Monday, 6 January 2014

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Beauty And The Beasts" Review (3x04)

Brief Synopsis: "On the night of a full moon, a student is found savagely mauled in the woods and the gang worry that Oz may have escaped from his cage. However, Buffy discovers that Angel has somehow returned from Hell. Due to time moving differently in Hell, he has endured centuries of torture and is now little more than a wild animal. Buffy must find a way to tell the Scoobies that Oz may be innocent and that Angel is back.”

"Faith, Hope & Trick" (3x03) quick link here                                                                                  "Homecoming" (3x05) 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 is one of those episodes like “Ted”, “Lie To Me”, or “I Only Have Eyes For You”, that always seems to get underrated by the fandom in general. While it’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it does do a great job of exploring the theme of abusive relationships. Unlike most metaphors in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” episodes, this one isn’t well masked. Nor should it be. When dealing with an issue like abuse or loneliness, I feel like the audience shouldn’t have to try and analyse what the message of the episode is. It should be obvious because there’s no grey-area in such a negative issue. Exploring a story about abuse isn’t a new venture for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, as this issue was also brought up in season two’s “Ted”. However, this is boyfriend-girlfriend abuse rather than step-parent/step-child abuse like in “Ted”. While both are similar in some ways, in others they couldn’t be more different.
•    This episode also plants the seeds of the ridiculous and out-of-character whirlwind romance of Xander and Willow that starts in the next episode. You only have to look at Xander’s face as Willow tells him that she’s seen Oz half-naked to know that something is different in their dynamic. Xander looks jealous. It’s the first real hint of what is to come.
•    Speaking of Xander, I love that when Xander is on Oz-watch, he instantly goes to sleep. He doesn’t even try to stay awake. The second Willow leaves, he goes to sleep on the table. Utterly useless.

•    Faith: “Every guy from mammal down to Mr. ‘I love the English Patient’ has beast in him. I don’t care how sensitive they act; they’re all still just in it for the chase.”

I take severe umbrage to that sentence (not the toad-face from Harry Potter, "Umbridge"). It’s so sexist! It is entirely in character for Faith to say something like that, and I am aware that Buffy and Willow both disagree with the statement the next day, but I hate that line with a passion. I would just let it go, but this gets recycled (in a much worse way) in the Angel episode “Billy”, where the episode is actually about how all men have some sort of primal asshole-streak buried deep down inside them. For a show that is well-known for its anti-sexism message and usually deals with issues like this perfectly, this really irks me. Sexism works both ways.

While I dislike the way Faith explains it, one of the genius things about this episode is how it handles Angel, Pete, and Oz’s inner beasts, and how their love interests react to them. Angel brings back a lot of feelings for Buffy that she’d chosen to move on from at the end of the last episode. Plus, she’s now dating Scott Hope. Angel’s return means that Buffy has to choose between the two. Does she date the ‘normal’ guy and try to lead a more normal life (like she’s always wanted) or does she go back to the man that she was in love with and lost her virginity to? The inner beast inside Oz is a more complex issue, and one that gets explored and explained in greater detail next season.

The  first two-thirds of this episode act as a ‘whodunnit’ in relation to the recent string of murders. Like a demon, supernatural version of Cluedo.

•    Buffy: “We have a marching band?”
Oz: “Yeah, but y’know, since the best jazz is improvisational we’d be going off in all directions, banging into floats...scary.”
Willow: “Oh he’s just being Oz.”
Oz: “Pretty much full-time.”

If I had to list the most underrated main character of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, Oz would almost definitely win that. Perhaps Riley, as he gets a ridiculous amount of hatred for very little reason...but that’s a story for another day. Oz has some of the best dialogue from all seven seasons on a consistent basis. He doesn’t try to sound funny, but he is. He says everything in the same tone of voice.

•    I have to praise two guest stars in this episode before I go any further. The quality of guest stars in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is high in general, but this episode was truly top drawer. The first of which is John Patrick White (Pete Clarner). Before it is made apparent that he is a woman-beating jerk, you can tell that there’s more to him than meets the eye because of John’s subtle acting. He manages to convey jealousy with nothing more than his eyes. The second is Phill Lewis. Talk about taking a one-episode character with limited scenes and making it memorable! He’s only in one scene where he’s alive, but he somehow leaves a lasting impression. It’s no surprise that he’s gone on to have such a great career since filming this episode. I wish that Mr. Platt was a recurring character in the third season. Think about how many fantastic scenes this could have led to, like the one with Buffy in this episode! Willow could go to him about her feelings of inadequacy, Cordelia could visit him after Xander cheats on her, Xander could ask him what the essence of cool is in “The Zeppo” could even have Oz visit him to say three words and then leave. Missed opportunity!

•    Giles: “No need to panic.”
     Oz: “Just a thought, poker, not your game.”
     Oz: “I may be a cold-blooded jelly donut, but my timing’s impeccable.”

     Yet again, Oz gets the best one-liners on the show.

•    Mr. Platt was smoking inside a public building. Wait, is that illegal in America these days? It’s illegal in the UK now. Oh, how times have changed...
•    Mr. Platt: “Any person: Grown-up, shrink, Pope. Any person who claims to be totally sane is either lying or not very bright.”
Mr. Platt: “You know, lots of people lose themselves in love. It's no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is, you can't stay lost. Sooner or later you have to get back to yourself.”
Buffy: “And if you can't?”
Mr. Platt: “If you can' becomes your master and you're just its dog.”

I think this counselling session was really good for Buffy. Granted she only gets the one before Mr. Platt is inevitably killed (his cigarette still being lit was a nice touch), but she seemed to get a lot off of her chest in this session. Counselling seems to have this reputation that if you go to it, you’re perceived to be weak. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re going to see someone who is trained to help you. This person has been studying for years to be able to help you with your problems. You need to find the one that works for you, as different counsellors will have different personalities and methods, but counselling is something that you should consider if you’re currently battling a difficult period of your life. Trust me, I’m a trained psychologist...or I will be in a couple of years. Talking to a stranger like Mr. Platt is in some ways easier for Buffy than talking to one of the Scoobies. She doesn’t have to look at Mr. Platt every day, and she knows that whatever she says will be judgement-free. Buffy would have had a much harder time adjusting to Angel being back in this episode if it wasn’t for Mr. Platt.

•    Giles: “It would take someone of extraordinary will and character to survive that and retain any semblance of self. Most likely he’d be a monster.” Enter Angel: A man of extraordinary character and will.

Angel returned from Hell a brutal, demonic, savage beast...for all of half an episode. He was in Hell for hundreds of years and he managed to adjust to life again in half an episode! Logic, where have thou gone? Three years later Buffy is in Heaven and it takes her the entirety of season six to adjust to being alive again. I find it unrealistic that Angel would be relatively fine again so soon.

•    One of my favourite parts of the episode is when Willow tells Xander and Cordelia off in the morgue for arguing and being squeamish, then she faints. That was unexpected and hilarious.
•    Eventually the inevitable happens as it is revealed that Pete is the one taking the potions, not Debbie. While this was obvious, it didn’t detract from the emotion in the rest of the episode. Is the ‘potion’ a metaphor for alcohol? I think it is. Pete is without a doubt one of the most hateable villains in the show thus far. Perhaps the most hateable villain. The person committing these murders and beating up his girlfriend (eventually killing her) is a teenage boy that is human and that has a soul. Vampires and demons have some form of excuse to justify their actions as they lack a soul. Pete has no such excuse. It’s really tough to watch the scene where Pete is beating up Debbie because it’s so true to real-life. Vampires, demons, werewolves, etc. aren’t real, so watching a vampire doing evil requires you to suspend your disbelief. Watching Pete smacking Debbie is something that happens around the world every minute. What I also appreciate about this episode is the realism of the abusive relationship. Debbie is convinced that she’s the one in the wrong because Pete has manipulated and broken her to the point that she has no semblance of self left to see the difference. I’ve seen a lot of friends in abusive relationships over the years (I’ve never been in one myself), and the accuracy to this episode is something to be admired.

•    Buffy is overly mean to Debbie in the bathroom. There’s a time and place to give someone tough love, and I don’t believe this was it. Something that I’ve always found strange is why the Scoobies didn’t try harder to help Debbie after the scene in the bathroom. Why not take her back to the library and comfort her? Buffy is clearly distracted at having Angel back.
•    Oz: “Time’s up. Rules change.”
I love, love, love this line! It’s quite rare to see Oz so confident in himself. He’s usually so stoic and calm.
•    The funniest moment in this episode is without a doubt Giles getting shot in the ass with a tranquiliser dart, and his “oh, right, bloody priceless” afterwards.


•    Yep, that werewolf costume is still brutal. How could they not come up with a more realistic-looking costume than this? Fluffy, cuddly gorilla costume is not invoking terror in anyone.
•    Angel recognising Buffy, falling to his knees, hugging her waist, and breaking down in a crying fit, was beautiful. It’s one of my favourite ‘Bangel’ moments. After everything that happened, after Buffy sending him to Hell, after all the terrible deeds that Angelus did,  after Angel spending hundreds of years being tortured in Hell, it was nice to see a moment of genuine happiness for them both. With this being the Buffyverse, I know the happiness won’t last long. You have to grab moments like this with both hands.
•    Buffy (V.O.): "Night came on and a full moon rose high over the trees, lighting the land ‘til it lay bathed in ghostly day…and the strain of the primitive remained alive and active. Faithfulness and devotion, things born of fire and root were his; yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. And from the depths of the forest, the call still sounded."

This is beautiful. The parallels between this voiceover and the episode are apparent. It could easily be talking about Angel, Pete, or Oz.

Quote Of The Episode

Xander: “Oz does not eat people! It’s more werewolf play. You know, ‘I bat you around for a little bit like a cat toy. I have harmless wolf fun’. Is it Oz’s fault that, y’know, side effect, people get cut to ribbons and maybe then he’ll take a nibble...I’m not helping, am I?”

I’m forced to remember a certain quote from Buffy that will appear later in the season – “Xander, I beg you not to help me.” Xander rarely knows when to stop talking. 


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

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  1. Before giving my thoughts of this episode: How the hell did Angel get those trousers?
    I had to say it.

    I liked this episode it's not the finest in exploring abusive relationships but it does a decent job.I won't talk about Oz-Willow relationship but the parallelism between Buffy/Angel-Debbie/Pete.

    Buffy.... She is doing the same than Debbie with Pete. Both are hiding their boyfriends, lying to everyone and protecting them even though B/D know A/P are dangerous. I think the speech Buffy gave to Debbie is a piece of advice that Buffy should listen as well or maybe she is actually giving this talk to herself.
    I like the conversation Buffy had with Mr. Platt, it’s IMO a bit similar to Holden in S7. Both are discussing about Buffy‘s abusive relationships Angel(us) s2, Spike S6. What a shame that both ended up dying.

    Angel...He is more similar to Pete than Oz, they become monsters that hurt their girlfriends and people around them. Of course, the difference is that it wasn't his Angel's fault losing his soul unlike Pete who is aware what he is doing.
    “In my experience, there are two types of monsters. The first can be redeemed, or more importantly, wants to be redeemed (Angel) ….The second is void of humanity, cannot respond to reason or love (Pete). Angel fights against his inner monster while Pete let his monster control him.

    Finally, I love the Bangel scene at the end of the episode what you said “You have to grab moments like this with both hands” is quite accurate. Especially in how annoying this relations ship was handled. But I don't care I ship them til' the end!

    1. "Especially in how annoying this relations ship was handled".. THIS season.

  2. I absolutely love this episode!

    Yeah it would be considered pretty average to most but I love how particular issues were portrayed and addressed; The "possibility" that Oz May have killed someone. It was great to see how the Scoobies and Willow in particular did not judge him and supported him no matter what. In real life that happens with a lot of criminals/murderers they still have family that love and support them.
    The BIG issue of this episode (domestic violence) was addressed superbly! The acting by all characters was great Pete portrayed a classic Woman basher: charming and your "average Joe" on the outside. But manipulative behind closed doors, he only abused Debbie when others weren't around. Debbie was so broken down by him in the end that she honestly believed she was worthless, and was devoted to him right til the end when she was murdered by His hands (the whole making excuses for him, blaming herself for his violence etc) like you Shangel I myself have had friends in this situation, it is truly heartbreaking to watch!!!
    The "potion" was totally a metaphor for alcohol, as we know alcohol abuse is a big factor in a lot of domestic violence cases. IT SHOULD NEVER EVER BE USED AS AN EXCUSE TO BE VIOLENT!!!

    And yes Faith's remark about how all men are beasts is FUCKING SEXIST AS! No man or woman is the same so neither should be put in the same box!!!

    The highlight for me was when Buffy discovered that Angel had returned from hell: At the start of the episode the look on her face when he ran into her in the woods in his feral state it was a mix of horror, shock, anger etc.
    It was sweet and romantic how even when Angel was still relatively feral and chained up in the mansion (as Buffy had done earlier I think for his safety as well as others) he still sensed that Buffy was in danger and came to her rescue. In my opinion he started to remember her when she touched him on the shoulder (probably remembered her touch when they had sex).
    When he broke down and started grabbed her legs that was a beautiful moment I agree; you knew they both still madly loved eachother and were happy to see one other EVEN AFTER EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED BETWEEN THEM!

    Overall I give this episode an 8/10

  3. One minor quibble; they staged Angel's killing Pete as a rescue evne though Buffy clearly didn't need it - she had been dominating the fight and was already getting up after Pete floored her.
    Scott's mourning at the end shows something this show forgets wayyyyyyyyy to often; that these people have had lives before the show, and off camera during it, and the victims, soemtimes, have been people who *meant* soemthign to them. Broken record but I still wonder about Theresa, and of course Jesse is never mentioned again.

    Angel has beena round since the previous episode and Buffy and sCott are already up to casual smoochies, so who knows how many days it's been? As for the trousers, presumably he had otufits stashed at the mansion, but as to why he was lucid enough to put them *on* . . . .

  4. And here we go...
    Ahh! Xander is always jealous of what he cant have. And also, is everyone trying to make me hate him by bringing up all his dumb stuff? The more I think about Xander as a character the more I don't like him. But I love him which makes things awkward in my head.

    I really wish Wesley didn't go "evil" in "Billy". Just to prove that theory wrong. I think women can definitely have a deeply buried asshole streak.

    Oh Oz!! I am so sad that you think you might be attacking people :(

    The only thing I hate about Riley is the vamp whore tangent and flying away - which is really equal to running away from problems that he clearly has with his relationship with Buffy.

    I love Oz - I think he might even be my favourite character. For someone who doesn't talk much he has some kick-arse lines.

    Eek, Pete's eye's creeped me out - definitely some superb acting.

    I liked Mr Platt, He was an awesome counsellor. I wish he had stuck around.

    I really admire Willow's ability to get through the icky stuff, do what she has to do and their faint.

    That scene where Pete is beating on Debbie is truly terrifying. But I think the "potion" being a metaphor for alcohol is a really good idea. It is hard seeing a human do these things to Debbie. But she stays with Pete. It angers me so much but sadly I know it happens all too often. It is actually easier watching the monsters/demons/vampires dish out the hurting.

    I too wish the Scoobies had comforted Debbie more. Maybe helped her a bit more in understanding her relationship. If this was happening to a Scoobie they would stop at nothing to stop it.

    Woo!! Go Oz! Also poor Giles, but boy did I laugh!

    Xander never knows when to shut his mouth.

    I'm not such a fan of this episode and it ranks down the bottom of the season for me. The Pete/Debbie storyline was portrayed so well and made it all too real, and scary, and sad, and frustrating. I can appreciate its goodness as an episode, but I'm just not a fan of these types of stories - even in shows if it crops up I can't watch it.

    Anyway... there's me comments!

  5. Angela Aranghelovici16 January 2014 at 08:50

    I'm catching up! I don't have much to say about this episode, but wanted to say great review ;)

    You make an interesting point about Xander's reaction to Willow having seen Oz half-naked. I never noticed it; I mean, I noticed his reaction, but never interpreted it as suggestive of jealousy.

    Oz: “Just a thought, poker, not your game.” - I adore that line.

    Mr. Platt was super cool, I too wish he had stayed on the show. But exactly because he was such an interesting character, his death is even more shocking and emphasises how dangerous Pete is.

    Yeah, I agree with you, I find it extremely strange that Angel adjusts to life on Earth so soon, that's one of the things that bother me about this episode.

    The moment at the end when Angel recognises Buffy is definitely the moment of the episode for me. Buffy's facial expressions...flawless.