I pretty much loved every single thing about "Selfless," but there were two things I particularly loved. The first was the end of the first act, the low-angle shot of Willow with the spider-demon crawling into frame above her head. Creepy.
The other was the death of Halfrek. I'm willing to admit I didn't see that coming, and I was a little taken aback by how horrifying and painful it looked and sounded. And it seemed just as horrifying and painful the second time through. It reminds me a little of the "disintegration by phaser" effect they used in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is similarly disturbing. It just seems like a really awful way to die.
Aside from those two moments, what I liked best about Selfless was how continuity-heavy it was. I love continuity. D'Hoffryn's talisman from "Something Blue" Xander's lie from "Becoming II!" Olaf from "Triangle!" The Mustard Guy from "Once More With Feeling!" And flashbacks! Flashbacks are cool, because they're like continuity in reverse.
I'm just going to list some other things I liked as they occur to me.
- Willow: Very interesting to see her slip back into Dark Willow mode while she was fighting the spider-demon. I wonder if Giles knows that the dark magic is that close to the surface? I wonder if Willow knows?
It was also nice to see that her first instinct after discovering the carnage in the frat house was to go to Anya and see if there was anything she could do to help.
- I like that they didn't explain why Anya is afraid of bunnies. Is it just that she associates them with her time with Olaf, or is there something deeper and more sinister?
- Speaking of Olaf, I love Abraham Benrubi. I miss Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Why isn't it available on DVD? Why isn't it being shown on cable? Seems like a good fit for Noggin.
- The teaser from the tenth century was cute, but why did they do the thing with the sepia tones and the faux-scratchy film stock? They've never done that for any other flashback.
- It's always fun to see D'Hoffryn. I've had some bosses like him: pretty affable most of the time, but very straight-laced and serious when the situation calls for it.
- The "Once More, With Feeling" flashback was ... interesting. The song wasn't quite up to the standards of OMWF, but it was OK, and I liked that it addressed the long-simmering dispute over Anya's last name. The best part about that scene? The mustard song. "Oh no! Mustard on my shirt, my favorite shirt..." Hee!
- Buffy had two moments I really liked: her first appearance balancing the pencil cup on her head; and her quick dispatch of the spider-demon. Her speech about how she's the law was OK, but her defense of her decision not to kill Spike was a little weak. Sure, he helped eventually, but there was no reason not to stake him in season four or at the end of "Out Of My Mind."
- The Buffy/Spike scene seemed awfully gratuitous. Buffy is probably right that it would do Spike a lot of good to get out of the basement, but I don't really understand why she went down there to tell him that. He's not hurting anyone down there, and like they say, "the quality of mercy is not Buffy."
- Xander was kind of a tool, but I admired him for his willingness to stand up to Buffy, even to the point of tackling her during the fight with Anya. And I kind of got the idea that he was offering himself to D'Hoffryn as a sacrifice, to prevent Anya from being killed. That's kind of sweet, though also kind of defeating-the-purposey. But that's Xander for you, I guess.