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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bad Girls

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Bad Girls begins the final run to the conclusion of S3, just as Surprise did in S2. It’s arguably the first episode of a two-parter with Consequences, but they aren’t formally treated as one and there’s plenty to discuss separately so I’ll make separate posts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Zeppo

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The Zeppo is probably the most obvious of the POV episodes I listed in my post on The Wish. If you weren’t persuaded that The Wish is best seen as Cordelia’s view of the world, then watch it again now that you’ve seen The Zeppo. Or maybe the Buffy/Angel relationship really is as overwrought, nay melodramatic, as it appears to Xander here. And maybe the apocalypse is pretty much a parody.
No, it seems clear to me that in this episode we’re seeing the world through Xander’s eyes. Sometimes we’re even seeing what he fantasizes: that he’s the real hero in the SG notwithstanding his role as Everyman. In an interview for Entertainment Weekly (August 21, 2013), Joss described the episode as “a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012


[Updated April 30, 2013]

Writer David Fury says in his DVD commentary that Buffy’s red coat in Helpless was a deliberate reference to Red Riding Hood. Kralik reinforced the reference at several points: “Why did you come to the dark of the woods?”; “To bring all these sweets to grandmother's house?”; and “If you stray from the path you will lose your way”. So, in line with the theme that fairy tales are real, let’s see what Wikipedia tells us about the original version of Red Riding Hood:
“The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes an ogre or a ‘bzou’ (werewolf), making these tales relevant to the werewolf-trials (similar to witch trials) of the time…. The wolf usually leaves the grandmother’s blood and meat for the girl to eat, who then unwittingly cannibalizes her own grandmother….  In [other versions] she escapes with no help from any male or older female figure, instead using her own cunning.”

Monday, March 19, 2012


[Updated April 30, 2013]

What appears to be the principal message of Gingerbread – tolerance versus tyranny – comes across as lacking in subtlety. There are, I think, two more significant issues raised in the episode which get lost because of that heavy-handed treatment.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


[Updated April 30, 2013]

This is a long post. I’m going to deal first with some very important features of Amends before I discuss the issue which I’ve been saving for this episode, namely Angel’s culpability, if any, for the actions of Angelus. I’m covering a lot here and I hope I haven’t tried to do too much.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wish

[Updated April 30, 2013]

On the surface, The Wish is a very entertaining episode with important things to say about the characters. The problem is that if you look at it a bit more closely, it suffers from a couple of significant flaws which lurk below the surface: (1) the episode leaves us believing that none of the characters actually learned any of those important things; and (2) the WishVerse creates major continuity problems. I’m going to explain below the existence of these two problems and offer a metaphorical reading which (mostly?) solves them, but first I need to talk about it just from our perspective as viewers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lovers Walk

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Lovers Walk is one of my personal favorite episodes. It has the return of Spike, no longer a metaphor, but a chaotic force as he blows into and out of town and tears the masks of deception off of Buffy, Willow, and Xander. He’s great in every scene: with Joyce in the kitchen; his “love’s bitch” speech; with Willow in the factory. The episode also has possibly my favorite scene with the Mayor and it has the PEZ witch.
But while it’s incredibly funny, the episode has a real bite to it. Xander and Willow get caught, er, “fluking”, and the repercussions are going to be with us for a while. Willow’s would-be attempt at “de-lusting” shows that she’s unwilling to do the hard work of dealing with her emotions. The spell was doubly wrong: she shouldn’t be using the dark arts for such purposes; and she didn’t have Xander’s consent to perform magic on him, a particularly egregious omission given his experience in BB&B. I think the point is to contrast her with Buffy, who does, with an assist from Spike, reach an understanding about her own desire and manages to control herself without any supernatural aid.
Spike’s words to Buffy and Angel obviously had an impact, but the opposite of the one we might expect. Instead of embracing Spike’s view of love, Buffy seemed to fear it and take it as something to avoid. Perhaps we can see the reason for this by comparing Spike’s view of love with that of Mr. Platt in Beauty and the Beasts:

Spike:  (faces them) You're *not* friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. (points at his temple) Love isn't brains, children, it's blood... (clasps his chest) blood screaming inside you to work its will…. *I* may be love's bitch, but at least *I'm* man enough to admit it.”
Mr. Platt:  Look, lots of people lose themselves in love. It's, it's no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is, you can't stay lost. Sooner or later, you... you have to get back to yourself. …  If you can't... (inhales) Well, love becomes your master, and you're just its dog.”

The dialogue in Lovers Walk doesn’t reference Mr. Platt’s view, but we heard it just four episodes ago and Buffy surely remembers it. If Platt was right, Spike’s words aren’t a paean to love, they’re a big red warning light. Buffy may or may not want that kind of love (see below), but she’s mature enough to recognize that she can’t have it with Angel.
There’s another point worth noting about the speech. This is a paradigm case of the problem inherent in attributing the views of a character to the author. Spike’s view may or may not be true; it may or may not be that of Joss Whedon. But we can’t take his words as true in principle or even as true for Buffy and Angel, any more than we can the diametrically opposite view of Mr. Platt. All we really can know is that his words express how Spike himself sees love.
In S2 I made a big deal out of the fact that Xander and Cordy were a parallel relationship for Buffy/Angel, so I should note here that Cordy turns away from Xander in the scene immediately preceding the one in which Buffy tells Angel that she’s not going to see him anymore.
Trivia notes: (1) Spike knocked over the Sunnydale sign just as he did in School Hard. (2) “Cletus the slack-jawed yokel” is Cletus Spuckler, a character from The Simpsons. (3) The book Angel was reading by the fire is La Nausée by Jean-Paul Sartre, which I mentioned in my post on Lie to Me. In the DVD commentary for the Firefly episode Objects in Space, Joss says that La Nausée is the most important book he’s ever read. In my view, we’ll see the results of Angel’s reading beginning next episode and continuing through Gingerbread. (4) Weird Science – Buffy’s description of Willow’s failed love spell – was a 1985 film by John Hughes. (5) Charisma Carpenter actually suffered an accident very similar to the one which befell Cordelia in this episode. (6) The words we heard at the funeral while Buffy and Willow were talking are from the Wisdom of Solomon 1:14-15. (7) Buffy’s demand that Angel tell her he doesn’t love her echoes the same demand by James to Grace in IOHEFY. (8) The version of “My Way” which Spike sang at the end is by Gary Oldman for the movie Sid & Nancy.

Monday, March 5, 2012


[Updated April 30, 2013]

Revelations brings us front and center to a critical issue: the extent to which Angel is responsible for the crimes of Angelus (consistent with my posts to date, I’m using the name Angel to refer to him with the soul, Angelus without). Xander and Buffy take different sides of this debate; complicating the picture is the bias each has because of Buffy’s relationship with Angel. He’s jealous, she’s in love.
I want to put aside the bias problems for purposes of thinking about this issue. Frankly, it’s a distraction from the merits. However, I also want to hold off on the merits too until we get to Amends. What I’m going to do here is analyze the actions of Buffy on the one hand, and Xander and Faith on the other. In each case I’ll simply assume for the sake of argument that they’re right in their contradictory views of Angel.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Band Candy

[Updated April 30, 2013]

After 3 episodes which prefigure one of the two important themes of S3, we now get two which prefigure the other major theme and some of the plot lines. I’m not going to spoil the plot, but I do want to talk about one of the themes: maturity. Since Buffy’s a senior this year, it’s shouldn’t surprise us that maturity is a theme. Mature is what all seniors are supposed to be when they graduate.