In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone puts her dry cleaning in the laundry by accident way too often. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
- Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
- Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
- Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
- Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
- The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
- This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
- Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
I’m so excited about this episode! So excited! Because it’s femslash time on Buffy, my friends. Yet another of my ships glides into the harbor.
The episode starts with Willow coming to grips with the fact that, as seniors, they can leave school for lunch. Nobody seems to go too far, though. They just cross the road to go to the park and eat. Willow freaks out that maybe the permission they have been given is part of an elaborate trick, and someone will be waiting to bust her for cutting class, so Xander and Oz have to pretty much bodily carry her off campus, to where Buffy is waiting with a picnic. Since Buffy’s boyfriend is, you know, in a hell dimension, Willow and Oz and Xander and Cordelia decide not to be too couple-ish in front of her. Joking about the fact that she’s been expelled from school doesn’t seem to be off limits, though.
As far as boy trouble goes, Willow has the solution to Buffy’s wealth of it:
Willow: “Ooh, Scott Hope at eleven o’clock. He likes you. He wanted to ask you out last year, but you weren’t ready then. But I think you’re ready now. Or, at least in the state of pre-readiness to make conversation or to do that thing with your mouth that boys like. Oh! I didn’t mean that bad thing with your mouth, I meant that little half-smile thing…you’re supposed to stop me when I do that.”
Oz: “I like when you do that.”
Scott Hope walks by and says hi to Buffy, initiating the dance of teen longing that dictates all high school relationships. Willow is super excited, and asks if everyone thinks it went well.
Cordelia: “He didn’t try to slit our throats or anything. It’s progress.”
As always, Cordy has a point.
But Buffy doesn’t want to date, she wants to do normal stuff. Which, as Willow points out, could also be dating. Then Xander calls Buffy a slut in jest, and she hurts him. Good job, Buffy.
Buffy: “All right, yes. Date. And shop and hang out and go to school and save the world from unspeakable demons. You know. I wanna do Girly stuff.”
Cut to Happy Burger, where a guy we will eventually know as Mr. Trick arrives in a limo orders a pop (I guess it’s a soda, if they’re in California) and monologues to an unseen passenger about how great Sunnydale is. And I’m going to reproduce that monologue here, because it’s fantastic characterization:
Mr. Trick: “Sunnydale. Town’s got quaint. And the people? They call me ‘sir.’ Don’t you just miss that? I mean, admittedly, it’s not a haven for the brothers. You know, strictly the caucasian persuasion here in the ‘dale, but, you know, you just gotta stand up and salute that death rate. I ran a statistical analysis and hello darkness. Makes D.C. look like Mayberry. And ain’t nobody saying boo about it. We could fit right in here. Have us some fun.”
Within seconds of introducing the character–and before we even know his name–we know what we need to know about Mr. Trick, just from a few lines of very well-characterized dialogue. He’s evil, he’s smart, he values things being done a certain way, and because of those, he’s dangerous. In fact, when the cloven-hoofed passenger he’s talking to corrects him and says they’re only in town to kill the Slayer, Mr. Trick agrees, but tacks on that they should also be looking at the big picture. Mr. Trick is Big Picture Evil, on a show where so far, there’s been a lot of characters who aren’t. If that’s not a trope already, it should be.
Another thing I like about this little speech is that he calls out the extreme racial homogeny of the town, as well as the fact that nobody either notices or gives a shit that their town is overrun with vampires. The show still fulfills #12 plenty of times over the course of its run (just having a black character slyly acknowledging the absence of people of color in the town doesn’t magically solve the problem of not casting people of color), but it’s nice that someone actually notices what most of us were already thinking.
In case we didn’t understand that Mr. Trick is a vampire, he pulls the drive thru guy out the window and eats him as they drive off, the poor dude’s kicking legs still hanging out of the car.
After the opening credits, Buffy is at the Bronze, dancing with Angel while Oz, Willow, Xander, and Cordelia watch blankly. Buffy’s claddagh ring falls to the floor, and Angel picks it up, giving her an angry glare. She tries to apologize for killing him, and blood spreads over his shirt before it’s revealed that his face is that of a rotting corpse.
Obviously, it’s a dream. The “it’s a dream” thing gets kind of overused in this season. Actually, in this show. I should have been keeping track, now that I think about it. I know Buffy has prophetic dreams and such, I’m just saying that dreams show up a lot. There are at least two whole episodes specifically about dreams.
Joyce and Buffy go to Snyder, who tells them that Buffy can come back to school if she passes tests for the classes she failed the year before, that she has to get a letter of recommendation from someone who isn’t Giles, and that she has to be evaluated by the school psychologist. Joyce points out that Buffy’s return really isn’t conditional, since he has to educate all minors by law. A point that Buffy can’t just let go:
Buffy: “So, let me get this straight. I’m really back in school because the school board overruled you. Wow, that’s like having your whole ability to do this job called into question, when you think about it.”
Joyce: “I think what my daughter is trying to say is, na-na-na-na-na.”
Then the secretary buzzes Snyder and tells him that the Mayor is on the phone, and Snyder looks freaked out.
Meanwhile, in the library–holy shit, is that weed?
I mean, I don’t think it’s weed. But I do think Giles probably needs to take the edge off, occasionally.
Anyway, I think it’s probably pretty irresponsible to leave all sorts of witchy-looking herbs out where anyone can just see them. Or grab them and use them for evil. This is Sunnydale, after all.
Willow observes that Giles makes a weird clucking noise when he’s angry. Unfortunately, he overhears this, because he’s crouched behind the counter. Giles tells Buffy that they need to do a spell to make sure Acathla is contained, and in order to do the spell he has to know exactly what happened when she defeated Angel. He asks her a few questions, and she gives him only very basic answers before she runs off to take a makeup exam.
Willow wants to help Giles do whatever spell he’s going to do about the Acathla, but he warns her that you don’t mess with magic (“Don’t Mess With Magic” is a track from Anthony Head’s latest album. See what I did there?). She assures him that she hasn’t done anything major since she failed at the spell to restore Angel’s soul. She asks Giles if he’s mad at her, and he tells her that if he were, he’d be making a clucking noise.
At the Bronze, some people are on the dance floor. And guess what! GUESS YOU GUYS GUESS WHAT!
It’s Faith! It’s Faith! And here’s a super neat trick, you guys. The fade in here is a wipe from right to left. The first face we see, closest to the camera, is Faith. But she hasn’t been introduced as a character yet. At this moment, she’s basically an extra, bopping along in the crowd. This episode was directed by James A. Contner, who also directed some other amazing episodes, like the season six finale “Grave” and season five’s “The Replacement”. This is a pretty amazing intro to Faith, even if it’s pre-official intro. Viewers might not realize it when they watch this scene for the first time, but by having her show up as the first thing on the screen, she sticks in your memory subconsciously.
Buffy and Oz and Willow are hanging out in a part of the Bronze I don’t think we’ve seen before. It’s better lit and has couches. Scott Hope shows up, because Willow told him Buffy would be there. The fact that Scott admits he came there to see Buffy specifically, and isn’t super high pressure about it (when he asks her to dance and she’s reticent about it, he just says that he’ll be around, and if she wants to dance, she can come to him), makes me really like Scott. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some fans describe him as the weakest Buffy love interest. Considering the guys she actually hooks up with, Scott is a dream.
Cordelia points out Faith on the dance floor and refers to her as “Slut-o-rama.” (#6) This show is pretty unfair toward Faith in terms of painting her as the opposite of Buffy, in large part due to the fact that Faith is more sexually assertive and unashamed of her sexuality. Considering all the other ways Faith differs from Buffy, this wasn’t strictly necessary. Because of this, I’m going to make a new number for our list. #32: Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
Cordelia also points out that the guy dancing with Faith has some really outdated moves. As the two of them leave the club, Buffy realizes that the guy is a vampire. As she tries to follow the couple, she runs into Scott, who mistakenly assumes she’s there to take him up on the dance. They share an awkward exchange before Buffy and the Scoobies head outside, expecting to find a dead girl and a vampire. Instead, they find the should-be-dead girl beating the ass-end of a vampire. She already knows who Buffy is, and introduces herself as Faith–all the while wiping the alley with the vampire.
Oz: “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s a new Slayer in town.”
Faith dispatches the vampire with Buffy’s stake and saunters off.
Cut to the Bronze, where Faith is telling the group all about how she saved a bus full of Christians from some vampires while buck naked.
Xander: “Wow. They should film that story and show it every Christmas.”
Faith goes on to ask Buffy:
Faith: “Ain’t it crazy how Slaying just always makes you hungry and horny?”
Buffy responds timidly with something about low-fat yogurt, because Buffy is the pure good-girl now. In less than a minute, Faith’s sexuality has already been presented to the audience as over-the-top and “slutty”.
Cordelia figures out how Faith became a Slayer: When Buffy died, Kendra was called, and when Kendra died, Faith was called. There are now two lines of Slayers. Faith tells them that her Watcher went on a retreat, so Faith ran away to Sunnydale to meet Buffy. Though she asks Buffy to regale them with her tale of using a rocket launcher, Xander interrupts Buffy to ask Faith to regale them with more stories of her nudity. Oh, and he’s behaving this way while sitting right next to his girlfriend, who is demonstrably furious about it. (#5)
Cordelia: “Xander. Find a new theme.”
Faith asks Buffy what her toughest kill was, and of course Buffy immediately flashes back to Angel. Instead, she starts to tell a story about The Three, those demonic bounty hunters sent after her in season two. And she’s yet again interrupted, this time by Oz, who at least has a higher stakes reason for doing so: he’s worried about whether or not Faith will kill him for being a werewolf. She says as long as he doesn’t attack her, they’re “Five by five,” which is the first occurrence of what might be the single most obnoxious character catchphrase since Steve Urkel’s “Did I do that?”
Faith figures she and Buffy are going to have a great time Slaying vampires together while their Watchers are gone on this retreat. But Giles wasn’t invited to go on the retreat, and he’s pretty bitter about it.
Giles: “It’s a great honor to be invited. Or so I’m told.”
I continue to be baffled by the Watchers. I think I’ve mentioned before how odd I find it that there are so many Watchers when there’s only ever one Slayer. It sounds like the position is hereditary, since Giles said in a season one episode that he wanted to do something else, but this was his duty. So, let’s assume there are multiple Watchers because there are multiple family lines, and also so they have spares if something happens to Donald Sutherland. But that doesn’t explain why, if there’s one single Slayer, they would send a guy they clearly don’t think much of to train her. If Giles isn’t good enough to go on this retreat, why is he good enough to be the Watcher? Of all the members of the Watchers’ council, isn’t his position arguably the most important?
Faith says Giles would be bored by all the stuffy old Watchers, and Buffy wonders if Faith actually paid attention when she introduced them.
Faith: “I’ve seen him. If I’d know they came that young and cute, I’d have requested a transfer.”
Buffy: “Raise your hand if ‘ew’.”
Okay, this is adorable. Xander is disguising his hand raising, but look at Willow:
She is not raising her hand any time soon.
Now, I hated, and I mean fury-of-Hera, turn-people-into-animals-and-shit hated the comics, and never kept up on them. But did Giles and Faith ever hook up? It seemed like that might be the way the story was going when they were doing that whole My Fair Lady, George Bernard Shaw thing and she was wearing fancy dresses that made him clean his glasses.
Giles is flattered by Faith’s evaluation, but there’s Slayer stuff that’s more important. Buffy asks Willow for help studying for a make-up test, but Willow and Xander have moved on to the shiny, new Slayer, even pressuring Buffy into invited her to dinner. When they’ve gone, leaving Buffy and Giles alone in the library, he asks for more details on what happened with Acathla, but Buffy blows him off again, saying that she has tests and things that are more important.
Willow and Xander show Faith around the school, highlighting all the areas where they nearly died. Faith asks them why Buffy is so uptight, but before they can give her an answer, she goes to get a drink from the drinking fountain. Cordelia comes up and overhears Xander talking about Faith. Cordy asks Xander why he’s so into Slayers, and suggests she should dress up like one, a suggestion he wholeheartedly embraces. When she’s finished getting her drink, Faith bumps into Scott and introduces herself. Which is not great, because Buffy sees the two of them flirting. To make matters worse, Willow even suggests to Buffy that Faith and Scott should hook up.
Why are Buffy’s friends being such absolute dicks in this episode? Willow even tells Buffy that she needs to have more fun, even though she knows what happened to Buffy in the last season, and that she recently ran away almost twice because she thought her friends didn’t need or want her. Now they seem to be doing their best to make sure she knows that they’ve found an updated model. In fact, it feels like “The Gang Become Jerks” could be the title of the whole season.
In some shadowy lair (like vamps do), cloven-hoof vampire is talking with Mr. Trick, and still not seeing the big picture. Mr. Trick is trying to set up a global human-trafficking network for vampires to buy victims, but all cloven-hoof guy wants is to kill the Slayer. But he hasn’t come to town looking for Buffy; the fact that there’s already a Slayer in Sunnydale is news to Mr. Trick. Apparently, Faith fucked up cloven-hoof vampire’s face and eye, and he wants her to pay. And it’s like, chill, dude. You were ugly already.
At the Summers house, even Joyce is more interested in Faith than in Buffy. She asks Faith about being a Slayer (something she hasn’t really taken an interest in discussing with Buffy), and suggests to Buffy that Faith is more positive–and therefore a better Slayer–than she is. Buffy goes with Joyce to the kitchen, where Joyce continues to sing the praises of Faith:
Joyce: “I like this girl, Buffy.”
Buffy: “She’s very personable. She gets along with my friends, my Watcher, my mom…look, now she’s getting along with my fries.”
Joyce: “Now, Buffy…”
Buffy: “Plus, at school today she was making eyes at my not-boyfriend. This is creepy.”
Joyce: “Does anybody else think Faith is creepy?”
Whoa there, Joyce. Turn down those gaslights. Buffy’s feelings are not decided by committee, and if she’s feeling displaced in her own life because of Faith’s arrival, that’s her thing. You might not agree with it, but you don’t get to force her to feel something else. (#3)
One good point Joyce has, though, is that with two Slayers in town, Buffy doesn’t have to do all the Slaying on her own. Which is good, right? Because Buffy doesn’t actually want to be the Slayer, right?
This episode is one of the first indications we have that Buffy is starting to accept her role as Slayer and that she’s beginning to view it as her identity. When she’s not the only Slayer anymore, she begins to feel overshadowed. I think this is pretty healthy, though I’m not a mental health professional. I just think it shows growth on Buffy’s part.
One thing Buffy never mentioned to Joyce?
Buffy: “Mom, the only way you get a new Slayer is when the old Slayer dies.”
Joyce: “Then that means you…when did you die? You never told me you died.”
Buffy: “It was just for a few minutes.”
Joyce: “Oh, I hate this. I hate your life.
Buffy: “Mom, I–”
Joyce: “Look, I know you didn’t choose this, I know it chose you. I have tried to march in the Slayer pride parade, but…I don’t want you to die.”
I know we’ve hotly debated in the comments whether or not being a Slayer was equated to being gay in the series. I just want to file “Slayer pride parade” as another point on my side of the argument. Whether or not Slayer = Gay stands up as a good analogy doesn’t negate the fact that the writers were clearly pushing that narrative.
Because her mother is distraught, Buffy comforts her and then goes out patrolling. Faith points out that they’ve gone down the same street twice, to which Buffy snaps that vampires will rudely ignore that fact. Faith is pretty patient with Buffy’s attitude. Until she’s not.
Faith: “You’ve been doing this the longest.”
Buffy: “I have.”
Faith: “Yeah, maybe a little too long.”
In their argument, Faith brings up Angel, and Buffy loses her mind. She’s going to wipe the floor with Faith, until vampires show up. Instead of taking them on as a team, Buffy throws Faith into the dirt. While Faith pummels a vampire (rather than staking him to end the fight), another grabs Buffy and says something vampirish about living and dying. It’s clear that Faith and Buffy have vastly different slaying styles, with Faith preferring to be as violent as possible, while Buffy prefers the efficiency route. Buffy is complaining about this to Giles the next day at school. He tells her that he’ll try to contact Faith’s Watcher, and asks Buffy if she could tell him anything about the vampires who attacked them the night before.
Buffy: “The one that nearly bit me mentioned something about kissing toast. He lived for kissing toast.”
Giles: “Do you mean Kakistos?”
Buffy: “Maybe it was taquitos. Maybe he lived for taquitos.”
Giles tells Buffy that Kakistos is Greek for “worst of the worst”. Which I think is actually correct, as a Kakistocracy is a government run by the worst possible leaders. See also: The United States after January 2017. Giles also says that Kakistos has cloven feet and hands because he’s so old. I don’t quite get that logic, but whatever. Buffy points out that it’s weird how this ancient vampire and his vampire minions show up at the same time as Faith:
Buffy: “Giles, there are two things that I don’t believe in: coincidence, and leprechauns.”
Giles: “Buffy, it’s entirely possible that they arrived here by chance, simultaneously.”
Buffy: “Okay, but I was right about the leprechauns, right?”
Giles: “As far as I know.”
Can I just say how much I love the fact that there are numerous spooky-wooky creatures in the reality of this show, but leprechauns don’t exist?
In the hallway, Buffy runs into Scott. He tells her he’s not going to keep bothering her, but invites her to a Buster Keaton film festival, because he’s just as pretentious as Angel Chase inviting Jordan Catalano to go see The Bicycle Thief. This time, though, Buffy accepts. Scott has, for some creepy reason, decided to get Buffy a present. It’s a ring he bought at a retro shop, which he believes to represent friendship. Yup, it’s a claddagh ring, identical to the one Angel gave her. Buffy drops the ring and rescinds her acceptance of the film festival date, and Scott tells her he understands. Giles, having viewed this exchange from afar, comes to see if Buffy is okay, but she won’t talk about what happened. Instead, she asks if he contacted the Watchers. Turns out, Faith’s is dead.
In a dirty motel room, Faith is arguing with the dirty front desk guy about the eighteen dollars she owes him for the night. She manages to flirt her way out of it, for the moment, just before Buffy shows up to ask her what’s up with this Kakistos guy. The second Faith hears that he’s back in town, she starts frantically packing. Buffy asks if Faith plans to leave and stick Buffy with the ancient vampire problem.
Faith: “You don’t know me, you don’t know what I’ve bene through. I’ll talk care of this, all right?”
Buffy: “Like you took care of your Watcher? He killed her, didn’t he?”
Faith: “They don’t have a word for what he did to her.”
Buffy tells her that if she runs, Kakistos will come after her. But he doesn’t need to, because he’s already standing outside the door. Faith has a total meltdown; this is finally something that cracks her tough-girl disguise. She and Buffy run to temporary safety, where Faith tells Buffy that she saw Kakistos kill her Watcher, got scared, and ran. Buffy tells her she did the right thing, since the job of the Slayer is mostly just not getting killed. Buffy figures they have good odds going two against one on the guy. But Kakistos has hearded the Slayers into his nest, where they have to take on other vampires, as well. As they fight–and multiple lower-level vamps get dusted–Mr. Trick looks on, commenting to another vampire:
Mr. Trick: “If we don’t do something, the master could get killed. Well, our prayers are with him.”
And then they leave. Because Mr. Trick sees the big picture, as he reminds us with his retreating dialogue.
When Buffy tries to stake Kakistos, it’s impossible. He’s too old, it’s like giving him a splinter. He jokes about needing a bigger stake, so Faith gets one. A big ass, pointy-ended beam that’s about as wide as he is. She jams it through him and poof. Buffy asks Faith if she’s hungry, and she responds that she’s starved. They walk off screen together, to have sex in one of my fanfics where they’re both eighteen.
The next day, in the library, Giles tells Buffy and Willow that the council approves of Faith staying in Sunnydale under his supervision until a new Watcher is found. Buffy admits that she was kind of wrong about Faith. Buffy gets that Faith went through a lot, and that dictated her behavior and attitude, but that she ultimately faced the bad thing that happened to her. Which prompts her to tell them:
Buffy: “Angel was cured.”
Giles: “I’m sorry?”
Buffy: “When I killed him. Angel was cured. Your spell worked at the last minute, Will. I was about to take him out, and, um, something went through him, and he was Angel again. He-he didn’t remember anything that he’d done. He just held me. Um, But it was, it was too late, and I, I had to. So I told him that I loved him, and I kissed him, and I killed him. I don’t know if helps with your spell or not, Giles.”
Giles tells her that it will, and a horrified Willow tells her she’s sorry, but Buffy tells them it felt good to get it out. She leaves the library, and Willow once again begs to let her help with the binding spell on the Acathla.
Giles: “There is no spell.”
His only goal was to get Buffy to face what had happened to her. So, he is a good Watcher, and the council can stuff it.
Buffy tries again with Scott, apologizing for why she reacted the way she did and asking if he would give her another chance. He says he’ll have to think about it, walks away a few steps, and comes back immediately to accept. They plan to go out that night, and Buffy is all bouncy, bubbly Buffy again.
Until we cut to the next scene, where Buffy returns to the mansion where she killed Angel. She goes to the spot where she killed him, whispers a good-bye, and places the Claddagh ring he gave her on the floor. She leaves to the sad Buffy/Angel music, and the scene fades out. We fade back in on the ring, which begins to vibrate. A portal opens up and Angel falls, nakedly, onto the floor.
Cut to end credits.
So, the uncritical Buffy fan in me loves this episode, because what makes this season great is the dual Slayer plot. Also, the femslash potential. The pop culture dissectionist in me can’t ignore the overarching antifeminist themes and illogical world building. In this case, the uncritical fan wins. I heart this episode, incredibly hard.