Phases
Written by: Rob Des Hotel/Dean Batali
Directed by: Bruce Seth Green
Air Date: January 27, 1998

I started my last review with some rant about “Twilight” and how stupid that whole thing is, and now we have added a werewolf into the mix on BtVS, too. There is another key difference between the two in their portrayal of these monsters, and that is that, on “Buffy” they are monsters. Not fake-ab’d teenage heartthrobs that can’t act. I digress. Here we have the first Oz story, though its really more of an Oz-and-Willow story than anything else. It doubles as an episode that ushers Oz into the Scooby gang full-time and as an episode which further develops Willow’s ever-growing confidence with herself and her voice.

Its an amusing episode immediately marred to near-death status by the horrible, lame, stupid werewolf costume (that they get rid of, actually) pictured above. The show still had a fairly small budget, I guess, and could only do what they could do, here (and it still looks better than Benicio del Toro’s “Wolfman” a couple of years back), but my god is it horrible. Aside from this, I found the entire werewolf device to be tight and funny, particularly in relation to Giles and his sudden infatuation with the idea of hunting and learning about the beast. He is so giddy he even laughs at Xanders atrocious “moon pie” joke, a quip so bad I almost slapped my own forehead out of anguish. Speaking of, the pair of Buffy and Giles – freshly invested in each others’ lives due to the Angel-to-Angelus incident from “Innocence” – make a great team, defending, joking, and being all-around good friends with each other.

Before the episode gets all werewolf-y, it takes some time to remind us that Buffy and her friends are still in school with one of my favorite “pretend you’re a normal girl, Buffy!”-moments in the series. Buffy and her gym class have a self-defense lesson, something Buffy could probably teach at a professional level. But here, she has to be meek and insignificantly weak in comparison to the now-revealed-to-be-gay chauvinist bully, Larry. Of course, one butt cheek squeeze later and Buffy sends Larry flying. This scene is really just a setup moment to showcase that Larry had been attacked and bitten by a large dog, thus garnering support for the belief that he’s the big hairy beast, but the writers did a good job turning the scene into a memorable one with some laughs, even hinting at Oz’s werewolf status with a quick comment about him being bitten by his tiny cousin.

That moment, actually, yields the episode’s two strongest scenes. The first is between Xander and Larry in the locker room in which Larry misunderstands Xander’s pestering. Here, he comes out to Xander, who had told him that he’d “gone through something similar” (Xander fucks up and admits to remembering being possessed by a hyena way back in “The Pack” – one of the series’ worst episodes. A fact he corrects and Giles looks interested in helping him correct. Its a solid continuity moment). The complete change in Larry from now on is a nice result of this and while I find Xander’s homophobia to be a bit telling of his character, I think its mostly that he’s worried Larry thinks he is gay, too, and will try to hit on him. The other scene is, of course, the one in which Oz calls his aunt and finds out his cousin is a werewolf. The one-sided dialogue he has is so damned funny, I can’t help but think Seth Green improvised it himself. “Uh huh… and how long has that been going on?” is the best line in the episode, hands down.

At the end of the day, they don’t kill Oz – much to the chagrin of a werewolf hunter (who later plays this dude on Angel) who gets his gun Superman’d – and Willow sticks to her feelings and continues to have romantic interest in her werewolf boyfriend. The “I’m a werewolf in love” line is stupid and could be cut entirely, but I find their blossoming relationship cute. Sue me. I do. I’m not anti-gay or anything, and I even love Tara/Willow… but I’m an Oz man, through and through. The level of dryness he brings to the cast is never matched after he leaves in season 4. Ever. Its disappointing, really.

The episode is kinda weak and mostly filler, but I like that they keep it within the context of the show. Angel shows up, having killed one of Buffy’s classmates (who, of course, is never mentioned before or after this episode. What a Red Shirt) so that he can continue to dig into her, psychologically (as opposed to physically, like he did a few episode before. WHOA NO I DI’NT!). Its nice to see them do this on this show, keeping the continuity fresh and ever-present. Its good work as far as writing is concerned and something they only continue to get better at with time.

Episode Rating: 80

Additional Notes:
-I love that Cordy badmouths Buffy and Willow…
to WILLOW!
-Where did Oz get those shackles and chains in the first place??
-Where did the tranquilizer gun come from? Did Xander steal that from the military, too?
-Poor, poor Xander. He’s got Cordelia, now, and then Buffy has to go and confuse him all over again…
-Oz’s “huh” is such a Whedon thing to say, given the context

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