Monday, July 16, 2012

Doppelgängland

Season #3, Episode #16: Doppelgängland  

"Did you try looking inside the sofa in hell?"

The back end of Season 3 alternates between evil Faith and her Lipstick of Darkness, and charming little one-offs like Doppelgängland. I will warn you ahead of time that despite enjoying the humor in this episode, I find myself without much to say besides "LOL good one Joss!"

We begin after the events of The Wish, in which Anyanka was thwarted by Giles and lost her vengeance demon powers. Her punishment is to live out her mortal life as a teenage girl at Sunnydale High. This is excruciating for Anya, who is centuries old and used to have great power, and is now "flunking math."

As Anya loses her power, Willow's magical powers are growing--she can make a fake pencil rotate in front of her face! Lest you fear this coming into her own as a witch cause Willow to mature ever so slightly, she punctuates her pencil levitation to kick her feet and say, "Wanna go to the expresso machine and get sugared up on mochas??" and, "What's with the calisthenics, aren't you already buff, Buff? Hee hee, buff buff!" Also, she is wearing this.

But to be fair, the writers may be playing up Willow's Peter Pan-ness considering the events of of the episode to come. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. It seems that in order to prove she's not a raving lunatic, Faith has to undergo some sort of physical aptitude test ordered by the Council. If you can't follow the logic behind that, it's probably because I have no idea what I'm talking about. And in fact, Buffy has to take the test as well. So, huh? I guess there weren't any Consequences after all, har har!

Willow has her own task--Principal Snyder has enlisted her to help tutor super jock Percy. He's flunking history but is totes a dreamboat.

While the Council might be indiscriminately trusting of Faith, we know better! She does some spying on the Scoobies to see what they know about the Mayor, and then reports back to her new boss in the fancy new apartment he bought for her. She jumps around like a kid in a candy store, then creepily grabs him by the lapel and says, "Thanks, sugar daddy."

The Mayor finds this as creepy as I do. He's a family man, and Faith's new father figure. But he doesn't mince words when telling Faith of his plans for her--ultimately, she will kill Buffy. And then on a lighter note, he tells her, "If I'm not mistaken, some lucky girl has herself a Playstation!"

Faith may be lucky, but Willow isn't faring so well. Percy orders her to write his history paper for him. Oz didn't tell Willow about a kewl Dingoes Ate My Baby show because he figured she wouldn't want to miss school. And worst of all, Buffy calls Willow "Old Reliable." "That's a real sexy nickname!" she protests. But I mean, it's probably as sexy as would be appropriate to describe somebody wearing this sweater.

And who should turn up at this exact moment but...Anya! She asks for Willow's help casting a spell, and since Willow is feeling particularly uncool, she jumps at the opportunity to do something ~dangerous~. Even if the spell in question will bring forth Anya's magical necklace and enable her to open up all kinds of terrible hell dimensions. When Willow senses the darkness of the spell, she walks off in a huff, causing Anya to smash a magical plate and...well, it's best not to fret about the details. Long story short, she unleashes Vampire Willow from The Wish into their universe. Which is all to say, uh-oh!

Vampire Willow heads to The Bronze looking for fresh meat. She runs into Percy, and wastes no time throwing him over a pool table and trying to choke him to death.

When Xander and Buffy turn up, she's sad to find out that Xander is still a lowly human and not her dreamy vampire boyfriend. To Buffy, she snarls and says, "I don't like you," before revealing her vampire face. Now, remember that the alternate universe in The Wish had no bearing on our universe, so none of the characters remember Vampire Willow, and instead think that Human Willow has been killed and turned into a vampire.

A group of vampires attack Vampire Willow in the alley thinking that she is Human Willow. But, since she is a vampire, she easily overtakes them and extracts information from them by slowly breaking their fingers one by one. Among the information they reveal: the Mayor sent them to kidnap Human Willow. But Vampire Willow doesn't care about any of that. She enlists the vampire's help to take over the Bronze and make things fun, like they used to be in her universe.

The Scoobies mourn Willow's death in the library, solemnly reflecting on the fact that she was a better person than all of them, and, according to Giles, "much, much better" than Xander. So imagine their surprise when Human Willow enters the library none the wiser. After hugging and shrieking and crying, the Scoobies fill Willow in that her leather-clad doppelganger is prowling the streets.

Vampire Willow and her Merry Gang of Vampires take over the Bronze. Most of these scenes involve Willow slowly weaving through a crowd giving people the eye and alternating between a whimper and a snarl. Oh and also killing some kids. She's about to give Oz the kiss of death when Anya turns up to explain the whole alternate universe concept to Vampire Willow and offer her a way of getting back to where she belongs.

Anya's plan involves breaking into the Sunnydale High library and kidnapping Human Willow in order to fix the spell they attempted earlier in the episode. But first Vampire Willow creepily licks Human Willow's neck, like, coming onto herself? Thank you very much, Joss, for this classy visual.

Human Willow shoots Vampire Willow with a tranquilizer gun and locks her in the trusty library cage. But what to do about the bevy of vampires at the Bronze looking to kill? Buffy comes up with a "really bad idea"--that is, dress Human Willow up in Vampire Willow's clothes and have her pose as her alternate universe self. (Are you getting confused yet?)

You have to hand it to Alyson Hannigan, who does a much better job of inhabiting her alternate universe self than she did in The Wish. She can do the weirdly sultry and quietly menacing vampire stuff, but when she heads back into the Bronze as her human self, she's the same old bumbling perpetual child that we know and love (or at least tolerate.) Much hilarity ensues as she tries to be menacing while simultaneously sending the vampires outside one-by-one to their deaths: "I think I heard something out there. Can you go check?"

Meanwhile, Vampire Willow wakes up just in time for Cordelia to come to the library looking for Wesley. She nearly convinces her to open the cage, but Cordelia takes the opportunity to take who she thinks is WIllow to task for ruining her relationship with Xander.

Blah blah blah, eventually Anya figures out that Vampire Willow is not so much a vampire. The gig is up, and Willow sends out the Buffy signal. Vampire fight ensues. Meanwhile, Cordelia lets Vampire Willow out of her cage and is saved at the last second by Wesley. More vampire fighting. But honestly, vampire fights in the Bronze is soooo The Harvest.

In the end, Vampire Willow gets sent back to her universe, only to be immediately killed by Oz. And Percy, motivated by his near death at "Willow"'s hand, gives her two detailed outlines for his paper and a shiny red apple.
Minus the stuff with Faith and the Mayor, the plot of this episode isn't very compelling. I guess our major takeaway is that Willow will try to take on the more rebellious aspects of her vampire self--there's a lot of dialogue about wanting to kill the weak, childish Willow who lets people walk all over her--but I don't think we see too big a change in Willow's character for another season or so. Tho I might be wrong.

Also, much foreshadowing--Willow thinks that her Vampire Self might be "kinda gay," because apparently being gay = wanting to make out with yourself. And Willow tapping into her dark side...let's just say we haven't seen the last of it. Also, there will be many more terrible sweaters.

Fans love this episode because of little humorous moments that are difficult to translate to text. For example, when Anya reveals that "Vampire" Willow is actually human, Willow says, "Oh yeah? Could a human do this?" and screams for help, to which Anya responds, "Yeah, I think so." You will laugh. And I suppose that if you are a person who really deeply loves Willow, this is the episode for you. As for me? Bored now.  

Favorite moment: When Willow first reveals herself to the Scoobies, who think that she's a vampire, Xander runs at her with crucifix in hand. When it doesn't work, he shakes the crucifix a few times, and tries again. A little piece of physical humor.


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