View Full Version : Deeply stupid plans (part 2)

24-02-19, 07:11 PM
In this installment, we have... pretty much every plan that Buffy and the Scoobies devise to protect the Potentials. By sheer luck, their attempts turn out to be merely somewhat ineffectual; however, this owes nothing to the good guys' cleverness. Against a halfway-competent enemy, their schemes would have ended in the deaths of the Potentials, the main characters, and, presumably, much of Earth's human population.

Let's start with the very idea of Buffy as able to protect them. Sure, she's more athletic than your average human, but she's pretty low on the superpowers scale. She couldn't run down the garbage truck in "As You Were," the highest jump we've ever see her make was maybe 20-25 feet (in "Lie to Me," and she doesn't make similar leaps often), and a single bullet to the chest put her out of the way, and would've killed her without Willow's intervention, in "Villains." The Master won their first round, she spent most of season 5 unable to even bruise Glory, and Caleb manhandles her from his first appearance until she finds a secret, one-of-a-kind Slayer scythe in "Touched."*The*First only has to seduce/hire one sniper to kill her.

Then there's the fact that she's simply not there all the time. She goes to work until Sunnydale High shuts down (again) in "Storyteller." While she's presumably home at, or not long after, dusk, not all their enemies are afraid of sunlight. If sunlight is a weakness for the Bringers, we never hear about it. I'm not sure why they take it*for granted that the Ubervamps are as vulnerable to it as ordinary vampires, either. Recall that the Master's bones survived both a staking and his burial on holy ground, and his followers thought they had enough to resurrect him ("When She Was Bad"), and he was nowhere near as alien as the Ubervamps, which Giles believed to be a legend until "Bring on the Night." Dracula survived several stakings, transformed himself into fog, and managed to maintain his thrall on Buffy and Xander throughout the day after he'd bit them ("Buffy vs. Dracula"). Again, he was a dangerous vampire, but nowhere near as much of an unknown quantity as the Ubervamps. It seems plausible, pre-"Chosen," that the Ubervamps would be able to resist sunlight, or at least continue to influence people after a nighttime attack.

The biggest problem, though, is less about physical prowess, and more about fortifications and terrain. We could debate whether or not putting all the known Potentials in any one place makes sense, but, while stashing them all in a bunker somewhere might make sense, putting them up at 1630 Revello Drive absolutely does not. It's an ordinary house with a wooden frame and lots of glass that Xander keeps replacing. It doesn't have a good view of the surrounding area; it isn't fireproof; it hasn't been reinforced to withstand even low-level hand-to-hand combat; and it's full of modern electronics, which, as of "Conversations with Dead People," the Scoobies know the First can at least temporarily control, independent of both their owners' input and their usual power source. Even the fact that it's Buffy's official address is a problem. Surely, if a bunch of teenagers at Sunnydale High can get their hands on rocket launchers and hundreds of pounds of explosive fertilizer, the First can turn some colonel or DHS agent or mining expert, hand them a card with her address, and wait a few hours for her house to go boom.

Maybe you're about to say that tactics are for amateurs, but Buffy's house isn't really suitable from a logistical standpoint, either, and nobody tries to make it more so. Strangely (considering that it's a two-story house), it appears to only have one bathroom; nobody mentions setting up chamber pots or a latrine to empty them into, either. Although the basement is probably the safest part of the house and has room for a cistern, nobody mentions storing water there, either, despite the likelihood of utility failure. It's probably going to get pretty squalid pretty fast. We don't see any stacks of non-perishable food, any cooks practicing the use of the hearth, or --most egregious-- any individual supply kits.

Let's be real: Prior to "Touched," the gang is in no way prepared for a siege, a rush, or arson. A handful of Bringers kidnap Spike out from under Buffy's nose in "Never Leave Me"; imagine what would've happened if the First had sent Caleb and a team of Bringers and a team of Ubervamps and someone with grenades to the house. Team Good would have to retreat, right? And, since they might find themselves injured and needing to keep a low profile, wouldn't every recruit need a couple days' worth of clean drinking water (or a filter), a weapon, and first aid supplies? Plus some idea of where to regroup?

The Potentials would, in all likelihood, be safer on the run than they are at Buffy’s. Living in abandoned buildings and on timberland may not be fun for anyone but avid campers, but see above re: Buffy’s house. However, I will grant that there is one compelling reason to have the Potentials in or near Sunnydale: If Buffy or Faith dies, it ups the odds of being able to give the next Slayer instructions.

Luckily, Sunnydale offers a few advantages to the Potentials and their protectors; unluckily, the characters use virtually none of said advantages. While the Potentials’ powers don’t get much of a boost from the location, witches’ powers do, and witches can provide real defenses. To protect the Potentials, recruit witches. You could split them into groups (one at Buffy’s house, one in the Initiative caves, maybe one in Angel’s old digs), each guarded by detecting and barrier spells. Or have three or four camp out in the wilderness outside Sunnydale (c’mon, they’re witches, at least some of them have got to love nature; did you see Willow’s flower trick in “Lessons”?) to outflank the First’s servants who are already in Sunnydale. Additionally, we know that Anya is a powerful witch, capable of turning men into trolls, summoning demons, and paralyzing humans— and she already lives in Sunnydale. She should be able to guard a few Potentials, especially with Giles or Robin for backup.

Better still, every survivor of the class of ’99 knows about Buffy’s double life, the existence of demons, and Sunnydale’s status as “not really like other towns.” They followed her into battle once. Can’t they now act as a well-armed neighborhood watch, picking off or at least scattering any Bringers or vampires who approach vital locations?

What about the “sacred place in the desert” that we saw in “Intervention”? Giles takes the Potentials there to learn about their heritage (“The Killer in Me”), but ignores its tactical value. A naturally Slayer-friendly location, which appears to exist outside of normal time and space (the footprints of multiple Slayers are preserved over generations), and a spirit guide is available for advice? That sounds, to me, like a viable destination for a retreating Potential army… if they had warning systems, weapons, and survival kits.

It’s important to remember that, despite Buffy’s attitude toward retreating (most obvious in “Spiral”), “retreat” is not synonymous with either “surrender” or “rout.” Every American middle-schooler knows that George Washington’s Continental Army spent far more time hiding and running than fighting. Spoiler: They won. An attack and withdrawal can be a victory. Fleeing an attack on your camp is usually better than dying in vain. What the Scoobies and Potentials are missing is preparedness, both for offense and defense.

At minimum, Buffy should assign guard shifts that ensure a constant view, from the top floor or roof, in all cardinal directions. Every room with a wall facing the outside should have at least one ranged weapon in it, to give the inhabitants a chance at taking down whatever enemy barrels through. It doesn’t make sense, either, for the would-be army to carry cell phones. Presumably, Dawn has told them about the microwave exploding. Imagine everyone suffering an explosion on their body. There’s also a chance that, if the First can manipulate electronics into exploding, it can listen in on them. Whenever possible, conversations regarding the war plan should take place out of range of telephones and any other equipment containing receivers. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to draw on Willow’s science background and Xander’s access to construction materials to turn a room or two into a Faraday cage.

Of course, I can imagine one very good use for phones: Calling the reconstituted Initiative. If the U.S. government gets infiltrated at a sufficiently high level, it could turn turn everything above ground in Sunnydale into glass or ash, instantly opening the field for the First’s minions. Riley and his team are far better placed than Buffy to watch for suspicious behavior in government agencies and militaries. Unfortunately, no one appears to consider alerting them to the danger.

The team is no better at offense than it is at defense. The disasters in “Empty Places” and “Touched” result, in large part, from a failure to perform basic recon. Yes, sending in a scout means putting them at risk, but not sending in a scout means putting everyone at risk. Magic locator spells would help identify the enemy’s positions while minimizing risk to the scouts.

Nearly as bad as the lack of intel is the lack of effective weaponry carried by Buffy and her followers. If “one little bullet” could have killed Buffy in season 6, isn’t it possible that emptying a clip into Caleb would kill him? Against larger forces, the forward line should always carry crossbows to “soften up” the enemy before engaging in close-quarters combat. Since they haven’t drunk any funny beer of late, they could also use that newfangled invention called fire. We know that flaming arrows (not to mention Molotovs) are highly effective against wooden buildings and flammable furnishings, and we have no reason to think they wouldn’t be effective against vampires. Maybe one shot would kill an Ubervamp, maybe it wouldn’t, but they’re packed like sardines in the Hellmouth (which Buffy knows from her vision in “Get It Done”). Who knows how well a fire would spread, especially if the Potentials chucked a few kerosene bottles into the crowd to help it along? It’s certainly worth a shot (hehe), yet the Scoobies don’t try anything like it when they storm the Hellmouth in “Chosen.”

The characters describe their situation as “war,” and the stakes justify this attitude. But no one acts like it’s a war. Our characters don’t seek the advantages in their environment, maintain a watch against attacks, assign weapons based on more than “dibs,” build strategic alliances, weigh methods of counterintelligence, experiment with their technology, or move in formations more complicated than “Slayers first.” For all the emphasis on who has to die (“Conversations with Dead People”; “Get It Done”: “Lies My Parents Told Me”), they never ask themselves what they should change.