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12 October 2009 @ 12:38 pm
Watchers Review - Season 2, Ep 2  
WATCHERS




Story by CN Winters, Anne, David Zahir and Susan Carr
Written by CN Winters (with additional writing by Susan Carr)
Directed by CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by Sharon Kierein and Angie Wilson
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artists: Chris Cook, David Zahir, Cala, Rob, CN Winters

With: Felicia Day as Vi, Carly Schroeder as Marsha, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindstrom and Stephanie March as Bonnie.
Guest Starring: Christy Carlson Romano as Hope, Frank Langella as John, Paul Sorvino as Mr. Palmer and Chazz Palminteri as Jimmy Volano.

Warning - Here be spoilers.

Scene 01: Rowena arrives back at the Council. She'd gone to the London office of the New Council, because they were having problems getting themselves organized effectively. She sort of prolonged her stay unnecessarily because she wanted to avoid the sexual tension that has arisen between herself and Willow, causing bad feelings between the two.

Also in the lobby, we're introduced to Faith's sister, Hope Lehane. She's arrived to give the news to Faith that her alcoholic father is
suffering a terminal disease and will be dying soon. She asks her to return to Boston to give closure to the family. We also get another hint into Faith's past when she reminds Hope that her and their father tried to have her committed before she broke away from them. Hope claims that she isn't looking to forget the past, she just wants her to have a chance to say good-bye to her dad before it's too late.

Scene 02: Faith goes out into the courtyard behind the Council to think, and have a cigarette. There she meets Ro, who is also smoking - something that she'd given up pre-series. They have a heart to heart chat about the difficulties of putting the smokes down once you've gotten started and both plan to use each other's help to quit again. Rowena because it's a bad crutch, Faith because Robin asked her to try.
More importantly, Rowena admits her feelings for Willow and that she's come to accept that though she wasn't looking for it, she's ready to try a lesbian relationship with her, if she could just forgive her. Faith tells Ro about her dad and that she plans to go see him, even though 'strained' wouldn't really be adequate to describe their relationship.

Scene 03: We cut to a short scene in Xander's workshop, where he's displaying his new weaponry: a battery-boosted squirt gun for the younger Slayers who are having trouble handling the stakes. With Willow being a Coven Priestess, she's able to bless water for effect against the vampires.

Willow comes in to see him, but doesn't say anything and goes to wander off again. When Xan asks her if she needed something, she instantly bursts into tears (because of the Rowena situation).

Scene 04: Meanwhile, in a Watcher classroom, Robin is teaching a course to the new Watcher recruits. He decides to work on self-defense that day and when a young Watcher-in-Training says she hasn't any gym clothes, he replies that is the point. Watchers have to be ready to fight in what they're wearing, in case they become a part of the action. He dismissed them to the gym, while he stays behind to speak for a minute to Faith, who's showed up.

She tells him about her father and that she needs to go to Boston for the weekend. Although he offers to go with her, she declines, assuring him that this isn't a "loner-gal" thing, just that it isn't that big a deal. Although unconvinced about that, he tells her to call if she needs him.

Commentary: While Willow and Rowena will end up as a great couple together, I don't have a lot of emotional investment in them as a couple, so I can't really comment on their drama. You may find it emotionally engrossing, I just find myself wishing they'd just get together or don't. But, I do have an investment in the Robin/Faith ship, and little scenes like this one are why. Even though Giles/Becca are my 'cute coupledom' of the moment, I love the way Robin and Faith are written as individuals and as a couple working in a high-stress, dangerous profession.

Scene 05: Much later that night, Willow is in one of her favorite comfort places, the library. Dawn enters. Dawn, recall, chose to leave college in order to complete her education through the Council program. She's also working as a Watcher-in-Training, following in the footsteps of Giles and Willow both (Will is a Watcher in addition to being a Coven Priestess - thankfully the Watcher staff avoid the Mary Sue slope by not allowing her to become all-perfect and all-powerful and always-right).

Dawn is researching a report for Giles' Demon History class, but her and Willow take some time to talk here. With Buffy not around, for a change, Dawn has been thinking about the other missing people in her life. Tara, her mom... even Anya gets a mention as being missed. The conversation revolves around to Rowena and Willow's avoidance of her, which can't go on indefinitely.

We also learn that Will is in the library because there's a prophecy that needs to be avoided involving a once-a-century flood. Willow is looking for away to pacify the 'Neptunic gods'.

When Ro enters, Dawn makes a hasty retreat for them - even though Willow tries to dissuade her. This leaves the two women in a tense standoff. Ro offers to help with the research, but Willow blows her off with the same passive-aggressive treatment we saw in the kitchen when they argued over Marsha (the youngest Slayer, around 14) getting into some heavy duty action that Willow didn't appreciate.



Anyway, it's a nice callback to Willow's characterization from an earlier episode. The Watchers writers are really good at keeping characterization consistent.

Scene 06: Short scene with Faith at Hope's hotel room. There isn't much to say about this, because nothing happens here that couldn't have just been mentioned later, or shown with a phone call.

Scene 07: A little later, after Ro has left Willow in the library, we see that she's meeting Becca for dinner at a restaurant. Ro is trying to recruit Becca for something involving Willow, but then thinks better of it. Seeing how upset she is though, Becca firmly replies "Tell me".

We cut away from them to go onto Act Two....

Scene 08: The next morning, Willow finds Ro again. They're back in the Council library. Rowena has discovered a loophole in the zoning policies of Cleveland that may allow them to stop the expansion building into the lake that will upset a group of Undines that will unleash the apocalyptic floods that Willow is trying to avoid. Where placating and magic may fail, perhaps good old fashioned mundane politics can succeed.

Rowena apologizes also for running away to England and not returning for so long in order to avoid their feelings for one another. She also asks for a second chance to set things right, but is rebuffed. She gives Becca a call to put her back-up plan into effect. We also get a reminder that Jeff Lindquist, the boy wizard in the Coven is still dealing with the death of his mother. Lily was a casualty of their fight against The Presidium and had been taken off of life support last episode.

Scene 09: At the same time, Hope and Faith are in the Council jet being ferried to Boston. Although it looks like Hope is really trying to make some sort of reapproahment, Faith is prickly here. She's still holding onto her anger about the past, both the abuse of her father and of Hope's telling their parents that she was crazy to "one-up" her.

But Hope points out that they're mother wasn't a prize-parent either... she tried to drown Faith for complaining the bathwater was too cold once. And, her charges that Faith was losing it wasn't to look better, she was trying to save her sister who she thought was losing her mind.

The trip back to Boston isn't going so well....



Commentary: I like this scene because it's really well written involving two characters who have a very complicated past together. I have to take Hope's side on this one, though. It's easy to judge since we know the whole story, but who wouldn't think their sis wasn't cracking up when she started to talk about demons and vampires? I also like the shout out we also get to Rosa, Faith's first Watcher. And, Faith's insistence that being in Slayer in no way excused what she did... she IS and not WAS a murderer still and always will be no matter what else she does with her life (this will be picked up on again in a powerful episode involving Kennedy and her bloodline, but we'll get to that when we get there).

Scene 10: Dawn checks in on Jeff, barging into his suite. She instantly recognizes the books he has arrayed about them and we have a very nice allusion to 'BTVS: Forever' and Dawn tries to tell Jeff that bringing Lily back won't work in the way he desperately wants. There really are things that magic can't fix. She insists that he give her all of the resurrection books, or she'll go to Willow and rat him out.

Commentary: Although this scene really has nothing to do with the episode's plots (Undines/Flood Threat, Ro/Willow and Faith's Return Home), it is a nice acknowledgement of both Jeff's grief and the fact that there is magic out there that promises to raise the dead. It only makes sense in a universe with tangible, easily seen results of spells and rituals that someone would turn to it to reverse a devastating loss. And, it's great that they use Dawn to intervene, taking advantage of her experiences and her post-S6 of BTVS maturity. I really liked this short scene.

Scene 11: Slayer Gym- The Kennedy/Mia ship... which I loved... grrrr.
Anyway, this scene lets us know that they're seeing each other now, though Kenn still has issues with the Willow breakup, especially with Ro in the picture as a romantic interest to her ex. Kenn admits that Ro rubs her the wrong way, but insists that this isn't about her wanting Willow back, she just doesn't like seeing her in pain caused by Ro.

Scene 12: Xander confronts Rowena about her treatment of Willow in the wake of the big battle. Protective of his best friend, he wants to give Ro an earful for causing her to cry, but Ro tells him it isn't any of his business.

"I wanna know why – why you left, why you didn't call her, and why I had to spend my nights listening to her sobbing in her bedroom. She didn't think I could hear and I didn't push, but I still kept an eye on her. After all, I made a promise to you before the big battle, remember? The one where you begged me to look after her, because you were so scared at perhaps losing her? So now…all I want is answers."

"Look Xander, I personally feel this is none of your business and –."

"No," he said firmly, cutting her off. "It's beyond personal. When someone hurts Will, it becomes my business."

Well, no, Xander - it really doesn't.

Commentary: This is why I don't like the Willow/Ro "will they or won't they" subplot. It takes up far too much time and attention and it seems like the whole Council feels the need to share their opinions on it. I understand that they're Willow's friends and like Ro and want them both to be happy... I just object on the amount of time spent away from the main plots for it and the way it's been stretched out over several episodes. Again, your mileage may vary - I just happen to find it not that interesting.

I do like the way that Ro accepts the responsibility of how she handled the entire business, and especially how Xander complains that she isn't supposed to do that because it makes it harder for him to stay angry with her on Willow's behalf. And, I always generally like the Xan/Ro scenes.

Her declarations of "love isn't a strong enough word for what I feel for her" are a little over the top, though.


Scene 13: We meet up with Marsha and Vi, as we go back to our monster-of-the-week plot. They're canvassing businesses to show up at the city council meeting that night to protest the decision to grant permission to build along the waterfront without public input. They need to stop the construction plans because of the Undines - water spirits, who've we met before, who are angered.

Anyway, Marsha shows more likeability as a character here and it's always nice when Vi gets some dialog. This is especially true since, as far as we know, her and Kennedy are the only Slayers-in-Training from Sunnydale left with the death of Rona in last season's finale.

Scene 14: "I got three more sign-ups!" Marsha said as she bounced up next to Vi who handed out a flyer to a passer-by. "How about you?"

"One, and he was iffy," Vi answered as Marsha started to chuckle, but the older Slayer ignored it. "Come on. Let's go up the other block to see how the teams are doing."

"Guess that means I'm three times the Slayer you are, huh?" Marsha returned.

"Watch it, Shrimp," Vi threatened. "The only reason you're winning is because you can do that sad Shrek Puss-in-Boots face. It doesn't look so convincing from a 17-year-old as a 14-year-old. Age is on your side."

"You mean this one?" Marsha asked before she stuck out her bottom lip and let it tremble just slightly. "Would you be kind enough to help us Mister?" Marsha said in a mock-begging voice.

"Hey, if the package works, Kiddo, keep on selling it," Vi told her.

They both laughed as they continued up the sidewalk.

Scene 15: Willow meets with Giles and Robin. The meeting is really centered on Bonnie, but we get some discussion here and planning on Jeff's status (he's still a minor, at 17) and worry that he could be forced to leave 'school' while he's emotionally unstable. When you add his natural gift for powerful magic, there's worried he could turn to the dark-side - so to speak. They want to enroll him into the Watcher's program in order to both help Willow keep tabs on his development and mental state and to provide more of a reason for anyone from Social Services to allow him to complete his education at the 'school'.

Willow is worried about adding anymore pressure to him, but she'll talk to him about it.

Then, they go to talk to the real-estate/lawyer/betrayer of all Humanity to an extradimensional invasion woman - Bonnie.

Scene 16: Realizing that keeping Bonnie in a cell is untenable, she's been given limited free movement around the Council. She's still rather sarcastic about it, and Giles points out they could just as easily return her to a cell. Actually, she could probably pick up a phone and get released, but as we know, the Presidium is trying to have her killed so she has incentive to at least be somewhat cooperative.

Commentary: We learn from Bonnie about some of the locations of other Hellmouths (currently not active) around the world that could potentially be used by the Presidium for another attempt to enter our dimension. But what I really love about this scene, other than how Bonnie is written, is the almost throwaway suggestion that will lead directly to how The Presidium storyline will be resolved at the end of this season. That is some good writing, especially since you basically have the same big bad stretching over two whole seasons, and yet Watchers avoids making it repetitive and dull - excellent work, guys.

Scene 17: I'm going to combine some scenes here because though we jump around a bit, they're all following Faith in Boston. Hope leads Faith to her father's house and its in a really horrible neighborhood. Interestingly, Faith holds the cab with a $100 dollar bill, making it very clear that she isn't staying much past 'hello, I'm here, Dad'. Now maybe its just me, but this doesn't say much about reconciliation on her part. And, the fact that she calls him by his name, rather than his relationship to her just adds to the feeling that she isn't completely on board with this whole 'closure' thing.

This being the Buffyverse, though, it turns out that 'dad' isn't so interested in a reconciliation and closure, either....



Scene 18: We have another very short scene, this one with Willow. She's in the coven room, preparing to try to pinpoint the other Hellmouth locations from the Astral Plane. Andrew will act as her anchor, again showing (which we saw last season) that he is also developing his magic as a full fledged coven member and does more at the Council than be the geeky comedy relief (thankfully, because the Watchers don't always handle that aspect very gracefully. Which they'll prove again later in this very episode).

Scene 19: A jump to Boston again... Faith is out walking and getting some air, when she's confronted by three demons.

Scene 20: Back in Cleveland, Ro is with Vi and Mia as they put their plan to stop the waterfront development into action. It's obvious that the head of the company involved in the proposed development is very unhappy with Ro in particular, which could lead to something unpleasant later.
The girls agree that he's got the 'mobster' vibe going on....

Scene 21: I'm going to combine several short-blurb scenes here again, because they all involve Willow in the Astral Plane: We receive confirmation to Bonnie's having suggested a Hellmouth exists under Grand Central Station and also find that the Disney Magic Kingdom rests on one as well.

The important thing here however, is Willow is pulled off course by Faith's distress and she sees the attack on her. As the immediate danger recedes however, she's yanked to a living room in Boston where a greater threat to the Slayer exists....



Scene 22: Back in the coven room, Willow comes back with a start from her Astral sojourn with the insite that Faith is in danger from her own family.

Scene 23: Willow rushes out into the lobby and informs Robin and Giles that Faith is in trouble. We find out here that Giles was planning something big for Becca for later tonight.

Scene 24: Back at the Cleveland city council meeting, the CEO of Palmer Corp. tries to assure the public that they're development will not impact the environment in a destructive way. But, Ro actively challenges his assertions.

The city council agrees to overturn the variance allowing the expansion due to the opposition that the Slayers' earlier canvass was able to muster. But, we can tell that this isn't over by a long shot. Rowena, in particular, has made an enemy of both Mr. Palmer and the sub-contractor, Mr. Volano... and both of them are giving up a very obvious violent vibe....

Scene 25: Another combined scene due to their following Giles/Becca: The upshot of the next two scenes is that Giles proposes to Becca!

Commentary: I fan-squee pathetically. I love, love, love Becca Montague and am so, so happy to see Giles in love again. Let's just hope that we don't have to suffer another Jenny Calendar debacle.

Scene 26: Council helicoptor heads toward Boston with Willow, Kennedy and Andrew. He fulfills his geeky and odious comic relief function. (See, Watchers writers not handling geeky Andrew gracefully....)

Scene 27: Fade into the Coven room where Jeff is getting ready to cast the resurrection spell. Fortunately, Dawn isn't dumb. She's been keeping an eye on things and knew what he was up to. As he insists she can't stop him, she says she realizes that... she wants to help him.

Oh-oh.

Scene 28: Dawn tells him that she's willing to help him make the attempt, BUT, he should be conscious of the consequences... of what and who he is willing to risk to make this happen with him mom:

"Willow and the Scoobies did the spell that brought back Buffy. I love my sister…but now Tara's dead. Anya's dead. And truth be known, Willow died too, on so many levels that year. Even Xander lost his eye. Sure, one life was restored, but at the cost of many other people's pain and heartbreak. But maybe it was just coincidence? That's the way Xander sees it. He doesn't think magic is the reason for all the other tragedy. But I tend to agree with Willow because, the fact remains the same - the people who did the spell are not the same or not here anymore. So the question is…are you prepared for all that? If Willow is right, are you ready to kill her or Andrew or me to return your mom?"

Commentary: Wow. I love this scene for a) not just repeating the Monkey's Paw analogy we covered in BTVS: Forever, b) it's just so right that it be Dawn who points out the drawbacks of messing with the universe this way, c) the point that Dawn is tying things that happened to the gang's flaunting of the 'rules' regarding life and death... we were always told that magic has consequences and costs - explicitly by Spike, but we often didn't see any of these consequences. I also like that Dawn isn't stating that their misfortunes were caused by Buffy's return from death, she doesn't know. She can't really know what the ultimate effects were of that choice. d) I love the power of this dialog, but I also love the ambiguity of it all - is there a devastating price to be paid, or were Tara and Anya just coincidence? (Judging by the ridiculous trajectory of Warren's bullet, I'm willing to buy Tara was a consequence - but I think that was just sloppy filming and not done as a purposeful lesson.)

The rest of the scene plays as expected, but its well written, not belabored, allows Dawn to rehash her major story arc from S6 of Buffy without the whining and show that she's come out on the other side of it better, wiser and more understanding of her limitations.

Commentary: I LOVE THIS. This is the scene that makes this episode and it has to do with a subplot rather than the main story. I love how they wrap up Jeff's obsession with bringing his mother back without dragging it out, but without short-shrifting the aftermath of her loss, either.
And, I love how Dawn is written here - it's far better than anything that Joss gave her after S5, including in the S8 comics.


Scene 29: Becca accepts Giles' proposal.

Scene 30: Another combine of scenes as we follow Faith, Hope and her Father. It's sometime after the demon attack on Faith. Her family takes her out to eat at one of Boston's "best kept secrets". But, we know that they're not on the up and up, so we're evince little surprise when Faith is betrayed. It's only a question of why (and keep in mind the story of her father's terminal illness).



It turns out that The Presidium made an offer John couldn't refuse... Faith for eternal life and an end to his debilitating illness. Hope was just too weak to resist her father. Faith finds herself surrounded by ten Presidium demons and a vampire maitre d' but she's not going down without a fight.

At that same moment, Willow, Kennedy, Andrew and Robin are barrelling to the rescue in a Jeep. Wills and Kenn get into one of their arguments, but Robin shocks them into stopping by yelling at both of them.

Back in the restaurant, Faith is holding her own, despite the numbers. John, pissed off at Hope for wanting him to stop this, offers her to the vampire as punishment. But Faith intervenes to save her sister, then makes a dash for the kitchen for a weapon... she finds that her father already planned for that possiblity, by hiding away all of the sharp utensils.

But, Faith has been at this too long to let that stop her. With some brawn and a lot of brains, she's able to defeat her gun wielding father and the Presidium representatives just before the 'rescue team' bursts in.

Commentary: I like this exciting fight scene and especially Faith's flaming spoon trick (read the story), but can we call a moritorium on any further "It's a long story"/another character sums up said story in two lines of dialog/"Apparently, not that long".

It's sort of been wore out, now....


In the aftermath, we get a repeat of the families are made not born into that we learned from Tara in 'BTVS: Family', but the scene is really saved by a shocking twist by Hope Lehane..., that caught me by surprise.

Scene 31: Later in the Boston hotel where Faith was staying and now everyone else is, Willow and Kennedy have a heart to heart regarding their argument in the car and their ongoing problems relating in the aftermath of their breakup. Even though Kenn can't understand what Willow would see in Ro, she encourages her to overlook her stupidity and give her the second chance she obviously desperately wants.

In her room, Faith is with Robin and berating herself for falling for her father's phony 'make amends' plea. She also unexpectedly breaks down into tears over it, really hurt that he never loved her and never would even though she played the meme that she didn't care because she had the Watcher family now.

Scene 32: We end with Becca giving some advice to Ro and Willow's hotel phone number. The blonde Watcher calls the red-head and starts to break the unfortunate tension between them....


The Good: Most of the relationship stuff was nicely handled with especial mention of Faith's story and the Becca/Giles engagement stuff. But the real standout moments belonged to Jeff (not one of my favorite characters) and Dawn. Their scenes together were uniform WIN.

I like the shoutouts to the past and continuity, again with Dawn, but also with Faith's past and Robin's (much of which we learned about in the two parter, 'Gangland' and 'Lessons Learned' last season).

The fight scene with the outnumbered Faith in Act Four was excitingly written (a strong point of the Watchers' writers, anyway), especially in the way it subtly showed that Faith is a smarter fighter than she used to be. She's always looking for options and thinking ahead instead of only pounding away with her fists until she wins or keels over.


The Bad: The only real problem, and it was quite distracting, was with the number of jumps from scene to scene here. Too many of them didn't require it as they were actually part of the same scene and could have just been combined (the way I did in this review). This was especially prevalent in Act 3 where we were being bounced around like a pinball.


The Score: This one is a strong relationship oriented episode with highlights including Giles/Becca, Faith/Robin, and Faith/Hope & her father. I also LOVED (just in case it wasn't clear) the Dawn/Jeff scenes and dealing with the aftermath of his mother's death in the line of duty. I liked seeing the Mia/Kennedy relationship progressing and Kennedy's being the one to tell Will she needs to give Ro another shot, even though she doesn't personally like her much. The main plot with Faith was very good, but the secondary plot was less than engaging.

This was a good episode that plays as a 'Family, Part II' without being repetitive with the notion and giving some stellar character and dialog scenes. 3.75 out of 5