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Once More, With Feeling by Marcus Ferrell of Zentertainment

Whedon has struck gold again in the best and most original episode since last season's "Hush"; one would almost think this was a season premiere or cliffhanger because of what ensues.

A new demon is in town and he turns the people of Sunnydale into the '90s experiment Cop Rock; songs are to be sung and the people of Sunnydale will sing them. The episode begins with a new intro, kind of a neo-40s musical intro, displaying all of our players. Then, after the fade in, Buffy is on patrol in the graveyard and as the vamps attack, she breaks into song about her life. As Buffy dance-fights, the vampires join in a chorus line, and then she frees a Fabio-wannabe, who she ignores. The demon is forcing everyone in Sunnydale to reveal their secrets through song. The lyrics continue to spread to everyone else. Anya and Xander sing an amusing semi-love song, semi-argument. In a later scene, when Buffy visits Spike's tomb, Spike breaks into song and tells Buffy what he had been meaning to all along: get out and stay out until you admit your true feelings. Later, Tara and Giles break into a wonderful duet about how they must move on and let their respective loves (Buffy and Willow) grow up. There are many more songs than this, but those three, plus the finale, are the best of the bunch.

The real content provided in the episode is the amount of plot events that happen during this episode. One, we find out that Dawn habitually steals things. One-A, we find out what that coin is that Dawn stole: it was a magical coin that released the music demon. Two, Tara finds out, through Dawn, that her and Willow had an argument (last episode) and she deduces from there that Willow was using magic on her. Three, Giles finally realizes that he must leave. Four, Tara realizes that perhaps she must leave as well to let Willow realize what she has lost. Five, Buffy lets the Scoobies know that they pulled her out of heaven. Six, and perhaps the biggest event of them all, Buffy...ahem, warms up to Spike with a big kiss in the finale. The kiss came off as natural and unhokey, at least as natural as breaking into song can be.

The episode was perhaps the best this show has ever seen, and it deserves an Emmy for creativity. Is a musical original? Obviously not, except that it's in television and not the theater. I can find no faults with the plot either - the music-demon is a convenient plot device, but certainly entertaining. He provides a way for the characters to air their grievances with each other and blatantly reveal the theme of the season: the Scoobs have got to grow up. They have relied on innocence and Giles too much. Nothing was contrived, and some scenes were truly heart-wrenching.

This season, I would say, has been somewhat lackluster in humor and high in creativity. With Whedon's hand back in the writing pot, we can certainly see the changes. Co-producer and writer Marti Noxon is good with dark plot devices, but I believe she leaves a bit to be desired with the laughter. I think she will find her stride, however, as the season progresses and it could be one of the best seasons ever. For future reference, the episode was 8 minutes longer than usual; when the reruns occur, it will be chopped. Hopefully you video taped this one, and here's hoping for a season 6 DVD soon.

Rating: 5/5

Buffy the Vampire Slayer airs Tuesdays at 8 PM/7C on UPN.

Next week: Giles is prepared to take off to merry ol' England, but are he and Anya in love?

- Marcus Ferrell

Prime Buffy Sites: - Official Buffy Site - Official Danny Strong (Jonathan) Website - Amberbenson.net




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