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18 June 2014
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Episode Guide


The pacing of this episode is almost perfect, slowly building an uncomfortable atmosphere of intolerance and hatred. This bubbles over into bullying, overzealous state intervention and ultimately, into mob rule. It’s a chilling scenario, made more intense by seeing how the series’ most sympathetic and innocent character, Willow, is caught up in wild – if not entirely unfounded - accusations of witchcraft.

The episode regularly strikes a sensitive nerve. The restriction of personal liberties ("Oh man, it’s Nazi Germany and I’ve got Playboys in my locker!"), the formation of vigilante groups ("Mothers Opposed to the Occult…a powerful new group") and the confiscation of books ("He’ll get most of them back") provides plenty of dramatic potential, and, given a unique Buffy twist, forms the backbone for a fascinating story.

Jane Espensen’s script consistently strikes the right tone, coating events with a veneer of humour that prevents the episode from slipping into darker territory. The tense finale, where Buffy, Willow and Amy are tied to stakes and threatened with being burnt as witches, is beautifully staged and directed. In an especially neat touch the pyre is made up of the contents of Giles’ library, combining book burning with cruel and unusual punishment. Only the annoying and unnecessary addition of Willow’s mother adds a sour note to an otherwise almost perfect episode.

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