Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | September 25, 2011

Robin’s Review: S3, E4 – Beauty and the Beasts

Synopsis: It’s the full moon and the gang take turns to watch Oz. When a boy is killed and mauled they all fear the worst. Buffy is out patrolling and finds a feral Angel which gives her a new suspect. Scott’s friends Debbie and Pete seem to be having troubles too and when the school councillor is murdered too suspicion falls on Pete. He attacks Oz for talking to Debbie just as Oz becomes a werewolf. Faith and Willow recapture Oz as Buffy fights Pete. Angel appears to help her out and she realises that he hasn’t lost his humanity.

The Good: The way Buffy explained her emotions about Angel to Mr Platt (while alive and dead) were good scenes. It’s one of those scenes which outlines the whole concept of Buffy as a show. The use of the word ‘demons’ as a euphemism for psychological problems, addictions and bad relationships is the core of a show where those demons become actual physical ones that Buffy the super hero can fight. I like the way he was able to sum up Buffy’s relationship with Angel in simple terms and conclude that she lost herself in love.

Then later she returns desperate to find someone she can share the news of Angel’s return with. You can see why Platt was a necessary character for this episode. As Buffy hints at, if she told her friends that Angel was back you can quite imagine Xander, Giles and Faith rushing out to kill him again. She is now back struggling with an Angel-related problem that she can share with no one just as she was getting over the last one. It aint easy being Buffy that’s for sure

To be fair to the production team Oz looked a lot more wolf like here than he did last season (215).

The Bad: The business that I complained about last episode was still present here and blocked this episode from ever reaching its potential.

The details of Angel’s story here reinforce my feeling that his return is not necessarily a great thing for the show. On the most basic level seeing him again does cheapen my memories of “Passion” and “Becoming.” The great sacrifices that Buffy made to get rid of him do seem less significant now that he is back hugging her as he was (from our perspective) five episodes ago.

I also didn’t like the way his return was handled. I think far more should have been made of the moment when Buffy saw him. Yes she is used to people turning into vampires and thus returning from the dead but this was different. I think an even more dramatic scene could have been built around the earth shaking discovery that Angel was back on Earth. We did then see Buffy struggling to interact normally with her friends and confess her feelings to Platt but to some extent none of that could compensate for the sheer level of shock she would be feeling. Her discussion with Giles was a nice moment but it wasn’t enough to satisfy me. Again I think about the amazing moments of TV I sat through last season and this episode just didn’t reflect the true impact that Angel’s return should have had.

Of course the problem for Angel was that he was competing with a monster of the week story. The attempt to tie together Oz, Angel and Pete in a story about the darkness inside men was just too much. Pete’s story suffered the most from congestion because he and Debbie appeared out of nowhere into Buffy’s lives and so knowledgeable viewers were already waiting for them to be the true source of any problems. Then even more out of nowhere they go to make out in a school room and suddenly we learn that Pete is taking some kind of chemical cocktail that gives him strength and then rage. This revelation came after half the episode was over and so struggled to not feel contrived. In the final moments of the episode Willow gives us the info dump that normally would have come earlier to explain exactly what had gone on between them.

The rushed nature of Pete and Debbie’s story wasn’t helped by what a blatant domestic abuse analogy it was. Debbie getting a black eye and claiming she fell was the most predictable bit of scripting you could imagine and Pete’s rage had no subtlety to it. Angel then appears to save the day in a way that didn’t feel satisfying. Especially as those torturous hell demons were so careful not to mess up his perfectly styled hair.

On a smaller note the opening scene was good as Willow explained all the precautions she had taken to lock Oz carefully in his cage for the night. However the whole gang looked foolish for what followed. I would have thought for only three nights a month they could organise a proper schedule where at least someone could be awake at all times. But no. Xander irresponsibly falls asleep and really should have been yelled at more than he was. Yet Buffy then falls asleep and gets a gentle wake up with no reprimand. It all felt very lazy for a gang who have fought so hard to save people’s lives.

The Unknown: It was episodes like this where I began to diverge from mainstream opinion about Oz. He gets a lot of screen time here but I don’t think his personality is established in a relatable way. He is clearly a nice guy and he clearly loves Willow. But his combination of sarcasm and blunt honesty doesn’t actually tell me much about his emotions. He is upset about the thought of killing people but never elaborates on how being a werewolf makes him feel. I would have thought he would be more upset with Xander and the others for not staying awake and keeping a watch on him. I would like to have seen more panic from him when Pete threatened him too. Not just for his own safety but for the worry that he might turn and go on a killing rampage. I’m not asking for Oz to become emotionally expressive in the same way as everyone else but I don’t relate to him as well as I do to even new characters like Scott and that lack of emotion is the reason why.

Best Moment: The initial meeting between Buffy and Platt.

The Bottom Line: With Oz, Angel and Pete competing for air time I thought everything about this was rushed or congested.

52/100

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