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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

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Episode 15 - Phases

7 February 2013

Synopsis: Werewolf attacks have Buffy and Giles out patrolling local makeout spots. The Werewolf is a human for the rest of the month and so they are determined to catch him alive. They come up against a Werewolf hunter called Cain who is ready to kill. Angel kills one of Buffy's classmates to send her a message. Xander thinks Larry is the Werewolf but uncovers a different secret. Oz wakes up in the forest and realises that he is the Werewolf. Willow is determined to move things in their relationship to the next level but picks the worst time as Oz transforms in front of her.Oz is confused

The Good: As usual the developments within the Scooby gang are the highlight of this episode. Xander has become the crucial figure in that department because of his complicated feelings for all the women in the group. While he is clearly happy to be dating Cordelia (and it would seem that it has escalated to dating) his mind has turned to Willow now that she is with Oz. In a natural development he feels a bit jealous that she will now look at another boy the way she once looked at him. He still has feelings for Buffy though and when she discovered the true cause of Theresa's death his comforting hug still had something more than friendship in it. It was also fun to see Cordelia and Willow complaining about their love lives, equals at last.

Oz and Willow remain a cute couple and his new supernatural side embeds him even more firmly in the world of the Slayer. He did fine with the brief scene he was given to show the conflict and fear which this revelation provoked in him. Willow standing up for what she wanted and confronting him was good too.

Angel's presence in the shadows served its purpose of reminding us what Buffy has lost and what her inability to kill him has unleashed.

The comedy throughout was pretty solid. I liked Buffy reporting back to Giles on the gossip she had picked up while searching the makeout spot. I also enjoyed Willow's confused looking reply when Buffy asked how many boys could resist her charms "All of them, maybe more." The whole Larry sub-plot was fun including the classic "Be still my shorts!" line. His outing to Xander was a nice bit of unitended consequence and actually made sense of his outrageous heterosexual behaviour. Larry was also the cause of the second callback of the episode when Xander revealed that he did remember a bit about his time as a hyena (106). The first one started the episode as Oz inspected that cheerleader statue (103) with the moving eyes. 

The Bad: Oz didn't get much of a chance to respond to the shocking news unfolding in his life. I know that his whole character is about accepting things stoically but I think an extra scene to sell how serious this all was would have been nice. As with the way he accepted the existence of vampires, the phone call with his Aunt was just too blasé for my taste. There is a thin line between the humour of an unexpected reaction and that reaction being ludicrous. If his Aunt has to deal with a Werewolf every month you would think she would have reacted more strongly to her nephew being bitten and then figuring out her son's dark secret.

Cain the hunter was a heavy handed addition to the plot. He looked like he was straight out of a 1970s cop show with his clothes and haircut and I guess that's where his sexist attitude came from too. Yes he was obnoxious but he was so relentlessly obnoxious that it too crossed a line into reminding me that I was watching a TV show instead of getting me wrapped up in a story. In between all the "sweethearts" and "little ladys" and the whole "men are frustrating\animals" vibe this episode had an odd feminist streak. Of course you might expect that on a show about a Chosen Girl but it was laid on pretty thick and then didn't seem to play into Oz' story in a meaningful way.

The Werewolf costume was difficult to take seriously. Actually it wasn't the costume that was so much of a problem; it was more trying to simulate what a Werewolf would act like and ending up with the impression that there was just a hyperactive actor inside a suit. The transformation effect on the other hand was excellent.

The Unknown: It's a small complaint, because a lot of TV shows do it, but how far are the woods from the school? I don't remember seeing woods right next door before. And yet Cain lures Were-Oz away from Willow with some meat. And in the time it takes him to get Oz lined up for a shot, Willow made it all the way back to the library and dragged Buffy out to the correct spot to save Oz. Quite the contraction of time I would say.

Best Moment: The scene where Buffy and Xander visited Theresa's corpse was good. Neither Oz nor Cain were the villains here, Angel dominates the show, as he should. It was a strong reminder of Buffy's horrible situation and gave Xander another moment to face his conflicted feelings about her.

The Bottom Line: The Werewolf story felt half-hearted. Perhaps that's because Oz wasn't really a villain or just because Angel is too big a story for this to take precedence. But between the Larry and Cain stories there was too much going on for anything to sink in fully and this ended up feeling a little flat.

 

Cordia's Second Look
Phases
Season 2, Episode 15
Original airing: 1/27/1998

My Rating: 52

The Good: As always, I'm happy to see Oz and Willow in all their adorableness. The highlight of their relationship in this episode is definitely the last scene and their first kiss. It's so sweet it wasn't even ruined by Oz's cheesy "I'm a werewolf in love" line.

The werewolf part was decent too. Not terribly exciting, tame even compared to some prior monsters on the show, but it does help bring Oz even further into the realm of the supernatural. And it's nice to have some diversity amongst the human Scoobies now that Angelus has switched to being evil.

The part of the episode I enjoyed the most was actually the Larry sub-plot. We've met Larry before and he was a jerk then, but boy did they run with it here. Every move and comment is the epitome of obnoxiousness until Xander forces his unexpected confession. All of the sudden, Larry is happy, comfortable, and nice. It's silly, sudden and unimportant to the werewolf storyline, but it's definitely a major source of humor in the episode and I enjoyed it. Especially when Buffy gets to body check Larry into a gym mat. Take that!

The Bad: However, there were some seriously bad parts to this episode and the two worst also revolved around the werewolf. The costume was horrendous. The face was a mask, so the constant snarling looked really stupid. And there was just never anything lupine about the movements of the actor. It never stopped looking like a human in a big furry suit.

Cain was also a mistake. He was there to be a bit of a villain and a real threat to Oz, but he just came across as a major jerk. And sadly, Buffy never got to punch him in the face. I suppose he was there so that Werewolf Oz wouldn't have to be the villain of the episode, but I just didn't like him.

Trying to avoid making Werewolf Oz the villain also left a few plot holes and weaknesses. Apparently, the wolf didn't even bother to maul Theresa's dead body when Angelus left it for him. Which seems completely out of character considering how he busted in to the Bronze and later chases Willow down the street. Oz even admits the next day that his wolf-brain was apparently planning to eat Willow. So avoiding getting human blood on his muzzle didn't make any sense except to avoid a loss of sympathy with the audience.

Oz's new nature is also very conveniently and randomly explained. Apparently, his young cousin is also a werewolf and Oz learns this from his aunt via a very short and calm phone call. Perhaps Oz's entire family is capable of accepting supernatural happenings with grace and poise, but it just seems silly. It's disappointing that Oz is given so little time on screen to react to his predicament, although I like his decision to attempt to chain himself up. Presumably, his parents weren't going to be home that night. But it also begs the questions of where did he order chains from who delivered in about three hours.

Finally, it was disappointing to see Angelus relegated to virtually nothing right after Innocence (S2E14).  I was expecting him to hit fast and hard on the heels of last week's episode, but instead he gets about thirty seconds of screen time and has a little growling fight with the werewolf. Sad.

Favorite Moment: The conversation between Larry and Xander in the locker room is very well written and acted. It's obvious that there will be a punch line, but I honestly remember seeing it for the first time and not being able to guess where it was going. Now, rewatching it, I can even more appreciate the subtle confusion they are both experiencing.

The Bottom Line: As tends to happen on Buffy, a disappointing episode follows on the heels of an amazing one. The episode isn't terrible and doesn't even begin to stink as bad as some of the previous follow-up episodes (I, Robot... You Jane, Inca Mummy Girl, Ted), but it is disjointed.

('DiggThis)

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