Ethan Rayne returns and we get the backstory on Ripper. I should revel in this because I really like Ethan Rayne and absolutely love Buffy‘s backstories, but I’m fairly lukewarm on this one; while the episode delivers on Rayne, it stumbles on Ripper.
I welcome a Giles-centric story, but one that draws me in with a stronger script than this. For once, all the exposition felt too talky, maybe because it isn’t delivered by Darla at The Bronze while she battles Buffy and Angel, which is how Angel’s siring and curse came clear to us.
No, here Ripper’s history gets mostly stammered by Giles, understandably rattled by the return of a demon known as Eyghon, who seems to be a stand-in for LSD.
That’s an idea that I can get behind, and I quite enjoy the lifting of the veil on upstanding, even stodgy adults’ wild and reckless pasts. [I’m looking in the mirror here.] However, now knowing that we’ll never get a full account of Ripper other than some regular reminders that Giles has a dark side, I expect more from this episode.
The teasers we get about Giles’ proto-Scooby gang going into drug-like trances never get finessed later, and nor does the tale ever lead into fantastic flashbacks such as those that open up the histories of Angel, Spike, Dru, and Darla.
Would a flashback work for Giles? He’s integral to the series but more as a paternal figure than a peer to the protagonist. His past doesn’t provide much in the way of building mythology, and it doesn’t tie into any other characters other than Ethan Rayne, who barely qualifies as recurring. What’s more, Giles is no ageless vampire and Anthony Stewart Head is too old to be convincing as a 1977 university student. (Yet they could have cast some round-faced, bespectacled British hunk for this!)
So I understand how they wouldn’t want to devote a full episode to a Ripper flashback, but then, this one communicating everything via dialogue to carry the history just doesn’t work.
Also, the Eyghon-possessed zombies don’t work. They’re boring and not particularly scary, though things do liven up when the demon pops into still-living Miss Carpenter to make her first even randier than normal, and then just plain homicidal, ready to murder and possess anyone unlucky enough to bear that dumb tattoo that serves as a demonic tracking device.
This is our second episode, following I, Robot… You, Jane, in which a demon seeks a corporeal form. Moloch and his robot plot from that episode was considerably more resourceful than Eyghon, who apparently dithered for a full two decades after killing one of the demon-tripping wild bunch before possessing Deirdre, then Phillip, Miss Carpenter, and finally Angel.
Angel’s possession may be the highlight here. I do appreciate Willow’s solution to ridding Miss Carpenter of Eyghon, arranging for the undead Angel to serve as the next receptacle for the demon. I understand that Eyghon would have been unable to possess Angel since vampires are technically not alive, but what was with Angel explaining that the demon that has been inside him for 200+ years put up too big of a fight to give up the body? I don’t fully understand Buffy vampirism, as I still don’t really think of it as possession so much as a lack of soul and humanity, an emptiness rather than a replacement. But I suppose that evil must come from somewhere.
Surprising finish aside, I see The Dark Age as mostly a missed opportunity, especially since it comes off the heels of the magnificent Lie to Me, where Buffy looks to Giles as a father figure to give her a false comfort that she wishes she could accept. Now, like most of us, she has to face that this newly acknowledged parent figure has a separate identity and past completely separate from her. The two episodes might have flowed together, but The Dark Age doesn’t muster any strong connections, not to Lie to Me, nor to Giles, nor to the seasonal storyline.
BOOK CAGE! When Zombie Phillip attacks in the library, he’s lured into the book cage and locked in so that the gang can contemplate their next step. But that book cage may not be any stronger than it was when Hyena Xander got busted out in The Pack. Here’s hoping that when they get that door back on its hinges, they get someone besides the school custodian to test it out.