Hush, Season 4, Episode 10 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Original air date: December 14, 1999)
This is the only episode of Buffy to be nominated for an Emmy.
Hush has a total 17 minutes of dialogue. A regular episode is about 44 minutes.
We have been told fairy tales all of our lives. The point of a fairy tale is threefold:
- To Warn
- To Help
- To Teach
As we’ve gotten older these fairy tales have taken on a newer, gentler message. Sure, Little Red Riding Hood still goes to take care of her sick grandmother, and she still strays from the path; but no woodsman has to cut her and her grandmother out of the sleeping wolf’s belly in a fairly graphic depiction.
When Hush aired it was insanely creepy. BtVS had always been a show built heavily around words, quips, and wit for most of its humor. The show is darker in this season, darker than it had been in seasons past. Joss Whedon wanted to tell a story, but he wanted do so without using actual dialogue. Why?
Because it is terrifying to think of a world in which none of us have a voice. Consider any form of violence for a moment. When a person is attacked and cannot fight back, they have lost their voice. No isn’t up to this person anymore. You have just been robbed of your own free will because your voice, even if it can be heard, is useless. Now, Buffy and co. live on The Hellmouth; chaos ensues every week. We aren’t usually scared for Buffy because, well, she’s tough as nails. And along come The Gentlemen. A fairy tale for a modern time:
First of all, communication is key to any relationship. The episode begins with all sorts of miscommunication. Buffy is in a lecture sleeping through a discussion about the difference between communication and language and having a prophetic dream. Xander and Anya are arguing; Willow is feeling frustrated and unheard at her Wiccan meeting. Giles is having a hard time making Spike understand the rules to his own home. Everyone is frustrated and no one is properly interpreting anything they are hearing.
Buffy’s prophetic dream of the girl is her warning; something is coming. But what is it? Unfortunately, like most dreams, this one is not easy to understand. She was also confused by the feelings and relationship she is having with Riley, which were also part of the dream. When Buffy tries to speak to Giles about her dream it becomes uncomfortable and they both agree that Giles will look into it. However, Giles has a girlfriend coming into town and promptly forgets to look up the significance.
That night, while everyone in town sleeps, The Gentlemen steal their voices and trap them inside the box seen in Buffy’s dream. The Gentlement manage to get one heart before sunrise. Sunnydale wakens to find that a freak outbreak of laryngitis has occurred and all of the town is under quarantine. Mass hysteria ensues and the gang get together to make a plan.
To Help: The Scoobies all get together to find out what has happened.
Giles finally does his research; With the help of his lovely girlfriend, who made a portrait of a Gentlemen she saw, he realizes what is happening. After an extensive white board session (which includes these awesome Giles drawings) a plan is put into motion:
Here’s the plan:
So, it’s business as usual for Buffy, while the rest of the Scoobies stay safely inside and research how to kill The Gentlemen. While Buffy patrols a mini-fight breaks out when Xander confuses a bloody-mouthed Spike and a sleeping Anya as snack time. Surprisingly, though, the scuffle is short-lived as everyone realizes the mistake. While Willow is researching on campus The Gentlemen show up for another heart. In a surprising turn of events, Willow and Tara, fellow Wicca club members, finally meet and are able to use magic to keep The Gentlemen at bay. Tara is extremely shy, so without a voice and in the middle of a fight, she and Willow seem to communicate very well. During her patrol, Buffy and Riley run into one another. They are both patrolling. She as the Slayer and he as part of The Initiative, the sexual tension has been crazy for them, which we as the audience knew, but they did not. Of course, they can’t talk. Instead of anger, or words messing up the moment, they kiss. Instant acceptance. They then rely on each other to fight The Gentlemen. It isn’t until the next night that Buffy finds herself in the clock tower and sees the box from her dream. She realizes the box must be smashed in order for her to get her voice back. Once the the box is smashed (after a few hiccups between her and Riley), Buffy lets loose a scream I think everyone was holding.
To Teach: The lesson that this episode had was a little hard to decipher at first.
The trick to scaring someone is getting them to believe in what is scaring them. Misdirection is always helpful with this. You spend the entire episode being scared of The Gentlemen. What you don’t realize, however, is that you are actually terrified of losing your own voice. Never being heard. Always misunderstood. It’s a whole other level of scary. Imagine not being able to get the help you need because you have no voice. I think The Gentlemen obviously represent our fears, which we usually have to confront in order to get over. Don’t get me wrong, The Gentlemen are very, very scary. But, they are just monsters. Monsters are nothing new to Sunnydale.
It wasn’t The Gentlemen that actually scared me; While Sunnydale manages to get its voice back, Buffy and Riley end the episode sitting across from one another saying nothing at all, confirming my fears. Would losing our voices be the worst thing that could happen to us? Would it force us to actually communicate? I’m big on words and language, what if they suddenly were gone? Think again about how often we misunderstand and misconstrue our day to day lives with the use of language. Perhaps if we hushed more our lives would be better. It wasn’t only The Gentlemen that scared me..