Ah classic episodes of television. Most fan of television refer to their favorite shows as a whole rather than the individual episodes that made them fans of the show, unless you’re a nerd like myself. I’m the guy who named all 121 episodes of LOST in a sporcle quiz in under 7 minutes. I digress. Tons of episodes air each and every year. Some great, some good and others absolutely terrible. The great episodes might even be forgotten as the years pass but every year features a few episodes that will share the same sentence with the word ‘classic.’ The 2010 TV season produced, at least, two such instant classics. I’ll allow my large readership to guess which those two episodes are.
Throughout the years of television, the list has grown and will keep growing. During the slow months of TV, I will write about classic episodes of television. Some might actually be classic episodes of television. Some might not be. Nevertheless, the feature will celebrate television episodes. Today, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s “Hush” receives the spotlight.
Joss Whedon spread his creative wings as the years went by. Whedon arrived in Hollywood with the intention to become a feature film guy until the harsh reality of Hollywood filmmaking zapped his optimism so the man sought the refuge of a television–a place where the writer is king, where a writer’s work will get produced quickly and efficiently. As luck would have it, Gail Berman wanted to turn the Buffy movie into a television series and asked Joss to tell the story the Kuzui duo botched in 1992. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer had three successful seasons. Critics adored it. Fans loved it. Joss wanted a new challenge. He wanted to expand the barriers of what television writers and directors can do so the man constructed an episode with 27 minutes of silence. The second and third acts features zero talking. The episode aired. Joss received an Emmy nomination for outstanding writing. The episode re-defined what television could do on any given week.
Obviously, Joss took a chance with “Hush” because old silent movies weren’t exactly been a beloved product of an era gone by in 1999. I doubt more than 3% of Americans own any silent movies. In 2010, silent moves remain ignored. Plus, the only thing American audiences loathe more than subtitles is silence. Of course, “Hush” continues to be an episode that die-hards introduce potential fans to. The episode’s core is simply the idea of communication and how people begin to communicate when they can’t speak. If one cannot speak, conveying one’s meaning becomes more important. The potential Buffy/Riley romance represents the theme. Buffy tells Willow that conversations between she and Riley transition into a blabathon when nothing of importance gets said even though she and Riley don’t stop speaking. Once their voices have disappeared, Riley finally kisses her. Likewise, Anya interrogates Xander about the defining their relationship. She questions Xander’s commitment and interest in her. When Xander mistakenly thinks Spike killed her, he charges Spike to avenge Anya then realizes the woman is alive. NOW she knows how he really feels. “Hush” is full of these moments. Willow and Tara share their first meaningful moment without speech, and Tara uses words to communicate how she special she thinks Willow is.
The button of the whole episode expresses exactly what Joss wanted to get across. During the fun with the Gentlemen, Riley and Buffy accidentally revealed themselves to each other. Both are bad-ass demon fighters (though Riley’s less bad-ass). Afterwards, Riley and Buffy try to talk about what happened the previous night; however, the episode ends in silence. They have no words.
Indeed, the theme of communication dominates the episode. Of course, the episode succeeds as a throw-back to the scary, silent films of old like Nosferatu. The idea that one cannot scream for help is creepy. The episode features fantastical moments like the Gentlemen floating above ground as their workers roam the pavement, ready to cut out a heart. In their tower, the Gentlemen behave as Victorian aristocats, applauding the different hearts they’ve acquired. The episode never explains why the Gentlemen want seven hearts nor the plan when they have all seven. The episode requires no reason though. The absence of a motive makes the Gentlemen scarier as does the absence of a scream when they attack. After all, the episode isn’t about the Gentlemen. Without them, the voices don’t disappear but they’re relatively meaningless once one remembers that Buffy’s greatest strength was how the big, bad scaries reflected ordinary human beings’ concerns, conflicts and drama and not defeating the big bad of the episode.
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