I don’t normally cover individual musical episodes of non-musical TV series, but this seemed to me to be a special case. This is the Musical Episode by which all Musical Episodes are measured, and is probably why so many shows that aren’t equipped to pull them off still attempt them.
In spite of coming right in the middle of one of the show’s most uneven and oft-contested seasons, it is widely considered its all-time high point. The episode has a sweeping dramatic arc unmatched anywhere in the series, and manages to preserve the self-referential wit that the series was founded on, something that can’t always be said of the episodes from this time period.
But the thing that’s most remarkable is the quality of the songs themselves. This was first indication we got that Joss Whedon had songwriting talent, and it compares quite favorably to his later work on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The three ‘hits’ from the episode are “Under Your Spell” for female lovers Willow and Tara, which quite appropriately sounds rather like an Indigo Girls song; “Rest In Peace”, a scorching rock anthem that marks James Marsters as the best singer in the cast; and the eerily evocative quasi-eleven-o’clock song, “Walk Through the Fire”.
But there’s plenty of other excellent material, such as the hilarious duet “I’ll Never Tell”, the deliciously jazzy villain song “What You Feel”, or the powerfully honest “Something To Sing About”. Whedon has only explored the field of songwriting on two projects so far, but he has more talent for it than many actual theater composers, and I for one would love to see him do a Broadway musical at some time in the future.