Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Review etc: "Some Assembly Required"

In which I talk about love stories a lot. If that sounds too much like it's going to just be a wall of text (83% probability, tbh), here's a handy-dandy visual guide to who loves who in Sunnydale at this point in S2.

Yeah, I know I should have honored Giles/Jenny, but I couldn't pick a font for her.

New feature! When couples (or "It's complicated"s) argue, I'll tell you which one is right, so you don't have to decide for yourself!

Buffy/Angel: When Buffy and Angel have it out in the cemetery, my thought has always been that Buffy has all the higher ground. Her tone when she asks if he's jealous is just so understanding and sensitive - she's listening, not accusing. Granted, she's a teenage girl and she probably loves the idea of Angel getting jealous over her, but she could just as easily exploit that by teasing him or pretending to be angry right off. If he had admitted it at that point, she probably would have absolved him instantly and apologized for the dance with Xander - but then we wouldn't have a subplot, or that conversation at the end.

Sidebar: the first time I watched this show, during this scene I said to my companion (who'd been a fan for years), "I'm enjoying their relationship more than I thought I would." It's the closest thing I can find in my memory to the moment that I became a B/A shipper, so I treasure it a little bit. The line that specifically sparked that comment was, I think, "See, whenever we fight, you always bring up the vampire thing!" I laughed; I wasn't expecting the romance to be funny. I winced; I wasn't expecting the romance to contain pointed insults. I pondered the implications of Angel being a vampire who didn't want to be reminded that he was a vampire; I wasn't expecting the romance to make me think at all. Basically, I wasn't expecting to care about the romance. I'd already known I wasn't that kind of fan, and nothing about B/A looks that interesting on the wrapper. Seeing two lonely hardworking people get fed up with navigating a relationship that they refused to acknowledge as a relationship and resorting to petty bickering was something that came out of left field. I knew practically the whole story before I watched it, but it kept surprising me anyway.

Anyway! So, tipping my hat to Buffy for holding onto her cool for longer than Angel did, but later in the episode I had to re-evaluate it from his point of view. He knows how much Buffy and Xander care about each other, and he knows how much Xander desires her. He also knows that Buffy doesn't desire him back, but things happen. She spends all this time with the guy, he has the astonishing ability to see her in the sunlight, she wants a boyfriend - sure, there's a chance she could go for the obvious solution. Of course it's going to give Angel some pain to visualize that possibility, and then she holds out on easing his doubts, and then lies to him about where she's going to be. He sees her next when she walks into the library with Xander. If we didn't have the background to that, well crap. It certainly doesn't look like she's avoiding Angel because he hurt her feelings.

Another sidebar: a thing is just now occurring to me. I ship Faith/Spike in part because they make such a perfect square with Buffy/Angel - Faith's relationship with Buffy is much like Spike's with Angel; Spike's history with Buffy has a lot of parallel to Faith and Angel's. But way back before either of those characters were introduced - they kind of already made a square with Buffy/Angel, Xander/Cordelia, didn't they? Unable to attain the ones they really had their sights on, Xander and Cordelia hooked up with each other instead. Added bonus that Buffy and Cordy had a running theme of rivalry not limited to Angel's affections, and Xander and Angel kept up an enmity long past the point when Buffy had made her choice. Even the slash pairings line up: Angel/Spike and Buffy/Faith are the most popular ones, but Xander/Angel and Buffy/Cordy seem to have a proportionately smaller following, too.

So, having discovered that, should I ship Cordy/Xander now? Not necessarily, but Season 2 soon will! It's even hinted here when she spills out her gratitude to him directly after he laments about even vampires getting dates. Under the surface, could the attraction have started here, with Xander and Cordelia finding sympathy for each other when they see that they have this in common?

Okay, where was I going with Buffy and Angel and their adorable squabbles? Probably just that Angel's eventual confession of jealousy was born from noting his own reaction to seeing Buffy with Xander. I mean, he didn't even greet her, he just turned his attention right to Xander. That was mean, Angel. But it puts more kindling on the element to the Buffy/Angel romance that I was talking about in my last review - they're not dating. They have no claim on each other. If Buffy wanted to spend a night making out with Xander, she wouldn't be cheating on Angel, and if Angel got some cuddle time in with Cordy, that's his right, too. But everyone knows it's not. Cordy consciously competes with Buffy, Xander makes cracks about a "one-woman vamp", Willow asks wink-wink-nudge-nudge questions, and Angel eventually admits that he is in fact jealous.

I know his little speech at the end was essentially nothing more than a script necessity to tie up the subplot, but I love it. The exact reason that he's jealous of Xander, which he states so openly, is a part of his character which is played consistently from this point on. He doesn't think Buffy prefers another man to himself - he's dead, not stupid. It's not her feelings that he wishes would change, it's his own role in her life. The moment that Buffy says, "I don't love Xander" is huge, not only because it deliberately puts all of her cards on the table but because it implies contrast: she doesn't love Xander (but that's not the case for you.) And he doesn't bat an eye: "I know." For him, the hardest part of being in love with Buffy won't be that she doesn't reciprocate, but that she does, and when he leaves her he'll not only be denying her to himself, but denying himself to her. He doesn't know yet that he'll be leaving her, but he knows their love can only lead to trouble, and it's starting right here.

Also they hold hands as she walks him home and it's beautiful and they're so sad and I love them. They're not a couple. They're just soulmates.

Giles/Jenny: Although I do love their flirtations and grown-up fumblings, I have to say what interests me most about their first date is not how it affects their own relationship, but how it affects Giles' relationship with the Scoobies. (Anyway he and Jenny don't argue this time so I can't tell you who's right.) As I keep watching I'm going to try to keep an eye on exactly what place Giles has in the group beyond the obvious roles of mentor, sage, adult, and exposition guy. Honestly I even want to challenge 'father figure' a little - it's definitely in there, but perhaps not to the extent that most fans assume.

This episode is a good example. Giles, for once, is the one who needs advice, and the kids, while indulging in some good-natured teasing, are actually helpful about it. He's even receptive to their tips and nervous about losing their support when the time comes. It's an underplayed, very sweet theme: they care about him. He respects them. They're really a team now, not just a few teenage adventurers hanging out under the supervision of a wizardly old man. (It also doesn't hurt that these scenes have Xander's humor at its cutest and funniest. Buffy's is good too.)

Can't figure out if Xander and Willow were deliberately trolling him by crashing his date, or they were genuinely oblivious, or they just wanted to check up on him. Either way, though, he was definitely not the authority figure this time.

Check your Calendar: I think what I like best about Jenny is how much she likes to have fun. As an oldschool computer geek, she's already breaking the mold a little bit, living in the world instead of shutting herself up with incantations and laptops. I'm sure she knew that Giles wasn't planning on going to the game, but she also knew that he'd enjoy it if he gave it a chance, and she was his best hope of giving it a chance. Not only that, but she gives football a pretty fair appraisal - I mean, we're all aware it's just an excuse for mindless violence, right? - but she loves it anyway and she's not ashamed. I like Mexican too, Jenny! Let's have lunch before you die!

Giles and objects: Here's Giles with a shovel.

Here's Giles with all sorts of things!

I have this weird thing for everything Giles does the way Giles puts down American culture whenever he has an opening. As an American myself, I secretly believe that all citizens of other countries secretly believe that the US is the best one, with the only exceptions being those who openly admit it.* The friendly banter that ensues when someone tries to deny our inherent superiority always tickles me, because it highlights all the little idiosyncrasies that give everyone a cultural identity. I think that, on the whole, Giles does appreciate a lot about America, but he'll never feel like it's home, and he knows he doesn't have to, and he knows he can get away with saying so.

Cordelia and boyfriends: One of them died before the show even began.

Willow and connections: Does it seem like there are a lot of math/science genius boys at Sunnydale High? And Willow has an acquaintance with all of them? And then they die or turn out to be evil? Actually, what happened to Chris after this? And Eric, didn't he survive too? Why couldn't one of them be used to round out the Trio in S6, instead of introducing Andrew?

The plot: This was never one of my favorite episodes in spite of its very special B/A moments - there's too much football and cheerleading, and dead people. Undead I love, walking dead takes a certain kind of format to work, but reanimated dead? Gross without any real fear factor to justify it.

Of course we're asked to look past the embarrassing Frankenstein stage makeup and embarrassing repetitions of "Go team go!" and find the metaphor to ponder, so let's see if I can talk about that at all before my mind wanders. (I was just thinking about giraffes.) Dealing with the literal level first, the lessons are as follows: don't bring the dead back to life, and you can't make a girl. And for me the most remarkable thing is that those exact lessons are repeated in later episodes, though I don't think it's ever both at the same time again.

Why not bring the dead back to life? Well, they come back wrong. Daryl came back wrong. It's not just that he's gross, it's that he doesn't understand what others know inherently, i.e., you can't make a girl. Maybe it's sloppy acting or maybe he really was just a douche before he died, but I don't think we're supposed to believe this Daryl resembles the old Daryl much. It's not about magic having consequences this time because the deed was done with science (hahaha, an electric surge + an adrenaline boost, that's right Willow, you big brain you), but the issue is essentially the same. Granting life is overstepping your bounds just as much as taking it is.

Why not make a girl? Actually, what got me wondering about the scheme was why they had to assemble a girl out of pieces, when Daryl was apparently just Daryl. The bodies were all damaged in the car accident, right? I wish someone had brought up the possibility of ditching the stitched-together body when they got Cordelia, and just using her own body as well as her head. Doesn't it seem like it would be easiest to kill her and them immediately revive her? What I guess I'm getting at here is - did they need to wipe away some integral part of Cordelia to make her a suitable match for Daryl? One can only assume that the map of her memories and personality would be stored in her brain, so she'd still be herself-ish without her own body. Would she be more herself if her head was never severed from her nervous system? Would that make her too likely to freak out and reject Daryl as her mate? Is it harder to control a girl's body than her mind, and is that why you can't make your own?

Whew, that's more than enough plot talk for me! Let's have some icons.

* I'm kidding! Put down the croquet mallet!
Tags: episode review, graphics: btvs/ats, icons: btvs/ats

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