Note: I had so much to say about these two episodes of Buffy in particular that I decided to go ahead and post this much now. Else this was going to be a monster post. :-)
A:tS 7: Offspring
[As the crew researches a prophecy predicting the imminent arrival of a being who may have a profound impact on the world, Darla arrives at the hotel---pregnant and angry, looking for the daddy. Cordelia, hurt by Angel's dishonesty, takes Darla's side in the matter. Baffled by how the pregnancy is even possible, Angel and company turn to the Host for some insight.]
I love the episodes that start with flashbacks! And whoa, did they have sunglasses back in the 18th century? That guy who was hunting Angel and Darla (Holtz?) certainly had a cool pair on.
Okay, the Angel/Cordy vibes are getting serious now. The Xena-like misleading sexy dialogue between them at the beginning was completely intended to make me think naughty thoughts. Not that I can't think naughty thoughts on my own, but hey. It was interesting that this was the first time it seemed that Angel realized his attraction for Cordelia. It was sweet, but sort of weird too.
When Darla showed up, it was very interesting that Cordelia seemed hurt that Angel had slept with her. Despite the fact that she seems oblivious to the mutual attraction between them, it really bothered her that he hadn't told her about that. It was funny that she was mad at him for a while for getting Darla pregnant, thinking back to her own demon-spawn pregnancy. It's interesting that both Cordelia and Angel have had this experience of suddenly being on the verge of parenthood, like a day before it's happening, and having it be a complete surprise.
It was also interesting to me that Angel didn't give a shit about Darla or the child until he realized it had a heartbeat. He was ready to kill her, and then it all changed. I felt a little weird about that, and I can't really put my finger on why.
This looks to be an interesting story arc, though. And Holtz is back, cool shades and all.
BtVS 7: Once More, With Feeling
[A mysterious force impels the Scooby Gang to burst into song, revealing their true feelings. Buffy admits that she was pulled out of heaven, and she and Spike share a kiss.]
This was one of the first Buffy episodes I ever watched, back last spring when phaballa convinced me to go to a Buffy Singalong at a local movie theater. I had so much fun that night that I bought the season 1 DVD set and spent the next few months trying to talk MDH into watching it with me. Eventually I gave up on him and started watching it on my own, and sometime in those first dozen episodes, I got hooked. I mean, the show wasn't that engaging in the beginning of season 1, but because I'd seen OMWF I had some ideas about where it would all go, and that was what kept me watching. I knew the fandom for the show was large and devoted, and I knew it was worth getting obsessed over. Two months later, I think "obsessed" pretty much captures it.
So finally getting to OMWF tonight was a bit of a watershed moment for me. After this, I know very few spoilers. I mean, I know Buffy and Spike have some sort of relationship, but really that's about it. I have no idea what happens to any of the other characters. So this is the point at which everything is wide open, and I have no clue where it's going. And it's exciting!
It was interesting to watch the buildup to this episode, because even though I'd seen the episode twice, and even though I know all the words to the songs and could totally sing along with the whole thing, there were still things in it that surprised me. One reason for that was that I only knew the song lyrics. When I saw it at the movie theater, I really didn't hear any of the dialogue because everyone was yelling at the screen. So I actually didn't know what happened between the songs.
But on top of that, I had imagined what I thought happened before this episode based on what I did know, and I guessed wrong about some things. I was surprised that this episode happened so early in the season, because I thought a lot more happened before it. I thought Willow had been playing with Tara's memory for much longer than the show seems to be implying (though it's still not clear to me that she only did it the once). I also thought something big had happened between Buffy and Giles, based on the line in Walk Through the Fire when she says, "And why I froze, not one among them knows". I had been imagining that she was in some sort of life or death situation and had literally frozen, maybe thinking that dying would be a way out, and that Giles (or maybe the rest of the gang) had to step in to save her. I was surprised that nothing like that happened, and I have to admit I'm still a little confused about why Giles is thinking of leaving.
I think I'll go through some of the numbers:
Going Through the Motions: I love how this is choreographed. It works really well as an opening number, too. It's interesting that the timing of the numbers edited into the episode is a little different than how they are on the soundtrack.
"Did anyone... burst into song?" And I had missed before that Giles asked Buffy what she sang about and she evaded the question.
I've Got a Theory: I looked for Xander to look guilty in this number, but I couldn't see it. Bunnies kills me every time, and makes me think about how the host at the singalong here dresses up in a bunny suit and terrorizes the crowd at this point.
Aw, Dawn sang about math at school? I would've liked to see that. ;-)
The Mustard is just fantastic. Especially the kettle drums!
Under Your Spell: I like how this is edited into a sex scene in that sly way Willow/Tara action has been portrayed all along. "You make me come... plete." In the theater, everyone yells "come!" after the last "you make me" cuts off.
I'll Never Tell: Emma has a nice voice, and this number is really cute. I want to learn the crazy dance. So... did they hear each other's fears about getting married? I'm still not sure.
Xander and Anya talking over each other to Giles was funny, as was, "The police are taking witness arias". I love The Parking Ticket and think it's one of the best moments in the episode -- but what did we miss Xander, Giles, and Anya talking about while listening to that?
I now get why when Spike offers Buffy a drink she replies, "A world of no". Something else I didn't notice until this viewing is that Spike looks disgusted with himself when he starts singing. Even though he claims not to have sung anything up to that point, he's in quite a hurry to get Buffy out the door before he lets something slip that he doesn't want to say. So he clearly understands something about what's going on.
Buffy: "What else would I want to pump you for? I really just said that."
Rest in Peace is a lot of fun. Great bridge. And I love the way his eyes roll over her when he's on his knees. So naughty!
Dawn's Lament & Ballet: I skip these on the soundtrack, but they're fun to watch. And wow, Dawn has a whole jewelry box full of stuff she's stolen? That's interesting.
What You Feel: The first time I saw this, I remember being really struck by the difference in the largely untrained voices of the cast and the sheer talent of Hinton Battle. And at that time it wasn't a good sort of difference, though now I see it differently. The cast definitely had some preparation to sing the soundtrack, and for the most part, they're technically sufficient -- but their voices just aren't spectacular (even ASH's -- I think he way oversings his numbers, and he should know better). But of course Sweet would be great, because this is what he does. The rest of the cast are singing just like ordinary people, which is exactly the point. If they sounded like pop stars, it would actually take something away from the episode, I think.
Standing: I loved the "training montage from an 80s movie" line, and I really love this scene. I like the slow-mo knife-throwing especially. I'm not sure what it is about that that really gets me. It's almost like it's a moment when he's literally realizing he has nothing left to teach her.
Under Your Spell (Reprise): Tara's and Giles's voices carry a lot of the music in this episode, which I think means more than just that the two of them have solid voices. They're supporting characters for everyone else, almost the heart and soul of the scoobies, and so it makes sense that we see and hear them most prominently in the group numbers. And so it also makes sense that this number is a duet about the two of them thinking about leaving. Tara's "If I could trust that it was just this once" line was what always made me think the mind control had been going on for a lot longer -- and for all I know, it has.
Spike: "Someday he'll be a real boy."
Buffy: "Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday."
Walk Through the Fire: I'm still confused about why Giles makes Buffy go to rescue Dawn alone. Like I said above, I had expected Buffy to fail in some spectacular way prior to this episode, but that didn't really happen. It doesn't seem like Giles to say, "We're not going to help you rescue Dawn." But then they all go anyway, and so... It seemed it bit artificial to me.
It's funny that I didn't notice the ending scene took place at the Bronze before. And Buffy's casual offer to take Dawn's place was something I had missed. When Sweet says, "What if I kill you?" and she replies, "It won't help," it really struck me how much she's finished with it all.
Something to Sing About: "She needs back-up -- Anya, Tara" is funny. I think this is one of my favorite songs, because it really captures the spirit of this episode. The first time I saw this, I remember wondering why Willow was crying when Buffy told them she'd been in heaven. Of course, I get that now, but it's interesting how I was WTF about that before and now am almost wanting to see Willow be more torn up about it. I LOVE that it's Spike who stops her in the end. Everyone else just watches, and no one wants to step in and do anything. They're just going to watch her burst into flames -- I suppose because they think at that point that they've done enough to interfere with her fate. And who better than Spike to tell her she just has to get on with it. I imagine that being immortal would give you a certain amount of perspective.
The ending of this still seems a bit odd to me. The fact that it was Xander who invoked Sweet just... I don't know why that doesn't seem to make sense. There wasn't enough explanation of it for me to really buy it, I guess. And then Sweet left with no big fuss, but they kept singing. It just seems like they could have wrapped that up better.
Where Do We Go From Here? Despite my last comment, I think this song was a great way to end, because it showed that everyone is now uncomfortably estranged from everyone else after having revealed their fears. And of course, we end on the kiss between Spike and Buffy. :-D
I watched the featurette about the making of this episode on the DVD, and that was a lot of fun.
A:tS 8: Quickening
[As Angel and the gang try to figure out what exactly is inside Darla---who's now having contractions---news of her pregnancy causes near pandemonium at Wolfram & Hart. Meanwhile, the demon Sahjhan tries to bring a newly resurrected Holtz up to speed on what he missed over the last couple of centuries.]
Closer and closer to this baby being born. It's interesting that everyone is expecting it to be some sort of crazy demon and is ready to kill it -- because that just tells me it's probably going to be a completely normal baby. Well, completely normal except that it's going to completely throw their world into chaos, most likely. I'm curious to see where this storyline is going, and I can't help but worry for Angel. He seems to be grasping at anything that makes him feel human, and the prospect of having a child is certainly a very human thing. But knowing what he's willing to do to protect people he cares about -- yikes. This sounds scary. And wow, for once W&H is not behind it and seems to be just as freaked out about it as everyone else.
One of the things that I think is interesting about this show is that there are often situations where there aren't just two, but three or four sides to a story. As a result, it's hard to know who to trust, or that letting the bad guys battle it out is the best course of action. Or even who to root for. I was thrilled that the time-transported vampire hunter wiped out all of W&H's thugs (including the vulturey OB/GYN) but... what will he do to Angel? Considering that Angel and Darla slaughtered his children back in the day, it seems that this guy wouldn't hesitate to return the favor. And is that why the demon brought him through time? Does that guy want Angel dead, or is he more worried about the child? And what's the deal with the vampires who want to worship the baby? They were oddly easy to defeat, I thought. There are a lot of possibilities at this point, and I have no idea what direction all of this will go.
So is sonogram reading part of standard watcher training?
The impact of all of this on Darla is interesting. She seems to be trying to cling to being a vampire and not caring about having a baby, but it's less and less convincing. The repeat of "Are you going to do it or am I?" from the flashback was chilling. And something changed for her after she realized the baby she was carrying was human, though it isn't clear if that's a good change or a bad change yet. I loved this:
Darla, in labor: "... the pain!"
Angel: "You like pain."
Darla: "This is different."
It was intended to be funny, but it was almost a sweet moment between them, you know? And wow, nice cliffhanger!
BtVS 8: Tabula Rasa
[Despite Tara's misgivings about her overindulgence in magic, Willow does a spell that goes awry and gives the Scoobies amnesia. This is the last straw for Tara, who breaks up with Willow and moves out.]
"Clean Slate" -- the title is interesting in and of itself. I watched this, and it made me think so much about Restless that I went back and watched that one again, and then watched this one one more time. It just seemed like there was a hell of a lot going on here, and I wanted time to think about it before moving on.
So before I get into the big thing that happened in this episode, I want to talk about some of the stuff I found interesting in the beginning. I was genuinely surprised that Buffy was pushing Spike away here after kissing him at the end of the last episode. But now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It would be a bad idea for her to just throw herself into a relationship with Spike at this point when there's so much she has to figure out about why she's back and how she feel about it. At least, it would be a bad idea if you're actually rooting for that ship, which I totally am.
Spike: "We kissed and it was all Gone With the Wind with the rising music and the rising... music."
I was thrown by the random shark man at the beginning, and then when I rewatched Restless, there was that bit in Xander's dream about a shark "with feet and much less fins... and on land". I don't know if there's a connection, but I thought it was interesting. That "Time is what turns kittens into cats" line really stuck with me, and I have no idea why.
I was disappointed that Willow could barely go a day without using magic, but horrified that even after Tara had confronted her about what she'd done, her first instinct was still to do a spell to erase it from her memory again. And not only that, but to erase what she'd done to Buffy. I suppose it's human nature to want to be able to take back your mistakes, but what really bothers me is that she's only taking them from others -- she still knows what she did, and she doesn't seem to feel a bit guilty about it. It seems that part of the difference a soul makes in a vampire is that it gives them a conscience -- so what does that say about humans who seem to not have one?
But on to the effects of the spell, because that's what this episode was really about. I'm thinking that the idea of a clean slate could be interpreted in two ways here:
(1) One way would be to think of it as looking at what is left when you take away all of a person's experiences. What parts of their personality are innate? If they don't have any frame of reference to figure out what's going on, what do they do? How do they react? How do they relate to others? This one is particularly appealing to me because I think it follows nicely from OMWF, where everyone had laid parts of themselves bare and weren't sure how to proceed with each other. So the question becomes, what if none of that was hobbling you -- what would you do then?
(2) A second way to look at it would be that the spell Willow performed somehow showed us who each of those people really is deep down, what they really want and how they really feel about themselves. This one is also interesting from a perspective of analyzing characters, though it doesn't seem as satisfying as the other one does in terms of how it adds to the larger story arc.
(1) Now that she knows her friends know what she's been through, she seemed to be having trouble being around them at all, as if she couldn't bear to be that vulnerable. So removing the memory of all of that pain and self-doubt was really stark, because she was left as a sort of bubbly and upbeat person, with a tendency to be a leader and protect others. The fact that she was actually excited about discovering she had superpowers made me think about all of the discussion in the last three seasons about what it really means to be a Slayer. She reminded me of Faith for a moment there, all "Hey, look what I can do, cool!" But we've been shown that it isn't that simple, of course. When the spell was broken, you could see the moment it all came crashing back down, everything she'd experienced. It was almost like being brought back to life again, I imagine, and reliving the loss. It literally knocked the breath out of her.
(2) Deep down, we might be able to say that Buffy really loves being the Slayer, that it's absolutely the essence of who she is, and that it ultimately makes her happy. Her reaction to learning that Spike was a vampire was interesting -- she screamed and ran. Yet later, she spent a good minute sitting on top of him in a rather intimate way, and listened when he tried to figure out who he was. And she never said she wouldn't stake him -- he said that. Of course, she didn't hesitate to save him from the vampire early on: "Stay away from Randy!"
(1) It was interesting that she was more than happy to assume Xander was her boyfriend, but as soon as she was close to Tara, she realized she was gay. Or at least attracted to Tara. She also became so much like her pre-witch goofy self that it was almost stark how much she's changed.
(2) The pull between Tara and Willow was so immediate and magnetic that it made me wonder if there is something more there than just attraction between them.
In Restless, I was struck by everyone in her dream telling her how everyone could see who she really was, and that it was clearly a bad thing to reveal. When I first watched it, I thought it had to be something more than the gay thing, because that wasn't an issue on the show at all. I had guessed it might be about Willow becoming dark, and now I really think that's true. It interesting that in this episode at the end, everyone looked down at the crystal and just sort of stared at her in horror, as if they were really seeing what she was capable of for the first time. But no one wants to say anything.
(1) The first person he noticed was Willow, and he barely spared a glance for Anya. He stepped up to fight when he was in the sewer with the girls, even though he wasn't the one with the superpowers. His first instinct there was to fight. Of course, he fainted dead away earlier. Was this the first time it's been mentioned that his name is actually Alexander? That was a surprise for me. I'm not sure why.
(2) It would be tempting to conclude that he hasn't really ever gotten over Willow and still carries a torch for her.
I noticed some interesting things when I watched Restless again, with respect to Xander. First, it was interesting that he was the only one of the characters who watched himself in the dream. Second, he was fascinated by Willow in the dream, in an overtly sexual way. (And in Willow's dream as well.) Third, there was a lot of talk that implied he might not survive the series. I somehow hadn't heard it before, but Snyder told him his time was running out and that despite his claim that he was the "comfortador", he was really just a whipping boy. He was also concerned in his dream about not being able to make it for "Anya's big day", which I assume means the wedding. And he got his heart ripped out by the first slayer. I can only begin to speculate about what all of that means, but I wanted to make a note of it here.
(1) Giles was one of the characters who didn't seem that different without his memories. Does that mean he's better able to filter out the weight of the world than the younger characters? His skepticism about magic was funny, though. The two relationships that emerged here were the ones with Spike and with Anya, and I thought both were really interesting. He seemed so willing to accept the fact that Spike could be his son (even though he was a bit affronted by the age difference) and that he was engaged to Anya. In fact, he was almost happy about both of those things, and made genuine efforts to relate to them accordingly.
(2) I think that Giles wants to have real connections and relationships with people, and one of the reasons he's leaving is because he's realized he won't ever have that in Sunnydale. He said Spike was like a son to him in Restless, and he dreamed about being Buffy's father, and that Olivia was pregnant. In OMWF, he sang about wishing he could be a father to Buffy, but he's knows it isn't possible. He was eager to see himself in a relationship with Anya and even to patch up what he assumed was an imminent breakup. I don't think that implied anything about how he feels about Anya -- I think it was more about a relationship that he really wants.
As an aside, I noticed that he told the first Slayer in Restless that she didn't have a Watcher -- and that made me think about what will happen to Buffy without him.
(1) It was interesting that Anya didn't even look at Xander during this part of the episode. With no memory of ever having been a vengeance demon, she seemed to seize her role as owner of the shop. It struck me that she seems concerned primarily concerned with the material trappings of life and not with relationships very much at all.
(2) So is Anya really capable of loving someone else? She was more concerned with the shop and with being in control of what was happening around her than anything else. It was funny that she kept making bunnies, and that she was still terrified of them. And she whapped Giles on the head with the book and said she was taking vengeance on him. In Restless, she told Xander in the dream that she was thinking about getting back into vengeance, and she seemed unconcerned that he was going to have sex with Willow and Tara.
(1) Tara didn't change very much, from what I could tell. That could imply that Willow has messed with her memory so much that we haven't seen the effect of her experiences on her as much as we have the others. But she still looked right at Willow and smiled as if she'd never seen anyone so wonderful in her life.
(2) Tara really, really loves Willow, probably more than Willow deserves. And Tara loves in a very pure way, with no jealousy or negativity. The pain on her face when the memories came back was pretty awful.
(1) Dawn also didn't seem to change much, but I suppose she hasn't had much life experience to be shaped by.
(2) It was funny that Dawn and Buffy still annoyed each other, and that was what made them realize they were sisters.
(1) First, I should say that it was Spike's appearance in that suit that made me think to go back and watch Restless. Without any knowledge that he was a vampire, he assumed he was human, and that in and of itself was very interesting to me. It wasn't until he was directly attacked by another vampire that he morphed at all, so just being around the scoobies wasn't enough to bring out his evil side. It was also interesting how easily he accepted that Giles was his father -- with all of his eye rolling, he seemed to be relieved to have a connection. And of course, in Restless, he was quite excited about Giles taking him under his wing. But when he finally figured out he was a vampire, that was when it really got interesting. Without much knowledge of what vampires are and do, he decided he must be one of the good guys. The whole bit about being a vampire with a soul who was trying to redeem himself was funny, of course, and even funnier when Buffy said, "A vampire with a soul? That's lame." (It struck me that "lame" was the same word the Buffybot used to describe Angel.) And that's hardly the simplest explanation, is it?
(2) So that makes me think about what this might say about Spike and what Spike really wants. He seemed so desperate to make a connection with Buffy here and to convince her that he was on her side. And of course, he said, "I don't want to bite you", which seemed so, so honest and true. He was not the slightest bit evil here, almost just a dorky guy who really, really wanted to hang out with the cool kids, even though he clearly doesn't belong. And he also seemed like he wanted to be a good guy. That description of Angel may not have been a coincidence -- it could be that he envies Angel on some level, and actually wants to be more like him. Or is it that he thinks if he's more like Angel, Buffy will finally love him? So where's that demon, really?
In Restless, Giles said he was going to train Spike to be a Watcher, and that connection between Giles and Spike was reinforced in this episode. And that made me wonder about the role Spike might now take in Buffy's life. He does have a lot to teach her (as evidenced in Fool For Love), and she seems to need to be pushed by someone. Spike can certainly push her. So in some sense, I'm wondering if Spike is going to serve as some sort of Watcher for her now. That's assuming that Giles is really gone, of course.
And then the ending -- Tara is leaving, Giles has left, and everyone seems more alone than ever. Spike reaching out to Buffy and getting rejected yet again was nearly heartbreaking, and I have to say I feel a bit cheated that we didn't see the moment when she changed her mind. So now is she ready to try, or is this just another moment of weakness she'll deny later?
Author's Chapter Notes:
Episodes 7-8: [BtVS] Once More, With Feeling and Tabula Rasa.
[AtS] Offspring and Quickening.
[AtS] Offspring and Quickening.