November 21, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Willow dabbles in darkness, while Buffy gets lucky

”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has two kinds of fans. There are those who can find something of value in even the lamest episode, and there are those who can’t. The latter group fell in love with ”Buffy’s” creative chutzpah, with writing that’s so good that the show transcends its action/horror genre. These fans tend to hold each episode to a higher standard, and are more often disappointed.

The Nov. 20 episode, ”Smashed,” probably pleased only the first kind of fans. Which means that Yes, I hail from the second camp, and Yes, I’m saying that ”Smashed” was lame. There really wasn’t a plot, just a bunch of character moments riffing on the same theme: the allure of the dark side. So we had the return of the villainous geeky trio, whose apparent function is to serve as back-up conflict generators when the writers can’t think of anything better. Yeah, yeah, the freeze ray business and the Boba Fett freak-out was funny, but the whole nerd-mocking thing is getting old. Do something with these guys, already!

Meanwhile, there was Willow, mopey over getting dumped by Tara. Lonely for magical companionship, she turned fellow witch and onetime Buffy nemesis Amy from a rat back into a human being. Up to this point, we’ve been led to suspect that Willow’s flirtation with black magic will ultimately make her into this year’s uber bad guy. But there are rumors that the writers have something else in mind — that Willow is heading into an addiction/recovery storyline. ”Smashed” seemed to be setting up this idea, and in one of the show’s cliffhangers, we left Amy and Willow as they went into the night, searching for more intoxicating adventures.

And then there was Buffy and Spike. Fans were a-twitter two weeks ago when the Slayer and the vampire smooched. They twittered again when they smooched once more last week. This week, ”Buffy” milked a whole episode out of this sexual tension, before culminating in a kick-ass fight sequence that finally led to sex. This development ups the ante in what may be emerging as this season’s core conflict. Because eventually, Buffy will come to her senses and dump Spike, and methinks Spike won’t handle it well. And now that he can hit her again, he can really do something about it.

The revelation that Buffy came back from the dead as less than human (hence, why chip-addled Spike can strike back) was the show’s biggest twist. I just wish it had a better story to showcase it. The writing wasn’t completely to blame. The direction seemed rather flat; there was no sense of urgency to ”Smashed.” In short: lameness. I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s just the kind of fan I am.

type
TV Show
seasons
7
episodes
144
Genre
run date
03/10/97-05/20/03
Status
In Season
Network
Available For Streaming On
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