Synopsis: Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes a break for a public service announcement: censorship is bad. Buffy and friends are almost burned alive at the stake.
Review: There are certain issues that stir up controversy by nature. Kudos to any television series willing to tackle these issues. When a television series takes on a controversial topic, they had better have a great show to back up that episode, because a lot of people are going to be irked at the theme. Well, kudos to Buffy for tackling the issue of censorship and moral reaction to things perceived as immoral in the mainstream like witchcraft. Boo on Buffy for offering a mediocre plot and contrived story along with this heady theme.
I am not quite sure where I stand on the topic in this episode, but I feel that I land some where on the other side of the line from the position Buffy took. I will be honest: I am one of the people that was irked by the theme. This is not the reason I disliked the episode. If the episode had employed any sort of creativity, I probably could have enjoyed this episode very much.
The events in this episode can be compared to the real-life phenomenon surrounding the Harry Potter series. Some people very much oppose the series based on its portrayal of witchcraft while others think it is harmless. I choose not to read Harry Potter because of its portrayal of witchcraft whereas I very much enjoy Buffy because it employs fictional monsters like vampires to creatively convey messages. Some may argue Potter does the exact same thing with witchcraft. No, it does not. Much like a movie about boxing uses a real-life construct as a metaphor, Potter uses real-life witchcraft as a metaphor (as opposed to fictional Hollywood witchcraft in television series such as Bewitched.) Willow's dabbling in Wicca is becoming increasingly disconcerting to me, but thus far the series had done a great job balancing it out with genuine concern from other characters that she should not be dabbling in such things.
Episodes of Buffy usually combine humor and adventure. Gingerbread was severely lacking in the humor department. The murder of two children by an occult group was far more disturbing than any other monster-of-the-week. Although we were to believe she was under some kind of supernatural influence, it seemed like Buffy's mother was acting out of character. I had mixed feelings about this episode just like the previous episode, but unlike Amends, this episode does not have an engaging enough story to merit higher than a 2 out of 10.
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)