Monday, 10 March 2014

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Wild At Heart" Review (4x06)

Brief Synopsis: “Oz escapes from his cage during a full moon and runs across another werewolf. The other werewolf is revealed to be the singer from ‘Shy’, Veruca, whom Oz has been oddly drawn to recently. He wakes up next to her naked in the wilderness the next morning and has to piece together what has happened.”

"Beer Bad" (4x05) quick link here                                                                                                                               "The Initiative" (4x07) quick link here

Three quick notes before we get started...

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 won’t lie to you, I have been dreading reviewing this episode. Whenever I do a rewatch of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (which is at least once a year), I often skip this episode. Not because it’s a bad episode, but because it’s so damn depressing. Not in a wonderful, insightful, interesting way like “The Body”. Not in a way that leads to entertaining repercussions like “Seeing Red”. In a way that bums you out beyond belief. When a character is killed off, they are taken from the other characters (and in turn the audience) against their will. They are being stolen away. Oz chooses to leave Willow and Sunnydale behind. For some reason that stings more than if a character is taken against their will. Tara, Joyce, and the rest didn’t choose to leave the Scoobies behind, Oz did.

“Wild At Heart” is an exploration of the wolf inside Oz. We’ve known for almost two seasons that Oz is a werewolf, but we don’t really know what that means. If you want an accurate picture of what it’s like to be turned into a werewolf in the Buffyverse, watch “Angel” season five’s “Unleashed”. While it isn’t a great episode, it does do a good job of exposing the struggles that a newly bitten werewolf faces. Thus far on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, a werewolf has been explained as a person that is an animalistic killer three nights a month. The rest of the month they’re their regular self. Veruca shows Oz that this isn’t true. The wolf is inside of Oz all the time.

So how did this episode come about? Why did Seth Green leave the show? According to Joss Whedon, it was a mutual decision between himself and Seth Green. Seth wanted to start doing movies and felt like Oz didn’t serve a lot of purpose in the show anymore. He just showed up, said witty lines, and disappeared again. Joss agreed that Oz leaving the show was for the best as it allowed Willow to expand and grow as a character and allowed Joss to turn Willow lesbian, something he’d wanted to do (or turn Xander gay) since season two.

I hate Veruca. I mean hate. “Veruca” is the perfect name for her. She’s annoying, irritating, and won’t go away. Veruca arrives, lip syncs terribly, ruins the adorableness that is Willow and Oz, then tries to kill Willow, which results in Oz becoming a murderer. Also, Veruca’s “good shirt” comment to Willow makes me hate her more. What’s wrong with Willow’s “crazy birthday cake” shirt?! You overstepped a line with that one, Veruca.


Oz and Willow are the ultimate couple in the show at this point. While Cordelia and Xander fell apart after Willow and Xander cheated, Willow and Oz fought through it and survived. While Buffy and Angel fell apart, Willow and Oz survived. They are such a stable couple at the beginning of this episode! I feel like it makes their destruction all the more heartbreaking...we didn’t see it coming at all!

Oz escapes his chains during a full moon and bumps into another werewolf. I’ve got to mention that the werewolf costumes are just as terrible now as they were during season two’s “Phases”. They’re easily the least convincing costume in the Buffyverse. It makes the werewolves look like fluffy little teddy bears. Could they not make them look at least marginally scary? When I first saw this episode, I was entirely unsurprised at the fact that Veruca was a werewolf. I saw it coming long before the reveal. Ever since Veruca first appeared on the show and Oz could smell her and was captivated by her, I had my suspicions that she was a werewolf. As soon as Oz bumped into another werewolf, my suspicions were confirmed. Yay me!

While on the subject of Oz and Veruca terrorising Sunnydale in werewolf form, why does Maggie Walsh warn Buffy about ‘wild dogs’ being on campus after dark? She runs The Initiative! Surely she should know that they are supernatural beings and therefore should not be talked about to ‘civilians’? It’s either bad continuity, Maggie Walsh is incredibly stupid, or she was trying to warn Buffy (whom she likes at this point) without telling her outright that they were supernatural in origin. Either way it seems forced to me.

After Oz refuses to have sex with Willow (due to the massive scratches running down his back and the guilt that he’s feeling), Willow goes to Xander for advice. This is a bittersweet moment for me. Willow going to Xander for advice is amazing. As much as I enjoy Buffy and Willow’s friendship, I’ve always felt like Xander and Willow are closer. They have all that history and love for each other that Buffy can’t tap into. They haven’t had a great deal of one-on-one conversations since their love affair stopped in last season’s “Lovers Walk”, so it’s nice to see them bonding again just the two of them. On top of that, Xander’s advice is really good! Xander explains to Willow that she should talk to Oz and that if Willow is feeling weird, odds are that Oz can feel it too. When Xander himself and Caleb talk about Xander being the one who ‘sees everything’ in season seven, I jump to moments like this one and moments like Xander’s speech to Buffy in “Into The Woods” in order to justify that statement. Since leaving Sunnydale High and living a life of loneliness, Xander has become perceptive. He’s still not a fully mature human being, but he is coming on leaps and bounds. The reason why it’s bittersweet is because Willow knows deep down that Oz has cheated on her. She tells Oz this later on. She could sense it. She’s going to Xander for advice on a problem that she already knows the answer to. Ugh.

Buffy: “Oz, are you okay? If it’s possible, you seem more monosyllabic than usual.”

That was Oz’s chance to come clean and talk to Buffy before anything worse happened. He could have explained that he was in wolf form and had no idea what happened. Instead, what Oz chooses to do is lock Veruca in a cage with him and not tell Buffy who the other werewolf is. I understand Oz wanting to lock Veruca in a cage with him so that she can’t hurt anyone, but Oz wanted more than that. Before the werewolf transformation started, Oz was sexually attracted to Veruca and wanted her. He started kissing her before he became a werewolf. It seems so out of character for Oz to cheat on Willow! The score that played during that scene was sublime as well.

Oh my God, Willow’s face after she discovers Oz and Veruca cuddled up naked together in a cage! I think my heart just exploded. I’ve practically preached it by this point, but Alyson Hannigan has the greatest, most convincing upset face that I’ve seen in my life. She has this ability to just tear your heart out when you see her upset or cry. You just want to protect her from the world so that she’ll never cry again. Oz wakes up and yells at Veruca to leave. I swear, it was the most shocking moment of the episode. Oz never raises his voice. We’ve seen him show emotion before, when he threw the ornament against the wall in season three’s “Choices”, but he didn’t say a word during that. I don’t think Oz has ever raised his voice before. That’s what makes this moment so special! Oz is full of emotion at hurting Willow.

Oz: “I know how it feels, I remember.”

Oz raises an interesting point here. I know that Oz was attracted to Veruca due to her werewolf nature, but I wonder if a small part of Oz cheated on Willow to get revenge on Willow for cheating on him with Xander. As much as Willow is the victim of this episode, I don’t think of her as a victim of the relationship. They both cheated. Oz seems to get a lot of stick from the fandom for cheating on Willow, yet I see little Willow-hating for her doing the exact same thing previously. I’m assuming that because Willow and Xander had so much history together and were so close that people found it more natural and realistic than Oz cheating on Willow out of the blue. You know what really sucks about this situation? If Veruca was human and not a werewolf, Oz wouldn’t have cheated at all! He cheated after having this weird sexual magnetism with Veruca due to their werewolf connection. No werewolf connection, no cheating. So, basically, Willow and Oz broke up because of a random happenstance. Somehow that hurts more.

Willow considered using magic in order to get back at Oz and Veruca for their cheating. This becomes a recurring behaviour pattern for Willow over the next two and a half years. When things get rough, Willow tries to fix it with a spell. She does it very soon in “Something Blue”, when she has her will done in order to try and feel better about Oz leaving. She does it in season six after Tara and herself have a fight, when Willow makes Tara forget the argument. She uses magic as a form of vengeance in season six when she flays Warren alive. Using magic to fix her life will be the undoing of Willow over the next few years. In this instance, I can understand the need for vengeance. Willow has been wronged and is really hurt. She’s entitled to want revenge and to lash out! Ultimately, Willow can’t go through with hurting Oz. She’s not capable of it. I’m not saying that she did the right thing by trying to curse Oz, but I do understand the impulse.

Oz killing Veruca is the reason why he left Sunnydale, in my opinion. It was the moment where he realised once and for all that the wolf is inside of him all of the time and that he needs to go and find a curse for it. If he stays, what guarantee does he have that he won’t hurt someone else again, whether in werewolf form or not? I think it gets glossed over too much that Oz killed a person. Sure, she was a werewolf and not a regular human being, but Giles made a point of emphasising in “Phases” that a werewolf is a regular human except three nights a month. It’s mind-blowing to me that the quiet, reserved, laid-back Oz killed a person. Oz leaves as soon as it happens so we never get to deal with the ramifications of this, but it’s got to have been a life changing moment for Oz. He ripped someone’s throat out! My mind can’t process that. It wasn’t an act of vengeance, it wasn’t because he hated Veruca, it was simply because the wolf and the rage inside of Oz overwhelmed him and he became a primal animal. There was simply no way that he could stay in Sunnydale at this point. He needed to leave and fix himself.

If I see Willow cry again, it will be too soon. Willow crying into Buffy’s lap was an oddly poetic parallel to what Buffy did to Willow during season three’s “The Prom”, after Angel broke up with her. The only difference now is that the roles are reversed and this drama has ended in death.

Oz: “Veruca was right about something. The wolf is inside of me all the time. And I don’t know where that line is anymore between me and it. Until I figure out what that means, I shouldn’t be around you…or anybody.”

The scene where Oz leaves Willow is just absolutely gut-wrenching. I can’t even think about it without getting upset. Just because I understand why Oz is leaving, it doesn’t make it any easier. It took me a long time to accept that Oz was gone from Sunnydale. I started to accept it just before the end of the season, when, ya know, he returns for an episode! His return is oddly sweet though, as it’s a passing of the torch moment to Tara. There’s no denying that Oz was an important character in the show and a hugely important part of Willow’s character development. His witty one-liners and his stoic behaviour will be greatly missed.

In addition to the primary storyline of Oz, Veruca, and Willow, there are two smaller plot points in place. Firstly, we have Giles. Giles is so lonely that he shows up at The Bronze to hang out with the Scoobies...that was most unusual. I know that Giles appeared at The Bronze in the very first episode, “Welcome To The Hellmouth”, but he absolutely loathed being there and was only there to talk to Buffy. He referred to the music as ‘din’ and disappeared as soon as he could. In this episode, Giles voluntarily goes there for the night so that he has some company. Not only does this illustrate how cool Giles has become since season one, but it highlights just how miserable Giles is at the present moment. Let’s not forget that he’s so bored this year he watches “Passions” with Spike. He’s unemployed, bored, directionless, he feels like his Slayer is no longer reliant on him, and he’s completely lost. This will become a recurring theme for Giles all season.

The other smaller plot point that is raised in this episode relates to Spike. Spike arrives back in Sunnydale at the beginning of the episode. The last we saw of him was his head catching on fire during an uplifting monologue to himself in “Angel” season one’s “In The Dark”. In classic Spike fashion, he returns to give a monologue from a high vantage point...just like he did at the beginning of “In The Dark”, when he impersonated Angel and a girl Angel had just saved called Rachel. This is Spike’s third return to Sunnydale in the past two years. The first was his drunken entrance in “Lovers Walk” and the second was him being revealed as Harmony’s boyfriend in “The Harsh Light Of Day” earlier this season. The difference is that this time Spike was tasered and captured by The Initiative before he could deliver his monologue. Could The Initiative have at least waited until after he’d finished his monologue before tasering him?! His monologues are usually the highpoint (see what I did there? With them always being delivered from a high vantage point?...nevermind...) of any episode where he delivers them!

Some other thoughts on “Wild At Heart”...

Buffy: “You’re gonna get heartburn *Buffy stakes a vampire*”.

That was hilarious. Punning has always been one of Buffy’s greatest strengths.

Willow’s spazz attack at Buffy beating her in a test is a joy to watch. I believe that this is the first time Buffy has ever beaten Willow at something academic.
Riley saved Willow from getting hit by a car! That’s the first moment where I started to like Riley. I still wasn’t a fan of his by this point (that comes in the next episode), but I thought he was a good guy. The only problem with Riley is that he’s not greatly fleshed out. What do we know about Riley by the time he leaves? After a season and a half on the show we know he’s from Iowa, he’s a teaching assistant at UCSD, and he’s a part of The Initiative. That’s pretty much it. What was Riley’s childhood like? What about his relationship with his parents? How did he join The Initiative? It’s hard for the fans to really appreciate a character when they know so little about him. With Spike and Angel, we get this gigantic backstory throughout the seasons, but with Riley we get almost nothing. Nor do we ever get a Riley-centric episode.
I cannot overemphasise how happy I am that this episode is now done. Happy thoughts, Shangel, happy thoughts...Riley punches Parker in the next episode. There you go! That’ll keep you going for a while.

Quote Of The Episode

Willow: “Oz, don’t you love me?”

Oz: “My whole life, I’ve never loved anything else.”

Kill me, kill me now. That is heartbreaking on an entirely new level.


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

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  1. "Not in a way that leads to entertaining repercussions like “Seeing Red”"...I'm assuming you mean Dark Willow? Still, Tara's death upsets me much much more than Oz leaving the show!

    Yes, he wasn't killed, he chose to leave, but I agree with why he left. He needed to find himself, alone. It did happened kinda fast, that's one criticism I have, but I understand why he did it.

    And, I love Oz, but Joss and Seth's decision to have Oz leave the show was great in my opinion, because it leads Willow to Tara.

    "It’s either bad continuity, Maggie Walsh is incredibly stupid, or she was trying to warn Buffy" I choose she's incredibly stupid :P

    "It seems so out of character for Oz to cheat on Willow!" I know :( I really dislike this episode in fact, and it's not because of Oz's departure necessarily, but I just don't think it's that good...

    I look forward to Riley punching Parker!!!

    Great review Shangel! \O/

  2. 3 words:

  3. Love your wheadon rant pmsl!

  4. I have a love/hate relationship with this episode. I love it because it gives me a lot of feels and it's the last time we see oz and willow being cute and fucking adorable. I hate it beacuse I love Oz as character and as Willow's boyfriend and I think this episode was totally out of character, I don't buy Oz cheating on Willow as much as Veruca is a werewolf I don't think he hides that there's another werewolf to Buffy and the cage her wit him because he wants to fuck her again and then when wWillow finds him with Veruca....and he excuses himself with the Xander affair.....are you fucking kidding me?? I'm sorry but i'm just so pissed off!!!!!!
    I don't want to say that the Xander/Willow thing was not painfull for Oz but it's not the same some kisses than sex..I know...cheatin is cheating...but not Oz, not a nice move.
    Anyway, I love Buffy being a good friend with Willow after she saved her from wolf Oz and Xander trying to cheer Willow, this and the following are the seasons where I have less Xander hate xD.
    The break up scene it's so heartbreaking it's really felt and well acted Alyson Hannigan face and tears make me cry ever time i see them...also Seth Green was pretty well. And the emotions!!!! So sad right now that my favorite pairings ar over and there's no more Oz :(

  5. This episode is so Sad as Oz leaves Willow :(
    They are/were probably one of strongest couples in the Buffyverse. And I thought they were adorable!
    However, I am glad it panned out this way as Willow then finds Tara and becomes a Superwitch :)

  6. I have to agree on the cheating. Simply being attracted to Veruca or even kissing her can be called heat-of-the-moment things, but his allowingthe situation to fester all day and then lockign her in the same cage with him is a conscious choice. In his defense 1-Buffy is talking , in ehr usual mostly-casual way, about killing the other werewolf and Oz isn't convinced that's the right thing yet 2- Veruca, from her conversation with him that morning, ahs made it clear she's making no effort not to kill anyone. Which actually makes Oz look worse, added in.

    I can't be bothered about Oz's killing Veruca - I mean, she was a supernatural menace and didn't care whom she hurt*. But I agree, Oz came to a better understanding of his own "curse" and was right to seek more knowledge and a better means of control.

    *(Olay, my view of killing can eb expressed partly by JB Books in _the Shoottist_ and takes soem reasoning from Bonhoeffer's _Letters And Papers From Prison_, with some Louis L'Amour thrown in. Sometimes it's the only solution, and it doesn't have to mean the person is going to start killing others over more everyday problems.)

    Oz's "My whole life, I've never loved anything else" makes us wnat to question *his* family relationships as well