Story by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by Susan Carr
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
Artists Chris Cook, David Zahir, Sarah, Libbi, Chantal
Guest Starring: Elijah Wood as Jeffrey Lindquist, Jennifer Connelly as Althenea,
Carly Schroeder as Marsha, Stephanie March as Bonnie, Thora Birch as Tracey,
Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Felicia Day as Vi, Indigo as Rona,
Christopher Lee as Reverend Gottlieb, David Ogden Stiers as Rabbi Shermann, and
Dennis Hopper as Father Dugan
Teaser: We open with Willow teaching her mystics class, which include a mixture of Slayers as well as coven members, Andrew and Jeff. Marsha is also in the course and Willow informs her afterward that later in the evening they two of them will be going out on patrol as Watcher/Slayer. Marsha is excited (Marsha is the youngest Slayer and was instrumental in defeating Eamia around Halloween).
In addition we get a time stamp here: it’s nearing Beltane, the Celtic entrance into the spring season and Willow is happy that winter is ending. Jeff and Andrew decide to throw together a party for the Council in order to celebrate – which I’m sure will not at all go wrong.
A short time later, Andrew and Jeff get the proper permits from a clerk whose family had been saved by Faith. As the worker, Tim, goes out for a cigarette break following filing the paperwork, a different co-worker secretly makes a call… to Bonnie, the faux-real estate agent/lawyer/betrayer of humanity/demon lackey/and Amy Madison setter-upper.
Act One: It’s the following day and Faith, who’d been taking night classes to earn her G.E.D. (see the opening scene for ‘Gangland’) gets her results. I’ll spoil it here… she passes.
Elsewhere, in the secret lair of the Presidium that bitca, Bonnie – betrayer of humanity, etc. is meeting with her bosses. Larmin, a.k.a the Engineer is looking proudly on as the minions are completing THE DEVICE. This would be the device that was used earlier in the season on Jeff – remember? It drained his magic for a short time.
Well, we get confirmation here that he was just the test subject to work the kinks out. Willow is the prime target, ‘natch, being one of the most powerful witches in the western hemisphere (as Anya told Andrew & Jonathon in BTVS: Two to Go). While Willow hasn’t been throwing around the raw power since she decided to really follow Wicca philosophy instead of just mouthing it for Tara’s benefit, she’s still awesome in the magic arena.
Anyway, the Engineer makes sure that Bonnie is clear on her role in things – which is to make sure that as many Slayers are slaughtered (and ergo won’t interfere) as is possible. Being a betrayer of humanity, she readily agrees to see to it. Bitch.
The Engineer points out her less than stellar attempts so far, but she waves this aside, assuring him that she may not need to kill them to get them out of the way. He emphasizes that Willow it not to be harmed, but otherwise, he need not be bothered with the details.
Later that day, and elsewhere again, Bonnie – that faux real estate agent, etc. is having a lovely lunch with a Reverend at the local church (this would be Chris Lee) when she “innocently” mentions she has “concerns” about the sort of education going on at the new school in town (that would be the cover for our Watchers Council). She hands him a notice for the upcoming ‘Pagan Festival’. He doesn’t see it, but we’re told that a small glimmer radiates from it and suddenly he is absolutely outraged… Bonnie’s latest plan is set in motion.
I have to take a minute to talk about the scene between the Reverend and Bonnie. It’s a good scene really showing up how manipulative and cool Bonnie is when she’s working on behalf of her ‘client’. But, also, the scene is so interesting because it reflects so closely to what we’re hearing now… and was during the President Bush’s ‘Faith Initiative’. The Reverend wants to speak to the city commissioners and Bonnie smoothly states she already tried, but they issued the permits to avoid getting involved in a ‘religious matter’ and not wanting to get into legal issues with ‘the separation of church and state’… sound familiar? It goes even further… Bonnie talks about how the “community” (immediately separating the Council is not part of the community… i.e. they’re “THE OTHER”) having to protect itself from “degenerates”. Just add the word ‘liberals’, ‘gays’, ‘wingnuts’, ‘Muslims’ or ‘godless left wingers’ and you can easily see today’s arguments regarding Obama, the Conservative Movement and the Progressive Cause in the yarn that Bonnie weaves here. Of course, at least the Reverend has an excuse for going nutso-cuckoo – the pamphlets (which are clearly Bonnie’s own doing, not something a ‘magic store clerk’ gave her) have a magic whammo on them.
We can tell things are going to get ugly when Bonnie mentions that she is meeting a local Rabbi later about this very issue – and she happens to have more pamphlets for the Reverend’s congregants to check out.
That Bonnie – she’s such a giver.
And, while Bonnie is seeding more ‘outrage’ (Won’t someone Think Of The Children?!), Reverend Christopher Lee is also spreading around the magicked pamphlets, doing his part to drum up protest against the ‘school’.
In addition to the ‘Bonnie sowing seeds of discontent’ thing, we also have Willow, Ro, and Marsha sharing ice cream. There is some banter and such, but it mostly revolves around Willow’s attempts to not flirt with Ro and everything she says could be taken as a double-entendre. And, Marsha is no dope.
The following day, our fired up religious leaders are confronting Giles regarding the planned Maypole dancing and its original sexual symbolism. While Giles is trying to be courteous, I think he is underestimating the outrage going on here.
Also making the scene, for the festival, is Althenea (a stunning Jennifer Connelly). Al would be the witch who walked Willow through her post-Dark Phoenix recovery in England.
Act Two: Alas, while Willow is pleasantly shocked at Al’s surprise visit to the Council, she really picks a bad time. Mostly bad because she’s not at all shy about the fact that she’s a witch – and in fact, is a bit of a smart-ass to boot. This obviously only adds to the spell that the clergymen arguing with Giles are under:
"Who are you?" Gottlieb demanded, as if infuriated by the witch's interruption.
"Good morning," she replied. "I'm Althenea Dimmons from the Coven of Devon in England. And you are?"
"A witch!" Gottlieb roared as Father Dugan crossed himself.
"Really?" Althenea smiled. "So am I. Although I must confess it's very rare to see a Wiccan wearing a clerical collar." She turned to Willow and asked, "Is that something peculiar to you Yanks?"
Willow rolled her eyes and shook her head at her friend while Gottlieb's face turned red as he sputtered.
Yeah, see…while humorous and all, she’s not helping the situation that the Council now finds itself in. Of course, Giles isn’t helping his own cause either with his flippant attitude.
The rest of the brief meeting doesn’t go well; Reverend Chris Lee demands that the Pagan festival not go forward, Giles counters with the Constitution allowing them to practice whatever religion they wish – and the fact that there are no ‘separation issues’ since the school receives no State or Federal funding.
Giles and Ro also greet Althenea (whose name I have to continually look up to check the spelling, annoyingly) warmly. Giles obviously knows her from “the coven in Devon that imbued him with their powers” and Willow’s restoration following her grief-fueled, murderous magical rage. Ro knows her via the Original Council. As we learned way back in … uh … episode 3, 4 and 5 (when Ro made her appearance to Giles/joined the New Council), Althenea is the one who came up with the Watcher book, the Opus Obscurum, from which the spell to allow Willow to activate all of the Earth’s Slayers via the Slayer Scythe in BTVS: Chosen originally came from… *whew*.
Back to our plot: With Willow and Althenea having some alone time in the guest suite, talk turns to Will’s infatuation with Rowena. As Al points out, Ro has never had a relationship with another woman… in fact, her only previous serious relationship was with the man who tortured her (again, go back to episodes 3, 4 and 5… they’re really good).
But, Al isn’t there just to celebrate May Day or to listen to Will bemoan her love life. She’s also there to inform Willow that she’s being promoted to a “Level Three” witch and no longer needs to be under the supervision of the Coven:
"Are you sure? I mean, you know everything that happened before I met you…the terrible things I did."
"I know," Althenea confirmed. "But that was before, Willow. You've changed and grown so much. The coven feels you no longer need our supervision. You've earned our trust and respect."
Cool. Plus, you know, it’s nice that Will is getting some reinforcement that she isn’t the same woman she was when she went on the murderous rage-a-thon.
We do some more visiting with our outraged clergy, who Bonnie continues to stoke while simultaneously acting all “is there really anything we can do… we mustn’t get so worked up… here let me prod this hornet’s nest with a stick” deal.
From there it’s back to the Council with Al meeting Xander and basically giving him (and ergo us) a quick lesson in Wicca and ‘promotions’ within the system. It’s an okay scene, helped immensely by the warmth apparent in Al’s dialogue and Xan’s typical humor. In addition, we get some more on Beltane and how it fits into Wiccan belief and ritual. The details are interesting and I’m glad they were included. They bring a more … mmm… fullness… to Willow’s ongoing development as a character moving and growing beyond ‘BTVS’… and there’s a nice shout out to Tara’s role in Willow’s progression (rather than just being the excuse for Willow’s flip-out) that was appreciated.
Act Three: Althenea and Ro talk. And, it’s become obvious that Al’s role in this story is to be the wise voice that will help to bridge the unvoiced sexual tension between Ro and Willow. Ro’s in a state of obvious confusion, not seeing herself as a lesbian, and yet possibly having some sort of romantic connection toward the witch. Her confusion has been transmitted to Willow who complained earlier about her mixed signals to Al.
A large portion of this act revolves around Al advising Ro which is fine. The dialog is good and Ro’s confusion is well handled. Considering where Ro and Will end up, it’s important to their relationship’s arc.
Elsewhere, things begin to heat up with Bonnie’s plan as the Council is being inundated with outraged calls from the community. Naturally, she’s in the thick of it with more cursed pamphlets. Bonnie also does a quick check-in with Larmin, again, and we get more clues to Willow’s fate:
"Just remember…no harm to the witch. And make sure that in all the chaos nothing disturbs the ritual. It is vital to the Engineer's plan that she reaches the height of her power. The Presidium has waited many years for the right convergence of events to occur. Nothing must stop us now."
I think we can see where the last two Season Finale episodes will be taking us as far as the Presidium’s plans.
Act Four: The May Day celebration gets into full swing, but while the staff of the Council try to enjoy themselves, the protesters – driven by Bonnie’s Pamphlets Of Self-Righteousness – are also at the Council, or at least on the street in front of it. Willow starts to wonder if this is a ‘natural’ protest or if there’s something magical at work to drive these people into a tizzy.
Unfortunately, her and Giles decide if there is something going on, it’s probably to stop her elevation ceremony. Which is exactly the opposite of what the Presidium actually wants… they want Willow to be at the height of her magical potency before they imprison her in their magical-power sucking, portal opening device! Giles tells her they’ll have to make sure that her elevation is allowed to proceed to thwart the Presidium’s goal… which is WRONG.
Out at the protest, Tracey (Andrew’s kitchen assistant/possible romantic interest) is accosted by the crowd. As she’s escorted into the building, somebody manages to thrust a pamphlet of doom into her jacket pocket.
The real situation is quickly sussed out when Xander comes into contact with the pamphlet and attacks Kennedy for being a ‘harlot and idolater’. Thankfully, before Kenn has to hurt him, Robin knocks him out.
A bit later that evening and the Council has been able to keep a lid on the crowd outside. But now, Bonnie’s vampire recruits are able to incite violence by claiming to the bespelled people that the Council is getting a fire lit to begin sacrificing children to their heathen gods… as if. Of course, since they’re not in their right minds, they immediately decide they have to break down the Council’s doors and stop the ritual sacrifice about to take place (I could make a snide comment about the Right Wingers, but I’m trying really hard to refrain… this isn’t the place for political ranting).
As the riotous crowd begins to battle against the Slayers to get into the Council proper, Althenea and Willow are too involved in her elevation ritual to help… and yes, like with Xan’s eye, this magic involves sexual energy, too.
An orgasmic climax to the magical ritual manages to change the hearts of the crowd from outrage to something a bit more… uh… positive? And, it’s not just the crowd outside either; there’s some definite heat from Mia toward Kenn. And, some jealousy from Ro toward Althenea as Becca is quick to point out to her when she protests that her and Will are only friends.
There’s some joking around about Willow’s “orgasmabomb” and about Ro and Willow’s dancing around each other (which has not been a secret from ANYONE at the Council – except maybe Xander), but things remain unresolved on that front for now.
The episode ends with a shocking, surprise guest star arrived just in time for the Season Finale!
The Good: Well, the flow of the episode is well done. We have a steady build up of the mystically driven outrage over the ‘Pagan Festival’. And, Bonnie’s role in this whole thing was devious… and much better thought out than sending vampires after the Council.
I liked that regular folks were the ‘bad guys’ in this one… it was different from the usual threat and put the Slayers in a bind over how to react.
Althenea is a wonderful character (one caveat here listed later) and is perfectly embodied by the casting – the pictures of Jennifer are stunning.
Sex energy trumping mystical rage… I like that (with another caveat).
The last scene – LOVE. Especially the last spoken bit of dialog from the guest star.
The Bad: Well – the build up takes so much of the episode that the resolution seems abrupt.
Sex as magic… again. Not that sex isn’t swell and all, but wow there’s a lot of talk about it in this one….
The teasing of Ro re: the tension between her and Willow seems kind of mean, but I know that wasn’t how it was supposed to read. It should be obvious though that she’s not comfortable with Willow’s obvious interest and yet everyone feels the need to mention it.
Concerns: This isn’t good nor bad, but Althenea was almost too good to be true. She is so earnestly wise and sensitive and insightful and Mother-Earth-Wicca-Goodness that it skirts the line of ‘too much’. If she’s this earnest, I can only imagine that the actual High Priestess of the coven must be insufferable.
The Score: I liked this one more than I remember from my first read. It’s nice that they called back Faith’s attending night courses and resolved what happened with them. I also like that Andrew continues to be shown some respect as a coven member, rather than only the comic relief. Bonnie is sinfully good as the manipulative villain continuing to plague the Council. I like the continuing character growth for Willow and Faith shown here and it was nice during the ‘crowd control’ scene that we get a shout out to all of our Slayers that we haven’t seen much of… Lori, Mia, Vi and Rona. The only real caveat I have is the focus on sex, sex, sex in this episode which includes the slightly over-the-top ritual of Willow & Althenea, but still, I enjoyed the episode as a whole - 3.5 out of 5.
Willow teaches her mystic class - and gives a history lesson.
The 'men of the cloth' who will cause our Council problems.
Xander falls under the influence.
Powerful magic between Willow and Althenea Dimmons.
That's a seriously powerful magical 'orgasmabomb'.