New Moon Rising
Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: James A. Contner
Air Date: May 2, 2000

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Phew! Made it! Two games and some comics, and finally we arrive at another episode. “Wild at Heart” is the best Oz+Willow episode. There is no question. It has the perfect level of emotional weight without feeling bloated, it carries the narrative arc of two main characters forward and doesn’t cause irreversible damage by having any of their actions go against their development up to that point, and it feels like a natural progression of the themes and story of the season. While all of these things can be said about “New Moon Rising”, the bottom line is this: it just doesn’t do any of these things quite as well. Oz returns and picks up his story where we left off: he’s gone off into the world to cure that whole “being a werewolf” thing and seems to have done so. But his return – and the entire episode – is just a plot device to get Willow out of the closet. That’s fine, though, because it works.

Seth Green gets his second-to-last chance (though final, in reality) to play Oz, the sarcastic, wise-cracking ass we’ve grown to love. And he does so admirably, without missing a beat. He makes it look easy to come back to a character you can just tell he loved playing, and though his screen time with each Scoobie aside from Willow and Tara is minimal, he makes the most of it all. His return immediately bothers Tara who was starting to feel really close to Willow, and she is too nice about it, stepping aside without any kind of fight so that Willow can return to her lost love. Its telling of her character and a fascinating thing to watch, knowing how she ends up more confident and strong later on. Everyone else is nice, too, letting Willow and Oz have their moment, chatting through the night (and a full moon!) about his journeys, his love for her, and where they go from there.

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Out on the hunt, Buffy lets slip that Oz is a werewolf and Riley can’t deal with it. He doesn’t understand how someone can be with any kind of monster and you immediately know that she has kept her history with Angel from him. Buffy gets angry and defensive and says they should just drop it (though she still sleeps at his place that night and is all pissy in the morning; bet that was a fun night). She returns to Willow to ask how things went and gets a bombsell dropped on her: Willow and Tara have big ol’ lesbo feelings for each other. This is a powerful scene and the delivery of lines is amazing, as is SMG’s constant ability to act through her eyes. Watch as she puts two-and-two together and gets “lesbians” – and in great fashion, the two come to an understanding, with Buffy maintaining her strength as a friend and offering the best advice she can: whoever Willow choses, someone gets hurt.

And get hurt they do… even before she chooses. Later in the episode, Oz and Tara meet up and, because Tara is wearing Willow’s sweater, Oz smells something fishy in the air (don’t be gross). Tara, shy and confused about the situation, says too much and too little at the same time and we have our final look at a werewolf costume on this show (one more in “Angel”, a ways down the road). Before any real damage can happen, Riley and the boys show up, hungry for a chance at revenge (previously in the episode some werewolf-type monster killed some of them). Oz turns back to human in front of them and suddenly Riley is having a crisis of faith. Is he on the right side of this, afterall? He doesn’t think so and attempts to stage a rescue, but instead is captured by the new head-honcho and Oz is back in captivity. Its now up to Buffy and Willow and Xander. And Spike?

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Turns out, Spike had a secret meeting with Adam, the seasons “Big Bad” – he needs Spike’s help defeating the Slayer and her friends and – in exchange for this help – is willing to remove the chip in his head. Spike is all about this, because it kills two birds with one stone, so she shows the Scoobies to an “unguarded” back entrance (heh heh) that Adam is actually controlling – the cameras, the security, even the electrical grid (which Anya and Giles “take down” on their own, to great comical effect) – its all Adam’s doing. And its refreshing, because for once Adam is kind of a character, not just a plot device. Except he is still mostly a plot device, so oh well. Anyhow, they break in, rescue Riley (who is now quitting the Initiative) and Oz (who can’t go near Willow without wolfing-out) and get out of dodge.

Then its the two sweeter moments of the episode: Willow and Oz and Willow and Tara. I’ve said before that I’m more of a Willow+Oz kind of guy and, you know, the Tara relationship is still the weaker one. Somewhere, some feminist is out there cursing my name for saying poo-poo to the lesbian relationship. I’m not suggesting it is bad or not believable. I love Tara and I think the two are cute together. But just examine the scenes here: The final parting between Willow and Oz is heartbreaking and powerful. And the one between Tara and Willow is cute and important to the show, but doesn’t reach the same level. Perhaps that’s just a current reading, perhaps I’m not remembering the remaining relationship that well and this will grow on me more? I don’t know. I just know it is sad to lose Seth Green, again, because he brings a type of character this show never gets back in full. And he will be missed. Sorry if I come across as hard on Tara. Let’s see if I develop a stronger feeling for them as a couple, yeah?

Episode Rating: 79

Additional Notes:
-Anya and Giles try to high five and are really cute together
-Little-to-no activity on patrols = end of the world
-Buffy threatens to go “William Burroughs” on the colonel – what an odd reference
-Goodbye, Seth Green!
-I like that Spike was going to try to take Adam apart and I like that some part of Adam was a Boy Scout
-Still not enough Adam for only being around for two more episodes

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