More mirthful shenanigans! I had imagined the descent into darkness would be a constant following Angel’s reversion to soulless vampire in Innocence, but instead the showrunners planted two more lighthearted episodes into the framework of the season before returning with a vengeance to the grim nightmare they’d promised with Angelus. Last week’s Phases gave us a diversion from vampirism nearly altogether, with the introduction of werewolfery via the nascent character of Oz. Now for Valentine’s Day, still mostly skirting vampires, we’re back to witchery!
That means back to Amy Madison, the cheerleader whose mother hexed potential rivals for a spot on the squad and switched bodies with her overeating, unathletic daughter. Amy has followed in her maternal witchy footsteps, perhaps rummaging around in that attic amidst the cauldrons and voodoo-like Barbie dolls left there before her mother ended up a permanent addition in the Sunnydale High trophy case. (Oz treated us to a little reminder of this last week as he gazed into the statuette’s eyes, which he rightly observed seemed to follow him wherever he stood.)
Now Amy is back, still trim (I would have had her gain 20 lbs. for character continuity), her svelte state perhaps due to the same witchcraft that she uses on her teacher to get away with submitting handfuls of air for homework.
Truly I enjoy Amy throughout the series, save for season seven, when they turn her rotten and wreck her character. She’s a nice precursor to Willow-as-Witch and a regular callback to one of the best episodes of s1, Witch, which is also one of the funnest in the entire series. Fitting then, that she makes her return in another show that wholly earns its spot in the genre of romp.
Perhaps the most laugh-out-loud moment for me in the entire series thus far: Drusilla’s very unexpected rescue of Xander from Angel on Buffy’s front lawn. I had just become aware that Amy’s spell was affecting everyone in Xander’s presence, not just the Sunnydale student body and staff, since Joyce went all cougar on him in the kitchen. Still, I wasn’t ready for a love-mad, game-faced Drusilla to burst onto the scene, ready to save (and then sire) her new beloved. Even vampires aren’t exempt from love spells!
Question: Where was the just-outed Larry from Phases amidst the mob of lovestruck? Was this spell only effective on the ladies? Considering Xander’s level of discomfort with Larry’s gayness, adding Larry to the crazy, Xander-mad crowd would have added another layer of wild panic – gay panic! – to the situation.
I mean, we’ve already got the high school lunch lady brandishing a rolling pin next to Willow with an axe! Why not Larry in a football helmet charging Xander with the sexually charged intent of an amorous tackle?
There’s also Buffy showing up in the library wearing only the miniskirt version of a dirty old man’s flasher raincoat. Xander shows himself to be the good guy once again by fending off her advances. Of course, not doing so would be somewhat akin to rape, which would wreck his relationship with Buffy and perhaps lead to some exacting of vengeance once the spell was broken. Still, it’s remarkable character for a teenage boy to reject his sexual fantasy come to life. Too remarkable?
A note on Buffy’s sexed-up appearance. She looks like a nineties porn star with the new shade of hard blonde and the improbable tan. I usually enjoy the datedness of looks and fashion on the show, but not here. Maybe they were aiming to give Buffy a tougher edge after she loses some softness along with her virginity, but it doesn’t suit the character or Sarah Michelle Gellar at all.
And on the topic of troublesome fashion, what is Cordelia wearing? I get that she’s hiding the heart locket that Xander gave her under that buttoned-up dress shirt, but the tie at the waist is going to do me in.
While this episode mostly belongs to Xander, it’s Cordy who carries the theme of individualism vs. groupthink. She has to work through her attachment to social status, largely determined by her coterie (led by a mean-spirited Harmony, who I recall as a post-high school vampire to be more ditzy than malevolent), first appeasing them through sacrificing Xander, then repudiating them publicly by taking him back. I found the latter scene a bit exhilarating – as if Cordy really learned something from witnessing the mob mentality from the outside when she was the only one not afflicted by Amy’s spell. She sees herself for the first time as socially independent and all the better for it. I’ve noted in my second viewing of the series that they’re putting far more work into Cordelia’s character than I’d given them credit for during my first run at the show.
Nor had I noticed the odes to sixties and seventies sitcoms. Last week’s Phases sex farce subplot was all but a love letter to Three’s Company, and this week is even more explicitly a valentine to Bewitched with its spell gone hilariously awry. Amy doesn’t yet know what she’s doing casting such powerful spells. If this episode were Bewitched (possibly my favorite sitcom of all time!), I think the mixed up spell would have come from the hands (or nose) of toddler Tabitha, or better yet, the doddering, stammering, lovable Aunt Clara!
- Angel celebrates Valentine’s Day by presenting Dru with a human heart that he “found in a quaint little shopgirl.”
- The black box of roses that Angel sends to Buffy truly terrifies in the middle of all the funny business.
- Willow and her axe. This should have happened more often.
- Harmony! You became more likable after you lost your soul.