Phases (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Bruce Seth Green|
|Written by||Rob Des Hotel
|Original air date||January 27, 1998|
|List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes|
"Phases" is episode 15 of season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
"Phases" begins with Willow's increasing frustration that Oz shows no sign of wanting to get serious — not to mention physical — with her. Cordelia is frustrated with Xander because he keeps talking about Willow, even while making out in Sunnydale's lover's lane under a beautiful full moon. They are attacked by a werewolf that rips a hole in the car's roof. Giles points out that there have been quite a number of other attacks, though so far only animals have been killed. During high school gym class, it is revealed that at least two students have been bitten lately: Oz by a cousin who doesn't like to be tickled, and school macho Larry by a dog.
After some research, Giles finds out that a werewolf is a wolf for three nights — the coming night would be the second. Since the werewolf is human the rest of the month, it would be wrong to kill him. This, however, is not the view of werewolf hunter Cain, whom Buffy and Giles meet while looking for the animal in a part of the woods where Xander and Cordelia were making out: Cain is out for his twelfth pelt. Despite the contempt between Buffy and Cain, due largely to Cain's rampant male chauvinism, Giles and Buffy do learn that the werewolf will be attracted by "sexual heat" to places where teenagers hang out.
Buffy and Giles rush to The Bronze, where Cordelia and Willow are busy complaining to each other about their men when the werewolf crashes the party. Buffy tries to catch it with a chain but fails. Cain joins them and points out that it will be Buffy's fault if the werewolf kills anybody. A body does turn up the next morning: Theresa, one of the students that Larry was tormenting. Buffy is not the only one to have feelings of guilt. Oz wakes up in the forest, naked and confused after changing back from his wolf state before the viewers' eyes. Recalling the bite he got, he calls his Aunt Maureen, and bluntly asks if his cousin is a werewolf. The answer is yes.
Xander figures that Larry is the most obvious suspect because of the dog bite, aggressiveness and "excessive back hair". When he confronts Larry alone in the gym locker room, it turns out that he really is hiding something — his homosexuality. Xander unwittingly helps Larry out of the closet, leaving him with the impression that Xander is gay, too. Back in the library, Buffy suggests to Willow that she might have to make the first move if she wants to speed things up with Oz.
Buffy realizes that the reports of Theresa's body didn't mention any mauling. She and Xander get to the funeral home in time to watch her rise as a vampire. Theresa passes along greetings from Angelus before Xander stakes her. Buffy is left shaken by this and Xander comforts her, and it looks for a moment the two might kiss before they both regain control.
Cain busies himself casting silver bullets for the hunt. Willow takes Buffy's advice and visits Oz right before sundown. Oz is about to chain himself up, but lets Willow in the house. Her rant about the mixed signals he is sending is interrupted by him changing into a werewolf. She flees the house screaming, Oz in pursuit. Cain hears the wolf's cry and joins the hunt. The werewolf is distracted by a scent which Cain set as a trap, and Willow escapes and then finds Giles and Buffy, who are about to start the hunt for Oz with a tranquilizer gun. All parties meet in a clearing in the forest, and in the scuffle, it is Willow who shoots Oz, saving everybody. Buffy bends Cain's gun with her bare hands using Slayer strength, and tells him to leave Sunnydale.
At school the next morning, Larry thanks Xander, and Willow seeks out Oz to talk. She points out that she is not fun to be around three days out of the month either. Oz and Willow share their first kiss, leaving Oz a "werewolf in love".
In an essay exploring the feminist ethics of Buffy, Shannon Craigo-Snell uses this episode as an example of how the series examines the threat of sexual violence facing women and girls as a "problematic background against which women attempt to have satisfying relationships with men." Craigo-Snell points out that this threat is embodied by the character of Larry, who sexually harasses Buffy (and other girls) during a gym class focused on self-defense, and the werewolf-hunter Cain, who says Buffy's failure to capture the werewolf is "what happens when a woman tries to do a man’s job." This theme is made explicit when Giles describes werewolves as "potent, extreme representation of our inborn, animalistic traits", predatory and aggressive with no conscience, and Buffy responds, "In other words, your typical male."
The director, Bruce Seth Green, is not related to the actor Seth Green (Oz).
- Oz becomes a werewolf, a defining characteristic of his character for the remainder of the series; but his werewolf attributes change.
- In the beginning of the episode, Oz admires the cheerleading trophy that contains Amy Madison's mother from the first season episode "Witch", remarking that its eyes "follow you wherever you go".
- When speaking of the werewolf, Xander refers to his hyena possession experience from the first season episode "The Pack," leading Buffy and Willow to suspect that Xander could be lying of having no memories about it.
- In this episode the werewolf hunter states he hunts and kills werewolves for their pelts. In the Angel episode "Unleashed", werewolves are shown to revert to human form on death, and to eat werewolf one must butcher them alive.
- Craigo-Snell, Shannon (2006), "What would Buffy do? Feminist ethics and epistemic violence", Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media 48, retrieved 9/7/2007
- Marti Noxon in DVD commentary to "Wild at Heart"
- BBC episode guide
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