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May 31 2007

"It's unbelievably important": 'Flooded' as a blueprint episode. A major look at this Buffy season 6 episode.

Wow! Time to get the DVD boxed set out again.
One of the best essays I've read on Buffy for a long while. It certainly pushes "Flooded" a good fifty places up the league table of best episodes.
This essay also makes a very strong case for looking more positively at Season 6 as a whole.
Completely agree. I've been rewatching the show again - I hooked my friend with a few episodes and now she's obsessed, meaning marathons galore - so just looking at the early seasons in comparison to the later ones, it's really amazing what the writers did. The contrast is ridiculous. Buffy was really such a teenager in the first 3 seasons, and with 4 being the transition (and not one of my favs), seasons 5, 6, and 7 really get to more adult themes that, in some ways, are more powerful and resonating. I know we all love Buffy for making the supernatural world "fun" and lighthearted, but I think one of the reasons people have a problem with the later ones is because they finally really connect us to her world in a less subtle way, and I think fans got scared because the whole Mutant Enemy team started to be more honest and revealing about life. We were used to the funny banter, and when confronted with real issues, had to turn away because reality isn't always that great, life is really scary.

Personally, I love the dark stuff, which is why I'm still on the fence when it comes to deciding if I like Buffy or Angel better, and why I think season 6 is the best of the Buffy's.
The brilliance of “Flooded” is the subtly with which Petrie and Espenson establish every single one of season six's major themes and narrative tropes. The shifting of the hell metaphor, the humanization of Buffy antagonists and challenges, the dangers of Willow's increasing power, the potential problems inherent in Xander and Anya's relationship, Buffy's growing connection to Spike as she distances herself friend her friends and family, and her total inability to re-engage herself in life after being resurrected are all clearly established in this early season six episode, before being expanded upon over the course of season six.


What a strange coincidence - I was watching the ep just last night and was thinking pretty much the exact same things, which hadn't occured to me before that clearly...
Great essay, and makes a valid point as well. I still have mixed feelings about that season, so objective viewpoints like this are very helpful. I really have to get around to watching season six over again.
I love the dark stuff, too. I enjoyed Season 6, despite the pain. It had its moments. OMWF was the best. I normally don't like musicals, but I fell in love with OMWF.

These days I'm looking to the future, following Season 8 in comics. I still want Xander to find someone where he can say "this is the one" and actually manage to marry her. The guy deserves at least a small run of happiness before Joss does the inevitable. Perhaps this will happen. He and that junior slayer seem to be getting close.

Also, I still want Willow to find someone. Just one. Accept no substitutes. Willow did promise Tara once "I will always find you." I hope she means it. Of course, that's just me and my W&T obsession, something most folks don't seem to understand. Well, except my other quirky friends who are into the happy couple. :)

[ edited by quantumac on 2007-05-31 18:13 ]
The article's description of the Giles and Willow exchange is right on. That little bit always gives me the chills.
I understand a lot of the antipathy towards Season 6, but I decidedly don't share it. And Flooded has always been one of my favorite 2nd shelf episodes of the season (any season with OMWF makes reaching top shelf all but impossible.)
Yes, a blueprint episode, laying out the plausible futures that might be in store for our heroes. Then, OMWF becomes the literary climax of the season, as their paths become inevitable: Buffy and Spike together, Xander and Anya--not so much, Tara's benignly meant but wrongwrongwrong exploitation by Willow, Dawn's alienation from everybody, Willow's descent into madness begins as she realizes what she really did to Buffy (killing the deer should have tipped her off), and Giles estrangement from Buffy and eventual departure. Brilliant stuff.
I too had just coincidentally re-watched Flooded, and had been struck by the beautiful depiction of the awkwardness between Giles and Buffy, which foreshadowed their further estrangement, as well as the chilling bit of Dark Willowness.

The article was so right on with all the other points, and I was glad I had seen the episode so recently, and could remember it in detail to appreciate them. I really like Season Six, myself; it may be my favorite, it is so beautifully constructed and emotionally resonant.

Cool article.
Good points and well-conceived essay. Hate to nit-pick, but I think Chris Beck only scored OMWF after his leave post-season four.
Great goddess essays like that (and the people who write them) freak me out.
How could I have missed so many things that were that deep?

Have the writers ever confirmed such observations like the descents into the basement were on purpose? Because while it's rather clever to notice what lenses are used to keep certain people in focus at certain times, it's freakin' amazing that anyone spotted the basement as a metaphor across multiple episodes.
Season 6 appreciater here, and oh, yes, Flooded is the ep I conjured my username from.
Thanks so much for posting that. Very interesting and had me going "uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" through the whole thing. You know those ideas that seem obvious once someone else brings them up?
Can't wait for my summer re-watching marathon.
A while ago, on another board, I made mention that Flooded was my favourite S6 episode. There was mocking.
I've just re-watched the episode, and I'd forgotten one of the funniest scenes...
Dawn has just opened a book in her first research stint, after Tara has been telling her she's too young, and she sees a picture of a demon and says: "That's an odd place to put a horn..." until she realises!
Classic.
Always loved "Flooded." It was one of those great early S6 episodes when you thought Mutant Enemy had their game together, and all their ducks would line up in a row for the whole year...

But, much like S7, I think most of us would agree that the first 7 or 8 eps of the season were good. They weren't the problem. It's during the middle section (with Gone, OAFA and Doublemeat Palace) and at points during the final run (with Seeing Red, Villains and Grave) that most Buffyphiles feel Joss and Co. lost control of the wheel: Whiny!Dawn, ExtraDepresso!Buffy, Magic!Crack, the death of Tara, the cartoonishness of Dark!Willow, and poor Spike, whose character zigged and zagged for the whole season.

I like the themes of the season, all of which were in fine display in "Flooded"; but the poor development and eventual mis-execution of those themes are what burns me about S6. JMO. YMMV.
I'll take the obligatory issue with "most of us" when the relative deficits of season 6 are discussed (there's usually plenty of "us" come out of the woodwork in support of it cjl ;). No idea what the split is but either "side" claiming superiority (of numbers or anything else) where season 6 is concerned always strikes me as a bit unfounded.

Not a bad essay that, some of it maybe a bit reachy IMO but lots of interesting points nonetheless.
Yeah, ditto, can't say as I've ever had problems with Season 6 as a whole, myself. I can find things I don't like about every season, as well as much I do... Six has Dark Willow, OMWF, Tabula Rasa and some of my favourite moments ever.

I enjoyed the essay... the exploration of themes and analysis of some of the defining metaphors is well done. I'm gonna choose this detail to nitpick on, though I'm not sure why I care: Glory is a god - one of at least a trio, and possibly one among many - not God the many-in-one, as worshipped by monotheists.

And yeah, I've always thought that at least some of the antipathy to Season 6 is that it's too real-lifey - as well as dark, which for me is almost the same thing - for some folks...
I'm on the "many, many problems" side regarding S6, which I find the least interesting and compelling season of Buffy. Having said that, I thought the essay was excellent and I admire people who so easily command a discipine when writing.

My problem, writ large, is that each character is altered beyond recognition- new Coke, not Coke. I'd expand but I've said this before. :-)

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2007-06-01 00:27 ]
I liked the essay, but I'd add a few more. There are leitmotifs of phallic imagery and violation, both physical and emotional, scattered throughout Season 6, and they're certainly present here. Dawn's discovery of the "horn", like Razor's mention of the "anatomical incompatibilities" of his boys, or the penis-headed demon of DMP, is an example of the phallic stuff.

The violation theme appears as an apparently humorous moment when the Trio decide that hypnotising Buffy and making her their sex bunny would be cool. Jonathan actually writes it on the white board. Katrina will pay the price for that idea later.

The Trio immediately betraying each other and then both Warren and Andrew turning on Jonathan and setting him up to be killed by the demon is played for laughs too, but, of course, is going to be replayed in a tragic key later on. (That's an ME trick I really enjoy - something first presented as a joke turning out to be true. You've got the comically crestfallen faces of the scoobs realizing that they're never going to have a successful relationship on the Hell Mouth, Willow saying "And I'm kinda gay", Buffy and Spike in Something Blue, etc. Very cool.)

And of course, there's a gun, which is both a harbinger of what's to come and even works as a reiteration of both the phallic and violation motifs. That may seem like a stretch, but after what Willow does to Warren with a bullet, I don't think so.

I'm totally in agreement with the article's statement tnat BTVS is about change. Characters ARE altered by what happens to them. Buffy's ability to totally give herself over to love is shattered by what happens in Innocence, her willingness to sacrifice a loved one if duty requires it is smashed by sending Angel to hell, and so on.

The cataclysmic events that the Scoobs had gone through in previous seasons, combined with character defects that had been apparent for years, brought out their worst sides in Season 6. But to me, they're not altered beyond recognition or acting inconsistently at all. They are different though. I think any audience, even one that thinks it loves the adventurousness of Buffy, also craves the security and familiarity of the known. But Buffy passionately embraces change and it's not surprising to me that many are troubled by that or see it as inconsistency.

One thing that I don't agree with is the article's insistence that the change is ultimately all about learning and growing, i.e. it's about positive change only. Some of the change that takes place in the later seasons is negative and I'm fine with that. Living on the Hellmouth has done tremendous damage to our characters, and they'll bear the scars and walk with metaphorical crutches for a long time, if not forever, because of it. Kind of like people do in real life. Wonder if there's a metaphor there.

[ edited by shambleau on 2007-06-01 02:11 ]
Great essay. I'm on record as being a big fan of 6 and I really enjoyed the analysis contained in this piece.

Stairs and basements were used brilliantly in the Spuffy relationship. The last time Buffy and Spike interact alone in 5 is when Buffy walks up the staircase as Spike waits at the bottom, a sign of Spike not being able to truly enter Buffy's world. The first time Buffy and Spike meet after Buffy is resurrected happens at the same staircase, but only this time Buffy is coming down to Spike, a foreshadowing of Buffy's slide into darkness with Spike. And Spike goes up that staircase again in SR, where it's made clear without a soul he can never be a part of Buffy's life.

In 7 Buffy goes down to the school's basement and finds Spike. She herself will lead him out of his dungeon. And the last time the two are together is when they enter the school's basement to fight the Big Bad side by side, and while Buffy physically leaves the building, Spike metaphorically leaves the basement (darkness) forever when he dies.

At least, that's my view. Could be my over-active English major imagination.
Wonderful essay of a pivitol episode that's become overshadowed by the ones that came later in season six. I found myself nodding as I was reading and I must agree that the kitchen scene with Willow and Giles was very powerful.

A couple of things that always bugged me about the episode though. I disliked the way everyone brushed off Anya's suggestion (as the essay points out, that is what Angel Investigations does) but I always wondered why the money issue was not apparent before Buffy died in S5. That was months after Joyce did. Also, Buffy's reaction to Dawn doing research. Dawn is at that point older than Buffy when she was called. Those things just never made sense to me.

My favorite season six essay is about an episode that I totally disliked the first time I watched it. I felt it was demeaning to most of the characters who appeared in it and I couldn't re-watch it for the longest time. It was only upon reading Captain Cardboard, or How I Learned To Stop Seething And Love "As You Were" that I did, in fact, go back and watch the episode and many things that hadn't made sense to me at the time suddenly did.

I liked Riley. I liked Spike. Most of the time I liked Buffy too but the episode "As You Were" was not one of them.
Wow. It's times like this that I really, really love the fandom. :)

Great essay!
While I have a lot of problems with season 6 and think it's one of the weaker seasons for a number of reasons,although every season has things I enjoyed,this is an interesting essay.Don't agree with everything in it but it was a nice read and I do like the episode,'Flooded.'
Nitpicking...it's Rhonda, not Brenda, Wilcox. What ever happened with her address at her alma mater this spring? Wiseblood?

I would pick Afterlife over Flooded as the low-key template to season 6. But I love them both.
Really enjoyed this essay. Both seasons 6 & 7 have a lot of inner consistency. Watching them on DVD makes this easier to follow. As for the symbolism of descents and ascents, etc.--when you consider how many of the BtVS writers had degrees in English and/or film studies (quite a few), it's very likely that they knew just what they were doing.
I'm glad I'm not the only person who liked Season 6. I felt it was rather thematically complete. It was certainly different, which threw a lot of people. I'm not quite sure I agree with all of the points in the essay. I don't think the shift in Buffy's clothing is anything but prudent, given the direction her life has taken - it's not so unreasonable to avoid ultraminis when one goes to the bank - so it doesn't seem worthy of mention. Also, given the ceaseless rise in the divorce rate, I think not getting married isn't cowardice on Xander's part, just a realization of the obvious and courage not to go through with a farcical union. Crappy timing, though.

Also, charging for services makes sense if one is investigating (and how much of that did they do on Angel later on), but supposing something fangy accosted you, only to be dispatched seconds later into a puffy of dust, by a tiny blonde lass, who then wants a twenty. Thirty bucks if it's two vampires. Not really a workable business model, which is why Anya gets the big stare.

Overall, though, yeah - this is a perfect setup for the whole season.
Wow! This is my first week blogging, so the huge response to this essay has been really surprising and satisfying. I didn’t know if my friends would read it, let alone 30 Buffy experts! Big thanks to all of you for taking the time not only to read my, admittedly, rather long essay, but also taking the time to comment! Buffy fans are the greatest fans. I would love to respond to all of your comments individually, but when the comments thread broke 20 posts, it kind of got unrealistic. I do, however, have a few specific comments.

Captain B – You are totally correct. It was Thomas Wanker who scored “Flooded”, not Mr. Beck. Thanks for spotting that mistake. I have corrected it in the essay.

Grounded – You get bonus points for loving “Flooded” and working Buffyesque dialogue into your comment.

QuoterGal – The reference to glory should have said “a god” not just “god”. I’ve corrected it in the essay. It’s a little typo, but it sure makes a difference, doesn’t it?

Shambleau – You make some great observations. The phallic imagery had not occurred to me before, and I have spent at great deal of time contemplating issues of sexuality in season six.

Reddygirl – An over-active English major imagination is one of the most powerful things in the world! Have faith in it!

Dreamlogic – I don’t think pointing out that I got one of, if not THE premiere Buffy scholars' name wrong, while quoting her work, is NOT nick-picking! It’s more like giving this rather embarrassed blogger an opportunity to save face before even MORE people spot the error! Huge thanks for catching that one. It has, of course, been corrected!

Again, thanks to all of you. Hopefully the essay got you thinking.
Menomegirl, that "As You Were" essay was mindblowing!!!! Thanks so much for posting the link for it! Do you know if she wrote one for "Dead Things" because she mentioned it a few times. It's true, sometimes you just don't realize these things until the genius fans out there point it out.
That was just brilliant, one of the best BtS essays I've read ever. Not just about Flooded but about season six (my favorite) in general. I can't imagine a more accurate and succinct statement about flooded than "...(it) clearly establishes season six's mission statement."
It took me a couple of viewings to fully appreciate Flooded, accept for the absolutely stunning moment in the kitchen between Giles and Willow, but I have since come to consider it a subtle little gem. I agree with virtually every word in this essay.
Kevin Johns, you rock!!

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