Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another Buffy/Angel marathon

March 22-25, 2008

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that I'm really wasting my time with these "Buffy"/"Angel" blogs. There are many places on the internet where you can find better recaps, and my attempts at humour seem to be falling on deaf . . . well, eyes.

Around 1989, I thought it would be a good idea to write in my journal every time I went to see a movie (which wasn't often, dependent on what money I had and a way to get there). I filled a page or two with my experiences of, say, seeing BATMAN that summer, and would tape my ticket stub in there at the end.

It seemed like fun, and until recently, I was still writing about my movie experiences, although in a much more regimented way. But now, in 2008, while I'd rather clean elementary school erasers with my tongue than read through those old journal entries (honestly, was Alison Watkins really all that?), if I were to do so, I'd much rather read about who I saw BATMAN with and the specifics of what I thought about it than a synopsis of the story or a rundown of the cast. I know better than 1989 Rish who was in which movies, but what I don't know anymore was where I went and how I got there, and most importantly, what I felt about it all.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, even though these Buffy Wednesday entries are indeed a waste of time, I'm going to continue to do them, and if anything, I'm going to put more personal observations and unfunny jokes in here than I did before.

Consider yourself warned.

And speaking of which, oh, tyranist and I caught more than our share of "Buf-gel"s this past weekend.

We watched "Buffy" first, instead of "Angel" like I resolved to do this season, and the episode we started with was "Flooded," written by Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie.

It begins with Buffy in the Summers' basement, when all the pipes seem to burst at the same time, pouring in water. Xander's plumber friend gives them an estimate for repairs, and the bill is near the gross national product of Columbia (minus the drug export, of course). Willow and Tara reveal that while Joyce did leave Buffy some money, her hospital bills ate most of it up. The house payments (before repairs) are quite extensive, and the Summers are pretty much broke.*

This led tyranist and me to wonder if the Slayer shouldn't receive an income from the Watchers Council, the same as Giles does. It was my sickeningly plausible idea that there is indeed a paying contract with each new Slayer, but that the girl doesn't start getting a check until she has been slaying for two years. The mortality rate is so high, the Council almost never has to pay a dime.

Of course, there's no way the Watchers Council pays Buffy anything, and I'm still reeling from last season's revelation that the Watchers get a paycheck. So Buffy is in trouble.

So, Buffy goes to the bank to see if she could get a home loan. Unfortunately, property values aren't real good in Sunnydale, and without a job, Buffy isn't in a position to get loaned an umbrella, let alone how many thousands of dollars she needs. They have also just turned down Peter Parker and his aunt, but that's a couple of desks over.

And on the other side of the bank is a demon, who's there to rob the place. Buffy's wearing a nice, tight skirt, which she has to slice down the side to beat up the demon. She chases it away, but a) it still manages to steal a lot of money, and b) the bank still won't give her a loan.

Buffy doesn't seem all that stressed about it, which is an aftereffect of her death, blissful rest, and unwanted resurrection. Willow tries to get a rise out of her by admitting her torrid affairs with both Riley and Angel, but that sounds about as believable to Buffy as Willow marrying Wesley Windham Price.

Buffy gets a bit of joy back when Giles returns from England. He is invited to stay with them (sleeping on the couch), and Buffy immediately begins to defer her decisions to him.

The gang discovers that the demon who robbed the bank wasn't acting of its own accord, but was serving someone else, someone very powerful.

That someone is revealed to be three someones: Jonathan (the geek from several episodes past), Warren (the robot-maker), and someone named Andrew (who is referred to have set winged monkeys on a school play in the first season**), three geeky friends with aspirations to rule the world. The demon is unhappy about its encounter with the Slayer and Warren takes it aside and provides it with Buffy's address.

At night, Giles takes Willow aside in Buffy's kitchen and, well, while I don't imagine Giles would approve of this phrase, he rips her a new one for daring to cast a resurrection spell on Buffy. She tells him how scary the spell was, and he calls her a very stupid girl. He warns her (belatedly) about the danger of such spells and how it might have gone wrong, and I can't help but wonder if the reason they performed the spell when they did wasn't because they'd been waiting for the Urn of Osiris but because Willow was waiting for Giles to be out of the picture.

Giles really lays into Willow, but she gets all cold on him and says, basically, "If I'm powerful enough to bring someone back from the dead, then you better not piss me off." It was truly chilling, and darn, I wish I didn't know (the general direction of) where this is going.

Buffy goes outside and Spike tosses a cigarette butt at her. Ahh, love. They talk a bit, and it's weird how she seems to have changed toward Spike. The demon bursts into the house while she's gone, however, and knocks out Giles. Buffy shows up and beats up the demon again, freaking out about the expensive damage it's doing. Spike helps her in the fight and they thrash the demon soundly.

The trio of geeks decide to band together and take down the Slayer. Buffy, however, is still upset about her money woes and now-damaged home. Then she talks to Angel all the way over on the WB and agrees to meet him at a midway point (since the WB was Channel 5 and UPN was Channel 13, that should put them around Channel 9). The end.

I enjoyed the episode, particularly a great Xander line about Spider-man, but was upset by the ending. I bemoaned the fact that we watched the shows out of order, missing Angel's discovery that Buffy is still alive/alive again. Tyranist argued that not only did it no longer matter what order we watch them in, but that I am a mongoloid.

Our first "Angel" of the evening was "Carpe Noctem," written by someone named Scott Murphy (his first episode), and tells the story of Angel Investigations looking into a couple of muscular young men who, acting peculiar, drop dead of some sort of life-sucking spell.

Angel wants to go see a Charlton Heston film festival at the New Art, and only Fred will go with him. She comes back thinking it was a date, and nursing something of a crush on him (on Angel, that is, not Chuck Heston . . . though both would be understandable).

Back on the case, Angel and Cordelia go to a gym where two of the victims were members, and Angel sees an old man with binoculars across the street at the retirement home. He goes up to see the old man, Marcus (played by Clint Howard's father), and Marcus quickly casts a spell which exchanges his life force with Angel's. In other words, it's the body switch movies of the late Eighties, only with a vampire this time.

Actually, the episode is much better than I'm making it sound. "Angel" gets driven home by Cordelia, and is surprised to find out that he's a private investigator. Cordelia tells "Angel" she should talk to Fred about them just being friends, and "Angel" thinks Wesley is Fred, setting up an amusing attempted break-up on his part.

Meanwhile, Angel wakes up in the body of an old man, but has no confusion over what has happened. He calls Angel Investigations, and leaves a message for Cordelia (it's amazing that cellphones don't exist on "Buffy," and astounding that they don't exist on "Angel"), but Marcus intercepts it.

"Marcus" gets in trouble for using the phone, and he finds himself a veritable prisoner in the retirement home. "Angel," however, is delighted to find out that he's a vampire, and there's no danger of this host's lifeforce running out like the other men he switched places with did.

"Angel" goes out on the town, enjoying his increased strength, and the perfect hair that has women throwing themselves at him. He also comes onto Fred (who he realises is a woman after all), and when evillawyerchick Lilah Morgan comes over to resolve Angel's property dispute, he promptly mounts her, then gets carried away and bites her. She flees, more angry than afraid, and I imagine their next meeting will be less than warm.

"Marcus" tries to find a way to get out of the retirement home, and ends up with a heart attack. When "Angel" shows up there, having decided to keep this body and kill his old one, "Marcus" uses his knowledge of vampire weaknesses to defeat him, then promptly switches their bodies back. Now old and frail again, Marcus yells at Angel, but ends up having another heart attack.

In the end, Cordelia gets a phone call from Willow, revealing that Buffy is alive.

Hoping to see the historic meet-up with Buffy and Angel, I insisted we keep watching "Angel," namely the episode "Fredless," written by Mere Smith.

It begins with Angel having left to meet Buffy, and Fred asking the others what the situation is between them. In a hilarious exchange, Cordelia pretends to be Buffy and Wesley pretend to be Angel, and they ruthlessly mock the starcrossed lovers until they realise Angel is standing right there.

Unamused, he takes Fred out for ice cream, and they come back via the sewers, following a demon they encountered offscreen. Fred sees some pink crystals, which will become important later, and Angel sends her home alone so he can dispatch the demon.

There are almost no spoilers left for me on "Buffy" (and it's starting on "Angel" as well) that I have yet to stumble across, but somehow I didn't know we wouldn't get a Buffy/Angel reunion scene. It still bothers me that it didn't happen (though I suppose I understand why it didn't).

Back at the hotel, an older couple with Southern accents arrives, in search of their daughter Fred (who's been gone for five years). They hired another investigator to find her and he said she was living in the hotel. My Spider Sense was tingling off the charts with these two, but maybe I have parent issues.

Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia try to explain her absence without mentioning vampires, demons, and parallel dimensions, but the Burkles are suspicious. Fred enters while they're talking, and just as quickly sneaks away again.

Angel bursts in, carrying the severed head of the demon he just killed, boasting about it. Cordelia quickly explains to the Burkles that Angel works on monster movies and the head is just a prop. He tells Fred's parents that their daughter is probably up in her room now, and they go up to see her. If you recall, Fred had covered her walls with gibberish, formulas and drawings and such, and her parents are more suspicious to see them.

Angel and company aren't sure what to make of the parents, who are getting really pushy and suspicious themselves, and Angel wonders why she would run away from them and where she would go.

The Burkles go with our heroes to the library where she disappeared, but of course, she's not there. Angel also goes down to the sewer location where he saw her last, but doesn't find her. Some mantis-like insect-creature watches him from the shadows. Fred has actually gone to Caritas, which makes sense, and convinces Lorne to let her in, even though the place is closed due to the damage inflicted two episodes back. Lorne is grouchy about it, but Fred is just so darn lovable that he listens to her plight.

Angel and Company arrive a little while later, and Cordelia explains that Lorne works on monster movies with Angel, hence the elaborate makeup. Lorne reveals that Fred has gone to the bus station, planning to start a new life without any money or prospects in a new town.

The gang (and Fred's parents) arrive and stop her from leaving. The reason she was fleeing her parents was because she didn't want to explain that she lived for years in a cave, hunted and abused like an animal, and talking about it would make it real. Her folks don't understand, exactly, but when the giant mantis monster from the sewer arrives, and Angel is forced to vamp out and fight it, well, that makes things more complicated. Fred also fights the creature, and Fred's mother ends up driving a bus into the mantis, squashing it.

The Burkles are astounded that Fred lives in a world with monsters and vampires and demons and giant bugs and black people and fake breasts, but they're also impressed that she's a sort of hero, defender of goodness against the power of darkness.

But Fred doesn't feel like a hero, or that she belongs with the others, and packs her things to leave town with her parents. She tells everyone goodbye, and I began to be sad that we were losing such a great character so soon after she'd been introduced.

Fred had created some kind of contraption, which the gang thought was either a weapon or a toaster, and leaves it there in the lobby for her friends. The Burkles--all three of them--get in a cab and drive away. Fred looks at her jacket and sees more of the odd pink crystals attached to it.

Gunn makes a funny comment about the severed demon head they still have in the lobby, and almost immediately after, Angel and the others are attacked by a half-dozen of the giant mantis critters. Angel was barely a match for one before, and is in trouble against many. But then Fred bursts in, and deploys her device, which fires a big axe-blade across the room and into the severed demon head.

The head splits open, spilling out dozens of fat brown cockroach-bugs, which are the offspring of the mantis creatures. Reunited, the small bugs and the big ones leave in peace.

Fred had realised that the pink crystals were the monster's eggs, and they were only after their sweet, deah babbies. She also realises that she was useful and a part of the team, and hell yeah she's a hero like the others.

She and her parents part, and she and the others paint over all the scribblings crazy Fred had drawn on her bedroom wall. The end.

This was good, good stuff. The addition of Fred is truly a welcome one, and the group dynamic between all the Angel Investigations is amusing and interesting. May I live to see it continue.

So, then we got the "Buffy" episode "Life Serial," which I've actually watched twice, for some reason. It was written by David Fury and Jane Espenson, and it begins after the non-existent crossover with Angel where they talk. Buffy returns home, and would rather talk about her future plans than what happened with Angel on Channel 9.

Tara and Willow convince her to come to college classes with them, so she heads off to school.

Meanwhile, the Terrible Trio (Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew) have gotten themselves a van to be their mobile headquarters. Andrew paints a Death Star on the side, but the others make him take it off. These three are very similar, geek-wise, to my friends and me, just with a lot less profanity.

Buffy goes to class with Willow, but everyone seems to be speaking in some kind of intellectual uberbrain-tongue (what I commonly refer to as "tyranist language"), and Buffy feels dumb. While heading to a class with Tara, Warren sticks a little device on her that I assumed was some kind of Spider-Tracer or hidden microphone. What it ends up being is some kind of time displacement inducer, and Buffy finds herself jumping forward in time, and then the opposite--standing still while everyone around her zooms by. Finally, she discovers the device, and Warren causes it to self-destruct.

The other members of the Trio give Warren a score on how well he did in, I don't know, testing or annoying the Slayer. Then it's Andrew's turn.

Buffy can't explain what happened to her, but flees the campus like . . . I don't know, a pretty girl confronted by me at a high school dance. Giles tells Buffy she can come work at the magic shop, but she doesn't want to do that. So Xander pulls some strings to get Buffy work at a construction site. The foreman is not impressed when he sees all seventy-five pounds of her, but she is able to carry heavy materials and work much faster than the others. The van pulls up to the site, and Andrew does his thing (which involves some sort of pan flute). Suddenly, a bunch of demons appear, terrorising the jobsite and causing all sorts of destruction. Buffy kills them, but their bodies turn into green goo then disappear after they die. For some reason, none of the other construction workers claim to have seen the demons, and the foreman thinks Buffy went psycho on him.

Xander realises the repairs will be costly, and tells Buffy to go do research on what's happening to her. In other words, she's fired.

So, Buffy goes to work at the Magic Box while the Terrible Trio watches from hidden cameras.
Jonathan casts a spell and Buffy goes to help her first customer, a woman who wants to buy a magical mummy hand. Unfortunately, she is unable to satisfy the customer, and the encounter restarts, with the woman coming in again, asking about the mummy hand. Try as Buffy may to give the woman what she wants, she fails and the scenario repeats. Finally, Buffy tells the woman she can't give her that particular hand, but would be happy to special order one for her. The woman accepts, and Buffy breaks free of the time loop.

But Anya notices she didn't charge the woman for the delivery of the item, and Buffy leaves in a disgusted huff. She goes off to visit Spike, and they drown their sorrows in alcohol (Buffy is at her cutest every time she takes a drink and shudders at the awfulness of it all), then go off to talk to Spike's underworld contacts about who might be messing with her.

They go to a poker game with a trio of demons (all of whom appear to be cheating), who are playing for kittens, because, well, they're delicious.

Inside their van, the trio of baddies congratulate themselves on . . . annoying the Slayer, I suppose. But when Buffy and Spike come out of the bar, she recognises the vehicle and stomps toward it. Jonathan casts a spell to make himself look like a big red-skinned demon, and Buffy takes him down with one kick (luckily, she's very drunk, or she probably would've taken his head off). He pretends to die, then makes it to the van, where they drive away. They have tested Buffy's abilities and it's given them the knowledge they need for whatever else they've got planned.

Buffy goes home to be sick. When she comes out of the bathroom, Giles is there to comfort her. He has written her a check, which she should be able to use to get on top of things again, and she seems to revert to a childlike state, glad that Giles is there to make everything alright. The end.

This has to be the lightest episode of the season, and it's quite welcome after some of the pain, doubt, and misery we've experienced thusfar.

Though it was now time to switch over to "Angel" again, I was not piloting the DVD player, and tyranist put on the next "Buffy" episode, entitled, "All the Way." This was another Halloween show, and was written by Steven S. DeKnight.

Halloween is apparently a very busy day for the magic shop, and virtually everyone is working there to help out. It's very funny stuff, as Willow sneers at the people dressed as warty stereotypical witches and Anya is dressed as an Angel (as in "Charlie's," complete with Farrah hair and a pair of shorts the size of of a handkerchief). At the end of the business day, Xander (dressed as a pirate) decides it's time to announce his engagement to Anya.

Everyone goes to Buffy's house for a Halloween/engagement party. Willow casts a spell to decorate the house, when it could've been done physically with little problem. Tara notices this too, so it's not just Giles and me now. I also find myself getting a little nervous seeing how controlling and obsessed with her upcoming wedding Anya becomes, even at this early stage. It's become obvious that I'm not going to see a happy ending here, either in my own life or those of the "Buffy" universe.

Dawn tells Buffy she's going to spend the night at her friend Amber Tamblyn's house to spend the night, and meets Amber Tamblyn, who has told her parents she's staying at Dawn's house. I'm sure Dawn steals at some point in this episode too.***

The girls hook up with two older-looking boys who are apparently in their high school, and quickly pair off. Justin is the name of Dawn's date, and he's a handsome lad, seemingly harmless, but when the two boys are alone, they talk about going all the way with the girls later.

At the beginning of the episode, we are introduced to a creepy old man who hums Pop Goes the Weasel to himself, and looks more than a little villianous. Well, it turns out that, for a thrill, the four teenagers head to his house for some mischief. Only Dawn is brave enough to go up and grab his pumpkin (which sounds a lot dirtier than it is), but when he steps out and invites them in, all four go inside.

The old man appears to be harmless, but has something special cooking for them in the kitchen. He invites Amber Tamblyn's date to go with him and help, and you can just connect the dots from there what happens.

Except you'd be wrong. Turns out that the man was just baking cookies, and the two boys are vampires. The old man is killed and the four teens leave, with the boys trying to decide whether they'll kill their dates, or "go all the way" and convert them to the undead.

Buffy slips away to patrol, even though it's understood that vampires and demons always take Halloween off, you know, to keep its true meaning in their hearts. Once she's gone, Amber Tamblyn's mother calls the Summers house. She asks to speak to her daughter, revealing the girls' lie to Giles and the others.

Xander and Anya stay there, but the others go out looking for Dawn. Eventually Buffy discovers a vampire's victim and knows there's trouble a'brewin'. Giles finds Spike and tells him what's what, then Buffy finds Spike and they go out looking for her sister together.

Giles saves Amber Tamblyn from being eaten/envamped by her date. In a rare ass-kicking moment, Giles tussels with the vampire and ends up triumphant.

Dawn and Justin are in his car, sharing a romantic moment. They kiss, and he seems to be moved when he realises it was her first kiss. They continue the making out, and in a scene reminiscent of Season One, he vamps out.

Willow and Tara go to the Bronze, but it's really crowded. Willow suggests she cast a spell to momentarily send everyone there who isn't Dawn into another dimension. Tara balks at this idea and while they argue, Willow casts a spell to make everyone else in the Bronze go silent so they can talk. This only cements Tara's argument further, that Willow has gone overboard with the magic, and seems almost to be addicted to casting spells.

It's interesting that they live in a world with thousands of demons, yet almost no cellphones.

Justin catches up to Dawn and tells her she shouldn't be afraid, that she's special, and she seems willing to let him bite her. Giles, however, appears, to stop him. Unfortunately, a whole gaggle of vampires arrives at that moment, surrounding Giles.

But then Spike and Buffy arrive. Ignoring all the vampires, Buffy
yells at Dawn for her behaviour, and Dawn gives the old "Oh, so it's okay when you fall for a vampire, but not me," argument we've all used at one time or another.

Then the fight begins. Spike dusts a couple (mostly he's upset that the other vampires didn't respect the holiday), Giles dusts more than his share, and Buffy kills about eight hundred and twenty six vampires, one using a car door.

But Justin catches up to Dawn and mounts her on the leaf-covered ground. He tells her he likes her and she tells him she likes him back, then jabs him with the stake in her hand. It's really kind of sweet, and I wish I had had a moment even remotely as romantic as that when I was fifteen.

Everyone goes home, and Tara is especially distant from Willow. Buffy is about to talk to Dawn about her behaviour, but as soon as she sees Giles, she tells him to do it for her and retreats to her room. Giles does talk to Dawn, but it's a shame we don't get to hear their conversation. If I had children, I'd wish I could be the kind of father Giles is, complete with lovely singing voice and proper diction.

Willow can't understand why Tara is so upset with her, but rather than go to bed angry, she gets a flower and casts a spell on it. When she gets into bed, her spell makes Tara forget they ever had a disagreement. The end.

Dang, this was good stuff. The Halloween episodes are always special, but I'm starting to believe that every episode of "Buffy" is special. The other day, my cousin came over and we watched a couple early episodes. When my uncle asked what we were watching, my cousin said, "Only the greatest TV show of all time."

And I realised that I didn't disagree with him.****

So, back at tyranist's place, with our Buffy/Angel marathon behind us, tyranist and I talked for a moment about the many character arcs set in motion. Since he would be out of town next week, I was glad we'd gotten so many episodes in.

I went to the bathroom to, you know, "declutter the icechest," and when I came back, the TV was black. "I guess you're going to kick me out now," I said. Tyranist told me that the best vengeance for the years of torturing him with my presence would be to make me wait, like, a month to see "Once More With Feeling."

I told him that really was the best plan. It would give me time to write my blogs and we could spend some weeks watching "Twin Peaks," and catching up on the "Angel" episodes we'd gotten behind on by--

And he pushed Play. I guess he had started the episode while I was out, and paused it on the black before the title began.

It was a pretty clever trick, really.

So, then began my most anticipated episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Rish "Anticlimax" Outfield

*I wonder if they could somehow modify Dawn's stealing hobby to a more positive, income-producing habit. But that's a discussion for another time.

**Never happened, but in "The Prom," it was his brother who had them hellhounds trained to go after promgoers.

***Tyranist and I were pretty damn sure she had somehow snagged Anya's engagement ring, but when the episode ended and nobody mentioned it, we decided we were wrong. Later, Dawn does brag to Justin about her penchant for thievery, though. Yet I continue to like her. What is wrong with me? Other than the obvious, that is.

****A year ago, I would've said "Firefly" fit that description, but I've now seen BTVS episodes that have eclipsed even "Firefly"'s greatness, and my love for these characters have long overshadowed my love for Mal and Company. It makes me a bit sad to say it, but with more episodes to get to know and care about the characters, my affection for Giles, Spike, Xander, Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Anya, and Tara can't help but grow.

1 comment:

ryanlb said...

Hey, I like your humor, and reading your recaps.

And you saw 1989 Batman with me, at the Carillon Square theater (I think). Your brother, or possibly mine, was also probably there.