Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Buffy Blog: "Wild at Heart"

Monsters of the Week. The monsters of the week in “Wild at Heart”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Grossman, are the wild at heart monsters Oz and Veruca (Paige Moss).

It has been clear that something is up between Oz and Veruca since we first met her in “Living Conditions” earlier this season. The what that is up between them becomes painfully clear in “Wild at Heart”. Both Oz and Veruca are werewolves and that is why, since they first met and as they continue to interact with one another, there is a kind of animal magnetism, an animal magnetism that releases a flood of testosterone and hormones that leave literal scratch marks on each of their bodies, draws Oz and Veruca together despite Oz’s will to remain loyal to Will (sorry couldn’t resist the pun).

Veruca scoffs at Oz for caging himself both literally and metaphorically. She scoffs at Oz’s belief that he can control the werewolf within and that he is only a “wolf three nights a week”. “You’re the wolf all the time and your human face is just a disguise”, she tells him. She blames Willow for domesticating and neutering Oz and “making him live in a cage”, a cage with “a little wheel and a cute plastic ball with a bell” he, Willow’s pet, can play with.

Veruca is different from Oz. She is the werewolf unchained, the werewolf comfortable with who she is and comfortable with the fact that werewolves sometimes have to kill. And killing she feels she must. Veruca’s intention is to kill Willow in order to free Oz from the domesticated cage Willow has trapped him in and to assure their “destiny” together now that the sun is going down, now that she is about to revert to her werewolf self.

It is Oz to Willow’s rescue. Oz and Veruca fight and werewolf Oz kills werewolf Veruca by violently biting her in the neck. In the final scene of “Wild at Heart” Oz admits to Willow that Veruca was right. “The wolf is”, he tells her, “inside me all the time” and that, as a result, he can’t be around her or any of the other humans Willow tells him are an earth epidemic until he figures out who he is. Oz tells a crying Willow that she is the only one he has ever loved, leaves his apartment, gets into his van, and drives off to find himself.

The Metaphor. In keeping with the season four’s emphasis on men run amok thanks to their testosterone pleasure principle and men who behave badly toward their girlfriends, Oz is trying to control the beast within but ultimately is unable to. As a result he hurts Willow so much, as Buffy tells Giles, that she is unable even to form words, a hurt that Buffy doesn’t know how Willow will ever get over. Communication or the inability to communicate seems to be another theme of season four, by the way.

Out of the Past: “Mysterious Taser Guys” are back. Spike, who has returned from LA without the Gem of Amarra, is tasered and captured by them during the teaser to the episode. What will happen to blondy bear in captivity? Buffy bumps into one of the military guys as she and Oz are hurtling back to the UC Sunnydale campus to protect Willow from Veruca. In penultimate scene in “Wild at Heart” Buffy talks to Giles about the army guys questioning who they are. Shapes of things to come?

The Ghosts of Buffy Past: Oz refers to Willow’s affair with Xander while they were dating in seasons two and three.

Buffy Thy Name is Punning: Buffy’s self confidence seems to be fully back and is fully on display in her punning in the teaser of “Wild at Heart”.

A Willow in Pain is a Willow Who Relies on Magicks?: Willow, of course, has used magicks before. A Willow with eyes black appeared while she was doing her spell to try to restore Angel’s soul in “Becoming” (2:21 and 2:22). In “Wild at Heart” Willow uses her magicks to try and destroy Oz’s and Veruca’s relationship and to “seal his fate, not to love - but only hate...” Preview of coming attractions? This, of course, recalls Willow's attempt to cast a de-loving spell on her and Xander in "Lovers Walk" (3:8).

The Unemployment Line: Xander is no longer working at The Pub. He is still, however, giving advice. On this occasion the “from the y side of things” Xander talks to Willow about what guys are like and what they think about during the seven minutes they aren’t thinking about having sex. Xander gives a Willow jealous of Veruca and worried about her relationship with Oz some pretty sound advice, ask him, ask Oz, about what is going on. The Xandman is becoming the therapeutic go to guy for the Scoobies.

Scoobies Imploding?: Throughout much of “Wild at Heart” Willow is afraid she is losing Oz. By the end, after she has lost Oz, at least for the moment, Willow is heartbroken and seemingly dead to the world. She might really be dead if it hadn’t been for Riley saving her after she walked in front of a car in front of the Espresso Pump shortly after she discovered Oz and Veruca lying naked together in Oz’s cage in his crypt in one of Sunnydale’s many cemeteries. Buffy, in what is perhaps a foreshadowing of the final scene of “Wild at Heart” is too late to save Willow from the car she walks in front of.

Giles has so much much time on his hands that he invades younger Scooby space at the Bronze, where he watches Veruca's band Shy (really THC) play and watches. He also plays along with a Jeopardy like programme as he watches television in his apartment. He is relieved that Buffy stops by to talk about Willow and the military guys.

Wow moment: Oz yelling at Veruca when she says that Willow has a point when she says that Oz could have told somebody, some Scoobies, about Veruca before he conveniently locked himself up with her for the night.

The Chorus: Wonderful emotionally powerful episode. Alyson Hannigan, as Joss noted, if memory serves, in his commentary on “Welcome to the Hellmouth”/“The Harvest”, is great at bringing the pain. She is. Hannigan's portrayal of a Willow in deep anguish is a piece of superb acting.

In some ways “Wild at Heart” takes us back to that wonderful scene in “Surprise”/“Innocence” where Willow and the audience--Whedon wrote it, he says, in the commentary to the episode to make us fall in love with Oz along with a Willow who has, up to that point, been using Oz to make Xander jealous--fall in love with Oz. In “Wild at Heart” that wonderful scene in “Surprise”/“Innocence” is played off of in the scene at the end of "Wild at Heart" in which Oz decides to leave Willow in the same van that he and Willow fell in love in. In “Surprise”/“Innocence” Oz fully enters Willow’s life. In “Wild at Heart” he leaves it at least for the moment.

The scene where Oz, in his van, hesitates for a moment before leaving, making us briefly think that perhaps he won’t leave after all and that Willow and Oz will be reunited—ah, romance—is, of course, Joss and Company bringing the pain, something they do so well. Like Hitchcock, the, to state what has become a cliché, master of suspense, the delay in having Oz leave Willow makes us feel the pain that is at the very heart of this episode and often at the very heart of Buffy even more than we felt before.

Note the play on freedom and neutering and captivity in "Wild at Heart". Oz puts himself in his cage. Veruca counterpoints her wolf freedom to Oz’s domestication, captivity, and neutering. Oz, of course, literally escapes his cage, his fake face, early in “Wild at Heart”. Spike, the ultimate wild at heart unchained vampire guy apparently loses his freedom upon being captured by “taser guys”. Preview of coming attractions, perhaps?

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