Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Buff-gel Wednesday (but on a Sunday this time)

10-13 December 2007

I was pretty unhappy with tyranist after the fifth attempt to make me watch "Veronica Mars," so when he started up "Buffy" against his will and began the episode not at the beginning, but where we left it off, I pitched a fit. So much so that he, I believe, was sorely tempted to just forget the whole thing and ask me to get the fuck out.

But no, we watched "Fool For Love" from the beginning again, and I was surprised to see that I had missed approximately one minute of show. Whoops.

Doug Petrie wrote this episode, and oddly, he also wrote the last one. Impressive, most impressive.

In the cemet'ry, Buffy is fighting a vampiric member of the Ramones, and she suddenly loses the upper hand. The vampire sticks her in the belly with her own stake, and she is rescued by Riley, who manages to drive the creature off. He patches her up, asking her about this amazing menace that nearly killed the Slayer. She is chilled to admit that the vampire was nothing special, yet he almost won anyway.

Buffy goes to Giles and asks him what he knows about the deaths of previous Slayers. He says that almost nothing is known about their last battles, and he imagines most Watchers are too distraught (or probably dead, huh?) to write about it. At this point, I told tyranist, "Hey, didn't Spike claim to have killed two Slayers?" He asked if I wanted to watch "Veronica Mars," and I quickly shut my mouth.

Sure enough, though, Buffy tracks down Spike and takes him to the Bronze, offering him a shload of cash if he'll tell her how those Slayers died. Spike plays pool and tells his tale.

We flash back to London, circa 1880. Spike is still human and still known as William, and he is a prim, brown-haired and bespectacled, awkward dreamer, writing poetry about some plain rich girl named Cecily. He is trying to socialise at a party, where the other young people laugh at him behind his back, calling him "William the Bloody" because his love poems are, well, bloody awful. Cecily asks him if he's writing about her, and he proclaims his devotion to her. She stomps on his heart, not only uninterested, but proclaiming he is beneath her.

William cries and tears up his poems, and runs out into the night. He bumps into a trio of revelers, one of which is Drusilla, who follows him. She tells him she can see how wonderful a man he is and seems almost to read his mind. She offers him a magnificent future, and when she vamps out, he doesn't seem afraid, and allows her to bite him.*

Buffy has sent Riley and Company (who, this episode, comprise of Xander, Willow, and Anya) to find the nest of vampires where Undead Joey Ramone hangs out. Many vampires are gathered in a handy crypt, listening to UJR recount his battle with the Slayer, and Riley tells the others there's too many, but that they can return during the day and stake them then. As soon as the others depart, Riley goes to the crypt on his own, bursting in and interrupting UJR's story with a pointy stick. Then he tosses a hand grenade in among the others, and saunters away as they explode. Not bad.

Spike's flashback continues. Apparently, he was listening when his "friends" said he preferred a spike through the head to William's poetry, 'cause now he calls himself Spike. He has completely changed his persona, becoming a thrill-seeker, a rebel, a swaggering troublemaker who seems to butt heads with Angelus, due to his refusal to skulk around and be secretive. The four vampires: Darla, Angel, Drusilla, and Spike are hiding from angry mobs, and Angelus seems more than willing to kill Spike himself. He tells him that his recklessness will get him killed, especially if he encounters the Slayer. After that, Spike becomes interested in taking out a Slayer (both because he loves a challenge and, I suspect, to prove Angelus wrong).

Twenty years later, he gets his chance. The four vampires are in China during the Boxer Rebellion (I'm pretty sure a comic book tyranist showed me depicted this event, 'cause it sure seemed familiar to me), and amid the chaos and flames, Spike fights the Slayer there. She is Chinese and does all sorts of acrobatics, and even manages to slice him across the eyebrow** with her sword, but, as he points out to Buffy, she has to reach for her weapon, whereas he always has his weapons (his teeth) on him. He drinks her blood and shares some with Drusilla, who becomes aroused by it (I gotta say, I don't know if Drusilla's even viler now than she was in Season Two, but she sure is vile). Spike is very happy, proclaiming it the best night of his life, and Angelus seems disgusted by this. Darla just stands there, but at least she looks good.

Buffy, back in the Bronze, is not thrilled by Spike's revelation. In fact, she seems disgusted by it. But she lets him take her outside and tell her about his second Slayer kill: on a New York subway in 1977. This Slayer is a blacksploitation heroine, where our man Spike seems like the second-place winner in a Billy Idol lookalike contest. He is fun-loving as ever, if you interpret fun as hand-to-hand combat and violence-bred sexual arousal. He gets the best of this Slayer, and when it looks like he might kiss her, he snaps her neck instead. She was wearing the leather jacket he now wears all the time.

Spike tells Buffy that the thing with Slayers is, they all have a death wish deep down. Because of the life they lead, they get tired of killing, and maybe even tired of living. He leans in and tells her that it doesn't matter how many of them she kills, there's always more vampires, and once day, one will get lucky.

And then . . . he leans in again, to kiss her. She pushes him away, and he
tells her he knows that she wants to dance (though I have to admit I don't know exactly what "dance" refers to here). She tells him that maybe she does, but not with him. Never him, because he's beneath her. She tosses him his wad of money and leaves him alone in the alley. He weeps, gathering up the money in the most pathetic display I've seen since the last bathroom mirror I walked by.

I mean it, what a pitiful moment, not just the crying, but the shameless collecting of dollar bills. It's a glimpse of egoless despair and it's all-too-human. Brilliant.

Well, he doesn't wallow for long. He stomps back to his crypt and ignores Harmony as he gets a shotgun out of a box. He tells her he's going to kill the Slayer once and for all, chip in his head be damned, and heads to the Summers house.

We get one more flashback, and I'm not sure this one is so necessary. But it's South America, right after Season Two. Drusilla has left Spike for that fungus demon he referred to in "Lovers Walk," and it's because his defeats at the hands of the Slayer have left him a shell of his former self. She also says something which can be interpreted as her sensing he has a romantic interest in Buffy, and that the two of them are done.***

At Buffy's house, she sees that her mother is packing a suitcase. Joyce is going to the hospital for a CAT scan, since it's clear she's not getting better, and she's going to be admitted for observation. Buffy runs out to the back porch and sits there crying. It's at this moment that Spike appears, shotgun in hand. He wilts, however, when he sees her tears, and sits down beside her. He asks what's wrong and if he can do anything to help, then he puts his arm around her. She doesn't shake it off. The end.

Wow. This was even better than the Dawn show. I thought this was the best show of the season, but hey, I really like that Spike bloke.

Immediately after, we watched the "Darla" episode of "Angel," written and directed by Mr. Tim Minear.

Angel is still obsessed with Darla, and Wesley tries broaching the subject with him, only to be brushed off.

Darla, meanwhile, is struggling with her newly-acquired soul, and flashes back to her origin. She was a prostitute on her deathbed back in 1609 (in the Virgina Colonies), unwilling to receive the last rites from a priest . . . when she gets a hooded, strange visitor. To my surprise, it is The Master (from "Buffy" season one fame), who tells her he can take away her pain and turn her into something wondrous. He bites her and, I assume, her social diseases go away. A hundred years of Joss-knows-what occur, and she brings Angelus to meet The Master in 1760.

Angelus is disruptive and dismissive of The Master's skulking-around lifestyle (living underground, inspiring fear as an ugly creature of the night ), and is downright insulting. Essentially her father, The Master tells Darla to make her choice: him or Angelus. She chooses to leave, wandering Europe as we have seen previously.

As we have also seen previously (one hour previous), in 1880, William the bloody bad poet bumps into Angelus and company on the London streets, and Drusilla decides to turn him into the fourth member of their group/family.

Back in the present, Lindsay the evillawyerdude tries to comfort Darla, and kisses her at one point. He seems genuinely to care about her, but it's sometimes hard to read these characters. It is also revealed that "Darla" is not actually her name, but the name (meaning "dear one") The Master gave her upon her rebirth, and that's she's forgotten what she used to be called. My guess is Eunice, but like I said, these things are hard to read.

Flashing back to 1898, Angelus has just been cursed with a soul. Darla goes to the Gypsy camp and pleads with him to remove the curse. He seems unwilling, so she promises to spare his family's life if he will lift Angelus's curse. At that moment, Spike pokes his head out of the Gypsy tent, having eaten the whole family. He belches, and Darla has no choice but to kill the Gypsy now.

During the Boxer Rebellion (only two years later), Angel goes to Darla, and tells her they can still be together, in spite of his soul. He has been living on vermin and is quite filthy, yet still handsomer than me and tyranist put together. Is that fair? Darla gives Angel another chance, and while Spike is off kung fu fighting, Angel discovers a young missionary couple with an infant and protects them from the violence. Darla is about to discover them, but Angel leads her away, being less than thrilled with Spike's boastings about killing the Chinese Slayer.

Manners, Lindsay's boss at Wolfram & Hart, is not pleased with Darla's recent turn, and seems to go back and forth between saying this is all according to plan and shaking his head in disappointment. Lindsay tells him he can get through to her, but Manners takes him off the case. Darla calls Angel, telling him she needs him. A security guard comes to take her away and there's some kind of struggle with his gun, which goes off and kills him. This seems to be the last straw, and Manners plans to have Darla eliminated.

Back in their Chinese hideout, Darla and Angel are very happy together. But, it seems, she's aware of what he did for the missionaries, and went out afterward and killed them anyway. But she brought their infant back, so that Angel can kill it, proving where his loyalties lie. He seems to struggle for just a second, then he scoops up the baby and jumps through a window to escape.

Like I said last week, I thought every bit of Angel backstory had been filled in, but we had a hell of a lot of flashbacks here that proved me wrong. But I can't imagine what else they need to tell us now about his past (we can just assume that he never saw Darla again until 1997, right?) that would necessitate another flashback, as much as I love them.

In the present, Lindsay sees the security guard Darla accidentally killed walking around, talking to Manners, and I guess that's bad. He goes into the parking garage and Angel appears to strangle him. He tells Angel that Darla's in danger and appears to be on the side of the . . .

He appears to be one of the good guys again. Angel tracks down Darla, who insists he bite her and turn her into a vampire once again. I have to admit that I hoped he would, as it would make things a hell of a lot easier, but he doesn't give in. Maybe because it would make things a hell of a lot easier, I don't know. The end.

I really enjoyed this episode. Tyranist complained that the point of these two shows was to make Spike and Darla sympathetic. I think it worked, though I already loved Spike and it only made me like him more. As far as Darla goes, I don't know that I'll ever LIKE her, exactly, but we start to understand her here, and that's something.

Oh, and at some point I'm going to have to mention that "Buffy" episodes are now scored by someone named Thomas Wanker.

Rish Thomas Outfield

*Tyranist said he remembered Drusilla siring Spike, but I thought Angel had, for some reason. Guess it doesn't matter, really. All the matters is how good this episode was.

**When I was at Comic-Con this past summer, I hung out for a little while with a couple of women who were super huge Joss Whedon fans. I told them that I was just getting into the show, and one of them told me that James Marsters actually has a scar on his temple from a bar fight, and when they first designed the vampire prosthetic for him, he pointed it out and the makeup guys altered it so you could always see the scar there. I don't believe I had ever noticed this scar before then, but after hearing the story, I can't not look at it. Just like this guy I went to Junior High with, Ryan "Tri-cheek" Bird, who had three buttocks. Until somebody pointed it out and laughed (several people, in fact), I had never seen anything abnormal there. I don't recall what I thought his nickname had meant before then, though.

***I am glad the filmmakers resisted the urge to have Drusilla too say Spike's beneath her, if that nasty temptation had beckoned them.

No comments: