Thursday, 23 July 2015

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 6.20 – 'Villains' • ANGEL, 3.21 – 'Benediction'

Thursday, 23 July 2015
BUFFY: How'd I get here?
XANDER: You've got to stop doing this. This dying thing's funny once, maybe twice.
As I predicted last week, Tara bit the big one, but Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) managed to pull through after getting shot—and it looked that way during her emergency surgery, before Willow (Alyson Hannigan) appeared with dark hair and coal-black eyes to telekinetically remove the slug from her friend's chest. One thing that bothered me about "VILLAINS" was how the aftermath of Tara dying was just the catalyst for Willow turning to the dark side (not for the first time) and seeking vengeance. I don't blame her, and it certainly provided a lot of impetus and some exciting scenes, but the show's home to one of the best examinations of someone dying on a genre TV show ("The Body"), so it felt a bit strange they avoided the human drama of losing a friend and instead went full tilt for the craziness. I'd argue Tara was a more prominent and interesting character than Buffy's mother ever was, too, so it felt strange. Even the scene when Buffy and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) belatedly realise what happened to Tara didn't really connect with me; nor did Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) finding her body on the bedroom floor.

Still, for sheer near-finale madness, "Villains" was a riot of fast-paced oddities. I particularly liked the moment Warren (Adam Busch) decided to celebrate killing the Slayer by heading to a demon bar and trying to make out he's a big hero to their kind, before realising Buffy survived and will likely pull through before looking for payback. Or the moment Willow stopped a coach on a desert road that contained fugitive Warren, only to throttle him so that his eye popped out—revealing it was just a robot decoy he'd put on the bus to throw them off the scene. That was cool. Indeed, magic vs. science was a big part of the action sequences here, and it was fun seeing Willow stalk her geek prey through a Sunnydale forest (ignoring some chintzy millennial CGI with the energy blasts and gooey-stuff they threw at each other). And the episode's big moral dilemma—that Buffy can't kill Warren because he's human, as there are real world laws to obey beyond vampire and monster slaying—was an interesting one. I wish more had been done with it, really, but it got enough of a mention to register. Willow's anger and heart of darkness took her down the wrong path in her eagerness to avenge her girlfriend's manslaughter, and in the end you certainly couldn't say writer Marti Noxon took the easy route. I've been surprised by how nasty some elements of season 6 has been, but the sight of Willow torturing a tree-bound Warren before instantaneously flaying him alive then incinerating his skinless muscled corpse… well, oh Jesus. That was dark and twisted for a show I'd ordinarily be quite happy for ten-year-olds to watch.

Having not enjoyed this sixth season very much, things are looking up for the remaining few episodes. It seems everyone in the writers' room belatedly realised the Trio are garbage, so they've managed to turn Willow into the Big Bad (kind of) and it could be the remaining two nerds who help Buffy defeat her. Plus, we have Spike (James Marsters) visiting an African cave demon who may be able to restore him to his pre-microchip existence as an infamous monster, so it seems likely the real threat of this season are going to be two people Buffy cares for (or cared for), which is a nice development.


written by Marti Noxon • directed by David Solomon • 14 May 2002 • UPN

HOLTZ: Yes. I found I had to stay alive that I might pass on my legacy of hate. But something happened in that place, Justine, something changed. Amidst the most unspeakable ugliness the hate turned into love. Love for a son. Hate is not enough. I found that love is far more powerful. Now there is just one thing I need you to do for me and then I can finally be done with vengeance.
Credit to writer Tim Minear for ending the Holtz (Keith Szarabajka) storyline in an unexpected way during "BENEDICTION", with the hateful old man gaining some respect from Angel (David Boreanaz) for admitting his quest for vengeance was ultimately a lost cause, and that it's in Connor's (Vincent Kartheiser) best interest to be with his biological father now they've returned to earth. The relationship between Angel and Holtz has certainly been a highlight of the season—and I'm struggling to think of a better one over on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too—as you could understand both sides of their centuries-old feud. Holtz refused to perceive Angel as anything other than an evil vampire who killed his wife and child, while Angel's reunification with his soul was never enough to convince an old enemy that he's automatically deserving of forgiveness. That their grudge has resulted in a young man being denied a proper childhood was punishment enough, considering Holtz's family were denied a future.

It still can't help feeling inevitable that Angel and Connor will reach an understanding, because it's just too much fun seeing them kicking vampire ass together as a Batman and Robin-style team. For now, Connor's tricking his real dad into believing there's a chance for them to become friends, but that won't last forever—although I liked the episode's final sting, with Holtz asking his protégé Justine (Laurel Holloman) to kill him by stabbing his neck and Connor finding his dead father and assuming the marks are the work of "Angelus". One supposes Justine won't be setting him straight, given her hatred of Angel, so war between father and son is coming. Will Holtz' explanatory letter that Angel has be enough to convince Connor that they parted on relatively friendly terms?

Elsewhere, I'm still not sure what to think about Lilah's (Stephanie Romanov) attempt to recruit Wes (Alexis Denisof) into Wolfram & Hart, because it just seems hugely unlikely that will happen—and if it does, I want a better reason than simply being kicked out of Angel's gang and keen to find another because Wes gets lonely. And can we put some rules on whatever Cordelia's (Charisma Carpenter) demon-powers are now? I'm getting the strong impression she can just do whatever the plot demands—to wriggle out of a tight spot, like when she bathed Connor in soothing white light and dissolved his dagger when he turned nasty.


written & directed by Tim Minear • 13 May 2002 • The WB