Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (23 May) Continued

When last we joined our intrepid heroes, two episodes had been watched, and then they watched two more. And ferret DNA had been mixed with mink DNA with disastrous results. So, next up was "Amends," something of an important episode, since Joss Whedon wrote and directed it.

It was an Angel show, sort of, and started to explain why he was back from "the demon dimension." I'm wondering why they don't just say Hell. Is it because that's too Judeo-Christian a concept? Is it because there is no God or Devil in the Buffy universe? Or is there a Hell and where Angel went was someplace different?

We begin, as may be the habit with Angel-centric episodes, in the long past, when Angel was Angelus, the mean-spiritedest of vampires. He was a busy little bee in his pre-soul days, and I have to admit that that fact makes him interesting to me.

Now he's back though, and he has been dreaming of his past sins. But maybe they're more than dreams, as he begins to see the spectres of those he's killed show up to torment him.

On the teenage front, we find out that Cordelia will still have nothing to do with Xander, but bitchily enough, she won't have anything to do with his friends either. Who used to be her friends. Didn't they?

But Oz doesn't stay mad at Willow for long. And who could? He proves himself to be understanding and forgiving and not at all like Doctor Evil his father.

Oh, and I almost forgot. It's Christmastime in Sunnydale! There's gift-giving and stocking-hanging and decorated trees, and Buffy and Joyce invite Faith over for Christmas Eve. Faith brushes it off 'cause she's so cool and has stuff she's gotta be and places she's gotta do.

Willow reminds everybody that she's Jewish, and though it's hard to be a Jew on Christmas (her friends won't let her join in any games), she does invite Oz over for a romantic night. But he once again remains the most sensitive of all boyfriends and tells her hymen to stay where it is. Awww.

Angel's memories and visions are driving him more than a little insane. In an awesome scene, Angel shows up at Giles's doorstep, asking for help. Giles, remembering what Angelus did to him (and to his ladylove), considers turning him away, but reluctantly allows him to enter and talks with him, trying to get to the root of his problem. Before that can happen, though, the spectre of Ms. Calendar steps from behind Giles (quite a chilling moment), and Angel flees.

Angel dreams that he and Buffy are in bed and he bites her. Oddly enough, Buffy shares the dream. His previous victims, Ms. Calendar among them, appear to tell Angel that he is evil--a monster--the suffering will go away if he just kills Buffy Summers.

Unfortunately for the surprise, Ms. Calendar's return was announced in the opening credits (which may be unavoidable, I'm not sure). She pretty much personifies the evil for the last half of the episode, standing in for the villain (both individual and concept) called The First.

Part of the crux of whether this episode works or not is our ability--okay, I'll say it, my ability--to feel sorry for Angel, and believe that his remorse for his past evil deeds (and potential future ones) is real, and overwhelmingly so. It's often hard for me to put aside my distaste for Angel and his perfect hair, but they have taken great strides in humbling him, in humanising him, and in, indeed, making him someone I can understand and like. At least a little. This episode really helped with that.

On Christmas Eve, Faith shows up at Buffy's house after all, but before any bonding can take place, Buffy has to take off to save Angel from The First's influence. She discovers where the First's priests are located and after a brief confrontation, rushes to find her former boyfriend.

Angel, unable to kill Buffy, has gone to a hill overlooking the town. He has decided the only way to win is to kill himself. It's a pretty good idea, really. Minutes before sunrise, Buffy finds him and they talk/argue/fight about Angel's current plight. He seems wholly convinced he needs to die and there's not anything she can say to change his mind.

But then it begins to snow. Perhaps it is a sign, but there's no sunrise forthcoming. Reconsidering, Angel shares some time with Buffy walking through the quiet town with snow falling all around them. The other characters also see the snow and feel peace/magic/wonder/joy/enlightenment.

Tyranist was not happy with the resolution of the episode. I thought it was kind of nice, but then, I lived in Southern California for years and understand their romanticised conception of falling snow. And hey, snow is really beautiful when it first falls, it's the days and weeks that follow that suck.

So yes, we watched a fourth show. I realise that I am very lucky to be able to see these episode for the first time this way. If you're not me, though, you are doubly-blessed, both because you don't have to shamble through life as me, and because you probably saw the episodes when they were new on the WB (or just-south-of-new on F/X) and got joy out of them way back then. And, yes, you're not me.

The last episode we saw was a Jane Espenson-written tale called "Gingerbread." In it, Joyce (Buffy's mom) goes on the vampire-hunting rounds with her daughter for the first time, and discovers the dead bodies of two children in the park. It really messes her up.

She comes to school and visits Buffy in front of her peers, still shaken by what she has witnessed. Determined to do something to prevent further tragedy, Joyce gathers the concerned parents of the town together in an attempt to protect their kids from the dangers of the occult and demonic influences . . . and slayers. The shit has been laid out and the fan has been turned on.

Amy the Witch from two previous episodes appears in this one. She and Willow, who is increasingly active in the use of witchcraft are worried about the townspeople's reactions. We meet Willow's mother among the parents organised against witchcraft, and find out that she's usually aloof and distracted, but is suddenly overprotective of her daughter and meddling in her life. People are whipping themselves into a frenzy over witches, the way they did in Salem and Oz and the Spanish Inquisition and anytime a new J.K. Rowling book comes out.

So, we find out that Hansel and Gretel are not only real . . . but evil.

When tyranist inferred that wicca and witchcraft were one in the same, I had to correct him, since I'd understood that wicca was more of a harmless worship of the earth's natural elemental forces and witchcraft was the practice of black magic and devilish spells. Of course, I was proven wrong when the episode said they were the same thing. Whoops. One day he's gonna be wrong and I just hope I'm there to see it.

And this bucket of bolts is never going to get us past that blockade.

It's somewhat hard to like the adults (save Giles) in Buffy's world. Generally, in kid- or teen-centric shows, adults are portrayed as oafs, obstacles, old-fashioned, or oblivious, and they have been all of these things at one time or another. Buffy's mom, for example, is often well-meaning but ineffectual, or interfering, but in "Gingerbread," she became Sheila Broflovski, a hysterical, self-righteous crusader for all that is holier-than-thou. Luckily, she was being manipulated by demons.

This episode also revealed that Buffy doesn't kill regular people (lucky Ted was a robot, huh?). But just like the Dr. No trailer said, I believe Buffy Summers should be able to kill when she chooses, where she chooses, and whom she chooses.

It would seem that the two dead children are actually a demon that stirs people up to go on witch hunts, and sure enough, lockers are opened up, accusations start to fly, and before too long, Willow, Amy, and Buffy are all tied to stakes with the library's occult literature, ready for burning.

Amy casts a spell which enables her to escape . . . by turning into a rat and scurrying off. Amazingly, Cordelia helps Giles rescue the girls and reveal the hideous demon for the innocent Aryan children it is. Er, the opposite of that. Oz and Xander arrive to save the day, but it's already been saved. Buffy manages to destroy the demon and all the adults return to normal, with no memory of the shenanigans they were up to in the name of responsible parenting.

I could say quite a bit about this show, but I think I say too much as it is. We were disturbed, shocked, and entertained by this, another dark ole episode, but when Buffy recommends they get one of those "wheel thingies" for Amy the Rat, tyranist and I laughed like the Japanese schoolgirls we both are deep down.

I love this show.

Rish "Joss Whedon Is My Master Now" Outfield

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