Shiny Shelf

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Never Leave Me

By Jim Smith on 05 December 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

As my esteemed colleague Mr Clapham noted last week it’s traditional for the last episode of ‘Buffy’ before the Christmas break to offer its audience some sense of closure. Not this year.

Last season’s ‘Wrecked’, for all its manifold flaws, didn’t leave the audience hanging of the edge of a metaphorical cliff by their equally metaphorical fingernails. Furthermore neither did it end with Spike suspended Christ-like above a pit, lashed to a pentagram and bleeding onto a stone from which a huge great beastie Big Bad is rising. Which is what we get this time around. What happened to the season of goodwill, eh?

‘Never Leave Me’ kicks off with the longest pre-credits re-cap since…oooh…’Bargaining’ at the very least and goes onto (sneakily) include the whole of Anthony Stewart Head’s appearance from ‘Sleeper’ between it and the opening credits. I hope this doesn’t count fully as one of our ten promised glimpses of Ripper this season. As Head isn’t credited for it I expect that it won’t.

Whether it’s officially the case or not ‘Never Leave Me’ is very much the third episode of the emotionally-hardcore and heady three-part narrative that began in ‘Conversations With Dead People’. Among its many great moments are a superbly handled Spike/Buffy discussion, some pseudo-Bondian scenes with the Watchers’ Council and some tonally skilful black comedy courtesy of our two-parts deceased Troika of Warren, Jonathan and the other one. Drew Goddard’s script opts for a slower pace than normal, but the episode never seems ponderous it just feels, well, big. Given the amount of plot and character it has to work through this is assuredly a good thing. Despite the comparison above let me make no bones about it, this episode is as superior to ‘Wrecked’ as (say) ‘Restless’ is to ‘Doublemeat Palace’, it’s just that the decision to leave the plot so thoroughly up-in-the-air at the end provides trauma where one is expecting catharsis.

The Big Bad is, it appears, the very first vampire, older than The Master and aesthetically about as pleasing. Did the first vampire include Sunnydale in his stomping grounds? Is that ultimate plot device/maguffin (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) the Hellmouth itself about to become relevant again? Will it (gasp!) maybe even be explained?

The wait is killing me.

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