Once More, with Feeling

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 7

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon/Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendan, Alyson Hannigan, Emma Caulfield, Anthony Stewart Head, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, James Marsters, & Hinton Battle

As usual, something’s afoot in Sunnydale, California . . . only it’s not particularly clear exactly what that something is. Buffy Summers and her friends find themselves randomly bursting into song–and choreographed dance routines–as though they were starring in a musical. Further investigation (just walking outside, for instance) reveals that this musical mayhem is affecting not only “the gang” but the entire town–just another of the joys of living in Sunnydale. This would seem a relatively benign problem until people start spontaneously combusting from dancing so hard . . . not to mention all the emotional and relational damage from everyone bluntly singing their innermost secrets out to anyone around to hear! Clearly, something must be done, and fast–and Buffy and her friends are just the people for the job.

It’s practically unheard of for me to write about an individual television episode, but I feel that “Once More, with Feeling” truly deserves the attention. This single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is written as a musical and can be honestly appreciated as such on its own, although the depths of the character development will be more greatly appreciated if you’ve watched the previous episodes. Basically, you’re coming into the story at the point where Buffy has been brought back from death by her well-meaning friends–only she’s really not happy to be back. Plus, there are a lot of complex interrelational issues that basically explain themselves through the songs themselves. And the songs are something incredible! Sweeping through genre boundaries to touch everything from classic musical styles to jazz to ballet-inspired to hard rock, each and every piece is both catchy and edgy. Honestly, it’s one of the best musicals I’ve seen, particularly when you consider that most of the actors were not professional singers. Amber Benson’s role, in particular, was breathtaking; she’s always been a character who was more than I expected, but in this musical, she truly shone. Beautiful voice! The story development is pretty intense–this comes at a breaking point of sorts in the lives of the characters. The songs really reveal this in their blend of passion and angst, hope and emptiness. If you’ve a taste for musicals at all, I would definitely recommend “Once More, with Feeling” even if you wouldn’t generally like the series as a whole–truly an impressive and moving work.

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