Cultural Catchup Project: Post-“Innocence,” It’s Personal (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Post-“Innocence,” It’s Personal

May 2nd, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

When I wrote about “Surprise” and “Innocence,” I entered into the posture I tend to take at certain points along this journey: when you know that things eventually get very dark and complicated, you tend to cry wolf at any sign that things are becoming very dark and complicated. It was clear from fan response that these two episodes represented a turning point of sorts, and watching them you see a dramatic character transformation that does in fact “change” the series in a way that seems pretty substantial.

However, the interesting thing about the episodes which follow “Innocence” is that the changes are for the most part subtle rather than substantial. While people tended to agree with my statement that Angel’s transformation represents a true “game-changer,” I have a feeling that the impact has more to do with the series’ long term changes than with any sort of immediate shift in the series’ narratives. While you could argue there is now more darkness in Buffy’s world, that doesn’t really change the tone of the series, nor does it dramatically alter the kinds of stories the show decides to tell.

Rather, the changes during this period come in the form of the supernatural becoming personal, with supernatural phenomenon presenting itself (primarily) in ways that tap into something inherent to these characters rather than inherent to the Hellmouth or some sort of demonic power. It’s a subtle shift in the series’ dynamics, but it is nonetheless a fairly important development which reinforces the events of “Innocence” within, rather than against, the series’ typical narrative structures.

Starting with “Phases,” the show begins to remove a few degrees of separation between Buffy and the Scoobies and the demons they fight on a regular basis. Oz turning out to be a werewolf isn’t really developed in any way: he doesn’t appear after “Bewitched…” (I’ve yet to watch “Becoming”), so it’s not like the show is suddenly really interested in werewolves. Rather, it’s a point in the story where we learn that someone we met in one form may in fact take another, where someone who first appears as a love interest can become something more. It is, in some ways, an extension of what happened with Angel in “Innocence”: we knew him as a man (or as close to a man as Angel was), but we now have to reconcile that knowledge with a monstrous form. In the case of Oz, reconciliation is possible because it’s only three days a month, and because the regular Oz will return for the other twenty-something days – in the case of Angel, we struggle with the fact that this man we once saw as a hero is now something very different.

Buffy’s relationship with Angel was always about bringing demon and human closer together, so we could presume that the emergence of Angel’s true form would shatter that connection. However, as “Passion” so eloquently points out, those connections still exist despite Angel’s transformation. For better or for worse, Angel was welcomed into these people’s lives, and his behaviour (while now for the sake of sick, twisted obsession rather than love) is still focused on Buffy just as it was before. “Passion” puts us inside Angel’s shoes to revel in our inability to reconcile his soulless form with the Angel we once knew, forcing us to watch as behaviour which once would have been romantic (like stroking Buffy’s face as she sleeps) has become chill-inducing. It’s not as if Angel has suddenly lost touch with his past life with Buffy: just as the show still understands its past patterns and behaviours, Angel knows what love felt like and what personal connection meant to these people. However, by viewing the action through Angel’s eyes, we see that he’s using this knowledge to torture them, taking what could be simple murder and turning it into a personal catastrophe in order to heighten human suffering.

Jenny Calendar’s death is your typical Whedon tragedy: just as she is about to reconnect with Giles after his struggle to reconcile her connection with the gypsies who cursed Angel with her love for him, and just as she was working towards a way to restore Angel’s soul and try to undo what she feels was her mistake, Drusilla gets wind of her plan and sends Angel to murder her. However, the episode is very focused on both how the characters and the audience perceive her death. First, Angel stages the elaborate scenario for Giles in order to heighten his suffering, creating the ultimate in romance before tearing it away. Next, though, we get Buffy and Willow’s reaction from Angel’s point of view, watching through the window as the news reaches them. The episode is interested in what is to this point the most substantial death in the series, certainly, but it’s also interested in explaining how it is that Angel perceives this death, and how he sadistically uses it just to torment Buffy and to cause suffering. It’s a unique structure that make the episode something more than just another stop on the season’s arc, and really encapsulates how the demonic is colliding with humanity in a more substantial fashion at this stage in the season.

While incredibly apparent in “Passion,” the personal plays an important role in the standalone stories which follow. In “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Buffy finds herself “chosen” by a Poltergeist still seeking forgiveness for shooting his teacher over their forbidden love, and while there’s an element of humour in Angel and Buffy playing the roles (especially with Angel in the role of the female teacher) there’s also a poetry to it. There’s a sense that, even in disconnected cases, Buffy can’t escape what happened with Angel, and it gives the case a certain resonance by tapping into the characters’ personal struggles. This isn’t always entirely effective, mind you: in “Killed by Death,” Buffy fights the Der Kindestod not only to protect the children who are currently being attacked, but to avenge the death of her cousin Celia, but that piece of information has no background and feels pretty contrived. However, it demonstrates an ongoing attempt to personalize Buffy’s crusades: sure, Angel popping in to disrupt her life is reminder enough to keep the serialized story alive, but the show is very clearly interested in taking things a step further.

When they don’t, it almost feels strange: “Go Fish” isn’t particularly great when considered out of the context of this late stage in the season, but it’s worse when it lacks any of that personal drive. After feeling like Buffy or someone in the group was getting drawn into the past mysteries for a clear reason, “Go Fish” felt like it reverted back to ideas like school spirit without much attention paid to the changes in previous episodes. I’m not saying the show is unable to do standalone episodes without such a personal focus in the future, but “Go Fish” seems really out of place, and I think that heightens its more embarrassing qualities to the point where it feels even more skippable than it already is.

That’s the challenge, though, when you change things up: once everything starts connecting back to a key moment or theme in the series, an episode which doesn’t will seem even more out of place than before. It’s obviously a step forward for the series, as personalizing these demons does a great deal to make these standalone stories more compelling, just as Angel’s new position makes “Passion” stand out even from other serialized episodes. However, it’s going to create some imbalances, something that the show will have to contend with in the future.

Episode Spotlight: “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”

This week, I thought I’d try something different: I want to try to focus on general themes rather than episodes in the future, but I know that others want some direct commentary on certain episodes that are their favourites/are really important/etc. So, when I write pieces like this, I thought I’d solicit some comments from readers or critics about particular episodes that I can respond to directly. This week, I asked Maclean’s TV critic Jaime Weinman to offer some questions regarding “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” since he noted on Twitter that he was interested to hear my thoughts on the episode.

1) As a comedy episode (and Xander-centric episode) coming so soon after the “Innocence” game-changer, and coming right before another game-changing dark episode, did this episode feel like filler?

This is a fair point, but I’d return to my point about personalization – it may be a standalone episode, but it derives from Xander’s relationship with Cordelia, which makes its supernatural elements entirely character-driven. Any episode which takes that form can’t be called filler, as it clearly adds to our understanding of who these characters are (which is something the show is particularly interested in post-“Innocence”).

2) Were you conscious while watching it that the episode was deliberately trying to minimize Buffy’s screen time, or was that something they successfully disguised?

I didn’t really think about it, to be honest: the episode was clearly set up to focus on Xander and Cordelia’s relationship, which has been an important enough part of the show that I didn’t find it odd. It also made sense that Buffy, still struggling over Angel, would sort of disappear in a Valentine’s Day episode, even if the “turned into a rat” scenario seems a bit hackneyed out of context.

3) What do you make of the parallels they’re setting up between the Angel/Spike/Drusilla triangle and the teen relationships? Is there an ironic commentary on their own genre (the teen angsty relationship-y show) implied here? Or just an additional triangle to add to the many triangles on the show?

I think the idea of the human and the demonic coming closer together is very much possible due to the conflict created between the three vampires. I know enough about the show that I’m watching to see how Spike evolves further, and I think the show is starting to shift our sympathies to the character by contrasting him with Angelus (who the audience has, at this point, turned on). I don’t know if I’m willing to suggest that there’s an ironic commentary on the genre, but rather that their genre does not discriminate: while “The Dark Age” worked to build parallels between Giles and Buffy to demonstrate that there was cross-generatonal impacts of living on the Hellmouth, the similar drama surrounding Valentine’s Day for both the living and the dead works to imply that even 200-year old vampires are not immune to the crippling weaknesses of humanity. The episode’s comic tone is probably ironic, but the long-term effects of the parallel strike me as genuine and honest to the show’s aims.

4) Fans of the show come to blows about whether Xander is sympathetic or a jerk (this comes to a head in discussion of a key moment in the season finale). How jerky do you find him in this episode?

I didn’t find him particularly jerky in this episode, but I think part of the point of the episode is to sort of contextualize his past behaviour. At this point, Xander gets the sort of attention he always desires (and jokes about in a sometimes jerk-like fashion) but he ultimately backs away: when Buffy comes onto him, he refuses to make a move, and while he overreacts to Cordelia’s rejection it isn’t entirely unjust. The episode’s conflict stemps from when his entirely human response to Cordelia’s behaviour moves into the realm of the supernatural, a move which we can’t entirely vilify considering how often it’s happening and how tempting it must be when on the Hellmouth – that he doesn’t take advantage of that situation (especially with Buffy) makes the episode work, and makes Xander and Cordelia’s reconciliation resonant.

[Interested in offering some similar questions/topics/comments for me to respond to for a future episode? If so, I’ll be posting something once I get into Season Three (I’ll be doing the finales/premieres separate from these types of posts) to solicit some responses – thanks to Jaime for helping out this week!]

Cultural Observations

  • Really enjoyed the neat bit of long-term serialization we saw with Amy’s return in “Bewitched…” – not that the character would return (that’s logical), but rather that the show reminded us of that story by having Oz note the Cheerleading trophy’s eyes seemed to follow him in “Phases.” It’s a nice little “Oh, I remember that now!” moment that helps our recall in the episode which follows.
  • Familiar faces all over the place here: Wentworth Miller and Shane West in “Go Fish,” Willie Garson in “Killed by Death,” and Christopher Gorham in “I Only Have Eyes for You.”
  • I’m going to presume that Whedon is a big fan of endings like the one in “Passion” where Jenny’s computer program is lost between the two desks. It’s the sort of “Argh, no!” moment that seems like something he would enjoy.
  • Speaking of those desks, I’m noticing the way in which Willow is slowly being brought further into the occult as a result of Jenny’s departure – this is one of the elements of the show that I have some knowledge of, so it’s fun to see it start small considering where it’s headed. The show can’t come right out and suggest that Willow is replacing Jenny, out of sympathy to the characters, so the slow build as Willow takes over her class and her research is (I presume) a gradual process.
  • “I Only Have Eyes For You” is a really packed episode: note also Principal Snyder speaking with the Chief of Police about the demon, and providing some exposition. I quite like that Snyder was actually brought in to control the Hellmouth, and that the Mayor (who I know arrives sooner or later) is some sort of shadowy figure. It means that Buffy and Snyder should be working together, not separately, and yet he either doesn’t know she’s the Slayer or there’s some sort of larger power struggle. Either way, I’m warming to the character and look forward to seeing how the bureaucratic side of things evolves.


Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

39 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: Post-“Innocence,” It’s Personal (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

  1. diane

    Nice focus on Bewitched, etc. I suggest Doppelgangland as a feature episode for season 3, focusing on the difference in character development between standalone episodes and arc episodes.

    As standalones go, I like GoFish (I know, minority viewpoint). It definitely stands above clunkers past and future and has some great lines. But I also agree that it feels “out of place” and it won’t be the last episode that trips over that problem.

    Passion is certainly a great episode, and it contains seeds of surprises to come. You touched on a few of them, but Whedon is better at drawing threads from unsuspected places than you’ve yet given him credit for.

    Really enjoying your series of reviews; it makes me want to pick up the series and run through it again.

    • Tom

      I’d like to suggest “The Zeppo” for season 3 as an episode focus. Another Xander episode, but one of my favourites in the whole show.

    • Raine

      I’d second the suggestion for Doppelgangland. In many ways, Willow’s storyline is my favorite (though I have some gripes with the quality of the storytelling around her in later seasons), so any episode focused on her is going to get my vote.

      • Tausif Khan

        For me Doppelgangland was the game changer for the series. Previously I just didn’t understand why it was always Buffy and Xander (besides that Buffy is the presumed Superhero and Xander is male) who would go off to fight the villains and Willow would stay behind (Giles is pretty sufficient as a researcher).

  2. The thing about Jenny Calendar’s death is that it was the FIRST Whedon death. Nobody saw it coming because everyone back then knew that your favorite characters on TV just didn’t die (unless an actor wanted to leave a show, i.e. Anthony Edwards in ER, Jimmy Smits in NYPD Blue, etc). After this episode . . . not so much. After this episode, and the many to come, Whedon deaths (the latest of which being Paul from Dollhouse, but before that I would argue Penny from Dr. Horrible was the most “surprising,” in Whedonian fashion) are to be expected, and it’s just a question of “when?” and “who?” now.

    I’m even going to blame this episode for all the people who have died on Lost. Yep, it’s all his fault.

    • Eldritch

      Good point.

      I still choke up when I see Jenny die, but that’s because I sympathize Giles’ loss and mourn the loss of a favorite character. She really felt like she fit into the group and was there for the long run.

      But the unexpected surprise that such a loved and well developed character died was truly shocking.

      But with Whedon’s reputation out, I suppose it’s not so shocking anymore, even to first time viewers.

      • Susan

        I think Whedon’s commentary about the way in which Jenny dies is particularly interesting–why Angel(us) doesn’t bite her, even though he’s vamped out.

        PS: there’s a web comic making the rounds about Whedon possibly directing The Avengers, in which he decides to kill Captain America in the first 5 minutes–cuz, you know, of the pain and shock. 🙂

        • Why didn’t he bite her? I haven’t heard that commentary…

          • Amy

            Noooo! Spoilers! I’m still halfway through Dollhouse 😦

          • Susan

            I don’t think I can say yet–I think it’s probably too spoilery. I think it’s in the commentary to the ep, but it might be in the Season 2 round-up featurette. I’ll come back and post after Myles has gotten a few eps into Season 3.

          • Eldritch

            It’s really not spoiler. Myles has already discussed the point that Angel kills Calendar.

            In a short interview on the DVD, Whedon says they didn’t have Angel bite her, because they didn’t want to spur any speculation she might come back as a vampire. They wanted it clear that she was just dead.

            The other point was that they had Angel kill her in vamp face. They used vamp face, because they felt his doing it in human face was simply too disturbing. They feared fans wouldn’t want to see that face kill Buffy again.

            Whedon also said that they killed her because someone had to be killed to show that things were not safe. It was important to establish that Angel was truly dangerous, not just pretending to be evil, or just a little bit evil, or just grouchy.

          • Eldritch

            Typo: “kill Buffy” should be “kiss Buffy.”

          • JJ

            Hence the spoiler that at some point Angel and Buffy may kiss again. 😉

            Although you’d have to be living under a rock to not see that coming….

          • Susan

            Yup. I was erring on the side of caution–just in case. 😉

          • Eldritch

            “Yup. I was erring on the side of caution–just in case…”

            And you were right to do so. To my chagrin I wound up revealing more than I intended.

  3. Eldritch

    In a previous thread, Myles, you said you were pleasantly surprised how much you enjoyed season one episodes despite warnings from commenters.

    The first time I saw season one was a long time ago, but I think I remember enjoying thoes episodes as a first time viewer. However, after getting away from the series and then returning to it, I found those initial episodes mostly slow and uninvolving. I almost felt boredom lurking nearby.

    I believe that’s due to a couple of reasons. By the time the show gets through the latter part of its second season, the writers have figured out how to crank up the tension. With the characters better developed, the writers were better at making the threats feel more dangerous. And a related second reason is, as you observe, that the threats became more personal.

    Most of the early episodes embody less interior threats. A preying mantis threatens Xander. Demonized computer technology threatens Willow. These threats come from the outside and don’t actually create any conflicts among our Scoobies. Not really that different from “Go Fish.” By the late second and third seasons, the Scoobies battle not only exterior threats, but each others’ needs.

    This makes more feel to be at stake. As in “Innocence,” will the world be destroyed because Buffy can’t kill her boyfriend? The exterior monsters invade their interior personal space.

    This is missing in the first season episodes. There’s less to lose. Is there really any question, even in a first time viewer, that the monster of the week won’t be defeated by each episode’s end? Without the tension of the later episodes, season one’s feel kinda slow paced.

    • That sense of personal jeopardy/lasting consequences is missing from a lot of science fiction television show (and non sci-fi ones as well, let’s be honest), like Stargate SG-1, whose villains always come from the outside. I think that’s partly what separates the great ones out from the rest, which we might consider entertaining and fun, but at the end of the day don’t make our ‘favorites’ list.

      Star Trek (all five incarnations), despite its undeniable cultural impact, never had it. Shows like Buffy, BSG, and Farscape DO have it, and are much richer for it, in my opinion. It is much easier and worthwhile to become involved in a TV show as a viewer if something personal is at stake. It’s part of what gives these ‘fantastic’ shows a sense of realism, despite their premises.

      • diane

        Yes, necessary, but not sufficient. The V remake has personal jeopardy and lasting consequences galore, but it still fails to connect in spite of this. I think the reason is that the characters are not fully rounded, and we never got to know them in ways that could make us care. (Actually, the show has mis-handled some characters rather badly, and negates the consequences as a result.)

        Whedon is often criticized for slow starts (both seasons and series), but what he accomplishes with that is character development, and giving us a chance to know and like and care about them.

      • Danel

        Actually as regards Stargate, I’d previously seen something similar suggested as an argument for that show’s “Seasonal Rot”. The first major villain, Apophis, had done great personal harm to most of the main characters in addition to being a terrible threat. Later villains just tended to be major threats without the intense personal element.

        • What I meant by bringing up Stargate was in reference to Eldritch’s comment that the Scoobies don’t just battle outside threats (like Apophis, who by definition is an outsider to SG-1), they also battle each other: wants, needs, fears, etc. Especially in later seasons. On Stargate (with the exception of the much different Universe), it is a given in every single episode that the characters can trust one another, and at the end of the day, the bad guys are evil evil evil no exception.

          The very few times trust is an issue in that universe it’s because some malevolent entity, like Hathor or those inter-dimensional bugs or whatever, are playing games with our heroes. In contrast, on Buffy, it is common for conflicts to come from both within and without the group, and even if the conflicts are coming from without, they often have long-lasting effects on the characters’ inter-personal relationships (like Spike and Drusilla). I would give other examples, but I don’t want to spoil Myles.

    • Gill

      Most of the early episodes embody less interior threats. A preying mantis threatens Xander. Demonized computer technology threatens Willow.

      Yes, though arguably each of these foreshadows later themes or recurring issues. They establish key vulnerabilities in each character.

      • Raine

        I actually liked season one better when I went back and rewatched it after having seen the rest of the show. There was some nostalgia involved, but also it was fun to see how those key vulnerabilities were set up.

  4. AO

    I found this to be my least favorite write-up, and by a wide margin. What I especially liked about these reviews was the focus on one, or a couple of individual episodes as written by someone new to the show. I thought that many of the observations were insightful and they did a fair job of reminding me of the details of Episodes that I haven’t watched in a bit over a year. I also enjoyed the speculation on what might be to come and how the show reached the point that it did in the Episode(s) that were being reviewed. Obviously not all of those things were eliminated in this write-up, but I worry that they might be, or that the focus on them may be greatly reduced, in the future.

    When the focus is changed to the themes of the show, then it loses much of it’s uniqueness, at least to me. There has definitely been much written on the themes of the show already, and imo such analysis can be more effectively accomplished when the writer is able to draw on all 12 Seasons of both Series in order to inform their writing.

    Obviously this is your project and if you think that a focus on the show’s general themes is the best course, for whatever reason, then it’s not my place to argue. And I may well be in the minority in this opinion. Thanks for letting us know of the change in priorities. I’ll read the next installment or two and see if my impression changes. Hopefully it will, as I had very much enjoyed reading these posts prior to this one. I also hope that nothing that I have written comes across as offensive in any way, that was definitely not my intent.

    • I certainly take no offense.

      My logic is as follows: basically, I don’t have the time to be doing this project for four months. As a result, I’m not able to stop all the time in order to write about episodes I’m watching, as I’m only 2 seasons into a 12 season project and it’s been three weeks. I need to be moving faster, which means writing less.

      I still plan on stopping for individual episodes (including finales/premieres, which is next up on the docket), but I’m moving at too fast a pace to focus so specifically. I’m also wary of the fact that what you’re suggesting *has* been done in the past, at least through four seasons – Noel Murray reviewed individual episodes at The A.V. Club, so I’ve wanted to avoid falling into the same pattern to avoid redundancies.

      You admit yourself that those elements aren’t entirely absent from this review, and you’re quite right – I certainly don’t think I’m going to suddenly shift to wholly thematic analysis, especially since you rightly point out I don’t know where those themes are going. However, I don’t want to *NOT* write about parts of the series, and I felt like a post like this one was preferable to skipping the episodes entirely and just writing about “Becoming.” These posts fill in the gap between the ones you seem to prefer, and allow my pace to remain fairly quick.

      I’m going to be updating the project and its pace once I finish off Season 2, so stay tuned – it certainly won’t be shifting too dramatically, in my view.

      • AO

        Thank you very much for taking the time to respond, it has definitely helped me to understand the situation better and alleviated some of my concerns.

        I can certainly see how time constraints would be a factor in your decision. I’ve been enjoying the reviews so much that my vote would be for you to take as long as you need to do this project “right”, even if it meant that it would continue for quite a few months longer. But of course I don’t actually get a “vote” and I can understand that there must be many other programs competing for your time, especially now, as we enter May Sweeps and near the end of most shows’ Seasons.

        I do find it interesting/humorous that you’re more concerned with duplicating what Noel Murray has already done, while I’m more worried that the thematic analysis will duplicate what several others have done, but I guess that it’s all just a matter of perspective.

        In any event, I don’t want to take up much more of your time. Every minute spent replying to me could better be spent on Buffy (or one of the several other shows that you have focused on), so let me thank you again for taking the time to reply, I very much do appreciate it.

      • Tausif Khan

        Does anyone know why Noel Murray has stopped reviewing Buffy? Is just because his schedule is too busy right now? Will he continue in the future?

  5. Gill

    I showed my daughter one of your earlier comments about Jenny and Giles. She’s 19 and grew up watching the show, on my lap if necessary! She groaned at the way your response to the relationship was setting you up for the crushing events of Passion, also a game-changing episode in so many ways. When before this had an important character and love-interest been killed off so abruptly? She also expressed envy that you were able to watch these for the first time.

    It means that Buffy and Snyder should be working together, not separately, and yet he either doesn’t know she’s the Slayer or there’s some sort of larger power struggle. Either way, I’m warming to the character and look forward to seeing how the bureaucratic side of things evolves. Like so many characters one may dislike or dismiss initially, Snyder comes into his own, though he never becomes an attractive individual. Again I return to my theme of the way Joss makes the most of initially very minor characters. Oz is another good example of this.

    In many ways the themes of adolescent struggles are still being played out, but now with much more focus on the internal struggles associated with growth and change and what these do to personality and relationships. Mid-adolescents frequently develop an obsessive focus on a single aspect of their lives to the detriment of the rest, or see success in one field as the key to personal success everywhere. That is how I see Go Fish fitting in at this stage. It’s also perhaps necessary comic relief before the huge tensions necessary to deal with the Angel/Angelus storyline and the other elements of plot which have occupied larger arcs, such as the Spike/Dru relationship.

  6. JJ

    I completely agree that Go Fish, more than any other Season Two episode, could fit right in with Season One — broad humor, non-character-driven threats, etc. But I don’t skip it in the rotation — I find its cheesiness funny, and it’s good to have something lighthearted at that point in the season. Bad Eggs, on the other hand, has no redeeming features whatsoever.

    As far as the “style” of your project, I’ll put in my request for as much Whedon-related writing as you have time to do. But I enjoyed this post, and I was glad that you at least touched on each episode, and then chose one to feature. The Xander-centric episodes (The Zeppo was also mentioned in a comment above) are often excellent.

    Now that you’re into the meatier, more character-driven plots, has your opinion of Season One changed? Meaning, would you groan a bit internally if someone wanted to watch The Puppet Show or Out of Mind, Out of Sight with you?

  7. greg

    Well, ‘Killed By Death’ is still my least-favorite ‘Buffy’ episode ever. (a demon that can only be seen by sick people and it hides out in a hospital!?!) (plus, I loathe those fake flashbacks to Buffy and her cousin (who lived in Sunnydale?)) And I want to like ‘Bewitched, Bothered’ more than I can, but I just can’t get past the timeline logistics. (exactly the kind of thing Marti Noxon seems to have no interest in) Xander finds out the spell failed (probably because they prayed to Diana instead of Venus?) and then gets hit on by Buffy at noon (gotta love that clock in the library, huh?), goes home to find Willow in his bed (presumably at night), then it’s the next day (all their clothes have changed, so…) and it’s noon again when he re-enters the library to confess to Giles. He grabs Cordelia and runs as fast as he can to Buffy’s house with an angry mob chasing them, only to arrive AFTER DARK! Yeah, I know it’s necessary ’cause of Angel and Drusilla, but why couldn’t everything just happen the same day?

    I love the idea that, after Buffy And Angel get their special episodes, the other three couples get one each. then the (presumably studio-mandated) monster-of-the-week nonsense before the season finale, which I love less. Season two, to me, is like a car that’s headed in the right direction, but just keeps stalling. Thankfully, later seasons don’t suffer the same fate.

    • Susan

      I don’t like “Killed by Death” either. You’re right about the flashbacks being contrived and illogical, but my main issue is that it’s just so the wrong time for a stand-alone episode that does nothing whatsoever to push the main story.

      Season Two is one of my favorite seasons, though. The emotional intensity is all the way up to 11.

  8. Susan

    I love Xander, but he’s very often a jerk. A sympathetic jerk, sure, but a jerk. He has a real blind spot where Buffy is concerned, and, whatever his feelings for her, he can be a real Judgey McJerkerson. Also a liar and a butthead.

  9. Bob Kat

    Myles: Yeah, this is about the time it starts to grab everyone how different this all was.

    greg; No reason I can see to think Buffy’s cousin lived in Sunnydale; they’ve established monsters are everywhere. It does strain coincidence that this particular monster picked

  10. Jack-Kay

    I’m also of the faction that would love to see as much time as possible devoted to the study/review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and was slightly shocked by the different (and somewhat briefer in places) type of post this was, but it was actually quite exciting to get such a big bunch of episodes covered by you at once too so I did quite enjoy the style of this Post-Innocence write-up!
    I also felt you focused a little more in depth on the bits that warrant more depthy analysis i.e. Passion and also Bewitched,… Which despite being “a funny one” is also one of my favourites of the series, and paired with Passion either side of Valentine’s Day when they aired, made a perfect Valentines double-bill.
    However, I Only Have Eyes For You is also one of my fave standalones of the series and I think the poetic ending in which Buffy & Angel are allowed a scene that gives them a vague sense of the resolution they never got after Angel’s turning, and a scene that I think the audience need to see (even if it is through the medium of posession) in order for us ourselves to grieve for the romance between them that will never be quite as it was.
    Plus I loved that you picked up on the comical aspect of them being possessed by the opposite sex 🙂 which I think is funny too, if poetically so.
    For season 3 “feature reviews” I’d love to read more about Revelations, Lover’s Walk, The Wish, Amends, Bad Girls, Consequences, Doppelgangland, Earshot or The Prom. Any of those would be great please 🙂
    Looking forward to Becoming and the future seasons!

  11. BobT

    Like I said in my comments in the bad eggs post, there are usually lighthearted episode right before an important or dark and intense one.

    Bewitched… and Go fish are two of those filler episodes. I remember that Joss is of the ” I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you cry” school of thought.

    He usually does the latter right after he does the former ( and sometimes the other way around). I really think filler episodes like those are there for a reason to make the episode that comes after a bit more shocking, because the previous one was so silly.

    So again, whenever there’s an episode that feels like it’s from season 1, beware. There just might be a gutwrenching episode coming right after.

    Because Passion was a shocker. Especially coming right after that goofy Xander centric episode.

    But your seemingly blasé reaction to Jenny’s death may mean that you won’t get the same experience most people had when the show first aired.

    I guess that’s the price to pay for seeing these after other Whedon works.

  12. Eldritch

    “Really enjoyed the neat bit of long-term serialization we saw with Amy’s return in “Bewitched…”

    Not to be beating a dead horse here, but the entire series has neat bits of serialization throughout it. It’s part of what gives it a sense of “memory.” Events aren’t forgotten. It gives great sense of continuity.

  13. Tausif Khan

    In the case of Oz, reconciliation is possible because it’s only three days a month, and because the regular Oz will return for the other twenty-something days –

    This gets complicated so just be aware.

    I don’t interpret Willow studying witchcraft as her becoming the new Jenny as that would push into tertiary character mode. Her studying witchcraft actually pulls her closer in with the other characters and is also a symbol of the subtle shift in the show since the introduction of Angelus. Powers are becoming more personal. This is most poignant when a character more central to the core of the show.

    Also, Miss Calendar’s death reveals another Whedon trend.

  14. Tausif Khan

    In relation to Jason Mittel’s post why a book? ( do you plan on making this work into a book project? Do you plan on culling for this working and writing academic articles for the journal slayage? What do you want to get out of this project academically?

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