Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/read

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by DevilEyes, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. cultcross

    cultcross The truth is precisely the opposite Moderator

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Loving your reviews, keep it up!
     
  2. The Naughty List

    The Naughty List Working the Pole Moderator

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    I actually just started watching Buffy for the first time myself, since I'm a Whedon fan and it just didn't seem right never to have seen Buffy and Angel. I borrowed the DVDs from my sister.

    I just finished 'The Pack,' so I'm a few eps ahead of you, but I've enjoyed reading your detailed reviews. Keep up the good work. :techman:
     
  3. cultcross

    cultcross The truth is precisely the opposite Moderator

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    I envy you, I'd love to have it wiped from my memory and enjoy it again for the first time. Now, much as I loved it, I know it too well to get the full enjoyment I used to out of it. There is something to be said for following Buffy et. al all the way through from the beginning.

    Wait till seasons 2 and 3. That's where for me Buffy was at its best.
     
  4. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    This has been quite a break, but I've been busy with moving into another apartment these last couple of weeks, and I had to wait to have my Internet reconnected. And on top of that, even my computer needed some fixing for a while...


    1.04. Teacher's Pet


    This is is exactly the kind of episode that you don’t want to show your friends if you want to get them to watch Buffy. It has all the cheese of season 1, but with very few redeeming qualities, not even that many witty lines. Good season 1 episodes use monsters to highlight a real life problem (like being bullied or ignored at school or having over-competitive parents or coaches), but this one is about… predatory women looking to mate and find a father for their babies? :shifty:

    It also doesn’t help that the vampire from the B-story is one of the least scary monsters in the show, and that “Ms French”, the femme fatale teacher/praying mantis, is really slimy and smarmy to the point that she has 'you can't trust her' written all over her, which makes Xander look all the stupider for falling for her seduction. (And why is she speaking in a British accent, BTW? It’s fortunate that Giles is on the show, or it would look like another case of the Hollywood British Baddies cliche.)

    I'm not too fond of Xander playing the role of Horny Drooling Idiot Teenage Boy (all the more so since these are the moments when it hits you that Nick Brendon looks a bit too old for the part). Way too many bad teenage comedies cliches there (see Worst Lines). It was funny to find out that Blaine, the guy bragging about his 'conquest' was a virgin, but I don’t get why Buffy was so surprised that Xander was a virgin, and the scene in which Xander and Blaine get ridiculed for their virginity (despite the fact that both Buffy and Willow were the same age and virgins as well at the time) seems like an example of a gender double standard. It would make more sense if they had heard a lot from Xander bragging about his alleged sex life, but as far as we know he only vaguely and unconvincingly tried to do it once to prove himself in front of Blaine when Buffy and Willow weren't even present.

    Buffy keeps being the one to think of the solutions to all the mysteries, which is usually great, but at this point I started feeling it was too much - she is the brains and the leader and pretty much perfect, while everyone else's contributions were minor; I started yearning to see some flaws and quirks of hers, which we fortunately get to see more later on. I don't like Giles' characterization in this episode, he is more of a fussy librarian than a mentor and doesn't even seem very useful. The only new things we find out about him are a bit of info about his past friends that doesn't matter much, and... that he's interested in women. (As if Xander's drooling idiot act wasn't enough, we also get Giles making comments about Ms French's attributes throughout the episode.)

    There is still some good stuff in this episode - like Xander's hilariously unrealistic fantasies (I think this is the first time we see a character's fantasy on the show). There's some development in the shipping area: Xander says (to Ms French) that he loves Buffy; he is obviously jealous of Angel; we get the first hints that Willow has a crush on Xander; and there's also a little bit of romantic tension between Buffy and Angel, who seems to have dropped his cheeky attitude here and is in full broody mood. Flutie is really good in this episode - I'm realizing in this rewatch how funny he was, he was a bit like a high school David Brent/Michael Scott. I think he just got overshadowed in my mind by Snyder, who was even funnier and more memorable. And it was nice to see a good and supporting teacher (Dr Gregory, the biology teacher) who was aware of Buffy's intelligence (he judged rightly that she was "smart and thinks on her feet") and could have made her high school experience better; so of course, he had to get killed in a gruesome way right after the first scene. His faith in her seems to have meant a lot to Buffy since she cried over his death. (Season 1 Buffy is so much more open with her feelings than the hardened later seasons Buffy, who will need days to be able to turn her grief over her mother's death into tears.)

    Other things I noted about this episode, besides having the first character fantasy scene, is that it's the first episode that uses a science lesson to propel the main plot (in a similar way that, for instance, psychoanalysis will be used in "Beer Bad") and that it features the first case of the Xander Demon Magnet trope, as well as an example of Xander Damsel in Distress. It's an ironic inversion of Xander's fantasies where he is the hero who saves Buffy, while Buffy is scared and acting like a classic damsel in distress. He may be in love with Buffy, but he doesn't really seem comfortable with her strength, fighting skill and courage, and fantasizes about a more traditional scenario where he could play her swashbuckling hero. Other silly moments for Xander include accusing Buffy of being jealous when she warns him about the teacher, and acting as if a) he has already told Buffy how he feels about her or asked her out, b) she has already rejected him, and c)there is reason to think that she is secretly attracted to him; neither of which is the case. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for him when he asks if it's so incredible that an attractive woman could want him. His insecurity might actually work as an explanation why he acted so gullible.

    Another thing we see for the first time and that we'll see many times later: Xander commenting on another man's attractiveness with a mix of jealousy and fascination (seeing Angel for the first time and saying that Buffy didn't tell him what an attractive man he was) is something we'll get to see often in later seasons (he'll make similar comments about Oz, Riley and Spike).

    Best lines:
    Flutie: We all need help with our feelings, otherwise we bottle them up and before you know it, powerful laxatives are involved. I really believe if we all reach out to one another, we can beat this thing. I’m always here for you if you need a hug, but not a real hug, because there is no touching, the school is sensitive to wrong touching.

    Buffy: Factoid three: her fashion sense screams ‘predatory’.
    Willow: It's the shoulder pads.
    Buffy: Exactly.

    Honorary mention goes to Xander asking what kind of girly name is Angel.

    Worst line:
    Xander: No, no, this is the most beautiful chest… dress I’ve ever seen.

    Rating: 1.5 - one of the worst episodes of the show



    1.05. Never Kill A Boy on the First Date

    If I was giving additional points for episode titles, this episode would get a higher score.

    This time the Buffy’s Slaying, the Master and his minions are the B-story while Buffy's attempts to date are the A-story. The prophecy of the Anointed One is very well done in this episode, the fake Anointed One is a good and quite scary character with his ‘religious’ fanaticism (vampires having something like their own evil religion is consistent with season 1 and Master-lead vampires; this will pretty much disappear in season 2 when we meet very different and non-traditional vamps), and the twist of the real Anointed One being a child is a good one. Appearances being deceiving is one of the recurring themes of the show. ("Gingerbread" will also play with the idea that the tendency to see children as innocent and good by default can make people blind to the evil hiding in the shape of a child.) Of course now we know that this storyline went nowhere and that the Anointed One was probably the lamest villain on the show, which makes the scary prophecies about him ring hollow, but I'm not going to hold it against this episode.

    On the other hand, the A-story introduces a theme that will run throughout the show - Buffy’s difficulties of reconciling her romantic life with her calling. The purpose of this episode was obviously to establish the dangers and difficulties of Buffy dating a "normal" human (before having Buffy get involved with Angel only 2 episodes later). However short-lived and fleeting this story was, on rewatch I think Buffy did really like Owen (unlike for instance Scott Hope in S3, who – IMO – she only dated because she thought of him as ‘safe'), even though Angel was her main love interest, as we are reminded when Angel makes another appearance in the episode and Buffy is clearly interested in him but blows him off because she is disappointed that he seems to only want to talk to her about her “work” rather than being interested in her for herself. Buffy at this point only sees slaying as her job and is very far from thinking of it as a part of herself. Owen saying that Buffy is like "two people" introduces a theme of Buffy being split between her "Buffy, ordinary girl” persona and her Slayer persona, which she'll struggle a lot to reconcile throughout the show, with the Slayer part of her personality becoming stronger over years. We'll later see Buffy having a problem with a “regular” human boyfriend (Riley after losing his supersoldier powers in season 5) because of his feelings of inadequacy - that he can’t keep up with her; with Owen we see the opposite problem: not only he isn’t threatened or freaked out by Buffy's dangerous 'job', he likes it and is all too happy to throw himself in because he finds it exciting – which makes Buffy realize that she has to break up with him for his own good, because he would get himself killed. (Incidentally, I think this is the last time Buffy breaks up with someone until Spike in season 6 - Scott Hope, Angel and Riley all broke up with her, not to mention Parker).

    It's not surprising that Buffy was attracted to Owen - he's exactly the kind of guy smart and secretly romantic girls fall for in high school (he reminds me quite a lot of a guy I used to have a crush in high school): brooding, mysterious, poetic, looking older and more mature for his age, which is all incredibly attractive to many girls at the time when most high school boys act very immature and tend to put on silly and unconvincing macho acts. (Even though the same kind of guy might start looking a bit dull when you get a bit older.) With Owen we get another idea of the things Buffy is attracted to in men – obviously Angel also has a "certain Owenosity" – he can rival Owen for brooding, and he's also older-looking, mysterious and a romantic soul. But in many ways, Owen is most like another one of Buffy’s later boyfriends, as he is a poetic, reclusive guy who turns out to be a major adrenaline junkie who gets off on danger and dreams of transforming himself into “danger man”. Owen’s line “I never thought that nearly getting killed would make me feel so…alive” sounds very much like Spike’s line from “Fool For Love”: “Getting killed made me alive for the first time.”

    Cordelia is still a stereotype and particularly OTT in this episode with her aggressive come-ons to Owen and her jealousy and bitchiness to Buffy. I don't find it too surprising that Cordelia was after him too, she and Buffy seem to have a somewhat similar taste in men (both are attracted to Angel and Owen) and in high school, girls like Cordelia are tend to go after any guy who is considered attractive by other girls, especially if it’s a girl they have a rivalry with. Speaking of jealousy, this is the first time Xander speaks to Angel, and his dislike for Angel is obvious. Xander is jealous of Angel, and they are both jealous of Owen in this episode. This is also the first time Cordelia sees Angel, and she is immediately attracted to him (but at this point, he still doesn't pay attention to her.) Her line on seeing him: “Hello, salty goodness” will be repeated in AtS S4 "Spin the Bottle”, when Cordelia, after losing her memories and reverting back to her teenage self, gets a glimpse of Angel. There’s an ironic moment here: Cordelia saying about Angel: “That boy is gonna need some serious oxygen once I’m through with him”. Actually, he doesn't and hasn't for 200 years!

    The characterization of Giles is much better in this episode than in the previous one, for once he really seems capable, and a good mentor to Buffy, rather than just an awkward and fussy librarian. The relationship between him and Buffy gets a nice development here, in this episode it shapes up as a real mentor/student relationship, and there are signs of him as a father figure as well. For most of the episode, Giles is trying to get Buffy to do her duties while she’s trying to find time to have some fun and go on a date, but later on she choses her duty over dating, and they end up relating better to each other in their last scene. We learn about his background which is also important for the show's mythology: his father and grandmother were also Watchers (which confirms that Watchers, unlike Slayers, can be of either gender); being a Watcher was nothing something he chose, he was 'chosen' in a way, just like Buffy, learned about it when he was even younger (10 years old) and just like Buffy, did not want to accept his calling at first. But unlike the Slayers, the calling of the Watcher runs in the family and is a job passed on from one’s parent (and unlike the Slayers, the Watchers are "ordinary humans" with no magical superpowers).

    There's another 'subverting the expectations' moment when we're lead to believe that Giles is being sexist and has prejudice against Emily Dickinson for being a woman, but it turns out he has prejudice against Americans... Which, uh, is better? Well, marginally so, I suppose… :shifty:

    I had forgotten that Master said “Here endeth the lesson” to his minions in this episode, because the exact same line was later used by Spike to Buffy in "Fool for Love", and Buffy to the Potentials in “Showtime”. Did Spike meet Master at some point? Quite probably - but he never seemed to care much about him or his minions, then again maybe he just thought the line sounded cool.

    Best lines:
    Willow (about Owen): He can brood for 40 minutes straight. I've clocked him.

    Xander (to Owen): You should probably know that Buffy doesn’t like to be kissed…Actually,. she doesn’t like to be touched...
    Willow: Xander…
    Xander: In fact, don’t even look at her.

    Giles: Two more of the brethren came in here. They came after me. But I was more than a match for them.
    Buffy: Meaning…?
    Giles: I hid.

    Worst lines: I can’t think of any.
    But I guess in-universe, Buffy’s “It’s not you, it’s me” breakup line is pretty bad... although here it is actually true, in part at least (it really is about her, but it’s also about him being so reckless and not understanding the gravity of the life and death situations the way Xander or Willow do).

    Foreshadowing (?):
    Buffy worrying that her love life could get someone close to her, specifically Giles, killed.
    Willow and Xander pretending to be dating: “We knew it was going to happen eventually, so why fight it”.
    Buffy fighting the fake Anointed One while yelling “You killed my date!” is pretty awesome moment - we see how she gets strength from her emotions. Xander makes a decision not to tell her Owen is alive so she would stay as determined – which may be seen as foreshadowing his big lie in the season 2 finale.

    Rating: 3
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2011
  5. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Then maybe you shouldn't be reading my reviews, they're full of spoilers for the entire show! I'm only spoiler-tagging stuff from the comics.
     
  6. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    I've finished season 1, now I just have to find time/stop being lazy and write about episodes 6-12 from the notes I took.


    1.06. The Pack


    I always liked this episode, one of my favorites in S1 besides Prophecy Girl, Angel, Out of Mind, Out of Sight and Nightmares. It does very well something that S1 does best, use supernatural to comment on common real life high school issues. In this case, bullying. Bullies are shown to be similar to hyenas: the four students were already a "pack" before they got possessed by hyena spirits, they just took it to the next level when they were possessed. It is much more interesting to see Xander' s transformation. This is also the first episode in which a main character goes evil. The possession story feels like an excuse to show Xander's dark side; at the core it's a story about having a friend start hanging out with a bad crowd and becoming a jerk and a bully.

    One of the best scenes is the slow-motion wordless scene where the pack, with Xander as a leader, is walking through the schoolyard, and everyone is looking at them. The music in that scene ("Job's Eyes" by Far) is perfect, it really creates the feeling of danger and dread. I think this is the first time a song by a band is simply used as musical background in a scene without it being played in-universe (usually it's a band playing at the Bronze or someone playing a song), which is a bit more unusual for the show but does happen occasionally.

    Another strong scene is the one in the gym when the game of dodgeball turns ugly and the pack starts ganging up on the nerdy Kyle, their earlier victim/target. I didn't find it unrealistic at all that the coach didn't do anything - from my high school experience, it's very common to see teachers not lift a finger to stop obvious bullying between students. The coach in this scene is not the same guy we'll later see in "Go Fish", but they have the same mentality - instead of being shocked, this guy is also impressed with the hyena-students' brutality to other students (“God, this game is brutal. I love it!”). The show portrays school coaches in a very dark way (we'll get to see more on the subject in Nightmares and Go Fish, the latter is built on the idea that athletes are encouraged or made to be inhuman so they could perform better). One might compare hyena possession to the effect of steroids. The hyena-possessed students not only have more confidence and aggression, they also seem to have enhanced senses (Xander's super-hearing) and physical strength (Giles says that they can individually match Buffy), similar to supernatural beings such as vampires whose strength come from demonic sources.

    The unfortunate pig Herbert the mascot served well as a red herring - from the moment he was introduced it was easy to guess he would get eaten by the pack, but I don't think many people would have guessed that Principal Flutie will meet the same fate. That was a real surprise the first time I watched the show. Flutie was a good character and quite funny, more so than I remembered. But I think Snyder was even funnier and a really great and enjoyable 'love to hate' character. He was much worse for the students, but even more fun for the show.

    Nick Brendon is excellent playing a much darker, meaner version of Xander. Although Xander is not himself, it is not a simple possession, in which a person's body is under control from another being (say, Cordelia/Jasmine); but rather, it seems that the influence of the hyena spirit is drawing out Xander's suppressed aggression and making him act on his darker urges (including acting on his attraction for Buffy by trying to rape her), and in the end, regular Xander still remembers everything, even though he pretends not to in front of Buffy and Willow to make things easier for himself. I was struck by how much Hyena!Xander's behavior with Buffy and Willow was similar to the behavior of soulless vampires in later seasons. Xander insulting Willow in a particularly cruel way and enjoying her pain reminded me of Angelus and his emotional torment of Buffy in season 2, as well as some of Spike's gratuitous insults to Buffy in season 4 and 5. Xander might not see Willow in a romantic/sexual way at this point, but maybe, besides just talking pleasure in being cruel, he's trying to distance himself from a girl he has tender and very human feelings for. The way Xander acts around Buffy is a lot like season 5/6 Spike at his most sexually aggressive (calling Buffy "Slayer", telling her that she likes men being dangerous and mean, saying things like "When are you going to stop pretending we're not attracted to each other"...). Hyena!Xander can also be deceptive and manipulative - he's very good at pretending to be regular Xander (a bit like Angelus pretending to be Angel in season 4 of AtS) so much that he almost fooled Willow. Almost, since Willow shows that she's a tougher cookie and not so easily duped, not even by someone she cares about so much.

    This is the first time in the series that Buffy gets sexually assaulted (and the second episode that features a sexual assault - Xander was one of the victims in "Teacher's Pet" and is the perpetrator in his second centric episode) and while she's shocked, she keeps her cool and is relatively undisturbed by the experience after fighting him off. It's interesting to compare her reaction to her much more vulnerable behavior in season 6. But there are plenty of differences in circumstances that can explain that - in "The Pack", although it's also by someone she's close to, she knows that Xander is not being his normal self, and also she hasn't had an intimate relationship with him with a lot of messy and complicated feelings involved.

    Shippy developments: At the beginning of the episode, Willow and Buffy have another talk about boys, and we get an explicit confirmation of Willow's crush on Xander. Buffy says that she remembers the feeling (who is she referring to - Pike? Ford? Maybe Jeffrey?), but hasn't felt it for a long time (what about Owen? Has he been forgotten already, or does she just mean that the attraction wasn't that strong?) before admitting that she's attracted to Angel, but doesn't see a relationship with him because he's rarely around and just talks about Slaying. I can see why Willow calls Angel "mysterious older man", but why does Hyena!Xander call him "dangerous and mean", when he still had no idea that Angel was a vampire or had a dark past? Did he just assume that because of the mystery and the leather jacket, or maybe the animal spirit allowed Xander to instinctively feel the demon in Angel? Hyena!Xander also seems aware of Willow's feelings for him, but regular Xander seems clueless (as we later see in "Prophecy Girl") - maybe he is aware of it on a subconscious level but doesn't want to think about it?

    The climax with the parallel scenes of Xander assaulting Buffy and the other four pack members killing and eaten Principal Flutie was well done, but it's a bit of a cop-out that he wasn't with them. It would be harder to have an upbeat ending if one of your main characters had committed murder and cannibalism, even if he wasn't really responsible for his actions. I was thinking of giving this episode a 4, but the ending took half a point from it. An attempted rape is a serious matter, and even if Buffy and Willow are acting like everything is OK now that Xander is back to normal, the fact that Xander remembers everything means that he should feel disturbed by the things he did in his hyena state, maybe even look for some counseling. Instead, Giles smiles promising to keep his secret, and everything is soon forgotten. Not to mention those other 4 kids who killed and ate the principal and presumably also remember it; they aren't facing any punishment since the act is officially attributed to wild dogs, but how are they coping with it? They may have been jerks and bullies before, but murder and cannibalism is something else. This is a typical problem of season 1, lack of follow-up and upbeat endings even when they're not quite appropriate.

    Best/funniest lines:
    Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
    Buffy: Uh-huh.
    Giles: And, there's been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
    Buffy: Yes.
    Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
    Buffy: It's bad, isn't it.
    Giles: It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Course, you'll have to kill him.

    Worst lines:
    Giles: Testosterone is a great equalizer. It turns all men into morons.
    - Yes, it's similar to the best lines above, but those were funny. Didn't Giles notice that two out of five pack members were girls?

    Pop culture references: The X-Files (Buffy to Giles: “I can’t believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me!” I love that line.)

    Denial Buffy (aka Buffy protesting too much): about Angel: "Some girls might find him attractive..." This time, however, she quickly realizes she's not fooling Willow and adds "... OK - if they have eyes."

    Character death: Principal Flutie - in an episode in which he was more likable than usually.

    Main character goes evil: 1

    Foreshadowing:
    Willow tells Xander that he would end up in a poor job as the guy working in the pizza place – which is similar to where Xander will be at the start of season 4.

    Rating: 3.5
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011
  7. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    1.07. Angel

    An important episode that significantly develops the show’s mythology, the character of Angel, starts the Buffy/Angel romance, and introduces the Angel(us)/Darla relationship that would be explored on AtS. It was written by David Greenwalt, who would later become the show-runner when Angel gets his own show.

    Up to this episode the B/A relationship was just a flirtation/attraction to a mysterious, handsome older guy (although we will later learn in “Becoming” flashbacks that Angel was obsessed with her since he first saw her, after learning from her about Whistler), but Buffy said she didn’t see him as someone she could have a relationship with because he only ever showed up from time to time to give her cryptic advice about slaying. In this episode, they start getting more serious when Angel helps her fight off “The Three”, a trio of badass vampires sent by the Master to kill her – which is the first time she, or we the audience, see him fight, and she is impressed with his fighting skills – and then they end up spending a platonic night together in her room, with him sleeping on the floor. A few episodes earlier, Buffy realized that a relationship with a "normal" boy would not really work; now we see what she really wants in a relationship, to be with someone who knows what she is and accepts her and that she wouldn’t have to keep secrets from, but who is also strong enough to be there for her and fight by her side without her being worried that she would get him killed. Ironically, the reason why Angel fits that bill is because he is a vampire (since there are no male Slayers, that’s Buffy’s best bet at finding a man who is more or less her equal in fight). She might also be drawn to him because he is lonely and an outcast even more than she feels she is; we already knew that he had no friends (“The Harvest”) and he now reveals (after she starts asking him personal questions) that his family is dead and that he hasn’t had a lover in a very long time.

    The reveal of Angel being a vampire was well done. When you already know what he is, you can spot little clues, e.g. his strength when fighting the vampires which hinted he wasn’t a regular human, the fact we’ve never seen him in daylight, or that Buffy yelled at him to come with her into her house, right before he explained to her that the vampires won’t be able to come in because they need an invitation; even his remark that it would be inappropriate for them to get involved because he’s older than her gains a new meaning when you learn the age difference is over 220 years. He technically doesn’t tell any lies in his answers – saying that his family was killed by vampires, which makes Buffy assume that he’s a demon-hunter bent on revenge. (Ironically she will be later be in a relationship with a human demon hunter she first mistakes for a normal college boy. She basically mistook Angel for someone like Holtz, or Wood). The reason why Angel goes into vamp face during their first kiss is probably because of the link between the vampire's demon and their sexuality - he has gone long without either having any sexual intimacy of any kind, or having fed on humans, and the kiss must have awakened his bloodlust. Later on when Darla offers him to drink from unconscious Joyce, it’s obvious that his vampire impulses are a very strong temptation he has to fight.

    It’s interesting that, despite her initial shock, Buffy remains open-minded about Angel and, despite Giles’s information about his dark past, doesn’t think he should be dusted without a proof that he is dangerous/evil: up to that point he has only been helpful, she hasn’t seen him do anything wrong, he helped her fight the Three and got wounded, and he spent the night sleeping on the floor of her room without trying anything (Buffy was at first impressed that he was a ‘gentleman’ and didn’t try anything sexual – but after learning what he is, suddenly it becomes all the more impressive that he didn’t try to kill her/drink from her). Willow remains a Bangel shipper (and will remain so for the next few years) and finds it all very romantic (and maybe she’s also happy to see Buffy with someone other than Xander), while Xander represents the view that Angel should be dusted because he’s a vampire - which is the ideological stance that Giles taught him, but Xander is far more passionate in this view than the relatively detached Giles. Xander’s black and white view of vampires must be influenced a lot by what happened with Jesse – he was told that he had to kill his friend, and that there was no hope for Jesse once he was turned, even though he still wanted to save him, before he ended accidentally staking him. But it’s probably also influenced by his jealousy and dislike of Angel that was obvious long before he learned Angel was a vampire, and it’s a big question (still hotly debated in fandom) how much one or the other out of these psychological motivations played a role in Xander’s behavior over the next couple of seasons. It’s only after Buffy comes to wrongly believe that Angel has tried to kill her mother that she decides to go after him and kill him, despite admitting that she has feelings for him and might have fallen in love/be falling in love with him. Buffy’s slaying is normally not driven by personal reasons – she sees it as her job – but the sure way to make it personal and make her more determined is to hurt or threaten someone she loves, which happens with Darla’s scheme. And in this case it’s also personal because she had feelings for and trusted Angel and he seemed to betray her trust; which is why tells Angel: “I've killed many vampires, but I’ve never hated one.” (Which is, BTW, the first time Buffy tells anyone in the show that she hates them. Another interesting fact is that the second time she will tell a vampire that she hates him, it will be to Spike, in “Becoming part II”).

    I think this is the first time we see Buffy with a crossbow, and other medieval weapons she carries to her fight with Angel. Darla on the other hand is using guns, which vampires normally don’t do, even though it would work well against Slayers. But Darla is too determined to kill Buffy, while not risking Angel’s life, to be concerned with what vampires usually consider proper. Angel, on his part, might be having a death wish – he asks Buffy to not go soft on him. The fight scene is Western-style showdown between the two women, with Darla firing two guns at Buffy. Buffy fails to kill Darla, missing her heart, but Angel does not – which has a metaphorical meaning, since Darla is emotionally attached to Angel and obviously shocked when she realizes that he’s killed her, something she didn’t expect.

    Mythology: It is confirmed that a vampire can’t enter a building without an invite (a common belief in vampire lore) and the mythology about vampire's "soul" and "demon" is established. Buffy is still wearing the cross Angel gave her for protection against vampires, and in the last scene the cross burns into his flesh while they kiss. Apparently in Buffyverse crosses aren’t a source of incredible fear for vampires as in some other vampire fiction, they are more akin to what a hot iron would be to a human.
    We learn about Angel’s age, his curse by the Gypsies, as well as his background (that he was born in Ireland and killed his family after he was sired) and his relationship with Darla. In Giles’ books it is assumed that he got his vampire name because he was handsome (“angelic face”) – but the real story, which we will only learn in season 1 of AtS, is far more chilling. The soul is clearly described as moral conscience, while the demon seems to be what drives vampires to bloodlust, violence and sadism. Giles repeats the Watcher’s Council’s stance that a vampire is not a person, and Angel says about himself: “I can walk like a man, but I’m not one”, but the choice of words is questionable since vampires (not just Angel, but also the other, soulless vampires) clearly have a mind, feelings and will of their own. Early in the episode, before Buffy learns he’s a vampire, Angel explains that vampires are made when a demon invades a dead person’s body – but I don’t think it’s just the body, but rather their spirit, if Angel’s subsequent behavior is anything to go by. I don’t think he was implying that the dead person – their spirit, personality, memories – is gone, and if he did, he soon contradicts it in the rest of the episode, which brings me to:

    Angel/Angelus: This dichotomy is still a subject of so much debate, and has been treated in very contradictory ways on the show, that I think I need to keep the score of how it was presented in each episode where the issues comes up. This episode suggests that they’re one and the same, and that Angel is the same entity as he was as a human as well: he keeps talking about his past crimes in 1st person singular, rather than something done by a demon who is not him, and also says he killed his family (rather than the family of some dead human guy who has nothing to do with him). Darla also treats him as the same guy she had a relationship with in the past (which remains the same in all her appearances on AtS).

    Vampires and love: Another controversial subject – can soulless vampires love. Different vampires will later be shown to have very different opinions on the subject. Darla in this episode clearly thinks they can and believes that she and Angelus loved each other and says that she still loves him – she says the saddest thing in the world is “to love someone who used to love you”. Oddly enough, later in season 2 Angelus claims that he cannot stand love, and on AtS Angel and Darla can’t seem to agree if they used to love each other or not. In season 2 of AtS Angel says he wasn’t able to love Darla because he was soulless, and in "Lullaby" Darla agrees with him that she “never loved anything” and thinks she wouldn’t be able to love her baby once she gives birth, because she doesn’t have a soul and the only thing that allows her to love her son is that she is influenced by his soul. (Spike, Dru, Harmony, and James and Elizabeth from “Heartthrob” wouldn’t agree.) But maybe the inconsistency can be explained as a matter of semantics: how one defines the word “love”, and whether the selfish, possessive kind of love is considered “love” or desire/passion/obsession etc. while “love” is taken to be synonymous with “good” love.

    Darla is a much stronger character in this episode, and her characterization is much closer to what we later see on AtS. She isn’t trembling in fear in front of the Master as she did in “The Harvest”; she’s more determined and proactive (because she has a personal reason to want Buffy dead) and her dynamic with him is more equal, so much that the Master remarks at one point that it almost looks like she’s giving him the orders now – but he’s not angry about it. She is also more obviously cruel, and enjoys taking the lives of vampires rather than just humans. We first learn how close Darla and the Master were ("she was my favorite"). The Master is being more emotional and approachable than usual – he is being almost fatherly to Darla as well as to the Anointed One (whom he calls “Colin”), who is his protégé and even gets asked for an advice. Later he cries over Darla's death and gets to be comforted by the Anointed One. The Anointed One and the Master (and to an extent Darla/Master) are mirroring the mentor/student relationship of Buffy and Giles. Once again we see how strict the hierarchy of the Sunnydale vampires is (very different from the more self-centered and rebellious vampires we'll meet later). These vamps are not amoral, they have their own morality, tradition and even religion of sorts, which is the inversion of human morality/religion. The Three offer their lives for failing in their mission, and get executed by Darla. The Master tells Colin that taking a life (which he usually does to his minions when they fail him) is always a serious matter, but of course only when the lives of vampires are concerned, rather than not puny and irrelevant humans – which is the mirror image of the Watchers ideology that Buffy lives by (with the distinction between killing a human vs dusting/slaying a vampire). The Master says about Angelus: "He was to have sat by my right hand”, which is another example of vampire tradition as an inversion/parody of Christian religion (together with things like the prophecies, rituals and the title of Anointed One), with the Master in the role of God the Father (“The Master” is similar to “Lord”, after all).

    Continuity check: We learn that Darla is 400 years old and that the last time Angel saw her she wore a kimono – but the latter doesn’t really fit with the flashbacks we’ll later see on AtS: the last time he saw her, they were in China and she was wearing Western clothes. This episode makes it seem like Angel was the one who rejected Darla, but later we see that she rejected him for having a soul, that he tried to go back to her and couldn’t convince her he was still evil enough for her taste. Angel says that he never fed on a living human after he was souled, but the flashbacks will contradict that as well: he did feed on criminals while he was still with Darla. Darla blames Angel for becoming “one of them” because, among other things, he lives above the ground – but later we see that Darla used to live with him above the ground for hundreds of years, before their relationship ended and she went back to the Master and the traditional ways. The Master seems to have a lot of respect for Angelus and says he wanted him to be his right hand, but we later see that they never got along because Angelus rebelled against the Master immediately. But maybe the Master was impressed with his evil deeds, and expected him to eventually come back to the fold, like Darla did?

    Other things worth mentioning:
    - This episode features the first meeting of Joyce and Giles, who are going to have a very interesting and rocky relationship;
    - First hints of Xander/Cordelia tension;
    - In school, Buffy has particular trouble with history (which is really the subject that would be most useful in her calling); Giles says that the reason is that Buffy lives very much ‘in the now’ and doesn’t care about the past.
    - We see Angel’s tattoo for the first time – it’s a griffin, a mythical hybrid animal, which hints at Angel’s own hybrid nature (man/monster).

    Best line:
    Willow (being told by Buffy that she should speak up to Xander about her feelings for him): No, no, no! No speaking up! That way leads to madness, and sweaty palms.

    2nd place: The Master gets to be funny:
    The Master: I am weary, and their deaths will bring me little joy.
    (Darla executes the Three.)
    The Master: Of course, sometimes a little is enough.

    Worst line:
    Darla (shooting at Buffy): Come on, Buffy, take it like a man. (?)

    Character death: Darla. But she’ll get better. You’d think that dusting a vamp means is the end of them, but people in Buffyverse tend to come back.

    Oooh, kinky: Darla says “You’re hurting me… That's good, too” – the first time we get a hint of someone being into BDSM - which we later see many vampires in Buffyverse are (and not only vampires). She’s dressed in a schoolgirl outfit (which is ironic as she’s feigning youth and innocence, the opposite of what she really is) and mocks Angel for being into schoolgirls now.

    Buffy protesting too much/Buffy bad liar: her very desperate attempt to convince Angel that she wasn’t writing about him in her journal: “Hunk can mean a lot of things, bad things even…” –all the more amusing since it turns out Angel didn’t even read her diary.

    Shirtless scene (the first one in the show): Angel.

    Pop culture references: The Master, mentoring the Anointed One, uses the line: “With power comes responsibility” – Spiderman’s motto, which could also be Buffy’s.
    Xander quotes a line from the song “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”: “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”, but he probably forgot what the song was about, since he uses that quote to mean that it’s natural for Buffy as the Slayer to kill Angel since he’s a vampire, but in the context of the song that line meant that love is something that comes naturally and doesn’t depend on reason and decisions. Ironically, he almost sounds like a B/A supporter there while the supportive Willow ends up listing the problems of the Buffy/Angel relationship known up to this point: the fact that unlike her he’ll never age or die a natural death, and that they can’t have children (which will be echoed by the Mayor in season 3).

    Foreshadowing:
    In this episode, Buffy wrongly believes that Angel has tried to kill someone she loves; in the future, the nightmare scenario will come true and he will hurt people close to her, more than once.
    Willow tells Buffy that you can’t change your feelings for someone by killing them, and Buffy replies “It’s a start”. Buffy will kill Angel in the season 2 finale, but this won’t change her feelings for him. Angel kills Darla in this episode – but when she comes back on AtS, it will become obvious that he still very much has feelings for her.
    Darla rhetorically asks Angel if he thinks Buffy would ever kiss him while he’s in vampface. Ironically, Buffy will do exactly that in "What’s My Line”.
    At one point, it seems that Cordelia has a shocked reaction was because she heard Xander asking Buffy how she can be in love with a vampire – fortunately she was talking about something else, but there’s additional irony since Cordelia will also fall in love with a vampire (the same one, actually).
    Giles’ description of Buffy as someone who "she lives in the now" is in sharp contrast with season 8 Buffy, who is described as being “stuck in the past".

    This is the best episode so far – it feels like a season 2 episode. There’s a noticeable rise in quality in the second part of season 1 which starts with “The Pack” and “Angel”.


    Rating: 4
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  8. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    1.08. I, Robot, You Jane

    This is the first Willow-centric episode, and the fourth episode centered on the love life of one of the Scoobies. Like Xander in “Teacher’s Pet”, Willow gets a love interest who turns out to be a dangerous demon and has to be gotten rid of at the end of the episode. At the same time, a real long-term romance is set up with the introduction of Jenny Calendar. It is one of the weakest episodes in the season, but I think it’s not as awful as its reputation suggests – despite the cheesiness of the robot and the ‘historical’ flashback, and being at times a little too on the nose with its debate on the dangers of Internet and new technologies.

    The demon Moloch the Corruptor, the main villain of the episode, has the name of an ancient Semitic god known for demanding human sacrifices, children in particular. (This is incidentally the episode with the first ‘historical’ flashback we get in the show, which is inaccurate since it is supposed to be from the Middle Ages, but it’s set in 1418 Italy, which was very much in the Renaissance.) This Moloch is a charismatic leader who seduces his followers, found among teenagers and young adults, with promises of power, knowledge or love, demanding their love and devotion and killing them once he gets it. While the episode first seems focused on the dangers of Internet dating/friendships (Willow meets Moloch online, under the assumed identity of “Malcolm”, and falls for him), including child abusers who look for their victims in chat rooms, the demon trapped in a book and then transferred to the computer and gaining new power through Internet, is an obvious metaphor for dangerous populist ideologies, which can spread through books (such as, say, “Mein Kampf” or “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”), but even more so through the Internet, which generally involves less censorship or control and a more wide audience. The debate about computers and the Internet – with two opposing views represented by Giles and Jenny - ends on a more balanced view: new technologies are in itself not any more ‘evil’ than the old books, but printed word is not obsolete in the computer age. Giles explains his love of books through his love of their physicality, their smell and touch; Moloch ends up confirming this view – despite the power he can have through the Internet, he wants to also be corporeal again, to be able to touch.

    Xander shows jealousy over Willow’s relationship with ‘Malcolm’, and Buffy calls him on it. Even though Xander says he is not interested in Willow in a romantic way, he is used to being the main man in Willow’s life. This jealousy will resurface in a stronger way when Willow starts dating Oz.

    I’m still not sure if the development of Willow’s sexuality in the later seasons was completely believable in the light of the early seasons, but I do think that it was more convincing than it would have been if Buffy or Xander had had a “gay now” storyline (apparently, Whedon planned to make either Willow or Xander gay, and Seth Green’s departure in season 4 was one of the factors that decided who it would be), and a scene in this episode that shows the difference between Buffy’s and Willow’s attitude to men and dating is one of the moments that can be used to support the later development of sexuality. She was not a very sexual character in the early seasons, her first crush was on her childhood friend, and one may say that her crushes/relationships were more about being drawn to someone’s personality than about physical attraction. This is certainly the case in this episode – she falls for a “boy” she has never seen, based on their interaction online, while Buffy is unable to understand how one can fall for someone if they don’t know what the person looks like (the worst thing she can imagine is if Willow found out Malcolm had a hairy back :lol: ). Willow and Xander both got seduced by dangerous people because they longed to have someone pay attention to them, but in Xander’s case it was a hot teacher who showed sexual interest in him, while Willow fell for a guy online who seemed sensitive, intelligent and interested in her – which may fall into the gender stereotype, but in this case it seems to be more about the difference in personality. For Buffy, it’s a combination of both – physical attraction plays a significant part in her interest in men, but personality is as important: she is drawn to mystery and to the aura of maturity and confidence (which is why goofy Xander doesn’t stand a chance), and, like Willow, she wants to be accepted for what she is. (Although it has to be said that at this point Willow still seems to think that beauty equals goodness and that you can tell the book by its cover - she says Malcolm can’t have a hairy back because “he doesn’t look seem someone who has a hairy back”.)

    Moloch is an early example how romantic rhetoric can be dangerous and destructive and how it can be used to used to seduce and mislead, which is something we’ll see more of later (most notably in season 8), all the more so when it’s combined with big promises of power, specialness and happiness (he promises to give Willow the world, which is very similar to what Darla told Liam as she was about to sire him, and it also recalls Drusilla/William, and, again, season 8). Willow rejects his possessive, controlling and immoral ‘love’ as something that isn’t love at all, which is another one of show’s frequent themes – if selfish love should be considered love. It’s worth mentioning that Willow saw through ‘Malcolm’ before she knew he was a demon (as soon as he started acting suspicious and tried to turn her against Buffy), showing once again that she is not gullible or blinded by her feelings, just like she did with Hyena!Xander.

    Recurring characters introduced: Jenny Calendar. The (mildly) belligerent sexual tension between her and Giles is set up from the start, and here they also represent two different attitudes towards modern technologies – Giles is an old-fashioned lover of books who distrusts or despises computers and Internet, while Jenny, computer science teacher, identifies as a techno-pagan.

    Best scene: The ending – Buffy, Willow and Xander compare their love lives and the fact that their love interests all turned out to be demons:
    Buffy: "Let's face it. None of us are ever gonna have a happy, normal
    relationship."
    Xander: "We're doomed!"
    Willow: "Yeah!"
    (They all laugh and then suddenly stop and freeze, looking unhappy.)

    Best lines:
    Buffy: "This guy could be anybody. He could be weird or crazy or old or...he
    could be a circus freak--he's probably a circus freak!"
    Xander: "Yeah, I mean we read about it all the time. You know, people meet on
    the net, they talk, they get together, have dinner, a show... horrible axe murder."
    Buffy: "Willow, axe murdered by a circus freak!"

    Giles: "I'll be back in the Middle Ages."
    Jenny: "Did you ever leave?"

    Other observations: You know that the episode was shot in 1997 when a character replies to “I met him online” with: "On line to what?"
    Xander mentions his uncle (is this the first mention of the infamous Uncle Rory?) who used to work “in a floor-sweeping capacity” in the computer lab.

    Continuity check: Buffy refers to Angel as “The one boy I had the hots for since I moved here” – so Owen has indeed been completely forgotten, or is she saying she wasn’t really attracted to him?

    Inconsistencies: Buffy’s birthday in her school file is 24/10/1980, but later we learn that she is born in 1981 (according to the inscription on her grave in both “Nightmares” and “The Gift”).

    Pop culture references: The title refers to “I, Robot" by Isaac Assimov, “Tarzan”, and an episode of “The Outer Limits”. A monk in the episode is called Thelonius – a pun on the name of the jazz musician Thelonius Monk. Buffy compares herself to Spiderman (“My spider sense if tingling”). The name of one of Moloch’s student minions is Dave, which may be a reference to "2001 Space Odyssey” – Dave is the name of the astronaut who discovers that the computer HAL has gone mad and killed everyone else on the ship. The other minion is called Fritz, which is a possible homage to Fritz Lang. One of Lang’s best known films, “Metropolis”, features a fantasy scene in which the main character, after an accident in which several workers were killed, sees the factory machine as the monstrous Moloch devouring humans. Another one of his famous films, “M”, is about a pedophiliac serial killer who kills children, who is at one point marked with the letter “M” on his clothes. In this episode, Fritz carves the letter “M” into his arm.

    Foreshadowing (?): The last scene (with Buffy, Xander and Willow saying that they’re never going to ever have happy, normal relationships) is very fitting for the episode that starts the Giles/Jenny romance, which will end tragically. It’s also quite prophetic, though some of them will have happy relationships for a while, but even then the ‘normal’ part is questionable, since so many of the Scoobies' love interests will be demons, vampires or werewolves. Willow’s comment that Malcolm can’t possibly have a hairty back since he doesn’t seem like that kind of person becomes ironic when we know that in about a year Willow will have a boyfriend who gets very hairy once a month!
    There’s a lot of irony in Buffy saying "OK you have a secret, that's not allowed" to Willow, since she will herself be keeping many secrets from her friends in the following seasons. And while Buffy is making an excellent point when she asks Willow how much she really knows about the “wonderful” Malcolm, there’s some irony in the fact that Buffy doesn’t really know Angel that well.

    Rating: 2.5

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1.09. The Puppet Show


    Not an especially deep episode, but a funny and enjoyable one. It plays with the popular horror trope of Evil Dummy, but here it is a well used red herring – Sid the dummy is set up as the villain until late in the episode when we learn he’s a cursed demon fighter. The Scoobies rushing to save Giles is so well done that it actually feels suspenseful even though you realized that it's very unlikely that Giles would actually get beheaded by the guillotine in this episode (and even when you’ve already seen the episode). The most memorable part of the episode is the funny ending – or rather, the endings, since this episode has a rare additional ending that runs over the credits.

    The episode does introduce an interesting dilemma for the Scoobies, when they come to mistakenly believe that the killer might be a regular human. At this point in the show, the characters still had a very black and white view of demons, exemplified by Giles: "A demon is a creature of evil, pure and simple. A person driven to murder is more complex." Later on they will learn that even the demons are not nearly that simple, but human villains will continue to be treated differently, because they are not the Slayer’s jurisdiction, and the human justice system is equipped to deal with them, which is not the case with supernatural threats. And there’s another reason why the idea of the human killer is more disturbing to them – it hits closer to home, and it means that the threat is not that easily recognizable – as Willow put it, “It could be anyone.” The villain in this episode turns out to be a demon after all, but in the next two episodes (“Nightmares: and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”) the main villains are actually humans (even though it initially appears that they are demons).

    Giles is more relaxed and friendlier with the Scoobies in this episode, joking with them and even following Xander’s advice at one point. Cordelia seems to consider the word “Buffy” synonymous with “freak” (she says she wouldn’t want to be considered some kind of “Buffy” and later later mocks Buffy that she and the dummy could tour in the "freak show").

    Recurring characters introduced: Principal Snyder, a really great love-to-hate antagonist character in Buffy’s high school years. If Flutie was the caricature of a liberal headmaster constantly concerned with appearing PC and friendly, but unable to actually understand the students at all, Snyder is a caricature of a conservative, authoritarian one who hates kids (he even says it outright) while at the same time is a complete sycophant to the people in power (as we see later with the Mayor). In retrospect, it seems that the Mayor put Snyder in that position so he could provide a cover-up for any supernatural incident in the school, and possibly to keep an eye on Buffy. Armin Shimerman is as great and funny in the role as he was playing lovable rogue Quark in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who was pretty much Snyder’s complete opposite. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if Snyder’s character is that exaggerated – everyone has probably had this kind of stern, authoritarian, always angry teacher or principal at some point. He reminds me a lot of a teacher from my high school, whose popular nickname was “SS”. Giles in this episode calls Snyder “Our new Fuhrer” (a reference to fascism/Nazism for the second episode in a row).

    Best scenes:
    1st place: At the end of the episode – the curtain suddenly goes up to show the frozen tableau consisting of Giles, Xander, Willow with an axe, Buffy holding a dummy in her arms, and the beheaded demon in the guillotine.
    Snyder: I don't get it. What is it? Avantgarde?

    2nd place:the second ending – the equally awkward and embarrassing spectacle of Buffy, Xander and Willow performing Oedipus Rex on stage for the talent show. Willow running off from the stage, apparently improvised by Alyson Hannigan, is great because it’s both funny and in character for Willow (whose stage fright we get to see more of in the next episode, “Nightmares”).

    Best lines:
    Snyder: There are things I won’t tolerate: students loitering on campus after school. Horrible murders with hearts being removed. And smoking.

    Cordelia (talking about the murder and making everything about herself again): All I could think was, it could be me!
    Xander: We can dream…

    Giles: I say it’s a welcome change to have someone else explain these things.

    Pop culture references: The Shining, Usual Suspects

    Foreshadowing (?):
    Oedipus Rex is about the impossibility of fighting destiny: Greek tragedies were based on the idea that human life has already been determined by higher powers, the gods, and trying to change one's fate only contributes to its happening. This theme is central in the season finale, “Prophecy Girl”. Fate and prophecies play an even bigger role on AtS, much more so than on BtVS.
    There's a lot of dramatic irony when Snyder says that Flutie was eaten because he was such a bleeding heart liberal: Snyder will get eaten too – by none other than the authority figure he was serving.
    Sid first mistook Buffy for a demon; we will learn in season 7 that Slayer powers are of demonic origin.
    Willow saying anyone could be the villain, even her, sounds different after you've seen season 6.
    Some moments from this episode will later get referenced in “Restless”: Giles as the producer of a play (in Willow’s dream), which recalls Giles working on the talent show; Giles having the top of his head cut off (in his own dream).
    For the talent show, Cordelia sings (horribly off-key) “The Greatest Love of All”, about self-love. In season 4 of AtS, amnesiac Cordy will sing it to Lorne to remember who she is.

    Rating: 3
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  9. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Over 1200 views but so few comments? Is everyone just agreeing with me on everything? :p Maybe I need to wait till season 6 for some serious controversy/debate... :)

    1.10. Nightmares

    Most of season 1 episodes featured monsters as metaphorical representations of real life high-school problems. In this episode, the fears of the characters are literally made real, while the real monster/villain of the episode is (for the first time in the show) a regular human – and a very prosaic one, not a serial killer or mastermind criminal but an over-competitive and abusive a little league coach who beat up a child and put him in a coma because of a lost game - and instead of being slayed, he gets his comeuppance by being handed to the human authorities and sent to jail. It’s not the first or the last time that the ruthless competitiveness of parents or coaches who push or abuse children or teenagers in order to fulfill their ambitions has been the theme of the show (“Witch”, the dodgeball scene in “The Pack”, “Go Fish”). It’s interesting that the previous episode, “The Puppet Show”, had a demon villain that the Scoobies mistook for a human, while this one has the opposite – the apparent (but imaginary) villain for most of the episode was “The Ugly Man”, a monstrous-looking representation of the coach, with his inner ugliness embodied by his horror-movie looks, created by the mind of Billy, the little boy in coma whose mind created the nightmares.

    Of course, the most interesting part of the episode are the nightmares themselves. “Your worst fears made flesh” is hardly a new concept in SF/F (and will be used once again on the show in season 4 “Fear Itself”) but it gives an opportunity for both entertaining scenes and revealing character moments. Some of the character’s fears are quite trivial and are there to provide some fun (Cordelia’s greatest fear is to have awful hair, be dressed as a dork and be dragged by a bunch of nerds into the chess club; a ‘tough guy’ has his mom suddenly visit him in school and embarrass him in front of his friends), others, like most of Buffy’s nightmares or Giles’s biggest nightmare, which we see later on in the episode, are far darker and more serious. Some of the nightmares turn out to be more complex and revealing than they first appear – this is the case with Wendell, a school boy who appears only in this episode, whose fear of spiders turns out not to be a case of arachnophobia, but a result of his feelings of guilt over the deaths of his pet spiders that he loved, even though it was his brother who was responsible that they burned. (Wendell could have an interesting chat with season 8 Buffy, who seemed to suffer from a similar case of self-blame, if #10 “A Beautiful Sunset” and “Always Darkest” are anything to go by, only more serious since it wasn’t about pet spiders.) Willow’s stage fright is quite common, but fitting for her, with her shyness and insecurity; Xander’s first nightmare of being naked in front of a bunch of people is also very common dream (which shows the feeling of being vulnerable and exposed), while his fear of the clown who was at his 6th birthday and scared the hell out of him when he was a child seems both trivial at first glance, and unoriginal (scary clowns are also a popular theme in fantasy/horror) – however… Later in the show we learn that Xander's home life was far from happy and that his family was dysfunctional and his father abusive (and there’s a little hint about that at the end of this episode – his remark that he knows from experience how ruthless it can be in the little league and that he’s only surprised that it wasn’t one of the parents who beat up the kid). Xander being afraid of a clown from his childhood hints that he hasn't gotten over his childhood issues (Xander is acting especially childishly in those scenes – he is lured to the clown by a trail of chocolates, as in a fairytale)... and how fitting is it that his boogeyman is a clown (someone that should be funny on the surface but is scary and disturbing underneath, in Xander's view), when Xander himself is someone who uses jokes to hide his own demons?

    Buffy’s first nightmare is extremely common as well – failing a test, which is generally taken as a manifestation of the fear of being unprepared (it’s interesting that it’s again history that she’s failing – one would think it’s exactly the subject that could help her in her calling). It gets a lot more serious when Buffy’s father comes to see her and tells her that she was a great disappointment to him and the reason her and Joyce divorced, and that he doesn’t want to see her anymore. It’s heartbreaking to watch even though it’s obvious that it isn’t real: the Hank Summers that appears in Buffy’s nightmare is apparently just a representation of him, not the real Hank who appears at the end of the episode. It’s not that uncommon for children to blame themselves for the divorce of their parents, but it turns out to be a very revealing moment for Buffy, since abandonment issues are going to plague her throughout the show, all through season 8 – the feeling that people, men in particular, are always leaving her because there is something wrong with her, which she will trace back to her father in “Conversations with Dead People”. (In “Nightmares”, we learn that Joyce and Hank’s explanation for Buffy was that they had just grown apart, but in CWDP Buffy says that she thinks it was really because Hank cheated on Joyce.) It doesn’t look like a coincidence that a nightmare involving abandonment by her own father, Buffy’s next nightmare is meeting the Master over ground (who is a dark paternal figure, a cruel, authoritarian and evil “father” ), being buried alive, and then becoming a vampire, the very thing she is fighting against. Buffy hasn’t really met the Master (and won’t until "Prophecy Girl"), she’s only seen him in her prophetic Slayer dreams. It is a little weird that one of the things Imaginary Master says to her is that she’s prettier than the last Slayer – of course, it doesn’t matter than the real Master probably didn’t meet the last Slayer since he was underground for so long (who is a product of her subconscious mind, just like Imaginary Hank was – the reality bends to the imagination, a graveyard appears in the middle of the street and it is night around Buffy while it’s daytime in other parts of Sunnydale), you have to wonder where that came from – was it a reminder of past Slayers that died, Buffy’s need to get some sort of compliment from a ‘father’ figure, is she even seeing the monster she fears as some sort of latent sexual threat. (Did I just use the words “The Master” and “sexual” in the same sentence? The sound you’re hearing is me and Buffy screaming “ewww” in unison. ;) ) For Buffy’s other father figure, Giles, one of his fears is losing the ability to read – which isn’t trivial since it means, for him, being useless and unable to perform his duty and help Buffy – and his biggest nightmare is her death – and the touching speech he gives over her grave confirms how attached he has become to her and that he feels that protecting her is his duty.

    The Master has a small but interesting scene where he’s mentoring the Anointed One and teaching him about overcoming one’s fears – and demonstrates it by grabbing a huge cross and holding it for a while (again we see that crosses are not mortally dangerous to vampires – it burns his flesh for a while but then it stops; we don’t get an explanation why they have this effect in the non-religious Buffyverse world, the Master only says that the cross is a symbol that “confounds him”). Ironically the villain is the one to introduce the ‘lesson’ of the episode: Xander defeats the clown as soon as he tells him he’s not scary, Buffy doesn’t resolve her fear of the Master in this episode (it only happens in the season finale) but she faces and defeats the Ugly Man, who at first “confounds” her because he’s something she hasn’t had to deal before: everyday human evil; and Billy wakes up and stops the nightmares by finding the strength to accuse his abuser, the coach.

    Other observations: Willow’s family life seems to be no better than Buffy’s, or maybe worse – her parents don’t fight, but instead just keep their resentment inside and stare at each other. Willow and Xander both have dysfunctional families, which is a good way to explain why they’re spending so much time with Buffy and Giles and why we never see their parents.
    The episode ends with Xander admitting he still found Buffy attractive as a vampire and calling himself sick – which is interesting considering how much he would criticize Buffy throughout the show for her attraction to vampires. Earlier on we see that he has a crush on yet another teacher (he’s not just into demons but also into older women – another similarity with Buffy?).
    Willow has a picture of herself and Giles on her locker door (a hint that she had a bit of a crush on Giles, which she will admit in season 4?), together with a poster for Nerf Herder (the band that plays the Buffy theme song).
    The Master is dressed in a Nazi-like black uniform, and we get yet another mention of fascism (Xander says he’s not afraid of spiders but would be if a bunch of Nazis crawled all over his face).

    Recurring characters introduced: Hank Summers, Buffy’s elusive dad, who will appear rarely through the first couple of seasons and then later disappear from Buffy’s life.

    Best lines:
    Buffy (to the Ugly Man): “There are a lot scarier things scarier than you – and I’m one of them!”

    Funniest lines:
    Xander (referring to Wendell's love for spiders): "It's platonic, right?"

    Inconsistencies: Buffy’s birth year is now 1981, according to the inscription on her grave. Apparently the info from her file (seen in "I Robot, You Jane") was wrong.

    Pop culture references: Several references to children’s movies and TV shows: The Muppet Show (Willow is using “to Gonzo” as a verb), Disney’s Cinderella (Imaginary Master quotes the song: “A dream is a wish your heart makes” in a much darker context), The Wizard of Oz. Willow compares Cordelia to Evita Peron.

    Buffy destroying English language: She says “asteroid body” instead of “astral body”. Xander thinks “arachnids” are people from the Middle East.

    Shirtless scenes: Xander, during his nightmare. (Total so far: 2: Angel 1, Xander 1.)

    Foreshadowing: Giles’s remark “That would be a musical comedy version of this” now makes you think of “Once More, With Feeling”, which will have a callback to “Nightmares” (one of the theories in OMWF was that a kid was dreaming and they were all stuck in his wacky Broadway nightmare).
    Willow's nightmare will get a callback in Willow's dream in season 4 finale "Restless".
    Buffy's father will indeed stop visiting her in later years.
    Buffy’s grave we see in the nightmare foreshadows the end of season 5, while Buffy digging her way out of her own grave foreshadows her resurrection in “Bargaining”, when she had to do exactly that. Her death (?) at the hands of the Master in her nightmare foreshadows the season finale.

    Buffy’s biggest fears don’t seem to have changed much from season 1 to season 4 (“Fear, Itself) and even season 8 (her dream in the Whedon-written supplemental e-comic “Always Darkest”): abandonment (by her father in “Nightmares”; by her friends in “Fear Itself”; by her lovers); the guilt/self-blame (her father tells her it’s her fault; in
    “Always Darkest” Spike and Angel blame her for their respective deaths in “Chosen” and “Becoming II” while Caleb tells her they won’t bother with her because she’s a “dirty girl”);
    and the fear that she will become or is becoming a monster herself or that this is where she belongs (being buried alive and becoming a vampire in “Nightmares”; getting stuck with the bunch of zombies and unable to move in “Fear, Itself”;
    marrying skinless Warren – with Caleb as the minister and various monsters in attendance – in “Always Darkest”).

    Rating: 4
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2011
  10. indranee

    indranee Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Great thread!! Thanks DevilEyes.:bolian:
     
  11. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    1.11. Out of Mind, Out of Sight


    This is another great example of the show’s use of supernatural as a metaphor for a real life problem. This time it’s the classic SF/F theme of invisibility, which is here a metaphor for outcasts, people who get ignored and who would desperately want to be seen. As we learn in this episode, the Hellmouth makes metaphorical invisibility into a literal one. The invisible girl Marcie (Clea DuVall) is arguably the first sympathetic villain of the show. Cordelia, her intended victim and counterpart, shows she has some unexpected depths, and starts getting friendlier to the Scoobies, if only because she needs Buffy’s help when she realizes that the invisible villain is targeting her, by first going after the people in her circle and then after herself.

    The main theme of the episode is loneliness and what it’s like to be an outcast. We’ve seen that Buffy has been an outcast one since she was called and lost her previous ‘popular girl’ status in Hemery High; most Sunnydale students seem to think of her as a weird girl, a freak, and are perhaps a little scared of her (Cordelia says in this episode that she knows Buffy has a lot of weapons and that she thought she was in a gang), which is why Marcie thought that Buffy could understand her (even if Buffy’s problem is the opposite from Marcie’s – she stands out too much while Marcie wasn’t remarkable in any way and never stood out at all.) In this episode there’s an atypical moment when Buffy feels excluded even from her friends, when Xander and Willow are wrapped up in laughing over something from their past, and Buffy is reminded that they’ve known each other for far longer than they’ve known her. (This is something that will become irrelevant in the next years when the Scoobies’ shared experiences.) We’ve also seen that Willow and Xander also get mocked by Cordelia and her gang and aren’t the most ‘popular’ in school, with their nerd/geek status, but some other students have it worse, like Kyle from “The Pack” who was the favorite target of the bullies. But Marcie turns out to be the ultimate outcast - she literally had no friends, she’s not mocked or hated or bullied, but simply ignored by everyone, students and teachers alike. Everybody unintentionally victimized her, including Willow and Xander. Cordelia on the other hand seems like the complete opposite of Marcie, with her status of the most “popular” girl in the school, and a bunch of sycophants following her around all the time. The flashbacks make it easy to sympathize with Marcie, while Cordelia is very unsympathetic, as when Marcie is making unsuccessful attempts to talk to Cordy and her circle, and her minions ignore Marcie’s joke but Cordelia then repeats her joke and gets everyone to laugh (since they’re not really paying attention to what she’s saying anyway). But the irony is that Cordelia’s “popularity” is actually very questionable – some people like the Scoobies despise her, while the people who are always around her and seem to hang on to her every word are actually trying to up their own status, and most of them don’t really seem to know or care about her as a person, and as it turns out she’s aware of it. The guy she is dating, Mitch, doesn’t even know what color her eyes are, and both of them are mostly interested in each other just as trophies to look good on each other’s arm and in pictures. She seems to be the most visible person in the school, but at the same time nobody really sees her. It’s also interesting that Cordelia is aware of how badly she treats people and casually calls herself evil (about Marcie: “Wow, she is evil, way eviler than me”). Cordelia is not just Buffy’s frenemy but a reminder of what Buffy used to be before she found out she was a Slayer (Buffy mentions she used to be the “May Queen” in her old school, and in this episode Cordelia is about to be crowned “May Queen” at the Spring dance), and Cordy opening up to her prompts Buffy to admit for the first time that things weren’t that great when she was “popular” in LA because she always felt something was missing from her life (one of the first signs of Buffy accepting her calling as a part of her life, rather than something that has been forced upon her). Buffy ends up saving Cordelia for the 3rd time (“The Harvest”, “Witch”) but the new almost-friendship between Cordy and the Scooby gang doesn’t last, since peer pressure is too strong and Cordy is still not ready to lose her status by hanging out with a bunch of ‘losers’. She’ll get there later.

    There’s a meta moment early in the episode in the scene where the class are having a discussion about the difference between hero and protagonist. In the show as a whole, Buffy is both, but one can say that this episode is more about Marcie, who can be seen as a villain/antagonist, but maybe also as a protagonist in this particular story (but not the hero) – in a way that Shylock is the villain/antagonist of The Merchant of Venice, but has been treated as the protagonist in many contemporary productions. Another scene has the class discussing The Merchant of Venice, introducing the theme of the episode - an angry, vengeful outcast, and drawing a parallel between Shylock and Marcie. Willow is unsurprisingly the one to defend him, probably not so much because she’s Jewish but because she also feels unappreciated and, as we later see, has a strong vindictive streak. Cordelia's unsympathetic view of Shylock, while presented as one of 'Cordy's wacky interpretations of classics', is in fact probably closer to the original idea of the play, and she makes a good point except for the irony that she's the one talking about someone being self-centered. But Marcie actually proves her right in the end – as a result of what happened to her, she has become self-absorbed and can’t see that everyone else has their problems and feels lonely as well. Nowadays we're so used to that "if they prick us, don't we bleed?" speech being used as an example of the downtrodden and oppressed groups of people speaking up and demanding to be heard, that we forget that Shylock's speech is not about equality but about vengeance, he is saying that he has a desire and a right to vengeance just like the Christians do. Of course he tries to represent it as justice, but it's really revenge. And just like Shylock, Marcie is a sympathetic villain, but she's still the villain of the piece. No matter how much we can't help but feel sorry for her and sympathize with her for what happened to her, the fact is that she cruelly and intentionally tried to hurt people in a way that's very disproportionate to the cause; Antonio (like the other Christians) treated Shylock with contempt, so Shylock wants to have him killed in a gruesome way; Cordelia (like the other students and even teachers) ignored Marcie, so she wants to horribly disfigure her, not to mention trying to kill innocent people as collateral damage. Buffy realizes that this is where Marcie crossed the line - yes, you've suffered, but you're still not justified in what you're doing and you need to be stopped.

    A B-plot has Angel coming to see Giles to talk to him about a book of prophecy. This is the first time Angel and Giles meet, and is Giles is extremely uncomfortable – that’s probably the first time he’s had a conversation with a vampire. Another addition to the mythology: it is confirmed that vampires have no reflection. (Which makes me wonder how Angel styles his hair. ;) ) There’s a moment of show’s classic self-irony when Giles says that a vampire in love with a Slayer is “poetic, in a maudlin sort of way”. Later on Angel saves the lives of Giles, Xander and Willow (who were ticked and trapped in the basement by Marcie with gas leaking) but they don't thank him and Xander isn't any nicer to him.

    Snyder has some funny moments in this episode, showing again that he cares a lot more about the order and the good image of the school rather than the wellbeing of students, and Xander and Willow show again how useful they can be in their non-superpowered way when they come up with a way to distract Snyder with a story about Mitch suing the school. The ending of the episode is very X-Files-ish (the men in black taking Marcie to the government facility with invisible kids learning skills such as infiltration and assassination), which makes me smile since I used to be a big X-phile.

    Best/Funniest lines:
    Cordelia: This is all about me! Me, me, me!
    Xander: Wow, for once she is right.

    Cordelia: Um, I know we had our differences… but despite that… I know we share this feeling, deep inside…
    Willow: Nausea?

    Cordelia: People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of *my* life, and she's trying to make it about *her* leg! Like *my* pain meant nothing.

    Best/Most meaningful lines:
    Cordelia: Hey! You think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say.
    Buffy: Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?
    Cordelia: Well, it beats being alone all by yourself.

    Pop culture references:
    The Merchant of Venice (yes, it counts as pop culture becauseShakespeare was a popular entertainer).

    Foreshadowing:
    The prophecy Angel talks about is the subject of the season finale “Prophecy Girl”. When Buffy and Cordelia are tied up in the chairs of May King and Queen and about to be disfigured or killed by Marcie, it seems like foreshadowing for Buffy being the “sacrifice” needed to free the Master.
    Buffy will try to beat Cordelia for the title of the May Queen in season 3 “Homecoming” and will try to bribe the voters with chocolate just like Cordy did in this episode.
    More irony when Willow wonders if the invisible girl is a witch and says the Scoobies can fight a witch (referring to the events of the episode Witch).
    This isn’t the last time someone is invisible on BtVS -Buffy will turn invisible in S6 ”Gone”, while Willow will be invisible to her friends in S7“Same Time, Same Place”.
    Buffy says the invisible girl is petty for a god. She hasn’t met a god yet, when she does in season 5 she’ll learn just how petty and self-absorbed gods can be!
    Cordelia’s speech about feeling alone despite being surrounded by people and being popular sounds a bit like
    Buffy surrounded by adoring Slayers in S8.

    Rating: 4
     
  12. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    1.12. Prophecy Girl

    I had forgotten how good this episode was. Although it’s not perfect (it has one serious flaw), it is the first great episode of the show, in addition to being a very satisfactory season finale that wraps up the relationship stuff very well as well as the season’s main arc, having Buffy finally face up to not just the Master but also her destiny. The cheesy elements that the season has a lot of, especially in the early episodes, are missing here. This episode is quality drama/horror – without much humor, but too much humor would be out of place here, except for a few lines that undercut the seriousness and apocalyptic doom (and what’s better, most of them don’t come from the usual comic reliefs but from the Master or Buffy bantering with him; see Best Lines).

    The juxtaposition of life and death, normal high school reality and the monsters that are threatening to destroy it, is most obvious in this episode, as the teenagers are preparing for the Spring Fling dance and are absorbed in their romantic problems, while Jenny is informing Giles about the signs of the upcoming apocalypse and while the Master is about to rise and the vampires to take over the world. Buffy is worrying about everyday things like biology class or having to romantically reject a good friend that she doesn’t see that way, unaware of the prophecy that Giles has learned of and isn’t able to tell her about. Her breakdown when she overhears Giles and Angel talking about her imminent death at the hands of the Master, might be the strongest and most memorable scene of the season. When she decides to quit her calling, it’s what makes Buffy a convincing and relatable hero – she’s not a perfect superhuman, super-selfless person that’s ready to sacrifice herself without a second thought, she is a real human being who doesn’t want to die before she’s really lived. Another touching scene is between Buffy and her mother – Joyce offers comfort to her daughter the best way she can even though she doesn’t know hat her real troubles are and mistakenly assumes it’s just boy trouble and regular teenage problems. (We also learn about how Joyce and Hank met and get the first hint that Joyce was pretty independent and assertive, not hesitating to go alone to the dance, and that she probably stole Hank from his date.) We really see in “Prophecy Girl” how Buffy is the Slayer who draws strength from her ties to the world, her friends and family: Willow is the one that makes Buffy go back to her mission instead of running away from it. When Willow and Cordelia find several students dead at the school AV club, killed by vampires, Willow is shocked to realize that the monster world is not something far away from their everyday life anymore – it has invaded their world and cannot be ignored anymore. When Buffy puts the leather jacket she got from Angel over the beautiful white dress that Joyce gave her for the dance and goes underground to face the Master, it’s the reconciliation of the duality of her character as “Buffy”, the girl who wants to live and love, and the powerful “Slayer” focused on the mission of killing monsters and saving the world. The first sign that the prophecy might not come true completely is when Buffy makes a choice to ask the Anointed One, fully aware who he is, to lead her into the Master’s lair (contrary to the prophecy that she will not know him and he will lead her into hell). But then the Master tells her that she’s the “lamb”, not the hunter, turning her into a scared and vulnerable victim, the kind of character she was meant to subvert, the teenage blonde horror victim, as well as the older archetype of a virgin sacrifice whose blood ritually restores the strength of an old, ailing king. For a moment it seems that her descent to the Master’s lair is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy and the proof that every attempt to beat destiny only results in it coming to pass – by trying to stop the Master from freeing himself from his prison she has given him a chance to do exactly that. The scene is truly dark and chilling and works wonderfully on the symbolic level – Buffy can’t win underground, because she hasn’t yet faced her own subconscious fears and demons that lurk below the surface. After what we’ve seen in "Nightmares", it’s not surprising that the monster that kills her comes in the shape of a demonic father figure, who also stands for Buffy’s unresolved attitude to her duty, tradition and destiny. But then her ties to the world save her again – as Xander brings her back with CPR. Buffy’s victory over the Master is a statement that people aren’t slaves to destiny and that they have a choice. While it’s not made clear in the episode why she finds new strength after her clinical death, that also works on the symbolic level – especially after what we’ve learned about the origin of the Slayers in S7 “Get It Done”: woman gets victimized; draws strength from her anger to fight back and beat the abuser; but there are consequences as she herself becomes more ‘demonic’ as a result (which we’ll see in Buffy’s behavior in the next episode, “When She Was Bad”).

    This episode also has great character moments for all other characters. The season-long unrequited love triangle Willow/Xander/Buffy gets a resolution of sorts. The opening scene is a classic mislead as we first see Xander asking a good friend to the dance and saying he wants them to be more than friends – and it seems like it’s probably him asking Buffy out on a date; then we see he’s actually talking to Willow; then a moment later it turns out he’s just using her to practice asking Buffy out. It seems like Xander is totally oblivious to Willow’s feelings for him (or else that would be really cruel and insensitive of him), which is plausible since Willow has been much better at hiding them than he has been in hiding his feelings for Buffy – but it makes me wonder about “The Pack”, when Hyena!Xander was obviously aware of Willow’s feelings, and we know that Xander remembers everything he said and did in that state. My guess is that Xander does know on some level but that he’s ignoring it and suppressing it because he really doesn’t want to think about her that way. I think that Buffy, on the other hand, did notice Xander’s attraction – because, well, it was impossible not to – but didn’t expect it to be that serious, and chose to ignore it because 1) she wasn’t interested in him that way, and 2) she knew Willow was, and the whole thing could have made things too awkward and ruin the friendship. She tried to stir Xander in Willow’s direction in “I Robot, You Jane” and advised Willow to ask him out. Maybe she’s even giving him a little hint that he doesn’t get, when she tells him that she doesn’t think of him that way and that he and Willow are her best friends. The scene of Buffy rejecting Xander is very true to life, Buffy handles it very well – it’s never a comfortable situation, having to reject a friend’s romantic advances – but of course no amount of sensitivity on her part was going to make Xander feel better about it. His reaction is to start dissing her for her attraction to a vampire (and it’s not the last time he’ll do this in the show…) but I guess this time it’s excusable since he just got his heart broken. This is a great episode for Xander because we get to see all sides of his character – one moment he gets to be a bit of a jerk and self-absorbed as he’s confiding his sorrows in Willow and asking her to be his date for the dance, while Willow shows she has more character strength than it seemed when she flatly refuses to be his second choice, and doesn’t show her own pain while Xander goes to wallow in his own by listening to country music in his room. But then the next moment he shows himself to be really brave, devoted to Buffy, and a poster boy for free will, since he’s the one who doesn’t care about the prophecy and goes straight to Angel, a guy he dislikes and is jealous of, to make him take him underground to the Master’s lair. Xander finally gets his wish and saves Buffy, but in a different way than he dreamed of in “Teacher’s Pet”. Back then he was bothered by Buffy’s strength and his perceived inadequacy, which he saw as a slight against his masculinity, and fantasized about being a big manly hero to Buffy’s damsel in distress and sweeping her off her feet. This time he doesn’t go to play the hero and he’s not expecting to win her love, he just wants to help her any way he can, and he gets to save the hero Buffy exactly because he’s human and can perform CRP (which Angel can’t as a vampire).

    Cordelia gets to be another unlikely hero, saving Willow and Jenny by picking them up in her car and driving into the library. Earlier on we see her being on rather friendly terms with Willow – that character development from “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” wasn’t for nothing – and she reveals that she even has real feelings for Kevin, the guy she’s now dating. Of course, this being a Whedon show, it meant that he had to die a brutal death, but it’s what later gets Cordelia to sit in their car at their old meeting place remembering him, which in turn leads to her saving Willow and Jenny and fighting the vampires with them in the library.

    Unlike Xander, Giles is a believer in destiny and doesn’t hope to subvert it, but he shows his courage and devotion to protecting Buffy, when he nevertheless decides to go to the underground and face the Master on his own, instead of Buffy, even though that would mean a certain death for him – before Buffy stops him from doing that by knocking him out and going to the underground herself. It foreshadows several other important moments in the show when Giles is ready to go put himself on the line despite his lack of super-strength, and to even sacrifice himself to help Buffy save the world, including
    his death in season 8.
    Angel is less heroic than Xander or Giles in this episode – not because he lacks courage or devotion to Buffy, but because he’s still ready to give up, before someone shakes him up into action (as Xander does here). He still has a long way to go to become a hero, and as we see later, his fatalistic streak means that he occasionally needs someone like Whistler or Doyle to give him a purpose. The scene between Angel and Xander is interesting as Angel seems to feel as much dislike and maybe even jealousy for Xander as the other way round, once he’s guessed that Xander is in love with Buffy, and because Angel shows a smug, arrogant streak he doesn’t show with Buffy (patronizingly calling Xander a “kid”) that foreshadows Angelus. It’s also interesting that he still won’t confirm or say aloud that he’s in love with Buffy, even though Xander is the second person (after Giles in the previous episode) to (correctly) assume that.

    “Prophecy Girl” is pretty much perfect until the last 10 minutes or so, when Buffy is allowed a too easy victory over the Master out of the blue. He had to commit some classic stupid "Evil Overlord" mistakes for that to happen, starting with leaving her to drown in the shallow pool (breaking the rule #13 of the Evil Overlord List: All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff.” ;)). Now I guess we can put this down to over-confidence. But where were all his minions? Why was he alone up there? It's just too convenient. And while Buffy’s new confidence and strength after coming back from her death and the easy way she kicks his ass makes for a great symbolic moment, it isn’t really explained in the episode. The final scene – a shot of Master’s bones – is ambiguous however, and as much as we can see it as a proof that Master has been defeated, it can also be reminder that he was a special vampire who didn’t simply get dusted, and an ominous hint that he might not be finished… which is going to be confirmed in season 2 opening episode “When She Was Bad”. That episode in a way makes “Prophecy Girl” better as it means it’s not all wrapped up a neat little package with a bow on top.

    Best scene: The library scene where Buffy learns she’s destined to die: “Giles, I’m sixteen. I don’t want to die!” Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance is really great and heartbreaking.

    Best lines:
    Master: You're dead!
    Buffy: I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you.
    Master: You were destined to die! It was written!
    Buffy: What can I say? I flunked the written.

    Buffy: Y'know, you really oughtta talk to your contractor. Looks like you got some water damage.
    Master: Oh, good. The feeble banter portion of the fight.

    Master (in booming sinister voice): Yes! YES! Shake, Earth! This is a sign! We are in the final days! My time has come! Glory! GLORY! (As the earthquake stops, looks over at the Anointed One, in normal voice) Whadaya think? 5.1?

    Mythology: The Hellmouth is directly under the Sunnydale high school library. The Master is the first vampire we see using “the thrall” – the ability to hypnotize his victims. He doesn’t turn to dust like other vampires but leaves a skeleton behind. As we’ll later learn, Buffy’s temporary death lead to another Slayer – Kendra – being called, while Buffy was cut off from the Slayer line: Faith will be called upon Kendra’s death, but Buffy’s second death in S5 will not lead to another Slayer being called, despite Faith’s incarceration at the time.

    Pop culture references:
    Star Trek: The Next Generation – Xander doesn’t appreciate Giles’ calmness and calls him “Locutus of Borg”.

    What the slashy heck:
    Xander accusing Angel of checking out his neck (which Angel denies) is funny because it sounds so much like a guy accusing another guy of checking him out sexually (all the more so with the sexual overtones that vampire biting has in the verse). This is just the first of many amusing slashy moments in the show (Xander gets a lot of those).

    The Scoobies, as of the end of S1: Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, plus Jenny, Angel and Cordelia as associate members.

    Apocalypses averted: 2 (The Harvest, Prophecy Girl)

    Character death: Buffy (sort of), The Master (that was the end of him… right? :shifty:)

    Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2011
  13. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Well, speaking for myself, it's been a considerable length of time since I watched Buffy, so I can't really offer any comments of my own - but as usual your posts are supremely insightful. It's always a privilege to read reviews (of any franchise) from fans who take the time to truly think about their responses. :) And you know I always appreciate your contributions here.
     
  14. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Season 1 overview

    I remember watching Buffy for the first time on TV. I had seen the 1992 movie on TV a few years earlier, so I expected the show to be similar, i.e. fun but a bit silly and lame. I was pleasantly surprised that the show was witty and mixed comedy, horror and drama so well, and that it was much smarter than I expected, but overall I just thought at first as a show that was entertaining and that its saving grace was that it didn't take itself too seriously. (What can I say? That title does tend to give people the wrong idea. I still have to explain things to people who have never seen the show and who laugh when I mention it.) Then as I kept watching, I liked the way the show touched on real life issues of high school life (I wasn't in high school at the time but it was still very fresh in my mind) through metaphorical MOW stories. And I started thinking: This show is more serious than I expected. It tricks you into thinking you're watching something fun and witty but light, and then punches you in the gut with real drama and tragedy. Well, I'm not sure how much of that I thought during season 1 - since season 1 had its share of drama, especially in the finale, but tragedy didn't strike till season 2. And season 2 is when I realized that this was a really great show. I remember exactly which episode first made me think it was that, and which episode then blew my mind and made me think it was one of the greatest TV dramas I've ever seen. But more about that when I get to season 2. As a result, I remembered season 1 as a solid season, but weaker than the rest of the show, just an introduction to the greatness to come.

    And while I still think this is true, this rewatch has made me appreciate season 1 much more and realize that it's much closer in quality to the later seasons. Yes, in the first half of the season there are a lot of cheesy moments, production values are not that good, some of the characters (Giles and Cordelia in particular) still seem like stereotypes at that point, the mythology hasn't been developed yet so there are some blatant inconsistencies with what comes later, there is a lack of continuity, and a jarring habit of ending every episode on a cheerful note whatever happened. The most unforgivable flaw is the lack of follow-up to Jesse's death, even though he was supposedly a close friend of Xander and Willow. This should have been treated as a major factor in Xander's character development, especially when it comes to his later black and white views about vampires and his animosity towards Angel and later Spike. In addition, Angel's personality undergoes a drastic change between "The Harvest" and "Teacher's Pet", Buffy is all over Owen in one episode than seems to forget she was ever attracted to anyone in Sunnydale except Angel, and the events of "The Pack" are swept under the carpet even at the end of the episode itself. However, there is a noticeable rise in quality around the middle of the season, starting with "The Pack" and then especially evident in "Angel" and the last 3 episodes of the season, and the season finale is the first really great episode of the show.

    Watching the season now, I've also come to enjoy it and appreciate it more because I see the characters with different eyes now that I know how they would develop later, and because I can see a lot of foreshadowing (whether it was intentional at the time or just something that the writers picked up later and developed). BtVS is one of those rare arc shows longer than a couple of seasons where almost everything holds together well and fits in the overall story and characterization, from the first to the last season, and since so many of the developments weren't planned, I'm guessing it's just because of the writers' ability to look back and build up on what has come before. For me it's particularly different to watch Xander's development now, since he was a character I disliked in early seasons when I first watched the show, but later grew to like. I liked him and understood him much better this rime around.

    One element of the show I really disliked the first time around was the unrequited-love triangle Willow/Xander/Buffy (or the love quadrangle Willow/Xander/Buffy/Angel), both because I thought it was a teenage drama/romcom cliche, and because I think those kind of triangles and real friendship are unmixy. I was very relieved in later seasons when they moved on from that and all found other love interests. But now that I know how the triangle develops, and that it doesn't last forever, I appreciate the story much more. I can now see that the show actually played with and subverted the "Betty and Veronica" romcom cliche, or two of them: the geeky guy in love with a hot girl who only thinks of him as a best friend and prefers another, more confident/glamorous guy (but of course eventually she's going to Have Her Eyes Opened and see how the geeky friend is the best guy for her and they'll end up happy together...) and the guy caught between the girl he's pining for and the girl who's pining for him (but of course eventually he'll realize that his friend who's pining for him is the right girl for him and they'll end up happy together...). Of course, those two "obvious" solutions cancelled each other out, but the show didn't go for either of those stereotypical teen romcom resolutions. And it also subverted the hell out of another Betty/Veronica triangle with Willow/Xander/Cordelia, but that's a story for seasons 2 and 3.

    Season 1 is simpler than the later seasons of the show; the lines between good and bad are still strongly drawn, things are black and white compared to what will come later; most of the monsters are not just unambiguously evil but usually also inhuman and monstrously ugly (with the exception of Darla, who is the only vampire other than Angel and the Anointed One who gets to be out of vampface for more than a moment or two). There won't be many occasions in later seasons when Buffy will be able to again say to a Big Bad "...but I'm still pretty, which is more than I can say to you". The Master is an embodiment of this, as an ancient, very inhuman vampire who has disposed of human features and looks similar to Count Orlok from Nosferatu. But while I prefer the unconventional villains of the next seasons, it has to be said that the Master was an excellent classic horror villain, who worked perfectly for season 1 (even if he would have been out of place in one of the later seasons). I really liked that aspect of season 1 on this rewatch - now that I'm so used to the different, more human and more anarchic vampires we'll meet later, it's interesting to be reminded of the Master and his minions with their strict hierarchy and an almost religious vampire traditionalism. The Master might seem like a classic Evil Overlord, but he's also a stern patriarchal figure who commands respect and loyalty from his minions, he has his own set of beliefs, a father/daughter relationship with Darla and a mentor/student relationship with the Anointed One (which both serve as dark mirror to the budding relationship between Giles and Buffy), gets some moments of gruesome humor, and even gets to display some human emotion and affection when Darla dies. And in the end, he's still the only villain to ever kill Buffy (in both this one and in the alternate Wishverse).

    Big Bads are a representation of some important part of Buffy's life and a dark mirror to the main characters. In season 1, the Big Bad is an evil father figure, who represents the dark side of authority and tradition. It goes hand in hand with Buffy's issues about her father, which we learn about in "Nightmares" (her parents' divorce and her father leaving is the first big formative trauma of her life, other than being called); high school principals (particularly the authoritarian Snyder, but ineffectual Flutie is not all that positive either) as negative authority figures; Buffy's struggles with duty, tradition and destiny, and the development of her relationship with Giles, mentor figure who becomes a more positive father figure. In season 2, we get introduced to very different, attractive, youthful and rebellious villains who embody sexuality and romance - foreshadowing the moment when Buffy's boyfriend becomes the Big Bad after she loses virginity to him. Season 3 introduces Faith who becomes a dark mirror to Buffy, and this time it's not about father figures or boyfriends but her issues with herself and her Slayerhood. (Though the Big Bad is again a father figure.) Season 4 is the only one that doesn't fit, which may be why its main arc and especially its villain is so forgettable, Adam doesn't have close ties to any of the main characters and doesn't serve as a dark mirror to anyone except maybe Riley, which is not enough. Season 5 is about family, and season 6 about real life struggles, with the Trio mirroring the Scoobies, and Warren being a dark mirror to several of the main characters, until one of the Scoobies becomes the main villain. And then of course season 7 has the First, whose very nature is to mirror people's darkest sides (which sadly got kinda lost once it stopped looking like anyone except Buffy; they could have developed it much better).

    It also has to be said that season 1 does have some elements of moral ambiguity. We got to see one of the main characters show his dark side (Xander in "The Pack"). Two of the Monster-of-the-Week episodes have ordinary human villains. (Three have human villains, if we count the witch Catherine Madison.) One of them is a very sympathetic character we can relate to and feel sorry for - Marcie Ross from "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" - and that episode reminds us that sometimes we are all (unintentional) victimizers. We also get to meet the first "good" vampire with a dark past, even though his uniqueness is explained by the introduction of the concept of "soul". Darla is the first one of the evil soulless vampires to show a recognizable human motivation that isn't related to blood sucking or destroying humanity - wanting to get her lover back and to destroy her romantic rival. Having a child as a villain could have been brilliant, but that didn't work out so well because the boy cast as the Anointed One just wasn't up to task and didn't make the character creepy enough.

    Overall, the season did a very good job of combining its two elements - the high school setting, with characters such as ineffectual or authoritarian principals, bullies or bitchy cheerleaders, and with Monsters of the Week that were representations of real life teenage issues; and its arc about the Master. The brevity of the season worked in its favor in that respect - I'm not sure if the storyline could have been stretched out to 22 episodes without becoming stale and ridiculous, with the Master being kept underground all the time. Yes, the metaphors in this season were most of the time very obvious. But it all worked, for a season that laid the foundations for the rest of the show.

    Episode ranking:


    1. Prophecy Girl - 4.5
    2. Out of Mind, Out of Sight - 4
    3. Angel - 4
    4. Nightmares - 4
    5. The Pack - 3.5
    6. Welcome to the Hellmouth - 3.5
    7. The Puppet Show - 3
    8. Witch - 3
    9. Never Kill a Boy on the First Date - 3
    10. The Harvest - 2.5
    11. I Robot, You Jane - 2.5
    12. Teacher's Pet - 1.5
    Average rating for the season: 3.25
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2011
  15. saturn5

    saturn5 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    SPOILERS Buffy season 8
    I would rate WTTH and The Harvest a lot higher personally, Buffy season 1 starts and finishes strong but with some quite weak eps in between.
    As for the love triangle well, Xander and Will smooch and if we're to believe the comics Buffy still has a thing for him. But instead he ends up with Dawn which Joyce aside is the closest thing to her
     
  16. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Yay, finally a comment! :bolian::beer: ;)

    Well, 3.5 still means it's an above average episode, so I don't think I was that harsh on WTTH... The two-parter is a good start to the show, but early episodes suffer from some cheesy music, acting and production values, which is more obvious in The Harvest. And I really didn't like the ending of The Harvest, they were trying to be too upbeat and it didn't fit the story, Xander had just lost one of his best friends and, what's worse, it never gets referenced again.

    Bander was practically absent from the show in seasons 3-7,
    and then made a return in the comics only to prove that Xander had moved on and wasn't eternally holding a torch for Buffy, as some fans apparently believed (not me; I don't think anyone can stay in unrequited love for that long). It was important to close that plot thread for Xander. Though it's a matter of opinion how much Xander was right or wrong about what he said about the reasons Buffy finally got interested in him. But I can see why he felt that way. For Buffy's story, the rejection served to make her feel even worse about her love life and push her into the perfect despair, which lead her right into Twilight!Angel's arms. And with Xander/Dawn now, it seem unlikely that B/X will continue in any way other than friendly.

    Like I said, the Willow/Xander story was a total subversion of the John Hughes cliche. When he finally does get interested in her - while she's in love with another guy - and they do hook up, it doesn't make them look good since they're cheating on Oz and Cordy, it ends up making Cordy (the classic 'Veronica' character) the victim, and in the end Willow chooses Oz over Xander. And instead of the 'he finally realizes she was the right girl for him all along', it turns out they really aren't good for each other as a couple.

    And then later she finds out she's really into girls.
     
  17. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    2.01. When She Was Bad

    This episode feels like a finale to season 1 as much as it does as the opener to season 2, dealing with Buffy’s trauma over her death as well as the attempts of the Anointed One and the Sunnydale vampires to resurrect the Master using his bones. Buffy only reaches real closure at the very end of the episode, smashing his bones, and symbolically doing away with his shadow over her life. I didn’t really understand this episode when I first watched it many years ago – I knew that Buffy was acting that way because she was traumatized, but I didn’t really understand her emotional state. Now I can also see that the darkness Buffy shows with in this episode wasn’t a fluke, but the first sign of psychological issues related to her calling, which would be dealt with more in later seasons.

    The opening scenes give us the state of affairs in Sunnydale at the start of the new school year. Buffy has been absent, spending the summer with her father in LA. There hasn’t been much of a need for her to be there, since there’s been a lull in vampire and demon activity in Sunnydale as a result of Master’s death. Later we see a group of vampires, with the Anointed One as their figurehead, trying to restore the Master. At this point at really feels like the ritual-obsessed, traditionalist vampires with their over-dramatic speeches and dated language have overstayed their welcome – without a figure with a presence like Master’s, they’re just dull and not terrifying enough.

    Giles and Jenny are starting to flirt in this episode, and Xander is beginning to develop some romantic interest in Willow: he nearly kisses her in the opening scene when she gets ice cream on her nose. But then as soon as Buffy comes back, he goes back to ignoring Willow as a possible romantic interest. Yet later in the episode, after he’s gotten fed up with Buffy’s bitchy behavior, and when Willow, Giles, Cordelia and Jenny are kidnapped by the vampires in order to be used in the ritual, Xander tells Buffy: “If they hurt Willow, I’ll kill you”, showing for the first time that Willow is the person he cares about the most. Just what is Xander’s deal? One moment it seems like he has a clue that Willow has some interest in him other than friendly, the next moment he seems completely oblivious or isn’t thinking about her feelings at all. At first I thought he just had no romantic interest in her, but knowing that he’ll get very interested in her later when she’s in a relationship with someone else, I wonder if it’s a case of wanting the unattainable (which he talks about in the next episode) or if there’s a deeper reason why he needed to see Willow as nothing but a sexless best friend. The best explanations I’ve come across in fandom is that she was closely connected to his childhood, or that her he was uncomfortable with her meekness and was drawn to more assertive women because he felt they could stand up to him if he ever turned out the same as his abusive father. (Of course we’ll only learn more about Xander’s family later on.)

    The title comes from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme: “There was a little girl… (…) And when she was good, she was very, very good/And when she was bad, she was horrid.” Buffy is really bitchy in this episode, because she’s clearly suffering from PTSD – and while she gets back to normal at the end, and her friends forgive her, her behavior reveals that deep inside she feels resentful and ambivalent about Giles, Xander, Willow and Angel. The first hint is when she calls Xander and Willow “losers”, but they take it as a joke. She’s flinching every time anyone mentions the Master or the events of the last year. From the conversation between Hank and Joyce we learn that Hank felt that Buffy was distant throughout the summer – it must have been difficult for her to carry it all inside without being able to talk to anyone or tell her parents about her temporary death. (This is the last real appearance of Hank Summers in the show – i.e. not counting “Normal Again”. Maybe the reason why he ended up abandoning Buffy completely was that he felt inadequate and unable to understand her and really be her father.)

    Buffy’s nightmare in which she casts Giles as the Master is particularly interesting and revealing when it comes to her feelings about her friends that she wouldn’t consciously admit to herself. It starts as an everyday scene with her in school, talking to Xander and Willow (Xander - talking about being a friend but revealing a sexual interest in her: “We’re your bosom friends… The friends to your bosom”; Willow – letting it slip that she dreamed about Xander and then unconvincingly trying to cover it up, which is the first hint it’s not real since Willow is better at hiding her feelings than that, Buffy is the one who’s a bad liar), until Giles casually mentions having killed Buffy once before, and starts strangling her, and when she pulls off his mask it reveals the Master. Meanwhile Xander and Willow are just calmly watching and eating apples. Taken literally, this would of course be very unfair to all of them, since Giles wanted to protect her and fight the Master himself, and Xander went underground and saved her, but these are not rational feelings. On some level Buffy feels that Giles is “killing” her like the Master did, by being the one who’s sending her to fight the monsters, and she feels distant from Willow and Xander because they can’t really understand what she’s been through. It’s the feeling that she’ll admit to Holden in S7 “Conversations with Dead People”, feeling superior to her friends because they don’t know what it’s like to be the Slayer, and then as a result feeling like a horrible person – inferior, ‘beneath’ everyone. Buffy’s bitchiest moment - her sexy, seductive dance with Xander at the Bronze, in front of Willow and Angel – is a deliberate attempt to hurt and punish all three of them; Xander is almost as uncomfortable during that dance as the other two are, and after trying to believe for a moment that she was really attracted to him, he quickly faces up to the reality that Buffy’s unusual behavior must be a sign of something wrong. Another very revealing moment is her comment on the line from the book about people who were “the closest” to the Master (which was actually a mistranslation and misinterpretation of the actual line, people who were “nearest” to him at the time of his death) – that she’s the one who was closest to him, because they killed each other. That’s one of the ongoing themes of the show, that Buffy in some ways feels closer to the monsters she’s fighting because they share her world, and that she fears that she may be monstrous herself.

    Buffy’s conflicted feelings about Angel are for a different reason than her ambivalence about her friends. Despite the soul and his good behavior, he’s still a vampire, just like the creature who killed her, he is her natural enemy and on some level she knows she shouldn’t trust him. Of course, we now know her instincts were actually right, and this episode hints that she wasn’t completely blind to his dark side, even if she usually chose not to see it. Maybe Faith wasn’t that off the mark when she suggested in S3 that Buffy’s love for Angel wasn’t that pure and innocent as Buffy liked to think of it, and that was attracted to danger. Maybe a part of her ambivalent feelings about him is that she feels monstrous for being attracted to a vampire. Angel first appears in this episode right after Buffy wakes from her nightmare, asking if he may come in – which implies that he’s been outside watching her sleep and waiting for her to wake up. It’s one of these early Bangel moments that may make some viewers go: “Oh, that’s so sweet” and others: “Wow, that’s so creepy”. (And it is creepier in retrospect, when we know that as Angelus, he’ll also watch her sleep in “Passion”.) She acts hostile to him the way she hasn’t since “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, drives him away and then whispers as emotional “I missed you” when he’s already gone and can’t hear her. Then, after deliberately making him jealous at the Bronze, she tells him she doesn’t trust him (which is just the first of the several times throughout the years Buffy tells Angel she doesn’t trust him), insults him for being a vampire (she got him where it hurts the most, since we later see just how much Angel is bothered by what he is and wants to be human), calls him on his stalking, telling him that, whatever some may think, it’s not a turn-on for girls (…tell that to Stephenie Meyer), and claims that she isn’t interested in him anymore and has moved on “to the living”. (Which is very ironic since she won’t move on from Angel for years, and it’s still debated whether she ever completely emotionally moved on from their relationship – and if she did, it certainly wasn’t to the “living”.) Then she taunts him to attack her, saying he must have thought about it and pointing out that they’re natural enemies as vampire and Slayer – and it feels like a sexual come-on as much as a taint. For a moment we see her conflating sex with violence in the way that foreshadows her relationship with Spike. All this will get forgotten later in the first part of S2 when Buffy and Angel’s relationship gets lovey-dovey, and later when she makes a romantic ideal of it in her memory, but it shows a part of Buffy's nature that was already there although she was very uncomfortable with acknowledging it.

    Buffy’s behavior in this episode is also very Faith-like, confirming that Faith in season 3 was a “shadow” character for Buffy: in her behavior at the Bronze, and when she is torturing a vampire for information, which we’re supposed to see as a disturbing moment since Angel and Xander seem uncomfortable about it… Now, I have to say that I found it a bit silly, since Buffy dusts vampires, so what’s wrong if she also tortures them when she really needs information ASAP to save her friends. But I guess Angel and Xander were bothered because Buffy seemed to be taking out her anger on the vampire in the way she doesn’t normally do – usually she just treats Slaying as a job (and she’ll be upset at Faith in S3 for obviously enjoying violence). When Buffy goes alone to fight the vampires and save Cordelia, practically calling her friends useless, it also makes me think of the alone, hardened and cynical Wishverse Buffy.

    Best scene: Buffy’s dream.

    Funniest scene: Snyder ranting to Giles about his hatred of teenagers: “Somebody's got to keep an eye on them. They're just a bunch of hormonal time bombs. You think they're thinking about learning? Every time a pretty girl walks by every boy turns into a bumbling idiot. I try to teach them the important things in life. Discipline. Respect. Punctuality. I might as well be talking to myself.”… not noticing that Giles has meanwhile turned into a bumbling idiot when Jenny Calendar appeared, that the two of them got too busy flirting, and that they left before he ended his speech.

    Best lines:
    Buffy: Cordelia, your mouth is open, sound is coming from it, this is never good.

    Buffy: You're a vampire. Oh, I'm sorry. Was that an offensive term? Should I say 'undead American'?

    Pop culture references: Xander and Willow seem to be SF/F fans – the movies they’re using in their Guess the movie quote game are The Terminator, The Planet of the Apes and Star Wars. They also reference The Witness. Cordelia compares Buffy, Xander and Willow to the Three Musketeers, not realizing that she’s paid them a compliment, as they point out to her; Xander says she should have compared them to Three Stooges instead. Cordy calls Buffy on her bitchiness telling her she’s acting like Joan Collins.

    Destroying the English language: When Giles tells Buffy that it’s pointless to punish herself for her behavior, Buffy replies that it’s actually “entirely pointy”. (Actually, that’s not destroying the language, that’s more like building quite useful new words. :)) Xander isn’t very good at spelling and when Willow spells “ b-i-t-c-h” he thinks she said Buffy was a ‘bitca”. The Sunnydale vampires don’t have great writing skills, their syntax leaves something to be desired: I guess we can forgive Xander for misunderstanding the sentence “Come to The Bronze before it opens or we make her a meal” to mean they were going to cook Cordy a dinner.

    Foreshadowing: There is a lot of foreshadowing for the season finale. Buffy taunting Angel to fight her foreshadows that they will become mortal enemies after he loses his soul. Snyder says he can smell expulsion for Buffy; he will finally get to expel her from school in “Becoming II”. In the same episode, just like in this one, Buffy goes to fight the vampires while Xander saves Giles/the Scoobies

    In addition, as I’ve explained, Buffy’s dark side seen here foreshadows Faith, Wishverse Buffy, as well as a lot of Buffy’s own behavior in later seasons. The indifference that Xander and Willow are showing in her dream makes me think of season 6, when Buffy will feel even more distant from her friends after her second resurrection, and when she’ll have good reasons to resent them for ignoring her pain and trying to pretend everything is all right with her, but unlike in “When She Was Bad”, she’ll try too hard to be as nice to them as possible and keep her resentment inside, until it breaks out in “Normal Again” when she tries to kill them while under the influence of the hallucinogenic venom.

    Rating: 4
     
  18. saturn5

    saturn5 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    A good ep, you can already see that Buffy is beginning to shake off the less sophisticated aspects of season 1 and evolving into the show we love. Some great acting too from SMG both as the sexy siren, high school bitch and damaged girl venting her trauma. Also like Xander's confusion and Willow's forlorn look. The ice cream on the nose bit is heartbreaking
     
  19. Warp Coil

    Warp Coil Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    MD, USA
    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    I really liked "When She Was Bad". I think it was a strong episode to open the season with. The writing felt noticeably tighter over the season 1 episodes. The show was definitely starting to find its voice. Over the course of season 2, it's voice becomes even stronger. I remember being particularly impressed with the fact that Buffy's trauma wasn't just brushed off and forgotten in between seasons. I wasn't used to a series that paid close attention to continuity, and allowed the character arcs to continue over the span of the series instead of being more stand-alone and episodic. Buffy was probably my first taste of a truly serialized TV show.
     
  20. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    basking in the warmth of the Fire Caves
    Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

    Unfortunately, the next episode is not as sophisticated...

    2.02. Some Assembly Required

    Just two episodes into the season and I’m already reminded of how inconsistent season 2 is. From an excellent episode like “When She Was Bad”… to this.

    The main plot of this is one of the worst MOW stories in the show, a lame retelling of “Bride of Frankenstein”… And while I don’t expect the show’s mythology to be completely consistent, this plot really doesn’t make sense. There will be other episodes dealing with the theme of reanimating/resurrecting people, and throughout the show it’s made clear that reanimating people who have died a natural death always leads to disastrous results – you get either mindless zombies (“Dead Man’s Party”, and it’s implied that this was what reanimated Joyce in “Forever” was), or living corpses whose flesh is rotting (“The Zeppo”). But here, the problems with Darryl are just that he doesn’t look great and that he has to hide in the house so he’s gone a bit crazy – but he has somehow retained his mind and is the same guy? There is no explanation how his brother Chris managed to do that – the implication is that it’s through science, since Chris is a scientifically-gifted student, not a magic user… so I’m not sure that even the “but they’re on the Hellmouth!” explanation works. Logic is sacrificed to the attempt to parallel the story of Frankenstein. The plot of creating a mate for Darryl out of parts of dead girls works much better metaphorically – cue thoughts about objectification of women and the ‘ideal’ beauty standards and so on – but taken literally it’s quite stupid. Though if we decide to take the story seriously, an interesting question would be whether Eric and Chris are combining parts of different girls because they want to make her “perfect”, or to make her monstrous enough to be a willing mate for Darryl (as suggested by Darryl’s disbelief when Cordelia tries to convince him not to chop her head and put her on the patched-up body, because she would be with him anyway).

    There is some emotional resonance in the story of the family that can’t move on from the favorite son’s death, especially the scene with the mother who is not leaving home and is obsessively watching videos of her dead son’s football games. But it doesn’t help that the actors playing Chris and Darryl don’t manage to make them sympathetic or compelling. And Darryl looks more like a 37-year old than a 17-year old (I don’t think it’s just the zombie makeup that does it).

    The episode is mostly memorable as the one where Giles and Jenny Calendar start dating. (This is, BTW, the episode where we learn her first name.) Their cute and fun scenes are one of the saving graces of the episode. The parts of the episode that deal with Scoobies’ relationships are generally better than the MOW story, but I have some problems with those as well. When Buffy, Xander and Willow mockingly advise Giles how to ask Jenny on a date, this is probably supposed to be a cute scene that plays on the reversal of the adult/teenager roles, but IMO they come off as annoyingly condescending to Giles. I’m not sure if Giles being shy and socially awkward to that degree (though he does loosen up a little while on the date) is consistent with what we later learn of his Ripper past – people can certainly go from shy and awkward to wild, but I don’t know about the opposite.

    The Buffy/Angel scenes are a contrast to Giles/Jenny not just because one couple is meeting at night in the graveyard while the other is having a date in broad daylight in the football stadium full of people, but also because the B/A scenes emphasize the problems in their relationship, unlike the sunny early happiness of G/J. Bangel is often talked about as a romantic ideal in the fandom, the public, and even in-universe after the end of the actual relationship, but in these early season 2 episodes it mostly consists of tension and awkward conversations. In this case it’s to be expected since it’s their first meeting after the events of “When She Was Bad”. Jealous!Angel is amusing to watch (since he remains poker-faced and doesn’t show it in such a blunt way as Xander), especially when he’s claiming not to be jealous but then immediately showing that he is. But he makes a slip when he calls Xander a kid (just like he did in “Prophecy Girl”), unintentionally drawing attention to the age difference between himself and Buffy, then tries to leave after Buffy angrily asks him if he thinks of her as kid, too. This continues the trend of Angel’s appearances so far: show up out of the blue or follow Buffy, act mysterious, disappear. (Which is sure to get Buffy’s interest; Xander may have a point when he says in this episode that people like the unattainable.) This time however it annoys Buffy, and when she’s shouting at him that he can’t walk away and one can’t get rid of her that easily, I can’t help thinking of Buffy-possessed-by-James in “I Only Have Eyes For You” shouting something similar, and I think of the end of their relationship in S3, when he does walk away from her. In the last scene in the episode, they finally talk openly and honestly about their feelings – Angel admits he is jealous, Buffy reassures him that she doesn’t love Xander, and Angel explains that the reason is because as a vampire he can’t be a part of Buffy’s life the way Xander can.

    This episode also marks the first time we see Angel talking to Cordelia, and he actually smiles – an extremely rare thing to see at this point for his character! It seems he was always more relaxed around her - which sets up their later friendship - maybe because he isn’t in awe of her the way he is of Buffy.

    Cordelia is a damsel in distress once again (how many times is that now? “The Harvest”, “Witch”, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, “When She Was Bad” and this episode). She keeps hanging out with the Scoobies, probably because she figures that, with all the awful things happening to her, it’s better to stick close to Buffy, who can protect her. At one point when she’s flirting with Angel and trying to make Buffy jealous, she does it by overplaying the role of the damsel in need of protection from a big strong manly man (asking Angel to “take” her home – even though it’s her car and she’s driving), which underlines that Cordelia at this point is embracing the traditional gender roles, or at least pretending to because that’s what girls are supposed to do, in contrast to Buffy who is directly subverting them (in the last scene she offers to take Angel home). Giles/Jenny relationship also has gender-reversed dynamics - Jenny takes the traditional masculine role by asking Giles on the first and then on the second date.

    At the same time, we learn that no amount of danger will stop Cordy from giving up her cheerleader duties. It turns out that Cordelia had a crush on Darryl, but he ignored her at the time, which is the first time we learn that Cordy is not on the top of the “food chain” of popularity in the school.

    There are also a couple of little hints about the future relationship between Cordelia and Xander. He mentions at one point that he finds it a turn-on when someone calls him an idiot – we’ll see soon learn this is true: his relationship with Cordy will mostly consist of the two of them insulting each other. Maybe those two aren’t that different as they’d like to think: Xander is always mocking Cordy’s self-centered ways, but he can be as self-absorbed as anyone: we’ve seen in “Prophecy Girl” and again in this episode, when he’s telling Buffy that people like the unattainable rather than what’s right there in front of them, obviously alluding to Buffy’s feelings for Angel – while oblivious to the fact that the same could be said of him, and not noticing Willow’s discomfort. Later he’s so wrapped up in complaining to Willow that he’s the only one who can’t find a date, that he rudely tells Cordelia to leave them alone when she tries to thank him for saving her life.

    I was thinking of giving the episode a 1.5, but I’ve decided that it has more going for it than “Teacher’s Pet” (so far the only one with such a low score). Even the main MOW story has the saving grace that it’s used to comment on the lives of the Scoobies: Cordelia asks “Why is it that every conversation you people have has the word 'corpse' in it?”, Xander makes an interesting mental connection between “love” and “reanimation of dead tissue”, and Willow’s remark (later repeated by Buffy): “Love makes you do the wacky” – could be one of the mottos of the series. Angel is sort of a reanimated dead person too, and Darryl’s desperate and ruthless desire to get himself a woman to love can be seen as a parallel and contrast to Angel’s worries that he is too much of a monster for Buffy and her human world. But Darryl is also like Buffy, once popular and now alone and a “freak”. I wonder if we were intended to see a Willow/Buffy parallel with ginger Chris, talented student-scientist (and a friend of Willow’s) living in the shadow of his blond, athletic elder brother but also being so devoted to him to “do the wacky”.

    Best/funniest scene: Xander wondering why he can’t find a date, while ignoring two potential girlfriends right in front of him (Willow and Cordy).

    Best lines:
    Giles (on American football): I just think it's rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby.

    Buffy: Is it 'cause I danced with him?
    Angel: 'Danced with' is a pretty loose term. 'Mated with' might be a little closer.

    Xander: And speaking of love…
    Willow: We were talking about the reanimation of dead tissue.
    Xander: Hey, do I deconstruct your segues?

    Foreshadowing (?): The reason I’m putting the question mark is because there’s some foreshadowing that’s intentional, and some that probably wasn’t (not that I can always tell the difference). On the intentional side, Xander’s association of love with reanimation of dead tissue foreshadows his romance with a living Inca mummy that will happen in just a couple of episodes. The references to corpses in an episode where Giles and Jenny have their first date sound ominous when you know how their romance would end. Twice in the episode, there’s a sinister music when first Buffy, then later Cordelia, notice someone in the dark, and both times the girls are relieved when it turns out to be Angel; in the second part of the season, they will have good reasons to be scared of him. Cordelia invites Angel to her car – she’ll have to disinvite him after he becomes Angelus.
    When it comes to unintentional foreshadowing – Cordelia’s line “Why do these terrible things always happen to me?” feels so much truer when you know what her final fate would be.
    And finally – one that might have been unintentional (or not?): Willow’s remark “Love makes you do the wacky” was about Chris’ love for his brother. Since Chris/Darryl has some similarities with Willow/Buffy, I can’t help thinking of Willow resurrecting Buffy in S6.

    Rating: 2


    Next episode ("School Hard") is Spike's introduction - I'm looking forward to rewatching that one!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2011