Doppelgängland
Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: Feb. 23, 1999

This episode has everything going for it. I could just throw up a 100/100 score and leave it at that. The above pictured moment is enough to make the whole thing work 100%, with vampire Willow (stolen from “The Wish“) and fuzzy pink sweater Willow coming face to face (and more, if vampire Willow could have had her way). The episode is a play on this, a sort of duality between Willow’s “good, ‘ol’ reliable'” side and her darker, magic imbued side. The fact that they had a way to make that darker side tangible and real is a credit to the writing, but this one was done on most fronts by showrunner Joss Whedon, and when he takes the reins, its always a good time. This is no exception.

Willow’s time playing with the dark arts has been marred infrequently, and here we see the first major backfire the show has ever presented to us. Anya wants her power center back from the Wishverse and needs a powerful wicca to hep her get it back. This means Willow. But it goes wrong and the vampire version is let lose unto the world. This creates some of the best acted and directed sequences the show has had, yet, with vampire Willow terrorizing a poor Percy (the jock Willow is to tutor, less Snyder comes up with punishment for our favorite red-head), Buffy and Xander coming to terms with their friend being (un)dead, and then the group telling Giles, Angel learning of this mess, and then Cordelia and Wesley. It would seem stupid, knowing before the characters what the situation is yet being shown their horrified reactions, but under Whedon’s steady direction, its always sharp and funny.

“Bored now” becomes a favorite phrase of mine from this show, this episode. Its the second time a Willow has said it, and it won’t be the last. Vampire Willow is a menacing and eerie presence on screen, possibly because we know what the real girl is like, but also because Alyson Hannigan plays the part so well. She clearly had a ton of fun playing both parts during this episode, with each Willow playing off various characters in a multitude of ways. She really got to shine this time as a character, too, evolving as she does. She comes to terms with the fact that there are remnant parts of her personality that she doesn’t like, and now she’s willing to work on them and change to better herself, as well as her friends. Her reliance on magic isn’t going to lesson, though. Oh, no no no.

Gotta give credit where credit is due, though, and that’s to Buffy for coming up with a comical way too not only save the day, but also keep Faith out of the equation. Buffy has Willow switch outfits with her vampire self and then infiltrate the Bronze, the club where a cadre of vampires has taken teenagers hostage. One by one she sends her other’s minions outside where Angel and Buffy stake and repeat. Anya sees through this, though, having been unable to get a drink – and being unable to get her necklace back – and almost ruins the plan before the cavalry bursts in and saves the day. The two Willows come to blows and Buffy almost stakes the nasty vampire version, but our Willow stops her for one reason; a strange sense of self preservation. She’d rather send her vampire self home than have her staked in this reality, and so they do. Of course, she shows up right in time to get run through with a big bit of wood, killing her. But its not like they could have known that would happen.

After this episode, its all rather dark and murky for the characters, with tons of nasty things happening to everyone before all is said and done. Faith’s been set up in a nice pad by her new father figure, The Mayor, and has started having it in for her former pals. Before too much longer its a downhill spiral out of control for these crazy kids, and that’s not a good thing. That’s maybe why this episode has an extra space in my heart. Yes, it is hilarious, but it take place in the middle of two very dark strings of episodes. Usually a filler episode like this would aggravate me slightly, but its handled so damned well that I can’t possibly hold anything against it. It refrains from being too stupid or corny and instead opts to tell a good story and have some good character moments. Can’t find anything wrong with that.

“Doppelgängland” is the winner for funniest, most heartwarming episode of season three, I think. And if its not, its a close second. It hints at what is to come for Willow in a variety of ways, more so than simply saying that she’s becoming more confident in herself. Her interest in magic, her possible lesbian nature, and her darker side all come through, here, even if its mostly from the vampire version of her. Its a nice way to showcase more to her than one version could do, and “BtVS” pulls it off – with Whedon’s direct help – with little to no effort.

Episode Rating: 100

Additional Notes:
-Wesley screaming after saving Cordelia is hilarious
-Cordy and vamp Willow having a serious “talk” is great
-That stupid wave Willow gives Oz while “undercover” is perfect and true to character
-And when she gets her hand stuck in that girls’ hair?! Priceless!
-“Oh, look at those!”
-Snyder references “Go Fish” in a move that is daring for a show that should be aware of how bad that episode is considered by man fans

“Say, you didn’t all happen to do a bunch of drugs, did ya?”
-Actually, almost every line Willow has in this episode is killer

Advertisements