FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Wild At Heart
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike has taken a right royal ass-kicking in both Sunnydale and LA. Oz has been worried about his werewolf-y side getting out and taking over and Willow has noticed he's grown more distant whilst she's been getting into Wicca more and more.
After a visit to The Bronze, Willow notices Oz's attraction to lead singer Veruca even more as Buffy also realises what's worrying her best friend. On the night before the full moon, Oz escapes from his cage and chases Maggie Walsh down only to meet another werewolf. We soon learn that it's Veruca and during their full mooning, Oz sleeps with her, betraying Willow and scaring himself in the process. Meanwhile, Spike has returned to Sunnydale; the "Big Bad is back" but he finds himself tasered and captured by the commando guys who have been lurking in the shadows for the first few episodes of this season.
I don't like this episode. Not because it isn't good. It is. It's heartbreaking. Oz leaves. And it's a departure that I've never quite gotten over in all these years because it's Oz and Oz is awesome and now we're going to have to do without his witty one-liners which made Quote of the Week that bit easier. Stupid Oz. Whilst his leaving does lead to one of the most revolutionary relationships on TV with Willow and Tara, it also deprives us of the lovely little romance that was Willow and Oz and the last real link back to high school-bound Buffy in that first flush of romance.
Change has been the big theme of the season so far as the characters adapt to their new setting at college whilst the show attempts to do the same. The opening scenes at The Bronze are a great example of this; Willow comments that it's like a "big comfy blanky" and works because it's familiar. It's handy too for the audience to visually link back to what the show was, even if the presence of Giles is as jarring for us as it is for the characters. It also struck me this time how the gang has changed with the lack of Angel and Cordelia at The Bronze suddenly very noticeable, which brings me back to what I was saying about Oz being the last real link back to high school for the main Scoobies.
Oz has never been at the forefront of many stories, except the werewolf episodes, but he's developed well and quietly in that time. Fear, Itself showed us a more emotional side to the character, one which was hysterically terrified of the creature that resided within him and the loss of control that could potentially happen, harming Willow in the process. Seth Green doesn't need to do much to convey Oz's emotions and it's always great when he gets chance to flex his muscles with a more complex storyline such as this one.
It's another example of the show flirting with the idea that supernatural power is something of an addiction to be managed rather than anything positive. We've seen it already with Faith and Angel, but Oz has always been seemingly in control, losing it at the point that Veruca threatens Willow, killing for the first time. Veruca represents the what Oz could become, someone who gets off on the power she wields and the reason why he leaves at the end of the episode. Oz leaves to regain the control that he feels he's lost.
The other side of the episode is how Willow copes with the change that's going on around her. The scene in which she finds out is as heartbreaking as anything Buffy has done. Most of the season so far has focused on how Buffy hasn't acclimatised and Willow hits the ground running, mostly because of the stability that Oz provides. Now, Oz is leaving, Buffy is achieving academically and Willow is floundering. It's the first time she resorts to magic as a way of coping with her emotion, but crucially steps back from it before she goes too far. It's another little moment of foreshadowing, not only for the way in which magic becomes her emotional crutch, but also in the way she deals with heartbreak. Oz almost functions as the preliminary event before Tara and the arrival of Dark Willow.
I'm an emotional Buffy watcher and it's something we've been through before, but I'd truly forgotten how sad this episode is. It feels like a real line in the sand, the moment that Buffy properly sheds the high school trappings and starts confronting the kind of adult heartbreak we didn't see too often outside of mid- and season finales. I already miss Oz.
Quote of the Week:
Willow: Oz, don't you love me?
Oz: My whole life... I've never loved anything else.
Inventive Kill: Wolf Oz takes down Wolf Veruca and rips her throat out.
Let's Get Trivial: The love triangle between Oz, Veruca and Willow was initially supposed to continue for most of the season, but Seth Green decided that he wanted to leave the show to focus on his film career. That abruptness was channelled into the episode and Whedon admits Willow got her heart broken precisely because that's how everyone was feeling behind the scenes.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Beer Bad, here. If you really want to. It's still a terrible episode.