Thursday, 27 December 2012

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 3.7 & 3.8 – 'Revelations' & 'Lover's Walk'

Thursday, 27 December 2012
Giles: I won't remind you that the fate of the world often lies with the Slayer. What would be the point? Nor shall I remind you that you've jeopardized the lives of all that you hold dear by harbouring a known murderer. But, sadly, I must remind you that Angel tortured me... for hours... for pleasure. You should have told me he was alive. You didn't. You have no respect for me or the job I perform.

Naturally, given the title, there was no surprise that "REVELATIONS" gave us some big disclosures. The biggest was Xander (Nicholas Brendon) discovering that Angel's (David Boreanaz) alive and well, doing Tai Chi with Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). This has been threatened all season, and I'm relieved it's finally out in the open. At the moment Angel feels like a vestigial piece of season 2's jigsaw, so I just hope the character is allowed to re-enter Buffy's clique without wasting more time. I'm also not entirely convinced by everyone's reaction to Angel being alive—except for Giles (Anthony Head), whose girlfriend he murdered. Everyone understands that Angel only started behaving in an intolerable manner because his soul was removed, so it feels like there should be more compassion from a group of friends who deal with supernatural oddities every week.

Beyond this issue, "Revelations" concerned the arrival of Faith's (Eliza Dushku) new Watcher; English authoritarian Gwendolyn (Serena Scott Thomas), who immediately gets everyone's back up with her no-nonsense attitude and snide remarks about Giles's abilities. She was the classic spanner in the workings of the group's dynamic, and to be fair the story pulled off a decent surprise when it became clear Gwendolyn's unmasking as a shamed Watcher interested in harnessing the power of the Glove of Myhneghon for herself. It was just a pity this whole storyline felt incredibly tedious, as the show's reliance on resurrecting demons and dangerous demonic paraphernalia is starting to irritate me. However, at least the Glove looked damned cool.

Along the way, Xander and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) behaved abnormally around everyone, each knowing their feelings for one another is growing stronger... and I care less and less, mainly because the existing pairings feel more interesting to me. Who really wants to watch Willow and Xander acting dorky together, when the characters of Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Oz (Seth Green) push those characters out of their comfort zones to some extent? It still feels like a strange idea, but maybe there was genuine fan support for "Xillow" back in '98?

We also got to see more of the Faith/Buffy friendship, which is becoming much stronger than I'd have imagined based on their first meeting. Dushku and Gellar play the relationship almost like twin sisters, and it's fun to watch. "Revelations" tested their companionship with Faith's belief Angel is a brutal killer who deserves to be staked, and it's a nice idea to have this sisters-in-slaying have a man come between them in this way. Indeed, the way Angel is treated as an abusive ex-boyfriend who shouldn't be given a second chance by Buffy's friends has merit.

Spike: (to Buffy & Angel) You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends.

We're a fair way into BtVS's third season now, and I'm not entirely happy with the progression. The Mayor still isn't a major force in the show and Buffy's life, and the past eight episodes have actually been dedicated to getting the show back to its second season status—via the return of Buffy to Sunnydale, followed quickly by boyfriend Angel, and now Spike (James Marsters). The addition of Faith has been the only thing that really sets this season apart, and even then it's essentially just a second attempt of the idea they had with Kendra the Slayer. I'm still waiting for season 3 to really stand apart from what's come before, to put it simply.

Still, "LOVER'S WALK" was a very good episode that wouldn't feel out of place in the (so far) superior second season. Angel was more involved in the storyline, and Spike's rolled into town as a wallowing drunk who's split from girlfriend Drusilla, so the episode was immediately improved by those character's interactions with Buffy. It's odd, but the actual plot of this episode wasn't anything very special, just an excuse for some fun character development. Spike wants to a love potion to woo Dru back into his arms, and kidnaps wannabe-witch Willow (Alyson Hannigan) to make his concoction—who's ironically trying to make an anti-love potion, to suppress the feelings she has for Xander before she hurts boyfriend Oz. Given the episode's title, it wasn't a surprise that the story focused on the show's romantic entanglements. Buffy's still trying to parse her feelings for Angel now he's back from the great beyond with his soul intact, while Spike's desperate to get his girlfriend back, just as Willow and Xander realise there's no point denying the love they share.

This was a good episode for Hannigan at any rate, who's been one of the biggest disappointments for me during these catch-ups. I just haven't found Willow as charming as I was expecting to, and my opinion didn't really change as a result of this episode... but, she was very effective when playing the victim (you felt genuine concern whenever she was being messed with by Spike), and against expectations the moment when she gave into her feelings for Xander and kissed him was well played. Maybe this episode is the one where Willow starts to grow on me as a character, aided by having a stronger attachment to Xander? But I still felt more sympathy for poor Cordelia; who walked in on Willow and Xander's smooch, before being hospitalised after falling onto a steel rod. That’s seriously bad luck. Things will be frosty when Willow arrives at her bedside with grapes.

But this episode was stolen by Spike, as James Marsters stole every scene he appeared in and started to make me wonder why Joss Whedon didn't give his vampire the spin-off TV show. Driving over the 'Welcome To Sunnydale' sign (which I recall he did when he made his first appearance in "School Hard), singing Frank Sinatra, killing a shopkeeper, giving Buffy and Angel some hard truths about their relationship, having an amiable chat with Buffy's mother (I guess they bonded?), falling into a drunken stupor and awakening the next morning when his hand caught fire in the sunlight... the character's pure fun. I particularly loved how a climactic brawl with rival vampires proved to be the wake-up call he needed, inspiring him to ride out of town singing Sinatra in a more upbeat manner. I know this isn't the last we'll see of him, and hope he hurries back soon.

written by Doug Petrie (3.7) & Dan Vebber (3.8) / directed by James A. Contner (3.7) & David Semel (3.8) / 17 & 24 November 1998