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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Triangle

[Updated May 1, 2013]

I love Triangle, partly because I think it’s hilarious, but mostly because of Xander’s response to Olaf’s offer of a “Sophie’s Choice”: “that’s insane troll logic”. The only right answer is to refuse to choose. Well, that and have Buffy come in and save the day.
Triangle occupies the same relative point in the season that Ted, Gingerbread and The I in Team did, and it serves a similar role: it gives us the problem Buffy will face in the season finale, but doesn’t quite give us the answer. It’s also setting up some plot points regarding Willow’s magic for S6 which I can’t spoil.


Unfortunately, the combination of a mostly humorous episode with important spoilers means I don’t have much to talk about. I’ll just note a few items of interest and let this be the least controversial Buffy post on the internet today. J [That last sentence referred to an explosion of controversy regarding the discussion on another site about an episode from S6.]
The demon – in this case Olaf – always tells us something important about Buffy. The point of Triangle is to move Buffy past Riley, at least for the present. The episode accomplishes this using Willow and Anya. They argued about who was at fault for Olaf, but in my view Willow’s magic spell was a conduit for Anya’s internal feelings. Prefiguring the role she’ll play in the penultimate episode of S5, Willow’s magic served to release Anya’s pent-up resentments:
WILLOW: Hey Anya, whatever really has you mad, why don't you just say it, like you do every other thought that stomps through your brain?
ANYA: (stands up) I believe I have said it.
WILLOW: No. You haven't. Come on. Let it out! (My emphasis.)
 
And out pops Olaf, the guy who made Anya really mad when he cheated on her. We can see this metaphorically: Olaf cheated on Anya, as Riley had with Buffy. By defeating Olaf, Buffy becomes able to put her sense of betrayal behind her. She also reinforces her faith in romance:
OLAF: What are you fighting for, minuscule blonde one? Your friends? (gestures to Anya comforting Xander) These two? (chuckles) They will never last….
BUFFY: (OS) Their love... (punching noise, Olaf grunts) will last ... (punch, grunt) forever! (punch, sound of Olaf falling to the floor)

Speaking of Buffy, Xander and Anya open the episode with a discussion of Buffy’s relationship debris, but it seems to me that they get it very wrong. Anya’s statement is the key mistake, though Xander validates it when he doesn’t disagree: “She couldn't make it work with Angel, and then she let Riley go away.”
It was hardly Buffy’s fault that the relationship with Angel didn’t work. The curse was outside of her control. And as I’ve argued over the last several posts, she didn’t “let Riley go away”. He left on his own.
Spike continues to fail to understand humanity, providing a counterpoint to Anya, who’s just beginning to. Willow isn’t entirely wrong about Anya, but she is a bit unfair. Anya’s making some progress – frustratingly slow progress, perhaps, but progress nonetheless. Spike truly doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t get credit for not feeding off of bleeding disaster victims, nor that he’s not likely to win points with Buffy by feeling her up when she’s thrown on top of him. Perhaps if we were grading on a curve….
I haven’t mentioned this before, but the comparison of Anya to Spike is instructive on several levels. Anya spent 1000-odd years as a demon, and she’s now in recovery. I assume we’re supposed to see Anya as having a soul, though this hasn’t been stated explicitly. This leaves Xander in an odd position when it comes to Angel and to Spike. He hates both of them, but it’s pretty hard to distinguish Angelus’s crimes from Anyanka’s. If anything, she had lots more time to commit them, and she had the aid of magic to inflict whatever vengeance her “client” wanted. By falling in love with Anya, Xander has seriously undermined his judgmental stance vis-à-vis Bangel.
Anya also serves as a reminder that Spike is chipped. Just as she’s learning to be human; just as Angel spent 100 years brooding his way to human; so Spike is now trying to understand what’s involved. The question for the viewer is whether he can do this without a soul. If you haven’t seen beyond this episode yet, I’ll say that there will be an answer to this question, so keep it in mind going forward.
Trivia notes: (1) I’m just going to assume that everyone who’s not Anya knows The Cat in the Hat. (2) Willow did a spell to create light in Out of My Mind. The spell she mentions here seems to be an enhancement of that one. (3) As Buffy says, there actually is a sign at SeaWorld which says "The first five rows will get wet." (4) Willow’s reference to Olaf as “Lord of the Hammers” seems like a direct tribute to Lord of the Rings. (5) D’Hoffryn offered Willow Anya’s old job in Something Blue. (6) It’s possible there’s another reference to Something Blue when Willow wishes Buffy was there and then wishes for a million dollars. (7) Willow’s lips broke up Xander and Cordelia in Lover’s Walk. (8) Anya’s mention of a world without shrimp harks back to Superstar. (9) They rebuilt the Bronze after this episode. It’ll be new and different in future episodes. (10) Joss was reportedly very upset that a particular word was left out of the episode. He needed it for the finale.

12 comments:

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    1. SPOILERS FOR THE GIFT

      "God." Olaf was supposed to have been called a "troll God". It got left out, so when Anya calls it the "hammer of a God" in The Gift, that didn't make sense.

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    2. Ohhhhh that makes sense. I did sort of wonder at that line.

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  2. The "Lord of the Hammer" also made me connect to Thor, a god with a Hammer, so it made sense to me. Olaf was a human Thor?

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    1. Yeah, I thought of that too. The fact that it was plural ("hammers" rather than "hammer") suggests a LOR reference. It's probably somewhere in there that the missing word was supposed to go (assuming the rumors are right).

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  3. Captain Hammer. The Avengers. I wonder if there are going to be any hammer shout-outs in Much Ado? I can't think of any notable AtS hammers, although there were lots of Orb of Celui-La and Shroud of Celui-Ci.

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  4. Way too many orbs in both series. Someone seemed to have quite the fixation. :)

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  5. I can't think of any Dollhouse hammers or orbs, but the clip montage at the beginning of, I think, S3 has Buffy posing in her "Anne" hammer-swinging Proletarian mode.

    Firefly orbs: in Shindig, Badger says that it would take a "diamond the size of a testicle" to buy a ticket to the eponymous hoedown, and he says he has his hands on a pair of them. Mal and Jayne are 12.

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  6. Hum... I'm French and before this épisode i had never heard of the cat in the hat! I don't know why, but right now i have a new theory about Anya. She's a métaphore of a foreigner with a really different culture who hasards difficulties to fit in her new country.
    Or not.
    I should go to sleep.

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    1. Fair enough. I'll add a link. And that's a good suggestion about Anya.

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  7. Has* (damn phone corrector! )

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  8. Very telling:
    SPIKE: (walks closer to Xander) I mean, did she *want* to be made a fool of? And, what does a person have to do to make it right?

    also sounds vaguely familiar...

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