harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

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Watchers Review - High Art

It’s been awhile since I’ve re-read a WATCHERS episode, so I’ve decided today to review the Season 1, Episode 20…






Story by Zahir al-Daoud, CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by Zahir al-Daoud (with additional writing CN Winters)
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Directed by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by Kate and Amazonchyck
Sound by Steff
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artist Zahir al-Daoud



Guest Starring: Felicia Day as Vi, Indigo as Rona, Matthew Ferguson as Howard Mayfair, Danny Masterson as Peter Owens, Mia Kirshner as Cassandra, Harris Yulin as Quentin Travers, Michelle Tractenberg as Dawn Summers and Amber Benson as Tara Maclay.



Teaser: We open the episode with Robin Wood, Rupert Giles and a young man by the name of Howard Mayfair on the trail of a demon in an abandoned school building. The Parzanee demon has been reported in the vicinity. We will come to find out that young Howard is a newly recruited Watcher… and this is his debut hunt.


As our trio begins to search for the demon, Giles gives us the low-down on how they’re going to go about defeating said demon. He also reveals that a hunt for a Parzanee was his first assignment as well when he was a new Watcher-in-Training.


While our Trio continues demon-hunting, back at the Council, Ro and Xander are walking and bonding and joking around. It should be obvious that Xander is flirting a bit with Ro, though I’m not sure she’s catching on at this point. We do get more information about Ro’s family and that her actual first name is ‘Blanche’, which she hates. Ergo, she goes by her middle name. There’s also some speculation that Vi may like the new Watcher, according to Xan.


But, enough of the chit chat… back at the school, the demon has made his appearance!


The demon is a nice creation… a sort of green panther-faced energy being with a glowing, orange mane. I dug it.


Alas, being an energetic being, the direct approach isn’t really helpful in fighting it. You see there is something referred to as its ‘heart’, a crystal which is hidden wherever it makes its lair. Salt collected by a virgin under a full moon (really!) needs to be sprinkled over this crystal heart. Unfortunately, for Howard and Rupes, the demon has found them first. Robin is elsewhere at this time though, so we can assume he’ll be saving the day.


With the demon hot on their heels, our two Watchers find themselves trapped in a dead end… meanwhile, Robin has located the crystal heart.


I’m afraid that the save by Robin comes too late for our Watcher-in-Training. I hope you weren’t attached to Howard Mayfair… R.I.P.



Act One: Back at the Council, our gang of heroes have to deal with the loss of one of their own. Though he hadn’t been there that long, everyone is naturally enough upset that Howard was killed. None more so than Giles, of course, who feels a special responsibility toward everyone at the Council.


The upshot of the next scene is really about dealing with the gang’s feelings about losing Howard, especially since he was only 20… barely younger than the Slayers, themselves. Rona and Ro both evince concern for Vi, but she insists that she’s fine. The real concern should be for Giles, she insists.


We find out that today also happens to be Giles’ birthday… a great way to spend it…, poor guy. As the gang are hanging out and commiserating with one another, Rupert has gone to Mr. and Mrs. Mayfair to extend his sympathies.


As Giles tries to explain what happened to cause their son’s death, we very quickly figure out that the Mayfairs were not ‘in the know’ regarding their son’s new calling:


I’ve decided to transcribe this whole section, because I think it’s pretty powerfully written and you can really feel for Giles’ here. It’s awful about what happened, but dealing with the family’s of those killed has got to be even worse in many ways. As I’m sure Faith could sympathize, considering how angry Rachel’s father was when she was killed in the line of duty (Episode 10, Dark Force Rising).



"As near as I could make out," continued Giles after a few moments, "Howard must have made contact with some open source of electricity, probably wires damaged by corrosion or vandalism. The repair crews evidently hadn't gotten to that section of the building yet. I...we should not have...well, strayed into that area."


"What I don't understand," said Mrs. Mayfair, her eyes fixed on him like lasers, "is precisely what the two of you were doing there."


"Howard, he said the school was a landmark..."


"Yes," breathed Mr. Mayfair, eyes still a million miles away. "A shame to see such a fine old building just fall apart like that...a shame..." His voice trailed off.


Mrs. Mayfair's gaze never left Giles. He continued. "Your son believed I would be interested in the urban legends that had come to surround the school. He said the writing on the walls even hinted of some cult-like behavior."


"That is your area of expertise, Mr. Giles – cults?" She managed to make the word sound like a putrescent disease.


"Insofar as they pertain to religious history, yes."


"Vandalism and graffiti in an abandoned public school have something to do with the history of religions?" She wasn't even trying to hide her skepticism.


"They can." He met her gaze coolly for several seconds. "The proper authorities will investigate events, naturally. I've already given them my statement, as well as contact information. When you decide upon a time for the funeral, there is a student of mine who'd grown close with Howard..."


"Our son," interrupted Mrs. Mayfair, "will have a private funeral."


"I see."





Now, far be it from me to judge anyone whose son was killed under… odd circumstances…, but still, “Ouch.” Poor Giles.


But, Rupert’s day isn’t getting any easier, even after he gets out of the Mayfair home, as he is accosted by a reporter. Naturally, Giles has little patience for the man’s questions and his claim that the “people have a right to know”.


Unfortunately, the way Giles is so rude to the man, you know that is going to cause the reporter to do a bit more digging into what happened in that old school and what Rupert’s relationship was with Howard Mayfair. This could cause a bigger headache than it was worth to get on the reporter’s bad side, but we’ll see….


Back at the Council, Giles is waylaid by Vi and Rona as he walks in the door. He’s quickly escorted to another room on the pretense that Robin has something important to discuss. What’s actually up, is a small and somber ‘Happy Birthday’ to at least acknowledge that he’s turned 50 without the inappropriate party. His favorite brand of tea and cookies… but even this is greeted with suspicion and a bit of hostility by the ‘birthday boy’:



"Another year older and so on. Yes, thanks so much for reminding me. And how inventive, to celebrate not with a party but rather a kind of...intervention, is that the word?"



The mood lightens a bit when Becca arrives. And, Giles gets a present besides the cookies and tea: preferred seating for two for an upcoming auction which he had been very interested in.


As the gang are to be seated to a, hopefully pleasant, dinner in honor of Giles, the reporter in on the cell phone with his editor… reporting that he smells a story involving Howard’s death. The fact that his father is actually on Cleveland’s building committee only adds to his excitement over where this story might lead. Plus, you know, Giles just pissed him off, too.


Fortunately for Giles, though, I’m pretty sure the reporter is going to be less interested in perusing the story at all. I’m afraid the reporter is going to have a real bad day….



Act Two: Becca and Giles are attending the auction and a certain painting catches the pair’s eyes. Giles finds it a fascinating work, while Becca just finds it an eyesore. I’ll let you decide….


But, I’m afraid that Giles’ bad week isn’t quite over. There is a rather aristocratic woman who addresses Giles specifically as ‘Ripper’, telling us it is somebody from his past. And, we know how that past was.


As the painting in question comes up for auction, Becca’s innocent suggestion that Giles purchase it for himself, since he seems so fascinated by it results in a rather mean spirited bidding war with the old biddie from ‘Ripper’s past’ who turned out to be one of his Oxford professors. And, she’s a rude bitch, I don’t care how ‘refined’ she thinks she is.


Becca comments on how odd she is finding Rupert’s behavior… especially how he seemed to outbid the old broad not because he wanted the painting, but more because he wanted to keep her from having it.


Back at the ranch later that evening and Xander and Kennedy are checking out Giles’ purchase. There’s some great banter between the two about his habit of falling for demonic chicks, including Cordelia who became part demon for a while (on Angel’s show). It’s also nice to see that she, in particular, has finally gotten beyond the resentment toward him for Willow’s “return the eye” spell that was a catalyst for her and Willow’s break up earlier in the season.


Kennedy can be a really prickly character (as we know from BTVS, S7) which can easily be made to make her unlikable. Fan fiction will reveal that readily enough by authors with a particular hatred of her for ‘taking Tara’s place’. But, the WATCHERS staff did a really great job with her throughout the five seasons in riding the line between keeping her personality traits, but not turning her into a shrewish caricature… so a little shout-out to them for that.


As they discuss the painting with Giles, we learn a bit of background on the state of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ beings, which actually build on what we figured out on Buffy and Angel. It’s the whole “not all demons are evil” and now we find that “not all angels are virtuous”. They, like mankind, have free-will. In addition, I’ll mention here that the painting is of a ‘Nephillim’ – a halfbreed offspring of a demonic and angelic being. And, since we’re spending a lot of time with this painting and considering the episode title, I’m sure I don’t have to point it out that there’s something fishy about this work of art… but I will anyway, since I just bothered typing it.  -grin-


Elsewhere, Ro comes across Willow playing the piano and they duet together. Again, Willow is obviously interested in Ro (as we learned in episode 17, Scarecrow) and the blond remains clueless.


As Ro and Willow dance around one another (metaphorically speaking), Giles has walked Becca to her car. She having decided to leave for the evening. They have a brief chat about the old woman at the auction and Giles’ shady school days, but it’s all interrupted by that annoying reporter, now a vampire. And a pretty stupid and clumsy one, too. Just ‘cause Becca isn’t super-powered doesn’t mean she can’t use her knee to the groin, Butt-Head. Hah!


In the music room, Willow is actually leaning in to kiss Ro on the lips! And, Ro’s eyes do that fluttering closed thing…! But before the point of no return comes, Becca’s call for help rings from the lobby… drat!


Well… with Faith coming to the rescue, it isn’t long before ex-reporter is blowing in the breeze. But, I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t the actual point. Remember, that he was in contact with his editor before being vamped. And now? Gone…, while investigating Rupert Giles and his involvement with the mysterious death of Howard Mayfair. I sense a subplot involving the Council’s concern of secrecy vs. the newspaper’s attempts to get to the bottom of both Howard’s unusual death and the sudden disappearance of one of their reporters.


With Becca having returned home and things quiet at the Council again, Giles returns to the painting of the Nephillim… and finds himself drawn to it. Even when Robin assures him later that Becca made it home alright, Giles’ attention is only on the painting.


As Andrew comes in with more tea for Giles, he turns to say ‘thank you’ only to find… Quentin Travers?!


Uh, oh… Giles is losing it.


Act Three: Giles and ‘Quentin’ have an odd conversation about both the painting’s and their history together. How much of this is fact and how much delusion in Giles’ mind is open to interpretation, but there can be no doubt that the painting is having an unusual affect on our Watcher-in-Chief.


While Willow is telling Robin that she’s concerned that Giles isn’t acting quite ‘right’… letting Becca go home alone, even right after following a vampire attack is a huge clue, Giles himself is definitely in some sort of constructed reality. ‘Quentin’ introduces him to Rowena, who we know he never met at the Council. In addition, ‘Quentin’ is speaking as if this is right after Buffy’s death from Glory… which we know that Giles and the gang kept strictly secret from the Council. The real Quentin wouldn’t have any way of knowing this in the first place, let alone that Giles is now acting like Buffy S6, S7 and WATCHERS S1 has never happened.


More ominous still… ‘Quentin’ want he and ‘Ro’ to team up for a special mission. This mission involves another dead cast member… Tara!


The false-Tara spins a tale that takes elements from S6 of BTVS, but acts as though Giles was never informed of what they attempted… raising Buffy and such. She also tells Giles that Willow had gotten erratic and that one of her spells backfired and killed Xander Harris.


Quentin’s assignment to Giles is to report to ‘Sunnydale’ and stop Willow whose dark magics threaten her and everyone she loves… not to mention the world, of course. He assigns Ro as his junior partner to put a stop to things before Will goes too far. Tara describes Willow’s descent and again, it’s like an alternate scenario of what could have happened during S6 of Buffy. We also find out that in this delusion, S7 never happened and Kennedy is THE Slayer, but is very busy in Cleveland so cannot see to the matter.


While Andrew, Xander and Willow discover that Giles is no longer in the library, nor in his suite, he is discussing a growing trend of problems in Sunnydale. All, presumably, caused by Willow. And Quentin points out the obvious… Willow may need to be killed… and I don’t think its only going to be in Giles’ current delusion.


Act Four: Next, we get more inside Giles’ delusion… it’s pretty long and detailed so I don’t want to go through it paragraph by paragraph, but suffice to say that there are clues that things aren’t right and Giles is beginning to get an inkling that there’s something ‘off’ about all of this. Though, he’s still very much in thrall to the situation.


And, hey, we get to see Mia! Hi, Mia! I love you… but she’s more interested in Kennedy than me, alas.


Within the Giles delusion/alternate reality, Faux-Ro is killed by faux-Willow. Willow begs Giles to “stop me”… but, he’s still himself. And though it appears to me that this fake-reality is trying to unleash the Ripper in him, Rupert continues to insist that he isn’t that man anymore. He tries to talk Will down, instead, using arguments that include things they talked about from BTVS S7, again reinforcing that this whole scenario is incorporating things he knows and experienced, but trying to force him to slay Willow.


In the meantime, the real Willow has announced that she needs to turn in because she is suddenly feeling very tired… a connection? That’s my bet.


Or, maybe not.


Giles, in refusing to kill Willow and through his speaking to her instead, summons the Nephillim to “life” in the guise of Dawn. The being informs him that he is, currently, inside the painting and searching for answers he already has… regarding Howard’s fate and how he can’t simply give up because of his loss. In addition, we learn that all of the characters that Giles interacted with were in fact facets of himself… kind of neat, actually.


Having re-learned something about his place in the universe, Giles calls Becca. He gets her answering machine at first, but she quickly picks up. I have to include her answering message though, because it’s funny and gives great insight into her personality that makes me like her so much:


"This is not Rebecca's answering machine," it said. "This is Rebecca's VCR. The sad truth is her answering machine was having a mad passionate affair with the toaster oven and now they've run off together leaving me to pick up the slack. I'm going to try and make a beep now. If I succeed, I'll do my best to record any message. Wish us luck."



C’mon… that’s really cute.


Giles tells Becca how much he loves her and we end episode.



The Good: The artwork gets top honors in this episode… really good stuff. I really liked the eldritch look of the opening demon and the whole teaser scene. Another great scene was the powerful dialog from Mrs. Mayfield to Giles upon her son’s death. The whole ‘constructed reality’ inside the painting was interesting and mysterious… especially the ominous “we may need to kill Willow” angle and the weird way that things we saw in Buffy were either ignored or placed in a different context. I liked that we didn’t really know whether Giles was living a different reality or whether it was all in his mind as we were going through the mystery of what was happening and why. I liked the wrap-up.


The Bad: I’m not sure I’d call it ‘bad’, but the reporter subplot took a bit too much space since really, his whole “mini-arc” was just to set up another arc for later (assuming this will be callbacked by the reporter’s disappearance, the way I think… I don’t remember at this point whether it comes up again or under what circumstances). Some of the story was a bit draggy… I’m thinking specifically of too much time spent wandering looking for Giles. And, Willow’s “we need to find him” turning to “maybe he needs some time alone and I’m tired now” was just too abrupt. And, apparently her being suddenly tired had nothing to do with Giles’ plot thread at all.


The Verdict: I liked this one, but it’s not a barn-burner. It was pleasant enough and was definitely helped out by the artwork throughout, including that painting. I think this one is a 3.5 out of 5.0 episode.



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