Sunday, 15 December 2013

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “Phases" Review (2x15)

Brief Synopsis: “Buffy and the gang track down a suspected werewolf roaming in the woods while trying to stay out of the way of a bloodthirsty hunter who is after the same beast. Meanwhile, Willow worries when Oz doesn’t appear enthusiastic to take their relationship to the next level.”

"Innocence" (2x14) quick link here                                                       "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" (2x16) quick link here

Two quick notes before we get started...

1)    I will be reviewing the episodes in bullet point form. This is because it makes the reviews simple to read, and helps break up the text.
2)    If you are watching the show for the first time along with these reviews, please be warned that there may be a few spoilers for things that haven’t happened yet.

With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

This episode revolves around the newest of the Scooby Gang members, Oz, finding out that he is a werewolf. After Oz was introduced earlier in the season, I was wondering how they were going to integrate Oz into the show other than “Willow’s boyfriend”. This episode delivers that. By the end of this episode, Oz is a fully fledged Scooby, he’s officially in a relationship with Willow, and he has a tie to the supernatural world. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish all of this in one episode.
I like “Phases”, however, it never really stands out to me as more than average. I think the problem is that it sits between “Surprise”, “Innocence”, “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” and “Passion”, all of which are amazing.
Catherine Madison statue throw-back! I like that. It’s a nice little piece of continuity, and a cool shout-out to the fans who’ve been watching since the inception of the show.
The opening scene between Willow and Oz is so incredibly cute and awkward. It reminds me of Buffy’s explanation about her and Riley in season four...“I get nervous and I start babbling, and he starts babbling, and it’s a babblefest.” Willow and Oz do have very good chemistry. Perhaps it’s because Alyson and Seth are good friends and have been working together since they were little kids.
Willow: “1-800-I’m-Dating-A-Skanky-Ho.”

Cordy should have used that as her number on the Angel Investigations business cards a few years later. It’s so rare to see Willow that bitchy...I like it.

Oz: “Don’t worry. I mean, they might not look it, but bunnies can really take care of themselves.”

Another reason why Anya hates them, I’m sure. Any character that makes Willow smile instantly gets my seal of approval...unless they’re Kennedy.

Giles’ enthusiasm about researching werewolves is also a plus for this episode.
The theme of this episode is clearly sexism and misogynistic men. The vast majority of this is explored through Larry and Cain. Larry starts off the episode being your typical douchebag jock. He’s rude to Teresa, he’s constantly trying to act ‘manly’ around his friendship group, and he’s over-sexualising almost everything for the first half of this episode. Good on Buffy for launching him into the air after he grabbed her ass. I do get a lot of satisfaction from watching Buffy pummel misogynistic men. However, in Larry’s case, he’s doing all this to try to mask the fact that he’s gay. There’s a reason why Larry is acting the way he is. It’s still not an excuse for him being such an ass, but there is at least an explanation for his behaviour. The funny thing is, guys actually do act like this to cover that they’re gay or insecure about their masculinity. We see it time and time again with Xander during the high school years. Xander isn’t gay (although Joss was entertaining this thought, before ultimately making Willow a lesbian instead), but he clearly has insecurities about his masculinity whilst at high school.
The highlight of the episode for me is Giles’ hilarious laughing at Xander’s moon-pie joke. It warmed my heart so much! It’s so out of character for Giles to giggle like a school girl at something. Especially something that (let’s face it) isn’t even that funny.
I adore Jack Conley a great deal, but Cain is an ass. He’s so dislikeable for a character that is only around for half of one episode. Jack later returns to the Buffyverse to play Sahjhan on Angel, who is a much more important character.

“and’re a girl”. UGH. Here’s what’s at the top of the list of things that Shangel hates: Homophobia, racism, sexism, stereotypes, and liars. Why would the fact that Buffy’s a girl have ANYTHING TO DO WITH HER ABILITY TO HUNT A WEREWOLF? I have to listen to sexist, racist, homophobic people surrounding me on a daily basis, and I’ve been in more arguments than I can count over these issues (the most recent of which being a 4-hour argument over gay marriage being legal in England now). I’ve been to protests to support gay rights, three of my closest male friends are gay, and two of my closest female friends are lesbians. What difference does it make if someone is attracted to someone of the same gender? What difference does it make if someone is male or female? What difference does it make if someone is Muslim or Christian? Luckily, I’ve never met a single Buffyverse fan who is any of those things. All Buffyverse fans seem to be very open-minded. Plus, Joss’ shows are all about making your own family and being who you are, so I think it would be hard to be a fan of Joss Whedon’s work and be closed-minded.
Speaking of sexism, it works both ways. Buffy’s “In other words, your typical male” has always annoyed me too. I understand that Buffy’s been having a very rough time and is definitely anti-male after Angel lost his soul, but you can’t say that all males have no conscience and are all aggressive just because one or two are. The sad thing is, this isn’t the only time that this happens in the Buffyverse. Angel season three’s “Billy” is all about how every male has a deep-rooted misogynistic streak in them. What a load of crap that is! “Billy” is fantastic, but the message behind it is pure garbage. In the same vein, what is the ultimate message of this episode? That all men have beast in them (as Faith says next season)? That every male goes through a ‘phase’ of being aggressive and sexualising women? I think that’s a big part as to why I can’t rate this episode higher than ‘average’. The theme seems to contradict itself.
Do my eyes deceive me or are Willow and Cordy bonding? When did this happen? Willow hated Cordy one episode previously. However, it’s so nice to see these two characters getting on for once. This might be the first bonding scene that they’ve had in the show thus far. I get a great deal of joy from watching them sat at The Bronze complaining about men.
The werewolf costume officially joins Machida from “Reptile Boy” as the worst costumes on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. It’s so unconvincing! Seriously, how did this get approved? It looks so friendly! Is Oz trying to kill them or nuzzle them to death?

Giles calling Cain a “pillock” is oddly accurate English slang. I’ve always loved the fact that the Buffy writers went out of their way to be so on-point with their English slang. It probably didn’t hurt having Anthony Head on the payroll. I was waiting for Spike to call someone a “bellend”.
I was genuinely surprised by the reveal that Oz was the werewolf. There seemed to be no hints that it could be Oz at all except his flippant comment about his cousin biting his finger. Oz’s life is changed forever - ruined, you could say – due to his little cousin biting him. That strikes me as highly probably shouldn’t. Oz isn’t really a member of the Scoobies at this point. He’s just an acquaintance. So it makes sense that he wouldn’t tell them he’s the werewolf; he’s worried about how they would react to that news. However, Oz not confiding in Willow makes Willow feel like Oz is no longer interested in her. She’s confused. Can’t one of the Scoobies ever date a regular human? At this point, Buffy has dated a vampire, Willow has dated a werewolf, and Xander is dating a Cordelia...I’m not sure if she counts as human at this point.
After the reveal that Oz was the werewolf, I was counting down the minutes until he was killed off. I don’t know if it was because I was in such a nervous place after “Innocence”, but I was totally expecting Cain to kill Oz in front of Willow in this episode. It’s not like it would have been out of character for Joss to do something like that.
I like Oz’s “New York City Yoga” t-shirt.
Whoops. Xander, you just let slip that you remember everything from “The Pack”...and yet nobody calls Xander out on his actions in that episode! I know he wasn’t in control of his actions, but it was made apparent that everything he said was a heightened version of what he was feeling.

After all my ranting earlier about the anti-men aspect of this episode, Larry coming out as gay to Xander was very well done. The reveal didn’t feel forced. It didn’t feel like it was just a way to twist the story. It was in character with how Larry had been acting during this episode. He was trying too hard to act manly and to act like the alpha male. Interestingly, this scene could potentially have been very foreshadowing to Xander being gay. By this point Joss knew that he was going to turn Xander gay or Willow lesbian, but he hadn’t decided which yet, so he experimented with a few scenes in seasons two and three before deciding (vampire Willow’s mannerisms in “Doppelgangland” were an example of this).
This episode suffered from a lack of Angelus. I feel like the story did need to be broken up after the emotionally dramatic “Surprise” and “Innocence”, but the problem was that I found myself more interested in the Teresa-Angelus-Buffy aspect of this episode, rather than Oz and the ‘curious case of the misogynistic assholes’. Angelus turned Teresa into a vampire for no other reason than to mess with Buffy’s head. What a bastard...I love him! Angelus’ mind games are one of the strongest points of this incredible season.
Willow’s ranting at Oz was fantastic. Anytime Willow rants is memorable (like ranting at Giles and Angel in “Reptile Boy”).
Willow hit werewolf Oz WITH A BIN! Can we take a second to laugh at the fact that a powerful werewolf was just levelled by a bin-wielding Willow?
Buffy bending Cain’s gun was cool. Who’s “just a girl” now, eh Cain?
The ending scene between Willow and Oz is much like the opening one: cute and awkward. Now it’s for very different reasons though. They’re an official couple. Oz becoming a werewolf wasn’t just a plot device to keep him around (although that was certainly a big part of it). It served the purpose of bringing Willow and Oz closer together.
Overall, like I said above, this episode falls a little bit flat for me. There’s nothing wrong with the episode, it’s just...underwhelming. With the exception of “Bad Eggs”, we’re coming off of a string of fantastic episodes, which makes “Phases” seem a tad mediocre in comparison to them.

Quote Of The Episode

Willow: “Well, I like you. You're nice and you're funny....and you don't smoke. Yeah, okay, werewolf, but that's not all the time. I mean, three days out of the month I'm not much fun to be around either.”

Oz: “You are quite the human.”

Willow: “So, I'd still if you'd still.”

Oz: “I'd still. I'd very still.”

Willow: “Okay. No biting, though.”

Oz:  “Agreed.”

That’s three episodes in a row where a Willow-Oz conversation has stolen the “Quote Of The Episode”. I think it’s safe to say, at this point in time, Willow and Oz are a highlight of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. The show is in such a dark place, and having Willow and Oz together brings some much needed light to Sunnydale. For a long time, this is Willow and Oz’s most important episode for their relationship.


So what are your thoughts on "Phases"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. I absolutely agree you Shangel (in terms of compared to the previous episodes this one falls a little "flat"). It was however great to see an episode where the Angelus saga took the back seat (as much as I love it!) and this episode establishes why I LOVE Willow and Oz together; their dialogue is so witty
    So for me this is episode rates 6/10 :)

    1. A perfectly acceptable score, FROSTY! :D. Thank you for reading the review!

      - Shangel

  2. The writers in _dusted_ said that in any other show, Oz's funeral with someone syaign H"e wasn't abad eprson" would've been the last scene. I honestly didn't expect it but glad to be proven right!
    Angleus probably coached Theresa on what to say to Buffy as he was siring her. Still, the wya she dleivered thew line, good she was satked because if she'd been around for "Becomiong" the world would've neded. Truly a female Angelus in the making with the pschological warfare. The vamp version of ehr ability to make friends?
    Topping in _sl,ayer_ clalled her "cute but...scream Angelus-bait." A ture redhsirt.
    Interesting that she trusted Angel as soon as he mentioend Buffy. Maybe his spies told jhim of that self-defense class but I can't he;p but wonder if she was one of the few students otuside the scoobs who actually liked htme and on rare ocassions hung with them.
    As I said, if this were a series of novels rtaher than TV shows with deadlines and the limitations of live casting , Theresa and Laura in "nightmares" should've been the same character.(I do give her an ocassional r ole in myf ics to explore that. (one of my unpublished ones has ehr 5th brithdya aprty being the first time that Xander, Willow, Jesse, Amy Cordleia, Jonathan, Harmony, Tucker, Andrew, the east asian crodete form "the Wish," and my MAry Sue anrrator are *all* in the same palce at once.) D'C'A'

  3. I love your Kennedy hate :P And I agree, I approve any character that makes Willow smile .
    The werewolf looks so friendly? lol Shangel, you made me crack up in every review.
    I was surprised too to learn that Oz was the werewolf, I didn't even remember hearing about the cousin bite, I had to rewind lol
    Willow and Oz are just adorable and I think it was positive for Oz's character that he ended up being a werewolf, it gave him some complexity and add him character. And the way Willow handled it in that convo it's one of the thousand reasons why I love her so much :)

    Thank you for your review! :D

  4. I found this ep to be quite cute. It was apparent that the underlying message was misogyny. Cain referring to Buffy as "just a girl" was just the start. Larry's treatment of women was disgusting and funny it took Buffy to put them both in their places, with her show of brute strength. I love Larry's coming out. I STILL wish Xander would have been the one who the one who was gay. I think that would have worked out better. Having the "heart" of the core four going all big bad because his bf got killed. He could have picked up some magiks from Willow and or Anya. Plus after the healing HE could have been the one to go to England to recuperate with Giles, thus bringing them closer. Plus I think it is such a cliche to have a woman all of a sudden come out because her bf left her as what happened in Willow's case. I liked how this ep brought Oz and Willow closer and think it's ironic that Oz (the literal beast) never acted like a sexist pig.

    1. Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree with everything you said! I would also have preferred Xander to be gay. I do love Willow becoming a lesbian, but I felt like Xander being gay was the more realistic choice during the high school years :D.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      - Shangel

  5. Ahhh! Whaaatt! I haven't commented on here yet. My sincerest apologies love. Oh how I love me some Oz. He is so awesome.

    I really loved this ep - except for Cain. Grrr he was such an arse. I love that Buffy bent his gun - oh the love!

    I love any scene with Oz and Willow - the acting of these 2 actors is phenomenal even with Oz being a character that doesn't say much.

    I love Willow in this ep - I cried I laughed that hard at 1800-I'm-Dating-A-Skany-Ho!!! And yes, hitting Oz with a bin - Willow you are just super!

    Oh how I hate Cain - yep back to it - his sexism is just so arrrggghhh!! I feel for Buffy here, it's a shitty feeling feeling like that.

    Oh and Willow Oz kissage - "A werewolf in love." Oh so awesome - loved seeing Willow's confidence here.

    Oh gosh - I feel my comments have been all over the show! Sorry love.

    Also, randomly. how do I get my picture with my Google account?

    1. Hi Tash!

      Thanks for all the comments on all of these reviews! It's really appreciated :D.

      In regards to your picture, Google use your profile picture from Google+ as your picture here. So all you have to do is upload a profile picture to your Google+ account (if you have one) ;-)

      - Shangel

  6. I'm doing a Buffy rewatch and your reviews are really insightful and fun!

    I gotta say I LOVE any episode that has Willow bonding/breaking up with either Oz or Tara, gives me them gooey gooey feelings. So I'd give this episode a 7/10.

    BTW, I think a little funny aneurysm moment was in this when Buffy and Xander are talking about the effect of Oz being a werewolf on Oz and Willows relationship. Xander says: "That kind of breed can turn on it's owner" to which Buffy replies: "I kind of see Oz as the loyal type". This really reminds me of Oz cheating on Willow as the whole reason he actually did it was because of the 'Animal urges' thing which was there because both him and the girl were werewolves. What you think??