2.10: Two Slayers, No Nude Modeling
Until now I haven't put much thought into this two-parter's theme of Buffy accepting that the Slayer is part of who she is, just because it's a vague sort of affirmation that's been repeated so often through the series in various ways. But the lame Career Week plus the comparison with Kendra kind of takes it somewhere and ends up in a good place, with seeds being planted for "Graduation Day," which is an even better place.
See, I've got this thing about school. I try not to go off about it too much, because, of all the crazy-person beliefs I have, this is the one most likely to spark contention, but sometimes I can't help blaming all of society's problems on this ridiculous system we have for educating our children. They learn to conform, they learn to obey, they get bullied by their peers and teachers and lose their enthusiasm for exploring the world on their own.
I'm only bringing it up now because it applies to this episode, and the point I need to emphasize is that in Buffy, or at least in this arc, school isn't the metaphor for school. School is generally a positive thing for Buffy and not at all what I just described. The Watcher's Council, on the other hand...
They don't want her to be a student. They don't want her to have friends or a family or a boyfriend or even a last name. They want her to conform and obey and stop attempting to explore her power on her own. Most of all, they want her to depend on them, as if they're the source of the Slayer identity. How gratifying to hear Kendra's own affirmation that it's not a job, it's who they are.
What else does this episode offer? Well, for one thing there's this fantastic textbook illustration of the Bug Man.
I can't quite put my finger on the moment she realizes that she doesn't want to let Kendra take over so she can go to Disneyland and have a career, but I think it's part of the realization that she's a better Slayer than Kendra is. She knows they've both learned from each other but also that there's a reason she was Chosen, and that makes it rewarding enough to hold on through the worst parts.
The Buffy and Angel Show: Buffy rescues him from certain death, they pose beautifully in front of a stained glass window together, they convince Kendra that not all vampires should die; really, their work here is done. But they don't have much screentime together or hold any in-depth discussions about each other, so my work here is done too. There are three (3!) other couples in this episode who need more attention, anyway.
Angel Is More Than a Boyfriend: The plot threads around Angel in this episode are shaky. The vampire necrology rules clearly weren't ironed out yet, and Angel's sole motivation in attempting to taunt Spike into killing him is to stop the ritual which brings Drusilla back to full health. Drusilla's been at full health before; it's obviously not ideal for the good guys but doesn't seem like that much of a crisis. I'm just a little disappointed that Angel didn't come up with anything better than throwing himself to the lions, considering how easily he's shown he can manipulate Spike. (A headcanon that might work here is that it's not Dru's recovery that's the scary part, it's her "coming out party.")
The fic linked at the end of this post is new, and it's inspired by Drusilla's references to her family as she's torturing Angel. What fascinates me about their interactions is the way he hurt her when she had a soul and he didn't, so she hurts him when she has a soul and he doesn't. When they're both soulless, she adores him - that need for vengeance is gone, even though the one who's actually responsible is at hand. Is this a facet of the sire bond? Is she transferring the desire to return the pain onto the "innocent" aspect of Angel because she's incapable of the moral choice that would allow her to enact true justice? How would their relationship look if they both had souls?
Spike and Dru: Odd that even though something like Spike's sire can be retconned so easily, the characterizations of the vampires in this early episode stayed solid until the very end of the franchise. "I've never been much for the pre-show," says Spike, who likes to win and doesn't care how he gets there. Somehow, that offhand remark trips him into a humiliating demonstration of how he'll never actually win against Angel, who remains the object of Spike's girlfriend's obsession.
Even in flashbacks we never get to see much of what Spike/Drusilla was like when both were at 100%. I headcanon she liked to hurt and humiliate him in sex play, and that he wouldn't reciprocate even though he knew she wanted it -- maybe because Angelus wouldn't allow any display of dominance from him. To prove that he was still strong despite being lowest in the Fanged Four pecking order, Spike would have to keep up his habits of violence toward anyone outside their circle, and since that's what he liked doing anyway, it all worked out handily for decades.
Drusilla being weakened is a downer for Spike, since he wants to be in bed with the power, but it gives his ego a boost anyway. Being weakened himself, as he is after this episode, is his worst nightmare. We'll keep examining his downward spiral throughout the season.
Willow and Oz: After Buffy and Angel, these two usually win when I'm ranking Buffyverse couples. I tend not to stay attached when I know a couple won't be the endgame, and I'll ship Willow/Tara too when that comes around, but there's something special about what Oz and Willow have with each other. The innocence, the inherent compatibility of their personalities which still lets through their differences and contrasts. And, of course, I just really love both characters individually, especially in the early seasons.
I also like how the natural way in which their relationship builds. Romance in fiction usually means dramatic, passionate events, and that's just how I like it, but this is the perfect exception. Okay, sure, he takes a bullet for her later in the episode and that's pretty dramatic. What I mean is the way their mutual feelings develop, as in this script direction: "He smiles. Willow smiles too - not sure what to make of him." It's very organic, appropriate to their age and to Willow's insecurity, especially since she's not over Xander yet.
Xander and Cordelia: Admit it, that scene where they start making out in the middle of a shouting match is prime comedy. Even the reprise at the end of the episode is hilarious. I really don't have any complaints about the way that Xander/Cordy plays out: Enemies to Lovers to Enemies to Friends, I guess you'd call it? Destined to come to an end, but ultimately both are better for having known each other.
I know there's a lot of criticism toward Xander for the kinds of things he says to Cordy in and out of their time dating, and I'm not going to ignore that. He's an asshole. However, Cordy's an asshole too, and I feel like she gets a lot less of the criticism she deserves, so I'm not going to ignore that either. Xander is bitter and horny, Cordelia is selfish and insensitive. Maybe they can help each other grow out of it.
Giles and Objects: Not much for Giles to do in this episode except for his designated Exposition Guy duties. It was cute to see Buffy jealous of Kendra getting his attention, though.
Kendra gets a second introduction, since now we know she's not with the Order of Taraka.
The new slayer radiates poise and intensity. She's a "take-no-guff" gal with a faintly regal air about her.
The moment where Xander keeps hosing Cordy for the sake of the view he's getting was apparently unscripted:
Cordelia is flailing as Xander TURNS THE HOSE ON HER. She YELLS and fights the water, but it works - the worms are washed away. Xander runs to her and lifts her to her feet.
A little cuteness that was cut:
I'm not allowed to watch television.
My Watcher says it promotes
And he says it like it's a bad thing?
- Instead of Jonathan, the script describes a "hostage kid" during the Police Cop demo. It's already happened a couple times that he ends up in the Elevated Extra role and I'm surprised they didn't realize sooner that he was a safe bet.
- Sometimes bad CGI is a blessing. I feel very comforted knowing that there wasn’t a real worm crawling across Bug Man actor’s face.
- Kendra is a character in my "Older'verse" AU series. I've often thought that if there was one thing I could go back and revise in my fanfiction before it had ever been published, it would have been my attempt to write her accent. Even the show can't write her accent.
- Buffy making fun of it is of course fine with me, but wtf, does she think it's Spanish? "No kicko, no fighto"?