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Unpopular fandom opinion

I know I'm probably stepping into a pile of it with this one, but I feel compelled to ask:

What is so genius-brilliant about the BtVS episode Restless ?

Don't get me wrong, I like the episode very much. But I wouldn't put it in the top ten, like so many seem to. I feel like that kid in that story about the Emperor's New Clothes, who's staring around at everyone "ooohing" and "aaahing", wondering, "What does this episode tell us about these characters we didn't already know?"

Not a lot. It simply tells us those things in the symbolism of dreams, so everyone scrambles to say how "deep" it must be.

It introduces the First Slayer, it explores the characters and their arcs and worries and goals and sets us up a bit for how they will unfold in the season to come, but it just ain't that profound.

ETA: Hah, Myles "likes it, but doesn't see the 'genius'", as well:


Your mileage may vary.



( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2010 04:47 am (UTC)
It must be the guy with the cheese.

I don't find the whole thing to be terribly profound or deep, but it is clever and I do rank it highly because I genuinely enjoy rewatching it. It's a nice Scooby-intensive end to a season full of group fragmentation, plus it has fun obscure quotes to learn and say and wear on sweatshirts.

Thanks for the suggestion, perhaps a bit of Restless will help my foul mood.
Jul. 10th, 2010 04:53 am (UTC)
I enjoy watching it, too. It's fun. But "deep", and "brilliant"? People tend to get all gushy at the mere mention of it, and that's when I go, "Huh?"
Jul. 10th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
Deep, no. Brilliant, yes, in that it's cracky while making perfect sense, which is a kind of genius. It's not easy to get characterization spot-on while trying to come across as bizarre as possible. In a show full of brilliant episodes, it stands out not for being better, but rather for being different. At least that's my opinion.
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's kinda what I wanted to say.

I like it, and I like the way it shifts us from the concerns of S4 to S5, but, eh.
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
There's also the fact that fandom en masse has trouble distinguishing between 'ten best' and 'ten favorite' in many a situation. Hence so many poorly written episodes earning high marks for some squeezed in bit of romance or a character's cunningly torn shirt. (Voyager fandom's baffling obsession with ep 41, Resolutions, for example.)
Jul. 10th, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
"Ten best" and "ten favorite" are hard to distinguish. At the time you watch them, ten best are easier to pick out, but years laters, it's easier to remember ten favorite, mostly because they stand out over the years as "ten funniest". For example, that episode of the X-Files where they pretend to be a couple, and live in the gated community, and Mulder drinks an entire carton of OJ. The BTVS examples would be things like the Two Xanders, or snarky basement Spike having to do Xander's laundry, or The Trio being hilarious in anything, esp. "Life Serial".

"Restless" was mildly amusing, and mildly clever, but I agree it was appropriate for neither a ten best nor a ten funniest list.
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:15 am (UTC)
For me Restless symbolizes what the last few years of Buffy failed to deliver. Not that they weren't fine in their own way. But the whole point of an episode/story-chapter like Restless is that it says that the story is ready to take a big qualitative step in directions that TV hasn't often gone before. And after Restless it just didn't happen. There were fine eps like OMWF and The Body, but they stand out so much because much of the rest was mediocre by comparison.

You can like Dawn or not, but her introduction into the story foretold in Restless, just didn't live up to the build up. You can admire Buffy for saving Dawn at the end of that season. But in terms of what TV stories did before and since it was the same old, same old. Which was what I spent the first summer I posted over on the ATPo board trying to say.

The other pieces of the puzzle from Restless leaked out over time, but they never met the quality challenge that Restless established. In that sense I think you're right, that being a one time arty episode, it doesn't deserve to be so highly rated. It should have been the profound anchor for the rest of the series. Instead it's an arty preview.

But for me it's still a high point. What could have been if Joss hadn't gotten bored with trying to improve Buffy and hadn't moved on to other things, which he did well, but not up to the potential some of us hoped for.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 10th, 2010 11:30 am (UTC)
had no immediate offensiveness about it

How about the bit where being black was coded as being primitive, voilent, and savage; and was credited not as "first slayer" but as "primitive".

So yeah, pretty offensive actually.
Jul. 10th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
I've tried to reply to this about five times, and deleted my response on each occasion. I think, given the way you have set your post up, it might just be best for me to say that I agree the Emperor is naked, but I find the naked Emperor quite hot. In other words, I don't dispute there's no character development and limited plot, but for me, it's not about that: it's all about style, and the poetry of theme without reality.

Jul. 10th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
it's all about style, and the poetry of theme without reality.
That's why it will always be episode number #1 for me.

If anything I think I could make a strong argument that Restless is all clothes and no Emperor. But I still think it was the best think Joss ever did.
Jul. 10th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I agree.

Jul. 10th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
I suppose my post takes a tone that is itself a response to fandom reactions I don't link to or quote. But every time newbies enter the fray of BtVS, there's a lot of wiggling and squeeling over, "Wait until you get to Restless!" and "OMG, I think I might introduce you to the show by showing you this brilliant episode first!"


If there is brilliance to be found in the episode, it must come with slogging through the four seasons that proceed it, and then slogging through at least the season that occurs after it.

It's enjoyable, and it's good for more-than-casual fans to poke and prod through, but I don't think it has the same kind of artistry other episodes do. I think it has the appearance of artistry, but is a bit shallow under the style and flash.
Jul. 10th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, there's definitely a lot I agree with in what you say here. Certainly 'Restless' first seems silly, and it's part of the series rather than viewable on its own. Oddly enough 'The Body', though all the more raw if you have watched episodes up to that point, is still similarly powerful without previous knowledge because of the universality of death, and its relative lack of context in anyone's life.

I'm not sure I understand the difference between something being generically art, (as you claim for all television below), and something being artistry, or Art with a capital A. But ultimately descriptions such as these need perhaps to be idiosyncratic to each person. For me, 'Restless' is art. But then, for me, 'Where the Wild Things Are' is art. I just don't like it...


Jul. 11th, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
That is some very clever phrasing.
Jul. 10th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
It's in my top ten because I love cheese
Or... and I shall digress, but I went to dinner with capricious' family some years ago. And we were discussing how a background in Literature (or Humanities in general) prepared a person to analyse practically anything for its meaning. Capricious' brother then put me to the challenge. The topic... American cheese. Really, it was too easy.

I wear the cheese, it does not wear me. I love the simple randomness of that. The randomness of dream logic. Brushstroked images. Intercut and shifting. Sharp. Allowing for an intensity of point of view not generally allowed in the series. Or television for that matter. It's questionable perspective. It's Giles singing and they hold up lighters. And in that moment, I connect emotionally because I've lifted my lighter. Laugh to myself because the words Giles sings are nothing of the epic. Don't bleed on the couch. He's just had it cleaned. It's not that these are new things about the characters, but that it's done in a way that is far more vicerally available to me than other methods of storytelling. All the while adding imagery to the series, which is then availble for connections. For example, in OMWF, when the fire truck races behind the Scoobies, I think of Restless and how Buffy was going to be a fireman when the flood roll back. Which is a statement, in and of itself, that makes no sense and perfect sense. And for some reason makes me think of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Perhaps its the trees in the desert.

Anyway, that would be why for me. I like illogical things. And I really must eat some of the Apricot Stilton in the fridge. It's fairly delicious. If a bit odd.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: It's in my top ten because I love cheese
I can see how a non-linear person such as yourself would swim in this ep four hours.

Jul. 10th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the thorough, unabashed weirdness of it all.

You have a point that it doesn't really tell us anything that we didn't know about the characters before. It just does it in a cool, artsy way.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
I would quibble with the word "artsy". I think it has what to many would "look" artsy without necessarily being so that much.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
How would you define 'artsy'? I'm suspecting we're getting different meanings out of the word.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
I suppose it's a level of literary sophistication one would attribute to great writers or cinematographers, and many fans attribute to this episode, but that I think is *really* overstating the case in this instance. Dream symbols, even clever ones, do not art make.

Is it clever? Yes. Entertaining? Sure. Is it art? Only in the generic sense that all television is art.

Ask about an episode like The Body, on the other hand, and I will say, yes, that is brilliant, and it is Art.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
Heh, I was using a different definition then. To me, there's a big difference between 'artsy' and Art. Artsy is clever with some artistic overtones, but not necessarily great art in the sense of what you're talking about.
Jul. 11th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
I think it's a great episode. I guess my post was a response to those who get all effusive at the mere mention of it and think it's the "OMG Brilliant." As BtVS episodes go, I think it's a bit overrated.
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
I'd say if you smush together the comments by Fresne and TCH, you'd be fairly close to the way I feel about this episode.

A few wrinkly thoughts of my own, however:

First, I have a serious fetish for the language of cinema, something I wrote about in more detail in one of my old Classic Movie of the Week reviews. While I enjoy both the verbal and visual aspects of a well-made film, of the two, I lean heavily toward the visual. For an example, watch the opening ten minutes of Terrence Malick's The New World (2005) and then realize that no one has spoken a single word in all that time. No one needs to. The images bypass the analytical mind and direct themselves to the heart and soul, yet it took great analytical artistry to place such on the screen.

Two, I have a fetish for those who successfully translate the untranslatable aspect of dreaming, and I feel Whedon succeeds on a grand scale (relative to conventional television) in Restless.

Three, you combine one and two and then add some clever, witty dialog to the mix, where the latter actually enhances rather than degrades the former, and yes, it is a work of genius.

Lastly, I don't think the point of the episode was to advance the plot so much as it was to illustrate that Whedon shares my fetishes. How could I not be happy?
Jul. 11th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
Well, as I indicated, I like the episode just fine. It's fun and has interesting visual and symbolic elements. I just don't get the effusiveness so many fans lapse into at the mere mention of it, or how they want to throw it up there as a showcase episode for non-fans they want to lure to the show. It's a fan-service episode, the kind of episode only a fan is in any position to appreciate, which could be said of any outsider's glimpse into a stranger's dreams

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )