Friday, March 9, 2012

Co-Watchers Assemble (Buffy 4.19-21): Oz and Spike and Adam, oh my!

My intrepid co-watcher took the long and winding road out West this week, and we knocked out the rest of Buffy season 4 in one fell swoop. And by "fell," I mean "wine and cupcake-charged." Though we agree that the pivotal episode "Restless" deserves its own post, here's the Whedon Girls Guide to setting up an epic dream sequence season finale.

DO tie up your loose, adorable, red-headed and lycanthropic ends. "New Moon Rising" (4.19) brings one Daniel Osbourne back to town.

Hey, red.

Mine and Jenn's favorite werewolf has spent the last thirteen episodes in Tibet, learning how to harness the wolf within. Sort of. Oz's reappearance in Sunnydale throws a big lupine wrench into Willow and Tara's burgeoning romance, and also exposes Riley the Doofus's pervasive anti-demon bigotry.

Riley being judgmental. Dick.

His disgust at Willow's willingness to date a werewolf grossed us out thoroughly, and prompted Buffy to semi spill the beans about Angel. Jenn and I agreed that Riley's inability to conceptualize a "good" underworlder is a sign that is nothing but bad. His refusal to tolerate ambiguity and ambivalence in the demon department renders him ultimately unable to function in the Whedonverse, which eschews black and white in favor of shades of grey.

When Oz wolfs out in a fit of jealousy after smelling Willow on Tara, he is captured by the Initiative. The conclusion sees the Scoobies spring Oz from the bowels of the Initiative, Riley's half-hearted desertion, and Willow's heartfelt admission to her first love that some part of her will always be waiting for him. The rest of her will be dating Tara in the meantime.

You're sweet, Tara. I wish your entire romantic life wasn't metaphorized into an investigation of witchcraft.
Jenn and tracy's verdict: Riley is a douche, and we will always love Oz.

DON'T underestimate the de-fanged vamp. "The Yoko Factor" (4.20) is pure pleasure from start to finish.  Jenn and I are always appreciative of a good Angel vs. Riley cock fight, and this episode does not disappoint. Adam has commissioned Spike to isolate Buffy, and since his chip prevents any physical violence, William the Bloody goes for the emotional wounds.

How he loves psyops.

And really, hitting people where it will hurt most is his specialty. Spike expertly divides the Scoobies, activating Xander's anxieties about his non-collegiate status, Giles's insecurities about his unemployment and marginalization, and Willow's fears that no one will accept her relationship with Tara. Tellingly, Riley is mistrustful and jealous of Buffy's recent visit to the City of Angel all on his own, though Xander spelling out the whole "one moment of true happiness" addendum to Angel's curse didn't help. The billowy-coated King of Pain shows up to try to clarify some hurt feelings from B's visit, but finds the time to put Riley the Doofus firmly in his place. 

Don't push him, boy. If sexiness were a weapon, Riley'd be dead by now.

There is nothing Jenn and I don't love about Angel beating the ever-loving shit out of Captain Cardboard. You know what else we enthusiastically embrace? Giles getting drunk and cynical.

He also sings "Free Bird." It's more awesome than you can imagine.

As Buffy, Xander, and Willow squabble over Spike's Inception-esque implantation of conflict, Giles pours himself many a Scotch, giggles over Xand's mention of "Fort Dix," and passes out early, tossing a well-timed "bloody hell" over the banister.

Jenn and tracy's verdict: Riley is still a douche, and we will always love bratty Spike and sloshed Giles. Also, we love black and white kittens.

Could this episode be more rad?

DO get by with a little help from your friends. "Primeval" is the perfect encapsulation of all the thematic threads of season 4. The Scoobies have been growing apart since "Fear Itself," with Xander trying to find an extra-curricular career and relationship with Anya, Willow discovering and cultivating her witchcraft and relationship to Tara, and Buffy being "that girl" through her all-encompassing relationship with Riley the douche.

They went from this,

to this.

But "Primeval" gets us to this.

Spike merely amplified the fissures that were already apparent amongst the quartet, and "Primeval" is all about repairing those wounds.

And about Giles recovering from his hangover.

Adam is an amalgamation that is bred for unnatural destruction, as evidenced by his reanimation of Dr. Maggie Walsh.

I do love the blood and bile delivery tubes.
He also unearths the scientist whose name I cannot remember, as well as Forrest the Asshole, who bought it in "The Yoko Factor," and whose misogyny is now literalized through his monstrosity.

Guys who hate women always end up brutally punished in the Whedonverse. God, I love this show.

The trio's steampunk zombified corpses are a mockery of life pitted against B and her reinvigorated Scoobies, who have deduced that combining their respective strengths (Giles's mind [Sophus]/ Willow's magicks [Spiritus]; Xander's heart [Animus]; and Buffy's Slayer power [Manus]) will undo the unholy power of Adam.

The spell makes her look pretty funky . . .

but I guess it's worth it since it renders her freaking bulletproof.

Good call, especially since Riley's institutionalization has now literalized the impotence that has only been metaphorical heretofore in the season--a chip in his heart paralyzes him, until he unconvincingly digs it out.

This is what he does for literally three-fourths of the episode.

Willow's enjoining spell gives Buffy the Matrix-esque power to counter Adam's demonic energy, and Buffy/Giles/Xander/Willow (Bilesanderow?) rip out his mechanized heart and destroy the Initiative as well.


Jenn and tracy's verdict: Riley is irrelevant, and we will always love Bilesanderow when they're dismantling the military-industrial complex.

But as we know, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. The blowback from the enjoining spell shall be epic, and will give us an episode that Whedonites love to parse. Next up: put on your pj's and pop some popcorn. It's time for "Restless."

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