Buffy The Vampire Slayer Reviews: Revelations

Revelations fades up with what sounds like the lead character from Family Guy sitting on some bagpipes.

In fact, Dingoes Ate My Baby are concluding their latest set with some kind of agonised ode to pain. Lead singer Devon is bypassing the normal laws of clear singing by turning the simple phrase “If I could walk out” into something that can only be translated as “If I could wuuuuunnnggghhh aaaggghhhlluunggghhhh.” It's amazing that Dingoes manage to get regular bookings, given that their lead singer keeps impersonating a constipated horse. Possibly, the Bronze regulars like their singers on the avant-garde side.

This groaning pain wailing nicely sets the stage for Revelations, which contains more frenzied barking than a room containing The Littlest Hobo, Scooby-Doo and Shep from Blue Peter.

Revelations is all about – well, revelations, if you hadn't guessed. Primarily, the big talking point is that the Scooby Gang find out that Angel is back in town, and naturally they aren't too pleased. Yet again, this results in another verbal slanging match between Buffy and the Scooby Gang, which follows hot on the heels of the din of Dead Man's Party. Seems that you can't trust anyone these days, not even your friendly neighbourhood Slayer.

That's the other theme tune to Revelations: Mistrust is everywhere this episode, dodging between the relentless yelling. Faith learns that her latest Watcher isn't exactly on the level when it comes to truth. Fresh from beating the crap out of some vampires (to the strains of an excellent bit of music from Christophe Beck), Faith, Buffy and Giles are amazed when a haughty woman appears out of nowhere, proclaiming that she's Faith's new Watcher.

The most notable thing about Gwendolyn Post (Mrs) is that she's super posh. Admittedly, many American films and TV programmes tend to have two default settings for us Brits: Gorblimey Cockney and Tea-necking Posho. Gwendolyn falls well and truly into the second camp with a voice so posh she makes the entire Tory party sound like the street urchins from Oliver. She's incredulous that Giles has apparently become too American. By her standards maybe, since we've never seen Giles recite the Star-Spangled Banner in a Stetson hat and spurred boots.

In addition to this, she drinks a lot of tea. So she must be British. In fact, Gwendolyn takes this groaning-at-the-seams cliché to extremes by ferrying her own case of posh tea with her. Given that she turns out to be a Grade-A liar, it's a safe bet that she isn't even married. Instead she probably cuddles up on lonely nights in front of the telly to a scarecrow effigy with a cutout of Prince Charles' face clumsily stuck to the head.

Gwendolyn's in town supposedly on a secret mission to stop a deadly demon getting his hands on a gizmo called The Glove Of Myhnegon. The demon has a name that sounds like an exotic holiday destination: Lagos. The less exotic truth is that he's easily thwarted, but this is merely a sideshow for Gwen's real motives. She wants the grim glove for herself. This isn't some bejewelled artefact for waving Queen-like at humble peasants, but a rusty old heap of junk that painfully fixates on the arm with multiple clenches and then beams bolts of fire at anyone unlucky enough to be in the way.

Which is all well and good, but as deadly weapons go, Gwen's screwed. She can't exactly remove the glove unless she wants to walk around without an arm. She'll find it hard to go to sleep. She'll never be able to shower, given that she'll electrocute herself to a frazzle, meaning that she'll stink even more than the Sunnydale sewers. She won't even be able to write her autobiography, Gwen Will I Be Famous, a potential runaway hit of a book. Instead, she goes into evil mwah-ha-ha baddie mode, the moment she snaps on the glove. Big drama, but it actually works well, thanks to a good, controlled performance from Serena Scott Thomas.

Another plus point from this is that it sets off a chain reaction for Faith's downward spiral. The thing with Faith is that she assumes that everyone's against her. She's had some bad breaks in the past as we'll find out, and Gwendolyn's betrayal is yet another kick in the teeth. Authority hasn't played ball with Faith so far, which is possibly why she chooses to rebel against the status quo in future. It's also worth pointing out how Faith acts on impulse rather than taking a thoughtful approach to problems that come her way. She impulsively leads the hunt for Angel with a furious Xander in tow, despite having very sketchy evidence to go on. She automatically puts two and two together in this case, and then comes up with 6000. It's this blind instinct that will land her in trouble in the future, especially in the Bad Girls episode when her aggressive impulse ends up in schtucksville.

From now on, Faith also becomes more guarded in her approach to those who are trying to be her friend, especially Buffy. Granted, Buffy's just used her as a punchbag in the final act of this episode, but Faith is still bristling at how people seem to be queuing up around the block to betray her. “I'm on my side,” she huffs at Buffy in her squalid little motel room at the end. “And that's enough.” It's the beginning of a tension between the two that will escalate into something far more dangerous by the time that the season's ended. Eliza Dushku plays this side of Faith very well, contributing a brittle vulnerability to her character.

Betrayal's everywhere you turn this episode. Xander and Willow are still continuing their ill-advised clandestine canoodling, and are nearly caught in the act by an unassuming Giles in the library. Perhaps this is why the fans haven't responded so warmly to Xander's furious outbursts at Buffy in Revelations. While Willow goes easy on Buffy for hiding Angel's presence, Xander hypocritically takes the moral high ground, which reaches fever pitch in the infamous library confrontation scene. In a sense, you can understand why Xander and the other Scoobies don't react well to this discovery, given that the last time Angel was in town, he was making their lives more miserable than British weather.

I guess it's the way that Xander chooses to play judge and jury that annoys in this episode. He doesn't give Buffy a chance to explain herself, instead leading the others in a parade of guilt and verbal abuse (“I think lots of dead people actually constitutes a reason!”). Xander's character will mature in time – from the next season, he'll adopt a far more grown-up and supportive approach to Buffy. But at this stage, his emotional side is manifesting itself in a shoot first, ask questions later approach.

The more effective rebuke comes from Giles, who admittedly does have a point when he coldly scolds Buffy for keeping Angel's return a secret. “Sadly, I must remind you that Angel tortured me...for hours...for pleasure... You should have told me he was alive – you didn't. You have no respect for me, or the job I perform.” Great stuff from Anthony Head, who combines quiet rage with genuine upset at Buffy's betrayal and the memories of Angelus' torture.

If all of this hand-wringing angst and shouting sounds like this episode isn't worth bothering with, well, that's not the case. Revelations barrels along, an action-packed firecracker of a story. It may lack the finesse and the humour of the previous two stories, but it's still must-see telly that's well written, performed and shot. The regulars get their teeth into the emotional side of their characters. Even if you may not agree with Xander's point of view, Nicholas Brendon brings out the angry, vengeful side of his character very well. Alyson Hannigan scores multiple points for her various facial expressions in the cemetery while Buffy battles Lagos. Sarah Michelle Gellar also does a superb job here, bringing out Buffy's softer side, whether she's reacting with forlorn regret at letting down her friends or gently persuading Faith to trust her.

From a technical angle, Revelations is the business. There are many fight sequences in this, but James A Contner's many quick camera cuts and strong choreography mean that they never get boring. The action powers ahead, and in imaginative style at that, with some clever camera angles, such as the low-down shot from the injured Giles' point of view. Gwendolyn's inevitable fiery demise is also very well done, as her badly charred body vanishes screaming in pain in a blinding flash of light. By the time the action's calmed down, you may almost feel short of breath after the relentless battling, bickering and fighting.

It's maybe not quite as strong as the previous two episodes, but Revelations is still a good, solid episode in the series. It's the first game-changing moment of the season as Faith finds that life as a Slayer in Sunnydale wasn't quite what she thought it was. While Revelations can be prone to lots of shouting and screaming, it's still shouting and screaming that's done with style. The production is particularly high quality in all quarters, and boosts what could have been a run-of-the-mill instalment into something far superior.

Overall, as Gwendolyn snootily remarks: “Good show”.