harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

WATCHERS review - S2's 'In The Dark'

Watchers: The Virtual Series

Season 2, Episode 13


Story by Zahir al-Daoud and CN Winters
Written by Zahir al-Daoud (with additional writing by CN Winters)
Produced and Directed by Zahir al-Daoud and CN Winters
Edited by DragonWriter17
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook and Zahir al-Daoud
Artists – Chris Cook, Zahir al-Daoud and CN Winters

With Felicia Day as Vi and Angie, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Rhona Mitra as Alex Neel and Lindsay Felton as Skye.

Guest starring - Catherine O'Hara, Michael J. Fox, Renee Zellweger, Brian Cox, Jeff Conaway and Peter Boyle.

Scene 01: Council game room - Skye and Vi are playing a game of chess. Skye has been playing teacher to Vi and compliments her quick mind. Talk to turns to the fact that Vi is a twin. She admits that sometimes her and her sister, Angie, can sense things from each other.

Moments later, Dawn comes in with Xander and the visiting Angie. Dawn sees Skye playing chess with Vi and gets hurt-face. Apparently, there may be some sort of tension between the two, because Dawn takes Skye spending time with Vi as far more than just a game of chess.

Commentary: What is this mountain out of molehill thing? After all of the time Dawn has been spending with Jeff... who everyone knows is carrying a torch for her... Dawn's behavior her is not only out of proportion to the scene she's walked in on, but it is also hypocritical of her, as well.

... Actually, see my thoughts at the end of this review - I think I may have misassumed about what the overarching theme of the episode was to be ....

Scene 02: Switching our focus from this bizarre opening, we go to 'Old Hospital, Barlow College'. The place is obviously abandoned and has been for awhile. Within is Security Guard Carpenter (Jeff Conaway) making his rounds. Though he hasn't heard anything out of the ordinary, he becomes convinced that kids are in the floors above, and goes to roust them.

His forehead beads with sweat and something 'feels off' ... and he mentions the lack of any rats lately....

Unfortunately, Security Guard Carpenter didn't listen to his gut. As he's heading back toward the stairs to leave, he's attacked by something. There is a snap of bone, the dragging of his body and then the sounds of his being eaten.

Scene 03: Back at the Council, Angie and Vi are speaking with Giles, escorted by Xander. Angie is interested in becoming a Watcher as a way to help out her sister and other Slayers. Giles seems somewhat reticent, as he feels like Angie isn't clear on what the Watchers actually do for a living (a lot of data analysis and organizing).

As debate over Angie's possible joining of the Council continues, Vi seems even more reticent about this development then Giles. There is some mention of Xander briefly having a twin himself (BTVS: S5's 'The Replacement' & which also inspired the story I had the most fun with in spanderverse, "Confusion of Three"... which has nothing to do with anything, and is a transparent excuse to link to the spanderverse community... I'll feel cheap later).

Alex Neel comes into the library at this point, interrupting. We don't know why she is there at this point, as we're about to switch our POV to Nova Scotia.

Commentary: This is an example of something that I find distracting about S2 in WATCHERS: Alex Neel is not a Council member. There is a receptionist on duty in the lobby at all times. Yet, somehow, this woman is able to simply wander up to the Council library at will, unannounced by the receptionist? Also, see Bonnie - who despite being an enemy of the Council in S1, and only nominally helpful in S2, is apparently given free reign within the Council HQ. She is constantly popping up (when convenient, she also spends much too much time offscreen for someone in protective custody within the building) unescorted, despite the constant references to her not being entirely trusted. And, after her attempt to escape to a new life using Skye's body in 'Swap Meet', it is untenable for us to not see or hear anything about her or to have her not under constant guard as long as she chooses to remain under the Council's protection.

Scene 04: Anyway, we travel to Nova Scotia to join Rowena and Willow, where Ro is supposed to be introducing Willow to her family as the woman that she is now dating. Ro's family has no idea that there is a sexual relationship between them and one of the tensions in the Ro/Will coupledom has been Ro's inability to be open about the fact that they're seeing one another.

They're on the ferry to the Thornkirk - Ro displays public affection for Willow, so it appears that she is ready for this big step.

Scene 05: Domestic scene between Ro and the slightly uncomfortable reunion with her mother (Catherine O'Hara). Ro tries to hint around the fact that Willow and her and very close, but Mrs. Allister prattles on about island happenings.

Scene 06: Back at the Council, we discover the reason for Alex's visit. Barlow College, in which we've just seen that unusual activities are afoot, is giving away a library collection for tax purposes. Alex suggested the Council as a recipient.

Giles assigns Angie to catalogue what the collection consists of, as an introduction to the mundane tasks that she'd be doing as a Watcher. She seems less than interested, until she's partnered with Robin Wood, who had been interrupted by Giles' summons working out and ergo is dressed in gymware.

Vi warns her that Robin is already spoken for by one of the Slayers.

Scene 07: Back at the Allister home, Mary Grace (Renee Zellweger), Ro's sister is somewhat sullen around the dinner table for reasons yet unknown. Willow is also introduced to Ro's brother, Joseph (Michael J. Fox) who seems both in better spirits and more friendly than the reserved Mary Grace.

Also present at the dinner table is Ro's father (Brian Cox), who we've learned in S1 is a traditional fisherman who owns and operates his own boat.

Dinner is presented, and there is some minor, but short lived uncomfortableness at Willow's declaration that she is more Wiccan than Jewish these days. The Allister clan is clearly more traditionalist than Willow. In addition, there seems to be some sort of conflict under the surface between Mary Grace and the rest of her family that we don't understand yet.

But, the entire Allister clan seems to be generally welcoming.

Scene 08: Meanwhile, at the Council, Andrew and Jeff are spending time socializing over a Tarot reading. The lay of the cards indicates some sort of upheaval occurring soon in Andrew's personal life....

Scene 09: The following morning, Angie and Robin are on their way to their assignment at Barlow College. Robin asks after Angie's interest in the Council, and she admits that she thinks of her little sister (Angie was born first) as someone she needs to look after, despite her Slayerhood. Robin tries to tell her that Violet has really come into her own.

Commentary: One thing about Angie is that the writer's made sure to give her her own personality, more open and gregarious than Vi. This episode is largely revolving around family and the relationships between sisters (it is obvious that Rowena and Mary Grace are going to be having a confrontation of some sort before the episode's concluding scene - except, they don't).

{Actually, I now think I misjudged the theme and that it is actually about jealousy, but honestly, I ended up not sure.}

Scene 10: Vi and Robin meet the Caretaker of the campus (Peter Boyle) and this old hospital building. He gives them just enough to have Robin's interest peaked... kids not hanging out there, no rats, security personnel getting spooked, etc. There isn't anything specific that the caretaker says, but it sets a mood that this abandoned, isolated building has stories revolving around it, as old and abandoned buildings are in the habit of doing.

Commentary: I like this setting, but I don't like the set up here. I find it highly unlikely for a college to store a collection of books in an abandoned building where most of the windows are smashed out. I also find it highly suspect that the college administration wouldn't have simply had the building cleaned out of anything of any use, or would have had a building that they're using for storage to dilapidate to this extent. I like the story setting, but I don't like the way it is being set up. I would also question here why, if as implied this is about sisterly relationships, Angie and Vi are spending so much of this story not interacting, especially if -again, as implied- we're meant to make comparisons between them and Rowena/Mary Grace's relationship.

Scene 11: Back at the Allister place, Willow is beginning to realize that there is some family dynamic at work between Ro and her family. Also, Joseph seems to pick up on the closeness between Ro and Willow - a situation which has not yet been revealed by her to her family.

Scene 12: At the college, Angie and Robin are left to their own devices as they check out the book collection and the old desks. There is some banter. Angie is surprised when, in a ratty old desk, she has a skull drop out of a drawer... a human skull.

Scene 13: Our POV shifts to the dimension of Vor. The Lover speaks to The Flayer, revealing her fascination with Willow. She finds it interesting that The Engineer was killed by the witch using the portal machine that was supposed to have pulled Earth into their extra-dimensional space for conquering (see both 'Another Day' & 'Another Apocalypse' in S1 for details). They're used to being immortal. The Flayer seems far less interested in any of this, but The Lover tells him that as a Warlord, his understanding of the situation is limited. She is also in the midst of having slave labor build another sphere, though The Engineer had told her that it could only be used at one time and place and, presumably, making this machine now a purposeless use of materials and effort.

The Lover reports that her fascination with Willow stems from what she perceives as the mortal witch's mastery over them by killing one of their number. She wishes to utterly break her in order to reclaim this mastery from her. It is something The Flayer cannot completely understand.

But, a mysterious shadowed being, powerful enough to make servants fall writhing and bloody by his presence, seems to.

Commentary: I believe, though unnamed here, we're meant to infer this as The Unmaker.

Scene 14: At Barlow College, Angie steps away from the skull. Robin tells her it is probably just an old teaching aid from when the building was part of a teaching hospital. They switch desks and Robin looks further in the drawer - he finds an old journal from 1897.

Meanwhile, in the floor above their heads, a hand reached out a broken window to snatch a pigeon from the sill outside and draw it into its doom.

Commentary: Again, this set up would imply that upon receiving the building from a contributor, the College never performed so much as a cursory inspection of the interior. The journal isn't exactly hidden away and it strikes me as highly unlikely that the old desk was left there unexplored by the campus' history department for just such valuable documents long before the Council's involvement.

Scene 15: Back at Ro's home, she and Willow are on the frozen lake where Ro endeavors to teach Willow how to ice skate. Naturally it all leads to a lingering kiss, which alas, is spotted by Mary Grace. When Willow reports this is going to be a bad thing, Ro tells her that with Mary Grace, it usually is, suggesting that the two sister's relationship has always been strained.

Scene 16: Robin finds himself fascinated with the tale that the diary tells, kept by a doctor who's daughter died during childbirth. The child was not only illegitimate, but also deformed. Robin finds clues to rapid growth by the infant, which makes him wonder if there was something infernal about the pregnancy. In addition, there are more mysterious bangs from above their heads from the supposedly empty top two floors. Angie becomes more nervous, as on the wall graffiti has made reference to a local legend, The Creeper. Robin joins her in wondering if the noises above their head aren't being caused by something other than the rats that the Caretaker told them doesn't exist in the building (a circumstance that would be unusual in itself with the building's deterioration).

Scene 17: Back at the Council, Faith has returned from her mission, briefly mentioned earlier. She finds Kennedy and Mia in a compromising position in the Rec Room. From them she finds out about the existence and arrival of Vi's twin sister. Mia mentions that the girl is flirty and was sent with Robin on his Barlow College mission. Faith isn't amused by this. We get the impression that she is heading out for Barlow College to check in with her guy [but, actually, she'll be going to see Vi].

Commentary: I really don't like this scene, as short as it is. I don't like Kennedy and Mia's being engaged in shirt-unbuttoned, lesbian antics in such a public place as the Council Rec Room - it's tacky. I don't like Faith's immediate jealousy over random girl's being out with Robin (they seemed to have already worked through their personal issues in episodes past), I don't like Faith feeling the need to run straight out to talk to Vi about her sister (it indicates a lack of respect and trust in Robin's ability to resist some flirting, and his inability to do his job professionally (introducing Angie to Watcher responsibility) when he's out of her sight and an immediate distrust of anyone described as 'flirty' being in proximity to poor, helpless Robin. It makes her far too possessive for who we know she is at this point in her character-development.

This tiny scene besmirches all three characters for a throwaway scene to allow Faith to be at Barlow college, just in time. And, from a story point, I see no reason for Faith to even be involved in this. Since the central issue the story seems to want to address is the complicated relationships between sisters who are so different from each other, the developments here should still be about Vi/Angie, not Faith/Robin.

If there were going to be conflict between Angie and Faith, it really should have come before Robin's trip to the college with Angie, with him demanding that Faith show a little bit of belief in them as a couple by not tagging along just because Vi's sister is a bit of a flirt. The introduction here of another round of Faith/Robin tension seems not only out of the blue, considering the past developments in their relationship arc, but also is derailing the central tenet implied of this being a sisters story.

Scene 18: Back at the college, Robin reads about the deformed 'creature' being stronger than men. The doctor/grandfather reports through the diary that he kept his 'monstrous' grandchild in heavy chains with a cage around its head to keep it from being able to attack him or run loose.

Robin expresses sympathy for this, perhaps, hybrid child. He believes there is little likelyhood such treatment by its family couldn't have led to some sort of insanity. Angie brings up the disappearing security guards 'leaving their posts' suddenly, and they both decide it is time to leave... like, right now.

Commentary: I like the detail, repulsive as it may be, of the diary never mentioning the gender of the child. It is referred to consistently as an 'it' rather than he or she. I kind of wish that the diary had been kept by a third party, though, instead of by the grandfather. It would have tied this story more closely into Angie/Vi's and Ro/Mary Grace's if the journal had been kept as an observation by a woman, preferably someone who had felt a sympathetic relationship to this hybrid child... like a sisterly relationship... and was reporting about what her father was doing. Since a central point of the story is that the mother was unwed, this could have been a younger sister to her, rather than a literal sister to the demon-human hybrid child. This would have allowed the themes of sisterhood among women so different from one another to continue to be played out in all three main arcs. This is especially true, if the hybrid turns out to be a female child (which may be the case, if you go by the picture being used to depict it here).

{With my reappraisal of the theme being jealousy over sisterly relationships, this still doesn't tie into what I thought was the over
all theme of the episode.}

Angie and Robin never get to the exit, alas, as in the corridor, they're confronted by The Creeper!

Scene 19: Back in Cleveland, Faith is with Vi and mentioning what she's heard about her sister. Vi tries to assure her that Angie puts on an act, but that is all that it is. Suddenly she's taken by a psychic flash from her twin that something is wrong.

Scene 20: In the corridor, Robin distracts the creature while the terrified Angie sprints away. Naturally, the stairs she can access only leads in one direction however, up. Worse for our duo, Robin's cellphone has been left in the car, as we see when Vi tries to contact him to check on her premonition.

Being unable to reach him is more than enough for the two Slayers and they rush off to get to Barlow College.

In the meantime, Robin and Angie are pursued by the creature, and Angie is tackled to the floor during their flight!

Scene 21: In Canada, Willow and Rowena arrive back at her folks' place, worried about the confrontation that will surely be about to begin.

Scene 22: At the college, Robin and Angie fight against the hybrid creature. Robin is able to give Angie valuable time to scrabble away using a broken chair as a club. The two of them reach a filing room and barracade the door, allowing them a brief moment of respite. Outside the room the creature throws a tantrum at being denied, but even after it seems to have stomped off, Angie and Robin choose not to risk opening the door.

He reaches for his phone, only to realize that he's lost it somewhere leaving them up poop's creak without a paddle.

Scene 23: At Ro's parents' place, Mary Grace watches with a smirk at the trouble she has caused for Ro. Mrs. Allister is freaking out with anger at her daughter for her 'friendship' with Willow. She's even more wrathful toward Willow, herself.

The confrontation degrades into some very venomous attacks on Willow, which Rowena will not tolerate. The couple are ordered from the Allister home, which Ro agrees would be best, while also insulting her mother over not following the Bible's edict to not judge others.

Commentary: I'm of conflicted mind about this scene. I think it is meant to be a power moment for Ro, but instead she comes across to me just as ugly as her mother by yelling at her to shut her trap, and practice what her church preaches. Here is my problem with this scene, Rowena knew what sort of conservative household she was coming home to. She also knew that her parents were very likely to react badly to this shock that Ro was now deeply involved in a lesbian relationship. She knew that her mother was a conservative Christian and what her social mores were. But throughout this visit, she hasn't exactly been circumspect about her relationship with Willow, and since this whole visit was allegedly about breaking this news, she could have handled this a lot better than to spring it on her family by making out with Willow where anyone could have run across them.

I get her anger here, but this is exactly what she could have and should have expected, meaning that this whole situation should have been broached by her long before she brought Willow to the homestead. Despite her mother's behavior, I'm sort of appalled on Mrs. Allister's behalf over the disrespect that Rowena showed for her mother by not preparing her for this revelation before coming home and then shouting at her mother under her own roof to shut her mouth.

Obviously, Mary Grace is a real bitch, here, for running to tattletale, like she was still 12, but that doesn't make Ro any more 'heroic' in her shouting match with her mom, here, and it seems to me that we're supposed to see Rowena as having a 'standing up for herself and Willow' moment here. Instead, I just want to ask her what she expected was going to happen, why she thinks her mother should throw away a lifetime of belief in 5 seconds (when Ro has been struggling herself with this over the previous year) and where she gets off screaming at her mother to shut up under her own roof? And, why did she put Willow in the position of coming to a conservative household this way without either asking her to be far more circumspect until she could talk to her parents about everything, or broaching this topic prior to bringing her home for the holiday.

I'm gay. I get the 'accept me as I am, I won't pretend just to make you more comfortable' of this scene, but I also feel like Rowena disrespected her parents in how she both handled this visit to begin with, and how she allowed herself to be baited into screaming insults at her mother here.

Oh, and if she was going to throw around some rage - she should have directed it at her sister for being an immature and jealous little monster.

Scene 24: Back with Robin and Angie, they've had no choice but to sneak out of their dead-end of a room. Robin had directed them upward to the top floor, reasoning that the monster will expect them to rush downward in an attempt to escape. He leads Angie to a window leading out to the rooftop. There is a tree with thick branches brushing up against the roof that they can use to escape.

Unfortunately, there is a complication in that the window was painted shut a long time ago. He has to smash it out, which of course alerts the creature to where its prey is now located. With no good options, he proceeds to smash out the window pane and rushing Angie out onto the roof.

Commentary: And, for two people trying to be silent as they look for a way to sneak out, Robin and Angie sure are talking a lot throughout this scene!

Scene 25: Back at the Ferry leaving the island, Willow and Rowena are joined by Mr. Allister, who tells Ro to live her own life. He tries to explain that her mother had such plans for her own life that didn't pan out. He leaves the impression that this isn't so much about Ro being in a relationship with a female partner, as it is about her confounding more of her mother's life plans. He tells her that if she allowed her mother to re-design her apartment or outfit her, it would go a long way in making her feel needed and more a part of her daughter's life... once they've had the chance to cool down, of course. He basically welcomes Willow into the family right there and then with no muss and no fuss.

Commentary: Okay, time for me to inject a real life anecdote. My parents were both absolutely terrific (at least in front of me) about my coming home with Tom. Now, I don't think it was a big mystery - I remember my brother trying to force me to out myself with his side comments as early as when he was in 7th grade (he's three years younger than I) and I think everybody was quite aware with the situation, but we had one of those families that just didn't confront issues. We had and have a lot of crap that we've just buried and no one wants to disturb sleeping dogs.

So, I appreciate Ro's dad being characterized this way, because that was my experience. Everyone just shrugged during my big announcement. It was the most anti-climactic moment of my life. Humorous side bar: My coming out? It was to my mother, in the summer. Tom and I had slept together for the first time, and not to be too graphic here, but he had a hard floor. I had bruises on my elbows and knees (no padding under the carpet at all, and we just didn't make it to the bedroom). Anyway, my mother asked what the hell happened to me, and I - being a bit of an asshole, I think now and ready for the big fight - responded,

"I had sex with Tom on his living room floor and it had no real padding under it."

Yes, folks - when I'm judging Rowena harshly above, consider the source. Anyway, my mother's only response to this was, "Well, I hope you're being careful". And that was it. I don't think my dad said anything at all later. It was just a "Huh. <insert bored shrug>".

So, there is my big, dramatic coming out tale. I didn't get one good argument, one dramatic, tearful breakdown, one friend who rejected me... nuthin'. I have no traumatic coming out tale to be appalled over.

Scene 26: Back at Barlow, Angie and Robin retreat to the tree, but the creature follows them. Angie freezes temporarily when it scrambles down quickly after her, but Robin is able to distract its attention. In the meanwhile, Faith and Vi have arrived.

Faith is able to throw an axe into The Creeper's back, causing it to fall through the limbs of the tree and to the ground. Violet finishes it off, and it evaporates.

Faith then confronts Angie about her flirting with Robin, and she faints comically.

Scene 27: Ro and Willow arrive back at the Council, just as Angie is leaving for home - the life of a Watcher not being for her.

A bit later, around the dining table, Andrew and Jeff try to decipher what their Tarot reading meant, wondering if it had to do with Ro and/or Willow - (?? Why?).

This is interrupted by Joseph calling Ro on her cell. Joseph mentions missing the fireworks that caused her to leave, and also tells her that no one will tell him what happened. When she tells him she'd rather not get into it, he tells her that he didn't call for the details, he just wants to make sure that Willow is treating her right... he had noticed that they weren't 'just friends'.

Rowena confirms with a smile that she does indeed....

The Good: I liked Angie, Vi's twin sister and look forward to seeing her again. I also like the way that she discovered the desire to help her sister isn't enough to be a Watcher.

I like the acknowledgment in a throwaway bit of dialog that the Watcher recruitment has been rather lax around the Council HQ.

I like the creature's backstory and the way it runs around with the remains of that cage over its head.

I love that Robin was given some action scenes and handled himself quite well in them. I also liked the fleeing down a tree while the monster is chasing thing, as it was at least different and unusual, even if there wasn't any tree limb to tree limb battling (which would have been weird and fun).

I really like nearly all of the artwork throughout this episode.

The Bad: I don't find anything truly bad about the dialog, but I don't like the set up for the different stories. The theme that I felt was being set up clearly didn't resonate and the differing plots didn't seem to weave a narrative whole. There were differing things going on that should have been inter-related thematically, but weren't, which made everything seem random and unfocused.

I don't like the tendency of inserting 'skin scenes' where inappropriate - what the hell is Kenn/Mia doing removing their tops in the public rec room?! I mean, even with the HQ being largely empty due to the holiday, I just don't see them getting hot and heavy where ever and whenever. Show a little class, why don't you.

Other Thoughts: I don't think Faith fit into this story at all, but I think that is because of the loss of focus on what should've been the overarching theme of the story. She just plain shouldn't have been in this one, and she shouldn't have been playing the jealous woman. This should have been focused on Vi/Angie to contrast with Ro/Mary Grace - Faith was superfluous to this.

As much as I love The Lover as a character, she was also random here. This wouldn't have been so bad, if we didn't already have too many random things going on, including Faith's sudden jealousy over Angie and Robin, Dawn's jealousy over Skye and Angie, Andrew and Jeff's completely out of left field scenes and Rowena's big confrontation with her mother, when it should have been with her sister, here, while Angie and Vi should have had a long conversation with how Vi knows that Angie has no real interest in being a Watcher and that she can't keep watching out for her, now that she's an adult and a Slayer. If we were going with a jealousy theme, it was rather diffuse. I get more of the feeling that there wasn't a clear vision for what the theme of the episode was going to be. If it was jealousy, it should have been much more focused, by eliminating Andrew and Jeff from the story along with The Presidium interruption, having Dawn and Skye at least broach talking about that bizarre chess scene and had Vi and Angie confronting some jealousy between them.

The Score: You know, thinking about it now, I think jealousy was supposed to be a common theme. Angie causes feelings of jealousy in Faith over Robin and Dawn over Skye. There is clearly a jealous rivalry between Rowena and Mary Grace existing, and with Mrs. Allister toward Ro for pursuing her dreams in contravention of other's expectations, while she herself hadn't been able to make her own dreams a reality. But, Andrew and Jeff don't belong in this story. The Lover could have worked if she'd been less impressed with Willow and instead given hints that she was envious of her instead... otherwise, eliminate her as well. The big one though is that Angie and Vi really needed to have some sort of mutual tension between them to mirror and reflect off of Ro/Mary. Robin's story isn't really adding up to this theme either in any way, but it didn't really have to, though less time should have been spent on it. It should have been a B-plot to the A-plot of either jealousy or sisterly relationships when the girls in question are so different.

I don't know ... I'm tempted to give it 2.75 out of 5, but I don't think any of the story is actually badly written, so much as wandering and without a central theme. This could easily be due to my expectations, rather than anything wrong with the plot itself - meaning mileage may vary:

Since, I have to make a decision and wrap this up though... 3.0 out of 5 will be the final call.


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