“Showtime” isn’t a bad episode, just a perplexing one. After all the effort to establish the Turok-Han as the Big Band’s iron fist, having Buffy kill it at the mid season mark feels anticlimactic. Not that I was sorry to see the Uruk-Hai bite the dust, but it does make the past few episodes feel like a bit of a waste of time. The big orc is dead, Spike’s back in Buffy’s care and the season is pretty much where it was three episodes ago, plus a few annoying girls. Set aside the momentum killing, and the episode isn’t that bad in and of itself. The First’s satisfyingly creepy, the Scoobies are satisfyingly clever, and the potentials… well, they’re not as bad as they could be. I just wish it was all going somewhere.
Setting aside my bias, the Slayerettes are still really annoying here. I get the fact that they don’t know Buffy the way we do and are freaking terrified, but just because complaints are understandable doesn’t make them entertaining to watch. That said, winning the girls’ confidence does make for a solid story for Buffy. It’s not something she’s needed to do in quite some time and it’s interesting to see her try to lead people who don’t already have complete confidence in her. We all know how powerful Buffy is, but the fact that the girls don’t reveals just how much of that power is rooted in perception.
The First is a pretty direct representation of this connection between power and perception. Without physical form, the only power its really been established to have is the ability to assumed the appearance of the dead. But that’s more than enough to torment Spike and terrorise the potentials. The First is all about convincing people to give up, and it uses the guise of someone they trust to parrot their own insecurities back to them. The mere fact that it goes to such lengths to unbalance its targets should be evidence that its not as unstoppable as it likes to pretend, but the girls are too busy quaking to realise that.
The fight between Buffy and the Turok-Han is basically a pissing contest between Buffy and The First. That’s not a bad thing. Beating the uber vamp isn’t enough, Buffy needs to be seen doing it in order to defeat The First. I often like to compare a good fight scene to a pro wrestling match, and this is probably the series’ finest example. There’s the theatrical setting, the trash-talking preamble and, most importantly, it’s all about the show. Buffy’s finishing move is suitably dramatic, as is the hand-dusting and boasting afterwards. All of this is about damaging the First image which, without an ass to kick, is the only thing it actually has.
The Turok-Han still looks stupid. The final fight scene is almost good enough to make up for it, as I mentioned, appearance is a source of power, and the uber-vamp is sorely lacking in this category.
Andrew! Still the best of season seven’s changes. I love his interaction with Dawn here. The awkward/nerdy/stupid crap he’s dishing here is the same kind of stuff that would’ve qualified as banter amongst the Trio but, having killed the only person who understood him, he really is so alone.
Felicia! It’s a testament to her coolness that her career recovered from being a potential.