Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.16, “Dopplegangland”

[E] Slay BelleLadyGhosts of TV Past7 Comments

sploosh

This girl has a history of mental problems dating back to early childhood. I’m a blood sucking fiend! Look at my outfit!

Ah, “Dopplegängland.” Who doesn’t love “Dopplegängland”? No one, that’s who, and anyone who says otherwise is lying or hasn’t seen it. We’ve got the return of Evil Willow, Regular Willow doing her bad guys impersonation, some Oz bon mots, and precious little evidence of Xander behaving like a douche. Wins all around!

Let’s get the b-plots out of the way:

Faith is newly evil and pretending to be good. Instead of acting contrite, she jokes around with Buffy, whom she recently tried to frame as murder, and gets all chummy with Willow in her quest to spy for the Mayor. As a reward, she gets a spiffy new apartment. That’s one of the great things about the Mayor. He doesn’t feel like it’s OK for a teenaged girl to bed down in a crummy motel that charges by the hour, but he’s willing to murder a different teenaged girl because she might be able to crack his security system. The man has a complicated and well-defined moral code. Maybe if Faith had some of his folksy charm people wouldn’t have been so mad about that thing where she murdered a guy and then disposed of his body. Aw shucks, you guys, it was just an accident!

Faith is mostly background here. She’s just being set up so we can catch everyone catching her double crossing them.

Anya is back and pissed. She’s more than a thousand years old and no one will sell her a beer. She’s flunking math. She’s a nobody. Her former demon overlord refuses to help her, so she does the logical thing of bending time and space to snatch her power center back from the universe Giles destroyed it in. Instead of her necklace, Anya (with Willow’s assistance) draws forth Evil Willow. Hilarity ensues.

The newly human Anya of Season 3 is far more capable than the Anya of the later seasons. She appears to understand money, liquor laws, and advanced astrophysics. Not that I don’t love “Anya who doesn’t get human things” from Season 4 on, but the contrast between this Anya and that Anya is striking enough that one must wonder if she suffered severe head trauma over the summer.

And so we come to Willow. Everyone loves Willow. She’s so accommodating. Her hair is pretty. She’s smart. And she gets walked over, all the time. Willow-centric episodes tend to be very emotionally deep because she’s so easy for the audience to relate to, even with her witch powers and her werewolf boyfriend. Even if we weren’t girls (or guys) like her, we probably knew one or two of them.

It seems, on the surface, a relatively light hearted episode. Evil Willow was instantly a fan favorite, so bringing her back to run around for another show is a no-brainer. Every line out of her mouth is gold. Even the ones where she’s threatening to kill people. She hits on herself, feels up Xander’s ass (maybe?), gets really upset by being dressed in Will’s frumpy outfit, and tries to take over the Bronze. The confusion over Evil Willow and Willow even works in Willow’s favor as being an ass kicker seems to earn her a little respect back at Sunnydale high.

“Dopplegängland” can be enjoyed at a very high quality one-off. I laughed so hard watching it again my voice took on a certain “braying cackle” tone that usually indicates I’m ticked pink in every way possible. But a lot of what makes the episode great is the amount of groundwork it’s doing in foreshadowing developments in Willow’s personality over the next four years. Evil Willow may not have Season 6 Willow’s black hair, but they sure both have the same angry souls.

Chekov’s gun(s):

So many 1st act rifles are introduced in this episode!

The floating pencil – Willow’s floating pencil is the most literal gun in the room since she’ll use that same trick to kill a vampire in a later episode.

Willow: It’s horrible! That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil and… skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay.
Buffy: Willow, just remember, a vampire’s personality has nothing to do with the person it was.
Angel: Well, actually… That’s a good point.

“And I think I’m kinda gay.” While Whedon is on record saying he knew one of the Scoobies was eventually going to come out as gay, he swears he hadn’t decided it was going to be Willow yet. However, her line ends up being one huge foreshadowing of Willow’s coming out.

“I mean, she’s not me – we have a big nothing in common, but – still.” Sadly, as Angel refrains from pointing out, there’s plenty of “you” in the vampire “you” become. Willow is still emotionally immature in these early episodes, but there’s a whole heap of darkness she’s keeping inside. Evil Willow is just the first glimpse of what she’s capable of, in the right setting. She’s already made some ethical lapses when it come to magic – trying to put a delusting spell on Xander without his permission, quickly jumping to bend time and space with Anya, but it gets worse. It is entirely no coincidence that Willow says “Bored now” before flaying Warren. Even the styling of Willow’s outfit in the Season 6 meltdown is reminiscent of Evil Willow’s clothes; the jackets have the same silhouette with the pinched in waist and bell sleeves, as do the dark pants and boots she wears in both outfits.

Next week: “Enemies”

Related
Thanks for rating this! Now tell the world how you feel via Twitter.
What feel do you feel after reading this post?
  • Inspired
  • Smart
  • Tickled
  • Hungry
  • Sad
  • Smash!
[E] Slay BelleRetro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.16, “Dopplegangland”

7 Comments on “Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.16, “Dopplegangland””

Leave a Reply

  1. Avatar of [M] QoB
    [M] QoB

    I just re-watched this, and it’s total gold. I love Evil Willow. And I much prefer this Anya to later Anya.

    “Hands, hands in new places!”

  2. Avatar of freckle [M]
    freckle [M]

    As a big fan of Willow, Vampire-Will showed me that there is no such thing as a one-hundred percent goody two shoes. Which made me only like her more.

  3. Avatar of Sheena said she is ready for spring, not summer
    Sheena said she is ready for spring, not summer

    This has been a favorite episode basically forever, mostly because of the “alter-Willow” idea; it’s really easy to see this as a “comedic break” in the overall storyline (like with most of the Xander-centric episodes). But there is definitely an element of what Willow could (and will, at least temporarily) be.  High School Willow is extremely accommodating, avoids conflict, and will do anything possible to please others. The Willow Buffy meets in season one is extremely shy and has zero confidence, because until that point, she has self-identified as Shy and Nice Willow. Her attempts to stand up for herself tend to bewilder her friends and family (her mother treats Willow’s protests at being treated like a nameless representative of her “age group” as a little-girl tantrum, Buffy and Xander’s usual responses of “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Will”, and so on).

    While I’ve definitely noticed the “Willow as a lesbian” foreshadowing, I never really looked at her dark undercurrent. But it’s definitely there. Even in season one, Willow is okay with being mean if it’s “justified” (like the computer class in episode one or two, where she basically tells Cordelia how to delete a project entirely minutes before it’s due) or a “mistake” (um, cheating on Oz with Xander). But, because it’s Shy and Nice Willow, excessive apologies make up for her actions, whether those actions are making out with Xander or her dislike of Cordelia/Faith/Ampata/Anya or the “my will be done” spell or how she treats Tara in season six. And the perception that Willow is Nice keeps the rest of the gang complacent and leads them to being astonished when Willow does something cruel, and they completely overlook most of her passive-aggressive behaviors and comments. The attitude is that Willow doesn’t do mean things because she’s mean, she does them because she’s upset or hurting or angry. Well, yeah, that’s true, but dismissing cruel actions because someone’s upset is enabling that behavior. And then they’re all surprised by Evil Willow.

    Edited to add a final thought: Willow’s a very good example of why the “forgive and forget” policy can be a bad idea. Yes, forgive someone for fucking up, but don’t just forget it happened or neglect to hold that person accountable for their actions. Don’t let apologies and tears make up for seriously mean actions or even persistent passive-aggression. Xander’s mistakes are continually referenced, because it’s “funny” to joke about his bad dating history or his supernatural syphilis or his tendency to get fired from any job he gets (until Construction Xander emerges). Any time Anya screws up, it’s because she was a demon. Even Buffy’s mistakes/failings/bad choices are focused on in the short-term (like “Dead Man’s Party”) or long-term (end of the series). But Willow consistently gets the head-pat and “it’s okay, Will, we all make mistakes” (if her actions are even noticed).

    1. Avatar of [E] Slay Belle
      [E] Slay Belle

      “But Willow consistently gets the head-pat and “it’s okay, Will, we all make mistakes” (if her actions are even noticed).”

      I agree that early Willow does get a pass. Especially in ‘Something Blue’, which in retrospect, is a really horrible, violating use of her powers. But later years show her paying — Tara leaves her, she’s taken to England to be held by the English coven after the events of S6, that demon in S7 peels off her skin and eats it, and she’s constantly afraid of herself for much of S7. The gang does enable her bad behavior for a real long time, but she does eventually suffer some deeply serious consequences.

Leave a Reply