Buffy 4×06: Wild at Heart

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 11/09/1999]

The writers were presented with quite the challenge here. Seth Green wanted to do movies, so they had to find a way to write his character off the show that made sense. They led up to this with a quick glance in “Living Conditions” [4×02] and a real hint of problems to come in “Beer Bad” [4×05] . This is Oz’s sendoff and while he doesn’t come off as completely in character throughout the entire episode, it mostly works and makes for quite an emotional ride. Considering the constraints they were under, I call this a success.

The Willow/Oz problems pick up right where they left off in “Beer Bad” [4×05] : Veruca. She’s singing again at the Bronze and the gang (with Giles, more on this later) is listening in. This scene is utterly brilliant because of the silent conversation that is had between Buffy and Willow. Buffy notices that Willow wants Oz’s attention, which is currently being mesmorized by Veruca, off Veruca a bit. So Buffy pipes in and asks Oz about his band. He responds slowly with a distracted response and quickly returns to staring at Veruca singing. Buffy gives Willow a “sorry, I tried” expression and Willow responds with a silent “darn, but thank you for trying” look. In this interchange we have no words spoken, lots of subtlety, and I completely understand what’s going on. Like I said before: brilliant!

The scene doesn’t end there though. Willow still tries to get Oz’s attention and says, “they’re good, aren’t they?” Oz responds, “nothing special.” Buffy then sweetly tries to help her again and says, “yeah … color me bored.” Giles then completely ruins their attempts by complimenting Veruca. Buffy then immediately gives him a “GILES! Don’t say that” wide-eyed look even though he doesn’t notice her. This is when Willow gets a really worried look on her face like she can sense there’s big trouble ahead.

Trouble is indeed what’s quickly happening. Not too far later Willow catches Oz and Veruca chatting at a table together. She looks a bit surprised and worry for a second, but then puts on her brave face and marches forward to jump into the conversation. Unlike Buffy, who would feel hurt and run off, Willow is able to suck it up and face the conflict. Good for her! This scene, with the three of them sitting at a table together, is incredibly awkward for all of them. Willow ends up being a bit embarassed by mistaking their musician talk for the name of a song. Oz takes off first quickly followed by Veruca, who manages to sneak in a quick insult about Willow’s “birthday cake” shirt.

It turns out Veruca is, of course, a werewolf. Oz ends up escaping his cage and fighting (among other things) with Veruca. This leads to a speech from her about Oz’s nature, which while heavy-handed at times, gets the point across. She says, “you’re a wolf all the time and this human face is just your disguise.” He pushes her dialog off and is able to leave for now. A bit later, Willow stops by his dorm room dressed up all in leather like Veruca which is strange, yet touching at the same time. She wants to have sex with him but he pushes her away. He says “nothing’s wrong,” and I genuinely feel that he believes that right now. He thinks he’ll be able to push Veruca away and that it won’t be an issue. What’s really surprising is that he doesn’t tell Willow what happened the previous night, or that he even got out of his cage. At least he doesn’t try to deny it when Buffy catches him welding his cage back together.

Willow, now very confused, goes to Xander for some advice from the male side of the species. Xander tells her exactly what she needs to know and manages to be very amusing at the same time. He says, “But you are [jealous and worried]. And odds are, he feels it. I’ll bet that’s all there is to the weird you’re feeling. You guys should talk things out, Will. You’ll both feel better.” Here’s yet another piece of evidence to support what people just begin to notice of Xander in S7.

Anyway, Buffy investigates to see if Oz knew anything about the loose wolves the previous night and notices that he got out. One thing that really bugs me here is that he doesn’t tell Buffy that Veruca is the other wolf. It’s always been in Oz’s character to be open and straightforward with people and I feel that this is a a bit out of character. Later when the sun goes down and Veruca meets him by his cage, they begin kissing and end up doing who knows what together as wolves. This could also be interpreted as out of character, but I’m willing to excuse his actions based on the fact that he’d never been with a female wolf before. It’s likely he didn’t know how powerful his attraction to one would be, especially right when he’s changing into a wolf.

The next morning Willow comes to bring Oz some food and finds him completely naked cuddled up around a naked Veruca. This scene involves lots of fabulous acting from both Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green. Oz brings up the Willow/Xander ‘thing’ back in S3 but she points out it’s not even close to the same, and she’s right. She’s also correct when she tells Oz he should have told someone about what was going on and that locking Veruca up with him wasn’t his only option by a long shot. During all of this Oz yells at Veruca to leave the room, which is very effective, and admits to Willow that he does have lusty feelings towards Veruca along with the fact that he wants Veruca more, in an animal way, than her. This is when Willow completely breaks down and storms off barely being able to keep herself from falling over. Her reaction is very reminiscent of Buffy’s in “Innocence” [2×14] .

Later on Buffy tells Willow “The main thing is put the blame where it belongs.” I think this statement was remembered by Willow long after this episode. Not only does she begin a dangerous cycle of turning to the darkest black magic available to her every time she is emotionally traumatized, but Buffy’s words to her also fit every time she does it. Obviously Buffy never meant for Willow to hurt herself in the process of putting the blame where it belongs. Willow has taken that phrase and twisted it to fit her own desires and motivations. This is very cool setup for what’s to come and is also able to serve the issues that are currently in front of everyone.

After failing to go all the way on her dark spell, Veruca tries to kill her and Oz ends up killing Veruca while trying to protect Willow. Now in full werewolf form, Oz charges after Willow and Buffy tranquilizes him. Willow loses it again and starts just pouring streams of tears out while Buffy holds her, just like Willow held Buffy when she was in pain during “The Prom” [3×20] . This is very touching and sad to watch. After all of this Oz makes the decision to leave town, to figure things out. He says to Willow, “Veruca was right about something. The wolf is inside me all the time, and I don’t know where that line is anymore between me and it. And until I figure out what that means, I shouldn’t be around you… Or anybody.” He kisses her and then abruptly leaves. While in his van he looks back to the dorm, very much in pain and wanting to run back to her, but instead sucks it in and drives away. Bye Oz, you’ve been highly entertaining to watch and I will definitely miss you.

Before I wrap up this review I’d like to point out a few interesting pieces of development for Giles. Early in the episode he appears at the Bronze just to hang out with the Scoobies. This obviously surprises all of them, who aren’t used to him being around for anything other than work. I like how Oz says, “Don’t scoff, gang. I’ve seen Giles’ collection. He was an animal in his day.” Xander, though, as knowing as he is simply jumps to the heart of the problem. He says, “Isn’t home that empty place you’re trying to escape?” Further along in the episode we see Giles guessing answers to a game show on TV with a sweat shirt on. He sure isn’t the tweed-clad stuffy Watcher anymore, that’s for sure.

This episode is an emotional ride which explores and develops Oz’s werewolf nature (which should have been talked about more in S3). It also develops Willow’s budding magic habit and devastes her emotionally in the process. So a lot of important character threads are moved along and Oz ends up leaving — quite the episode, though not perfect. Fortunately the writers got the vast majority of it right.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy’s relocate and disappointment that the vamp didn’t get her pun.
+ Spike’s macho speech being interrupted by the Initiative guys and their tasers. I love how we don’t see what happened to him until the next episode.
+ Willow’s explanation of why they keep going back to the Bronze. It’s a “place blanky.”
+ Willow is cute when she wakes up with Oz in the morning.
+ Buffy making Willow academically jealous of her for the first time.
+ The collection of infomation we’ve been sprinkled about Xander’s family.
+ Buffy doesn’t save Willow from being hit by the car — Riley does. Cool. I also liked Buffy’s silent “thank you” to Riley afterwards.
+ Buffy telling Oz that it’s time for his trademark stoicism.
+ Buffy telling Giles she doesn’t want Willow to use her as a role model for dealing with pain.


Foreshadowing

* Riley briefly gives Buffy a glance of interest when she leaves after overhearing Professor Walsh talking about the “wild dogs.”
* The episode begins the pattern in Willow where when she is seriously emotionally hurt she’ll use the darkest magicks available to her to exact vengeance on those who caused her the pain. She isn’t able to actually go through with it here, but she very well does in “Tough Love” [5×19] and “Villains” [6×20]. The road to Dark Willow is being paved right here!


[Score]

90/100

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57 thoughts on “Buffy 4×06: Wild at Heart”

  1. [Note: 20questionsgenius posted this comment on February 20, 2006.]

    I completely agree with you MikeJer, that some of the things Oz does throughout this episode are a bit out of character. I had always loved Oz and thought he was way cool and so great with Willow. So I hated that in this episode, which is pretty much the last time we see him, he did some things that made me go “Oz what the hell are you thinking?” I hated that when he, Willow, and Veruca are sitting at the table together Oz gets up and just leaves Willow there alone. To me that just seemed so, for lack of a better word, mean. I know that he gets up because he’s uncomfortable with the feelings he has around Veruca, but he and Willow had made plans and he just up and walks away leaving Willow alone. To me the worst and most un-Oz like thing he does this episode in my opinion is the kiss he and Veruca share, when he’s pleading with her to get in the cage with him. I know that the sun was almost down, so their animal instincts were about to kick in, but when they kissed they were both still in human form and Oz knew what he was doing. Oz has never been one to act rashly or give into spur of the moment passion. And in “Fear Itself” when Oz thinks that he is starting to wolf out, he talks himself down from it and holds the werewolf inside. I hated Oz when he kissed Veruca and I hated him even more when Willow found them together. Willow is my favorite character after Spike, so to see her in so much pain broke my heart. However, at the end I was back to loving Oz again. The conversation between him and Willow at the end brings me to tears everytime because you can just feel the pain and hurt and sadness going through both of them. The part that gets me everytime is where Willow says “Oz… Don’t you love me?” and he says, “My whole life… I’ve never loved anything else.” Oh Oz.

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  2. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on February 20, 2006.]

    Yeah, it was all a bit rushed, hence the apparent out-of-character-ness.

    I always hoped Oz would show up on Angel after this (as JW has intimated that he was going to) – I loved the Angel/Doyle/Cordelia/Oz team they had going in In The Dark. 🙂

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  3. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 20, 2006.]

    20, I understand your feelings completely. I like Willow a lot too and it’s always rough seeing her in a lot of pain.

    Grounded, that combo on AtS was really fun to watch

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  4. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on February 25, 2006.]

    two no-talks and two talk-way-too-much: yeah, that would’ve been great… but I often missed Oz’s pointed comments; anyone graduation day pt. 2: “our life is really different from the life of others” in willow’s bedroom when she tells him about invisible farns and communication with shrimp… or “we attack the mayor with hummus” after Cordelia tells that it’s difficult to come up with a crazier plan…

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  5. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on May 26, 2006.]

    Mikejer, I’ve just seen “Wild at Heart” (I’m still catching up with episodes I missed from season 4) and I notice that you’ve said in your review that Oz has always tended to be open and straightforward with people. Maybe so, but he hasn’t always volenteered information, and there’s nothing to suggest that he doesn’t prefer to sort out problems he can himself. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s some evidence that he would have thought it was a problem that he could solve better himself, given his perspective, rather than leave it to the rest of the gang. He doesn’t actually tell Buffy anything that isn’t true, he just witholds information, much in the style of “Phases”. In a way, there’s evidence that it’s in character for him to react in this way.

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  6. [Note: jun posted this comment on May 19, 2007.]

    A small and random point: Oz wasn’t living in a dorm. It was mentioned in an earlier ep that he got “a house off-campus with the band.”

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  7. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 22, 2007.]

    I want to emphasize the significance of Willow’s spell in this episode, the actual words of it. Here’s the incantation, word-for-word:

    “I conjure thee, by Barabbus, by Satanis, and the Devil. As thou art burning, let Oz and Veruca’s deceitful hearts be broken. I conjure thee, by the Saracen Queen, in the name of hell. Let them find no love or solace, Let them find no peace as well. Let this image seal this fate, Not to love, only hate.”

    First, there’s no missing where this magic is going to come from, what kinds of powers Willow is invoking. But the spell itself, what she’s calling down on Veruca and Oz alike! This isn’t Cordelia spitefully cutting Xander’s face out of pictures or making frivolous wishes. Willow knows what she’s doing and knows that it’s real. She only just stops herself because she happens to need Oz’s picture as a component in the spell. The fact that evil, evil Veruca refers to it approvingly as “hardball” only underscores the point.

    Right here is the birth of Dark Willow. Scar-ee.

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  8. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 22, 2007.]

    Re: Oz acting out of character, I think that’s central to the point of the episode. When Oz is the wolf, his human self has no control over his behavior – people, even including Willow, are merely food (we saw this in Phases). He can’t be responsible for his actions as the wolf, which is why he pre-empts those actions by locking himself in a cage while he’s still human.

    But the premise of the episode is that the wolf side is taking over his human side – that his human self is becoming less and less responsible for his behavior altogether, moon or no moon. That’s why he leaves. If it was just a passing infatuation with Veruca, who’s dead now, there’d be no reason for him to go. He goes because he’s more and more becoming an “animal” all the time.

    If we’re going to buy that, we need to see it in his behavior. We need to see him doing things that Oz, our Oz, Willow’s Oz, would never do. Veruca’s the symptom, not the disease – otherwise, it makes no sense for Oz to leave.

    By the way, I’m not sure I agree that what Willow nearly did (would have done) with Xander was completely different from Oz with Veruca. But Willow is a killer debater, even (maybe especially) when she’s most upset. She’s very good at putting herself in the right and the other person in the wrong. We’ll see that with her and Tara in seasons five and six.

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  9. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 24, 2007.]

    I think my point is that, sweet as they were together and right for each other as they were in many ways, Willow and Oz were never going to “make it.” First of all, happiness is boring television. Also, I think one of the points the show makes as an ongoing thing is that “love” is (and should be) something different for kids than for adults. Youth is a time to experiment, learn, and grow, not a time to make life-long commitments. That’s not to endorse the Parker philosophy, but only to point out that what seems unique and eternal to the characters isn’t necessarily so.

    So Xander’s romance with Cordelia is always played more-or-less for laughs. The flaws, the ways in which they are wrong for each other and the ways in which they aren’t ready for commitment, are fairly obvious, even though they themselves are sincere and at least think that it *might* be the one great love. But the first little bump in the road breaks them up for good.

    What Oz and Willow had was deeper and meant more, but it was similarly doomed, and not just because Seth Green left the series. If his wolfiness hadn’t wrecked things, her witchiness would have, as it did with Tara. In fact, in Wild At Heart things teeter on that very point when Willow is about to finish her hair-raising curse. That she doesn’t, and that he manages to launch the wolf at Veruca first (because the Oz-wolf doesn’t love Willow any more than it loves Veruca or anything else except bloodshed) are the two things that enable them to part under less than tragic circumstances.

    I often think that the reason the writers let Willow be happy in romance longer than the other Scoobies (first with Oz and then with Tara) is so that they could squash her all the more cruelly afterwards, because Allyson Hannigan plays squashed-like-a-bug so movingly and believably.

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  10. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 4, 2007.]

    I agree with all that have been said here. This is really sad to watch, especially when Willow is crying her heart out and the final scene with her and Oz. I also have to agree with mike about the scene where Oz looks at the dorm wanting to go back but instead pulls himself together and goes. I love that small moment.

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  11. [Note: Jvamp posted this comment on June 22, 2008.]

    I find this episode nearly ruined by the girl who played Veruca’s diabolical acting and singing. Cringe-worthy.

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  12. [Note: Steph posted this comment on July 7, 2008.]

    Hah… I agree with Jvamp. When she was singing, it looked incredibly awkward. However, the music, itself, was not too bad.

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  13. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    Re: Veruca’s singing – haha, agreed, very…throaty. But kind of strangely hypnotic, which I guess was what they were going for.

    I loved the character of Oz and I thought he had brilliant lines always… In the commentary of Earshot (S3) Jane Espensen noted that the writers always found it extremely difficult to write for Oz, simply because he said so little that when he did say something it had to be rrrreally good – a couple instants that come to mind are his and Xander’s conversation about what makes someone cool in The Zeppo, or his thoughts in Earshot (“Buffy thinks, therefore… we are…”) were amazing – and I think they always did a fantastic job. Seth Green was great as Oz, delivering lines like, “Maybe.” or “Not the way I play it.” and getting a huge laugh from them.

    Also wanted to comment on that + of Spike’s intimidating speech in the beginning getting hilariously interrupted by the Commandos… Small stuff like that is what makes Joss Whedon and all his shows/etc genius. The evil villain, about to make a general evil villain speech, the music starts to rise and becomes tense, the camera zooms in ultra-dramatically on Spike’s smoldering – evil, I mean, evil – cheekbones, and then BAM: pie in the face! Or, in this case, laser guns to the back. Classic Joss. I lol (literally) every time. After a while you begin to sense when Joss is going to do this – it’s pretty consistent in Buffy when some character is about to take him- or herself too seriously, but in Angel I found myself almost confused when they allowed Angel to get away with making his painfully melodramatic speeches *without* following it up with a laugh. I guess that’s one of the differences between the series, though.

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  14. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    Re: Melodramatic speeches – In season 7 Buffy had a lot of melodramatic speeches without following it up with a laugh. So Angel doesn’t have the exclusive rights for it.Also they do make fun of Angel’s speeches especially in S5(“Weren’t you even listening!?” -ha!).

    I really loved how the made fun of Spike in S4. Too bad in S5 and onward they took sucked the fun out Spike.

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  15. [Note: bigmoneygrip posted this comment on October 29, 2008.]

    The way Buffy held Willow as she cried at the end reminded me of the way Xander held Willow as she cried at the end of Grave.

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  16. [Note: MrTrick posted this comment on November 1, 2008.]

    And there he goes. Too bad, really, as Oz is one of my favorite characters in the entire show. And then we get Tara instead, who doesn’t really do much other than stutter and say “darling” a whole lot.

    I agree with the whole melodramaticism followed up with a laugh thing, which is so consistent it really loses a lot of its impact after a while. There aren’t many episodes that doesn’t start with “scary suspenseful scene” that turns out to be something different entirely, or just blown off, like with Spike in this one.

    Overall though, this is a pretty good episode, despite some flaws that’s already been pointed out. I also loved how they actually let Oz kill Veruca. Too often they let people get away with murder on this show, just on account of them being people, while demons who act just the same can be beaten up and killed without a second glance (see for example the one in s3 who wants to sell the books of ascension). There’s some real demon-related racism going on here.

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  17. [Note: JoeW posted this comment on March 15, 2009.]

    I like Tara more than Mr. Trick, above, does. I think she has some of the strongest moments in “The Body,” for example, especially near the end when she’s talking about her own mother’s death. (“It’s always sudden.”)

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  18. [Note: Emily posted this comment on April 27, 2009.]

    “I know what you love. I have his scent on me right now.” I don’t think this is necessarily foreshadowing, but I think it’s karma bites back for Oz when he smells Willow on Tara later on.

    “…they begin kissing and end up doing who knows what together as wolves. This could also be interpreted as out of character, but I’m willing to excuse his actions based on the fact that he’d never been with a female wolf before.”

    I agree with you about excusing his actions, but only so far as to say that kissing Veruca was OOC. That’s not the only thing about this that was OOC. Oz willingly surrendered here to the nature of the wolf. THAT’S what’s OOC here- the fact that he gave in, when he always fought against it before. That’s not something I can excuse, and I don’t think it was well done by the writers.

    I miss Oz!!

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  19. [Note: Emily posted this comment on April 27, 2009.]

    Also, SERIOUSLY with the army green clothes? I never noticed it before, but Buffy is pretty much wearing green and green only since the beginning of the season.

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  20. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on May 12, 2009.]

    I always thought that Oz was doing whatever it took to get Veruca into that cage, even if
    it meant giving in to his attraction to her. It seemed premeditated to me, and it was
    completely in character for Oz to try and protect others from Veruca the werewolf.
    However, he could have shared everything with the rest of the gang and a solution could
    have been found. Maybe this is a flaw in Oz’s character – the reticence is a result of his conflict
    between his love for Willow and lust for Veruca – and explains his actions somewhat. I thought
    this episode deepened Oz’s character a lot and it’s too bad there was no opportunity
    to explore it later on in the show.

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  21. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 8, 2009.]

    This episode breaks my heart every time I see it. While some of his behaviour is OOC, one of the things that upsets me every time is that Oz tries to equate what he’s done with Veruca with what Willow and Xander did in s3. As Willow said, it doesn’t compare. She and Xander kissed; several times, but in the end all they did was kiss. Oz (willingly, the second time) had wild animal sex with Veruca. There really is no comparison

    As previously noted, Willow immediately tries a spell as a solution to the situation. Everyone talks about how Willow’s intyerest in magick stems from a desire for power, so isn’t it realistic that in this time of feeling so extremely powerless, she would try to regain some semblance of power? And in the end, her love for Oz prevents her from completing the spell.

    Interesting note, this is the very first episode of Buffy that made me cry. I started to tear up when Willow tells Oz “Don’t touch me!” and by the end I am bawling like a little baby.

    This episode is such a wonderful showcase of Alyson Hannigan’s talent. Idon’t mean to denigrate Seth Green or anyone else in the episode, except for the actress who played Veruca, who was truly awful, but tgis was Aly’s show all the way.

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  22. [Note: Wulvaine posted this comment on November 15, 2009.]

    This episode makes me sad in a way few in the entire series can.

    To begin with, Oz is one of my favorite characters in the Buffyverse, and I wish Seth Green hadn’t decided to pursue film, because I would have loved to see his character claim a more central role in the series.

    I do understand that Seth’s decision forced the writers’ hands, this sudden lust for Veruca seems very un-Oz.

    I feel like quite a few things the writers had to have Oz do to usher him away from Sunnydale were out of character, some only slightly but some SEVERELY. The kiss with Veruca? Oz trying to justify his actions by referencing the Xander/Willow kiss? This is not the Oz we know and love.

    And I’m a big fan of the Oz/Willow pairing, so to see him go and to see Willow’s heart break like this… 😦 I think it’s a testament to Whedon and ME’s writing team that I can get so attached to the characters in this show that I begin to show mild symptoms of becoming a shipper.

    In terms of drama, though, it does its job well, and Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green both knock the ball out of the park and into orbit here. I just wish Oz could have been more in-character here, or better, that Seth could have stayed with the show.

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  23. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on June 2, 2010.]

    I agree that the writers did about as well as they could with the circumstances. I suppose killing Oz off would have ruined the opportunity for Dark Willow later on, when Willow’s powers are stronger and it’s more realistic. It would have been nice to see some prior indication that the wolf is creeping into Oz’s everyday life more. But even so, I agree that this is a fantastic and heart-wrenching episode. It amazes me that they get from that incredibly sweet morning bedroom scene between Oz and Willow to the heartbreaking end in just one episode.

    What’s interesting about this episode is that, in Season 3, Oz was the most emotionally mature of the teen characters. Here we see that, while Xander, Buffy, and Willow are growing up, Oz in a way moves *backwards*. But this is pretty realistic: growing up isn’t just this steady progression of maturity: people go through phases where they’re depressed, irresponsible, etc all the time. And this happens to adults as well as teens.

    MikeJer, when you do your second pass in the reviews, I’d be interested to see a little more commenting on Giles’ development in this episode. I’m not sure I understood your point here.

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  24. [Note: Elbie posted this comment on June 15, 2010.]

    I think a few things to note about Oz’s character is first he has hidden crucial information from the Scoobies (as was mentioned). When they were searching for the wolf (him) in season two, he was afraid to come forward. Additionally, along with being a hilarious character, we don’t really get a back-story on Oz. We don’t even hear his real name until season four! All we really know of him is how much he loves and respects Willow. Xander was correct to say that Oz is sensing Willow’s jealousy. So do you think that he really could have gone to her and tell her? I think he’s not acting out of character here, I think he’s acting like a 19 or 20 year old.

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  25. [Note: Giles_314 posted this comment on August 27, 2010.]

    I feel like it was completely in character for Oz to behave like he did in this episode, and I think that the only reason it doesn’t feel like that is because there hasn’t been a whole lot of focus on Oz until this point, with the exception of the occasional episode here and there.

    I think that the real story of Oz is a story of repressed passion. Passion in the sense of emotion, anger, and sexuality. The only consistent emotion we really see from Oz is love for Willow. But not a crazy, animal love. A very cerebral, tender love. Not to discount that, but I think it is clear that Oz is repressing his animal nature.

    This is of course represented by the wolf. Just like Veruca says, the wolf is a part of Oz, and the fact that he denies it only gives it more power over him. He is obviously sexually attracted to Veruca, but because he blames it on “the wolf” he can justify not telling Willow or Buffy about it. But he is wrong. The wolf is very much a part of him, and the fact that he denies that does not excuse him from blame. That is why he leaves at the end of the episode. He needs to learn how to reconcile his “human” side and his “wolf” side, just as we all must learn how to reconcile our cerebral, logical sides and our passionate, emotional sides.

    So I don’t think his actions are out of character. My biggest complaint is that this all happens over so short of time: one episode. It feels like, had circumstances been different, it would have played out over the course of the season. But I think that this was always the journey and story that Oz was meant to have: a man who represses his emotions and therefore allows them to control him more than they would otherwise. A werewolf.

    So, yeah. That’s my view, at least.

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  26. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on September 2, 2010.]

    Good:

    Giles at the Bronze and Buffy thinking there must be an emergency.

    7 annual minutes. Sounds about right.

    The scene where Willow finds Oz and Veruca.

    Oz raises his voice.

    The heartbreaking ending.

    Bad:

    Willow wanted to fool around with Oz, yet later said she didn’t have much time.

    The car doesn’t even attempt to brake or swerve or slow down to avoid Willow. Not realistic.

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  27. [Note: Nobody posted this comment on December 23, 2011.]

    Am I the only one who didn’t really like Oz? I mean sure, he was funny and all, but he never really seemed to contribute that much to the group. Buffy was the strength, Xander the heart, Willow the cute but powerful one, Cordelia the narcissistic, surprisingly deep one, and Oz…the occasionally funny guy who is also a werewolf. I just don’t get all this love for him. In fact, I was sort of glad to see him go. As for this episode, I also don’t understand all the love for it. Just don’t get it. For me, it was actually quite boring. Though I won’t deny the emotional factor, “Wild at Heart” is a mediocre episode that sends off a mediocre character.

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  28. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 23, 2011.]

    For me, Nobody, Oz was mostly just a fun character to have around — mostly involving his mannerisms and speech, or lack there of. I agree that he wasn’t one of the better developed characters. It took until Season 4 before the writers started paying some serious attention to him, and then he left the show. I wasn’t heartbroken to see Oz go, but I do think it’s a shame he was just starting to become more than a one-note character right before he left.

    I like “Wild at Heart” because it not only continues to explore Oz in more depth, but also because of its effect on Willow. Where Willow almost allows herself to go in response to her anger and pain is incredibly revealing.

    On top of all of that, it packs a pretty solid emotional punch. Altogether, I think it’s a pretty good episode.

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  29. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 23, 2011.]

    Hi Nobody, I enjoyed Oz because he seemed like a nice contrast to the Scoobies, who all are generally fairly animated. Oz was so laconic and unfazed by everything, which provided a nice counterpoint to the others in many scenes. (Also, in other shows, I’m used to seeing Seth Greene act much, much more animated so it was interesting to see him play low-key.) And I appreciated Oz for recognizing that Willow actually was very cool and pretty. That said, I wasn’t sorry that Oz left the show when he did (although I did have a brief “Awww, bummer, Oz is leaving” moment). I don’t know–he might have gone on to be a more interesting character, but the timing of his departure felt right to me. I think Willow’s story becomes much more interesting following his departure.

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  30. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 25, 2011.]

    I was always fond of Oz, he wasn’t the quintessential Buffy the Vampire Slayer character, he was intelligent but didn’t apply himself, also extraordinary deep which was made palpable in Earshot when Buffy could hear thoughts, Oz was having some philosophical thoughts!

    The opposite to Cordelia who was shallow on the surface but deep when you looked hard enough Oz was full of depth, which he communicated through his silence.

    I enjoyed the relationship he had with WIllow, the straight forwardness and the lengths he would go to to protect her like in choices.

    I also thought that the werewolf story was insightful, allowing us to see both a weakness and a strength within him.

    Oz added a bit of a somewhat normality to BtVS, a pal for Xander and lets face it when Oz had something to say it was always genius. Great quotes!

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  31. [Note: Nobody posted this comment on December 31, 2011.]

    MikeJer, I suppose I do agree that it was interesting to see Willow’s character react to Oz’s departure, which subsequently also led to some very nice acting.

    I can also see where keekey’s coming from, I suppose, but again, he just never really clicked for me. And yes, Gemma, Oz’s friendship with Xander was interesting (just wish they had explored this more) and he did have some great lines.

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  32. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on February 7, 2012.]

    I’m surprised there was no mention of how this episode adds to Willow’s arc of trying to conceal her true personality and put on a “costume” (as it was called in “Restless”). Throughout S4, we see Willow go from a cuddly girl to a woman who wants to be sexier and bolder, and I love how this adds another layer to her magic-power arc. Maybe in seeing how Oz reacted to Veruca, Willow subconsciously starts wanting to be more like that sexy woman she thinks a guy like Oz truly wants (she’s too insecure to believe that he could want her above all others). Any woman can relate to that, and it’s interesting (and heart-breaking at times) to see Willow go through that transition, esp. since Buffy is naturally very sexy while Willow struggles with wanting to be but not feeling like she is.

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  33. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on February 7, 2012.]

    Btw, I like Giles_314’s interpretation of Oz’s actions, makes sense and sounds like the kind of theme/metaphor the writers would want to explore.

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  34. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on March 30, 2012.]

    this might be a stupid question but why isnt what willow did to oz in season 3 the same as what oz did to willow in this episode???

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  35. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on April 24, 2012.]

    Mike, i must say i agree with you, Buffy’s statement to Willow; Put the blame where it belongs is remembered by Willow for seasons to come, its a piece of advice that perhaps drove some of the actions in season 5 when she attacked Glory for what she did to Tara and once again in season 6 when she went after Warren, Jonathan and Andrew.

    I enjoy this episode, pure and simple. Its a second in the trilogy for Oz and Willow. Resonating with Willow isn’t difficult but i also feel for Oz and the inner struggle he has with the wolf. His actions are although slightly similar to WIllow and Xander’s actions are in some way different. He looses who he is, Oz the person when he becomes the wolf but there was an attraction or an interest, when he was Oz.

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  36. [Note: JWH posted this comment on July 1, 2012.]

    I’ll write the minority report on what Oz did to Willow and what Willow did to Oz here since I think Oz was more sinned against than sinning. From the outset of their relationship, Oz had to wait on Willow to get over Xander. He won’t kiss her in that early scene in the van in Innocence (S2x14) because “to the casual observer, it would appear you’re trying to make your friend Xander jealous, and that’s on the empty side.” Later, she actually does go off and kiss Xander. No, it isn’t sex, but then, Willow was still a virgin at that point and hadn’t had sex with Oz either. At that point in her life, kissing was just a meaningful as sex (would later be). Furthermore, there are signs she’s more motivated by alleviating guilt than actually making things right with Oz. She wants to talk, but Oz correctly senses that this is more about making herself feel better than giving him what he needs. Still, Oz cares about Willow, and he’s realistic enough to know that these kinds of problems can’t be solved by just one side of the pair, even if it happens to be true that only one side of the pair is guilty. He sees past that, he offers her genuine forgiveness, and they move on. He’s even cool with Xander later, and he’s mature enough not to accept Willow’s offer of sex as an apology.

    Willow, by contrast, is completely unable to forgive him for a much lesser transgression. Yes, there’s an attraction between Oz and Veruca, but I think Buffy’s right that it’s just a temporary lust and not anything meaningful. Oz does not have an emotional history with Veruca like Willow had with Xander, his attraction to her is two parts sexual and one part simple confusion (he doesn’t know that much about his wolf nature, and he’s never encountered another wolf before – certainly not a female wolf). It is patently obvious that Oz’ encounter with Veruca means a lot less to him than Willow’s encounter with Xander meant to her, and that Oz will be able to get over it, given time. In fact, Oz is already trying to get over it at the moment it is discovered.

    None of this is to say that what Oz did was right. It’s a betrayal, certainly. And I agree with other commenters that his biggest mistake, really, is not going to anyone for help with it. Trying to deal with all this on his own is what really got him into trouble (a recurring theme on this show).

    But it’s still the case that Oz’ attraction is a temporary animal lust that will go away, not “a part of [him] that [Willow] can’t touch,” to repurpose something that Buffy said to Willow about Xander and how Oz must feel about that. And it’s still the case that when Willow cheated on Oz, Oz went off and dealt with it. Willow immediately reaches for vengeful magic that – it is implied – would have been as harmful to Oz as to Veruca. As someone else pointed out, it’s only because Oz’s picture happened to be a spell component – and even so she only stops herself at the last minute.

    The way Willow treats Oz is unfair. She owes him better. But it’s also in character – in fact is a great example of the stellar characterization on this show. Willow’s relationships don’t have much of a sexual dimension; sex is something she’s deeply insecure about. She would like to be sexy but doesn’t feel she is. So, the fact that Oz’s attraction to Veruca is an animal lust really hits Willow in her weak spot. She can’t see that lust will fade because like everyone who is insecure about sex, she overrates its power.

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  37. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 1, 2012.]

    JWH,

    I have to disagree with you. Willow was not unfair. For one, Oz basically slept with Veruca, and two, Oz was kind of a hypocrite in this episode. My reason for this is that Willow said they made an agreement not to do anything like this, and what does Oz do? He breaks the agreement. Also the fact that Oz was mad at Willow for kissing Xander and then he goes and sleeps with Veruca is, like I said, hypocritical. I don’t know, in my opinion what Oz did with Veruca was worse than what Willow did with Xander. I guess it all depends on perspective though.

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  38. [Note: Mike posted this comment on July 14, 2012.]

    Love your reviews and I agree with most of what you wrote here except the part where oz’ behavior was out of character. He always acts abit weird when it comes about his werewolfness. he was all freaked out about it in both previous episodes and didnt act like “himself” in those either imo. I imagine these transformations being really weird and confusing for him to deal with.

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  39. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 24, 2012.]

    Willow seems to have a tendency to take Buffy’s advice literally to a fault… like in WTTH where she seizes the day with a vampire. There’s probably some other example. Then with this blame… as we’ve seen before Willow can be awfully literal. I liked the heart the heart she had with Xander. She hasm’t really talked to him like that in a while. Even though Xander has never been in a steady serious relationship like Willow (Cordelia never reached that kind of depth) he gives her some sage advice much like what Willow was saying to Buffy during the Angel confusing times. I love scenes in Xander’s basement.

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  40. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on February 27, 2013.]

    I’ll stop a few minutes here, because I thought this was stellar in characters.

    Before bashing Oz, put yourselves in his shoes and think. You’re a werewolf !! It means that 3 days a month, you worry about not hurting or worse, killing anybody. It means that there’s a beast inside you that hasn’t taken over, but we see here with Veruca, that it’s only a matter of time before more primal instincts take over.

    Oz is secretive, insightful, has always been faithful, respectful and loves Willow only.

    If Veruca hadn’t been a werewolf, Oz would never have looked her way. It’s his wolf part that took interest. Like JWH, I’m not saying he’s all white, but his behavior is not unlike everyone else on the show: he’s trying to deal with the issue alone, and fails. How many of us, when we feel guilty (mereley hours or minutes after a fact) and utterly confused would confess on the spot ? Doesn’t it take at least a day to digest and then try to find the best strategy to announce your fault without hurting the one you love ? In this case, he hasn’t committed a crime yet.

    Then everyone is saying that Oz is reversing the roles by raising the Willow/Xander story. He doesn’t really, he states that he knows what it feels like to be betrayed and that puts his guilt even higher. So, I totally understand Willow’s outburst because it comes out in the moment, with emotions blinding her judgement.

    But her story with Xander lasted a few weeks ! Oz’s one night with Veruca was pure beast instinct. So, no, you can’t compare the two, for me, Willow was much more guilty.

    What I like is the contrast between Angel and Oz. It takes Angel three years and a lot of external pushing for him to go away. It takes Oz just one event to realize that he can be a danger for Willow (emotionally and physically). He leaves because he loves her, because he wants to be with her but only if he can be completely himself, in control of his inner beast.

    The scene in which Willow goes insanely dark is scary if you listen to what she’s invoking ! I just regret there weren’t any immediate repercussions about it. Anyway, another episode that shows Xander’s depth, Giles’ changes and loneliness and Buffy’s justified worries. I also like that we see how much Xander can be of help when friends are emotionally distressed and how much Buffy doesn’t know how to deal with her wounded friends.

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  41. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on March 16, 2013.]

    MikeJer, I completely agree with your grade of A-minus.

    This is one of a few episodes that lie just outside my own Top 25. At times, it comes close to breaking in, but only because Willow & Oz are my favorite couple — they’re the only I actually both loved and had a decent shot at making it — and watching this breaks my heart every time.

    I can’t objectively place it among the very best, because it feels small-scale for an episode that features the departure of one of the show’s major characters. Also, I find Veruca annoying rather than seductive — I don’t know if that was intentional, but it certainly makes the scenario feel even less plausible, contrived as it was to begin with to accommodate Seth Green’s schedule.

    Still, this is without a doubt the best showcase that BtVS ever gave Green to show his range, and even though he wasn’t the best supporting player on the show, he aces this one. Plus, he creates a stunning pas de deux with Alyson Hannigan (who should have won an Emmy for this performance), resulting in teary eyes every time I watch this.

    Sigh. I love this show, and I love your reviews, Mike, which keep getting better as you go along. You are really honing your analytical skills even more, and your voice is becoming stronger and more distinct. I’m really looking forward to reading your updated reviews, and I hope all is well with you at your new job. 🙂

    Be well

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  42. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 16, 2013.]

    Thanks! All is very well so far, although I’ve been incredibly busy getting up to speed with everything. Life is beginning to settle back down again though, so the updated reviews should be starting up very soon.

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  43. [Note: guttersnipe posted this comment on April 23, 2014.]

    I have to say, I’m pretty surprised by all the positivity. I just rewatched this episode, with hope in my heart that it would endear itself to me more, as with recent revisits to “When She Was Bad” and “The Zeppo”. No dice.

    One of the multivarious things I’m keen to champion about BTVS, especially when promoting the show to non-viewers, its typical deftness with the supernatural and ability to utilise it as a metaphor for more mundane situations in everyday life. I’m less fond of it when the supernatural angle is applied in a thunderingly transparent manner, especially when its rushed, mechanical and seemingly an invite to dislike a hitherto amiable character.

    In this episode, a potentially juicy dramatic angle is horseshoed into a single story to frame Oz as an arsehole with a get-out clause. Enter Veruca, played by Paige Moss (who I recently spotted in Seinfeld’s “The Muffin Tops”), delivering her lines whilst tilting her head to one side and staring into the mid-distance. Veruca is twisted, spiteful, fascist and amoral, sufficiently drunk with power to justify attacking people, gleefully demolishes a loving relationship (“I have his scent on me right now”) and even attempts to kill Willow for being an obstacle. There’s precious little here in the way of three dimensions. She’s included in two episodes before her nature becomes apparent, but does very little other than give Oz reason to stare, which is essentially replicated in this episode so that you can easily skip her appearances in “Living Conditions” and “Beer Bad” and feel like she’s created for this episode alone. She might prove interesting if her character was mapped out more over time, but no, her minor appearance posits no contest whatsoever for our affections in this triangle. She’s even written into such a corner as to be given a repellent name, which might as well be Jezebel or Homewrecker.

    So far, so odious. Now it would be bad enough that she is rendered so sketchy and uncharismatic, but Veruca goes further, installing a prism by which to view Oz. In essence, she poisons him against Willow, the Scoobies and us. The scene where he just walks away from the two girls at the table? You don’t leave your lover awkwardly alone with the person you’re considering jumping ship to. He kisses Veruca before they get into the cage. He re-welds the cage door despite breaking it off pretty easily earlier that episode – is it there to really hold him and Veruca, or make the copulation more likely? He attacks her later whilst still capable of human communication (I’ll readdress this in the ‘niggles’ below). There are concious decisions at work here, not so different from when human Veruca hits Willow at the lab. Yet everything’s blamed on the wolf, though there’s little to suggest beforehand that this was ever taking over his everyday persona (he certainly feared that it would, in “Fear Itself”, which again I’ll readdress). So once we (and Willow) find Oz and Veruca in the cage on the morning after, his first instinct is to try and deflect the blame by stating “I didn’t have a choice”, to which she replies “But you did. You could’ve told somebody. Your solution… just put you two together in a room all night?”. Can’t say I’m ever fond of moments where writers acknowledge that there is another option for the character, and don’t act upon it. Confoundingly, Buffy also suggests a double-occupancy for the cage earlier (“You know, I find wolf number two out on patrol tonight, and you might have a roomie in there”) – you put two vicious, wild animals in a single, closed environment and they’ll either mate or one will kill the other. Eventually the animals do both, with Oz’ brutal mauling of Veruca presumably designed as some means of amends. The result is a calculated exercise in writing a character out with eleventh hour sour memories so we wouldn’t miss him so much, and I’d argue that the writers use the human-wolf duality to attempt an ambiguous position on his actions, which emerges schizophrenic. Moreover, I don’t think I’d approve of any occasion in which an established character is given development boost just to get rid of them in the same heartbeat.

    Now if we look to surrounding Oz episodes, we’re treated to some organic development. In “Fear Itself” he worries that he’ll transform without provocation and hurt his nearest and dearest, an actualised scenario. When he returns in “New Moon Rising”, he’s overcome the moon trigger, but a knot of regret, pain and jealously invokes it anyhow. These are both fascinating and engrossing narrative paths, and make the drama more substantial than simply applying an external influence on a regulated predicament. To wit, Willow knows right from “Phases” that the relationship can work, provided steps can be taken for her safety, a situation that goes out of the window if his transformations eschew prediction.

    My reaction to “Wild at Heart” hasn’t really changed since the first UK broadcast, long before I knew that this story was intended to make for a protracted arc and Seth Green’s decision to leave the show prompted the severe truncation. This is still very early days into Season 4 (Veruca is introduced in the second episode). I don’t recall it being mentioned in Season 3 that Oz is definitely attending UC Sunnydale (I’ll admit, I could be wrong about this), so if Seth wasn’t planning on going any further as Oz he could be written out between S3 and S4, and future exposition could state he’d gone to a different college, or he was working, or travelling, etc. If this is the Willoz equivalent of the Bangel curse, then it’s a satisfying as a mashup of “Innocence”, “Passion” and “Becoming” would be, a rushed hatchet job in place of S2’s careful arc progression.

    It might also be worth mentioning that I’m very fond of the ostensibly-similar “Entropy”, in which an organic approach is employed for Anya’s revenge on Xander. There’s an episode in which a jilted Anya seeks vengeance, and with a little liquid persuasion, sleeps with Spike because he’s there (“It was solace”), hurting Xander in a manner she didn’t predict. Here’s where two well-crafted and endearing characters come together to share a moment of drunken intimacy in the interests of healing, and the masterstroke is that we as an audience can feel for both whilst sharing some heartache with Xander and Buffy. Spike is neither obnoxious nor drafted in just to get Anya to ‘that place’. It certainly doesn’t feel like an episode written to jettison Emma from the show.

    I also have some minor niggles:

    Are we just shrugging off Veruca’s death? In “The Zeppo”, the killing of Jack O’Toole is an invite to laugh and Oz doesn’t remember it. Here, both Willow and Oz do. Now it’s not uncommon in the Buffyverse for a character to kill and have his or her peers compartmentalise it due to circumstances, but here it seemingly plays second fiddle to showing Willow hurt and heartbroken. Deplorable as she is, Veruca is still a souled human 95% of the time. I feel like she’s painted in such a bad light that a human death (and a Scooby’s act of murder) is presented as less significant than upsetting Willow. And don’t get me wrong, Willow’s pain and subsequent character development is more important to the show than a incidental character buying the farm, but there’s a curious morality at work here. It might be worth noting that I’m not someone who asked for more of the Potentials to be put to the sword just for being irritating, I’d have much rather they were simply better written.

    We know that until the end of high school, the Sunnydale police were essentially in the mayor’s pocket and only investigated the crimes he wanted them to. If they’re still not doing their jobs properly, we can assume that the campus is under Initiative jurisdiction. Sunday’s gang made their killings look like the victims had simply bailed, Kathy vanishes and Josh (“Fear Itself”) had an accident. Doesn’t Veruca’s disappearance and Oz’ subsequent drop-out raise a bit of a red flag, especially given that she’s tailed by Initiative soldiers in “Living Conditions”? Are the Initiative inept before they’re even introduced?

    How does Veruca know where to find Willow when she corners her in the lab? Can she just smell her? Is that it?

    Why is the cage so Burtonesque? Even I would know how to design a cage or cell – equidistant vertical and maybe horizontal bars. What’s with all the diagonals and big gaps? Did they call in those German Expressionist designers again?

    Willow being so distressed she nearly walks into traffic, as much a moment from a 30s propaganda film as the car crash with a teen passenger in “Wrecked”. It almost feels like a lack of writerly confidence; “Hmm, Willow’s in emotional pain, but maybe we have to push her into legitimate danger to really sell it”.

    The Scooby Gang’s treatment of Giles when he unexpectedly arrives at the Bronze. He’s been there before, indeed he’s there in episode one. I gather that the intent here is to show Giles at a loose end, but the kids act like this is the height of awkward intrusion. They even seem kinder to Kathy when she does it in “Living Conditions”.

    I’ll take the Shy songs, “How come you didn’t tell me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?” , “Will, I’ve deciphered your ingenious code” and Alyson and Seth’s excellent performances as my salvage.

    In summary, because I can see the strings, I find this episode basically geared to show Willow upset, primarily because “when Alyson cries, everyone cries”, and that strikes me as dishonest. It’s fine to provide foreshadowing (Willow turning to the black arts to ameliorate her situation), but I have to judge the episode on its own merits or lack thereof.

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  44. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on April 23, 2014.]

    Full disclosure, this episode is well within my top 10 for the entire series and I think it is the best episode of Season 4.

    A lot of the things you mentioned here is to me what made the episode so great. There’s a lot of ambiguity, you know Oz did something wrong, but it was explainable and reasonable. It just hurt Willow a lot. I think I’ll go through your 4th paragraph, where the meat is, piece by piece.

    He kisses Veruca before they get into the cage. He re-welds the cage door despite breaking it off pretty easily earlier that episode – is it there to really hold him and Veruca, or make the copulation more likely? He attacks her later whilst still capable of human communication (I’ll readdress this in the ‘niggles’ below). There are concious decisions at work here, not so different from when human Veruca hits Willow at the lab.Yet everything’s blamed on the wolf, though there’s little to suggest beforehand that this was ever taking over his everyday persona (he certainly feared that it would, in “Fear Itself”, which again I’ll readdress).

    Well, no, not everything’s blamed on the wolf because he did this stuff while he was still conscious. The fact of the matter was that Veruca is dangerous, both as a wolf and as a human. She will maul people as a wolf and feels no responsibility to stop herself. So Oz has to find a way to stop her. The only way he can think of (or, if you prefer, the best way for him that he can think of) is to get her into the cage with him by promising sex. It’s one of those decisions that’s sort of win-win. The question for the viewer, and for Willow, is how much of that decision is driven by the attempt to keep everyone safe and how much is driven by his attraction to Veruca?

    So once we (and Willow) find Oz and Veruca in the cage on the morning after, his first instinct is to try and deflect the blame by stating “I didn’t have a choice”, to which she replies “But you did. You could’ve told somebody. Your solution… just put you two together in a room all night?”. Can’t say I’m ever fond of moments where writers acknowledge that there is another option for the character, and don’t act upon it.

    I don’t understand this argument. You believe that Oz probably would have told someone. I think it’s perfectly plausible that he didn’t, for a couple of reasons. First, from an Oz-positive basis, he didn’t really have time. He had Veruca at the cage, and the full moon was coming. He needed to get her in right there. From an Oz-negative perspective, he liked Veruca and telling someone would take away his chance with her. The answer’s somewhere in the middle, but the writers have plenty of reason for Oz to make the decision he did, rather than the alternative Willow suggests.

    Eventually the animals do both, with Oz’ brutal mauling of Veruca presumably designed as some means of amends. The result is a calculated exercise in writing a character out with eleventh hour sour memories so we wouldn’t miss him so much, and I’d argue that the writers use the human-wolf duality to attempt an ambiguous position on his actions, which emerges schizophrenic. Moreover, I don’t think I’d approve of any occasion in which an established character is given development boost just to get rid of them in the same heartbeat.

    So which is it? Are the writers trying to get us to look negatively on Oz so he can leave without us feeling too bad, or get us to blame it on the wolf part so we look at him more positively? The mauling of Veruca is the Anya dilemma in Selfless. Either you kill her or you allow more to be killed by her. They have to take the first option, even if it wrecks Oz personally.

    On the subject of Veruca, I found her interesting. Being a werewolf means your human side has to deal with all the stuff you do as a wolf. Veruca’s approach was to embrace it and forego all care for human life. I find that an interesting decision to make as well as a realistic. It’s better to be awful and be able to live with yourself than the alternative.

    This episode destroys me. Willow and Oz were so good for each other, it hurts that they were torn apart by things that were mostly outside of their control. They each acted reasonably, though not without fault, but sometimes that’s not enough to save a relationship through a rough event. See also Fred and Gunn for a less drastic version of this.

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  45. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on April 24, 2014.]

    You lost me with the comparison to Fred and Gunn. Firstly, their relationship was very shallow to begin with – full of soppy statements and pancake kisses, but lacking in the love and understanding that Willow and Oz had. This is probably more than anything else due to the fact that neither character had developed enough for the coupling to have any semblance of depth. Secondly, their relationship fell apart in Season 4 due to Gunn’s murder of Seidel, completely disregarding Fred’s decision for no reason other than to preserve her innocence. That, to me, suggests a fundamental incompatibility between them, not just the car falling apart when it hits a bump in the road.

    This could be my pro-Buffy bias acting, though, because aside from the obvious, most of the romances on Angel bored me to tears.

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  46. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on April 24, 2014.]

    That is certainly an argument that can be made.

    However “their relationship fell apart in Season 4 due to Gunn’s murder of Seidel, completely disregarding Fred’s decision for no reason other than to preserve her innocence.”

    Don’t underestimate the importance of preventing someone from murdering someone else. I think, if you’re Gunn and you’ve crossed that bridge long ago (though come to think of it, I can’t remember if he actually had or not), that’s a decision you have to make every time, in a relationship or no.

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  47. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on April 24, 2014.]

    Gunn was not a murderer at the time when he murdered the professor. We had not seen him kill anyone in the course of the series and his comments in “Apocalypse, Nowish” seem to back that up.

    So I think it was completely the wrong thing to do. Fred made a choice with how to deal with the situation, and Gunn ignored that decision. If he had refused to allow it to happen and saved Seidel’s life, that would have been understandable, even admirable. But he doesn’t – he chooses to kill the man himself. That’s exactly what Fred was going to do anyway, albeit via a different method, but he does it himself out of the desire to keep Fred pure and sweet. That’s condescending and shows a basic lack of respect – he’s idolising her just in the same way Wes does, in the same way the show itself does. This is why I think their relationship was doomed from the outset.

    Even if you don’t agree with this argument, I don’t quite see the parallel you draw to Willow and Oz. What was your stance?

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  48. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on April 24, 2014.]

    The parallel is that a defensible but morally shaky decision, Oz with locking Veruca in the cage with him, Gunn with the professor, ended up derailing an ongoing, and to that point, fairly issue free relationship.

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  49. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on April 24, 2014.]

    I suppose where I would disagree is that I think Gunn’s decision was far less morally defensible and it showed a defect in the relationship that would continually resurface if they stayed together. It was entirely his fault, whereas Oz’s wolfiness was outside of his control.

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  50. [Note: guttersnipe posted this comment on April 24, 2014.]

    First off I need to mention that I wrote ‘horseshoed’ when I meant ‘shoehorned’. I didn’t even notice this when I previewed the post. Secondly I forgot to mention that I like the pre-credits chase sequence, which Buffy sets up just to keep the slay away from public view and dusts him with ease. Classic BTVS role-reversal.

    I don’t understand this argument. You believe that Oz probably would have told someone. I think it’s perfectly plausible that he didn’t, for a couple of reasons. First, from an Oz-positive basis, he didn’t really have time. He had Veruca at the cage, and the full moon was coming. He needed to get her in right there. From an Oz-negative perspective, he liked Veruca and telling someone would take away his chance with her. The answer’s somewhere in the middle, but the writers have plenty of reason for Oz to make the decision he did, rather than the alternative Willow suggests.

    Before the cage scene, he has loads to time to make things clear. When Willow sees him in the daytime after the first mating, he could say something then. He basically dismisses her. He doesn’t have to mention the mating last night (when it really is 100% out of his control), but he can say there’s another werewolf and that maybe another cage or enclosure could be set up. Perhaps someone should supervise Oz, tranq gun at the ready (why did they abandon this idea? Nearly all the Scoobies had a shift in his company, even Faith, and we’ve established already that Xander and especially Giles suddenly have a lot of free time). Buffy can then patrol for wolf two. He also has the opportunity to tell Buffy when she drops in to tell him about the possibility of a second werewolf, and he denies all knowledge. Unless we’re going for the wolf-is-taking-over-the-everyday argument, he basically wants Veruca, consciously, cheats on Willow and claims the next morning that he “didn’t have a choice” and “I don’t know what Veruca and I have done” because it was a full moon night. The dialogue Oz delivers in his defence don’t really carry much more weight than if he simply stated “she’s a werewolf. I needed to know what it’d be like to shag a werewolf. You understand, right?”. Let’s not forget that Veruca might not necessarily come to him again, so if she was loose that night and Oz maintained his policy of silence, Veruca could be slaughtering her way though the campus. So I don’t buy “She was going to hurt somebody” either.

    So which is it? Are the writers trying to get us to look negatively on Oz so he can leave without us feeling too bad, or get us to blame it on the wolf part so we look at him more positively?

    That’s just it, I gather they’re intending more for the latter, and for me they arrive pretty firmly at the former.

    The mauling of Veruca is the Anya dilemma in Selfless. Either you kill her or you allow more to be killed by her. They have to take the first option, even if it wrecks Oz personally.

    I do understand, and that’s what I meant by “some means of amends”. His final gesture for the relationship is to prove that he’s closing the book on his liaisons with Dangerous Girl and proving his love for Victim Girl by literally getting rid of Veruca. My sense of morality might be called into question here, but I’m more comfortable with Oz consciously killing a monstrous human than him cheating on his girlfriend, especially when I find the defence presented so shaky. Similarly I don’t judge Giles on his smothering of Ben.

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  51. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on June 8, 2014.]

    I know I’ll be shouted down from all sides on this one…but while I totally get why people point to this episode as the genesis of “dark Willow,” I don’t see it as even remotely plausible or in-character. Whatever flaws Willow may have as a person, I simply do not buy her leaping from happily in love with Oz to cursing him with dark magic in the course of a day or two just because she caught him cheating. Nor, for that matter, do I even buy her cursing Veruca.

    This is the problem that I have with the whole Dark Willow arc. It isn’t that her “dark side” was never shown before season 6; admittedly, it was, and this episode is an obvious example. No, the problem rather is that each time it’s “foreshadowed” like this, it seems just as out of character as it does when it eventually emerges full-blown in season 6–so the “buildup” doesn’t end up making it any more plausible (at least for me).

    (I should also say–I’m being a little facetious with that “shouted down” comment. One of the things I’ve loved about this site since discovering it a couple months ago is how civil and reasonable everyone is here! All I really meant is that I predict that few, if any, of you will see this the way I do, based on everything I’ve read and other discussions I’ve already had…)

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  52. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on June 12, 2014.]

    This is basically one of those episodes that I can’t handle watching too much. Firstly, only Satan would be able to keep a straight face while watching tears streaming down Alyson Hannigan’s face. Secondly, its one of those “Get your heart ripped out and your gut wrenched, Joss Whedon Style!” episodes. Really, I almost cried. This episode perfectly captures that moment, the first time you realize that the person you love(d) so much is not your happily ever after. Heartbreak always sucks, but the first one is the worst.

    Joss Whedon does emotional torture the best. I think we should all know by now that if the couple is at bliss for even a microsecond on a Whedon show, there’s trouble ahead. The adorable scene at the start of the episode makes me sad, they have no idea what’s coming. Anyway, I agree to Andrea’s comment about classic Whedon, loved the Spike scene, it was good to get a glimpse of him, watch his big bad speech get zapped and the painstakingly thought out Heartburn pun! Oz has always been a great character, he’s just there, you know, he’s silent but his presence is felt. I always like that in a character. His unique thoughts and stoicism always amused me. Someone above mentioned that we know nothing about Oz’s background, this would have bothered me on any other TV show, but Joss just has a way that makes it work, doesn’t he?
    I just now realized its true, we don’t know a lot about him, but I guess that adds to the guy’s charm. He was truly an enigmatic character, I’m going to miss him. Its a pity really, because I think he’s a wonderful actor, and his portrayal of Oz was spot on!

    You make a very interesting point, Giles_314, I like your take on Oz’s character, and I think you nailed it with that one. I have the same issue; I do not think his actions were OOC, but they were hard to believe. If only they’d played it out longer…Still, considering what little time they had to deal with the Seth Green issue, it was fine.

    Anyway, some great moments were from Giles at the Bronze, and even when he was in sweatpants yelling at the TV, “You MORON!” Hilarious. I love it when Willow is crying into Buffy’s arms, and I also love the scene where Buffy tells her that she loves her, if only I had friends like that in my life. *sigh* The Xander-Willow scene was sweet, I quite enjoy them having a heart-to-heart with each other like old times. Buffy talking to Giles towards the end of the episode was simply wonderful, “Yeah. I ran away and went to hell and then got through it.” Spot-on classic BtVS continuity that I so very much appreciate! And finally, Seth green himself. Having his character’s trademark behavior fall to pieces not once (when he yelled) but twice (when he almost cried in the car) Very effective. I think the A- was just about right. 😀

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  53. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on June 12, 2014.]

    Even the writers may have agreed with you, because in the episode “Smashed” they – via a conversation with Xander and Anya – explain how it is the people who have been so straight-laced all their lives tend to go kablooey/blam when they finally cut loose.

    I think this actually explains Willow. Willow has, in the past, always been a “good” person, very much so … and she continues to rationalize her actions as good when she engages in them later. She is not able to control her emotions because in the past she never had to – when she was in her early years at high school (a time that defines her) she was never called upon to express them at all. People just wanted her brains and her computer skills. So she developed no emotional discipline.

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  54. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on July 1, 2014.]

    See, I don’t really buy that. I don’t recall offhand the conversation in “Smashed” that you’re referring to, but I’ve never found that whole idea–that the seemingly “straight-laced” people are the most potentially dangerous ones when/if they reach their breaking point–very plausible.

    This is perhaps largely because to a significant extent, I see myself as falling into that “straight-laced, especially in my youth” category–and it just doesn’t ring true for me. I’m willing to consider that some of my issues with how Willow was handled as the series progressed may stem from over-identification/projecting myself onto her too much, but personally, I just don’t see the alleged potential for raging insanity that is supposed to be latent in the sort of goodie-two-shoes nerd that both Willow and I were in our younger years.

    If you think that overlooked, peer-shunned, nerdy kids have no occasion/impetus for developing emotional discipline…think again! Middle school and high school are riddled with trying provocations for the likes of us. For me–and as I read her, for Willow in the earlier seasons–being rule-abiding and “good” wasn’t something that we fell back on merely for lack of confidence or because our raging inner feelings were so repressed; it was about actually buying into the values in question. When people of this description eventually rebel–and we do–it’s far more likely to be a reasoned, intellectual rebellion than a violent lashing-out. Or at least, that’s my experience.

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