Thursday, April 23, 2009

DVD review - Buffy season 3, episodes 19 and 20

Continuing with my viewing and reviewing of season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer...


Episode 19: Choices

Synopsis: The Mayor imprisons Willow after Buffy and Angel steal a box containing demonic energy, which the Mayor needs for his Ascension Day. (written by David Fury, airdate 5/4/99)

This episode does two things very well. First, it ups the ante on the Mayor's Ascension plot with he and Faith at their most diabolical to date. In twisted Daddy mode, he gifts his dark slayer with a knife which she uses well to procure an item coming to town. The Scoobies get wind and decide to go on the offensive, which was a great thing to see them doing - being pro-active. It almost works too, except for that fault winch and Willow getting left behind. As the group debates the merits of a trade (Wesley is such a pain in the ass - luckily Oz quietly ends the debate by breaking the cauldron, thus forcing the trade), Willow goes on the offensive too - moving from damsel in distress to full-blown ally. Not only can she do spells to break barriers, she can stand up to Faith and deal the psychological damage (now if she could just take a punch). And in the end, she comes through one step further by providing actual pages from the Books of Ascension. Go Willow! You rock! But the Mayor does get in one bit of wicked psycological damage himself - by pointing out to Angel and Buffy how wrong they are for one another. When Snyder busts in with the police and some of nasties get out of the box, it again shows what evil we are dealing with. "Raise your hand if you're invulnerable" indeed. None of them could handle the box creatures. Even Faith has a brief pause of doubt before she leaves with the Mayor. I think she's having second thoughts.

Episode 20: the Prom

Synopsis: Buffy battles three fearsome hell-hounds that another classmate has programmed to attack students during the Sunnydale High's senior prom. (written by Marti Noxn, airdate 5/11/99)

Marti once again ups the relationship emotions in this episode. The writing is brilliant, second only to Joss. We get the talk between Angel and Joyce, the shocking dream for Angel, the break-up, the broken hearted girl, the dedication then of Buffy to ensure everyone else has a good prom AND Xander comes through for Cordelia when he learns of her recent downturn (go Xander! That's the man-way - do the good deed and let it go unsaid!). Heck, Xander even bit the bullet and took Anya to the prom. He deserves a medal. But in the end, after beating back the hell-hounds and donning her gown, it is Buffy who gets the award from the class with such a moving speech. I'll admit, I was getting a little teary there. Damn pollen allergies. ;) A fantastic episode that combines the teen drama, typical high school moments, and slayage to boot. Last note: Angel tells Buffy he has decided to leave after they stop the Mayor's Ascension. In the context of the story, it makes sense because the two would have a tough time making the relationship work and it is too hard for them to be "just friends". And, of course, we all know he has to leave so he can do the spin-off show. Nice how that all worked together. ;)


Michael O'Connell said...

CHOICES - Oh, yes, we're winding right up for the big finale now. Got our one-off one-ep break with Earshot, now we're full steam toward the end of the season.

This ep set a lot of nice things up. One, it did a really good job of showing that Faith has gone to full-on assassin - that "taste for it" thing Angel said was certainly right. She's fully dark side. It also spells out more the father/daughter thing with her and the Mayor - btw, an interesting counterpoint to the Giles/Buffy one, don't you think, how the Mayor/Faith one (at least on the Mayor's part) is much more out in the open about feelings and appreciation, and the Giles/Buffy one is more typical parent/child in that it's made up of awkward moments of emotional honesty, but mostly of things implied and unspoken? And yet, in the first case - EVIL. And the second case are the good guys. Interesting. Anyway, yeah, the knife - just what every little girl wants from her daddy. Well, at least THIS one does. They are one Hell (see what I did there?) of a pair. Yay for the full-Scooby (even with Angel...and Wes) excursion into enemy territory. Mission accomplished - except for that whole "Home Alone" moment with Willow - "Wait...where's Willow? Aaaahhhh!" Willow works best in this situation because just like the rest of the cast, we feel like she's the one we most want to take care of, so we're definitely invested in her capture. And yes!--love how they used this hostage moment to show how far she's come since season 1. This girl's got skills - and moxy! Loved the face-off with Faith, especially since we've been seeing how far gone Faith is and know what she's capable of, so we get that extra fear of what might happen to Will. LOVED the Oz display of wordless emotion with the physical throw. And the suspenseful late-night showdown at the school. Couldn't you just feel everything coming to a head here, with Snyder right in the middle of it? He now not only knows more about what the Mayor's really up to, but finally has the info that the Scoobies are more than just trouble students. And all of it is too big for him to do anything but ignore. Great feeling of things heading toward an ending.

Ooh, ooh - I caught something you missed! Hope you read this before the big finale. That thing with Faith looking back, and the Mayor having to tell her to come on? That was not doubt on her part. She wasn't looking back at the gang - she was looking back at her knife left stuck in the wall. The scene was actually really well set-up, with Giles and Wes standing between her and it so it would have been complicated getting it...and with the Mayor telling her to come on, she had to leave it behind. And that hurt her. That knife is more than a knife - it means something to her...a lot to her. So it hurt her having to lose it. It symbolizes a lot of things to her, but mostly her relationship with the Mayor and his belief in her worth and specialness, something she's never gotten from anyone else. No, she's got no doubt where she belongs.

THE PROM - Like you could actually have a series like this, so good at hitting all the high school beats, and NOT have a prom episode. You're right - this one was clearly meant for Marti's touch. So much great stuff! The Xander/Cordy thing - Cordy no longer a rich girl! The universe is on its ear! And Xander being the bigger man about it. They did such great work with the whole shop girl thing, once again making us feel sympathy for a character that was so love-to-hate in the beginning. The awesomely unexpected Joyce arrival at Angel's place to have "the talk" - and Angel's dream about Buffy and their future. Yeah, no spinoff waiting for HIM or anything with a setup like this... But it made good sense. And the expansion of the Anya character! Brilliant! Love the idea of a totally old vengeance demon stuck with the body and emotions of a high school girl - but without all the social graces. She instantly became hilarious. The perfect date idea for Xander. Great plot with the hellhound thing, and one of my favorite villain motivations ever - "Oh, I've got my reasons"...cut to flashback..."Will you go to prom with me?"..."No". Ha! Loved Buffy's choice to look out for her buds, and the rest of the school. I can't recall right now if it was this ep or homecoming that had the moment with Giles - "Quickly, Buffy's in danger! Just kidding..." Either way, cracked me up majorly. Glad we got the hellhound resolution out of the way quickly so we, like the others, could just enjoy the prom. Yes, the Class Protector Award moment... Sniffle... A well-earned and rare moment of Buffy happiness. That was amazing. As was the gag in the middle. "We all know that this isn't a normal town..." "Vampires!" "Zombies!" "Snyder!" And the final moment of beauty - Angel showing up, and the big dance. If you didn't get the full appreciation of the dance the first time, try popping in that disc again - the shot, with the camera circling around them, picks up all the other Buffy cast members dancing around them. Very well done. A great ep - and my, it certainly does feel like the calm before a big storm, doesn't it...?

Martin Maenza said...

Of course - the knife! Why introduce an item in "act one" (this episode) without it being key to "act three" (I am thinking episode 22). Duh! Writing 101. Okay, that does fit.

"Vampires!" "Zombies!" "Snyder!" was great. That whole seen answered that one question I had been having for seasons now: why stay at a school or keep it open when all that stuff happens? The kids know. The faculty know. Everyone knows. They just find it the norm. After all, the class of 1999 had the lowest mortality rate of any class (that's just a morbid honor!) - thanks to Buffy.