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''Buffy'' intensifies the action for May Sweeps

”Buffy” intensifies the action for May Sweeps. Willow and Tara snuggle, Spike and Buffy tussle, and even more good stuff happens, says Jeff Jensen

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Amber Benson, Alyson Hannigan, ...
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Mitchell Haaseth/UPN

”Buffy” intensifies the action for May Sweeps

If it’s May sweeps, it must be time for ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to take it up a notch and deliver a succession of instant-classic episodes marked by everything there is to love about this show. I’m delighted to report that ”Buffy”’s May 7 outing, ”Seeing Red,” upholds this tradition. Of course, it kicks off the climax of what’s otherwise been a thin season… but hey, better late than never, right?

”Seeing Red” began with wicca lovers Willow and Tara in bed, enjoying the post-coital bliss of last week’s reconciliation. I’ve long argued that the show never did enough to beat out why the once heterosexual Willow would switch teams. But I have to give credit where credit is due: Alyson Hannigan (Willow) and Amber Benson (Tara) have generated genuine chemistry, established intimacy, and brought life to this otherwise arbitrary arc. Alas, as ”Seeing Red” progressed, and as the smooching mounted (”Seeing Red” may have set a broadcast TV record for most girl-on-girl macking), you knew it was going to end in doom for this couple. And it did.

The catalyst for this catastrophe was the denouement of a most laboriously protracted storyline: those nefarious nerds Jonathan, Warren, and Andrew. The trio finished off their acquisition of magical items by purloining two magical orbs that can grant super-strength and invulnerability. (Jonathan got the trio’s funniest one-liner: ”Mahatma!” — guess you had to be there. It was funny.)

Warren — impotent and vindictive, a really bad combo for a bad guy — was the first to fasten these balls to his belt and became hell-bent on hitting on chicks and beating the snot out of their bullying boyfriends. Finally, Buffy showed up to save the day. The kick she issued to Warren, sending him sailing across the street, was pure violence as catharsis. Alas, Buffy was able to only bring two of the three to justice, as Warren escaped…

”Seeing Red’s” other critical development concerned Spike. The heartbroken vampire sought Buffy out for one last ‘You-know-you-love-me’ confrontation. She said: I can never trust you. He said: Love isn’t about trust, it’s about passion. The argument was officially settled in Buffy’s favor when Spike tried to rape her, a clumsily-edited sequence that had me wondering if it had to be softened because of its too-explicit-for-the family-hour intensity.

A nice follow-up scene saw Spike both overwhelmed by guilt and trying to deny it, questioning not why he tried to rape Buffy but why he didn’t follow through with it. Spike, addled by a chip in his head that short-circuits his evil tendencies, seemed to brainstorm an answer to his not-a-man-yet-not-a-monster identity crisis, and left town on his motorcycle to pursue it.

Then came the finale. Buffy and Xander — angry that she had not told him about her fling with Spike — had just patched things up when Warren showed up. With a gun. He began firing wildly, and two bullets found human targets. One nailed Buffy. The other sailed through a window and blew through Tara’s chest, splattering blood all over Willow’s blouse. The last shot saw Willow howling with rage, her eyes turning blood red with dark magic.

For the first time this season, I can safely say: I can’t wait until next week’s ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

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