Saturday, July 2, 2011

Phases

Season #2, Episode #15: Phases

"Is Jordy a werewolf?"


In writing about Innocence, I've realized something about this blog. Serious episodes do not make good blog entries. I don't have the time and space (I write as I watch) to get too super academic, and it's difficult to address big overarching themes when focusing on only one episode. Plus, I'm watching Buffy a decade after everybody else (except for Mary B.) and much has already been said about each of these episodes.

Speaking of which, when I was reviewing Reptile Boy I got all angry and googled "Joss Whedon is a douchebag" to make myself feel better. This quest led me to many other people who also believe Joss Whedon to be a douchebag, including a blogger called Eleusis Walks. He has written at length about Buffy and Angel (the TV series) in a super academic way. For the purpose of this blog, I try to focus more on what works and what doesn't work on the level of plotting and execution, and so reading through his entries puts a new spin on this well-worn territory. In particular, he has a pretty incredible essay on Jenny Calendar's coming out as Romani passing for white (among other things). It's full of spoilers, but I highly recommend it if you already know what's to come.

ANYHOW, none of this has anything to do with Phases. This is the episode in which Oz is finally given something to do.

That thing, it seems, is not making out with Willow, a fact she finds quite frustrating. "I want smoochies!" she shouts at Buffy. The problem with Willow is that she was awkwardly cute and childlike in Season 1, but by Season 2 it beings to grate on one's nerves. By Season 4 will you want to claw off your own ears every time she speaks.

Later that night, Xander and Cordelia drive out to what I imagine is called Lookout Point to "do things I can't tell my father about because he still thinks I'm a 'good girl,'" as Cordelia says. But Xander keeps on getting distracted--first by his nagging desire to protect Willow's virginity from the evil predator Oz, and then by a real evil predator who punches its claw into the car.

The Scoobies decide that it's a werewolf, and Giles is nearly peeing his pants with excitement about researching this "classic" monster. He drops some exposition on us--werewolves are humans for all but three nights out of the month, and may be totally unaware of their wolfish activities. He and Buffy go back to Lookout Point to capture the werewolf--not kill it--and run into some random werewolf hunter who wants to kill, not capture. Conflict of interest!


I forgot to mention that Larry, the oafish jock from Halloween, has been wandering around harassing female students all throughout the episode. He makes some comment to Oz about wanting to be in a Buffy/Willow sandwich, and approaches another student, Theresa, in gym class (where they're practicing self-defense) and says, "I may have to attack you." Then he mentions that he was attacked by a big dog in the bushes. THEN Angelus stalks Theresa at night, holding a delicate flower and asking her if she knows Buffy. Guys are such animals you know???


The Budget Gin Blossoms are riling the kids at The Bronze into an erotic frenzy, except for Cordelia and Willow, who commiserate about how their boyfriends are GUYS and GUYS are such animals and are always acting like GUYS. They're interrupted by a werewolf inexplicably dropping from the ceiling. Acrobat werewolf.

Werewolf Van Helsing shames Buffy for letting the werewolf at The Bronze get away and blames her female deficiencies. Larry the jock is probably out somewhere being an asshole. Angelus has a faceoff with the werewolf where they singlehandedly lay the groundwork for the entirety of Twilight. GUYS, you know?

The werewolf gets sleepy and passes out in the woods. Come morning, he transforms into his human form, and you will be shocked to see that he's...

OZ!
He's a little freaked out by waking up naked in the woods. He suspects that he may be the werewolf of legend, so he calls up his aunt and asks if Jordy, his cousin who recently bit him, is a werewolf. Turns out he's right. So matter-of-fact, this one.

I have very mixed feelings about the reveal that Oz is a werewolf. Hokay get ready for a LONG rant. I think I once read Joss Whedon saying that he thought it would be funny to make Oz a werewolf because monsters in the show are all meant to be metaphors for teen angst of some sort. If you haven't seen the show, it may not have come across that Oz's character is supposed to be very ~cool~ in the sense that he takes everything in stride, man, and speaks only to make straight little quips, and is so level-headed. So the fact that he now becomes a murderous, flesh-hungry monster three nights a month is supposed to mean...what? That deep down all dudes, even Oz, have an animalistic side that they just repress? The episode says as much, presenting Oz the werewolf alongside Angelus, Larry, and Werewolf Van Helsing, all of whom pose a threat of verbal and physical violence against women--particularly sexual violence. When Giles describes the werewolf as "potent, extreme representation of our inborn, animalistic traits" (and no don't even get me started on this essentialist nonsense), Buffy responds, "So your typical male."

So I can see what the episode is going for, but the monster methaphor will cause so many problems for Buffy that it's almost not worth symbolically tying it to the lives of teenagers. Presenting Oz as a guy who is afflicted by a disease and cannot control himself when he unleashes the monster inside of him is one thing when you're ONLY talking about monsters, but when this is meant to mirror the inner rage and machismo of teenage dudes, it becomes really muddy and irresponsible. This is compounded by the fact that once Willow discovers he's a werewolf (spoilers!) she says, "I'm not fun to be around three days out of the month, either." So I guess hellbeasts that rip open the flesh of innocents are the metaphorical equivalent of ladies on their periods in the universe of Buffy. This show, you guys.

Plus, these werewolves look soooo stupid.


Back at the library, the Scoobies discover that the werewolf killed Theresa. Oz doesn't want to reveal that he is the werewolf, as Buffy has now expressed an interest in killing it with fire. Lucky for him, the gang immediately suspect Larry the oaf, and Xander runs off to confront him in the locker room, intimating that he knows Larry's secret. Larry admits that he does have a secret, and the two have a classic zany mishap in which Xander says "I know your secret because I've been there too!" and Larry says "It'll ruin me!" and Xander says "It's best to talk about it," and then Larry finally admits his secret--that he's gay. Xander is like sooo grossed out by this and is so offended that Larry now thinks he's gay. Like how embarrassing, ewww!!!

So Larry is not the werewolf, but rather a fulfillment of the fantasy that the big dumb jock is actually gay and isn't that so funny! Whatever, show.

Buffy and Xander discover that Theresa was not actually killed by the werewolf, but by a vampire--Angelus, in fact. Theresa rises from her casket to give Buffy the message that Angel sends his love. Buffy is shaken up and takes temporary refuge in Xander's arms, because she realizes that Angelus is going to keep coming after her. Xander is like WOAH BUFFY YOU ARE SO HOT I TOTALLY WISH WE COULD MAKE OUT RIGHT NOW!!!

On the plus side, this exonerates Oz, and he won't have to live with the guilt of having killed a human. The downside is that he hasn't told anyone his secret, and is instead trying to handle it on his own by ordering shackles from Ebay and tying himself down. Unfortunately for everyone, Willow chooses that specific moment to go to his house and confront him about their lack of smoochies. Just in time for him to turn into the werewolf and chase her down.


Buffy goes after Werewolf Van Helsing so that he won't kill Oz, showing that she has realigned her moral compass. Then Willow shoots Oz with a tranquilizer, which is maybe somehow symbolic of her calming the wild beast inside of him. Van Helsing whines that nobody in Sunnydale is man enough to do the job that needs to be done, so Buffy grabs his big phallic gun and bends the barrel with her bare hands. Ouchh.


Willow and Oz have a heart-to-heart about how they are going to deal with his newfound...affliction. Willow says that she's going to stand by her man, and they'll figure out how to deal. Then, she takes the reins and kisses HIM! The camera zooms in on Oz's smiley face as he says, "A werewolf in love!" The end. WTF? Buffy can be quite corny but that was just beyond the pale.

Favorite moment: This episode is pretty stupid (Angelus gets short shrift, the series trips over its own metaphors, etc.) but the beginning has a charming shout-out to Witch, all the way back in Season 1! At the beginning of the episode, Oz is transfixed by the cheerleader trophy that contains Amy's mama and the way it looks like "its eyes follow you!"

"I like it!" he says, nodding approvingly.

3 comments:

  1. "A werewolf in love" is the worst line on any episode of this show ever.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So great! I just watched this episode... back on the Buffy train!

    I was definitely disappointed by the lameness of the werewolf costume. Whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You did choose the best screencap for the werewolf costume; so deflated. "I know, it's like, we destroy entire rooms in fight scenes every episode, but they can't shell out on one single werewolf get-up," he seems to say. Oz deserves better.

    ReplyDelete