Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: Consider Giles

Season 2 continues with "Inca Mummy Girl", "Reptile Boy", and "Halloween".

"I know who you are, Rupert, and what you're capable of."

One of the benefits of discussing multiple episodes of BUFFY each week in the Rewatch is that I can focus more on individual episodes that have more to say. This week, I don't think there's much to discuss in either "Inca Mummy Girl" or "Reptile Boy"; fortunately, this week also gives us "Halloween."

"Inca Mummy Girl" isn't bad. Like "Some Assembly Required", it features a villain who is somewhat symapthetic: what happened to Ampata is not her fault, but that clearly doesn't justify her killing people to get her life back. And she's like a mirror image of Buffy in some ways: "You are the chosen one. You must die. You have no choice." In hindisght, "Inca Mummy Girl" is most notable for introducing both Seth Green as Oz and Danny Strong as Jonathan.

"Reptile Boy" isn't a particularly strong episode, but it is, I think, the first time the show overtly talks about privilege. (Cordy is clearly meant to be a rich girl, but her bitchiness is not about her being rich.) This theme comes up a few times throughout the series, but I think "privilege" has become a more common theme in pop culture since BUFFY ended in 2003. For example, it would become a key part of the dynamic in VERONICA MARS (still BUFFY's greatest descendant), a few years later.

"Halloween" contains what may be my single favorite moment in the series. And even if it's not my favorite moment, it's almost certainly the funniest. The simple, solid premise of the episode - people turn into their Halloween costumes - means that Willow turns into a ghost. Giles, unaware of what's happening, is at the library. Ghost Willow arrives at the library by walking through the walls and hilariously scares the bejeezus out of Giles, sending the card catalogue into complete disarray.

It's Giles at his fuddy-duddiest, right before the rug gets pulled out from under that view of the character: "Hello... Ripper."

It's a fantastic moment. So is the fight scene with Ethan, and so is the close-up of Giles that ends the episode. Six episodes into season 2, and we are deep into the murky moral waters the series will greatly explore for most of its run. We only have a couple of tantalizing hints about Giles' past, but it's enough to know that there's a darkness there. (Oooh, I just got chills thinking of one Dark-Giles moment in particular, but we'll get back to that, some time in September.) Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne is such a great foil for Giles that (as I check imdb) I'm a bit surprised he appears in as few episodes of the series as he does.

I also love the discussion between Buffy and Willow about Willow's costume - Willow wanted to wear a basic, shapeless ghost costume; Buffy wanted her to wear something more revealing. It initially reads as the smart, shy girl not comfortable with her body, but.in hindsight it seems like another layer of protection the closeted Willow hides behind. "You're never gonna get noticed if you keep hiding," says Buffy. But we'll get to that later. First, of course, we need a couple of seasons of Willow and Oz expertly being cute together.

On the other hand, there's 18th-century Buffy. It pains me to say this, because I normally adore her work, but Gellar is not good here. She can't pull off the 18th-century accent or attitude, and she's not helped by truly terrible dialogue. (I'm not sure anyone could successfully deliver lines like "I was brought up a proper lady. I wasn't meant to understand things. I'm just meant to look pretty, and then someone nice will marry me. Possibly a baron.") But we'll get to see a helpless Buffy again later in the series, and she's MUCH better there.

"Inca Mummy Girl": B
"Reptile Boy": C
"Halloween": A-

What did everyone else think?

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