Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Triangle" (Buffy 5.11): His power is in his, ahem, hammer

Our first episode in a post-Riley world is a comic one, which, as Jenn notes, is a little jarring considering the pain parade of "Into the Woods." But I think that it is trying at least to continue the narrative exploration of how who we were in the past inflects how we love in the present. And if you don't buy that, there's at least a pretty hilarious embodiment of Anya's vengeance demon origin story. So here's the Buffy guide to dealing with the elephant-sized troll in the room.

DO realize that the past isn't dead; it's not even past. I think Faulkner would have liked this episode. The eponymous triangle is referring to Anya/Xander/Willow, which isn't a traditional love triangle, not least because, as Willow points out, "Hello, gay now." But Anya is hyper-aware that Xander's last serious relationship with Cordelia failed because he cheated with Willow. And Willow is similarly super-conscious that Anya used to make her living by taking a personal interest in the mental and physical anguish of a series of unlucky lovers.

Xander is mainly just focusing on his own discomfort.

So they snipe and snap and muddle up one of Willow's spells but good.

DON'T ignore the metaphor in the room. It eats babies. Passive aggression is going to be no good against Olaf, the troll that was imprisoned in a crystal Willow was magicking. He also happens to be Anya's first act of vengeance, so successful that D'hofryn came a-calling. Olaf, I must say, is rad. Jane Espenson wrote this episode, and she has a grand time with Olaf's booming Viking pronouncements and requests for babies to eat. (Spike's response: "I don't know, the hospital?") He's got all of Thor's entitled arrogance,

but not so much Hemsworth's eyes or abs.

I think Olaf is an embodiment of the way our past relationships can come crashing into our present ones, wreaking all sorts of havoc, especially when we're feeling vulnerable, or scared, or rejected. Xander and Anya open the episode wondering if Buffy has a problem, since Angel left too. This is, of course, utter bullshit (as Jenn puts it, the problem is not with the women but the men), but I do think it's what the episode is trying to explore thematically. Willow and Anya are answering for the romantic choices they've made in the past, and Spike is struggling with his feelings for Buffy, knowing they are, shall we say, unlikely to be requited considering his past (he tried to kill her and all her friends for Drusilla).

DO go outside your comfort zone. In order to defeat Olaf, Willow teams up with Anya.

Not happily, but they do it.

However, the episode also shows Spike and Xander sharing a beer and a game of pool,

manfully clutching their pool cues the whole time,

and Buffy and Tara talking boys and school.

Nice pigtails, Buff!

These dyads are more likely to be found in slash fanfic than the series up to this point, but they allow for some fun revelations about each character, because different people bring out different sides of your personality. Which is why, in terms of the reading I'm building, Olaf can be vanquished (with the help of some sublimated Buffy rage as well--Jenn reminds us to watch this tendency towards violence to deal with emotional pain). His power is destructive but ultimately given to him by Anya (the hammer), and she can take it away as well. Or have Buffy do it. Whatever. Who Anya was with Olaf (and who Xander was with Willow, Buffy with Angel, even Spike with Dru) informs but does not determine who or how they will be in their current (or future) relationships. For good or ill. And in season 6 it's mostly for ill, but let's think about that tomorrow.

Spike beating the shit out of his Buffy-quin, for example, is not a great sign.
Also, Dawn finds out she's the key.

We don't really get it either, sweetheart.

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