Night came on, and a full moon rose high over the trees lighting the land till it lay bathed in ghostly day. And the strain of the primitive remained alive and active. Faithfulness and devotion, things born of fire and roof were his, yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. And from the depths of the forest, a call still sounded.
I don’t usually do spoiler warnings. In fact, just a few weeks ago I noted that I don’t do spoiler warnings, but we’ve had an influx of a lot of lovely new members recently, so I thought I’d give a brief shorthand on Slay’s Stance on Spoilers: Anything that has aired is fair game to talk about. For a show that’s been off the air almost a decade, that is all of the episodes. If you’re new to Buffy, be forewarned that I will make references to other episodes and plot developments in later seasons. I do not tend to bring up the Season 8 and 9 comics. If this is an issue for you, please proceed with caution.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the classic-monster episodes of Buffy. “Beauty and the Beasts” features a boss fight between Mr. Hyde and the Wolfman, and while there is no Abbot and Costello cameo, I found myself all giddy watching the two of them go at it. This is pretty much the last of the old school monster riffs, though the argument could be made that “Gingerbread” (coming up in a few weeks), “Hush” and BB Adam fall under that umbrella.
Now that I stated that, feel free to correct me in the comments.
As plots go, this one is a convoluted run around. We have Oz, in the midst of his three-night wolf-out, who may or may not have killed some guy one night. We have recently-returned-from-hell-dimension Angel, who appears to have gone feral and may or may not have killed some guy one night. And we have our monster-of-the-week, Pete, who is mainlining a glowing concoction he’s made himself to become “˜more manly’ and is definitely killing people.
This week’s douche move: Xander, upon reporting for Oz-babysitting duty during a full moon, waits until Willow leaves and then immediately lies down and goes to sleep, despite promising he’ll be on guard until the sun comes up. Why is Xander such a jerk? All the time?
Xander’s beauty sleep opens up several hours of unaccounted for Oz time during which a random man in the woods is murdered by someone we don’t see. It might be Oz, because the window was left open in his cell. Not that there’s any tension to this mystery – Oz only eats people when it’s expedient to the storyline. However, investigating the murder leads Buffy to finding Angel in the woods. He’s feral, aggressive, and yet somehow managed to find pants, even though our screencap last week PROVED he came back from hell naked.
Our girl has just been starting to deal with her feelings in the aftermath of Becoming, so being smacked in the face with her former-lover-turned-psychopath-turned-lover that she had to kill is obviously upsetting. She does the appropriate thing by knocking him out, dragging him back to the mansion, and chaining him the fuck up. As you do.
And then, most importantly, she doesn’t tell anyone she saw him.
I’ve written before about how I dislike criticisms of Buffy that center around how cold and stuck up she seems to be. My argument has always been that she carries a tremendous burden in being the repeated savior of this dimension and there’s never any place she can rest, so to speak. Angel’s return is a really good example of that. Who can she talk to about this? Who can she go to? Her MO has always been to shoulder everyone’s problems, plus her own. No one else really can understand what she goes through by the end of the series, not even Giles, though I think he understands her best. So it should be no surprise to you that I found the scene where Buffy goes to her guidance counselor and finally confides in someone that she had no idea what to do and her life is really messed up and she needs someone’s help, only to find that he’d been murdered by Pete earlier in the day, just completely heart wrenching.
After this, there are very few times Buffy ever gets that emotionally open again. I can think of two off the top of my head – once, with Giles in season 4 when her Slayer instincts kick into overdrive, and again in season 6 with Tara, where she lays her head in Tara’s lap and cries for forgiveness. That is a long time to go without confession.
Back to the main plot: Pete is dating Debbie, who is a band friend of Oz’s. Pete suspects Debbie is going to dump him, brews up his own testosterone potion, and becomes Super Pete, if the Super version of Pete is a messed up looking jackass with a hair-trigger temper who beats his girlfriend and murders guys he thinks are into her. This includes Dude in the Woods, the guidance counselor, an attempt on Oz, which turns into the aforementioned Boss Fight, before he finally kills Debbie, tries to kill Buffy, and gets his neck snapped by Angel.
Um. Now that I typed that all out, this was a really dark episode. Pete kills a lot of people. The close-to-home high school domestic violence storyline is among one the most disturbing “˜real life’ plots the show attempts. (See also: “Earshot” and “I Only Have Eyes For You”)
BtVS is famous for its heralding of feminist issues and its overtly-feminist heroines. What’s not as recognized is the amount of time that Whedon and company spend deconstructing the danger of hyper-masculinity. It comes up a lot, usually in subtext where traditionally “˜masculine’ ideas or approaches to problems cause more problems than they solve. The Watcher’s Counsel and its oppressive patriarchy is only one example.
“Beauty and the Beasts” is an episode where that subtext leaps into the forefront of the story in a not-exactly subtle way. Everything Pete does, all his motivations, is deeply rooted in his desire to be “more manly.” That is what he thinks will win him the girl, and what’ll keep the girl is his ability to be the Alpha Male by literally destroying every competitor to the title he sees. This single-mindedness, the Dick Supreme, approach ruins everything he touches. Non-Hyde Pete seems like a nice guy – he’s loving to his girlfriend, nice to her friends, brings her flowers and showers her with compliments. Hyde Pete is a lethal asshole. Early in the episode, Faith comments that all men are just beasts deep down in side. Pete is her proof. The lesson isn’t a particularly subtle one.
There are days when I can’t believe people try to argue that this isn’t a feminist show. This is one of them.