Checkpoint (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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"Checkpoint"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Buffy5x12.jpg
In the Summers house, Glory asks Buffy where the Key is, unaware that Dawn (standing behind her) is the Key.
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 12
Directed by Nick Marck
Written by Doug Petrie
Jane Espenson
Production code 5ABB12
Original air date January 23, 2001
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Triangle"
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"Blood Ties"
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Checkpoint" is the twelfth episode of season 5 of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The Scooby Gang gathers at Buffy's house to discuss the Watchers' Council's plans to come to Sunnydale, which Buffy is very upset about. She recalls that her two previous experiences with the Council put her life in serious danger, and wishes that they would just give her the information she needs without making the trip to Sunnydale. (Buffy has met Quentin Travers only once before, in Helpless,[1] but met other Council members in Who Are You.[2])

Glory is at her place, panting and in obvious pain. Dreg and another demon rush into the room, bringing a hysterical mailman. They carry her to the crying man and help her put her fingers to his temples to drain away his sanity. She gets up, refreshed, and the disoriented mailman wanders away. The other demon warns her that she has even less time now to use the key, but Glory isn't worried. She explains that if Buffy is the only obstacle between her and the key, that she won't need much time at all.

Quentin Travers and a large team of Watchers arrive at the Magic Box. They disrupt business, sending paying customers home, and criticize Giles's selection of merchandise. They announce that the Magic Box will be closed for the duration of the Council's stay in Sunnydale. Giles is frustrated and takes an antagonistic position, and then learns that the Council plans on conducting an extensive review of Buffy (her methods, skills, and abilities). Quentin announces that they have information on Glory, but won't reveal it until Buffy's skills have been comprehensively tested and she proves she can handle the information.

In Buffy's history class, the teacher is discussing how Rasputin was considered nearly impossible to kill. Buffy challenges the professor to look at history from another angle, but unfortunately, he turns out to be a bully who shoots her ideas down with scathing criticism and sarcasm, embarrassing her in front of the class. That night, Buffy complains about class to a vampire she's fighting until she is thrown off balance. Spike suddenly appears, flying over a tombstone to tackle and stake the vampire. He expects gratitude, but Buffy accuses him of getting in her way. The two then verbally attack each other.

Jinx confronts Ben at the hospital and relays a message from Glory, who wants Ben's assistance in gathering useful information about the Slayer. Ben responds by beating up the demon. Quentin informs Buffy and Giles that she must pass the review or he will shut down the shop and deport Giles. Buffy and Giles realize that they must cooperate with the Council, which is powerful enough to carry out all its threats. Buffy worries that she may fail, placing everyone in even greater danger.

Council members interview the rest of the Scooby Gang, including Spike, for information about the Slayer. Lydia interviews Spike, and she reveals she wrote her thesis on him. With the exception of Spike (who declares her to be "slipping" because she "can't keep a man"), they all try not to incriminate Buffy in any way, and each tries to justify his usefulness to her (without making it sound like Buffy actually needs help). In the training room, Buffy is blindfolded and her fighting skills are tested against one of the council members, but she does not pass the test.

Upon returning home, Buffy finds Glory in her living room. During this confrontation, Glory openly threatens to kill all of Buffy's friends and family and force Buffy to watch her do so. Visibly disturbed by this, Buffy takes Dawn and Joyce to Spike for protection. Although Spike initially protests the sudden increase of "manly responsibilities", he agrees to look after them; after a moment's awkwardness, Joyce and Spike discover their shared addiction to a common soap opera and sit down to watch it together.

On her way to the shop to meet with the council for a comprehensive review of her plans and strategies, several well-armed men wearing medieval fighting gear attack Buffy. Buffy takes them out and discovers from the last conscious one that they are the Knights of Byzantium and are in town to destroy the Key. They consider her their enemy because she protects the Key. Buffy returns to the shop and informs Mr. Travers that she is not going to deal with the review anymore. She now knows that she holds power against both Glory and the Council because they both need something from her; Glory needs to know where the Key is, and the Council needs her to make their jobs meaningful. She delivers an authoritative speech justifying the participation of each of her friends, and demands that Giles be reinstated as her Watcher (receiving retroactive pay from the month of his dismissal). She finally instructs the Council to give her the information that she needs.

Quentin reluctantly agrees to her terms. He then informs Buffy that Glory isn't a demon. She's a god.

Continuity[edit]

  • In this episode, Anya invents the name "Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins" to give to the Council delegation. She will sing this full name in "Selfless".
  • Lydia notes that Giles is keeping a statue in the store and that "its removal from Burma is a criminal offense" and that it has the power "to melt human eyeballs".[3] Giles had previously used a similar statue of a fertility god to attack Toth in "The Replacement".
  • The scene where Buffy is unfairly humiliated in front of her history class by a bullying professor is rather similar to a scene in the earlier episode "The Freshman," where a like-minded bullying professor of the Pop Culture class unfairly treated Buffy in a similar fashion in front of the class before ejecting her.

Arc significance[edit]

  • Beside demonstrating Buffy's distinct detachment from the Council's power structure, this episode sees Giles reinstated at full (retroactive) pay into the Council as her Watcher, as well as revealing the truth of this season's Big Bad: Glory isn't any ordinary demon, she's a Hellgod.
  • This is the first time Giles is officially Buffy's Watcher since season 3's "Helpless". Additionally, the last time Quentin Travers appeared was near Buffy's eighteenth birthday; this episode is very close to Buffy's twentieth.
  • This episode introduces the Knights of Byzantium, one of three powers connected to the Key.
  • Buffy claims that the Watchers Council is useless against the forces of evil without her. Several references both before and after this episode, not least to previous activities of Giles himself, refute this.

Trivia[edit]

According to Willow, Dawn is in Junior High. Since she's 14, she's likely in 8th grade. (Additional note: Later in the season, in Tough Love, Dawn indicates that she's in 9th grade.)[4]

Wesley "Ace" Mask, who played Professor Roberts, the teacher who mocks Buffy in class ("Maybe you'd prefer I step aside, so that you can teach your own course. Speculation 101 perhaps? Intro to Flights of Fancy?"[3]), had his own career in speculative/fantastic cinema, having acted in Not of This Earth (1988), The Return of Swamp Thing (1989), Transylvania Twist (1989), and They Came from Outer Space (1990-1991), among others.

Reception[edit]

Noel Murray of The A.V. Club wrote that Checkpoint was a "highly entertaining episode" with "narrative and thematic significance," adding, "The real fight that Buffy has been staging for five years now may not be between good and evil, but between hidebound traditionalism and ingenious innovation, and between elitism and democratization... What better symbol for the degraded state of The Old Ways than a mad god in stylish clothes, sucking the brains of postmen and walking right into the Summers house and staring straight at Dawn — the object she seeks — while remaining completely ignorant."[5]

Reviewer Mikelangelo Marinaro wrote for the Critically Touched Reviews website that this "wonderfully pleasant episode" is "Buffy's first serious take on the subject of power, which of course is a major theme of S7." Marinaro discusses how "Checkpoint stays focused on Buffy and how she takes another fine step into adulthood while discovering more about her power as a Slayer which, of course, is a big theme of the season." The reviewer gave the episode grades of 90/100 and A-.[6]

A. M. Dellamonica, writing a recap for the Tor Books website, concludes, "Though [this is] not a primarily comic episode, the Scooby interviews are chucklesome. And even though, in dramatic terms, this confrontation has superficial similarities to the one between the Scoobies and the MacLays in Family, I can't help but love that sense of a bill coming due. The Watchers have been needing comeuppance. That they get it direct from the sacrificial teen they've been happy to think of as 'their instrument' only makes it sweeter."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fury, David (Air date: January 19, 1999). "Helpless". BuffyWorld. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ Whedon, Joss (Air date: February 29, 2000). "Buffy Episode #72: Who Are You? Transcript". Buffyworld. 
  3. ^ a b Espenson, Jane; Petrie, Doug (Air date: January 23, 2001). "Buffy Episode #90: "Checkpoint" Transcript". BuffyWorld. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Checkpoint". www.buffyguide.com. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  5. ^ Murray, Noel (July 16, 2010). "Buffy / Angel: Triangle / Checkpoint / Redefinition / Blood Money". The AV Club. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ Marinaro, Mikelangelo (December 22, 2006). "5x12: Checkpoint". Critically Touched Reviews. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ Dellamonica, Alyx (Mar 25, 2013). "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Hoopjumping for Joy". www.tor.com. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 

External links[edit]