Buffy Rewatch Part 3

Welcome back to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Re-watch. This week we’re covering episodes 5 and 6 of season 1, respectively “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” and “The Pack”, wherein the bad guy is not always apparent, and principals are tasty. As always, these articles will contain spoilers for the entire series runs of Buffy and Angel, so if you haven’t seen them, proceed with caution.  All other articles in this series can be found here. That being said, let’s dig in with Ian, who is summarizing this week.

Buffy Season 1 Episode 5: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date

What Happens:

Buffy is fighting a vamp in the graveyard, while Giles critiques her. Giles finds a ring in the dusty remains on the ground.

                Buffy: “Oh, that’s great. I kill em, you fence their stuff.”

Shiny! Wait, wrong Joss show…

Giles is intrigued by the ring, decides to do some research.

Look how strong I am, guys

The Master, in his cave, is reading a creepy vamp prophecy about the anointed one, and how the Slayer won’t know him, etc, etc. Then he gives the gathered vamps shit about how one of their brethren was too impatient and went and got himself killed.

Giles is having trouble figuring out the origin of the ring. Buffy sleuths out the symbol on the ring when she sees a crest on it, The Brotherhood of Aurelius. Big blond beefcake walks in and Buffy gets flabbergasted.

                Giles: “What do you want?”

                Owen: “A book?”

This is a library, right?

                Giles: “Oh…”

                Buffy: “See, this is a school and we have students, and then they check out books and then they learn things.”

               Giles: “I was beginning to suspect that was a myth.”

Big guy is also sensitive, he’s looking for Emily Dickinson. He also doesn’t see Buffy as the bookworm type. Buffy tries hard to impress him. Giles wants to get back to research, but Buffy now wants to bone up on poetry.

I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice… And zombies…

Willow and Buffy chat about Owen, & Xander ponders school cafeteria food. Buffy tells them about the new vampire clan in town, then goes to sit with Owen, who is eating and reading alone. Cordelia busts in, spilling Buffy’s tray, and invites Owen to The Bronze. Owen instead invites Buffy to The Bronze.

Done with tray. Goes… here.

In the library, Giles tells the girls about how the creepy prophecy is happening tonight. Buffy is upset because of her date.

                Buffy: “But… cute boy! Teenager! Post-pubescent fantasies!”

Giles is having none of it. Tonight they will battle back the dark forces. Cut to the two of them sitting, bored, in the graveyard as nothing happens rather empathically around them. Giles accepts that they can pack it in, and Buffy runs off to find Owen.

Not even one compliment on the coat, Giles?

                Giles, to himself: “Five shall die and from their ashes the Anointed shall arise. I was sure it was tonight.”

An airport shuttle drives around a corner to ominous music, and of the five people in the bus, one is a scared faced guy quoting doomsday prophecy to a little kid. A vampire steps out in front of the bus, and it crashes hard, but everyone is ok. Then the Brotherhood of Aurelius kills them all.

Definitely not the bad guy.

At The Bronze, Buffy finds Owen, who is dancing with Cordelia, so she wanders off sadly. Next day, she bitches to Xander, who tries to downplay Owen anyway, who then walks up. She makes a clearly stupid excuse. He rolls with it, and invites her out again.

                Buffy: “Tonight? You and me?”

                Owen: “Well, we could invite the chess club, but… they drink and start fights.”

Which entirely 90s dress should I wear?

Buffy bursts into the library all happy, not giving Giles time to suggest that they go out hunting again that night, and runs off. In Buffy’s bedroom, the gang are all trying to figure out what she should wear for her date. Xander suggests an overcoat and a ski cap, being that Owen is so old timey. Xander is a dick about the whole situation, even trying to sneak a peek at Buffy changing in a small mirror. Giles shows up, talking about the five people that died, including one being a murderer. Owen shows up, and the gang has to pretend that Giles is there for overdue books. Xander continues to be a dick, telling Owen in an aside that Buffy doesn’t like to be kissed. Or touched. Or looked at. Buffy convinces Giles that she deserves a night off.

                Giles: “Buffy, maintaining a normal social life as a Slayer is problematic at best.”

                Buffy: “This is the ‘90s – the 1990’s, in point of fact – and I can do both. Clark Kent has a job. I just want to go on a date.”

Mr. Librarian? Why are you here?

                Giles: “Well, I suppose it was a slim lead at best.”

                Buffy: “Thank you, thank you, thank you. And I promise, I won’t go far. If the apocalypse comes, beep me.”

Buffy and Owen leave for their date. Giles leaves to check out the morgue, and Xander and Willow debate over who they should go help.

This place sure is swanky for an all ages club

At The Bronze, Owen is focused on his favorite subject, Emily Dickinson. Buffy is checking her pager, just in case. He notices, so she drags him out to dance. Cordy comes in and tries to ignore Buffy and snag the boy for herself, but our Slayer quips her away.  

Giles shows at the morgue and is immediately surrounded by vamps. He holds them off with a cross long enough to run in to the building amongst the more-than-mostly dead. He barricades a door with anything he can move, then is startled by Willander at the barred window. They can’t get in, so they leave to try and get help.

If you don’t want the Girl Scout cookies, that’s fine. No need to get all bitch-faced.

Cordelia watches the couple flirt very mildly, commenting that the way Buffy is throwing herself at him is inappropriate, only to break off immediately when Angel walks by.

                Cordelia: “Oh, hello salty goodness! Pick up the phone, call 911. That boy is gonna need some serious oxygen after I’m through with him.”

At least three kinds of awkward

Angel, of course, goes straight to Buffy. He says she needs to be out there, bad stuff is happening. She points out that she’s on a date, much to Angel’s dismay.

                Owen: “How do you know Buffy?”

                Angel: “Work.”

Xandillow break in on the Owen/Angel/Buffy awkwardness. Hiding why they’re there, they pretend to be a couple now, and thought this could be a double date. Maybe they go somewhere fun, like the funeral home. Owen is now intrigued, and wants to do it. Buffy tries to ditch Owen for now, which he’s not happy about. She kisses him before running off, and we get our first real Angel-scowl.

“Dude.” “Shut up.”

They get to the morgue, and turns out, Owen has followed them. Buffy scouts for “guards” and finds Giles in a body drawer.

                Giles: “Two of the brethren came here looking for me, but I was more than a match for them… I hid.”

A little privacy, please

They hash out the need for further investigation, and Buffy goes to send Owen home. He still wants to look around, so she locks him in a room with Xandillow, while she and Giles search the body drawers. Unfortunately, the room Owen et al are in is a viewing room, like with glass between them and a corpse. Of course, the corpse starts moving, and it’s serial killer guy, now a vamp. He headbutts the glass down and starts yelling crazy talk.

Various chasing goes on, with crazytown holding Owen by the throat in the air after the crematory oven accidentally gets lit. Owen smashes his head with an urn, only to have his head smashed by a steel door in return. Buffy thinks him dead, and goes berserk on the vamp, ending with him thrown into the fire.  Owen is confused, especially with the head injury, and turns down Buffy’s offer to walk him home, but accepts Xander’s.

I wasn’t even supposed to be here today

Next day, though he asks her out again. But only because he was so excited to almost be killed. He just wants the thrill. Giles is there as Owen wanders off, rejected. They bond about destiny, and how it can suck. Giles tells her they’re all just playing it by ear, and she’s doing “pretty well”.

                Buffy: “Well, I did stop that prophecy from coming true.”

                Giles: “You did, handily. No more Anointed One.”

“You have fruit punch mouth.”

“Lol. Call forward.”

In the Master’s cave, we see that the anointed one is still alive, and is in fact the little boy from the airport shuttle.

Commentary:

Ian: Dating is hard. Dating as the Chosen One even more so. Except for maybe Neo, cause dating was kind of implicit in the indications of him being the… nevermind. I read recently while researching for these articles that Joss Whedon considers the first six episodes of every show to be the real pilot. I kind of agree. It allows for more building of character, showing of abilities, attributes, situations, before you decide if you want to spend your valuable time with a story or characters. In the case of Buffy, we’re still leaning heavily into the supernatural-as-allegory vibe, but starting to fold some season arc back in. 

Sarah: Even before I knew Joss considered the first 6 to be the pilot I always considered it the testing phase. If I wasn’t in by episode 6 what more was going to hook me? By then you should have a good foothold on the world building, the characters, and give us a good idea of where the overall plan is going for the show. Twists are good, but I want to feel like I have an idea on where the story is progressing too.

Sarah: This was a nice episode after 2 weeks of filler to bring the Master back into the fold. It did a good job with a tone that managed to stay serious and foreboding while balancing with the dating game, which was encouraging. Because let’s face it, the HS dating game can get a little silly. Especially when said date’s location is set during said establishments cockroach fumigation party.

Ian: Buffy’s strive for normalcy is heavy in these first episodes, as we’ve talked about, and this is the first time we’ve seen her try to date. It’s brought up a couple times in this episode that it is going to be nearly impossible for her to date someone that doesn’t know her double life. Xander thinks that means it should be him. But of course later we see her date Angel, Riley, Spike. Never Xander, much to his chagrin. Not just King of Cretins, but Mayor of the Friend Zone. She’s just not into you, bud. 

Sarah: No she is not, and it is much better for everyone when he finally accepts that and moves on. What was unique about this episode is that this is one of the first times on TV that we see a young woman prioritize the greater good over their own happiness. We are used to superheroes (let’s face it at the time mostly male ones) sacrificing, but it always lead to so much brooding. Buffy the show ends up filling that slot in with Angel, I suppose, whereas Buffy herself remains stubbornly optimistic so balance can be achieved. She plays the cute love-struck girl believably, & her desire to have it all is very relatable.

Sarah: It had some sweet moments of getting ready for her first date with her friends (though where the hell was Joyce, seems like this would have been a good mother-daughter bonding moment?) This episode is the first time we really see her blow off her duties as Slayer, and it leads to an almost disaster for her friends. It was a real kick in the face for Buffy and the consequences of her decisions. A good progression of her character was her owning it in the end and apologizing to Giles for putting him in danger by prioritising herself over her duties. I will say this SMG played crushing really well despite bad lines like asking Giles if she looked fat in her outfit.

Ian: Speaking of Xander, though I love his wit, I’m finding myself not liking this early episode version of him. Jealous, manipulative, creepy. Buffy moves to change clothes and the girls give him pointed stares. His response is, “you’re not bothering me…” Then he tries to peeping-tom her with her own jewelry box mirror. I guess we were more tolerant of blatant abuses of privacy in the mid 90s? Ideas of consent weren’t as well known. Not a good look for what we later will refer to as “The Xan Man”. 

Sarah: Joss did a good job balancing the 2 sides of a teenage male. We are not perfect, and sometimes we don’t resist temptation. I think Xander was trying to go for funny oblivious in that scene, because some people have a pervy sense of humour. The mirror scene, while creepy, is an unfortunate reminder that sometimes temptation is REALLY hard to overcome. He had some very good moments this episode, and it is a reminder that though these guys are dealing with scary life or death situations they are still just sophomores in HS. They are learning and evolving and as we learn later, Xander didn’t really have any good models to help him learn how to process jealousy or pettiness. At heart though Xander is just an awkward slightly insecure goofball laced with loyalty, wrapped in sarcasm 

Xander: “So, Buffy, how’d the slaying go last night?”

Buffy: “Xander!”

Xander: “I mean, how’d the laying go last night. No, I don’t mean that either.”

And you kind of have to respect his attempts to dress her in a comfy overcoat and a ski cap since “the ear flaps will bring out [her] eyes” was a funny way to both watch her go on the date and sabotage it at the same time. 

Ian: Cordelia is… thirsty. She’s so used to being top bitch, but she clearly doesn’t really have much experience with men in reality. Remember, even though Charisma Carpenter is clearly 28 (26? can’t remember), they’re supposed to be sophomores in highschool. I may be flattering myself, but I think that even as a hormone driven highschool boy, I would have gone for Buffy’s complexity over Cordy’s in-your-face shallowness. I’m probably lying to myself. 

Sarah: You would have done both. You would have pined for Buffy from afar, but pulled a Xander and gone with a willing female because attention is craved. Cordelia comes across as a shallow one note bitch, but her character develops later; we see that she is craving attention she doesn’t get at home. I’m glad to see though that eventually she sheds this desperate in-your-face clingy persona. Eventually we see her lose the fake confidence and see her adopt inner confidence and the change is magnificent. It is particularly hilarious though to see her reactions to not being the queen bee for once. It’s an ironic comparison to make this episode, but she resembled Xander in a lot of ways. Owen was her Buffy and she was trying to steer him away from Buffy. 

Cordelia: “Well, um, I’m gonna be there.”

Owen: “Who else?”

Cordelia: “You mean besides me?”

Owen: “Buffy, what about you?”

Buffy: “What?”

Cordelia: “No, no, no! She, uh, she doesn’t like fun.”

At The Bronze itself the pushiness is off-putting, when she tells him he was “good to help the needy” by bringing Buffy to The Bronze. Her inability to recognize that she is the one being desperate and throwing herself at Owen is a bit sad. And then the double hit of seeing Angel go straight to Buffy as well, Cordelia’s ego took some beatings this episode for sure. 

Ian: I like the subverted idea of the obvious villain in this episode. We’re so clearly meant to think it’s the religious nutjob murderer who is the anointed one, but even right at the beginning of the episode, they tell us we’re wrong. “And the Slayer shall not know him”. So… The Prestige! We’re all looking in the wrong direction. 

Sarah: Bait and switch. Buffy not knowing the full prophecy, religious nutjob seems to tick all the boxes. Plus I do love the Master’s cheekiness in this episode. It’s hard to be a compelling villain when you are trapped and rely on minions to do the majority of the dirty work. The scene where he is “educating” the vampire on the importance of the anointed one and ending it with : 

(stops by one of the brethren) “As it is written, so shall it be. ‘And one of the brethren shall go out hunting the night before and get himself killed, because he couldn’t wait to finish his job before he ate.’ Oh, wait. That’s not written anywhere.” It’s not much but I do appreciate good snark.

Ian: Willow doesn’t have much this episode, except for the uncomfortable portion where she and Xander pretend to be a couple, and you know she wants that, and he’s oblivious. She’s mostly just there being a good friend to Buffy and reigning Xander in from jumping off the creep cliff. 

Sarah: I love her adorable way of trying to get Giles onboard with the “hugeness” of Buffy’s date, and then utter shock when Giles agrees with her. Silly Willow, you should know by now Giles is never talking about Boys and ALWAYS has trouble on the brain.

Willow: “It’s a very big deal!”

Buffy: “It’s not!”

Willow: “It is.” (spots Giles) “Tell her!”

Giles: “I’m afraid it’s very big.”

Willow: “Thank you!” (turns back to Giles, confused) “Wait! What are you talking about?”

Giles: “What are you talking about?”

Buffy and Willow: “Boys!”

Giles: “Yes, well, I’m talking about trouble. A violent and disturbing prophecy is about to be fulfilled.”

Ian: Giles talking to Buffy about how he was put in a similar situation to hers as a child was touching. It was the biggest, I think, of the steps we’ve seen them take to their eventual father-daughter style relationship. I love how he was dead set on being a fighter pilot at 10, but we later learn he went… a little off those rails, too. Can’t wait for some “Ripper” episodes. 

Sarah: The Buffy-Giles relationship takes huge strides because Giles shows that he does understand Buffy at this point. In earlier episodes, Giles became easily frustrated with Buffy’s willingness to blow off her Slayer duties to do “frivolous” things. He bonds with her by telling her that he was told he would become a Watcher when he was ten years old. They can finally relate to each other that they both were forced into a destiny they didn’t want. It immediately paints a picture of his life as being full of frustration and sacrifice. She then apologises for leaving him alone at the funeral home which was a very mature realisation on her part, and he in turn congratulates her on how well she’s doing as a slayer. SIDE NOTE: Giles hiding in the morgue drawer was priceless. 

Buffy: “What happened?”

Giles: “Uh, two more of the brethren came in here. They came after me. But I was more than a match for them.”

Buffy: “Meaning…?”

Giles: “I hid. Uh, this, uh, chap was good enough to bunk with me till they went away.”

(he jumps down off of the cadaver). Quick on his feet Giles is. 

Ian: Owen is… dumb. I get that he’s a big, pretty, trope subverting sensitive guy. He’s also only interested in Buffy because she’s strange, and later, dangerous. He’s a closeted goth (nothing wrong with that) who lets it affect his daily life to an unneccessary degree. I couldn’t decide if Buffy turns him down at the end because she’s afraid he would get hurt, or because he only likes her for the adrenaline rush. 

Sarah: Owen’s character is the least consistent. He’s supposed to be broody and withdrawn (a human Angel they may have been going for, but man did they fail), but he’s certainly willing to go to a club multiple nights in a row during the school week. He talks about not liking most girls because all they are interested in is dating, then turns around with Cordelia who was at her most vapid this episode. He doesn’t know anything about Buffy and admits to her that he never thought he’d find her in a library (which is actually an astute observation so again inconsistent!)

Once he has his near-death experience, it makes more sense why he would want to hang around with a dangerous person. But he doesn’t know any of this till the end of the episode, yet he pursues Buffy relentlessly. Owen is essentially a plot device, but that would be letting the writers skate on fleshing out his character properly. Also, side gripe, he doesn’t ask a single logical question as to WHY they wanted to be in a funeral parlor or who the hell was there attacking them. Ugh. 

Buffy Season 1 Episode 6: The Pack

What Happens:

Opening on an elephant (scream? roar? trumpet.) we see a gang of jackasses on a field trip giving Buffy shit for being alone. At which point Xandillow comes up, excited about seeing Zebras mating.

                Willow: “It was like watching the Heimlich. With stripes.”

“That was hot.” “What?”

The jerks are wandering around mocking everyone now, but Principal Flutie isn’t having it. Unfortunately, when Flutie asks a bullied kid what is happening, he says everything is ok. Quick side note, one of the pack (I’m trying really hard not to refer to them as that the whole time) is Pinocchio from Once Upon a Time. Flutie wanders off, and the jerks try and take the wimpy kid to the hyena house, which is off limits.

Xander decides he’s gonna step in and protect Lance. As Buffy and Willow move to follow, a zookeeper comes up and expositions all over them. “Hyena’s are very quick to prey on the weak… these are quarantined, fresh from Africa… keep out even if they call your name… etc.”

Something strange is afoot at the… Hyena House

The pack waits until a hyena comes out, then tries to throw Lance in with it. Xander jumps in to save the nerd (no judgement, I’m one myself), and everyone gets eye-flashed by the hyenas while the camera pulls back to reveal them standing on a big mystical sign. Xander seems to be one of the jerks now.

At The Bronze, Buffy and Willow are discussing Willow liking Xander. Willow comes back with how Buffy is one to talk, what with Angel. Xander walks in, with a strange self confidence and kind of a dickish energy. He’s kinda mean to Willow, sniffs Buffy’s hair. The rest of the pack come in, and they are immediately drawn to Xander, as he is to them. They make fun of a chubby kid, and Xander laughs along.

New shampoo?

Buffy trains with Giles (beating the crap out of him, even in pads), then catches the loose piglet in the halls, the new school mascot. Willow is trying to help Xander study math, but he’s mean and blows her off. As Buffy helps Flutie get the piglet back in the office, Xander walks by and the piglet freaks out.

It’s raining in southern California in a non-January timeframe, so the plot contrivance dictates that gym class is now… dodgeball. Tribal style drums start (is that a stereotype? Is there a better way I can describe that beat pattern? Let us know) and the pack is now smoothly picking off strays in an aggressive manner. Buffy and Willow are on the wrong side of the line. Xander pegs Willow, hard. She is hurt, emotionally. Buffy is the last one up on her side, but she’s strong, and Lance is still up on the pack’s side, so they smash him with dodgeballs rather than attack someone that isn’t weak. In the hall, Xander mocks Willow to her face in front of the others, then laughs maniacally.

Dodge, dip, dive, duck, and… dead man

The variety pack of dicks wanders around sniffing out food. The stoners’ hotdogs are “too well done,” but Xander smells something else. The piglet in Flutie’s office. They all cackle. After, they wander about the quad in dark clothes, moodily, until Xander uses his new enhanced hearing to eavesdrop on Buffy consoling Willow, who worries something might be wrong with her, which is why Xander is being so terrible, and maybe he should be with Buffy, and this is one hell of a run-on sentence. Buffy goes to consult with the expert on weird.

Cue Reservoir Dogs music

                Giles: “Xander’s taken to teasing the less fortunate? And there’s a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor? And all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles?”

                Buffy: “It’s bad, isn’t it”

                Giles: “It’s devastating. He’s turned into a 16-year-old boy. You’ll have to kill him.”

Cursed puberty strikes again

Giles explains that it’s just natural teen behavior. Teasing, preying on the weak… Buffy twigs to this as being related to the hyena cages. Willow comes in to report the piglet has been eaten. Giles comes up with some animal possession rituals and history. Cannibalism seems to be the end state. Buffy goes to find Xander.

Why are you holding a jar of relish?

Flutie drags the pack minus Xander into his office because of Herbert the pig being dead. Buffy enters the pig’s cage area, only to find it trashed. Xander sneaks up behind her and won’t let her pass. Flutie gets jumped by the pack in his office. After a tussle, Xander pins Buffy to the ground, saying she likes dangerous guys, and guess who just got mean. He starts to go into an incel speech, and she throws him off. I don’t really want to type the rest of the scene. It gets very attempted rapey, Buffy knocks Xander out, and Flutie gets eaten by the pack.

This is gonna end badly for me, right?

Buffy drags unconscious Xander back to the library, puts him in the cage. Giles gets back from a teachers meeting, and lets them know about the principal being the late afternoon snack of the day. They do some fast, scooby style research, form a plan, and go talk to the zookeeper, leaving Willow (at her insistence) to watch Xander. He, of course, tries to play off Willow’s love for him. He’s kind, persuasive, still kind of a dick. She of course, doesn’t fall for it.

Good thing we have this cage. In the… school library?

The zookeeper is… weirdly well informed about possession rituals. He says they need to get the whole pack together in the hyena pen. He also tells them that the pack will find it’s missing member after a feed. Willow is in danger. The pack bursts into the library, ripping down the door to the book cage. Willow hides under a teacher’s desk, but Xander sniffs her out. Buffy and Giles come to the rescue with fire extinguishers and high kicks.

You must be a huge St. Louis Blues fan

Giles goes into the hyena cage, where the zookeeper is decked out in tribal garb and face paint. Giles sees the big symbol on the floor, realizes that the zookeeper had set up the possession for himself. Zookeeper beats him down with a stick. Willow comes in, and the zookeeper binds her up.

The pack leaves to attack weaker prey, a family in a car. Buffy tosses them about the suburbs, then leads them on a chase to the hyena cage. The zookeeper yells a phrase at the pack as they try to eat Buffy, and everyone eye flashes him as he prepares to eat Willow’s face. Xander is good again and saves her, while Buffy kicks the guy in with the actual hyenas, who eat him.

I did what now?

At school, Xander is trying to figure out what all happened, worried he may have done something else embarrassing. The girls give him a pass. Giles tells him he can’t find anything in the lore about animal possession leading to memory loss, but that Xander’s secret is safe with him.

Commentary:

Ian: This is probably my least favorite episode of early Buffy. As I said about the last episode, I don’t like when Xander is a dick. He continues to have issues with consent (granted, he was possessed by Hyena demons this time), and his unrequited lust for Buffy is getting to be… boring. He even intimates that he knows Willow wants him, in the scene where he’s trying to take Buffy down near the destroyed pig cage. 

Sarah: No one likes it when Xander is a dick. This time at least there is a reason he is what he is and it is out of his control. This episode stripped away the illusion that Xander was as unaware of the way people felt as he appeared. While I don’t LOVE this episode of Buffy and do consider it one of the weaker offerings there are some points to highlight as good. 

Ian: I don’t know. This episode just felt very flat and simple. Not a lot of character nuances to it. I guess the theme would be “kids in groups are just as mean to the weaker kids as are wild animals.” Maybe Sarah can summarize it better for you. 

Sarah: Supers got this covered. Strap in and let’s take a walk on the wild side, or I should say let’s dip the toe in Buffy’s attempts to go dark. And they definitely went dark. 

Sarah: GOOD PARTS: This episode is the first one to temporarily break the group dynamic and show what happens if they aren’t all connected. Wow, does Nicholas Brendon get to do something different with Xander in this episode. The transformation of the character from sweet, kind, awkward dork who had a small teenage perv streak to complete asshole is wonderfully done. He gets to show off his acting chops because EVERYTHING he did was different, from body movements to the super smug facial expressions. His eyes lost all vibrancy and remained cool and flat. He abandons all his silly humour and nervous ticks/insecurities and instead becomes cocky and cruel.

Sarah: Watching him embrace the role was sad, uncomfortable, and horrifying. The parallel to real life here is a dark twist on how people change during HS and their teenage years. Xander abandons his friends to hang with the “cool kids.”  It’s another clever twist on a high school story but with far darker consequences.

Ian: Ok, good call. I should have pointed out how great Nicky was in this episode. It’s where you learn that he can actually act, and not just be himself on camera.

Sarah: The show pulls no punches with its portrayal of the possession. Xander and his new friends become increasingly more violent and it climaxes in the disturbing eating of both a pig and Principal Flutie. Thankfully Joss pulled Xander from that scene because I think Xander would not have been able to cope remembering cannibalism.

Sarah: However, Joss put him in an equally horrifying situation by trying to assert himself onto Buffy. All repressed emotions come to the surface of this episode for Buffy and Xander. And that is nothing to say on the mind fucks he did on Willow, her self-esteem and trying to play on her insecurities.  Thankfully they give him an out at the end and let him skate with the amnesia story. But I think Xander had a lot of self reflection to do after this episode, knowing that there were these emotions that the possession was able to play off of inside.

Ian: I think that they definitely pulled back on the Xander-being-creepy after this one. He still has his crush on her, but acts in less shitty ways – for the most part.

THE BAD: The episode handled some parts of the dark well, but it left some disturbing threads loose. Teenagers eating their principal is darker than any teenage show I had seen at that time. What this episode did truly awfully, though, was not answer the question of what trauma the pack were now suffering with their memories returned. Xander at the end can barely cope with the thoughts of eating the pig, how the hell are they going to deal with the memories of their murder and cannibalism? At one point they threatened to eat a baby. It was relentlessly dark but way different from the more affable nature of the first 5 episodes. I so wish there had been some mention by them on what they told the 4 others involved on what happened.

As we see later in the series Joss and the writers get better at handling the darker themes and episodes. With this one, darkness ran rampant with VERY few moments of humour to temper the story. There was one good lighthearted moment between Buffy and Giles before the darkness took over. 

Buffy: “(exasperated) I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me. There is something supernatural at work here.” (Grabs some books.) “Get your books! Look stuff up!”

Giles: (takes the books) “Look under what?”

Buffy: “I don’t know.” (Exhales) “That’s your department.”

The Scully reference to the X-files was brilliant. Especially with Giles being the Scully character. That was probably my favorite quote of the episode, but there were a few other good ones too. 

Giles: “It’s devastating. He’s turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Of course, you’ll have to kill him.”

Willow: “Oh, my God, Xander! What happened?”

Buffy: “I hit him.”

Willow: “With what?”

Buffy: “A desk.”

Xander: “We just saw the zebras mating! Thank you, very exciting…”

Willow: “It was like the Heimlich, with stripes!”

Sarah: The escalating atrocities towards the end just get unpleasant to watch, and when the young mother and baby escaped attack it was obvious at that point they were just waiting for the possession to be reversed. The final note of the episode was played for comedy value as Xander pretends to have no memory of what he had done. And while it is humorous that he is clearly embarrassed by what he did, overall it is not funny what happened that episode. 

Ian: One of the early things I do like about the show is how little that school library seems to be used by anyone but the Scooby gang. Buffy is wailing on Giles, who is in full sparring pads, in the main area of the library. Sure glad no one needs a book. And if they do, gosh, there sure are a lot of really old tomes on witchcraft and demons and vampires. Maybe they’re in the cage… wait. Why would a school library need a book cage? For all their first editions? And why is there an unconscious student with a head wound lying on the floor in there? 

Sarah: It’s funny because they point this out in the episode prior by their shock that Owen was in there to check out a book. Totally a running joke throughout seasons 1-3. The cage cracks me up though, especially when they are using it at night. Did they never have security? Did no one ever question why students were there all night long? Or how about the fact that Giles LITERALLY has weapons hanging from the cage, and no one questions it. Suspend the disbelief. 

Ian: Flutie gets literally eaten alive. First indication that the show is willing to kill off not just one-off guest stars, but recurring characters. Also, it opens the door to bring in Quark, I mean, Armin Shimmerman’s delightfully evil prick of a principal. But yeah. Cannibalism in episode 6? I mean, I guess technically former people eating people is one of the main themes of the show.  

Sarah: I highlight my thoughts on this above, but that is a funny way to look at it. I mean they are still technically human but enhanced. But they kicked that dark door down early for sure. Ballsy of them too, something like that in the 90s could have lost you your audience. TV at that time was more family friendly focused shows. Not like today where people love a dark twist on wholesome content (Riverdale, or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for example). 

Ian: We don’t really hear about the rest of “The Pack” again, although in later seasons, the yearbook shows they all survived till graduation, and the blond girl became a vegetarian. If there’s no real memory loss after the possession, they remember eating a grown man alive. Ugh. 

Sarah: Again I highlight above my issues with that. But there is no way they made it through without therapy. My guess is they assume they were under the influence of some POWERFUL drugs and chalk it up to a drug induced frenzy. The vegetarian makes sense to be honest. 

Ian: And knowing we get to move on to some Angel backstory, we’ll gladly end this depressing episode and welcome you back next time.

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