Episode Title: Wild At Heart
Original Air Date: November 9, 1999
“Well, I ran away and went to hell … and then I got through it. I’m kind of hoping Willow won’t use me as a model.” – Buffy
One of the most nagging aspects of having seen the series in its entirety is knowing what lies ahead for these characters and where their individual paths will take them. At the same time certain characters lose their original appeal as the series went on be it the result of attempts by the writing team to evolve their character or more likely the actor throwing their weight around over how they wish to play their character. A prime example of this of course being Willow who went from the shy and adorably akward witch in training to becoming something of a grating presence in the series, something which seems to be a running theme for any character which Alyson Hannigan plays for long enough (see also American Pie and How I Met Your Mother). It was of course only on this rewatch that I was finally able to pinpoint when her character went from likeable to a general bugbear for the series with this episode really proving to be the ground zero.
At the same time this episode forms the middle section of a trilogy of the Willow / Oz trilogy which began with “Phases” and ends with “New Moon Rising” with Oz finding himself uncontrollably attracted to a mysterious singer Veruca who we previously saw in passing in the episodes “Living Conditions” and “Beer Bad” and who in this episode is revealed to be a female werewolf and who could potentially drive a wedge between Oz and Willow.
Originally intended as a season long angle the potential love triangle between Oz, Veruca and Willow is instead crammed into in this single episode, as Seth Green wanted Oz to return to being a recurring character than a main cast member so he could pursue a movie career. Ultimately this didn’t play out as expected seeing how Oz returns only two more times after this episode and one of those is in a dream sequence. This situation is of course only made the more frustrating because of how great a character Veruca is, much less how big a storyline this could have been seeing how Oz and Willow were always the seemingly perfect coupe on the show, so to break them up was something no one expected to see happen.
Veruca is a great character and one whose impact is felt from the start even though she could easily be misconstrued as being the female counterpart to Oz, seeing how she’s a singer in a band and a fellow werewolf. Veruca instead fully embraces her werewolf side seeing it as nothing she should be ashamed off while fully capable of remembering what happens to her when in werewolf form. She even shames Oz for chaining himself up in a cage when there’s a full moon. Needless to say Oz is keen to try and stop people being hurt by either of them, with the scene of the pair of them in the cage making out as they change being certainly one of the hotter moments on the show while providing the catalyst for Oz and Willows break up when she finds them together the next morning.
Its unclear how attracted Oz is to Veruca and if its more his wolf side taking control of him. Equally Veruca its hinted at is capable of releasing pheromones to entrance men as seem by both Giles and Xander being in an almost hypnotic daze during her performance at the bronze, though frustratingly its never confirmed. No doubt these are all things which would have been confirmed if the storyline was given more room to breathe as originally proposed and instead just leaves us to ponder over what it all means.
The ending of the episode is especially noteworthy not only for the violent end note it brings to Oz and Willow’s relationship thanks to Veruca attempting in her werewolf form to kill Willow, inturn highlighting a sudden rise in Willows own magical powers before Oz is force to kill Veruca himself. The final shot of Oz driving off in his van still as crushing as it was the first time I watched the episode as Oz knows that he has lost Willow while at the same time setting out with a determination to find a way to control his werewolf side.
Outside of the main plot there is still a lot of development for the season as Buffy has an encounter with one of the masked commando’s from “The Initiative” who in turn are seen capturing Spike at the start of the episode while he monologues about the revenge he is planning on inflicting on Buffy in one of a handful of amusing scenes we get throughout the episode such as Giles turning up randomly at “The Bronze”.
A great episode even if it ends on far from the happiest of moments and even though your watching a season long angle summarised down into one episode its still an effective episode even though Veruca ends up being another character I would have loved to have seen done more this season or at least saved to come back another time.
Next Episode: The Initiative