Watchers: The Virtual Series
Season 2, Episode 14
Story by Chris Cook
Written by Chris Cook (with additional writing by Susan Carr)
Produced and Directed by Chris Cook and CN Winters
Edited by Angie Wilson
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artist – Chris Cook
With Felicia Day as Vi, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Lindsay Felton as Skye, Asia Argento as Marie, Alicia Silverstone as Heli and
Avril Lavigne as Janet
Guest starring Hank Azaria as Carl, Harry Shearer as Lenny, Chris Bath as the TV newswoman, Barbora Kodetova as the rave girl, Christopher Meloni as the detective and Kate Beckinsale as the Kudlak.
Scene 01: We open on a sex scene, with incense burning and cries of passion between Willow and Rowena Allister.
The scene is heated as whatever Ro's concerns were regarding her and Willow being physically intimate don't seem to be hanging over them anymore. There is a brief moment of discomfort for Willow, as Rowena wonders if she's made her feel so good by helping things along with another orgasma-bomb spell (S1, E22 - May Day), but Willow assures her that the climax was all natural ... or as Willow puts it, "One hundred percent unsweetened".
Rowena wonders if things will always be that good and Willow assures her that sometimes they'll be even better.
Commentary: You know I couldn't let this scene go by without talking about the Rollow, again. First, I do like the fact that Willow has been such a help to Ro to put her trauma behind her (as much as possible). I like that they're physical relationship has become in-sync with their emotional relationship. But, I really don't like Ro's dialog here after the "was this a spell" part. It dips a little too far into sappy for me and I wouldn't have minded that part being 'offscreen'. But, I also like that this scene is upfront, rather than coming later to interrupt the main plot. What I really like about this though, is that Ro doesn't get accusatory toward Willow regarding the possible spell... she has enough confidence in Will to know that if magic was involved in the powerful climax, it was an enhancer and not an assault or an underhanded gesture toward getting Rowena over her reticense. I also really like that, although Willow frowns about Ro bringing up a spell, she doesn't hold it against her, but is reassuring about what type of magic she'd practice and that it wouldn't be done without her knowing about it in advance. That building and expression of trust is what I really like about the Rollow-ship, even if I sometimes find the dialog creeping over the top.
Scene 02: We cut away from Ro and Willow to visit a shipping terminal office.
As the security guards on duty crack beers and banter, a freighter comes out of the night. They're barely able to escape before the huge ship collides with the docks, rips through the pier and drives deep into the warehouse itself, before finally heaving over onto its side.
The doomed tanker is the 'Ceres'. Aboard her, its a near ghost-ship as the crew's bodies lie strewn across the control room. 'Nearly a ghost ship', for there is someone alive aboard.
A woman, clad in black, manages to avoid the spotlights from the police boats and helicoptors approaching the shocking wreck. She walks to the bow of the ship and leaps overboard, a full 20 meters above the ground, into the shadows below....
Commentary: The ship wreck description was really well done here, and I really like the photowork, so kudos to both....
Scene 03: On the local news, the catastrophic (I like this word too much, but I don't know why) collision is the big story, which isn't shocking. The reporter on scene reports that emergency crews have set up a quarantine zone around the vessel, speculating that a virus may have been responsible for the crew's failure to stop the disaster unfolding.
The interesting thing here, however, is the 'news blurb' at the bottom of the screen... Volano, the gangster that has caused the Council, and especially Rowena no ends of trouble has had his extortion case dismissed due to a technicality... a case of 'spontaneous combustion'! Whether it was he or a witness that burst into Amber Grove-ness, I await to see.
Scene 04: In the Council library, there is a flurry of activity. The news report is on the television. When Faith comes in, she immediately assumes that the bustle of activity is due to the ship and asks for the background. It is reported to her (and thereby to us) that the crewmen have been confirmed dead, 'drained through a neck wound'. Kennedy's patrol were nearby and are on-scene. Willow reports that Dr. Miller and Rowena are on their way to the temporary morgue to check the bodies for signs of what might have happened to them, but clearly a 'virus' was not to blame. With Robin obviously busy, Faith chooses to join Kenn - she sighs over the interruption to her and Robin's plans for the evening, and Willow sympathizes since she and Ro's plans are on hold, as well.
Scene 05: On patrol around the warehouses surrounding the ruined pier, Kennedy runs into a suspect... the mysterious woman that we saw earlier leave the ship, and presumably she who killed off the crew. She's described as a vampire, but she's unlike any the other Slayers have run into before.
For one thing, her nails are extended into claws. For another, she doesn't speak - rather only makes growling and hissing sounds in their direction. The vampire, if this is what she is, also shrugs off both Kennedy's attempts to stake her and newer (and important) Slayer, Heli's crossbow bolt through her chest. Clearly, if this is a vampire, there is some sort of magic at work, because she isn't dusting easily.
Heli ends up with her ass kicked, while Kennedy's suffers a minor wound. The mysterious vampire-woman retreats as more of Kenn's squad shows up. But, there is something else mysterious about this new threat that is noted specifically by the Slayers at this time. Kennedy gets in a solid punch on the vampire, and to the other Slayer's surprise, the creature is literally hurled through a metal warehouse wall in a single blow. This doesn't seem to slow her down any and she makes her escape.
Scene 06: Later that morning, they have a debriefing with Kennedy and Faith. Surprisingly, Bonnie requests access to the meeting as she has pertinent information on the company that hired the 'Ceres'.
Kennedy reports on the difficulties on getting the vampire to dust, but also says she's positive - based on her Slayer senses - that they are dealing with a vampire. The suggestion is made that this is a subspecies to those they're usually fighting, as Rowena reports that the crewmen's remains aboard weren't just drained in the ordinary manner. Their chest cavities were torn open, internal organs shredded and the entire cavity drained of every ounce of fluid.
Faith comes up with a plan to find and attack the creature later that night. In the meanwhile she reports that Heli will be off for the next few days in recovery.
With the Slayers sent off to rest, Giles turns to Bonnie for her contribution to the discussion. She's an actual font of information on this particular business. She reports that TransWorld Atlantic (who either owned or contracted the Ceres - I don't know how shipping works) is a legitimate company. But, they have a sort of side business which specializes in assisting overseas demons with migration. She tells thems that this little company within the company doesn't generally deal with hostiles, which Ro is skeptical about. Bonnies seems very sure, however, and reports that even the vampires that get transport to the U.S. are usually strictly off human-blood. She suggests that if this vampire were being offered passage, it's because the people responsible didn't know what they were dealing with.
Bonnie tells the Council that if they start making enquiries at TransWorld Atlantic, they'll disappear and relocate themselves. But, naturally, she knows people within the corporate structure that she can reach out to on their behalf. The Council wisely remains skeptical of any of Bonnie's offers of assistance, but I see no choice if they want to know what the company knows about the creature they were tasked with transporting.
Commentary: I love Bonnie-snarkage, and damn it, I generally find myself liking her despite her whole 'betraying humanity' deal. It is also nice that the writers pulled her back into play, since she's been spending so much time off-screen, just hanging out in protective custody. Of course, to me anyway, she still seems to have far too much wandering priviliges in the aftermath of her attempting to steal Skye's body (S2, E4 - Swap Meet).
Scene 07: A very short time later, Kennedy is keyed up after an hour's sleep, and is working a punching bag when Mia enters the gym. Kennedy complains to her about her lack of performance when she faced the mystery vampire - stating that when a Vampire Slayer meets a Vampire, it is customary for the vampire to be dead. Mia points out that when a Vampire Slayer puts a stake through the heart of a vampire, it is customary for it to grit someone's driveway.
Kenn shrugs in frustration at Heli being so injured, when the vampire got clean away. She punches the bag, and like the unusual bout of strength earlier (even for a Slayer) the reinforced moorings for the bag snap and it flies across the room, smashing out a mirror. Mia doesn't notice, putting it down to Kennedy taking out her frustration on inanimate objects (which wouldn't be non-Slayer-y), but Kenn frowns at the bag lying on the floor a few meters away.
Scene 08: That evening, our unusual vampire specimen is drawn to a raver party in a warehouse. She fits right in, in her dirty, ratty cloak as everyone is in leather-n-studs wear. A teenage girl engages her in conversation, and mistakes the vampire's open mouth as an invite to kiss her on the dance floor. When she moves in to trade frenching, she gets a barbed, long tongue down her esophagus instead - pandemonium breaks out as the unfortunate victim convulses and dies and the vampire feeds on her internal organs and blood....
Scene 09: The Slayer contigent finds their way to the now evacuated club, tipped off by a detective contact on the Cleveland PD (And it's Eliot Stabler! Or, okay, I guess he's not going to give us his name, but I think we know who he is....) and they quickly surround the building. Xander is with them, playing Watcher-on-scene with a remote video feed back to HQ.
Commentary: I like Faith's using the video feed to tease Willow and Rowena playing footsie. Not only do I like it when Faith gets under Willow's skin, despite their being good friends in the wake of BTVS: S7, but Faith also guesses that she made Giles polish his glasses. Ro's deadpanned, "Furiously" in regards to Giles' polishing is great, as is the implication that she really has gotten comfortable with being publically linked to Willow romantically. Hopefully, this will mean that the will they/won't they seesaw is over with. Anyway, this new WATCHERSverse version of Faith is written so consistently and well, that I wanted to highlight it because she is so much better defined here than Joss and company have managed over in BTVS: S8.
Scene 10: When the Council contigent enters, they find several bodies in the same state as the crewmen of the Ceres, including the unfortunate 'dancers' who'd been suspended by chains above the dance floor. I'm afraid they were doomed the moment the vampire entered.
Investigation further suggests the vampire hasn't left yet, and in fact Xander spots her. The Slayers engage, but this female vampire is amazingly agile, strong, and capable of moves to make the Slayers envious. Even outnumbered, the Slayers find themselves being outmatched by her. Even more amazingly, the weird vampire hasn't just proven resistant to stakes through the heart, but she also isn't bothered by being set aflame by Mia and her incendiary crossbow bolts. She continues to shrug off all of their best attacks and keep fighting them.
Kennedy manages to take the vampire down temporarily by pinning it through the gut with her pole arm, but only temporarily. The vampire mimics Kenn's words back to her in her own voice, causing her to hesitate in surprise. The vamp smashes the pole arm in half, removes the axe blade, heals nearly instantly and then shape shifts into a jackal and races off into the night. But the weirdness doesn't end there.
When Kenn races after her, she starts running up a vertical surface, before gravity catches up with her and Kenn falls and is knocked unconscious... not only is the vampire showing powers not seen since Dracula, but Kennedy is continuing to show non-Slayer super-abilities as she engages her.
Commentary: Again, I really love the descriptives of this scene. The fight between the group of Slayers, the team at HQ observing over Xander's remote camera, and this very unusual creature is very well written.
Scene 11: A bit later, back at the Council, Kennedy is checked over by Doctor Miller. She's suffered some head trauma and remains unconscious, but her injuries are neither permanent nor critical. Mia holds her hand. Doctor Miller evinces surprise that her injuries aren't more severe, considering the height of her fall from the building, which is just more evidence actually that something mystical and weird is going on with Kenn.
Scene 12: In the meeting room, Rowena and Dawn have discovered what their foe is, and so has Bonnie through other means. The Council is fighting a Kudlak, a subspecies of vampire. (This is a real folklore creature, that you can read more about HERE)
Bonnie also discovers why the vampire was shipped away from her usual hunting grounds. Faith really just wants to know exactly how they're supposed to kill it, since her five member team of Slayers didn't seem to be very effective. Rowena explains that according to the folklore, a very specific sort of divine anti-vampire must face the Kudlak... this being is known as the Kresnik. (Which you may also read about HERE)
Alas, things are about to get a bit more complicated. Dawn noticed that Kennedy seemed to be getting in most of the hits against the Kudlak, and with her super wall scaling, she concludes that Kennedy is the Kresnik. Faith objects that Kenn has never shape shifted, which should be one of her powers if she was this figure. But Willow supports Dawn's conclusion... not because Kennedy was the Kresnik, but because of happenstance. Kennedy was wearing a white jacket and white is associated with the Kresnik in the lore. The Kudlak is not only a folklore creature, but is actually ruled by it. She saw Kenn in white and assumed that she was its destined enemy, the Kresnik. Because the Kudlak believed it, Kennedy is starting to be 'made' into this folklore creation, the Kresnik. It could have been anyone, but Kennedy happened to be the first covered in white who ran across the vampire. Now, she is being forced to conform to the mythic story, just as much as the Kudlak is.
Commentary: I love this turn of events. Not so much the Kennedy connection, but I do like it is her for the reason I'll explain in a minute, but for the idea that a myth on its own can gain a magical power through the belief and force of will of its tellers. I also love the idea that the Kudlak owes its existence to the belief of the generations of peasants who believed in the story ... the myth. And, because she exists because of these centuries of belief, she also has no choice but to comply with the folklore that is responsible for her creation in the first place.
As to Kennedy's role - this is actually right up her alley as far as her lineage. As we've already learned (S1, E14 - "Family Ties"), Kennedy comes from a mystical bloodline through her birth mother, Jenny Calendar. The only thing that could have made this even better was if the vampire they were dealing with was of Romanian descent, especially with all of the Dracula-like powers this creature has - but I have no issues with the way things were written, instead. I like that Kennedy is going to have to overcome her own hostile ambivalence about magic to win this fight, as the folklore-magick would have her do. I just think that Chris and Susan did a wonderful job putting this story together.
Scene 13: Willow and Rowena spend time in the library together researching Eastern European vampires and myth as a motivating magical force. Will tells Ro that Faith filled in Mia about what Kennedy's wrapped up in, and they're leaving it to her to talk to Kenn about it.
Scene 14: At that moment, Kennedy is in her apartment, where she's been released with no signs of injury from her plummet of the night before. Mia is with her and they argue about Kennedy fulfilling her role as the Kresnik. Kennedy confides in Mia that she's afraid she isn't responsible enough for this task. Kennedy aludes the the fact that she's brash and quick to action and doesn't always think things through. She never worried because she knew if she took risks and lost big, there were others standing behind her to pick up the slack and save the day. But, this is different. If the Kresnik fails, there won't be a Plan B - there won't be another Kresnik waiting in the wings to bail out the city because she screwed up her role. Kennedy tells Mia she loves being *a* Slayer, but she had never wanted to be *the* Slayer.
Commentary: I love this scene for three reasons... (1) The first thing is the strong hint that Kennedy understands the weight that Buffy took on her shoulders, even though her name isn't brought up here. Just the fact that she says she'd never want the responsibility of being THE Slayer, speaks to the fact that she must respect Buffy in some way for shouldering that burden... something that Faith can't even claim (although, technically she did during the summer after "The Gift", but I'm not sure she has ever realized it).
Oh, the alternate story I could see here, where Buffy is speaking to Kennedy in Mia's place.
But (2), I have also always loved the chemistry between Mia and Kennedy and dialog scenes like this one is why. Mia is strong, but vulnerable and she allows Kennedy to be herself, while also getting her to admit that she isn't always as confident as she seems.
(3) I also like Kennedy's admission that sometimes she screws up because she's angry or depressed and not concentrating. We've seen this character flaw as well, back in 'Rash Decisions' (S1, E13) where she messed up big in her anger toward Willow and I like this subtle reference to her past actions.
Scene 15: A bit later, Faith drops into the gym to ask about how Kennedy is doing with this sudden "You need to be a folklore hero with magical powers, even though you don't like magic much" crap. Faith gives her some helpful advice, and then suggests they push her to see just what she can really do now. Kennedy breaks into a grin and agrees.
Commentary: From the very first episode, there has been a consistency to the Faith/Kennedy friendship that is one of the strongest relationships I've seen in Watchers. I love these two together alone, talking. Faith as mentor is such an odd concept, but it works because of the work that the Watchers creative staff have invested into her and I am so appreciative for it.
Scene 16: Back in the library, Rowena has been continuing her research into the Kudlak and is disturbed. According to the legends, the vampire simply should not be causing the type of damage it is right now. Myth states that it causes crops to fail, or brings about illness, but there is nothing to indicate it is a danger to the village as a whole. Its death dealing has to be limited because otherwise there would be no village to prey on. But so far, it has managed to slaughter 26 people - and hold off a contingent of Slayers.
Rowena is considering that the myth might be "scaling up" to compensate for the increased population. Where if ten people are killed in a year in a small village, it could be considered an epidemic, in a city the size of Cleveland, it would barely be a blip... and the Kudlak has already killed more than twice that. She's suddenly wondering if the folklore magic driving the vampire might not drive her to Biblical disaster sized killing to compensate for the increased size of where the vampire now finds herself.
Ro and Willow rush to find Kennedy.
And, also? There are vampire watermelons and possibly pumpkins... don't ask.
Scene 17: In the gym, Ro and Willow come in to see five Slayers up against Kennedy. She is easily defending herself without much of a sweat, while the Slayers are huffing and puffing with effort. Faith tells them that she's been at it for 90 minutes... Faith has been switching the girls up, but Kennedy is moving with speed approaching blurring and no one seems able to connect a blow on her.
Willow interrupts to tell Kenn that defeating the Kudlak quickly may be an issue to avoid bigger problems because of her very presence. They bond when Kenn admits her fear of doing this and Will shares how afraid she was during her first huge spell (Angel's ensouling).
Scene 18: In the lobby, Ro, Willow, Mia, Xander and Faith wait for Kennedy to join them. When she does, she's dressed all in white - the color of the Kresnik. They've come up with a plan and head out to see if Kennedy can detect and hone in on the Kudlak.
Commentary: And, it occurs to me that when I go to post this review, the spellcheck is going to flip out... damn you WATCHERS staff! :-)
Scene 19: As Kennedy stretches her senses, and detects the Kudlak's presence, she grabs Faith's bike to the senior Slayer's consternation. In the meanwhile, the Kudlak is busy on board a city bus, doing the tongue-spear thing on the bus driver, back-splashing blood across the windshield.
Scene 20: Everyone arrives at the creature's location and Kennedy and it engage in a super-powers fight. References are made to The Matrix throughout, but this actually reminds me a lot of the Buffy/Angel fights in S8's current abysmal storyline... but that's really neither here nor there.
Anyway, lots of property destruction ensues and both the Kudlak and the Kresnik take multiple blows as nearly this entire Act is one continuous, and rather effing cool, battle. Xander's 'special' comes into play (hint: Think Buffy vs. The Judge), but even that fails to stop the Kudlak from healing and continuing the fight.
At the end of the extremely exciting and well written battle royale, Kennedy naturally wins. As the Kudlak is finally killed via impalement, it bursts into flame aboard the only place it felt safe... the tanker from the beginning.
Fire rages, with Kennedy belowdecks.
Commentary: The blow by blow of the fight scene is outside of this review's purview, but even if you're not a WATCHERS fan (AND YOU SHOULD BE), you should read this Act. I grin like the biggest geek ever during the superpowers fight... and it doesn't end in Kennedy making out with the creature that tried to kill her fellow Slayers (glares as BTVS: S8).
Scene 21: Outside of the stricken tanker, Mia panics as flames consume the ship and it blows up in a massive fireball that spreads debris for miles around the harbor area.
Rowena and Willow are stricken deaf by the concussive wave of the explosion and even the Slayers have their bells rung.
Above their heads, a flock of black birds appear and when they land, they merge together to become Kennedy... who collapses into the arms of Mia and Faith.
Scene 22: In the aftermath, Robin has to do some serious spin-doctoring and the story is turned into a bombing and the accidental ignition of the stricken tanker's fuel tanks. Bonnie, having assisted with knowledge, requests some of her personal items be returned to make her enforced stay at the Council more comfortable.
Giles doesn't exactly want to do so, but it's a fair request, so after assuring her that everything will be scanned thoroughly, tells her he'll look into it.
Scene 23: Willow is in her apartment, when Kennedy stops by to thank her for helping her concentrate and tap into the fairy tale magic she needed to win. Kennedy tells her it was an incredible experience, but she's just as happy to be back to herself....
The Good: The writing is terrific from the action descriptives to the dialog.
All of Act 4 is terrific - exciting, cool, well written... and I really like the bonding moment between Willow and Kennedy over her magic experience to close out the story.
I also love the idea of the myth becoming reality because enough people believe in it long enough for it too.
I love the Mia/Kenn and Faith/Kenn interactions, again. Kennedy admitting to her own faults and doubts was well done, as was her observation that she's used to be A, not THE and doesn't want to be more than one of a group of Slayers.
The artwork by Chris Cook is especially strongly done... great work done here.
The Bad: I didn't have anything bad jump out at me.
Other Thoughts: The vampire watermelon story of Giles' and the repeating, "Wait, watermelon what?" spit-takes may have been a bit cutesy for me, but the idea of vampire produce is hilarious enough to overcome this. I continue to be pleased that Bonnie is showing up again and doing something other than taking up space and wandering around.
The Score: This has some terrific action sequences, but the relationship and character interactions aren't shirked for them. This is how an action-packed story should be written....
4.25 out of 5