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18 June 2014
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Episode Guide
Doublemeat Palace


How cruel is Jane Espenson? Putting TV's most stylish heroine into that outfit is evil on a major scale. Orange really isn't Buffy's colour, and the only trace of leather is the cow on her hat.

That said, it's a delightful episode that smartly misdirects viewers conditioned to expect bodies in the burgers. Who would have suspected that dear old granny to be hiding such an alarming phallic appendage under her wig? Shame about the paralysing goo that slows Buffy down though. I would have loved to see her trade some feisty martial arts moves with the Slayer.

It's certainly an episode that's put me off junk food a little, and I suspect that I'm not the only one. Is it too much of a coincidence that McDonalds recently posted its first ever loss?

Spare a thought for the Foley artist. He or she is the person responsible for sound effects in film and TV, recklessly squashing cabbages and slapping haddocks to create suitably squishy and gruesome noises.

This week's episode features a particularly fine orgy of squashing and slapping - and a triumph of sound editing. Mostly this involves the disturbing technique of adding loud, vivid sound effects to very normal things (the whizz of a meat slicer, the sizzle of a grill, or the hiss of boiling chip oil).

Then there are the incredible sound effects for the astonishingly gruesome fight scene (what's most horrifying is that, if you shut your eyes, you discover it sounds even worse). But the stand out moment is the bit where we're shown Buffy standing, bored and disturbed by the meat grinder. It's both poignant and unsettling that, as the camera zooms in on all that whirring, pulverised bloody matter... it's absolutely silent.

Buffy swaps demons for deadbeats in this Lynchian take on the world of fast food preparation. Less fantasy-based than many episodes, Doublemeat Palace nonetheless ups the tension by concentrating on the ugly realities of life - in a darkly humorous way.

It's an unusual tack for Buffy to take, and one that paid off well. There was a stylish film noir feel to the story, rounded off by a climax that used B-movie shlock horror to hilarious effect. Also unusual, in this season of heavily signposted messages, was the understated but consistent theme of the episode - how hard it is to make a decision that might affect your whole life, and how easily regrets can creep in.

Buffy's understandable reluctance to spend the rest of her days flipping burgers starts off the motif. Then there's Xander's cold feet, Willow's cold turkey, and Anya's cold hard second thoughts. To stress the similarities even more, everyone has a relapse moment too. It's all subtly and realistically done, for a nice change.

The moral of the story? Life can be hard, and burgers contain vast amounts of beef grease which will make you fat.

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