Continuing with my viewing and reviewing of season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer...
Episode 18: Earshot
Synopsis: After slaying a telepathic demon, Buffy is bombarded with the thoughts of everyone around her - including one student who appears to be planning mass murder. (written by Jane Espenson, airdate 9/21/99 - aired during season 4 because Columbine happened just days before the episode was supposed to air in April of 1999 - ten years ago this week)
This one is a filler-episode with little major connection to the season long arc. Still, it isn't a bad one. It deals with something everyone has thought of wanting at one time or another - the ability to read the thoughts of those around them. But what it helps illustrate is two things: first, be careful what you wish for and, two, every teenager had thoughts of inferiority and uncertainty. The episode did highlight a couple good things about the gang, though. First, vampires' thoughts cannot be read, much to Buffy's dismay. Next, we are shown extensions of the gang's personalities through their thoughts. Willow is shown to be worried about her place as Buffy's friend. Xander is shown to be a typical horn-dog male. Oz is shown to be an introspective thinker. Cordelia is shown to be the type of person who speaks her mind exactly (loved that!). Of course, we also get confirmation of the biggest secret of all - that Giles and Joyce did it, twice, on the hood of a car back in "Band Candy"! We also get to see Jonathon get a bigger part, as his actions help illustrate one of the themes from the episode - that for many high school has its sucky moments. And, finally, Xander gets to be the big hero - saving everyone from the real killer (go Xander!).
Ah, good, I see you caught the thing on the air date. I was going to point it out if not. Columbine did two things to this Buffy season - the putting off of this one until just before season 4 started, and the postponement of the final episode for a couple of months. So we all watched part one of the big finale, and then...nothing until July. Definitely understandable, and a good choice on both counts. We all remember what that time was like. And it let these episodes, when viewed after all the Columbine fallout was past, stand on their own instead of drawing any comparisons.
What if you could read people's minds? What, indeed. VERY good illustration here of what that would be like. A neat idea at first...then you learning more than you want to and it being no fun anymore...then driving you nuts. Yeah, the mind-reads on the gang were so brilliantly on the mark! Yes, the Cordy was the best. Also loved the Wesley. And finally, the Joyce/Giles reveal! Perfect way to do it. Oops. All the stuff with the scoobies trying to find the would-be killer was awesome (especially how lame Cordy was at it). All this time...Jonathan! But not really... Nice, isn't it, how they set that up? For three seasons, he's been that guy in the background. I think his name was only used one other time. Good metaphor for that kid at high school that everyone sees but doesn't really see...that is there, but no one gets to know him, not even his name. That nicely showed where that kind of loneliness and isolation he felt comes from. I see how they had to use the sniper rifle to set up the whole twist at the end, but really...who's going to use a rifle with a scope to shoot themselves? Still, not a deal-breaker, just a thought. A very well-done episode, and that's something I'm coming to expect from Jane Espenson.
Definitely agree the delayed airing on this one made sense - from a sensitivity angle. Funny who they conceived it right around the same time. Almost eerie.
I do agree too - awful heavy artillery for Jonathon to kill himself. I guess we had to be convinced he was a sniper in order for the "twist" to work. It was a good choice of character to do it though. Oh, and the gang's investigation techniques said a lot about each of them. I think Xander was going off-script and using it as a way to fish for dates. Go Xander!
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