Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 29th, 2007 (what? already?)

I'm farting deadly right now. Just thought I'd share.

So, last night was another Buffy Wednesday. Tyranist and I had less time than usual to perch in front of the (brand new High-Def) TV, so we only managed two episodes: "Passion" and "Killed By Death." Still, the streak continues, as we have yet to watch a bad Season 2 episode.

Tyr did mention afterwards that there are only four more episodes yet to go in the season, and that if we worked just a little harder, we could have them all watched by next (Buffy) Wednesday. But I'm thinking, if anything, we need to jam on the brakes a little. I want this season to last forever, especially if the quality dips as the series goes on.

But that's just who I am. As a little boy, I would ration out my Halloween candy, forcing myself to only eat one piece a day, then holding on to the last couple of pieces for as long as I could. By the time I was eleven or twelve, I could save my Halloween candy so I still had some when school ended in May. I've been that way with comic books too, preferring to stretch them out for up to a half hour, knowing there'd be a whole month until the next one.

Not everybody is like that. Back in L.A., I had a friend named Jeff, who would burn through a new Dark Tower or Harry Potter book in a single day or weekend. When we'd go to the comics shoppe, he'd often read his issue of "Ultimate Iron-Man" or "Archie Loves Jughead" all the way through, while waiting to pay for it. That's the way he was.

Okay, so these two episodes. Good stuff.

As I said last week (spoiler alert), I read online about something that was going to happen, and it happened in "Passion." Tyranist also read and found out, so neither of us were surprised when Ms. Calendar met her demise. At the hands of Bad Angel, no less.

That's really interesting. I've mentioned how I like Bad Angel more than Good Angel, and think he's much more effective as a villain than a love interest that can't really go anywhere due to the nature of the character, and to a lesser extent, the nature of television. I've been impressed with this change in the status quo,* and am surprised (in a good way) that it's lasted as long as it has.

So, while Bad Angel is terrorizing Buffy, Ms. Calender comes up with a plan to rehumanize him, and the race begins. Angel accomplishes a little wet-end sort of stuff, like sketching Buffy while she sleeps, and killing Willow's tropical fish, which are in an effort to torment and unhinge Buffy. It's one of those situations you see all the time in comic books, where the villain could easily have killed the hero (after all, he was in her room long enough to draw her in charcoal without being discovered), but didn't. You could say that he prefers the hunt to the actual kill, if you felt the need to defend it.

Buffy and Willow are upset about Angel being able to come into their houses, so Jenny Calendar comes up with a spell to revoke an invitation on a vampire. This turn of events has Giles and Ms. Calendar back together again, and she goes to the magic shop to prepare an intricate spell that will give Angel his soul again. Drusilla has a vision or feeling or premonition about it, and wants to stop their trio of vampires from becoming a duo again. Spike doesn't feel so strongly about that, as Bad Angel is a nasty, boastful sucker who flaunts his ability to walk around and bed around(?) if he wishes.

Buffy decides to warn her mother about Angel, simply saying that he has been stalking her and that they dated briefly but it's over, and that he's not to come in the house. Angel does attempt to do so, but because of the spell, he can't enter. It doesn't stop him from telling Buffy's mother that she slept with him, though.

Bad Angel does ramp up his offenses as the 'sode continues, culminating in the murder of Ms. Calendar. She has completed her translation of the old gypsy curse that gave Angel his soul, and saves it to a disk and prints it out (on her lovely antiquated dot-matrix printer with the row of tear-off roller paper on each side), but Angel shows up and expresses in no uncertain terms that he doesn't want his soul back. He destroys the computer, burns the printout, and snaps Ms. Calendar's neck (though why he doesn't suck her blood, or turn her into a vampire herself, I don't know).

Giles, who had a date with her that evening, comes home to find roses leading up to the bedroom and a handwritten note telling him to come upstairs. Instead of just about the most welcome sight a man could find, he gets the very unwelcome surprise of her dead body in his bed. The police come, and I thought he would be implicated in her murder, an even nastier trick by our boy Angelus.

But Giles is soon released, and lets the others know what has happened. The reaction Willow has to the news was unabashed and heart-wrenching. Giles goes out by himself to kick Bad Angel's bad ass, and I hoped he'd be able to at least get SOME killing done.

But Angel is more than a match for him, and Buffy appears in the nick of time to thrash Angel rather mightily. When she pauses to rescue Giles from the ensuing fire, Angel scampers away. Poor Giles finally weeps for his loss, telling Buffy that of all the people who've died since he became her Watcher, Jenny Calendar was the first one he loved.

I so wish I hadn't known the character death was coming, but if wishes were horses, someone would be reviewing my own movies. About horses. Sorry, I never get the saying right.

This episode also addressed a bit of what I've been thinking about, that Buffy is seventeen and he's not only an adult, but a LOT adult. But they don't go into it nearly as much as they might have (or as much as a real parent probably would), leading me to believe that they knew about the concern, but didn't want to focus it, for fear of bringing it to the forefront of everybody's mind.

There are a couple of English broadcasters I listen to regularly, and they often mock America (and American entertainment) for being overly emotional and sappy, but at the same time rail against the American stereotype that Brits are all stuffy, proper, and unemotional.** So it was all the better when loquacious, ultra-composed Giles broke down at the end, even allowing Buffy to comfort HIM. God, that was so nice, I wish it had gone on another minute or so.

The ending, when it looks like we're going to find the means to transforming Angel back into Good Angel and then it is lost, was pretty darn priceless. I may even have clapped my hands Emperor Palpatine style.

I'm sure the events of this episode will resonate for a long time to come, and one of the things that's best about this show is its tendency to refer to other episodes for comic value. That's a little wink to the loyal viewers, rewarding them for their faithfulness. There's really been a shift from episodic every-week-is-the-same kind of TV to the serialized you-must-watch-in-order kind of show. I'm not sure which is better in the long run, but I sure prefer the latter.

The second episode we watched, "Killed By Death" looked like it was going to go one way (an interesting way, with Buffy going to the hospital and in a fever, ranting about vampires in front of incredulous doctors and nurses), but ended up going another way. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET way. The parallels were so numerous to ELM STREET that tyranist leaned over and said, "This is what we call a homage, right?"

You see, if it's done well or you like it, it's a homage. If not, it's a rip-off.

Buffy is stuck in a hospital for a while (courtesy of the tagteam of illness and Bad Angel), and discovers that children are dying there. But it ain't exactly natural causes, cuz. There's a creature roaming about, sucking out their lifeforce through its eyes. But can Buffy save the day, or is it all in her mind?

In all honesty, this was the weakest episode of the season so far, but it was still funny, scary, and had some nice clever moments. It's part of the brilliance of the show that any and every kind of monster can live in (or visit) Sunnydale, California. Being such a fan of Horror, and seeing it more effectively done on this show (both emotionally and scare-ily) than 95% of the horror movies I've been paying to see for the last decade, I not only wish I had been a fan when the show was new, but I wish I could've been a writer.

But if wishes were fishes . . .

Rish "The Beggars Would Ride" Outfield

*It reminds me of when I was a kid, watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and the absolutely best episode of the series aired to close out the third season. It was a cliffhanger called "The Best of Both Worlds," wherein Captain Picard was transformed into an enemy of the Federation at the end. In the days before the internet, my friends and I could only guess what would happen to the show when it started up again in the fall. Each of us had theories (being naive enough to believe the show would never be the same again), my favourite of which was that Commander Riker would become the Captain, Commander Shelby would become The Enterprise's new first officer, and Patrick Stewart had left the show but would be back from time to time as the villain Locutus. That sort of talk seems silly now, but if Ronald D. Moore had been running the show instead of just being a junior member of the writing staff, something like that very well could have happened. To bring it all back to "Buffy," seeing the show years later prevents me from wondering where it's all going to go, but it's refreshing that "status quo" seems to mean little on the programme.

**They're also ridiculously foul-mouthed, more so than anyone I know, including me after seeing the MESSENGERS with tyranist Wednesday night.

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