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|May 15 2011, 01:55 PM||#46|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
|May 20 2011, 06:37 PM||#47|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
|June 12 2011, 10:51 PM||#48|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
2.03. School Hard
This is pretty good episode about Buffy having to juggle her Slayer duty, family and school life, which becomes really hard when Principal Snyder forces her and another problematic student, Sheila, to work on the preparation of the “parent-teacher” night, while at the same time she has to deal with the new vampire threat in town; these three aspects of her life come together when vampires attack school on the parent-teacher night, and it all works out for Buffy when her mother ends up helping her fend of the attack…
Oh, who am I kidding? We all know the reason why this episode is memorable: Spike.
This feels, in a way, as the real start of the season – the introduction of Spike and Drusilla as the new vampire villains for this season, and the death of the Anointed One, marks a refreshing change from the traditional, religion-obsessed vampires with their rituals and obsolete speech, to unconventional villains, with conversational speech, working class British accents and Sid-and-Nancy vibe, and Spike’s punk persona and utter disregard for rules. The vampires and other major villains of season 1 were, for the most part, very inhuman, very much the traditional horror figures, and, with some exceptions (Darla), monstrously ugly. The Master as the Big Bad of season 1 was the epitome of this, and most of the vampires in S1 were never out of vampface. “School Hard” announced in a big way that the show is now going to have villains who are attractive and sexy and fun and who can be charming and relatable. This goes hand in hand with the themes of the season: season 1 was about Buffy’s struggle to accept her calling, about tradition and destiny and the relationship with the father, and the Master represented the dark side of that. The villains in season 2 embody the things that Buffy’s life is centered on in this season: sexuality, romance, lust and youthful breaking of taboos.
The introduction scenes of Spike and Drusilla are really memorable and get across almost everything important about their personalities and their relationship. Spike’s first appearance in the teaser is full of cliché “bad boy” signs – black boots, black leather jacket, rock music in the background, he knocks the Sunnydale sun over with his car, and of course, he smokes. But the real introduction is the scene of his first meeting with the Anointed One and his minions, where we see Spike as a tough rebellious punk vampire, bragging about having killed two Slayers, who turns into a devoted, tender lover the moment Drusilla enters the room, just as his vampface morphs into his gorgeous human face, and they get completely absorbed in each other, almost ignoring the Sunnydale vampires. Drusilla’s entrance is accompanied by creepy lullaby music, so appropriate for her insanity and her personality of apparently helpless little girl who’s at the same time manipulative and really scary and in love with death, pain and destruction.
Spike was initially meant to be only in a few episodes and then get killed so Angelus would take over as the Big Bad, before his popularity made Whedon decide to keep him on the show but put him in a wheelchair so the original plan could work. But it’s amazing just how much if his personality is outlined in this episode. We get to see so many different sides of him: that he’s rebellious and pragmatic; that he enjoys violence and killing for fun (snapping the middle-aged guy's neck without even feeding on him); he loves a challenge and is especially interested in killing Slayers. At the same time he is very much in love with his girlfriend and is very sweet and caring with her, but doesn't give a damn about anyone else, not even any other vampires (he sets up one of Sunnydale vamps to be killed by Buffy just so he could observe her fighting technique). He also has a a strong sexually predatory vibe – particularly in the scene at the Bronze when he is watching Buffy dance, maybe because of the way Marsters played the scene, but also because we gets hints that he prefers younger victims, especially young women (“I’m a veal guy. He’s too old to eat - but not too old to kill", "Fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of a nice, ripe girl"). We also see Spike using his charms to lure away one easy victim, Sheila, to bring her to Dru. Sheila was portrayed as a reckless ‘bad girl’ and she ended up just like it might happen in real life if you hook up with an attractive stranger who might just turn out to be a serial killer. (Except that she got sired by Dru – and she’s one of the few vampires whose fate remained open. So, in a way, Spike’s promise to her that she’ll be getting something “much better” than sex with the two tattod guys she had been with, turned out to be true, only it wasn’t what she expected.)
One fan has described Spike in season 2, with or without Drusilla, as “Lust personified”. His vampire name, which we learn he got because he used to torture his victims with railroad spikes, doesn’t just suggest violence in general, but it’s also very phallic. The tough vampire persona he adopted includes crude sexual banter during his first fight with Buffy (the same kind of mind games and trash-talking he used with Nikki Wood as we see in the flashbacks in “Lies My Parents Told Me”) and the funny remarks about weapons making him feel “all manly”. But we also got to see he can be charming and seductive with Sheila, flattering her and making her feel special, and romantic and sensual with Drusilla. Spike/Dru with their romantic seemed to mirror Buffy/ Angel in S2. I’m guessing that Spike was meant to be a parallel/dark mirror to Angel at first – as an “evil vampire” to Angel’s “good vampire”, before the show pulls a twist on us and has Angel become an even eviler vampire; while Dru seemed to mirror and contrast Buffy in some ways: Buffy has prophetic dreams while Dru has psychic visions, and later in the season Angelus tries to break Buffy the same way he did Dru. But I don’t know if a parallel between Spike and Buffy was originally intended – they are similar in the way they snark and banter, and their disregard for tradition and tendency to do things their own way.
Spike is able to get under Buffy's skin right from the start: it gets very personal for her right away, rather than being just a job as it normally is for her. After he brags about killing her, the next time they meet in the school, she takes up the game immediately: "Do we really need weapons for this?" Not unless she wants to kill him, which she can't do without a weapon of some sort. She’s more interested in fight itself and trash-talking than in dusting him, which should be her main goal when it comes to an evil vampire. This sets up an interesting dynamic of “best enemies” that goes on for the next few seasons, with the two of them at times acting like two kids picking on each other on the playground.
The big theme of the episode is the importance of Buffy’s ties to the world. She spends most of the episode trying to keep the different sides of her life apart – school, family, Slaying, but things only work out for her when all those areas of her life come together. Early on Giles repeats the Watcher’s motto that “The Slayer must fight alone” – but this is proven wrong: Xander hands her a stake from her purse to fight the vampire in front of the Bronze, and later Joyce saves Buffy’s life from Spike, hitting him with an axe, with the legendary: “Get the hell away from my daughter!” Spike remarks at the end of the episode:“A Slayer with friends and family” wasn’t in the brochure, which is one of the main things that make Buffy a special Slayer, and that allowed her to survive for so long. She would have died in “Prophecy Girl” if it wasn’t for Xander, and she would’ve died in “School Hard” if it wasn’t for her mother, who gets to for once praise Buffy for her courage and resourcefulness, and takes her side against Snyder.
Buffy’s friends also do quite well during the fight in the school, showing courage and do quite well for people without superpowers. But Cordelia still sucks at fighting and acts like a damsel in distress, while Willow, on the other hand, shows that she’s tougher than she seems and saves her and drags her to the closet.
The first scene between Spike and Angel – when Angel is pretending to still be evil – is very friendly before Spike sees through his act. They seem like old pals and Spike calls Angel his sire (see: Inconsistencies) and mentor (“Yoda”).
The fight scenes are among the weaker parts of the episode. They’re relatively good for early season 2 standards, but the B/S fight looks tame compared to their later fights. Spike doesn’t manage to beat Buffy in their weaponless fight so he immediately resorts to an improvised weapon – but since he was about to kill her before Joyce intervened, we can count this as Spike:Buffy – 1:0, but Spike:Joyce – 0:1.
Despite having seen vampires in vampface up close (although, to be fair, it was rather dark in the school), Joyce and the others still don’t realize they aren’t human, which shows how much people are able rationalize strange things they see with their own eyes. We find out that Snyder was in on it all the time and is involved in the cover-ups, which makes him all the more hateful and his attitude to Buffy even harder to understand.
On the relationship front, after the attack on the school, Giles expected Jenny to start avoiding him because being with a Watcher might be too dangerous, but she reassures him that she wants to continue dating him. But a few episodes later, in “Dark Age”, she will change her mind when she finds out about his ‘Ripper’ past.
There’s a moment when Willow unintentionally reminds Buffy of something negative about dating a 240-year old vampire, when she mentions how many dates he must have had over all those years. Ironically, she was wrong – Angel was “dating” Darla all the time he was soulless, not that either of them put much stock in fidelity, and it’s probably not a coincidence that this remark is an episode that introduces another vampire that he has, err, “dated” once upon a time, Drusilla, and he probably didn’t “date” since he was cursed. And as for his human victims from the soulless years, that would fall under “rape”, “torture” and “kill” rather than “date”. Which is something Buffy should be more worried about than how much Angel had dated, and the fact that she isn’t shows that she still has a very naïve teenage girl mentality.
A few remarks on the fashion: Buffy has stopped wearing her season 1 super-short skirts, and instead wears more regular clothes you’d expect someone to wear every day. Willow is still dressing super-nerdy, and Xander is still the king of shirts with weird designs. Sheila is introduced as a bad girl who’s always partying and going out with all sorts of problematic guys (which means that the first guy we see her with wears long hair and dirty clothes, while the two guys she hooks up at the Bronze have lots of tattoos), and she’s been smoking since the 5th grade – and smoking in Buffyverse is a sure sign of being either evil, bad news, or doomed. Of course, it’s also one of the first signs that Spike is Trouble, together with his clothes. hair and punk image. Drusilla, on the other hand, at first sight looks like a frail Victorian girl, in her long white dress (somewhat similar to the one Buffy wore in “Prophecy Girl”) and with her dolls.
Anything with Spike and Drusilla together – particularly their introduction to the Anointed One, and the scene where Spike brings her Sheila to “eat”. It’s both romantic and eerie, as there’s a girl tied up to the wall, waiting to be drained of her blood, in the room while they’re caressing and exchanging terms of endearment as if there’s nobody there.
Another favorite moment is when Spike tells one of the vampires who can’t open a door in school to use his head, then grabs the vampire and uses his head to break the door.
Spike: Oh, please! If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock.
Big Ugly: I ought to rip your throat out!
Spike: I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person, and I spent the next six hours watchin' my hand move.
Recurring characters introduced: Spike & Dru.
Character death: The Anointed One. When Spike killed him, my reaction was: finally! The 'Annoying One' only had the authority because of his title, he didn’t have any kind of power of his own, so all it took for it to be exposed was one vampire who wasn’t impressed by empty titles.
Inconsistencies: Much has been made out of the fact that Spike calls Angel his sire, but later in “Fool for Love” we learn that Drusilla was the one who actually sired him. Whedon’s explanation was that it can refer to the fact that Angel is Spike’s grand-sire.
A bigger inconsistency is when Big Ugly says “let the soul that kills her wear the mantle” (?!)
One thing that isn’t really an inconsistency is Spike’s claim that the last Slayer he killed begged for her life – which we later learn was a lie when we see flashbacks of Nikki Wood. Spike was simply bragging.
Vampire mythology: Vampire religion even has its own “saints” and holidays which mirror human ones – St. Vigeous who lead a “crusade” in the Middle Ages, presumably against humans. They also seem to think of crucifixion as an important event.
This is the first time we learn that vampires can be affected by drugs. They apparently can also smoke, even though they don’t breathe. Or maybe they just don’t need to breathe, but they can? They can apparently also feel cold, like Drusilla does in this episode.
In “Passion” we’ll get an answer why vampires were able to enter the school.
Angel/Angelus: There’s still no indication that either Buffy and the Scoobies think of Angel’s souled and soulless selfas separate beings or personalities.Willow talks about the 240 years of his life as, rather than his human life and his souled life (just 100 years). Angel is also remarkably good at pretending to still be soulless, as we’ll also see in “What’s My Line”.
Buffy bad liar: She shows again that she can’t come up with a convincing lie to save her life:awkwardly trying to convince Snyder that someone else burned down the gym at her old school and accusing mice… that smoke (!)
Pop culture references: Die Hard - with Buffy as Bruce Willis. Spike mocks Anne Rice’s books and their portrayal of vampires. Star Wars: Spike apparently is familiar with them enough to know who Yoda is, but (as we see in season 6), not enough to recognize Boba Fett (in other words, he’s just as familiar with SW as I am).
Ooh, kinky: In their first scene together, Drusilla slashes Spike’s cheek with her long fingernail and tastes his blood, which he seems to enjoy, before they kiss – another instance of vampires connecting blood with sex. (Incidentally, some fans think that Spike and Dru weren’t having sex while she was sick; personally I find it completely unbelievable, judging by their scenes together in this and other episodes – they seem to be just about to have sex in the scene with Sheila tied to the wall.) Spike’s remark that he smells the blood of a “nice, ripe girl” refers to being of age when she’s sexually “ripe”, since Buffy is menstruating. (This must be very attractive to a vampire…)
Spike Badass-o-Meter: There’s a popular school of thought in fandom that Spike was incredibly “badass” in the beginning, and then he later underwent “badass decay”– either when he stopped being a villain, or when he fell in love with Buffy. I think that’s a load of bull and a result of people confusing “badass” with “likes to kill people”, and, if anything, he only got more badass since season 5. But,I’m going to start following just how badass Spike was in each episode, in order to see if my impressions are right.
In this episode, Spike is mostly very badass. part. On the plus side: there’s the way he treats the Sunnydale vampires, ignoring each one of their attempts to intimidate him, and disregarding their rules. Killing the Annoying One is his most significant act up until “Becoming II” – and while it’s not brave in the sense that the kid was able to put up a fight, it shows that he wasn’t concerned at all about the possible reactions of his minions. (Or maybe he correctly assumed they were sheep who would be too scared to confront him and would simply accept the new leadership.) Angel, who definitely knows Spike well, considers him worse than a regular vampire, and so dangerous that Angel would warn Buffy to stay away from him. Spike challenges Buffy and goes to fight her alone, does well in the fight and perhaps technically beats her, since he was in the position to kill her. However…
… then he runs away from Joyce with her axe. JOYCE?!?! This is almost enough to erase half of his + points.
Foreshadowing (?): As far as intentional foreshadowing goes, Snyder’s promise to expel either Buffy or Sheila will come true in the season finale. Xander’s doubts about Angel in this episodes are unfounded (he wrongly assumed Angel was really evil when foreshadows the time when he will really be evil.
But it’s the (probably) completely unintentional foreshadowing that’s really interesting. And there’s loads of that.
Angel’s description of Spike “Once he starts something, he doesn’t stop (…)” (or if Xander would say, “he’s thorough, goal-oriented”) describes him perfectly, but this character trait will show in ways other than killing sprees that Angel was referring to.
Spike calling Angel Uncle Tom and claiming that demons don’t change has to be one of the most ironic-in-hindsight moments in the show.
The words with which he's seducing Sheila:
"Who are you?"
"Who do you want me to be?"
The song that the band plays when Spike is stalking Buffy at the Bronze (“Stupid Thing” by Nickel) sounds so much more fitting in retrospect.
Not to mention these quips during their fight:
Spike: I'll tell you what. As a personal favor from me to you I'll make it quick. It won't hurt a bit.
Buffy: No, Spike, it’s gonna hurt a lot.
And then there’s his remark to Buffy that she doesn’t strike him as a begging kind… He was, of course, dead right that she would never beg an enemy for her life, but I can’t help thinking of an infamous season 6 scene between them where she did actually beg, for the only time ever.
|June 20 2011, 05:47 AM||#49|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
This is a decent early episode, just not very complicated and without many layers. The title spells out exactly what it is about. The parallel between Buffy and ‘Ampata’ the mummy girl is blatantly obvious and hammered home throughout the episode – the Chosen One, virgin sacrifice who had to die to ‘save’ her people, who didn’t really want to die and stay dead at the age of 16, obsessive desire to have a “normal life”… and the last lines of the episode, pointing out the contrast between their ultimate choices, Buffy’s unselfish one and Ampata’s selfish one.
As a love story for Xander, it works only halfway well, since it happens a bit too fast and without him and ‘Ampata’ getting to know each other too well. But I guess in this case the instant romance is somewhat believable – on Xander’s side it was an infatuation with a beautiful girl who is showing an interest in him, while the girl had spent thousands of years as a mummy in a box, and never had the opportunity to live and love, so when she finally had the chance, she fell in love quickly with a handsome, funny boy who really liked her and gave her an opportunity to be normal.
There are quite a few cheesy elements that remind me of season 1 – such as the acting of the actors who play the “guard” and Devon, or the scene between Ampata and the “guard” where they both speak English to each other, for some unfathomable reason.
But on the other hand, the episode has really strong horror moments, and the titular mummy girl is a really compelling tragic character. Technically, this seems like a follow-up to “Teacher’s Pet”, Xander having another romance with a demon, but unlike Ms French, ‘Ampata’ is a sympathetic villain and feels like the lead character of the episode, while Buffy takes a back seat – though of course still managing to figure everything out (showing her smarts again!) and save the day. Beautiful guest star Ara Celi gives a really good performance, making ‘Ampata’ look convincingly innocent to the Scoobies, while also selfish and dangerous but still sympathetic. The scene where she is crying and telling a baffled Xander she doesn’t deserve him is heartbreaking, but the story defies expectations when she eventually decides that she can suck the life out of Xander after all, even though she’s in love with him - her selfish and desperate desire to live triumphing over all other considerations including love. Though, I think the mummy girl has some mitigating circumstances… like spending thousands of years as a shrivelled up mummy crammed in a coffin, living a horrible eternal imprisonment. That’s gotta screw up anyone’s mind! At least she was dead-dead and at peace in the end.
Another thing I enjoyed about the episode is the way it mocks stereotypes and cultural expectations, especially in the comedy bits with Cordelia and her Swedish exchange student Swen – she thinks he doesn’t speak any English, while he in fact speaks it perfectly but would rather not talk to such an annoying girl and isn't impressed with her use of her native tongue. (Although that storyline makes Cordelia a bit dumber/more ignorant than usual, saying things like “He don’t even speak American.”) But it’s also seen in the way that Xander expects the (male) Ampata to be a “Latin lover who breaks hearts”, or the way that the Scoobies don’t see it as particularly strange that ‘Ampata’ is just a bit too overjoyed with the life in USA and acting like it’s completely new and much better to what she’s used to, as if that’s an expected reaction from any foreigner/South American person.
Also, why did the Scoobies expect a teenager from modern day Peru to be able to translate the language of the Incas? (Speaking of which, I can get over Ampata being able to speak English, because we’re supposed to think that she was able to hear people talking all that time while she was driven from museum to museum, and that she was just a fast learner.)
Willow spends most of the episode pining after Xander, while he points out once again that he doesn’t think of her in a romantic way, but later on risks his life to save her. The show went too far at times with trying to make Willow nerdy-cute: if she wants Xander to notice her ‘that way’, why does she have to dress in unsexiest outfits possible (like the Eskimo one in this ep)? Buffy is still trying to judge Xander in the direction of Willow, trying to be a good friend either by helping her chances, or by being supportive when she thinks Willow has decided to move on.
The last scene is the first time that Buffy really thanks Xander for bringing her back to life in “Prophecy Girl”.
Xander makes another remark that might hint at his poor home life, that his father tried to sell him to some Armenians once. Of course, he was joking…Or was he?
Xander demon magnet: 2 - Miss French, and now Ampata. It’s ironic that he criticized Buffy for her attraction to the undead since he falls for a dead person in this ep, but he admits that his taste is awful, except for Buffy.
Recurring characters introduced: Oz – obviously set up to be Willow’s love interest from the start, introduced as a cool guitarist very picky about women, but has a crush on Willow at first sight – while she’s dressed as an Eskimo, none the less. I don’t think that his lines here are as impressive as in later episodes though. Oz’s band Dingoes Ate My Baby (the music is actually performed by Four Star Mary) with singer Devon, who’ll have a speaking role in S4 when we learn he dated Harmony but dumped her for being too flaky.
Jonathan (still unnamed) makes the first of his many minor appearances, as ‘Ampata’s intended victim.
Buffy bad liar: She is again awkward and unconvincing when trying to hide her Slayerness from ‘Ampata’. On the other hand, ‘Ampata’ = good liar. She does a very good job of lying by omission, saying she toured the entire US, or that back home was very crammed, etc.
Pop culture references: Mommie Dearest (Buffy calls ‘Ampata’ Mummy Dearest), Sergio Leone’s (mentioned by Xander).
Best scenes: ‘Ampata’ and Xander’s first kiss.
Best lines: None of the lines really stood out that much, but among the better ones are:
Xander: Oh yeah, fall for the old 'Let me translate that ancient seal for you' come-on. Do you know how many times I've used that?
Willow: The non-violent approach is probably better here.
Buffy: I wasn't gonna use violence. I don't always use violence. Do I?
Xander: The important thing is: *you* believe that.
Ampata: You are strange.
Xander: Girls always tell me that... right before they run away.
Xander: Typical Museum trick. Promise human sacrifice, deliver old pots and pans.
Oz: You're just impressed by any girl that can walk and talk.
Devon: She doesn't have to talk.
Meta moment/leaning on the fourth wall: The Scoobies laughing about what an absurd story it would be for a mummy to rise up and kill someone… before realizing that this is what probably happened.
Foreshadowing: Not much, but one could draw a parallel between ‘Ampata’, who sucks out people’s lifeblood by kissing them, and Angel, who, in addition to being a vampire (i.e. needing blood to survive), is going to turn into a monster by having sex. But it also makes me think of Buffy’s later feeling (expressed in season 8) that she’s toxic and always causing bad things to happen to her lovers or getting them killed.
Last edited by DevilEyes; June 20 2011 at 06:07 AM.
|June 28 2011, 07:13 AM||#50|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Another average early episode. Reminds me that the show didn’t get consistently good till season 3.
And another blatant metaphor. A fraternity is literally a cult, and frat boys, in addition to being, rich arrogant jerks who are likely to get girl drugged up and rape them – here they they drug them up to literally feed them to their reptile master, who is apparently responsible – or they think he is – for the money and power their families have had for decades. At least we can easily imagine in this episode that the official explanation was simply that they were serial killers, abducting and killing girls. The misogyny of the frat boys gets to be obvious with remarks such as “No woman shall speak to him!” (the reptile), and the reptile is of course huge and phallic-looking, another obvious metaphor for the male-dominated and patriarchal nature of the fraternity and the privileged class. Unfortunately for this episode, the reptile creature looks ridiculous and not at all scary. He’s less scary than the frat boys, the human villains of the episode.
So basically it’s a typical story of what can happen when two high school girls decide to go to a frat party, one because she’s vain and shallow and besotted with the older, rich boys, and the other out of resentment at her sort-of-father figure who’s not letting her have some fun, and her sort-of-boyfriend who keeps acting hot and cold and who’s just brushed her off. I guess one could also see Giles and Angel as patriarchal (if more positive) figures in this episode, and Willow gives them both a good tongue lashing for driving Buffy to her unwise teenage rebellion moment, which balances a little the theme of teenage rebellion ending up catastrophically (summed up in Buffy/Giles exchange: “I told one lie. I had one drink” – “And you nearly got devoured by a giant snake”).
Buffy is a terrible judge of character when it comes to men, isn’t she? Granted, Tom really did seem like a nice guy – but in Buffyverse this is usually a sign that the guy can’t be trusted. Whenever she tries to go for a nice, normal guy, he turns out to be evil, a manipulative jerk (Parker) or at least connected to evil in some way (Ben).
Buffy and Angel are continuing their will-they-won’t-they dynamic, and at this point Willow seems to have a lot more faith in the future of their relationship than either of them does – she says they’re “perfect for each other”. In their scene in the graveyard, they seem to be anything but. It’s yet another of their awkward, dysfunctional conversations that early season 2 is full of. Buffy isn’t sure if she can have a relationship with him, but at Willow’s encouragement asks him out on a coffee. Angel rejects the offer warning her that a relationship with him is dangerous and that he’s just trying to protect her. Buffy is, at this point, the one arguing in favor of passion (“Things might get out of hand” – “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?”); she will change a lot in the following seasons, mostly as a result of her relationship with Angel. He has excellent reasons to warn her – as we’ll see later in the season – and it’s interesting to note that while at this point he doesn’t have an idea that he could lose his soul, he is still aware of his darkness. But at the same time, he comes off as quite patronizing, especially when he warns her that their relationship is “not some fairytale” and compares her to Sleeping Beauty expecting to be woken up by the true love kiss by him. Why would be expect Buffy to think of herself that way? She’s not a passive princess, she’s the one doing most of the saving and protecting. The power dynamic between Buffy and Angel in season 2 is quite tricky, which may be why there are such different views of it across the fandom. At the surface, he seems to be in control in conversations like this – playing the older, mysterious, more experienced man and treating Buffy as a kid (which of course she is, but she’s also been forced to grow up and bear enormous responsibility) – which is why Buffy at the end of the episode takes back the power by nonchalantly dismissing his offer to have coffee as something they might do “sometimes”, and walking away. But he’s also a guy without any job, friends, purpose or any kind of life outside of following Buffy around, and she’s the one who has all these things and who’s fighting the forces of evil, while he just comes up with occasional info or gives her some help in her work. (That’s what I really love the most about Angel: behind the brooding hero persona, he’s really such a loser.)
The power dynamic with Giles is quite tricky, too, but in a different way: he’s the voice of authority and duty, but we get to laugh at the scenes of Buffy kicking his ass all the time in training. However, despite her constant questioning and snark, she does depend on her Watcher and she does almost always do what he tells her to.
Xander is still obviously jealous of any guy Buffy might get interested in, but the tension between him and Cordelia is getting more intense, with the two of them constantly insulting each other. (How didn’t I see their hookup coming?) One of her insults really gets to him – that he’ll never be successful and have anything but a low-paid job. This feeling of inferiority about his family background and lack of prospects, which will haunt Xander for years, and his obvious jealousy and resentment at the rich and arrogant frat boys, is partly the reason why he goes ‘undercover’ to the frat party. The scenes where he gets stripped and dressed up as a woman in order to be humiliated (because, of course, for the frat boys there’s no bigger insult than to be compared to a woman) are quite painful to watch, but Xander finally gets to take it out on those who bullied him later on after Scoobies break into the party to save Buffy and Cordy.
Cordelia is being more airheaded than usual in this episode – with the way she’s awkwardly practicing laughing to a guy’s words the way she read it in a magazine she should, you have to wonder how she’s popular at all. And she acts like a parody of a stereotypical damsel in distress, again, and as a contrast to Buffy, right to the comedy moment when she throws herself at Angel, literally, calling him her savior, instead of Buffy who actually saved her.
Jonathan appears again (and this time he’s named), in another minor ‘lovable loser’ comedic role – this time on a ‘date’ with Cordelia and being bossed around by her in the café, because she’s decided she’ll only go out with young guys after her almost-got-fed-to-a-reptile date with a frat boy. Funny when you know that Cordy’s friends will mockingly suggest him as a date for Cordy to humiliate her, in season 3 after Xander’s infidelity becomes known in the school. So this is the second episode in a row where Jonathan is used by a beautiful girl as an unlikely date/substitute for some other guy (in “Inca Mummy Girl”, for Xander – and knowing that Cordy will start dating Xander, one might say the same for “Reptile Boy” as well). Who would’ve thought what a character arc he’d eventually get.
In other observations: the opening scene of Buffy and Xander braiding Willow’s hair while watching a Bollywood movie on TV is adorable. It’s a bit unexpected that this is something they’d happen to watch, but I think it makes it more realistic that they sometimes happen to watch something completely unlikely and odd, than it would be if they were portrayed as having only stereotypical US high school interests.
Nothing particularly stands out for me in this episode. Maybe Willow’s summary of the Bollywood movie at the beginning of the episode:
Xander: Is she dying?
Buffy: I think she's singing.
Xander: To a telephone in Hindi. Now that's entertainment. Why is she singing?
Willow: She's sad because her lover gave her twelve gold coins. But then the wizard cut open the bag of salt, and now the dancing minions have nowhere to put their big maple... fish thing.
Xander: Uh-huh. Why is she singing?
Buffy: Her lover? I thought that was her chiropractor?
Willow: Because of that thing he did with her feet? No. That was personal.
Buffy: When you kiss me, I wanna die.
What does that even mean? It seems like we’re supposed to take it seriously, and David Greenwalt, who wrote it, says in the DVD commentary that he loves that line and that Whedon really liked it when he showed it to him. But it sounds like nothing but an overblown but meaningless ‘romantic’ statement mixed with some adolescent morbidity. It’s not like BtVS and AtS lack in over-dramatic, darkly romantic lines, but most of the times they make some sense in the context and I can see why the character said it. I didn’t get the impression that she wanted to die when they were making out at the end of ‘Angel’. How does she want to die? Why would she want to die? And she didn’t seem to feel a death wish at all at this point – and certainly not when smooching with Angel. Would that really be a compliment to him if she did?
I get that they were trying to paint a dark, dramatic picture of B/A – hinting that it won’t be a fairytale romance with a happy ending but destructive and tragic – but that line is just not something I see Buffy saying.
Buffy (not) bad liar: This time she convincingly and successfully lies to Giles (!) so she could go the party – and Willow and Xander are shocked (because she lied to Giles, not because she managed to come up with a good lie).
Pop culture references: Hulk; Godzilla; the first mention of the Bizarro world from Superman (there will be more of it).
Mythology: A bit of self-irony from the show: Willow asks Angel how he shaves when he can’t see himself in the mirror. Yeah, really, and I’d also love to know how he styles his hair?
Cordy mocks Xander about his job prospects as pizza delivery boy; Xander will really try being a pizza delivery boy in season 4.
We get introduced to two frat boys – obvious villain and apparent leader of the frat boys, Richard, a handsome but arrogant jerk, we know is evil since the first scene - and who really is evil, what you see is what you get; and Tom, who by contrast seems to be a nice, decent sensitive guy (and becomes Buffy’s date as a result)… but turns out to be even eviler and the real main villain. Sounds like the plot of season 2 in a nutshell.
I'm looking forward to the next 2 episodes, which are much, much better (Halloween and Lie to Me)!
Last edited by DevilEyes; June 28 2011 at 07:36 AM.
|June 28 2011, 09:19 PM||#51|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
The other 2 are pretty lacklustre until Halloween when the show really takes off again!
|July 7 2011, 05:12 PM||#52|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
One of my favorite early episodes of BtVS. I love how the show takes a concept that could have been just an opportunity for a comedy episode full of wacky hilarity – people being transformed into their Halloween costumes – and makes it into story full of revealing character moments.
The choice of Halloween costumes is very telling of the characters’ issues with their own identity. Everybody is trying to be someone they’re not. Well, except for Cordelia, who dresses up as a cat, and she is catty – which is the meta reason why she doesn’t get transformed into anything else (in-universe it’s because she didn’t buy her costume at Ethan’s). Buffy and Xander are both struggling with traditional gender roles that neither of them fits, and secretly wishing that they could be more traditionally “feminine” and “masculine”. For Buffy, the immediate cause is seeing Angel talking to Cordelia in the café - even though he was actually just waiting for Buffy (I assume this is the date they talked about at the end of “Reptile Boy”) and Cordelia came to talk to him, after being stood up by Devon, the singer of Oz’ band Dingoes Ate My Baby that we’ve met in “Inca Mummy Girl”. It awakens Buffy’s insecurities about not being attractive enough due to the fact that she’s a woman with a “job” (“Bad day at the office”, she says when she comes back from slaying) who’s spending a lot of the time fighting monsters, can’t have the time anymore to make herself look great all the time, and generally because she’s not a stereotypical girly girl anymore, which Cordelia is (and which Buffy used to be before she was called). So Buffy and Willow decide to steal Giles’ Watcher book for a while and read “fun facts about Angel”, such as what kind of women Angel liked when he was human. (Oh, Buffy and Willow – you’re still real adolescent girls, more concerned about who Angel used to date, than about other “fun facts” from his past. I wonder how much do the books say about Angel’s crimes from his soulless days? They probably didn’t contain any info about what he did to Drusilla, since Buffy only learns it from him in the next episode.) A drawing of some beautiful noblewoman that he was supposedly involved with, or whatever, makes Buffy dress up as her - literally trying to make herself into someone else, into a weaker, conventionally feminine girl because of what she thinks a man (or men in general) would like more. Then she gets a case of “Be careful what you wish for” when she’s transformed into the worst case of stereotypical helpless screaming damsel who can’t defend herself and expects men to save her.
Xander is, on his part, feels not masculine enough because he can’t fight well against the school bully, Larry, when he tries to be the white knight and defend Buffy’s honor, and Buffy gets to save him from Larry instead. Xander still hasn’t resolved his feelings of inferiority about not being a “man” because he isn’t as strong as Buffy, and gets angry at her instead for embarrassing him. (Willow wonderfully comments on the fragile male ego: “Poor Xander. Boys are so fragile.”) As Soldier!Xander, he gets to do what he can’t in real life - be a traditionally masculine hero, beat up Pirate!Larry, and save Damsel!Buffy. Meanwhile, Willow dresses up as a cool, sexy girl, with encouragement from Buffy, but chickens out and decides to go as a ghost instead, literally covering herself in a sheet before Xander can see her; she’s still too insecure and afraid of people seeing her. But she’s the only one out of people transformed in their costumes who retains her own personality. She even gets to be the one to take charge, since Buffy and Xander aren’t themselves – prompting Cordelia to say “Who died and made her the boss?”
But it’s Giles, who doesn’t dress up as anything, that we learn most about in the episode. Characters having doubles or being split into two sides of their personality is a big theme in season 2, and the show in general. Angel/Angelus, Oz and his wolf nature, and Giles and his bad boy rebellious Ripper persona from his youth, which we’ll learn more about in “The Dark Age”. Ethan, a Chaos worshipper, prays to the statue of the two-headed god Ianus, who represents the duality that exists in everyone – male and female, light and dark, etc. Why does Ethan do the spell? Unlike most villains who do it for some sort of personal gain, it seems he just enjoys creating mayhem, pulling people out of their comfort zones and showing that everyone has another side to them. But maybe an additional reason is that he wants to create a reaction in his old friend Giles, specifically, because he wants him back on the Chaos side. Giles has become the epitome of Order, and that he’ll remain (except when tranformed into his teenage self in “Band Candy”), but we still get a glimpse of his more sinister side when he tells Willow to leave – was it because he thought Willow was in danger, or because he wanted to kill Ethan and didn’t want her to see it?
Giles’ stuffy librarian persona, we learn, is really a costume; but when you wear a costume long enough, it becomes you – “the outside becomes the inside” as Drusilla puts it. In a similar way, we later learn that the “Spike” persona was a costume that William decided to wear – but the costume did eventually become who he is. (Joss has said that Giles is what Spike refused to become, while Spike is what Giles grew out.)
And the choice of costumes that characters in this episode wear do tell a lot about their secret fears and desires. At first glance, Larry’s choice of pirate costume seems just to reflect his macho persona, but we’ll later learn in “Phases” that Larry is gay and in the closet; is it a coincidence that he chose to be a pirate, someone who’s embodiment of following their desires and not caring about the rules of the society. We’ll later see that Willow can indeed be a leader (which she is at the start of season 6) and that she can be sexy and confident (not to mention the vixenish Vamp Willow), so this is something she did have in her all the time. Buffy will, fortunately, never try to be a damsel, but while she’ll always struggle to reconcile the “Slayer” part of herself with the “girl” part that wants to dress nicely, be attractive, that wants romance and relationships (which most Slayers aren’t supposed to have) and years to find a way to feel like a girl/woman while still doing her duty. She’ll have to find a less conventional way to do this, just like Xander will be struggling to find his “masculine” identity, and will eventually have to build it in a less traditional way: as a “comfortador” rather than “conquistador”, helping and saving his friends with love and comfort (as in season 6 finale) rather than muscles. Not that the soldier persona is completely abandoned – he also continues to participate in Buffy’s fight, and in season 8
Incidentally, this episode is the second time Buffy gets sexually assalted – first it was Hyena!Xander in “The Pack”, now it’s Pirate!Larry, though Soldier!Xander saves her before he gets to hurt her.
This is Oz’s second episode, and he and Willow again almost meet: first they bump into each other, but she’s completely covered in her “ghost” costume (i.e. sheet with the word “Boo” written on it), and then later he sees her in her sexy clothes and utters the same line he did in “Inca Mummy Girl”: “Who’s that girl?” Xander, on the other hand, doesn’t get to see Willow in sexy clothes – except as Soldier!Xander – and probably still thinks of Willow as someone without a sexual bone in her body.
It’s refreshing to see Buffy and Angel out of the over-dramatic “When you kiss me, I wanna die” mode and acting like a normal couple instead. They seem like a couple in this episode for the first time since “Angel”. When Angel says at the end of the episode that noblewomen of his time were “simpering morons” and that he always wished he could meet someone different and exciting, the idea was obviously that he got to meet someone like that in Buffy, but watching it now, the first thought that comes to my mind is that he – as a human – eventually did get to meet someone different and exciting – Darla.
Seeing Willow assure Buffy that Cordelia is not Angel’s type is funny in hindsight – though I’m sure at the time it was meant to be taken as true, since nobody planned to put those two together at the time.
And talking about subtext and things that sound so funny in hindsight – how about Buffy quipping: “Honey, I’m home” to Spike as she comes back from the spell and proceeds to kick his ass? Who would’ve thought we’d get a callback in season 7, with Spike telling Buffy “Honey, you’re home” in “End of Days”.
Speaking of Spike, he is at this point already obsessing over Buffy, if only as a Slayer whose fighting techniques he needs to learn more about in order to beat her. He even has other vampires film her fight, and gets so engrossed in it that he almost doesn’t notice Dru coming in. But the way he talks about Buffy is very sexualized, even though at this point he would, no doubt, be horrified at the idea of feeling anything for her than a desire to kill her. He comments on her impressive fighting skill with an almost affectionate “Baby likes to play”, and later describes her in usual cannibalistic/sexual way that vampires talk about their victims, as “the tenderest meat you’ve ever tasted” – which reminds me of “School Hard” and his lines about being a “veal guy” as well as “the blood of a nice, ripe girl”. I’ve never understood why so many people thought it was outrageous of the show in season 7 to have Spike talk about raping teenage girls in his evil days – these early episodes are full of sexually predatory lines ike that and allusions that his preferred victims are young women, and of course, at this point the show was using biting as a metaphor for sexual assaults (both BtVS and AtS will later drop the metaphor and make it more explicit). Despite liking the challenge that the Slayers present, he’s also quite excited in this episode at the sight of a scared, meek, helpless Buffy.
That duality is similar to the way he talks to Dru: his main goal at this point is to restore her strength, and he admires her dark predatory power, but at the same time treats her as parent would a cute, beloved child. Maybe this is the time to start listing Spike’s nicknames: Spike calls Sunnydale “Sunnyhell”. His terms of endearment for Dru include “my pet” and “poodle”, and he calls himself her Daddy (“Talk to Daddy”). A lot of people thought that First!Drusilla calling Spike Daddy in “Bring on the Night” was a mistake; this episode proves it wasn’t, and contrary to fanon, Angelus wasn’t the only one Dru called Daddy, even though he was her sire. It does make sense - Drusilla may have sired Spike as it was later established in S5, but Dru is childlike in many ways, ansd at this point Spike is taking care of her… and even after she regains her strength, she’ll still keep acting like a little girl.
Drusilla: Do you love my insides? The parts you can’t see?
Spike: Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet.
Recurring characters: Ethan Rayne, who’s going to be a recurring villain; Larry, who is going to have a very interesting minor character arc in seasons 2 and 3.
Mythology: Contrary to expectations, Halloween is the one night in the year when vampires and demons traditionally don’t go out. (Spike makes an exception only because he thinkd he has a perfect opportunity to kill Buffy.) We also learn that vampires can be captured on film (and in the next episode we’ll see thatyou can also take a photo of them).
Inconsistencies: Willow says that Angel was 18 in 1775, which would make his birthdate 1757, but later we learn that he was born in 1727 and sired in 1753. Either Willow read something wrongly, or Watcher’s books can’t get anything right.
Pop culture references: Willow bemoans the fact that Buffy didn’t dress up as Xena. Willow is compared to Casper, the friendly ghost. Xander calls Cordy Catwoman. Godfather reference as Ethan says he’s going to make Buffy “an offer you can’t refuse” – quite a sinister way to sell a costume.
Buffy bad (?) liar: She actually manages to keep Giles distracted long enough for Willow to find the book – I’m not sure how she managed it, though, since she wasn’t too convincing. She does, however, think of the right way to keep his mind occupied, telling him about the compliments Jenny allegedly said about him.
Spike Badass-o-meter: As soon as Buffy comes to herself, she kicks his ass easily – and he runs away, again. Well, at least this time he runs away from Buffy, rather than Joyce. Really not a great showing in his first two episodes. Wait, he was supposed to be at his most badass in season 2, right? And then later he went through “Badass Decay”? How odd then that this “not badass” Spike of later seasons didn’t have any problem confronting Buffy directly and not running away, not to mention going straight against people much stronger than her, like Caleb.
Foreshadowing: Xander says he’s into women in spandex – and Cordelia is the only one wearing spandex in this episode. After seeing Buffy and Angel make up, Xander tells Cordelia he realizes that neither of them can get between those two; neither of them probbly realizes it at this point, but maybe they’ve just decided that they should better pursue other romantic options – like each other.
The way Buffy says “It’s wrong!” about stealing Giles’ book, with the obvious intention of going through with it anyway – which she does – sounds a lot like Faith in Buffy’s body in “Who Are You”.
Ethan’s words about Giles, apart from the reveal about Giles’ past in “The Dark Age”, don’t get a pay-off in the show for a long time – until “The Gift”, when we see what Giles is capable of when he strangles Ben; as well as in season 7 when he tries to go behind Buffy’s back and help Wood kill Spike, and in season 8
So far I’ve given six episodes the rating of 4, and the highest rating I’ve given an episode is 4.5 to “Prophecy Girl”. If you’re wondering when I’m going to give my first perfect rating of 5… The answer is: very, very soon.
|July 7 2011, 06:40 PM||#53|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
As for subtext, willow watches xena and wishes buffy would dress like her? Hmmmmm? Could will be gabby then? Note how she and Cordy end up 'in the closet' together at the end off school hard?
Did Nicky beg? In Damage we find out she did, at least in her mind. Maybe she did beg out loud but by the time spike told buffy the story in season 6 he decided to edit it to make himself look better?
|July 8 2011, 11:14 AM||#54|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
|July 16 2011, 03:41 AM||#55|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
2.07. Lie to Me
I remember that this was, during my first watch, the episode of BtVS that made me think “wow, this show is really something much more serious and complex than I ever expected”. And it’s awesome no matter how many times I watch it, perfectly written and directed, and showing just how much the quality of the show has increased since the pilot. The last scene is a mission statement that things are not going to be as simple as good guys defeating monsters, but the entire episode seems to constantly question what the truth is. The moment that an idea is introduced, it’s subverted, and nothing can be taken at face value.
For the arc, the most important thing is that we learn about Angel’s history with Drusilla and get a few hints about their complex and twisted relationship. Dru is extremely sinister in the chilling opening scene, going hunting and about to kill a little boy, when Angel turns up to stop her and tell her to leave Sunnydale with Spike – but at the same time, she is disturbingly human as she remembers the song her mother sang to her (just as she intends to make the little boy her food) and reminds Angel of her family that he killed. Unlike the vampires in season 1, Drusilla is a monster and a victim in equal measure. I’m not sure I could ever quite understand her attitude to her human family and Angel – she is taking every chance to make him feel guilty, but she’s very happy to have him back when he’s soulless; did she just like tormenting him with guilt when she knew he could feel it (with a soul), is she just hoping he’d realize he should be evil and with his family, is there genuine hidden resentment over her family’s deaths that comes out only then, is she just bitter at him for leaving his vampire “family”? Well, she is insane, so there’s that.
Drusilla’s and Angel’s meeting at the graveyard gets Buffy jealous since she sees them and misinterprets it as a lovers tryst (and Drusilla, in her old-fashioned dress, probably seems to Buffy just like the kind of women she thought Angel liked in Halloween). Not that she’s completely off the mark, since we’ll later get a confirmation that they share sexual history, and later in the episode Spike is also obviously jealous at the idea of Dru meeting Angel, but Angel’s uncomfortable reactions around Dru have a lot more to do with the guilt he feels whenever he looks at her, than anything romantic. Buffy starts questioning whether she trusts Angel, even though it’s for the wrong reasons – she still seems to worry mostly about other women he could be interested in. But she gets harsh dose of reality when she learns the full story about Dru.
The focal character in the episode, however, and the one who drives the actions, is Billy “Ford” Fordam (guest star Jason Behr), Buffy’s old friend from Hemery High. As with Owen in Never Kill A Boy on the First Date, the new guy gets both Angel and Xander jealous. It’s one of the few occasions in seasons 1-2 when Xander’s jealousy (over any guy that Buffy shows any interest in) is funny more than it’s annoying, especially when he does his best to use Angel to try to make Ford jealous (barking up the wrong tree, Ford has interests other than romance) and then to use Ford to make Angel jealous. Buffy’s relationship with Angel is still very tentative at this point – when Ford asks her if Angel is her boyfriend, she isn’t sure how to answer: “No. Yeah. Maybe”. And Ford probably reminds Buffy of childhood and happier, simpler times, and he seems too good to be true when it turns out he knows that she’s a Slayer and isn’t the least bit bothered by it. It must be quite a shock for Buffy when he turns out that he has in fact been planning to deliver her to Spike so he could get what he wants – to become a vampire, not to mention that he’s ready to get a bunch of his vampire wannabe friends killed. Buffy has dealt with human villains before (the coach in Nightmares) and even with somewhat sympathetic human villains (Marcie, Ampata if she could still be considered human), but Ford is, in addition to that, an old friend. And it turns out that he’s a muhahaha villain, as we might have thought for a moment; instead, he has an understandable human motivation – he’s dying of cancer, and desperately wants immortality. But, like Ampata, his despair and desire to live has made him incredibly selfish, deceptive and ready to sacrifice others for his own goals.
The title can refer to a number of situations where the issue of trust, truth and lies come up:
The naïve vampire worshipers/wannabes in the Sunset Club – as Ford points out, lonely, unhappy teenagers looking for something to fill their lives with - seem to be a mockery not just of emo-goth scene but also Anne Rice-style vampire fiction that romanticizes vampires – and maybe also of out culture’s tendency to romanticize many real-life criminals. (The funniest thing is that today this looks a lot like a mockery of Twilight, obviously written much later.
On the other hand, Ford knows very well that vampires are evil, but doesn’t care and wants to be one anyway – and just like the vamp worshipers annoyed Angel, Spike finds Ford very irritating. Spike probably wants to be feared as an evil bloodsucking fiend that he is, rather than treated like a celebrity. There’s also a reference to the “live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse” philosophy, with Ford saying that they’re about to do what every American teenager should get a chance to do: die young and stay pretty.
While the episode is largely about the issue of moral complexity/ambiguity, it even seems to parody that idea for a moment, when vampire wannabe Chanterelle says to Angel: “You don’t have to be so confrontational about it, other viewpoints than yours may be valid”. Maybe it’s a reminder that, for all the moral ambiguity, the show doesn’t support moral relativism, there is still such a thing as truth and facts, and there are some things that are undeniably good/evil.
But it’s not that simple – right after Angel points out how deluded the vampire worshipers are, and how they have no idea what vampires are really like, “what they look like, how they dress…”, his words are undercut when a guy walks by dressed exactly the same as Angel. Which, in a funny way, hints that BtVS itself could be, to an extent, blamed for the same things it parodies. The show walks a tight line between a portraying vampires as “nasty, pointy, bitey ones” – unlike in some other fictional universes, in Buffyverse they are, for the most part, definitely evil, violent and dangerous – and romanticizing them despite that, as with the character of Angel and his relationship with Buffy, as well as the Spike/Drusilla relationship at this point in season 2. But what the show also does is constantly subvert those romantic images.
Isn’t there a similarity between the way that the Sunset Club people think of vampires as harmless and good and noble, and the way that Buffy and the Scoobies treat Angel as “Carebear with fangs”? Buffy has fallen for Angel as a mysterious, dark and brooding handsome older guy who seemed almost unattainable a lot of the time, and then as a good vampire/vampire with the soul, but fact is that she doesn’t really know a lot about him, and while she’s generally aware that he had a very dark past, she hasn’t really processed it fully. When she hears Drusilla’s story from Angel, it’s a real shock to her.
And (I'm going to go on a bit of a tangent here...) one could say the same about us, the fans – we were always aware, on the abstract level, of the crimes that Angel or Spike had committed in their days as evil soulless vamps, but usually it doesn’t really register unless 1) it’s shown on screen, and especially if 2) it happens to a character we know and care about. I’ve often wondered how it would affect us, the fandom, if we got HBO-style graphic scenes of violence in the Fanged Four flashbacks, since most viewers’ reaction to anything – if not rational, than emotional one - is along the lines of “video, or it didn’t happen”. Of course, we’re not in-universe and for us they’re fictional characters, and don’t misunderstand me: I utterly despise any attempts to treat fiction as real life or impose ‘moral’ obligations on fans to like/not like characters – and most of my favorite characters in Buffyverse have been evil at some point. But I do find it funny when people except the characters in-universe to act the same (how could they treat such a woobie as soulless Spike so badly, etc.) or when people can act so inconsistently when making judgments: nobody blinks when Angel/Angelus kills redshirts but only when he snaps necks of major cast members it becomes an issue; a bunch of fans will tell you how much they loved Spike when he was the “cool villain” and/or when he was being funny and annoying everyone, but then they could never like him after he tried to rape Buffy… never mind that he had done much worse things many times, and without any remorse, back when he was the “cool villain”, and joked about his past murders without any guilt while he was the comic relief.
But on the other hand –should we take everything that Buffy says about vampires as fact, just because she's the hero of the show? When she starts explaining to Ford: “that's not how it works. You die, and a demon sets up shop in your old house, and it walks, and it talks, and it remembers your life, but it's not you”… some take it at face value, but this is just her belief, taught to her by Giles (an echo of his teachings in Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest), who in turn learned it from the Council of Watchers. Buffy knows, first hand, that vampires are dangerous, cruel killers. But Buffy has never been sired, she’s never been a vampire, and neither has Giles, or the Watchers who originated the theory (if any of them were ever sired, the other Watchers, obviously, wouldn’t believe them). So unless someone who was killed by a vampire came from heaven to tell the CoW that their spirit was in heaven while the demon had control over their body… the CoW, Giles and Buffy actually can’t have a clue what it’s like to be sired. But the CoW certainly had a reason to paint a black and white picture to their teenage Slayers, to make it easier for them to kill vampires, if they think of them as completely inhuman creatures, rather than former humans. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the only episode where Buffy and Giles are shown referring to vampires as “it” rather than “he” or “she”, emphasizing the idea that vampires are not people, but things. (It’s interesting to note that Drusilla seems to use the word person as synonymous to human – she says to the child in the graveyard “I am not a person”; but Spike, on the other hand, says “I am a bad, rude man” .) But they’re very inconsistent about this – even within a single scene!
Buffy: (picks up the picture) Who's this?
Giles: Um, she's called Drusilla, a sometime paramour of Spike's. She was killed by an angry mob in Prague.
Just a moment later, a blonde female vampire out of the library:
Giles: A book! It took one of my books!
Jenny: Well, at least someone in this school is reading.
Buffy: He said he killed it. That's the vampire Ford said he killed.
So, an anonymous vamp is “it”, just like those canon fodder vamps that rise out of their graves, but any vampire whom they get to know as an individual becomes a “he” and “she”.
Giles: Uh, I've been researching your friend Spike. Uh, the profile is fairly unappetizing. But I-I still haven't got a bead on why he's here.
Ironically, Buffy defeats Spike in this episode by taking Dru hostage – expecting the vampire to have a human motivation, and would care more about the life of his girlfriend than about feeding on humans. (And Buffy at this point knew nothing about Spike’s and Dru’s relationship – she didn’t see him act tender and caring with her like we have, so this was a pure guess.) And if Buffy actually believed in the CoW party line deep inside, she either 1) would have to concede that Angel is not a ‘person’, or 2) she wouldn’t be bothered by his history with Drusilla, since she would have to think that Angel, the souled vamp, never committed the crimes he’s just confessed to, but that a demon using his body did. I’d say that the idea that the vampire and the dead human are completely separate entities is just another comforting lie that Buffy would like to believe in, so things could be simple, black and white. For two reasons. First, killing things instead of killing evil people – it marks the difference between “not a killer” and “righteous killer”. Second, it’s disturbing to think that every human, even the nicest people, have the capacity to turn into evil versions of their old selves and become vicious killers, when “infected” by the darkness, “the demon”, and freed from morality and inhibitions.
Best lines: The last scene and the dialogue between Buffy and Giles – one of the most memorable endings in the series on the whole. It deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
Buffy: Nothing's ever simple anymore. I'm constantly trying to work it out. Who to love or hate. Who to trust. It's just, like, the more I know, the more confused I get.
Giles: I believe that's called growing up.Buffy: I'd like to stop then, okay?
Giles: I know the feeling.
Buffy: Does it ever get easy?
(Ford rises from the grave, Buffy stakes him)
Giles: You mean life?
Buffy: Yeah. Does it get easy?
Giles: What do you want me to say?
Buffy: Lie to me.
Giles: Yes, it's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Last edited by DevilEyes; July 16 2011 at 04:04 AM.
|July 16 2011, 03:44 AM||#56|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
But since this is such a great episode with a lot of great lines, I’ll add several other quotes.
Buffy: I think this is all part of your little fantasy drama. Isn't this exactly how you imagined it? You tell me how you've suffered and I feel sorry for you. Well, I do feel sorry for you, and if those vampires come in here and start feeding, I'll kill you myself.
Angel: Things used to be pretty simple. A hundred years, just hanging out, feelin' guilty... I really honed my brooding skills.
Chantarelle: Don't be ashamed! It's cool that you're open to it. We welcome anyone who's interested in the Lonely Ones. Willow: The Lonely Ones?
Xander: Oh! We usually call them the nasty, pointy, bitey ones.
Ford: Yes! See, this is the best! I wanna be like you. A vampire.
Spike: I've known you for two minutes, and I can't stand you. I don't really feature you livin' forever. (to Drusilla) Can I eat him now, love?
Ford: I'd love to! But if you guys already had plans... Would I be imposing?
Xander: No, only in the literal sense. (delivered with a huge smile and a handwave)
Buffy: I am trying to save you! You are playing in some serious traffic here! Do you understand that? You're going to die! And the only hope you have of surviving this is to get out of this pit right now, and… my God, could you have a dorkier outfit?
Recurring characters: Chanterelle, the blonde vampire-worshiper who learns about the real nature of vampires when Spike’s gang raids the place and when she gets bitten by Spike and then saved by Buffy. She reappears in season 3 opener “Anne” living in LA under the name Lily, and after being saved by Buffy again, takes up the name Anne and reappears on AtS as Anne Steele, an administrator of a shelter for homeless teenagers.
Mythology: Buffy says that vampires are picky over who they sire. Yet Drusilla in School Hard sired Sheila, who was brought by Spike just to be ‘food’. Maybe Dru wasn’t that picky due to her insanity?
Willow invites Angel to her room to talk to her about Buffy. Angel is now invited into both Buffy's and Willow's homes, as well as Cordelia's car.
Giles’ book has a photo of Drusilla (presumably taken when she was already a vampire, since there was no mention of her human life, parents, last name, or even if Drusilla was her real first name, which I doubt), but no information other than she was Spike’s “sometime paramour” who was killed by an angry mob in Prague. Another example that Watcher’s books get it wrong a lot of times, and contain very meegre info. They also apparently tend to ignore female vampires – barely a mention of Drusilla, no mention of Darla, as opposed to the reputation of Angelus and Spike as the worst vampires in history, despite the fact that the women participated in most of these crimes and were just as bad as they were. Sign of the times when the books were written and of CoW’s patriarchal bias – men are naturally seen as leaders, and as those that are likely to be violent criminals, while women can’t be anything more than “paramours”?
Angel/Angelus: Nobody is yet making any distinction between Angel’s souled and soulless self at this point. Not Drusilla, who is reminding him that he killed her family; not Angel himself, who feels guilty and says he killed her family, tortured her and drove her insane and then turned her into a vampire (all in 1st person singular); and not Buffy, either.
Pop culture references: Dracula (1973) with Jack Palance in the title role is played at the Sunset club, and Ford mouths to Dracula’s dialogue in the film. The Muppet Show – Xander calls Angel “Bossy the Cow”.
Buffy says she used to listen to Divinyls “I Touch Myself” when she had a crush on Ford in the 5th grade – hastily adding that she had no idea what the song meant (and Willow only then realizes what the song is about!).
Spike Badass-o-meter: He really is menacing in this episode, especially to the vampire-wannabes at the Sunset club. And he doesn’t run away from anyone this time, so this is the first episode without negative points. He also intended to fight Buffy on his own, telling his minions to leave the Slayer to him, so more positive points for that. He doesn’t actually get to do much in the end, but that’s because Buffy used his love for Drusilla to defeat him. And he has a lot of authority among the Sunnydale vamps, since his minions listen to his orders to stop feeding on the helpless humans, and he obviously didn’t have to deal with any sort of rebellion over the fact that he put his girlfriend’s life above letting them feed. All in all, his best showing so far.
Nicknames: Xander calls Angel “Dead boy”, to his annoyance, then follows it with “Bossy the Cow”. Drusilla calls Angel “my pet”; “pet” seems to be a term of endearment that both she and Spike like to use. She also calls Angel “my dear boy”, which she probably heard from Darla.
Destroying English language: Since this is a completely Whedon-written episode, we get an unusual amount of Buffy-speak: adjectives as nouns (Xander: “it gives me a happy”), nouns becoming adjectives (Buffy: “Nothing vampirey”), and the infamous incorrect superlative “bestest” (those who have read season 8 know why it’s infamous), which was only ever used on the show when the character was being sarcastic: here it’s jealous Xander mimicking Buffy calling Ford “bestest friend of all my friends”. (In season 3, it was Buffy sarcastically calling Faith “my bestest new little sister”, while not feeling very sisterly about her.)
Buffys’ ILYs: Angel elicits a declaration of love from Buffy, and that after she asks him to tell her the truth about Drusilla. It seems that his mysteriousness is mostly due to his fear that Buffy would reject him if she found out all about his past. It’s like he had to get an assurance first, before telling her the awful truth. (It’s also interesting that he hasn’t still told her or anyone out loud that he loves her, even though it’s mostly assumed by everyone, and he didn’t deny it when Giles and Xander said he was in love with Buffy. Maybe it’s because of AtS season 4 and his “Were we in love?” to Cordelia, but I think that it’s a character trait for Angel, he is unable to be open about his feelings before he gets a guarantee that the woman feels the same.)
This is the first time that Buffy tells anyone in the show “I love you” in a romantic way. And it’s worth noting that, even for the season 2 Buffy who was still a lot more emotionally open than in the later seasons, it is very hard to get those words across as she says them to Angel for the first time. (Incidentally, I can’t help noticing that SMG plays it in completely the same way that she played Buffy telling Spike “I love you” in the series finale (see it for yourself) Oddly enough, I’ve seen quite a few people say that she didn’t sound convincing in Chosen, but I don’t think I’ve seen the same said about Lie to Me.)
Buffy says: “I love you. I don’t know if I trust you” – not the first time the issue of trusting Angel has come up: during her bitchy phase in When She Was Bad, she told him she didn’t trust him; at this point, she’s unsure, but I think she did trust him completely at the time of Surprise. But what happened afterwards must have changed things – in Sanctuary, Buffy will imply again, during a heated argument, that she doesn’t trust or even know Angel. It seems that Buffy will change her outlook on love a lot by season 6, when she will claim that it’s impossible to love without trust (or at least, with the kind of love that doesn’t burn out until nothing is left), which seems to clash with what she tells Angel in Lie to Me. But I think it was the trauma of her ‘Angelus’ experience that changed her.
Angel’s reply “Maybe you shouldn’t either”, and Buffy’s answer: “Maybe I should be the one to decide!” is characteristic of their relationship in general, with Angel going from pursuing her to pulling away and trying to protect her from his own darkness – but ultimately making decisions for her, over and over, with a somewhat patronizing belief that he knows best what is good for her.
Foreshadowing: Buffy says “I like surprises”. Angel tells Drusilla to take Spike and leave Sunnydale, or else “it will end badly, for all of us”. Drusilla says about Buffy: “Poor thing, she has no idea what’s in store”. And how right she was – though at the time, this probably sounded like a threat about what Drusilla intended to do. (Good job of setting wrong expectations, show. ) Angel says that Drusilla, as a human, was innocent and pure, and an obsession of his; same description could apply to Buffy. After losing his soul, Angel(us) will mentally torture and try to break Buffy the same way he broke Drusilla.
There’s just one thing that’s wrong in this episode, and that’s Angel’s horrible makeup. What were they thinking? It seems that the makeup artists were trying to make him look paler, but he just looks like he has white powder and pink lip gloss on his face… maybe he was a glam rock fan. Aside from that, this episode is perfection, and therefore it gets the first perfect rating.
Last edited by DevilEyes; July 16 2011 at 04:00 AM.
|July 16 2011, 08:48 PM||#57|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
|July 21 2011, 06:25 AM||#58|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Well, this is a much less complex episode than the previous one. It’s a decent horror story and a good character episode for Giles. Its main purpose is to explore Giles’ backstory, hinted previously in Halloween, and show that he is not just what he seems to be – a common theme in the show, people proving to be more than meets the eye. The episode therefore goes out of its way to show how stuffy and dull the Scoobies think Giles is – even Jenny thinks he’s a “fuddy-duddy”, though she thinks he’s a sexy fuddy-duddy – only to show him scruffy, drinking, having issues, and acting impulsive, angry and violent (to Ethan, of course) and reveal that he had a wild, rebellious youth, which he has been trying to get away from by assuming his rule-abiding librarian persona. There is dualism within almost every character, and it’s interesting that Giles/Ripper dualism is in some ways similar to Angel/Angelus: a different (nick)name is used for Giles’ alter ego, and he even says “So, you’re back” when looking at himself in the mirror.
The “Dark Age” from the title probably has a double meaning of a dark (morally ambiguous, dangerous) part of Giles’ life, and a part of his life unknown to the Scoobies (though it might also be a reference to Jenny’s remark in an earlier episode that Giles is stuck in the Dark Ages). The story about dabbling in black magicks and summoning demons seems to be a pretty obvious metaphor for discovering that your Baby Boomer dad or teacher or another stuffy middle-aged guy used to be wild in college in 1960s or early 1970s and do hallucinogenic and other drugs (especially with the psychodelic-looking flashbacks). Then someone dies, and Giles is the one who decides to get clean and becomes a law-abiding citizen, while Ethan is the one who keeps up with the same lifestyle years later, which is the source of conflict and resentment between them.
Ethan must have become a popular character after his appearance, since they kept bringing him back in some of the later seasons, and having him escape every time. In this episode, in addition to being a wild card and loving to bring chaos, which we knew about him from his first appearance, he proves to be unapologetically selfish and concerned with his own survival above everything else. He also says honesty is his main virtue, then adds “Not really”, which would mean that he lied that he was honest, but then was honest about being a liar… uh, this is getting a bit complicated.
In the end the main purpose of the story seems to have been to make Giles a bit more reletable and interesting, as well as bring him and Buffy closer, as she realizes that they have more in common than she thought: Giles was also rebelling against his destiny. And while it’s usually Giles helping Buffy after she rebels and screws up, and being non-judgmental about her mistakes, here Buffy does that with him – being the ‘parent’, for a change. Funny how teenage Buffy makes a distinction between “adult” and “person” (saying she thought of Giles as the adult, but then she learned he was “a person”) – not just by age, I assume, since she doesn’t seem to think of 20-something Angel as an“adult” - “adult” means rules, order, boredom.
At the same time the revelation of Giles’s past is the cause why Jenny decides to take a break from their relationship, after having been possessed by the demon Eyghon, as a result of Giles’s dark secrets. Later in Innocence, their roles will be reversed when Giles learns Jenny’s dark secret and feels betrayed.
I’m a bit disappointed that the revelation about Giles’s youth was almost never followed upon – except in humorous way when Giles turned into a ‘bad boy’ in Band Candy. Maybe it’s because the planned Ripper spinoff never happened.In Halloween, Ethan said he knew what “Ripper” was capable of… Could that mean that Giles was the one who killed their friend when they didn’t find another way to cast the demon out – doing what needed to be done, even when it involves a murder? It would fit with what we later see in The Gift and LMPTM.
One thing that makes me like this episode less is that Cordelia and Xander are both a bit… exaggerated. Cordelia is just too tactless and clueless to the point of stupidity, and Xander is sort of annoying and fake in his quips. But it’s great to see Willow show her strong, confident side, becoming authoritative and successfully ordering them to stop bickering and get back to business.
Xander mentions the infamous Uncle Rory first time by name, as a hard-working taxidermist who lead a wild lifestyle at night. He’ll be referenced a few more times, before we meet him in season 6 Hell’s Bells.
Eyghon seems to be a male demon and rather sexist – insulting Giles by telling him he’s acting like a woman (when he’s being emotional).
There’s an amusing scene where Buffy stops some vampires from attacking the paramedics and robbing the blood bank, gets help from Angel, who just happened to find himself there (hmm...), and then asks him, a little unsure, if he could get the blood safely to the hospital.. The looks on both their faces make that one of the few funny B/A moments.
Mythology: Giles has dreams that seem prophetic, like Slayers do. Does he have some psychic abilities, too, or did the writers just think it would be cool and didm’t think it through?
The Scoobies defeat Eyghon by letting him jump into the “dead person” – Angel, whose body is technically dead – and have him fight with the demon inside Angel. I’ve seen some people name this as evidence for two entities theory (Angel/Angelus), understanding “demon” to mean Angelus, which is a misinterpretation, IMO. Every vampire has a “demon” inside, but as we later see in the Pylea arc in season 2 of AtS, the demon is not a sapient creature. In season 1 and 2 we learned about the Watchers official stance that a vampire is simply a dead human body taken over by a demon, but in season 8 Giles gives an updated version of the mythology that fits much better with what we’ve seen in the verse: vampires are hybrids, humans infected with the demon. This is how I see it: a vampire is a symbiotic creature; the human body is technically dead, but it is reanimated by the demon, who keeps it alive by supernatural means and gives it immortality, superstrength and heling, but also bloodlust and heightened aggression, and possibly a “connection” to some sort of collective evil. But the spirit – or, if you will, continued consciousness - of the human is still there, and intelligence, memories and personality traits all seen to come from the human “host”.
As an equation, I would put it like this: soulless vampire = (human - soul) + demon; souled vampire = human + demon. Or, in Angel’s case, Angelus = (Liam - soul) + demon; Angel = Liam + demon.
Buffy: "Have I ever let you down?"
Giles: "Do you want me to answer that, or should I just glare?"
Pop culture references: Buffy and Willow play the game ‘Anywhere But Here’, fantasizing about Gavin Rossdale, the singer of Bush, and actor John Cusack, respectively, while Xander’s fantasy fodder is Hong Kong movie star Amy Yip. (In season 8, Buffy and Willow will play the same game again, and Buffy’s fantasy is similar – again on the beach - except that it involves Daniel Craig.)
Bay City Rollers – boy band from 1970s - Giles is probably joking and winding Buffy up when he says he likes them; as we later see, his taste is more along the lines of Cream and Velvet Underground.
Buffy says Giles “Lost Weekended”, referencing Billy Wilder’s 1945 film about alcoholism, Lost Weekend.
The Sound of Music is also referenced ironically in the context of being all happy.
The picture of young Giles in leather and with a guitar is, from what I’ve read, a montage of the photo of young ASH and Sid Vicious.
Eyghon references the song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” when talking about possessing Giles (in a speech full of disturbing sexual double entendres). The title of that song will be used in AtS for a title of an episode about demonic possession.
Foreshadowing: Xander says that“Nobody can be wound as straight and narrow as Giles without a dark side erupting”. Same thing can be said about Willow. It’s worth noting that Willow was the only one who, at the beginning of the episode, thought that there might be more to Giles than his stuffy persona, while Buffy an Xander were sure he was always like that. Buffy does show a tendency to judge by appearances.
|August 22 2011, 06:22 PM||#59|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
I remember these episodes as being among my favorite pre-Innocence episodes, and they are as enjoyable. They have cracking dialogue throughout, especially part 2, Xander and Cordy's hilarious first kiss, the wonderfully twisted Spike/Dru/Angel dynamic, some great Oz moments… and the introduction of a major new plot point – another Slayer, an opportunity to examine the questions what it means to be a Slayer, what kind of Slayer Buffy is, and how she feels about her calling.
The title refers to another extracurricular school activity devised by Snyder, career week. It makes sense that the result of Buffy’s test is that her perfect career is to be a cop, since she's already a cop of the supernatural world. (Her second result – environmental architect?? – is, well, random.) Xander isn’t happy to get prison guard – another low paid, unglamorous job (but also another law enforcement job). Cordelia’s result, motivational speaker, is mocked by Xander, but motivational speaker is practically what she’ll be to Angel on AtS. Willow’s computer skills (which she’s going to put side later in the show as she starts using magic) have been noticed by a “leading software concern” (obviously not named), represented by two mysterious men in black suits (as every time that there are government or corporate representatives in the show). Which is really just an opportunity for the show to get her and Oz together, since he’s the only other student they've targeted (the first and only time we ever hear of Oz's computer skills) and have them have the first real conversation, after they've kind of met twice.
Spike and Drusilla are meanwhile trying to find out how to cure Dru, with the help of a bookish vampire called Dalton. Dalton is an interesting vampire – we only see him in vampface, but he seems very human, and very meek and shy. I guess not everyone has a strong dark, violent suppressed side that comes out when they become a vampire, the way it happened with Spike, who went from being a nerdy mild-mannered guy to one of the most notorious vampires ever. Dalton he even wears glasses (yeah, it’s a part of the cliché of what a bookish person looks like) – shouldn’t enhanced vampire strength and abilities include better eyesight?
Dru is not just psychic, she is also reading the future in Tarot cards (it seems to be a special version, nothing like the usual Tarot cards). It’s like the vampires have their own version of the Scooby gang, with the impulsive fighter/leader, the woman versed in magic and the bookish guy. They just need a Xander. Or on second thought, they don’t.
Just like in Lie to Me, when Spike, already cranky and mistreating Dalton because the translation of books isn’t working, snaps at Dru, she immediately reverts to her helpless little girl persona and whines, and he quickly apologizes and gets mushy and tender. Which seems to be the underlying dynamic of their relationship (and it won’t change much even after Dru gets strong and Spike gets in the wheelchair). It must be why they don’t get to argue much – she is both manipulative and has a much calmer temper than him. If it was Harmony, he’ll stay annoyed with her until they had sex, and if it was Buffy, the two of them would shout and snark and punch each other.
The introduction of the human weasel Willy the Snitch and his demon bar frequented by both shady humans and shady demons, feels like proto-AtS, with all the film noir cliches and Angel acting more violent and morally ambiguous than he does when he is around Buffy, even threatening Willy by saying that he might be killing him long and slow because he is rusty at killing humans.
It’s nice to see Buffy and Angel finally having a functional relationship, and acting like two people who are dating, instead of having awkward conversations in the graveyard and uttering weird OTT lines like “When you kiss me, I wanna die“. Just in a few episodes, everything is going to go horribly wrong, but Angel going evil wouldn't have such impact if he and Buffy didn't have anything good before that. We rarely see Angel's perspective on their relationship in S2, since he's mostly the mysterious brooding love interest, and we get a glimpse of it when Buffy gets back home through the window (which she actually didn't have to do, since her mother is out of town, but it's out of habit) and, in a reversal of their usual dynamics, startles him (usually it's him who comes and goes unexpectedly) while he's in her room, looking at her things and holding her childhood toy, Mr. Gordo the stuffed pig. (At this point it's still the endearing, if vaguely stalkerish, behavior of someone in love, but soon enough after he loses his soul, Angel coming into Buffy's room will become ultra-creepy.) She reassures Angel's insecurity about his vampirity, telling him he is „the one freaky thing in my freaky life that still makes sense to me“. She's found a way to have something „normal“ in her life (having a boyfriend) in a „freaky“ way (boyfriend is a vampire). Later on the ice, after Angel vamps out while helping her in a fight, she kisses him in his vampface for the first time and tries to reassure him „I haven't even noticed“.
Their kiss on the ice is their first onscreen kiss since Angel in season 1 and their first really romantic scene since that episode. Besides being a plot device to have Kendra see them and know that Angel is a vampire, it also seems to show Buffy has accepted him as a vampire (contrary to Darla's words to Angel in season 1 that Buffy will never kiss his vampface). But on the other hand, one could question if she has really accepted all of him – since she doesn't really know how bad Angel used to be, she knows he used to do awful things but has never seen it – or if she's just choosing to overlook things. Earlier in her room she told him she just wished they could be „normal kids“, before he reminded her that he can't ever be one. (In I Will Remember You, while Angel is human, Buffy herself will say that this is the kind of happiness she always wanted, to be the „normal“ girl with a „normal“ boyfriend.) Camera focuses on the mirror where it looks like Buffy is alone, which was, according to Marti Noxon's DVD commentary, meant to show that there is a gap between them, because he's a vampire, despite their love for each other. But, maybe because the scene reminds me of S6 „I can be alone with you here“, I feel it could as well be seen as a sign that one of the reasons why she feels like finding comfort with Angel (later in the season she'll say that she still feels like running to him when things are tough and that she feels he's the only one she can talk to) – he's on the outside, not one of her circle of friends, not one of the „normal“ people from school and her everyday life, and at the same time, not one of the monsters she has to fight (not yet...). Later after she learns that the Order of Taraka is after her, and starts feeling paranoid at school, she goes to Angel's place as a safe haven and lies on his bed (echoing Angel earlier coming to her room when she wasn't there). Angel in the meantime tried to protect her by going to Willy's bar to get info, but got thrown by Kendra in a cage, so Buffy will have to be saving him instead.
The fight between Kendra and Buffy is good, but the best part is when Buffy, about to lose to Kendra, says „Don't make me do the chick fight thing“ and then digs her nails into Kendra's hand. It's both a nice parody of the way that women fight on TV but also a sign that Buffy is the better fighter because she's more imaginative than by-the-book, rules-abiding Kendra.
A couple more observations:
Buffy reveals to Angel that her parents used to argue all the time for years before their divorce, while she was a child, and that ice skating was her way of escaping that.
Angel's place is really nice, way too nice for someone without a job, who was living in the alley and eating rats just a year ago, and it's furnished with way too many beautiful,old artefacts. He seems like a collector, but how did he afford them? The most likely guess is, stealing. Does he sell or pawn them occasionally to get money?
Recurring characters introduced: Kendra, Dalton, Willy the Snitch.
Cordelia: Oh, here I am. “Personal shopper or motivational speaker.” Neato!
Xander: Motivational speaker? On what? Ten ways to a more annoying you?
Dalton: The Order of Taraka? Isn’t that overkill?
Spike: No, it’s just enough kill.
Buffy (on being told what a reliquary is): Note to self: religion – freaky.
Best scene: Paranoid Buffy attacking Oz in the school hallway: his nonplussed reaction is a classic Oz moment:
Buffy (takes him by the neck and shoves him against the wall): Try it!
Oz (confused): Try what?
Buffy (lets go): Uh, I’m sorry.
Oz: Still not clear what I’m supposed to try.
And when she walks away, he comments to himself that she is a “tense person“ - not crazy bitch, lunatic, freak, like many others would. That was the moment when he became one of my favorite characters.
Worst scene: The extended, gratuitous scene of Buffy ice skating. I know that SMG wanted to show off her skills, but for a moment I was under the impression that I was watching some other TV programme.
Mythology: The Order of Taraka don’t ever appear after this two-parter, but it’s interesting that this order of super-bounty hunters who are 100% focused on their job is apparently made up of both humans and demons.
The cliffhanger is obviously a big shocker – for the first time, we have two Slayers at the same time.
Pop culture references: Scooby-Doo: Xander refers to Buffy, Willow, Giles and himself as “the Scooby gang”, which will become the popular fan name for them. What’s My Line - 1950s/1960s US game show where the contestants were trying to guess the guest’s profession. Tony Robbins, motivational speaker: Buffy says Giles is “on this Tony Robbins hyper-efficiency kick”. Buffy was a huge fan of ice-skater Dorothy Hamill, which is very anachronistic since she was active in the late 1970s before Buffy was even born.
Spike Badass-o-meter: Instead of fighting Buffy again, he’s sending super-assassins after her. But to be fair, he’s got more important concerns – curing Dru. Still, nothing that makes him particularly brave or badass. And bullying Dalton doesn’t get him any additional points, either.
Nicknames: Buffy calls Angel “Stealth Guy”. Spike’s terms of endearment for Dru, besides “pet” includes “kitten”.
Foreshadowing: Buffy thinks of her Slayerhood as a burden and says she didn’t choose to be a Slayer, she was chosen. But she’ll soon learn that there is another Slayer, which means that she really could give up being a Slayer and leave it to Kendra.
A setup with the real payoff to all the storylines coming in part 2, but still a really well written and entertaining episode.
Last edited by DevilEyes; August 23 2011 at 12:01 AM.
|August 22 2011, 06:25 PM||#60|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
The only weak link in this episode is Kendra’s accent and Bianca Lawson’s overacting in general. For the first few minutes, I thought it was going to bug me for the rest of the ep and wondered how come I liked this episode so much all those years ago that I first watched it. But I soon got used to it, or her acting got more tolerable as soon as Kendra starts getting friendlier to Buffy and acting a little more normal, or maybe it was just overshadowed by all the awesomeness of everything else in this episode – in any case, it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment.
(And another thing that doesn’t make sense about her, why is she dressed so sexily and in full makeup, if she is supposed to not talk to boys and not have friends or boyfriends or social life? To distract vampires? Or is her Watcher a total perv? Hm, I think it’s best to go with that explanation.)
This is the first time we get to see what a by-the-book Slayer who abides the Council’s rules is like, and the comparison shows just how unconventional a Slayer Buffy is. We’ve heard before that a Slayer isn’t supposed to have friends or family, and it is really the case with Kendra, whose family gave her away to her Watcher when she was a very young Potential (what would have happened if she never got called? Would she just waste her life away waiting for it?), and she even doesn’t use her last name. I assume this has been the standard procedure for most Slayers. She thinks she shouldn’t have any life outside of the Slaying, no school, no other job, no social life, no friends or boyfriends – she is even taught not to talk to boys, and looks down when Xander talks to her, showing an interest that goes away as soon as he sees her timid behavior. Being a Slayer doesn’t seem to be that much about female empowerment - the oppressive patriarchal aspect of it becomes more obvious, with Slayers being subjugated to the Council of Watchers and slaves to tradition.
Buffy even gets a bit jealous of Giles and Kendra getting along so fine and discussing the books – like a daughter jealous that the father likes another, more obedient and less rebellious daughter better (but Giles actually loves Buffy for being exactly as she is).
Kendra in season 2 and Faith in season 3 are both used to contrast Buffy in different ways and show different possibilities of what a Slayer can be like. Buffy makes clear that she doesn’t play by the rules, but she still has a strong sense of duty. Faith, who doesn’t have the support system and family and friends that Buffy has, is the opposite of Kendra – she represents the possibility that a Slayer could disregard duty and morality and decide to use her powers to do whatever she likes, and regard herself as a superhuman being who is exempt from any human laws. Kendra’s mindset is very limited, but Buffy is a better Slayer than Kendra because she is more imaginative, goes by the instinct, and because her emotions help her fight. Kendra thinks emotions are just a distraction and liability for a Slayer, Buffy on the other hand believes that her emotions are “total assets”. Buffy makes a point to Kendra when she makes Kendra lose temper – anger can be a powerful asset in fight. We see it time and again that Buffy often shows love by fighting to save and protect people she loves, as we see in this episode when Angel is kidnapped by Spike because the blood of Dru’s sire is needed to cure her, and Buffy makes the memorable statement: “You can attack me, you can send assassins after me, that's fine. But nobody messes with my boyfriend!” (Bad news for Spike in season 2; good news for Spike in season 7.)
This is exactly why, having learned the lesson that emotions can help in fight (Kendra fights off one of the Order of Taraka assassins, the policewoman, only when she gets really angry when the policewoman rips her only shirt), and having found a friend (in Buffy), Kendra teachers Buffy something as well: being a Slayer is not a job, it’s who you are, and contrary to what Buffy thinks at this point, being a Slayer is an integral part of Buffy’s personality. Buffy thought she wanted to stop being a Slayer and have a “normal life”, and the existence of another Slayer was a perfect opportunity to leave Slaying to someone else. Instead, it makes Buffy start realizing that she doesn’t want to quit, she wants to be a Slayer.
This episode marks the beginning of the Xander/Cordelia relationship, and a beginning of sorts of the Willow/Oz relationship. Xander and Cordy's first kiss is hilarious one of the most memorable moments, with the two of them insulting each other and shouting that they hate each other, until they suddenly kiss, to the intentionally cheesy background music. The first time I watched it, my mouth fell open. Now I think I should have seen it coming, with all the Belligerent Sexual Tension throughout the season. The best part is when they break away from the kiss and agree that they so need to get out of there. They're more freaked out by their attraction for each other than by the creepy demonic assassin!
The worm guy from the order of Taraka is probably the most disgusting monster on Buffy ever. (Come to think of it, he was kinda slimy even as a human.) But, somehow, the ickiness makes Xander/Cordy scenes fighting him all the funnier and more memorable.
Willow finally learns that Oz might be interested in her (Buffy had to tell her, since Willow doesn’t think anyone would be attracted to her), and she and Oz have their first real on-screen conversation. Oz gets another cool character moment during the shoot-out in the school, when the policewoman turns out to be there not for the career week but to kill Buffy – he jumps to push Willow and Buffy out of the way, and gets shot and lightly wounded, but still isn’t concerned about it and seems to see it as an interesting new experience.
Jonathan appears again, of course as a victim: this time he’s taken hostage by the policewoman from the Order of Taraka during the shoot-out at school, and seems typically oblivious to what is going on, asking if it all was a demonstration.
How ironic is it that it’s Spike who practically saves Angel in the episode from burning out in the cage Kendra put him in, just because he wants to kill him and use his blood to cure Dru?
The complicated and twisted dynamic in the Angel, Spike and Dru triangle get explored in this episode, and these may be the best parts of the ep. Drusilla is really a fascinating character – I’ve never been able to like her much, but I can appreciate that. Here she is childlike, sensual, creepy, dangerous, masochistic, cruel, insane but still strangely seductive. I’ve got to say that the love scene between her and Spike, kissing and whispering darkly romantic lines to each other (while Angel is in the background, tied up and about to be tortured and killed), is one of the sexiest in the show, partly because the actors have amazing chemistry, and because of the music and colors (there is a lot of deep red and black) contributing to the dark glamour of those scenes. Her relationship with Angel(us) is particularly complex – she tortures him not just physically, but making him feel guilty, talking to him about her human family, reminding him how he killed them – inflicting pain on him like he did on her. But is it revenge, or a part of the intimacy of their twisted relationship? If she’s resentful because he killed her family, why doesn’t she ever act that way with him when he’s soulless and evil? It seems that she despises his souled, good self, and loves his evil soulless self (the opposite of Buffy), and she resents him from leaving his vampire family and betraying them. (A dialogue from the original script that didn’t make it into the ep helps understand it: she is asking Angel if he remembers “that kind of hunger”: she wants him to turn back evil, and thinks that he still has the capacity for evil, despite the icky soul.)
And why does Angel turn his eyes away when Dru and Spike are making out in front of him? It’s pretty ambiguous. Does it just offend his sensibilities? Is he hurt to see how innocent, pure Dru has become the lecherous Dru, part of the evil vampire couple with violent lecherous Spike? Or how once-innocent William is now the violent evil Spike, giving his old self a run for his money? Or is there a hint of the old rivalry and jealousy, not because of Drusilla, but because there was “another rooster in the hen-house”?
Spike’s comment that he’s “not much for the pre-show”, meaning that he isn’t interested in prolonged torture of Angel and would rather get to the killing part, has been used by many fans to try to prove that Spike wasn’t a sadist with his victims like Angelus and Dru were, and that he was always a “nicer” vampire. I don’t think that’s the case. We’ve seen it plenty of times that Spike is not just ready to use torture for pragmatic reasons (like punching Dalton, when he said some people find pain inspirational), but that he really enjoys violence, and not just in a fight with a worthy opponent like the Slayers – see, for instance, snapping the neck of the No-Veal guy from School Hard for no reason at all, or how excited he was to see Buffy as a helpless, meek victim he would bite, in Halloween. I think he just has no patience for any long, over-drawn, ritualistic torture, or Angelus’ mental torture of Buffy in the second part of season 2. He is impulsive and direct, and doesn’t tend to think much about the feelings of his victims, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like hurting people.
The fight in Spike and Dru’s mansion is quite spectacular, with Kendra and Buffy working together to fight Spike and the assassins, while Cordy and Xander are fighting in their own way, exterminating the worms that the other assassin is made of. It seems Spike also gain strength from his emotions: he’s fighting way better than in Halloween, now that it’s Dru on the line, but they can also be a hindrance, as when he forgets about Dru and Angel and Buffy for a moment to go after Willy because he’s so angry at him for what he sees as a double-cross – before noticing what’s going on and pulling Buffy from Angel and Dru so the process of her restoring could be complete. And talk about subtext: when Buffy and Kendra switch (they’re already working perfectly in unison), because Kendra was losing to Spike while Buffy was easily beating the policewoman, Spike and Buffy have this exchange: “I’d rather be fighting you.” - “Mutual.” Not only are they both snarky, impulsive, rebellious and both love a good fight, they are both devoted to those they love and fighting to save them. In the end they both got what they wanted, Angel was saved (just one of the instances of the gender inversion of Buffy being the hero who saves her boyfriends in peril), but the process went far enough to cure Dru. But Spike has an organ fall on him, and when the building collapses the Scoobies are left thinking Spike and Dru are dead, before the last scene reveals a healthy, super-strong Dru carrying unconscious Spike in her arms. Spike was originally meant to die in this episode, and this was a way to keep him on the show while still making it possible for Angelus to be the Big Bad.
Best scene: It’s difficult to choose. The Spike/Dru/Angel scenes are great, but Xander and Cordy’s first kiss is so memorable and funny, that I might do with it as the best scene. The 3rd place goes to the really fun scene where the gang try to explain the Angel situation to her. From an outside perspective, it really is weird. At this point, “He has a soul” still hasn’t become the catchphrase that justifies a vampire being treated differently, and pulling the soul card probably wouldn’t mean a thing to Kendra. (After all, there’s probably no footnote in the Slayer handbook that says “You should kill vampires… [but not the ones with the soul, they’re good]”. Instead, Buffy just ends up justifying her insistence that Angel is good with “You’ll just have to trust me on this one”. The funniest part is Willow starting to defend Buffy saying she would never kiss a vampire, then correcting herself that it would just be Angel, but then insecurely asking Buffy “Right?” Heh. Willow’s mind dirtier than it seems… And it’s a line that makes me giggle now, in hindsight.
Kendra: You talk about slaying like it's a job. It's not. It's who you are.
Buffy: Did you get that from your handbook?
Kendra: From you.
Xander: Angel's our friend... except I don't like him.
Kendra: Angel? You mean Angelus? I've read about him. He is a monster.
Giles: No, no, no, he's, he's good now.
Willow: (smiles) Really!
Buffy He has a Gypsy curse.
Kendra: He has a what?
Mythology: The calling of the new Slayer is apparently an automatic process - Kendra got called because of Buffy’s temporary death in Prophecy Girl. The Slayer line now goes through Kendra rather than Buffy: if Kendra dies, another Slayer is called; if Buffy dies, no new Slayer is called.
Destroying English language: Buffy replies to Giles using the word“flummoxed” by asking “What’s the flum”. Buffy wonders about the origin of the expression “whole nine yards.” (I’ve wondered about it, too.)
Spike Badass-o-meter: He does much better in this episode, the last one before he ends up in a wheelchair and loses his Big Bad status. Maybe it’s because he feels a lot more motivated fighting for the woman he loves. He fights with two Slayers, was pretty much kicking Kendra’s ass (a much better showing than Angel in his fight with her in the previous episode), and does quite well in the fight against Buffy. He got wheelchaired mostly for not looking behind his back (Buffy threw on object at him to stop him, and then the organ fell on him).
Nicknames: Spike calls Drusilla “my Black Goddess” and “my ripe wicked plum” and refers to Buffy as “Little Rebecca of Sunnyhell Farm” (see Pop culture references), one of the many times he’ll mockingly compare her to fluffy, sunny teenage characters. Dru calls Angel “My Angel”, “Bad Daddy” and shuts him up with “bad dog”. Buffy calls Kendra “John Wayne”, “Pink Ranger” and “she-Giles”.
Pop culture references: Series of children/youth books Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. John Wayne. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Buffy plans to watch a romcom with Molly Ringwald. So I guess she liked James Spader from his role in Pretty In Pink?
Angel/Angelus: It never even occurs to Dru or Spike that they might be two different people, and Angel never says anything of the matter, either. And he’s way too good in acting Angelus-like when he’s taunting Spike.
Shirtless scene: Angel, shirtless, tied up and tortured. (Not for the last time…)
Ooh, kinky: And the level of kink goes way up with this episode, thanks to Marti Noxon, who makes her official writing debut with this two-parter (part 1 co-written with Howard Gordon), after being brought in to the show to overhaul the script for Halloween.
Drusilla dreamily tells Spike she dreamed they were in Paris and that he had a branding iron. It is the first mention of Dru’s sexual masochism. Here we also see some of her sadism, when she is torturing Angel with holy water and clearly enjoying it. We later learn from Spike in Lovers Walk that she likes to be tied up and tortured, but is the opposite also a part of their sex life? Judging by Spike’s behavior in this episode, it’s not – I imagine he wouldn’t be so happy letting her ‘play’ with Angel otherwise, if he thought her enjoyment was sexual, especially since he knows about their past relationship and he was already jealous that she was just going to meet him in Lie to Me. And here he doesn’t get jealous until Angel starts taunting him.
Angel taunts Spike that he remembers Drusilla likes the “pre-show” best of all, she likes to be “teased”. It’s not clear if there’s any truth to it or if it’s just something Angel has come up with to taunt Spike – Dru just quietly shut him up and says nothing, grinning. In Fool for Love she certainly didn’t seem unsatisfied, when the only foreplay she and Spike had besides a bit of passionate making out was Spike killing a Slayer and letting her taste her blood. Most likely she’s very satisfied with her sex life with Spike, but she would still like Angelus back, too, since she’s not big on monogamy, as Noxon says in her commentary.
Spike and Dru really seem to have a habit of making out in front of people they’ve got in the room tied up, don’t they? First Sheila, now Angel.
Willy proves his sleeze credentials (in a dialogue added by Whedon), asking Buffy and Kendra to pose for a friend of his who does “artistic” nude pictures.
What the slashy heck: Spangels must be having a field day with Spike’s sarcastic joke when Willy asked him what he wants to do with Angel: “I’m thinking, a dinner and a movie. I don’t want to rush things, I’ve been hurt, you know…”
Foreshadowing: Angel taunting Spike about Dru and getting him jealous foreshadows the Angelus/Dru/Spike triangle later in the season. Here Angel is doing it for noble reasons, to get himself killed so he wouldn’t unleash Dru on Sunnydale; without a soul he’ll do it simply to torment Spike (and with much less risk, with Spike in a wheelchair).
Xander says to Kendra that he’s attracted to Slayers. That will certainly be proven when he meets Faith.
Kendra has a point when she says emotions can also be a distraction and prevent a Slayer from doing her duty, which we’ll see with Buffy in just a few episodes.
Buffy does, after all, like being a Slayer, but she doesn’t like being the one and only: it’s good to have someone just like her, another Slayer who understands what it’s like. This could be seen foreshadowing for what she does in the series finale.
Last edited by DevilEyes; August 23 2011 at 12:07 AM.
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