I once referred to this episode as the “Mixed Signals” episode. And I think it still holds, in some respects.
Willow’s radar is off in relation to Oz, as is Buffy’s in relation to Angel, and Xander’s, in relation to… Larry.
This episode deals a lot with themes of sex and sexual identity, not to mention repression, and it has the added bonus of making the metaphor visual in Oz’s case:
Okay, not the best werewolf I’ve ever seen, but like Giles says, it’s one of the classics!
Lycanthropy lends itself so well to this theme, because it seems so obvious: man literally becomes an animal when he represses his urges. It just so happens that Phases only deals with the guys being asses, but this is an equal opportunity metaphor, since women are just as likely as men to be unable to handle their animalistic side.
Since we have to deal with the guys, however, let’s take ‘em one by one.
To say that I wanted to face-punch Larry repeatedly in the first half of this episode is an understatement. He was just such a pig.
But then, of course, we find out he was dealing with some pretty big issues. I’ll admit, I have no idea what it’s like to be a gay man in such an image-conscious setting as a typical high school (obviously), so I have no idea how delicately Buffy dealt with this issue. I am sure, however, that there are those who overcompensate so much that there is no way someone would think they’re gay—like Larry. And that other guy from Glee.
What does make me sad is that there are apparently no other out gay students in Sunnydale High so that I can see how in-denial Larry deals with them. I would wish that it wouldn’t be as disgusting as how he dealt with women, but now there’s just no way of knowing.
What I love most about Larry’s realization is that all he really needed was a chance to say it out loud. His silver bullet is just a sympathetic ear. And while Xander was completely clueless about what it was Larry needed to confess, he still served as such. I also love that it’s Xander, who’s so concerned with his masculinity (much like it seemed Larry was), who finds out that Larry’s gay. I daresay it challenges a couple of his preconceptions, just like it does Larry. Or it should.
Which brings us to…
I bet Xander never thought he’d have relationship issues, but hey, there they are!
Now, I don’t wanna get too deeply into this yet, since Xander’s issues aren’t resolved as neatly as Larry’s and Oz’s in this episode (and the episode directly following this will also explore Xander’s character), but I just wanted to point an aspect of his that keeps popping up—he tends to be way overprotective of both Buffy and Willow… but only when there’s another guy involved.
I think it’s tied into his assumptions as to what being a guy means, but I also think it’s his streak of possessiveness. It’ll appear again, so I’ll try to address it then, but I just wanted to mention it now, since it’s brought up in this episode.
In the meantime, let’s turn our focus to…
It could be the benefit of hindsight, but it seems to me that it’s more obvious that Oz should be the werewolf than anyone else.
Of all the guys we’ve seen, he’s the most reserved, the least likely to show overblown emotion.
And in the same way that Larry repressing his true self brought out a monster, Oz being so reserved brings out a real one. We already know from Willow that they’ve barely rounded first base, and we know that wolf is attracted to sexual energy.
It’s also worth noting that when he tries hardest to hide from Willow, the wolf emerges:
I love that his dismay at discovering he’s a werewolf can be read as mixed signals, too. How often have mixed signals been sent because someone’s trying to figure out their own shit, or worse, tried to hide something? Well, here you got both.
Given the implication, I’m not sure how crazy I am with the solution being to lock Oz up for three days every month, but considering the alternative:
I’ll take it.
At least Oz is being honest with and about himself. And that’s totally a grown-up thing to do.
- Hey, look, you guys, it’s a The Witch callback!
- “That’s great, Larry. You’ve really mastered the single entendre.”
- So side-eyeing Willow for that “skanky ho” comment. Catty and unproductive.
- Okay… Half of Sunnydale has personally seen Buffy kick ass and take names. Explain again why she has to pretend to be a “meek little girly girl”?
- Giles laughed at a Xander joke!
- “In other words, your typical male.” NO NO NONONO. I love you, Buffy, but I’ll kick you in the shin if you say something so stupid again.
- Werewolves revert to human form when they die, so they would have normal teeth and a human hide. Cain is a liar and a stupid-face.
- Cordelia and Willow commiserating over Xander and Oz is a thing of beauty.
- “Aunt Maureen? Hey, it’s me. Um, what? Oh. It’s, uh... actually, it’s healing okay. That’s pretty much the reason I called. Um, I wanted to ask you something… Is Jordy a werewolf? Uh-huh. And how long has that been going on? Uh-huh. What? No, no reason. Um... Thanks. Yeah, love to Uncle Ken.” How crap do you have to be at parenting to have your toddler bitten by a werewolf?!
- Omg, that The Pack callback made me see red for a minute.
- Haha, Buffy fits the profile.
- “He—he said he was going through all these changes, then he went through all these… changes.”
- “Three days out of the month, I’m not much fun to be around, either.”