Sunday, June 24, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (24 June 2007)

Or rather, Buffy Sunday.

One of us had the entire weekend to himself, so I went to tyranist's house for a good thirty hour stretch. We had planned to debauch on the couch, go to a soccer game, get a pizza, and watch a buttload of horror films. As it stands, we watched exactly one horror film, one that was so bad I regretted the invention of film, and I spent some of the morning vomiting. We watched a little TV, I wrote on the computer for a while, we drove to the next town up, hit the cinema (we saw 1408 and enjoyed it), and watched Escape From New York, EuroTrip, and Fight Club.

I feel obligated to mention that Tyr may be the only person that claims EuroTrip as his favourite film. Seriously, he loves and watches that film the way I did Star Wars when I was ten.

And we also hit the "Buffy" DVD. The next episode in chronological order was called "Earshot," and I learned later that it was not the next episode to air chronologically.* This is another one written by Jane Espenson, and right before we started it, tyranist announced that this would be the first crappy episode, breaking our months' long run of only the best. It was just a feeling he had.

It begins with Buffy fighting a pair of naked, flesh-coloured, mouthless demons. She kills one of them and gets some of his . . . I hope it was blood . . . on her. Later it is revealed that she has inherited "the aspect of the demon." She begins to be able to read peoples' minds.

At first, this is fun. Xander thinks about sex all the time. So do all guys, except for Oz, apparently. Wesley thinks about Cordelia. Willow thinks about Buffy becoming more than human. Cordelia thinks exactly what comes out of her tactless mouth. Joyce thinks about when she slept with Giles. Unfortunately for Buffy, she can't read Angel's mind, because that's easier than asking him what went on with him and Faith (and if he dug it). But the ability increases and soon she is overwhelmed by a barrage of people's thoughts . . . including someone in the lunchroom who is going to kill everybody the next day.

Buffy is incapacitated by her new gift, so it's up to the rest of the gang to find out who it was in the lunchroom that's planning on committing murder. They don't make much progress, save interviewing the many suspects.

To make a long story short, Angel finds and kills the other mouthless demon and from its heart, they cure Buffy's condition. She rushes to the school, while the others are confronting who they think might be the evildoer.

Buffy sees Jonathan, a semi-recurring character, up in the clock tower, loading a rifle. Jonathan is a pitiful loser who no one will ever love. At last, there's a character I can truly relate to.

She goes up there to lay the smack down, but talks to him instead about how all those students who ignore him do so because they have so many problems in their own lives, not because they're bad people. And then it is revealed that he wasn't up there for a shooting spree, but to end his own life.

Meanwile, Xander Harris, quite accidentally, walks in on the lunchlady pouring rat poison into the school lunch pot. Turns out she hates the students and is trying to do them in. Buffy shows her to the door, and everything is safe and happy for another week.

You know, of the last few episodes, this was the closest we got to a truly weak one. But it wasn't. It was still very very good, and that's actually starting to bother me. I guess I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for a star to fall, or for the Governor to call, or some standard cliche. I only hope that when it happens, I'm man enough to take it, and don't join Jonathan in a bell tower of my own.

Before that happens, we have an episode called "Choices" I need to blog about. This is the next chapter in the Faith Goes Bad story arc, and dealt with that as well as the group deciding where they want to go after high school. Willow has been accepted to every school from Oxford to South Harmon Institute of Technology.** Xander, apparently, hasn't been invited to pursue higher education, but Cordelia has, and rubs it in his face. Kordileea iz meen. Surprisingly, Buffy has been accepted to a few, including Northwestern. Is that a good school? I'm really only familiar with colleges that have "Community" or "Technical" in their names.

Buffy decides that she wants to be able to go away for school too, like a regular girl, and thinks that if she can stop the mayor and his ascension, then maybe Giles will let her. It's not exactly logical, but it gets the job done.

Faith is charged with bringing a special box to the mayor and Buffy gets wind of its importance. The gang decides to destroy the box, but they need Willow to perform a spell before they can do so. They break into the mayor's office and steal the box, but Willow is captured. Buffy plans on trading the mayor the box for Willow.

Willow has been locked up and there's a lot of menace there, especially from Faith, who holds a knife to her throat at one point. I think I remember Joss saying (in a "Firefly" commentary) that if he wanted to piss off the audience, he'd have a character do something to Willow.

Willow escapes where they're keeping her--there's a great moment where Willow uses her levitation powers to kill a vampire with a pencil--and discovers the Books of Ascension from a couple of episodes back. She would have gotten away, but she stops to read through them and Faith catches up to her.

I really enjoyed their conversation, as Faith says, "Now you're gonna tell me that it's not too late for me to do what's right," and Willow says, "No, it's way too late for that."

The Mayor and Company take Willow to the high school cafeteria to trade for the box, and just as they're doing so, Principal Snyder busts in with the cops, thinking it's a drug transaction going down. When one of the cops (or were they just school security?) opens the box, some kind of huge face-sucking bug pops out, killing him. The Mayor leaves with the box, mentioning that there are thousands of those bugs in there.

Principal Snyder also leaves, as I suppose there was nothing prosecutable going on (or maybe he knows a bit more about the Mayor than the average Sunnydalian). Boy, it's gotta be tough to be principal at that high school. As they pointed out in the last episode, theirs is the only high school I know of with a weekly obituary section in the school paper.

In the end, Buffy realises she can't go away to college, but will stay in town. Willow says she's going to say in Sunnydale too and go to school with Buffy at UCS. She also reveals that she stole some particularly important pages out of the Books of Ascension, and gives them to Giles. More really good stuff, and only three left in this season.

I also have to mention that I seriously considered just watching them all, to the end of the season, just because we could. Luckily, saner heads prevailed, and BTVS Season 3 will continue into July.

Tyranist and I are both longtime comic book fans (in fact, according to him, that's what made him think to talk to me back in high school), and we talk about the restrictions placed upon comic book writers crafting stories about Batman, Spider-man, the X-men, She-Hulk, and Uncle Scrotor. When you're working with a property you don't own, there is only so much you can do with the characters (and even then, someone else can come along and say, "That was all a lie/dream/devious trick/robot/clone/genetically altered actress." According to tyr--and he's right--the best way to go is to create your own comic book characters, and then you can do whatever you want with them, from killing them to marrying them off (some say that's the same thing), turning them powerless to turning them evil.

You can see where I'm going with this. While I'm pretty sure that Fox owns "Buffy" and its characters, Joss runs the show, and he seems to have pretty complete freedom. And instead of making a run-of-the-mill, you-can-watch-any-episode-at-any-time, cookie cutter programme, he has crafted a series that's constantly changing, with characters who are evolving, and yes, Faith seems to be genuinely bad, not just misguided or under someone's control (and I have it on fairly nonsuspect authority that she's not the last long-running character to go bad).

I think Joss watched a lot of TV growing up (and maybe read a lot of comic books) and just HATED it when he'd notice that, week after week, when the hour was up everything had returned to the way it was before. I've sort of learned to hate that myself.

So he created something to be completely unlike that. And it's astounding. I guess it's been done before (and it's certainly been done after), but not with the degree of success I see in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I only wish I had appreciated Joss's genius when I used to run into him on a regular basis back in Los Angeles. You will tell him for me the next time YOU see him, won't you?

Rish "Joss Whedon Is (Still) My Master Now" Outfield

*They say the whole Columbine school shooting incident occurred right before this show was to air, so they shelved it until the next year. I remember that period, when suddenly the media was to blame for everything wrong in society ("What was he listening to? What was he listening to?" Chris Rock echoed in his stand-up at the time. "What was HITLER listening to?"), and TV and movies had to be uber-careful when it came to violence and what the BBFC refers to as "imitatable behaviour."

**I was going to say Miskatonic University, but I choose to go lowbrow. That's me, folks, in a nutshell.

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