Friday, December 07, 2007

Buffy/Angel Wednesday (5 Deciembre 2007)

I've got four episodes to blog about today. It had only been two weeks, but it felt like a long time since we'd watched BTVS or "Angel." I guess that's a testament to how good they are, huh?

The first "Buffy" was called "No Place Like Home," and it was a good 'un. It was written by Doug Petrie, and dealt with Buffy discovering a mysterious glowing orb while patrolling. A friendly night watchman gives it to her, thinking it's something she's taking to a rave, and she takes it to Giles, who is having his big opening at the magic shop. I was pretty sure it would be a bust, but on the first day, the place is swarming with customers. Anya is very interested in money, and uses her demonic experience to such persistent (and annoying) effect that Giles offers her a job. Nice.

On the unpleasant front, there's a new baddie in town: a blonde in a red dress with enormous power and more than a little quirky insanity. She is referred to as The Beast, and she seems to have the ability to suck peoples' life force out with her fingertips. Turns out that the glowing ball belonged to a monk who was using it as protection from evil, and said evil is the Blond Beast. Tyranist absolutely loathed her right off, which is lately quite typical, but still distressing.

On the unpleasanter (and more distressing) front, Buffy's mother continues to not feel well, having little energy and constant headaches. Buffy goes to the hospital to get her a prescription and meets a handsome, shaggy-haired male nurse, who I only mention because he also showed up in the next episode. When Buffy runs into the now-hysterical security guard there, he tells her she's in danger, and that it'll go through her family to get her.

Buffy tells her friends about this, and because Tara isn't in this episode for some reason*, Anya tells her about a spell she can cast where she can see any magic being performed around her. Buffy goes home and Riley, who's still feeling unnecessary in Buffy's life, tries to help, but ends up being told she wants to do this on her own. Dawn too tries to interrupt, and Buffy banishes her to her room.

Buffy performs the ritual and goes to check on her mother, who is just going out. To her surprise, Joyce Summers has no spells or curses on her. But the family pictures in the living room alternate between having three and two people in them. Buffy goes upstairs to see Dawn, and is able to see Dawn's room as it is and as it is supposed to be, without Dawn in it. "You're not my sister," Buffy hisses at Dawn, and shoves her against the wall. She threatens Dawn to leave her mother alone, and goes out into the night.

She finds Spike loitering around her house and is immediately suspicious. We know that Spike is there because he's got all sorts of piney feelings for Bufanda**, but Buffy threatens him too, sure he's up to no good. He takes off, pouting, and she sees (from his mountain of cigarette butts) he's been there all night.

Joyce comes back home, and Dawn, quite ominously, offers to make her some tea. Despite having tyranist explain to me several months ago what the deal with Dawn was, I was quite suspicious that maybe she was some kind of creature in human form (though without evil intentions).

Buffy goes to the warehouse where she found the orb and finds the Blond Beast there, torturing the monk for the location of a key. Buffy confronts the Beast, and it turns out she is maybe stronger than anyone Buffy's faced before. She thrashes Buffy soundly, punching things so hard that the ceiling begins to fall in on top of her. Buffy manages to get the monk out, but he is mortally wounded. He tells her that the key the Beast sought has taken human form, and that he gave her to Buffy for protection. The key is Dawn, and the memories everyone has of her were fabricated so no enemies would be able to find her. He tells her, then dies, that Dawn doesn't know who she really is, and is just a human girl who needs her sister.

Buffy goes home and, swallowing her pride, goes to see Dawn, who is understandably skittish around her. For the second time on this damn show, I found myself crying as Buffy apologised to her for her behaviour and suggested they both deal with the fact that their mother is sick. Back at the warehouse, the Blond Beast pops up again like the horror movie villain she is. The end.

Good, good stuff. Like I said, I didn't know where the Dawn thing was going, and I imagine millions of "Buffy" watchers sighing in relief at finally finding out who this sister was. But it does open up new questions: what is this key to and can Dawn open it without knowing what she is? And what happens to her if she finds out she's a key or does what keys do? And how did she first find out her sister was the Slayer, and how will Buffy's attitude toward her change now? If this were a show by J.J. Abrams, I'd be pretty sure we'd never find out.

The next "Angel" episode was called "Dear Boy," and was written and directed by co-show runner David Greenwalt. It featured more flashbacks to Angel's past, and
shows how Darla and Angelus roamed Europe feeding and terrorising until they found Drusilla, a young woman with second sight. Angelus thinks it would be amusing to make her into a vampire. This was the first time we had seen Drusilla since "Buffy" Season Two, and she gives me the heebie jeebies just as much as before. With this flashback, I thought we had pretty much gotten all the pieces of Angel's past we needed. We'll see, huh?

Meanwhile, in the present, Angel sees Darla walking around, and becomes quite obsessed with her, to the point where Wesley and Cordelia think he might be losing his mind. Angel encounters Darla at a hotel and when he grabs her, she appears frightened and confused, claiming her name isn't Darla and she doesn't know who he is. Angel has Cordelia find out where this woman lives and goes to spy on her that night. He sees her and her husband having dinner, as normal people do. During all this, evil lawyer Lindsay has contacted policewomanoffer Kate Lockley (who we hadn't seen this season) to tell her what Angel is up to. In case you hadn't been keeping score, Kate now despises Angel and blames him for the death of her father, for her bunions, for the Iraq war, and for the failure of EVAN ALMIGHTY at the box office.

Turns out that Darla's husband is just an actor, pretending to be her spouse, and that they're living there under the guise of the murdered occupants of the house. Knowing Angel is on the premises, Darla makes a terrified phone call to the police while a vampire in Wolfram & Hart's employ attacks and kills her "husband." Sure enough, the cops arrive and blame Angel for the murder, who flees. Darla puts on a convincing performance for Kate that implicates Angel, playing right into her newly-acquired prejudice.*** When she turns her back, Angel appears and grabs Darla, whisking her away.

Back at A.I., new regular cast member Gunn talks to Cordelia and Wesley, and they fill him in on Angel's past with Darla. They also tell him what happens with a moment of pure happiness, etc., and Gunn isn't too pleased with this information.

Angel takes Darla to this big underground demon-worshiping place that looked absolutely enormous. Almost immediately, she drops the act and the old Darla returns. They begin kissing passionately and she begins seducing him.

Policewomanofficer Kate Lockley goes to Angel's hotel and threatens the three employees with arrest, particularly Gunn, who is something of a criminal anyway. Wesley tries to explain that Darla is a vampire and that Angel has been framed, but she's got to hunt her whale. That is, until Wesley presents three pieces of evidence: one, that Angel couldn't have entered without being invited, two, that the woman Darla claims to be is dead, and three, in book on vampire lore is a hundred year old photograph of Darla, the same chick Kate was talking to that evening. I think that gets Angel off the hook for now.

Back with the kissing, Darla tells Angel she made him happy once, and that she can do it again. Coldly, he tells her she never made him happy, not even that one time when she put on the Japanese schoolgirl outfit with the lollypop. Or maybe I imagined that part. Regardless, he tells her that she's human now, and that means she has a soul. Pretty soon, she's going to feel remorse for all the crap she pulled in the old days, and that she's in for a world of hurt. Darla keeps some of her dignity as she retreats out into the morning light, emerging where Angel dares not walk, and tells him she'll get to him before too long. The end.

You know, this episode was pretty darn cool too. I thought Tyranist said it was the best "Angel" of the season, but he was actually referring to the one that followed. I'm really enjoying this Darla stuff, and I have to admit I have no idea where it's going. I've complained a lot about Julie Benz's role on both shows, but she's either gotten a lot better, or I've simply grown fond of her with time. Regardless, she way hot in these episodes. Oh, and the title, "Dear Boy," is Darla's pet name for Angel/us, which is spoken a couple times in this episode.

Next we got "Family," a BTVS episode written and directed by "Angel"'s other show runner, Joss Whedon. It began with Buffy confiding in Giles what she had found out about her sister. I was glad to see it. Giles suggests they keep it a secret, and that will keep Dawn safer than if everyone knew she was not what she seems. Buffy chooses to move back into her mother's house (when had she moved out again?) to be closer to her family, and the gang helps her move. Willow tells everyone that it's Tara's birthday and plans a nice party for her.

Though Xander and friends like Tara, they don't know what to get her. Giles suggests they pick her up something from the magic shop, and when they go there, this farmboy-type comes in, looking for Tara. Turns out he is her brother, in town with my father--er, her father, and her cousin, played by Amy Adams, currently starring in ENCHANTED. At first glance, you can tell what sort of people you are, and it speaks volumes that Tara's stutter returns around them, maybe worse than ever. When Tara goes home, she finds her father in her dorm room, looking disgustedly at her magic paraphernalia.

Turns out that Tara fled her father's grasp a year before, having a mother who used magic and, I gather, came to a bad end. It ain't right that the menfolk gotta cook and clean for themselves, with Tara so selfishly off in the big city doin' a mess o' book-learnin'. It is also revealed that Tara is part demon, a part that manifests itself upon her nineteenth birthday. Her father insists she return home before that happens, since her friends will collectively spit on her when they find out, and that she pack up her stuff.

Elsewhere, the Blond Beast is hunting around, and finds a demon who tells her about the Slayer. She commissions the demon and its posse to find her and kill her.

Buffy tells the others about said Blond Beast and tells Riley not to go patrolling with her. He goes to Sunnydale's only bar and gets hit on by a hot chick who turns out to be a vampire. He just feels inferior and unneeded by Buffy, and I can't really blame him, though he could go through a woodchipper and still be more attractive than me.

Willow suggests, to find the Blond Beast, that they cast that spell that "didn't work" last season, the one that finds demons. Our heads spun in astonishment as tyranist and I realised that we were finally being shown why Tara botched that spell way back in "Goodbye Iowa."**** Afraid of being found out, Tara casts a spell of her own, that Buffy and Company won't be able to see demonic manifestations.

Harmony (ick) and Spike are together again, if I haven't mentioned it, and while putting the boots to her, Spike finds himself thinking of doing battle with Buffy. Nice. Harmony tells him about the group of demons who are going to kill the Slayer, and he rushes off, as he puts it, to get a good seat.

At the magic shop, the gang is attacked by the demons, which none are able to see. Giles tries to protect Dawn as the demons start thrashing them, trying to get to Buffy. Spike arrives and does battle against the demons. Tara arrives and realises her mistake. She counteracts the spell and the demons are easily dispatched.

Everyone is shocked that Tara would've put a spell on them, especially since it could've gotten them killed. Tara tells them why she did it, ashamed of her demonic secret. Willow seems the most hurt that Tara didn't confide in her, and wonders if their love has also been a lie. Cue my dad and Tara's cousin and brother to enter, there to toss Tara in the back of a pickup truck where she belongs. Buffy tells Tara's dad (not mine, after all, I just get them so confused) he'll have to go through her to get Tara. And Dawn. And Giles. And Xander. Pretty much everyone but Spike, who doesn't much care either way.

Tara's father tells them she's part demon, and Anya asks him what kind. He doesn't think that matters, prompting a suspicious Spike to go up to Tara and punch her in the face. I'm sure he could've found a more subtle way of doing it, but the punch causes him intense pain, which means she ain't no demon. It would seem that the whole demon story was an invention by the males in the family to keep the womenfolk from gettin' too uppity. One Hillary Rodham Clinton is more than enough for all of them.

Tara doesn't go with my dad, her brother and her cousin, because she's found a new family now. They go to the Bronze for her birthday party, where Riley arrives and makes up (and out) with Buffy. Willow and Tara have a nice romantic dance while the music plays, and we are shown that they're floating a foot above the floor. The end.

Boy oh boy, this was a good episode. I'm getting sick of my own voice in general, but especially of saying, "This was a real good episode." I'd like to thank my father for showing up and being disdainful of Tara for a change. Still, every time he spoke, I could hear him telling me how ashamed my family was in me.

But hey, I may have daddy issues, I don't know.

We enjoy "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," so tyranist and I decided to go ahead and sneak one more episode in, even though I have vowed (many a time) not to skip any "Angel" episodes again, just in case there's a reference or a crossover and we shoot ourselves in the foot that way. So, as "Fool For Love" started up, and the first name that appeared in the guest cast was David Boreanaz, we "arrrrghh"ed and stopped the film, switching over to "Angel," as we should have all along.

This episode was called "Guise Will Be Guise," a pun worthy of my most shameful exercises, written by Ms. Jane Espenson. Angel is still really hung up on Darla's return, and he goes to the karaoke bar to ask for advice. Meanwhile, a dude comes to Angel Investigations, looking for Angel, but quickly leave when Wesley offers his services in Angel's absence.

On the suggestion of the host demon, Angel drives off into the mountains to meet with a sort of guru/life coach, played by the ever-reliable Art LaFleur. The guru tries to get Angel centered, asking him questions about his life and his car and his hair.

Back at the hotel, thugs threaten Cordelia at gunpoint, demanding to see Angel. Wesley puts on Angel's big leather jacket and pretends that he is Angel. He is taken to a mansion where zillionare businessman Mr. Bryce apologises for the way he was brought there (this seems to happen a lot on TV, don't it?), and asks him to protect his daughter, who has been getting all sorts of threats of late. Everyone believes Wesley is Angel, and knows that he's a vampire. Despite Wesley nearly botching it again and again, he meets Virginia,***** the daughter. She's spunky and likable, and Wesley agrees to be her bodyguard. He realises she's been cooped up by her overprotective, nutball father her whole life. He takes her shopping for her dad's fiftieth birthday party, and Wesley narrowly prevents her from being kidnapped again.

This adventure brings them closer, and Wesley and Virginia kiss, romance in the air. Back at her place, she is afraid of sleeping with Wesley, in case he becomes Bad Wesley again, but he tells her that's not a problem (you know, for all they know about Angel and his life, nobody knows what he looks like?). The beast with two backs is made.

Cordelia gets ahold of Gunn and tells him to head to the hills to bring back Angel. Angel is still being counseled by the guru, who tells him that he doesn't like himself, has lots of weaknesses due to regrets and fear of who he used to be, and that he ought to nail a blonde who looks like Darla, to make himself feel better.

The guru gets a phone call, and it is revealed that this guy is just pretending to be the great and powerful swami, and is there to keep Angel out of the way so Virginia can be eliminated. But then, who is it that's protecting her back in L.A.?

Mr. Bryce realises that he's been had, and declares Wesley and impostor. This hurts Virginia, who has been lied to quite a lot. Turns out that's true more than she knows, as it is revealed that Mr. Bryce was hiding Virginia away all this time only so he could sacrifice his virginal daughter to a demon on his fiftieth birthday. In return, he'll get buttloads of power (Bryce's enemies knew this and that's why they were trying to steal Virginia away).

Gunn tracks Angel down, and is attacked by the fake guru. Angel takes him out with a fishing pole, and heads back to civilisation. That night, at Mr. Bryce's birthday party, everybody but Virginia appears to be in on it, and he begins the ritual. Angel and Company arrive at the party, but it's too late: Bryce has summoned the demon (a rotund Edie McClurg type) to accept his sacrifice. She rejects Virginia on account of her hymen deficiency, and Mr. Bryce's chance at limitless power is ruined. Virginia is furious, and tells her father she hasn't been a virgin for years (in fact, she's had more men on her than a golf course). Somehow, the papers find out about Wesley's exaggerated exploits, and there's lots of free advertising for Wyndam-Price Investigations. The end.

I am quite happy watching "Angel" alongside "Buffy." They say it gets better as it goes on, but it's pretty damned good right now, so we'll see.

Afterward, I hoped tyranist would put in the "Buffy" episode we had started. Usually on nights like these, he wants to go on and on, and I'm the one who says, "We'd better slow down, man, you might get pregnant." But this time, I was dead-set on on watching one more "Buffy." After all, we'd already watched four minutes of it.

But sterner heads prevailed, and tyranist gave me his traditional, "Well, I'm going to kick you out now," and then did. But I'd get the last laugh: I set a rake in his driveway right where he'd be backing out the next morning.

Rish "True Friend" Outfield

*You know, that's something that I don't really understand about the way a TV show works. The folks in the opening credits get paid whether they appear in the episode or not, right, hence Angel's token appearances in Season Three and several Spike near-cameos lately. But the supporting cast just show up when there's need for it, right, when they've been written into the script. But are they so costly that sometimes they omit them in certain episodes, for example the episode of "Angel" this season when all evil lawyerdude Lindsay's lines were given to evil lawyerlady Lilah? Was that what was going on in this one, or was the actress who plays Tara simply unavailable, like the "Star Trek" episodes where George Takei wasn't around, so all Sulu's lines were given to Chekov?

**Bet you hoped I'd never use that awful nickname again, didn't you?

***Oh, for the record, tyranist now hates Kate Lockley as well. It's funny how he has now eclipsed me in the hatred department. After living in Los Angeles, I thought it would never happen.

****Tyranist's theory then had been that Tara didn't want Willow to know how proficient she was in magic, so as not to alienate her. My theory had been, "Uh . . ."

*****It literally took all my strength not to insert a Train reference here.

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