2.15: The Wolf of Willow's Date
Since Buffy aired there have been a lot of other werewolves on our screens, from the beautiful animal actors in True Blood to the you’re-not-even-trying makeup in Teen Wolf. I happened to get to “Phases” in this rewatch right after watching the first five episodes of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s new series Wolf Pack, which I think is doing for werewolves what Buffy did for vampires, i.e., it’s now my new favored interpretation of the myth. Although we haven’t seen much of it so far, the werewolf protagonists turn into actual wolves, or at least CGI wolves that look fairly real. Visually, this is a treat. I like to look at wolves.
However, when your show also needs a werewolf monster, there’s got to be something scarier, something unreal. Wolf Pack has one of those and I feel like the way it’s designed is exactly how Oz would look if the budget and technology for it had been there in his day. And I know there’s nobody to hold accountable for the ridiculous costume that features in this episode (which probably doesn’t get any better throughout the series, I’ll keep an eye on that), but I still have a shred of resentment hidden within my affection for it, so I designed a better Buffyverse wolf.
My other complaint is just that the werewolf lore isn’t that interesting. Human becomes a crazed dangerous beast during the full moon, condition is transmitted through biting, silver bullets, that’s about all there is to it. Even the addition of two extra nights of lycanthropy is clearly just there to get enough material to fill an episode. But, this isn’t Buffy the Werewolf Slayer, and Oz’s worth as a character has very little to do with his condition, so, no big deal. Let's move on.
Willow and Oz: The Werewolf episode is also the Oz episode and the My Beta Ship episode! They get the first billing today.
Oz is the second Scooby to join the gang after the core had been established, and the first to enter with his own supernatural talent. Heck, Willow isn’t even a witch yet, so it’s actually just Buffy and Oz representing the Hellmouth at this point. I like the way we can see how new friends get assimilated by the original members’ casual references to past adventures, which would have been secrets when they were just classmates. This one got cut out of the aired version:
On account of how you were once a hyena.
Before we knew you.
I think the reason I love Oz so much is that he fits right in but is a character unlike any of the others. Indeed he’s someone you’re more likely to meet in real life than television, barring the obvious. He’s naturally laconic, intelligent but apathetic, confident without being an asshole, and it all adds up to make him very, very cool. Also, like Cordelia, he has a life and friends outside of the Scooby Gang, but unlike Cordelia, he never has to choose between the two. I feel like that’s what gives him that extra edge of independence, maybe what ultimately allows him to leave the show without dying.
All of these are good reasons for Willow to fall for him, but they also don’t have a lot in common, which is something else I love -- they’re aligned on what’s important and interested in, not turned off by, the places where they don’t match. His dry humor makes her laugh and her bashful quirks make him smile. He’s super cute and also way too short for my usual shipping purposes but she’s also tiny and they match right up! Wonderful couple. We won’t get another one like this for the duration of the show.
My cousin Jordy. Just got his grown-up teeth in. Does not like to be tickled.
Looks like it healed already.
The emotional scar is still there.
One more thing about Oz is that I saved this from the shooting script and I can't remember why, except that it reminds me of Keanu Reeves, who is also a cool guy.
Cordelia and Xander: The Cordy/Xander/Willow love triangle continues, landing at right about where you would expect it to a week after it’s all out in the open. Cordy and Xander are still just as into each other and bickering just as much, but they’re not trying to hide it anymore. Willow is moving on more easily than Xander wanted her to, and he’s projecting that onto Oz. There’s an entire cut scene in which the girls have an equivalent feud, which actually fills in a fairly big hole in the episode but also, the episode kind of works better without it being filled in? I’ll let you decide.
Willow JOINS Xander and Cordelia in their group. Xander is pulling a large PADDED HELMET over his head.
Be gentle with me.
You first. I wouldn't want to be accused to taking your place in line.
Oh, I think you pushed your way to the front long before this.
Hey, I can't help it if I get the spotlight just because some people blend into the background.
Well, maybe some people could see better if you weren't standing on the auction block, shaking your wares.
Sorry, we haven't all perfected that phony 'girl next door' bit.
You could be the girl next door, too. If Xander lived next to a brothel!
They BORE INTO EACH OTHER, breathing heavily. Xander, completely suited up, calls out to them.
Okay, who wants a piece of me?
Cordelia and Willow look at one another.
Xander reels from a PUNCH thrown by Cordelia.
He buckles over from a KICK, administered by Willow.
The girls WORK TOGETHER, eventually taking Xander to the ground. He looks up at them, confused and pleading:
The aired version is funnier because it’s even more surprising to see that Willow and Cordy are hanging out and complaining about Xander, and it leaves more to the imagination, which I always appreciate. On the other hand, I don’t think I ever realized until I read the script that Willow and Cordy had gotten past their issues with each other. Either way, they’ve both figured out that Xander is the one who really hurt them, and the way they find common ground over that and forge a friendship of their own is just lovely.
Xander will benefit from it too, although I don’t know that we can ever credit him with appreciating it. Willow’s new perspective allows her to forgive him for dating someone she used to see as an enemy, and Cordelia’s status as a member of the gang has been cemented, so she and Xander can start with guilt-free public flirting.
Buffy and Angel: Well how about that, this is the couple that I have the least to say about. It’s cool, we all needed a break. I like the way that Buffy’s suffering isn’t completely pushed to the background, in her guilt over Theresa and a few very sad bits of dialogue, but I also like it that she gets to be a teenage girl and get lost in high school gossip in spite of her own troubles.
Yes. And you won't believe it! Lisa Hamm is over there making out with Tim Bushway! But he's dating Mandy Donaldson. If she ever finds out-
(off Giles' look)
Nothing. Not a werewolf in sight. You?
(Are these names the same as the ones in the aired version? Do student names mean anything and do they ever recur? Probably not, but I want to have a record handy just in case.)
Giles and Objects: In my AU fanfic (linked below as usual), I used this episode to highlight the rift between Buffy and Giles, since I thought that was the biggest difference from canon. Look how close they are in canon. Just look.
Another thing this episode is known for is Xander's No Homo phase, which is exasperating on multiple levels but 1) Cut Xander some slack, this is coming at him right when all he wants is to be seen as desirable to women, and 2) Can we not pretend that coming out absolves Larry of all his prior bad behavior? Bullies always have reasons to be bullies. Either it's never justified or it always is. He's a better character after this point, sure, but it would be nice to see an apology at the very least.
And finally, we reach the remainder of the script quotes. First a couple character intros; the first one isn't (I didn't miss Larry when he was introduced, did I?), but....Larryettes. Fantastic.
Willow joins BUFFY in the lounge as LARRY and some LARRYETTES come over to Oz. Larry stares leeringly at the girls.
Larry approaches THERESA, a small, timid-looking girl.
A ROUGH-LOOKING GUY emerges from the shadows. He wears dark clothing and boots. A number of SHARP TEETH hang from a string around his neck.
This is The Hunter: GIB CAIN.
Sort of like the way Willow and Cordy's feud was simplified, there was a running joke about the move that the girls were taught in their self-defense class. Long story short, it works!
Willow ROLLS AWAY on the ground and gets to her feet. She tries to RUN out, but the werewolf GRABS her from behind. Willow BENDS forward and FLIPS the werewolf over.
It CRASHES hard to the floor.
Wow. It worked.
Maybe too well. The werewolf isn't moving. Willow moves to it, concerned.
I'm including the following because I've heard the way this scene was portrayed was an insult to reality if you know anything about making bullets, but I don't. Maybe this proves that they did the research but didn't have the budget, or they did the research but it wouldn't have been clear enough that he's making bullets. Or maybe it doesn't prove anything.
CLOSE ON: LIQUID SILVER being poured into a small mold.
REVEAL Cain in his van, going through his pre-hunt ritual. He HUMS along to the music from a TAPE PLAYER.
The van is CRAMMED with the tools of his trade: RIFLES, BOWS, ARROWS, NETS, TRAPS, etc.
Cain places the mold on a COOLING RACK. He removes another mold from the rack and OPENS IT to reveal:
A freshly minted SILVER BULLET.
He sets the bullet aside with a number of OTHER BULLETS.
I'm including this one because I like when the stage directions are this crucial to the action.
They move to a SIGN-IN BOOK, which sits on a THREE-LEGGED wooden EASEL (conveniently for later, the sharp, pointy-legged kind). Buffy notices the list of names in the book.
And I'm including this one because it's funny.
Cordelia turns to the DOORMAN.
You could be a little more discriminating with that velvet rope!
- Do my screenshots look any cleaner this time? I started taking them from a DVD rather than Hulu.
- Angelus is left hanging as a background threat between “Innocence” and “Passion,” and it works really well. Buffy’s conflict about killing him couldn’t support two entire episodes on its own; we need to see there’s more going on in Sunnydale that needs her attention.
- As semi-canon characters I’m very fond of Jordy and his parents. “Chorus” is the fic I used to expand on their lore, and they became key characters in one of my more ambitious stories.