Thursday, August 30, 2007

Buffy/Angel Wednesday (29 August)

I recognise that my blog has become nothing but "Buffy" of late, but until the details of my life change, that's the only thing I have worth blogging about.

This week, we just got in two episodes. Like last week, we followed the shows with a horror film. This time it was my pick, THE ABANDONED, that was part of the After Dark Horrorfest last November. It was a Spanish/UK/Bulgarian production, set in Russia, but in English. Yeah.

Horror is my favourite genre, and I make no apologies whatsoever about that. It's funny how often I hear people--even this very day--talking about my genre as though it's a cancer on the film industry, or a nasty influence on young people on the same level as drugs and gangs. But it brings me joy, gives me excitement and chills, and I've only killed three people since the start of the calendar year. I'd say that makes me pretty normal.

Anyway, bringing this back to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," I feel we get our weekly dose of Horror with each and every episode of "Buffy" and "Angel." Though a lot of people downplay the Horror element, preferring to focus on the Romance, Drama, Action, Comedy (man, I've even heard people refer to the series as Sci-Fi) . . . the Socially Correct stuff that you can talk about in mixed company.

But boys and girls, the show is totally Horror. The episode we watched this week, "Hush," was probably the most frightening one yet, and the baddies, the Gentlemen, were as scary as my high school typing teacher Mrs. Bigler. No lie and no exaggeration.

In "Hush," Bufanda has a dream in which she kisses Riley and there's a little girl chanting a creepy rhyme that, without any effort on my part, I found the text of:
"Can't even shout, can't even cry;
The Gentlemen are coming by.
Looking in windows, knocking on doors;
They need to take seven and they might take yours.
Can't call to Mom, can't say a word;
You're gonna die screaming, but you won't be heard."

God, that is so effed up. Well, Buffy's a bit disturbed by it too and mentions it to Giles. The titles roll.

I was happy to see Emma Caufield's name show up during the credits. When will they just make her a regular castmember and get it over with? Also during the credits, I saw Amber Benson's name listed. I asked tyranist how come that name looked familiar to me. He told me to sit and spin.

So, before the mayhem begins, we get several short character interactions. Riley does his regular Rish Outfield impression around Buffy, stammering through any meaningful conversation and stumbling over any sexual tension. Xander and Anya are in a lovers' quarrel over whether Xander truly cares about her, or is only in it for the orgasms. Willow mentions that she has a Wicca meeting to go to.

The Wiccans at this meeting are exactly the way the few I've encountered have behaved, which was why my impression of them was completely non-devil-worshippy, non-black magic-centric until tyranist corrected me.* They're all into nature and mysticism and listening to music and doing each others' nails and writing poetry and introspection and experimental drug use and giving each other secret nicknames and pretentiousness and lighting candles and incense and hating men and Easy Bake Ovens and helium balloons and affirmations and veganism and watching STEEL MAGNOLIAS and FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and IRREVERSIBLE and SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS and snuff films and BEACHES and the n-word and symbols and astrology and holding hands and braiding each others' hair and doing that silly trick where you lift somebody up while chanting "Light as a feather, straight as a board." You know, all that sort of stuff. Willow asks about casting spells and they dismiss her as having no idea what Wicca is all about. But there's one girl, a stuttery, backwards little thing called Tara that seems really receptive to Willow's suggestion.

So, the still-powerless Spike is still living at Giles's, but seems to be more of annoying flatmate than a prisoner now. Giles is expecting a visit from an old friend (who turns out to be his ladyfriend Olivia,** who we saw for maybe thirty seconds in the season opener) and tells Xander to take Spike to his place during that time.

At night, the Gentlemen arrive . . . a group of tall, thin, bald, grinning, pale, hollow-eyed creatures in black suits that don't walk but float as they move. They've got some companions, strait-jacketed creatures with mutilated faces that seem to do all the grunt work while the Gentlemen hover about, overseeing the mayhem. One of the Gentlemen has a wooden box, and he magically extracts all the townspeople's voices into it, so that when they awaken the next morning, no one can speak.

I know it sounds very trite and LITTLE MERMAID, but believe me, it wa'nt. Without the ability to talk to one another, communication breaks down, relationships break down, people break down, a car even breaks down. It has affected everyone, including Spike, but only those in Sunnydale were rendered mute. A news report on TV calls it a fluke outbreak of mass laryngitis, and people are really freaking out.***

Buffy and Willow buy dry-erase boards to communicate, and I mentioned to tyranist that had this just been a handful of years later, people would've just used gorram text messaging to communicate. I never thought I would miss the Nineties.

That evening, Buffy goes out patrolling and Riley and his Initiative pals do too. The two of them run into each other, and without words to toss a spanner into the works, they have a really good kiss. I'm reluctant to admit that Riley has started to grow on me, since I never thought it would happen.

The Gentlemen are busy, moving around campus, finding students, and carving out their hearts. With no screaming, and society already fragmented, no one knows the murders are going on.

Olivia sees one of the Gentlemen floating past her window and does a lovely charcoal sketch of it (okay, it might have been pencil). When she shows it to Giles, he does some research, finding the answers in a book of fairy tales rather than the collected works of Anton LeVay or Anne Rice.

He gathers the gang together and gives them a little presentation with an overhead projector (again, were this 2007, would it be done with PowerPoint?), letting them know the deal with the Gentlemen through block-letters and crude drawings. The villains are there to collect seven hearts, and have stolen everyone's voices because the scream of a princess can destroy them. Oh, and during this silent exchange, I think we hit the biggest laugh of the series so far, as everyone mistakes Buffy's "staking"-pantomime as something else.

That night, both Buffy and the Initiative are patrolling. Riley runs into the Gentlemen and Buffy at the same time, and they team up to fight them, both realising that the other is some kind of monster-fighter. At the same time, Tara seeks out Willow, and they combine their powers to silently use magic to protect themselves from the Gentlemen. Also, Xander sees Spike with blood on his face (from the refrigerator). Thinking Spike has attacked Anya, Xander begins to pummel him. This impresses Anya, and she makes the universal sign for Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye.

Buffy and Riley fight the bad guys, Buffy using a crossbow and Riley using some kind of cool electricity-shooting thing (it may have been the severed hand of Emperor Palpatine). They discover the removed hearts and the box containing Sunnydale's voices. Buffy gets Riley to smash the box, and the laryngitis is ended. With her voice returned to her, Princess Buffy**** screams, exploding the heads of the Gentlemen.

The next day, Tara explains to Willow that she just knew she had something the other Wicca "students" didn't, so she sought her out. Olivia talks to Giles about how she always thought his stories about monsters were just stories. And Riley comes to Buffy's dorm to talk to her about their secret identities. Or maybe about their feelings for one another. Or maybe just about what it was like to fight beside her. Or maybe about the Packers game, I don't know, because they don't really know what to say, and hence, say nothing. The end.

My, another fine episode. I'm starting to get spoiled here. I have to admit that I'd heard someone somewhere talk about this episode once, and I was under the impression that it was a totally silent show, maybe an homage to Silent movies the way the later one is an homage to Musicals. I appreciate Joss not going that way, though now that I think about it, I'd gladly watch a Joss Whedon silent movie homage. I'd follow him into Hell, the magnificent bastard.

And that leads me to the next episode of "Angel," called "Parting Gifts." It answered a bit of my questions from last week, with Cordelia now mourning the loss of Doyle, wondering if he left anything permanent to remember him by. Meanwhile, a silly-looking demon is on the run from a Terminator-esque pursuer, and comes to Angel Investigations for help. His name is Barney and he's an empath, able to cheat at cards, or tell Cordelia she's sad. He's been chased by this unnamed predator since Phoenix, and when Angel goes to investigate, he finds a yellow goo as evidence of the particular demon they're facing. He also finds the Terminator lookalike: Wesley Wyndom-Price from last year's "Buffy." Wesley is now a rogue demon hunter, and has been chasing his quarry since Phoenix. They find the demon, and injure it, but it escapes.

Meanwhile, Cordelia has an audition for a commercial, and in the middle of it, has one of Doyle's visions. Apparently, they really hurt. She realises Doyle gave her the ability when he kissed her, so she tries to pass along the power by kissing Angel, Barney, and Wesley, when he first shows up.

In her vision, she saw a clear but unidentifiable shape, which she does a sketch of (though her sketch isn't as detailed as Olivia's was in "Hush"). She talks to Barney about her vision and he tells her that Doyle left her the most valuable gift he had, a pretty big deal.

Wesley finds the demon they encountered in a book, explaining its Asian origin, and Angel and Wesley head to Koreatown to locate it. They find it in a massage parlour, where it is dying. Its horn, with soul-draining properties, has been broken off and stolen. Wesley determines that the demon's killer . . . was Barney.

Barney, it seems, is a dealer of rare and supernatural items, and has been killing demons for their powers. In Cordelia, he's got the eyes of a seer, which will fetch quite a price. Empath or no, he's also a bit of a butthole. Cordelia almost turns the tables on him, but is ultimately captured and taken away.

Wesley blames himself, explaining that he was fired by the Watchers Council for losing both Buffy and Faith, and now he's lost Cordelia as well. Angel finds the sketch Cordelia did and recognises the sketch as a famous sculpture. Wesley uses the computer to find who owns the sculpture now (it's a hotel chain), and they head to one that's having an auction that day.

At the auction, the demon horn sells well, but Cordelia--still in possession of her seer's eyes--isn't going for a great deal. She starts to sell herself, encouraging many bids, and is finally purchased (for thirty grand) by the evil lawfirm that's plagued Angel since the first episode. Before her eyes can be extracted, Angel and Wesley arrive, and do battle with the baddies. Ultimately, Cordelia stabs Barney with the demon horn, killing him, and the trio go back to Angel Investigations. The enjoy a warm breakfast (which Angel apparently makes his employees after every business "day"), and it appears Wesley is here to stay. The end.

So, it looks like Doyle is really dead. I know I should trust Joss to REALLY kill characters, but all these years of television (and even worse, comic books) have ruined me from ever believing people are really, honestly, legitimately, truly, permanently dead. Maybe the next time someone kicks the bucket, I will accept that the bucket has truly been kicked, spilling all of its contents forever.

Wesley was, surprisingly, good to see again. He was as amusing as before, but more sympathetic due to his somewhat pathetic situation. As he appears to be here for the long haul, I'm glad I didn't groan when I saw him, like I would've with, for example, Harmony or Drusilla.

And that was my most recent Buffy Wednesday. Some action, a few scares, and a lot of laughs. With everything going so terribly wrong in my life, it's nice to have at least one high-quality "Buffy" and "Angel" to look forward to each week. Small moves, Ellie, small moves.

Rish Outfield

*"I corrected them, sir. And when my wife tried to prevent me from doing my duty . . . I corrected her."

**We know nothing about Olivia, except that she knew Giles as "Ripper," and before our questions can be answered as to how she knows Giles and HOW MUCH she knows, well, she ain't talking.

***I actually lost my voice a couple years ago one morning, and it was really disturbing. People thought I was joking around, but I literally couldn't speak until it went away (by that time, my next door neighbour's heart had been removed, but I never made the connection until just now).

****Though I'd say Sarah Michelle Gellar qualifies as a Scream Queen and not a Princess at this point.

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