Episode title: Phases
Original air date: January 27, 1998
“I didn’t jump, I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.” – Buffy
Another of my all-time favourite Buffy episodes while also the episode were Oz discovers like the rest of the Scoobies that he might not be as normal as he seems, while Buffy deals with a series of Werewolf attacks happening in Sunnydale.
Opening with a great reworking of “The Tale of the Hook” with Xander and Cordelia making out in her car, while Xander keeps mentioning that he thinks he hears a noise outside the car, proving once more that its gender switching of traditional roles is not limited to Buffy alone. At the same time its clear that he’s not dealing well with Willow now being in a relationship with Oz, making a great counterpart to the previous episodes in which Willow has been hung up over him not paying attention to here. Of course all these misplaced feelings will eventually come to ahead but for now its fun trying to plot out the increasingly complicated relationships happening on the show. More so with Buffy still trying to get over the now evil Angel and Giles still attempting to repair his relationship with Jenny, reminding us again that it seemingly impossible for everyone on the show to be happy at the same time!
Oz and Willow’s relationship continues to be enjoyably awkward, while Seth Green is so likeable as Oz his character only further resonates when played off Willow, while her lamenting the lack of progress in their relationship to Buffy helps to highlight the fact that she’s perhaps not as shy and naive as it can frequently seem that she is, while clearly keen to make up for the time she lost lusting after Xander.
Werewolves have for the most part frequently been one of the more ignored classic horror monsters, with most shows preferring to go with the more popular and as a result more over worked Zombies and Vampires, so it’s unquestionably great for the show to finally introduce Werewolves into its ever expanding collection of memorable monsters. This episode marked the first of many appearances on the show, largely thanks to Oz who here discovers after being bitten by his young nephew that he has become a werewolf. It’s an origin which makes a fun counterpart to the usually bloody and violent attacks which lead to the person becoming a werewolf, no that the show of course doesn’t resist the urge to use this knowledge to create a fun red herring with Larry complaining about a recent dog bite.
The fact that Buffy like Giles has no experience dealing with werewolves adds an interesting element to the episode with Giles gleefully remarking
“Werewolves! One of the Classics! I’m sure my books and I are in for a Fascinating afternoon.”
The fact that a werewolf is a human most of the time only adds a further complication for Buffy, who unless she wants to start murdering innocent people is forced to refrain from her usual “find, slay, repeat” tactics. Things are of course only however made all the more complicated by the arrival of the chauvinist Werewolf hunter Cain who clearly knows nothing of the slayer, while keen to claim his twelfth werewolf pelt regardless of the moral complications of hunting such a creature.
Outside of the main storyline there some fun subplots with Xander finding out the truth about Larry, while elsewhere Angel make a brief appearance to further torment Buffy by turning one of her fellow students while the attack leaves Oz feeling that he’s responsible having no memories of his time as a werewolf as he wakes up confused and naked in the woods, though is clearly quick to adapt to his situation as he manages to quickly source chains and shackles to stop his werewolf form from running amok in Sunnydale.
On the downside of things the Werewolf make up hasn’t aged too well, but then we should be at least glad it’s a practical effect rather than ropey CGI, but then Werewolves have frequently been one of the more difficult creatures to bring to the screen and no doubt one of the reasons that there aren’t more Werewolf properties. That being said it’s still effective enough to work here while the unmatchable strength certainly adds a new element to the fight scenes which are exciting to watch, especially with Buffy having to face a stronger opponent than usual.
A fun episode which drives on many of the relationships, while at the same time adding an interesting new edge to Oz and one which will be used well throughout his time on the series as we will cover more on later episodes.
Next Episode: Betwitched, Bothered and Bewildered