Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Goodbye, Iowa

Summary

We start where we left off in The I in Team, with Buffy telling the gang about Maggie trying to kill her. Spike suggests Riley was involved and it's clear the others aren't ready to rule him out. They can't understand why Maggie would want to kill Buffy or what she is hiding. Meanwhile, Adam has found his way out of the lab and outdoors. Buffy wants everyone to hide. She suggest going to Xander's because the Initiative is less likely to look for them there. Anya is not keen on this. Nor is Giles who feels the Initiative won't come to his place. Riley bursts in looking for Buffy. He doesn't clearly explain how he knows something happened, and he suggests there has been some kind of misunderstanding. Then he spots and recognizes Spike. He's outraged that Buffy has been hiding him. Spike decides to leave, but first encourages Riley to kill Buffy. Riley tells them a little of what he knows, but refuses to believe Walsh was really trying to kill Buffy or that if she was she was being controlled by some outside force. When Giles suggests the Initiative has some dark motive, Riley refuses to listen. He leaves.

Adam encounters a little boy in the woods. The boy tells him he is a monster. Riley is walking alone through the night, trying to sort things out. Angleman finds Adam missing and Walsh dead. It's morning. Giles couldn't sleep because of the light and noise at Xander's place. Buffy, Willow, and Anya are sharing the bed and watching Road Runner on tv. Giles makes them close it. He and Anya start fighting (he claims she snores), but Buffy makes them stop. She's clearly upset about Riley. Anya says she should get a boring boyfriend, like Xander. But she keeps repeating that Buffy can't have Xander. Buffy says it's too late, she's too deeply in love with Riley. Xander rushes in telling them to turn on the tv. There is a news report about the little boy being skewered and mutilated. Buffy believes Walsh sent the Polgara demon after her. She decides to take action.

Riley gets home and tells his friend about Walsh trying to kill Buffy. The friend suggest maybe Walsh was right and Buffy needed killing. That she was infiltrating the Initiative using Riley. Then Brad comes in and tells them Walsh is dead. They go to the scene of the death and Riley's friend thinks Walsh was staked by Buffy. He and Riley fight about this but Angleman breaks them up. Riley thinks it's the Polgara and Angleman says the Polgara escaped. He also says Washington is sending in a team to investigate and they are to go into lockdown. Riley pretends to agree, but later orders his men out to recapture the demon. They start by searching crypts and enter Spike's. They find the tv still warm and open the coffin. Only there's only a skeleton there. They leave, breaking the tv. Spike pops out of the coffin, hidden beneath the corpse.

Buffy is at the crime scene where the little boy was killed. She observes the police from a distance. Riley shows up and Buffy apologizes for the way he was treated earlier. He tells her Walsh is dead and asks if she is happy now. She's angry he would ask such a question. She reasons that the Polgara killed Walsh and escaped. She says she's going to find it and kill it. Willow goes to Tara's to conjure a spell. She wants to conjure the goddess Thespia to reveal the presence of demonic energy in Sunnydale.

Buffy goes to Willy's bar, the bar all the demons hang out at. Willy has turned over a new leaf, he's no longer a snitch. So he asks Buffy to hit him so demons won't think he's gone back to his old ways when he talks to her. He tells her the only Polgara he knew of was the one she captured and it hasn't been heard of since. She asks if he knows anything about the Initiative and 314. Riley walks in. He's angry at Buffy for socializing with demons. She notices that he's shaking. He starts acting violently. He yells at Willy, grabs Buffy, and then pulls his gun on a woman leaving. He says he can't tell the truth from lies any more. He lets the woman go and breaks down. Buffy takes him to Xander's. He's scratching himself so badly he has ripped open his skin. Buffy bandages his hand with her scarf. She gets him to lie down and try to sleep. He says he doesn't know if he isn't the bad guy, if he's the one she should kill.

Buffy decides to go back to the lab and find Walsh's notes. She's sure Walsh did something to Riley. She wants to take Xander with her, since he had military experience. Anya doesn't like this idea (she reminds Buffy about the no Xander rule), but Xander reassures her. Giles and Anya have not been able to find anything on the Polgara demon. Willow and Tara are doing their spell. It will reveal where all the demons in Sunnydale are and even their breeds. Only Tara sabotages the spell when Willow isn't looking, so it doesn't work.

Buffy and Xander get into the lab, Walsh forgot to deactivate her clearance and no one else bothered. Buffy is disguised as a scientist and Xander as a commando. Xander sees some soldiers coming towards them and tries to get Buffy to make out with him, the traditional way of hiding in the movies. Buffy points out that in the Initiative, military guys and scientists do not make out.

Willow tells Anya and Giles her spell failed. Giles tells her that they haven't found anything about the Polgara and how unusual that is. The Polgara are stupid and need to eat every two hours. But this one has remained hidden for two days. Riley gets up, very agitated. He realizes Buffy has gone to the Initiative and is determined to go after her. He knocks Willow down when she tries to stop him.

At the lab, Buffy overhears Angleman talking to another scientist. The commandos have been getting drugs, secretly put in their food. Angleman wants them all brought in since they are going through withdrawal and are unaware of it. He's keen on getting Riley, saying he is particularly important.

Spike is at Willy's. He orders some blood and sits down. Another demon comes over and punches him. Buffy and Xander follow Angleman into a locked room and grab him. He tells them security will soon be there. Riley comes in and says the security monitors have been down for 10 minutes. Angleman admits Walsh wanted Buffy dead, but says that wasn't the Initiative. Buffy is sure it has to do with 314. Riley tries to defend Walsh and gets mad at Buffy. A dead body is dumped on the floor. Above them is Adam.

Adam tells them he is a cybernetic demonoid - a manmade demon. Created by Walsh. He says he knows what he is, but not who he is. He has a floppy drive in his chest and he has stolen Walsh's private files and feeds them in to himself. He says he and Riley are brothers, both created by Walsh. He says Riley has a birth mother, but that his basic operating system was formed by Walsh and that she gave him drugs to enhance his body and mind. He says she had a plan for them both. Riley attacks him and he easily knocks him aside. He also easily knocks Buffy down. He kills Angleman. He escapes and the commandos break in. Riley convinces them Buffy is telling the truth about a demon having killed Angleman. But they take Riley, who is injured, to a military hospital and escort Xander and Buffy out.

A badly beaten Spike is tossed out of the bar. Some of the demons have heard he is killing demons. And they don't like that. They say if they see him again, they'll kill him. Next morning, Buffy tells Willow about Adam and Riley. She says Adam was the ultimate warrior and she could barely fight him. Willow says there has to be a flaw. Buffy says she hasn't heard from Riley. She plans to find him. And she worries that he's all alone. We cut to Riley alone in a hospital bed looking at the scarf Buffy wrapped his hand with and thinking of her.

Analysis

Okay, first things first. The scene where Adam meets the little boy - a clear homage to the original Frankenstein where the monster meets a little girl. That out of the way, we can concentrate on the nonFrankenstein elements of the story.

In my comments on The I in Team, I spoke about the maternal relationship between Walsh and Riley and later Adam. About Riley being the son who disobeys her and Adam the son who will help her gain her revenge. Adam makes this point pretty explicit, stating that both he and Riley were created by Walsh. Adam through surgery and Riley through drugs (and the hint with the vitamins last week really was as obvious as it looked). It's easy to see that Adam has been made into a monster by Walsh, even the little boy can see that. It's much harder to realize that Riley is also a monster, a more hidden monster, created by Walsh both through the drugs she gave him and the way she manipulated him.

Adam asks the little boy who he is and the boy says he's a monster. Adam had thought so and then proceeds to act like a monster. Things are less clear cut for Riley. He, also, isn't sure what he is. He tells Buffy he can no longer distinguish truth from lies and good guys from bad guys. He fears he may be the bad guy and that Buffy may have to kill him. Buffy cannot answer with the certainty of a child, but she comforts him as best she can. She helps him when he is sick, bandaging his wound. This is the same way they treated Spike when he showed up ill. The little boy, like all children, judged Adam on appearances. But Buffy and the gang try to judge on actions. So they see no problem in fighting demons while helping Spike and working with Angel. Buffy wants to stop demons from doing bad things. Riley has lived in a simpler universe where all he had to do was stop creatures who looked like demons. Now that the rules have become more complex - now that demons can be good guys and humans bad guys - his universe is collapsing.

Is Adam the great evil of this season? Is he the secret of 314 or is Riley part of that secret as well? Adam clearly plans to follow the plan Walsh had for him, and for Riley. Of course, he'll probably add some random acts of carnage to the plan. But given the way she was talking immediately before her death, a lot of the violence was probably in the plan. Last season I wrote about Faith's Nietzschean philosophy, her belief that strength gives you moral superiority. Walsh seems to have held to a similar philosophy. She has no problems with experimenting on sentient beings, like Spike and Riley. Or with killing when people inconvenience her. Adam, and perhaps Riley, are the corporealization of her philosophy. They are beings created to be strong. Riley's role was to enforce Walsh's will. Hence her anger when he began to listen to Buffy and not just to Walsh. And Buffy would not blindly obey Walsh the way Riley and the others did. Adam was also intended to obey Walsh's will. But as part machine, he could be more easily programmed and controlled. Only there is a design flaw, as Adam points out, and Walsh ended up creating a true Nietzschean monster, a creature with enormous strength and no moral values to control it. It's telling that Adam's speech (especially the part about killing the boy so he could see what he looked like inside) is paralleled with the scene of Spike being beaten. Spike has broken a demon code, killing other demons. They treat him the same way humans would a killer. Actually, you could argue they are kinder than humans would be. Spike is ostracized from demon society for his acts. He has offended demon morality. Adam isn't just a demon, he is a truly amoral being. He follows no rules and is a true agent of chaos. And than explains why the demons, and Ethan, are so worried about him. Both humans and demons follow rules; Adam does not. And that makes him dangerous to everyone. When Angel threatened to destroy the world, Buffy allied herself with Spike to stop him. Is it possible this season will see an alliance of demonic forces with Buffy and perhaps remnants of the Initiative to stop Adam?

Now Spike can't bite people and if he continues his one man crusade against demons he stands a good chance of being killed by those fellow demons. So will he finally accept the inevitable and become one of the gang? Will he accept what Giles called his higher purpose in The I in Team? He has to do something and I'm sure he'll want revenge on those demons. He has allied himself with Buffy before and he actually seems to like her more than he likes most demons.

When Xander jokingly says that military and scientists not making out with each other is what's wrong with the world, I think he may be hitting on a key plot point. I'd argue that Walsh had unacted upon feelings for Riley. Partly maternal and partly sexual. As a scientist (and a mother figure) she couldn't act on those feelings. But repressing them seems to have driven her mad - or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Why does Tara sabotage the spell? Since the spell reveals the presence of demons, is she concealing a demon? Is she a demon or does she possess a demon? Or was she just scared of such a spell? Or did it have something to do with Thespia? Wouldn't it be ironic if Tara were an incarnation of Thespia.

Some quick final thoughts. How nice to see Willy again. He's a weasel, but he's not totally without redeeming qualities. And at least he recognizes that he's a weasel. And I loved the bit about the chicken fingers. Angleman is particularly interested in Riley. How was he different from the other commandos. Was he taking more or different drugs? Angleman says they were getting the drugs in their food. But Riley was taking those vitamins. Could they have been an additional drug? Is he an advanced subject? A hospitalized Riley should have had the scarf removed and a clean bandage put on. Of course, the commandos should have kept Buffy and Xander for interrogation about the death of Angleman. Especially Xander, since he has no clearance.

Lines of the week:

"You do have bleeding tragic taste in men." - Spike noting the obvious.

"Can I have sex with Riley, too?" - Xander getting a little too excited.

"This is the Initiative, Xander. Military guys and scientists do no make out with each other."
"Well, maybe that's what's wrong with the world. Ever think about that?" - Xander making a very good point.

Got a comment? Send me mail.

Go to more Buffy the Vampire Slayer reviews.
Go to other tv reviews.
Go to my home page and get links to everything.