Shiny Shelf

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Storyteller

By Jim Smith on 12 March 2003

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

We’re reaching that point that all latter day seasons of ‘Bufy’ reach, that moment mid-season where you realise that although you’re enjoying the season the episodes are blurring into one, becoming indistinct.

It’s that point in the ‘arc’ where nothing has its own identity anymore and the uber-story has taken over. When this happens it’s equally traditional for someone (usually Jane Espenson) to do a slightly bonkers ‘gimmick’ show, a not-quite-standalone which asserts its own identity in loud and distinct terms while pushing onwards the ongoing story as much as those around it. In season four Espenson served up ‘Superstar’, this time around we get ‘Storyteller’.

Whereas ‘Superstar’ concentrated on semi-regular Jonathan ‘Storyteller’ concentrates on a newer Espenson creation, unwilling murderer and comedy repressed homosexual Andrew (Tom Lenk). Devised and played as a comedy character (initially within the Troika, latterly to the expanded Scoobies) Andrew gains depth and shade across these 44 minutes which illustrate the his feeble attempts to shoot and present a documentary about Buffy’s attempts to stop the end of days.

Like Doug Petrie’s recent episode ‘Storyteller’ seems happy to nod and wink at the world outside its fiction – something perhaps unavoidable when one of the characters is running around with a camera – but as the series is very much in its endgame now, this self-indulgence can be forgiven, especially as it’s rather amusing. Thus Spike rehearses and re-shoots his angry demands that Andrew turns off the camera and lets him brood the soulful Vampire act in peace and everyone is bored to tears of Buffy’s endless speechifying. Even better, Andrew ignores Willow and Kennedy making out on the sofa (much to a portion of the audience’s incomprehension, no doubt) in favour of gaining more coverage of the quality of the repair work Xander has done on the Scooby house’s windows. To be fair, they’re lovely windows and Mr Harris has clearly done a bang up job.

There’s always a lot of talk of redemption (and even redemptive texts) when the deeper bits of ‘Buffy’ are discussed and this episode is one of the series most straightforward tales of doing good to atone for your own past wrongs. That said,it’s a thoroughly secularised one. As ‘Buffy’ points out talk of redemption is all very well, but saving lives doesn’t ex post facto bring back the people you killed. Doing good doesn’t reverse the evil you’ve done, it’s just an impressive (and dramatic) way of saying that you’re really, really, very sorry.

Time for one more bit of Espenson’s self-referentiality before I go; this is her last script for a series she’s been a big part of. So, as Anya says to Xander after the two indulge in some (unusually non-fractious given the nature of such a thing) ex-sex ‘That felt like a “one more time” to me’.

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