Sunday, April 13, 2008

Super Long Buffy Post

April 12th, 2008

Tyranist and I had a weekend to ourselves, and we were bound and determined to get some Buffy the Vampire slayage in there. We did pretty, well, if I do say so myself, though I dare not admit how many "Veronica Mars"es we watched as well.

First up was "Tabula Rasa," written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner. Tyranist told me that the title alone should give away what the episode was about, and I pretended the phrase meant something to me. A couple of days after sitting down and watching this with tyranist, my cousin came over and put his "Justice League" DVDs in. There too was an episode called "Tabula Rasa," and he too knew what it meant. Here's your weekly opportunity to be smarter than Rish Ezekiel Outfield: you know what tabula rasa means and I don't.*

So, Buffy is patrolling through the cemetery and Spike follows after her trying to bring up their kiss at the end of the musical. She brushes him off, saying it was part of the spell and she'll never do it again. This infuriated me, since I tend to loathe the "reset button" trope in series, but hey, I've also had a girl try and convince me that the other night meant nothing, and, as tyranist pointed out, I've got something of a mancrush going on Spike, so there. Anything else?

Anyhow, a shark-headed demon and his vampire lackeys shows up and demands that Spike pay him the Siamese he owes him ("Siamese" being the kind of kitten). Buffy defends Spike, who makes a run for it (this too reminds me of me . . . sigh).

Elsewhere, the four who brought Buffy back from the dead are talking about it, feeling differing levels of bad for finding out she was actually in Heaven. Willow comes up with an idea: what if we do a spell to make her forget she was ever there? Tara gets upset at Willow for constantly going back to magic, and when Willow doesn't get the big deal, she plays her "I know you cast that forgetting spell on me" card. Tara thinks they ought to call it quits (reminding Willow that Glory the Blond Beast messed with her mind too), but is willing to give Willow another chance if she can go a week without magic.

At the same time, Giles tells Buffy that he is going back to England, which she sees as abandoning her when she needs him the most. He tries to explain (this time not through song) that she doesn't need him, that she can only stand on her own two feet by standing on her own. Buffy doesn't react the way I expected her to, but goes the angry route.

Giles calls everyone together at the Magic Box to give his announcement, and Willow lags behind, needing to get dressed. The second Tara and Dawn are gone, she magically makes herself up and then casts the previously-mentioned forgetfulness spell . . . on both Buffy and Tara. Basically, there's a clear crystal she puts in a fire and when it turns black, the spell will happen. Unfortunately, she's left some kind of herbs near the fireplace, and they go up as well, causing the spell to go awry.**

Everyone is at the Magic Shop, including Spike, who is on the run from the loan sharks, and--

Holy crap, I just got that. The demon loan shark has a shark's head. Boy, I am really, really thick sometimes.So Giles is about to tell them he's leaving, but Willow's crystal turns black, and whoosh, everyone passes out. When they awaken, they're confused at what happened . . . and who everyone is. They've all lost their memories.

They check their IDs, and make some speculations based on their surroundings. For example, Dawn has a necklace that says "Dawn" on it, and she and Buffy act so sibling-like that they must be sisters. And the paperwork on the Magic Box says that Rupert Giles and Anya Jenkins own it, and she's got an engagement ring on, so clearly they are about to be married. Willow is wearing Xander's jacket ('cause she was cold), so they must be in a relationship too. And Spike and Giles have accents, so obviously, Giles must be his father.

All funny, cool stuff. Buffy doesn't have ID, so she decides her name is Joan.

I gotta make the comparison with the "Star Trek:TNG" episode that was like this, with all the characters losing their memories. As much as I love TNG, this episode used the same premise in so much more amusing and ultimately resonant ways, well, I just won't say more about it.

Vampires appear at the door, frightening everyone (who has to deal with the realisation that things like vampires actually exist), and demanding Spike. Thinking they're referring to nearby pointy sticks, Buffy ends up plunging one into a vampire, dusting it. With that, she understands she is some kind of superhero.

Giles and Anya decide to look through the magic books to find a solution to their amnesia, and everyone else runs outside. Buffy fights vampires and Spike helps her, inadvertently "vamping" out in the process. Buffy is horrified to see that he too is a vampire, but after dusting the others, they put two and two together: obviously Spike is a good vampire, a vampire with a soul, on a mission to help the helpless.

Lame, yes.

Giles and Anya try to restore their memories with a spell that makes--oh, how horrid!--bunnies appear, among other things. After arguing, Giles understands that the plane ticket in his jacket was so he could get away from his fiance, and Anya tosses her engagement ring away. Giles reads an incantation and the monsters disappear. The danger gone, the couple apologise for their argument and start smooching.

Xander, Willow, Tara, and Dawn head for the sewers, hiding from the one remaining vampire. In the dark, Willow and Tara find themselves drawn to each other, and Xander somehow finds the courage to stake the vampire hunting them. Willow falls down and the black crystal drops from her pocket. Xander steps on it and the spell is broken.

Buffy and Spike fight--and stake--the shark guy's vampires, then remember who they are. Pretty much everyone knows who was behind the spell, but the important one is Tara, who could never trust Willow now.

The loan shark is afraid of the Spike/Buffy twosome, and retreats, but Spike tells him he'll pay him back anyway.

At the Bronze, Michelle Branch is onstage singing, and Buffy is sitting alone in the depths of despair (or, as I call it, weekends). Spike approaches her, wanting to talk, but she gives him the cold shoulder.

Tara packs up her belongings and moves out of the Summers home. She tries to talk to Dawn, who is angry about it. Upstairs, Willow is in the bathroom, weeping about the bed that she's made.

Giles sits in his airplane seat, in silent contemplation.

The last shot of the episode is in the Bronze, with the song ending, and Buffy and Spike passionately making out under the stairs. Nice.

Amazing. Another top-notch episode, entertaining, moving, funnysad, and just cool. I don't really recognise this Rebecca Rand Kirshner lass, but I tip my hat to her, for writing a show that would be a serious contender for best of the season if it hadn't followed the damn musical.

And speaking of music. Having--don't laugh--watched more than a handful of WB-era teen dramas over the years (stuff like "Dawson's Creek," "Roswell," "Buffy," and "Smallville"), I've grown rather wary of the pop song shorthand ending an episode. I'm not sure if I want to waste time talking about its tiredness, triteness, and overuse on shows aimed at that target demographic. But boy, it must be so easy, since pretty much every WB show did it, and "Smallville" actually did it every single episode ("Tonight's episode of 'Smallville' featured music by Olsen Twins Covered With Yellowjackets and Lesbian Shishkabob, available at the WBdotcom."). But I gotta say, somehow, using Michelle Branch doing "Goodbye To You" was just excellent. Maybe it's just my personal taste, since I like the song***, but when Willow is on the bathroom floor crying while the lyrics say "You were the one I loved, the one thing I tried to hold onto" . . . that just works regardless of it being a cliche or not.

"Tabula Rasa" was a really fun, really nice episode. I don't know what point there is in saying more about it, but I would like to examine just how much the show has changed since its first episodes.

Change. It's one of the things that made "Buffy" such a unique show. I remember Trey Parker and Matt Stone saying they'd like "South Park" to be a fluid show that changed as it went on. Parker said, back around 1998 or so, that he hoped that the show would change so much that viewers who checked in three seasons later wouldn't even think it was the same show. Now while that didn't really happen with "South Park" (though there have been some significant changes over the years), it certainly has with BTVS.

Watching the next episode, "Smashed," it hardly compares with the Season Two episodes that I'm rewatching in our downtime. And I suppose that's irritating to someone who can only catch one or two a year (or longer), but it sure is fun on this show.

Wow, I've been going on. And, sadly, there's like ninety more episodes to go. So I'll keep on keepin' on.

The next "Angel" in the rotation was . . . well, already seen, but I'm going to blog about that show anyway. "Birthday"**** was written by Mere Smith, and it begins with Cordelia celebrating her 35th birthday, with the guys having--

What? She's only twenty-one? Come on, I may be naive, but I'm not a complete moron.

Okay, I checked. Yes, it's supposed to be Cordelia's twenty-first birthday. Yikes.

Regardless, the gang have a surprise party set up for her, but it's ruined by a hugely painful vision, which knocks her across the room. When she opens her eyes, she's no longer inside her body.

The others discover that Cordelia has been suffering brain damage from her visions and has been taking a lot of pain medication, but this vision really pushed her over the edge.

Cordelia, amazingly, is actually more concerned with the girl she saw in danger in her vision than her current situation. Okay, it alternates, but in reading a book Wesley has open on astral projection (tyranist paused it, and we spent a couple of minutes trying to translate the Latin), she waits for Angel to fall asleep and leaps into his body. She writes the address from her vision on the wall, but apparently, nobody notices.

Angel tells Lorne he wants to talk to The Powers That Be, and Lorne is really hesitant to make the appointment. While the others discuss what to do, a familiar demon appears before Cordelia. I pointed and said, "THAT guy!" referring to Skip from the "That Vision Thing" episode. He is there to explain what has happened to her, and sort of guide her on a Clarence the Angel sort of journey. He explains that the visions Doyle gave her weren't meant for non-demons, and they tend to kill humans. As a colourful example, a young woman appears, showing how the back of her head was blown out by a vision (presumably her last).

Skip shows her a bit of footage from the first episode of "Angel," where she and Angel ran into each other at a party, and explains that had she not bumped into the vampire with the good hair, she would've hit it off with a bigshot agent and become a famous actress, a sort of less witchlike Reese Witherspoon.

If she likes, he'll return her to her body and she will die from her visions, or he'll do a big of rejiggering of the timeline and she'll get to be that successful actress. Cordelia catches part of Angel's conversation with The Powers That Be, mainly the part where he tells them she's too weak for this kind of responsibility. And that pretty much makes up her mind.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to mention that tyranist hates it when movies/TV/stories do this: having a character only hear part of the conversation . . . the part that, taken out of context, is really really bad.

Suddenly, Cordelia is the star of a show called "Cordy!" which appears to be your typical really bad sitcom (just like the one you most love), and shows me that I've been misspelling her name every time I type "Cordie." She's finally a bigger star than Sarah Michelle Gellar, with tons of money and scads of fame and scores of underlings.

But in the back of her mind, she hears the word "Hyperion," and goes to the hotel, which is open and thriving in this new reality. She asks for a specific room and, being a V.I.P. is ushered up there immediately. Also immediately, she goes to the wall and tears the new wallpaper off, revealing the address she wrote down in her other life.

It's a place in Reseda, and that's where she goes. A teenage girl answers the door and, recognising her as Cordy(!), invites her in. She's just summoned a demon, and Cordelia fights it until--wham!--the front door bursts in, and Gunn and Wesley run in, there to, well, do what she's doing. The demon destroyed, Wesley introduces Gunn to Cordelia, who he knew (and made out with) in Season Three of "Buffy."

Wesley only has one arm in this timeline, and is quite a bit scragglier looking. If that is a word. When Cordelia tells him about her memory/vision leading her there, he tells her that Angel is also in L.A., and that he had a vision too. He takes her to see Angel, who is completely and totally insane (we're talking Andy Dick crazy), having inherited the painful visions from a man named Doyle, his only friend.

Cordelia instinctively knows what to do: she kisses Angel, and he passes the visions back into her. With that, the timeline is restored to where it was before, and Cordelia is once again standing with Skip, who isn't pleased with the turn of events. She tells him that she was meant to have the visions, and that the Powers That Be have their Heads That Be up their Asses That Be if they're just going to let her die rather than continue her mission.

He tells her that to keep the visions and live, she'll have to be turned into a part-demon herself, just like Jennifer Aniston, but that the transformation will be unpleasant to say the least. She agrees, and suddenly, she's back inside her body, and awakens from her coma.

The others are happy to see her okay, and she gets up to tell them what happened. She is interrupted by another vision, but this one is pretty much painless. Everyone reacts with surprise at her, and Cordelia realises she's floating a foot off the ground. The end.

This was a very good "Angel" episode. The IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE episode has been done so many times on so many different shows (and yes, again I immediately think of the "Star Trek: TNG" episode), but I have yet to get tired of it. If anything, this episode could've used an extra twenty minutes or half hour, just to make it a bit more epic and effective.

And since I've talked this long, I ought to say something more about the progression of Cordelia's character. She isn't even remotely the same character she was on "Buffy" Season One. I've been rewatching those early shows, and it's astounding what an awful human being Cordelia Chase started out as. But like real life, people change and grow (some for the better and some for the worse), and though I occasionally miss her unapologetic beastliness, it's actually been fairly believable that she's turned into this decent, altruistic human being.

Makes me wonder if there's hope for me too.

Rish Jacobian Outfield

*I do know what it means now, yes, but it makes me sound stupider to claim I still don't. And that's really what I'm here for, right?

**You know, in retrospect, this is a wise and interesting choice for the writers to make. I probably would have had a demon or evil influence (or those semi-lovable geek villains) mess up the spell, either by accident or design. But it's just BETTER to have the mistake be Willow's, whether due to hurriedness, nerves, or just carelessness. Most of the major mistakes I've made in my life were mine and mine alone.

***I doubt it, though, since the most egregious example that I can think of was from a "Smallville" episode, which used the Jewel song "Standing Still," another track I really like. Clark Kent stares longingly at Lana Lang in the high school hallway, while Jewel sings "Dooooo you want me, like I want you?" I grimace while writing this.

****You really ought to hear tyranist say "birthday" in Engrish. It's delightful.

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