At the end of season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the BigBad has been vanquished and The Initiative is not only broken but obliterated, scattered and denied as though it had never happened beneath the plausible deniablility of “scorched earth” and governmental scoffing. The season-long arc has climaxed in episode twenty-one, which leaves Restless as an aftermath of summing and evaluating the work the show had done — for four years. And it’s written in ancient iambic Sumerian, Buffy Summerian, that is; swimmin’ pools, movie stars…
It’s an anthology of dreams of the four principle characters who joined together (even more completely than of-yore) to defeat the BigBad by invoking the soul of the power of the slayer, which just happens to annoy the hell out of the entire tradition of slayers, which manifests in each of their four more-or-less fragmentary dreams to threaten their waking lives for having the temerity to flout the chain-of-command (slayer tradition) by going directly to the source that’s personified in the original slayer, a solitary misanthrope, the victim of frightened old men.
And the writer’s/director’s commentary for that episode reflects his intentional, insistent break with tradition to write an hour of only-vaguely-linear, subtexual exposition about the sandbox in which four characters met to create a television show; the writer’s sandbox.
Buffy’s success as a programming victory for an insignificant market reached more people than were targeted in an age-appropriate demographic by breaking with tradition, remixing staid conventions and going directly to the source of the power that unites writers and audiences; by making something new from stuff that had already been done to death. And Restless departs from the customary path that defines the rise and fall of television shows. It specifically and particularly defies its own traditions by (among other things) previously portraying Spike in The Yoko Factor as the maniplative influence of network/studio executive notes and messageboard remarks from fans. Everybody meddles, well-wishers, censors, sponsors, fans…even artists meddle with their own work.
Call it classic or cheesy television, if you must. I’ll just describe it as art. Like fashions, cultish devotion and popcultural references, obsession with novelties wax and wane, but Mutant Enemy produces work that continues to delight me as I age, finding rich new layers of meaningful content embedded in each successive assay; not unlike Casablanca — it never seems to get stale. I don’t see Dollhouse in the same light, but it’s loaded with ideas that deserve (and will receive) plenty of additional scrutiny.
Restless is a remarkably transparent statement about nourishing the writer/artist/content-creator by flouting the interests of significant others by engaging with the source of pleasure in writing stuff people will eventually come to realize they need because it keeps the saga alive in the souls of the writers/artists/content-creators who refuse to work on their knees, pandering to past success; pandering to pandering. It also does that for the audience.
I believe that the factor that killed the Beatles was their unqualified success, the overwhelming public adoration for what they’d already made together acted as a profound deterrent to whatever hadn’t happened yet. It wasn’t/isn’t Yoko, but public inertia; popular yearning for more-of-the-same that kills artists (by rewarding copyists and meddlers).
The most singularly valuable thing I’ve leaned while following the blog of The Ad Contrarian came from a guy named Guy who said that discovery and invention are very different processes; that academics invent categories, classifications, comparisons and contrasts, while fortunate and talented scientists and artists discover things that really can’t be vivisected without significant loss. And the death of social media happens when reputation acts as an impediment to stepping out of character and discovering something new.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.