Episode Title: Beauty and the Beasts
Original Air Date: October 20, 1998
“We’re doing crime! You don’t sneak up during crime!” – Xander
Time for another favourite and arguably the best episode of this season, which is kinda worrying seeing how we are only four episodes into the season but here we get one of the rarer Oz-centric episodes as the Scoobie’s resident werewolf is accused of being responsible of brutally attacking a Sunnydale High student in the woods.
While certainly not the most unpopular member of the Scoobie gang, Oz at the same time is frequently the most background member of the group with his permanently laid back nature while only ever being brought to the front to make a witty comment or to give Willow someone to fawn over. Even as a werewolf his abilities were always limited, because you know those make up applications aren’t cheap and hence his transformations throughout his time on the series were limited to say the least. Here though the show runners finally find a clever way to use his Lycan ways to good use, while this episode also marks the last appearance of this werewolf design named “Gay Lemur” by the makeup team as the Oz werewolf would be replaced with a bipedal look instead for his next appearance.
The majority of the episode is based around the group being unsure if they can trust Oz, which really is more down to Xander dropping the ball by not noticing the library window had been left open aswell as sleeping when he should have been watching Oz who at this point in the series has taken to being caged in the library during the full moon while the group take turns to watch over him. At the same time Buffy’s return to Sunnydale continues to provide her with further woes as she is forced to see Mr. Platt, the school psychologist while her relationship with Scott continues to hampered by her memories of Angel, who to confuse things for her further she discovers this week has escaped the hell dimension he was sent to at the end of season 2.
The reunion with Angel is actually handled pretty interestingly with Angel now more animalistic despite having his soul restored just before he was sent to hell though despite the hints that he could be involved in the murders, it never seems overly likely that it could be anyone other than Oz. However it seems that due to time passing much quicker in that dimension that he has lost who he was as a result of the endless torture he would have had to endure while trying to escape. On a more nerdy observation it’s interesting to see that the chains that Buffy uses to secure Angel seemingly come from Spike and Drusilla’s stash as indicated by Drusilla’s dolls being in the same area and hinting at the kinky antics of that pair. Angel’s time in this dimension will off course prove to a key aspect to the season let alone a lead into his spin off.
While it might have been interesting to have Oz turn out to be responsible for the murders throughout the episode it ultimately turns out to be Sunnydale High student Pete who it turns out has been experimenting with various chemical potions to turn himself into a more “super-mas macho” version of himself over the fear of his girlfriend Debbie leaving him, only to instead find that his potion came with monstrous side effects which he has been using to kill anyone who tries to get close to Debbie. This is of course bad news for Oz who makes friendly conversation with Debbie and sparking another of Pete’s jealous rampages in the process.
If I was to compile a list of the most badass moment of the series then the showdown between Oz and Pete would be somewhere near the top. The fact that Oz is trying to calm the monster version of Pete down by trying to explain that there is nothing going on between him and Debbie only to repeatedly find himself on the wrong end of a vicious beat down including a nasty looking slam on the library stairs though the real badass moment comes when Oz see’s the full moon rising and turns to Pete and coolly says “Time’s up. Rules Change” before turning into his werewolf form and essentially turning the tables on Pete who gets the beating he unquestionably deserves.
Unquestionably there is a theme of domestic abuse that the episode is trying to highlight with the relationship between Debbie and Pete, while the fact that he’s using drugs to bulk up seems to also hint at the issue to steroid abuse more so when he goes into such epic rages. While the proof for the second theme is slightly shaky, the domestic abuse angle is much clearer and includes the great moment of Buffy forcing Debbie to confront the issue she is experiencing with Pete while the episode perfectly reflects battered person syndrome as we see Debbie going through the cycle of violence, apologies, forgiveness despite the physical harm she suffers gradually increasing with Pete’s rage and ultimately ending in her demise.
A fun episode and one which doesn’t let its message over shadow the actual events of the episode so that it ends up coming off like an after school special. Instead here we get subtle movements within the ongoing plot and development of the group and even though monster Pete might be kind of lacking the finale makes up for so much that you have no issues looking past it.
Next Episode: Homecoming