Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Beauty & the Beasts

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3
Episode: “Beauty & the Beasts” (October 20th, 1998)

Synopsis by Jason Henderson

Overview
It’s Ozwatch, that time of the month when the moon is full, Oz becomes a werewolf, and the gang become wolfsitters at Oz’s cage. But there’s a beast tearing citizens apart by night: is the gang watching Oz close enough, or is there a new beast in town?


Credits:

Screenplay: Marti Noxon
Direction: James Whitmore, Jr.
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Cordelia: Charisma Carpenter
Angel: David Boreanaz
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Oz: Seth Green
Faith: Eliza Dushku
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head

Synopsis

We open with Willow reading a tale of dogs, rabbits and primal urges from London’s CALL OF THE WILD. She’s reading to Oz, her werewolf boyfriend, who is safely in his cage. Xander relieves Willow of her duties so she can study, and promptly lies down on the table and goes to sleep.

Faith and Buffy, meanwhile, are out slaying and discussing boys and beasts. “All men are beasts,” explains Faith. “Every guy from manimal to Mr I-love-The English-Patient has a beast in him.” Buffy isn’t sure, but as they speak a young man is being torn apart in the woods.

Next day, Willow (sh of the werewolf boyfriend) disagrees with Faith’s thesis, and we’re introduced to Pete and Debbie, friends of Buffy’s new beau Scott. Debbie is already seeing the counselor Mr. Platt, with whom Buffy has an appointment.

The news of last night’s mauling hits the library and the gang is concerned that Oz might have escaped to kill, since Xander fell asleep. Oz is mortified.

Buffy goes to meet the counselor, who explains he’s not meant to be a friend, but “an honest, trained, not-too-crazy professional” to help her fight whatever demons Buffy has. She slowly warms to him as she struggles to deal with issues of her strange love for Angel, the vampire she loved and, finally, killed. “You can’t stay lost forever,” Platt says. “or love becomes your master… and you’re just it’s dog.”

The day wears on as the gang decides how to investigate the mauling, and finally Oz grimly shuts himself in his cage, turning away from Willow.

Buffy follows a strange, naked figure in the woods to find it’s Angel, in a snarling feral state. She soon chains him up in the mansion, terrified and confused. She goes back to the library to relieve Faith from Ozwatch and try to find answers on how Angel could have returned from the demon dimension.

Meanwhile, Willow, Xander and Cordelia check out the body in the morgue. Cordelia’s conclusion: “This guy was ripped apart by a big, wild animal.”

Next morning, Giles awakens Buffy at the library, where’s she’s snuggled up with an arcane book on demon dimensions. She says she dreamt that Angel returned. Giles entertains the idea, concluding that it’s unlikely anyone could return to the demon dimension, having suffered possibly hundreds of years of torture. Still, he says, there are two kinds of monsters: those who are redeemable, amd those who are void of humanity and unresponsive to reason or love. Perhaps a redeemable demon could make it out with some vestige of sanity.

Scott and Buffy lunch with Debby and Pete, who are cute and loving. The boy who was killed, turns out, was a semi-ex-beau of Debby’s. When Debby and Pete leave, they slip into a broom closet to make out, but Pete goes ballistic when he finds an empty jar of some concoction he’s sworn off.

Meanwhile, Buffy goes to see Mr. Platt, and spills her whole story to the man before realizing he’s dead.

Pete roars at Debby in the broom closet, accusing her of making him drink the stuff in the first place, accuses her of whoring, metamorphsese into a demon, smacks her around, and promptly snaps out of it, begging her forgiveness like (sort of “Dr. Jekkyl and Ike Turner.” She knows, he says kindly, that she should’t make him mad.

The gand is thrilled that Oz is cleared, since the killing happened in daylight, but Buffy secretly fears it was Angel. Except the one thing connecting both victims so far is Debby, who was patient to one and ex-girlfriend to the other.) Oz has to loan some notes to Debby, and wen he sees her, she’s got a great shiner and dodges his questions while Pete angrily watches from afar.

Buffy and Willow intervene with Debby in the girls’ room. “You know what works to cover a shiner?” Buffy suggests, “Don’t get hit.” Debby doesn’t want to turn Pete in, because he’s “not himself” when he gets like this. Willow points out that it’ll never seem like a good time to do something about it, and “if Pete kills you, it’ll pretty much be too late.”

Angel, meanwhile, breaks his chains and bursts out of the mansion crypt.

Pete comes to attack Oz, who is sitting in his cage. He turns into his beast form, accusing Oz of hitting on Debby, and busts Oz out.

Debbie, meanwhile, chatters “He does love me!” over and over. “I think we broke her,” Willow says, and the two girls leave Debbie to her gibbering.

As the sun goes down, Oz metamorphs into his werewolf state, and then the fight really begins. Buffy chases Oz while Faith goes after Beast Pete. Beast Pete goes straight back to Debbie, and by the time Buffy arrives, Debbie’s already dead. Pete nearly kills Buffy but is stopped at the last minute by Angel, who busts in to protect her. After killing the beast, Angel stares at Buffy, looking for his voice. “Buffy,” he finally says, falling to his knees.

It turns out, in the end, that Pete originally used the concoction to become “more manly” to please Debby, but soon had no need of it. It wasn’t the concoction, but himself, that allowed him to go beastly, as it were. The beast was in him all the time.

We end with Buffy reading to the snarling, chained Angel, from London’s CALL OF THE WILD.



Notes

The best part of this episode is the struggle of Angel, who we saw emerge from the demon dimension last episode. Angel presumably has been suffering hundreds of years of torture in his innocent form, and he’s so damaged that he barely retains humanity. And yet he knows Buffy, remembers her, and his ability to pronounce her name is the first step to the recovery of is sanity.

The thesis that there lies in all men a primordial beast is an old, good one. It’s nice that Pete ultimately didn’t need the concoction to become his beast. Actually, this is how it worked in Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde,” too. In the end, Mr. Hyde was merely a naturaly occurring, now unleashed part of the subconscious.

It’s also interesting to note that in this case, the beast was necessary: Angel in his beast form is a good match for Beast Pete, suggesting that subconscious aggression has its practical uses. But it’s Angel’s humantity that drives him to use that bestialism to protect, rather than victimize.

On another note, what sort of parents do Willow and Xander have, anyway? What does Xander tell his folks when he goes to spend all night in the library? The truth? Who would believe that?

Giles, for his part, looks more and more like a parent to the slayer gang, yelling at Xander for falling asleeo, chiding Buffy when she rushes Willow’s report. (Let the girl finish, Buffy.”) This is a strange little family that’s growing here at the library. I can’t decide whether Xander, Willow and Cordelia are more like Buffy and Giles’ family members, groupies, or work study interns.

Here’s a nice bit of self-aware screenwriting: At the end, Cordelia hears the outcome of the whole episode and asks, “where have I been?” That’s a good question, because we haven’t seen her since the morgue scene early on. I suspect the script lacked room for her with the inclusion of Debby and Pete, and here’s a nice wink to the choice of simply dropping her until the performance review, as it were.

The concept of Ozwatch is interesting, suggesting once again the decent world-building the this show employs. These characters can deal with anything. (Thank god the library has a cage for its rare books.)

Lastly, the moment when Oz locks himself in is nicely chilling: “Get away from the cage,” he tells Willow. Oz knows he has a beast in him, and he’s as practical as he is ashamed.

Memorable Quotes

On the full monty
“No worries, I can handle the Oz full monty. I mean, not handle, handle, like, hands-to-flesh, handle.”
(Xander, relieving Willow on Ozwatch, on what to do when Oz awakens confused and naked the next morning.)

On the not-so-full monty
“That’s okay, I’m still getting used to half-a-monty.”
(Willow, on how far she has or hasn’t gone with Oz. This makes Xander nicely jealous, by the way.)

On conversational nicety:
“You know that thing where you bail in the middle of an upsetting conversation? I have to do that.”
(Oz, who has had enough listening to people assume he’s been ripping people apart by night, and needs to go lock himself up.)

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