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All Shows > Buffy the Vampire Slayer > Season 3

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - 3x12 - Helpless

Synopsis: Buffy's powers go AWOL, and Giles is to blame. Will Buffy ever trust him again?

Review: Helpless was the quintessential Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, and, ironically, Buffy was missing her titular slayer powers for most of the episode. My brother watched this episode with me, and it interested him in Buffy enough to start watching season one of this series.

This episode was also quintessential sci-fi. This episode was an example of what I call the Prime Directive Dilemma. For you non-trekkies, the Prime Directive was a law observed in Star Trek that made it illegal to interfere with the development of a species. There would be definite practical reasons for a law like this in a space-trekking future, but over the course of the franchise, the Prime Directive has been violated many times accompanied by cheers from the viewer. The Watcher's Council has observed slayers for 1,200 years, so all the rules and regulations have been forged from trial and error of centuries of watching.

Is Giles right or wrong by disobeying the Council? It is the Prime Directive Dilemma. There are probably practical reasons for the Council's rules, but as viewers, we are cheering for Giles to go against centuries of precedent. Of course, he does, which results in him being fired from the Watcher's Council. This event will have repercussions throughout the rest of the series.

This episode deftly addresses the quintessential Buffy theme: empowerment--specifically, female empowerment. Buffy is able to defeat the vampire sans her slayer powers in an ingenious finale. I believe the message of empowerment is universal. You do not have to have super powers to help people.

There is so much good stuff in this episode. Buffy feels like her father has betrayed her when he does not take her to "Snoopy on Ice" for her birthday. She feels like Giles, the father figure in her life, betrays her when follows the Council's orders in stripping her of her powers. The scene of Giles' betrayal has gut-wrenching emotional power. The episode does not give sufficient explanation of why it is necessary for someone who is dead to take pills, which is crucial to the plot, but that is not enough to mar this great episode. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)

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