[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: Christopher Hibler | Aired: 01/09/2001]
There’s some fun to be had here! “Triangle” is an episode that focuses its attention on one of the most enjoyably subtle character threads in the entire series. I’m, of course, talking about Willow and Anya’s personality issues. They’ve been lightly butting heads occasionally for over a year now, and even more so recently. Their issues get completely addressed here and when “Triangle” focuses on this, it masterfully succeeds in both character development and entertainment. However, there are some other aspects of this episode that don’t rub off nearly as well. These being Olaf the troll and Buffy’s reaction to Riley’s absence.
I want to begin by mentioning Buffy’s absence of hardcore emotion over losing Riley, even joking to Giles about it. There doesn’t seem to be much sadness here, which seems to confirm what Riley thought of their relationship. Buffy’s initial goofy breakdown in front of Tara, “It’s a miraculous love!,” is pretty funny, but by episode’s end outstays its welcome and becomes pretty out of character for Buffy. At least Buffy’s relative indifference led to her and Giles training again, something that’s always pleasurable to watch. It’s also good to see that they’re willing to go to the Council for help when Giles has exhausted all his local resources, as they do here in reference to Glory.
I’m continuing to notice and appreciate the Buffy/Dawn bond develop due to the extreme hair stroking, which is a subtle visual cue that shows the strength of their connection. Their chat about Riley gives us insight into exactly what Buffy’s thinking, which is yet another thing that makes the characters so real and understandable on Buffy. Other shows have characters that are doing things, but I can’t help not caring simply because their thoughts and motives haven’t had the necessary writing to give the viewers any insight into who they are at every step of their journey. We get some more of this with the familial-like Buffy/Joyce/Giles sharing tea together scene at the end of the episode. It is sweet to see these three working together as a near-family unit. It makes one dream about the way things might have been had they not gone so wrong.
The central theme of this episode, though, is the mutual frustration between Anya and Willow finally popping. From the initial Anya/Willow fight in the shop to Anya getting angry at Willow for making fun of her and then floating stuff in her face to Anya flipping out when the cash register disappears due to Willow messing up, this material is both funny and realistic based on these characters’ personalities. I love how Xander and Tara bail, which then leads to Anya distracting Willow’s spell. This, of course, generates Olaf: the least entertaining part of the episode. I can forgive Olaf’s annoying oafishness a bit, though, because he’s the reason the scene in Giles’ car happens! Another fun, frantic, and witty exchange between two fun, frantic, and witty characters. After a bunch of relevant sniping and fun bantor, the real root of each others’ worries finally get exposed. Willow says that Anya is rude and that she’s worried Anya might hurt Xander in a vengeancy way. Anya, conversely, is worried that Willow still has romantic feelings for Xander and that she’ll take him away from her. She even brings up Xander’s Cordelia incident in S3.
Both of their concerns are very natural, given each others’ history, and it’s awesome the time was spent addressing them. When Olaf forces Xander to make a choice between Willow and Anya it’s good that he doesn’t choose between them. He loves both of these women in two ways a person can love someone: romantically and, well, not. Xander’s choice not only says something about his character, but it also spurs Willow and Anya to reconcile their differences. The two of them realize that Xander loves them both in equal but different ways and that neither of each other wants anything but the best for him.
While all of this has been going on, we get some more entertainment from Spike involving a chocolate box and a manniquin. He gets all worked up when talking to it like it’s really Buffy. Thanks to James Marsters, one can easily spot the complex and twisted emotions driving him in this scene. The demon in him wants to devour Buffy, but the remnants of William in him wants to be gentle and patient with her. These two halves conflicting with each other makes for not only great hilarity, but also some fascinating things to think about. He probes Xander on Buffy’s feeling about his involvement in Riley’s departure, which continues to prove that he genuinely cares what Buffy thinks of him. At first Xander pushes him off, but they amusingly end up chatting together over pool.
As I mentioned in the intro, my major problem with this episode lies with Olaf: he’s too campy and ends up rubbing off as silly. His presence combined with Buffy’s uber campy crying at the end of the episode just leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. These two things result in all of this episode’s lost points. I did, however, still find a lot to like including the usual sharp wit, humor based on the characters, and development of characters in general. In all, the usual on this series, but particularly amusing here. So while I enjoy this episode, it remains not one of the better S5 outings.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Xander missing Riley, and Anya’s speech about how even though men often dump their girls, the girls keep letting it happen.
+ The scene cut to Buffy and the nuns. “What’s it like being a nun?”
+ Willow mentions Amy again!
+ Spike mentions the flowering onion again and even calls it “brilliant.”
+ Spike holding Buffy down on the ground after she falls down. Then he wants credit for not feeding on bleeding disaster victims.
+ Anya bringing up the world without shrimp.
– Xander lasts way too long fighting with Olaf.
– Dawn being conveniently listening in on the conversation at the end of the episode. Contrived and a bit annoying.
* Buffy and Tara bond a bit after a class together. Buffy even cries on Tara’s shoulder, which of course foreshadows their connection in S6 and is similar (not in tone, obviously) to the end of “Dead Things” [6×13].