14 June, 2011

The Great Buffy Rewatch: Something Blue

w Tracey Forbes
d Nick Marck

As mentioned, this ep caps the big Angel crossover, Buffy mentioning to Willow she only saw him in L.A. for five minutes – yep, sniffle for those of you who know.  As I say, I feel it could have been bigger than Pangs although I Will Remember You works so well that I write it off as “more of the change.”  Buffy has to move on, so that her relationship with Riley can evolve;  and fair enough.  But the biggest change I realized in watching these episodes again (primarily Pangs and Something Blue) is this:  this is where we begin to love Spike
            We’ve always loved to hate Spike, but these are the two eps in which Whedon & Co ingratiate him to The Scoobies and, more significantly, to us the audience.  Whedon himself says (I’m paraphrasing), “When we lost Cordelia to Angel, we needed someone to fill that saying-what-we’re-all-thinking hole, and Spike does that beautifully.”  So he was brought back.  Of course, to give him those Cordelia moments, and not have him back just to wage war on Buffy, he had to get into the group, hence the implant (introduced in Pangs), being held captive at Giles’, and his (still biting but) more comedic handling.
            Speaking of the comedy, Ms. Forbes handles it very well here;  in most people’s opinion, getting a tabula rasa after her Beer Bad

Giles is blind?

Xander goes to Giles, waves his hands wildly in front of Giles' face.
Stop whatever you're doing. You smell like fruit roll-ups.

This is the crack team that foils my every plan?

Spike's right. We have to get organized.

Why are you holding hands?

Xander turns, eyes them.
They have to hear it sooner or later...

Spike and I are getting married.

(to Giles)
How? What? How?

Three excellent questions.

Buffy and Spike kiss, big time.
(off this)
Can I be blind too?

            As I wrote in The Zeppo how much I love What Ifs, this too has that feel.  Some have said this ep feels like Season 1’s Nightmares, specifically in which (in that ep) Giles can no longer read, and everyone faces their own demons, but where I think Whedon & Co get away with it is in playing the comedy instead of rehashing a monster-of-the-week.[i]
And as I have the soft spot for Xander, I have to point out here that he’s the one to figure out what’s going on, underlining just how close he and Willow are.[ii]
All in all, I think these three eps playout quite nicely;  as I say, especially in repeated viewings when you’re not just coming off the whirlwind Buffy/Angel storyline and can watch Season 4 for its own merit.  I hope you’re enjoying it, and have enjoyed these three eps’ mostly comedic breather.  Because what comes next is -- wonderfully -- anything but.

[i]  (A similar argument can be made for Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight Vs Season 6’s Gone.)
[ii] Foreshadowing the Season 6 end.  Speaking of that, do take note of D’Hoffryn inviting Willow to join his merry men, foreshadowing just how powerful she is, and will become.

The Great Buffy Rewatch: Pangs

w Jane Espenson
d Michael Lange

            More so than most of the writers in The Whedonverse, I tend to gravitate toward Ms. Espenson.  While Whedon himself hits us with the big eps, Espenson tends to bring the funny, the off-kilter, and I often list more of hers under “personal faves.”
            For me, Pangs is bitter-sweet.  On the one hand, given as big a Buffy/Angel fan that I am (and I mean that as opposed to Buffy/Riley or Buffy/Spike), I was thrilled to hear we were getting our first crossover (after Angel left to L.A.).  Angel’s The Bachelor Party ends with Doyle having a vision of Buffy in danger, Angel returns to Sunnydale here, Buffy visits L.A. in Angel’s I Will Remember You, and it’s capped in Something Blue.  I just can’t help but feel that “Angel’s return to Sunnydale” should have been bigger – later in the season? – than for a primarily comedic episode such as this.[i]  Now, on the other hand, as well as Ms. Espenson handles this episode – especially with the funny – what could have been a monster-of-the-week peppered by Indian-Vs-Native-American soapboxing holds up really well, even after multiple viewings.
            The His Girl Friday banter of Giles and Willow arguing over that very “Vs” is really well written, from both sides, and is (almost) as funny as its counterpoint:  Buffy just wanting to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner.  There are great momens throughout like --

This isn't a Western, Buffy!  We're not at Fort... Giles,
with the cavalry coming to save us!  It's one lonely and
oppressed warrior guy who's just trying to --

-- kill a lot of people?

I didn't say he was right...

Will, you know how bad I feel.  This is eating me up --
(to Anya, who holds up the bottle of brandy)
-- a quarter cup, and let it simmer --
(to Willow, as Anya goes back)
-- but even though it's hard, we have to end this. Yes,
he's been wronged, and I personally would be ready to

Oh, someone put a stake in me!

            Capitalized by the great end with all of them at the table, even tied-to-the-chair Spike as returned-from-Syphillis Xander, loveable old Xander, blurts out that Angel was there. 

[i] Though I Will Remember You is anything but comedic, and one of the really great tortured romance episodes of both series.

The Great Buffy Rewatch: The Initiative

                     These three posts -- The Initiative, Pangs and Something Blue -- are another part of Nikki Stafford's The Great Buffy Rewatch on her blog, Nik At Nite;  which, as such the Buffy fan that I am, I was honored to be a part.  Like the first three I did -- The Zeppo, Bad Girls and Consequences -- they'll be broken into three posts, one per episode, with Spoilers as Endnotes.   I hope you enjoy!

I promised Nikki I’d keep this brief. 
My last entry – The Zeppo, Bad Girls and Consequences – ran nearly 6,000 words, longer than most, but she was kind enough to post as-is, and I do thank her for that.  It didn’t feel long (to me, hope you agree), but I did promise to keep this one around 1,500. 
I went back and looked at that first entry.  Yikes, the Zeppo part alone ran more than 1,500 words!  Had I once again bitten off more than I could chew?  I have to admit, I was nervous trying to cram so much fun into so few words.  (So why, you must be thinking, am I wasting so many with this drivel?  Well …)  Buffy’s a lot of fun.  More than anything else, it’s great fun, and we as fans get to enjoy it over and over again (without it ever feeling old;  probably the great compliment to Whedon & Co). 
I started watching from the very first ep, and by Season 2 my then-wife and I hosted every Tuesday night so friends could watch together.  (I actually miss yelling “It’s on!” when commercials ended, but I wax lyrical on that in a Dollhouse article I did:  http://whedonesque.com/comments/24175.)  I’ve always been a “more the merrier” kind of guy, but those get-togethers (especially by Season 4 when, along with Angel, it became a two-hour event) greeeeew;  so much so that a couple people started staying home to watch because our viewings were getting too rowdy.  “I can’t hear!”  “Wait, what just happened?”  (And we couldn’t TiVO back.)  To that end, my dear friend Andy Gattuso wrote up this (I kid you not, it was taped to the outside of the front door every Tuesday night) --

Frankly I was surprised I still had it.  (And I apologize for its crudeness.  I even blocked out a bit.  We were twenty-something then;  oof, it was back when I still smoked.)  Another dear friend of mine, Anne Mialaret, one of the regulars, actually stood out there until the first commercial break.  Now that’s a fan!  So much so, in fact, that when I couldn’t make it to Comicon during Buffy Season 3 to have our WB Posters signed, she got two and gave me one.

Now, if you’ve continued reading this far, I know you’re asking, “Why is he wasting all this time on this?”  Because the show is fun.  Because we as fans enjoy talking about the fun we’ve had watching it as much as the show itself.  Because, as consistently good as it is, and the longevity with which it will continue (and not get old), we’ll continue having fun with it.  So thanks, Andy and Anne.  All fans deserve a few words before we begin.
Speaking of, I better do so.  And so, once again, the camera pushes in on me staring wide-eyed at my laptop, furiously typing away and –
            Opening Credits.

The Initiative
w Doug Petrie
d James A. Contner

I’ve always thought that Season Four works really well – certainly better – the second time you see it.  I remember enjoying it as it aired, but there’s definitely a change in the air.  We no longer have The Library as headquarters.  Buffy isn’t living at home.  Angel is gone.  Oz having just left?  Everybody’s changing.  And, in typical Whedon & Co fashion, the first third of the season are pretty much stand-alones, only teasing with The Big Bad before finally revealing it.  We’ve been poked by The Commandos, but now we’re hit with them head on.  Not to mention the good-looking All-American who might be a new love interest for Buffy is one of them?  Indeed, lots of change in the air.
            In fact, Riley is the best example of Season Four working better the second time around.  For three years we fell in love with Buffy and Angel right along with them.  For my money they’re one of the great storytime romances.[i]  So, yes, it took a lot of time for me to get on the Riley bandwagon.  Years and multiple DVD viewings later.  Now I do like him.  But then?  No, change wasn’t all that comfortable.
            Which was most likely Whedon & Co’s plan, and one of the things that I think makes Buffy work through seven seasons.  While – as I wrote throughout Zeppo et al – they never wrote against character (key in a good show) they do love to shake things up.  And shake things up they do from Initiative forward.
            It’s interesting that it rests on Doug Petrie to make the turn.  He wrote Bad Girls which is Season 3’s turn, and here he is again, revealing for us The Initiative as Big Bad.[ii]  While I prefer my Big Bads to be a bit more fantastic (a la The Master, Spike/Drusilla/Angel, The Mayor)[iii], I guess the idea of a Government anti-demon conglomerate was inevitable.  Somebody was bound to ask, “Wouldn’t they have a hand in this by now?”  After all, we see rumblings of the like as far back as Season 1’s Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight.  That Whedon & Co handle it as well as Season 4 plays out deserves kudos.[iv]  Remember, we’re in the change.

[i] I’m getting ahead of myself, but Pangs begins the two-part crossover with the Angel ep I Will Remember You which only solidified their relationship for us long-viewing fans even after he’d left!
[ii] And I’m indeed getting ahead of myself here, but David Fury’s The I In Team will reveal Adam, the personification of The Initiative as Big Bad.
[iii] Even Glory and eventually The First.
[iv] Especially considering the Penultimate and then Finale.