I had initially planned to complete these exercises on one of the novels I had read recently but Friday night my husband came home and complained “I wish I was a sports guy.”
This was intensely confusing to me, since his lack of love for televised sports is one of the many things I adore about him, hence my answer of “huh?”
“Well then I could flop on the couch and have something to watch on the tv, it’s just too damn hot for anything else.”
ahhhhhhhhh. “Buffy?” I replied.
“The musical episode?”
I nodded and we got up and went to the living room. If you have not watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that’s cool. It wasn’t for everyone but and I say this with an entirely straight face “Once More, With Feeling” is an episode everyone should watch. Even my six year old, who came into the living room as we were starting up, stood there for 30 seconds and then said, “This is…kind of …awesome.” Then climbed over the back of the couch and joined us.
I will be writing the exercises on that episode.
1. Describe the episode’s(novel/short story/etc) frame. How does the frame help to tell the story?
Set in Sunnydale, CA, built on a hell mouth which is a portal where demons and other nasties can cross over from their realms into ours. A large portion of this episode is shot in the small town center, the magic shop, or the home of several of the main characters. The small town setting helps bolster the fifties nostalgia way they filmed this one episode including a black and white opening sequence, fifties costuming for the characters, and of course the singing and dancing.
2. Summarize the story concept and the event.
Someone has summoned the “fun demon” hoping to make things turn out well. This demon causes people to spontaneous break out into singing and dancing.
3. Define the problem being tracked. How long did it take for the problem to assert itself? What is the basis of the problem?
The singing and dancing starts almost immediately with the reveal that it is the entire town with in the first few minutes. The deeper portion is that what you sing about is the dark truths you don’t want to share and if your will is strong enough to keep you from singing about the truth you will dance until you internally combust. The combustion is revealed within 24 hours in the show time.
4. Who is the hero and what is this person trying to achieve? What motivates the hero and the villain? Why does the hero conflict with the villain?
Obviously Buffy is the hero. It is her show after all. And she wants to stop the villain because that’s what she does, that is her lot in life. Her whole martyr syndrome is a discussion for another post.
I would argue the real hero of this episode is Spike. After all he is the one who saves Buffy from burning (he sings a little bit about how he hopes she fries because he’ll be free if she dies, then cuts himself off to remark I better go help her.) He is motivated by love to save his lady fair.
5. What is the crisis in the story? How does the crisis relate to the dramatic problem of the story?
The big crisis would be the kidnapping of Buffy’s younger sister by the demon who insists he will take her back to his realm unless Buffy comes to rescue her. This forces Buffy to confront the demon and sing her truth, which she desperately does not want to reveal.
6. What interrupts the status quo in the film? How soon does this interruption occur? Is a new status quo established when the problem is solved? How? Describe the new status quo and how it differs from what went before?
There are multiple status quo interruptions. First the singing and dancing which is very different from the normal dark tone of the show, occurs immediately, 30 seconds in. But along the way many things are revealed that will break the status quo in the basic functionality of the show. Her mentor sings about how he feels he is holding her back and intends to leave. Another relationship is clearly about to dissolve. And a new relationship is formed at the very end. All of which either hint at or deliver yet a new status quo from the one before the episode or the one in the episode.
7. Describe the hero’s internal and external problem. Describe how the two problems interact and how they influence the conflict.
Buffy’s internal issue is that she died, went to heaven, and was brought back to life by her well meaning friends. They all assumed she was in some sort of hell dimension. She has not told them the truth.
The external problem is how to banish this demon who is causing the death of innocents.
The two collide when Buffy must confront the demon and sings about being in heaven.
8. Describe the conflict in the episode. How and why does the climax solve the problem tracked in the film?
The demon leaves peacefully when he discovers it was not the pretty young girl who summoned him but a guy. He is willing to waive the bride clause in this situation. External handled.
Everyone now knows the truth about where Buffy was and why she’s been so cranky since her return. Many other truths have been revealed as well and it’s left for you to anticipate how those things will play out in the next episodes.
9. Define the thematic statement of the episode.
Don’t lie to your friends. LOL. I don’t know. Perhaps one should not mess about with forces bigger than yourself that you do not completely understand.
A little about the episode: incredibly well done musically. the layers of complication in the interpersonal relationships are fabulous. The reaction when a character just starts singing out of the blue is brilliant, not over done but readable, by both the character who is singing and those around. And really this might be the only bad guy in the history of the show to come to Sunnydale, cause some mayhem, and leave completely unscathed. Awesome!
So think about answering these questions for your favorite novel and then for your own. It might help to spot some of the issues you are having or weaknesses you didn’t even know were there.