Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buffy Wednesday (continued)

Picking up where I left off last time, we'd finished the first DVD of both "Angel" and "Buffy" now, and it was a toss-up which disc we'd start next. We ultimately chose "Buffy," and next up was "Selfless," written by Drew Goddard. Goddard went on to write CLOVERFIELD and the J.J. Abrams shows "Alias" and "Lost," but this was his first episode of "Buffy."

"I boned a troll, I wreaked some wrath,
But on the whole I've had no path;
I like to bowl, I'm good with math,
But who am I?"

So, Willow is getting settled back in at Buffy's house (and back in college as well), and Xander and Buffy are talking about Anya. He's pretty sure things are improving with her now.

Cut to: Anya at a frathouse on campus, surrounded by dead bodies, their hearts ripped out of their bodies. Hmmm.

We flash back to Vikingland, in the year 800, where Anya lives with Olaf, her big bearded husband. Anya was known as "Aud" then, and she spoke Swedish. She loves her husband, loves having rabbits around, and is nervous about a wench down at the tavern he's been seeing a lot of.

We get our requisite Spike scene, down in the school basement. Buffy is talking to him, being more gentle than usual, telling him he has to get out of there, since the place is making him crazier. She forgives him for the sins of his past, and he appears to be doing a bit better sanity-wise. And then, the REAL Buffy comes down, much harder and colder than the one he was just talking to (was this just a hallucination, or is this another manifestation of that nasty Evil that was taunting him in the first episode?).

Willow is on the college campus, when she sees Anya, walking out of the frathouse, looking a little dazed. Anya says hello and not much else, but Willow sees blood on her hands (quite literally in this case) and decides to check out the frathouse after she's gone.

She finds all the dead boys, and a weeping, fairly hysterical dark-haired girl hiding in one of the closets. She's murmuring that she wants to take it back, and Willow finds out from her that one of the fratboys humiliated her in front of the others, and she wished he could know how it felt to have his heart ripped out. And then a big CGI spider appeared and did it. The same big CGI spider that's creeping up on her right now.

Willow uses her magic to knock it out the window, momentarily turning dark and angry at the girl. She returns to normal, but I guess we can see that Dark Willow will always be with her.

We flash back to Vikingland, where Aud/Anya has transformed her husband into a troll. The villagers run in terror and he causes all sorts of destruction, while she watches with contentment. D'Hoffran appears to her, and praises her fine handywork. He offers her the chance to do that sort of thing again and again, and
she accepts.

We see Halfrek the Vengeance Demon visiting Anya, praising her most recent vengeance as exactly the kind of monster she used to be. Anya seems uncomfortable about it all, but clearly (and tyranist commented on this as well), Halfrek is the kind of influence on Anya that Amy the Witch was on Willow.

Speaking of Willow, she has told Buffy what she saw, and Buffy and Xander go looking for the big CGI spider in the woods. Buffy finds it and kills it, and when they get home, Willow tells them who was responsible for all those deaths. Xander is angry that Willow wouldn't have told him first, and that's pretty valid, but now that Buffy knows what Anya has done, she only sees one course of action.

We flash back to the Russian Revolution. Anya and Halfrek are in a mansion filled with dead bodies while St. Petersburg burns outside, enjoying some tea. I guess they're showing better times.

'Cause in the here and now, Xander tries to convince Buffy not to kill Anya. He argues that when one of their friends goes bad (ie Willow), they help them, not kill them. Buffy reminds Xander that she killed Angel when he turned evil, and she loved him like, well, like she never loved anybody. I guess that's hard to argue with, but Xander does try. Buffy and Xander go to the frat house, where I guess they knew Anya would show up (I don't quite remember how that worked, but the episode was good enough I do not at all care).

Willow digs up the talisman she got from D'Hoffrin when she was wishing vengeance on Oz (boy, does that seem like a long time ago, and I've only been watching for a year), and he appears, thinking she wants to be a demon now. After all, he killed Warren in much the same way a vengeance demon would.

Anya is as cold and unrepentant as a FOX executive, though she does get off a couple really good lines, such as asking Buffy if she ever had any friends she didn't try to kill. She throws Xander across the room, and after she does the same to Buffy, the Slayer thrusts a sword through Anya's chest, nailing her body against the far wall. Fade out.

We flash back to 2001, during the "Once More, With Feeling" singing epidemic. Anya and Xander are happy and in love, and he dozes, muttering, "I just want a happy ending," a fairly major hint that he wished for the whole song-and-dance episode. Contemplating her role in the world, she sings, "I'm the Mrs.," dancing around him while he sleeps.

I had always assumed this was a deleted tune from that episode, but it makes a little more sense now. I'd always liked the song, but figured it was deleted because it was kind of redundant, or replaced by "I'll Never Tell." I'd heard the song nearly as much as the tracks from "Once More, With Feeling," but while I'd always enjoyed the lightness and humour of the song before, in context, I sure wasn't laughing. This was it, the end of Anya's life, and bastard that I am, I had been clamouring for it just a blog-post ago. And we were sort of celebrating that life, in an interesting way, but I was feeling pretty darn bad about it all.

When the song is done, we cut back to Anya, skewered by Buffy's sword. But to my great surprise, Anya arises, pulls the sword out, and tells Buffy it takes a lot more than that to destroy a vengeance demon.

And you know, as spoileriffic as the internet is, I had no idea what happened to Anya before the end of "Buffy." I totally believed that she was dead there. Joss has killed people far less dignity-ly before this.

So, they start to fight again, but then D'Hoffryn shows up and stops the fight. Immediately, Anya tells him she wants to undo what she did, to take back the fratboy killing. He is blown away by her request, and I guess I was too, since she appeared a bit unrepentant before, but I guess she's complicated.

D'Hoffryn tells her the price to undo her magic is the life of a vengeance demon, and she accepts. So, he conjures up Halfrek and kills her. His theory is that killing her friend will hurt her more than just killing her, and he strikes Anya of her vengeance powers, but does bring back the fratboys to life. D'Hoffryn disappears, but before he goes, he reminds them, "From beneath you, it devours."

Anya leaves the frathouse, appearing confused and lost, and Xander goes after her. I wondered if it was possible their relationship could be salvaged, but he when he asks if she'll be alright, she replies that she doesn't know, but that she'll find out her place in the world on her own. And Anya walks away. The end.

So, this episode was wildly uneven. I really liked it, and I also really didn't. But hey, that was Season Six in a nutshell. I figured we had said goodbye to Anya on the show, and wasn't sure if she'd be better off skewered, or a villain, or a recurring guest, or what. The only thing I was sure of was that I was glad to see Halfrek die. But that's just me.

The second episode was "Him," written by Drew Z. Greenberg. I wondered if it might not be a companion piece to the "Angel" episode "She," but it wa'n't.

Amazingly, Emma Caulfield was in the opening titles, though I figured someone had just been too lazy to edit her out. But no, Anya was in this episode, and, though it's like admitting I'm wrong, it was a better show for it.

It starts with Spike coming to live in Xander's apartment. It's similar to the Season Four stuff in Xander's basement, except Spike is now still a bit crazy. I guess being in the basement of the high school was just making him crazier and Buffy took pity on him. Dawn doesn't understand why Buffy would help Spike, and it's possible a lot of audience members were asking that too.

Dawn sees this handsome dude in a letterman jacket at school (his name is RJ) and falls instantly in love. We can tell because a) the theme from A SUMMER PLACE plays when she looks at him, and b) she gets really clumsy.

Amazingly, there's Anya, being attacked by a demon, and Buffy helping her out. Even more amazingly, Buffy tells Anya that she's still one of her friends, so she should still hang out and fight evil and stuff.

Dawn, meanwhile, is doing what she can to get close to R.J. the Jock, and I found her attempts a) absolutely adorable and b) pretty darn fearless. I suppose fighting monsters all her "life" kinda puts handsome teenagers in their proper perspective. She digs up Buffy's Season 1 cheerleader outfit and tries out for the squad (messing it up pretty badly), and tries to make conversation with him (which is also somewhat messy).

Well, it turns out that R.J.'s a football player, and there's another jock jockeying (see what I did there?) for quarterback. Lucky for R.J., Dawn pushes the other jock down a flight of stairs, and he's out of the running for QB.

Of course Dawn gets called to Principal Wood's office, but she tells him that the other jock simply fell down the stairs, and he seems to buy it. R.J. is grateful, and asks Dawn out. They go to the Bronze, where Buffy and pals are also hanging out. They see R.J. the Jock dancing with some scantily-clad chick, and both Xander and Willow check her out. To everyone's horror, it turns out to be Dawn.

Buffy tells her she's dressed inappropriately, and Dawn throws a fit about being able to do whatever she wants. In a huff, Dawn stomps out of the Bronze and into the alley where, I don't know, forty percent of the town's vampire attacks seem to occur. But instead of a vampire, it's another high school girl who attacks her, angry that she was out with R.J.. Buffy breaks up the fight and decides to check out this R.J. dude herself.

And check him out she does, falling instantly into lust with him. At school, Principal Wood is unhappy with his lack of academic achievement, and Buffy takes her opportunity to talk to R.J. in a counsellor/student sort of way . . . but it suddenly becomes a "Miss Summers, you're trying to seduce me" moment. They go into an empty classroom to get it on.

Unfortunately, a lovestruck Dawn also goes looking for R.J., and sees them making out. She runs into Xander, who also sees the couple dry-humping. He interrupts it, and they quickly separate like a pair of courteous boxers.

Well, Xander tells Willow about it, blaming a love spell. They bring Anya in, and have some kind of intervention with Buffy. And Dawn. And the sisters each insist they love R.J. and he loves them too. Willow gets on the ole computer and finds out that R.J. had a brother who went to school with them, and Xander and Spike go to his place to, I don't know, move the plot along.

The brother used to pick on Xander, but is now a pudgy, lonely guy about a third as pathetic as Rish Outfield. He was popular in high school, and gave his letterman jacket to R.J. when he came of age. Obviously, that is the source of the love spell.

Meanwhile, R.J. comes over to Buffy's house to talk to her, but Anya and Willow won't let him in. Instead, they dismiss him and then decide that they are in love with him, more in love with him than anyone else is.

Next followed the most entertaining part of the whole episode, where each girl decides to prove her love for R.J. while the screen splits into four Brian DePalmaesque quadrants. Buffy decides to kill Principal Wood for giving R.J. a hard time. Anya decides to rob a bank to impress R.J., 'cause money is cool. Willow decides to use magic to turn R.J. into a girl so they can, like, be together (and it sort of makes me wonder, just how bad was sex with Oz?*). And Dawn? Well, she doesn't really have any of the talents the others have, so she decides to prove her love for R.J. . . . by killing herself.

And people still continue to dislike Dawn?

So, Xander and Spike come home while Willow is performing her sex change spell, and then go off to stop Buffy from killing the principal (it was quite hilarious, as she had dug out the rocket launcher from "Innocence"), then Willow uses magic to track down Dawn, who is lying on the railroad tracks. Buffy does a big rescue, then tells Dawn she can have R.J., because no boy is worth dying for.

Xander and Spike find R.J. and steal his coat, then they burn it at Buffy's house. Everyone feels embarrassed over what they almost did. Especially Anya, who actually did rob a bank, but didn't tell anybody about it. The end.

Dude, this was such a good episode. It was funny and light and well done in the way that the old ones were, before Angel turned all icky. It's nice that they can throw one like this our way, in the middle of the pathos and the stuff that devours from below us.

It took me the lifespan of a cockroach to write this summary, and I shudder to think how long my "Angel" recap will take.

Until then, I remain,

Rish Outfield, Esquire

*Or conversely, how good was sex with Tara?

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