Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight

The possibilities of becoming invisible are endless. Rob a bank and get away with it! Fling a cream pie at any pompous politician you choose and again, walk away scott-free! You could also use it as a unique party trick, which would surely leave any Britain's Got Talent judge open-mouthed in amazement.
However, Sunnydale High student Marcie Ross hates being invisible. And as a consequence, she's out for blood – literally.
The first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer covers many of the problems faced by youngsters during their school days. Peer pressure. Parent pressure. Bullying. But one of the most damning issues is being the quiet one at the back. School's a tough enough environment at the best of times, but for us shy 'uns, it can be absolute torture. With the louder kids racing away in terms of popularity and attention, those who don't have so many social skills in their pencil case tend to get brushed to one side.
With the Hellmouth open for business, Buffy The Vampire Slayer cleverly relates the problem of being the shy, quiet kid to the power of invisibility. Marcie spends her days being ignored by her fellow pupils and teachers. Her yearbook is crammed full of bland, meaningless messages like 'Have a nice Summer' while her teacher asks everyone else but her for an opinion in class. As a result, Marcie's literally fading away – but even her unique new party trick hasn't been given a second glance by her teachers and fellow pupils.
The second clever move of Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight is to contrast Marcie's invisible woman schtick with the loudest, most obnoxious student at Sunnydale High: Cordelia Chase.
It's sometimes easy to forget that once upon a time, Cordelia wasn't always as selfless and compassionate as she was in Angel. The Cordelia of Buffy's first season is an absolute nightmare. Even if the world was going up in flames, Cordelia would somehow make the whole disaster about her (the fire would probably ruin her wardrobe, say). She's a bitchy, shallow, vain bully who uses her looks and queen bee status to get what she wants. She's everything that Marcie isn't, and that puts her at the top of Ms Ross' hit-list.
Marcie's a clever one, though – playing the long game rather than moving straight in for the kill. Cordelia's lunkhead jock boyfriend, her teacher Ms Miller, and Harmony are all targeted – respectively by being hit over the head with a bat, suffocated with a plastic bag, and pushed down some stairs. Marcie's also using her crusade of evil to educate Cordy by leaving simple messages of 'Look', 'Listen' and 'Learn' – if that doesn't ram the message home, then Marcie's plan to leave Cordy's face like shredded waste paper may well do the job.
It's not the most subtle of episodes, but there are some clever flourishes demonstrated behind the camera. Director Reza Badiyi uses POV techniques for Marcie's flashbacks, forcing the viewer to live life in her shoes. The attack methods are also more brutal than of late, since Marcie's using everyday things such as a baseball bat or plastic film to get revenge on Cordy and those in her appreciation society. It's a story that's closer to home than some of its more fantastical stablemates. Dusting your enemies with a piece of garden fence is one thing, but Marcie's one-finger grip on the real world uses conventional methods of attack – far more real and far more dangerous.
Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight feels like a breather episode before the big finale. When it comes down to it, the stakes are fairly small. Compare Marcie's revenge campaign with the Master's lofty ambitions for the world. The episode also starts to move the pieces into place, the best example being Giles' first chinwag with Angel. Giles clearly doesn't know what to say to Angel, indulging in you-talk-first small talk, using the current Marcie case as an excuse to fill the empty space. It's a good scene, well acted by both Anthony Head and David Boreanaz, whose Angel also gets to save the day by freeing Giles, Xander and Willow from suffocation. I wonder what that Codex is all about? Got a feeling that the next episode may well have some answers...
Charisma Carpenter gets her star turn this season, after largely being used as comic relief (poor singing, bad hair etc). While she gets to play the usual self-absorbed version, she does get the opportunity to bring some subtlety to the part – chiefly when she explains to Buffy that even though she's surrounded by lots of friends, Cordelia can still feel alone (“It's not as if they know me”). It's also an episode that puts Cordy in mortal danger, and for the first time, we actually see the normally self-assured Ms Chase actually terrified out of her wits. While she's back to square one at the end of the episode, snorting at Buffy and her “losers” with a recuperated Mitch, maybe the events of Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight do have some impact. She's actually hanging around the Scooby Gang in the next episode with little in the way of sneering. That's progress.
A filler episode in some ways, but still enjoyable, Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight is well written, with some interesting things to say about loneliness and social awkwardness. Clea DuVall is very good as Marcie, adding an understated madness to the girl that Sunnydale forgot. Buffy can empathise to a degree, having gone from May Queen to enforced Chosen One – but even her isolation can't make her see Marcie's vision. At one point, Buffy even calls her a “thundering loony”.
So with Marcie reading in admiration at the lyrics of Happiness Is A Warm Gun by the Beatles at the end, Sunnydale High is safe once more. But with the season finale on the horizon, how long can this last?