Thursday, May 31, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (30 May 2007)

After last week, where I still hadn't finished blogging by the time it was time to go over to tyranist's house, we Buffied a much more manageable two episodes.

Afterwards, we watched Battle Royale and both really enjoyed it.

I've been thinking that maybe I go into too much detail when talking about these episodes. After all, this is not an episode guide, and there are much better synopses out there, on sites official and unofficial. Sometimes I get carried away, but I'll try to be more brief from now on.

Need I mention that we have yet to see a bad episode since I've been blogging? And to be honest, there weren't any since season one. And who knows, those episodes might not have been half bad if I saw them again.

So, this week we saw "Helpless," which marked Buffy's eighteenth birthday. I think I've mentioned that I find it odd the way real time passes on the show. I don't know why they do it and I can't see how it could possibly make things better, but they're certainly unique in doing it. Me, I'd use the old high-school-takes-six-years trick that most teen-centric shows use. But what do I know; I once got fired from piano lessons.

Buffy finds herself losing her abilities as her eighteenth birthday appears, and before we suspect it's an unexplained plot device like in SPIDER-MAN 2, we find out that someone is injecting her with a kind of muscle relaxant to take away her abilities. Poor Buffy has to experience life in Sunnydale as a normal ninety-six pound girl*, and it's hard and scary.

The writer of this show was named David Fury. Can you imagine going through life with a name like David Fury? The way women would look at you when they hear you introduced, the way your professors would raise an eyebrow and say, "Yes, Mister Fury?", the intimidation your name alone would bring, the way your Uncle Nick would tell you about patrolling the skies and battling evil in a flying aircraft carrier? Maybe it was none of those things. Maybe it's a made up last name. I imagine it beats being named after an Eighties rock band, or an easy joke every time you want to play baseball. But wait, Buffy. I was talking about Buffy.

This episode introduced the head of the Watcher organisation, stuffy and academic. It also introduced a really personable vampire, he was quite unique and amusing in a feral, blood-thirsty way. He also takes about a thousand Polaroid pictures, which says about one million words about his personality.

This episode also featured the chap who would go on to play Lt. Malcolm Reed on "Star Trek: Enterprise," a show I am a big fan of, but was not as good as this one. He gets turned into a vampire.

We really get a lot of Giles-Buffy/father-daughter interaction in this episode and I was really diggin' it, but it all goes badly in the end. Don't it always?

Anyhow, we find out that Giles is the one who has been giving Buffy the drugs to make her weak, and that it's all part of a rite-of-passage Slayers have to go through: to confront and defeat a powerful vampire alone, using only their wits and no superpowers. Buffy takes this news (which Giles was not supposed to tell her) as an especially hurtful betrayal, and goes home, only to find her mother has been kidnapped by the vampires.

She goes to save her mother and confront the bloodsuckers, even though she is afraid and weak. She manages to trick her foe into drinking holy water, but Giles shows up and stakes the other one just in time. They seem to be reconciled, especially when the Head Watcher shows up and fires Giles for being too close to his student (being more of a father than a Watcher, is I believe how he puts it). Buffy celebrates her eighteenth birthday at home with her mother and friends. Good, good stuff.

Next, we had ourselves a Xander-centric episode in "The Zeppo." I was highly entertained by it, not only because Xander is my favourite character, but because they did something that should have been hopelessly obnoxious, but somehow it was uniquely adorable. Whoops, I need to up the manliness quotient in this review, otherwise the one person living in Guam who reads my blog will think less of me. Raw meat good, books bad.

In this episode, Xander realises that he has become somewhat useless to the group and uncool to everybody else. His still-embittered ex-girlfriend refers to him as the Zeppo of their merry band, and Xander never questions how somebody who looks and thinks like Cordelia Chase could know who Zeppo Marx was. He gets a car and falls in with a bad crowd, all the while missing out on Buffy and Company's most dangerous mission yet.

What's special about this show is that it's told from Xander's point of view, and as he is kept out of the loop, we miss most of what would normally be the A-story of female demons attempting to reopen the Hellmouth.

So Xander makes a new friend in Jack, a troublemaker in town with a nasty temper and no pulse. Just so happens that all his friends are undead too, students who met violent deaths and have been reanimated by Jack. They want to bake a cake, they claim, and coerce Xander into helping them steal supplies.

Meanwhile, the rest of the gang has their hands full preventing the end of the world. Whatever is going on with them, it's possible they won't live through it, and they make it clear they'd rather Xander not get in their way (though Willow does tell Xander she loves him, apparently convinced good's not gonna triumph over evil this time).

Xander abandons his flat-lining new friends and feeling worse than ever, sees Faith battling some demons. He plows his car into them and later gets to plow into Faith as well.** Good show, old boy.

Well, it turns out that the "cake" the deadfast club was planning on baking is actually a bomb they're setting underneath the high school, and Xander goes there to put a stop to it. He manages to defeat their whole group and confronts Jack as the bomb is counting down (meanwhile, the real superheroes are in the library trying to keep the Hellmouth closed and the pesky world from coming to an end). Xander keeps his cool, outpsyches Jack, and ends the episode with his groove back. None of the other characters are the wiser, having somehow beaten back the forces of evil (but not without their bruises) one more time. Especially Cordelia, who reminds Xander what a loser he is.*** This time, he takes it in stride.

My dog, this was a fine episode. If my groove ever reanimated itself and crawled out of the grave it slipped into sometime back in the Mesozoic Era, I'd hope to embrace life in the manner in which Xander Harris did on this show. Tyranist and I seldom say more than "Okay, time for you to get out of my house" when Buffy Wednesdays are done, but sometime, I'd like to take a minute to thank him for introducing me to this show. I can't imagine why I wasn't a fan of it when it was on the air, and I'll be hard-pressed to find another show like it when we're done watching them all.

I was also going to talk about "Fray," the comic book spin-off Joss Whedon created not too long ago, that I just read over the weekend, but I'll leave that for another day. I'm in a damn fine mood right now. If there really is somebody out there reading my words, I hope you're in one too, and that you have a life full of laughter and peace.

And do you have a sister?

Rish "The Crappo" Outfield

*I meant to say "a normal girl weighing seven stones," but it didn't sound as good.

**She needed to let off some steam, and grabbed Xander in a moment of animal lust (perhaps the imminent end of the world had something to do with it), but darned if that wouldn't be nice.

***May she go off like Erin Moran to do a damn spinoff show.

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