[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: James Whitmore, Jr. | Aired: 10/20/1998]
This is an episode that, on the surface, seems pretty boring and pointless. I didn’t care for it much when I wasn’t analyzing it. Now that I’m looking a bit deeper, though, I realize that there’s a bit more here. In some ways this is a sequel to “Phases” [2×15] but on a bigger scale. While that episode was focused on Willow and Oz, this one looks at a bigger sample. We see three different men (Oz, Angel, and Pete) and the unique ways their girlfriends react to their inner beast.
The discussion truly begins when Faith expresses her view that all men are beasts. Buffy obviously doesn’t agree, undoubtedly because of her romantic experience with a sensitive and ensouled Angel. Buffy knows that it isn’t that one-dimensional. The counselor, Pratt, explains to Buffy that “Lots of people get lost in love…if you let it control you, you’ll end up its dog.” This turns out to be really good advice for Buffy because she finds herself torn between her feelings for a newly returned Angel and Scott Hope. Everything’s up in the air again right when she thought she could move forward. There’s no question that Angel is Buffy’s soulmate, but that’s not the point here. I must point out, again, that I really wish that Angel hadn’t come back. I really wanted to see Buffy giving a normal relationship a try.
I really enjoyed all the misleads on who killed the first guy. We’re led to believe it could be Oz, then the focus switches heavily to Angel who is acting very savage-like. It’s good to see that neither of them were responsible. Pete chooses to let the beast within him run loose. His girlfriend accepts that loss of control and even makes excuses for him after he hurts her. This stupidity eventually causes her death.
Oz became a werewolf by accident and must live with the beast inside him. He also has no memory of what he’s doing when he changes and willingly locks himself up so he won’t hurt anyone. Willow understands this and does her best to help his situation. Unlike Pete, Oz doesn’t have a choice in the matter and does everything in his power to control the beast within.
The savage Angel is running wild in this episode, not too different from an animal. But even the shred of humanity he remembers is enough to protect the one he loves when she’s in danger. Angel kills Pete for Buffy’s protection and then, in a moving scene, hugs her tightly while on his knees. Buffy’s left in emotional confusion and cries. Buffy knows she has to help him get back up to full strength and will do her best to bring out Angel’s sensitive qualities again.
All of this leads to Giles’ interesting speech about monsters. He says that there are two types of monsters: one which seeks redemption, and the other which seeks chaos. I don’t believe it’s quite this black and white, as there can be a lot of gray on the road to either redempion or chaos. In particular, Spike’s journey comes to mind. In S5, fresh with his crush on Buffy, he isn’t seeking redemption or chaos, only a girl. It turns out that the love of that girl eventually changed him and put him on the path of redemption (before he even knew it, too).
The only problem I have with the episode is Pete’s part of the story. I didn’t like the makeup and special effects for him, and I didn’t care for what he was doing either. It’s just another typical “boy beats his girlfriend” plot. The only thing useful to come out of Pete is the contrast to the other men and what they’re going through. He ends up being a catalyst for thought about our more interesting characters.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ The group taking turns to watch werewolf Oz.
+ Buffy kissing a normal guy is a very refreshing change.
+ The manner in which Buffy finds Angel.
+ As soon as she admits she needs some serious help she finds her confidant, Counselor Pratt, dead.
+ Werewolf Oz beating on veiny Pete.
+ Giles getting shot with the tranquilizer gun.
+ Scott’s speech about not knowing what’s really inside someone.