Thursday, 20 January 2011

Buffy: 2.15 ‘Phases’

Writer: Rob Des Hotel, Dean Batali
Director: Bruce Seth Green

What's the sitch?

It’s the full moon. And in horror land you know what that means, right? Okay, so it’s actually the night before the full moon but this is properly explained in the episode. Anyway, a big, hairy, growly beast is stalking the sexual hot spots of Sunnydale – the lovers’ lane make out spot mainly, with Xander and Cordy almost becoming its victims. Yup, it’s a werewolf. Giles is excited by the news of tracking such a beast but tells Buffy and the gang that said werewolf is most likely a wholly innocent human who's totally unaware that three nights of the month they turn furry and hungry. You see, in the Buffyverse, a werewolf will transform the night before, the night of, and the night after the full moon. So on the next night, full moon night, Buffy and Giles go out hunting to “Bring ‘em back alive,” as Buffy jokes. But all too soon they run across Cain, a nasty werewolf hunter who’s out for werewolf pelts to sell for a pretty penny on the black market. And so the race is on for Buffy to capture wolfie before it hurts anyone and also before Cain can bag himself another beast. Meanwhile Xander has been investigating, seeing if he can discover who the werewolf is, with his sights being set squarely on Larry the obnoxious bully. But there’s a big shock for the gang when the true identity of the werewolf is eventually discovered.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

The major theme here is teenage male hormones and sexual identity. The metaphor in this episode is more or less in line with most modern werewolf stories – the struggle against the beast within. But the writers have also added the major sexual element to play up the hormonal male teenager as rampaging beast idea. The werewolf is attracted to places of gathered sexual heat, so it stalks the lovers’ lane area and also ends up at The Bronze where youngsters are busy dancing and making out. About half way through the episode we find out who the werewolf is after some misdirection including an amusing incident and admission from bully Larry to Xander. The identity of the werewolf is…Oz. He was bitten on the finger by his little cousin, Jordy. After a phone call to his aunt and uncle, Oz discovers Jordy is indeed a werewolf. The rest of the episode centres on Willow being frustrated over the lack of “smoochies” and intimacy with Oz now that they are dating. This leads her to confront him on it at exactly the wrong time…when he is about to chain himself up pre-transformation on the third night. She wanted the more sexually aggressive Oz, well, she’s about to get it.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

The werewolf. Cain, the werewolf hunter. And a cool cameo for Angelus.

Why it rocks

Yay! At last we get to see a lycanthrope on Buffy. And the writers, as often with this show, find a fun new spin on an old legend by adding in the whole hunting by/for sexual heat thing. Also the three night transformation before, on, and after the full moon is great and works well. If only other werewolf films had thought to include a simple new rule like that. As much as I love An American Werewolf in London, it has always bugged me that David transforms two nights following when it is stated he transforms only on the full moon. There is only ever one full moon per month. Fact. All it needed was a line of dialogue to slightly modify the legend as is done here.

This is an Oz and Willow centric episode…mostly Oz. And what’s not to love about that? Seth Green and Ally Hannigan make for an adorable onscreen couple.

Seth Green as Oz is simply a brilliant character.

The hilariously mundane phone call to Oz’s Aunt where he casually asks her if his cousin is a werewolf?

Cain is suitably creepy and obnoxious. His lewd comment to Giles when he encounters Buffy and Giles hanging around the woods together at lovers’ lane is funny and yucky.

Giles’s use of obscure British derogatory term ‘Pillock’ when describing Cain.

Larry’s confession to Xander and the whole mix up over what was really being said.

Why it sucks

The hulking bipedal werewolf costume with animatronic face is not that great. Still, it is infinitely better than the series’ later redesign which turns poor Oz in to some kind of rubbish loping chimp.

No Spike and Dru.

It's Buftastic

Oz waking up naked in the woods. He looks at himself, looks around and utters merely, “Huh!”

Dialogue to die for

Willow: It is nice. He's great. We have a lot of fun. But I want smoochies!
Buffy: Have you dropped any hints?
Willow: I've dropped anvils.

Giles: Quite. And it, uh, acts on pure instinct. No conscience, uh, uh, predatory and, and aggressive.
Buffy: In other words, your typical male.
Xander: On behalf of my gender, hey!
Giles: Yes, let's not jump to any conclusions.
Buffy: I didn't jump. I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.

Oz (on the phone): Aunt Maureen. Hey, it's me. Um, what? Oh! It's, uh... actually its healing okay. That's pretty much the reason I called. Um, I wanted to ask you something. Is Jordy a werewolf? Uh-huh. And how long has that been going on? Uh-huh. What? No, no reason. Um... Thanks. Yeah, love to Uncle Ken.

Willow: Well, I like you. You're nice and you're funny. And you don't smoke. Yeah, okay, werewolf, but that's not all the time. I mean, three days out of the month I'm not much fun to be around either.

Giles (behind Cain’s back): Pillock!

And another thing

At the beginning of the episode, Oz is staring at the cheerleading statue in which Catherine Madison was trapped in Season 1 ep ‘Witch’. Amy Madison returns in the next episode.

How many stakes?

This puppy is something to howl about. 4 (out of 5)

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