Episode Title: New Moon Rising
Original Air Date: May 2, 2000
Giles – “How did you get in?”
Spike – “The door was unlocked. You might want to watch that, Rupert. Someone dangerous could get in.”
Buffy – “Or, someone formerly dangerous and currently annoying.”
This week is kind of a confusing episode seeing how its more caught up in teen romance drama than any real monster action as Oz returns to Sunnydale now able to control his werewolf side thanks the spiritual quest he embarked upon at the end of “Wild At Heart” where his werewolf side saw him cheating on Willow with the female werewolf Veruca. Of course since he’s been gone things have changed leaving Tara no longer sure where her relationship with Willow now stands.
Opening to Willow and Tara talking about Tara’s plan to have a secret cat in her dorm (because that always ends well) the relationship between the pair is all but established now, though by the end of the episode it will be fully confirmed as the pair officially being a couple with an implied kiss which many critics at the time cited as being a landmark moment for the series and it certainly was for 2000 when same sex relationships were far from the common sight they are TV today. So much so was the case that the relationship between Tara and Willow was deemed a risky move for the show, though ask anyone today what they remember about the show and its pretty much guaranteed that the lesbian witch storyline will come up.
While Oz’s return is supposed to be seen as throwing the spanner into the blossoming relationship, it comes slightly too late in the season to truly be as effective as it could have been, with Willow having long since moved on from her break up from Oz. True they might still have some of the same chemistry as we get to see during the conversation they share about where Oz has been this whole time but you never feel at any point that these characters might get back together. However when this episode aired there was some fans who blamed Tara for breaking Oz and Willow up, no doubt forgetting that it was Oz shacking up with another werewolf which caused them to break up long before Tara even showed up.
Thankfully Oz’s return isn’t completely wasted as upon discovering that Willow and Tara are now a couple he promptly looses control over his wolf powers and makes it two weeks in a row now that Tara has been left to deal with a monster threat by herself and no doubt leaving her to consider if Willow is really worth all this hassle. Still for fans of the action figures this episode would provide the design used for the Tara figure enabling you to replay the episode if you wanted. This encounter between Tara and Oz’s werewolf form equally serves to setup the finale as he is quickly captured by the Initiative leading Buffy and Scoobies to launch a rescue attempt which ends with Riley leaving the Initiative when faced with the consequences of helping the group rescue Oz.
Not forgetting the season’s big bad, Adam this week is seen forming an alliance with Spike who he offers to remove the behaviour chip in exchange his help. From this episode we can see that Adam prefers to send his demon minions out to test the defences of the Initiative rather than take them on head on, though judging by his recent losses he’s clearly decided he needs a higher class of demon. This relationship will in the episodes to come will become a key part of season let alone one of the more fascinating aspects in how they interact with each other.
While this episode might have been more of an event when it first aired, watching it back now it certainly has lost some of its impact and makes for a disappointing end to this trilogy of episodes which began with “Phases” followed by “Wild at Heart” and ending with this episode. It’s really just a shame that the next time Oz would appear in the series (outside of a dream sequence) would be in the comic series and perhaps to this end Oz’s exit should have been left as it was than giving us this bitter end we recive now.
Next Episode: The Yoko Factor