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03 May 2008 @ 11:43 am
Watchers: The Virtual Series  
I've decided to post another Watchers Review today, so we'll be looking at Season One, Episode 14...

Family Ties 



Story by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Directed by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Produced by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by: Kate
Sound Department: Steff
Art Director: Chris Cook
Artists: Chris Cook, David Zahir, Chantal, CN Winters

Teaser: The opening of the story reveals a storm closing in on Cleveland... a real midwestern blizzard. Willow and Ro are researching old scrolls (cataloging maybe?) and get to talking about their families a little. Ro's father is a fisherman, James Tyrell was a second (if cold) father and her sponser at the Old Guard Council's Academy and Willow mentions how much of a disappointment she is to her father because she chooses to live her own life her way. Also mentioned is that the first spell in the Opus Obscurum is the one that Willow modified to activate all of the Slayers while fighting the First Evil with Buffy. She got the spell from Athenea, the High Priestess of the Devon Coven where Will recovered from her bout of evilness. Ro also knows Athenea and she's the one that gave the Devon Priestess the book just when Will needed that spell... all things are connected it seems.

This line of discussion is interrupted by Tracey, Andrew's new kitchen helper and possible romantic interest when she announces a "strange guy dressed in a costume"... blue and with horns? Must be Brell, again. Willow passes him off as somebody who visits comicons in costume, but Tracey seems less than convinced. Ro brings up cluing Tracey into the real work of the "school", but Willow puts her off on that for now.

Brell has arrived to seek help from the Council which Willow immediately gives. It seems that Brell's brother, wife and "spawn" are fleeing their home dimension from "invaders". They do not know who these invaders are, but they fear that they're being hunted down. Brell, we find out is also a cousin by marriage to Clem!
Brell is working on getting his brother and family away from Cleveland, but because of the approaching storm, he asks for shelter for his family until it passes. 


Brell comes seeking a favor from Willow and Ro.

As Willow and Ro speculate that these sudden invaders may have a connection to the Presidium mystery, the phone rings. Willow's pleasant surprise at her mother's voice on the other end turns to shocked panic. It seems that her parent's flight has been cancelled at the runway in Cleveland! Willow didn't even know they were in town and now, of course, they intend to stay at the Council as Will's guest at the same time that Brell's demonic family are arriving!

Act One: Act One opens with another cute scene of Becca/Giles... seriously, these guys are perched to kick Faith/Robin out of "cutest coupledom" on Watchers. Becca's apartment above the book store has been affected by power outages across the Cleveland area due to the blizzard going on so Giles insists that she come and stay at the Council. She's hesitant at first, afraid that things may happen faster than she's ready if they spend a whole evening in close proximity, but he assures her that she can use a guest room. She relents... but only until the power is restored.

In the kitchen of the Watchers Council building, Willow is in a panic to throw away everything that isn't kosher, while Andrew is passionately defending his right to have ham in the refrigerator. Faith and Ro are lucky spectators to a titanic tug of war over a tupperware container. As the Great Kitchen War continues, Willow's focus is suddenly transferred to the door buzzer and she flies into another panic. Faith reminds her that Robin (who is playing cheauffer) will be bringing them through the garage. Giles and Becca have arrived at the Council and he suggests they see who's at the front door.

The thought of her parents visiting my send Will into panic mode, but the person on the stoop gets nothing but an excited welcome... Xander is back!

Just as Xander is meeting Becca, another hoard comes crashing through the front door, but its not an attack... it's just the Brells!


Brell (Brad Dourif), his brother - Tram (Brent Spiner), his sister-in-law - Greet (Lexa Droig) and their brats (Kher and Shaznay).

The demon visitors are quickly hustled off to the Slayer dorm just before Ira and Sheila Rosenburg come in the front door (not the garage!) leaving Robin struggling under a ton of luggage at the door. As Faith is rushing over to help Robin with the bags, Ira is standoffish while Sheila is completely ignoring the icy chill that's suddenly in the air, and its not coming from outside. Willow also tells Ira and Sheila that Kennedy is still with the "school" but that they've broken up... something that comes as a shock to Xander who will no doubt immediately feel responsible.


Willow's life isn't complicated enough, so her parents stop by (Sam Waterston and Jordan Baker).

With everyone getting settled in, Will goes up to check on her parents in the guest quarters only to have Ira "take a nap", obviously still deeply disappointed that she never attended an Ivy League school and done something to impress. Sheila, meanwhile, tries to push her into getting a romantic relationship started with Xander, apparently ignoring that for Willow "gay" means "GAY"... not "flexible". She stuffs her face to keep from snapping at her mother.

Elsewhere, Kennedy gets a knock on her door and finds Xander waiting on the other side.

Act Two: With Willow escaping from her mother for the moment, she goes in search of Kennedy. Her mother's intimations that she might end up alone if she doesn't get out there and find someone new has her worried about how Kennedy is dealing with their break-up... especially with the vampire-chick and now Xander's reappearance.

For the first time since the break-up, Kenn and Will have an adult conversation about their relationship and the reasons that Willow had to end what they had... because it wasn't enough. Will admits that she held back everyday she was with Kenn because she's still hanging onto the "what ifs" regarding Tara. It wasn't fair to Kennedy to have to play second fiddle to Willow's daydreams and imaginings.

As they talk, we also find out more about Kennedy's home life before Slaying. She lived with her dad, step-sister and step-mother. The latter two who lived in an entirely other wing of the house because they couldn't stand that somebody's "bastard daughter" was living in their mansion. Kenn still wonders about who her birth mother was... an undergraduate computer science student that her father had met at UCLA whose "work" was too important for her to want to get married. She gave her daughter to the father shortly after her birth and then vanished without a trace.

Uh-huh... if you're where I was when I first read this, my first thought was Jenny Calendar! And we're not kept guessing:

(Kennedy to Willow):
I don't know much. Just the UCLA thing, computer major and her name – Janna Kalderash.

Willow, not knowing how to react just tells her she'll dig into it and see what she finds.

The next morning, there's a flurry of hi-jinks as Brell's blue and horned family are running around the Council while trying not to be spotted by those not-in-the-know with the Rosenburgs thinking that Willow is hiding something and Tracey becoming suspicious of Andrew's odd behavior.

Ro in the meanwhile is showing the Rosenburgs around in order to give Willow a break... boy was that a mistake!

(Ira Rosensburg to Rowena Allister): "And are you just like Willow?"

Rowena scrunched her eyebrows at first and then she realized what he meant. "Well, not just like Willow. I'm more, well, asexual at the moment," she said uncomfortably.

"Now, no human is asexual," Sheila told her. "Studies show that the majority of people trend towards bisexuality to some degree or other. It's just that most never completely act on their desires due to society's mores."

"Well it's…it's…well it's not like that," Rowena stuttered. "I mean I have no problem with your daughter or other gay individuals. I think she's wonderful and…and… without a doubt talented and I highly respect her, so I don't have a problem with…you know. I just…"

"Have you ever been involved with a woman?" Sheila asked. Rowena looked reluctant to answer. "I'm sorry perhaps that's too personal but you shouldn't be afraid."

Well... Willow did try to warn her (lol). And we finally get a short and sweet scene again with Xan as he explains to Will and Giles that he's ready to come back to work... as a Weapons Designer for the Council! Yeah... good to have him back for good!

Act Three: The first we see to react to Xan's return (besides Willow) is Robin. He's got a tiny bit of concern that having one of Faith's ex-lovers around will be a temptation for her, but she sets him straight about that right quick. She's a one-guy woman now and he's all there is for her. Robin is pretty happy with this answer.

Meanwhile, Willow is completely stoked at Xander's return and shows him a workspace he can use:

"Yes, I'm happy," she said grinning. "And like I said, all this is yours to do what you want. Consider it your Top Secret Slayer Weapons Lab and Workshop."

Xander paused. "You've been spending far too much time with Andrew."

"Does it show?" Willow asked with a contorted face.

(later Xander opens a little to Willow): "[I]t was great to see some places I always heard about but after that, what did I really have left? I realized in that dingy bar that what I had was you, and yeah, even Giles. I also needed something where I can make a difference. I'm not a Slayer or a witch but I've never fit better than here," he said pointing at the ground. "And I realized that even though it felt like I lost everything I really didn't. Sure the new eye is great, and again, thanks doesn't cover it but…point is I see now that I still had you guys and as long as you'll want me you'll always have me."

With the heart-warming sniffles between Xan and Wills settled, we jump forward to a meeting with Giles, Ro, Will and Faith and Tram as he describes who's tracking them... The Engineer... a demon we've already met and yes, it is the Presidium's work. Tram also reveals that the Presidium's army is big... very, very big... too big in fact for them all to come through the portal that his family used as its time sensitive. But the Presidium has conquered and enslaved his people (which we already learned before).

Unfortunately, Giles' head of steam to research more on this Presidium and The Engineer is sidetracked by one of the Council's other visitors... Ira Rosenburg


"I can connect all these shenanigans over the years back to one thing – you," Ira pointed an accusing finger at Giles.

Things quickly degenerate between Ira and Rupert from there. But this isn't the worst visitor Giles will have today, for when he returns to the lobby with Willow beside him, he's just in time to greet... Bonnie!

Act Four: Of course at this time, we know Bonnie is up to no good (real estate agent, my butt), however the Council has no cause for suspicion when yet another stranded traveler asks for room and board for the night. The Council invites the bitca in, not realizing she's working for the wrong side.

But whatever Bonnie is up to may be blown by the Tram spawn, Shaznay. As soon as the tyke gets a glimpse of Bonnie, she points her out and tells Kennedy that the "evil demon lady" is here.

As Kenn is trying to tell Willow that there is something weird about Bonnie, Giles is talking to Becca about Ira Rosenburg... and my GOD! We get yet more personal details, this time about Becca and the abusive marriage she was once in... this episode is a personal detail goldmine!


Becca and Giles have a heart to heart and things almost get steamy... until Willow shows up at the door *sigh*

With Willow retrieving Giles, it's time to talk to Kennedy about her mother. And they do, pretty much recounting Jenny's role in the Scooby Gang during Season 1 and 2 of Buffy while skating around the fact that it was Angelus that murdered her. But Kenn finds out more about who Willow and Xander were, that Giles was in love with her birth mother and that Buffy ended up avenging Jenny's death.

Later, Willow and Kenn talk alone as Kennedy tries to process everything and angsts over why Jenny gave her up so easily. Willow's comforting turns toward attraction though and the episode ends with the intimation that Kenn and Will are going to be sleeping together tonight, to hell with the breakup.

And the title of the next episode pretty much confirms: About Last Night

The Good: Wow, the dense plotting. Seriously, you think there isn't much going on because its all talking, talking and more talking, but in actuality there is so much character building, history building, relationship building and with all of this we also get movement in the Presidium mystery... it's just fantastic that the story doesn't get bogged down under all the different threads happening. In fact, that another thing for The Good: The pacing was excellent throughout the episode. Just when things start to wear a bit long on one thread we jump to a different room with a different subset of people and we're off again. Also Good - we finally get to see Willow's mentioned but never seen father... and its Sam Waterston! I love this casting choice. I also like the idea of Kennedy being the daughter of Jenny Calendar: (1) because it gives such a feeling of destiny to the series, like things are going on beyond our characters in the fight of good vs. evil with all of these people meeting up just when they need to and (2) Robia LaMorte and Iyari Limon really could be related (especially when Kennedy gets her hair cut short later - it's striking)... excellent catch by the WaTchers staff and an inspired background for both characters. Ira and Sheila are excellently written... love the conflict between Ira and Willow over what he expected from her and what he got instead. Xander's back as a regular! I also really enjoyed the way things went from nearly slapstick-farce to serious family drama and conflicts... especially the intense scene between an angry Ira and Rupert Giles.

The Bad:
Very little doesn't work in this episode... I'm not impressed with Brell's relatives (and Brent Spiner as a blue demon just doesn't look 'right'; it doesn't work for me) and the fact that Brell and Clem happened to know each other and be related by marriage and escaped together through the same portal used by Tram just seems a little over the top in having everything linked. Like I said... very little wrong here, at all. The emotional conflict regarding what to tell Kennedy seemed to be resolved awfully fast for Willow and the scene with Giles/Will telling all about Jenny came across as a bit of a 'data-dump' rather than an organic conversation, but it wasn't awful or anything (and I did like how they skated over Angel's/Angelus' involvement).

Verdict: This one's a bit tough. While I loved reading all of the character details, as a Part I of II arc it's all setup, especially with the way Bonnie and the Presidium were sort of ignored until the tail end... but all of that character work! I'm going with a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

 
 
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