With a name like DeKnight, who else but Steve could pen this tale about the boys from Byzantium? A fine job he does too, giving us big-budget action aplenty. Give Buffy a fedora and a whip and the whole Winnebago fight wouldn't have looked out of place in an India Jones adventure.
Still, it's a little disappointing that the whole Knights of Byzantium concept wasn't taken further. It was probably one plot thread too many for Buffy's already over-complex fifth year. If handled correctly, it might have had the potential to sustain a season itself. Two and a bit episodes just wasn't enough.
Logic doesn't get too much of a look in this week, though. How exactly did a small legion of knights sneak into California? I recently queued at passport control in Mexico for hours and believe me, getting into the USA isn't easy, even for remotely normal people. Men on horseback, wearing chain mail, no chance.
This starts out as a corking episode of Buffy with action, stunts and adventure, and then ends up as twenty minutes of the cast chatting to a bloke tied to a post.
Which is a shame really, as this episode has Ben in it. Poor old Ben. What a waste of an interesting idea he was - the Slayer's love interest who turns out to accidentally be the Big Bad. He just got lost in the whole season five mix. The same with the big bunch of knights - how cool were they? - and yet, here they are, suddenly popping up to fearlessly attack a caravan like refugees from a Monty Python film.
Season five looked to be so interesting, what with Joyce and Dawn, and yet managed to waste some really good ideas along the way (Dracula, Riley going bad, Ben, and the Big Scary Order of Knights).
This episode has a terrible running-out-of-time feeling - with so many wasted opportunities, and only two episodes left, you feel really frustrated. It's like being in your favourite bar just before last orders and realising that you've been drinking Creme de Menthe, Campari, Taboo and Babycham for the last few rounds. Will you see sense and order a good lager and a nice red wine before it's too late?
(Bad news: next week's a lime and soda)
This season is Wagnerian. It's epic in its scope - family, love, suffering, loss, madness, banished gods, and a great big crusade. I came in halfway through this episode, having missed a couple of ‘previouslys’, and it made me sit up and think - It’s only just keeping it together.
Isn’t there rather a lot happening? Yes, Buffy is multi-stranded, rich and rewarding to the dedicated viewer... but the restraint that gets used to such good effect in, say, the Body, is entirely missing from this season’s plot arc. Were the team under pressure? Have they just thrown things into the mix to resolve the problems of getting from episode 1 to 22? Or is Joss standing in an office somewhere with mad hair and gleaming eyes screaming ‘More! More I tell you! Turn the volume to eleven! I want… the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE!' then cackling madly?
Is the team going to pull it off? I hope so. Please don’t let the show be running out of ideas… or suffering from the excess of them. It would break my heart.
It’s not hard to see which direction this particular Spiral’s going in - down all the way. Buffy runs away - properly runs away - for the first time ever, but even that doesn’t work.
This episode cleverly reverses the usual dramatic structure of Buffy. Instead of building up to climactic fight scenes, Spiral loads the beginning of the episode with them. All the physical battles are over within twenty minutes, yet this sound and fury is of no help.
We end up in a tense reverse-hostage drama, which see the Scoobies holed up and questioning the leadership of the increasingly brusque and self-absorbed Buffy. Who then, unwittingly, invites the enemy into the gang’s very heart. Almost the only correct decision she makes is to ask Spike along, giving him a chance to win a grudging acceptance from her friends through his graciousness and heroism. Certainly picking leather trews for travelling can’t have been a good idea.
Starting with a crisis of confidence, Buffy reaches the end of the spiral in a state of catatonia. Where can she go from here?