WATCHERS: The Virtual Series
Season 2, Episode 9
Story by CN Winters and Zahir al-Daoud
Written by CN Winters (with additional writing by Chris Cook)
Directed by CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters
Edited by Dragonwriter17
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artists – Chris Cook, Jin, Humaira and CN Winters
Guest Starring: Meagan Good as Karen, Ryan Phillipe as Steve, Michael Shanks as Councilor, Edward Woodward as James Tyrell and Rob Nagle as Robson.
Scene 01: We open with Rowena and Willow still dealing with the fall out from Ro's decisions last episode. Remember that Rowena withheld information, destroyed Council texts and accused Giles of being willing to murder Willow in order to stop the episode's bad guys. Rowena has been placed on suspension and this has put a strain on her already struggling relationship with Willow. She's staring out at Lake Erie, weepy.
Nearby, in her own room, Willow is doing the exact same thing... Willow isn't only dealing with Ro's actions either. During an argument with him last episode Giles had what was apparently a heart attack.
Scene 02: Cut to an alley, where Kennedy is patrolling. In a series of flashes, she sees demons attacking Willow, Xander and herself. Willow and Xan soon end up decapitated, and Kennedy sees her own head soon join theirs on the alley ground.
Naturally, this is a dream...
... A Slayer dream, one could surmise.
Commentary: I really like this start to the episode, one for its adding a note of danger and foreboding to the episode straight off but also because the Slayer dreams aren't used often. There are obviously practical reasons for this - you can't continually show things that might happen in future episodes, but it is a treat when they get pulled out for us.
Scene 03: At breakfast, Faith startles Kennedy and thinks that she is still worried about Mia. Mia was exposed to the demon's mating juice (not as pornographic as it sounds) and nearly killed. She's been recovering in Medical.
Anyway, Kenn mentions that she didn't sleep well because of a dream that "felt different". Faith's gives a call out to 'Dream Warriors', but Kenn asks her about Slayer's prophetic dreams. Faith acts unconcerned, but we know better.
Scene 04: Faith goes immediately to Giles' apartment, where he is also recovering under the watchful gaze of Becca.
Scene 05: Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Mia gets a visit from Kennedy. Mia seems more worried about Willow (she apparently hurt herself earlier when she tried to get out of bed too quickly - this seems to be specifically to give Will a bandage on her head that conveniently showed up in Kenn's Slayer dream so she'd know when things are occurring that she foresaw). She also surprises Kenn by asking her to fetch Ro for her.
Scene 06: Back in Giles' apartment, Faith has filled him in on Kenn's Slayer dream. Faith brings up that she recognized the description of Kenn's feelings during the dream because she had one of her and her Watcher, Rosa's, death before her Watcher was gruesomely killed by Kakistos (We both met Rosa and saw her demise in Gangland, last season).
Giles decides to tell Kennedy the truth about what she may have experienced, and to pull her from duty in an attempt to circumvent those events from coming to pass until they can learn more.
Scene 07: In Will's suite, she is attempting to levitate a pencil and not doing a great job of it (Willow had her magic stripped from her last episode, and while a counterspell was utilized, she knew that there may be lingering side effects - it was the secret to stopping the demon's swarming).
Kennedy has stopped by, looking for Ro on behalf of Mia. They exchange words about Rowena, as Willow attempts to explain why she hid information, but Ro was never Kenn's favorite person since she arrived. She isn't interested in hearing excuses.
Scene 08: In the kitchen, this being approaching Christmas in the timeline, Jeff is making chocolate candies. Having joined him, he's sharing the how-to's with an interested Dawn. Skye comes in, and Jeff makes some not very subtle comments at Skye regarding the fact that he is interested in Dawn... this is a subject that has been simmering in the background since last season as well. Even when he was being snide to her in S1's "In Love and War", Jeff and Dawn have had some sparks between them (suggesting that Dawn isn't gay, so much as bi-sexual - Jeff's attraction is definitely not one sided). Once Skye has left for her room to work on classwork, Dawn warns Jeff that this not-quite-flirting between them has to stop... he doesn't really agree.
Commentary: If there is one strong point about this episode, it is the amount of call backs we're getting to prior episodes. I like when plot strands from previous stories (even previous seasons) are picked up and advanced... in this case, Faith's Watcher, Ro and Kennedy's rocky relationship and the sexual tension between Jeff and Dawn have all come up, but we'll also get a callback soon to Robin's pre-BtVS S7 history.
Scene 09: Over at Ro's, Kennedy has shown up at her door to tell her to go see Mia. But, she can't resist getting in the suspended Watcher's face over nearly getting Mia killed and putting them all at risk. Rowena is defiant in the face of her anger.
Scene 10: Ro isn't the only one facing a confrontation, however. Over at Willow's she has to deal with an angry and hurt Xander. We learn here that Xan has been avoiding Willow's attempts to talk to him about things.
She explains here that she made a promise to Rowena about not mentioning that they were becoming romantically linked. There's some dialog here about the current state of gay acceptance, but the real issue isn't about political realities, as Willow admits when Xan calls her on it. It also wasn't about him and her - it was about Rowena herself and her acceptance of herself and what she wants.
Commentary: Although the political points Willow makes felt like they came out of left field to me, I like that the real issue is brought back to the fore. That sometimes, other people's needs trump best friends being completely open with one another. Willow would have told Xan everything if this had been about her, but it wasn't - it was always about Rowena and her needing time to come to grips with her attraction without everyone's questions and expectations. I also really like the call back to BtVS S4 Willow with her reminding Xan that she had to come to terms herself when she was seeing Tara before she came out to the rest of them, then. Best of this scene though, is that Xander and her mend fences relatively easily, as really close friends can, despite their disappointments. I also like that Willow, despite defending Ro to Kenn, admits here that she's not ready to forgive Rowena herself over her actions....
Scene 11: At relatively the same time, Kenn and Faith are walking down stairs toward the lobby. Kennedy stops short when she sees the girl from her dream standing at the receptionist desk....
Scene 12: Minutes later, Faith and Kenn confront the stranger and are non-plussed when they discover that Robin knows her from his former life as a principal. He invites her up to his office to speak privately, irritating Faith, who promises Kennedy that she's going to find out what the girl wants and how to get rid of her before her Slayer dream comes to pass.
Scene 13: In Mia's room, Rowena apologizes for getting her injured and nearly killed. Surprisingly, Mia very easily forgives her. The two bond over historical quotes.
Commentary: I'm pleased with this scene, even though I don't share Mia's sense of forgiveness. Both Ro and I were expecting a big, dramatic scene, but instead it was played low key. It was an interesting choice not to go with the big, emotional confrontation between these two characters - and I think it gives us insight into a character we don't really have a grasp on, yet - Mia.
Scene 14: In Robin's office, his visitor Karen describes an unusual problem she's run into since Sunnydale's implosion - time seems to come to a complete halt in her vicinity for moments at a time, unexpectedly. She isn't affected by the timestop directly, but she also has no control over when it will occur. She's come seeking Robin's help in finding a way to stop it.
Commentary: There are a few things to point out in this scene - Karen knows a lot about Robin's life including vampires, which I have no problem with. I'm assuming we'll learn how this came about later - but she also is aware of his working with the Watchers Council, and that I do find... unconvincing. It's mentioned that they knew one another (and Robin apparently helped her out) a few years ago - in Sunnydale. I'm not sure if this exactly violates BtVS continuity or not - it has been a while since I've delved into S7, but I'm not sure how I feel about Robin having been hanging out in Sunnydale for that long before meeting Buffy....
Scene 15: Xander comes into the kitchen on the cell phone with Alex Neel, the lawyer he was attracted to, from episode 3, "Check Mate". He's been trying to arrange a date with her, but she keeps cancelling.
He notes that Andrew doesn't seem himself and offers an ear, but Andy puts him off.
After he reminds him that he'll be in his weapons lab working if Andrew wants to talk about whatever is bothering him, Andy begins to cry a bit. We'll discover that this is due to Marsha's loss in 'Dream Warriors'.
Tracey arrives, and is soon joined by her abusive and jerkish boyfriend, who exchanges both words and physical blows with Andrew. Tracey acts impressed with Andrew for coming to her 'rescue' and resolves to end things with her boyfriend. We know that Andy has feelings for Tracey and there is a hint here that maybe she could return those feelings....
Commentary: I have no problems with Andy getting a girlfriend, and even less with it being Tracey, but this scene is really awkwardly handled. Tracey's boyfriend is so over the top here so she can break up with him, that it's much too heavy handed and obvious that things are being set up so Andrew can have his shot with Trace. I also find Xan's presence in this scene superfluous, though in retrospect I see what they were doing. Remember that Xander needs to be in place to be threatened with beheading as per Kenn's dream, so they're setting up that he'll be out on the town later with Alex. I just don't think they needed him here for this to occur. I think I'd have had him have a conversation beginning with... "Well, speaking of true love not running smoothly...." in Willow's apartment and have him mention to her his attempts to get Ms. Neel out to dinner.
Scene 16: Giles receives another visitor, and there are more heart to hearts - this time from Willow, who apologizes for shouting at him (and thereby bringing on his heart attack). He apologizes to her for overreacting and for calling her out on her relationship with Ro and the keeping of same a secret. He admits here that the pressure of the situation, added to his severe disappointment and anger at Rowena over her actions got mixed up with his hurt that she had someone in her life and didn't feel she could share that with him after all of their time knowing one another and all that they've been through. He turned all of that anger and disappointment on her unfairly (which is what I pointed out in the review of Hell Goddess, so I'm glad it's acknowledged here).
The upshot of this conversation, other than mending bridges, is Giles' hope that Ro and Willow will one day lead the Council's direction when he can no longer do so himself. This is part of the reason his anger and disappointment got the better of him. He encourages Will to clear the air next with Ro.
Commentary: While I never agreed with Giles when it came to his beef with Willow, I completely think his anger at Rowena was fully justified. He didn't really need to have his hopes for Ro to take more of a leadership role to 'justify' his reactions to her behavior last episode. I'm hoping here that this isn't going to be a way to sweep Ro's actions under the rug and have Giles now shrug that whole thing off, but on the other hand, I like that Giles' brush with mortality has him thinking of the Council's long term future. I also like how his argument with Willow and now their reconciliation echoes so strongly with their S6/S7 of Buffy relationship. This is a very good scene.
Scene 17: In a very short scene, Faith has just gotten finished telling Kennedy about her own Slayer dream about her Watcher's loss. She tells her that they'll find a way to work around it's coming true.
Scene 18: In the meanwhile, Karen is talking to someone over her cellphone, reporting that she's in (at the Council). We also find out here that Karen is carrying a dagger around in her luggage. A dagger with an unusual handle. And the man she's talking to... James Tyrell, who was such a thorn in the new Council's side during episodes 3-5 of Season 1.
James tells her that she has the chance to close "the Hellmouth" forever and that is worth the life of a Slayer. If I understand the concept here, James is going to have her assassinate a particular Slayer in order to collapse the Cleveland Hellmouth (10 to 1, the Chosen Slayer will be Kennedy).
Commentary: This is what I was talking about when I mentioned a strong point of this episode is how it retrieved dangling plot threads, picked them up and moved those plots forward. Here, we return to James Tyrell who not only lost control of the Watchers Council to the Cleveland group, lost the London office to them through the recruitment of Robson, and lost the Opus Obscurum - an important book for Watcher Lore and Prophecy, but he also lost Ro. Rowena was very close to the Tyrell family and he's had a lot of reason to harbor a grudge against the Cleveland group for over a year - and he isn't the only old face from season one that we're going to return to....
Scene 19: Faith visits Xan in his workshop, where she tries to convince him to cancel his date with Alex Neel to stay in due to his death in Kenn's dream. He refuses.
Scene 20: Faith's next trip is to Robin's office, where she gets into a heated argument with Robin over Karen's presence....
Commentary: I'm afraid I don't completely buy this argument, however. First the good stuff - I like that Faith is insistent that, based on Kenn's dream, this Karen girl could be big trouble because people change and he shouldn't blindly trust her after five years. It's not her argument I'm buying, by the way, but what I like about this is that it plays very directly into her own problem with her family - when her own sister and father attempted to hand her over to demons in exchange for her father's life (S2, New Again). I also like the quick recap of Robin's history with Karen, which echoes his own relationship with his mother's Watcher that we learned about in Gangland and Lessons Learned.
Having mentioned the good things, I'm not sure how I feel about Robin's having taught in Sunnydale years before meeting Buffy - wasn't the whole plan in taking the job at the new Sunnydale High to meet her - so why didn't he do so sooner if he was already in town? See, it's not exactly a violation of canon, but it does bring up an awkward question that wasn't necessary. There was no reason he would have had to save Karen in Sunnydale specifically, except for her Hellmouth connection which could easily have been replaced with something else like a curse, or playing with magic or something instead. I also don't like the direction of this argument because Robin insists that Karen wouldn't hurt a fly, which is irrelevent. Kennedy never said anything about Karen beheading anybody - she said that she was there in the dream. I find it highly questionable that the immediate assumption with this information is that Karen herself would be able to take on a witch and a Slayer and cut off their heads, rather than the logical conclusion that her presence is the issue - that her being there makes the results of the dream more likely to come to pass, which is what should have been Faith's argument here, rather than pressing Robin about how much he knows about where Karen has been the last few years.
On the other hand, I'm conflicted about my reasoning though, because Faith is clearly dealing with the memory of her family's betrayal here along with her lack of knowledge about Robin's past and I think it's in character for her to be thrown off track when she's feeling jealous about this mysterious woman from out of the past with an obvious bond to her guy... I think I'd have less problem with the awkwardness of this confrontation if later in the episode Faith had mentioned to Kenn what her argument should have been, but she never seems to gain the insight that the issue wasn't Karen being a murderer, which strikes me as being because it didn't occur to the writers because they're setting up Karen to be a murderer of Kennedy, at least.
See, I think my issue here is that Faith is making an argument based on the writers wanting her to be right about Karen, rather than on these subtexts of her psychology.
Oh, another by the way - Sorry for the ramble there, but I needed to work through myself why I found this scene so unconvincing....
Scene 21: Back with Karen, Tyrell confirms that Kennedy is the target because the Old Council has found evidence (unspecified) that she was to be the next Slayer to be called if Faith had been eliminated prior to the 'activate all Slayers' spell. He informs Karen that they know how to fix her problem, but in order to be 'cured' she has to provide the sacrifice before midnight that night.
She very hesitantly and reluctantly agrees to carry out his wishes, mostly because he impresses on her that she'll be saving thousands of lives in exchange for this one.
Scene 22: In the dining hall, Robin and Karen get caught up. He tells her that he'd like her to take a position as a Watcher in Training once they've dealt with her problem. She tries to feel him out on whether he's sure he can help her, and he assures her that his team is good enough to find a solution.
Scene 23: Later, with Mia, we're introduced to the Council's psychologist who has to sign off on Mia's returning to duty. There is concern that after the trauma in both 'Dream Warriors' (where she had to kill someone she knew and then attempted suicide to escape further deaths by her hand) and the attack by the Mizor, she may be feeling particularly stressed.
She tells him that her actions in the arena were a stress reaction and nothing more and she is completely fine in the aftermath of the Mizor attack. He insists he's not ready to believe her quite yet....
Commentary: The funny thing is though, that after the way she blew off Ro's putting her at risk to protect Willow, I'm pretty ready to believe her myself. This is only a part of the reason that I found myself so interested in Mia as a character.
Scene 24: We cut to a scene in the Council library, where the research into Karen's unique issue begins. Faith earns back any points she lost with Robin by voluntarily adding her research efforts, if for no other reason than it is important to him.
Scene 25: Alex and Xan are in a car on the way to the restaurant and engaging in small talk, when she asks him out of nowhere whether he's ever heard of a certain L.A. law firm - one which Xander is not at all happy to hear the name of, probably due more to the fact that Angel currently heads it than the fact that it is reported to be evil.
Scene 26: Back in Willow's apartment, Rowena has gotten tired of Will's avoidance and come to confront her over their latest impediment. Willow asks her to go, but when she won't she grabs her coat and takes off instead. Ro tells her retreated back that she'll just find her still there when she returns....
Commentary: I like the way that Ro and Will's confrontation is written. I also like Rowena's determination, even though personally I don't think she is nearly repentent enough for believing that Giles would cold-bloodedly kill Willow or for taking action that, let's not forget, resulted in innocent people being killed. I also don't like Ro stating quite baldly that "the Council views people as tools" after she had obviously viewed Mia and her fellow Slayers as tools to keep the Mizors busy until she could come up with an alternate plan - I wish here that Willow had thrown that observation into her face before storming off....
I also like that the WATCHERS staff makes sure that their original characters aren't flawless - Ro screwed up here, big time, and no one is ignoring that because she's just so speshul.
Scene 27: Back in the car, Xander exclaims that he always knew that Alex was evil (in keeping with his dating history), but she assures him that isn't the case. She's very interested in how Xan knows about Wolfram & Hart though, but he doesn't answer and she offers to reveal some of her secrets in exchange for some of his at the restaurant.
Scene 28: Meanwhile, in the Slayer rec room - Kenn hears Vi calling desperately for backup. She goes to assist. She's reminded that she's supposed to stay in due to her dream, but she replies that Willow is still at the Council, so she is safe for the time being. She'll go off, help Vi and return.
Of course, Willow has already left the Council in order to get away from Ro...; that just leaves Xander - and he's also out of the Council.
Scene 29: At the restaurant, Xander finds out (at least according to Alex) that her law firm works in a similar capacity to W & H, but on the side of light. With her not being evil (presumably, anyway), Xan shares information about the Council's actual role with the Slayers. He's more smitten with her, which you know, means she's actually evil in disguise, will die soon, or will respond to some deep-seeded survival instinct and not get involved with him....
Commentary: I'll tell you now that when I first read WATCHERS, those were my thoughts - she ends up going with option C. Another of Xan's girlfriends will choose B - but we'll get there when we get there.
Scene 30: Back in the research library, Karen confronts Robin again on whether they can help her. She asks him hypothetically if he would kill a Slayer if it meant that the Hellmouth would be closed forever - this weird question along with Kenn's dream immediately puts Robin on alert. When she tries to blow it off, he - to his credit - doesn't let her get away with it.
She messes up by mentioning that she doesn't know anything about Kennedy's dream - but Robin only told her a Slayer had a dream, no name was mentioned.
Scene 31: In Willow's apartment, Faith comes in to talk to Wills. She's nervous about the fact that Willow stormed out and takes off (I believe to check on Kenn's whereabouts).
Scene 32: Back in the research library, Robin is forcefully confronting Karen with her suspicious behavior. She cracks easily, admitting that the "England Council" promised to "fix" her if she kills Kennedy. They believe she was next to be chosen because she's a "gypsy with Spanish descent" ... gypsy through Jenny Calender, who we learned in S1: About Last Night) and Spanish through her father.
Robin asks why Robson would do such a thing..., but then realizes that Karen is gone, having had a time-stutter in the meanwhile.
Commentary: Of course, Robson didn't have anything to do with this. Tyrell still presents himself as The Council.
Scene 33: In Giles' suite, he and Becca are relaxing when Robin rushes in to report that Robson is trying to kill Kenn. Becca insists that Willow handle contacting England as Giles is supposed to be resting....
Scene 34: In Xan's car, his date with Alex Neel apparently went well and they plan on seeing each other again as he drops her off at her place. He turns down an invitation up to her apartment because he promised Faith he'd return to HQ by midnight.
Scene 35: In the Council, all of the pieces come together: Faith realizes that Kenn has left, Willow has left and Xander is out on the town putting them all in danger of ending up ripped apart, as in Kenn's nightmare from the Teaser. Robin further tells her about Karen's 'mission'.
Scene 36: Out on the streets of Cleveland, Kennedy catches sight of Karen out of the corner of her eye... she realizes that her vision is occurring. When she also sees Willow out on her walk, she screams a 'no' of denial, but that doesn't help her. Xander, having been driving by from his date with Alex, sees Willow walking and pulls to the curb -
From above them, jumping down from the rooptops, three demons suddenly appear to threaten Willow.
Karen leaps on top of Willow during a time-stutter, saving her. Kennedy orders Xander to get Willow and Karen out of there and back to the Council. Willow objects to leaving Kenn at first, but Xan points out that if they aren't there, maybe the vision won't come to pass.
Unfortunately, a fourth demon appears, cutting off their means of escape and forcing them back into the alley that was in Kenn's dream!
Commentary: Equally unfortunate is Xan's use of the word "prophecy" instead of vision - the Prophecy is what Karen was supposed to be working on. While Kenn's Slayer dream could be referred to as a prophecy, I think it's a confusing word to shove in Xan's mouth here because we're already dealing with a separate prophecy issue....
Anyway, continuing the scene, Willow finds that she can't summon any of her magic which leaves them all in a heck of a problem. Thankfully for Xander, Willow and Kennedy Vi's team (tracking down the demons who they had met earlier, hence the call for backup) find them, as well as Faith who was out after Kennedy and/or Willow.
With the Slayers help, the three manage to survive their brush with fate.
Scene 37: With the demons slew, the coven is able to 'cure' Karen of her time-problem. And, because she sided with the Council instead of trying to kill Kenn, she's free to get on with her life. Which she chooses to do by not staying to become a Watcher in Training....
Scene 38: Meanwhile, in England, Tyrell gets a rude shock when Robson and a team from the London branch break into his rooms and take him into custody for the attempted murder plot on a Slayer....
Scene 39: Willow returns to her apartment to find Ro sleeping on her sofa, waiting for her to get back so they can continue their re-approachment. She covers her up and turns in for the night....
Scene 40: And, we get here our other blast from the past - the gangster, Volano, who our Council last tangled with over property development that pissed off a group of Undines gets an unexpected visit from a projection of the Lover, who wishes to do a little business with him....
The Good: I like the way that the aftermath with Rowena's decisions last episode are being handled. I especially like the way the writers are dealing with Willow's conflicted feelings over Ro's acts: while she defends her when others are attacking, privately she isn't going to let Ro off the hook that easily.
There are three scenes that I really enjoy: Willow's reconciliation with Giles, the same with Xander and her angry confrontation with Rowena.
I love how dangling threads from past episodes are picked up again here to advance.
The Bad: I don't find anything particularly bad, even scene I had problems with - but I'll say that Tracey's boyfriend-scene really came close to being listed here.
Other Thoughts: Not being bad, though isn't the same as having no problems - see the commentary for some of the issues I had. I'll also point out here that the entire Karen storyline was wrapped up very fast - it was less a plot and more a way to fill out the episode and throw in a weekly threat in between the real point of the episode which was all about Rowena's fallout and Willow's personal conflicts. I did like having a story that gave Robin some scenes, but I'm not sure how to feel about his history including him being in Sunnydale prior to the opening of the new Sunnydale High for the reasons stated in commentary.
Score: I like this episode especially for the personal confrontations, while the b-plot felt exactly like what it was - a b-plot so there would be something to fight against in the episode. It's rushed nature and pat resolution made it much less than it could have been, but I recognize that is because the priority was on the main character's interpersonal relationships - and I'm completely fine with that: 3.25 out of 5.0