Thursday, July 5, 2012

Buffy Blog: Pangs

Previously on Angel: At the end of “Bachelor Party” (1:07) Doyle (Glenn Quinn), Angel's and Cordelia’s vision demon comrade in arms, has a vision of a Buffy in danger sending Angel off to LA to make sure she is safe and to save her once again if he has to.

Happy Thanksgiving. It’s Buffy’s first Thanksgiving away from home. Joyce is out of town and the Buffster has decided she wants to have a traditional turkey day dinner for the Scooby Gang at Giles’s place.

As so often happens in Sunnydale, however, things don’t quite go as planned. During a groundbreaking ceremony for a new lets celebrate and all get along multi-cultural cultural centre on the UC, Sunnydale campus, the old Sunnydale Mission, which was thought destroyed, is unearthed. While digging Xander falls into the mission underground unleashing the vengeful spirit of the Chumash Indian warrior Hus who later in the episode raises other Chumash spirits to do to Whites what the Whites did to him and his people.

The Chumash, as Willow tells us at the beginning of the episode, were brutalised, infected by disease, disfigured—they had their ears cut off—and murdered by Europeans who settled in California. It’s now pay back time. Hus gives Xander smallpox, malaria, and syphilis. He kills a UC, Sunnydale anthropologist in charge of the university’s cultural centre. He kills a local Catholic priest. Finally, after Hus has raised other Chumash warriors to help him wreck vengeance on the Europeans they come after Sunnydale’s strongest warrior, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Eventually Buffy, Willow, and Giles figure out that the Chumash are returning to avenge what was done to them. They are not in agreement what they should do about it, however. Willow, recounting all the wrongs that were done to the Chumash opposes killing them. They are, she points out, just doing to Whites what Whites did to them. Giles counters that the Chumash are killing innocent people and so must be stopped. Buffy, while sympathetic to Willow’s position, realises that she must stop the revived Chumash spirit warriors before they kill again. She prefers to do it peacefully and diplomatically (apologise) but is willing to use more forceful means if necessary. When the Chumash attack Buffy and Giles at Fort Giles, however—Willow, Xander, and Anya go off to warn the university dean thinking that he is the leader the Chumash are after—this debate becomes moot. All of the Scoobies, including Willow transformed into, as she says, General Custer, defend themselves and eventually defeat the Chumash in battle.

The moral of the story? When attacked you have every right to defend yourself. Violence, in other words, is just in the Buffyverse when you are responding to violence. And responsive violence is proper if you are the Scoobies defending the weak and unknowing against such attacks.

“We All Worked Together”: Buffy wants to have a Thanksgiving dinner at Giles’s place so the Scoobies have a home to go to. The Scoobies fight together for the first time this season.

Joyce Where For Art Thou: Kristine Sutherland the actor who plays Buffy’s mother Joyce, was in Italy for most of the fourth season and wasn’t as available as she was in previous seasons. This is why we don’t see as much of Joyce in season four. Whedon and Company used Sutherland’s absence, however, as a means to the end of making Buffy more independent.

“You Don’t Talk to Vengeance Demons, You Kill Them”. Well not quite and Xander pays somewhat for this slip of the tongue. Hus, by the way, is not a vengeance demon, like Anya, but a spirit, a distinction Willow makes while the Scoobies are debating what to do about Hus. Xander and ex-vengeance demon Anya, hence her sensitivity about being killed, as Buffy tells Willow, seem pretty tight. And they do. Xander has left his job at a hot dog joint—he apparently provided free hot dogs on a stick to Will—and is now gainfully employed in the construction company that is building the cultural centre on the UC, Sunnydale campus. Anya comes to the groundbreaking ceremony just to watch Village People guy Xander dig and get all sweaty while simultaneously imagining she is having sex with imaginary sex machine Xander. She, of course, had real sex with unimaginary Xander in “The Harsh Light of Day”. Later in the episode Xander calls Anya his girlfriend, Xander’s first since Cordelia broke up with him in season three.

“I'm saying Spike had a little trip to the vet and now he doesn't chase the other puppies anymore”: Thanks to the Initiative’s research arm Spike has been, as Forrest remarks, neutered. He can’t eat and he can’t even hit people. Spike appears pale and after being thrown out by Harmony he goes for help to the people you’d think would be the last people he would go to to ask help from, the Scoobies, most of whom, of course, he has tried to kill in one way or another at some time during seasons one, two, and three. The Scoobies, after some hesitation and after Spike offers them information about the “soldier boys” Buffy fought in “Wild at Heart”, take him in. Home after all, is the place, as Riley and Buffy remarked when they met in front of the Espresso Pump, that they have to take you in. In Spike’s case he is taken in only after he is tied to a chair.

There is somewhat of a parallel between Oz and Spike here. Oz, in “Wild at Heart”, or so Veruca claims, has been neutered by Willow to such an extent that he places himself in a cage during those important three nights of the month. He discovers, just as Veruca said he would, that he is the wolf always. As a result he leaves Sunnydale to find himself. Spike, the wild at heart force of nature, is neutered by the still somewhat mysterious Initiative.

“All this ‘leaving for her own good’ garbage”: In the Willow brings her own subtext category Willow is still feeling the sting of the break-up with Oz.

Ghosts of Buffy Past: Willow references that the Master’s underground church was built over after a disaster just as the Sunnydale Mission was. Willow tells Angel that she thinks his leaving at the end of season three was a bunch of garbage and that you can’t give up because there are obstacles in the way.

The big ghost of Buffy past in the room, of course, is the return of Angel. Buffy doesn’t see Angel at all during his return to Sunnydale because Buffy is in danger visit though she clearly senses a presence, his presence, on a couple of occasions. She only discovers that he had been there after Xander lets it slip at the dinner table around which the Scoobies and Spike are assembled for the first time in some time to eat Thanksgiving Dinner. Oops.

The Ghost of the Buffyverse Present. Willow asks Angel if it is true that Cordelia is working for him in LA.

The Chorus: Written by Jane Espenson and directed by Michael Lange “Pangs” is a sometimes hilarious take and parodic twist on the Cowboy and Indians Western film and TV programme and a serious and seriously well argued piece about the brutal things the Europeans did to the Chumash.

“Pangs” has tones/tons of elegent word to visual segues from one scene to another. There’s the segue from Buffy’s “[e]veryone’s got a place to go” to a “neutered” Spike being chased by the Initiative with no place to go. Even Harmony, now in I am woman watch me roar mode, threatens him with staking and throws him out. There’s the segue from Riley saying “sick” to Forrest, threatening him with Quarantine after he makes a faux cough mamma’s boy remark about Riley obeying Walsh’s order, to a Xander who really is sick. There’s the segue from Spike asking Buffy what she has to be afraid of if she and the Scoobies help a neutered Spike to Hus calling on other Chumash spirits to rise, which they do, and take revenge. Now that is something to be afraid of. There are several wonderful and elegant visual-to-visual segues between scenes. When we first see Angel he is lurking, something we know from seasons one and two he does quite well, watching something that he can’t have, Buffy. Pangs of the heart. Angel tells Giles, after Giles chides Angel that he shouldn’t hide from Buffy, that he is the one outside looking in at what he can’t have. That scene immediately segues to a Spike peering through a window looking a scene of vampires sharing a happy meal with legs, something he, it appears, can no longer have.

Awesome: Willow, Anya, and Xander as cavalry racing off on bikes to save Buffy and Willow at Fort Giles. Willow and Xander asking Angel if he is evil again. Anya, after seeing Angel in breaking necks action, asking what Angel is like when he’s really evil. Angel asking Willow who that guy talking to Willow is. Angel is jealous of Riley. Spike’s brutally realist monologue in the middle of the Scooby debate about what they are going to do about Hus. The Europeans, Spike says, came, saw, conquered, and exterminated the indigenous peoples of America so going all mamby-pamby and boo hoo and saying you’re sorry to Hus is probably not going to put an end to the vengeance Hus is reaping upon representatives of European power and authority. Even Xander thinks Spike’s speech makes sense though he says it might be the syphilis talking. Spike telling the Scoobies that a vampire who doesn’t eat looks like one of those skeletons from one of those dusty countries. Spike as a bow and arrow pincushion. Spike, just Spike.

Next on Angel: Buffy follows Angel back to LA resulting in the dramatic, romantic, finally tragic, and eye watering events of “I Will Remember You” (1:8).

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