I don’t have a whole lot to say about this week’s Angel, which was entertaining in spots but largely struck me as a missed opportunity—one that was over before it really began. The main purpose of the episode seemed to be to defuse any growing romantic feelings Fred might have for Angel, by letting her see why Angel’s not the relationship type. At the start, Fred’s excited by the prospect of going out with Angel to see a Charlton Heston double-feature at the Nuart, but later, when he asks her to go out clubbing and she sees him making a move on Lilah, it breaks her heart. Now, she knows that Angel’s unreliable as a potential boyfriend, if for no other reason than that he can turn evil at a moment’s notice.
Of course it wasn’t really Angel who asked her on a real date, and not really Angel who hit on Lilah. No, for that, blame Marcus Roscoe (played by Rance Howard), an old man who uses a conjuring orb to swap souls with studly young men so that he can party with sexy ladies. The problem is that Marcus burns out those young bodies quickly and has to retreat into his frail old one, with its bad ticker. When Marcus meets Angel, whose body doesn’t wear out, he’s ready to make the soul-switch permanent.
I know it’s probably too early in the season to introduce a long-range arc, but I couldn’t help thinking that the Marcus/Angel body-switch story had enough potential for at least a two-parter. As it is, the actual mystery of Roscoe and his crimes isn’t that difficult for our heroes to solve, and the scenes with him in Angel’s body—while funny—don’t last very long. (And I could’ve done without the pat conclusion to the story, which sees the gang forcing Roscoe to switch back, so that Angel can insult him with, “I’ll tell you why you have a weak heart; you never use it!”)
Still, those Rocoe-as-Angel scenes are amusing, as he gradually learns who and what Angel is, all while scarfing down food and chasing down skirts. (“Wes or Gunn … they’re a great part of our investigating team … Working here with us in this old abandoned hotel.”) And the storyline does what it’s supposed to do, which is to give the team an excuse to explain “Angelus” to Fred and to warn her away from getting too close to their champion. Poor Fred. Everyone’s so eager to draw her out of her shell, so she can be just as miserable as they are.
Previously, on this Buffy blog: “I have some thoughts on Buffy’s existential predicament that I want to save for next time.” And now, that thought….
When talking to Spike about her afterlife, Buffy describes herself as “happy … at peace … I knew that everyone I cared about was all right … I knew it.” That statement initially struck me as odd, because of course while Buffy was in “heaven,” on Earth everyone Buffy cared about was not all right. They were deeply depressed, and still beset by demons. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that perhaps in Buffy’s version of the afterlife, she attained a kind of enlightenment, allowing her to understand that in the grander scheme of things, everyone she loves would be all right. Any problems they’re having now are Earthly problems (even the demonic ones) and will seem smaller in retrospect.
Think back on the crises in your own life, or in the society as a whole. Some wounds are still fresh no doubt, even years or decades later. But unless you completely lack perspective, a lot of what seemed terrible at the time probably doesn’t seem so bad now. That guy who dumped you wasn’t right for you anyway. That president you couldn’t stand now seems less awful. You may have totaled your car, but everyone survived the wreck, your insurance company paid your bills, and you got an even more affordable car. Surely you have examples of your own of what I’m talking about. With time, everything in the past looks rosier—or at least distant enough that it doesn’t hurt so deeply.
Now imagine being so removed from the world that everyone’s troubles—even the ones in the here and now—seem small and overcome-able. That’s how I imagine Buffy perceived everything from the afterlife. So my question is this: Why can’t she retain that feeling? Sure, it sucks to be back to fighting evil after luxuriating in the divine light, but if you know that someday you and everyone you know will be at peace, can’t you take some comfort in that?
I’m asking rhetorically here, because I think I know the answer. I think Buffy’s trying to remember how it felt, but can’t. Being mortal is blocking her. And I think the longer she’s alive and feeling ordinary human emotions, the more her memories of heaven fade.
Which brings us to “Flooded,” another episode that deals with the aftermath of Buffy’s resurrection, and the fitful return to normalcy. Unlike “After Life,” the monster-of-the-week plot in “Flooded” is well-integrated into the overall story, though it’s not the main focus. “Flooded” is more about establishing where Buffy’s at right now: She’s still drifting off a lot, disconnected from the people around her, and she’s in trouble financially, even though, as she protests, “I was all dead, and frugal.”
The episode opens with Buffy trying to fix a leaky pipe in the basement—“We meet at last, Mr. Drippy!”—and instead causing water to gush out from every available hose and spigot. It’s a funny little pre-credits blackout sketch, but also a hell of a metaphor. Fixing some immediate problem—like, say, bringing Buffy back from the dead—can cause even greater problems if you don’t understand the underlying issues. Later in “Flooded,” a returning Giles will tell Willow this same thing outright, calling her “stupid” and arrogant for attempting a spell so dark and uncontrollable. When Willow boasts about her mastery, Giles dismisses it, saying, “There are others in this world who can do what you did; you just don’t want to meet them.” To which Willow snaps, “I’m very powerful, and maybe it’s not such a good idea for you to piss me off.” What’s the “gushing water” in this scenario? The dark forces that Willow may have unleashed on the world when she brought Buffy back? Or Willow’s growing cockiness?
But back to the literal gushing water, which is going to cost Buffy a ton of money in the form of a full copper re-pipe. (How much is a ton? Well, Dawn gets a look at the bill and says, “That’s a weird phone number.”) Anya suggests that Buffy make money by charging for her demon-killing services, to which Buffy says, “That’s an idea … you would have.” Instead, Buffy decides to go to the bank and get a loan, and finds out that her house isn’t worth that much as collateral because, “For some reason, Sunnydale property values have never been competitive.”
Then a demon storms the bank, and though Buffy has some trouble getting her leg-kicks as high as she’d like in the tight skirt she wore to her business meeting, she’s eventually able to chase the brute out and use her heroics as leverage with the loan officer. Later we learn that the demon is an M’Fashnik—pronounced like “mmm … cookies”—and has been engaged to finance the Sunnydale-dominating dreams of three familiar local geeks. Or, more accurately, two familiar geeks, Jonathan and Warren, and one, Andrew, who’s the brother of Sunnydale High prom-ruiner Tucker Wells.
I’ve always liked Jonathan, don’t have much feeling either way about Warren, and of course don’t know Andrew yet, so I’m reserving judgment on Sunnydale’s latest band of super-villains. I will say that I found their geek-speak a little too stereotypical, what with the multiple Star Trek references, but I did like their “to do” list:
Control The Weather
Miniaturize Fort Knox
Conjure Fake I.D.s
The Gorilla Thing
And I loved the contrast of their well-appointed lair with Buffy’s house, which gets trashed by the M’Fashnik when it shows up to exact revenge. Our heroine sweats over every smashed coffee table and broken window and pulls out her best Faye-Dunaway-as-Joan-Crawford impression as she beats the M’Fashnik to death, shouting, “No! More! Full! Copper! Re-pipe!” It’s a stark new reality for Buffy. Before, she dispatched her duties with careless brio. Now, having been to heaven and back, she knows exactly what everything costs.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that “Carpe Noctem” ends with Angel finding out that Buffy’s alive, and “Flooded” ends with Buffy going to meet him. But since that meeting doesn’t actually take place in either episode, there’s no need to comment any further. Though I am curious whether the reunion will take place on Angel or Buffy. Which network had cameo rights?
- I should also briefly note the subplot of “Carpe Noctem,” which sees Lilah making life easier for Angel by providing certain documents he needs to keep his hotel/HQ—though she’s not doing it out of the goodness of her own heart but to screw over her ambitious co-worker Gavin. Hey, I don’t blame her. Gavin’s all about, y’know, actual lawyering, instead of conjuring up demons and the like. What’s the fun in that?
- Rance Howard, as I’m sure you know, is the father of Ron and Clint. I wonder if the Howard family is friendly with the Whedon family? Joss Whedon’s grandfather John was a frequent contributor to The Andy Griffith Show, which starred Ron Howard.
- “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s unbelievably important. You should eat breakfast at least three times a day.”
- Anya thinks that Spider-Man charges money for beating bad guys. Xander’s fact-check: “Action is his reward.”
- Dawn, demanding more access to the occult library: “If you don’t let me look at the pictures, I’m going to learn everything I know about demons from the street.”
- Anya’s greeting to Giles: “We missed you! You can’t have the store back! You signed papers!”
- Spike offers to kick everyone’s ass to get them off Buffy’s back. “It’d give me a hell of a headache but I could probably thin the herd a little.”
- “I know I’m back in America now; I’ve been knocked unconscious.”