[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: David Semel | Aired: 11/24/1997]
“What’s My Line Pt. 2” shares nearly all of the same strengths and weaknesses of “What’s My Line? Pt. 1” [2×09]. It’s quite literally the second half of the same episode. Although this may imply they cover the same ground, that’s not quite entirely true. Part 1 sets up the adolescent roadblocks Buffy will be facing in the near future while Part 2 offers hints that can be a guide to her ultimate destination: adulthood. The reveal of Kendra as another vampire slayer is used wonderfully here as a springboard for a broad discussion about passion, work, and identity.
Getting a second slayer introduced to the show is really fun, which was caused by the neat wrinkle of Buffy’s death in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]. One slayer dies, another is called, right? Now, Kendra doesn’t exactly have the most exciting personality (or accent), which certainly tempers some of the fun, but she does provide a nice contrast and a sense of impartiality towards Buffy’s mindset and relationships.
“What’s My Line Pt. 2” presents Kendra as the opposite of Buffy in both fighting style and personality. Kendra tends to see the world in a very Watchers’ Council, black and white, way — i.e. all vampires are evil creatures that must be destroyed. Soul or no soul, it doesn’t really matter to Kendra. This kind of clarity can be very freeing, but it’s also very narrow and doesn’t reflect the world in which we (or they) live in. Kendra may be too binary in her assessment of Angel, but that doesn’t mean Buffy can’t learn something from it.
Angel, with a soul, obviously isn’t the horrible, murderous creature that Kendra was quick to paint him as. No, he’s far more conflicted than that. But he’s not entirely stable or safe to be around either. Kendra is right to warn Buffy that Angel clouds her judgment, because it’s the absolute truth, even if Buffy won’t hear of it. Notice how quick Kendra is to call Willy “dirty”? Like Angel, Willy’s not at all evil, but he’s certainly not clean either. Willy is a great parallel to Angel as someone that’s morally ambiguous and ends up playing both sides. So while Kendra may be too quick to pass final judgment, she’s not at all wrong to encourage caution and rationality with these morally ambiguous individuals.
Kendra’s binary world view isn’t just about how she judges others; it stands as a reflection of how she slays and lives. It isn’t a huge surprise when we learn Kendra does things completely by the book — the rules — that have been handed down to her by the Watchers’ Council. This not only means a more mechanical, and predictable, fighting style, but it extends to her personal life as well.
In a conversation with Buffy, Kendra mentions that things like school, friends, and even family are distractions from her calling. Buffy obviously feels the opposite of this, pointing out that, while mentally balanced, Kendra lacks spontaneity and imagination in her fighting, which may have allowed Buffy to beat her if their earlier fight had continued. Kendra’s technique was superior to Buffy’s, but the chaos of the world has a way of throwing a wrench into one’s best laid plans. Sometimes plans need to be adjusted; sometimes assistance is required to succeed.
These different approaches do bring up the question of which is better, and whether the episode is championing one over the other. I see evidence to support aspects of both having merit. Buffy’s got the improvisation and fire that Kendra lacks, whereas Kendra has the rationality and clear focus that Buffy lacks. In the end I think what’s being communicated is that a blend of both approaches — a balance — is the strongest method of ultimate success. In the near term, they both suffer the consequences of their respective imbalances, with Buffy metaphorically killing Angel (“Surprise” [2×13]) and Kendra being vulnerable to Drusilla’s innate mojo (“Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21]).
I can’t help but think of Faith right now. It’s interesting how Faith is to Buffy what Buffy is to Kendra. Kendra and Faith represent two opposite extremes in temperament/fighting style: formal/rigid and wild/reckless. In the here and now, Buffy stands in for the wild/reckless one in contrast to Kendra, but Buffy doesn’t completely forgo technique and strategy like Faith will — she just doesn’t solely rely on it and can improvise when needed, hence being closer to that nice balance.
This improvisation and fire in personality is part of what Spike shares in (“it’s time for a little less ritual, and a little more fun around here!”) and finds so appealing about Buffy. Remember in “Halloween” [2×06] when he was watching a recording of Buffy killing a vampire in a pumpkin patch? Spike says, “She’s tricky. Baby likes to play. You see that? The way she stakes him with that thing? That’s what’s called resourceful.” This resourcefulness is precisely why Buffy utilizes her family and friends for help and moral support, to the astonishment of both Spike and Kendra, and why it’s of no surprise when Giles reveals that the Slayer Handbook would be of no use in Buffy’s case.
This is both a criticism and a compliment, I think, and ultimately reflects why Buffy is such a complex, fascinating character. It’s also a huge hint at the many times in which Buffy will eventually break the rules people and organizations have placed on her. The fact there are two slayers around now is further proof of this. Going forward, especially beyond this season, Buffy will step-by-step start to take control of her life. This will be accomplished by becoming increasingly self-aware and recognizing that there are rules in the outside world that must be tested and, in some cases, broken.
All of this talk about improvisation and resourcefulness ties together nicely with the whole Career Day event and Buffy’s repeated comments about slaying being her “job”. After fighting along-side Buffy and getting to know her a bit better, Kendra can clearly see that Buffy has developed a passion for fighting the forces of evil and that being the Slayer isn’t just a job, but a reflection of who she is. This is a sentiment which will eventually be taken to heart by Buffy and one she is better off for.
That final scene between the two of them is quite sweet, with Kendra providing Buffy a bit of comfort that she isn’t the only slayer anymore, even if it may feel that way sometimes. I think Buffy’s relationship with Kendra plays a large role into how she will eventually want to build a friendship with Faith next season, and why it will hurt so much when Faith repeatedly rebukes that olive branch. But that, my friends, is a discussion for another season.
In addition to being a great group of scenes, there are some interesting subtleties involving Angel’s brief stint in captivity by Spike and Drusilla. At one point Drusilla asks Spike to allow her to “have” Angel. Check out Spike’s expression during this moment: it’s a measured bit of concern and insecurity. A little later Angel tries to capitalize on this by telling Spike how much he intimately knows about Drusilla’s desires in an attempt to get Spike to kill him, thus preventing the ritual to restore Drusilla from succeeding. The interaction between these three is fascinating. It not only sets up the dynamic when Angelus is loose later in the season, but it also builds on the history these vampires share (which we learn a lot about in the Angel Season 5 episode “Destiny” ). The characterization here is so consistent that it transforms into being thrilling! (Yes, I’m geeking out right now.)
An Angel/Drusilla “relationship” is hinted at, but “What’s My Line Pt. 2” also shows us the beginning of two brand new relationships: Xander/Cordelia and Willow/Oz. The Xander/Cordelia pairing most closely resembles that of the Buffy/Angel relationship in that they’re drawn together by dangerous situations and allow themselves to fall into blind passion with no thought given to their underlying compatibility or future. The Willow/Oz pairing, on the other hand, offers a different path that showcases this wacky notion of actually getting to know each other before jumping right to the kissing — it’s a more logical start to a relationship. Xander and Cordelia’s “romantic” moments mask their underlying dislike for each other while Willow and Oz’s conversations only increase their appreciation for the other. Buffy should take note! It’s also interesting how the two pairings parallel some of the differences between Buffy and Kendra.
“What’s My Line Pt. 2”, as odd as it sounds, has a lot of depth in its breadth of topics — i.e. it covers a lot of topics, but doesn’t have the time to really dive into any one of them. It’s reasonably entertaining and overall quite solid, although it suffers from some of the same issues that Part 1 did in regard to music, presentation, and villains. The final action climax is fairly clunky as well. It’s definitely an intriguing episode for Buffy as it showcases her options going forward and is lined with plenty of subtle warnings of where her relationship with Angel is headed. Critical mass is about to be reached for those two, and it won’t be as beautiful as Buffy imagines it to be.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ When Spike says, regarding Angel, that they’re going to have “dinner and a movie. I don’t want to rush into anything. I’ve been hurt,” it’s not only funny, but it also speaks to their past together in which he really has been hurt by Angelus.
+ Buffy thinking that maybe Kendra can become the town’s primary slayer, thus allowing her to go live that normal life. Oh Buffy, so naïve. “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] ends that notion for good.
+ Worm guy is both extremely cheesy and kind of creepy at the same time. I don’t know what to make of him. He doesn’t really accomplish anything though.
+ The burst of music, right on cue, when Xander and Cordelia kiss. It’s so self-aware that I can’t help but love it.
+ Xander continuing to spray Cordelia after she removed her shirt. It’s so very ‘Xander’.
+ Buffy pointing out that it’s odd how bugs keep finding Xander. Haha.
+ Oz and his monkey pants speech. Pure awesome. 😀
+ Unbelievably haunting final scene, seeing as Drusilla’s now the strong one pulling Spike out of the wreckage — yet another transition (Janus!) we’re witnessing this season.
– The large pause in the fighting that allows Kendra to make her little shirt joke. What could have been a bit funny instead comes across as incredibly silly.
* Angel’s purposeful flirtation with Drusilla here to goad Spike will be amplified when Angelus arrives.