The Harsh Light of Day

Episode Reviews (22)

Great
538 votes
8.6
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  • 9.0

    Wow, "The Harsh Light of Day" is a loaded episode with a comparatively irrelevant stand-alone plot on the side.

    By tarafan2, Jun 15, 2013

    There's a big difference between the stand-alone style of "Living Conditions", where there's very little character insight, to this one though. Spike's back, Harmony's a vampire, Buffy and Parker have sex, Xander and Anya have sex, and more. There's a lot to talk about, so let's begin!



    While we get some interesting material involving Anya and Harmony, the focus here is squarely on Buffy. She goes through quite the emotional roller coaster and it's all perfectly woven into the main story. The episode begins at the Bronze with Buffy lusting over Parker through his reflection, which in retrospect turns out to be a telling metaphor. Willow gets Buffy to admit that she is "having lusty wrong feelings" towards Parker and adds that it's not wrong to have those feelings because they're both Unfortunately, I think Willow is being a bit too short-sided and aggressive here. Some people have sex just for the sex, like Parker, but to others sex means something more, like Buffy. So jumping into sex based purely on "lusty wrong feelings" isn't a very smart move for Buffy -- it will only set her up for being hurt.



    The big problem with Parker is that he doesn't just come out and say he just wants sex. He manipulates Buffy into thinking he's a considerate nice guy who genuinely wants to learn more about her, and not just enough so he can get her into the sack. Normally I'd say that Buffy's too smart to be duped by this routine, but I've got to admit that Parker's got his game down perfectly. When I first watched him talk with her I, like Buffy, thought he was what he seemed. He snags sympathy points from fake stories about his dad dying and says stuff like "I'm not doing the deep, get sympathy Yet he is doing the deep, get sympathy routine and it is really tough to tell whether or not he's geniune. He takes a chance when telling Buffy "It made me think about, you know, living for now," but she buys it and Parker knows he's got a ripe one.



    All of that leads to the party where Buffy decides to "make a choice" and have sex with Parker. With Angel gone, life in a dorm, and her strong desire to move past Angel, I do understand where she's coming from. The following morning Parker outright lies to her and says he'll call her later. At this point Buffy feels really good about her decision and is absolutely excited about developing what she shared with him into something more. Gellar acted the hell out of this episode, from the early scenes with Parker to the decision to make "a choice" to the nervous excitement afterwards with Willow to the anticipation, heartbreak, and confusion that follows. Willow keeps pointing out how everything's a discovery. While that is more or less true for what the characters are experiencing, I personally never felt there was much to discover in college aside from how to get my ass kicked by exams in a whole new way. Of course I'm a pretty atypical college student in more ways than one, so maybe imparting my own experiences aren't that useful in this case.



    Buffy's personal woes are wonderfully weaved into the search for Spike, which has become a higher priority. While Buffy is searching she is constantly checking her messages, anxiously awaiting Parker's promised call. The call, of course, never comes and Buffy collapses on her bed in pain. She's able to eventually track Parker down and finds him using his sympathy speech on another girl already. Parker says he "had fun," and Buffy replies, "You had fun? Was that all it was?" In Buffy's mind sex is an intimate experience that is indicative of something more. Parker says, "I'm starting to feel like you felt what? Some kind of commitment? Are you sure that's what you want right now?" The truth is, yes, that is what she wants right now. She wants a boyfriend, a lover, and a companion. It pains me tremendously to see Buffy think that Parker's cold reaction is her fault and to see her even apologize to him. I really feel for her and am right there with her. No one likes to be used, and that's what Parker did here.



    Back in "Surprise" I proposed the idea that Buffy simply wasn't emotionally mature enough to have sex yet. That isn't a problem anymore though. The mistake she makes here is that she jumped in the sack with a guy she only knew for a week. This is thankfully an experience she learns from. For now she has to deal with the consequences of her hasty rush to move past Angel, and nobody knows how to force Buffy into seeing these consequences better than Spike. In their fight outside he gets some really truthful jabs in and jumps right to the heart of the matter. He says, "So, you let Parker take a poke, eh? Didn't seem like you knew each other that well. ... Did he play the sensitive lad and get you to seduce him? That's a good trick if the girl's thick enough to buy While these comments are blunt and pouring salt in a wound, Spike is completely correct in his analysis of the situation. He also gets her stirred up enough to gain her focus back and snatch the gem from him.



    This whole ordeal is succinctly captured by Willow's helpful "he's a poophead" speech. Buffy still wishes that she can make it work with Parker. Even after Parker and Spike's comments she still has trouble believing that someone actually just used her for sex. Buffy still feels that it's her fault he doesn't want anything to do with her beyond that. In time she'll fully realize the only thing she was at fault for was falling for it. I have to say I am extremely impressed with how carefully, naturally, maturely, and in-character all of this was dealt with. Kudos to the writers for having Buffy's second sexual experience be an important event that's not washed over. I also like the ripples we see from this in the next couple episodes.



    Buffy's not the only one encountering problems with a second sexual encounter. Anya's back in town and is very confused about how relationships develop. She's spent a thousand years inflicting vengeance on the unfaithful, so she knows how to deal with the end of relationships, but the beginning of them is completely new territory for her. She takes her usual direct approach and succeeds in confusing the hell out of Xander. She comes on strong and he can only respond with "Anya. Slow down there. In fact, come to a screeching halt. See these things kind of have to develop on their She then understandably asks, "Okay. How?" Xander then proves he doesn't have any answers: "I don't know. I just - Later on she stops by his room in the basement and, in a hilarious scene, drops all her clothes and proposes to have "sexual intercourse" with him. His response is to squeeze a juicebox empty and shake. Awesome. To his credit he attempts to resist her nude physical advancement by saying that they aren't ready for this yet, but he quickly gives in. Afterwards they don't look particularly satisfied and appear to be even more confused.



    We find out that Spike's new girlfriend is Harmony of all people. At first it seems ludicrous that a vampire like Spike would allow himself to be with someone like her, but once we begin to see how their relationship functions things begin to make more sense. The only way that Harmony can gain Spike's affections is through sex, and we can see that Spike's not satisfied by it at all. He's nice enough to take her out to a party, but after a while his limit is reached and he just stakes her. Fortunately for her she was wearing the invulnerability gem at the time. Spike's noticeably different now that Drusilla isn't in the picture anymore; he's a lot harsher. Listening to Harmony run on about France all day is likely a large part of why he's acting this way, because in "The Initiative" we see his swagger briefly returned to him when he escapes an Initiative holding cell. Even though Harmony is incredibly annoying, I can't help but feel sorry for her when she remains loyal to Spike and doesn't tell the Scoobies where he is.



    It all ends on a really fitting note. We have Buffy, Anya, and Harmony all walking outside physically near each other, but emotionally isolated. They all seem to realize that sex isn't the key to lasting happiness and that it often leads to much confusion. All in all this is a superb and probing episode which really focuses on the characters. My only complaint lies with the main plot of Spike trying to retrieve the gem -- it's just not very interesting. Also, we know Spike isn't going to get to keep something that makes him invincible, so no real tension is generated. Although that fact slights the episode a notch, it's still close to top notch. All the characters are in a really new, uncomfortable, and unexplored state. "The Harsh Light of Day" successfully reflects that feeling and does it in vivid style.moreless

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  • 8.0

    Hooray for Spike!

    By joxerlives, Jan 20, 2012

    The Good;

    Spike's back and the series is better off with him in it. Our first sign that Harmony survived graduation and is now a vamp. Great fight and some excellent comedy, especially love Spike's workers groaning when Harmony starts bleating on about France again. Also like Parker's complaining about guys who are so 'Dark and brooding, give me love'. Nice reveal of Spike



    The Bad;

    None, good ep, best of season 4 so far



    Best line;

    Buffy; 'Spike, with Harmony. What you lose a bet?'

    but I also like Willow (on Harmony being a vamp) 'She must be dying without a reflection'



    Character death;

    nope, the guy Spike and Harmony bite at the party survives and we see Asian Joe again in 'Pangs' so the Scoobs obviously rescue him.



    Tied up;

    Asian Joe chained to the wall.



    Knocked out;

    Xander in the fight with Spike



    Women good/men bad;

    The final scene with a broken hearted Buffy, Anya and Harmony all miserable having been dumped. Xander remarks that he's 'Actually turning into a woman as he's saying this' when hesitating before the offer of casual sex with a beautiful girl. But as he says 'Still more romantic than Faith'. Spike and Harmony have an abusive relationship but in fairness to Spike she seems just as bad as he is and even more manipulative.



    Jeez!;

    Spike's 'trash-talk' with Buffy whilst fighting her (he should know better!)



    Kinky dinky;

    Harmony may be dumb but she knows how to get what she wants. She hints that she and Spike have bondage, S&M and exhibitionist sex. Anya does a striptease for Xander (cue juice gag!) and brings black condoms for their coitus. Parker and Buffy have sex but he dumps her afterwards. Harmony seems to have a thing for Antonio Banderas. Spike comments that he loves syphilis more than he does Harmony. Xander dreams of being naked at the Walmart. Willow seems to want to know the details of Buffy and Parker's night of passion, not graphically but as a 'blurry watercolour'.



    Calling Captain Subtext;

    Harmony wants to bite Willow. Maybe there was an underlying attraction between the 2 all these years? Parker suggests Buffy and Spike used to go out and she laughs.



    Guantanamo Bay;

    The gang threaten Harmony to try and find Spike.



    Scoobies to the ER;

    Xander is hurt in the final fight but not too badly. Willow needs a band-aid.



    Questions and observations;

    Where season 4 kicks into gear really, quite marvellous. Willow becomes the 3rd Scooby to be bitten by a vampire (Buffy twice by Angel and the Master, Angel and Joyce by Darla although the latter is not a Scooby). Buffy still has the scar from where she was bitten but is that from The Master or Angel? Personally I never know what to make of Parker, Buffy seems to think their sex is the beginning of a relationship whilst it's casual to him. I don't think he's a bad guy really. Giles never locks his door and owns a TV which disappoints Oz who nevertheless seems to appreciate his vinyl albums just as Joyce did in Band Candy. Good music, especially like 'Lucky' (for the Buffy/Parker sex scene) and the interestingly titled 'Faith in love'. Asian Joe, the guy who is chained to Spike's wall is a recurring extra as a Sunnydale High School student (Harmony comments she used to have a class with him), you can see him in many eps but most prominently in Earshot where Buffy hears him thinking about being a 'software gillionaire'. Unfortunately the last appearance of Devon in the series although he's mentioned in Something Blue

    Marks out of 10; 8/10, very good

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  • 9.5

    Love hurts for all walks of life (and nonlife)

    By indgodream, Jun 06, 2011

    You know, I am genuinely surprised to see this episode rated below a 9. Spike's return (with ditzy Harmony at his side) really brings back the witty bad guy we know and love. Spike seeks the Gem of Amara, a powerfully cool item that makes vampires impervious to stakes, crosses, and sunlight. In addition to this action, we are introduced to new romance on the Buffy front as well as the awesomely dysfunctional relationships of Xander & Anya and Spike & Harmony. The interactions between these couples were very entertaining, while the Buffy and Parker storyline was mildly heart-wrenching. Overall, I was impressed with the combined humor and drama of this episode.moreless

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  • 9.4

    Loving you is wrong

    By Troooika, Jun 06, 2011

    So, Spike returns, and not alone- he brings the annoying Harmony with him. We see a couple of romantic moments and then everything turnes to a nightmare. All three girls (Buffy, Harmony and Anya) are dumped. Buffy's heart is broken again, like it was after Angel made love to her and then dissapeared - he turned into a bad demon. Now that Scoobies got the Gem of Amara, Buffy sends it to Angel in L.A. Spike really did wake up the whole serie when he returned. I'm looking forward to see the upcoming episodes! Interesting episode, a-must-watch! I'm glad Spike came back!moreless

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  • 9.5

    Spike and Harmony.

    By addict666, Jun 06, 2011

    Harmony is really funny in this episode from when she bites Willow and threatens to send Spike to beat her up to the sad pathetic girl she becomes after Spike tries to stake her for the gem. Willow and Oz are so cute together in this episode and I love the mentions of the angry puppy. I feel so bad for Buffy in this episode too, because Parker is clearly just using lines and she just falls for all of them, I love when Spike calls her out on it the next day. Xander and Anya are also great, I love how she demands that they sleep together and then is still not over he by the end. Spike is so great in this episode and him and Harmony are so funny together, all the relationship things that play out are really interesting and when Parker thinks that Buffy and him used to date it is really funny and a bit of foreshadwoing.moreless

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  • 9.5

    Season 4, Episode 3.

    By Wanted23, Jun 06, 2011

    Spike and his new girlfriend, Harmony, search for the Gem of Amara, which would make vampires invincible to sunlight, stakes, and crosses. Anya seduces Xander, and Buffy and Parker sleep together, but Parker grows distant soon after.



    I liked this episode. It was the most entertaining episode this season. Buffy looked hot throughout the whole episode, as always. I liked that Spike came back, even if it's just for one episode. I liked his little Angel comment that made Buffy go crazy on Spike. It was awesome. Plus, we got to see Xander shirtless. Rawr! Hehe that was hot. Interesting episode, definitely. Best one so far this season.moreless

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  • 10

    He's back...

    By Phunner1416, Jun 06, 2011

    This episode shows the return of spike, while he was still bad. It also shows the return of Harmony, this time as a vampire. I like when Harmonies on because the whole time you think, "Buffy can totally take you, so could Xander, Willow, Oz, Giles, and even Dawn, in about 2 years." This episode ends with a real good hand to hand fight with Buffy and Spike (It also reminds you that if you use Angel to make fun of Buffy, run,) and in the end it starts a Buffy Angel crossover. This episode was sheer perfection, with the story, the characters, and the fight scene.moreless

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  • 8.5

    The Harsh Light of Day

    By TrueTvWatcher, Oct 20, 2010

    The Harsh Light of Day was a great episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This episode saw the return of some familiar faces, some of whom have changed since we last seen them. There was lots of ground work in this episode for future episodes of the season, series, and also for Angel spinoff series. I think its really cool how every thing intertwines and has some sort of continuity. I enjoyed watching this episode. It was an interesting mix of sub plots full of action, drama, and humor. I think that there was a good amount of character development too. Especially for Buffy who wasn't the only one who felt the burn of The Harsh Light of Day.moreless

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  • 8.9

    Blondie-Bear!

    By goodridd, Apr 26, 2009

    3 of my favorite characters return to bring in the funny.



    Spike is my all-time favorite character. I find his story the most intriguing of the whole series. From Big Bad, to neutered puppy, to a vampire seeking redemption. In this episode he plays the Big Bad, and he does it well! He wants the Gem of Amara so he can be invincible. He brings with him another one of my favorite characters, Harmony.



    Harmony is underrated IMO. Admittedly, she does her best work in Angel, but I still enjoy her scenes here as well.



    We also welcome back the pure awesomeness that is Anya. Anya is probably my second favorite character behind Spike. She comes back looking to continue her relationship with Xander. However, Xander takes exception to the term "relationship". Her scenes are all comedy gold in this episode. This episode we see Buffy lower her guard a little and she has sex with Parker. Turns out Parker is an A-hole and wants nothing to do with Buffy after the deed is done.



    The episode ends with Oz taking the Gem to Angel in a crossover episode.moreless

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