Thursday, 20 March 2014

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Pangs" Review (4x08)

Brief Synopsis: “After Angel’s friend Doyle has a vision of Buffy in trouble, Angel returns to Sunnydale to keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, Xander falls into a sacred Indian burial ground, which releases a vengeful spirit called Hus. Can Buffy stop Hus in time for her perfect Thanksgiving feast?”

"The Initiative" (4x07) quick link here                                                                                                            "Something Blue" (4x09) quick link here

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1) This review will almost definitely contain spoilers for episodes after this one.
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With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

I love this episode more than is natural. While it doesn’t have cult status like “Becoming Part Two”, “Hush”, “Once More With Feeling”, “The Gift”, “The Body”, etc., it is a highly amusing episode. Does the story-of-the-week leave a lot to be desired? Yes. The actual plot of the Chumash Tribe trying to exact revenge on the residents of Sunnydale leaves a lot to be desired. Angel’s reappearance in Sunnydale also serves zero purpose in this episode (it will serve a purpose in the next “Angel” episode, “I Will Remember You”). However, everything else works. The Scoobies are a family. More so than we’ve ever seen them before. Not only does “Pangs” integrate Anya into the Scoobies, but it also sews the seeds for Spike’s alliance with them. Throw in some of the best dialogue that “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” has to offer and you’ve got yourself a brilliant episode.

For those of you that have never seen “Angel”, this is part one of a story that will resolve in the next “Angel” episode, “I Will Remember You”. At the end of the last “Angel” episode, “The Bachelor Party”, Angel’s friend Doyle received a vision of Buffy in trouble, so Angel has come to Sunnydale to check up on her and make sure that she’s not in mortal know, more than usual.

The episode opens with Xander digging (yet another new job) and Anya proclaiming to Willow and Buffy that Thanksgiving is a ritual sacrifice because it’s the celebration of one culture massacring another...with pie. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here in England, so I’m sure some of its customs and rituals are lost on me, but Anya comparing Thanksgiving to a ritual sacrifice is beyond hilarious. It’s like when she tells Dawn that Father Christmas is real, but he disembowels children rather than hands out presents. Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins: ruining holidays for children everywhere since ‘99. Up until “Pangs”, Anya has been amusing, but I didn’t appreciate her character fully until it was placed in the capable hands of Jane Espenson. Anya is on fire in this episode with her joking and inappropriate declarations of sex. Case in point...

Anya: “Soon he’ll be sweating...I’m imagining having sex with him again.”
Buffy: “Imaginary Xander is quite the machine.”

...a Stevedore, you might say. Eh, Joyce?...

Xander falls through the ground he was digging, releases a vengeful Native American spirit called ‘Hus’, and the episode gets underway.

Angel has been gone for a grand total of eight episodes, but it already feels weird to see him in Sunnydale again. It’s a testament to how quickly they’ve managed to settle Angel, Cordelia, and Doyle down in Los Angeles. L.A. already feels like home for Angel. He doesn’t belong in Sunnydale anymore. Nor do I want to see him in Sunnydale anymore at this moment in time. I’m very surprised that Angel went to Giles for help about Doyle’s vision, given that Angelus murdered Giles’ girlfriend less than two years ago and placed her lifeless corpse in Giles’ bed, and left a romantic trail of breadcrumbs up to Giles’ room. Plus, even before that, Giles and Angel weren’t ever close. I’d have thought that Angel would go to Willow for help. They’ve had some one-on-one conversations before and bonded. Yes, Angel dumped her friend, but Willow told Buffy that she understood why Angel did that. I’m so proud of Giles for caring enough about Buffy to work alongside Angel, even though he can’t stand the sight of him. It takes a special kind of man to be able to do that...or he’s just so bored and lonely this year that he’d even stoop so low as to hangout with Angel.

Giles argues with Angel over Angel’s decision to not tell Buffy that he’s there watching her. Angel explains to Giles that he’s getting the raw end of the deal, not Buffy. He has to watch Buffy happily living her life while he’s skulking in the shadows again. I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, Buffy deserves to know that she’s in danger and she deserves to know that she’s politely being stalked. She’s not a damsel in distress for Angel to save, she’s the SLAYER. She’s capable of looking after herself. Why not just call Buffy after Doyle’s vision to warn her? For the sake of storytelling on television, this obviously couldn’t happen, but as far as Angel’s character goes, why not just tell Buffy? On the other hand, Angel is trying to give Buffy a chance to move on with her life without him. If he keeps popping up, she’ll never be able to move on from him. I think Angel’s intentions are good, but I still feel like Buffy deserves to know that he’s following her. Angelus’ stalking tendencies are coming through again.

“Pangs” gives us a Buffy Summers that we’ve never encountered before. She’s Buffy, Slayer of the Thanksgiving dinner. With Joyce being out of town, Buffy is obsessed with having a perfect family Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of the Scoobies. I kind of adore how hard Buffy is trying in this episode? She just wants to have something normal in her life for a change. No monsters, no vampires, no ancient Native American spirits trying to kill her...just a regular Thanksgiving meal with her surrogate family. It’s totally understandable that Buffy would want this! This is her first Thanksgiving without her mother and she wants it to go perfectly. Like Christmas, I can imagine that Thanksgiving wasn’t overly cheerful in the Summers’ house as Buffy was growing up. When Buffy was a teenager, her parents were constantly fighting and after the divorce only Buffy and Joyce remained, which would make for a rather lonely holiday season. “Pangs” is the first time that Buffy has a large family around her for the holidays in quite some time.

Buffy: “It is a sham, but it’s a sham with’s a yam-sham.”

Try saying that ten times fast when drunk. I’ve tried it. It came out as “It’s Sam, but a Sam with yums. It’s a chin-chan.”...I kid you not. You can definitely tell that Jane Espenson wrote this episode. This is the woman that brought us Willow’s hilarious line in “Gingerbread”, “It’s a doodle. I do doodle. You too! You do doodle too!” I sincerely hope that Buffy’s cooking is better than her driving.

After escaping The Initiative in the last episode, Spike is wandering around Sunnydale homeless and starving. He can’t hurt humans anymore and he can’t bite people anymore. He has no easy way to get blood...why not just buy it from a butcher’s shop like Angel used to? Perhaps he has no money...actually, where did Angel get the money for the blood?! I’m getting mental images of Angel working a nightshift at the Doublemeat Palace in order to afford pig’s blood. Spike is a soulless vampire, which means that in theory the audience should dislike him because he’s evil. Wrong. Spike is so gosh darn charismatic and interesting that you can’t help but fall in love with him. It’s a weird experience when you feel sorry for a vampire because he can’t kill and feed off of humans anymore. I’m starting to question my own moral compass. Spike eventually turns back to Harmony, begging for someone to eat. Five episodes ago, Spike returned to Sunnydale with Harmony as his new girlfriend. He was intent on finding the Gem of Amara, treated Harmony like crap, and staked her for being annoying (she was wearing the Gem of Amara so wasn’t dusted). Oh, how the tables have turned...Spike comes crawling back to Harmony (almost literally) begging for someone to eat, whereas Harmony is all empowered and threatens to stake him if he doesn’t leave. Nice role reversal! Spike is the damsel in distress.

As Spike and Harmony have fallen apart, Anya and Xander have grown significantly closer over the past few episodes. They are officially a couple now. I’m oddly happy with the way their relationship has unfolded. It’s been very Xander-like. They started out with an awkward prom date, which resulted in awkward sex months later. After thinking they’re over each other, they slowly grew closer and became a couple. It was a slow build, which makes perfect sense for Xander. Historically speaking, Xander has been all mouth and no trousers. The only person he’s slept with before Anya was Faith and that was only because she didn’t give him much of a choice. Xander and Anya just seem to fit as a couple.

Willow raises an interesting point about Thanksgiving and Hus. Willow doesn’t want to kill Hus because Hus is just trying to get revenge on what was done to his people. She wants to find a non-violent solution to the problem. This leads to an argument between Willow and Giles. The way Giles sees it, people are being killed so Hus needs to be stopped as soon as possible. The fastest way to do that is to kill him, not try to talk him down. Plus, Giles feels that Hus can’t be bargained with. I hate it when Willow and Giles argue. They’re both far too loveable to argue. It’s a warm-up act for what is to come in season six’s “Flooded”. Like myself, Buffy can see both points of view. This is a moral dilemma for Buffy. Does she kill the vengeful spirit that is trying to exact revenge on behalf of his people? Buffy feels guilty about the fact that she has to kill Hus. This is the first time that Buffy has mixed feelings about killing a supernatural being that isn’t someone that she personally knows like Angel or Billy Fordham.

Then, we get to the really great part of this episode. Everyone at Giles’ house being witty and awkward. Buffy, Xander couldn’t bring rolls because he has syphilis (which I still maintain sounds like a posh English girl’s name) and a host of other diseases! Having syphilis automatically gets you out of shopping duties!...ask Darla *sassy finger click*.

Xander: “So he rises up and infects the first guy he sees?! That’s no fair!”
Giles: “Let’s give him some land. I’m sure that’ll clear everything right up.”

Oh Lord, I cannot deal with a sarcastic Giles right now. I’m already experiencing laughter pains.

Spike is the M.V.P. of this episode. He is what makes this episode great. Spike shows up at Giles’ house, begging to be invited in. Spike is a lost little puppy and you just know that Buffy and Giles are loving every minute of it. I think that Spike already has subconscious romantic feelings for Buffy by this point. Why else would he go to the Slayer for help? He has a thousand places where he could go to try and find blood, yet he chooses to seek out Buffy for help. He did the same thing in season two’s “Becoming”, but at least he had a reason to in that case. Spike arriving at Giles’ house is a massive turning point for his character. It takes a long time for him to be integrated, but this is his first step into eventually becoming an honourary Scooby.

This episode also starts the awkward season four bonding process between Giles and Spike. Sadly, as soon as Spike leaves Giles’ house, this bonding is instantly broken. Spike and Giles have a charming conversation over what happens to a vampire if he/she doesn’t feed in a long time. Over the coming episodes, Giles and Spike watch “Passions” together and have many more meaningful conversations. I can see it now...talking about England during Giles’ youth, complaining about some of the American customs that they’re both being subjected to, giggling together as they insult Angel...I demand these scenes now!

Hus and a horde of Native American spirits attack Giles’ house. It’s one of the funniest scenes I have witnessed in my life. Spike has never been funnier...

Spike casually sat tied to a chair, while four arrows are sticking out of his body.
Spike trying to apologise to Hus after spending the episode telling Willow that trying to apologise to him would be stupid.
Spike: “A bear! You made a bear!”
  Buffy: “I didn’t mean to...”
  Spike: “Undo it! Undo it!”
Spike trying to chair-hop out of danger and falling over.

Luckily, the cavalry arrives in the form of Angel, Willow, Xander, and Anya. THEY ARRIVE ON MOUNTAIN BIKES! I DEFY YOU TO WATCH THIS EPISODE WITHOUT LAUGHING. I also love that Giles takes the time to answer his phone during a siege of his house. He’s so English. It would be improper to leave the phone unanswered.

The Scoobies defeat the Native Americans, Xander is syphilis-free, and Angel skulks back to Los Angeles without Buffy ever knowing that he was there...until Xander opens his big mouth and we get to see the rest of the Scoobies staring at Buffy from her perspective. You know, thinking about it, I blame Xander entirely for all the depression and heartache of the next “Angel” episode, “I Will Remember You”! If he hadn’t opened his big mouth here, Buffy would never have gone to Los Angeles after Angel! Every tear I’ve shed while watching that episode, every time I’ve wanted to drown my sorrows in an ice-tall glass of chocolate’s all because of Alexander LaVelle Harris! I’m glad he got syphilis, the bastard!

In all seriousness, episodes like this one really hammer home the point that you choose your own family in the Buffyverse and in life. Notice that all of the Scoobies spend Thanksgiving together, rather than with their own blood families. Even Spike was at the table and included in the Thanksgiving meal! Like a lot of Buffyverse fans that I’ve met, I too have chosen my own family in life. When I was battling depression and attempting suicide, my friends were the ones that dragged me out of it. When I was struggling with my best friend’s death, my friends are the ones who helped me through it. My amazing, beautiful girlfriend Robyn is my family. My wonderful best friends Hannah and Rachel are my family. The list goes on and on. You can choose the people that make your life worth living and eliminate the people who don’t, whether they’re blood or not. To quote another demon hunter, “family don’t end with blood, boy.”

Some other thoughts on “Pangs”...

Buffy: “We don’t say ‘Indian’.”
Giles: “Oh, right, yes...always behind on the terms. I’m still trying not to refer to you lot as ‘bloody colonials’.”
Buffy’s look of disgust at Giles after he exclaims that he loves mushy peas is priceless. What’s wrong with mushy peas?!

Quote Of The Episode

Spike: “Oh, someone put a stake in me.”

Xander: “You’ve got a lot of volunteers in here...”

Spike: “I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby, boo-hoo’ing about the bloody Indians.”

Willow: “The preferred term is...”

Spike: “You won, alright. You came in and you killed them, and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. That’s what Caesar did and he’s not going around saying ‘I came, I conquered, I feel really bad about it’. The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons and you massacred them. End of story.”

I love that Spike speech. Everything he said makes perfect sense. Thinking about it, Spike has some truly amazing speeches over the years, doesn’t he? “Hell of a woman”, “Every Slayer has a death wish”, “Love’s bitch”, and “You made me a monster!” (from Angel’s “Destiny”)  instantly come to mind. Oh, and the awesome monologue about Angel and Rachel from “In The Dark”!


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

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  1. I LOVED Pangs! In my opinion it is the funniest episode of Buffy. The last 15 minutes are comedy gold!

    1. Agreed, 'Episodes'! :D. I can't help but love this episode and laugh insanely at it whenever I watch it!

      - Shangel

  2. Oh my gosh, you quoted Bobby Singer! I think I love you and I KNOW I love your reviews. Thanks for the grins and keep up the good work. :)

    1. I agree. I love Bobby Singer and though I never thought much of this ep.That was a great way to end this review.

  3. Oh my gosh!! You quoted Bobby Singer! I think I love you and I KNOW I love your reviews, thanks for the grins and keep up the good work! :)