Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | June 5, 2011

Cordia’s Review: S2, E15 – Phases

Phases
Season 2, Episode 15
Original airing: 1/27/1998

My Rating: 52

The Good: As always, I’m happy to see Oz and Willow in all their adorableness. The highlight of their relationship in this episode is definitely the last scene and their first kiss. It’s so sweet it wasn’t even ruined by Oz’s cheesy “I’m a werewolf in love” line.

The werewolf part was decent too. Not terribly exciting, tame even compared to some prior monsters on the show, but it does help bring Oz even further into the realm of the supernatural. And it’s nice to have some diversity amongst the human Scoobies now that Angelus has switched to being evil.

The part of the episode I enjoyed the most was actually the Larry sub-plot. We’ve met Larry before and he was a jerk then, but boy did they run with it here. Every move and comment is the epitome of obnoxiousness until Xander forces his unexpected confession. All of the sudden, Larry is happy, comfortable, and nice. It’s silly, sudden and unimportant to the werewolf storyline, but it’s definitely a major source of humor in the episode and I enjoyed it. Especially when Buffy gets to body check Larry into a gym mat. Take that!

The Bad: However, there were some seriously bad parts to this episode and the two worst also revolved around the werewolf. The costume was horrendous. The face was a mask, so the constant snarling looked really stupid. And there was just never anything lupine about the movements of the actor. It never stopped looking like a human in a big furry suit.

Cain was also a mistake. He was there to be a bit of a villain and a real threat to Oz, but he just came across as a major jerk. And sadly, Buffy never got to punch him in the face. I suppose he was there so that Werewolf Oz wouldn’t have to be the villain of the episode, but I just didn’t like him.

Trying to avoid making Werewolf Oz the villain also left a few plot holes and weaknesses. Apparently, the wolf didn’t even bother to maul Theresa’s dead body when Angelus left it for him. Which seems completely out of character considering how he busted in to the Bronze and later chases Willow down the street. Oz even admits the next day that his wolf-brain was apparently planning to eat Willow. So avoiding getting human blood on his muzzle didn’t make any sense except to avoid a loss of sympathy with the audience.

Oz’s new nature is also very conveniently and randomly explained. Apparently, his young cousin is also a werewolf and Oz learns this from his aunt via a very short and calm phone call. Perhaps Oz’s entire family is capable of accepting supernatural happenings with grace and poise, but it just seems silly. It’s disappointing that Oz is given so little time on screen to react to his predicament, although I like his decision to attempt to chain himself up. Presumably, his parents weren’t going to be home that night. But it also begs the questions of where did he order chains from who delivered in about three hours.

Finally, it was disappointing to see Angelus relegated to virtually nothing right after Innocence (S2E14).  I was expecting him to hit fast and hard on the heels of last week’s episode, but instead he gets about thirty seconds of screen time and has a little growling fight with the werewolf. Sad.

Favorite Moment: The conversation between Larry and Xander in the locker room is very well written and acted. It’s obvious that there will be a punch line, but I honestly remember seeing it for the first time and not being able to guess where it was going. Now, rewatching it, I can even more appreciate the subtle confusion they are both experiencing.

The Bottom Line: As tends to happen on Buffy, a disappointing episode follows on the heels of an amazing one. The episode isn’t terrible and doesn’t even begin to stink as bad as some of the previous follow-up episodes (I, Robot… You Jane, Inca Mummy Girl, Ted), but it is disjointed.

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