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|February 21 2012, 07:35 AM||#136|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
3.04. Beauty and the Beasts
After the reveal of the last scene of Faith, Hope and Trick, this episode naturally deals with Buffy learning about Angel’s return, while at the same time it’s a sequel of sorts to Phases – as it’s only the second episode to deal with Oz’s werewolfishness and takes place during the 3 days he needs to be locked up in a cage. There are three eponymous “beasts” - Oz, Angel, and Pete, the actual villain of the episode. A werewolf, a vampire and a secretly enhanced human (sounds either like a fairytale, or like a beginning of a joke). There’s a victim of a brutal murder that looks like a work of a vicious animal, and the narrative plays with the possible suspects. Just like in Phases, there’s a murder victim and the suspicion first falls on Wolf!Oz, but again it’s not him (if that were the case, we’d have a guilt-ridden Oz, which the show didn’t need at the time) but this time it’s not Angel, either.
This episode is hated in some quarters, but I think it’s better than most people give it credit for. It s a dark episode that deals with themes of the monster/man duality, which are some of the themes running through the entire show. A popular complaint about the episode is that it’s preachy with its message about abusive relationships, but I don’t think that’s fair. The story about Pete and Debbie is a textbook example of an abusive man and his battered female partner (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, BtVS has had lots of stories mirroring real life) but this is not a Lifetime movie – Pete/Debbie serves as a compare and contrast to the much more complicated Angel/Buffy relationship (just as the Oz/Willow relationships does, on the other side. The episode asks the questions, but the resolution and any messages we may get from it about Buffy’s own life and Buffy/Angel are very ambiguous. And it has an ending that people might see as darkly romantic and even cheesy, but that on this latest rewatch feels deliberately unresolved and unsettling.
Some people accuse this episode of being misandric, just based on the fact that Faith says that all men are beasts deep inside and “in it for the chase”. I find that quite odd, since there’s no reason to think that any character is the voice of the author – let alone Faith (few people think that we’re supposed to take everything comes out of her mouth as gospel truth when, for instance, in Consequences – also written by Marti Noxon, who wrote this episode – she says that Slayers are betters than everyone and should be above the law). It’s just one character’s opinion, and it’s a character who is heavily hinted to have come from an abusive background and had bad experiences with men (which she mentions a few episodes later in Revelations), who doesn't trust people, who treats relationships as something where you can be either a victim or an abuser, and who, as we see later, treats men in the same abusive way (Consequences). Incidentally, we already saw characters give „all men are beasts“ speeches in season 2 Phases - that time it was Buffy, coming on from a terrible experience with Angel in Innocence; this was obviously temporary since in this episode she calls Faith’s views cynical.
Faith has a small role here and appears just in a few scenes, but she and Buffy have become really friendly (which is both nice to see, and sad, knowing how things will turn out), and she seems so happy and carefree while listening to loud music while watching over Oz. There are just little signs of darkness, like her cynical attitude about men. Buffy is now even discussing boys with Faith the way she used to with Willow. Except that Willow wouldn’t ask Buffy if she and Scott are „kicking the gearshift“ (is that some euphemism for sex?) and if Buffy if Scott makes her hot (or in Faith’s words, if he gives her „that down-low tickle“). It’s pretty obvious from the way she talks about him that she doesn’t. („Yeah, I guess... How low?“) She’s trying to muster enthusiasm for the guy, but it’s not a good sign for a relationship when the most positive and appealing quality you can find in a guy is the absence of something negative (according to Buffy, the best thing about Scott is that he’s not any kind of hellbeast). It’s Faith describes Scott as „quite a muffin“ and Buffy adds he’s like a blueberry muffin „with crunchy-munchy stuff on top“. Geez, that’s so sexy – not. That’s like an 8-year old talking.
She obviously thinks that dating some guy is necessary as a sign that she’s moving on from her Angel trauma, since one of the first things she tells the school psychologist she has to see as a part of adjustment to the school is „I’m even seeing someone new“. The psychologist, Platt, is for a change, an intelligent and helpful authority figure good at his job, which was a sure sign he was doomed. (Plus, he’s one of the few black people on the show, and he smokes, two more obvious signs.) He helps Buffy by telling her that what she was going through (minus the supernatural stuff, which she, of course, didn’t tell him about) is something a lot of people go through and that she shouldn’t blame herself. While Faith was telling her how all men are beasts, Platt tells her that everyone has their own issues and demons. Platt’s conversation with Buffy contains the most memorable lines of the episode, since he more or less outlines some of the main themes of the show. “Demons can be fought. People can change. You can change.” His words are aimed at convincing Buffy that she can move on and resolve her problems, but when Buffy discovers that Angel is back, it gains the double meaning – a question whether Buffy’s vampire ex-lover can change and fight the demon inside. Platt also has this to say about unhealthy, codependent relationships (a message he probably also told Debbie, which would explain why she didn’t like some of the things he said, and why Pete had such a problem with the guy):
Platt: Lots of people lose themselves in love. It’s no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is: you can’t stay lost. Sooner or later, you have to get back to yourself.
Buffy: But if you can’t?
Platt: Love becomes your master, and you’re just its dog.
It’s interesting to compare this line with Spike’s famous line from Lovers Walk “I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it”. But this is also a very meaningful dialogue because, for the rest of the show, we’ll get to see Buffy becoming less willing to take emotional risks when it comes to romance, trying not to be “love’s dog” again, with variable and questionable results.
When Buffy, to her shock, runs into Angel while she’s hunting for the killer, she finds out he’s become like a wild animal. I think that was a good way to deal with his return – it makes sense that he wouldn’t be sane after being tortured in hell for hundreds of years. The next episodes made him regain his sanity way too fast. Buffy will keep the secret of Angel’s return until 3.7. Revelations, but she comes close to telling Giles here, telling him instead that she dreamed of Angel coming back, and questioning him about hell dimensions and what Angel would be like „if“ he returned. Giles admits he dreamed about Jenny being alive for a long time. I wonder if the mention of her name made Buffy even less comfortable with telling Giles. In this episode, it’s actually quite understandable that she’s worried that Angel might be the killer, but that she wants to find out first and is scared that the Scoobies might jump to conclusions and want him dead immediately (Xander probably would – and the fact that Buffy believes that Willow told Xander to give her the message „Kick his ass“ is probably influencing her decision not to tell the Scoobies about Angel). The one person she wanted to tell, Platt, got murdered before she got a chance to.
Scott’s friends Debbie and Pete are introduced as a saccharine sweet couple, which in this show usually means that something’s not right. Buffy’s bland rebound boyfriend is a bit more likeable and manages to even be genuinely funny for a moment, but Buffy is already in the stage of pulling away and acting uncomfortable with his attention, and I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a sign of how she’s distracted by Angel’s return, but it looks a lot like the way you’d react to the attention of a guy you’re really not that into. Pete refers to Buffy as „manic depressive chick“, another sign of what people in the school think about her.
Buffy and Willow are now in the same position, even though Willow and the others don’t know it. As Willow points out to Buffy, now it’s her boyfriend who may be the vicious killer. Oz was the first suspect, due to the fact that Xander fell asleep while watching his cage and that the window was open the night of the first murder. (It’s really convenient that nobody ever comes to check what’s going on in the library and doesn’t notice that there’s a naked student locked in a cage.) Speaking of which, Xander acts a bit flirtatious and shows some jealousy over Willow and Oz, which may be a setup for the Willow/Xander fling that begins in the next episode, but on Willow’s side, I don’t see such a setup since she seems completely in love with Oz. Both Oz and Angel are cleared of suspicion when it’s revealed that Platt, the second victim, was killed during the day. Willow has a really adorable moment when she shouts „YES!“ to that news, before quickly correcting herself „I mean, it’s awful...“
Giles told Buffy that there were two kinds of monsters – those who can respond to reason and love and can be redeemed, and those who can’t. Of the three “beasts” in this episode, only Pete is portrayed as irredeemable. Pete's characterization is dead-on accurate portayal of a real life abuser, if I go by my mother's account of her abusive first husband's behavior: outwardly charming, but really deeply insecure, and pathologically jealous and possessive as a result. Oz is a super-nice guy and perfect boyfriend when not in wolf shape, and he really doesn’t have any control over his wolf side. Pete is on the other end of the spectrum: he devised a potion to turn himself into a monster out of the desire to be more masculine for his girlfriend, but after a while he didn’t even need the potion – his monstrous nature was a part of who he was. After an abusive episode, he turns ’nice’ and loving again, but the fact that he blames Debbie for provoking him ruins any shred of sympathy he might have. Where does that leave Angel? Somewhere in between, it’s just ambiguous where exactly. But the ending of the episode portrays him as capable of redemption, and he’s the one to defeat Pete. Pete is a man who decided to be a monster, while Angel is a monster trying to be a man, and on BtVS, the latter is typically more sympathetic and morally superior to the former (see also: Warren and Spike).
When he kills Pete, saves Buffy and then literally falls at Buffy’s feet and whispers her name – his first word since coming back from hell – it’s a very melodramatic moment, but also unsettling; Buffy is obviously deeply moved, but there’s angst on her face, not happiness; like she knows that the pain and drama she tried to left behind is back into her life. I remember a discussion on LJ about the resolution of this episode: what does it mean and is it disturbing that Buffy doesn’t manage to defeat Pete and that Angel saves her instead; not in the sense that Buffy is a superwoman who can defeat everyone, but in the sense that the monsters are representations of real life problems. One of the few monsters Buffy can’t defeat is Pete, the representation of Bad Boyfriend; it takes another Bad Boyfriend – Buffy’s own, redeemable one – to kill Pete. One of the main reasons why Buffy’s arc in season 3 is unsatisfying is that she never actually manages to properly deal with her season 2 trauma or to resolve her relationship with Angel either way; she doesn’t even have control over how it ends in season 3, Angel is the one who makes that decision. In that light, this resolution might be perfectly appropriate.
Here’s one awesome detail I’ve noticed - in the scene where Buffy is lecturing Debbie about abusive relationships, pay attention to the really interesting poster on the locker room behind Buffy:
“MOST WOMEN AREN’T ATTRACTED TO DEAD GUYS” (!!!)
Debbie is battered woman who’s „lost herself“ and protecting her abuser, and who sadly ends up killed by him. A cautionary tale, and it’s a pretty straightforward one if we ignore the subtext and see Buffy as a neutral party who’s just telling Debbie the harsh and necessary truth. „While you guys enjoy your grim fairy-tale, two people are dead.“ Someone could say something similar about Buffy and Angel. (And in fact, Xander does say something similar a few times.) „Anybody who really loved you couldn’t do this to you.“ It’s a lot more interesting to see Buffy talking about this in the light of her inability to address the things Angel did in season 2. And all the more when we know that 3 years later she’ll get herself involved against her better judgment in another abusive relationship, in which she’ll be both victim and abuser. And then there’s season 8...
The episode ends with Scott’s words that you never really know what’s going on inside someone, even if you care for them, and a segue to the last scene of Buffy in Angel’s mansion, watching him asleep, with Buffy’s voice over from Call of the Wild: „ Night came on, and a full moon rose high over the trees, lighting the land till it lay bathed in ghostly day… and the strain of the primitive remained alive and active. Faithfulness and devotion, things born of fire and roof, were his; yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. And from the depths of the forest - the call still sounded." The obvious meaning seems to be that Buffy is thinking about the fact that she doesn’t really know what’s in Angel’s mind and heart, and about the duality of his devotion to her and his demonic nature. But I can’t help but think that it may also refer to Buffy’s own „wild“ and disturbing impulses, despite her her good girl personality and devotion to her friends and family, and to the fact that she’s keeping secrets from them and that they don’t really know what’s going on inside her.
Mr. Platt: Look, Buffy, any person—grown-up, shrink... Pope—any person who claims to be totally sane is either lying or not very bright.
Buffy: We have a marching jazz band?
Oz: Yeah, but, you know, since the best jazz is improvisational, we'd be going off in all directions, bumping into floats... scary.
Willow: He's just being Oz.
Oz: Pretty much full time.
Fashion watch: This is something I really should have been doing since the pilot, but in this season the fashion choices of the characters (particularly Buffy and Faith, since the others are dressing rather consistently) are really something I have to comment on episode by episode.Everyone is dressing better than in the previous episode: Faith’s clothes are not so trashy, she’s dressed as a rock chick in jeans and leather, and Buffy’s clothes are less mom-like, but she wears a lot of pastel colors and at one time has a flower in her hair. It’s like this season she’s dressing either too young or too old for her age and far less sexy than in season 1 and 2 wardrobe. On the positive side, while slaying she’s again (for the first time since season 2) wearing her leather jacket that Angel gave her in Teacher's Pet and that she usually wore while going to slay. The pastel dresses and flowers are for girly Buffy, the Leather Jacket of Slaying is a sign of decisive badass Buffy.
Shirtless scene: Angel spends the entire episode shirtless, but, amazingly, he has his pants on. It’s good to know that even in his wild state he managed to get his pants on. Did he take the pants off of some human, or did the hell dimension drop him a suitcase with clothes?
What the slashy heck: Another one of “sexually insecure Xander” remarks:Xander says he can handle Oz’s full monty nudity and then quickly adds: “I mean, not ‘handle’ handle, like hands to flesh handle”.
Pop culture references: The fairytale Beauty and the Beast; that story is about a monster who’s really has a good heart beneath the beastly exterior and turns out to be a cursed human prince. I’m not sure that anyone in this episode fits that description, though Oz comes the closest, and Pete is pretty much the opposite. Pete is compared to Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Incredible Hulk. Call of the Wild is quoted in Buffy’s voice overs at the beginning and end of the episode, and it the book Willow reads to wolf!Oz to calm him down. Willow says saying that the book seems to “soothe the savage beast”, which is a popular misquote of William Congreve’s line “music has charms to soothe the savage breast”. (The misquote sounds so much better.) Grimm fairy-tales. The Full Monty (Willow says she hasn’t seen Oz’s full monty, just half a monty). Faith references Manimal, apparently a TV show and one I’ve never heard about: “Every guy from Manimal to Mr. I-love-English Patient is the same”.
|February 23 2012, 06:08 AM||#137|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Good things about this episode: it finally introduces the Mayor, probably my favorite villain in the verse (if we don’t count Spike or Faith as villains). One of the things that the main plot centers on is really entertaining - Mr. Trick organizing “SlayerFest ‘98”, a contest to kill Buffy and Faith, which results in Buffy and Cordy fighting a bunch of colorful human and demon characters. And for some really good news: Scott Hope dumps Buffy and that’s the last we see of him (yay! ).
Bad things: or rather, just one but a huge one. It’s the beginning of what is possibly my least favorite storyline in the entire show, and the one I’d most like to remove from canon, which is not just because I’ve always hated it, but because I’ve never found it convincing. And I had to endure it for 3 more episodes after this one.
Neutral things: the other thing that the plot is about is the competition for the Homecoming Queen, one of those American high school traditions that I just don’t get. They really have official popularity contests in schools? Creepy. And what is a Homecoming Queen, anyway? On the other hand, the episode derives some fun from the silliness of it all. It’s also an opportunity to have Buffy and Cordy square off and deal with their issues with each other, but for this purpose, Cordy’s characterization and their dynamic have been reverted to what they were like at the end of season 1.
All in all, an average episode by BtVS standards.
This is where the Willow/Xander fling starts, with the “clothes fluke” - since they supposedly found themselves irresistibly attracted to each ohter because he wore a suit and she wore a long black dress. Which makes very little sense. (It’s certainly a contrast to Oz, who found Willow attractive the first time he saw her even though she was in an Eskimo suit.) What’s worse, the scene is set to one of those incredibly cheesy songs you hear on teen shows like Dawson’s Creek.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t enjoy storylines about people doing wrong things, quite the opposite, I love it when we see that main characters have flaws. And why am I so upset with this when people have done far worse things over the course of the show? I admit that a lot of my annoyance was because I really liked the Willow/Oz relationship, and to a lesser extent Xander/Cordy, but the main reason is that I never found this plot believable. I could see them having one kiss, due to the fact she used to have a crush on him for a long time and that he seems to have started to see her differently when she found a boyfriend. But the idea of the two of them being so attracted to each other that they're carrying on behind Oz's and Cordy's backs is something I'm really not buying. I believed it when Xander and Cordy couldn't keep their hands off each other, but I just find the idea of Xander and Willow lusting after each other a bit funny. Their relationship was always been sexless, even when they were about to kiss in When She Was Bad they seemed like two 8-year olds, and I'm not seeing any more sexual chemistry/attraction between them now. Their kisses aren't even portrayed as sexy, they are made to look cute – even though they're cheating. I certainly don't see such a big attraction that would make Willow betray Oz and risk hurting him.
Becoming II would've been a great resolution to the storyline of Willow having a crush on Xander. Why did W/X in season 3 happen? I can come up with Doylist reasons: Joss wanted to give the Willow/Xander shippers what they wanted in the worst possible way, and had to contrive a way to ruin the Xander/Cordy ship, because Cordy was supposed to go to the Angel spinoff starting the next year. On the Watsonian level, it's much more difficult. I can find some reasons for Xander's sudden sexual interest in Willow. He was used to being the most important guy in Willow's life, he showed jealousy of Oz a few times in season 2; then the possibility of losing Willow when she was injured and in a coma made him realize how much she meant to him and he told her ILY, though I think he wasn't sure if it was romantic or friendly. However, she showed who was the most important man in her life now when she asked for Oz, not Xander. It boils down to wanting what he can't have, and Willow now has a boyfriend so he's starting to see her as a sexual being rather than a platonic childhood friend. Plus, his feelings for Cordy don't seem as strong as hers for him. I have a harder time believing that Willow would do it. Yes, she had a crush on Xander for a long time, but she seemed so in love with Oz since Phases up till this episode. Maybe after thinking for so long that nobody liked her, she's just enjoying sudden attention from two guys - two guys she really likes - and enjoying the feeling of doing something forbidden (even though a few episodes ago she didn't even dare have lunch outside of school premises). The best explanation (fanwank?) I've read so far is that they were both afraid of growing up and having real relationships, so they were subconsciously undermining them by turning to their childhood friend. Another one, based on later revelations/retcons about Willow's sexuality, is that she felt that even though she finally had a boyfriend and was in love with him, she didn't exactly feel the kind of passion she thought girls feel in romantic relationships with boys, and that she was trying to find that through an illicit 'affair'. But the very fact I have to work hard to make sense of it shows what's wrong with this story.
Angel is not wild anymore – though he's not yet his normal self either, he's not looking at Buffy and not speaking either, except for a single word; this time it's repeating Giles's name when Buffy mentioned him, with an expression of guilt that shows he remembers what he did in season 2 (which from his perspective happened hundreds years ago?). He only has a big emotional reaction when Buffy tells him she's dating someone new (she seemed to think he would be glad to know that she was doing well). Buffy uncharacteristically recoils from him as if she's scared – maybe she's still not sure if he's over his wild beast phase. But he just touches her leather jacket – the one he originally gave her in Teacher's Pet. I like this scene with Angel's non-verbal reactions, it's quite emotional and Angel's more interesting here than he will be in the next episodes when he starts acting completely normally. Buffy describes Scott as someone she can trust (she talks about him in a similar way she'll talk about Riley in season 4) and says that he makes her happy – which must mean that she's started to confuse the absence of angst with real happiness. Then we get the segue into the next scene – Scott dumping Buffy, a perfect moment of irony. His reason for breaking up is that Buffy used to be full of life, like a force of nature, before they started going out, and that she's now 'distracted'. I'm not sure if we're supposed to think that it's Angel's return that's caused this, but I've always thought that the relationship with Scott was itself a big part of the reason, because trying to date someone you're not enthusiastic about tends to be uncomfortable, and because she couldn't tell him anything about her problems and secrets. If we take this is Scott dumping Buffy because she isn't as fun as he thought she would be, then he looks like a real jerk, but if we take it as Scott having realized that Buffy really isn't in the relationship and that it's just killing her spirit, he seems perfectly reasonable. (Season 7 had a fun but unnecessary retcon about Scott, making him a jerk who told people Buffy was gay after the breakup, until he came out himself.)
I love this exchange:
Faith: Oh, man! Guys should break up with you more often.
Buffy: Gee, thank you.
Faith: No, I mean it. You really got some quality rage going. Really gives you an edge.
Faith is being a good friend to Buffy in her own way – she immediately calls Scott names, suggests to Buffy that they go and have fun, picking up some studs and discarding them (in a typical Faith way, as we'll later see), and you gotta love the way she goes to get revenge in Buffy's name on the „sleezebag“ when she sees him with some other girl at the homecoming, pretending that she's his ex who gave him an STD.
Being dumped by the rebound guy, learning that her favorite teacher doesn't remember her, and missing the photoshoot for the Yearbook all get Buffy to the point where she decides to compete with Cordy for the title of the Homecoming Queen. It's her way of trying to prove herself that she has a life and impact on people beyond killing monsters. And a part of that is sheer defiance because of Cordy's mean behavior. This episode is mostly about Buffy working out her issues with Cordy – who's her dark mirror/embodiment of her past, the shallow but popular girl from Hemery High before she found out she was a Slayer – before the rest of the seasons focuses on Buffy's issues with Faith, who's another the embodiment of the dark side of the Slayer. But to set that up, the writers made Cordy act a lot more like her season 1 self, and the Buffy/Cordy dynamic here comes straight out of Out of Mind, Out of Sight and Reptile Boy. Cordy hasn't been this mean since mid-way through season 2, and she really deals a low blow when she mocks Buffy for being from a single-parent home. Which doesn't bring out the best in Buffy, either – she replies to Cordy's „crazy freak“ insult by calling her „vapid whore“.
After this unpleasant moment, we get comedic displays of the stupidity of the homecoming queen vote, with Buffy and Cordy conducting their 'campaigns', i.e. sucking up to people and bribing them with presents. The similarities to political campaigns are played up for fun – Buffy is really treating it as seriously as if she's going to win an important public office, down to assigning tasks to her 'team' – until they refuse to work on the 'campaign' – and writing a list of her rivals' strengths and weaknesses on a board.
I used the pause button because I was curious what all the pros and cons on Buffy's board were, it's quite amusing. Let's see:
popular with boys
makes friends easily
has money to buy votes
bad in sports
no sense of humor
too much makeup
good in sports
Brie? What’s that about? I love how „always studying“ is both bad and good. And „no boyfriend“ seriously ruins your status – it’s not surprising that Buffy and Willow can’t imagine that Buffy might try to move on with her life by being single for a while instead of dating the first dude who shows an interest in her. But a ’loser/geek’ boyfriend can also hurt your chances.
Oddly enough, Buffy didn’t list the reason why I think Cordy never had a chance of winning any popularity contest – she’s just too mean to people, except for those select few who follow her around or those she wants to impress. A week of sucking up to everyone and giving them money and presents can’t erase years of verbal bullying, and the ballot is secret, so she can’t check if those who took her money really voted for her. Buffy didn’t have a chance either, since she doesn’t socialize much outside of her circle of friends, many people probably still think she’s weird and a little scary... though we see later in The Prom that more and more people were realizing that she fights monsters and protects people; but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a title such as the homecoming queen. Maybe even those people were wondering why Buffy would even need such a title, as Cordy does in this episode.
When it comes to the recurring characters introduced in this episode, the most important thing is that we finally get to see Mayor Richard Wilkins III. He’s not yet as funny as he’ll be in the rest of the season, but he’s immediately interesting with his cheery attitude, obsession with cleanliness, and affable persona that is in sharp contrast with his activities, and if we needed any confirmation just how evil he is, we get it at the end of the episode when he hires Mr. Trick because of the „initiative“ he showed trying to get the two Slayers killed, and explains that he needs someone to take care of the the Slayers. We also get to meet Mayor’s ill-fated deputy Allen Finch, a timid man who is clearly afraid of his boss – and who will end up accidentally killed by Faith in Bad Girls.
Mr. Trick continues to be a fun villain, and has some of the best lines and moments of the episode, including another reference to the fact that he’s one of the rare black people on the show: „If this is the part where you tell me I don’t fit here in your little neighborhood, you can just skip it, cause, you see, that got old long before I became a vampire, you know what I’m sayin’?“ Besides Trick, there’s another vampire character returning after a long time (no, not that one – not yet): Lyle Gorch, the comic Texan outlaw, this time with a wife called Candy, a Texan stereotype herself. They are among the group of colorful characters participating in Trick’s SlayerFest ’98 – something that they’re apparently paying large sums of money for (Trick is a good businessman!). It’s interesting that there are both demons and humans among the participants: a vampire couple (the Gorches); a demon played by an actor with the silliest line delivery ever and something on his head that looks a bit like a Mohawk, who introduces himself as Kulak of the Miquot clan*; a human werewolf hunter; and a group of human terrorists - German twins who kinda look like Dolph Lundgren, and their old British boss with his technological know-how.
After Buffy and Cordy end up riding to the homecoming in the same limo, because the other Scoobies arranged it to make them solve their issues, participants mistake Cordy for Faith (who was originally going to be Buffy’s... ’date’), since they’ve never seen Faith. Buffy and Cordy have to run for their lives and fight (well, Buffy fights) and in the meantime get to work out their issues with each other. While Buffy sees the title of homecoming queen as a way to have some sort of life outside slaying monsters, Cordy can’t understand why Buffy would even care about these things. She wouldn’t want to admit it, but she probably secretly envies Buffy, who gets to do something really important; and in Cordy’s mind, things like school popularity contests are Cordy’s territory, something that Buffy shouldn’t be trying to move into. It’s all a lot like the Buffy/Cordy scene in Out of Mind, Out of Sight, where the two of them come to understand each other better. Cordy also lets it slip that she loves Xander – in her words, she’s not sure if it’s some „temporary insanity“ that’s made her think she loved him. (Oh the painful irony of her admitting that in the same episode when Xander is starting to cheat on her.) In the end, the hunter gets trapped in his own trap, the demon gets blown up, Candy accidentally stakes herself since she’s too dumb to live, and Lyle runs away, after Cordy gets her moment of awesome, scaring him off through sheer attitude and making him believe she’s a Slayer much scarier than Buffy. And Buffy uses her smarts again to make the two Lundgren guys shoot each other by mistake. What a useless bunch that was, but at least Trick got some money out of it.
The ending is good because it subverts the usual corny endings to such stories – Buffy and Cordy still want to beat other other for the ’crown’, after everything they’ve been through; when it’s announced that there’s a tie, we expect it to be a tie between Buffy and Cordy with a lesson about how they’re both awesome etc., but instead it’s the two other girls.
A few other things to mention: Jonathan makes another appearance (during the campaign, he’s enjoying in the cookies that he bought with the money Cordy gave him) and so does Oz’s band Dingoes Ate My Baby (actually Four Star Mary) and its singer Devon. Xander mentions another relative – cousin Rigby, the only well-off relative of his, who seems like a real snob – apparently he wants nothing to do with his poor relatives.
*Mythology: This is the first time we learn that demons have clans, something we’ll see more of in AtS. Before this episode, every demon seemed to be unique and a representation of some real life problem; now we see that they’re more akin to alien races.
Mr. Trick: We all have the desire to win, whether we're human... vampire... and whatever the hell you are, my brother. You got them spiny looking head things. I ain't never seen that before.
Mr. Trick: Ladies, gentlemen, spiny-headed looking creatures, welcome to SlayerFest '98.
Oz: As Willow goes, so goes my nation.
Cordy: Those animals, hunting us down like poor defenseless... well, animals.
Fashion watch: Buffy is again wearing her Leather Jacket of Slaying, which plays quite a role in the Buffy/Angel scene in this episode. But in the next scene with Scott, she has an awful pink blouse with flounces, pink shoes and a pink handbag – the most stereotypically girly outfit she’s ever had. For the rest of the episode, she looks like she’s raided her mom’s wardrobe, except during the Slayerfest, when she wears a long red dress, while Cordy wears a green one (red for power and passion; green for envy?). Willow actually looks better in her lovely angora sweaters than in her black dress which is too long. Trick is impeccably dressed again, this time in dark red suit and orange tie and with his earrings, he certainly has a style of his own.
Pop culture references: Buffy says her favorite subject last year was “Contemporary Heroes from Amelia Earhart to Maya Angelou”. Cordy says that Xander grows on you like a Chia Pet.
Shirtless scene: Angel is not shirtless this time, but his shirt is carelessly unbuttoned so we see his chest.
Ooh kinky: Xander fantasizes about Buffy and Faith “getting sweaty” together. Trick uses the words “in the nubile flesh” to refer to Buffy. I guess he’s not just into eating young male service industry workers, after all.
Foreshadowing: A hint about the Mayor’s villainous plans: he says that it’s a really important year for him, and when Trick asks if he means the election, says it’s “something like that”. Knowing what Allen Finch’s fate will be, it’s pretty ironic in hindsight that the Mayor tells him: “You have all my faith.”
Last edited by DevilEyes; February 23 2012 at 11:14 PM.
|February 25 2012, 10:37 PM||#138|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Jane Espenson’s writing debut is one of the funniest episodes in the verse, alongside episodes like Something Blue, Tabula Rasa, Intervention, AtS Spin the Bottle, Smile Time… and I notice that many of those episodes are those with some kind of spell that changes people’s behavior, or where the actors get to play something different from their usual self. Making main characters act wacky but providing a reason for it is a tried and tested way of making good comedy episodes, especially if you portray it as characters showing a side to themselves that you don’t normally see. In this episode, Anthony Head, Armin Shimerman and Kristine Sutheland get to play wild teenage versions of themselves, in a very amusing contrast with their regular selves.
There’s just one problem: the premise of the episode (i.e. the explanation why they’re acting like that) is stupid and doesn’t make sense.
In addition, the first half of the episode is really nothing special. Xander and Willow continue with their cutesy cheating, this time playing footsie under the table in the classroom, with Cordelia sitting right in front of them (?!). In that very same scene, we get another sign that Cordy has really fallen for Xander – she uses the abbreviation “BX” – Before Xander. Buffy is fed up with all the obligations she has (including studying for STAs) and frustrated with Giles and Joyce for constantly reminding her to study/train and not letting her do what she wants with her time, and with Joyce not letting her drive the car (despite the fact she hasn’t passed the test, which doesn’t make Buffy look very reasonable); but she’s ready to use them as alibis for each other, while she sneaks out to see Angel.
The sight of Angel doing shirtless Tai-chi, to the sound of some slow romantic/dramatic ambient music, while Buffy, having just came in, watches him (boy, he needs a long time to notice she’s there?), is one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments in the show. It’s supposed to be all about temptation and sexual tension, but it’s just so cheesy. Funny also how he’s doing perfectly OK until she comes in, then he says he’s getting better and stumbles for no reason, so we get a scene of Buffy helping him. It’s at this point that the Buffy/Angel scenes in season 3 are starting to get really corny and boring. Angel has recovered way too fast, and I can understand that – ME didn’t want a wild beast-like Angel for half a season. But here they’re starting their S3 dynamic of having very awkward conversations, making out occasionally and trying to not make out the rest of the time, and (apart from Amends) not dealing with their issues - they don’t talk about him losing his soul and the things he did when he lost his soul, about her sending him to hell, about his time in hell, nothing. (Though they still haven’t made out this season – that happens in the next episode.) He asks her about Scott, and Buffy needs a moment to remember who he is, which is pretty funny (“Scott?... oh, boyfriend Scott”) but doesn’t tell him that they’re not dating anymore – presumably because she feels she and Angel are ‘safer’ that way. Angel says is rather strange – that he’s worried about her safety; Buffy assumes he meant with Scott, which is again funny whichever way you take it, but he meant with slaying. Uh, Angel, Buffy has been slaying for years and she knows how to take care of herself – she’s far better in fight than you… and why are you talking like you’re her dad? I bet there are people who find this sweet and romantic – that he’s worried about her while he’s the one just back from hell and still physically and mentally not quite well – but to me it just feels really patronizing.
In the meantime, Snyder is forcing the students to participate in yet another bizarre extracurricular task – selling candy to finance the school’s marching band. Which is really a part of Mayor’s sinister plan, but in this episode we find out that Snyder doesn’t really know what Mayor’s plans are, he’s just an authoritarian bureaucrat who obeys his superiors. The Mayor, meanwhile, is as evil as a villain can be: he’s not just in league in all sorts of evil demons, but he’s ready to give one of those demons a tribute in the form of all of Sunnydale’s babies… to eat. It doesn’t get eviler than that, does it? He’s a real politician – he’ll do anything and get in league with anyone with power. And in the meantime, he’s chipper and talks about the importance of children, and not just for show – he really seems to believe in it – despite the fact he’s sacrificing the infants to ensure his own position (and calmly calling his secretary to tell her which sewer repairs should be made, while he’s in the sewer waiting for the demon to come and collect the babies). He gives the task to his new right hand, Mr. Trick, who in turn decides to hire a subcontractor – Ethan Rayne. This is Ethan’s third appearance in the show (after Halloween and The Dark Age), and he’s as weasel-like and opportunistic and cowardly as ever, yet strangely almost likeable. And to be fair, he doesn’t actually know what the tribute is about.
What Ethan does is to cast a spell through the candy bars that make every adult in Sunnydale act like… teenager? Child? Completely irresponsible? A combination of all of these? I really don’t know which of these it’s supposed to be – the more you think about it, the less it makes sense. The point of the whole thing is to make the adults so self-absorbed that they won’t even notice when all the newborn babies are stolen from the hospital. So if the idea is that the adults in this episode were acting like teenagers, that means that the majority of teenagers are juvenile delinquents and all of them are completely irresponsible and immature, and for some reason they act like they’re akl\ll drunk, to the point that you could steal babies right in front of them and they wouldn’t care. Or did the adults turn into a fictional version of a teenager from one of those stupid teen comedies in which every teenager is an idiot who doesn’t care about anything but having fun, fun, fun all the time? This has always bothered me, despite how much those scenes make me laugh – it’s all based on a really stupid and annoying stereotype that I hated with all my heart when I was a teen myself. The episode even has Buffy say that “(they’re acting like a bunch of) us” – despite the fact that Buffy is 17 and not like that at all, and is actually in the process of saving everyone as she does all the time; and Oz says that looking at the immature version of the adults is like a sobering look in a mirror… despite the fact that Oz absolutely never acts like that. That explanation doesn’t make sense anyway – where are the wallflowers, the depressed suicidal types, the overachievers, the people who had to take care of their younger siblings and were forced to grow up faster, and so on? Even the teenagers who really are as wild and irresponsible as the adults here don’t act like that all the time. On the other hand, it’s not explicitly stated that the spell makes the adults turn into teenagers as the Soobies speculated (which doesn’t even make sense with Giles – he became ‘Ripper’ in college), just that it makes them act irresponsible and immature. People in this episode don’t act younger, they act like they’re really drunk. But if that’s the case, why are they all reverting to their old musical tastes and their old TV obsessions from the 1970s? Surely they’ve liked some music and some TV in the last couple of decades as well? And how convenient is it that, despite reverting back to their immature selves, they’re sexually interested only in each other, not in the actual teenagers. (Or maybe the actual teenagers are too mature for them?) And finally, some of the things that the spell-affected adults do isn’t even adolescent behavior: being obsessed with candy or going on about Willow having the name of a tree and giggling about it is the behavior of a pre-school child.
So after this rant about the nonsensical premise of this episode, why do I like it? Well, how can one not love Ripper!Giles, Teen!Joyce and Teen!Snyder, and the rest of the adults acting completely silly? I can’t decide what I love more, Giles and Joyce as a young rebel couple, or Snyder as a clingy pathetic kid trying to be cool. Giles calls himself Ripper but he’s a less angsty and more fun version of Ripper - he isn’t actually reverting into a dark magic, hates the world, ticking time bomb guy, despite what Buffy was afraid of – he’s more interested in smoking pot, starting a rock band (which he says he’s decided to do), robbing stores to impress Joyce, headbutting cops and banging Joyce. Oh, and of course, the moment he starts reverting to Ripper, Giles starts smoking. (Smoking: always a sign of being a bad boy/bad girl. Either that, or a sign that you’re doomed.) Giles as a bad boy is unforgettable, and it gives Anthony Stewart Head the opportunity to use his real accent, which is similar to Spike’s (ASH coached James Marsters to make him improve his accent). Ripper!Giles and Spike both have the same working class bad boy persona - and we know that they’re both faking their accents, since they’re really from posh families. (Joss once said that Spike is what Giles grew out of, and Giles is what Spike refused to become.) Teen!Joyce is a girl who wants to have fun and who’s into cool, sexy bad boys. She’s a bit of a follower – more like Dawn than like Buffy in that respect. It’s great to see Giles and Joyce shed their responsible personalities and inhibitions and just enjoy themselves for once – and they both really needed to get some. I can fanwank that the spell removes people’s sense of responsibility, and that the reason why Joyce and most other adults turned into “teenagers” is that this was the last time they felt free – or the last time they remember feeling free (Giles, naturally, turned into the “Ripper” version of himself he was at college, during his rebellious phase); or rather, into really exaggerated versions of their teenage selves; the older that people get and the more responsibilities they have, the more they tend to idealize their adolescence and youth as this wonderful carefree period of their lives that it actually never was. When Teen!Joyce says she feels like she’s just woken up, like getting married and having kid and everything was just a dream – I find it a bit sad; Joyce doesn’t seem to normally have much fun, we rarely hear about her friends and since her divorce, she seems to have only dated one guy, who turned out to be a killer robot (and the next time we see her dating, it will be right before her death). I wonder if she and Giles ever contemplated the idea of hooking up outside the candy spell, or if they were too embarrassed after this episode – this episode suggests that there was an attraction between them. One detail from this episode – Giles and Joyce listening to the song “Tales of Brave Ulysses” by Cream together in his room – got a subtle and poignant callback in season 5, in Forever, the episode after The Body, in which Scoobies mourn for Joyce in different ways; Giles is sitting in his room silently listening to this song, a reminder of the time he and Joyce connected beyond their usual conversations about Buffy’s well-being.
And then there’s Snyder – who is hilarious in this episode, but it’s also the first episode in which he is kind of sympathetic and almost likeable. Contrary to his usual sternness, he’s so eager to hang out with the Scoobies and following them around. He’s unsuccessfully hitting on Joyce, and trying to impress everyone and act cool. You get the impression that the reason he hates kids so much is that he never got to have many friends in school or get dates. He also wants validation from authority figures – bragging that the Mayor got him commendation and shook his hand. That’s not that different from normal adult Snyder, whose main motivation in his career seems to be to please the Mayor.
Oh right, there was a plot about a demon and a tribute in this episode. Well, Buffy figures it all out - again. (Buffy is almost always the one to figure out things, even though Willow is supposed to be smart one. Buffy may not be bookish, but she’s amazingly street-smart.) She fights Trick, manages to kill the demon in Sunnydale’s huge sewer, and Trick escapes grinning and cheerfully promising “high times” to Buffy. He seems to be impressed with her skills almost as much as Spike was in season 2 (“Ordinarily, I let other people do my fighting for me, but I gotta see what you’ve got”.) Ethan also escapes, again.
Best lines/best moments:
The Mayor: I made certain deals to get where I am today. This demon requires its tribute. You see, that's what separates me from other politicians, Mr. Trick. I keep my campaign promises.
Snyder: WOAH SUMMERS, YOU DRIVE LIKE A SPAZ!!!
Ripper!Giles makes fun of the cop:
Joyce (seeing her car that Buffy has thrashed): OMG! What was I thinking when I bought the geek machine?!
A pudgy middle-aged guy, shirtless but with his tie still on, runs on the stage at the Bronze, takes the mike from Devon (the singer of Dingoes Ate My Baby) and dives off the stage.
Willow: I don’t like this. They could have heart attacks.
Buffy: Maybe there’s a doctor here.
Willow: Actually, that is my doctor. He’s usually less… topless.
Snyder trying to hit on Joyce: “So… are you two, kinda, like, going steady?” and Joyce rolling her eyes and moving away from him.
Ripper!Giles asking Buffy to hit Ethan, and jumping for you and punches the air when she later does:
Snyder bragging that he took “Tae Kwan Do at the Y”, doing bad Kung-fu moves.
Willow (reading the graffiti on the school wall): “KISS ROCKS”? Why would anyone want to kiss… Oh, wait, I get it.
Fashion watch: Angel’s presence seems to do wonders for Buffy’s fashion sense – she wears nice sporty black shirt and black pants when she goes to see him, much better than most of her fashion choices this season.Giles’ and Joyce’s outfits change drastically under the influence of the spell – Giles loses his glasses and tie together with his accent, and wears a white shirt, blue jeans and a coat tied around his waist. He also seems to be wearing guyliner. Joyce wears a mini skirt and high boots, which she might have borrowed from Buffy who wore similar things in season 1 and occasionally season 2; I guess since Buffy often looks like she’s raided her mom’s wardrobe this season, it’s only fair for Joyce to do the opposite. Later on she also has the feathered coat that Giles stole.
Ooh, kinky: As it was hinted here and later confirmed in Earshot,Joyce and Giles had sex on the hood of the police car, after Giles knocked out the cop. Joyce later shyly produces a pair of handcuffs from the pocket of her stolen coat, when Buffy asks for something to tie Ethan up with.
Shirtless scenes: There’s one intentionally hilarious (Willow’s doctor) and one unintentionally hilarious (Angel doing Tai-chi).
Nicknames: Ms. Barton the teacher calls Snyder “Commandant Snyder” behind his back. Buffy calls Ethan “Rat Boy” and “farm-fresh chicken”. Snyder calls Giles “Brit-face”.
Destroying the English language: Buffy refers to her mom letting her drive her car as “driveyness”.
Pop culture references: Buffy references Willy Loman from Death of the Salesman. Teen!Snyder asks to be called just by his last name, “like Barbarino” – apparently a TV character from the 1970s show, played by John Travolta (which I only know thanks to BuffyGuide). Teen!Joyce asks Ripper if he likes Seals & Croft, a soft rock duo ( thanks again, BuffyGuide), but Ripper shoots her a look and she adds “Me neither”. A few middle-aged guys, including Willow’s doctor, sing “Louie Louie” at the stage at the Bronze. Joyce tells Ripper he’s cool like Burt Reynolds. Joyce says the coat that Ripper just stole for her are cool, “very Juice Newton” (a country-pop singer, apparently popular during the 1980, and thanks again, BuffyGuide/Google). Cordelia says her mom started wearing her clothes, including her lycra pants, and her dad started locking himself in the bathroom with copies of Esquire. (Really? That’s quite tame, he’s not even using Playboy?)
(My thanks to usagianddarian from Slayalive for the animated gifs.)
|March 3 2012, 06:33 AM||#139|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
The last episode was Jane Espenson’s debut, and this one is Doug Petrie’s – which rounds up the list of core writers that were on the staff until the finale (Whedon, Noxon, Fury, Espenson, Petrie), with the exception of David Greenwalt, who left at the end of season 3 to run the Angel spinoff. It’s an average but important episode - it moves the plot forward by having the Scoobies learn that Angel is back, and has some long overdue character confrontations – even if it doesn’t really resolve anything when it comes to the conflict between Buffy and Xander over Angel, for instance. The other plot is about Faith’s new Watcher, Gwendolyn Post, who continues Faith’s bad luck with Watchers and destroys her already weak ability to trust people. The title likely refers to both the revelation about Angel, the revelation about Post, and the apocalyptic nature of the power that Post would’ve gotten through the MacGuffin called the Glove of Myhneghon, which the Scoobies destroy at the end. (“Apocalypse” = “Revelation”.)
But maybe the most interesting revelation in this episode is that there are 12 cemeteries in Sunnydale (!). Which, come to think of it, isn’t surprising considering the mortality rate. How bad was it when they did not have a Slayer?
These events end up putting cracks into the developing friendship between Faith and Buffy. At the beginning of the episode, they are really close, both obviously enjoying an opportunity to have an equal slaying partner, and doing what Buffy calls “synchronized slaying”. They’re again having girl talks about their love lives, and this time it’s Faith telling Buffy about her dating history – she had a string of loser boyfriends (listed are: “Ronnie, deadbeat; Steve, klepto; Kenny... drummer”. So drummer is in the same category as a kleptomaniac and a deadbeat guy?), until she decided you can’t trust guys and that it’s much better to stick to casual sex (“get some, get gone”). The impression we get about Faith’s dating history in this episode is different from the one we get in later seasons (AtS, BtVS season 7, season 8) where she talked about screwing bankers and older guys who wanted her to dress as a schoolgirl etc., which paints a darker picture about her past and points out, probably not to outright prostitution but “compensated dating”. Before she got the Slayer powers, sexuality was probably Faith’s only power that she used. See Stormwreath’s analysis of Faith’s background as depicted/hinted in canon: http://stormwreath.livejournal.com/85963.html
On the other hand, Buffy doesn’t want to talk to Faith about Angel, since she’s still hiding that he’s back from everyone. We’re treated to another scene of Angel’s shirtless tai chi, this time he and Buffy and doing it together. The rest of the time, they are acting awkward, trying not to start making out, still seem to find it difficult to have an conversation about anything – except in this case, the Glove of Myhneghon, which Angel has somehow found. It’s interesting that Buffy makes another connection between slaying and sex, when she admits that she is going to vent her sexual frustration by going to hunt the demon Lagos. Meanwhile, guilt over his cheating with Willow has sent Xander roaming through Sunnydale, and in one of those amazing coincidences, he happens to see Angel entering the mansion, and then Buffy and Angel make out just in time so he could see them. (Can anyone kiss in this show without getting caught, usually by the person or persons who would be most upset by it?) Buffy’s secret is finally blown, which leads to a big confrontation in the library.
And that confrontation… I can understand where everyone it’s coming from, but it’s unpleasant, it’s one of the “everyone gangs up on Buffy” scenes (the last one was in Dead Man’s Party) yet this time Buffy really is in the wrong and she knows it. She tries to ensure her friends she would never let anything happen to them, walking right into Xander’s inevitable mention of Jenny Calendar. It doesn’t make her look good when she deflects the accusations by focusing on Xander and venting some old frustrations at him. He’s the one member of the gang who’s been most vocal about his hatred for Angel, but who’s also had a bias against him long before he turned evil. Buffy finally accuses him of hating Angel out of jealousy – which seems out of place at this particular moment, with Xander in a relationship with Cordelia (and secretly cheating with Willow, which Buffy doesn’t know), but I think it was just Buffy finally voicing something she was trying not to say all these times in season 1 and 2 when Xander was showing obvious jealousy of Angel, and disliked him before he did anything wrong to the Scoobies. And while Xander has no designs of that kind on Buffy now, his jealousy and anger that Buffy chose Angel over him contributed a lot to the hatred that he developed for Angel. Or it can be seen as Buffy losing the argument and deflecting it – Xander is the only one she can accuse of bias. I understand Buffy’s reasons and I think that Xander’s lie in Becoming II might have contributed to Buffy’s wrong impression that everyone, including Willow, would want Angel dead immediately, and wouldn’t understand her feelings. Cordelia is right, however, that Buffy’s friends had a right to know, since his evil MO was to go after Buffy’s friends, instead of Buffy. Each one of the Scoobies is acting through to character – Willow is trying to calm everyone down and doesn’t want conflict, Oz is simply pointing out the facts, Cordelia says what everyone else is thinking, and Giles takes Buffy’s side, until he’s alone with Buffy. It’s only then that he scolds her, reminding her that Angel tortured him and that he’s a murderer (it makes sense that Giles wouldn’t mention Jenny just to make a point) and accusing her of having no respect for him or her job – and Buffy is genuinely ashamed.
BTW, this is the first time Buffy utters the classic catchphrase “He’s not my boyfriend”.This time it refers to Angel – all the other times, in later seasons, were about Spike.
Buffy: What are you guys talking about?
Oz: Oddly enough, your boyfriend – again.
Buffy: He’s not my boyfriend. Really, truly… I don’t know.
The episode does a good job setting up Gwendolyn Post as one of those annoying characters who feel like antagonists because they don’t get along with our heroes, even though they’re on the same side and not evil – until she actually turns out to be evil. (Maggie Walsh is a bit like an American version of Post. Post also reminds me on the surface of Adelle De Witt from Dollhouse.) Post is a really stuffy, arrogant ‘proper’ British person with a condescending attitude towards Giles, claiming she’s sent not just to be Faith’s new Watcher but also to report on Giles’s performance. The contrast shows how relaxed, informal and attached to the Scoobies Giles has become in comparison. Are all Watchers British? Or just most of them? Funnily enough, she “accuses” Giles of having become “too American”. Apparently, Watchers tend to also be insular and nationalistic. Later she appears as one of those “firm but fair” people with Faith, gaining her trust. For all her apparent rebelliousness, Faith is actually really in need of parental figure and ready to put her trust in any authority figure who seems to care about her. And then Post manipulates her by telling her that the Scoobies are having a meeting that she wasn’t invited in – which hits the nerve with Faith, since she feels she’s excluded from the circle of Buffy’s friends. Which in this case isn’t quite right – it makes sense that they wouldn’t want Faith to witness their dirty laundry from the history that she doesn’t share. But on the other hand, why isn’t the Council or Giles (who might not be her Watcher, but was the only Watcher in Sunnydale before Post arrived) helping this girl financially so she wouldn’t have to live in a motel room? She’s a Slayer, shouldn’t the Council at least help her out, if they aren’t paying the Slayers salaries, like they do to the Watchers? Just how incompetent is the Council? It’s being portrayed as an outdated, stuffy patriarchal organization out of touch with the real world. There’s even a joke about it at the end, when Giles has learned that Post had been thrown out of the Council a while ago for dabbling in dark magic (this seems to be a recurring theme with the Watchers) – and they swear they sent a memo he didn’t get. What were they using, a fax machine? They don’t seem to be aware that there’s such a thing as e-mail. How about phone?
The third storyline in this ep is the ongoing Willow/Xander fling, and that’s one secret that does not get revealed yet. After playing footsie in the classroom the last time, now they’re making out in the library and almost getting caught by Giles. Could it be that it’s exactly the secrecy and the feeling that they’re doing something forbidden that they find exciting? It certainly seems to be the case with Willow – she asks Buffy is the secrecy made her relationship with Angel feel sexier (Buffy says no, after a while it’s just too much pressure). Willow was, to her credit, close to telling Buffy about her and Xander, before chickening out. Her own guilt over keeping a secret is also the reason why she’s more forgiving of Buffy (on the other hand, it doesn’t work that way at all for Xander).
I can’t really blame Xander for anything he says in the library – he does have a point, and he has a good reason to be angry. But I can’t say the same about his decision to go behind everyone else’s back and tell Faith that Angel has a glove, prompting her to go and try to kill him. To be fair, it was on the spur of the moment, when Faith found him at the Bronze, while Xander was still fuming – and he does change his mind later and tell Faith to wait until they are sure. But he should have thought about that later. Faith is even more impusive and, at this point, prone to black and white thinking when it comes to vampires, so even Xander ends up being the more moderate one. Maybe it’s not just how she feels about vampires, but about men as well. Post hits another button with her when she tells Faith that Buffy is blinded by love – Faith is prone to not trusting men and seeing romantic feelings as a weakness.
Post is revealed to be evil when she knocks Giles out after learning where the glove is. And this is the time when I start thinking I should’ve perhaps counted the number of times Giles has been knocked out. Instead here’s a list I stole from somewhere:
How strange it is now, knowing the relationship that Angel and Faith will have in the future, to see that their first meeting consisted of fighting each other: Faith believed he was evil, and Angel probably believed Faith was evil and working with Post (I guess Buffy didn’t tell him about the other Slayer). This is followed by the first fight between Buffy and Faith. Post meanwhile uses the mayhem to put the glove on, which seems to give her some sort of mystical power; it’s mentioned that the glove can never be taken off once you put it, which means she had no interest in being human again. She rubs salt on the wound with these lovely words: “Faith, a word of advice – you’re an idiot”. That’s it’s harsh (how was Faith to be sure who to trust and who not to, and Post fooled everyone, not just her), besides not actually being advice, technically speaking. It turns out Post was quite an idiot herself - it didn’t occur to her that Buffy won’t have to take the glove off her hand, she might simply cut off her hand. (Is this where The Vampire Diaries got this idea from? I haven’t read the TVD books, but I doubt that this detail was in them.) Apparently, separating the glove from the wearer’s body while they’re channeling the power results in the destruction of the wearer by the force of lightning, which happens to Post, another one in the line of villains destroyed by the same power they were trying to use against others (like Catherine in Witch or the zookeeper in The Pack).
The Post storyline and Angel’s role pave the way for the Scoobies to accept Angel more easily – Willow says that the fact that he saved her life maker her like him again. But on the other hand, Faith’s fragile trust in the Watchers is damaged by what happened when she put her trust in Post, but so is her trust in Buffy and the Scoobies, because they kept secrets from her. In the last scene, Buffy comes to check up on her and tell her she’s her friend and that she can trust her, but Faith is aloof and says the only thing she knows is she can trust herself.
Faith: You can’t trust guys.
Buffy:You can trust some guys. Really, I've read about them.
Cordelia: What gives you the right to suck face with your demon lover again?
Buffy: It was an accident!
Xander: What, you just tripped and fell on his lips?
Angel/Angelus: Maybe it’s the right time to bring this back, since it’s the first time in season 3 someone has brought up the issue of Angel’s responsibility for his actions in season 2.They talk about the things he did and the danger that he might turn into a killer if he loses his soul again,nobody is using the name “Angelus” yet, and it’s worth mentioning that Buffy never tries to use the argument that Angel is not the one who did those things, which speaks against the often repeated claim that Buffy believes that Angel and “Angelus” are literally not the same person. Giles scolds Buffy for “harboring a known murderer” and says “I must remind you that Angel tortured me... for hours... for pleasure“. Buffy doesn’t voice any disagreement with that.
Fashion watch: The contrast between Buffy’s and Faith’s clothes isn’t that big now that they’re good buddies. But note the way that dark lipstick and heavier makeup clearly marks Faith as the bad girl. Buffy wears black when she goes to see Angel, other times she wears a lot of pink (and has a hat with the word “BOMB” that I’m sure was never seen again).
Shirtless scene: Did David Boreanaz have a clause in his contract that he had to be shirtless in every episode this season? This time it’s more shirtless tai-chi, this time with Buffy.
What the slashy heck: When her friends speculate if she’s secretly dating someone, Buffy deflects the question joking that she wouldn’t use the word “date”, but that she is “going out” with someone – Faith, grinning and adding “Really, we’re just good friends”. Writer Doug Petrie was a big supporter of Buffy/Faith slash subtext and it shows from the start.
Destroying English Language: Xander says at the beginning of the episode that Buffy certainly wouldn’t keep secrets from the Scoobies, since they’re “the best of Buffy’s bestest buds” (aliteration!). The first two times “bestest” was used on the show, it was in a sarcastic way; in this case it’s… insecure exaggeration, trying to convince oneself? Xander later doesn’t hesitate to jump to bad conclusions about Buffy and her ability to make decisions regarding Angel.
Nicknames: Willow refers to Giles as “the emotional marathon man”. Cordy reacts to Buffy accusing Xander of jealousy by calling her “Miss-Not-Over-Yourself-Yet”.
Pop culture references: Faith calls Post “Mary Poppins” and “Miss Priss”.
When does this string of more or less average episodes end? This is a rhetorical question, I know exactly when this season gets really good, and fortunately it’s with the next episode.
|March 10 2012, 02:35 PM||#140|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Time is the boss of me.
|March 10 2012, 09:47 PM||#141|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
A few other Buffyverse-related things:
A recap of Joss' panel "Conversations with Joss Whedon": http://leakynews.com/sxsw-drop-in-jo...l-liveblogged/
RedemptionCast has a new Q&A with Tim Minear, and he was previously a special guest when they were reviewing AtS episode Hero. (aka goodbye Doyle ). http://redemptioncast.blogspot.com/
E!online UK has a really strange and random Ultimate Fan Battle where they're putting any pop culture phenomenon with lots of fans vs any pop culture phenomenon with lots of fans, with no rhyme or reason. Buffy beat The Beatles in the first round (! and since besides being a fan of Buffy, obviously, and I'm not a big fan of The Beatles) and is now up against Nintendo (!) in the second round. Angel had the misfortune to go against Star Wars in the first round, no need to tell you how that one ended. Firefly is now up against Star Wars in the second round. I'm glad that Twilight was out in the first round - it lost to Ellen DeGeneres (!). I voted for Ellen even though I've never seen her show. I bet that a lot of people were voting against Twilight rather than for Ellen. Ditto for my votes for whoever/whatever is up against the dreadful pop stars like Justin Bieber, Britney etc. http://uk.eonline.com/news/the_awful...und_two/299838
SyFy UK recently aired "Top 20 Greatest Buffy episodes" as voted by the viewers, which then aired on SyFy, with Anthony Stewart Head introducing the episodes. Here's a video of him doing the introductions, with a couple of anecdotes and a bit of singing:
These were the results (they treated two-parters with the same title as one episode):
20. Lovers Walk
19. Prophecy Girl
18. Conversations with Dead People
17. Normal Again
15. Graduation Day
8. Fool For Love
7. The Wish
5. The Gift
4. The Body
1. Once More, With Feeling
The order of the first 2 is really not a surprise, but I would chuck a few of these episodes out and replace them with others. Several of my favorites weren't even on the list, and I have no idea what Amends and Lovers Walk are doing there - I've watched them recently and they're really good, but not that good. However, fans had the choice to vote only for one of the 20 episodes that SyFy chose (I don't know how they picked those 20). Still, Amends really shouldn't be above episodes like Restless, Innocence, Conversations with Dead People or Prophecy Girl.
Speaking of interviews and panels with writers, Nerdist.com has been putting up podcasts of their 'writer's panels'. http://www.nerdist.com/podcast/nerdist-writers-panel/ Lots of Whedonverse people were there (Marti Noxon, Tim Minear, StevenDeKnight, Jane Espenson, Drew Greenberg, Doug Petrie, Ben Edlund, Zack Whedon, Liz Craft & Sarah Fain, and David Fury was not just on one of the panels but did an individual interview as well). Lots of Trek people, too (Robert Hewitt Wolfe - who was on the latest panel, Thompson & Weddle, Michael Taylor, Naren Shankar).
And here's something really, really old that I've discovered very recently thanks to a friend from my LJ f-list: this site http://web.archive.org/web/200402120.../archives.html has a bunch of podcasts of a radio show about BtVS/AtS from 2002-2004. A few of those were interviews with ME writers done while the shows were still on air. They're extremely interesting to listen to now - for instance, listen to Steven DeKnight (interviewed right after Seeing Red aired) start his interview by saying "I'm a big fat liar!" and admitting that he blatantly lied to the fans that Tara wouldn't die when they asked him, and then go on to blatantly lie about Spike's intentions at the end of season 6. It's also fun to see the writers disagreeing on a bunch of stuff - for instance, Fury thought that vengeance demons didn't have souls, while Drew Goddard thought they did.
|March 27 2012, 02:34 AM||#143|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
This season so far has been rather lackluster, but this episode is a big improvement. It used the magical trick for making everything more exciting: Spike is back - if just for one episode. It's a very funny episode that first introduces us to Pathetic!Drunk!Spike, but it’s also the episode with a lot of relationship pain. Spike comes back to Sunnydale, moping over his breakup with Drusilla, wreaks havoc, (un)intentionally makes Scoobies reveal some things to each other, starts feeling better about himself and leaves everyone unhappy. The love quadrangle finally gets a resolution, which is a real relief – and much as I dislike this storyline, it’s rather well resolved.
The title is actually Lovers Walk, not Lover’s Walk. See the original script. According to Wikipedia, „the introduction to Rhonda Wilcox's Why Buffy Matters says, "the script apparently does not carry an apostrophe, by the way--making for a short, sad, declarative sentence for a title."
The episode opens with the Scoobies learning the results of their SAT tests: Buffy had a great result, Willow did very really but as an overachiever she feels she’s failed, Cordy did quite good, too – but she’s good at hiding her academic success from her peers so she wouldn’t appear nerdy, and Xander did as badly as everyone expects him to. Cordy thinks it’s great because Buffy can leave Sunnydale and never come back.“What moron would want to come back here?” Good question. Why do people even want to live there? The prices of real estate must be ridiculously low. Still, it doesn’t explain why rich families like Cordy’s would want to live there.
But Buffy isn’t happy she got a good result – it makes her think about her future, which is something she never did up until this point, since she never thought she had one. This statement carries more weight than „Buffy didn’t think she had a great academic future“; as a Slayer, she’s expected to die young, and this must always be in the back of her mind. Her mother reminds her she always says she wants normal life, away from Hellmouth and vampires, but Buffy isn’t enthusiastic about it. Buffy isn’t happy with the suggestion that Faith might take over her Slayer duties while she goes off to college – and this is the explanation I’m sticking with. But the way the episode cuts to Angel after Joyce asks Buffy is anything is keeping her in Sunnydale, and their later conversation, seems like we’re supposed to think that Buffy has a problem leaving Sunnydale because of Angel? Which doesn’t make sense. He’s a vampire who has no job and no residence, who’s moved to Sunnydale to be near her – he can sure move again, since there’s nothing keeping him there. He’s just squatting in the big vaguely Gothic mansion that we know from S2. Maybe that’s why people want to live in Sunnydale, even homeless unemployed folks can live in big, lavishly furnished mansions.
Willow and Xander are feeling really guilty about their cheating, particularly when their significant others show signs of love (Cordy has pictures of Xander on her locker room door, while Oz gives Willow a little PEZ witch). Willow decides to do something drastic about it, and decides to use magic and buy a de-lusting spell in a local magic shop. When Xander finds out, he objects to it, but not on the grounds that it’s wrong to use magic to violate people’s minds, but that it’s dangerous and unpredictable. At least he’s learned something from his experience with the love spell gone wrong in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, even if it wasn’t the right lesson.
And then things go really, really wrong thanks to Spike.
He’s introduced before the credits, in a way that parallels his introduction in season 2: back then it was set up with the warnings that trouble is about to come; this time the setup is Cordy’s line “What kind of moron would ever want to come back here?”. He knocks down the Sunnydale sign with his car, just as he did in School Hard, and mumbles the same line, “Home, sweet home”. But instead of his badass introduction in that episode, this time he falls out of the car, very drunk. This episode is the first time Spike is used as a comedy character – he was always funny, but in season 2 it wasn’t his primary role, and he was just the one making jokes, often about Angel. This time he’s a joke himself – this is the beginning of Spike as the Wacky Neighborhood Vampire that we’ll see throughout season 4.
With his violent mood swings, however, his portrayal in this episode reminds me more of season 5 Spike – as when he’s stumbling through the mansion, tenderly stroking one of Drusilla’s dolls and talking to it as if it’s Dru herself: “Why did you leave me, baby? We were so happy here” only to smash it the next moment, shouting “YOU STUPID, WORTHLESS BITCH!” (This makes me think of his behavior with the Buffy mannequin in season 5.) After a few scenes of Spike stumbling drunkenly through the mansion and mumbling how he’s going to show Angel who’s a “cool guy”, he manages to fall through the door and fall asleep, and wakes up with his hair on fire. He then goes to a magic shop to ask for curse to give Angel blisters or leprosy (!) and after overhearing Willow asking for a recipe for a spell, gets the idea to use her to cast a love spell for Drusilla for him. After killing the magic shop owner for food (those magic owners can’t catch a break – the previous time we saw one, in Passion, he was killed by Dru), he kidnaps Willow and Xander, who just happened to be there. This episode, for the most part, strikes a good balance between Spike being silly, sentimental and dangerous, and the best example is the scene in which Spike tells the terrified Willow what he needs from her, then goes on to talk to her about Dru and literally cry on her shoulder, and then suddenly gets the desire to bite/rape her (vampire biting often has sexual connotations, but this time they’re explicit in Spike’s wording “I haven’t had a woman in weeks… except that shop owner”, and Willow panics and protests that she’ll do the spell but “there won’t be having of any kind”).
And somehow he’s still likeable… and incredibly sexy. It’s funny that Angel, who is himself a very attractive guy, has been shirtless or naked in almost every episode this season (this is actually the first episode this season in which Angel has his clothes on the entire time), but no episode of season 3 has made me hot and bothered until (fully-clothed!) Spike came back.
Some of the hilarious moments: when Spike goes into Buffy’s house to find the ingredients for Willow’s spell and ends up drinking hot chocolate with Joyce and using her as a shoulder to cry on (this time not literally). Spike seems to really like Joyce’s motherly attitude – it makes sense that he was a momma’s boy as a human. Another funny moment is when Angel appears at the door asking be let in, trying to warn Joyce about Spike, and Spike taunts Angel, pretending like he’s going to bite Joyce. Joyce’s confusion is understandable – the last time she saw Spike, he was Buffy’s ally, and the two of them were planning to kill Angel. How is she supposed to know which one is ‘good’ and which one evil on any given day – when Buffy is not telling her about what’s going on in her life? Or for that matter, when Buffy didn’t ask Willow to disinvite Spike (She calls him on not keeping his promise, but was she really relying on him to do so?). Spike blackmails Buffy into not staking him by telling her she won’t find out where her friends are, and they agree to go to the magic shop with him so he could have Willow do the spell for him first. Buffy keeps arguing with Spike and mocking him, which makes them look more like two kids than as mortal enemies – another thing in this episode that sets the template for season 4. Yet another one is the show deriving humor from Spike’s habit of making casual or nostalgic remarks about the people he murdered in the past, such as when he says he gave Dru beautiful dresses with beautiful girls in them, or when he reminisces about the happy memory of him and Dru killing a homeless man. (I’m quite fond of this fanfic that makes the point of fleshing out these people from Spike’s stories – just to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to dismiss off-screen deaths of people we’ve never met.)
In lots of ways, Spike’s character didn’t change that much; he underwent a huge development throughout the show, but essentially, he’s a romantic, he’s passionate, he loves fighting and violence, and he follows his heart. His views about love are remarkably similar in S3 and in S6 – it’s just that the way the show treated him changed. The same things that are portrayed as funny and amusing in LW when it's about him and Dru, supporting character and wacky vampires, and then those same views seem deeply disturbing as we watch his relationship with Buffy in S6. (Though he did show some progress – in S6 he was offended by the idea he would use a love spell on Buffy.) He’s disappointed that Dru didn’t do something passionate like cut his head off and set him on fire („I mean, is that too much to ask? You know? Some little sign that she cared?") „You always hurt the one you love“, as he’ll say in S6, right after Buffy smashed his face. At the end of Lovers Walk, he decides that he is going to get Dru is to be the man she fell in love with – tie her, torture her until she likes him again. Presumably, without her consent - since they're not in a relationship now. That idea isn't that far from trying to get Buffy to want him again by raping her to make her 'feel' it again.
Lovers Walk also first casts Spike in the role of “truth-teller” – when he says “Love isn't brains, children, it's blood...blood screaming inside you to work its will." It’s a great line and it’s true that love isn’t something you can choose to feel or not feel. But it’s really just a part of the truth - it’s not all that love is. This makes me think of a future exchange in Seeing Red where Spike says “great love is wild and passionate and dangerous, it burns and consumes” while Buffy insists that this kind of love doesn’t last and that real love involves trust (which was a notable change from her old views of love – in S2 she told Angel “I love you, I don’t know if I trust you”). It’s only after he gets his soul back that Spike will start realizing that love can also be constructive and that it’s not all about passion and people hurting each other.
He gives Buffy and Angel the famous „You’re not friends“ speech, making them realize that they’re lying to themselves. However, I find it funny that some fans use this speech as ’evidence’ that B/A will always be in love with each other. Spike’s opinions are just that, not gospel truths. He’s right about some things, and wrong about others (especially when he’s biased, and in this case, he’s projecting his Drusilla issues – he’s disappointed that she said she wanted to remain friends with him) – and it’s impossible for him to always have been right about everything, since he changed his opinions so many times. He’s right that Buffy and Angel were still very much in love, and being friends with your ex you're still in love with doesn't work. But that presuming that two people will always be in love is a bit too much. He also talks about his and Drusilla's “eternal” love, and we know how that turned out.
The Mayor has a brief appearance and we learn two things: that he has sold his soul – which he mentions casually as a joke during a game of golf – and that he thought of Spike as just an amusing nuisance in S2, but he doesn’t want a “loose cannon” to endanger his super important plans this year. He orders Mr. Trick to solve the problem – which he does by sending a bunch of vampires (including at least one of Spike's former lackeys) to kill Spike. Spike, Buffy and Angel end up fighting the vampires together. (This remains the only time the 3 of them ever fought on the same side.) At one point Buffy even warns him about a shelf that was about to fall on him. Spike openly enjoys the fun of the fight, and it’s what makes Spike regain the confidence and good mood. He leaves after confirming where Willow and Xander are.
This is the first out of the many occasions when we have to wonder “Why didn’t Buffy stake Spike?” – apart from the obvious Doylist answer that he had the Popular character immunity. My fanwank is that she knows him too well to see him as a non-person the way she does the nameless vamps she stakes all the time, so it would be uncomfortable to stake him at times such as after they’ve just fought together or after having received relationship advice of sorts. But I have no explanation for the even more puzzling question “Why didn’t they disinvite him from Buffy’s home?” IIRC, he was still able to come to her house without an invitation in S4.
Meanwhile, Oz and Cordy rush to save Willow and Xander, only to catch them kissing. The soap opera trope of being caught kissing, usually by the people who least want to see it, strikes again. They kissed because they thought they were going to die, but I think that Xander’s excuse that it’s OK to do it in “impending death situations” is a load of bull. (Yes, people in the verse often get romantic in the face of death, but it only happens with couples that already have romantic feelings for each other.) Shocked Cordy runs away and falls, accidentally impaling herself on a piece of rebar. The show plays with the viewers’ emotions cruelly with a fake-out made to make them think Cordy died – there’s a cut to someone’s funeral, until we see it’s just some random funeral (it’s Sunnydale, there’s certainly no shortage of funerals), and Cordy is in hospital, getting better.
In the end, everyone is unhappy: Willow realizes that she really just wants to be with Oz, while Xander is only interested in getting Cordy back. Buffy realizes that she and Angel were never and can’t ever be friends, and decides to make the final break with Angel. As in I Only Have Eyes For You, she tells him “Tell me you don’t love me” but this time it’s to make the point that they can’t be friends while they’re in love with each other. It’s a really touching and fitting ending to their relationship.
… Except it’s not, since the two of them go on to get back together soon and break up a few more times until the end of the season.
Spike badass-o-meter: How does this episode work for the theory about Spike’s “badass decay” in later seasons, usually identified as “after he fell in love with Buffy”? We’ve seen in my 2 reviews that Spike had very mixed results in this area in season 2. In this episode, he reached the nadir – I don’t think he’s ever, in all of BtVS and AtS, been as pathetic as in the first 30 or so minutes of LW (except for season 4 Doomed, the episode where he wanted to stake himself because of the chip). He spends crying and whining to everyone about his cheating girlfriend who dumped him. Buffy calls him “a shell of a loser”. He becomes ‘badass’ only in the end when come when he gets the chance to fight.
Spike: I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.
One of the most memorable and most quoted lines in the show – but usually quoted with missing the point. Every time I see it mentioned, it's to bring up how Spike is "love's bitch" while ignoring the more important part of the quote: "man enough to admit it". In that scene, he's calling Buffy and Angel on trying to deny that they're in love. The episode revolves around love and people doing stupid, bad and wrong things out of love. The whole point of this episode is that they're all love's bitches, but most of them don't want to admit it. (This line reminds me of another one from a few episodes ago – Dr Platt’s advice to Buffy, in Beauty and the Beasts: „Love becomes your master, and you’re just its dog.“ Buffy did go on to became a person who kept her feelings much closer to the chest and at least tried never to let herself be love's dog again.) Spike is different because he embraces those emotions instead to trying to fight against them. It's that juxtaposition of „bitch“ and „man enough“, with pride in what others might find shameful, that sums up Spike's character. He’s reckless with his heart, and it doesn’t always end up well for him, or for those around him.
Angel/Angelus: Spike certainly thinks they’re one and the same, since he’s accusing Angel of driving Dru from him, says that the last time he saw Buffy and Angel, they were fighting each other to the death. His reaction to the info that Angel has his soul back is to ask him when he became all soulful again. Angel is still a bit of a dick to Spike, telling him that Dru is just fickle and doesn’t care about him; the former is true, but I really don’t think the latter is.
Nicknames: Spike’s nicknames for Angel: “Peaches” and “great poof”.
Fashion watch: Spike’s clothes never change – he’s still wearing the duster and black and red shirt underneath. Willow wears pink angorra sweater that Spike finds her attractive in, as he told her later in The Initiative after another, unsuccessful kill/rape attempt.
Pop culture references: Spike sings “My Way” and later leaves Sunnydale playing “My Way” by Sid Vicious (actually, because of copyright issues, it’s by Gary Oldman playing Sid in Sid and Nancy). Angel is reading La Nausée ("Nausea") by Jean-Paul Sartre, one of Joss’ favorite books. Disappointed with her SAT results, Willow compares herself to Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel from The Simpsons.
Ooh, kinky: Drusilla liking to be tied up and tortured is consistent with S2 (remember her line about the branding iron in What’s My Line II). But I suppose the sign of Spike going ’soft’ might have been that he was just doing it when she wanted him to. But soulless vampires don't have the same ideas about consent that we do (see also: Angel/Darla in Reprise), so it might work on Dru.
Foreshadowing:This is the first time we see Willow's disturbing tendency to use spells changing people's feelings and/or memories to make her life easier. Cordy will indeed leave Sunnydale and never come back.
BtVS does a lot of what someone called ’retroforeshadowing’ – rather than deliberately foreshadowing something in the future episodes, the writers look back and build on something that came before. A lot of the Spike scenes in LW feel that way. BtVS also often has line callbacks, and Spike's last line in this episode gets a most awesomely meaningful callback in season 6:
(Spike's last words in the episode before walking away, after he's decided to get Dru back by finding her, tying her up and torturing her)
Spike (smiling): Love's a funny thing.
(in the 'conflicted Spike' scene in the crypt after you-know-what)
Clem: Love's a funny thing.
Spike: Is that what this is?
Last edited by DevilEyes; March 27 2012 at 04:01 PM.
|March 27 2012, 04:00 PM||#144|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
I love alternate universe stories, and this is one of the best AU episodes I’ve seen. A great AU story is not just fun but reveals something important about the characters, and about how much circumstances shape who we are and what our lives can be. The Wish is a very revealing episode, to a greater extent than I was aware the first time I watched it.
Some people think this episode is overrated, because it’s a standalone that isn’t directly connected to the main arc of season 3, and because 2/3 of it are AU events that none of the characters remember (except Anya). I disagree: the purpose of the episode is for us to see what Sunnydale would have been like without Buffy, and what Buffy would be like if she didn’t have friends and ties to the world. The Wish shows a Sunnydale as a hellish dystopia, a town ruled and terrorized by vampires, and much darker versions of the characters we know. This is actually very relevant to the season – one of its main themes are community and ties between people – and to the show as a whole.
The first 15 minutes of the episode are set in the normal world and deal with the fallout of Lovers Walk. Willow, Xander and Buffy are moping together over their breakups. Willow’s and Xander’s mutual attraction seems to have disappeared, but their friendship is another relationship that has suffered and is never going to be the same – Xander learns this when he tries to innocently touch Willow’s hand the way they used to do before, but Willow makes it clear that it’s not OK anymore after what they did. They are only interested in making Oz and Cordy forgive them and take them back. Willow is less unsuccessful – Oz has told her that he needs time to sort out his feelings. I love the matter-of-fact way Oz replies when Willow keeps stalking him at school and asking him to let her talk to him again: “Look, I'm sorry this is hard for you. But I told you what I need. So I can't help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself. That's not my problem.“ Willow can indeed be self-absorbed and obsessed with the need to make everything ’right’ immediately. One of the things I love the most about Oz is that, no matter how much he loves her, he’ll always tell her openly when she’s going about things the wrong way.
Cordy’a reaction is very different - she burns Xander’s photos and wants nothing to do with him. Her pain is not just about being betrayed by Xander, but about being humiliated in front of her peers. I wonder how the Cordettes and others at school even found out about what happened with her and Xander. If they know who Xander cheated with (it’s not clear if they do), we don’t see Oz subjected to any humiliating comments about his girlfriend cheating on him – but it may be simply because Oz doesn’t care what other people think anyway, so it wouldn’t be a source of pain for him, the way it certainly is for Cordy, who is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to caring about her status. She is very sympathetic here; we feel her humiliation as the former “Cordettes”, now lead by Harmony, with typical high school cattiness, pretend to be her friends, only to mock her, telling her that Jonathan is the right guy for her and that maybe he won’t cheat on her, at least not immediately. We see this from Cordy’s POV, but spare a thought for the constantly bullied Jonathan, who is insulted even worse by being shown as an embodiment of an undesirable male that a woman would be insulted to settle for. Another moment that drives home how low Cordy’s status in school has sunk is her conversation with a jock that she’s just using to make Xander jealous, but who tells her that he can’t allow his status to sunk by being seen with a “Xander Harris castoff” but that he’ll be happy to date her in secret. Cordy is mortified, but this is the same way she treated Xander a year ago. Cordy’s and Xander’s games, as they are both trying to make the other think they’re over them, almost make me root for the couple again (or I would, if I didn’t already know that it goes nowhere).
Even though Cordy isn’t hanging out with the Scoobies anymore, Buffy makes it clear to Xander that she’s not OK with “us vs Cordy” attitude, and tries to comfort her, explaining that friendships have helped her deal with her own relationship pain. But Cordy is focusing on the wrong things – even though Buffy the only person to offer her genuine friendship and understanding, and even though she saves her from a vampire once again, Cordy instead blames her for incidentally pushing her into a dumpster while saving her life, which resulted in her being mocked by the Cordettes again. For all her character growth, she still doesn’t realize that being mocked by her former friends pales in comparison with dying. With that amazing human ability to blame completely wrong people for their troubles, she blames Buffy for all that’s gone wrong with her life, even explaining her attraction for Xander as a result of Buffy having made him “marginally cooler by hanging out with him”. That’s interesting – Cordy always calls Buffy a freak, but this is an admission that she actually finds her cool. I think that a lot of Cordy’s resentment of Buffy is because she secretly admires her. Meanwhile she’s turning to the other person who seems to be trying to be a friend but who’s actually just pretending because she has an agenda – Anya.
Recurring characters introduced: Anya is first introduced in this episode, as a new student who hangs out with the Cordettes (Anya describes it s Harmony following her around) who befriends Cordy, but who is really vengeance demon Anyanka, described by Wishverse Giles as the “patron saint of scorned women”. But judging by her comments about the Wishverse (“I had no idea her wish would be so exciting”) she cares more about doing some carnage than about the women whose wishes she grants. It’s funny to see Anya bond with Cordy by bashing Xander, since they’re Xander’s former and future girlfriend, respectively. Anya was meant to be a one-time MOW, and her portrayal of someone who has no clue how humans behave clashes with her characterization in this episode. She’s doing perfectly well pretending to be human and even exchanging fashion tips with Cordy.
The introduction of vengeance demons is a big addition to the mythology: their powers are far greater than those of most monsters we’ve seen so far – including being able to change the fabric of time and erase certain people or events from existence. On the other hand, their powers are limited by what other people wish, and they can lose them really easily – Giles smashing Anya’s amulet was enough to not just reverse the effect of Cordy’s wish, but to strip Anyanka of her powers. (You’d think she’d be more careful not to let Cordy keep on wearing it!)
From the moment Anya, to Cordy’s shock, goes into demon face and grants her wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, the rest of the episode almost all takes place in the new alternate reality, which has apparently replaced the old one. Cordy is at first overjoyed to learn that she’s still super-popular – Harmony and the Cordettes are sucking up to her, the same jock feels honored she’s even going to think about his invitation to go with him to a school event – but there are warning signs: Harmony and the others are dressed very conservatively, the event the jock invites her to is called the Winter Brunch, the classroom is half-empty, the teacher and students can’t wait to run away home before sunset, and the school holds something called the Monthly Memorial. Since the moment Harmony tells Cordy that Xander and Willow are dead, the episode feels more and more sinister. The town streets are empty, there is a curfew, everything is closed – it’s like a ghost town.
In this universe, Buffy wasn’t there to stop the Master from rising (in Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest) and he is practically the ruler of the twon. He lives in the place we know well, the factory, while the Bronze is a favorite vampire hangout, where they keep humans in cages when they aren’t draining them. Willow and Xander have become his closest and most vicious disciples, a particularly twisted and cruel vampire couple. Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brandon are amazing as the evil versions of their characters. The best part is that they are still recognizable as Willow and Xander. Vamp Xander is a leather-clad macho guy – Xander probably wishes at times he could be that kind of confident, sexy tough guy, minus the evil part – but he reminds me somewhat of what Xander is like when he stops joking and when he’s really angry or determined. But we’ve already seen evil Xander, and vamp Xander is a lot like the hyena-possessed Xander from The Pack, so it’s vamp Willow who is the real revelation: she has the same cutesy mannerisms, but she’s incredibly creepy and sadistic. With her red-black corset and her legendary catchphrase “Bored now”, she’s the star of the episode so much that Joss later wrote Doppelgangland just to bring her back.
Giles never became a Slayer’s Watcher, but he became the leader of a group of good guys fighting the vampires, known as “the White Hats” (a callback to Giles’ speech from Lie to Me) – him, Oz, Larry and a girl called Nancy, who gets killed later on. Angel went to Sunnydale and waited for Buffy, but when she didn’t come, he tried to stop the Master and was captured, held as a slave, or a pet – Willow calls him a “puppy” - and tortured for fun by Master’s lackeys. Master probably wanted to punish for betraying his species, and he could kill two birds with one stone by giving him as a toy to his disciples. It’s interesting that the Master, the embodiment of vampire traditionalism in season 1, has decided that the future lies in the use of contemporary human technology and in mass production, “a truly demonic concept”: the big event is the opening of the new plant that drains humans, allowing for a much quicker production of blood. I imagine that must be unsatisfying for the vampires who enjoy the hunt, or derive great pleasure from draining their victims. But the Master mentions that he lost the thrill of the kill long time ago – and here he represents the type of evil that’s all about the wide-scale power and the contemporary industrialized society where people are treated as meat (something we saw in Anne, where humans were used as expendable work force, and similarly dehumanized). He is another demonic patriarchal father figure who holds political power over the community, just like the Big Bad of season 3; the Mayor is just a lot more polished, charming and human-looking, and therefore more insidious. However, the plant doesn’t seem necessary if the vampires don’t find a much larger number of victims, so I always took it as a sign that Master was planning to expand his influence outside of Sunnydale.
Cordy dies halfway through the episode, and the focus shifts to Giles and Buffy. Giles remembers what she Cordy about the existence of another world and about Buffy making the difference, and decides to call Buffy’s Watcher in Cleveland to ask for Buffy to come to Sunnydale. This proves not to be the solution; it’s more important that Giles realized how important the amulet was and took it with him. Wishverse Buffy is a cold, hard, cynical person, a lone hero without friends and human connections (“I don’t play well with others”). She has a scar on her face, and she is psychologically scarred. She’s openly contemptuos of Giles and Angel, mocks Angel’s offer of help and is very unimpressed with his idolization of her, asking him if he’s trying to get into her pants. This Buffy is in some ways similar to Faith, but there are differences, too: Faith enjoys her powers and loves to have fun; Wishverse Buffy doesn’t seem to feel joy in anything, she isn’t trying to appear cool or be liked by anyone, she is only interested in slaying and dresses in a perfunctory way (the way it would’ve made sense for Kendra to dress, based on her personality), but isn’t a rule-follower or a believer in her duty and isn’t even close to her Watcher. Her personality is summed up in this exchange:
Buffy: World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that.
Giles: I have to believe in a better world.
Buffy: Go ahead. I have to live in this one.
There are some people who criticize Buffy’s character for her supposed “weaknesses” seen in her investment in/dependence on her love interests or her friends; but The Wish makes it clear that lonely, self-sufficient Buffy is ultimately a weaker and less successful Slayer: she ends up losing to the Master quite easily. The ‘girly’ normal world Buffy was at first transfixed by fear and thrall, but she had a friend to save her, and she came back stronger and defeated him straight away.
The Wishverse has its own history, and Cordy was a part of it; if it was a Cordy who, like everyone else, had no idea about the other world, how did she turn into the Cordy who came straight from the normal universe, wearing the same dress, and remembered everything? Or does everyone in the new world just have fake memories, except for her?
What is the Mayor’s role in this Sunnydale? It seems the Master is just in control of Sunnydale and the world wasn’t overrun with vampires; does that mean that what Buffy stopped in The Harvest wasn’t an actual apocalypse? Why is everyone in town still living there? Can’t they run away during the day? How much does the outside world know about what’s going on in Sunnydale, and if they don’t know, how come they haven’t found out? Why doesn’t the US government react? Why didn’t Giles call other Watchers or Buffy before, why did he need Cordy to tell him that Buffy would change things? Or are things as bad in the rest of the world?
Darla and Jesse are probably dead, but how did it happen? Did Jesse sire Xander, or was Jesse just food and never sired, since they didn’t need to use him as bait? Did Willow sire Xander or the other way round? This brilliant fic about Willow siring Xander gives a very plausible scenario how it might have happened. I think that the more likely scenario is that Willow and Xander were sired much later, not at the time corresponding to the pilot: Xander refers to Cordy as an old crush, which means that he developed feelings for her at some point (there was no Buffy for him to fall in love with), but they presumably never hooked up, since she never started hanging out with the “losers” because of Buffy.
Is Oz still a werewolf in Wishverse? That had nothing to with Buffy; on the other hand, maybe he didn’t hang out with his extended family much in this reality, so didn’t get bitten by his cousin.
Did Spike and Dru come to Sunnydale? I can’t imagine Spike ever being willing to accept Master’s authority, so probably not.
What happened to Joyce? If Buffy had had a healthy relationship with her mother, I don’t think she would have turned out the way she did. There are many different speculations in fandom – that Joyce was killed by a vampire, that she was murdered by the Council who blamed it on the monsters, or that Buffy was in mental hospital and ran away from it and never came back home. This great fic, mostly focused on a particularly twisted Wishverse Spuffy dynamic, has a scenario about Joyce’s death that would explain why Buffy is so damaged.
Character death: Cordy dies first, killed by Willow and Xander (there’s a metaphorical parallel with the way they were ‘bad guys’ and hurt Cordy in the normal reality). During the fight at the factory, Angel is staked by Xander, and dies calling out Buffy’s name; of course, she doesn’t bat an eyelid over the death a temporary vampire ally she’s just met. Xander is staked by Buffy. Willow gets impaled on a plank by Oz. Finally, Buffy and the Master push everyone else out of the way to have their big showdown; Master kills Buffy easily, breaking her neck, fulfilling the prophecy “The Master will rise and the Slayer will die”. Out of Buffy’s three deaths on the show, one was a suicide while the other two times she was killed by the Master. All deaths are reversed when Giles smashes Anyanka’s amulet.
Best scene: The fight at the factory, with the slow-motion deaths of most of the main cast set to one of the best musical scores in the show (“Slayer’s Elegy” by Christophe Beck) is such a great, moving scene that it feels profoundly sad– it’s not just that they all die, it’s that they never had those relationships and those people never meant anything to Buffy, before she ends her short, sad life. Somehow that gets me despite the fact that all the events are quickly reversed.
Someone has put this scene on YT, though a few very important seconds are missing – Giles’s reply to Anyanka: “You trusting fool, what makes you think that the other world is better than this one?” “Because it has to be”.
Xander: And they burst in rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean this is really all their fault.
Buffy: Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.
(This is a line I like to quote in appropriate situations.)
Fashion watch: In the normal worldWillow is following in Buffy’s footsteps by wearing Overalls of Pain, while Cordy is overcompensating, wearing even more glamorous clothes than usually – red leather jacket and skirt to school, bright red dress to the Bronze, and a bright blue dress next day to school, which she ends up in the Wishverse with. Harmony describes it a “come-and-bite me outfit”; humans dress in drab clothes, because they believe that vampires are attracted to bright colors. This seems as naïve as the idea that you won’t get raped if you don’t dress “provocatively”. Giles is not wearing tweed, but sweaters. Vampires wear the usual vamp fashion –Xander wears a black leather jacket, and Willow is rocking a black and red corset, dark red lipstick and heavy makeup.
Ooh, kinky: Lots of kink in Wishverse, and not in a good way. The squick factor is really high (though the sexual connotations of the killing and torture are only subtextual but still obvious). The way Willow and Xander both drain Cordy at the same time makes them look like a serial killer couple raping and killing their victims together. And they’re making Giles watch it. Willow enjoys torturing her “puppy” Angel’s and licks his face while she’s doing it, and Xander loves to watch Willow torture Angel.
Shirtless scene: We see Angel’s bare chest when Willow is torturing him, and later he shows Buffy his burn marks to prove that he hates the Master.
Pop culture references: Lollopalooza: Xander calls his and Willow’s present condition “Guilt-a-palooza”. Cordy calls the Wishverse “Bizarro land”. Anya sarcastically calls it “the brave new world”, a phrase from The Tempest that is better known as the title of Aldous Huxley’s anti-utopic novel.
Foreshadowing: The line“Bored now” is so much more loaded after you’ve seen season 6. Vamp Willow has more in common with human Willow than you’d have thought at first.
Ironic in hindsight: it’s amusing that one of Cordy’s wishes that Anya can’t grant at the end of the episode is that “Xander never knows the touch of a woman again”.
|April 23 2012, 04:31 PM||#145|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Amends is an episode that was really necessary in season 3. Since Angel's mysterious return from hell, Buffy and Angel have both been avoiding the elephant in the room - Angel’s crimes in season 2, and the question what could have brought him back. This is a very dark, intense and emotional episode about guilt, forgiveness and redemption, and a great character study of Angel (setting him up as an interesting protagonist for a spinoff). The climax of the episode – Buffy trying to convince Angel not to commit suicide – has great acting but a mix of great and weak writing. However, what keeps this episode from being a classic is that it has the corniest ending of a BtVS episode ever: the MYSTICAL CHRISTMAS SNOW that convinces Angel his life is worth something.
Now, since this is the show’s only Christmas episode, this was, in a way, to be expected. But I could do without the divine (?) intervention, which takes away from the humanism of the show, and I’d rather not have Touched by an Angel (!) in my BtVS.
Forgiveness is the big theme of the episode, but one person not willing to forgive is Cordy, who’s taking a chance to taunt Xander with the fact that she’s going skiing in Aspen, while the rest of them are stuck in a particularly warm Sunnydale. To hurt Xander, she reveals that the reason he’s sleeping outside is to avoid his family’s drunken Christmas fights – an explicit confirmation of the hints we’ve had before of Xander’s dysfunctional family life. Xander is bothered because he says he didn’t want her to share it with others; it’s interesting that he used to confide in her about things like that – but not Willow or Buffy? Surely Willow must know about his crappy home life in general from before? The relationship between Cordy and Xander seems to have been closer and deeper than just making out and antagonism. Despite his embarrassment, he is happy that she’s even talking to him now. He wants her back, but realizes it’s too late now. Another real development for Xander’s character is that he offers Buffy help with researching what’s wrong with Angel, and admits for the first time that he was a jerk to Buffy regarding her relationship with Angel.
Willow is preoccupied with finding a way to make Oz forgive her – and she’s much more successful. Oz is finally ready to talk and tell her how much he was hurt and that he isn’t sure he can believe things can ever be over between Willow and Xander (we know how wrong he was, there will be nothing romantic between Willow and Xander ever again) but he misses her and is willing to give their relationship a shot. When Willow confides that she doesn’t know how to make Oz trust her, Buffy gives some insightful relationship advice: “Xander has a piece of you that can’t touch – I guess now it’s a matter of showing Oz that he comes first.” That would also be a good advice for herself to follow in the future. (The shooting script has a few lines that didn’t make it to the final episode and that confirm where Buffy was drawing the insight from: “Xander was your first love…that’s hard to let go”.) Willow takes the advice a little bit too literally and decides to make amends to Oz by losing her virginity to him, so she prepares the setting for the most exaggerated romantic night possible, with candles, Barry White and a sexy dress. Cue another classic Awesome Oz moment: just like in Innocence when he refused to kiss Willow, Oz recognizes that she is trying too hard, and tells her that sex is something he wants to happen when they both really want it, not because she’s trying to prove something to him.
Faith and Buffy also make up, thanks to Joyce, who has one of her best moments when she suggests that they invite Faith to Christmas dinner. Finally someone does something to make the girl feel included and wanted. Incidentally, Joyce is very embarrassed when Buffy suggests that they invite Giles, who is also spending Christmas alone; the awkwardness between Joyce and Giles after what happened when they were “teenagers” in Band Candy continues. Faith is still living in the same crappy motel room, still barely hides the resentment she’s felt since Revelations, and at first refuses the offer out of pride and pretends that she has a big party to go to – but later changes her mind. Warm family Christmas evenings are something she probably hasn’t had in quite a while, if ever.
But the focus of the episode is on Angel and his guilt and self-loathing. He is haunted by dreams and later visions of his victims. The best scene of the episode is a long overdue confrontation between Angel and Giles. Angel goes to his house to ask for help, which results in the most awkward meeting ever, what with Angel having tortured Giles last season and killed the woman Giles loved. Giles may accept on the rational level that Angel doesn’t deserve to die because he knows this version of Angel isn’t entirely responsible for crimes he committed while soulless, but he still isn’t able to forgive him – which is far more realistic and human than if he were OK with him just because Angel is feeling guilty. He that point by threatening Angel with a crossbow, even though he wouldn’t really use it and does let Angel in and talk to him and later doesn’t protest when Buffy asks him for help in figuring things out and saving Angel. The most poignant moment is when a vision of Jenny suddenly appears besides Giles, and Angel is the only one who can see her, making Angel unable to deal with it anymore. It’s almost disappointing that it’s not a guilty vision conjured by Angel’s mind, but as it turns out, a disguise by the First Evil, who is trying to drive Angel insane and get him to kill Buffy.
I love the flashbacks (despite the terrible Irish accent, this time with an addition of a terrible mustache), the dreams and visions – which all blend in Angel’s mind – a reminder of just how horrible Angelus was, taking great pleasure in others’ suffering. The First chose a few victims from his past to morph into and haunt him with: Jenny; Daniel, a gambler in Dublin, 1838 who was about to get married; a maid in England, 1883; a modern day businessman in a suit, whose children Angel(us) killed and then arranged as if they were sleeping, for their father to find them, before he was killed himself. The scene with Angel(us) about to bite and kill the maid disturbingly looks like a nobleman or merchant about to rape a servant who can’t say anything to her employers because they wouldn’t believe her or care, and when she is worried about her son, he mentions he’s going to kill him, too, for “dessert”. The flashback is actually a dream – shared by Buffy (I have no idea why Angel and Buffy are sharing dreams, unless the First is powerful enough to make it happen – we’ll see this later with Buffy and Faith, but they have the Slayer connection). Or rather, Buffy is literally in Angel’s dream and gets to watch him about to kill the maid.
All this complicates things between Angel and Buffy, who are trying to stay away from each other as Buffy decided in Lovers Walk, but instead they get to share dreams while Angel is at the breaking point, tempted by the First to give into his desire for Buffy and “lose himself” in her, and then kill her. We see that in the dream scene (another shared dream) where Buffy and Angel make love until he goes into vamp face, bites and kills her. I’m not sure how the First expected it to go down in reality (it’s unlikely that Buffy would have consented to sex with Angel despite the danger) - or maybe it just expected Angel to go insane, give in to the demon and kill Buffy while she’s at her most vulnerable while worrying about him. Angel’s behavior towards Buffy becomes obviously strange and erratic, which tips Buffy that something is seriously wrong. She tries to find out what is going on and save him, while fearing that she’d have to kill him again, which must be her greatest nightmare. One of the very few lighter moments involves Buffy and Xander going to see Willy the Snitch - and it’s amusing to see that the Slayer walking into Willy’s bar is like a cop walking into a shady bar (the vampires quickly leave and try to away from her, and she doesn’t ever bother to go after vampires who are just sitting in the bar, the way that a TV homicide detective ignores the well-known petty drug dealers). After learning that Willy has heard about things going on in the underground – literally - she proves to be a smart cookie once again when she figures out where to find the lair of the First and its minions, the Bringers, tears the place down and confronts the First in Jenny’s form. The First isn’t something you can slay, so she fights it the only way one can – not allowing it to intimidate her or shake her spirit and trying to give Angel faith in himself. (I love the way Buffy reacts to First’s speech “I’m the things that darkness fears blah blah” with snark: “OK, I get it, you’re evil.” The First: “You have no idea what you’re dealing with.” - “Lemme guess – is it… evil?” )
Scared that he’ll end up turning evil and killing Buffy, Angel decides to kill himself in a way that’s the easiest for a vampire – by waiting for the sunrise on the high hill over the ocean, the Kingman’s Bluff (the same one where the crucial scene of season 6 finale takes place on). This is where Buffy finds him and desperately tries to stop him – arguing, hitting him, and pleading. Buffy normally looks so tough despite her size, but this is one of those moments of emotional vulnerability when she suddenly looks like a tiny little girl, young and in tears, and Angel like a big, scary man, when he throws her on the ground. But he is the weak one, as he realizes better than anyone: the line “It’s not the monster in me that needs killing, it’s the man” is the crucial one that explains so much about his personality. He hates himself not just because of what he did as a soulless vampire, and he doesn’t blame just his vampire nature for everything; he hates himself because deep inside he feels that, as a human, he was a weak, useless man (“a drunken, whoring layabout, and a terrible disappointment to your parents” as the First describes him). “You were a worthless being before you became a monster” told him the First, echoing his deepest insecurities. A part of him believes what the First tells him, that cruelty is the only thing he ever had a talent for. And as a souled vampire, he wasted most of the 100 years lost and confused, and he still doesn’t know if he can be a good, worthy and heroic person.
Contrary to the popular opinion that Buffy idealizes Angel, she doesn’t try to argue that he has shown himself to be a great guy in the past; she pleads with him to do it because she loves him (despite wishing she could stop, because it’s too painful and because it gives him the power to hurt her so much) and she argues that he has the potential to be someone better in the future, and he has to try: “You have the power to do real good, Angel, to make amends. But if you die now, then all you ever were was a monster.“ He was her first love, and a source of great trauma, and the pain and guilt for sending him to hell only made it harder to let go; on some level, maybe it’s not just about saving his life; it’s about saving his soul (not literally) – she needs the only love she’s had up to that point to be a source of goodness and hope, not just badness and destruction.
Buffy’s speech that it’s cowardly to give up and commit suicide and that the real strength is in living and fighting every day, makes me think of her line in The Gift to Dawn: “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live for me” and the crucial scene of Once More, With Feeling, where Buffy is the one trying to commit suicide because she can’t go on, and Spike stops her and urges her to live on, while Dawn repeats Buffy’s own words from The Gift.
The snow that suddenly starts falling (for the first time ever in Sunnydale), after a period of scorching heat, doesn’t have to be mystical in nature – but the episode is clearly built around the idea that it is. It is hinted that some sort of higher power might be responsible for it and that it might have brought him back from hell, rather than the First, as Angel assumed. The ending with Buffy and Angel walking home together is meant to convey hope. But I find it disappointing that Buffy’s impassioned plea, and her argument that real strength is about living and fighting every day, might not have been enough to give Angel the will to live – it was only the apparent intervention of a higher power that changed his mind.
Angel: It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy, it is the man.
Angel: Buffy, please… just this once… let me be strong.
Buffy: Strong is fighting. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together. But if you’re too much of a coward for that, then burn.
Oddly enough, the same scene and the same speech by Buffy contains a line that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me:
Buffy: I know everything you’ve done, because you did it to me.
The problem is that this isn't true: he didn't actually do the tenth of what he did to some others and that he is capable of, and that he might have even planned to do. However great the Angel-goes-evil plot in season 2 was, there was some contrivance in the fact that he didn't get to do a fraction of what we know he did to Drusilla. And that's because 1) Joss didn't want to kill off main cast members or Buffy's mother yet, and 2) he wanted the Buffy/Angel romance to continue – and if it had been Joyce's dead body he left, rather than just pictures of her, I don't think that there would be many people rooting for Buffy to get back with Angel, or that it would have been convincing that Buffy would want to get back with her mother’s killer. Something similar would’ve been the case if he had killed Giles, Willow or Xander – and he had opportunities to do all of these at some point, and didn't just due to luck (and again some contrivance – he had an invitation to Willow's house and could have done much worse to her than kill her fish). Jenny was the perfect victim from the storytelling point of view – important enough for her murder to resonate, but not enough for fans and Buffy to not be able to get over it. He tortured and broke Drusilla in different ways. but primarily by killing everyone she loved. He didn't, however, get to kill anyone Buffy loved. His torture of Buffy might have been his main goal, but it was twice removed: he killed someone who was loved by someone that Buffy loves. And a lot of people that Buffy didn't know or barely knew. The most awful thing for Buffy was that she felt responsible for the deaths of all those people, including Jenny, and for the pain it caused Giles. But the people who were hurt the most, aside from those who died, were Giles and the families and loved ones of the other vicrims. He didn't actually do all he did to Buffy, he did it to bystanders, and while she may know it intellectually, she didn't feel what it's like. (That’s why I feel more discomfort about Buffy forgiving Angel that I don't feel about Buffy forgiving Spike for the AR, because she had to forgive Angel for the things he did to others, and I'm not sure if anyone has a right to forgive someone for things they did to other people.)
Angel/Angelus: Angel at one point tries to defend himself from the visions’ accusations by saying “It wasn’t me” and “a demon isn’t a man. I was a man once” but otherwise feels guilt over all his past crimes (“You can never understand what I’ve done”). The whole episode doesn’t make any sense unless Angel, Giles and Buffy all consider Angel and his soulless self (at this point the name “Angelus” is still not used) one and the same person. Giles holds Angel responsible for killing Jenny, and Buffy talks about things he did and never tries to argue that it was someone else.
Recurring characters introduced: The First Evil, in the form of Jenny and other dead people, makes its debut, together with its creepy eyeless high priests, the Bringers aka Harbingers. The First makes about an equal amount of sense here as it does in season 7. It tries to get Angel to kill Buffy – I get that – but afterwards it seems to be OK with Angel just killing himself (it grins and says to itself “It will do”). So what did it really want to achieve? Maybe it just likes torturing souled vampires that Buffy is having a thing with at the time? If Buffy’s or Angel’s death was what it wanted, why didn’t it try again? And why haven’t we heard from it in 3 and a half years between Amends and season 7?
Mythology: The First is supposed to have existed long before everything else, before demons or humans. Unlike the monotheistic religions, in the Buffyverse it’s the evil that existed before the good. It’s not clear if there is a Good equivalent to the First Evil, though the ending hints that the snow might be a sign from some higher power, which, based on what we later see on AtS, it was probably the Powers That Be. However, the PTB seem to be a neutral power rather than a force for good.
According to Giles, Acathla had acolytes, and one of them wrote about demons, demon dimensions… and his garden.
Buffy’s ILYs: Buffy’s fourth declaration of love to Angel (“What about me? I love you so much”) is offered in an emotional outburst while she’s trying to stop him from committing suicide. (The first one was elicited by Angel in Lie to Me, and the other two spontananeous ILYs were in Innocence – when he was dumping her – and in Becoming II, before she sent him to hell.) She doesn’t have a habit of telling ILY on everyday occasions: it is almost always in a life and death situation.
Fashion watch: Buffy wears a white jacket throughout most of the episode, while Angel is in a black coat. Willow dresses in a sexy red dress when she’s trying to seduce Oz. Faith wears light lip gloss, rather than her usual dark red one (because she’s less ‘dark’ in this episode, I suppose).
Shirtless scene: Angel is shirtless in two scenes – when he wakes up in bed, and in the sex scene with Buffy.
Ooh, kinky: The dream sex scene itself isn’t kinky, it’s missionary and as vanilla as the one in Innocence – until it ends with Angel biting Buffy. Gotta love the accidental double entendre Joyce makes when she asks Buffy “Angel’s on top again?” shocking Buffy, until she realizes her mom is talking about the Christmas decorations.
Destroying the English language: Xander says he hasn’t been the “mostest best friend” to Buffy.
Pop culture references: Willow tries to use Barry White’s music to seduce Oz. Buffy says that the prophecies from one of Giles’ books (“A child shall be born of man and goat and have two heads...”) sound like something from the UK tabloid The Sun, which is probably why Giles enjoys reading it.
Foreshadowing: Oz tells Willow that seeing her with Xander made him feel the way he never felt before when there wasn’t a full moon – which foreshadows season 4 New Moon Rising, when Oz will actually turn into a werewolf out of strong emotions of jealousy of Tara. Angel will eventually bite Buffy and almost kill her, in a scene that looks a lot like sex, in Graduation Day II, after Buffy makes him drink from her to save his life.
|April 23 2012, 09:44 PM||#146|
Location: Mr. Adventure
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
|April 23 2012, 09:46 PM||#147|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
|July 18 2012, 03:24 PM||#148|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
However, since there have been such big breaks in my rewatch (I can't believe I started it last February and didn't get further than mid-season 3 ) due to various circumstances, I've decided Ithat over the next couple of weeks I'm going to do a marathon of the Buffy episodes I've already reviewed - to remind myself and get a bit of continuity before continuing with the rewatch.
I'm also going to do something I said I wouldn't, and start with watching the 1992 movie (which I've seen just once many years ago, a few years before I saw the show). I didn't plan to include it in the rewatch, since 1) it's not canon, 2) it sucks, but it'll be fun to see it again, see how it all started and compare it with the show, and compare it with the way Joss' script was adapted in The Origin comic, which he has approved as "pretty much canon". I won't do a proper review of the movie, but I'll post a few thoughts. Then I'll marathon season 1, season 2 and the first part of season 3, and post just a few thoughts - any new things I've noticed, has my opinion on anything changed in the meantime or not.
And then of course, I'll continue with reviews as usual, starting with 3.11. Gingerbread. Hopefully on a more regular basis than I've been posting so far.
|July 18 2012, 10:33 PM||#149|
Location: Staffordshire, UK
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Other prisons do Shakespeare and shit. I want to play a role, like Desdemona or Ophelia or Clair Huxtable.
|August 1 2012, 04:57 AM||#150|
Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r
Today is the 20 year anniversary of the release of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. (Note: Well, it was when I started writing this, when I finally get to post this, it will still be 31st July in the Western hemisphere, so it still counts... ) Perfect time to revisit the way it all started.
I remember seeing the movie on TV a few years before I started watching the show, and finding it a mildly funny but average, not very good and mostly ordinary teen comedy that tried to poke fun at vampire movies. I was always struck by how different the show is to the movie. Rewatching it now, after a long time, my impressions are the same, only more negative, because I can now see how much potential it wasted. This becomes especially obvious when you compare it Joss Whedon’s original script, which is available online, and which I read last week for the first time. A much better movie could have been made from this, and one that would have been a lot more in the spirit with the TV show. On the other hand, if the movie had matched Joss’ intentions, maybe he wouldn’t have felt compelled to take his idea to the small screen... So maybe it’s better it worked out this way.
The movie was declared not canon by Joss, so nothing from it actually has any bearing on the show and the comics continuity, but Joss has never filmed another version of Buffy’s origin story.
I will also revisit the only canon version of Buffy’s origins is the 1999 Dark Horse comic The Origin, which gives a more faithful adaptation of Joss’ original script, much closer to the spirit of the show, and attempts to reconcile the story with the TV show continuity (including scenes based on the flashbacks from the show), since there are quite a few discontinuities between Joss’s script and the movie on one side, and the show on the other. Joss has said this about this comic:
"The origin comic, though I have issues with it, CAN pretty much be accepted as canonical. They did a cool job of combining the movie script (the SCRIPT) with the series, that was nice, and using the series Merrick and not a certain OTHER thespian who shall remain hated."
First off, a reminder if you don’t remember, here’s a synopsis: Buffy starts off as a cheerleader in Hemery High school in LA, one of the vapid, shallow valley girls. She hangs out with 3 equally shallow friends (bitchy Kimberly – played by Hilary Swank, particularly airheaded Jennifer, and another girl called Nicole who doesn’t get fleshed out much), a bit more bookish Cassandra (who later becomes one of the vampires’ victims) and has a shallow, vapid and casually sexist jock boyfriend Jeffrey (who hangs out with a blatantly sexist jerk, Andy). They have a couple of somewhat antagonistic encounters with Pike and his friend Benny, who are supposed to be lower class/poor punks types, but it’s pretty clear from the start that a meet-cute romance is being set up between Buffy and Pike. (I like the sound of that.) Meanwhile, a really old and powerful vampire (who’s referred to in the script by other characters as a Vampire King), Lothos, has arrived in LA with his minions, and they are starting to turn the locals – mostly high school students – while Lothos wants to kill another Slayer. Yes, Lothos is supposed to have killed several Slayers at least – which, at the time, might not have sounded like such a feat, but after having seen the show where Slayers were made to look almost as superwomen and where killing two Slayers is a huge feat, is almost incredible. Someone else who’s arrived in LA is Merrick, a Watcher, who’s looking for the new Slayer. When he first tells her she’s the Chosen One, Buffy is at first incredulous, as you’d expect, but he manages to quickly convince her, since he knows about her Slayer dreams. She’s reluctant to accept her new role, but she manages to kill her first two vampires the night when Merrick first takes her to the graveyard to patrol. Gradually, she becomes more and more involved with slaying and in the process alienates her friends and boyfriend, but also gains new friend/love interest/sidekick in Pike, who’s meanwhile learned about vampires being real because his best friend got turned into one. After Merrick’s tragic death, Buffy has a crisis and almost decides to quit and go to the school dance instead and be just a regular girl, which Pike disagrees with. At the dance, where Buffy is shunned by her friends and dumped by her boyfriend (or rather, learns that he’s already left her a break-up message on her answering machine) but gets to dance with Pike who’s decided to show up – but then the vampires attack school during the dance. Buffy kills a bunch of vampires, with the help of Pike and a few other students, fights with the arrogant Lothos and kills him. In the end, Buffy has grown way past her old friends and old lifestyle.
I’ve noticed that Joss recycled some of his original ideas for Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest: the way Buffy kills Amilyn, Lothos' main henchman, in the script (but not in the movie nor in The Origin), is very similar to the trick she plays on Luke in The Harvest. As far as the things that did make it to the movie go: there are also similarities such as Pike/Xander having to kill his best friend who's become a vampire; some of the original arguments between Buffy and Giles are a bit like those between Buffy and Merrick; Gary Murray the school counselor is a proto-Flutie; and Lothos is a bit like a mix between the Master and a non-ironic version of Dracula, with a bit of Luke's early rhetoric. We have vampires attacking the school on a big night again in School Hard.
I can’t remember, did anyone on the show ever use a pencil to stake a vampire? This is how Buffy finally manages to surprise and kill Lothos in the script version of their confrontation, after he’s cornered her in the school corridor; script direction says that there’s almost something like respect in his eyes as he’s turning to dust (and Lothos, up to that point, has been very contemptuous and dismissive of Buffy and other Slayers).
Differences between the movie and Joss’ original script
Joss Whedon wrote the original version of the script for Buffy when he was 25. According to this old article (linked today on Whedonesque – thanks, Whedonesque!), „The project began gathering steam last fall, when producer Rosenman "flipped over this weirdly funny script by a 25-year-old with red hair flowing down to his ass.“ “ (See evidence of the latter.)
The same article describes the Buffy movie as a mix between Wayne’s World, Heathers and Beverly Hills 90210. Well, that’s true - but only if you take out Heathers...
The script is well worth reading – it’s really not cheesy and campy the way the movie is, and it’s not a comedy: it’s much darker and it’s a horror/action teen drama with some humor in it. In other words, similar to the show. However, the people who made the movie obviously didn’t take the story seriously at all and figured it had to be a broad cheesy teenage comedy. You can see it as soon as the open narration about the Slayers starts – similar to the one in first 2 seasons of the show – delivered in a mocking, campy voice, while we see a brief scene of Kristy Swanson with a silly expression, in what is supposed to be one of her dreams about past Slayers. There are a lot of changes between this version of the script and what finally got filmed. But even when there were no changes in the dialogue – and in the majority of the scenes, they kept the original dialogue– the directorial choices, acting, music, choreography, even hairstyling and costumes, made all the difference.
Kristy Swanson isn't bad until you compare her to Sarah Michelle Gellar, she has no spunk and charisma and badassery that SMG so easily instills into the character. Swanson is physically much bigger, but tiny SMG is a much bigger presence in every other way. Luke Perry (Pike) is just being Luke Perry, i.e. has the same dull expression throughout. The worst of all is Donald Sutherland (Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick), who looks bored throughout the movie, probably waiting to finish shooting the dumb teen movie and collect his paycheck – he even looks bored in his death scene!
The music is dreadful – the songs are all very mainstream, in a bad way (unlike the much more interesting choices on the show); the score is more 80s than 90s, and occasionally sounds like elevator music - especially in above mentioned Merrick’s death scene.
The movie removed almost everything that was even a little bit darker and more serious. Gone are the opening scenes from the script, showing some of the Slayers from the previous centuries, including the scenes of Lothos killing Slayers. Instead of being really scary, the vampires in the movie are just ridiculous. Lothos’ henchmen Amilyn, in particular, is quite scary in the script, but a complete joke and an OTT comedy character in the movie – he even gets a comedy protracted death that goes on and on. Script!Lothos is a truly intimidating figure (and a vampire who’s supposed to have killed several Slayers has to be!), but in the movie, despite being played by Rutger Hauer, a guy who knows how to be scary, even he is made into a bit of a joke. In one of the many eyeroll-worthy cheesy moments that the director/script doctors/whoever thought was a good idea to add, Lothos plays a violin to hypnotize Buffy (?!) and in another, he dies saying „Oops“.
But the worst of all is Buffy’s fight with the vampires outside the gym, which could have been great (and is in the comic), and which is described like this in the script:
The Buffy's and Merrick's relationship far less antagonistic in the movie – he shows that he’s grown fond of her by telling her she is „truly exceptional“ while in the script (and in the comic) he criticizes her for being „vacuous“ and for not paying attention, lectures her that being a Slayer is not just about super-strength and argues with her, asking her if she thinks she’s special – he buried five girls who trained much harder than she did. They certainly form a bond, but they do it in the typically Whedonesque snarky manner (a bit like Buffy/Giles in season 1). One of the best moments (which, fortunately, made it to the comic) is when Merrick realizes that Buffy is not paying attention to his lecture about vampires and is looking into her notebook instead, and says „I have huge antlers growing out of my buttocks“, confirming that Buffy isn’t really listening , and then hurls a stake right through Buffy’s notebook. And in very Jossian fashion, those two still come to really care about each other. In the script (and the comic), he gives his life largely to protect her, and Buffy's attempt to have a eulogy on her own after his death is really poignant:
Other big changes include:
So, as we’ve established, the movie sucks big time. Nothing I haven’t known for years. The only difference is that, having read the script, I can vouch it really wasn’t Joss’ fault.
Last edited by DevilEyes; August 1 2012 at 05:12 AM.
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