Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Sampling of Buffy's Season 2

(Note: The only episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I've seen are most of Season 3 and three episodes of Season 2 as described below.)

I work irregular hours for a small business startup that's being run by a married couple in their spare time. As such, things are quite casual for me at work, particularly when I head into the office at night. Earlier this week I found myself in a few situations where I was able to watch a few Season 2 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on their business broadband connection. This is a big deal for me since I have DSL at home, which is quickly getting to the point of being about as slow as dial-up speeds were about 10-15 years ago. (Meaning that dial-up was almost doable back then before web developers started going crazy with javascripts, Active X controls, etc.)

I found out that Hulu was only showing Season 2 episodes through the end of March. I knew I could only squeeze in about three episodes, so I naturally wandered over to the Buffy Wikipedia episode site in order to try to figure out which shows I should see. My Voice of Conscience told me I should at least watch "Surprise" and "Innocence" where Buffy and Angel made love, resulting in Angel losing his soul during his moment of "perfect happiness" and reverting back to his evil Angelus character.

Naturally, I chose "School Hard", which marked Spike's debut in the series, and the final two episodes of the season, "Becoming: Parts 1 & 2", which featured a character who had always intrigued me, the demon called Whistler.

Spike. "School Hard" was a pleasant little episode, fun to watch, but apparently somewhat unmemorable since I had to go back and read the synopsis while typing this post even though I had only seen it a few days ago. The Bad News of the week was that the vampires were going to come out and wreak their usual havoc and mayhem in Sunnydale on their special night of Saint Vigeous. The Night of Saint Vigeous also happened to coincide with Parent-Teacher Night at Sunnydale High. Long story short, Buffy saved the evening at the school yet almost got killed by Spike, only to have her mother Joyce drive Spike away by hitting him over the head with an ax. At that time, Joyce figured out that Buffy had some special qualities, yet didn't quite figure out that she was a vampire slayer.

Spike's debut established a few ongoing routines that always seemed to be associated with his character. Although he was no friend to Buffy and the Scoobies, fate always seemed to intervene where he could never quite get around to killing any of them. (I was happy to see that this coincided with what appeared to be a running gag of Angel and Xander never quite hitting it off. I thought their enmity started with Angel's Angelus exploits, but it appears to have started before that point. In some ways, Angel's relationship with Xander reminded me of his relationship with Lindsey McDonald, where Lindsey usually had a few bruises to show off after he had an encounter with Angel.)

Another thing Spike was good for was getting rid of the Big Bad du jour simply because the Big Bad pissed him off. In this case, he got rid of that little creepy vampire boy named Collin who was dubbed the Annointed (Annoying) One. Although it would be a mistake to attribute any good qualities to Spike at that time, he usually (temporarily) left Sunnydale a better place after he made his appearance, which allowed the audience to enjoy his character and root for him relatively guilt-free.

In "Becoming Parts 1 & 2", Spike did another thing I always enjoy watching, where he temporarily worked with the enemy (in this case, Buffy) in order to achieve a common goal. There was no way Spike was just going to let Angelus bring the world to an end, and he recognized that Buffy was the perfect person to stop that from happening. I loved the scenes with Buffy, Spike and Joyce, particularly where Joyce and Spike were having that uncomfortable conversation in the Summers' living room, with Spike sitting bolt upright in that equally uncomfortable straight-back chair. You can't help but think that, even though he was evil to the core, Spike had developed a sweet spot for Buffy and Joyce quite early on.

I noticed that right away Spike and Buffy (and, by extension, James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar) looked good together, not necessarily in a "nice couple" sort of way, but more in a Dynamic Duo way. It reminds me of how students working on a lab experiment or two people laboring over a business deal may find that they work together quite well even though they might not get along outside of a structured environment. I look forward to seeing a lot more scenes with Buffy and Spike working together side by side. As a sidenote, it's a shame that, as far as I know, Buffy, Spike and Angel only really fought together one time, which was in BtVS Season 3's "Lovers Walk". (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) It leads me to think that maybe it was somewhat of a tragedy after all that the producers were unable to snare Sarah Michelle Gellar to make an appearance with Spike and Angel in Season 5 of Angel.

Whistler. I wrote about Whistler once before in a post from last September called "Maintaining the Balance." In it I wrote about how I'm fascinated with the concept of the balance between Good and Evil, how Whistler appeared to be some sort of balancing entity, how actor Max Perlich was reportedly supposed to start off Season 1 of Angel instead of Glenn Quinn (Doyle), how Whistler was probably working on behalf of the yet-unnamed Powers That Be, and how The Powers That Be possibly were more about maintaining balance in the universe rather than representing absolute Good.

Whistler was a fascinating character despite his brief appearances, and Max Perlich probably could have merited semi-regular guest appearances on Buffy. Although he played a key role in, first, introducing Angel to Buffy, and then later, helping Buffy thwart Angelus' plan to destroy the world, one can't help but think that his character wasn't needed at all. As such, his introduction (I know I'm probably being unfair) had the appearance of lazy writers finding a quick way to bring in a few key plot elements. Fortunately, Whistler was responsible for what was probably one of the more famous pieces of dialogue in Buffy when he uttered,
Whistler: Bottom line is, even if you see them coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.
What's remarkable is that, if it's true that he was supposed to be a major character in the early part of Angel, then Whistler really should have appeared in the last few episodes of Season 3 of Buffy rather than Season 2. It would have made perfect sense to introduce him in Buffy, then immediately reveal in the first episode of Angel that he had been sent by The Powers That Be. If Max Perlich was unavailable for filming, then perhaps Doyle could have at least made some sort of passing reference to Whistler in order to provide some continuity. I hope that the Mutant Enemy creators originally had some additional plans for Whistler in Buffy. Unfortunately, it looks an awful like his character was introduced then hung out to dry.

Idle Thoughts. Willow sure had a knack for messing things up, didn't she? And she always seemed to get away with it too, (at least in the early seasons) with minimal damage to her self-esteem and credibility, as opposed to what happened to Wesley and some of his "poor" decisions. I know Willow was only trying to help, but that was a pretty poor unilateral decision to ensoul Angelus in "Becoming: Part 2". All she did was turn Angelus back into Angel just before Buffy was forced to save the world by casting him into the Hell dimension. (Angel/Angelus' blood was necessary for the cause.) It's a lot easier to sacrifice an inhuman monster than a good vampire with a soul.

Max Perlich's Whistler was similar to Glenn Quinn's Doyle in that both characters were quirky yet still highly appealing. I'd have to give the nod to Doyle as far as being my favorite, but Whistler still could have worked out quite well in Angel. I think of Whistler as being more upbeat and confident whereas Doyle was a little more self-doubting and tragic.

I wanted to see Whistler in Buffy because I was looking for more insights into both his character and The Powers That Be. In what is starting to become a repeating theme for me, I didn't gain any additional insights yet again from watching Buffy. It just goes to show how much information I can gather ahead of time online. Also, (although this doesn't exactly pertain to Whistler), in general, the creators at Angel were very thorough when they brought over a character or concept from Buffy. One example was when they brought over Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. The writers were very cognizant of the fact that not everyone watching Angel had seen Buffy, and they wanted to make sure that new viewers to the Buffyverse weren't missing out on anything.

I liked Juliet Landau better as Drusilla in Buffy than in Angel. She just seemed too creepy in Angel, so I think it's probably better to see her backstory in Buffy before watching her in Angel.

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