by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
I come from the imagination/and I’m here strictly by your invocation.
So what do you say/why don’t we dance awhile?
—intones the devil in a blue suit
The Bewitched television era titles for Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s, “Once More with Feeling,” conjures up an I Was a Teenage Werewolf drive-in flick sensation, and forewarns an evening of “retro-pastiche.” Joss Whedon, creator of this hip horror show, wrote the songs and music in addition to writing and directing the episode—wielding the blade that gives Buffy its edge.
The plot is a slayer standard:
A demon causes an imbalance in the universe. In this case, “Sweet” sports a zoot suit and arranges a danse macabre for Sunnydale. Spellbound, Buffy and the Slayerettes burst into song—each revealing their own private hell.
It’s the do or die attitude that prevails, however, as wedding jitters, mind control, ejection from heaven, et cetera, are momentarily set aside for a showstopping number that gives the dapper devil his due. As his “due” is Xander for a bride—the fiend opts to “blow this scene.”
Ah, but Sweet has the last laugh as the devil is always in the details:
“What a lot of fun/you guys have been real swell.
And there’s not a one/who can say this ended well.
All those secrets/you’ve been concealing,
Say you’re happy now/once more with feeling.
Now I gotta run/see you all in hell.”
The day may be saved but relationships are left uneasy and unclear as the characters warble, “Where do we go from here?” The music swells and the curtains close on a kiss between Buffy the teenage zombie and the only one who can make her feel alive—Spike, the dead sexy swain who vamps in the dark shadows.
“Once More With Feeling” can be interpreted as a dialogue Whedon imagines between the audience and himself. When Buffy sings “Every single night, the same arrangement, I go out and fight the fight,” and rejects the notion of just “going through the motions” it’s as if he acknowledges the dangers of bloody boredom that may befall any series in its sixth season. Buffy asks Giles: “What do you expect me to do?” He replies: “Your best.” Fortunately, Whedon’s best exceeds our already high expectations.
Where does Joss Whedon go from here? Wherever that may be, we are certain to be square in front of the tube, invoking the song and dance man to bring in his own brand of funky noise.