Thursday, April 26, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (25 April)

26-27 April '07

Buffy Season 3 continues. This week we watched two episodes, which seems like a good way to go. At this rate, this season should last through the summer.

The first was "Faith, Hope & Trick," which has to be a clever title, though I don't understand it.* It begins sometime after the last episode, and Buffy and her (now much more supportive) mother meet with Principal Snyder to get Buffy back into school. She is required to jump through hoops, including seeing the school psychiatrist, and her dreams of Angel continue (gotta shoehorn David Boreanaz into every show, I guess, since you're giving him a paycheck either way).

We're introduced to a couple of new baddies, including Kakistos, a vampire who is so old he has cloven hooves instead of hands. They're in town to kill the slayer (as well as fast food employees and pizza delivery boys), but here's the thing . . . they're after a slayer we've never met before. She's an attractive, slinky thing named Faith, and apparently she hails from the Boston area. She has what used to be called a devil-may-care attitude, but it's hiding some dark secrets (many I hope will be revealed in future episodes), including the fact that her Watcher was a woman, who died before her eyes in an unspeakable manner.

You gotta have Faith. You know, I've never liked Eliza Dushku, finding her abrasive, nasty, and low-class (kind of a softer, more attractive version of every role Michelle Rodriguez plays). But it's strange, I sure liked her in this episode, as caustic as she can be. She seemed fresh and fun, and everyone else likes her too, including Buffy's new potential love interest. Odd that when they introduced Kendra the Vampire Slayer, she was a much more serious and rigid character than Buffy. After they unceremoniously killed her, we meet Faith, who is a much less serious and rigid character than Buffy.

Faith ingratiates herself into the group faster than . . . well, anybody possibly could, even coming over to Buffy's house and participating in the family dinner. Buffy's mom (aka Joyce) is impressed by her, but at least part of that is due to her thought that with another slayer in town, Buffy may be able to cut back on her vampire-hunting activities, maybe to become a normal girl again. She refers to Buffy marching in the Slayer Pride parade, which is yet another comparison of being the Chosen One to homosexuality.

Buffy feels slighted and jealous about the attention Faith garners, but all that changes when they clash with the big bad old vampire. Kakistos is built up to be pretty darn badass, but they kill him in something of a joke, so I guess I was wrong. I look forward to seeing who the Big Bad will be this season.

A couple of subplots include Buffy rebuffing (no pun intended) the advances of Scott, a guy at school who must really like her, 'cause he keeps popping up like a seventeen year old Weeble-wobble. When he gets her a ring just like the one Angel gave her last season, she freaks out rather completely, and goes to the location where Angel died and leaves her ring there. Something strange occurs, and after Buffy is gone, a naked Angel re-enters our world.

This was a good one, though a lot of it was setup. That's fine, though, and except for the fact that Cordelia now has nothing to do, I welcome the addition of the new slayer character. They also provided Buffy with the chance to tell her friends what happened when she confronted Angel last season. Tyranist and I got the impression that Giles was subtly pushing her toward that revelation, and that it was what she needed to move on.

I noticed the score a lot more on this episode. It was bigger and fuller than I remember, and there was a lovely Buffy/Angel theme that I liked and noticed repeated on the next episode.

That next episode was "Beauty and the Beasts," and it centered around the full moon, which causes Oz to become Armenian. Sorry, bad joke, he turns into a werewolf every month, which has to make it hard to date him. Our gang locks him up in the library (which they evidently do all the time), and take turns guarding or reading to him (Willow reads him "The Call of the Wild," which should have been sappier, but just wasn't).

Out on patrol, Buffy runs into Angel. He runs into her, actually, attacking her, seemingly a mindless savage now (though he did manage to find a pair of pants and shoes and put them on). It turns out that he may have spent a great deal of time in Hell/the demon dimension, and it reformatted his hard drive. When a student is mauled to death, some of our heroes suspect Oz, tyranist and Buffy suspect Angel (the bestial version), and I suspect someone else.

Buffy is now dating the new guy, Scott, and yeah, it's cute that all our teen characters have significant others right now (maybe we can hook Giles up with Faith, what do you think?). We are introduced to two new students--also a couple--and because they are given a little personality and backstory, I figured they would be recurring. But I am dumb.

Turns out of the two guest stars, one is the killer (having taken some experimental/magical Mister Hyde formula) and one is his long-suffering, cringing, and often-abused girlfriend. They also introduced a therapist character that Buffy had a session with. He was unorthodox, and (I thought) had a hell of a lot of potential. He was killed a few minutes later, so I guess that don't matter.

In the end, Mister Hyde fights Werewolf Oz, long-suffering girlfriend is killed, and Buffy confronts Bestial Angel. Our bad guy is killed, and Buffy shackles Angel up. She may see a glimmer of humanity in him, but only time will tell how much of the old character we love (by "we," I mean "everybody except me and tyranist") is left.

Marti Noxon wrote this one, and has completely redeemed herself from the mediocre second episode of the season. This show had a lot going on, and was quite good, though I did find it troubling.

I mentioned when I watched "Innocence" about the subtext of a boyfriend changing in a relationship, turning different, turning bad. In "Beauty and the Beasts," it's handled a little differently. There was no subtext at all here; it was all text. We can sum up the theme of the show as: Men becoming beasts = abusive relationships.

I've heard Joss speak about the strong women he writes in his shows and his response to mentions of the feminism of his views and characters, but this show seems to be going more and more toward Men Bad Women Good than any other episode. Men fall into two categories: callow, dumb and weak, or violent, selfish and villainous.

I do have to say, in defence of my gender, that if the man-bashing were reversed, many would be offended, and the show would be attacked as ridiculously misogynistic. Blood would flow like the mighty Euphrates during flood season.

Buffy is a role model, as is Willow in a way, and Joyce, and Faith(ish). Only Cordelia remains a flake, but I'm sure that will be remedied within the year. On the male side, I guess we have Giles, but pretty much all the males are weaker/shallower and more corruptible/fallible than the females. It's not a criticism per se, it's just something that I've noticed and wanted to mention.

I love the programme, and recognise the show is called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," it's not called "The Men and Women of Sunnydale," or even "The Boys by the Hellmouth." It's a show with a female star and a cast of powerful female characters, unlike "Alias" or "Dark Angel," which were shows with a female star and a mostly male supporting cast. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into this. Maybe men are not bad and women good, maybe just abusive split-personality high school boyfriends are bad and teenage girl superheroes with angst are good.

Rish "Sometimes It's Hard To Be A Woman" Outfield

*I looked it up and now I get it. Not exactly my favourite all-time title, however.

P.S. In semi-related news, I went to a store yesterday that shall remain nameless (let's just say that they're in the city and they sell circuits, among other things), and I thought I'd pick up a "Buffy" set, or check the prices. I noticed that the first season, with ten episodes, costs the same as the seasons with twenty-something episodes. They did have them all, though, as opposed to Best Buy, which just had the third season (it was really cheap, though). There have been two releases of the full season sets, in a large foldout edition, and then a slimmer chapterbook version. I initially thought that the slim version was just a barebones set, but it appears to have the same content, just be better packaged and cheaper.

That's probably going to irritate tyranist, who is not only a collector, but a sort of Satanic librarian. He likes things to match on his shelves, and disliked when "The Simpsons" and "Masters of Horror" changed their packaging. I don't know if he'd go as far as to get rid of his foldout sets in exchange for matching slimline sets, but he might. Oh, and he also likes to pick up drifters and kill them.

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