"I'm so used to you being a grown-up, and now I find out you're a person."
Once upon a time, Joss Whedon made a terrible film called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The entire premise of this film was that the ditzy horror film blonde who is usually first to die instead fights back. Try as he might to make it last for seven seasons, this premise doesn't translate to TV because it leaves little room for things like Characters and Themes. (In fact, this foundational premise will become the bane of Buffy's existence in later seasons, but we'll get to that in time.) Once the show got picked up for a second season, you could almost see the wheels turning in each writer and producer's head--how do we make these stock characters interesting?
Which brings us to The Dark Age. This was another episode I pretty much hated first time around because it was too dark, but now that I've made it through The Body and Season 6 (aka the season in which every single episode is about suicide), I think I'll be able to handle it. And while I still think it's not as good as the previous episode and a little clunky in its quest to add depth at all costs, it's all about Giles, and I can't say no to that!
We begin with some guy I don't know running away from some zombie I don't recognize. But when he sees her, he says, "Deirdre??" Oh, it's Deirdre! (Who's Deirdre?) The man pounds on the library door screaming for Giles, but Buffy's beat-keeping training music drowns out his voice. Too late, anyway, because Deirdre knocks him out and then goes all Secret World of Alex Mack on him.
Willow and Buffy share their romantic fantasies on the quad, which include such main actors as Gavin Rossdale and John Cusack. OH MY GOD, Gavin Rossdale, official hottie of the 90s. I remember my sister verbally berating her friend for losing an issue of Rolling Stone with a shirtless Gavin Rossdale on the cover.
Okay anyway. Buffy, Willow and Xander think that Giles and Jenny Calendar are soooo cute together! The lovebirds steal away to exchange awkwardly sexual innuendo such as: "This weekend. I think I'd like to stay in. Let's see if I can make you squirm." Woahhh, kids these days!
The police question Giles about the corpse outside of his library, and he reveals that it's an old friend from England with a ~mysterious tattoo~. He is duly shaken up, and forgets his slaying date with Buffy. Everything is just so uncharacteristic and ominous. Giles rolls up his sleeves to reveal his ~mysterious tattoo~! He even drinks alcohol! He drunk dials the elusive Deirdre in hopes of warning her about something, but, y'know, zombie corpse.
Buffy is worried about Giles, and crashes Jenny Calendar's remedial computer science class to ask for help. Everyone is just as shocked as I was when Buffy reveals that he was drinking!!!!! Buffy can't wait another moment to find out what's going on, and rushes to the library, only to find...Ethan Rayne? The British costume guy from a few episodes ago? He starts to explain WTF is going on when the guy Deirdre killed at the beginning breaks in, only to be locked in the famous library cage by Jenny and co. Then, Giles is starting to explain WTF is going on when corpse guy breaks out, knocks out Jenny, and pulls another Alex Mack. Jeeeesus whattt is going on???
Giles won't tell, so Willow traces the ~mysterious tattoo~ to a demon called Eyghon who possess dead and unconscious people. Eyghon = Alex Mack goo, and therefore Jenny Calendar is now possessed and at home with Giles!!! She comes onto him, turns into a demon, and jumps out the window. I just don't think this is going to be good for their budding relationship.
At this development, Giles finally decides to let us all in on his Dark Secret. When he was young, he was a 'lil punk and fell in with a gang of miscreants, including Ethan. They'd hold rituals in which they summoned the spirit of Eyghon to get high. I guess that's like huffing for stodgy British people. Anyway, things got out of control, Eyghon took over completely, and now he's back and ready for some fun!
Then there's a long convoluted segment in which: Ethan tattoos Buffy to trick Eyghon, Xander and Cordelia bicker a lot, Demon Jenny tries to possess Buffy, Angel comes in and inexplicably gets possessed instead but because he is dead he kills Eyghon? Okay, sure. This is all more or less unimportant. What we all take away is that Giles is not the token straight-laced tea-drinking double decker bus-riding British librarian we've all come to know and love. And while Jenny lives, their final conversation in this episode is pained and distant. His secret, which nearly killed her, drives her away from him. Forever.
Favorite moment: Back when Giles is still being obscure, Buffy delegates investigative tasks to the Xander and Willow. Touchingly, Cordelia wants to join and help ("I care about Giles, too!)", marking her unofficial induction to the Scoobies.
Yayy, Team Cordelia!