The Harsh Light of Day
Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: James A Contner
Air Date: October 19, 1999

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SO! It should be noted that Spike is one of my favorite characters in the show. So any episode that has him being goofy and British, while also having an opportunity to be nasty and evil, I’m all for it. We haven’t seen him on the show since “Lover’s Walk” and, in a move that shocks the pants off of me, it kind of comes after that Eric Powell short story in the “Short Stories” anthology, Spike shows up looking for a magical gem that is a part of ancient vampire lore. It seems to grant special powers, which is of course what happens. BUT FIRST!

This seems like an episode in which every character has sex. Buffy and Parker, the jerk from last episode, get it on. Its the first boy Buffy has had in her life since Angel and she gets all dopey about it. She beams, she laughs, she dislikes that her life pulls her away from him. Its like high school all over again. On the other side of the planet, Anya shows up again for the first time since the end of last season. She’s been in hiding but has been dreaming of Xander the whole time. Naked Xander. She thinks sleeping with him will erase him from her mind. Nope. Not for seasons to come, anyhow. And then, on the OTHER side of the planet, Spike is having intercourse with a now-vampire Harmony, the dumb blonde that used to hang out with Cordelia’s gang, the one that got bit at the end of last season. She has a hilarious re-introduction when she chats Willow up before biting her. We’ll be seeing her on and off for the remainder of the show.

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While this episode is a stand-alone like the previous episode (as in, it doesn’t move the overall arc forward much), and it does have tons of moments that are played for laughs, it features so many moments of solid character growth. Buffy learns a valuable lesson about her heart, and her vulnerability. She sleeps with a guy for the first time since Angel and, well, it seems like a bad choice because Parker is a douche. He doesn’t give a damn about her afterward, says he’ll call but never calls. Its cliche, sure, but its nice to see Buffy see something wrong with PEOPLE for a change, but not in an evil way. Just in a… not very nice way. While we get more insight into the other characters a bit, its mostly about Buffy, here. Spike rubs the lessons she’s learned in. Well, more punches and kicks the lesson in. Its a brutal as hell battle and one of the best fights I’ve ever seen on this show… even if the dude playing Spike during the fight clearly had a fake wig.

All of the parts with Spike in it were hilarious, by the way. The way he threatens Harmony and she gets all turned on is funny, as is the fact that after that’s all over, he still threatens her. The way he shoves her against the wall early in the episode is also acted in a playful way, and when compared to the way he pushes her into the wall when he refers to her as a “bint” is actually scary. Props, yet again, to James Marsters who time and again proves he is the better main vampire actor (sorry, Boreanaz…!). The relationship these two have is played for a ton of laughs, but for the first time ever I sensed some more human problems in it. The obvious comparison being your standard abusive boyfriend/husband. Which, of course, seeing as how Spike stakes her without knowing she was temporarily invulnerable proves to a T. But even after that, and even after Spike forces a cross onto her head, and even after he leaves her behind, she stays loyal to her “Blondie Bear” – its heartbreaking, even if I don’t really like Harmony that much.

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The Xander side of the story, here, is equally comical and interesting, even if it is mostly groundwork. While working at Giles’ home (keep in mind, Giles is currently unemployed as well) is a nice way to keep him involved with core members of the gang, we become aware of how removed he is when we see him living in his parents’ basement, forced to take care of their laundry, and seemingly forced to pay both rent and food costs (the food prices come off as a joke, but you know there is an undercurrent of truth, there). So for him to suddenly have a chance to have something nice is interesting. And the parallel between his “so we did it and its over” and Parker’s “so we did it and it wasn’t a big deal” is also something I’d never picked up on before, in previous viewings. The Anya/Xander relationship starts off on an interesting foot, with confusion, muddled emotions, and a bit of panic. Just like real life.

The interesting thing, though, is that this episode sets up the first major cross-over that will take place between “BtVS” and spinoff series, “Angel” in that the gem – affixed to a ring – is being taken to L.A. by Oz and his band, and given to Buffy’s former beau, Angel. It’ll be fun to watch that episode right after, because one of the things I always liked about Angel is that it is shot, typically, in a darker fashion than its parent show. “BtVS” is always so bright and shot in a more playful fashion and then “Angel” is more murky, “true-to-life”. Seeing the characters from one interacting with another is always an interesting treat, and I’ve never watched them at the same time so it’ll be real curious to see how well the two show mesh.

Episode Rating: 93

Additional Notes:
-The lead vocalist for Oz’s band is a complete moron
-The music throughout this episode reminds me that I hate the music on this show for the most part. The band that plays at that party is the worst
-Plus it just kept going. Through the party, through the sex scene, through a sequence at Giles’ place… I get it… someone liked that band. Get over it…!
-Oz and Giles’ musing over whether records are more important than saving the day is comical and true to character
-TV saves the day, through Xander
-Anya is incredible at tracking!
-That last shot of Buffy, Anya, and Harmony walking in different directions is so cheesy I vomited
-I do enjoy seeing SMG get to play a dumb blonde with feelings. She becomes so hard by the end of the series, its cool to see a more human character, here

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