In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone just figured out that she never changed the profanity in the following list back after the great The Good Place swears filter debacle. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shirt is homophobic as fuck.
- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
- Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
- Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
- Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
- Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
- The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
- This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
- Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
- Slut shame!
- The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
- Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
- Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.
- Buffy is an abusive romantic partner.
- Riley is the worst.
- Joss Whedon has a problem with fat people.
- Spike is an abusive romantic partner.
- Why are all these men so terrible?
- Wicca doesn’t work like that.
- Alcohol is evil.
- Head trauma doesn’t work like that.
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that into consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
Fuck this episode.
Fuck this storyline, fuck the way they fuck over both Willow and Oz in it.
Fuck this whole thing right into the garbage.
Look, it’s not that I don’t understand that actors sometimes want to leave long-running shows to do other things. I get that. And it’s not that I have a problem with Willow figuring out that she’s a lesbian (though the way her self-realization/coming out is written to cater to the nebulous idea straight people have of what they imagine the experience would be like for themselves). What I hate about this episode is how sloppy the execution of the end of the Willow/Oz relationship is and how much better it could have been.
So, I guess let’s get on with this lazy bullshit.
Lots of students are hanging out on campus at night, the way you probably should do if you live in Sunnydale where all the vampires are? Buffy goes tearing through a crowded area, pursued by a vampire. She gets him away from the other students before she stops and squares off against him, thanking him for relocating. They fight while she quips,
Buffy: “You know very well, if you eat this late, you’re gonna get heartburn.”
She stakes him and while he’s in his death throes, asks:
Buffy: “Get it? Heartburn? That’s it? That’s all I get. One lame-ass vamp with no appreciation for my painstakingly thought out puns. I don’t think the forces of darkness are even trying.”
As she wanders off muttering to herself about how her humor goes unappreciated, we pan up to Spike, watching from a, I don’t know, rooftop garden? Some kind of upper level that still has trees and a yard. Anyway, he monologues about how the big bad is back and she’s in trouble, standard Spike stuff. But he’s so busy bragging to no one about how awesome he is, he doesn’t notice that he’s been surrounded by the shadowy commando force that’s been plaguing monsters so far this season. They taze him and drag him off.
After the credits, Willow, Xander, Buffy, and Oz are at The Bronze, which they all agree is a much more fun place to be as college students than as high school students. Willow suggests that it’s because it’s a familiar oasis in the totally new world of their lives as college kids, and it’s nice to be somewhere “predictable.”
Then Giles shows up. And since we’re going for predictable, everyone assumes he’s there because there’s trouble. But he’s just there to hang out. He even offers to buy them coffees.
Buffy: “So much for your predictable blankie theory, Wil.”
Now, it’s not that Giles isn’t an important and valuable part of the Scoobie gang. He’s just not an under-twenty part of the Scoobie gang, and they’re still all trying to figure out how he fits into their lives as a peer and not an authority figure now that they’re out of high school and he’s no longer Buffy’s Watcher. And bless him, he tries:
Giles: “Splendid. Well, it’s ages since I’ve been to a gig. Well, don’t look that way. I’m, I’m down with the new music. And I have the albums to prove it.”
Buffy: “Yes, but it’s your cutting edge eight-tracks that keeps you ahead of the scene.”
Excuse me, Buffy, but a man like Giles never had an eight-track player, no matter how attractive portable music might have been. The sound quality was truly a step down from vinyl and he would absolutely never have compromised. Do you even watch your own show, young lady?
Oz defends Giles by sticking up for his music collection, and Willow says it’s “brave” of Giles to be there. I love this because as the years have passed, I identify with Giles more than any other character. Youths. Fuck them.
So, Veruca’s band takes the stage and once again, Oz is totally captivated by her. I don’t know whose idea it was for her to like, whiplash and serpentine her whole body the entire time she’s singing. And I don’t know what happened to this actress/singer when her gig on Buffy was over. But sure as God made little green apples, I know she’s spent some quality time at the chiropractor.
The worst part about this shit show is that Buffy picks up on Willow’s humiliation at her boyfriend’s all-consuming attraction to another girl. Giles and Xander are totally into Veruca, too, though, so they don’t notice that Willow is sitting there in pain. But we cut to the next morning, where Oz and Willow are snuggling in bed. And they’re so cute. And their relationship is still somewhat healthy, even with his weird Veruca thing.
Willow tells Oz about a Wicca group she’s wanting to check out. She tells him it’s on one of the nights he’ll be affected by the full moon and asks him if it’s okay that he’ll have to lock himself up.
Oz: “The only thing I mind is being away from you for three nights.”
We’re gonna go from that to “goodbye forever” by the end of the episode. Fuck this episode.
At psych class, the only class Buffy ever attends, I guess, Professor Walsh tells Buffy that due to her awesome work on a paper she did, she’ll lead a discussion group at the next class. And then Buffy asks her, you know, what she’s supposed to do to prepare to lead a discussion group and Walsh brushes her off onto her teaching assistants. Because teaching is too much work for the person who became a teacher.
Have I mentioned how much I hate Maggie Walsh? For years, I’ve struggled over whether it’s internalized misogyny causing me to hate a character who’s a strong woman, but…I’m pretty sure I hate her because she’s such a horrible teacher and also she tries to get Buffy killed.
Buffy shows Willow the grade she got on her paper:
Willow: “This is good! I mean, this is excellent. You did better than me. This is so unfair! You made me jealous of you academically! Buffy!”
Buffy: “I know, can you believe it?”
Willow: “Wow, I guess Professor Walsh isn’t so ogre-y after all.”
No, she’s still an ogre. It’s not Professor Walsh who did the work or changing here, it’s Buffy. But some of Willow’s perhaps unintentional and subconscious down-grading of Buffy’s success could be due to the jealousy she fully admits, especially once she learns about the discussion group opportunity. And I really like the way this scene is handled. Willow’s identity has pretty much always been built around her academic achievements. It makes sense that she would be threatened. But look at what an amazing friend she is! She admits to her jealousy but immediately goes back to being happy for Buffy. She doesn’t hide her feelings from her, but she doesn’t allow them to poison their bond with unnecessary competition.
Oz runs into Veruca as he crosses campus. He’s looking for a place to meet Willow and uses that as an excuse to not sit with her. Veruca points out that there are two chairs available at her table, and Oz sits down. And then he makes a comment about Veruca’s “big lunch” which is literally a normal-sized hamburger (which actually looks more like a veggie patty, on closer inspection) and what I’m comfortable in calling an objectively unsatisfying amount of fries. In the first place, Oz, mind your damn business. In the second place, time to make me hate Veruca even more:
Veruca: “I like to eat. I hate chicks who are like, ‘does it have dressing on it’?”
Hey, look. Not Like Other Girls™. The eating thing has always mystified me. I realize there are women out there who are always on a diet, but why is that like…acceptable to be annoyed by? If someone’s getting on your case about going on a diet or offering unwanted advice, that’s annoying. But the mere existence of people who count calories or shun dressing doesn’t really hurt anyone if they’re keeping it to themselves. And for a slender girl like Veruca to make fun of girls for “not eating”…like, what the fuck. Seriously, way to feed into the whole “hot girls are even hotter if they eat like Kirby and never worry about their weight…so long as they stay hot,” Buffy writers. (#6) (#39)
Oz tells Veruca that her band was really good and they start to talk about amps. Willow arrives and sees them chatting together. Veruca is friendly-ish, Oz is awkward, and then they go back to talking about amps, totally excluding Willow. When the name “Hound Dog” comes up, she’s relieved that they’re talking about something she knows and jumps in to say how much she likes Elvis. Veruca smugly runs with it until Oz tells Willow:
Oz: “We’re actually talking amps. But it’s easy to get confused. The names they give ’em.”
Then Oz gets up and leaves Willow alone with Veruca. Who makes this face:
The international “I’m better than you and your man is already mine” signal.
Veruca says she has to leave, too, makes a comment about Willow’s top that is probably not genuine, and poor Willow is left all alone in the place she came to specifically to meet up with her fucking boyfriend.
This episode is so painfully relatable. I think if you’ve ever been in a relationship that was ending, there’s a moment where you realize the end is near. I had an almost identical situation happen to me when I was dating a guy who was in a fairly popular local band. One night, we were at a bar, and he ran into this chick he knew but hadn’t seen around in a while. She sat down with us and they started talking about all these obscure bands that they were both way, way into. Finally, this chick says something about The Dead, and I’m like, oh, okay, the band Phil Lesh formed after Jerry Garcia died, I can totally talk about them! But they were talking about some obscure indie band. And it played out so like this scenario, with my date explaining apologetically and with such obvious second-hand embarrassment that I got second-hand embarrassment for myself.
Dude ended up ghosting me after that date. And then I ran into him at Meijer a couple weeks ago while I was grocery shopping with unbrushed hair. I was standing next to someone who had b.o. so bad they left a scent trail. He probably thought it was me. We made eye contact and he definitely, definitely recognized me, even seventeen years later. In my frantic flight to get the hell away, I knocked over a bunch of two-liter bottles of pop.
It was still less painful than this episode.
Buffy happens to walk by and sees Veruca leaving, so she sits down with Willow.
Willow: “How come you didn’t tell me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?”
Buffy: “I thought that was the point.”
Willow is worried about Oz thinking Veruca is sexy, but Buffy points out that checking out other women isn’t a bad sign. Now, here’s where I’m gonna get in trouble probably. And I want to make sure everyone is aware that when I come at the subject of Willow’s sexuality, I’m not out to erasing lesbian representation. Discussion about Willow’s sexuality contains some hard lines to walk when so many bisexual women identify with Willow’s experiences as well and have legitimate concerns about our erasure in the media. So, before I launch in:
- Yes, Willow being an out lesbian on a TV show was groundbreaking and important and no, I’m not trying to yank Willow away from lesbians.
- Yes, Willow absolutely identifies as a lesbian later in the show (though I’m not sure the word “lesbian” is ever actually uttered? She says she’s gay a lot, but now that I think of it, we need to be on “lesbian” watch as the show goes on because I don’t remember it ever being said and the words women use to label their sexuality are often erased or danced around), so she’s a lesbian
- The above can both be true and her characterization and arc can be bi-erasure.
Nothing I say about Willow’s sexuality is me asserting that because a character is a lesbian instead of bi, bisexuality is being erased. Nor am I ever saying that lesbians don’t deserve media representation. I, and other bisexual women, just want that representation to come without a personal cost to ourselves. And that’s perfectly okay for us to discuss.
So, with the disclaiming out of the way, we have Willow saying:
Willow: “I mean, I have wrong feelings about other guys sometimes. But I feel guilty. I flog and punish.”
Willow maintained a years-long crush on Xander. She had a relationship with a “boy” who turned out to be an evil robot, but whom she assumed was male. She has discussed the hotness of boys with Buffy. She has a long-term boyfriend. These are all experiences that lesbians can have before they realize that they’re lesbians, and that’s not uncommon. This is all due to social conditioning and sometimes subconscious protective camouflage. But here we have Willow admitting that even though she’s in a relationship with Oz, she finds herself attracted to other men.
The (mostly straight, to my knowledge) writers of Buffy could have easily avoided bi-erasure with one single change to that line. “I have wrong feelings about other people sometimes.” Later, when Willow falls for Tara, we could look back on that line and realize, hey, the clues were there all along. She said people because she meant women, too. And then, it’s a lot easier for us to accept that her awakening to her own sexuality was a gradual internal process and not, “My heart is broken by a man, so now I will be a lesbian.”
Buffy reassures Willow that Oz isn’t the kind of guy who cheats, and Willow takes comfort at the idea that Oz will be locked in a cage for a few nights, anyway, which is gonna make cheating hard. But without Willow there to make sure he’s locked in real good, you can guess what happens.
Yup. He gets out. And he chases Professor Walsh, which is always fun. And then as he’s chasing her, surprise! A girl werewolf shows up!
You may be wondering how I know she’s a girl. Well, you see, it’s because she has long hair:
To borrow a phrase from Wayne from Letterkenny…
When Oz is a werewolf, he’s covered with kind of spikey fur and his face is definitely more messed up than this. I couldn’t get a good picture because he’s constantly in motion in this part. But he doesn’t look like Oz, he looks like a werewolf. Now, I know that it’s important for the audience to guess that this is Veruca. But as a member of the audience, I guarantee I would have already gotten that if another, lighter-colored werewolf just suddenly showed up on the scene. They’ve been foreshadowing some hypnotic connection between Oz and Veruca since her very first appearance. We didn’t necessarily need a pretty werewolf to get it across.
Anyway, the two werewolves lose total interest in Maggie and start wrestling with each other. Then we fade to the next morning, and Veruca and Oz waking up naked in the woods. So…not so much wrestling as like…mating.
I’ve always wondered how much this actually counted as cheating, to be honest. Oz isn’t Oz. He couldn’t remember eating a zombie in season three, FFS. In the beginning of this arc, he didn’t even know he was a werewolf, he could only suspect because he had no memory of the things he did while he was a wolf. We already know that he has no control over his actions in that form. How does this translate to cheating, if he’s not the one doing it? Veruca even acknowledges the fact that he can’t remember what happened between them, though she’s apparently been a werewolf long enough that she can now remember bits and pieces of her wolfy time.
Though Veruca seems to think they’re a done deal and wants to have sex again or something, Oz just wants to go home. He goes to the laundry facility in the dorm, where he gets dressed and the costumer just keeps Veruca in a bra and matching panties. You know. To really get across what an evil slut she is or something. Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but this isn’t a show where you tend to see a lot of skin. All of a sudden, Veruca is traipsing around campus wearing nothing at all and she’s the evil other woman? I’m calling #6 and #33.
Oz mentions that he needs to figure out how he got out of his cage, which disgusts Veruca.
Veruca: “God, somebody’s domesticated the hell out of you.”
Oz: “It’s my choice. I don’t want to hurt anybody.”
Veruca: “Maybe. Or maybe you just don’t want to admit what happened to you. Maybe you just want to pretend you’re a regular guy.”
Oz: “Well, I am. I’m only a wolf three nights a month.”
Veruca: “Or you’re the wolf all the time and this human face is just your disguise. You ever think about that, Oz?”
And then she tries to get him to have sex with her again. He rejects her, and she goes off on a tangent about how nobody knows how to be alive and free and she could help him feel that way. He’s like, yeah, no thanks, I don’t feel like killing people.
Veruca: “You don’t understand. But you will. You’ll see that we belong together.”
Oz: “No. I know where I belong.”
Professor Walsh is walking with Riley, telling him all about these weird gorilla dogs she saw the night before. Buffy approaches with a question, but Walsh warns her about the dogs and Buffy is like, hey, nevermind, because she knows what gorilla dogs probably really are.
Willow goes to Oz’s dorm. She’s dressed a little differently than usual:
I’m including the picture here because I’m pretty sure that this exact outfit gets reused in season six. When I get there in five years, I want to be able to easily compare.
Anyway, Oz is super weird and Willow picks up on it. She apologizes for her own weirdness over Veruca, and Oz does what he can to try and change the subject without using more than two syllables at a time. He even tells her that she’s safe to stop thinking about Veruca. Willow tries to initiate sex with him, but he obviously can’t because he’s got visible scratches on his back.
Werewolves do it missionary style, I guess?
Willow is clearly hurt by his rejection, even though it’s gentle and honestly, understandable since he was being a werewolf the night before and would probably be legitimately tired from that, right? But still, she’s picking up the vibe.
Over at Giles’s house, because I always have to include some Gilesy goodness, he’s being so, so relatable:
The ill-fitting clothing. The crowded desk. The talking back to the television around a mouthful of food because he’s annoyed with the game show on the screen. It’s like someone took a picture of me at work and used it to stage an elaborate tableau of sadness.
Buffy shows up and he’s super excited to see her.
Giles: “You come on business, I hope?”
Buffy: “Yes. Lucky for you, people may be in danger.”
This poor dude is bored out of his gourd. Buffy tells him the deets about the two werewolves and he asks if she’s talked to Oz about it. There are two things about this that I feel are underappreciated. One, Buffy went to Giles first, when it would have been more geographically convenient to go to Oz first. Second, from a common sense perspective, it seems like Buffy should have gone to Oz first, right? But she reported to her Watcher, instead. This shows us that regardless of how Buffy has grown as a Slayer, she still needs her Watcher. This comes in as a plot point from here on out, and I feel like this exchange, specifically, wove the beginning of this issue into the story super effectively.
Buffy promises she’ll come back as soon as she talks to Oz. So…that’s the whole exchange.
That could have been a phone call.
Now, obviously, it wasn’t a phone call because phone calls are boring to watch and you need to get your principal cast on screen even if they’re not actively involved in the main plot of the episode. However, it does feel a little bit forced; there needed to be a better reason for Buffy to physically go to there. It’s a missed opportunity, too; what if she couldn’t get ahold of Giles on the phone because he’d been trying to win something on the radio and the phone was tied up? That would give us even more of a sense of how boring his days are. I wouldn’t even bother to point it out unless it was a missed opportunity because so much of this show exists in a world where there are apparently no phones at all.
Speaking of getting the core cast as much screentime as possible in an episode that doesn’t involve them, Willow goes to Xander’s house to tell him about what happened with Oz. We find Xander in a predicament of his own:
Xander: “We’re having a little landlord/tenant dispute, so I’m withholding rent. An effective and, might I add, thrifty tactic.”
Willow: “How come?”
Xander: “She won’t let me put a lock on my door. I suspect she’s afraid I’ll start having ‘the sex’.”
This is another area I’m going to call #36, because this kind of shit is a real issue and it only ever gets played for laughs. We’re supposed to think it’s funny that Xander can’t afford the privacy that adult humans require to live their lives. It’s not the fact that it’s included that chafes me, just the fact that it’s one more area where a real-life problem is funny, without acknowledging that this kind of ha ha, you’re poor thing is taking place on a show where much of the target demographic was probably living in multi-generational households for exactly the same reasons as Xander.
I mean, I’m not calling for anyone to be beheaded over it. I just think the fact that Xander’s entire purpose on the show in season four is to be the resident failure we’re supposed to laugh at because he comes from a less privileged economic background than the other characters is bullshit.
Willow asks Xander what it means if a guy doesn’t want to “you know,” and he points out (rightly) that if she’s having sex, she should be able to use the actual words to describe the act. So, you know, go Xander on that one. He tells Willow that it could be a bad sign, but it’s not necessarily true that it’s definitely bad. He asks for more background, and Willow tells him about the Veruca situation.
Xander: “Well, have you asked Oz about it?
Willow: “Well, I thought about it, but then he’ll think I’m all jealous and worried.”
Xander: “But you are. And odds are, he feels it. I bet that’s all there is to the weird you’re feeling. You guys should talk things out, Wil. You’ll both feel better.”
Why wasn’t there a subplot where Xander eventually became a therapist? Here’s the thing: most of the time, Xander’s personal behavior sucks hard. But he actually does give good advice and seems to understand human emotion and reaction from an outsider perspective better than the other characters seem to. Yet, it’s Buffy, who is a walking disaster in her own right, who ends up becoming a (not-degreed) guidance counselor in season seven. Man, how cool would it have been, and how much more would Xander have had to do in that season, if he’d ended up at Sunnydale High as part of a training thing because he was earning his degree?
I kind of wonder about the economic and educational backgrounds of the writers on this show. I’m not going to go look it all up, but the poverty representation is weird, regardless. Xander ends up as a construction worker, which is not at all the job I would have thought up when designing that character. He seems to end up doing manual labor because he’s poor and that’s about it. Like someone sat down and went, “What do poor people do?” and that’s the first thing that came up. But a lot of construction work requires vocational training or at least some experience, so it’s not as though he’s just going to stumble into a job in that field, right? And it’s not exactly unreasonable for someone to go to community college or weekend classes to slowly earn a degree. I guess I look at Xander and I see wasted potential as a character because I look at my own, very Xander-like post-high school situation and sympathize deeply with him.
Also, because working-class jobs are very much looked-down upon on this show. When Buffy has to get a job at a fast food place, it’s her absolute lowest point as a human being. At the same time, Willow and Tara are both fully unemployed throughout the entire series, and they’re depicted as having better and more meaningful lives going for them. Like, it’s better to be unemployed than it is to take a job that the writers feel is somehow beneath them.
Man, this was a tangent I wasn’t expecting from this episode.
Back to the show. Oz is welding his cage back together when Buffy finds him. He admits he got out, but claims he doesn’t know anything about another werewolf being around. Buffy senses that something is up with him, but he denies it again. There’s a montage of Oz and Willow looking sad cut with shots of Veruca rehearsing with her band and singing a song that consistently tricks me into thinking my phone is ringing. The sun is about to set and Oz is in his cage when Veruca comes by. She mocks his “habitrail” and refuses to get into the cage. He warns her that the Slayer is looking to hunt this other werewolf. Veruca accuses him of just wanting to be locked up with her all night. Then she gets all breathless and sexy and writhy talking about how she sensed him before she ever met him, and human Oz grabs her and kisses her. They do a weird Titanic hands thing as they change, and we cut to the next morning when Willow finds them naked and spooning.
After the commercial break, Oz wakes to find Willow standing there, heartbroken. Oz tries to gaslight her, saying he had to lock Veruca in the cage with him where they would have sex all night. It’s the only way, don’t you see?
Oz: “She was gonna hurt somebody. I didn’t have a choice.”
Willow: “But you did! You could have told somebody. Your solution…just put you two together in a room? All night?”
Veruca: “Girl’s got a point.”
First of all, go fuck yourself, Veruca. Second of all, yes. Both girls have a point. Oz could have even told Buffy hours before. He actively lied about the second werewolf, even knowing Buffy’s policy of non-violence where the species is concerned.
He totally had a choice.
Willow: “I knew. I knew, you jerk. And you sat there and you told me everything was fine? And that’s as bad as…”
Oz: “I know how it feels. I remember.”
First of all, go fuck yourself, Oz. When you forgive someone for something, you don’t get to throw it back at them later to cover your own ass. Second of all, if you know how it feels, why did you choose to do it to Willow?
He says it’s not payback or anything like that, and Willow points out correctly that not all cheating is comparable. For example, making out with Xander was bad. But one might argue that fucking someone else and lying about it when it wasn’t your fault in the first place, then lying a second time when provided the opportunity to prevent it from happening yet again and then actually doing it again isn’t even in the same god damn ballpark.
Willow points out that he was attracted to Veruca before this, and he can’t deny it. She runs away and wanders through town lost in her sadness until she steps off the sidewalk and is almost hit by a car. Buffy sees it happening but is too far away to prevent it. Riley is fortuitously passing by and jumps in front of the car to pull her out of the way. Both of them narrowly miss being hit. Buffy runs over to see if Willow is okay, and Riley says:
Riley: “Whatever it is? It’s not worth hurting yourself over.”
Buffy looks shocked at the suggestion that Willow might have walked into traffic on purpose, and this moment? Makes me think that I’ve been too hard on Riley in the past. I really, really hated Riley before, but watching the show more in depth? At a moment like this? He not only did something incredibly brave to save Willow, but he’s savvy enough to go, you know, this isn’t my business, but I don’t want her to get hurt and she seems too upset for this to have been a coincidence. He gets involved in a way that could be construed as pushy or intrusive, but he’s like, fuck it. This chick could get killed and I’m gonna say something in case her friend doesn’t put two-and-two together.
Oh, wait. I just remembered how he’s gonna be in season five. No, I still hate him. But just a smidge less.
In their dorm room, Buffy makes an ominous promise:
Buffy: “I have to find Veruca before the sun sets. I will, though. And when I do, this thing stops. She’s bad news.”
Does this mean Buffy is going to kill Veruca, despite her personal policy of not killing werewolves? Is Buffy bending the rules for personal reasons? And isn’t murder…kinda extreme?
Anyway, Buffy makes a comment about Willow putting the blame where it belongs, and Willow is like, yeah, great idea and gets out her witch business. So, something safe is gonna happen.
In his room, Oz is calling around looking for Veruca when Buffy barges in. He’s going to help her track Veruca.
Oz: “Look, Buffy, you should know that–”
Buffy: “Oz. Now might be a good time for your trademark stoicism.”
That’s right, Oz. You don’t get to talk. I’m so angry at you!
In what appears to be the communal kitchen in the dorm (!), Willow is conjuring up a spell:
Willow: “I conjure thee by Barabas, by Satanis, and the Devil. As thou art burning, let Oz and Veruca’s deceitful hearts be broken.”
Here we go! We got some #42 and some #4!
Let’s tackle #42, first. Again, Willow’s magic is consistently referred to as Wicca, which is a specific religion that notably does not have a concept of Satan. But even if we were to broaden this to all areas of witchcraft, Satan and the Devil are the same thing and you wouldn’t conjure him to help with a heartbreak spell, anyway. Every witch knows there are a plethora of wronged lovers in almost every pantheon, plus plenty of fictional archetypes that embody the spirit of the feeling of being a lover wronged. You would not bother Satan with this and he probably doesn’t give a shit about it, anyway.
Now, let’s move on to #4: Willow, you know that vengeance demons exist. What are you doing? Why the complicated spell? You know you can summon a being who will take care of this at no cost to you. And you can’t even use the argument here that she was using this spell because secretly she doesn’t really want to hurt Oz, but guess what? She’s conjuring the literal DEVIL.
Back in the forest, Oz is sniffing around for Veruca.
Then we’re back to Willow and her conjuring of things that have nothing to do with a love spell. For example, the “Saracen Queen,” which is a title used to refer to Mavia, an early Christian military leader, so again, probably not interested in helping you in your anti-love spell, and “the name of hell” which, you know. We’ve already covered why involving Satan in this nonsense is…nonsense. Willow is so mad, she’s levitating shit at this point.
In the woods, they find a pile of Veruca’s clothing. At first, they think it’s just what she left behind from the other full moon night, but then they realize it’s a trap. Oz knows that Veruca is going to go after Willow. He runs ahead of Buffy, who collides with one of the mysterious commandos and is knocked to the ground.
Just as Willow is about to burn Oz’s picture as part of the spell, she hesitates. Realizing she can’t do it, she ends the spell. And that’s when Veruca comes in.
Veruca: “Wow. For a minute there, I thought you might actually play rough. Sometimes you have to, you know? To keep what’s yours? Sometimes, you have to kill. Well, how about that? The sun’s almost down.”
After the commercial, Buffy wrestles with the commando and we cut back to Veruca slinkily threatening Willow. I’m not sure Veruca wouldn’t be better off as like…a weresnake. Veruca taunts Willow, then hits her. Oz comes in and warns Veruca to leave Willow alone.
Veruca: “How can I? She’s the reason you’re living in cages. She’s blinding you. When she’s gone, you’ll be able to admit what you are.”
As they argue, they start to change. Veruca tells Oz that animals kill, and Oz is like, yeah, we sure do. They fully transform while fighting, which would be cool except for the part where we’re watching a beloved character murder his recent sexual partner. And he does murder her. He rips her throat out and is advancing on Willow when Buffy bursts in and tranquilizes him.
She was there in the nick of time to save Oz. But Veruca, the slutty slut slut, had to die.
Can we just acknowledge #6 and #1 on this one? Plus, #33? Because they’re all tied together in Veruca’s death.
First of all, yes. Veruca was evil. She was going to hurt Willow.
Second, Buffy didn’t know that when she all but explicitly said she was going to kill Veruca. Not because Veruca had hurt someone. Because she might hurt someone. Oz has killed, and they did everything they could to make sure it wouldn’t happen again because he’s human most of the time and it seemed wrong to slay him. But Veruca is The Other Woman, so it’s just and right that Buffy should kill her for her grieving friend? Based on the rules already laid down in the show, there’s no legitimate reason to kill her. The only sin she has committed at that point is fucking Oz.
Third, Veruca is played very much like Alex from Fatal Attraction. I get that’s what they’re going for. But that movie is problematic on its own; the entire “good man makes one mistake and crazy bitch destroys his life” genre is problematic. Veruca is a bad person, but we haven’t seen any evidence that she’s ever actually hurt someone. If she were on a serial werewolf killing spree and there was no hope for her rehabilitation, fine. She’s embraced the demon side. But she’s been in Sunnydale for how long and there haven’t been any reported werewolf attacks? Also, it’s suggested at one point that Veruca knows what she’s doing when she’s in wolf form, which means she has the self-control not to kill. Why was the decision to kill her made before she committed violence against Willow, something that was unforeseen by Oz and Buffy until they found the clothing in the woods?
Fourth, why is Veruca automatically the evil one in the situation? Even I sit here like, “How dare you! How dare you, homewrecker!” and then I have to check my thinking and go, okay, does it make her a nice person that she went after a guy she knew was in a relationship? No. Is that a choice I approve of? No. But does it make her solely responsible for Oz cheating? Absolutely not. When Buffy says Willow should lay the blame where it lies, that blame goes on Oz. He makes the choice, while human, to lock himself into a cage with Veruca and have sex with her after he makes the choice to lie about her being a werewolf. Oz is the person to blame in this situation. Would he have cheated on Willow with someone else if Veruca hadn’t offered? Maybe not. But the point is, he did cheat. While Veruca made a mean, hurtful choice, it’s still Oz who’s responsible for hurting Willow because he’s the only one who made a promise to Willow to be faithful.
Fifth, and I cannot stress this enough, Oz is still mostly human when he makes the decision to kill Veruca. This is one of the good guys. One of the good guys has lied to the other good guys, cheated on a good guy, and is now going to kill a woman right in front of our eyes to make her pay for his mistake. He could have broken up with Willow if he was interested in Veruca. He could have chosen not to lie to Buffy or lock Veruca in with him. He could have been honest with Willow. But he wasn’t. That doesn’t justify Veruca trying to hurt Willow, at all, and he’s not to blame for Veruca’s actions. But all of this could have been avoided if he’d been honest with Buffy when she first asked him about Veruca. Also, by not cheating in the first place. But Veruca is the slut to blame, so she has to die.
Why does she have to die? Because it’s supposed to be a satisfying conclusion to the story. The viewer is supposed to be satisfied to see Oz choose Willow to the point of actually murdering the woman he cheated with. We’re supposed to feel some sense of justice from that.
Back at Giles’s house, Buffy tells Giles about the commando, and how she’d seen them before and assumed they were in costume. Buffy blames herself for not being there in time to save Veruca, and Giles is like, yeah, but you saved Willow.
Giles. Stop talking. Don’t disappoint me.
Buffy tells Giles she doesn’t know how Oz and Willow are going to get through all of this, and we fade to Willow at Oz’s dorm. She finds him packing his bags to leave.
Willow: “That’s your solution?”
Oz: “That’s my decision.”
Willow: “Don’t I get any say in this?”
And Willow’s face goes like:
Oz tells her that Veruca was right; he’s not just a werewolf some of the time. He needs to figure out what it means to be a werewolf, and he doesn’t trust himself to be around her or anyone. Willow asks how long he’ll be gone, and he tells her he doesn’t know.
Willow: “Oz, don’t you love me?”
Oz: “My whole life…I’ve never loved anything else.”
He kisses her forehead, then leaves her to cry alone in his room. He gets in his…blue? van to drive away. I don’t remember his van being blue. How did I miss that his van was blue? Anyway, he has a really difficult time starting the engine until it almost seems like he’s going to run back to her. But he drives off. Bye bye, Oz.
I think I’ve outlined pretty thoroughly what I think of this entire send-off. There had to be some way to do this without destroying the character. Because I can’t like Oz after this. I know he comes back later and there’s this whole business where he wants Willow back but she’s with Tara, but honestly? I wasn’t thrilled to see him show up. By the end of the episode, I was glad he was gone.
But maybe that was the point. Maybe the writers knew he was so beloved, the only way to stop us from rioting in the streets when he left was to turn him into an irredeemable monster of a monster.