7.14 First Date
7.15 Get It Done
Follow along in Bite Me!.
If you’re watching Angel, this week’s episodes are:
Follow along in Once Bitten.
This week’s episodes are ones that didn’t necessarily stand out for me (as someone mentioned in the comments last week, S7 is a lot like S5, in that the episodes just blend together and you can’t remember what each one is about in particular, because the season was so serialized). I was pleasantly surprised by just how good they were.
On Angel, we come to the end of the Angelus arc when Willow comes to town and performs a little mojo to bring Angel back, along with a little help from Faith. The scene of his bad hair days in the bar listening to Barry Manilow are worth the price of admission alone. Unfortunately, I neglected to mention last week that these episodes are out of synch with Buffy (sorry) so it’ll be a little odd when next week, in “Lies My Parents Told Me,” you’ll see Willow get a call from Fred to come to L.A. I’d completely forgotten about that, so I apologize. But it’s a little thing, and not necessary to watch one before the other, obviously.
This week’s guest host will cover “The Killer in Me” and “Get It Done” most thoroughly, so I’ll talk about “First Date,” mostly because I was pleasantly surprised by it on the rewatch. I remember this mostly as The Episode That Starred Ashanti (blaaarrggghhh) but I’d forgotten just how damn funny it was. (Then I checked Bite Me! and sure enough, I liked it the first time through, too… but was gaggy about Ashanti even then.) The dialogue is sublime, with Willow and Buffy talking in the living room as Willow folds clothes. The entire scene is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and the actors look like they’re having a great time with it. Willow and Buffy talk about Principal Wood, and Buffy wonders what it might be like to date a normal guy for once in her life.
WILLOW: Buff, if he's really interested, are you interested back?
BUFFY: I don't know. He's good-looking, and he's—he's solid, he's smart, he's normal. So, not the wicked energy, which is nice 'cause I don't want to only be attracted to wicked energy. Or what if he is wicked, in which case, is that why I'm attracted to him?
WILLOW: I'm gonna wait for that sentence to come around again before I jump on.
Buffy then speaks to Anya in the bathroom (more hilarity ensues), and then Spike and Buffy talk in the hallway, leading to yet another one of my favourite exchanges:
BUFFY: You don't have to—
SPIKE: What? Be noble? I'm not. Really, I'm all right. Think I still dream of a crypt for two with a white picket fence? My eyes are clear.
BUFFY: Good. I'm glad. Thank you.
SPIKE: Never much cared for picket fences, anyway. Bloody dangerous.
Once again, Jane Espenson proves why she’s one of my favourite writers on television.
And I haven’t even begun to mention the Chao-Ahn subtitles. When Buffy ended in 2003, I threw a big party for the finale viewing, and ahead of time I made up a booklet that people could take away. It was about 15 pages long, and contained my favourite quotes throughout the series – Willow & Oz, Spike lines, Xander commentary, Giles & Buffy – and I think one entire page might have been from this episode. ;)
Like this one:
WILLOW: Uh, this one's either "I just got lucky, don't call me for a while" or "my date's a demon who's trying to kill me."
KENNEDY: You don't remember which?
WILLOW: It was a long time ago.
DAWN: Well, if we play the percentages...
GILES: Something's eating Xander's head.
Or this one:
XANDER: What do you think happened? Another demon woman was attracted to me. I'm going gay. I've decided I'm turning gay. Willow, gay me up. Come on, let's gay.
XANDER: You heard me. Just tell me what to do. I'm mentally undressing Scott Bakula right now. That's a start, isn't it?
ANDREW: Captain Archer... (nods)
XANDER: Come on, let's get this gay show on the gay road. Help me out here.
Oh, Xander. You said way back in “Buffy Vs. Dracula” that you were no longer going to be anyone’s buttmonkey. You were wrong.
Of course, the key things in these episodes was finally seeing who Principal Wood was, and who his mom was. We don’t find out her name until the next episode, but it’s, like, the best possible name a Slayer could have. Truly.
These episodes start turning the season in the direction of the finale, finally, and we see General Buffy become a little more like Sergeant Buffy… a little too Full Metal Jacket for my tastes. She’s mean, out of character, and I know what the writers were attempting to do, but it just seemed inconsistent, especially when you see what she says in the episodes before and after. One minute she tells Spike she’s not ready for him not to be there, and the next she’s calling him a wimp and telling him to buzz off. Buffy’s nothing if not a complicated gal.
And as for Kennedy, I held back last week because I didn’t want to sway anyone, but I CAN’T STAND HER. Just when Dawn was becoming someone I could deal with and actually kinda like, it’s like they needed to fill the void with yet another annoying little person that I just want to whack upside the head. And that is Kennedy. She’s crass, rude, awful to people. She has no tact, and every word out of her mouth sounds like an accusation. I could never stand her. Sure, it would be hard to accept anyone after Tara, but it’s like they were trying to create the exact opposite of Tara. Why would Willow ever be attracted to someone who is THAT unpleasant? Oz was sweet, Tara was sweet, Kennedy’s awful. You can do better than this, Will. (And are we to assume the Potentials have no parents? Buffy’s burying them in the backyard like they’re cats.)
This week we have the amazing Beth Rambo once again, the editor of the Buffy Goes Dark book I’ve been featuring over there on the left since the beginning of S7. You want to read the best essays around on the final two seasons of the show, that’s the one. Take it away, Beth!
“The Killer in Me”
“Get It Done”
I started re-viewing these three episodes thinking, “Well, the episodes 13 and 14 aren’t among my favorites and they’re not that important. Willow’s dealing with her guilt, Buffy and Xander go on “first dates” that end badly, blah blah blah. But then I actually watched the episodes and remembered one of my maxims for this (and possibly any Whedon) series: There’s no such thing as an insignificant Buffy episode. While the A or B narratives of an individual episode may not thrill, some key element of the longer narrative arc will also be revealed, and there’s usually at least one bit of standout dialogue. With these three episodes, we are moving toward the end of Season Seven and the entire show, so expect to see the action start to ramp up.
“The Killer in Me” (written by Drew Z. Greenberg) deals with real and suspected killers among the Scoobies. As the Andrew admits to the First in “First Date,” “Confidentially a lot of [Buffy’s] people are murderers. Anya and Willow and Spike.” We have three narrative strands that recall seasons 4 and 5. When Willow finds herself drawn to Kennedy’s straightforward seductions, she becomes vulnerable to Amy’s “penance malediction” spell which reacts with guilt. In Willow, the spell combines with guilt for her vengeance fueled rage, the murder of Warren, and especially her guilt for surviving Tara’s death or for being unable to save Tara. The spell imposes a “penance” of literally forcing her to walk in Warren’s shoes and reenact his crime. Oddly, Kennedy’s resistance to the idea of magic, or perhaps, her faith in “fairy tale crap” magic, allows her to break the spell with a kiss, just as her kiss began it. The Kennedy/Willow relationship was (and perhaps remains) extremely controversial. A lot of people simply could not forgive the Mutant Enemy team for the death of Tara, and no one would have been an adequate replacement. I can’t really judge Willow & Kennedy’s conversation in the bar, but I can say that Kennedy is at her most charming in this scene, as opposed to her previous “brat” act, and she stands up for Willow admirably as the episode proceeds.
Spike, of course, was a killer before he regained his soul, and again under the influence of the First’s “sleeper” trigger. Now we learn he literally has a “killer” in him as the Initiative chip is “misfiring” and causing devastating pain. In another “back to the beginning” moment, Buffy calls Riley for help (comic covert ops!), then she and Spike return to the abandoned Initiative underground labs, in search of anaesthesia. Of course they fight the obligatory demon, and then I couldn’t help smiling when the Initiative guys turn up with orders from Riley: “We're to provide you anything you need to help assface here. Those were his exact words, ma'am.” They can either remove the chip or repair it. Suspense!
And while all this is going on, Giles, recently returned from his travels with numerous rescued Potential Slayers, takes them out to the desert for a vision quest like of Buffy’s in Season 5. He says: “apparently, someone told them that the vision quest consists of me driving them to the desert, doing the hokey pokey until a spooky Rasta-mama slayer arrives and speaks to them in riddles.” When a phone call from an English Watcher suggests that Giles may have been killed by Bringers, and Andrew (who should know) reveals that the First not only appears as dead people but is incorporeal and cannot touch or be touched, suddenly everyone suspects Giles is an avatar of the first. They chase after him and wackiness ensues. I wondered about this myself for a while, but my favorite part of this scene is Andrew’s final threat to convince the crew to take him along: “OK, well, if you leave me here alone, I'll do something evil, like burning something or gluing things together.”
Key points: Amy is unrepentant, Spike’s chip will kill him if it’s not removed or repaired, manifestations of the First are non-corporeal (although some early versions did appear to touch people, but let it go), and Giles is, indeed, alive. Andrew is not evil, just annoying.
“First Date” is the least re-watchable of these three episodes, and also a bad pun. Notable information in the teaser: How Giles escaped from the Bringers (two versions of this—instinct! Or he heard its shoes squeak). And Buffy decided to have the Initiative remove Spike’s chip, which Giles thinks is very dangerous. Two literal first dates: Principal Wood asks Buffy out to dinner, which is inappropriate (“I’ll get the paperwork,” he says, apparently referring to her signing some form stating there is no sexual harassment). She suspects he may be evil, yet finds him attractive. Willow advises her to “dress for the ambiguity” but they agree that Robin’s job as Sunnydale H.S. principal is a problem:
BUFFY: …there he is. On the hell mouth. All day, every day. That's got to be like being showered with evil. Only from underneath.
WILLOW: Not really a shower.
BUFFY: A bidet. Like a bidet of evil.
This and other scenes reveal the comic touch of writer Jane Espenson, but overall, the episode doesn’t hold together particularly well. Xander, too, meets an attractive woman at a hardware store…but she turns out to be a demon. AGAIN. (Stunt-casting of Ashanti in this role doesn’t particularly help.) Recall this scene from the end of 1.8 “I Robot, You Jane.” They’ve all been discussing their disastrous supernatural lovers (vampire, demon robot, giant praying mantis):
BUFFY: Let's face it: none of us are ever gonna have a happy, normal relationship.
XANDER: We're doomed!
Their laughter trails off into dubious silence.
Giles is concerned about getting down to business and preparing the potentials (his comically gruesome flash-cards recall 4.10 “Hush”), while Andrew’s “date” is literally with the First (there’s the pun, sorry), who appears to him as Jonathan & tries to convince him to find Willow’s gun and shoot the Potentials, “because when they’re gone, the [Slayer] line is gone.”
We also learn the truth about Wood: he’s the son of a Slayer, which explains how he knows about Buffy and more. He’s looking for the vampire who killed his mother—and when she appears to him, courtesy of the First, we should be able to guess that she is the “subway slayer” of Season Five’s “Fool for Love.”
“Get It Done” (written by Douglas Petrie) is one of Season Seven’s key episodes. It opens with one of Buffy’s real-seeming dreams, in which she’s checking on the Potentials and sees one, Chloe, weeping in a corner. She tries to comfort the girl, only to be tackled by the First Slayer, who says, “It’s not enough.” At the high school, Wood gives her his mother’s “Slayer emergency kit,” which should have been passed down to her, then invites himself to the Summers house and, after meeting the Scoobies, Andrew the “guestage” baking to assuage his guilt (like Willow after “Something Blue”), and the Potentials, is introduced to Spike as a vampire. Wood is still testing the First’s information here, and doubts Spike’s sincerity overall. Buffy finally absorbs the truth that the Potentials aren’t prepared, her usual gang is now a “Wicca who won’t-a,” a “Wimpire,” a carpenter, and a sarcastic ex-demon. Everyone has to step up and start doing the impossible—getting it done. The emergency kit turns out to contain a mysterious locked box full of items which, surprisingly, Dawn is able to explain—she’s been studying, it seems, and can now step in as “Watcher Junior” to do the exposition and read the Sumerian: “You can’t just watch, you have to see” (a version of one of my themes for the season). Buffy must go “back to the beginning” of the Slayer line & reenact the making of the first slayer in order to gain the knowledge that she doesn’t want more demonic power (“You can’t fight evil with evil”), and this in itself is the beginning of the knowledge she seeks. Just as in episode 7.1, the shadow men (or two out of three of them) turn out to be “manifest spirits” she can fight and disperse by breaking a talismanic staff (“It’s always the staff”), in order to gain the information she seeks.
Meanwhile Dawn, in her mentoring role, walks Willow through the steps of using serious magic again, and Kennedy learns that there’s more to magic than “fairy tale crap.” Spike reclaims his vampire badness by retrieving the leather duster he took from the subway Slayer as a trophy (5.7 “Fool for Love”). As he strides down the high school corridor in this familiar coat, Principal Wood speaks from a doorway: “Nice coat. Where did you get it?” “New York,” answers Spike, confirming that he is, indeed, the vampire who killed Wood’s mother.
Now these are the Scoobies we remember. But are they ready for thousands of ubervamps?
Next week: Wow, we’re coming into the home stretch with only three weeks left! David Lavery and Lorna Jowett return to cover off the next three episodes, which feature an episode that never ceases to make me laugh until it hurts (oh Andrew, I ♥♥♥ you), a great episode that flashes back to our favourite vampire again, the return of an awesome character, and if there’s anyone out there who loves Firefly and hasn’t seen Buffy, you’re in for a wicked treat.
7.17 Lies My Mother Told Me
7.18 Bad Girls
Our Angel episodes are:
4.17 Inside Out
4.18 Shiny Happy People
See you next week!