Buffyversed is a week by week, episode by episode, re-exploration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look for it every Friday on Goomba Stomp. 

When Buffy first assembled her squad of Scoobies, they were mostly there for moral support. They would help where they could but were ultimately not up to the task of dealing with most of the supernatural creatures that the slayer goes up against. Last week partly changed that, and this weeks episode, “Phases” balances the playing field further into the slayer’s court.

That’s right gang, Oz is a werewolf. Which first, woah, but then second, hey! Yes, werewolves are vicious, dangerous creatures that are hard to control, but also, Buffy’s got a full-on fucking werewolf, as well as a former “soldier”, now in her permanent squad.

That goes a long way to replacing Buffy’s previous MVP, and boyfriend, who has unfortunately gone over to the other side. You know what they say though, with friends like this… or is it boyfriends like this?

Buffy asserts herself to glorious effect when Larry tries to grab her ass in self defense class. Insecurities or not Larry, sexual assault is not cool.

Anyway, with the dog already out of the bag as it were, I can dispense with the pussy-footing about, since we all know who the werewolf is. What’s interesting about Buffy‘s take on werewolves is that it actually takes the time to consider the moral predicament of hunting a werewolf. Since a werewolf is someone who has essentially been infected with a disease against their own free will, and someone who is not dangerous for 28 days of the month, is it really okay to ice them on sight, like in most werewolf stories?

Buffy and company certainly think not, but that doesn’t stop the latest douche bag, a werewolf hunter and professional poacher named Cain, from asserting that this is a dangerous animal that needs to be taken out, especially if there’s a profit to be made on werewolf pelts.

This leads us to the other clever things that Buffy the Vampire Slayer does with its werewolf mythology. First off, “Phases” deliberately plays off of the idea of macho masculinity by asking a ton of questions about the animal nature which is inherent in the core of our humanity.

Whether someone is willing to act on their impulses is grounds to question not just their interest, but their very manhood. Of course, this idea is turned on its head to glorious effect in a later scene, when Xander approaches a guy in the locker room, Larry, who he assumes is the werewolf.

Angel’s casual murder of one of Buffy’s classmates is a stark reminder that he’s still hurting her in every way he can.

Larry is very aggressive with girls, a natural bully, and has been recently bit by a large dog, so all signs point to him as the obvious candidate. However, as usual, Buffy totally has the audience’s number with Larry, and “Phases” is actually using him as a deliberate fake-out. As it turns out, in a twist that’s still great today, Larry is actually an insecure gay man who is overcompensating for how he thinks a “man” should behave.

Though his coming out scene does work for some fantastic comedy, as a very uncomfortable Xander takes every chance to remove himself from this truly awkward situation, it’s also kind of sweet in its own way. Sadly, this is one scene that shows its age to a certain extent, as Xander’s lack of comfort being alone with a gay guy is sort of not cool, as though gay men were not able to have friends or generally control themselves around other men.

It’s an old cliche, and one that was seen a lot in this time periodUnfortunately the ’90s was a different time, and we should all be happy that more nuanced takes on homosexuality, and how to react to it, are readily available not just in modern media, but in this very series.

So Buffy, Giles, and Willow are able to overcome the werewolf with the use of an elephant tranquilizer, and Buffy sends the chauvinistic, backward-ass, garbage person, Cain, packing, with a broken rifle for his trouble.

As for Willow and Oz, turns out all things are indeed good between them. Not only that, WILLOW OF ALL PEOPLE GOES IN FOR THE FIRST KISS! It kind of makes me giddy to think about, because of the cuteness and whatnot.

Buffy’s take on werewolves is a unique one, opting for a much more shaggy dog look then the timber wolf type we’re used to.

Cristina Says:

“Cristina Says,” is based on observations my fiancèe makes. This is my 4th time through the series, but Cristina is a first-time watcher with modern TV sensibilities. 

I am not a werewolf.

“That’s what Jade used to look like!” (She is talking, of course about our doggo, who was a rescue when we first got her. I’ll let you decide if she does indeed look like a scruffy little werewolf.)

“Fuck! That scared me!” (When the werewolf claw bursts through the roof of Cordy’s convertible.)

“What is this Twilight now? Are we gonna play some baseball?” (This pertains to Oz and Angel meeting face to face, beast to beast. It’s a sad state of affairs that so many people have seen Twilight, but at least it makes for some high quality mocking.)

“Is that Seth Green? Holy fuck!” (Cristina reacts to the twist that Oz is actually the werewolf.)

“Who screamed? (This quote is actually attributed to our 3 year old, Brooklyn. She was overheard asking this from her bedroom after Willow let out a pretty serious scream in response to Oz turning into a werewolf.)

“The tie that binds! I hope they get married. (Umm, she said this in response to Willow shooting Oz. Also we’re engaged to be married next year. I guess I should look forward to being shot with something? Ah well, I had a good run.)

Great callbacks like Oz staring at the cheerleader statue from “Witch” are one of Buffy’s greatest strengths. “It’s like it’s looking back at me!”

Notable Whedonisms:

Whedonisms are a sort of term for (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon’s style of dialogue, and something we’re using as a catch-all for particularly fun or witty lines.

“Oh there, my friend, so I should… go to her.” (Willow uses Buffy’s arrival to extricate herself from an awkward conversation with Oz.)

“Let’s not jump to any conclusions.”
“I didn’t jump, I just took one step and there they were.” (Buffy explains her werewolf reasoning to Giles.)

“Yeah, him and Xander! Guys!”
“Who do they think they are?”
“Couple of guys!” (Willow and Cordy commiserate over their boy troubles.)

“Now I’ve gotta deal with People for the Ethical Treatment of Werewolves?” (I love that Buffy even gives great lines like this to one-off characters like Cain.)

“Hey so is Jordie a werewolf? Oh… so how long has that been going on?” (Oz’s reaction is hilariously casual as he finds out that not only is his nephew a werewolf, but that he made Oz a werewolf too.)

“I mean three days of the month I’m not much fun to be around either.” (Awwww, Willow, you’re the sweetest.)

So what’s up next week gang? Well, it looks like we’ll be getting “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” in Buffy’s first ever Valentine’s Day episode. It’s a lot of fun, so be sure to pop back in 7. 

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Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone. He's the managing Games editor for Goomba Stomp, and the creator of the weekly Buffyversed column.