Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | June 5, 2011

Robin’s Review: S2, E15 – Phases

Synopsis: Werewolf attacks have Buffy and Giles out patrolling local makeout spots. The Werewolf is a human for the rest of the month and so they are determined to catch him alive. They come up against a Werewolf hunter called Cain who is ready to kill. Angel kills one of Buffy’s classmates to send her a message. Xander thinks Larry is the Werewolf but uncovers a different secret. Oz wakes up in the forest and realises that he is the Werewolf. Willow is determined to move things in their relationship to the next level but picks the worst time as Oz transforms in front of her.

The Good: As usual the developments within the Scooby gang are the highlight of this episode. Xander has become the crucial figure in that department because of his complicated feelings for all the women in the group. While he is clearly happy to be dating Cordelia (and it would seem that it has escalated to dating) his mind has turned to Willow now that she is with Oz. In a natural development he feels a bit jealous that she will now look at another boy the way she once looked at him. He still has feelings for Buffy though and when she discovered the true cause of Theresa’s death his comforting hug still had something more than friendship in it. It was also fun to see Cordelia and Willow complaining about their love lives, equals at last.

Oz and Willow remain a cute couple and his new supernatural side embeds him even more firmly in the world of the Slayer. He did fine with the brief scene he was given to show the conflict and fear which this revelation provoked in him. Willow standing up for what she wanted and confronting him was good too.

Angel’s presence in the shadows served its purpose of reminding us what Buffy has lost and what her inability to kill him has unleashed.

The comedy throughout was pretty solid. I liked Buffy reporting back to Giles on the gossip she had picked up while searching the makeout spot. I also enjoyed Willow’s confused looking reply when Buffy asked how many boys could resist her charms “All of them, maybe more.” The whole Larry sub-plot was fun including the classic “Be still my shorts!” line. His outing to Xander was a nice bit of unitended consequence and actually made sense of his outrageous heterosexual behaviour. Larry was also the cause of the second callback of the episode when Xander revealed that he did remember a bit about his time as a hyena (106). The first one started the episode as Oz inspected that cheerleader statue (103) with the moving eyes.

The Bad: Oz didn’t get much of a chance to respond to the shocking news unfolding in his life. I know that his whole character is about accepting things stoically but I think an extra scene to sell how serious this all was would have been nice. As with the way he accepted the existence of vampires, the phone call with his Aunt was just too blasé for my taste. There is a thin line between the humour of an unexpected reaction and that reaction being ludicrous. If his Aunt has to deal with a Werewolf every month you would think she would have reacted more strongly to her nephew being bitten and then figuring out her son’s dark secret.

Cain the hunter was a heavy handed addition to the plot. He looked like he was straight out of a 1970s cop show with his clothes and haircut and I guess that’s where his sexist attitude came from too. Yes he was obnoxious but he was so relentlessly obnoxious that it too crossed a line into reminding me that I was watching a TV show instead of getting me wrapped up in a story. In between all the “sweethearts” and “little ladys” and the whole “men are frustrating\animals” vibe this episode had an odd feminist streak. Of course you might expect that on a show about a Chosen Girl but it was laid on pretty thick and then didn’t seem to play into Oz’ story in a meaningful way.

The Werewolf costume was difficult to take seriously. Actually it wasn’t the costume that was so much of a problem; it was more trying to simulate what a Werewolf would act like and ending up with the impression that there was just a hyperactive actor inside a suit. The transformation effect on the other hand was excellent.

The Unknown: It’s a small complaint, because a lot of TV shows do it, but how far are the woods from the school? I don’t remember seeing woods right next door before. And yet Cain lures Were-Oz away from Willow with some meat. And in the time it takes him to get Oz lined up for a shot, Willow made it all the way back to the library and dragged Buffy out to the correct spot to save Oz. Quite the contraction of time I would say.

Best Moment: The scene where Buffy and Xander visited Theresa’s corpse was good. Neither Oz nor Cain were the villains here, Angel dominates the show, as he should. It was a strong reminder of Buffy’s horrible situation and gave Xander another moment to face his conflicted feelings about her.

The Bottom Line: The Werewolf story felt half-hearted. Perhaps that’s because Oz wasn’t really a villain or just because Angel is too big a story for this to take precedence. But between the Larry and Cain stories there was too much going on for anything to sink in fully and this ended up feeling a little flat.



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