Sunday, November 30, 2008

BtVS: 2.16 Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Alisa says:
For a very long time I used to say this was my least favourite episode of the whole series. Hated it even. But having just rewatched it twice in recent weeks (let's not talk about bad notetaking), I think in truth, it's quite a fun little episode. We have Xander subverting the gender stereotype and being the lovelorn teenager who convinces Amy to cast a love spell to get Cordelia to love him (and take back the breakup which she so heartlessly delivers on Valentines Day). Course, as is a must in Jossverse, the spell goes horribly wrong and every girl but Cordelia, including Buffy, Willow, Drusilla, Joyce, Miss Calendar and even Amy, comes after Xander with lovelust. I love the moment that Cordelia finds out he cast the spell for her -
"Would've worked fine, except your hide's so thick, not even magic can penetrate it!"
It's funny because it's true - you can always rely on Cordelia to avoid the glamour and see the world as it is and not for how others want her to. So often the spells miss her - like the one on the previous Halloween with Ethan's spell on the costumes for example. And she proves her true colours at the end of the episode when she tells Harmony where to stick it and stalks off after Xander. Yay!

I think my favourite bit (apart from Buffy's, "I seem to have a slight case of nudity here") is where Oz comes up to hit Xander because Oz had listened to Willow cry for an hour on the phone the night before ... over Xander. But that's just cause I have the Oz Love.

So why did I hate this episode for so long? I think it's because Buffy is hardly in it. She was guesting on Saturday Night Live the week they taped it and so they did all her bits on the Monday and she took off. In retrospect, she actually appears for a good half of the episode, and these days I am less Buffy obsessed so it didn't bother me as much. Though I will say that it's a very distinct break in the Angel-goes-psycho plot-line and for me I think I always felt jarred by the standalone nature of this episode after so much season arc.

Rachel says:
Just plain fun. They went all out with this, ramping up the absurd to hilarious levels. It's never scary - even with all the chasing and the axes and the kitchen knives - because it is just so crazy. Although it's painful watching Buffy debase herself in such a way, mega points to Xander for coming through.
I love that Angel gets chased away from Xander by Drusilla and it's good to see Amy again- she's starting to turn bad!! A real cheer-er upper which is refreshing after all the arc-heavy angst of recent episodes. We even discover that Oz's band's name is Dingoes Ate My Baby - suitably wrong but a little thrill for us Australian fans.
"And you know what? I'll date whoever the hell I wanna date. No matter how lame he is."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

BtVS: 2.15 Phases

Rachel says:
This episode works on every level for me. Oz has the horrible discovery that he's a werewolf, and it's a genuine surprise to the rest of us too. The fake out with Larry is wonderful, I just love his speech to Xander in the change room.

Buffy is clearly still cut up by Angel, but is able to (or the writers were able to) put it aside long enough to get on with the job. Saves us all dying of boredom, which is a real danger when characters rant and wail endlessly.

The werewolf costume still looks great, so many years later. I guess we've reached the pinnacle in dog suit technology (furry joke not intended). The Oz-wolf morph is also worth a mention, although the tech used is obvious, it's convincing.
"Welcome to the mystery that is men. I think it goes something like, they grow body hair, they lose all ability to tell you what they really want."

Alisa says:
One of the things I love about Buffy is the constant self-referential and in-jokes. This episode opens with Oz looking at the cheerleading trophy that has Amy's mum, the witch, trapped inside it - her eyes follow you where ever you go. There's also a really cool foreshadowing moment for the rewatcher when Oz defends Willow to the bullies by saying she is an evil mastermind. Uh-huh. If only you knew.

This is an okay episode that brings Oz into Buffy's circle in his own right. I like how nonchalantly he finds out and deals with being a werewolf - almost but not quite like it's not a big deal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

BtVS: 2.14 Innocence

Alisa says:
Or the loss of ...

Oh poor sweet innocent Buffy! That has got to be the worst feeling to have lost your virginity to the love of your life and for him to not be there when you wake up in the morning nor be contactable and when he does finally show back up ... well to be less than gentle, loving and kind.

Stilll.. mmmm yummy topless Angelus in black leather pants. Yummy.

The best moment in the episode is when Angelus rises, drains the hooker and then blows out the puff of smoke from the cigarette that she was smoking. Does it *get* any hotter? I ask you!

This is a contretemps episode - all the stakes (ha!) are raised and it represents a real pivotal point in the series.

We learn the essential catch in the Buffyverse - that if Angel experiences one true moment of happiness the curse the gypsies put on him is lifted and he loses his soul. Again. And how utterly romantic and beautiful that for him, that moment of happiness was making love to Buffy.

Our characters have all pretty much paired off. Poor Willow walks in on Xander and Cordelia and discovers what we have known for episodes now - that he would rather be with someone he hates than we with her. My heart breaks along with hers every single time! But, we see that even though Willow is not yet ready to give up Xander, the adorable Oz loves her anyway - Willow kissage!! And I'll wait! Awwww ....

Xander gets to show how he is useful and that he is an important and valuable member of the Scoobies in his own right. He comes up with the plan to destroy the judge and how to get the weapons they need to save the day.

Buffy: Thanks for my present.
Xander: Thought you'd like it.

I love the rewriting of old for new and the idea that old and mystical works should be read within the context and time in which they were written:
The Judge: No weapon has been forged to destroy me.
Buffy: That was then and this is now.
Yeah, an uzi will probably get the job done. The looks on Angelus' and Dru's faces when they realise whats in Buffy's hand is priceless as is the way they throw themselves out of the way.

But what I love most about this episode is how the stakes are so rapidly raised between Buffy and Angel. In one episode she goes from being in this starcrossed lovers type of innocent and deep and true love to suddenly finding herself in a highly abusive and somewhat twisted relationship. And how many of us don't have our own (perhaps scaled down) tales of the same woe. Or at least who hasn't had the "but I thought he liked me, why did her turn" experience in high school? Buffy's ex-boyfriend is going to torture and ruin her and enjoy it. She goes from this broken, soft and hurt little victim in the beginning of the episode (and understandably so, she just shared something so intimate with the one man she loves and who she thought loved her) to working her way up to killing him. Give me time And I love the way Giles switches from parent to friend in this episode, to reflect her passage, perhaps from innocent to young adult,
"You won't get guilt from me. You'll get nothing but respect."

Rachel says:
I get very angry at this episode. I know Whedon is only making his characters suffer because that makes for good television, but it still rankles that Buffy has sex and then must be punished. And killing a prostitute and smoking is hot for you, Alisa? It's an effective character moment, I'll grant you... but hot??

Gellar outacts nearly everyone in Innocence with her wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth. Boreanaz does not yet have the evil Angelus side quite up to speed, but we will see this more convincingly in later episodes.

Relationships are breaking all over - Willow and Xander, Giles and Jenny. It's really not a very great joy to watch, except that really, they are all getting together too - Willow and Oz, Xander and Cordelia. And then we get to the

Rocket Launcher.

Two things make it work - the dolly shot up to Buffy standing on the concession stand and Drusilla's reaction. Otherwise we would be paying more attention to the ridiculous layout of this shopping centre set, and notice that the launcher looks like a supersoaker on steroids.

I also think that the fight scene between Angel and Buffy after the Judge has gone down is kind of an anticlimax. Well, it's a post-climax because the best bit was the explosion, naturally. So why this petty bickering and groin-kneeing under the sprinklers?
"We're going to destroy the world. Want to come?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BtVS: 2.13 Surprise

Alisa says:
Things never go well on Buffy's birthday. This year the Scoobies are planning a surprise birthday party, but Drusilla has a surprise all of her own as she collects all the bits and pieces of the Judge and assembles him. We see Buffy's secret fear that Angel will get dusted as she dreams one dream after the other that he does. I'm all down with the smoochies and hot and intense Buffy/Angel moments which inevitably lead to the big crescendo - they finally make sweet sweet vampire/slayer loveage. And then we are left on the terrible cliffhanger - which if I recall correctly is where Channel 7 left us for about 6 months when they initially screened it in Australia!

Other important moments include the implication of a duplicitous side of Jenny Calendar - suddenly she is not as she seems. Whose side is she on and what are her intentions? It seems that she is out to make sure that Angel and Buffy are kept apart!

For me, this is one of my most significant episodes. Firstly for the final consummation of Angel and Buffy's love. That seen is *hot* and *sexy* - or so I thought way back when I first watched it. Now it actually seems a bit tame. And sweet, maybe. Ugh! I hate this rewatching thing! Nothing is the way it first seemed. Also of course this is the lead up to the horrible horrible next episode for Buffy.

Rachel says:
Drusilla is in top form in this episode in contrast to Buffy falling all over her man, which is kinda pathetic. Angel is a little creepy older boyfriend-y. Erk, yuk yuk. I can't help thinking that the scene at the dock is Angel leaving to go to war with his knapsack on his shoulder.

Do Drusilla and Buffy share a birthday? Why is this never mentioned again? There's something in that you know - Angel siring Dru and then Buffy is the love of his life. Something astrological.

The Judge, well he is just neat-o. And blue, which is a nice change from green for a demon.

Oz also gets more love from me in this episode, he is just so ridiculously cool.
"See I like that you're unpredictable."

Monday, November 17, 2008

BtVS: 2.12 Bad Eggs

Rachel says:
There's nothing really wrong with Bad Eggs, but nothing too special either. The Gorches I find very dull and one dimensional as villains. However, the scene where Buffy tracks the hatchling in her bedroom is a great piece of suspenseful television. There should be more of that.

Being not much of a mushy fan, I find the quantity of smoochies in this episode to be painfully over the top.

"I see your 'gyegh!' and raise you a 'gnyaah!'"

Alisa says:
See, my verdict is: "mmmmm" just for all the Angel/Buffy smoochies alone.

This episode had me at its broody, dark, forbidden kisses in the cemetery. Other highlights for me were Xander boiling his egg and showing that sometimes there are rewards from breaking rules and taking shortcuts, and also the bonus cameo of Jonathan - I'd not seen that one before! I also love the bit where Buffy is fighting the vampire and they both turn to fight off people under the spell before turning back to fight each other. I just love the ridiculousness of that.

I also think the way she kills the creature - hacking it to pieces from the inside- was grrl power AWESOME! I just love it when, after she kills the gross monster of the week, she throws the pick up out of the hole, climbs out after it and finishes off the vampire. That moment, which was just a little world-weary, made me think - she's a vampire slayer, why does that mean she has to wear the weight of the world and all the other demons on her shoulders as well?

And then extra "awwwww" for the final scene of Angel leaning in Buffy's window for some nigh-night smoochies. Where, though, is the attraction for a 270 year old vampire to be with someone so young and so unworldly and so naive, especially at this point, so early in her slayer career? I spose we could argue that her youth and passion and lack of world-weariness is attractive to him - that her innocence is appealing? Or that he can see in her, even this early in, that she is the most powerful slayer ever born.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BtVS: 2.11 Ted

Alisa says:
I hate this episode for so many reasons. I hate Ted. I hate the idea of Ted - where did he suddenly come from? Joyce has been secretly dating him and Buffy never noticed? It feels so contrived. As does the episode climax and unravelling. I hate it. I hate Ted and his stupid cookies and mini golf.

Bah! Onto the next ep!

Rachel says:
I hated this episode too when it first aired, but I have grown to really quite like it. I was surprised how much my impression of Ted has changed. I was so drawn in by the character that first time I saw it, I so believed he was a human bad-guy, that I was angry, really angry when his secret was revealed. I'd been duped as badly as if I'd been eating his cookies!

But it truly improves on multiple viewings and it's largely due to the late John Ritter's performance. He's so dreadful and horrible as a human character and yet, once you discover his robotic secret, it slots together so nicely. I love the way Xander follows him around begging for food treats for the whole episode, and the scene where he discovers the cupboard's contents is so creepy because you don't see anything but his reaction, which is played perfectly.

This is amongst the best of Buffy because it hits where it hurts most - her mother.

"What? Freud would've said the exact same thing. Except he might not have done that little dance."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sneak Peek Inside Issue 4

Bren MacDibble makes her second appearance at Shiny with this story, set against the exotic backdrop of Bali, it's a little bit SF, a little bit Fantasy. Here's a taste of it.

Being Bella Wang
by Bren MacDibble

I'd felt her presence ever since the plane touched down in Bali and still I jumped at my name.

“Sienna!” A frail figure swanned across the green, hips jutting through a lime silk slip-dress.

A row of black shadow puppets danced across the hem at her knees. Her chest was
impossibly bony. The silk gaped, unfilled, and her sinewy feet were bare on the fine grass.

“Juliet?” She’d always been thin but this was the wasted body and disaffected pose of one of the starvation cults.

I dropped my putter and hurried towards her. She stretched out her hands, and when I took them they were cold, bizarre in the mugginess of a Balinese morning.

I pulled her to me, whole again after so long apart. She was stiff in my embrace and returned it with just one arm to my back, then pulled away. It hurt. She seemed shorter than me now, beyond the height given to me by golf cleats, but that was
impossible. We were genetically identical.

“Sienna, you softy,” she said. “How goes the golfing life?”

“It’s good enough I suppose.” The old arguments came back to me.

“I hear you’re the favourite for the junior strokeplay tomorrow. The Mother must be
pleased.” Juliet had never regarded the original Bella Wang as a mother, just as The Mother.

“She’s here you know.” I nodded at the clubhouse.

Juliet’s cool pose broke and she glanced towards the clubhouse.

I enjoyed a moment of evil glee until I saw her face in profile.

Monday, November 10, 2008

BtVS: 2.10 What's My Line Pt 2

Alisa says:
"I knew this 'I'm the only one, I'm the only one' thing was just an attention-getter."

This episode is huge. It's a crucial episode because we discover the existence of a second slayer in the form of Kendra. I'm going to totally skirt around the totally crap fake accent that she never ever manages to pull off.Oh oops! I did mention it after all. It's godawful! But anyway! The very important, critical information is that Buffy died "for a minute" and a second slayer was called. I couldn't care less about Kendra, I mean yes, sure she's a crossover actress from Dawson's Creek but other than that, there was very little of interest about her. However, this is such an important plot twist for whole the series because it brings us Faith and it also leads us into the final season, which I won't spoil now. I will only point out the genius that is Joss and the awesomeness of his plotting to have sown seeds so early for such a payout later. Or ... he makes good use of happenstance.

Other important things that happen this episode include Xander and Cordelia kissing for the first time. And Whedon can't quite resist playing the comic via the climatic, dramatic background music for what is otherwise Xander finally in a romantic light. Plus, then he gets to hose Cordie down in a naughty wet shirt contest moment. And still, ew! The gross bug man!

Now is this the first Jonathan moment? When he gets taken hostage by the fake policewoman or am I just getting excited about spotting a new one for me? Also in this episode we see a bit more of the Spike/Dru/Angel dynamic and we learn that Angel was Drusilla's sire.

This episode is such a pivotal plot point for all our characters. Kendra works to come in and hold a mirror up to Buffy and highlight the contrasts in her behaviour to that expected of a vampire slayer. For me there were a lot of small nuggets of dialogue like: "He is a vampire, he should die" and "There's a handbook? How come I never got a handbook?" which work so well to show how different Buffy and her approach is to that of all the Slayers who have gone before her ... and perhaps will follow after her? After all, she even changed how it works - now there is more than one Slayer. So too, Kendra serves as a reminder that Slayers are young girls for a reason - they don't tend to outlive their youth.

Oz takes a bullet for Willow. That sentence deserves a paragraph all of its own.

Drusilla's strength is restored by taking the lifeforce from Angel. Interestingly, whilst Spike moves heaven and earth to set this ritual up to restore her strength, he is yet again symbolically castrated by Angel because it is he who provides what Dru needs and Spike merely watches on. Finally, there's the awesome gothic ending which is just exquisite.

I like this episode a lot. Much happens in it. There is much revealed and much progress with the storyline and the character developments. I like too the themes that surface. For me, I am left with the moment of Kendra saying goodbye to Buffy: You talk like its a job but a slayer isn't a job, it's who you are. This job vs calling struggle runs throughout the series and I think Buffy uses the job image when she struggles against that which constrains her but ultimately being a Slayer really is who she is.

Rachel says:
You've pretty much said everything there is to say about this episode, and I can't disagree with much of it. I like Kendra more than you do and I believe her accent is accurate for the location she is supposed to come from (Jamaica?).

The really weak part of this storyline though is the weakness of Angel His being locked in the cage with the flimsiest of locks, to his patheticness at the hands of Drusilla. I can't believe he didn't get angrier, or at least sardonic and broody. He kowtows to her and it's horrible! Also, "lifeforce", Alisa? He's dead! Undeathforce, perhaps?

This is the third appearance of Jonathan, after Inca Mummy Girl and Reptile Boy. He's becoming popular with the writers!

"So I'm wonderin', do the other cookie animals feel sorta ripped? Like is the hippo goin', 'Hey man, where are my pants? I have my hippo dignity.' And, you know, the monkey's just, 'I mock you with my monkey pants!' And then there's a coup in the zoo."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sneak Peek inside Issue 4!

Here's a sneak peek inside Issue 4 with a little excerpt from Michael Merriam's story, "All The Leaves Your Bed":

The Tree knew it was dying.

The Tree was a victim of its own success. It had survived season after season, weathering blazing heat, freezing winters, droughts, powerful winds, vicious hail storms, a tornado, a lightning strike. War. But after a mere sixty years, its roots had broken into the decaying sewer system underneath it, crushing the already cracked and leaky lines.

It was poisoned. Anyone could see the dying branches, the slowly weakening trunk folding in on itself, the leaves that never reached their peak. Even if the humans came along and repaired the damage, it was too late. If the poison did not kill the Tree, they would simply cut the Tree down, as they had so many of his fellows during the Great Illness.

The Tree needed someone to pass its spirit to lest everything it had felt, everything it had learned and experienced in its lifetime, be lost.

It considered the small furred and feathered creatures that inhabited its branches, but quickly dismissed them: they had neither the capacity for memory nor the greatness of spirit the Tree required. The Tree gave serious thought to passing its essence to one of the feral cats that roamed the night but decided those creatures’ inherent mystery might prove incompatible with its own spirit. The local canines were all too domestic and reliant on their human masters for the Tree's taste and it disliked them for their crudeness and lack of propriety: they always relieved themselves on his trunk. No, a dog would never do.