Thursday, July 8, 2010

Buffy 2x10 - "What's My Line, Part 2"

"What's My Line, Part 2" picks up right where "Part 1" left off, with Buffy and Kendra at a stand still, Angel in danger of death by sunlight, and Cordy and Xander in Buffy's house with the second member of the Order of Taraka: a man made entirely out of bugs. But while we're left with some really tense cliffhangers, the major cliffhanger is a sort of existential or ontological cliffhanger regarding Buffy's status as the Slayer: "One girl in all the world" etc. Of course, this leads Buffy to consider not being the Slayer anymore, but by the end of the episode this concern is dropped (without, I think, having been explored to its full potential), but I think regardless of this, the "What's My Line" two-parter is on the whole some pretty fantastic Buffy. More after the jump.

"You can attack me, you can send assassins after me, that's fine. But nobody messes with my boyfriend."

- Buffy

While last episode introduced the notion of what Buffy's life might be like if she were not the Slayer, this episode continues to  explore the theme by inverting it and offering Kendra as an example of what Buffy's life might have been like if she embraced her Slayer identity more fully. This episode reveals that Giles, who existed in the show's earliest episodes as a sort of uncompromisingly stuffy figure, is actually rather reasonable and relaxed compared to most Watchers. By now, the character is fully aligned with Buffy rather than in opposition to her, which is nice. In any case, the unlikely partnership between Buffy and Kendra has a great development from adversarial to a sort of harmonious teamwork, which is well played by both actresses.

It's Buffy's personal relationships that really set her apart from the traditional Slayer ethos embodied by Kendra. The question whether they make her vulnerable or strengthen her is again brought to the table as Buffy's need to protect Angel from Spike motivates her throughout the episode and clouds her rational thinking, but on the other hand it's only with help from the rest of the Scoobies that Spike and Drusilla are defeated at the end of the episode. Which, of course, is only temporary. All it really brings about is a role reversal with a strengthened Dru and a weakened Spike. Special mention should go to Juliet Landau as Drusilla in this episode, which has her doing a lot of crazy rambling that she manages to make really enjoyable.

One of the most notable developments of the episode is the budding relationship between Xander and Cordelia, which seems really quite an obvious pairing when you think about it. It feels like it was a long time coming, as their relationship became more and more tense and strained. Although maybe that's just because I already knew what was going to happen. In any case, the episode does a great job making it seem believable and using these characters together in their own little subplot as they battle the assassin made of bugs (who is creepy as hell, in bug form and especially in his boring middle-aged man form). And eventually at the end of the episode, a little cleverness and teamwork helps them defeat him. The interactions between Xander and Cordelia have been great comedy moments since the pilot, and so it's cool to see it develop into something with potential for drama.

This episode is also notable for finally pairing off Willow and Oz, after a long build-up. It's interesting to contrast these very different budding relationships with one another: while the attraction between Xander and Cordelia seems to be pure teenage hormones and just a pinch of hatred, Willow and Oz just have these little moments of sweetness. Their chemistry is really great, as both actors have a really strange sort of on-screen energy and they just seem to mesh so well.

In any case, this means just about everyone's paired off now: Buffy and Angel, Willow and Oz, Xander and Cordelia, Spike and Drusilla, and even Giles and Miss Calendar are nominally still involved (and we'll be returning to their relationship soon). They've come a long way since "I Robot, You Jane" when Buffy, Xander, and Willow despaired of ever being in a normal relationship. Now everyone's happy. Which is, of course, a recipe for later disaster. But in the mean time it just makes for some really great development. Buffy is starting to demonstrate that it's not afraid to dip into its own mythology to generate some really good character drama. And of course, there's still tons of kick-ass action and humor. Things are looking good.

  • The police recruiter being the third member of the Order of Taraka is a really surprising twist, so kudos are due for that. Gunfighting in a school would certainly not be allowed on broadcast television nowadays, so maybe that's one of the reasons her pulling a gun on Buffy in the hallway is such a shocker. She also gets to threaten poor Jonathan. Guy can't catch a break.
  • Buanca Lawson's performance as Kendra is quite good, but that accent is just bizarre. In the commentary (which has lots of spoilers for future Buffy and Angel episodes!) Marti Noxon has a couple of funny stories about working with the accent coach, who was apparently quite a character and had a very specific idea of the obscure region of Jamaica Kendra was from.
  • From Kendra's account of her early life, we can infer a few new facts about Slayers: a certain limited number of girls are born with the potential to become Slayers, many of whom (but not all of whom) are identified early in life. assigned to a Watcher, and given training in case they should happen to be called. None of this is explicitly confirmed until season seven, but in this episode Kendra gives us all we need to figure it out.

1 comment:

  1. I'll say it--I don't like Kendra the Vampire Slayer, though she does provide a great contrast to Buffy through her very different relationship to her Watcher--firmly establishing, even at this early stage, that Giles is not your average Watcher and has a very different view of the Watcher/Slayer relationship than the hierarchy we meet later. It's amazing how subtly and deftly Joss starts weaving the mythology of the Watchers and Slayers that becomes more and more important as the series progresses.