In the ninth episode of the second season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s isolation causes her to seek out to comfort of Angel, while Spike plans to heal Drusilla. Then the Holy Grail of all plot twists hits and nothing in our universe makes any sense at all. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy The Vampire.
Okay, it’s no surprise at this point that any sort of fiction or popular media that deals with isolation and loneliness deeply speaks to my soul. I think I’ve made that clear many times over the last year, and a large part of “What’s My Line, Part One” certainly falls right into that. Until the final ten seconds of the episode, I thought this story was just nice. A whole lot wasn’t happening until the Order of Taraka got involved, but I was enjoying the chance to spend time with Angel and Buffy, to watch their characterization grow.
Truthfully, that’s the best part of this episode. When Buffy feels left out of Career Day because of her role as the Slayer, it’s rather clever to have Angel be the one there to comfort her. He also knows what that’s like, since his life is forever restricted, though certainly in more difficult ways. This episode, however, caused me to spend an unnatural time thinking about this parallel. If Buffy is always going to have trouble having a life outside of being the Slayer, then how does that work for Angel? He can’t even come out during the daytime, and I doubt he has any sort of overnight job that only exists during the night. If that’s the case, how the hell does he have such a nice apartment? I mean, seriously, aside from the gothic tinge to it, I would totally live there??? IT’S REALLY AWESOME. So he has to pay for it somehow. How does that work? WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT THE LOGISTICS OF VAMPIRES RENTING APARTMENTS?
Anyway, the two plots at work here in “What’s My Line, Part One” are…well, I can’t say I’m totally on board with Spike’s plot? I like him as a character, but I’m still just confused by Drusilla’s characterization. As far as I understand it, she acts the way she does because of the way Angel treated her as his….sire? Is that what that means? Okay, don’t answer that yet. The point I’m trying to make is that the attempt to portray any sort of mental illness on Drusilla’s part just feels lazy. It’s not that Juliet Landau is a bad actress; I think she’s doing the best she can with the material. I just feel like the writers have given us the bare minimum of her story, and because of that, she doesn’t feel like a whole character to me. At best, she exists to irritate Spike and make him angry towards Buffy. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea that Drusilla can be healed, either; it could be a really interesting plot if it was given more time, but the entire thing feels rushed.
It’s also a situation where the other main plot, concerning Buffy and Angel, is just a billion times more captivating to me. I mean, seriously, when Angel holding a stuffed pig makes me feel more than the entirety of the Spike plot, I think there’s something lacking. Well, to be fair, it is Angel holding a stuffed pig and being all cute. Everyone, I just love the scene in the bedroom with all of my heart. The dynamic between them there is what I’ve wanted the whole time. Hell, if I’d seen this before “Lie To Me,” I honestly don’t think I would have questioned Buffy telling Angel that she loves him. Just reading their body language in this scene speaks volumes to how much they enjoy one another’s company. It’s also one of the few times we’ve seen them on the same page. When Angel is asking her questions about her life, specifically about her childhood love for figure skating, you can tell he’s genuinely interested. And then, when he suggests they go on a date at a closed skating rink, I suddenly just get them. I wouldn’t say I ship them, but it makes sense to me how so many other people did the same thing!
I like to spend a lot of time poking fun at myself and saying I’m FOREVER ALONE or that I have a HEART OF ICE. While I’m certainly a picky, cynical asshole, sometimes my heart is just so full of feelings when characters are just nice to each other. There were certainly moments of gushing joy from me during both Avatar and Battlestar Galactica. (ROSLIN/ADAMA SHIPPER FOR LIFE Y’ALL.) What I came to enjoy about “What’s My Line Part, One” is that I spent large amounts of time just smiling at the screen. I don’t always need my plots to be all DOOM AND GLOOM for me to enjoy them. Sometimes, I just want Willow to be recruited by a major software company and end up on the couch next to Oz!
Actually, let me amend that: I did spend time smiling at this episode when Buffy was skating by herself. (I had no idea Sarah Michelle Gellar could ice skate!) But I wasn’t smiling because it was a touching, caring moment. I was smiling because for some reason, it was filmed like a music video. Was a Celine Dion song suddenly going to start playing? Yeah, that was really awkward. Why was that filmed so strangely?
At this point, I couldn’t really ignore that the “plot” of this episode was starting to be more important. There’s some more tension between Buffy and Giles about her “duty,” but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t covered before. Plus, I understood that the book stolen in “Lie To Me” would help Drusilla, but I didn’t really see the need to care about it. Okay, that sounds really heartless. I just mean that I don’t understand why it’s such a disaster. There’s always going to be vampires in Sunnydale, so who cares if there’s one more? Actually, it wouldn’t even be one more. It would just be one returned to full health. Is Drusilla particularly dangerous or something? Again, something feels like it’s missing from all of this.
The introduction of the Order of Taraka sort of bored me, too. I don’t get how it’s connected to Drusilla’s tarot reading, though that might have been just a red herring. I did think it was cool that Buffy killed the first one with an ice skate to the throat, though I laughed when I remembered this was on the WB in 1997, so that meant we couldn’t see any actual blood. However, I wasn’t surprised by their existence. The episode tries really hard to get me to fear them, and that’s part of the narrative, too. Giles goes beyond what is necessary to frighten Buffy into think she’s in real danger this time, a kind of danger she can’t handle.
I do admit that I don’t know how Buffy is going to handle a member of the Order of Taraka who is made of maggots. If it weren’t for the final line, that dude would easily be the best part of this episode. What the fuck is he? ALSO YOU BETTER LEAVE MY CORDELIA ALONE. SHE STILL HAS A WHOLE LOT MORE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT TO GROW INTO OR I WILL BE VERY UPSET.
Then, we are introduced to assassin number three. Ah, finally, a woman of color! Oh, she doesn’t speak at all? Oh, great. So she’ll die in the next five minutes, right? Oh, wait, she’s kicking Angel’s ass. No, correction–she just kicked Angel’s ass and locked him in a cage. Oh, okay, I’m into this. She’s got an accent, you say? Oh, so that explains why she arrived in the belly of a plane. Three assassins for three tarot cards, and this one seems to be headed straight for Buffy. I started to like what very little characterization we got of her, but I knew she couldn’t last. When do they ever?
As this episode approached it’s end, I was satisfied, but I wasn’t blown away. I wasn’t sure why it was even a “part one” of two. What am I supposed to believe needs to carry over into a second episode? When the third assassin appeared in Angel’s apartment, where Buffy was sleeping, I figured that Buffy would take her out after a decent struggle. There was a great fight between the two, but I didn’t know where it was going.
“Who are you?”
“Who am I? You attacked me, who the hell are you?”
“I’m Kendra, the vampire Slayer.”
WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE. OH MY. THIS IS A JOKE, RIGHT? IT’S A BLUFF. IT’S A BLUFF TO TRICK BUFFY INTO LETTING DOWN HER GUARD SO THAT THIS ASSASSIN CAN KILL HER.
WAIT WHAT IF SHE’S NOT AN ASSASSIN
WHAT IF SHE IS TELLING THE TRUTH
HOW CAN THERE BE TWO
THIS IS SOME STRAIGHT HIGHLANDER BULLSHIT.
OH MY GOD I CAN’T HANDLE LIFE