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Old August 22 2011, 05:28 PM   #61
DevilEyes
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.11. Ted

The plot of this standalone is very similar to Joseph Ruben’s 1987 thriller The Stepfather with Terry O’Quinn: a teenage girl’s divorced mother finds a new, too-good-to-be-true boyfriend, a guy who seems to be an embodiment of the 1950s sitcom dad, all traditional and fatherly and nice and into “family values”, and only the girl is suspicious of him, and rightly so, because he’s actually a creepy serial killer obsessed with finding a perfect new family. Although in this case, Ted is less about family and kids and more about the perfect wife/marriage. Oh, and he’s actually a robot.

Buffy is in the position of being the only one who sees that Ted is not such a good guy, but everyone is dismissing her suspicions because they think she has other reasons to hate him, for dating her mom and replacing her dad, which is true, but Buffy is still right about him (like Xander and his dislike of Angel perhaps?). It’s not that Buffy’s instincts when it comes to ”nice” men she is interested in dating are so great (see: Tom, Parker, Ben). But I think Ted was more obviously “off”. I remember that he was possibly the character I hated most in the early seasons. He’s so smarmy, trying to be liked by everybody, you just know that something has to be wrong with the guy. It’s good that we get the explanation that everyone but Buffy was so besotted with Ted because he put an Ecstasy-like drug in his cookies, so they don’t all look stupid. I get that Joyce finds it hard to find a boyfriend as a single mother, as she says, but still, she could do much better than Ted. If she was gonna make a disastrous choice in men, couldn’t she, like Buffy, at least pick someone hot? Seriously though, she was obviously happy to find someone who seemed to be a good guy and really love her, and have a nice conflict-free relationship, after her marriage with Hank. She won’t ever find another boyfriend, apart from the Band Candy one-night stand with bad boy Teenage Giles (and when she finally seemed to be on the brink of a new relationship, typically for a Whedon show, she died).

This is the first time we see Buffy feeling guilty for killing a human (or rather, someone she at that point believes to be human) – a topic that will come up again in season 3 with Faith, and in season 6 Dead Things. Although both times Buffy didn’t really do it, both times she wants to give herself up immediately to the police. Vampires and demons are seen as killable, but humans, no matter how bad, aren’t – something that will come up again in season 6 with Warren. The incident with Ted nevertheless is a reminder that a Slayer can be very dangerous if she uses her Slayer strength on ordinary humans, intentionally or not, and it also shows that Buffy sometimes has a very violent temper when someone gets her really angry, although she keeps it check most of the time. Buffy has a sense of morality that tells her she mustn’t be above the human law – she is “the law” in the supernatural world, but she can’t overstep that. Cordelia, morally challenged as usual, gets to voice the opinion that Buffy and superheroes in general should be above the law (the same thing that Faith believes in season 3), which Willow points out would be a fascist society. (Cordelia’s reply is completely honest, sarcasm-free: “Yeah! Why can’t we have one of those?”)

I quite like this episode, even if the twist feels like a bit of a cop-out as it lets Buffy off the hook. I like seeing John Ritter as a bad guy, he does a good job making me hate Ted, and he’s very funny in the scene where the damaged robot is malfunctioning during a conversation with Joyce. The twist about Ted being a robot works as a commentary that nobody real can be that “perfect” (which was also a point of the contrast between Buffybot and the real Buffy in the season 6 opener. Interesting how robots on the show went from dangerous villains to sympathetic robots being used and exploited by humans or vampires, like April and Buffybot. ) Ted is an embodiment of insidious paternalism and sexism lurking beneath the niceness and traditional “family values”, which gets gradually revealed throughout the episode, with more and more worrying statements like “Don’t I always tell you what to do” to Joyce, or comforting her by saying “Daddy’s here”. A man treating a grown woman as a little girl and calling himself his lover’s “Daddy” (or a grown woman calling her lovers “Daddy”, which is also what Drusilla calls Angel and Spike) is disturbing. (Warren in Seeing Red will also refer to himself as Daddy to the women he wants to seduce, while having his big macho act in the bar.) Among other things that Ted says are “Right is right, and wrong is wrong” – after Lie to Me, another hint that we shouldn’t trust a black and white view of the world; and “Husband and wife are forever” (also a belief of his maker, the human serial-killer Ted, who was trying to find the same woman, over and over). Maybe the hint is that, besides the flawlessly nice people and those who think they know what’s best for everyone and can make decisions instead of their partners, we should also be suspicious of the “forever love” talk (which at this point brings to mind the Spike/Drusilla relationship, but will later also become the staple of Angel/Buffy).

In the B-plot, Giles and Jenny finally get back together at the end of the episode (which actually ends on the shot of two of them kissing in the empty classroom). Their relationship is the positive counterpart to Ted/Joyce throughout the episode, Giles being caring but not controlling and Jenny a strong independent woman. Although Buffy and the others freak out at seeing grownups kiss and run away – which really always seemed unconvincing to me. I never knew any teenagers who were horrified by the sight of two adults making out (unless maybe it’s their parents), teenagers in my high school would have loved to watch the teachers make out and there’d probably have been snickering and naughty comments, not running away in disgust.

Best line:
Giles (after Buffy’s rant about vampires who are evil and kill people and come into your home and take over your house and start making mini pizzas that everyone likes…): Uh, Buffy, I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming text.

Mythology: I think this is the first occasion that we see Buffy’s rapid Slayer healing, which in this case works against her as the police don’t believe her story that Ted punched her first, since she’s got no bruises.

Recurring characters introduced: Detective Stein, who will return in two more episodes to investigate other deaths.

Pop culture references: Captain & Tenille, 1970s the husband-and-wife pop duo. In the opening scene, Xander and Willow are discussing who the real driving force was in the duo, while Buffy has no idea who they’re talking about (which according to Xander is shocking and means she knows nothing about “culture”).
Stepford Wives – Buffy says her mother is acting “Stepford” around Ted.
Cordelia compares Buffy to Superman.
Thelma and Louise - After the bad experience with Ted, poor Joyce (who doesn’t know he was a robot, just that he was a psycho murderer) decides to take a break from men and wants to have some mother and daughter time with Buffy, watching a movie, but only something without any horror, or romance, or men. Buffy describes that as “we’re Thelma and Louise-ing it again.”

Ooh, kinky: Buffy says she likes to play nursemaid to Angel (who’s still recovering from the events of the last episode), which Xander interprets in a kinky way, asking if it’s better than playing a naughty stewardess. Buffy is annoyed, but in season 8


Foreshadowing: There is foreshadowing of the robot twist within the episode itself:Ted’s colleague at work says that Ted is known as “The Machine” for his incredible work results; Ted says that he doesn’t take orders from women because he’s not “wired that way”.
A villain with an all-American traditional father persona is something we’ll see again, in a lot more charming but also a lot more dangerous version with The Mayor. Ted making everyone pliant and happy and adoring through chemical means is a bit similar to Jasmine making everyone happy and pliant and adoring through a spell.
Willow is really impressed with Human Ted’s scientific skills for making such a human-like robot, and even thinks of keeping some parts “for study”, which makes Buffy worried: “Will, you’re supposed to use your powers for good!”
And a piece of fake foreshadowing/ red herring: The conversation about Captain and Tenille is written that way to make us think at first that they’re talking about Spike and Drusilla. In an obvious follow-up to the end of What’s My Line, the discussion whether “she” is the real power from the shadows and “he” was just a puppet ( though it touches on the fact that Dru is not that weak and helpless and that a lot of what Spike does is for her) seems designed to make us think that Drusilla would be the real Big Bad of the season – before we finally learn in Innocence who the real Big Bad is.
Gee, I wonder if we’ll get another story in season 2 about a loving, apparently nice boyfriend turning evil…?

Rating: 3.5
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Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

my Buffy/Angel rewatch

Last edited by DevilEyes; August 22 2011 at 11:15 PM.
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Old August 22 2011, 05:30 PM   #62
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.12. Bad Eggs

Despite this episode’s bad reputation, I didn’t find it as awful as it’s cracked up to be. I can’t say that there was anything that especially annoys me about it – its only problem is that the main story is a little thin. The Texan vampire brothers Gorch are a comic relief red herring, and the real danger turns out to be in the eggs that the kids get to keep as a part of a school task to learn to take care of children – a possible unwanted consequence of sex. It’s another episode with a typical cheesy SF-monster plot (like Some Assembly Required and Ted), this time it’s possession story – the little parasite babies’ using the humans to lead them to the Mother. The title could be referring literally to the eggs, or metaphorically to the Gorches (who were always bad eggs, even as humans), or even Buffy, who’s a bit of a ‘bad egg’ in Joyce’s eyes. We’ve had a phallic monster earlier (Reptile Boy) and now the main monster is the big mom, a…uterine monster? While the other “villains” are the “children” possessing their surrogate parents. Overall the episode feels like a blatant metaphor about careless teenage sex, responsibility and pregnancy.

The episode focuses quite a bit on the Buffy/Joyce relationship, which is particularly strained. Joyce is very unsatisfied with Buffy and gives her a lecture on responsibility because she’s only thinking about boys and fun - very ironic since Buffy actually has a lot more responsibility on her shoulders than Joyce can imagine. Buffy even makes a joke about fighting vampires, and Joyce just glares and says she can’t understand what’s in Buffy’s head. Many fans think that this doesn’t fit with the revelation/retcon of Normal Again – that Buffy used to be in a mental hospital – because she would never have joked that way, or Joyce would have had a stronger reaction. I think it can actually go either way – some people do make jokes about dark periods of their lives (Buffyverse characters do that a lot), and Joyce ‘s glare could have meant “How can you joke about that”.

On the other hand, Joyce is partially right because Buffy is in fact neglecting her duty for pleasure in this episode – as she and Angel keep having long make-out sessions in the graveyard instead of hunting, and fail to find the Gorches who are not far away, hiding and looking at them. (Another confirmation that Angel’s curse isn’t known among the majority of vampires - maybe Darla was hiding it out of shame - since the brothers don’t know about him having a soul or not being evil anymore.) After the occasional smoochies we saw in previous couple of episodes, the B/A relationship is getting more physical, which will lead to them having sex in the next episode, Surprise. At the end of this episode they’re making out on Buffy’s window, Angel outside, Buffy’s inside, technically obeying her mother who grounded her, as the camera shows the stuffed toys in her room. Who keeps their stuffed toys in their room at 16? Seems like a way to hit us over the head with the idea that the teenagers are at a crossroads between childhood and adulthood, and that childhood will soon be over for Buffy.

Teenage lust, in its pre-coital version, is all around as Xander and Cordy are also having constant make-out sessions in the school closet (they’re still staying in the closet – get it?), unable to keep their hands off each other, but still insulting each other between the smoochies and at any other time, to the point that Willow is starting to notice something odd about them. Xander and Cordy are keeping their relationship secret from everyone, while Buffy and Angel are hiding it only from her mother.

The main plot maybe works best as a representation of Buffy’s fears. She is constantly being told by her mom how difficult motherhood is, and at one point she reveals that she’s terrified of ending up like Joyce, as a single mother. Later in a conversation with Angel, she sounds freaked out by the idea of having children. She doesn’t think she would be good at taking care of a child (she mentions how she ‘killed’ her mechanical toy, which will be echoed in The Prom when she says she killed her fish) and she thinks of it as something she might possibly do some day when she’s done “having a life”, but she is not thinking of having children in any near future. (An attitude I completely relate to, despite being much older than 16.) Which is normal at 16, though Buffy won’t show any desire to have children in any of the following seasons. Unlike her, Angel is concerned about the fact that he can’t ever have children (little does he know…) and that she can’t have them with him. Buffy reassures him that he’s the only thing she wants and the only thing she sees in the future, and he says he feels the same. Now, this “When I look into the future, all I see is you“ line is seen by some fans as very romantic, and by others as very subversive and indicative of an unhealthy relationship. I'm neither here or there: Buffy didn't literally mean that he was her entire future, she was reassuring Angel and saying that she couldn't see herself with another man, and there’s nothing unusual about feeling that way when you’re 16 and in love. And in Buffy’s case, she thinks that as a Slayer she has an expiry date anyway. I don’t think she’s really looking into the future, I think she’s still the same Buffy who told Willow to “seize the day” in the series premiere. I find it far weirder that Angel is talking about having kids to a 16-year old girl. He is an 18th century guy at heart, thinking that any serious relationship has to lead to marriage and children. That’s one of the crucial differences in their personalities - Angel is the one asking and worrying about the future, while Buffy lives in the now (which we’ll also see in The Prom, when he’ll leave her, among other things, for those same reasons – because she couldn’t have a normal life, children etc. with him).

Joyce and Giles met for only the second time – and it’s interesting that they’re having a conversation about parenthood, with Giles saying that he feels like a parent to the school kids (Giles is Buffy’s father figure, which means that he and Joyce are virtually Buffy’s parents). He also slips her a parasite/egg when she’s not looking. *insert dirty joke*

The Gorch brothers are interesting as the first clear example, pre-Harmony, of vampires who are (most likely) barely different from what they were like as humans. Since season 1, the show has abandoned ritual-obsessed traditionalist vampires in favor of different and more recognizably human vampire villains – so we get punk rock vampires, cowboy/bandit vampires, or even arrogant college kid vampires in The Freshman. We’ve met a vampire who’s still very meek and shy (Dalton) and now we meet vampires who, the twist is, they were just as bad when they were human - notorious outlaws/murderers of the Wild West. What does siring do to humans who are already evil? I guess, just makes them immortal and superstrong. (We’ll see something similar with serial killer Kralik.) Count the brothers as another blow against the theory that vampires are just demons in a human body that have nothing to do with the humans that the body belonged to. Even Giles doesn’t really seem to believe in it, since he talks about Lyle and Tector as being the same guys they were as human bandits. But they also have a lot of affection for each other (even though they normally show it through arguing and physical fighting), continued from their human life, when Lyle brought up his younger and stupider brother since their mother left them, and he still feels like he’s always taking care of Tector (just like Buffy later does with Dawn).* Vampires having affection for each other is not unusual, not only are there vampire couples who are very romantic with each other like Spike and Dru or James and Elizabeth (from AtS Heartthrob), but we see that many vampires still love the family members from their human life: it’s possible that Lyle got Tector sired or even the opposite, like Spike wanted to sire his mother or Gunn’s sister Gunn, so they could always be together, while Holtz’s little daughter didn’t try to hurt her father in any way, not even when he was taking her out into the sun to dust her. There is a popular fanon that all vampires hate their human families and immediately want to kill them (as in really, not kill so they could sire them), and that Spike is some sort of anomaly in the vampire world, when in fact the only vampire we’ve seen kill his human family is Angel, and I think this had more to do with him already having been a troubled guy who deeply resented his father. Many people start with the wrong assumption that Angelus is the standard of what all soulless vampires are like (despite it having been mentioned many times that he was considered an especially evil vampire and the worst one recorded in books).
*Which could tie to the theme of the episode – maybe the brothers grew into “bad eggs” because their momma left them, and in the end, Lyle fails at protecting his brother, who gets eaten by the monstrous Big Bezoar Momma.

Best lines:
Giles: They made their reputation massacring an entire Mexican village in 1886.
Buffy:Friendly little demons.
Giles: No, that was before they became vampires.

Xander (having to punch a possessed Cordelia):Cordelia,I don’t wanna hurt you… Some of the time.

Recurring characters introduced: Lyle Gorch reappears in Homecoming.

Pop culture references: Lyle and Tector Gorch are the names of the characters played by Warren Oats and Ben Johnson in The Wild Bunch, where they pretty much do obliterate their entire Mexican village.

Buffy protesting too much: She reassures Xander she and Angel would be hunting, not smooching (which is actually exactly what they’ll do), because they’re not “helpless slaves to passion”.

Ooh, kinky: As Buffy and Lyle are exchanging some quasi-sexual banter during their fight in the mall, Lyle says “Oh, you’re a rough one! I like that.” A lot of Buffyverse characters seem to.

Foreshadowing: As Buffy and Angel tell each other all they see in the future is each other and go on to kiss, camera zooms onto a gravestone with an inscription “In loving memory”, suggesting this still innocent part of their relationship will soon be over and the future won’t turn out as they think.
Buffy is afraid she’ll end up as her mother, a single mother – which she kinda does she becomes a surrogate mom to Dawn. Joyce tells Buffy motherhood is difficult and jokes that Buffy will see how hard it is when her egg starts dating; Buffy’s love life is really going to be a much bigger source of worry than Joyce can imagine, and Buffy herself will be as worried when Dawn starts dating and the boy turns out to be a vampire (All the Way).

Rating: 2.5
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Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

my Buffy/Angel rewatch

Last edited by DevilEyes; August 22 2011 at 11:20 PM.
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Old September 6 2011, 11:19 PM   #63
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.13. Surprise

The start of the tradition of Buffy’s disastrous birthdays, and the first part of the game-changing two-parter, this episode works great as a setup for Innocence, but in itself it’s a mixed bag. There are some great moments in it, but the problem I’m having with it is that the Buffy/Angel romance, which is dominating the episode, is here crossing the line into really schmaltzy, while Angel is more than ever acting like a cardboard romantic hero. Watching him I was at moments relieved that he’s going to lose his soul by the end of the episode.

Best scene: The opening scene is really memorable – Buffy’s dream, in which she's at a party full full of people dancing. There she finds Willow sitting at the table with a small organ grinder's monkey with pants and a hat, and Willow smiles and waves to her and says „The hippo stole his pants“ in French. This is a reference to Willow's conversation with Oz in What's My Line II. Whether Willow told Buffy about the conversation, or it somehow found its way into Buffy's dream – in any case it’s linked to the fact that Buffy's best friend is also crossing an important threshold between childhood to adulthood, just starting her first romantic relationship. Joyce is also there with a cup and a saucer, which falls and breaks after she asks Buffy: „Do you really think you are ready, Buffy?“ (which later happens for real and freaks Buffy out). An obvious reference to Buffy losing her virginity at the end of the episode (and to growing up in general), just like the song that plays in the background, „Anything“ by Clement and Murray, an atmospheric trip hop melody which gives the scene a really haunting, dreamlike feel, with a childlike female vocal singing the lyrics describing desire, in its teenage romantic version:
Take me over / I'm lying down, giving in to you / I'm a hurricane / I can't describe this feeling/ Now that I've found this love /I'll do anything for you
I'm a fire / Burning like a house on flame / I am motionless / I cannot move, only see you fly...

Fire and hurricane as symbols of passion, and the feeling of wanting to be overwhelmed by it and lose control. We see some of that when Buffy comes to see Angel at his place in the morning to tell him about her dream and her fears that Dru is still alive, but instead they start making out. She almost forgets what she was talking about and reminds herself who she is – one of these moments that may be seen as a bit disturbing. There’s an unspoken understanding that they are getting closer to having sex for the first time, or at least Buffy gets that impression and then discusses it with Willow. Willow tells her to “Carpe Diem” – “seize the day”, just like Buffy advised her to in WTTH. Maybe they’ve both forgotten that that didn’t go so well for Willow – she went with a vampire and almost got killed.

In Buffy’s dream, Angel is reaching out to her when Drusilla suddenly appears and dusts him, wishing Buffy happy birthday. Buffy and Dru are paralleled throughout the episode. Dru is also celebrating her birthday – but is it her human birthday or the day she was sired? As different as the two women are, they both share precognitive abilities – with Buffy, it is just her prophetic dreams, but she sometimes has trouble figuring out what they mean: she is worried – correctly – that Dru is still alive, but she worries that Dru will kill Angel. The dream does foreshadow something, but nowhere as literally. Buffy will soon learn that she shares something else with Dru – when Angel after losing his soul starts tormenting her the way he did Dru and trying to break her. Buffy later has another dream, this time she sees herself in a white dress walking through Dru’s and Spike’s place where Dru in a white dress holds a helpless Angel and puts a knife to his throat (which makes no sense, you can’t kill a vampire like that, so what’s that all about?) warning Buffy not to get her hands on her presents. Later we learn that Dru also had a dream that Buffy would come, another weird connection between them.

This is our first glimpse of Spike and Dru since What’s My Line. They’ve managed to retain their power over the Sunnydale vampires, despite Spike’s injury, which means that Dru isn’t helpless and can get the job done when she needs to (as we’ll see in Becoming I)… or maybe it’s just because the Sunnydale vamps are sheep. Spike had burns on his face and is in wheelchair (I guess harsher injuries don’t heal that rapidly even in vamps), and Dru is strong and out of her white gowns and wearing sexy red and black clothes and dancing to “Transylvanian Concubine” by Rasputina – but despite that, their dynamic hasn’t changed much. She is still acting like a little girl, he is still doing things to please her – this time with a birthday present, the Judge, scary old demon who’s supposed to separate the righteous from the wicked and burn the righteous (another case of vampire anti-religion we haven’t seen much of since season 1). And he’s still acting as co-leader or leader; people often say that Spike was completely under Dru’s thumb, but that’s an exaggeration. She listens to his advice just as he did to hers – and he often shows himself the voice of reason, such as when he tells her she should spare Dalton, not because he cares about him but because Dalton is smart unlike most of their other minions and can still be useful. Dru is really twisted and scary, as when she wants to pluck Dalton’s eyes to punish him for losing her present, or when she takes childlike pleasure from watching the Judge burn Dalton, and asking him to do it to someone else as well: “Do it again! Do it again!”

Judge’s definition of humanity seems a bit arbitrary: I see why he says Dalton is "full of feeling", but he also says he reads too much, but Angelus likes ballet – and since when is reading books a sign of goodness? Judge also thinks Dru and Spike “stink of humanity” for their shared love and jealousy, but those feelings often lead people to evil.

After the Scoobies find the Judge’s arm and Angel decides to go away for a couple of months to carry it away (because, for some reason, he accepts Jenny’s idea that he’s the only one who could do that, and he has to go by both and not by plane), Buffy can’t accept him going away, and they have a couple of tearful scenes. Angel gives Buffy a birthday present – a traditional Irish Claddagh ring, and explains its meaning: crown means loyalty, hands mean friendship, heart means love, and if you wear it with the heart pointing towards you, it means “you belong to someone”. (That is indeed true, the writers did do the research, at least to a point, but the show screwed it up, because we see Angel wearing it on his right hand, which actually means just considering someone romantically, and in closeups of his and Buffy’s hands in Innocence, they’re actually wearing the rings pointing outwards, which means you’re free of any attachment. See here.) He shows her the ring on his hand and asks her to put her rings on hers – and I’m not sure I’m liking the whole thing with him telling Buffy to wear it, practically asking her to swear commitment to him, already assuming she’ll agree. And all that before he’s even managed to tell her “I love you” in return for eliciting hers in Lie to Me. Then Dalton and the other minions of Spike and Dru attack them and they end up losing Judge’s arm, when Angel jumps in the water to save Buffy (even though I’m not sure she even needs saving) instead of guarding it.

I lost patience with B/A during the episode. I've mostly liked the portrayal of their relationship from Halloween to Bad Eggs, when it was quieter and they were finally having a functional relationship after all the awkward graveyard conversations in the first part of the season, especially in What's My Line. But in Surprise, they are constantly making dramatic romantic statements, having tearful goodbyes in between making out, Buffy is crying... Don't get me wrong, I love the Bangel pain and drama, when the circumstances warrant it - I love the S2 arc that starts with Innocence - but it works where things really get endoftheworldy. Here they’re getting emotional over having to say goodbye each day - for an entire day (?!), then they're acting like it's the end of the world when he's just leaving for a couple of months. I get that there is subversion there, and it’s all a part of the setup for Innocence – making it all oh so romantic and emotional, and Angel the prince charming from the romance novel, so Angelus would be a more shocking blow to both Buffy and the viewers. But I still don’t like watching it.

Another thing I’m not so crazy about are the Gypsies. I have no problem with the revelation of Jenny having lead a double life, but the idea that she was supposed to keep Buffy and Angel apart comes from nowhere – she never even seemed to try. Jenny’s uncle played by Vincent Schiavelli comes off a bit too stereotypical (well, the entire Gypsy curse storyline is a big stereotype). And why do Roma people always look white in Hollywood movies and in TV shows?!

On the other hand, I like all the Xander/Cordy and Willow/Oz scenes. It’s clear that B/A was meant to be the epic over-the-top doomed romance, W/O a sweet and understated high-school love, and X/C an comical antagonistic relationship full of snark, but with hints of deeper feelings that neither of them are quite aware yet. Cordy will later seem to be more invested in the relationship, but here it’s Xander who first wants to treat their relationship as real and make it public. Cordy’s answer shows that she still hasn’t changed that much – status is still the most important thing for her, and she’s ashamed of admitting that she’s dating Xander, while in her opinion, he has nothing to be ashamed of. (She’s wrong, judging by Willow’s reaction in the next episode.) Naturally that makes Xander regret he even asked (“It must’ve been my multiple personality guy talking. I call him Idiot Jed, glutton for punishment”) and decide to think that their relationship is just physical.

He still isn’t over Buffy, as seen in his speech about Buffy and Angel’s bad future. It’s interesting that the vision he comes up with – Angel as a lazy husband with ‘blood belly’ sitting in front of TV and remembering his glory days, while unsatisfied wife Buffy is doing two jobs – is a lot like his vision of his own bad future with Anya in Hell’s Bells. (Inspired by his parents?) And while he has a point that we really don’t know what the B/A relationship would be like if it was ever tested as a real everyday relationship – and that it might end up being not all that romantic or great, for all we know – Xander is really being annoying with his ongoing jealousy, especially when he starts describing his fantasy of swooping in with his private jet and rescuing the weeping damsel Buffy from her bad marriage. Ugh. Every now and then I get reminded why I used to hate Xander in the high school seasons when I first watched the show.

Willow and Oz have their first date going to Buffy’s party, and when Oz finds out that vampires are real and Buffy it's a Slayer is classic Oz moment, calm and matter-of-fact when anyone else would be going crazy – instead, his only comment is that it explains a lot.

So, Buffy and Angel crash Dru’s party, looking for the Judge, and get caught. Angel again just wants to protect Buffy, offering his life to the Judge instead, which is a nice gesture straight from any classic romantic hero’s repertoire, but completely meaningless, as Spike logically points out (see Best lines). The following fight is pretty funny – Angel warns Buffy not to touch the Judge, and she sucker punches him, and a bunch of TV sets fall on him. Not quite the classic way to incapacitate an ancient monster, but that’s the beauty of it.

As a rule, Buffy gets most romantic after epic fights and in life and death situations. When she and Angel escape and get to this place, soaked wet from the rain, it leads to another over-emotional scene, which culminates when Angel finally says “I love you”. Buffy seems surprised to finally hear him say those words she must have longed to hear for a long time, even though Angel has been acting for a long time like their love is a given, and even though everyone has been assuming for ages that he was in love with her; Giles and Xander told him that to his face and he didn’t deny it, but he never actually said the words to this point. For a guy that many fans see as extremely confident, Angel seems very reluctant and scared of putting his heart on the line. He has to have all sorts of confirmations that the object of his love loves him back and won’t reject him, before he’ll make a declaration of love. This is the impression I get after watching his behavior with Cordy in AtS S3 and S4 (“Were we in love?” as if he needs her to tell him if he was in love with her), and now I see his relationship with Buffy in a new light and notice a bunch of things I didn’t the first time – such as that he got her to tell him ILY (and that when he was about to tell her about his horrible past, as if securing himself in advance against her rejection) and to swear to a mutual commitment before he actually said ILY himself. That’s not to say that he was intentionally manipulative, though his air of mystery and hot-and-cold behavior worked perfectly to make Buffy fall for him (as Joss said once, she wants what she can’t have). I believe him fully when he says he tried to stop loving Buffy many times and couldn’t – he really does fear it’s wrong, and his instincts aren’t off. Buffy replies that she tried, too, but I don’t think she really did – except for a short time in When She Was Bad, and in Reptile Boy when she tried to date Tom, but the latter was because Angel didn’t seem to want to date her. She is still far away from the Buffy who’ll be reluctant to risk pain and heartbreak and who will have trouble opening up. At this point she still wants passionate, consuming love and is throwing herself right into it. When they start kissing, she shuts Angel up when he stops for a moment and says “Maybe we shouldn’t…” This may be why she later felt that she was to blame for destroying him, making him lose his soul. But Angel is an adult, unlike Buffy, in fact he’s several times more adult that she is, and he had been obsessed with her, stalking her and following her around since he first saw her when she was 15. And he also had a hundred years to try to find out more about his curse. Funny how people say that Buffy is the one who goes after what she wants and initiates sex, which seems so empowering and all and I guess I should hail it for that reason, but I can’t help noticing the fact that, every single time, it was with someone who had been interested in her for much longer than she was (or longer that she even knew he existed, literally, in Angel’s case), and who at least in two cases stalked her for a while (and in Parker’s case at least it was deliberate manipulation, “play a sensitive lad to get you to ‘seduce’ him”), so if Buffy is the hunter when it comes to romantic relationships, then it’s a case of “hunter getting captured by the game”.

A word about the moment of true happiness. Everybody seemed to assume that it was about the sex, but Angel didn’t lose his soul in the moment of orgasm, he lost it afterwards when he was sleeping peacefully next to Buffy. IMO it wasn’t about bells ringing, it was about the peace and contentment. My theory is, it was not just about being with the girl he loves and who loves him, but about feeling worthy of love. Buffy was not just an innocent girl, and the person his life was revolving around (he had no friends, family or job, unlike on AtS, where it took a lot more things to fall into place in his fantasy so he could be perfectly happy, not just sleeping with the woman he was in love with), she was also the Slayer, the one who was called to pass judgment on him, and her love felt to him like forgiveness for his sins. But it was an illusion - nobody is really in position to give someone else redemption, and in particular, Buffy didn’t even know Angel that well and, while she knew of his dark past on the intellectual level, she didn’t really process it. When that past comes back, she’ll be in shock and disbelief.

Character death: Goodbye, Dalton. For the short time we knew you, you were bullied and punched by Spike, threatened to have your eyes gorged by Drusilla, and finally got burned to death by the Judge.

Spike Badass-o-Meter: Once he's in the wheelchair, since he can't be reacting to everything with kicks and punches, we get to hear a lot more of his wit, and to be reminded that the guy is smart and pragmatic. And I think that the most 'badass' moment Spike had in all S2 was his first scene with the Judge - and generally, the way he's totally nonplussed and not the least bit intimidated by the Judge and makes fun of him. We've seen that irreverence for legendary figures with the Anointed One, but he was just a child without powers of his own, while the Judge is a big scary guy who can easily burn vampires as well as humans. Made all the more badass since Spike's in a wheelchair.

The Judge steps out of his box. He has difficulty keeping his balance.
He points at Drusilla.

Judge: You!
Spike: (rolls over to him in Dru's defense) Ho, ho, ho. What's that, mate?
Judge: You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy.
Spike: Yeah. What of it? (taps his armor) Do I have to remind you that we're the ones who brought you here?

Best lines:
Angel (getting between the Judge and Buffy): Take me instead of her!
Spike (raises hand): Uh, you’re not clear on the concept, pal. There’s no “instead”. Just first and second.

Shirtless scene: Angel when Buffy comes to see him in the morning, and in the last scene as he gets up from the bed.

Freudian slip: Buffy: “I like seeing you at bedtime”.

Ooh, kinky: Xander asks Buffy if she’s ready for a “pre-birthday spanking”. I’m sure he meant it innocently… not.
The song “Anything” is about sex and sexual desire which, in its teenage romantic way, sounds quite submissive: “giving in” and asking the other person to “take me over” (which reminds me of Conversations with Dead People and Buffy’s description of her relationship with Spike in S6: “…but at the same time I let him completely take me over”).

Inconsistencies: Angel is afraid to fly in a plane because there is no protection from sunlight, but that’s not a problem in season 5 of AtS.

Foreshadowing: Some funny foreshadowing within the same episode – Jenny asks someone to give her a hand so she can open the box, and seconds later they find Judge’s arm in the box, or rather it finds Buffy’s neck.
And some ominous foreshadowing in Buffy’s dreams. When Dru kills Angel, maybe it’s really about Angel’s dark past, represented by Drusilla, coming back, which means the end of Angel as Buffy knew him? Does it hint that Angel’s death would in fact be a gift to Buffy – Dru doesn’t look sarcastic or mean at all when she looks at Buffy and says ‘Happy birthday, Buffy?” Or does it foreshadow Buffy “killing” Angel in Becoming II? When Dru warns Buffy to get her hands off her presents, does she mean the Judge? Or the return of the soulless evil Angelus, which is the best birthday present for Dru?

Rating: 3.5
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Old September 6 2011, 11:25 PM   #64
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.14. Innocence

Now this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer in all its greatness. It is of course, an iconic episode, but I had forgotten just how great it is. Well, there are a couple of plot points that don’t make an awful lot of sense… but I’m willing to overlook it, because it just keeps delivering emotional punches, from start to finish.

This review turned out to be too long, so I'll split it in two parts. I’ll start by making my thoughts clear on a certain issue:

Angel/Angelus: First off: I’ve never considered “Angelus” a separate person from “Angel”, just Angel’s alter ego. In fact, it never even occurred to me that someone would consider them literally two different people, until I came across a Favorite characters from Buffy and Angel poll online, where “Angel” and “Angelus” were given as two separate options, which took me completely by surprise (no pun intended) and made me go, WTF? Since then, I’ve watched the entirety of AtS, I can even less understand how anyone could see them as two different people. Nothing in Angel’s story would make any sense if that’s the case (not to mention Spike’s and Darla’s stories if their souled and unsouled, human and vampire versions were literally different people), and the entire premise of AtS would be pointless. So, moving on…

I did, however, tend to disassociate Angel’s soulless alter ego from his souled self – like most fans did at the time, I guess, and just like Buffy and the other human characters did. For them, it was a way to deal with the situation, trying to come to terms with the fact that they saw their friend or lover suddenly turn so evil and do such horrible things. I think I saw them as two very separate personas of one same person, and this kind of disassociation was easy to do thanks to the differences in behavior and personality. Season 4 of AtS made it look akin to a multiple personality disorder, with “Angel” not remembering something “Angelus” did. Season 4 “Angelus” constantly talked about “Angel” in 3rd person. Which was really weird since it was completely different from what all the other seasons of AtS were showing.

What strikes me the most in this rewatch are two things: in season 1 and season 2 so far is, there hasn’t been any indication at all that Angel’s souled and soulless versions are two different people – on the contrary, Angel has constantly been talking about his soulless past in 1st person singular, and “Angelus” does the same, talking about his recent souled past with Buffy in 1st person singular, both owning up to all their actions when soulless/souled (despite the fact that as “Angel”, he hates what he did as soulless, while as “Angelus”, he hates what he did as souled)… or that all the other vampires who know him well – Dru, Spike, Darla, the Master – always treat him as the same guy.
There is just one moment when he speaks of the “Angel” persona in the 3rd person:

Buffy: Angel, there must be some part of you inside that still remembers who you are.
Angel(us): Dream on, schoolgirl. Your boyfriend is dead and you're all gonna join him.

If we took that literally, it would clash with a bunch of other things he says in the same episode, especially in conversation with Spike and Dru. If he really thought “Angel” as someone else, another personality if not another person, he’d have no reason not to tell that to his fellow soulless vampires. If anything, he’d love to be able to say that it wasn’t him who was acting so embarrassingly as “Slayer’s lapdog” and being all nice and good. Instead, he just casually writes it off as “What can I say? I was going through a phase”. More likely, he is either tailoring his words to hurt Buffy (a lot of things he says to her contradict each other: I am Angel, I am not Angel), or he is making the point that he won’t go back to being the way he was when he was her boyfriend, therefore her boyfriend is metaphorically “dead”. And the way he speaks here is really not different from the way Willow in season 6 talked about herself after she went dark:

Buffy: You have to listen to me. The forces inside you are incredibly powerful. They're strong, but you're stronger. You have to remember you're still Willow.
(Dark) Willow: Let me tell you something about Willow. She's a loser, and she always has been. People picked on Willow in junior high school, high school, up until college with her stupid mousy ways. And now... Willow's a junkie.
Buffy: I can help.
(Dark) Willow: The only thing Willow was ever good for... the only thing I had going for me... were the moments, just moments, when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful. And that will never happen again!

Both these scenes echo Vampire Jesse’s conversation with Xander in The Harvest, which shows that turning from human into a vampire, losing one’s soul, or getting filled with dark magicks were all just different ways to have a character go evil. They are all similarly despising the weakness of their non-evil persona and trying to make up for it:

Xander: Jesse, I know there's still a part of you in there!
(Vamp) Jesse: OK! Let's deal with this. Jesse was an excruciating loser who couldn't get a date with anyone in the sighted community! Look at me. I'm a new man!

We've also seen Giles look himself in the mirror and talk to his scruffy, Ripper-like persona in 2nd person singular, even though there's no soullessness, demonic possession or supernatural influence involved in the Giles/Ripper duality. I doubt that there's anyone who maintains that Giles had a literally split personality, let alone that Ripper was someone else, despite the fact that, as we've seen in Band Candy, Giles also drastically changes his accent, way of talking and behavior, when he is „Ripper“ and when he is „Giles“. So, on one end of the spectrum we have the Oz/werewolf Oz duality, where Oz has no rational control over his wolf behavior, while on the other we have Giles/Ripper, who is just changing his persona but is completely in control. Where does a souled vampire/soulless vampire duality fit, which end is it closer to regarding a souled vampire's responsibility for his actions when soulless? It's a difficult question that is still being hotly debated in fandom.

The second thing I’ve realized during this rewatch, is that characters at this point are constantly calling Angel’s soulless alter ego simply “Angel”. The habit of calling only Angel’s souled self “Angel” and his soulless self exclusively “Angelus” seems to be a combination of fanon and retcon. In Innocence, the only person who uses the name Angelus is Jenny. However, Dru and Spike simply call him “Angel”.

Dru: Angel..?
Angel(us): Yeah, baby, I’m back.

He himself does the same:

Jenny: He's not Angel any more. Are you?
Angel(us): Wrong. I am Angel... at last!

The most likely explanation would be that “Angelus” was a name that he was more widely known by (because Latin names just sound so much scarier!), and that’s how he got recorded in the books, while the people closest to him, his vampire companions, used to simply call him “Angel”.

Finally, in the shooting scripts, he is always referred to as “Angel”. http://www.buffyworld.com/buffy/scripts/026_scri.html But, just to avoid confusion, I’ll refer to him as Angel(us) as long as he’s soulless, without inferring that I think they’re two different people.

When I first watched the show, I was, much like Buffy, shocked and almost in disbelief at Angel(us)’ behavior and that he could be the same person as Angel, and while I really liked „Angel“, I really hated „Angelus“. Well, that I still do. I know that some fans find him charming in some way or sexier than Angel – but for me, he was always too much of an evil nasty jerk to be in any way appealing. While Spike somehow, even at his most evil, always had some trace of humanity and something charming and strangely lovable about him, combined with all the nasty, evil, jerkass characteristics. I have my limits though, and, to me, Angelus is just too much of a nasty evil jerkass.

But, this duality is what always made Angel interesting. Even if the Angel persona on BtVS was almost too cardboard-romantic hero, while Angelus was the other extreme. I much prefer Angel on his own show, where he was complex and ambiguous when he was souled. And after having seen the flashbacks of Liam, and all of AtS, an having read season 8, I don't see such a discrepancy between Angel and Angelus: I now notice little things that „Angel“ shares with „Angelus“, and a lot of examples of the same personality traits that manifest themselves in two opposite ways.

In season 2, as Angel, he was completely obsessed with Buffy, all he did was about her. Without a soul, that was still the case, only now his love for her was turned into hate and desire to hurt and destroy her, to get back at her for making him feel those tender emotions.

Spike: You've really got a yen to hurt this girl, haven't you?
Angel(us): She made me feel like a human being. That's not the kind of thing you just forgive.

As Giles says, he’s going to strike at what made him most ‘human’. We know that the first thing he did when he became a vampire was to kill his family. (A later flashback will reveal that it had a lot to do with his resentment at his father while he was human.) For his soulless self, being human equals being weak.

Angel(us): You tried to kill her, but you couldn't. Look at you. You're a wreck. She's stronger than any Slayer you've ever faced. Force won't get it done. You gotta work from the inside. To kill this girl... you have to love her.
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Last edited by DevilEyes; September 7 2011 at 01:33 AM.
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Old September 6 2011, 11:32 PM   #65
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

----- continued---------------

The opening scene with Spike, Dru and the Judge shows that Spike wants to destroy the world at this point. So what changed between this ep and Becoming? It can't just about going along with Dru’s wishes - he is very impatient to start with the world destruction, because he’s bored. I think the difference is that Judge burning people would last a long time and involve a lot of mayhem and violence, which means fun for Spike, while the Acathla thing would have been a one-time irreversible apocalypse where the world would just end.

Dru shows her psychic abilities when she has a vision of Angel. She thinks of him being back as her family being back together, she likes having both him and Spike around. Spike is at this point as overjoyed to have Angel(us) back – they are still friendly, but the first signs of tension come with Spike’s skepticism and snarky comments about Angel for not having killed Buffy when he had a chance, which clearly annoy Angel(us). Dru on her part admires Angel’s special sadism –“You don’t want to kill her, you want to hurt her, like you hurt me”. Dru doesn’t resent him for the way he tortured her and drove her insane, she loves pain and destruction and admires his talent for inflicting it. She’s beaming when she talks about the way he hurt her, while playing with one of her dolls, which is bound and gagged, and by playing I mean sticking her nails in the doll’s eyes, similar to what she wanted to do to Dalton. We see the first hints of how this twisted three-way dynamic is going to work, and that Angel(us) is going to use Dru to get one over on Spike, when he says that nobody knows him the way Dru does, and takes pleasure in rubbing it in that Spike can’t go hunting with them because he’s in a wheelchair.

The Judge trying to burn Angel(us) and not being able to because he is “pure” with no humanity in him, together with the earlier scene of him killing a hooker in the alley*, was meant to convince the viewers that Angel had really gone evil, that it wasn’t a ruse. I’m not sure about the usage of the word “humanity” here, and “human” which seems to be confused with humane. We humans aren’t all compassion an d sweetness, we can also be ruthless and cruel, and enjoy inflicting pain the way that none of the other animals do. Killing and torturing people for fun isn’t human? Ask serial killers and war criminals. I really don’t see Angelus as some sort of mysterious metaphysical evil (like we were supposed to see the First). Tormenting one’s ex-girlfriend and showing off what a big bad macho guy you are is all recognizably human. So are his pissing contests with Spike.

*And, of course, he smokes and wears leather pants. Sure signs of evil! Except when they serve to show you’re doomed – the hooker he killed also smoked. Oh, the stereotypes…

I don’t care what AtS episode Billy wanted us to think, that he wasn’t misogynistic because he wanted to hurt everyone equally when he was evil – the misogynistic overtones in this episode are clear, from the fact that his first victim in the alley is a blonde hooker (which Darla was when she was human – and he chooses to insult Buffy by comparing her to a hooker) to the very personal way he is tormenting Buffy. He was very much meant to be the epitome of an abusive ex-boyfriend, hurting her in most intimate ways possible. If he had been ordinary enemy, she would have dealt with him easily. The most obvious example is the morning after scene, when Buffy, who had woken up to find her boyfriend gone, goes back to his place and finds him – and because it’s where they made love, and he’s shirtless again, it feels very intimate, and he pretends that he just doesn’t love her, playing the classic part of “boyfriend who acts different after you’ve slept with him, because he just pretended to love you to get you into bed”. His insults make no sense, BTW – he’s throwing anything he can think of: first he mocks her inexperience with men, then he compares her to a hooker? Geez, pick an insult and stick to it! Luckily for him, Buffy is too vulnerable in that situation so it works to maximum effect. It’s a really painful scene to watch, with Buffy wondering if she did something wrong and then crying and calling after him – too bad she couldn’t immediately kick him in the nuts. He enjoys reminding her of their past relationship –casually saying a mocking “I love you, too. I’ll call you”, giving her a quick kiss at one point, claiming her only ever pretended to love her, mocking her for supposedly “giving it up” too easily, and the grossest of all, after having killed Jenny’s uncle, writing the message to Buffy “Was it as good for you, too?” in the victim’s blood on the wall. There’s also a rapist overtone to his threats of killing Willow, saying it turns him on that she’s so “cute and helpless”.

Buffy, on her part, is already starting to disassociate the “Angelus” persona from Angel, her boyfriend. It’s the easiest way to deal with the horrible situation. In the crucial fight scene at the mall near the end of the episode, Angel(us) himself call her on it, that she’s just doing it as a defense mechanism:

Buffy: You’re not Angel.
Angel(us): You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you made me the man I am today!

The scene between Jenny and her uncle was meant to make some sense of the happiness clause, by making it clear that the Gypsies are all about vengeance, to the point that they don’t care if innocent people get hurt when Angel reverts back to a killing monster. But I’m not sure if it makes sense – once he loses his soul, he is not suffering from guilt anymore, right? So what do they have to gain from it? I choose to think that the clause was just a side effect of the curse rather than a planned part of it: maybe the Gypsies said something like, Let him have the soul to torture him, and as a result, when it is not torturing him, it goes away. It works better metaphorically: maybe someone who’s done so much evil as Angel can’t ever be perfectly happy knowing what he’s done, so if his conscience – his soul – isn’t keeping him from achieving perfect happiness, it can be said that it’s malfunctioning?

So far I’ve been analyzing Angel’s character in all this, but the story in season 2 was really mostly about Buffy and the major trauma that her first love has turned to. It starts as “boyfriend turns evil after you sleep with him”, as seen most obviously in the morning after scene. But quickly it becomes about Buffy’s feelings of guilt for being the reason that Angel lost his soul (which is going to be a major theme in I Only Have Eyes For You), Buffy blaming herself for the deaths of people he killed, and finally Buffy feeling guilty for having to kill him. Those words, “you made me the man I am today”, must have tormented her for a long time. (Years later, she’ll find out that she can also be the reason for a vampire getting his soul back; Spike could say the same words, only they would mean something completely different.) SMG’s acting it so great in showing Buffy's pain. One of my favorite scenes is the haunting, atmospheric dream Buffy has after getting back to her room, not being able to even look at the cross he gave her, and collapsing in bed in tears. The dream flashback to Buffy and Angel making love is the first sex scene in the show, and it is very subtle, as fits the situation, with sad music and shots of red bedsheets and their faces and hands with the Claddagh rings, and Buffy’s memory of Angel telling her “I love you” – then it fades into his vampface and then someone’s mysterious funeral, with Angel standing in the daylight and Jenny as a mourner, which makes Buffy realize Jenny had a role in it all. (Who is in the coffin? Jenny’s uncle? Angel as Buffy used to know him?)

Willow also has a major emotional turning point herself. First it’s catching Xander kissing Cordelia. Of course, she’s overreacting, she has no right to decide who Xander should or shouldn’t date. But, for Willow, it’s not just about jealousy – to her, Xander dating Cordy is a major betrayal. It’s not about him kissing another girl – she’s dealt with that before – it’s that the girl is Cordy. In the world of high school, Cordy was the enemy, someone who bullied Willow (and Xander), she was everything that the two of them hated, and Xander dating her is, from that POV, as bad as if he were dating Darla or Drusilla. Heck, maybe even worse. It’s also the moment when Willow decides to stop waiting for Xander; she could understand him being in love with Buffy, she could see why he would love her. But this makes her realize that, in her own words, Xander would rather be with someone he hates, than be with her.

Then there’s the scene with Oz in his van, when Willow tries to turn to him for comfort: in Joss’s words, it’s the scene when Willow falls in love with Oz (and with her, a huge part of the audience as well), because he refuses to kiss her, in his perceptive, calm, matter-of-fact way, telling her at the same time how he feels about her but that he would prefer their relationship to be real and meaningful. It’s probably not a coincidence that this scene comes right after Xander’s statement that teenage boys are always thinking about sex, even when looking at linoleum – Oz’s role is to challenge the stereotype.

Innocence is also Xander’s major cool moment – proving that he isn’t stupid or a loser as he’s so often called, especially by Cordy and himself, he’s the one who comes up with the solution how to kill the Judge. It turns out he has kept the memories of some of the soldier skills and knowledge he had in Halloween that he uses here to do a great impersonation of a soldier, steal the rocket launcher from the army base and assemble it. Wait, so why is this the last time we hear about those special skills of his? I’ll chalk it up to Plotty McDevice.

Cordy shows a bit of jealousy because of Xander’s devotion to Buffy, and first signs that she’d like their relationship to be something more. Xander believes that their relationship is just about physical attraction and doesn’t mean anything, as he tells Willow, but that’s probably a reaction to the way Cordy shut him down in Surprise when he wanted to make their relationship public. Instead they’re still insulting each other at every turn, she by calling him stupid, he by calling her a slut and trashy (he tells her to wear something “trashy…er” even though what she was wearing wasn’t trashy by any stretch of the imagination). This episode is full of guys doing big macho acts – Angel(us) and Spike are full of macho crap in S2, and on the more ordinary, less scary level, there’s Xander’s impersonation of a macho soldier boy that the real soldier totally buys.

The Judge does live up to his reputation when he burns an ordinary man in the mall in a graphic scene, before he’s stopped from doing the same to a bunch of other people. The rocket launcher is such a fitting way to kill the Judge, instead of the medieval weapons Buffy normally uses. Like the TV sets that fell on him, the legendary medieval monster gets easily defeated by modern technology. Once again, old prophecies turn out to be easily subverted, since Judge was supposed to be invulnerable to “no weapon forged” (this is a bit like the prophecy from Macbeth). I love that his last words are asking what is going on, clueless to the end, while Angel(us) and Dru are jumping to save themselves, and Dru whines and screams like a child, again, proving that it’s not just an act, that’s what she’s like, despite the strength and power she also has. Like Buffy kicking Angel(us) in the nuts, it’s like pulling big mythical villains down to the ordinary human level where they are less scary.

Angel(us) was right that he couldn’t kill Buffy with force – when they finally have their big fight, she beats and kicks him in the nuts and could have killed him if not for her emotional attachment. With personal insults and Angel(us) provoking Buffy, the fight evokes their conversations from When She Was Bad in reversed roles, when Buffy was trying to provoke him. It happens when they are both soaked wet from the broken sprinkler, a visual parallel to the last scenes of Surprise. Water imagery is used a lot for Buffy/Angel (just like fire imagery will be used for Buffy/Spike.) The memory it evokes might be making it even harder for Buffy to kill him. And… here we come to the part that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s understandable that Buffy can’t bring herself to kill him yet. But why didn’t she catch him and put him in a cage or chained him up so he couldn’t roam free and kill people? I’m willing to overlook it for the sake of the episode being so great, but still…

One of the most moving scenes is the conversation between Giles and Buffy in his car, when Buffy blames herself and thinks he must be disappointed in her, but Giles refuses to blame her. (Joss was aware of the danger that the story could be seen as a “Sex = Bad!”, heroine being punished for sex.) Their relationship in the second part of season 2 is really beautiful. I’m not surprised to hear Joss say in the DVD commentary that David Greenwalt’s reaction to that scene was “She has the best father in the world!” Followed by “She has the best mother in the world!” said about the last scene, though, to be fair, Joyce still has no idea about Buffy having had sex, let alone anything else that happened as a result. Still, it shows how important it was that Buffy, in the hardest times, had the support of her family and friends. There’s also a moment that shows how close the friendship between Buffy and Willow is, when Willow is the first one to realize what has happened to Buffy.

Joyce told her the first thing in the morning that she looked bit different, but in the last scene, she tells her she looks the same. Despite the popular idea, the girl didn’t really change significantly after losing her virginity. The entire storyline is an inversion in a way – it’s the boyfriend who underwent the transformation and who lost something very important. On one level, the title might be pointing out that things are never going to be the same, for the show and for Buffy, who’s been through a major formative trauma of her life and entered the difficult world of adulthood where things are really complicated (as she was starting to understand in Lie to Me). But on the other hand, Buffy hasn’t really lost her innocence and her moral certainty and she still knows who she is.

Best lines:
Willow: I knew it! I knew it! Well, not 'knew it' in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know. You two were fighting way too much. It's not natural!
Xander: I know it's weird...
Willow: Weird? It's against all laws of God and Man! It's Cordelia! Remember? The 'We Hate Cordelia' club, of which you are the treasurer.

Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class... You know, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it's like everything stops. It's like, it's like freeze frame. Willow kissage. I’m not gonna kiss you.
Willow: What? But freeze frame.
Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you're trying to make your friend Xander jealous, or even the score or something. And that's on the empty side. See, in my fantasy when I'm kissing *you*, you're kissing *me*. It's okay. I can wait.

Buffy ILYs: The second time she tells Angel „I love you“. This time it's in the devastating morning after scene, when she's in shock and crying and cannot understand what is going on and why he's acting like that. He casually replies „I love you, too“.

Shirtless scene: Angel(us), in the morning after scene in his room, as an echo their love scenes from Surprise.

Spike Badass-o-Meter: Well, he’s in the wheelchair, so he can’t do much except snark. But his snarking is top notch here, as seen in the fact that he manages to drive Angel(us) quite angry. He also continues to treat the Judge with no respect and mock him for taking so long to do anything and get on with the world destruction: “Preparing looks a lot like sitting on your arse”. On the other hand, he is happy that Angel’s back because it means they’re “four against one” are these are the odds he likes against Buffy. Another sign that Spike might be more pragmatic than interested in challenge and proving himself as a fighter, or at least that’s how he was portrayed in S2 as opposed to Fool for Love.

What the slashy heck: There’s a charged moment when Angel(us), despite attempts to act cool, gets obviously enraged when Spike says it made him sick to see Angel as Slayer’s lapdog - he even sounds like he’s roaring as he grabs Spike by the shirt and gets into his face, but then instead of hurting him in some way, gives him a quick kiss on the forehead. They all just laugh, but it’s the last sign of affection between them in S2, and Angel(us) is going to soon start tormenting and humiliating Spike, probably in a large part because he was more bothered by Spike’s comments than he’d like to admit. It’s one of those moments that encapsulate their weird ongoing rivalry/friendship/frenemiship.

Nicknames: Spike calls the Judge “Big Blue”; Buffy calls him a Smurf because of his skin color, even though he’s otherwise very little like those little cartoon creatures.

Pop culture references: The Smurfs.
Angel(us) seems to know a few things about Broadway, too, not just about ballet: he mockingly compares himself to a young actress who went to fulfill her Broadway dream and got her chance when the main star sprained her ankle, which I’ve been told is a plot of s musical called 42nd Street. The parallel to Spike being temporarily disabled and Angel(us) taking his place as the Big Bad is obvious.

The film Buffy is watching in the last scene is the 1936 musical Stowaway with Shirley Temple, Alice Faye and Robert Young. It’s a scene in which Faye and Young are dancing and she’s singing the song“Goodnight, my love”: Goodnight, my love/My moment with you now is ending/It was so heavenly/Holding you close to me. And then as Buffy is snuggled next to her mom on the couch: Remember you’re mine, sweetheart…

Foreshadowing (?): The funeral scene from the dream, with Jenny as the mourner, makes me think of another funeral scene in a few episodes, where Jenny will be in the coffin.
Watching Spike and Angel(us) talking about Buffy feels so different after you’ve seen the entire show, from the irony in hindsight of Spike saying it made him sick to see Angel as “Slayer’s lapdog”, Angel telling him that Buffy is too strong as a Slayer and loving her is the only way to hurt her, to Spike being curious about Angel’s obsession with Buffy, to Angel(us) explaining that the reason he resents her is because she made him feel human. I don’t think feeling human is such a terrible proposition to Spike as it is to him.
Funny how Spike is at this point still impatient to get the world destroyed, while Angel(us) doesn’t care (because he’s more interested in Buffy). By the end of the season they’ll switch roles. Spike says he won’t be in the wheelchair forever – it’s gonna be Angel’s downfall that he forgot about that.

Rating: 5 out of 5
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Old September 9 2011, 08:22 PM   #66
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.15. Phases

I guess it had to happen: with all other kinds of monsters in the verse, sooner or later we had to meet a werewolf. The twist is that it’s Oz, the nicest and by all appearance calmest and least aggressive man in the show. And of course it’s right after Willow started dating him, because there has to be some sort of complication in the most stable relationship, which means that Buffy is not the only one with a man-monster for a boyfriend. Although this monster, as it turns out, is a lot more manageable and less dangerous.

The best thing about this episode is that it plays with and subverts gender and other stereotypes so well, showing that people often aren’t what they seem on the first glance. Oz and Larry both have a secret. Willow spends a lot of the episode worried because Oz isn’t trying to kiss her even though they’ve been dating in a while. Larry is a stereotypical, over-the-top sexist jock, who makes crude sexual remarks about every girl. It’s ironic that the guy whose girlfriend is worried because he isn’t making sexual moves turns out to be a “beast” while the guy who’s acting stereotypically macho and makes a big deal out of treating women as sex objects turns out to be gay.

Despite all the werewolf and Angel stuff, I’ve always remembered this episode mostly by Larry’s coming out. It’s the first time the subject of homosexuality comes up in the show, and the last time, so far, that BtVS has had an explicitly gay male character (Andrew has so far only been strongly hinted to be gay). It’s a great twist, especially after Xander has wrongly assumed Larry was a werewolf, and to go against the expectations. The implication is that Larry’s bullying and sexist behavior was just about “protesting too much”, and he turns into a decent guy as soon as he comes to terms with his sexuality. Xander’s shock and the fact that he’s very uncomfortable both with the revelation about Larry’s sexuality and with Larry thinking, due to a misunderstanding, that Xander is also gay, which shows Xander’s mild homophobia and sexual insecurities of his own (probably not surprising for someone his age). Larry goes further and psychoanalyzes himself, incorrectly concluding he must have felt something in Xander he didn’t want to see in himself and that that was why he beat him up so many times – Larry probably doesn’t know it, but it’s called projection. (And unloading their self-hatred physically on someone that one is projecting their own “shadow” self in happens several times in the verse, explicitly with Faith/Buffy and Buffy/Spike, and arguably with Spike/Angel, Angel/Lindsey and Willow/Warren.)

Oz’s reaction to finding out he’s a werewolf is classic Oz: “Huh”. It seems like it runs in the family – he immediately calls his aunt to ask if the little cousin who bit him is a werewolf, and the conversation sounds if he’s asking if he broke his kneecap or something. The episode bails him out because he doesn’t actually kill anyone in his wolf state before realizing what’s happened to him. If he had, the Scoobies would have probably not considered him responsible because he really has no control over himself in his wolf state and doesn’t remember any of it, but I imagine he would have been a lot more upset. Until season 4, when the boundaries between regular Oz and Wolf-Oz will stop being so clear, he’ll be safe as long as he’s locked in a cage during his wolf days. The distinction between werewolves and vampires is drawn clearly: werewolves are “people”, normal humans, for most of the time, and they have no control over their wolf alter ego, while vampires are considered evil, and they are what they are all the time, and (at this point, anyway) presumably irredeemable.

This episode really brings home how much even the main characters are affected by traditional gender roles and expectations and trying to fit in them. In earlier episodes we saw this with Xander, worrying that he isn’t enough of a big manly man if a girl gets to save him and is stronger and better fighter than him, we saw it with Buffy trying to be more traditionally feminine in Halloween and thinking it would make her more attractive, and we saw it a lot with Cordelia. Here it’s Willow, who’s worried that she might be “the only girl in school without a real boyfriend”, and then worried that she’d be considered a “slut” if she makes the first move to kiss Oz or ask him to kiss her (!). She also calls Cordelia a “skanky ho”, as if it’s Cordy’s supposed sexual habits that matter, rather than very legitimate reasons Willow has to dislike her, such as her bullying. Later Willow tells Buffy she needs to fit in and pretend (in self-defense class) that she’s a meek, helpless little girl like the rest of them. Still, in spite of all that, at the end of the episode she’s the one to kiss Oz for the first time, when she tells him that she still wants to date him despite being a werewolf.

How does Willow’s strong interest in the physical side of their relationship fit with the later revelation/retcon about her sexuality? I think it’s not that hard to reconcile, since she might be more bothered that Oz isn’t doing anything because she thinks a guy should be, and it makes her fear that she isn’t attractive enough. Having a boyfriend means proving that she isn’t that much of an outcast. And she probably did like smoochies with boys and later sex with Oz, she just liked it better with women later on.

Talking about stereotypes - Willow’s equates Oz’s werewolf days with menstruation (saying she’s not that pleasant 3 days a month, either). Oh, for the love of god. Again, you can see that a couple of men wrote the script. No, it’s nothing like it, women don’t turn into monsters and don’t act uncontrollable, it’s not like it’s a terrible debilitating disease, it’s just blood leaking and some bellyache.

And once again, smoking = bad: Willow isn’t bothered that Oz is a werewolf, and she lists the fact that he’s a non-smoker one of his positive traits.

Xander is starting to show first signs of jealousy of Oz. But is it a brotherly protective thing, or something more? After finding out that Oz is a werewolf, she gives a speech to Buffy about Willow’s supposed lack of future with Oz, comparing him to a trained animal, which is very similar to the speech he gave to Willow in Surprise about Buffy’s supposed lack of future with Angel. But when he hugs Buffy for a moment, to comfort her over the whole Angel thing and Theresa’s death, it’s obvious that he still has feelings for her, when she walks away and he tells himself ironically “oh, no, my life is not complicated”. Indeed, having feelings for three girls at the same time. Cordelia is now feeling jealous of both Buffy and Willow, complaining that Xander talks about them all the time - and she sums up his views of those two girls as “poor, defenseless Willow” and “all-powerful Buffy”, though those two are over-simplifications; Willow is not really that helpless as she seems, and Buffy can be very vulnerable. There’s even a moment of bonding between Cordy and Willow, both complaining about their boyfriends, and saying they're such "a couple of guys", even though Oz has really been acting the opposite of the cliché bad male behavior.

A character that certainly is a cliché is the antagonist, a macho sexist hunter, Cain, who hunts werewolves for money and keeps their teeth as trophy, not caring that they’re regular humans on other days. It’s an obvious dig at hunters – he says at one point that they’ll next forbid him to hunt elephants, and mockingly refers to a hypothetical “People for Ethical Treatment of Werewolves” organization. Of course, he also mocks Buffy’s skills, since she’s a girl, and Giles’, since he looks like a “librarian”, i.e. an intellectual male who’s presumably not the masculine action type. In the end Buffy threatens him and tells him to leave town, but I’m not too happy that she puts the fear in him by…bending his rifle. Besides the fact that it’s too much to believe that Buffy has this level of strength, I don’t like that it’s implied that it’s Buffy’s physical strength that can beat someone like Cain, rather than her determination, strength of character, intelligence, or fighting skills. Not a great feminist message, especially since the majority of women in real life don’t have the physical strength that men have. I think it’s also selling Buffy short, she’s got a lot more going for her than strength.

Another example that Things Are Not What They Seem: Cain assumes that Giles and Buffy are lovers, mocking him as dirty old man cradle robbing. I’m not sure if it’s a hint at the age difference between Angel and Buffy (even though Buffy/Giles would certainly be a lot more wrong due to his position as her Watcher), or a mockery of Buffy/Giles fanfiction, or simply an acknowledgment that many people could easily misinterpret their relationship, seeing them together that much, talking at school, patrolling at night, sitting in his car. Maybe that’s why one of the rumors about Buffy in high school, according to Holden in CWDP, was that she was dating some “really old guy”. I wonder if, or rather, knowing human nature, how often it happened that Watchers abused their position and had relationships with their Slayers?

The whole “Oz is a werewolf” thing can be seen as an unsubtle metaphor that all men are beasts underneath, even the nicest and mildest ones (as Faith will say in S3), and Buffy and Willow make a remark to that effect (one of the rare times that Buffy says something misandric, but considering her Angel situation, it’s understandable), but fortunately Giles says that everyone can be a werewolf, male or female (we’ll only meet a female werewolf in S4, and she’ll be a lot nastier than Oz), so I choose to interpret it as a less sexist message, that everyone has a beast inside, not just men.

There are quite a few gender inversions in the episode, like the scene where Cordy and Xander are kissing in her car in the woods when he hears a werewolf making a sound. It’s like a classic scene from any horror movie, except that in horror movies it’s always the girl who’s scared of strange noises, while the guy is eager to continue with the smooching, while here it’s the opposite.

Cordy says that her dad doesn’t know what she does in car with boys, he thinks she’s still “a good girl”. Was she going to say “virgin”? Is Cordy still a virgin? I always assumed she was, because if she had sexual experience, I assume she’s want Xander to do more than kiss, and Expecting also suggest she was.

The B-plot is darker – Angel(us) is now terrorizing Buffy by siring students from her school, or at least he does that to Theresa. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing meeting a little Red Riding Hood, he seems all nice and charming, even carrying a flower, and even presenting himself as Buffy’s friend to gain Theresa’s trust so she’d allow him to walk her home. After Buffy let Angel go in Innocence, this brings up the issue of Buffy’s responsibility for the deaths of people Angel(us) kills from that moment on. Buffy first feels responsible for Theresa’s death while it’s wrongly believed that the werewolf killed her, because she let the werewolf go rather than kill him; until she learns Theresa was killed by a vampire, which doesn’t comfort her because she feels she failed to protect her from another monster. But then it gets worse, when she learns that it’s Angel who killed and sired her, when newly vamped Theresa attacks her and during the fight distracts her telling her “Angel sends his love”. That disturbs her so much that she doesn’t fight well and it’s Xander who saves her by staking Theresa, one of the instances where Xander does get to save Buffy.

There are several nice continuity nods to season 1 episodes: Xander tries to comfort Buffy reminding her of the times she saved him from the insect lady (Teacher’s Pet) and Willow from Moloch (I, Robot, You Jane); Oz notices that the trophy figure is strange, with the eyes that follow him around – that’s Catherine Madison, Amy’s mom (Witch); and, the most interesting one, Xander talks about his memories of feeling beast urges, similar to those of a werewolf, when he was possessed by the hyena spirit in The Pack. Willow doesn’t notice it, but Buffy does and reminds him suspiciously that he claimed he didn’t remember anything. He just changes the subject, caught in the lie, and I wonder why Buffy didn’t make a bigger deal out of it, that time or ever. Maybe she would have if it hadn’t been for the circumstances, with the werewolf and Angel and all. Or maybe she just decides to let it go. But it never comes up again, not even after Seeing Red, even though Buffy knows that Xander remembers sexually assaulting her when he was possessed.

Best scene: Gotta go with Larry coming out to Xander in the locker room.

Best lines:
Oz: That's great, Larry, you've really mastered the single entendre.

Buffy (about Larry): That was weird.
Xander: What, it's not okay for one guy to like another guy just because he happened to be in the locker room with him when absolutely nothing happened, and I thought I told you not to push!
Buffy: All I meant was that he didn't try to look up my skirt.
Xander: Oh, oh, yeah. That's, that's the weirdness.

Buffy: Ah, he'll come around. What guy could resist your wily Willow charms?
Willow: At last count, all of them. Maybe more.

Willow: I'm sorry about how all of this ended up, with me shooting you and all.
Oz: It's OK. I'm sorry I almost ate you.
Willow: It's OK.

What the slashy heck: Xander says Oz is attractive, then quickly adds “Maybe not to me, but…” He’s also really freaked out by learning that Larry is gay, and has a “bad liar/protesting too much” moment when Buffy asks him how it went with Larry. I’ve heard that Joss intended for either Xander or Willow to turn out to be gay. I think that he made the right call because Xander was too sexually interested in women, but he seems so sexually insecure and threatened in this ep that I can see the groundwork laid out to make him bisexual.

Inconsistencies: Buffy’s strength is, again, amazingly inconsistent. She can bend a rifle with her bare hands?! Then how come neither she nor Faith can break out of police handcuffs in season 4?

Shirtless scene: Oz when he wakes up in the woods after going back to his human state.

Pop culture references: Cordelia says Xander splashed too much Obsession for Dorks (because of his obsession with Willow’s love life), a reference to Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men/Women. Forbidden Planet (Xander calls Moloch “Robbie the Robot”).

Foreshadowing (?): Oz jokes that Willow is an evil mastermind..It’s not so funny after season 6! Oz comforts Willow, when she’s worried if a bunny got hurt by the werewolf, saying that bunnies are stronger than they seem and can take care of themselves (a bit like Willow?) which makes me think of Anya’s fear of bunnies. Willow shoots Oz with the tranquilizer – maybe foreshadowing Buffy having to kill Angel in the season finale.

Rating: 3
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Old September 16 2011, 06:50 AM   #67
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.16. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

This episode is mostly known for the wacky love-spell-gone-wrong comedy, but I find it a bit overrated as comedy and actually like the parts before the spell much better. The stuff with Xander and Cordy’s relationship is really good for the first 20 or so minutes, and another plus is that the darker B-plot with Angel is woven nicely into the fabric of the episode together with the comedy parts. Once the spell kicks in, it’s fun, but I don’t find it nearly as funny as Band Candy, Something Blue or Tabula Rasa. But it’s the resolution of the Xander/Cordy storyline that bothers me, and takes half a point off from my rating. Cordy breaks up with Xander out of a shallow reason – her social status in school – but the reasons she takes him back, not just in spite of, but because of his stupid, irresponsible actions, are very misguided.

It’s a Valentine's Day episode, and it opens up with Xander showing Buffy the necklace with a heart that he bought for Cordy. He talks to Buffy about his relationship with Cordy – they're good friends despite both of them acknowledging that the only other person he's romantically interested is Buffy, even though he's clearly accepted that she doesn't return his feelings and they're both OK with it. Xander is complaining about his relationship troubles, and even replies to Buffy's comment that slaying is a bit more perilous than dating with „You aren't dating Cordy“. Is it me, or was this a bit thoughtless and insensitive, considering what happened with Angel? Willow made a thoughless remark in Phases when she said she was worried she'd be the only girl in school without a real boyfriend, but at least she realized her mistake immediately and apologized. Maybe Willow and Xander are both so used to Buffy dating Angel that they still tend to forget what's going on.

Buffy and Willow apparently have been openly mocking Xander for dating Cordy, but Buffy is not as judgmental as Willow and just tells him that she thinks he's too good for Cordy and could find someone better. Cordy's friends are less understanding: Harmony, who's appeared in a few times before but this is the first time she has a bigger role, is obviously trying to replace Cordy as the Queen Bitch of Sunnydale High, is taking the opportunity to ostracize Cordy for dating a „geek“. Xander/Cordy is the high school version of the „inappropriate“ secret relationship we'll later see with Buffy and Spike in S6. It's interesting that Cordy is in a relationship that is „lowering“ her social status in the school, while Willow is in a relationship that's raising it, and she's openly happy to have a boyfriend in a band. And it's a very new experience for both girls. At this point it becomes clear that both Xander and Cordy are starting to take their relationship seriously and realize that they have real feelings for each other. Xander is the one to say it first, when he gives Cordy the present in the Bronze: that maybe their relationship is not just about „tawdry teenage lust“ and that there might be something more even if they don't quite understand why, as he wonderfully puts it, „maybe something in you sees something special inside me, and vice versa“. Cordy is moved, but has already made the decision to break up with him because her status as the most popular girl is more important to her. Or at least that's what she thinks at this point. By the end of the episode, she will decide to choose Xander instead and refuse to bow to the conformity, which is huge character growth for her. (Too bad it's marred by the context of what made her decide tha...) But breaking up with him in front of everyone in the club is a humiliating experience for Xander, and leaves him brokenhearted and angry – how much of that is because of losing Cordy, and how much because everyone in the school is pitying him or mocking him, is not quite clear – while she is accepted back into her group of „friends“, if one can call them that. Which makes him do a monumentally stupid thing and get Amy to put a spell on her so she would want him badly and so he could break up with her and get a revenge by breaking her heart. One moment that's very revealing of Cordy's real feelings is when Xander asks her to give him back the necklace, and she pretends that she is keeping it in her locker, when she is actually secretly wearing it beneath her buttoned-up blouse; then she keeps the pretense by claiming she finds it ugly and cheap.

We get to see where Giles and Jenny are at the moment: the revelation about Jenny’s secret has lead to Giles not wanting to see her again – in the reversal of the situation from The Dark Age, when his dark secret made her reluctant to see him again. But he goes even further, by calling her Ms Calendar instead of Jenny. Giles may feel personally betrayed, but it seems that it’s more out of his loyalty to Buffy.

In the meantime, Buffy’s Valentine’s Day gets even worse, when she gets a present from her former boyfriend/current creepy stalker, a bunch of flowers with the note “Soon”, which would, ironically, look very different if she got it from someone else, or from Angel when he still had a soul. Angel(us) doesn’t actually get to do anything to Buffy or her friends in this episode, but the feeling of terror is still there, when Giles even warns her to stay from the streets for a few nights. She’s fought him before, he apparently doesn’t want to kill her, and she risks getting killed every day anyway, so what does Giles mean? He says Angel would probably think of the awful things he likes to do for Valentine’s day as “signs of affection”, and Angel(us) later says he wanted to do something for Buffy or rather to Buffy… The obvious answer is rape. And probably some torture, too. In a funny moment, Giles also talks about him nailing a puppy to the wall (a little meta comment on how villains are portrayed in fiction?), but Buffy doesn’t seem to keep pets, and it seems like killing Buffy’s friends, Angel’s usual MO, wasn’t what he was initially planning, because later when he happens to come across Xander in Buffy’s house, he says that killing her friend is so much better than his initial plan.

The Spike/Dru/Angel(us) triangle is shaping up, with Angel(us) now blatantly trying to steal Dru’s “affections”, most likely more to rile up Spike than because of Drusilla herself. He’s openly mocking Spike’s present condition, saying that Dru gives him “pity access”, and offers Dru a much “better” present, or one closer to her heart: Dru likes the necklace Spike gives her, but it pales in comparison to her reaction to a fresh human heart ripped out of a “quaint little shop girl”. It’s one of the early signs that as soulless, Spike is more “human” than Angel(us), his present is a regular human one while Angel’s is monstrous, and much closer to Dru’s tastes. Dru still isn’t openly responding to Angel’s attention, but isn’t rejecting it, either. One of her most darkly funny moments is when she says “Don’t worry, Spike, Angel always knows what speaks to a girl’s heart” while staring dreamily into the human heart on the table in front of her.

Angel says that simply killing Buffy would lack “poetry”, once again indicating that he prefers to torment his victims and thinks of it as an “art”. Spike’s sarcastic answer that ripping out her lungs could be poetic if he found something that rhymes with “lungs” is doubly funny now when we know he used to be a (bad) poet.

The episode turns into comedy halfway through, when Xander gets Amy to do the spell. Amy hasn’t been seen since Witch, and this is the first time we learn that she can also do magic and has been using it to get away with not doing her homework. (This is what the callback to Witch in the previous episode was setting up.) She’s not all that ambitious at this point. And still not very good at it, since it backfires and makes all the women who cast their eyes of Xander fall for him in a ridiculously obsessive fashion, except for Cordy, who was protected by her necklace (is that the metaphor for saying, by having real feelings for him, the way he is? Even Willow’s romantic feelings for him are fading at this point as she is falling for or already in love with Oz). What follows is somewhere between utter silliness and a clever satire of the idea of romantic love as mad, blind and all-consuming. As first Buffy, then Amy, Willow, Jenny, Drusilla, Joyce and every woman in the school including the lunch lady come onto Xander and start acting completely obsessed with him, it feels like Xander’s fantasy turned nightmare, because it’s not so nice being an object of desire when you’re being forced and your wishes are disregarded, and when the other person wants to kill you for rejecting them, or kill someone they see as a rival. What keeps it all from being silly is that the episode is making the point that, as Giles says, an obsession/infatuation, immature and selfish, is not the same as real love. Infatuations can be pretty random and based on things that have nothing to do with who the person really is, or with caring about that person and wanting them to be happy. The dialogue pokes fun at romantic cliches: Jenny and Amy arguing sounds like a shipper debate (“We look into each other’s souls” – “No one can love two people at the same time. What we have is real”). A crowd of crazed women attacking Xander for rejecting them and attacking Cordy, lead by Willow with an axe, is the climax of the craziness, and it’s like a parody of the images of smitten fans and pop stars. It’s not just that the people under the spell are made to be obsessed with someone, it’s that they are acting like erotomaniacs, in a deranged, selfish and violent way that is very out of character for most of them.

Of course, the whole point of spell episodes is to make people act OOC and get a lot of comedy moments out of it. But my like or dislike of those episodes depends a lot on just how much OOC the characters are. Some degree of OOC behavior under spell is believable – which is the difference between, say, Something Blue, and Him. In the latterm Buffy is doing something she’d never do no matter how much in love, try to kill a human (an innocent human as well) just to prove her love, which is why that episode is absurd and more creepy than funny. The spell stories are great if they reveal something hidden about the characters, some tendencies they have, and just silly if they are doing random wacky things or just acting the opposite of what they are really like, just for the fun of it. BBB is somewhere in between, though maybe closer to the former. Drusilla is completely in character – the way she’s seducing Xander before trying to sire him isn’t that different from how she approached William/Spike. Amy does a dangerous spell to turn her rival, Buffy, into a rat, which might foreshadow how selfish and irresponsible she will get with magic (in Smashed, she thought it was OK to put a love spell on a woman in the bar so she would fall for Willow, which is similar to what she’s doing in BBB). Harmony and her ex-Cordettes are again judging Cordy and shunning her because of Xander, but this time, ironically, it’s for dumping him. Harmony is the only person who in some ways becomes more sympathetic and less shallow when under the spell, telling Cordy she should have never dumped Xander whatever her friends think, which is a good point. The way she is accusing Cordy of not treating Xander right makes me think of Crush when she’s angrily talking to Drusilla about how she hurt Spike by leaving him. I’m not sure I’m buying Buffy as a sultry-voiced seductress about to do a private dance; that’s not really her style when she is being sexually aggressive. However, the part that did feel in character was her look of anger and hurt when she says “Is this a game? You make me feel this way and then you reject me?” Willow acting seductive is also… unusual, though she does try to be seductive with Oz in Amends, but it is more awkward than here. But, in hindsight, her behavior after the rejection is quite revealing – when she yells at Xander that she’d rather see him dead than with “that bitch”, it’s an exaggerated version of her reaction in Innocence, and the sight of a homicidal Willow with an axe, being the most violent of all of Xander’s stalkers, doesn’t feel OOC at all after you’ve seen in later seasons how vindictive and violent love-gone-wrong can make her. It works because SMH and AH play those scenes so seriously.

We also get to see an unexpected side to Oz, even though he isn’t under any spell, when he comes over and punches Xander to the ground, and then calmly explains that he felt an overwhelming urge to hit him, because he made Willow cry. It’s a sign that Oz is more passionate than he seems but is used to keeping his emotions repressed. Speaking of Oz, what a relief that he has gone back to his natural hair color, it suits him much better.)

Buffy turning from the rat back into a girl and worrying about a “slight case of nudity” is among the funnier parts of the ep. Another one is Angel’s shock when Dru acts smitten with Xander and says she’s finally found a “real man”, and Angel’s comment: “Maybe I really did make you crazy”.

But then there is the ending, which is just… wrong. In the end, Xander gets rewarded for his incredibly stupid, irresponsible use of magic (in OMWF, he won’t get rewarded but won’t be punished in any way either, despite more serious consequences. The only bad consequences are Giles calling him on it (he knows better than anyone that one should be more responsible with magic, since he wasn’t as a young man) and Willow not being able to talk to him for a short while.. Buffy tells him that what he did was bad, but he also showed that he is not completely governed by hormones, because he didn’t take advantage of her when he could. Which is true, but she is basically praising him for not raping her when he had a chance, which sounds like she didn’t have a very high opinion of him before. (Maybe realizing he lied about not remembering what he did in The Pack had something to do with it?) It seems that nobody on the writing staff realized all the implications of the situation. Buffyverse has a disturbing amount of dubious consent moments. Fortunately, at least there was no sex in this episode, but if it had been…If Xander had decided to take advantage of a woman under the spell, it would have been rape, because they were in no position to give consent and he knew it. At the same time, the way women were coming onto Xander and not taking no for answer was quite disturbing, and if it had turned into sexual assault, then the women would be both perpetrators and victims (which I guess could be said for Xander in The Pack as well, since he was possessed by the hyena spirit when he assaulted Buffy).

Most importantly, Xander is rewarded by getting Cordy back. Now, this could be seen as dramatic irony, especially since Cordy doesn’t know that the reason he wanted to put a love spell on her was to dump her and have his revenge, not to have her back. But, what is additionally wrong about this is that she thinks it is sweet that he wanted to put a love spell on her and get her back by taking away her ability to consent to a relationship?! By comparison, in season 6, Willow's mindrape of Tara is treated as a bad thing, as it should be, and Tara leaves Willow over it. There’s also the plot about the villains, the Trio, trying to brainwash women, including Warren’s ex Katrina, into being their sex slaves, and Katrina tells them straightforwardly that this is rape, which they didn’t seem to quite grasp. Buffy at one point, in Seeing Red, acts furious for a moment when she mistakenly assumes that Spike was going to put a love spell on her, and they both act like it's a really bad accusation, which it is - and he's a soulless vampire! Did it take 4 years for Noxon (who wrote BBB) and the rest of the staff to realize the full implications of taking away someone’s consent through a spell?

Best lines:
Xander: Well, this is new territory for me. I mean, my valentines are usually met with heartfelt restraining orders.

Xander: Do you know what's a good day to break up with somebody? Any day besides Valentine's Day! I mean, what, were you running low on dramatic irony?

Willow: I want you, Xander. I want you to be my first.
Xander: Baseman! Please tell me you’re talking about baseball!

Willow: Is it because of Oz? Don’t worry about him. He’s sweet, but he’s not you.
Xander: Yes, he is! And you should go to him… ‘cause he’s me!

Cordy: You're a sheep. All you ever do is what everyone else does just so you can say you did it first. And here I am, scrambling for your approval, when I'm way cooler than you are 'cause I'm not a sheep. I do what I wanna do, and I wear what I wanna wear. And you know what? I'll date whoever the hell I wanna date. (Xander smiles) No matter how lame he is. (Xander’s smile fades away)

Pop culture references: The title comes from a famous Rodgers and Hart song. Cordy says “Who died and made you Elvis?”

Shirtless scene: Xander during the casting of the spell, though it’s not like we see a lot of him That’s 2 shirtless scenes for him, 1 for Oz, 4 for Angel (in 5 episodes), but none of Xander’s and Oz’s scenes were obviously meant to be sexy the way that Angel’s were.

Spike Badass-o-Meter: Not much to report here: he’s still in the wheelchair, still able to just snark some more about Angel’s unwillingness to kill Buffy, and he isn’t even oin top snarking shape here. Maybe I should be keeping an Angelus Badass-o-Meter instead? In this episode, Angel’s bark is more dangerous than his bite. He doesn’t even kill anyone, doesn’t do anything to Buffy except make threats, and it’s proven he can’t kill someone if Dru decides to stop him.

Angel/Angelus: Everyone is still calling him Angel: Giles, Buffy, and Drusilla.

Ooh, kinky: When Xander says to Willow he doesn’t want to use force, she seductively says: “Force is OK”. When did Willow get so kinky? Is that just spell-induced behavior?

What the slashy heck: Angel(us) makes a grim joke that he feels “very close” to Xander, as he’s about to bite him.

Foreshadowing (?): Angel’s message “Soon” foreshadows the next episode, Passion, in which Angel(us) finally starts killing and tormenting people close to Buffy.
Xander’s goal was to get revenge on Cordy by dumping her and breaking her heart. He will get his wish in season 3, when Cordy gets her heart broken when she finds him kissing Willow, and then gets mocked and shunned throughout school as “the castoff of Xander Harris”. It’s funny that Xander makes a joke that he could only find another girlfriend in a parallel dimension, but that’s exactly the case in The Wish, where vampire Willow is vampire Xander’s girlfriend in the parallel dimension.
Amy turns Buffy into a rat in this episode; in season 3 Gingerbread she’ll turn herself into a rat and stay that way for 3 years.
At the end of the episode, Harmony tells Cordy how happy she is that a popular guy has called her to the dance – if two other girls say ‘No’. That’s exactly what she will be to Spike, third choice for a girlfriend. She never had a very high self-esteem. She’ll also betray Cordy again in season 2 of AtS.

Rating: 3.5
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Old September 16 2011, 10:57 AM   #68
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

I haven't seen this thread for a while. Just been reading from Surprise; DevilEyes I love your analysis of these episodes! Very in depth.

I maybe liked Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered more than you. I think the only thing I can say in its defense is that it was still relatively early in the show's run, in regards to letting Xander off easily for his spell going awry. But then you still gave it a 3.5 anyway despite its logistical problems, so I don't know what I'm on about really!

Keep up the excellent work!
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Old September 16 2011, 12:40 PM   #69
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

Seven Of Five wrote: View Post
I haven't seen this thread for a while. Just been reading from Surprise; DevilEyes I love your analysis of these episodes! Very in depth.

I maybe liked Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered more than you. I think the only thing I can say in its defense is that it was still relatively early in the show's run, in regards to letting Xander off easily for his spell going awry. But then you still gave it a 3.5 anyway despite its logistical problems, so I don't know what I'm on about really!
Heh. Well, I liked a lot of other things about it, and it could have gotten a 4 if it wasn't for the issues I have with the ending. 3.5 is a rating I usually give to episodes that are outstanding in some ways, but have some deep flaw, e.g. Welcome to the Hellmouth - excellent pilot if it weren't for the cheesy production values, music and some of the acting; The Pack - would've been the first to get a 4 if I didn't think the ending was a cop-out; Surprise - too much schmaltz.

I think my ratings go something like this:
1- awful without any redeeming qualities (no episode so far has gotten this; I doubt I'll give it to any of the Buffy episode, but there's just one Angel episode I really despise and I'm reserving that rating for it )
1.5 - awful but has some redeeming qualities (Teacher's Pet)
2 - quite bad, I would go as far to call it awful (Some Assembly Required)
2.5 - has some things going on for it but is still below average for some reason (The Harvest - cheesy production values, music and acting, more obvious than in WTTH, and a too happy ending that I have a real problem with; Reptile Boy, Bad Eggs, etc.) These aren't episodes that I dislike, but they've go serious flaws
3 - OK/good episodes, just not outstanding, in Buffy terms (Witch, The Dark Age, Phases, etc.)
3.5 - episodes that are outstanding in some ways (lots of great dialogue, memorable scenes...) but have some really big flaw at the same time, or episodes that I like a bit better than the average Buffy episode
4 - excellent episode (Halloween, Out Sight, Out of Mind)
4.5 - great but just falls a bit short of the perfect rating (Prophecy Girl)
5 - great episode, the show at its absolute best (Lie to Me, Innocence)

And to make it clear, when I'm deciding on the rating, I'm comparing the episodes to the other Buffy episodes, not to the quality of TV in general. So, for instance, an episode like Phases is an average Buffy episode, but much better than average for TV in general, because Buffy is better than a lot of crap or average shows out there.
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Old September 24 2011, 10:11 PM   #70
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.17. Passion

One of the high points of the show and its first really heartbreaking episode, this was the moment when I first realized BtVS was one of the greatest dramas on TV. Having Angel go evil was a bold move, but the real game-changer was having him kill a character we know and care about and cause great pain and loss to a core Scooby member.

The episode shows Angel(us) intensifying his mind games and terrorization of Buffy and her friends. Tension is felt throughout the episode, from the opening scene at the Bronze, which shows Angel watching from the shadows as Buffy and Xander are dancing, to “Never An Easy Way” by Morcheeba, while Cordelia and Willow are sitting and chatting at the table behind them. It is a callback to When She Was Bad when Angel was watching Buffy dance with Xander, but back then Buffy’s dance was sexual and cruel, designed to hurt Xander and Angel as well as Willow, while this time they are dancing as friends and all of them are looking happy. Back then Angel was unhappy that he couldn’t be a part of her normal everyday life, now all he wants is to make her suffer. But something hasn’t changed – as Willow observes later in the episode, he’s still completely obsessed with Buffy. Next we see him coming into Buffy’s room at night, watching her sleep and leaving a portrait of her he’s drawn for her to find in the morning, as a creepy reminder that he can enter her house and kill her while she sleeps. The fact that he doesn’t shows that the reason he’s not killing her isn’t because she’s too strong, as he told Spike in Innocence. This is reminiscent of all those times Angel, back when he had a soul, would lurk outside Buffy’s room or get inside when she wasn’t there and touch her things, or when he told her in season 1 that he loved watching her sleep. Only back then, it was treated as at worst a little annoying and at best endearing.

Angel’s voiceovers, which open the episode and continue at various parts while he is stalking and watching Buffy and her friends, are about the power of passion. Who does this refer to? Buffy? Giles? The way he is using other people’s passions – such as love – against them? Or is he talking about himself, about the reasons why he is doing what he is doing. Buffy is still the object of his the passion that rules his life, but now this passion is cruel and evil. But passion is also a theme of the season, and not just this season. Buffy’s love for Angel made her vulnerable and prevented her from doing her duty; Giles warns her in this episode that she has to keep her wits about her and not be overcome with feelings of anguish and anger, to not be “a slave to your passions”; ironically, she does keep her wits about her, but it’s Giles who is later overcome with grief and rage after Jenny’s death and does something mad and impulsive.

It’s amazing how creepy those scenes feel much before he even hurts anyone – but that’s what a campaign of terror is all about, instilling fear into people, making them feel they aren’t safe anywhere. He really doesn’t do much, compared to what he could do (the meta reason, of course, being that the show couldn’t afford to kill off Willow or Giles, or Joyce). He manages to freak out Willow by killing her fish and leaving them as a bracelet for her, and to make Buffy worry for her mother’s safety, especially when he leaves her a portrait of Joyce sleeping. The situation leads to Buffy finally telling her mother something about her life, though leaving all the supernatural elements out, describing Angel as a stalker ex-boyfriend who has trouble letting go, and telling him not to invite him in. Which isn’t that far from the truth, because apart from not wanting a relationship with Buffy, he is every bit an abusive stalker ex, and he plays that role well in front of Joyce a little later. Instead of trying to hurt her, he again prefers mind games and deliberately lends Buffy in trouble by letting out the info that they had sex. But instead of a big fallout and punishment for Buffy, a big talk that Joyce has with Buffy is the closest mother/daughter moment they’ve had in a long time, with Buffy explaining things as truthfully as possible and Joyce thinking she understands the situation. And in a way, she does, since the story is a supernatural version of the classic “boyfriend turns bad” story, an Buffy’s words “He changed” and Joyce’s “He is older than you, and obviously not stable” are truer than Joyce even can imagine! She does scold Buffy, but in the end she is supportive and just tells Buffy she needs her to tell her important things about her life.

In a rare funny moment in the episode, and a meta joke, Jonathan and another student come to the library to look for books, when the Scoobies are there talking about what to do, and Xander acts like they’ve come to the wrong place, annoyed that they’re interrupting - completely forgetting what a school library is for.

Speaking of Xander, he is really annoying in this episode, with his “I told you do” attitude and saying things like “That's a lesson to you girls not to invite strangers in your room“ (yes, Buffy should have let Angel get killed by the Three for fear that he might be a vampire who will one day go evil ) and that he deserves recognition for hating Angel long before everyone else. Well, that would mean something if he hated him because he was a great judge of character, and if the large part of his hatred hadn't been because of jealousy, especially since he hated him before he knew he was a vampire.

The Scoobies finally decide to do something about the Angel situation, and that’s when we first learn about disinvitation spells. As we knew before, Angel had access to Buffy’s and Willow’s apartments and Cordelia’s car (Cordy invited him to her car in Some Assembly Required, and Willow to her room in Lie to Me). One thing that’s unclear is when he was invited to Giles’s apartment – it could have happened off-screen – and why Giles forgot about it. It’s good to see Buffy slamming the door into Angel’s face to make a point that he can’t enter anymore, even though he can’t enter with doors open, either (she’ll do the same to Spike in Crush). In addition, to be on the safe side, Buffy and Willow cover the walls with crosses and garlic (which I think is the first time garlic, a part of traditional vampire lore, was mentioned on the show?).

This is first time that magic started to play a big role in the show. Jenny, the person most familiar with the magic at this point, first helps Giles find a disinvitation spell, and later, not telling anyone, comes up with the way to restore Angel’s soul. Jenny tells Giles – obviously for the first time - that she fell in love with him, and tries to explain herself, that she had loyalties to her people. Happy couples don’t last in Buffyverse - as soon as Jenny and Giles reconciled and started looking forward to a date, we should have known it wasn’t going to end well. Jenny’s help is one of the reason why Giles forgives her for what he considered betrayal, but going further in her attempts to set the situation right is also what will get her killed, when Dru has a vision that the she will try to force the soul back on Angel.

This is the biggest Character death in the show so far, and still one of the most tragic ones, since Jenny wasn’t resurrected like some other beloved characters. She’ll only reappear in visions. Whedon said he wanted Angel to kill Jenny in vamp face, because he thought people would never want Buffy and Angel together if every time they kissed they saw the face of Jenny’s killer. I can see that there was some successful manipulation of the audience in seasons 2 and 3 to that effect, but I think it’s more due to the constant disassociation of Angel’s two personas in the viewer’s minds and the minds of the characters. I’m not sure that vampface/human face made much of a difference, since Angel was in his human face most of the time he was scheming or psychologically tormenting Buffy and her friends, and a lot of it disturbed me more than the acts of murders themselves. Angel does kill Jenny mainly to prevent his re-souling, but he clearly gets a lot of pleasure in chasing her, taunting her, making her afraid, and in the act of kill itself, telling himself “I never get tired of doing this”. But as disturbing as the murder scene is, to me it’s less disturbing as what follows…

... the Best scene in this episode, and one of the most chilling scenes in the entire show: Giles coming back home and thinking that Jenny is upstairs waiting for him, only to find her dead body in his bed. The first time I watched the show, I felt chills going down my spine, thinking “oh god, no!” as Giles was smiling happily when he saw the romantic scene that he thought Jenny arranged, while it was actually Angel. It is the creepiest example of Angel’s “torture as an art” approach: the roses, the champagne, the written note “Upstairs” (very similar to the note “Soon” he left for Buffy in the previous episode), and the music from the record player – a very romantic aria “O suave fanciulla” from the opera La Boheme by Puccini. The aria is sung by Mimi and Rodolfo, two people in love:
Rodolfo: O soave fanciulla, o dolce viso / Di mite circonfuso alba lunar/ In te ravviso il sogno / Ch'io vorrei sempre sognar! - Oh! lovely girl! Oh, sweet face / bathed in the soft moonlight. / I see in you the dream / I'd dream forever!
and as Giles finds Jenny’s body in his bed:
Mimi: Ah, tu sol comandi, amor! - Ah! Love, you rule alone!
Rodolfo: Fremon già nell'anima / Le dolcezze estreme. - Already I taste in spirit / The heights of tenderness!
But even without knowing lyrics, the music made the scene even more intense, as Giles is first smelling the rose and happily climbing the stairs, and the climax of the aria happens exactly when he comes closer and realizes that Jenny is dead. Even having seen Passion a few times before, it still made a misty-eyed.

This is the kind of plan that could only be devised by someone who fancies himself an artist, has a romantic streak himself (maybe even thinks of making love to the woman he loves as the pinnacle of happiness) and spends a lot of time thinking about the feelings of others, whether it is in order to help them (when he has a soul) or the better ways to hurt them and enjoy their pain.

The relationship between Buffy and Giles in the second part of season 2 is beautiful. While he’s generally her father figure (Angel recognizes it too, when he calls Giles Buffy’s “old man”), though in an equal relationship unlike those that most parents and children have, in Passion Buffy is the one taking care of Giles. Early on she helps Giles’s relationship with Jenny, talking to Jenny, despite still being angry with her, and telling her that Giles misses her. Buffy is also the first one to realize that Angel is the one who set up the romantic scene in order to torment Giles, and the first one to guess exactly what Giles would do, proving once again that she’s a smart cookie, but also that she knows Giles very well. It’s all the more poignant when a man normally as rational and in control of his emotions as Giles does something as passionate and practically suicidal, as Giles does when he goes alone straight to the factory where Angel, Spike and Dru live, to try to kill Angel.

Luckily for Giles, at least he isn’t up against two vampires: Dru seems like she’s about to get involved in the fight and help Angel, but as soon as Spike tells her not to (“No fair going to the ring unless he tags you first”), she changes her mind. And when Buffy arrives to help Giles, Dru doesn’t even think of helping him fight Buffy, but just quickly wheels Spike away and they both watch the scene from afar. No matter how much she likes having Angel back, she doesn’t care that much to risk her life trying to help him. When it comes to Spike, she cares enough to take care of him (according to Angel, she is bathing him, changing him and feeding him) but in this episode she’s doing it in a somewhat humiliating way: she gives him a puppy to “eat” – even though vampires consider it a gross insult to drink from animals, and Spike used to bring her people to drink when she was ill. She also tells him she named it Sunshine, which is pretty much like giving him a present and calling it Wooden Stake. Angel is insinuating that he’s sleeping with Dru, telling Spike that he could take up his duties while he’s incapacitated, except for what he’s already doing (wink wink nudge nudge), and whether it’s already true or not, Dru is just openly happy to have “boys” fighting over her. But I wouldn’t say that it’s about her: Angel isn’t nearly as interested in her as he is in hurting Spike and getting one over him. Besides, it helps take attention away from his obsession with Buffy, which Spike, on his part, is constantly mocking him for, criticizing him for not killing Buffy when he had a chance and calling him crazy. It’s pretty funny when Angel tries to convince Spike that he’s got everything under control, only to have Giles throw a Molotov’s cocktail at his feet a second later.

Buffy and Angel have their second big fight, and she takes a lot of her rage and frustration beating him up, until he reminds her that Giles is lying on the floor and will burn up if she doesn’t save him. The second best scene of the episode, and the second time I got misty eyed, is between Giles and Buffy, as she walks Giles outside. When he yells at her that she shouldn’t have gotten involved as it’s not her fight, she punches him for saying it, tells him he can’t leave her (i.e. get himself killed, which he was clearly trying to do) and she can’t do it alone without him, and hugs him as they both break into tears.

In the last scene, Giles and Buffy are at Jenny’s grave, and Giles says he buried many people as a Watcher (the first time he says it, although it almost goes without saying, since he must have trained other Slayers before), but it’s the first time he lost someone he loved. Buffy apologizes for not having been able to kill Angel in Innocence. The episode ends on Buffy’s voiceover – Angel is not allowed to have the last word – as she declares that she is ready to kill him now.

Best lines:
Angel (voiceovers): Passion... it lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us... Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have?
Passion is the source of our finest moments; the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear.
If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank... Without passion, we'd be truly dead.

Buffy: I can’t believe he’s the same person. He’s completely different from the guy I knew.
Willow: Well, sort of, except…
Buffy: Except what?
Willow: You’re still the only thing he thinks about.

Mythology: This is the first time we learn about disinvitation spells, and about the Orb of Thesulah, used in the ritual to restore a vampire’s soul. It’s funny that it can be bought in an ordinary magic shop, though apparently few people know what it is, since the owner knows that Jenny is well versed in magic the moment she mentions it. Most people coming to magic shops are New Agers.
Angel says he could enter the school because of the sign “Enter all ye who seek knowledge”, but either he’s joking or this is a continuity error, since vampires are always able to enter a public building. More likely the latter, because Jenny seems surprised he was able to enter, even though Spike and his vampires attacked the school in School Hard.

Angel/Angelus: Buffy, Giles and everyone else still call him Angel. Ironically, Spike refers to souled Angel as “Angelus”, saying that he preferred “the old Buffy-whipped Angelus”.
Xander says he hated him long before everyone else – he obviously still thinks of him as the same guy.Buffy remarks how much he has changed, almost as if he is a different person, but Willow points out that he is not that different – he is still all about Bufy.
This is the first time we see Angel’s artistic talent – and his tendency to draw women (Buffy, Joyce and Jenny), which he does while souled on AtS, in season 2 when he is drawing Darla and later in season 4 when he’s drawing Cordelia.

Nicknames: Xander’s new nickname for Angel is “pointed-toothed fairy”. Angel calls Spike “roller boy”.

Spike Badass-o-meter: He’s still in wheelchair, but his snark this time is top notch – his remark that he “much preferred the earlier, Buffy-whipped Angelus, because this one is not playing with a full sack” manages to insult Angel in several ways: reminding him again of his love for the Slayer, insinuating that he’s still affected by his feelings for her, and calling him both insane and incompetent. In addition, he still has some influence over Dru, as she listens to him when he tells her not to get involved in the Angel/Giles fight.

Pop culture references: Willow and Xander used to watchCharlie Brown-s Christmas at his house,and Xander likes to do aSnoopy Dance (which will later be referenced in season 5 The Replacement).
Xander says “If Giles wants to go after the demon who killed his girlfriend, I say: ‘Faster, pussycat, kill, kill!” Faster, Pussycat! Kill, kill! is a 1966 Russ Meyer movie. I’m not surprised that Xander is a fan.

Other observations: We find out that Willow’s dad is named Ira and he’s either either very religious or very proud of his Jewishness.
Willow’s funny/childish fashion choices continue: in this episode she has a bag with a big smiley on it.

Foreshadowing: In the last scene, the disc with the information about the way to restore Angel’s soul falls between the desk and the filing cabinet next to it. It will be found again in Becoming II.
Early on, Willow is substituting for Jenny as a computer science teacher, and very happy to get a chance to do it, but then she gets to be substitute for a longer time than she thought, for a tragic reason. But computer science class is not the only thing that Willow will inherit from Jenny.
Angel’s rhetorical question “What choice do we have?” (whether to give in to our passions) will be answered by Buffy in Becoming II when shesets her feelings aside to do her duty and save the world. The conflict between duty/morality and emotions will continue throughout the show; in season 5 Buffy will be faced with a dilemma she’ll only be able to resolve by giving her own life; her season 6 story is an illustration of Angel’s words that without passion, we’d feel hollow and truly dead, and she’ll be alternately giving into and rejecting a destructive passion that’s the only thing making her alive.
The events of this episode are heavily referenced in the canon comics:


Rating: 5 (did you expect anything else?)
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Old September 30 2011, 12:47 AM   #71
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.18. Killed by Death

I know that a lot of people hate this episode, but it’s an OK little early seasons horror story with some nice moments between Buffy, her friends and her mom, although nothing particularly important happens and it could be taken out without the story suffering at all. Nothing puts it above average for BtVS but nothing puts it below either.

When Buffy comes down with flu, we learn she is scared of hospitals because of a childhood trauma when she saw her cousin Celia die in a hospital. It’s the first time we hear anything about any relatives of hers other than her parents. Being rushed to the hospital against her will (after Angel[us] used her condition to beat her about in the graveyard) proves to be a blessing in disguise as it allows her to investigate a series of suspicious deaths of children, not as natural as they seem.

One thing that might be somewhat problematic in this episode is how Angel(us)’s behavior fits with his overall behavior In season 2: here he wants to kill Buffy in the graveyard, using the fact when she’s less than 100% because she’s got a flu, and later comes to the hospital with the same intention, but in Passion he didn’t try to kill her while she was sleeping, when he had an even better opportunity. What has changed? Has he grown tired of his mind games? Maybe he decided on the heat of the moment, since the first thing he did was try to kill Cordelia? Did he just want to scare Buffy, beat her up a bit, and/or drink a bit from her and therefore picked to attack her while three of her friends are there? Does he actually underrate her friends so much? Also interesting to think about, since he was going for the bite, was he going to just kill her or turn her into a vampire? Is this all just an excuse for the writers to have Xander save Buffy and make a point once more how her friends are important to her survival?

In any case, he is quite lame in this episode: he is much stronger than a regular human and should deal easily with Xander, but instead Xander manages to get him off Buffy and throw him around before making him run away by pulling a big cross at him. If I had an ”Angelus badass-o-meter”, he’d get a lot of negative points. We know that the cross doesn’t kill vampires but just burns itself in their flesh for a while (as the Master showed in Nightmares, and we’ve seen Buffy’s crucifix burn itself into Angel’s skin when they kissed in Angel, which didn’t bother him; and in season 7 and AtS season 5 we’ll see that Spike can handle huge crosses burning themselves into his skin without much problem), so on this occasion he comes off as a bit of a sissy who can’t take pain. Xander also wins their standoff at the hospital, since it turns out Angel(us) doesn’t dare attack him and a bunch of orderlies and security guards (and that despite the fact that the orderlies and security guards have no idea about vampires and how to kill them). All Angel(us) can do is his classic tactic of saying crass things designed to hurt people where it stings most. In this case, that Xander still loves Buffy, which he doesn’t deny. This conversation calls back to their scene in Prophecy Girl (“You’re in love with her” – “Aren’t you?”), when Angel-with-a-soul showed the first hint of ‘Angelus’-like behavior by mocking Xander as a “kid”. Here he mockingly calls Xander Buffy’s white knight and taunts him that it must bother him that “I got there first”. First? Does he think Xander has a chance of “getting there” at all? That’s more than what Xander expects at this point, whatever feelings he might still have for Buffy I think he’s given up hope of a romantic relationship with her. (Although some moments in this episode and Phases make me think that perhaps the writers were still keeping Xander/Buffy open as an option.) Do I detect a hint of the same jealousy that Angel showed in Prophecy Girl and Reptile Boy? It’s also interesting he calls Xander on trying to be Buffy’s white knight, because back when Angel was souled and good he was constantly trying to be exactly that. He’s such an 18th century guy, someone should have told him that a) these days being a girl’s “first” isn’t considered the ultimate achievement for a guy, and b) Buffy isn’t your classic damsel. This moment certainly didn’t help make Xander hate Angel less, and I wonder if it played a part in his decision to lie to Buffy in Becoming II.

Buffy is of course again the hero defeating the bad guy, but Xander gets a few badass moments as well, helping her, and the other Scoobies contribute, too, even Cordelia this time. Though assigning her to help Giles do the research turns out not to work that well, since she’s asking too many questions and annoying him. She’s better working in a duo with Xander and using her skills to distract a plain-looking security guard by flirting with him and stroking his ego (she’ll do the same with another security guard in AtS season 3 Waiting in the Wings). Cordelia openly tells Xander she’s aware of his attraction to Buffy, but she seems not to be too bothered by it.Willow also successfully distracts another pair of security guards in her own way, proving that she’s a good liar/actress when needed, pretending convincingly to have a panic attack and shouting about her fear of frogs until Buffy can escape.

The Scoobies first suspect a doctor, but he gets killed by the monster and turns out to have been a good guy who was developing a vaccine against the illness. Buffy’s comment that it’s another person she was too late to save is a reminder of her feelings of guilt because of Jenny and another people who have died in the previous weeks. Or rather, that Angel killed, as Xander points out in a Captain Obvious moment (this time possibly a result of him not thinking much, unlike the last episode’s “I told you so” comments). Good for him that Cordelia is there to make him look tactful by comparison.

The story of this episode is centered on children and childhood. There are flashbacks of Buffy’s childhood; children are the victims; children are also the only ones who see the monster – who turns out to be the same one that killed Celia: Death itself, or rather, “der Kindestod” – German for Child’s Death. Children can see things adults can’t – der Kindestod is invisible to the adults - but fever helps Buffy see Kindestod. Rationality can hinder people from seeing what’s in front of them, just like Joyce doesn’t see what’s going on in Buffy’s life, and just like the majority of the population of Sunnydale is rationalizing every supernatural event they have witnessed. In this episode, for instance, Joyce doesn’t react to feverish Buffy talking about having to kill vampires (which might be a little strange since Normal Again will establish that Buffy spent some time institutionalized because of her “delusions” about vampires), which Giles and Willow quickly try to explain to her and the orderlies as just a result of a feverish delusion (maybe that’s what Joyce told herself, but apparently she wasn’t bothered by Buffy still having the same delusion?)

Der Kindestod looks a bit like Freddie Krueger, with the addition of eyes that turn out to be long tentacles that it uses to strangle children, but Whedon has said it was actually inspired by something that freaked him out when he was a child. It’s funny that the Scoobies first react to Buffy telling them that deaths is a supernatural being the same way that most people would react to being told that vampires and demons exist, as if the idea is more out there than everything else that they’ve seen in Sunnydale. Maybe it’s because they think that death is a natural part of life. But the concept of the monster seems to be based on the feeling that there is something monstrous about the death of a child, the way that the death of an adult isn’t. In the end, though Kindestod gives Buffy a good scare, she defeats him easily and in a very banal way – by snapping its neck… which is probably a metaphor for the things that scare us as children but are easily dealt with when we start growing up. By defeating the monster that killed her cousin, Buffy solves her childhood trauma. But she has more than enough new traumas that will stay with her in the years to come.

Keeping with the theme of childhood, Willow mentions that she and Xander used to play doctor as children – which draws a funny look by Cordelia (a bit of foreshadowing for the season 3 storyline?) and prompts Xander to awkwardly explain that they were literally playing doctor, with Willow diagnosing him with different illnesses.

This is the first time we see Joyce act motherly not just to Buffy but to Xander and Willow, too. The final scene is one of the cutest early seasons’ scenes of the Scooby friendship – Buffy is exploiting her recent illness to the max, as Joyce is bringing her drinks and snacks and asking her what else she needs as she’s lounging in front of the TV, but Xander and Willow are enjoying the same treatment. Knowing what we know now about Xander’s and Willow’s home lives, it makes sense that they would enjoy hanging out at Buffy’s place and that they would appreciate Joyce even more since their own parents weren’t that caring. Some fans think that the way all the Scoobies treated the loss of Joyce as if she was their own family in The Body was an exaggeration, but this is one of the scenes that helps prove otherwise.

The girl who plays child Buffy in flashbacks has brownish hair. So Buffy is a bottle blonde? I always thought she was supposed to be a natural blonde, despite SMG being a brunette (though her hair in season 1 was darker than in subsequent seasons).

Best lines:
Cordelia: So, this isn't you being afraid of hospitals ‘cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?
Giles: Cordelia, have you ever actually heard of tact?
Cordelia: Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass.

Pop culture references: Xander says Death is chess wiz, a reference to The Seventh Seal. Boy, Xander does seem to know lots of different films, who would think he was a Bergman fan?! Maybe he just caught the film on TV…

Angel/Angelus: Buffy and Xander are still referring to the soulless version of Buffy’s ex as “Angel”.

Foreshadowing: “Death and disease are the only things she can’t fight” says Giles. Just like The Puppet Show played with the idea of Scoobies dealing with an ordinary human villain but then revealed the villain to be a demon, and just like Ted played with the story of Buffy feeling guilty for accidentally having killed a human being but then revealed him to be a robot, Killed by Death introduces this theme but then doesn’t follow through the premise, making Buffy’s opponent a supernatural monster after all, which allows her to beat him in her usual way, with violence. But this theme is going to be revisited in a big way in season 5.

Rating: 3
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Old October 23 2011, 11:42 PM   #72
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.19. I Only Have Eyes For You

The second part of season 2 just keeps breaking you heart, doesn’t it – after Passion, here is another moving, dark, haunting (no pun intended) episode. While no main characters die in this one, this is one of those episodes that make me cry every single time. Both for its ghost story about the 1950s tragic romance between Sunnydale high school student James (young Christopher Gorham) and his teacher Grace, which ended in a murder and suicide that gets replayed several times by different pairings of actors – but loses none of its poignancy – and for the way it resonates with the Buffy/Angel story in an unexpected way. And this time it was no different, I started bowling my eyes out since the scene where Buffy is over-identifying with James, to the 1950s scenes between James and Grace, to the climactic resolution as Buffy and Angel get possessed and replay the fateful scene. Writer Marti Noxon has said that the ghosts were really a metaphor for repentance and second chances, and this is exactly what the episode conveys.

I love the gender-flip twist in the episode (foreshadowed by the Sadie Hawkins dance, a traditional event in whichgender roles are reversed and women are the ones to ask men out to the dance). In the opening scene at the Bronze, we learned that Buffy was feeling guilty for her „impulsive“ decision to sleep with Angel, which is why she told a boy who asked her to the dance (or asked her to ask him to the dance, missing the entire point of the event) that she won’t ever date anyone again (!), scared of what disasters she might cause if she continues to make impulsive decisions in her love life (well, she was kinda right about that one). We are first lead to believe that James's ghost will always possess men and Grace's ghost women, and all the characters keep assuming that throughout the episode – because people (characters as well as the audience) tend to be narrow-minded that way and make assumptions that males will identify with males and females will relate to females. They keep expecting that James will need a man to possess even after they realize that Buffy isn’t angry at James just because it reminds of the abuse she's suffering from Angel(us) – but that she’s so harsh and unforgiving of James because she’s identifying with him. She relates to James because she feels tremendous guilt for „destroying“ the person she loves, costing him his soul. Of course, rationally and objectively speaking, Buffy isn’t guilty of anything and her action of sleeping with Angel is no way comparable to what James did. She had no way of knowing about his curse, and if anyone should have found the time to research it, it was Angel himself during those 100 years he spent wandering around; not to mention that Angel is, of course, an adult who made the decision to have sex with Buffy. But none of this matters to Buffy, all it matters is how she feels about it deep inside.

There is another reason why the parallel makes perfect sense: James/Grace and Buffy/Angel were both 'forbidden', transgressive relationships that were inappropriate in the eyes of the world, between a teenager and a much older person, in the former case she was his teacher, and in the latter, Angel is a 240-old vampire. And this is what makes the story of James and Grace a bit more complicated from the moral standpoint: even though none of the characters ever comment on it, he was the murderer, but he was also a teenage boy, in a relationship with a teacher; it’s not just the society in the 1950s that would have had a problem with their relationship, nowadays a teacher like Grace would also lose her job at best, if not, depending on what James’s age was, go to prison for statutory rape. Of course, Buffy never thinks in those terms, and how could she, when she also doesn’t see herself as a kid and doesn’t think that Angel did anything wrong by being in a relationship with her (the one time she called him a cradle-snatcher, it was a joke). Giles and the other Scoobies don’t see the James/Grace relationship in these terms, but neither did they see the Buffy/Angel relationship like that; the only one who had a problem with it because of the age difference was Joyce (who, ironically, had no idea just how big that age difference is). The show never took an overt judgmental stance either. The B/A pairing doesn’t seem like a typical May/December romance since Angel looks like a 20-something, but also because Buffy is a strong, smart and precocious teenager with a lot of responsibility. Besides, while don’t know much about Grace and her life and circumstances, but Angel seems to be in some ways an emotional adolescent despite his hundreds of years of experience. On the other hand, the age difference between him and Buffy was still emphasized lots of times, especially the times when he would assume the role of a „wise experienced older men“ and patronize Buffy (Reptile Boy, Lie to Me, The Prom). In that context, it’s fitting that the last words James says to Grace before he shoots her – and that Buffy gets to replay – were „Don’t do that! Don’t talk to me like I’m some stupid...“ The missing word was obviously „kid“.

The song „I Only Have Eyes For You“ by the Flamingos that James and Grace dance to in one of the flashbacks and that James plays in the music room just before he kills himself is about obsessive love - it's one of those oldies that sounds beautiful and romantic but may also sound haunting and also really disturbing: "My love must be some kind of blind love, I can't see anything but you". A powerful infatuation/romantic obsession that makes you blind to the reality. This is often what teenagers are like when they fall intensely in love for the first time, even if most of them don’t take it as far as James did: at that age, you cannot imagine they will ever fall out of love with that person or in love with someone else, you believe that the love you’re feeling is One True Love that is going to last forever (James’s words moments before he shoots Grace: „Love is forever!“). On the other hand, Grace and Angel were older and more mature people who were aware that their relationship with a teenager was inappropriate, maybe they should have known better, but they still couldn't help falling as hard. Grace was a rather young teacher, but she was still an adult and in position of authority – though she didn’t seem to be abusing in order to show special preference to James. However, no matter how precocious, intellectually and physically and even emotionally mature teenagers may be, they still tend to be volatile and to feel everything too intensely, to see everything in life-and-death terms. Of course, there are adults who commit crimes of passion, but we can’t judge an adolescent in the same way.

No matter how strange it feels at first glance to compare „Angelus“ to a much nicer Grace, there is a parallel because he is fighting against feeling that love (but for completely different reasons from those that make him feel it's wrong while he's souled) - at the end of the episode, he feels really disturbed for having felt love when Grace's ghost possessed him. And I think this is what precipitates his decision to destroy humanity, something that he never seemed keen on doing on all his 100+ years as an evil soulless vampire. I don’t the problem is just that he felt Grace's love, but that he remembers what he was like when he had a soul and loved her, and without a soul he still can't let go of his obsession for Buffy, only now it's turned to hate exactly because he hates that he used to love her so much and that she made him feel human. But no matter how much he tried to hurt Buffy in various ways, in the end he can't really get rid of that feeling completely and be free of her unless he destroys humanity completely.

Best scene of the episode is, no doubt, the powerful scene in which Buffy and Angel replay the James/Grace murder/suicide and allow the ghosts their resolution – Angel survives because he is a vampire, which makes it possible for Grace to come back and give the scene a different ending, stop James from replaying his suicide, tell him she never stopped loving him and give him forgiveness and peace. (The name Grace was probably not accidentally chosen.)

So many lines in that scene get a new meaning in the context of B/A, as when James/Buffy exclaims: "A person doesn't just wake up and stop loving somebody!" There’s a enormous amount of foreshadowing not just of Becoming II (where Buffy does „kill“ Angel, but Angel will also come back after being sent to hell, which will allow Buffy to start forgiving herself) but also Angel breaking up with Buffy in The Prom (the episodes had the same writer, so maybe the latter was intentionally echoing IOHEFY). The things that Grace (through Angel) says to James (Buffy) as to why she ended their relationship are exactly the reasons why Angel leaves Buffy at the end of S3: "I just want you to be able to have some sort of normal life. We can never have that, don't you see?" James yells "I don't give a damn about normal life!" which is pretty much the same conversation Angel and Buffy will have in The Prom. James demands of Grace to tell him she doesn’t love him, which she manages to do even though she’s lying; Buffy will ask the same of Angel in Lovers Walk but he won’t be able to do it; in The Prom, she asks him to tell her he doesn’t want to be with her, and he does.

I’m really impressed with SMG’s acting as James, this is one of the most powerful performances. And how can one not love seeing Buffy yell at Angel: „(Don’t walk away from me), BITCH!"

The episode also shows just how much Giles is missing Jenny – to the point that he’s desperately trying to believe that the poltergeist is her ghost, despite all the disturbing things it’s causing, until he finally accepts the fact that it can’t be her.

Willow, Xander and Cordelia have rather small roles in this episode. We do, however, see hints that Willow’s life is changing a lot for the better – she’s obviously happy in love, she likes being a substitute teacher of computer science and feels more confident, she’s starting to feel ’cool’, even making the students laugh at her jokes, and she’s getting interested in magic and paganism that Jenny was into. Xander and Cordy are just comic relief – and in this case it really should be called „much needed comic relief“. Cordy is still a spokesperson for anti-feminist views, shocked that there is an event where women have to ask men out and pay for everything (it’s the latter that seems to really be bothering her), and Xander goes along saying that the event must have been invented by some „hairy-legged feminist“, which is ironic since the origin of the Sadie Hawkins dance has nothing to do with feminism, and it’s poking fun at the stereotypes, while being a reminder that, while the show and its creator may be feminist, many of the main characters aren’t, especially at this point.

But the best comic relief comes from Snyder, who returns in all his „glory“ after haven’t been seen since What’s My Line I. We learn that Snyder, at least a part of the police force and the mayor all know that the town lies on the Hellmouth, and that Snyder has been hired to keep that a secret from the majority of the town’s population. It’s the first time that the Mayor is mentioned, though not by name – so far we just know he’s in on it, and that Snyder is afraid of him.

I wish I’ve started some sort of a death count for teachers and students of Sunnydale. The unfortunate teacher possessed by Grace’s ghost who got shot by the janitor (Deadwood’s John Hawkes) she barely knew, who got possessed by James’s ghost, is at least third teacher to die violently on the show (after the biology teacher eaten by the praying mantis in Teacher’s Pet and Jenny), not to mention the principal eaten by his students, err by ’dogs’, and the ’teacher’ who was actually the praying mantis... You’d think they’d figure out by now that Sunnydale High is not a safe workplace. Snyder must be really doing an amazing cover-up job.

Angel’s mansion is also introduced in this episode – he got it (we don’t know how exactly) after the factory was burned down, and it’s the place where he, Spike and Dru will live to the end of season 2 and also the place where he’ll live in season 3. The Angel/Dru/Spike triangle is escalating – Dru is now openly flirting with Angel and enjoying the way he’s touching her, right in front of Spike. She doesn’t seem to have the same views of love and fidelity that most humans do, and she’s like a self-centered child, preoccupied with her needs and whims; she’s still calling Spike to come to hunt with them: „Are you coming, pet“ but doesn’t seem to notice or care that Spike’s face shows that he’s really hurt by her behavior. Dru is mostly in her own world that others like Spike and Angel are only tangentially touching, Spike with his romantic Victorian gestures and Angel with his more animalistic way he connects to her. Spike, on his part, doesn’t seem to think of Dru as an adult who can be blamed for her actions. She’s his beautiful princess/little girl he buys necklaces and pretty dresses for (there’s still a lot of a Victorian man in him, and it shows in his relationship with Dru; just how different his relationship with a Buffy will be!). Drusilla’s cheating isn’t something Spike is going to have a talk about with her, he just seems to have a beef with Angel over it (and as we’ll see in Becoming, his solution is to remove his rival and collect Dru, however she may feel about it). It’s all about their rivalry, and Angel seems to have the upper hand now – Spike’s barbs aren’t hitting the mark anymore because Angel knows that what he’s doing with Dru is hurting Spike much more.

Which is a good introduction to the surprise twist at the end, which must have made a lot of viewers cheer – I sure was delighted the first time I watched it. It was high time for Spike to get out of that wheelchair and be a force in the story again.

Best line:
Xander: "Something weird is going on." Isn't that our school motto?

Funniest lines:
Principal Snyder: People can be coerced, Summers. I'm no stranger to conspiracy. I saw JFK. I'm a truth seeker. I've got a missing gun and two confused kids on my hands; pieces of the puzzle. And I'm gonna look at all the pieces carefully and rationally, and I'm gonna keep looking until I know exactly how this is all your fault.
Secretary (on the intercom): Mr. Snyder, Billy Crandal chained himself to the snack machine again.
Snyder: Pathetic little no-life vegan.

Most meaningful lines:
Giles: To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it.
Buffy: No. James destroyed the one person he loved the most in a moment of blind passion. And that's not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid, it is just something he's gonna have to live with.
Xander: He can't live with it, Buff. He's dead.

Angel/Angelus: Buffy describes what happened with Angel like this: „Do you remember my ex-boyfriend, the vampire? I slept with him, he lost his soul, now my boyfriend's gone forever, and the demon that wears his face is killing my friends.” This is the first time she seems to be clearly separating in her mind Angel’s soulless alter ego from the Angel she loved. It’s not clear, though, if she means it literally. Not that it would prove anything about the nature of Angel, just about the way Buffy sees him.
However, neither she nor anyone else is using „Angelus“ to describe soulless Angel yet. Dru addresses him twice in this episode and calls him „Angel“ both times.

Spike Badass-o-meter:
He certainly proves he isn’t that impulsive and thoughtless as the later seasons (starting with season 3) portrayed him to be, and can actually make a plan and be patient and bide his time, instead of rushing in and fighting Angel(us) right there. Then again, one might ask why he isn’t willing to fight him without Buffy’s help. Is he worried whose side would Drusilla and their other minions take? (I suppose there is at least one that we see later in Becoming II, though we don’t see them around lately?) Kicking the chair (boy, those vampires are histrionic...) was a really cool TV moment, but the chair isn’t a very dangerous opponent, so any judgment on Spike’s badassery will have to be left for the following episodes.

Nicknames: Dru calls Spike „pet“ just likes he calls her. Giles calls Xander’s way of speaking „Xander-speak“. (Television Tropes calls it Buffy Speak).

Pop culture references: Oliver Stone’s JFK.Buffy says the boy who almost shot his girlfriend went O.J. on her.Cordelia thinks that „exorcism“ is a movie (The Exorcist). Xander paraphrases the famous line from Network, describing the poltergeist this way: „I’m dead as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!“ He also paraphrases a line from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice („the quality of mercy is not Buffy). Buffy is frustrated that she has to be „Dr. Laura“ to the ghost – I had to looked that one up, but I figured it was a TV or radio psychologist, turns out it’s the latter (and I had no idea that she played Dr. Nora on Frasier!). Willow paraphrases Julius Caesar’s famous speech to describe Buffy blowing off the boy who came on to her at the Bronze: „You came, you saw, you rejected.“ Grace lent James a novel by Hemingway that she says was based on a true story – I know little about his works, but I figured it had some bearing on the plot, and indeed, that’s what Buffy Wiki says: “The book is A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. It is about a teenaged World War I soldier who has a romance with an older woman—an army nurse. The relationship ends after she dies in a fashion that he blames himself for. It is based on events that happened to Hemingway.“

This is one of my favorite episodes of Buffy. It also ratchets up the tension, especially with the Spike reveal, and sets the stage perfectly for the two-part finale. Too bad that Becoming I/II doesn’t follow right from there, and that Go Fish is placed in between.

Rating: 5
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my Buffy/Angel rewatch
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Old October 25 2011, 05:50 PM   #73
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

I've just seen that you updated this thread again DevilEyes. I think it keeps falling of the front page before I even see it.

Excellent analysis again, of all the episodes. Very addictive reading! Passion is an excellent episode - one of my favourites of all of Buffydom. Angelus spends the episode creepily stalking everyone, so that by the time he finally lashes out at poor Jenny, it's a terrifying. The shock of killing a Scooby was felt back when I first watched around ten years ago, and it still resonates today.

This all leads up to the two emotional punches at the end, which pretty much leave you a gibbering wreck. Amazing episode really.

Killed by Death was sort of alright. I enjoyed seeing Buffy attacking what looked like nothing, and I loved the 'heartwarming' drawing the kid did at the end showing Buffy killing the monster. It was so graphic, I could just imagine a kid drawing it. It's a shame this episode was after Passion, as it broke the rhythm of the arc a little bit, similar to how Go Fish did. Well, not as bad as that.

I didnt enjoy I Only Have Eyes For You as much as you. I remember finding it a bit cheesy when I was younger. Now I'm older I appreciate it more, and would say it's 4/5 myself. I don't quite find it as enthralling as Innocence or Passion, for example.
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Old October 31 2011, 05:11 AM   #74
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.20. Go Fish

This is the kind of standalone episode that would fit well in season 1 – an obvious but still effective metaphor about some particular aspect of the dark side of school life (Witch, The Pack, Out of Mind, Out of Sight). This time it’s a heavy-handed “don’t take steroids, they’ll frak you up” message, with a realistic portrayal of other unpleasant things that surround school sports: ruthless, over-ambitious coaches (something that The Pack already touched on), the entitlement and arrogance of the members of the sports-team (including the pressure put on the teachers to give them better grades even if they are blatantly disinterested in studying or homework), sexism and rape culture. Well, “realistic” apart from that thing where this particular brand of steroids (mixed with fish DNA) makes the swimmers literally turn into fish monsters similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon (which actually gets name-checked). Incidentally, it just occurred to me that this kind of story about humans turning into mutans after being injected some other species’ DNA is exactly the kind of story I hate when Star Trek does it – but BtVS is a whole different story, since it’s not a science fiction show and never pretends to take the “science” of it seriously; it’s a fantasy and it’s all about the metaphor. First we see at the athletes have been acting as aggressive jerks because of the steroids (psychological effects, just the same as in real life), then we see them turn physically into monsters (the disastrous effect of steroids on the body).

Another reason why the episode would fit easily in season 1 is that it’s light in tone and full of quips, despite some seriously messed-up things that happen in it. And this is the problem with the episode: it disrupts the flow of the season, just before the big two-part finale, and it doesn’t really feel like it belongs in the midst of the “Angelus” arc. Phases and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered managed to be lighter standalones that still had dark subplots that kept the tension going; Killed by Death was a bit less successful; but his episode fails in it. Angel(us) appears in one forgettable scene, isn’t particularly scary and doesn’t seem like the guy who’s about to decide to destroy the world. He just has a talk with Gage, talking about Buffy as his psycho ex-girlfriend, before trying to bite and sire Gage, apparently because he’s recruiting people who could help him with killing Buffy. Has he run out of minions or what? And the point of the scene is just to reveal that there’s something wrong with Gage’s blood because Angel is disgusted with it, and to make Gage have a change of heart when he understands that Buffy is the one to protect him from the forces of evil.

You gotta love the way Gage (one of Wentworth Miller’s early roles) immediately asks Buffy to walk him home (gender inversion again! And a U-turn from the previous sexism shown by the swim team). But just as we start to care about him, contrary to the expectations he turns out to be one of those people Buffy couldn’t save, since it was already too late. I don’t think I saw the twist coming the first time (though the title is a bit of a clue, if you get that it’s a pun: the Scoobies are going “fishing” for information, but at the same time it literally describes what happens to the swim team), that rather than getting eaten by a fish monster the boys are becoming monsters. One of the best moments is before the reveal when there’s ominous music and a dark figure approaching Gage – which we think is the monster, but it turns out it’s just the coach… who, as we’ll later learn, is the real monster in the story. (Double bluff!) I also like how deluded and insane the coach is – that he’s convinced he really is doing the best for his boys and that there’s nothing in the world more important than winning a game against another school.

Buffy’s decision to never date again didn’t last longer than an episode – she agrees to go out on a date with Cameron, one of the swim team members, and not because she’s incredibly into him, but just because he seemed nice at first (he starts off by condemning his teammate’s bullying of Jonathan), was rather good-looking and showed an interest in her. But it doesn’t go well since she finds him really boring, constantly talking about nothing but swimming. And then, like so many of the guys Buffy tries to date because they seem nice, he turns out to be a jerk (only in this case, the further exposure to the steroids might have been a reason for his change in behavior) – and a date-rapist. Of course, Buffy breaks his nose before he can do anything, but for the majority of women, who don’t have her supernatural strength, that scene probably would have ended differently. What follows, though, is something that sadly lots of women go through – she’s blamed by the authority figures for daring to defend herself, and for “leading on” her attacker in the first place and “dressing inappropriately”. They would have no doubt have said the same if she had been raped, particularly when the rapist is a star athlete. But while I appreciate the brutal realism here and I can see Snyder and the coach acting that way, the part I find hard to believe is the reaction, or rather lack of it, of the Scoobies (see Worst scene).

There are some moments in this episode that feel particularly disturbing and uncomfortable exactly because those seriously frakked-up things (one attempted gang-rape and one actual rape or murder) are treated lightly and with jokes. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing, i.e. if it was done intentionally (good writing) or not (bad writing). After the coach throws Buffy in the pool to be gang-raped by his fish-monsters, while she’s desperately trying to save herself, she makes a joke to herself that her reputation will suffer even more if people say she “did it’ with the entire swim team. I think this was gallows humor on Buffy’s part – and a reminder that, if she got gang-raped, a bunch of people would probably be saying that she was “asking for it”, like it happens to so many girls. So that is probably an example of the former. But then when the coach ends up in the pool himself, and is either getting gang-raped or eaten of-screen - or most likely first the former, then the latter (Buffy’s remark that “the boys really love their coach!” seems to be hinting at the former, but the script mentions “sounds of eating”), it’s portrayed light-heartedly – Buffy and Xander do seem shocked, but Xander is almost grinning and Buffy makes the above mentioned remark. It’s not the first time that a villain has gotten a “just rewards” punishment – the zoo-keeper getting eaten by the hyenas in The Pack, Amy’s mother getting transformed into a statue in Witch – and Buffy can’t be blamed since she did try to save the coach … but this time it seems like the episode is playing it like the audience is supposed to be enjoying the fulfillment of a revenge fantasy. I can’t say that I felt sorry for the coach, but I certainly didn’t feel that what happened to him was something to laugh at or enjoy, either – and the idea that someone would is rather creepy. (But then, look at the way the world media have been enjoying the horrific Gaddafi torture-and-death-snuff….)

A couple of interesting things about this episode: Jonathan appears once again, predictably as a victim, bullied by the swim team guy who was the first to go fish. He gets angry at Buffy for saving him (just like Xander in Halloween – being saved by the girl is what they see as the ultimate blow to their reputation) and later takes revenge at the team – by peeing in the pool. (The Sopranos would later have a very similar plot in one of the episodes). This is the 6th episode Jonathan has appeared in so far:
  • Inca Mummy Girl: Ampata’s intended victim, saved accidentally when Xander showed up
  • Reptile Boy: Cordelia takes him on a ‘date’ to the Bronze to console herself
  • What’s My Line, part 2: taken as a hostage by the ‘policewoman’ from the Order of Taraka, clueless about what’s going on
  • Bad Eggs: one of the students possessed by the Bezoar eggs,
  • Passion: he and another student come to the library to look for books
  • Go Fish
I talked about the high mortality rate of the school in my previous review – and it’s mentioned in the very first scene of this episode!

Cordelia: It's about time our school excelled at something.
Willow: Hmm. You're forgetting our high mortality rate.

Indeed, let’s see:

Dead staff members:
  • Dr Gregory, the biology teacher eaten by the insect lady (Teacher’s Pet)
  • Principal Flutie, eaten by his students… err, wild dogs (The Pack)
  • Jenny Calendar (Passion)
  • Ms. Frank, the teacher shot by the janitor (I Only Have Eyes For You)
  • Nurse Greenleigh, thrown by the coach Marin into the pool to get eaten by his boys/monsters (Go Fish)
  • Coach Marin, eaten/raped to death by his boys/monsters (Go Fish)
  • Plus “Ms. French”, who was the insect lady.
Dead/disappeared students:
  • Boy killed by Darla (Welcome to the Hellmouth)
  • Jesse (The Harvest)
  • Dave and Fritz (I Robot, You Jane)
  • Emily and Morgan (The Puppet Show)
  • Kevin and two other boys (The Prophecy Girl)
  • Sheila (though she was sired and we don’t know if she ever got staked; but she’s dead as far as her family, friends and school know) and probably others during the attack on the school (School Hard); one of the victims was probably a parent, or maybe teacher (the ‘no veal’ guy killed by Spike).
  • Rodney Munson (Inca Mummy Girl)
  • The real Ampata, the exchange student – seriously, how did they explain it to his family in Peru?
  • Ford (Lie to Me)
  • Theresa (Phases)
  • The four members of the swim team, who didn’t die but did become monsters and swam into the sea – as far as the school knows, they probably are listed as dead, or at least disappeared
  • Marcie Ross, who must be still listed as disappeared, even though she’s really with the secret government organization.
Snyder really must be doing one hell of a job to cover up all this!

Best lines: Nothing that stands out, but there are lots of one-liners. Willow’s remark about the mortality rate; Xander’s comment that the athletes were always privileged: “The discus throwers got the best seats at all the crucifixions”. Cordelia again gets to voice her specific views about what society should be like:

Xander: "What about that nutty 'all men are created equal' thing?
Cordelia: Propaganda spouted out by the ugly and less deserving.

Cordelia is still used to express all the wrong views, and gets to be almost cartoonishly and comically callous once more, when – just like Snyder – she only cares for the apparent deaths of the swimmers because it would hurt the school’s winning chances. But later she is humanized (though again in a comical way) by showing feelings for Xander, when she believes for a moment that Xander has turned into a monster:

Cordelia: Oh my God, Xander! It’s me, Cordelia. I know you can’t answer me, but… God, this is all my fault. You joined the swim team to impress me. You were really courageous. And you looked so hot in those Speedos.I want you to know that I still care about you, no matter what you look like. And-and we can still date. Or-or not. I mean, I understand if you wanna see other fish. I'll do everything I can to make your quality of life better, whether that means little bath toys or whatever..

Worst lines/scene:
The worst scene is definitely when Buffy is telling the Scoobies about Cameron and how she was treated as the bad guy, and they are completely disinterested and looking at her with annoyance, like why is she even talking about it instead of getting to the serious business of helping them with the research. Giles even asks her that outright. It just seems out of character for Giles, Willow and Xander. And the light tone seems to suggest that we’re supposed to agree with them. Like it’s such a trivial matter that someone was going to sexually assault Buffy. I suppose, since she can take care of herself and she wasn’t traumatized because she was in no danger since the guy was a non-superpowered human weaker than her, this means that assaulting her is no big deal, like it doesn’t even merit to be considered an unpleasantness that they can find a few minutes to listen about. If I get a black belt in martial arts, will I become “too strong” to get raped/killed, so if someone attacks me, the police won’t need to arrest him and I’ll need to shut up about it?

A few other stupid lines: Cameron’s lame explanation why he won’t beat up Xander: „You're lucky I'm hungry“. What, he couldn’t punch him and then go to the cafeteria? Buffy’s line after Gage figures out she’s lying about being a swim team groupie: „obviously my sex appeal is on the fritz today, so I'll just give it to you straight.” Eh? It’s not a question of sex appeal, but of her totally unconvincing lie.

Cordelia’s insult that Xander “ran like a woman” would certainly be the worst line in the episode if spoken by someone else; but since Cordelia is still a spokesperson for anti-feminist views, it’s in-character. Plus the stereotype is mocked in the same scene when she goes on to tell Xander he should “practice how to run like a man”.

Buffy bad liar: Her attempt to pretend that she’s a “swim groupie” to explain why she’s following Gage.

Buffy-speak/Destroying the English language: This time Buffy is starting to use Giles-speak („from whence it came“) and is shocked to realize that.

Shirtless scene: Xander gets a scene just in his speedo, with the slow motion and sexy music as the camera is going upwards and revealing his muscular legs and well shaped chest – before revealing who he is, provoking surprise in Cordelia and snickering and fun from Willow and Buffy. Funny that Cordy finds it easier to show her appreciation of his body while she thinks he’s a stranger, then when she knows he’s Xander, as if she can’t consciously think about Xander as hot, even though she’s obviously attracted to him since they’ve been making out for months. (But as this proves, they haven’t seen each other naked.) Of course, we also see Gage and a few other swim team members in their speedoin the locker room, but without the same “sexy” treatment.

This makes 3 shirtless scenes for Xander, 1 for Oz, and 6 (in 5 episodes) for Angel (he was shirtless in a scene from I Only Have Eyes For You which I forgot to mention, where he’s washing himself, disgusted by having had love in him – but unlike his other shirtless scenes, it wasn’t meant to be sexy).

What the slashy heck: Xander says it’s great to be in a room full of sweaty half-naked guys (!).

Pop culture references: Abbott and Costello, The A-Team, Jaws, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Blue Lagoon, all referenced by Xander. (Or rather, Cordy confuses Blue Lagoon with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, which makes Xander correct the mistake and explain that “the creature from the Blue Lagoon” is Brooke Shields.)

Foreshadowing (?): After having seen season 6, it just doesn’t feel the same when you’re watching Willow “interrogate” Jonathan and ask him if he wanted to get a revenge by using black magic to summon evil.

Rating: 2.5
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Last edited by DevilEyes; October 31 2011 at 06:30 AM.
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Old November 13 2011, 01:42 AM   #75
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

So there it is, finally, the season 2 two-part finale. This season has been really amazing, especially its second part, or more precisely the arc about Angel losing his soul and going bad; and Becoming is a near-perfect finale.

There is a big theme of Destiny vs Free will running through this two-parter. As the title says, it is all about transformation, about becoming someone/something else; but part 1 is full of flashbacks that show people becoming something new due to fate, to circumstances they couldn’t control, to something that someone else did to them, or to an intervention of higher powers, while the present day plot is about what is done to our heroes, the situation they’ve been put in – while part 2 is about people making their own choices, choosing how to deal with the situation they’ve been put in.



Review for Becoming I coming up...
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