Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Season 2, Episodes 17-20

I took a break from the Buffy rewatch for a few weeks (longer than it's been since my last post - I spaced the entries out a bit so as not to over-Buffy) and it's probably for the best, since after the four strong episodes of the last disc, this one is more uneven, with one of my all-time favorite episodes and one of my…not.

Passion
Oof, that is some bad Angel voiceover. And a truly tragic sweater on Willow. But this episode (by Ty King, a non-regular Buffy writer getting a pretty heavy mythology episode) gets better as it goes along, with a cute joke about how no one uses the library as a library, and a great scene between Giles and Jenny ("I know you feel betrayed." "Yes, well, that's one of the unpleasant side effects of betrayal."), then settling into some exposition-heavy setup for the end of the season. And hey, Willow's Jewish! And it's worth going over to Xander's to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas just to see him do the Snoopy dance! There's a great balance of lightness and darkness. The cast has really gelled and the writing and acting reflect where the gang is as friends, and how they're able to joke with each other, without ever forgetting the real danger they're in, and then showing us that danger in full force.

Jenny's death still shocks, even knowing now how much Joss Whedon likes to kill off his characters, especially right after they've reconciled with a loved one. Even after the lengthy chase sequence, the murder itself is so quick that it feels sudden, and it's violent in a way the show rarely gets (toward humans anyway). And I still remember how sad I was to see her go the first time around. Giles' discovery of her body, as orchestrated by Angel, is heartbreaking. Angel watching through the window as Buffy and Willow get the phone call about her death and Buffy's scene with Giles outside the warehouse, equally so. This episode is even better than I remember it - that opening voiceover really isn't fair to it.

I don't want to dwell on the clothes here - it's not my area and I wouldn't want anyone blogging about my high school wardrobe…or today's for that matter - but in one scene Xander is wearing a baggy flannel shirt and has boy band hair. In the next he has a color-blocked sweater that I can only describe as "Mark Cohen" (sorry, non-theater-people) and plaid…pajama bottoms? He is 1998.

And one nitpick I never noticed before: Why would a computer program that Jenny designed herself be called "Translator Pro" and have a ™ symbol next to it?


Killed By Death
Now this is just unfortunate. I don't even want to write about it (and hey, these posts are getting longer than I intended anyway). It manages to rip off both Freddy Krueger (even the score cribs from Elm Street) and the also terrible S1 "Nightmares" episode. After last week's great chemistry and raised stakes, here the cast is split up, and things move very slowly. Angel feels shoe-horned in. The one bright spot is this line from Cordelia: "Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass."


I Only Have Eyes For You
Now this is how you do it! This is basically a monster-of-the-week episode, but perfectly integrated with the season arc. There's even a blink-and-you-miss-it setup of next season's arc, with our first mention of the Mayor! Marti Noxon gives new viewers a little catch-up with Buffy's perfectly in-character line, "Do you remember my ex-boyfriend the vampire? I slept with him, he lost his soul and the demon that wears his face is killing my friends. The next impulsive decision I make will involve my choice of dentures." which tells them everything they need to know to understand what it means when Angel shows up later, and we're off.

This is one of my top ten favorite Buffy episodes (it may be one of my top ten favorite anything episodes) and every time I watch it I forget that Christopher Gorham is in it and get to be delighted again when he shows up. (I've liked him and found him adorable since long before he got buff and started taking his shirt off on Covert Affairs.) The ghosts reliving the night they died bit seems sort of old-hat, but it gets a nice twist here when Buffy and Angel get possessed, with both the clever gender-switch and the fact that Angel can't die like he's "supposed" to. Giles' giddy excitement over the possibility of paranormal activity, like we saw in Phases, is adorable, and his later insistence that the ghost must be Jenny is as heartbreaking as the Buffy/Angel scenes.

I hate to do this to an episode I love so much, but I have to play Continuity Cop for a second: Jenny's lesson plans were on her computer? But her computer burned, destroying the soul-restoring spell, two episodes ago. To be fair, I've never noticed this before in all the times I've watched this. I guess that's a drawback of the rewatch on DVD.

Ghost possessions aside, how much must it suck to be the janitor at Sunnydale High?


Go Fish
I almost didn't watch this one. And you know what? It's not so bad! It's hampered by two major things: Bad rubber monster costumes, and its bizarre placement at the end of the season. After the emotional bombshell of "Eyes," and with just two more episodes left in the season (arguably the two best episodes of the whole series), it's just weird to have a mediocre MOTW episode at this point.

But it's kind of okay! I mean, I'm all for swim teams after all. It's clunky both in concept and execution. For instance, they dress Xander in the baggiest clothes possible throughout the episode, presumably to highlight his Speedoed hotness, but it's not like we haven't seen his body before. Speaking of which, why is Cordelia so surprised that Xander has a good body? I mean, sure they haven't been naked together, but it's not like she doesn't grope him all the time. And speaking of groping, where has Oz been this whole disc?

And what a complete waste of the amazing Conchata Ferrell as a school nurse with maybe ten lines who becomes fish food. She could have been a really fun recurring character. She has great chemistry with Principal Snyder for the 30 seconds they're onscreen together.

And of course there's the overall clunk, with the whole "Steroids turn people into monsters!" thing. It's even worse than the "The internet is a demon!" thing. But compared to "Killed By Death" it's kind of genius.


"Becoming" is up next, and I'm going to save that for the weekend...or the next time I need a good cry.

1 comment:

ht said...

The janitor in "I only have eyes" is played by John Hawkes, of Deadwood, and Winter's Bone. I think he's my favourite retrospectively discoverd, hey-it's-that-guy Buffy guest star.