Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 2, Episode 8 Review – “The Dark Age”

Directed By: Bruce Seth Green
Written By: Dean Batali & Rob Des Hotel
Broadcast Date: 10 November 1997

Giles’ past comes back to haunt him as a demon he and Ethan Rayne summoned in their wild youth seeks them out in Sunnydale.

A great premise that explores Giles’ past and the appearance of a creepy demon makes this episode a good watch – but certain writing decisions did leave me feeling slightly frustrated.

It is great to finally have an episode focused on Giles after the previous two hinting at his past. Out of all of the Scooby Gang, it feels like viewers know him the least, which makes this episode all the more exciting. The two fold impact of the demon Eyghon, who he let possess him with university friends in his past, returning to kill his friends in the cult including him, and that they possess Miss Calendar to do so, is very nicely done. Giles and Jenny’s budding relationship has been sweet so far but this is the first major bump. The ramifications of this episode do feel right, even though I was unsure whether the writers would kill Jenny off. The acting of Giles is made believable, so much so that I wish that he would be the one to purge the demon and rewrite the wrongs of his younger days, particularly since the demon murders his old friends. Instead, he is left by Buffy in his own home, which doesn’t really complete any personal vengeance or even closure. Nonetheless, hope that we have further insight into Giles’ life as time goes on because there is a lot of potential with it.

Willow is once again the underrated star of the episode with her humourous moments really standing out. Her command of the situation when Xander and Cordelia were bickering, threatening them with expulsion of her library was a brilliant scene. It feels like the character is being treated right by the writers recently, after being a bit one-dimensionally timid for the first season. Speaking of Xander and Cordelia, is there some sort of chemistry there when they were arguing? They are polar opposites but since Cordelia is becoming a bigger part of the Scooby Gang recently, I can definitely see the writers going in that direction, along with Willow eventually meeting band member Oz, not present in this episode.

This is a generally strong episode narrative wise but there are a couple of decisions from the writers that felt off, the biggest one being Angel-ex machina. I’m not sure the writers know how to treat the resident vampire in a non-vampire episode or where his past comes to light. In this episode he helps Buffy in a slightly dull battle with some vampires after hospital blood, disappears for the rest of the episode and then is the surprise solution when his vampire demonic soul destroys Eyghon when entering his body. This felt like a misstep and an anticlimax, not least because it took the focus completely from Giles. My second issue is with the character of Ethan Rayne, a returning antagonist from Giles’ past, after first appearing in “Halloween“. He is an okay enough character but with Spike, the season antagonist who is missing in this episode, being essentially an elevated and more dramatic version of Ethan, the latter lacks any kind of menace or presence. Again, I look forward to this character and his past with Giles being further enlightened; the latter’s nickname “Ripper” intrigues me.

“The Dark Age” finally sheds some light on Giles’ past before becoming The Watcher, with the appearance of a demon from his past being the perfect villain. However questionable decisions from the writers, notably having Giles absent for the vanquishing of the demon, left a bit of a bitter taste.

Star Rating: 7/10

The next episode will see Spike and Drusilla return – with a bang – in the first of a two part episode. My review of “What’s My Line – Part One” will be available soon.

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