Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Buffy 3x16 - "Doppelgangland"

It's not that often that the Buffy writers go back and revisit the concept from a standalone episode, but that's just what's going on here in "Doppelgangland." Luckily, what might have come off as beating a dead horse turns out to be a really enjoyable ride. More after the jump.

"Bored now."

- Vampire Willow

I have to wonder how the idea for "Doppelgangland" came about. I imagine Joss simply liked some of the ideas in Marti Noxon's script for "The Wish" and decided that he wanted to riff on them in a script of his own. I don't think that any of these ideas needed much development: as I said in my review of that episode, it was not the way in which those ideas developed that disappointed me but rather the way in which they developed to far away from the story about Cordelia which they seemed to be connected to. Here, the ideas are not so much developed as deployed again in a different context. There, it was "what if Buffy never came to Sunnydale," and here it's "What if the Wishverse version of Willow showed up in our world?".

Both of the episodes gain their momentum from the excitement and fun of exploring and extrapolating from that initial "what-if," But in contrast to "The Wish," which began focusing on Cordelia's story and meandered away from that point as it explored, "Doppelgangland" manages to focus squarely on Willow, exploring her role on the show in much the way "The Zeppo" did for Xander. In fact, the episodes follow pretty similar paths, opening with out subject questioning their satisfaction with the role they play in the group, and ending up in the same role but with a newfound understanding and appreciation for it.

But as with "The Zeppo," it's the fun of the journey that really makes this episode worthwhile. Vampire Willow is a fun character and allows Anlyson Hannigan some great comedy opportunities as she plays three characters: real Willow, Vampire Willow, and real Willow pretending to be Vampire Willow (a fantastic scene for her). The return of Anya, who first appeared in "The Wish," affords Emma Caulfield similar opportunities. In that episode, she was barely a presence at all, but in this one she gets to strut her considerable comedic stuff.

I don't think "Doppelgangland" would rank very highly as one of the best episodes of the season--we've had some pretty strong ones recently. But it's certainly a fun diversion and a great exploration of Willow as a character.


  1. This is, in its own little way, a very important episode, given that what initially appears to be a tossed off line by Willow about Vampire Willow turns out to be a major plot in series 4.

    Plus, one could argue that this episode opened the minds of some writers to the real possibility of a villainous Willow, which also had a bearing in future seasons.

    God, it's hard not to spoil when talking about this stuff.

  2. Yeah, I mean they even re-use Vampire Willow's catchphrase, "bored now," come the end of season 6.

    And, about said "tossed off line," I feel like I heard somewhere that the writers didn't even at that point have in mind that Willow would eventually bat for the other team. It's still really cool, though.

  3. Indeed--I've always wondered if it was this episode that put the idea in the writers' heads to have Willow find herself in college.

  4. Yeah, I pretty strongly intended to comment on that, but it somehow slipped my mind.

    I agree that this episode might have been a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy regarding later development for Willow. It's really unlikely that it's just a coincidence.