Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: Look at me. I'm all fuzzy.

A trio of great episodes: "Doppelgangland", "Enemies", and "Earshot".

"I'm so evil. And skanky. And I think I'm kinda gay."

Have I used the phrase "favorite episode" yet? Let's assume I haven't: "Doppelgangland" is my favorite episode of the series. There is a small handful of episodes are probably better, but I don't think there's an episode of BUFFY that fills me with as much joy as "Doppelgangland" does.

Unless I'm forgetting something, "Doppelgangland" is the first truly Willow-centric episode, and a real showcase for Alyson Hannigan. (It first aired in early 1999, a few months before Hannigan wowed movie audiences in AMERICAN PIE.) And while "Doppelgangland" seems like a standalone episode that just complements "The Wish", it's actually a really important episode in Willow's overall arc - particularly her dark turn in season 6. (There are a couple of lines from "Doppelgangland" that will reappear at key moments in season 6, for example.) Again, while I'm not trying to argue that this was all planned out from the beginning, I'm impressed at the overall cohesiveness of the series.

To list all of the things I love about "Doppelgangland", I think I'd have to provide a transcript of the episode. (Joss himself wrote and directed it, and I think it might still be the best thing he's written.) So I'll just leave it there. Well, one line: "I'm a blood-sucking fiend! Look at my outfit!"

"Enemies", meanwhile, continues the season 3 Big Bad storyline, and Faith reveals her new allegiance to Mayor Wilkins. The episode twice smartly gives us the perspective of characters who think they know what's happening, but don't. First, Faith seems to be fessing up to Angel, but she's actually working with the Mayor to try to bring Angelus back. (Though with Faith, there's enough truth about her conflicted feelings about having killed multiple times.) Second, and more brilliantly, Angel convinces Faith (and the audience!) that Angelus has returned - but it was actually a ploy by Angel, Buffy, and Giles to trick Faith into revealing both her allegiance to Mayor Wilkins and her knowledge of the plans for his Ascension. It's a nifty bit of subjective p.o.v. that keeps us, and Faith, convinced that Angelus is back. And the kicker (Faith: "What can I say? I'm the world's best actor." Angel: "Second best.") is a great one.

"Enemies" ends with Buffy struggling with Angel's very convincing Angelus act, and declaring that she needs a break. They've been on/off all season (without being fully "on" in a "one true moment of happiness" sort of way), and by now it's clear that Angel really doesn't have a future as a key member of the Scoobies. By this point in the season, the development of the series ANGEL is well under way, so of course they're working on getting him to Los Angeles; without the spin-off, I don't think keeping Angel around Sunnydale for season 4 would have worked. (Cordelia, too: she's become a marginalized character since dumping Xander, so her days in Sunnydale were clearly numbered, too.)

Meanwhile, it's nearly impossible to separate "Earshot" from the controversy surrounding its airing. It was one of two episodes pulled due to the Columbine shootings in 1999, and is the one most directly similar to that tragedy. (Though here, the loner with the gun was just going to kill himself - the lunchlady was going to kill everyone by poisoning the food.) But without getting into the issues of guns, bullying, mental health, and all those things that are in the news all too frequently: "Earshot" is a damn fine episode of television.

The premise of the episode - that Buffy absorbed a demon's ability to read people's thoughts - is a terrific one. And the episode show how this could be fun and interesting at first, but the ability to turn it off would quickly drive a person crazy. (Gellar, unsurprisingly, is great throughout the episode.) And when she hears someone think "This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all", "Earshot" turns into a first-rate whodunnit. Or, correctly, a whowilldoit.

"Earshot" also features one of my favorite callbacks of the series. Buffy, hearing her mother's thoughts (and Joyce, of course, can't stop thinking about something that she shouldn't be thinking about, with a telepathic daughter): "YOU HAD SEX WITH GILES? ON THE HOOD OF A POLICE CAR? TWICE?!?!? Brilliant.

"Doppelgangland": A+
"Enemies": A
"Earshot": A+

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