I’m watching Buffy for the first time in two years. I’m excited. I dug up the summary that I started for this one, but I don’t know what it will become from here.
Sunnydale High’s student events continue to be the worst, corralling everyone into a Career Week that’s just as meaningless as the Scoobies think it is. Unfortunately, just like the foreign exchange student episode, this one probably reflects some sad reality of American high schools (again, I didn’t go to one so I don’t know firsthand). People expect teenagers to make important decisions about their lives but won’t offer them the tools they need for it.
Nobody gets anything out of the experience, except that Xander wants to go to “Principal School,” and now so do I. Even Willow and Oz don’t have the career fair to thank for getting them into the same room, since the guys from the Wolfram & Hart software company (come on, you know it’s true) say they've got nothing to do with it.
As a backdrop to Buffy's melancholy over her future, though, it makes sense and I like the way Plot A is constructed over this two-parter and Plot B follows along with it. The one thing that I'm not really keen on is the Monster(s) of the Week(s), who don't really live up to the threat they're supposed to be. I mean, if the Order of Taraka won't stop coming until the job is done, where are they now? I can accept that they were relatively easy kills, since the idea is that they’re replaced each time one goes down, but is there some canon explanation for them never getting replaced after the third one and never mentioned again?
Buffy Is the Title: The first issue of the Season 9 comics was one of the few written by Joss, which meant it had some of the best dialogue, especially for Buffy. She references this episode while she’s drunkenly fangirling at the cops who have shown up for a noise violation during her housewarming party: “...And I scored best as a police cop! That was what my aptitude scored as!”
I always loved that line just for the sake of its adorable redundancies, but now I kind of appreciate it on another level, too. Who would have thought that Buffy would someday want to share the memories from this dumb career fair? That she’d actually be excited by having something in common with law enforcement? But it’s so true to life, the rose-colored glasses, and the officers are shown dancing with her in the next panel, so clearly they could see what a good sincere heart she has beneath her party fever.
And actually, the episode puts that into focus too. When Xander prompts Willow and Buffy to tell him he's not stupid, Buffy comes through with such solemnity in her expression and voice that it warms me all over. I mean it. So does she.
The Buffy and Angel Show: So, we're all agreed that it's a sign of the fundamental unfairness of the universe that we never got to see Buffy and Angel skate together, right? Especially since David Boreanaz can skate! Oh well, at least Buffy looks great on her own. And I wrote a fic about it, long long ago, linked at the end of this entry.
Since it's a big B/A episode I ought to have a lot to say about them but all of it seems pretty obvious; I swoon where I'm expected to swoon. I did pull out a shooting script quote from the ice rink scene since I liked the way it solidified Angel's emotions:
Buffy turns his face back to hers. Tenderly runs her fingers along his transformed features. Angel is overwhelmed. Nobody has ever touched him like this.
Also, I love how they don’t even consider the option that they can go to a skating rink when it’s open. Is it a mirror issue? Trying to dodge the admission fee? Or just another case of habit?
Other than that, I'm actually more interested in Angel himself this time, since it's also an important step in his personal character arc. Therefore, onto a new category...
Angel Is More Than a Boyfriend: He's finally taking the initiative to do something on his own and it's awesome. Granted, he's doing it because of Buffy, but now he doesn't need to wait for her to tell him how best to love her. He uses sources only he can use, does things she couldn't do, keeps his secrets out of pragmatism instead of shame. Then he gets attacked by Kendra and Buffy has to come save him, but the right intentions were in place!
A bit before that we get, "I lurk," his explanation for how he knows what's going on at Buffy's school. I'm glad she takes this in stride, as it shouldn't surprise her that he hangs around places where he can absorb some of her daylight life without being seen, but it's a sad (though still funny) moment expressing his dual nature as much as the mirror does.
Welcome Willy the Snitch, a two-dimensional character but a fairly funny and appealing one, and great for establishing mythology and other characters. His first scene tells us a little about Willy but a lot about Angel, who inspires fear as soon as he's recognized. You can't effectively run an underworld bar if you're just automatically afraid of vampires, so what is it about this one particularly? He even knows Angel has a soul! Shouldn't that make him less scary?
There's history there, and it just gets better when Spike comes up and Angel takes responsibility for him, too. From now on Angel is his own man, he's serious business, and I want to hear the stories behind each and every piece of art in his apartment.
Spike and Dru, Dru and Spike: We get another glimpse into what Spike is like in a relationship, and it's both familiar and depressing. Drusilla annoys him, he snaps at her, she whimpers, he's suddenly fawning over her. He doesn't want her interrupting him while he's doing something he perceives as important, but as soon as she shows that he has the power to hurt her - this is the good stuff. This is what he likes. He takes care of her and their respective roles are reestablished.
Later we'll see that Spike prefers a woman who can kick his ass, which may seem to contradict his need to be the boss, but with or without his soul we never see him content with anyone but Dru. Why? She is stronger than him, but her madness makes her need help anyway (or appear to need help, which is just as good as far as Spike is concerned). She and Spike are uniquely suited to each other, not because what they have is healthy -- they're evil, healthy is a moot point -- but because she fulfills all of Spike's fantasies at once. She's above him: older, more gifted, closer to the source; but instead of contemptuously rejecting him, she depends on him. Next time he finds a woman above him, this will not work out so well.
I never noticed before that Dru says she needs to change Miss Edith. Apparently her dolls pee.
My Willow Tree: Can't think of anything to say about her here, but fortunately she's got more coming up in the next one, and so does Oz.
Xander and Bus Stations: Xander is apparently not bad with the research - Buffy is singled out as the one whose only real function during research parties is to get the snacks, but the guy who sucks at every subject in school is himself a snack recipient. From what I can remember, that actually tracks throughout the series, and now I'm finding it interesting. Not that I ever thought he was dumb; it's just not a skill you'd expect him to have.
Giles and Objects: After Buffy let Giles believe she was just going home to rest up for the next day, do you think he wondered why she was with Angel when she was attacked by the first Taraka guy? At least she didn't lie about it (as far as we know).
Here’s Giles with so many books! I’m fascinated by this stack and whether it was hard to film.
Time for some script quotes! Drusilla sings a little song, and we even have lyrics for it.
INT. FACTORY - NIGHT
Speaking of vamps… Here's DRUSILLA - wrapped in a black shawl and looking even paler than usual. She stands at one end of the long dining table, laying out TAROT CARDS. She is humming, swaying-
I HEAR MUSIC AND THERE'S NO
ONE THERE… ALL NIGHT LONG
I SEEM TO WALK ON AIR… I
WONDER WHY, I WONDER WHY…
Kendra gets a pretty badass introduction. I'd object to the animalistic way she's described except that at this point we're supposed to believe she's the Jaguar of the Taraka.
We stop on an ETHNIC YOUNG WOMAN, her feline, feral eyes getting used to the sudden light. She's a predator, a hunter, and her name is KENDRA. And as she jumps out of frame, onto the tarmac -
And here's one for Willy the Snitch:
A solitary stooped figure gives the floor a perfunctory once-over with a stiff broom. This is WILLY, a shifty-eyed bottom-dweller. In addition to being the bartender here, he's a small time hustler who moves in the underworld of the vampires - despite the fact that he is not a vamp himself.
• I also come down on the side of shrubs.
• According to the script, the Cyclops Taraka guy is named Octarus.
• Scooby Gang invoked for the first time!
• All the times they made a cemetery out of their limited outdoor set space, and this is the first time I’m noticing how close the headstones are to the road. I guess the bodies are under the pavement?
• Kendra attacks Buffy with a hatchet. I know Slayers are supposed to be proficient with all weapons, but seriously, she thought she was a vampire! What happened to stakes?