Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Buffy Sunday (21 October) Part I

There hasn't been much "Buffy" watching this month, as tyranist has been off doing his job, making the world a safe place for white people.

As he is out of town yet again this week, he invited me over on Sunday for a bit of vampire slayage. Because we were one "Angel" behind, I hoped we'd have time for two "Angel"s and one "Buffy," and he seemed amenable to the whole thing.

It was to my delight that I saw the first episode we had on our plate was called "Five By Five," which could only mean that Faith was guest-starring on "Angel." I found it odd, though, that the phrase "five by five" wasn't uttered in the whole show.

When last we saw our bad girl vampire slayer, she had stolen Buffy's body (and her man) and then been sent packing, alone again (naturally). When this episode begins, Angel rescues a punk kid from a group of demons, sent after him by the evil lawfirm Wolfram & Hart, to prevent him from testifying in court. Angel tries to convince him to make a stand and be a witness, and eventually, he is successful. They show up in the courtroom (in daylight, as usual) just in time, and testify, assumedly crucifying Wolfheart & Fram's client.

Meanwhile, Faith arrives in L.A., and is immediately hit on by a sleazy dude at the bus station who offers her a place to stay in return for . . . her kidney, perhaps. Faith floors the guy, takes his wallet and keys, and heads for his (ultra-nice, ultra-spacious) apartment, which is hers now. I just don't know that I could like Faith any more than I do. Later, she hits a nightclub, then hits a chick who doesn't like her dancing with her boyfriend. And then she hits the boyfriend. Fun is had by . . . well, only Faith, pretty much.

Intermittently during the episode, we flash back to Angelus's vampire exploits with Darla in the old country. She presents him with a Gypsy girl to feed on, and he digs in. Turns out this was the wrong victim to take a bite out of. One night, Darla finds that Angelus is a mess. In fact, he's Angelus no more, having been cursed to feel remorse and pain and guilt over his many sins. In utter misery, he turns to her for comfort, but she is revolted by this turn in him and throws him out of their shared house.

The Wolfram & Hart lawyer from the episode "Ring," Lilah Morgan, shows up again (I knew I was wise in mentioning her name), along with a couple other slimy lawyers (are there any other kind?), discuss their problems with Angel. They decide to hire a vampire slayer to get rid of him, and there just happens to be one in town.

Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia are walking around (in daylight, as usual), when a crossbow bolt flies through the air at Angel. He catches it, and all three are surprised to see Faith standing there. She announces her unfriendly intentions, and then disappears.

Angel tells the others to help him find out where Faith is staying, but to keep out of harm's way and let him deal with her. Wesley argues that Faith is not evil, but rather disturbed and in need of their help. I'd say those are famous last words, but I've seen the episode.

Angel goes back home to load up on weapons, and Faith shows up there. She raises the blinds in the office to let ostensibly-deadly sunlight in, and then tosses Angel a gun, telling him he should take his one chance to kill her. Angel doesn't hesitate, and shoots, but aiming for her leg. She laughs: it was just a blank, and now she knows he's not really playing for keeps. She lets him know she will have no compunctions about killing him, and ducks out into the daylight.

Angel puts on a nice suit and goes to the Wolfram & Hart building, sneaking into Bad Prettyboy Lawyer Number One's office, trying to find out where Faith is staying. Bad Prettyboy Lawyer No. 1* comes in, having been tipped off by their mystical security system, and they bicker for a moment before Angel leaves.

Wesley accompanies Cordelia back to her apartment, and at first, she can't enter: Dennis the Friendly Ghost is trying to warn her that Faith is inside. She enters anyway, and surprise surprise, Faith is inside. Faith floors Cordelia with one thrown elbow, and Wesley angrily punches her in retaliation. I was mighty impressed by that, but then Faith kicks Wesley clear across the room, ending that fight really quick.

Back in the Bad Old Days, Angel is wandering the 19th Century streets, starving and pathetic. He begs some rich folks for help (and for the use of their woman), and when they attack him, he attacks back, dragging the lady into an alley and biting her. But a moment later, Angel breaks away from her, staggering away and leaving her alive.

Angel finds Cordelia at her apartment, but Wesley is gone. Faith has taken him to her newly-acquired hideout, where she has tied him to a chair and proceeds to torture him. I couldn't help but think of Angelus doing the same thing to Giles as Faith beats, cuts, and prepares to burn her former Watcher.** She also seems bored, waiting for Angel arrive and put a stop to all this.

With Cordelia's help, Angel discovers that Faith took the bus station sleazy dude's apartment keys, and he goes there just as Faith is about to turn Wesley into the Wicker Man. She threatens Wesley with a knife, but he pushes himself out of the way, and Angel attacks. They have a really good fight, bursting out the apartment window and into the rainy alley below.

But the fight goes on way too long. It may be that Angel never intended to kill Faith, but as their battle continues, it becomes clear that he's not going to do it. And that's what she wants, it would seem. I guess I should've seen it coming, but Faith is overcome with guilt and self-loathing for her sins, just as the flashback Angel was. Finally, she breaks down, declaring herself evil and begging Angel to kill her. Instead, he embraces her there in the rain, and we fade to black.

Well, well, this was quite a surprise. I'll bet tyranist saw the turn of events coming, but I sure didn't. Faith seemed as irredeemably bad as . . . as Vin Diesel's career, I guess, and yet Angel was able to get to her as Buffy wasn't. Makes sense, though, as the parallels between them were hard to miss.

The episode was written by Jim Kouf, whose name I didn't recognise, but he co-wrote Rush Hour, National Treasure, and the Horror classic Snow Dogs. Oh, and speaking of Horror classics, Kouf apparently wrote The Boogens, a film that so scared me as a child that . . . oops, I just shat my pants. Nice work, Jim.

Next, we watched the BTVS episode, "New Moon Rising." I should've guessed from the title who it would guest-star, but I didn't. Instead, the stupid DVD menu gave it away, as it would that Buffy'd be in the next "Angel" episode, and it has with, let me see, EVERY episode since I've started watching them. Guess I would've been better off bootlegging them like I did with "Firefly."

In the episode, Oz returns to Sunnydale, throwing a spanner into Willow and Tara's burgeoning relationship. Oz has come back after going to Tibet and learning to control his transformations. He now uses a combination of herbs, charms, self-control, and a genital cuff to prevent becoming a werewolf. Tara, endearingly predicting the worst, expects that Willow will go back to him now, leaving her with no one to . . . practice black magic with.

This is made worse when she goes to Willow's door and finds Oz there, having spent the whole night telling her about his adventures catching frisbees with the Dali Lama. Oz is going to go back to school there, and hopes things will pick up where they left off. Willow is torn, it would seem, between the love of not-long-ago and the love of not-long-from-now.

When Buffy mentions to Riley about Oz's "condition," and Riley suggests Willow was pretty dumb to get involved with a creature of the night. This gives Buffy this week's excuse to get mad at him. They are, no question, better off just not talking.

The night before, some of Riley's Initiative buddies are attacked by a feral, wolf-like demon. When Riley is called in about this, he puts two and two together and suspects Oz.

When Buffy goes back to her room, Willow confides in her about her romantic conflict. Buffy, apparently, had no idea there was anything Sapphic going on between Willow and Tara, and is a wee bit freaked out by it. I have to wonder if I would have recognised their relationship with what it was (or where it was going, I don't know, they haven't been too explicit about what's been occurring, exactly), had I been in her shoes.

Spike is also in this episode. Well, he's in all the episodes now, so that's redundant, but what happens to him in this one is that he is approached by Adam the DemonCyborgGuy to form a tenuous alliance. Adam knows about the chip in Spike's head and how to remove it. He'll share this information in return for . . . well, we'll have to see.

Willow tells Tara that only talk passed between her and Oz, and they hug. Well, see, they hug that we see, but later, when Tara passes Oz in the hall, he smells Willow on her. He asks her what's going on (asks, "Are you two involved?" to be specific), and then, stressing out, begins his werewolf transformation. He goes after Tara (who exhibits no magical ability in this show), and is captured with a tranquiliser dart by Riley and his Initiative cronies. They take him to their underground detention center, which is now crowded with monster-types, and throw him in a cage.

Oz reverts to human form, and Riley tries to vouch for him, but their new skinflint leader decides to let the scientist start their poking and prodding of him anyway (and zapping him with electricity too). Not long after, Riley gives Oz some clothes and tries to sneak him out of there, but is caught. Riley is also jailed and the skinflint colonel says he's to be court-martialed unless he helps him eliminate the threat Buffy and Company comprise.

Back at Giles's place, they discuss Oz's capture and what they can do about it. Spike shows up and offers to help, knowing how to get in undetected and how to shut their power down. Buffy decides Xander should come along, and Willow demands to go along as well. Spike shows them a secret entrance only the Ewoks knew about, and Adam, monitoring all this, cuts the power, allowing them to get in.

When Buffy and Company burst in on the skinflint colonel, he thinks they're there to break Riley out. Buffy didn't know he was in a cell, but takes the colonel hostage and frees Riley. Then they go to get Oz, holding a gun on the skinflint colonel's head to get the soldiers to leave them alone. As soon as Oz sees Willow, he starts to transform again, but is able to prevent it.

Everyone gets out of Initiative Headquarters. For good measure, Riley decks the skinflint colonel. They go underground, and Buffy and Riley have a little talk. She decides to let him know about Angel and why she was angry earlier when Riley criticised Willow.

Speaking of Willow, she goes out to Oz's van and they have a heart-to-heart. Oz realises his transformations are not totally controlled and laments that his feelings for Willow are what bring the wolf out in him. Willow lets him know that while she'll always love him, she has changed too, and she thinks it's for the better. They embrace, and once again, Oz drives off.

Willow goes back to Tara, who tells her she should be with the one she loves. Willow says that she is. The end.

Marti Noxon wrote this episode, and yes, I thought we'd never see Oz again. Still, it did little for me, though it answered a couple of questions, and maybe more importantly, brought up a couple of new ones. Only three more "Buffy"s to go in Season Four.

And that leads us to "Angel," which is a direct continuation of the last one. This one was called "Sanctuary," and starts with Angel taking Faith back to his home and putting her into his bed. She doesn't look so hot (for once), and seems both mentally and physically drained. Angel didn't fare so poorly.

Cordelia and Wesley, still bruised from their encounters with Faith, are upstairs, verbally critical of Angel's actions. Cordelia decides to go on a paid vacation, and hits the road. Wesley also doesn't trust her, and goes to a bar.

Angel goes back downstairs and finds Faith holding a knife. He talks to her about redemption, and tells her she can't run away again, but has to make amends for her misdeeds. She seems genuinely remorseful.

At the bar, Wesley runs into the three Watchers Council blokes from the episode ("Who Are You") where they fail to bring Faith back to England. They tell Wesley that, if he helps them recapture Faith, the Council will have him back. They give him a syringe that will knock Faith out so they can have their way with he--er, get her back where she belongs.

Policewomanofficer Kate Lockley is investigating the fight from the night before, and is accused of being a "Scully" now, like in "The X-Files," by another cop. She corrects the man that she is a Mulder, since she believes in the supernatural. She gives a statement on the news, flashing Faith's photo as their chief suspect.

The lawyers at Wolfram & Hart are furious that Faith appears to have joined up with Angel, and send a demon over there to kill her. Faith dispatches it easily, but reacts badly to seeing more blood on her hands. Angel puts his arm around her, providing comfort (and really, how much of that has Faith ever seen?), but at that moment . . . Buffy walks in.

Of course I knew Buffy was in this episode, and you would too if you watched it on DVD, but I couldn't have predicted her reaction. She wants Faith--ostensibly to take her to the cops, but quite possibly to get revenge. Angel stands in her way and she picks a fight with him. Angel punches her in the face. Buffy is mortified by this, but she had it coming.

And with horror, I realise that I just sided with Angel over Buffy. Oh, how the shitey have fallen, boys and girls. I may never live down this day.

For shame, Rish Benjamin Outfield. For shame.

Elsewhere, Bad Prettyboy Lawyer Number One goes to Kate Lockley and gives her Faith's location, along with a suggestion that Angel is her accomplace. He also suggests that Angel was responsible for her father's death. And for global warming, the price of gas, terrorism, and the reason Warner Bros. fired Joss from WONDER WOMAN.

Angel argues that Faith has seen the error of her ways. Buffy argues that Angel doesn't know what she did to her and that she has to pay for her crimes. Captain Picard argues, "It's not a person, dammit, it's a Borg!"

Just then, Wesley comes in, with Faith, and tells them the Watchers Council is there, expecting him to stick Faith with the needle. Instead, he's with Angel, which is impressive considering Faith was hacking at him with a piece of broken glass just a few hours before.

While Angel and Wesley try to stall the Council members, Buffy and Faith go up to the roof to make their getaway. Faith tries to tell Buffy how sorry she is, but "Sorry" just in't cutting it.

One of the Council members attacks from downstairs, one attacks from up, and another attacks from a helicopter. Buffy takes one of them, Angel takes the helicopter guy, and Wesley pops the third with the syringe. As a result, the man is never able to pee standing up again. Faith escapes.

The police show up and Kate Lockley arrests Angel for not turning over Faith. Wesley and Buffy go to the police station, and all are surprised to find Faith there, having made a full confession. Faith is in for a long, hard road to find redemption.

Angel is released and he and Buffy have a heated argument. She can't believe he chose Faith over her and just has a lot of anger issues. She also tells him she has a new boyfriend, and he's someone she can trust (and someone she can sleep with, right?). Angel responds with anger of his own, telling her that she should go, then, that this is not her town, not her life anymore, and not her timeslot. He's glad she's found someone new, but he hasn't, and it would be nice if she never crossed over into his show again.

This was written by Tim Minear and Joss Whedon, and it was certainly compelling. There may have been too much going on, and to be honest, it might've worked better had Buffy not been in it. She just confused things, and I would've liked to see more of Angel explaining to Faith what he'd gone through in his long life, and her talking about how and why she went the way she did.

But ah well.

So, we watched the three episodes I suggested, to get us caught up, and then, dammit to hell, we watched three more.

As Depeche Mode were fond of saying, "Never again is what you swore . . . the time before."

To Be Continued . . .

*Bad Prettyboy Lawyer Number 2 gets his face pounded in by Faith, prompting him to later be called Disquietingly Misshapen Lawyer Number One.

**She seems to take a similar delight in the torture, as did Angelus. As did my cousin Jason, come to think of it.

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