserves it, much like Buffy hasn’t forgiven herself for sleeping with Angel (resulting in Angel losing his soul). If Buffy were able to forgive James here, maybe she’d finally be able to start forgiving herself. She’s not ready for that yet. She thinks that she still deserves to be punished for her actions. Giles seems to be the only one who is susceptible enough to pick up on this. When Giles is telling Buffy that James needs to be forgiven, he’s also telling Buffy that she needs to forgive herself. It’s a wonderful parallel to what Giles tells Buffy in his car at the end of “Innocence”. What happened to Angel wasn’t Buffy’s fault. All she did was have sex with someone who she loved. That’s exactly why the Buffy-James and Angel-Grace scene is so moving! James finally gets forgiveness from Grace because Grace has possessed Angel who cannot be killed by gunfire or falling off a building.

What Grace says to James is just as relevant to Buffy and Angel’s journey after the conclusion of “Surprise” as it is to Grace and James...

Grace (Angel): “Don’t do this.”

James (Buffy): “Grace? But I...I killed you.”

Grace (Angel): “It’s not your fault. It was an accident.”

I love the gender-switching with Buffy playing James and Angel(us) playing Grace. James latches onto Buffy because she’s the only person that James can really identify with. As mentioned before, this scene is where Joss envisioned Angel getting his own spin-off show for the first time. David did such a convincing job of playing Grace, and his character has so much potential and backstory, that Joss decided that at the end of season three Angel would walk off into the sunset (metaphorically speaking) and start a new life of brooding by himself.
Speaking of that scene, how similar is it to the scene where Angel breaks up with Buffy in “The Prom”?! I’ve never noticed that until now! All that talk about wanting her to have a normal life, lying about no longer loving her, etc. I doubt it was intentional foreshadowing at that point, but it works fantastically well as a prelude to season three. James and Grace’s relationship is just like Buffy and Angel’s relationship! James and Buffy are the younger member of the relationship. They both see through the eyes of love and nothing more. They are both desperate for the relationship to work out, and they want nothing more in life than to be with their significant other – “I don't give a damn about a normal life. I'm going crazy not seeing you. I think about you every minute.” Aww, sweet angst. Grace and Angel are the older, more responsible members of  the couple. They’re both cautious about diving into the relationship. They both know that there will be huge obstacles to make the relationship work. THIS EPISODE IS A GOD DAMN MASTERPIECE! The parallels between these two couples aren’t a coincidence.
David and Sarah’s acting during that scene is arguably the best that we’ve seen from either of them thus far. Sarah’s desperation and David’s “I’m doing something I don’t want to do for the greater good” acting is terrific.
Just when you think that this episode has reached its quota on drama, Spike stands up out of his wheelchair! SPIKE IS BACK TO FULL HEALTH (almost)! What’s going to happen now? Is Spike going to turn on Angelus and Drusilla? Very good cliffhanger to end the episode.

Quote Of The Episode

Spike:” You might want to let up. They say when you've drawn blood, you've exfoliated. “

Angelus: “What do you know about it? I'm the one who was friggin' violated. You didn't have this thing in you.”

Drusilla: “What was it? A demon?”

Angelus: “Love!”

Drusilla: “Poor Angel.”

In an episode filled with so much beautiful dialogue, so much drama, and so many memorable lines, I find myself desperately clutching to some humour. Nothing wrong with a little bit of Spike sarcasm to diffuse all of this emotion and tension. I’ve often found  that the Spike-Angel(us) dynamic is one of the best things about “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season two and “Angel” season five.


So what are your thoughts on "I Only Have Eyes For You"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. I absolutely loved this episode Myself!
    Whilst it isn't in my top 5 ( it is probably at least 7 haha) I loved how it explored Giles finally coming to terms with Jenny's death (as you mentioned) he in my view got the chance to say goodbye/get closure this episode.

    As you mentioned the major theme of this episode is forgiveness; whilst Grace and James were minor characters, their relationship was obviously a parallel to Buffy and Angel(us) relationship as we view later on in the episode. Buffy definitely needed to forgive herself for "giving herself" to Angel, I mean, what is the crime in sleeping with someone you love???
    I believe she finally does in this episode (especially after the spirit's of James and Grace invade Buffy and Angelus's bodies respectively and they then act out their scenario). She now accepts that she is ready to kill Angelus, WHICH IS A HUGE MOVE!!!

    I did love Spike's witty dialogue in this episode it is what makes him great.

    Top episode 9/10 from me mate :D

  2. *One* of the episodes which makes a solid marriage between this season's overt theme of "The Course Of Love" and the alter theme of "Secrets, Lies, and Hidden Things." (As opposed to merely juxtaposing them like "Reptile Boy" and "inca Mummy Girl.")

  3. The whole Buffy-Angel part at the end was just genius. Sad but genius. I hated the snakes so bad - I'm not a snake fan at all. They just make me shudder.
    I just loved Spike and the wheelchair scene - oh how marvellously awesome it was. Oh Spike, how I love thee!

  4. Angela Aranghelovici1 January 2014 at 13:14

    Finally catching up with your reviews, Shangelcakes! I love this review, the similarities between that scene and the one in The Prom hadn't occured to me either! You make really good points about James & Grace's relationship being like Buffy & Angel's.
    This is one of my very favourite BTVS episodes, like you say it's a masterpiece and I think it's extremely underrated.
    I always think of Waiting in the Wings when I watch this episode, 'cause they're very similar in many ways. And I love that Angel actually references I only have eyes for you in WITW. :)