Monday, September 12, 2011

"Doppelgangland" (Buffy 3.16): Willow gets her vamp on

This is a much beloved episode in the Buffyverse. The slash fic alone that is has spawned is, well, actually pretty terrifying. So your first "don't" is not to Google it. But with Joss the Great writing and directing, you know there's more going on than just witty one-liners, though there are plenty of those. So without further ado, the "Doppelgangland" guide to encountering your shadow self, and finding out she's "kinda gay"!

DON'T underestimate the value of a good pity party.
Willow has been feeling unappreciated lately, and with good reason. Buffy temporarily semi-dumped her for the more edgy (and, as it turns out, homicidal) Faith, Xander lost his v-card to same, and Oz (I love you, Oz!) wasn't even in the last episode!
Apparently, he was off getting hotter.
So Will's in the mood to over-analyze and take umbrage at every innocent comment her friends make about her reliability and academic seriousness. What Oz calls "a radical interpretation of the text" is really Willow voicing her deepest anxieties about herself: that she's boring and un-sexy and incapable of being the opposite. Well, that's about to change.

DO embrace your inner vamp.
What starts this whole rodeo is Anya, who is understandably frustrated by losing her demonic powers and being stuck in high school. Basically, she wouldn't make a good member of the Cullen family. After cool demon of vengeance and arch post-ironic delivery D'hoffryn refuses to reinstate her, she seeks to access the alternate reality where she was still a demon and be-vamped Willow was throwing down with the white hats in the Master's blood factory.
Behold: a hipster demon.

Long story short, only soulless Willow comes back, and much hilarity ensues. By being mistaken for and impersonating her darker self, Willow realizes that she is capable of importing a little of that bad-girl fierceness into her non-evil persona. And WOW will that epiphany reverberate in season 6.
Sassy . . .
Sassier . . .
Oh, crap.

DO remember that big bads have a light side.
Because this is Joss and he is awesome, there are no throwaway moments in this episode. We see Faith playing double agent, enjoying the perks of being the Mayor's new right-hand-girl. What makes this moment crucial for the episode thematically is that the Mayor likes being nice to Faith. His care for her is genuine, and a for-real element of his personality that makes him more than a cartoon villain, and also makes him vulnerable.
Such a sunshiney sadist!

DO dress like your vampire self, even if you're not evil.
Cordelia, on the prowl for Wesley, shows up at the library in this little number:
The Sunnydale High library is the hottest spot north of Havana.
 Their flirtation escalates when Wesley scares off vamp Willow by brandishing Holy Water as if it were a stake, and if I could adequately transcribe his hooting shriek when Cordelia surprises him afterwords, I would buy myself a drink in celebration.

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