Thursday, 25 October 2012

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 2.9 & 2.10 – 'What's My Line: Part 1 & 2'

Thursday, 25 October 2012
Xander: It's a statistical impossibility for a sixteen-year-old girl to unplug her phone.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's first ever two-parter was a very mixed bag, with too much rehashed from previous episodes, but there was enough good stuff to make it slip by innocuously. If that's a good thing. "WHAT'S MY LINE: PART 1" again found Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) grumbling about being The Slayer and questioning her destiny, thanks to a school Careers Fair that, for her, won't determine the preordained future. But do any teens take notice of these things? They didn't in my day. And while the story went to some effort to make us understand Buffy's rationale, I don't really understand her complaints because there are hundreds of jobs that would suit someone who primarily slays the undead after the sun's gone down. The story also returned to the uncertainties about Buffy and Angel (David Boreanaz) becoming a couple, which the show has already covered many times before, although I quite enjoyed how they actually arranged a date at the local skating rink. It was interrupted by a vampire assassin with a bark worse than his bite, naturally.

Despite these distractions—and the weird instance with Willow (Alyson Hannigan) being selected to meet a software magnate along with admirer Oz (Seth Green)—the real guts of these episodes was Spike's (James Marsters) attempt to restore girlfriend Drusilla (Juliet Landau) to full strength, by using the coded incantation from a book stolen from Giles (Anthony Head) earlier in the season. All of that felt a lot more pleasurable, and the idea of various assassins being sent to kill Buffy (such as a travelling salesman made of mealworms) was definitely an enjoyable one—climaxing with a decent twist-ending when athletic "assassin" Kendra (Bianca Lawson) revealed herself to be a fellow vampire slayer.

Kendra: De assassins? I read of dem in de writings of Dramius.

"WHAT'S MY LINE: PART 2" was preferable to the first hour, but only because it had comparatively less exposition to slog through. My abiding memory of this episode will unfortunately be the ridiculous accent of the wooden Bianca Lawson as Kendra, which vacillated between Jamaican and Irish, and I'm still not sure which of those countries she was aiming for. It was a real pity, because the idea of there being a second Slayer in the world is an interesting one, and allowed Buffy to ruminate on the idea of giving up her burden and letting Kendra kill vampires by herself. Inevitably, both Slayers came to learn something from one another: Kendra to be less uptight and embrace her emotions, and Buffy to stop thinking of slaying as a frustrating job and more part of who she is.

The episode also gave us two notable breakthroughs with the show's romance (three if you count Buffy calling Angel her boyfriend); as Willow started to develop a crush on Oz the more they hung out together, and Xander sharing a surprising kiss with Cordelia while they cowered from the mealworm-man assassin in a basement. I've liked the subtlety of the show getting Cordelia and Xander to this tender point, which has been a slow-burn with enough misdirection to be genuinely pleasurable once they acted on their simmering attraction. The various couplings this season (Buffy/Angel, Xander/Cordelia, Willow/Oz, Giles/Jenny) also help give BtVS added texture away from the supernatural plots, which is great to see.

The thrust of Part 2 was to rescue Angel from Spike, who plans to use him in his ritual to restore girlfriend Drusilla to full health, and there wasn't much more to it than that. The fun was in the garnish to the simple plot, and the unintentional comedy of Kendra's Kingston-via-Dublin accent—which was almost so-bad-it's-good. Well, almost. As the debut of Marti Noxon, who'll go on to become a key writer for BtVS (who also wrote the excellent Fright Night remake), the "What's My Line?" two-parter wasn't a total success, but it had its moments.

written by Marti Noxon / directed by David Solomon (2.9) & David Semel (2.10) / 17 & 24 November 1997 / The WB