Log in

No account? Create an account
26 August 2016 @ 01:19 am
Post-colonial angst: Pangs  
We're now reaching a run of some of the strongest episodes, not just of the season but of the whole show. When people complain about S4, they perhaps need to remember this.

Previously on Angel, Doyle's former wife arrived in town with her new fiancé. They wanted Doyle's blessing on the new marriage, which he is happy to give, albeit a little sad. But it turns out "blessing" means "offering your brains as a pre-nuptial snack", which he is less keen on. He had left his wife because he was ashamed of being a half-demon, but it seems she wants a little demon in her man. Doyle is left wondering what might have been. And then has a crashingly painful vision of Buffy in trouble. Angel to the rescue!

And back to our regular Sunnydale focus:

Buffy kills a vamp. Angel, hidden in the bushes, is watching her.

Later, Xander is starting his construction career, and Anya appreciates it very much. Buffy is a trifle sarcastic. Very manly. Not at all village people.

For those who don't recognise her allusion, it's a good excuse to share the original:

Buffy herself is wearing a cowboy hat. This is Symbolic.

The construction dig is doomed, though, as Xander falls through the ground into a hitherto unsuspected underground chamber. Preparatory surveying work is clearly not a strong point for Sunnydale builders.

And all this is before the credits!

Oh yes - it's also just before Thanksgiving - cue much talk about melting pot, culture and the inappropriateness of the festivities, though Anya sums it up beautifully: It's a ritual sacrifice. With Pie.

It turns out to be a lost Mission - Sunnydale of the earlier twentieth century and before apparently had a habit of just building on top of buildings that vanished in earthquakes.

Although Buffy accepts Willow's arguments, she wants a proper Thanksgiving. Even if it's fake, It is a sham, but it's a sham with yams. It's a yam sham. And, more to the point, it's supposed to be about everybody having a place they can go to. Not quite everybody has that.

Even the Initiative boys want to go home, after one last attempt to find neutered Hostile 17.

Xander isn't feeling too good, though.

And then the professor is murdered. By a cloud of green smoke which turns into a Native American.

The knife is a Chumash artefact. And so, we assume, is the killer.

Buffy is far more worried about a proper Thanksgiving meal. Giles has to be the patriarch.

As it happens, a patriarch who is keeping a secret.

Angel is on the outside, looking in at what he can't have. He's not alone. Spike watches a happy vampire family sharing their Thanksgiving victim.

Buffy is obsessed with making an authentic Thanksgiving experience, though she has this pesky supernatural murder to investigate too. She chats to Riley while Willow encounters Angel, who is definitely NOT evil again.

And Spike is rejected. By Harmony.

Home's the place that, when you have to go there... They have to take you in.

Buffy catches the spirit murdering a priest. Fisticuffs inevitably ensue.

But, as you do, he turns into a cloud of bats and flies away.

Buffy is much more worried about the meal.

Giles doesn't even have a potato ricer. And he will insist on referring to the people as "Indians". always behind on the terms. Still trying not to refer to you lot as "bloody colonials."

Willow arrives with the wrong kind of peas. Buffy wants authenticity and hand-shelled peas. And Willow has found out stuff about the Chumash who were, inevitably, massacred by the European invaders. She is in favour of the Chumash.

Xander and Anya arrive. He looks very ill. Worse, they didn't bring rolls.

Xander has actually consulted a doctor, who felt there were too many symptoms of too many diseases. That makes sense to Willow - he's clearly got all the infections the Chumash acquired when forced to live in the missions. Including smallpox. And syphilis.

Hus, the vanishing Chumash, has got himself some weapons.

Willow is still all in favour of supporting the legitimate desires of the Chumash. Xander feels he's a vengeance demon, so should be killed. Anya is not impressed by this logic.

And then a knock on the door. An unexpected visitor.

He's desperate. He has lost everything. He needs help. Oh, and he's harmless now.

He's also a tricky ethical problem. But they do let him in. Tied up, of course.

Hus, meanwhile, has gathered a bunch of friends, also creatures of the night. After all, that's what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about, right?

Spike, meanwhile, cuts through all the concerns about ethics and history.

You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not going around saying, "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." The history of the world isn't people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.

Buffy decides the Dean must be warned. Anya, Xander and Willow volunteer to go. Spike whines that he's hungry, but an arrow changes his priorities rapidly.

The Scoobies meet Angel. Who's not evil. He hasn't been evil for a long time.

He does know, though, that a warrior won't consider an academic the leader and thus his next target. He will go for the strongest warrior. Buffy. He helps the Scobbies steal some bicycles and they pedal to the rescue.

Meanwhile, Spike is becoming a pincushion. He's not happy.

Buffy and Giles can't reach the weapons.

Angel phones Giles to warn him. They already know, thanks.

The Scoobies arrive and attack the enemy with foliage.

And Angel.

Inside, Hus is running out of options.

But not quite.

Spike blames Buffy. You made a bear!

But Buffy has realised Hus can be killed by his own knife. And back he goes to a green cloud.

Buffy senses something outside.

But Angel watches, unseen, for a moment, then just fades back into the darkness. As is his wont.

Spike, ever flexible in his allegiances, wants to know if we won.

In the spirit of the day he is allowed to sit at table. It has been a successful meal. Just like old times. Yes, Xander points out, especially with Angel being around and all.

Cat. Bag. No longer in close contact.


An awesome episode, one of my personal top ten. It's full of comedy and action - Anya's bluntness is given full rein, and Spike has several wonderful comic moments. At the same time it handles some very serious issues - to what extent are we responsible for the past? The distant past? How can, or should, we make amends? (The Chumash were mostly victims of Spanish and Mexican settlers. Does that matter?) And what is authenticity? Is it just nostalgia or self-indulgence or proper respect for past times and past cultures?

Our attention is repeatedly drawn to key issues - the British Empire ("bloody colonials") was once hugely powerful. But long before that, Britain was invaded and subjugated by the Romans - hence the Caesar quotation from the other Brit present. Is life just kill or be killed, the vampire creed, or should we try to find reconciliation - and how can we do that when most of the victims are dead and the heirs of the invaders control the land?

Then, from a Doylist perspective, there's the whole business of cultural appropriation. The Chumash were a California tribe - their one remaining reservation is near Santa Barbara - but Hus looks much like any generic Hollywood Plains Indian. To what extent does the story exploit the Native American tropes and use them for laughs?

There are plenty of laughs, too. It's not a surprise to see it was penned by Jane Espenson, Queen of Comedy. Huge numbers of quotable lines and superb timing. You might like to mention your favourite bit(s).

And family, the sense of belonging. Angel can't - he's constantly shown as watching, as permanently outside. A lot of shots frame the viewer as outside, too, as we look through windows and the gap into the kitchen. Spike is outside the parody of a happy family scene, which he cannot join as a neutered vamp. And yet, by the end, he sees himself, if only temporarily, as one of the gang, and shares their meal. His knowing look at Buffy, at the end, also breaks the fourth wall and is a look at us. He is presented as a parallel to the Native Americans, excluded from their own territory, outsiders while the victors celebrate a fraudulent history which erases him and his kind. A bit extreme, perhaps? Angel's not evil again, but Spike is very definitely still evil right now.

So, opinions? Is it exploitative of Native Americans? Does it mock hallowed traditions? Does it show how desperate Buffy is to keep her "family" together, at a time when there are already cracks, and things are inexorably changing? Who do you feel sorry for? Should you?


Comments, as always, are welcomed and cuddled. Screencaps, as before, are from Screencapped.net

readerjane on August 26th, 2016 12:48 am (UTC)
Love this episode so much. You've already called out all my favorite lines. I wish my whole family loved BtVS so we could make this part of our Thanksgiving weekend every year, but alas, it's just me and the kids.
Danna: Fool for Lovechasingdemons on August 26th, 2016 02:26 am (UTC)
I saw the main theme of this episode as being about belonging. Buffy thought if she could make all the Thanksgiving dishes perfectly, she would be less lonely, or create that warm family feeling. Which has me wondering... Why would Joyce not be home to celebrate with Buffy? This would seem important, especially because she is away at her first year of college. The one person who had a traditional family Thanksgiving to look forward to was Riley.

Oh, and by the way, love the Villiage People video! Those were simpler times, weren't they? :)

Edited at 2016-08-26 02:56 am (UTC)
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:34 pm (UTC)
The Village People were using stereotypes in order to fight off labels of their own, I suppose. They'd never get away with it now, but would they need to? Interesting that they have a Native American as well as a construction worker - and Buffy wears a cowboy hat!
Butterflysnogged on August 26th, 2016 11:43 am (UTC)
I agree that this episode is well written and quite funny.
I appreciated your thoughts.
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:35 pm (UTC)
cornerofmadnesscornerofmadness on August 26th, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC)
For a one-off character Doyle's wife fascinated me. I always wanted to do more with her fan fic wise

As for the Thanksgiving one, Spike cracked me up the whole episode.

Edited at 2016-08-26 10:45 pm (UTC)
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:32 pm (UTC)
It really was Marsters in fine comic form, wasn't it?
cornerofmadnesscornerofmadness on August 30th, 2016 08:44 pm (UTC)
It was
Trepkostrepkos on August 26th, 2016 10:43 pm (UTC)
I love the scene where Spike looks in on the happy vamps eating someone, and I feel sorry for him, whether I should or not, because "we know him"! I also feel sorry for Hus. We COULD make amends/restitution to living representatives of repressed societies, but we're not going to - or our governments aren't. Look at the poor Chagos Islanders. But there's not much Buffy can do in this situation, apart from what she does. Her Thanksgiving obsession does seem a bit ... obsessive ... superstitious.
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:30 pm (UTC)
It's also an echo of what Spike and Angel finally confront much later in Damage. If an ancestor, or a "different you" do terrible things, how do you deal with it?
Trepkostrepkos on August 26th, 2016 10:54 pm (UTC)
I also like that Angel has to keep telling everyone he's not evil. If he were evil, he might say the same thing!
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:28 pm (UTC)
Well, yes. He's come from a place where everyone who knows him assumes he's the good guy, and forced to encounter his own past. A bit like the white Americans and the Native American, you could argue!
Double Dutchess: Giles + teadouble_dutchess on August 26th, 2016 10:55 pm (UTC)
Pangs was an enjoyable episode. The Village People video (thanks for this blast from the past!) is relevant in more than one way, because it also has an example of cultural appropriation/ exploitation. At the time, of course no one cared about this or was even aware of this. As a kid I loved the Village People because they had an Indian (terminology of the time) among them!
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:26 pm (UTC)
I saw somebody expressing confusion about that reference on Tumblr, and that was all the excuse I needed to share the video!

It's amusing that Buffy's reference is to something with an "Indian" in it, too. Not to mention the theme of belonging and joining in.
Shapinglight: Thanksgivingshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 06:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry to be so late to comment.

I also love this episode, (how could you not?) though I can see it's culturally insensitive in places (such as the 'the cavalry's coming' music that plays when Xander, Anya and Willow ride back to Giles's on their bicycles). It is great fun, though, and Spike does have a point. What on earth could they say to Hus that would make things better? There's nothing. And they can't just stand there and let him kill them because they feel guilty.

Edited at 2016-08-30 06:20 pm (UTC)
gillogillo on August 30th, 2016 07:23 pm (UTC)
I find it interesting that we are invited to see Spike's position as outsider paralleling Hus, Angel and Anya. He really is the all-purpose mirror, isn't he?