Thursday, January 31, 2008

Buff-gel Wednesday

30 January 2008

I've got a lot of episodes to cover and very little time I'm willing to dedicate to it, so let's be off. Our man Tim Minear wrote the first "Angel" episode of the evening. It was called "Epiphany."

It picked up exactly where the last one left off, and tyranist and I waited in butt-clenched anticipation to see if they were going by "Angel" rules or "Buffy" rules on this one.

Darla gleefully goes to Angelus's side, but . . . the verdict is "Buffy" rules. Angel still has his soul. He apologises for not being able to save her, try as he did, and tells her she needs to leave before he has to kill her. That's actually pretty common after sex, haven't you observed?

Angel rushes over to Policewomanofficer Kate Lockley's apartment and bursts inside, finding her unmoving on the floor (having taken a bunch of pills with alcohol). He takes her into the shower and somehow revives her with cold water. Nice; I was somewhat convinced she had been written out of the show.
Cordelia gets to the house of the rich woman who called her and finds the whole family dead. She gets a vision of a demon attacking someone . . . someone who looks suspiciously like Cordelia Chase. As soon as the vision is over, demons step out from their hiding places and attack her. The demons call Angel Investigations murderers, and we realise they all have third eyes on the back of their heads. These demons impregnate human hosts with their spawn, which burst spectacularly out when they've matured.

The leader of the demons seeds Cordelia with one. This seems to happen to Cordelia more than most people I know (but then, I've lived a really sheltered life).

Angel goes to the karaoke bar and talks to Lorne, who tells him that his friends are all in danger. Indeed, Angel gets to still wheelchair-bound Wesley just as the third-eyed demons attack. Wesley invites Angel in and he kills the demons.

Wesley is pleased that Angel has returned to his normal "friendly" self, and en route to the office, catches him up on the situation. Cordelia isn't there, but has noted where she was going. Gunn arrives and is a little more hesitant to embrace Angel, but is willing to help Cordelia. He also mentions a pickup truck that's been driving by.

Third-eye demons attack them and Angel gets out of the car to take care of them while Gunn and Wesley drive on to save Cordelia. Angel confronts the demons, but a pickup truck comes along and drives into him.

Turns out that after Angel kicked Darla out of bed, she went back to Evillawyerdude Lindsay and told him her tale of woe. He got in a pickup truck and now we're caught up.

Lindsay gets out of the truck and pounds Angel with a sledgehammer. But Angel ends up taking it away and beating Lindsay like a cross-eyed foster child, shattering his prosthetic hand and driving off in the truck.

At the house where Cordelia's being held, Gunn and Wesley have been captured, and are soon to join Cordelia for the third eye and the morning sickness. But Angel drives Lindsay's truck into the house, saving all three of his former employees from the demons.

When it's all over, Cordelia tells Angel he's still a feminine hygiene product and she doesn't forgive him.

Angel has a heart to heart with Kate Lockley, and both of them feel they've been given a second chance. She also mentions that she never invited Angel into her apartment, so either the rule was broken as a minor miracle or Kate was dead and it's a less minor miracle. Hopefully they'll get closer in future episodes, and I wouldn't mind if she joined the Angel Investigations team. She's got to have experience and contacts the others don't have, right?

Angel goes back to the office and tells the others how sorry he is for his behaviour. Instead of being their boss, he offers to come work for them. The end.

This was nice stuff, a good episode, and I'm sorry I didn't do it justice. I just gotta be quick about these recaps.

The next "Buffy" up was called "Forever," written and directed by Marti Noxon. Preparations for Joyce's funeral are going on and Buffy feels overwhelmed (though it appears Giles is doing a lot of the heavy lifting) and Dawn feels excluded.

Spike comes over to the Summers house with flowers, but Willow and Xander won't let him in, thinking he's just trying to get back in good with Buffy. He tells them they were in memory of Joyce, who was the only one of them who ever treated him well and throws the flowers down.

The funeral happens. I just realised that we're never going to see Joyce's gallery now. (I can't figure out why movie Gwen and Captain Stacy would go to Harry Osborn's funeral in SPIDER-MAN 3. Did that seem odd to anyone else?)

Dawn asks Buffy if she can go to Willow's for the night. And once there, she asks them if they will help her resurrect her mother using magic. Tara, and Willow, to an oddly lesser extent, are horrified by the notion and try to explain that death is a part of the natural order and not to be interfered with, even through magic.

Buffy stands by her mother's graveside all day long, until night comes. When it does, Angel steps from behind the trees and takes her hand. Despite all the bad blood between them in their last two--or is it three?--crossovers, Buffy lets Angel comfort her as though everything is back to the way it was. And that's maybe the only seemingly stupid part of this episode that I'm willing to overlook. Death has a way of bringing people together.*

For example, Xander and Anya have sex. In bed with Xander, Anya starts talking about how people have sex to create children, turning something beautiful into something dirty.

Elsewhere, Ben the handsome male nurse/god runs into one of Glory's minions, who I believe are referred to in the next episode as looking like hobbits with leprosy. Ben lets it slip that the Key is innocent, leading the minion to understand that the Key is in human form. I started shouting at tyranist's television for Ben to kill the minion, 'cause really, that's what you gotta do. And after a long-ass time, Ben pulls out a knife and stabs the minion in the stomach with it.

Later it is revealed that he failed, and that the minion survived and got back to Glory, and that is just irritating. If Ben had had any kind of medical background he would've known that stomach wounds are rarely quick deaths. I guess we can let that go, since he couldn't possibly know things like that.

The next morning, Tara and Willow are going to breakfast, but are brilliantly leaving Dawn alone in their room with all the magic books. Even more brilliantly, Willow uses magic to make a particular book stick out so Dawn will grab it once she leaves the room. There are quite a few explanations for this (besides the obvious: this was a really badly-done episode), and the one I chose at the time was that Willow has been doing magic for years and knows that a novice like Dawn couldn't possibly pull off something as complex as a resurrection spell.**

Dawn goes to the magic shop and asks Giles questions about spell books (under the guise of wanting to help out there). The second his back is turned, she steals a particularly dangerous book and the ingredients for a forbidden spell.

She waits till nightfall, then goes to her mother's grave and gets dirt from it to use in her ritual. Spike sees her doing this and offers to help (there are several possible reasons he does this, such as an honest affection for Dawn, hope that this could actually comfort the Summers girls, or the fact that he's evil)(tyranist offered another possibility: The episode is badly written).

He takes her to Jennifer Grey's father, an older man named Doc. Doc is very friendly and knows a great deal about this kind of magic. He tells them that they need to get a dragon's egg (okay, it's a demon, but this one was, cooly, an animatronic monster) and a photo of the one to be resurrected. He warns her that these spells don't always work the way you want them to, and to break the spell she should destroy the photo. Just before they leave, Dawn notices Doc's eyes are all black, not a good sign.

At her hideout, Glory's injured minion goes before her and tells her that the Key is in human form. Glory is thankful for the news and heals the toadie's injury.

Spike and Dawn go underground, where the dragon demon lives. He distracts it while the girl grabs an egg, but she breaks it. He then fights the dragon demon while Dawn steals another egg. She gets it back to her room and alone there, begins the spell. It is a particularly evil-sounding one, invoking the god Osiris.

We don't see what comes out of Joyce's grave (but W.W. Jacobs does, in his famous story "The Monkey's Paw") as Dawn finishes, but Buffy goes upstairs and discovers what her sister has done. She tries to explain the wrongness of this act, but Dawn is anxious to see her mother again.

Buffy is afraid that Joyce could be . . . wrong, and outside, we see feet walking--shambling?--toward the house. Dawn tells Buffy that she's been ignored and pushed away and that Buffy hasn't stopped to grieve and that Buffy doesn't even care that their mother is dead. Buffy slaps her, then cries, telling her of her confusion and desire not to be weak in front of her. This communication was vital between the sisters, and they both share tears.

And then something knocks at the door.*** Buffy is actually hopeful that her mother could have returned, but Dawn recognises the mistake she has made. As Buffy opens the front door, Dawn tears up the picture of Joyce. There is nothing at the door ("the streetlamp flickering opposite shown on a quiet and deserted road."). The end.

Boy, this one just did not work. There was way too much shoved into this one episode, and though Buffy disappears for most of the show (where was she that second day?), we never see her doing the things her sister accuses her of. Except pass her off to her lesbian or librarian friends the day after they buried her mother.

I don't know. While I didn't find it as bad as "Restless" (which I've continued to hear people love), it made little sense and had a great many contrived and predictable moments, which is something I never expect from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Tyranist, if possible, disliked the episode even more than I did. Which is strange, because I utterly despised the afore-mentioned last season ender, and he had no problem with it.

The next "Angel" in our rotation was written by David Fury. With a title like "Disharmony," it could only be about one thing. Er, person. But I'm not at all a Harmony fan, so I expected not to like the episode. It was a lot of fun, though.

Angel Investigations has (logically) moved back to the big hotel location and Wesley is now in the office Angel used to have. Angel is now getting coffee and shining shoes, his penance for being a dick. Cordelia still hasn't forgiven him yet, still unhappy about the betrayal (and the fact that Angel gave away her clothes).

She has a vision in which some hooded vampires attack a couple in the park and Angel, trying to be empathetic, tells Cordelia to take the rest of the night off. After the three men go to check out the park, Harmony Kendall comes in, very happy to see Cordelia, and appearing to be her normal, shallow (non-vampiric) self. She tells Cordelia she just broke up with someone and needs a place to stay. The two of them gossip and laugh and Harmony still doesn't let on that she is a vampire.

Angel and the others find and kill a couple of hood-wearing vampires and Angel tries to figure out how to get back into Cordelia's good graces.

Harmony sneaks into Cordelia's bedroom with the intent to bite her, but Dennis the Friendly Ghost slams the door and wakes Cordelia up. She mentions, rather hilariously, that she has a ghost, but puts two and two together. Obviously, the reason Harmony was sneaking into her bedroom like that is because she's become a lesbian.

Cordelia tells Harmony she's cool with her "change," and as soon as she gets some time alone, she calls Sunnydale and . . . Willow, of all people. Her great pal Willow tells Cordelia about Harmony's transformation into a vampire and Cordelia breathes a sigh of relief, having thought Harmony had gone all lesbo on her. "Oh, you're what? Wow, that's great."

So, Cordelia is literally cool with Harmony's "change," and they paint each others toenails. I guess working with a vampire has made her see the silver lining in that particular cape. So, Cordelia takes Harmony to work with her. Angel is much more patient with her than, well, anyone I've ever known could be, and gives her some of his yummy, yummy pig's blood. Which she promptly spills on Cordelia's computer, shorting it out for some supernatural reason.

Cordelia takes Harmony to the demon karaoke bar for advice. She sings quite awfully. Lorne tells Cordelia she needs to take Harmony to find her destiny (he may really have just wanted Harmony out of his bar). The vampire claims she wants to turn over a new leaf and be good now, but Angel doesn't trust her. When he tries to warn Cordelia that her friend hasn't got a soul, she reminds him that he does, yet he still let her down in recent episodes.

Cordelia has another vision and we find out that the vampires in hoods are all part of a hilarious multi-level marketing campaign where vampires go out and "recruit" two other vampires and bring one to their big hideout for food. The potential snacks are being kept in a big cage.

Our heroes (all five of them now) get in Angel's car and find the entrance to the building seen in Cordelia's vision. Inside, there's a big pyramid-scheme meeting going on with dozens of vampires, and Angel is afraid he'll be recognised if he tries to go in himself. So, Harmony volunteers to go in and observe, then let the others in through a back entrance.

Harmony does so, and when the group goes inside, they find themselves in a trap. It would seem that Harmony found her destiny and joined up with the other evil vampires. Cordelia takes this badly and starts to fight her. The others take their cue and begin battling vampires as well. Angel ends up lopping the head of their leader off, but Cordelia doesn't dust Harmony. She tells her to get out of L.A. and she does so.

In the end, Angel finally gets back into Cordelia's good graces, not by turning over a new leaf, or apologising, but by buying her some new clothes.

Like I said, this was good stuff. Amusing and light and that can be appreciated, even on a dark show like "Angel."

That should've been the end of the evening, really. Tyranist and I talked for a moment about the bad "Buffy" episode, and then he said, "No, I'm not throwing you out on your puffy behind yet. We're watching another episode." I didn't really get it, but he said he didn't want to end our night with the two "Angel" episodes being better than the "Buffy." You have to admire his principles.

So, the last "Buffy" of the night was written by Jane Espenson (who tends to write darn funny episodes****), and was called "Intervention." I didn't think of it until just now, but I really should've split this into two posts. Ah well, too late now.

Some time has passed since the last episode, and Buffy and Dawn are trying to cope with the lost of their mother. Giles is trying to help out, and I often wonder what his relationship to Dawn has been over the "years." Obviously, Buffy is closer to him than to her own father, but is Dawn? In the back of my mind, I imagine that Dawn has been living with her dad in the episodes prior to this one, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It's hard for me to get my head around.

Anyway, Buffy confides in Giles that she has withdrawn emotionally and worries that she's turning to stone. She wonders if her mother knew she loved her and tells Giles she loves him (then does the same to Dawn . . . many times). Is a Slayer supposed to love? Giles tells her there's a sort of ritual they could perform so she can seek advice and answers to her questions.

Spike has gone to Warren the Robotmaker's house to pick up his special order. We meet the Buffybot, who looks just like her, and has been programmed with Buffycentric knowledge, but wears pink and is in love with Spike.

At Glory's hideout, she is complaining about how unfair her life is and how she can't find the key. Since she knows Buffy is protecting the key in human form, she tells her minions to watch her and find out who is a new part of her life.

Giles drives Buffy out to the desert and tells her to do a little walkabout while he performs a ritual to give her a guide. The ritual is a silly one, involving dancing and rattling gourds (yes, like your Friday nights).

Spike pretends to fight the Buffybot, but their battles always end in making out and the beast with two backs. As nice as it is, Spike notices the limitations of the Buffybot, and doesn't want her to be the perfect lover. He wants her to be Buffy.

Glory's minions spy on Buffy's friends as they go about their lives. With Buffy out of town, they have taken over the patrol duties and Xander and Anya run into the Buffybot, who has gone out to patrol while Spike is asleep.

The Buffybot has files on all her friends and tries to make conversation with them. Her speech patterns are very funny (though not as funny, in opinion mine, as the other robot chick a few episodes back), but as odd as the robot is, they don't seem to notice.

Spike awakens and runs out there just as a couple of vampires appear. They fight them, but the Buffybot is very protective of Spike, verbally more concerned with him than anything else. From afar, Glory's minions witness this and decide they have their Key.

The vampires destroyed, "Buffy" dismisses Xander and Anya, and begins to get it on with Spike right there in the cemetery. Anya and Xander see this and are, well, more than a little disturbed.

The gang hears the news and thinks that Buffy has lost her mind, or that due to her grief, she has let Spike take advantage of her. Xander goes down to Spike's crypt (Spike makes the Buffybot hide when he hears someone coming) and confronts him, just as Glory's minions arrive, knocking out Xander and grabbing Spike.

In the desert, Buffy encounters The First Slayer, from last year's "Restless" episode. Buffy asks her if she's losing her power to love. The reply is that she is full of love, she needs it, and it will lead her to her gift. I don't get it either, but hey, I always hate characters who speak in riddles.

The Buffybot comes out of hiding and goes looking for Spike. She goes to see Willow. Willow is Buffy's best friend and is good with computers and is currently gay. Willow asks about Spike, and sure enough, the Buffybot tells her about all the ways in which she's had sex with him. She also points out that Angel is lame (which I had to mention here).

When Xander gets there, he tells them that Glory's toadies took Spike, and everybody follows the Buffybot as she goes to rescue him. Oh, except Tara, who stays behind to protect Dawn.

The First Slayer tells Buffy that death is the gift she referred to. Buffy, having just lost her mother, doesn't think it's a gift. But the "guide" disappears, leaving Buffy as alone as me on a Frid . . . well, any night, really.

The minions present Glory with Spike, but she knows the Key is not a vampire (the Key is pure, it would seem). The minions insist that Buffy is uber-protective of Spike, and when Glory asks why, Spike tells her to sod off. She reacts negatively to this, and begins to pummel him.

Xander, Willow, and Anya follow the Buffybot to her house, where they load up on weapons. The robot doesn't know where Glory is, and is so obsessed with rescuing Spike that the others decide it's time for an intervention. At that moment, the flesh and blood Buffy arrives.

She also has a negative reaction at the revelation that she's been boffing Spike. He shagged her, baby. He shagged her rotten. Everything becomes clear when the Buffybot walks back into the room. Buffy is disgusted that Spike had Warren build him a Buffy robot, and is further disgusted that her friends couldn't tell the difference.

The Buffybot reminds them that her beloved Spike is in Glory's clutches, and Buffy realises that he knows who the Key is and could be telling her right now.

Well, actually, at Glory's hideaway, the Blond Beast is beating the bloody blazes out of Spike. She's torturing him to find out what he knows, cutting off his flesh and sticking her finger into his stomach.

Buffy leads everybody to where that giant snake was killed in "Blood Ties." She knows Glory lives around there, so everyone splits up and checks the area.

Finally, Spike breaks under the torture and tells her that Bob Barker is the Key. The minions start off to attack and retrieve the host of "The Price is Right," but Glory stops them. She unleashes all of her fury on Spike, and he manages to stumble into the elevator and collapse.

Buffy and Xander arrive and begin to fight the minions. Not long after, Giles and the robot arrive. The Buffybot assists the mangled Spike, but is damaged by the minions.

Giles and Xander carry Spike out and deliver him to his crypt. Buffy and Willow take the robot back to the magic shop and Willow thinks she can repair it. Buffy still doesn't know what Spike told Glory, and they need to know if they have to get Dawn out of the city.

So, in our final scene, an unbelievably damaged Spike is surprised when the Buffybot comes in. She is concerned for him and confused at why Glory hurt him. He tells her it was because she wanted to know who the Key was, and tries to explain to the Buffybot that nothing can be allowed to happen to Dawn. If anything were to happen to her, it would kill Buffy. Spike explains that he was willing to let Glory kill him first.

The Buffybot kisses Spike and he realises, as we all have, that it's Buffy pretending to be the robot. He asks about his robot and Buffy tells him it was obscene and not real. What he did for her and her sister, now that was real. The end.

Holy Elisha Cuthbert in Maxim Magazine, this was a fine episode! I hate to forgive tyranist for making me write such a lengthy recap, but I was pleased as spiked punch to see this one, which was funny, light, and oddly moving at the end. Of course, I'm partial to Spike and his episodes, but I can't imagine someone not liking this one.

I've just been told that we're only a handful of episodes away from the end of the season. I both dread and anxiously await this. Sadly, by the time we see season six's musical episode, I will have learned every single song.

You should too.

Rish Outfieldbot

*Or maybe he was just there when she needed someone. Perhaps if Spike had stepped out of the shadows, she would've let him comfort her the way she did when she found out about her mother's brain tumor. Regardless, Angel is Buffy's one true love (even I can see that), and that's not something a few angry words can erase.

**Right? My second thought, though, was that we know almost nothing about Dawn and what she really is. Perhaps being the Key gives her abilities we have not yet discovered, magical or otherwise.
You could also claim that Willow didn't think Dawn would be able to do anything about the spell, since the book she referred her to was just a history of magic.
But more plausable (though the badly-done episode theory has to be at least considered) is that Willow has shown, in past episodes, a bit of an irresponsible streak when it comes to magic, and like that "Pet Sematary" indian burial ground, this kind of dark spells keep calling to her, regardless of her better intentions.

***I'm showing my Horror roots here in the way I'm describing it, but the episode just wasn't scary or effective (though Doc's black eyes were pretty great), despite how it might have read on the page.

****Though so does Marti Noxon, and her episode was decidedly not.

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