I Robot, You Jane (BtVS 1.8)

Oh, god, I hate it when they do Italian and I get distracted by how godawful the accents (and translations) are. Why can’t they stick to languages I don’t speak? Although the priest who summons Moloch the Disruptor into the book is pretty good, actually. I’m sure it’s not his fault the translation is kind of lacking. Moloch’s Italian is demonically bad, which I guess is at least fitting.

Perhaps one could survive in the late 20th century — with three whole years to spare, as Ms. Calendar points out — without being dependent on any sort of idiot box. These days, it’s a lot harder. (She says, while watching TV via an online streaming service and writing about it to post on social media.)

Giles: I’ll be back in the Middle Ages.
Jenny Calendar: Did you ever leave?

Still one of my favorite exchanges.

Willow is using a very fancy Scan-A-Matique that must have cost the Sunnydale School District a pretty penny. I wonder if the city gets to seize the assets of a lot of vampire victims?

Remember the days when it seemed weird to meet someone on the internet? I barely do. It seems so quaint nowadays, when you can swipe right on your phone and be having coffee with a perfect stranger in the space of half an hour.

Moloch can use some awfully sophisticated camera and facial matching technologies for 1997. We definitely should not allow the President to watch this episode. I can only imagine the ensuing tweets.

When Willow says “big deal if I blow off a couple classes,” it’s a much bigger deal than when Xander is being a hyena-possessed jerk and complaining about Buffy’s bathing habits. This is whooping-siren-level badness.

The whole thing with Fritz and the rewritten paper about Nazi Germany (and how he tries to use the showers to commit murder) is somehow both underdeveloped and over the top. Dave just makes me sad, an obvious dupe.

Buffy’s incognito sunglasses are kind of hilarious.

To highlight Giles’s fuddy-duddy-ness, not only is he stubbornly out of date with regard to technology, he doesn’t get Buffy’s pop culture references, either.

That corkscrew doesn’t dangle from her ear.
Jenny: I just came by to check your new database, make sure your cross reference table isn't glitching.

Classic technopagan double-entendre.

I get why they have them speaking aloud, but seeing Willow talk to her computer while typing just seems weird. It also seems to be an awfully personal conversation to be having out loud in a semi-public space.

For a smart informatics demon, Moloch makes a big boo-boo here by letting on that he’s accessed Buffy’s permanent record and knows about her checkered past.

Giles is convinced that computers — and the internet, specifically — will lead to “a society in which human interaction is all but obsolete [and] in which people can be completely manipulated by technology.” I argue with my students all the time about the former, which I firmly believe is false, but the latter… well. He ain’t wrong.

More interesting to me, though, is the first part of their exchange, where Jenny says, “Oh, you are a big snob. You think that knowledge should be kept in these carefully guarded repositories where only a handful of white guys can get at it.”

Giles does represent the Watchers, who are based in England (presumably transferred after the British colonized the site of the original Slayer lineage, and took over the watching duties). I think he does indeed, at this stage, hold some rather conservative views of knowledge: he works for the ultimate gatekeepers, after all, and even though by that time his views have evolved, he goes through with Buffy’s Cruciamentum.

What’s more, the show itself takes a somewhat conservative stance as well. Hello: scanning the books to make them available to everyone literally unleashed a dangerous demon! The books are a proxy for the idea of keeping information segregated and “safely” in the hands of those who will know what must be kept secret.

Except sometimes those secrets fall into the possession of Ethan Rayne types, and then what? This episode doesn’t offer any solutions, but it starts the conversation… one that arguably comes to its natural end in Chosen, which is one big share-a-thon of knowledge, power, and love. Which are all connected, as it turns out.

Why would Willow be in the locker room? Come on, Buffy.

“That dreadful Calendar woman.” You’re fooling no one except yourself, Giles.

After his stint online, Moloch has morphed from a Fyarl-ish demon to a robot. Like a Fyarlbot. Nowhere near as charming as the Buffybot; more like a proto-Adam. This episode adds some more blurring of lines between magic and mysticism on the one hand, and science and technology on the other:

He’s like Uber, but for people.
Giles: Couldn't you just stop Moloch by, by entering some computer virus? 
Jenny: You've seen way too many movies. Okay! We're up. You read, I type. Ready?
Giles: Uh, I am. By the power of the divine, by the essence of the word, I command you...

Willow’s first break-up sure is a corker. Buffy is even a little afraid of her, watching how she wields that fire extinguisher.

At this point, they’ve all experienced some romantic trauma, which naturally makes them worry about the future. (Not without reason, we can all say with the luxury of hindsight.) Which leads to one of the best final scenes of any episode in the show — not bad after just eight episodes.

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