Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Buffy Blog: "Where the Wild Things Are"
With the boys, the Initiative, ragged and needing to let off some steam Riley decides to have a party at Lowell House. With Buffy and Riley having sex yet again in Riley’s Lowell House room upstairs, downstairs “ghosts” are haunting and shaking Lowell House, giving people vicarious orgasms, and making people feel dirty and guilty and forcing them to go all Felicity with their hair. Meanwhile back upstairs Buffy and Riley are trapped behind a door thanks to the haunting gone really wild as vines grow around their door making it impossible for anyone to enter.
“Was that Willow?” Riley thinks he hears Willow scream after Willow sees a "ghost" in the upstairs bathroom near Riley’s room but neither he nor Buffy can do anything about it. They can’t move prisoners as they are to the rhythms of love, an imprisonment reflected in the mise-en-scene of “Wild at Heart”. With Riley and Buffy enslaved once again to the rhythm after Riley thinks he might of heard Willow scream the camera moves up to what the script says is an impossible bird’s eye view. Riley’s bed is now a tiny speck in, as the script describes it, a sea of isolated nothingness, in a sea of blackness (just as Faith’s hospital bed appeared to exist in a sea of nothingness in “This Year’s Girl”/ “Who Are You”). Riley and Buffy lying on the bed are imprisoned by strap like and prison door like shadows of that darkness spread across their bed. The only voices they can “hear” are their own disembodied echoes. What might this say about Buffy’s and Riley’s future if anything?
“Because Buffy and Riley are trapped”. The haunting of Lowell House builds to a crescendo and eventually forces everyone at the party to flee save for Buffy and Riley entrapped as they are. Forrest and a possessed Graham spouting biblical like and biblical verses head to the Initiative lair below to see what they can do about the happenings above them. Willow, Tara, Anya, Xander, and Spike, Spike breaking the straps that bind impure him, flee outside. Xander, after Spike says yes and then convinces himself no and heads to the Asian House to see what is going on there, is the only one who tries to go back into Lowell to save Buffy and Riley. Shape of things to come? When the apparitions haunting the house repulse him, however, it is off to the Espresso Pump to get Giles.
With Giles in tow it’s off to the library for that Scooby ritual of research. At the UC Sunnydale Library the Scoobies uncover that Lowell House had been, between 1949 and 1960, the Lowell Home for Children and housed during those years “upwards of forty adolescents: runaways, juvenile delinquents, and emotionally disturbed teenagers from the Sunnydale area” all under the guidance of Genevieve Holt.
“There's ghosts and shaking and people going all Felicity with their hair…” It is Holt’s “reign of repression”, her cutting off of the hair of her female charges to remove the temptation of vanity and her forced baptisms, during which she held her charges under water in the bathtub to cleanse them of their impure thoughts and deeds that has given birth, Giles says, to a cluster of poltergeists born out of intense adolescent emotion and sexual energy that are haunting Lowell House. These poltergasms, as Xander wittily terms them, are being fed energy and let loose by Buffy’s and Riley’s “nakedness ‘round the clock” in Riley’s upstairs frat room. This is why the walls are giving people vicarious orgasms, why Tara says “That’s d-disgusting” when Willow casually touches her knee, why Willow sees an apparition of one of Holt’s kids in the bathtub, why Julie feels bad after she forces herself on Xander kissing him after their spin the bottle game, locks herself in a closet, and goes all Felicity with her hair (a reference to), why Spike is bound and gagged by leather straps to the chair in which he is sitting, and why wild vines grow around Riley’s door, behind which Riley and Buffy are slaves to the rhythm of sex, and then spread down the stairway in Lowell House.
Eventually the Scoobies have a plan to deal. While Willow, Tara, and Giles perform a spell to bind the spirits in Lowell House in Willow’s and Buffy’s dorm room, Xander and Anya head to the Initiative frat to save Buffy and Riley from human battery conk out, death. Willow’s and Tara’s spell succeeds and into Lowell Xander and Anya go. The polterchildren soon realize, however, what Xander and Anya are up to and poltergasmic hell lets loose once again in Lowell House. Xander and Anya try to machete their way upstairs through the wild thing vines but the angry and screaming children send Anya sailing through the stair railing back to the first storey and take Xander into the bathroom where they hold him under water in the bathtub, just as Holt did to them, to try to drown him.
It’s Anya, an Anya who has had a fight with Xander earlier in the episode, an Anya who thinks she and Xander have broken up, the Anya who wonders why Xander would want to go back into Lowell House to save his friends, selfish Anya, to the rescue. Shades of “Graduation Day”. This time, however, Anya doesn’t flee from evil as she did in “Graduation Day”. She struggles upstairs through the slings and arrows through the hand of poltergasm anger and saves Xander from drowning. Reunited Anya and Xander make their way from the bathroom to Riley’s door and open it. The camera zooms downwards setting Buffy and Riley free from their “prison” and ending the haunting of Lowell House at least for the moment. Can another frat haunting be far behind?
There is, of course, a lot more than sex and poltergasmic violence going on in “Where the Wild Things Are”. Well maybe…
“I can't believe we're breaking up”. Last week Riley wondered whether Xander’s and Anya’s relationship would survive. This week it appears that it may not. Anya drawing on what she saw during centuries of wreaking vengeance on the men who did their women wrong, thinks that the Xandman is growing tired of her because she and Xander didn’t have sex last night. Xander flirts with Julie, the young woman who later goes all Felicity with her hair after Xander rejects her advances, at the Lowell House party and, when Anya arrives at the party with Spike, jealously accuses Anya of rebounding with the undead. Is Spike replacing Angel as the animus of the Xandman’s petty jealousies? Anya and Spike seem to have a good raport with each other as a result of being ex demons I suppose. What’s up with that? By the end of the episode Xander and Anya reconcile after they work together to free Buffy and Riley from the prison the poltergasms have incarcerated them in. How long will this reconciliation last?
“Xander, in an ice cream vendor uniform”. Xander is now working as a vendor in an ice cream truck. He is still struggling to find his place in a post high school world.
“Actually, that all sounds pretty convincing”. Spike is back to his old mind games. He says he is going to help the Scoobies but convinces himself not to because, as he says to Willow, Tara, Anya, and Xander he doesn’t fancy a single one of them. Spike tries to play on Anya’s fears about her relationship with Xander when they meet in front of the Bronze by wondering if “droopy-boy”, Xander, had something better to do than be with her? They then go inside and relive their demon glory days. Spike says that they should revert to their demon past and that he should go stake Drusilla and she should go wreak vengeance on the Xandman.
“DON'T TOUCH ME!” Tara is repulsed by Willow’s casual touch of her knee. Is this guilt purely the product of poltergasm haunting or is the haunting exacerbating a sense of guilt that is already there in Tara? If Tara has a deep-seated guilt about same sex love and same sex sex deep within her what does this mean for Tara? What does it mean for Tara and Willow?
“So he's, um, bridging the gap between the races? Almost sounds like the mayor talking. In the teaser to “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Fang”, a vampire, comes to the aid of “Horny”, a demon and they then begin to work as a team against the Buffster and her Teutonic Guy. This working together as a team, as Giles says, is extraordinary since, as a rule, demons have no empathy for anyone other than their own species. Remind you of someone like Spike or Anya? We don’t see Adam at all in “Where the Wild Things Are” but he appears to have become, as Willow says, a kind of evil and less eloquent version of Martin Luther King Jnr bringing together, as Riley and Buffy note, demon types because he is made up of a bunch of demon types. I feel a sense of foreboding about the coming battle between the Scoobies and Adam.
The Chorus. “Where the Wild Things Are” written by Tracey Forbes and directed by David Solomon has always been among my favourite episodes of Buffy. There are a lot of things I like about this episode amongst them the incredible “impossible” shot of Buffy and Riley enslaved to the rhythm of sex in Riley’s bed, one of the most amazing and most meaningful shots I have ever seen in television or the cinema, and its critique of conservative Christian puritanical “Touch not the impure thing…for ye shall perish. Find salvation in the cross of our lord and saviour…” and religious spare not the rod mentalities. And then there is the fact that Anthony Stewart Head sings a spectacular version of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” in the episode. That alone makes the episode worth loving. Hmm, wonder what all this says about me?
It’s All In the Title. The title, “Where the Wild Things Are” is, presumably, taken from Maurice Sendak’s famous children’s book of the same title from 1963. The book, which has a lot of Maurice Ravel’s and Collette’s one act 1925 opera L’enfant et les sortileges in it, is about a young boy named Max who, angry that his mother sends him to bed without supper, creates, thanks to his imagination, a land of fearsome monsters to which he sails and conquers the fearsome monsters and after which, feeling lonely, he returns home. Monsters of the angry id imagination, bedrooms, and monster battles, in both Buffy and book, oh my.
Scoobies Go All Reflexive. Xander wondering aloud whether every frat on the UC, Sunnydale campus is haunted, a reference to the frat house in “Fear Itself”. One could, perhaps, expand the question and ask whether every frat house and dormitory in Sunnydale is demonic in some way, shape, or form given what we have learned about frats and dorms in “Reptile Boy”, “Living Conditions”, and “Doomed”.
Hilariously Awesome. The reactions of Willow, Anya, Tara, and Xander when they discover Giles singing at the Espresso Pump. Willow, mouth open then remembering why she once had a crush on Giles. Anya finding it interesting and saying Giles has a pleasant voice. Tara enjoying it and saying Giles is pretty good. Xander fighting what he says is total metal breakdown in his typically wit trumps almost everything Xander way. Talk about in character.