Thursday, 12 January 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: What’s My Line? Part Two

“All monkeys are French. You didn’t know?”

No recap! Is it just on the DVD?

Kendra (well, Bianca Lawson) is completely gorgeous, but the accent is awful. It’s obviously supposed to be West Indian, but it sounds all over the place. Never mind, though, I like the character, and this episode (Marti Noxon’s first solo writing credit, I believe?), a good one if not one of the best, sees some nice development of last episode’s themes in the interaction between her and Buffy.

There’s an awful lot of other things happening in this episode, though. For starters, we get to see Angel in a sewer, a nice bit of foreshadowing for his own show. Jonathan gets another cameo in which, again, he’s a bit of a victim. And then, yes, there’s the shipping. How can anyone not love the Cordelia / Xander thing? In hindsight it was inevitable; both of them were characters who desperately needed plot threads of their own, having just about made it as far as they could through charm and comic relief alone. And both of the arguing / kissing scenes are such fun. This is set to be the most screwball thing ever.

On the other hand, there’s the sweet interaction between Willow and Oz. They’re both nice and innocent, but what’s wonderful is that they’re both extremely witty with it. Seeing them both on screen together, and clearly starting to become a proper couple, is so utterly heartwarming that it can only possibly end in devastating heartbreak. Such are the rules on Planet Joss Whedon.

But the meat of the episode is in the scenes between Buffy and Kendra. The basic themes of the conveyor belt from school to employment, the crushing pressure of choice, and the depressing realisation that your life path has been chosen for you, have already been established, so this episode can apply all of this directly to Buffy’s character. Kendra is, so to speak, the control of the experiment while Buffy is the subject. So Kendra is a slayer done by-the-book with no distractions. She was raised by her Watcher, away from her family; she has no friends; she isn’t allowed to talk to boys, and is shy around them; her only studying is directed by her Watcher, to whom she’s extremely respectful.

Buffy is none of these things. And yet it’s made clear that all of these things- her friends, her ordinary life, her family- are a strength. Kendra is, as Buffy says, technically very, very good, but she’s lacking in imagination. And while Buffy’s attachment to Angel may lead her to walk into a trap (so the argument isn’t all one way), she has friends to rescue her.

Buffy learns a lesson here; from speculating on handing the Slayer baton to Kendra so she can live a normal life, she comes to accept that, as Kendra says, slaying isn’t her job: it’s who she is. I’m not really sure that this is any more than waffle, but it works in terms of the characters and story beats so it gets away with it.

But our heroes haven’t won. Drusilla, it seems, is restored to health. And, from what we saw earlier as she got all kinky, tied up Angel and burned him with holy water, she might well be a bit dangerous…

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