December 19th, 2003


unlikely pairing #3

Wes/Buffy: Well, that one seems impossible. I give up!

Um. Let's see. To do it during BtVS season three, they'd have had to completely change Wes's initial personality profile and his interactions with Buffy *and* overcome the whole Watcher/Slayer teacher/pupil hurdle, which was pretty entrenched if implicit. No dice. It might have happened in season four if Wes had decided to stick around and tough it out and if Buffy had been more mature and forgiving toward him over their differences.

So let's see....

He'd need a good reason to stay in Sunnydale after being fired. He'd either have to play the supplicant to Buffy, asking her to accept him in some supportive role, or he'd end up in a motel room a la Faith, drinking and brooding on his failure and getting started along his Dark Wes streak several years early. I like the second option. You could play with that--in fact, it's kind of interesting, because as peasant_ has said, and as I've said as well, Wes's forced growth from milksop to ronin can be a bit hard to swallow, as it's occurred in canon. So why not swallow it more quickly? Seriously--I think the transformation would actually have worked better if it had been faster. Because then Wes's brief, buffed-and-polished tenure as watcher elect would have been much more apparent as a facade. We'd have understood, if we'd seen his soufflé of ego collapse along with the high school, that he'd been desperately trying to fill his father's shoes and uphold centuries of tradition, and that there'd been a Wes inside Wesley all that time, just waiting to come out.

So, Through-a-Shot-Glass-Darkly Wes has stayed on in Sunnydale, and he's living out of his suitcase, council funds cut off, and he's drinking and he's stubbled. And he still believes he was right, and Buffy wrong, but feels guilty nonetheless. He's spent the summer isolated and berating himself for perceived faults--including cowardice--having been tongue lashed by his father into a deep funk. So he's been playing rogue demon hunter as penance for his failure, trying to build up experience, field knowledge. And as S4 opens, Buffy and gang run into him in a graveyard; they're surprised, because he's managed to avoid them all summer, and he tries to blow them off now, but Buffy won't let him. He's grim and dark and proud and not especially willing to bend toward her at first, but she feels bad as she's faced with the consequences of her actions, and realizes the effect they've had on his career and circumstances. (Buffy's not truly mean-spirited or hard-hearted about fellow white-hats.) So she makes some concessions and he in turn folds with relief and lets himself be drawn back into the fold; and of course all we need to do is imagine the S4 BtVS meeting between Buffy and Wes playing out as S1 A:tS played out between Angel and Wes.

Give Giles a different apartment or a reason to move and you could imagine him inviting Wes to take the spare room. Give the two of them some kind of project so they're not kicking around uselessly--like maybe the council comes around toward supporting them again because they're being made uneasy by the appearance of the Initiative commandos. Or simply because Travers, et al, can't accept loosening their reins on Sunnydale or the slayer. (Which actually makes much more sense than how they did.) Cut out the Parker arc and launch into Riley earlier; make him more of a bad boyfriend. Draw parallels between Wes and Riley over the first part of the season: make Professor Walsh a man, make him Riley's dad. Give Riley huge, honkin' daddy issues; he's following in dad's bootsteps, trying to live up to his mission. He looks like the perfect boyfriend to Buffy at first, because he represents strong family values; he's tight with his father, and Buffy is wistful and touched by their closeness. You can just imagine how she'd compare her circumstances to Riley's and wish that her own dad could know what she did, and be proud of her. (And I seem to have moved into drawing parallels between Buffy and Riley now instead of Wes and Riley, but hey, that can work too.)

But as Riley and Buffy grow closer, Wes is concerned. He sees a darker side to Riley, a ruthlessness and fanaticism below the clean-cut soldier-boy surface. When Riley starts to work with the Scooby gang, he and Wes start to clash; Riley doesn't take either of the ex-watchers very seriously. He mocks their Britishness (though he's careful not to offend Buffy too much on their behalf), and their cautious approach to research strikes him as effete. During this time, Wes starts to show more obvious signs of interest in Buffy; Buffy is oblivious, but Giles notices. (In fact, if you wanted to remove the Wes/Cordy stuff from S3, Wes might have already been showing foreshadowing signs of interest in Buffy then.) He tells Wes to get over it, says that it's bordering on inappropriate even though Wes is no longer her watcher; but he's also understanding.

We'd have to see a lot of new facets to Wes during this stretch, as he overcomes the first impression he made during S3 and shows that in fact, under his starched exterior, he always had knowledge and skills--they just hadn't been fully exercised.

So things come to a head near the end of S4 and Buffy realizes that Riley has been playing her in some way, using her--major, major betrayal and angst as her first non-Angel relationship proves itself hollow. Like, imagine if Joss had come up with the idea of flatlining slayers before fan-fiction writers had; say Riley Senior & Son kidnap Buffy and intend to kill and revive her endlessly to build an army of slayers all their own. Because darn it, what's up with slayers being in British control anyway? This world and this fight should be run properly and professionally, by the U.S. of A.

Wes and the Scooby gang rescue Buffy; Wes in particular showing heroism and helping get her safely out of the Initiative when she's badly hurt, or something like that. And a battle between the forces of the council and the Initiative are waged and as we close off the season, we end on a romantic, upbeat note as Buffy finally starts to look at Wes in that way, with respect and appreciation and longing.

S5 would open with them still feeling their way into the relationship--they never took that next step over the summer because Buffy had been so hurt by Riley she couldn't leap into another romance. There'd need to be some external crisis to bring things to a head, to make Wes go for it, to make Buffy succumb. Or vice versa. But a nice crisis occurs and they smooch and yowza, fireworks! they're tumbling to the floor of a crypt! they're ripping off each other's clothes!

And they live happily ever after until Wes is killed in a tragic smelting accident. Or, you know, smashed to bits by Glory at the end of S5. Sniff.

(no subject)

I may have been irremediably traumatized by National Lampoon's Van Wilder. I thought nothing more horrifying existed than that story where all the fish creatures from the swim team gang-raped Buffy--I thought nothing could lodge a soul-destroying sexual image in my head as strongly as that story, but I was tragically wrong. Ryan Reynolds probably sits up late at night drinking alone in his house, thinking of how he stooped to make that movie and crying to himself. Little-boy tears of shame.

On a somewhat less grotesque note, there are a bunch of movies made by BtVS/AtS actors when they were very young--I mentioned a while ago how Seth Green had a tiny role in Pump Up the Volume. Amber Benson was in The Crush. Vincent Kartheiser was in The Indian in the Cupboard and also Masterminds. Alyson Hannigan was in My Stepmother Is an Alien, etc. In most cases, the actors were closer to their appropriate high school, adolescent, or college freshman ages in those movies than they were when they played them on the shows. And it makes you realize how very, very wrong it can be for actors to play their age. I'm not sure I would have been interested in the BtVS where all the characters were played by 16-year-old actors. It would have been unsexy and you simply couldn't have had the same plotlines.

So on the one hand, you could say--if you were someone other than me--that it's bad and inaccurate how shows use older actors and thus sexualize young characters. But high school kids *are* sexual; they have the same kind of problems that we saw acted out on BtVS. It's just that in real life, the sexual soap operas of teens are thank god not that interesting to us adults, unless they're our kids, and even so, they're not interesting *that way*. Their relationship troubles are less dramatically charming--just as real teens are less charming. (They're annoying, in fact. Loud and annoying and giggly and oh for the love of god, can they please just shut the fuck up already?! Bus rides are for sleeping.)

(I should probably add that, when I was a teen, I was also deeply annoying and unsexy. And, come to think...has that really changed? Um. And of course, I am only generalizing to be funny. Many teen people are very cool--just like humans! But in larval form!)

Anyway. I also rewatched Toy Soldiers again recently, which has the young Sean Astin, who was completely unrecognizable to me for half the movie until some tiny note clicked and I went, huh. Sam. (Toy Soldiers: vaguely gay romp with young juvie boys in a tony prep school who fight off terrorists. Also starring Wil Wheaton.)

I really need to get this scene from Van Wilder out of my head, stat. And no, I'm not telling you what it is! And none of you better describe it in comments! And I'm not showing you where that fish-rape story is either! What's wrong with you?! Gahhh!

I need some silky, pretty young men to be kissing each other right now--scrub the evil from my brain with your pretty mouths, young men! Scrub, scrub, scrub!


unlikely pairing #4

Giles/Riley: Blame wiseacress. Always blame Wiseacress! For she is the font of all Eeeeeevil! Or maybe Good. Good and twisted anyway.

Giles/Riley is an incredibly easy pairing to justify. You just need an entirely different show, actors, characters...and voila! viola! vole!

Yes, Giles and Riley go together like whiskey and milk, like peppermint and lemon. Mmmm, peppermon...*choke*.

In all seriousness, if we can pretend to be within a hundred miles of seriousness, you would have to scrap canonical Riley/Buffy entirely. Buffy starts college and launches into a series of romantic mishaps--Parker, some other one-date wonder, and then Riley, but with a twist. She discovers almost immediately that he's a commando, draws him into the Scooby club, shows him off to Giles. Riley is fascinated to learn about the council of watchers and when he reports back to his superiors at the Initiative about the whole slayer-watcher institution, he's appointed as liaison between the U.S. government and the council. For their part, the council turns out to be unexpectedly--even suspiciously?--keen to establish diplomatic working ties with the Yanks. They appoint their own liaison in Giles, who finds himself thrust into a new role he never anticipated, a prestigious and influential role. Just when he was feeling useless as an ex-watcher, he's got this cool new *thing*.

Buffy crushes on Riley for an episode or three, deciding that this is the *one*. Like her, he's fighting the good fight against evil, and yet he's got that whole clean-cut, wholesome thing going on; he's Joe Normal and she's a smitten kitten. She confides girlishly in Willow and they bend their heads together and plot how to rope Riley in, which even in the planning stages is a fait accompli, because how could he not fall for her Buffy charms? Pfft. That'd be crazy talk. They were made for each other, Willow says. Romantic heroes and partners in the struggle against tyranny! Like Ilsa and Victor Laszlo in Casablanca, except with demons instead of Nazis! Don't you mean Ilsa and Rick, Buffy asks dubiously. Ilsa left with Victor, Willow points out, unwittingly revealing a lot about herself to bemused fans by this casual choice of Victor over Rick. But Rick was her true love, Buffy says. I think you're over-analyzing, Willow says kindly. Besides, *you're* Victor. Buffy blinks. I am? Oh.

What she hasn't been noticing is how Giles has been getting a life of his own, and Riley seems to be lurking at its edges. When she comes over to Giles's apartment one night and walks in, she finds Giles relaxed on the couch playing his guitar in a mellow way, Riley sitting across from him in a chair, listening, and they're drinking and they look so comfortable with each other--when did that happen? Giles stops playing when she appears and it's a weird, awkward moment that Buffy brushes off as quickly as she can, because it simply does not compute. She asks Riley out in front of Giles, and doesn't see the tiny look they exchange, but Giles draws away silently to fix himself another drink as Buffy chatteringly dominates a conversation with Riley, despite little clues of discomfort and politeness he gives off. He turns her down very very kindly and she's confused.

This type of relationshippy stuff draws out for a few more episodes, subordinated to energetic A-plots, and then we get an episode like "Hush." Unknown to Buffy or any of the other Scoobies, Giles and Riley have, casually offscreen, started up a physical relationship, and it's only in this episode that Buffy finds out--she turns up at Giles's in the middle of the night after discovering herself to be mute, and he answers the door in his robe and pajama bottoms and his face is sharp and tense, as he's of course also just realized himself to be mute. And Buffy comes in with Willow, and they're both anxious, and Giles steps back and then Buffy sees Riley, standing there in the living room at three a.m., wearing sweatpants or maybe blue jeans, but nothing else--or he's just putting on his shirt.

She's absolutely shocked. And none of them can *say* anything to explain it, and that'd be the beauty of this twist, because the audience is forced to accept it; it just *is*. There's no room in the plot for the expected confrontational blather--shock! outrage! explain yourselves! No Gilesy stammering, except in silent pantomime. It looks natural, them being there, though. Or it will, in time, to fans who eventually rewatch the episode ten times and who are finally, a season or two later, able to work through their own issues and nod and say knowingly, yes, it makes perfect sense.

After this alternate "Hush" (which ends with Giles and Buffy sitting in his living room, unable to find anything to say to each other), the inevitable, difficult conversation is had. Riley is gay. Giles has been alone for a long time, recovering from his grief over Jenny with no outlet for his feelings, not even friends; alone in Sunnydale, he's been needing someone in his quiet way, and he isn't going to apologize for it, though he's of course sorry for the misunderstanding--her misplaced feelings for Riley. Buffy is embarrassed; she also realizes that Giles has never really shared any of his private life with her, and that she's been okay with that compartmentalization until this.

After a period of tension similar to the whole Oz/Xander/Willow/Cordy thing back in S2, Buffy and Giles re-establish their rapport and trust in each other, and Buffy lets go of her Riley crush and focuses her attention on someone else--Xander, maybe, or some new plot-foddery guy who ends out the season.

Riley, of course, dies at the end of season four in a tragic smelting accident.

No, no--not really. More likely, Riley just leaves Sunnydale for some reason or another, probably in season five, and Giles is forced to deal with another bout of unhappy solitude in the wake of his departure, though perhaps it's an amicable split and not as devastating as Jenny's death.

And then we leave this alternate universe and re-enter the normal canon timeline and the world ends in a rain of frogs, just as it did in mid-season five.