"Revelations," etc. S1998 / E7-9
- B+ Community Grade
Out of all the people in Buffy’s immediate slayer-circle, who’d have guessed that Faith would be the one with the least to hide? But you can’t have an episode called “revelations” unless there's something to reveal, and thus far Faith’s been an open book. Now Buffy, on the other hand….
The news breaks in “Revelations” that Angel is alive again, and that he and Buffy has been practicing a very sensual version of yoga together. This does not go over well with the slayer-deputies, who stage what looks like an intervention, but is actually an excuse for everyone to yell at Buffy. (Willow, disappointed that the gang isn’t following proper intervention form, complains to Giles: “No one’s doing the I-statements!”) Giles reminds Buffy that Angel once tortured him “for hours, for pleasure.” Xander brings up the death of Miss Calendar, which may be the ultimate “How do you forgive this?” incident. And when Buffy insists that the relationship between her and Angel has changed, Oz notes that when Xander found them together, they were kissing. (“Old habit,” Buffy says to Angel at their yoga session. “You think they make a patch for this?”)
But when Oz mentions the secret kissing, Willow flinches a little, because she has a secret of her own: she and Xander are still in The Surreptitious Make-Out Club. Willow tries to confess her sins to Buffy later, but a demon attack interrupts their conversation, and after the moment passes all Willow's willing to admit is, “I opened my SAT booklet five minutes early.” Xander, meanwhile, chooses to channel his anxiety over the Willow affair first into demon-hunting, and then to getting really, really defensive.
We’ll deal with the defensiveness in a moment, but first the demon, whose name is Lagos, and who has come to Sunnydale in search of the power-bestowing Glove Of Myneghon. Lagos is trailed closely by Gwendolyn Post, who arrives claiming to be Faith’s new Watcher. Ms. Post expresses exasperation with Giles’ resources, grumbling, “Where’s the rest of your books? Your actual library?” (When she asks about one Lagos-related book in particular, he mumbles, “It’s on order.”) Buffy is suspicious of Ms. Post from the start—“Interesting lady. Can I kill her?” she chirps—and with good reason. Turns out that Ms. Post is an ex-Watcher, looking to grab The Glove Of Myneghon for herself. (“I swear there was a memo…” Giles says, post-Post.)
Before the revelation of Ms. Post’s deception, she manages to get into Faith’s head a little, challenging her warrior instinct and her “Spartan” living quarters. Between Ms. Post’s criticism—and Xander deflecting his guilt over his Willow-smooching by spilling his guts to Faith about Angel—our cocky co-slayer gets more than a little stirred-up, and decides to take action. When she finds Giles knocked-out (by Ms. Post), she’s convinced that Angel is the culprit, and with Xander in tow she heads off to slay.
This was my revelation from “Revelations:” Faith is not a very good slayer. (Or as Ms. Post put it, “Word of advice: You’re an idiot.”)
I found the climactic battle between Angel, Ms. Post, Buffy and Faith a little predictable—mostly because it involved Dushku and Gellar’s stunt doubles perfunctorily kicking at each other—but I though the big scene of Ms. Post glove-ing up and Buffy defeating her by severing her arm was pretty wicked. And I liked that Angel got to play the hero and start the slow process of changing minds. (“He saved me from a horrible flame-y death,” Willow says. “That sort of makes me like him again.”)
Mainly though, “Revelations” set up the episodes that follow, with an important reminder that while secrets may be necessary evils in everyday life, in the slaying business, dishonesty kills.
A whole shelfload of other shoes dropped in “Lovers Walk,” most notably when Oz and Cordelia learn about Willow and Zander’s snogging shenanigans. And just to twist the knife into we faithful viewers, the Buffy writers make Oz and Cordelia extra-adorable at the top of this episode. We see that Cordelia has been putting pictures of Xander up in her locker. We witness the crushingly cute sight of Oz giving Willow a Pez-Witch, and her wishing she had a Pez-Werewolf to give him in return. We even find out that Oz’s werewolf instincts kick in when Willow’s in danger, enabling him to smell her from afar.
After all that, Willow decides that enough’s enough, and begins to assemble the ingredients for an anti-love potion from her local occult shop, in order to rid Xander and herself of their mutual lust, forever. But an old acquaintance sees her in the shop: My favorite Sid Vicious-worshipping wildcard vampire Spike, who promptly kills the nice spell-lady—another potentially great character prematurely gone from this show—and kidnaps Willow and Xander. Why? Because he’s heartbroken over losing the love of the ever-unfaithful, ever-unstable Drusilla, and he wants Willow to cook up a Drusilla-will-love-me-again spell. And if she doesn’t? He’ll kill her undercover boyfriend, Xander.
As a confirmed Spike-lover since last summer, you can imagine how happy I was to see him return to the show: swilling booze, passing out in the sun and catching fire, spotting a Sunnydale park bench and pining over the homeless man he and Dru once killed there, and bursting into Joyce Summers’ home and spilling his wounded guts about how hurt he feels. All and all, it was a bravura return performance for James Marsters as Spike, and even if the character comes and goes rather quickly—ultimately deciding, after kicking some of his fellow vampires’ asses, that all he really needs to do is man-up again for Dru—he has a major impact on the storyline.
First off, Spike’s trapping Xander and Willow together leads to them being caught making out by Oz and Cordelia, who’ve rushed into Spike’s lair to save them. It also leads to Cordelia falling through a staircase and getting impaled (followed a clever misdirection shot of a funeral, then Buffy walking by and saying to Willow, “So, Cordelia’s going to be okay…”). Second off, Spike’s chat with Joyce leads to her finding out that Angel’s alive again, and back in her daughter’s life. And thirdly and most importantly, Spike’s monologue about how love is like “blood screamin’ inside ya to work its will” leads to Buffy realizing that she and Angel can’t be together even as friends, because like Xander and Willow, they won’t be able to control themselves, and eventually they’ll end up doing that thing that turns nice young vampires into soulless murder-beasts. (Even Giles worries about this, telling Buffy, “Don’t do anything rash,” when she heads off for an Angel-date. Her reply: “There’s not going to be any rash, anywhere.”)
I’ll get more into the Xander/Willow/Buffy/Angel connection down in the “Overall Thoughts” (and why I think this whole Xander/Willow subplot has been brilliant in its way), but I can’t leave this episode without noting the other big shoe that fell in “Lovers Walk”—that being the news that Buffy got a 1430 on her SATs, and can pretty much write her ticket to go to any college she chooses. Except there’s that whole “chosen one” thing. And the whole Angel thing. Like a lot characters on this right about now, Buffy’s finding herself in a situation where nearly any choice she makes is bound to be a bad one.
I’ve always felt that Cordelia was an under-used character on this show, so I was glad to see her get to be the centerpiece of an episode. I also can’t imagine a more poignant, sorrowful moment in the run of this series to date than the scene in “The Wish” where Cordelia’s ex-friends say they’ve found the perfect post-Xander guy for her and then lead her to a hapless, Big Gulp-swilling geek. (It’s a measure of how much Cordy’s grown—or perhaps my own sympathies—that she seemed to feel as bad for Big Gulp Boy as she did for herself.)
The much-maligned Marti Noxon penned “The Wish,” and it’s her best of Season Three episode so far. After reading so much Noxon-bashing—and kind of shrugging through her “Dead Man’s Party” and “Beauty And The Beasts” these past two weeks—I went back and checked out Noxon’s Season Two credits and was surprised to find that she’s credited with some of that season’s best episodes: “What’s My Line,” “Surprise,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and even the silly-but-fun “Bad Eggs.” (Of course she was also on board for the excruciating “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered,” but hey, you can’t win them all.) And I thought “The Wish” was a smart, often thrilling installment of Buffy, with a theme that really resonated.
“The Wish” opens well, with the coolest-looking demon-kill of the season. But alas, dispatching bad guys doesn’t placate the troubled souls of the now-Angel-free Buffy and Oz-free Willow. While those two and Xander band together to help heal their broken hearts, Oz is off on his own—not wanting to give Willow the satisfaction of simple forgiveness—and Cordelia’s trying to regain her status as the most popular, trend-setting girl in school. When her efforts fail, Cordelia determines that all the trouble in her life can be traced back to Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale, and she wishes that Buffy had never come to town. And as it so happens, her one new friend—a new girl in school named Anya—is actually a man-hating “vengeance demon” named Anyanka, who bears a magic amulet that grants wishes.
But only real complaint about “The Wish” is that there wasn’t a whole lot of real dramatic tension in the alternate reality Anya and Cordelia conjured. I knew we weren’t going to be stuck there for very long—that’s the kind of thing that TV shows do now, but not in 1998—and I knew that all the characters weren’t really going to die. (If they had, it would’ve freed up a lot of time for me each week; but I’d also wouldn’t have any more Buffy to watch, and that would be sad.)
What I liked about “The Wish” is that it avoided what I call The It’s A Wonderful Life Irritation. As much as I love It’s A Wonderful Life, it’s always driven me nuts that Jimmy Stewart’s character can’t seem to grasp the rules of the new reality he’s thrust into, no matter how many times Clarence The Angel explains it to him. (George, get with the program… You Were Never Born! No One Knows Who You Are!) Cordelia, on the other hand, doesn’t take long to realize that she’s awakened in a Buffy-free world, where The Master reigns supreme, half the teenage population is dead, The Bronze “isn’t cool,” you’re not allowed to wear “come-bite-me” outfits, and only Giles, Oz and Larry are keeping up the fight against the ever-growing vampire population.
Of course Cordelia isn’t around long enough for anyone to appreciate how quickly she catches on. She gets killed by the undead, very Spike-and-Dru-esque Xander and Willow—though not before she tells Giles that he needs to contact Buffy. Giles takes Cordelia's advice and finds Buffy after a very Bob Newhart-esque phone call (“Yes, I’m sure there’s a lot of demonic activity in Cleveland.”), and when the heroine arrives, it’s obvious that we’re in an alternate reality because this new Buffy has a scar on her face. (Also, she seemed to me to be walking a lot like Faith.) The reconstituted gang (minus Xander, Willow and Cordelia) roam through a sort of Escape From New York-y version of Sunnydale to confront The Master, who’s come up with a gruesome plan to mechanize the blood-extracting process. Buffy and crew are overwhelmed, and everybody dies—Xander and Willow inclusive.
Right as that happens though, Giles summons Anyanka and destroys her amulet, which resets reality back to the moment of Cordelia’s wish. (And leads to a very funny scene of Anya hissing “Done!” over and over, increasingly frustrated that Cordelia’s wishes aren’t coming true anymore.) All is set right—or at least the lousy version of “right” that pertained when the episode began.
I liked “The Wish”’s vision of a world where the terrorists have won, and citizens are curtailing their behavior in increasingly futile attempts to live murder-free. Even though the circumstances were exaggerated—and even though the reset Cordelia has no idea how bad she almost had it—the message for Buffy fans is clear. No matter how much our heroes fret and tinker, life’s never going to be perfect.
Judging by last week’s comments, a lot of you don’t like the Xander/Willow secret-love plot-arc, but I’m wildly in favor of it, for a couple of reasons. First off, the unresolved romantic tension from the first two seasons had to be dealt with eventually. Second off—and more importantly, in my opinion—after all the yelling at Buffy that Xander and Willow have been doing early in the season, they needed a little taste of what it’s like to juggle secrets, responsibilities, and uncontrollable emotions. I hope they’ve regained a little sympathy for the Slayer. Me, I keep thinking of the song “I Know Things Now” from Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods.
“Isn’t it great to know a lot? And a little bit… not.”
-Oz’s band continues their Bronze residency. (Seriously, they’re like Buffalo Springfield at the Whiskey.)
-A lot of great Xander lines in these episodes, like him muttering to Giles, “Hey, you’re not the watcher of me,” and later “I call crossbow!” to Faith in “Revelations;” and him moping around in “The Wish,” moaning, “I can not stress how much I don’t have plans,” and saying that Cordelia’s big show of happiness at The Bronze is the case of “tears of a clown… or is it grins of a sad person?” (I also like that he feels he follows “a higher logic” when it comes to affairs of the heart.)
-When did “enjoy the veal” become the standard “Hey I’ve just said something funny!” punctuation?
-I had no idea until this week that the phrase “bored now” could be traced back to Vampire Willow on Buffy.
-Signs Of 1998 That Are Very Much Of Their Time: Posters for Whiskeytown’s Stranger’s Almanac and Cornershop’s When I Was Born For The 7th Time.
-Signs Of 1998 That Proved Strangely Enduring: Willow referring to herself as “Cletus, the Slack-Jawed Yokel”
-Oz notes that his sarcastic voice sounds a lot like his regular voice. A nice bit of self-awareness on Seth Green’s part.
-Buffy’s looking extra-cleavage-y in “Lovers Walk.” And that’s before she starts doing jumping-jacks.
-The fact that The Mayor knows who Spike is makes me want to see an alternate version of the first two Buffy seasons, told from The Mayor’s point-of-view.
-Buffy, on her mom’s reaction to her SAT scores: “Her head spun around and exploded.” Giles, genuinely concerned: “Is that metaphorical?”
-I meant to ask this last week when Buffy was talking about getting a driver’s license, but how close do you think everything is in Sunnydale? Buffy has to do a lot of walking, but she never seems especially worn-out.
-The blessing and the curse of Wikipedia: I looked up Anya to make sure I had the details (and spelling) of her character correct, and learned—to my surprise—that she’s going to be a recurring character on the show. Boy, you’d have no idea of that from watching “The Wish.” I’m not sure if I’m glad to know that—since I like the character—or disappointed that I won’t be surprised later on.
-I didn’t talk much about Angel this week because I feel like his character is still in “in process” mode, waiting to become a major part of the story again. After the transformations of Season Two, it’s strange to see him back to being neutered and mopey and philosophical. (He’s reading Sartre! Spike’s calling him “the great poof!”) I hope he regains some of his sense of humor eventually, but I understand that right now the show has to treat him like its characters do: warily, and with a lingering fear that if they get too close, he’ll turn again, and dominate.