In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone is suffering from extreme vertigo, so please bear with her. 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- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?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/bi female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
- Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
- Slut shame!
- The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
- Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
- Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.
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.
We open on Buffy and Faith kicking the asses of some vampires who are dressed alike, so they’re probably part of some evil vampire cult. Like they usually are. While they fight, Faith talks about sex. Because that is Faith’s function in the story: to turn evil and be sexy (#1, #6, #32). Faith wants to know why Buffy has never had sex with Xander. Buffy says she thinks it ruins friendships to have sex with friends, then points out that there’s another vampire who’s getting away. They manage to kill the vampire, but Buffy and Faith have some seriously different ideas regarding how serious and dangerous their jobs are. But at least they’re getting closer. Friendly, even. They decide to grab the weapons left behind by the mysteriously be-robed vampires, but the weapons have disappeared.
In the Mayor’s office, Mr. Trick puts those missing weapons on the Mayor’s desk, while the Mayor chuckles over The Family Circus. If you’re unfamiliar with The Family Circus, this is a fairly good example of its clever humor:
So, clearly, this man is evil.
The Mayor: “Do you like Family Circus?”
Mr. Trick: “I like Marmaduke.”
The Mayor: “Oh, ew. He’s always on the furniture. Unsanitary.”
Mr. Trick: “No one can tell Marmaduke what to do. That’s my kind of dog.”
Assistant Guy: “I like to read Cathy.”
The Mayor wants to keep an eye on the vampires-with-ceremonial-weapons situation, but his main goal is his “dedication,” a ceremony that will begin his ascension. Afterward, he explains, he’ll be on a “higher plain” and won’t be “concerned with the little things.” He says this while cleaning his hands with a baby wipe.
So, let’s talk about The Mayor’s cliche OCD tendencies. I get that it’s funny to think of a guy who has no problem dealing with all sorts of arcane and probably icky stuff being obsessed with everyday cleanliness concerns. And I understand that we equate cleanliness with wholesomeness, and likely we’re meant to see this as part of The Mayor’s golly-gee persona. But from my perspective (I have OCD that manifests in handwashing and contamination paranoia, among other assorted rituals and fears), I feel like this qualifies as #14. It’s already too easy to use “crazy” to define a villain (we just saw that two episodes ago), so it’s lazy characterization, as well. And to be honest, it makes me kind of sympathetic toward The Mayor. He’s willing to become a destroyer of worlds just to avoid having to deal with germs? I can kind of relate.
The Mayor tells Mr. Trick to make sure the Slayers know about the vampire cult guys. That way, two birds might get killed with one stone. After that, we’re on to the credits.
At Sunnydale High, Xander, Oz, Willow, and Buffy are marveling over Willow’s acceptance to some of the best colleges in the country–scratch that, in the world.
Xander: “Is anyone else intimidated? ‘Cause I’m just expecting thin slips of paper with the words ‘no way’ written in crayon.”
Oz: “They’re typing those now.”
Not only has Willow been accepted to these schools, they’re actively pursuing her. Let’s not forget this when we roll into season four. Xander, meanwhile, has no real hope for college and has already resigned himself to working blue collar jobs for the rest of his life. I feel this realism, Xander. Oz’s advice to Willow is that she should probably graduate because he’s not as impressed with his repeat senior year as he expected to be. Buffy is just psyched that her friend is already crushing the post-college lifestyle.
Cordelia has apparently been eavesdropping on their conversation, because she appears just in time to mock Xander for planning on being a loser, rather than becoming one by accident.
Xander: “The comedy stylings of Miss Cordelia Chase, everyone. Who, uh, incidentally won’t be needing a higher education when she markets her own very successful line of hooker-wear.”
Cordelia: “Well, Xander, I could dress more like you, but…oh. My father has a job.”
Do we have a number about economic inequality yet? #36: Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified. We’ve seen examples of this before, but from this point in season three and right on through season six, this is a major point. Xander’s post-high school characterization is based entirely on his “failure” to succeed economically, while Cordelia’s storyline is about to take a turn, as well (we’ll touch on that as it comes).
In the library, Giles is barely containing his rage while a baby-Giles putters around, pontificating pompously.
You’re welcome for that alliteration.
Baby-Giles is the new Watcher, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce:
He has no compunctions about boasting his many professional achievements:
Wesley: “Of course, training procedures have been updated quite a bit since your day. Much greater emphasis on field work.”
Wesley: “Oh yes. Not all books and theory nowadays. I have, in fact, faced two vampires myself. Under controlled circumstances, of course.”
Giles: “You’re in no dangers of finding those here.”
Giles: “Controlled circumstances.”
Buffy comes in, and she’s not thrilled to see Wesley:
Buffy: “New Watcher?”
Giles: “New Watcher.”
Wesley wants to know everything about the patrol from the night before. She tells him there were vampires and she killed them. Also, that they had swords. Wesley actually knows which vampire cult she’s run afoul of. Basically, they were vampires who dueled all the time and nearly wiped themselves out as a consequence. Both Buffy and Giles are grudgingly impressed that the dude is good at his job.
Wesley: “I didn’t get this job because of my looks.”
Buffy: “I really, really believe that.”
Oh, come on, Buffy. Have you even looked at him? His personality is unattractive, sure, but the container is juuuuuuust fine.
Wesley thinks the remaining members of the cult are after an amulet (conveniently located in one of Sunnydale’s many crypts), and he puts Buffy on the job. Then Faith enters:
Faith: “New Watcher?”
Buffy and Giles, in unison: “New Watcher.”
Faith: “Screw that.”
Then she leaves, and Giles and Wesley clean their glasses at exactly the same time.
This is one of my favorite, favorite introductions of a character in the entire series, because it shows exactly how to set up characterization with the tone of the scene. If Wesley’s arrival had been treated with grave sincerity, we would have seen him as important or skilled or respectable, instead of what he is: a throwback to the naive dedication with which season one Giles first approached the job. This drives home two things: that Giles is a much different person now, and that Wesley is no threat to the general day-to-day operations of the Slayer. It also foreshadows that Wesley can (and will) change, albeit on the spin-off, Angel.
So, Buffy follows Faith, who wants to know why Buffy is listening to their new Watcher. This is the exchange:
Faith: “We’re Slayers, girlfriend! The chosen two! Why should we let him take the fun out of it?”
Buffy: “Oh, that would be tragic. Taking the fun out of slaying, stabbing, beheading…”
Faith: “Oh, like you don’t dig it.”
Buffy: “I don’t.”
Faith: “You’re a liar. I’ve seen you. Tell me staking a vamp doesn’t get you a little bit juiced. Come on. Say it. You can’t fool me. The look in your eyes right after a kill? You just get hungry for more.”
Buffy: “You’re way off base.”
Faith: “Tell me that if you don’t get in a good slaying, after a while you just start itching for some vamp to show up so you can give ’em a good… [grunt].”
Buffy: “Again with the grunting. You realize I’m not comfortable with this.”
Faith: “Hey, slaying’s what we were built for. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing something wrong.”
Hey, my asexual readers, I bet you recognize this conversation. Throughout this dialogue, Faith’s lines are written and delivered in a sexually-charged way, like they almost always are. This gives us a good basis for an asexual or demisexual Buffy head canon, if we wanted to steer that way. I digress. But let’s remember this exchange at the end of the next episode, because we are going to have a field day with it later when we talk about how #1, #6, and #32 all collide into a big splotch of fuckery in the Buffy/Faith dynamic.
So, it’s night at the tomb where the amulet is being kept. And it actually looks a lot like the tomb from the first episode of Dark Shadows. I wonder if that’s intentional. Buffy finds the amulet, but she has to hide when the vampire cult shows up. I’m rolling my eyes pretty heavily here; she’s reaching for the amulet when she hears the voices of the cult members coming in, but she leaves it behind and hides. It would have taken no time to take the amulet with her. But whatever. Faith shows up and they pursue the vampires, who drop down a manhole. Faith wants to follow them, but Buffy thinks it’s too risky. They have no idea what’s waiting for them at the bottom of the hole, or any idea of how to escape once they get down there.
Faith: “I don’t know how many’s down there, but I want to find out. And I’ll know when I land. And if you don’t come in after me, I might die.”
Faith recklessly jumps down the hole, and Buffy is forced to follow her.
At the library, Wesley has taken all of the Watcher journals that Giles has, including the one he’d been keeping about Buffy.
Wesley: “Oh yes. Here’s your first entry. ‘Slayer is willful and insolent.’ That would be our girl, wouldn’t it?”
Giles: “You have to get to know her.”
Wesley: “‘Her abuse of the English language is such that I understand only every other sentence.’ This is going to make fascinating reading.”
Giles says Buffy should have returned from the amulet mission, but Wesley has the whole thing planned down to the minute. He’s confident that she’ll pull it all off exactly according to plan.
So, this scene gives us even more of a chance to see not only Wesley characterization, but how much Giles’s characterization has grown since season one, and that promise that Wesley will continue to grow as a character (though not in an identical path to Giles’s arc).
Meanwhile, the whole “according to plan” thing is not exactly working out. Buffy and Faith are underground, surrounded and outnumbered. As Slayers, they work together pretty well, though to be honest, Buffy is clearly picking up a little slack on Faith’s end in this fight. While Buffy is nearly drowned by one of the vampire cultists, another vampire just restrains Faith, which, you know. It’s a good thing for Faith that they’re an honorable, one-on-one kind of vampire cult, or she would be dead. Buffy manages to get the amulet and the two remaining vamps scatter.
Faith: “Tell me you don’t get off on this.”
Buffy: “Didn’t suck.”
So, once again, sexualization of violence. Do we have a number for that? Or does it fit under a different item? Let me know in the comments.
At the library, Wesley checks out the amulet and says yeah, good job, if it’s actually authentic. But Giles, because he’s grown as a character and isn’t at all like the shitty, shitty Watchers anymore, asks Buffy if she’s okay. And Buffy is like, thanks for asking, because Wesley is a dick and he didn’t even care if she got hurt. When she tells Giles she wants to talk to him, Wesley forbids her from talking to him except for about library books. Which, of course, Buffy ignores and says she’ll just talk to him later.
Wesley: “You’re not helping.”
Giles: “I know. I feel just sick about it.”
Now is a good time to ask this question: how is Wesley’s constant presence at the high school explained? Is it ever? I honestly don’t remember if it’s ever even addressed. Giles is clearly still the librarian, so he has a reason to be at the school apart from, “this is simpler for the plot of the show.” Why is Wesley there? I went to school in the ’90s. People had to sign in even back then. Is no one in the office questioning why this random dude is just showing up every single day? Why don’t we get to be in on the secret? I’m going to keep my eye out for an explanation because it’s possible I’m just forgetting, but I find that super unlikely, considering how much I live, sleep, and breathe Buffy.
Then again, all of these recaps go like
Me: There’s no way I could possibly forget this inconsequetial detail.
Also Me: Wow, I never noticed that before!
In science class, Buffy is super psyched about how Faith is opening her eyes to the awesomeness of being a Slayer. Willow tries to say she identifies with the feeling because of magic, but Buffy tells her it’s a Slayer thing and she wouldn’t understand. Willow and Xander are like, you know, can we talk about this later? We have this important test to take and you’ve already been warned by the teacher to like, not talk at least once. We also find out that Buffy blew off Willow to patrol with Faith, and that Xander has developed a facial tick in response to Faith’s name.
Faith comes to the window of the science room and draws a little heart with a line in it to indicate staking. And tell me this is not the slashiest thing ever:
Buffy decides to blow off the chem test (despite saying several times that it’s super important that she pass it) and climbs out the window with Faith.
Faith tells Buffy that she found a nest of vampires, so we cut to Faith and Buffy crashing through a window and surprise attacking a bunch of vamps who are laying on the floor like it’s kindergarten nap time:
That night, Buffy and Faith celebrate their successful Slay by dancing together at The Bronze. And yes, they’re dancing together. At least twice they’re holding hands. And because they’re two girls dancing together, a group of guys forms around them. Buffy sees Angel and runs off the dance floor to jump into his arms and straddle him, while Faith grinds up on like four dudes at once. Buffy makes it clear that she’s a one-vampire woman, because it’s absolutely crucial that we know that she would never, ever, flirt with a bunch of guys the way Faith is doing right now.
Angel takes Buffy aside to ask her about the amulet, and for the first time watching this I notice that Buffy has a huge fucking gash on her arm that is wet and smeared with blood. And guys were like, dancing with her out there, trying to get on her? Man, universal precautions, guys. I’m also interested to know why Angel is seemingly unconcerned with a bleeding wound. You’d think he’d at least be distracted by how tasty it looks.
Wesley arrives to chastise Buffy for not leaving him a contact number, and Angel lectures him about not keeping the amulet safe enough. Buffy takes it from Wesley and gives it to Angel, leaving Wesley hopelessly out of the loop as to how things are done in this joint. Then Buffy gets Faith and they leave.
Cut to HOLY SHIT:
I’m not going to fat shame this guy. I don’t know his life. But I am going to question why he’s sitting in a hot tub full of chili. And why they’re basting him, apparently. Is this a vampire or a recipe?
Big Guy is really, really upset that he doesn’t have his amulet. There are charming fart noises in this scene, because obviously anyone who is fat is smelly and can’t control their gas. I know this to be true because at least one Twitter troll per day tells me that I’m fat and smelly and can’t control my gas.
Once again, Faith wants to go in, guns blazing, despite the fact that they don’t know what scary powers Fat Vampire Guy has. They weren’t there to see him use some kind of tractor beam thing to grab a vampire and break his neck. Of course, Faith’s argument is couched in innuendo, as always:
Faith: “I say we take ’em all. Hard and fast. Now.”
We get it. We get that we’re supposed to equate sex with violence. We don’t need that impressed upon us further.
Luckily, Buffy’s cooler head prevails and she convinces Faith not to run recklessly into a warehouse full of vampires. But then Faith sees a sporting goods store across the street and–
This warehouse full of vampires is near a main shopping hub? Sunnydale. You’re killing me. Willy’s out there with a bar that’s got a freaking sign on it and just anyone could mosey in at any time. Massive vampires are taking chili baths just feet from where other people buy ping pong balls. How is Sunnydale not more open and aware of the spooky shit that happens in their midst? Why are they all pretending not to see it?
Anyway, Faith convinces Buffy to rob the sporting goods store:
Faith: “When are you gonna get this, B? The life of a Slayer is very simple. Want. Take. Have.”
It annoys me to the backs of my teeth that Faith thinks she’s going to give Buffy Slayer lessons. Buffy has been a Slayer for way longer than Faith. This is like when a new person starts working in your office and three weeks later tries to tell you that you’re using the copy machine wrong.
Anyway, Buffy decides that yeah, want, take, have is a good idea, and they start smashing shit up and stealing weapons. They’re interrupted when the police arrive and arrest them, with Faith making suggestive remarks the whole time, of course. Buffy and Faith escape the back of the cop car by using their Slayer strength to kick the backseat partition in and knock out the cops. The car crashes, and Buffy and Faith somehow get out and get the handcuff key while they’ve both still got their hands cuffed behind their backs.
The next morning, Buffy frantically scans the newspaper for any mention of like, maybe cops who died in a grisly car accident or escaped prisoners or something, while Joyce talks about making waffles. There’s nothing in the paper, apparently, but Buffy is still shaken.
At City Hall, The Mayor finishes up a photo op with some scouts, then light-proofs his office so Mr. Trick can come in and give him the scoop on the vampire cult guys. But one of the vampire cult guys is hiding in The Mayor’s curio cabinet of weird shit, and bursts out, tackling The Mayor and trying to skewer him with a sword. Mr. Trick punches the vampire guy in the head, neatly solving that problem.
Mr. Trick: “Why they gotta always be using swords? It’s called an uzi, chump. Would’ve saved your ass right about now.”
This is why Mr. Trick is the most wasted villain of the series, seriously. He could have owned Sunnydale.
The Mayor asks the assistant guy (who I guess is actually the deputy mayor and his name is Allan? I guess I didn’t pay that much attention to him before) how the vampire dude got in, and of course he’s all cagey like, don’t blame me. So I definitely blame you, Allan. I blame you because you look guilty as fuck.
At the warehouse, Chili Con Vampire is still being moistened and is also still super angry about the amulet. He says something about his oldest enemy being close to having ultimate power, so I’m assuming he’s in Sunnydale specifically to fuck up The Mayor’s plans. Man, I wish I wasn’t on the outside, here. I would just tell my Slayers, you know, guys, this is a problem that is about to solve itself. At the end they would still have a demon to deal with, but it would be more convenient than having two demons to deal with, right? We can economize this.
Anyway, he tells his vampire people to kill the Slayers and bring him the two Watchers.
In Buffy’s room, Willow gives Buffy a protection spell charm bag that she made. She’s looking forward to patrolling with Buffy later that night, but Buffy is like, yeah, you shouldn’t go. And Willow is super hurt because she knows Buffy wants to hang out with Faith instead. And that’s just what happens. Faith shows up, and Buffy ditches Willow.
Buffy and Faith are out patrolling with Faith’s brand new compound bow that she went back to the sporting goods store to steal again, when a vampire gets the drop on them, literally, from the top of a building. And guess what, Faith? A full-size compound bow is not for fighting in close quarters. It is a range weapon. Have you never played any FPSs or RPGs?
We cut to Wesley, being an ass:
Wesley: “I didn’t say you have emotional problems. I said you had an emotional problem. It’s quite different.”
Giles: “My…attachment to the Slayer is not a problem. In point of fact it’s been a very useful–”
Wesley: “The way you’ve handled this assignment has been something of an embarrassment to the council.”
Giles: “If you want to criticize my methods, fine. But you can keep your snide remarks to yourself. And while you’re at it, don’t criticize my methods.”
But of course he does, going on and on about how Giles did okay, but it’s time for someone else to take over. Upon spying a group of the cult vampires standing just outside the window, Giles agrees that it’s a good idea.
Buffy is fighting a vampire while Faith fights with her shitty choice of weaponry. She finally gives up and they’re both fighting the vampires. It’s a tense situation and poor deputy mayor Allan ends up in it. Buffy yells to Faith to warn her, but it’s too late, and Faith stakes the totally human Allan right in the heart. Faith freezes and Buffy panics, and Allan dies in front of them, blood trickling out of his mouth. In movies and tv, if blood comes out of your mouth, you die. Them’s the rules.
Faith pulls Buffy away from the dead body, but Buffy is in shock and unsure of what to do. She and Faith become separated, and Buffy runs into Angel, who has the most ridiculous hair of all time. He tells her that the vampires have Giles. I mean, they have Wesley, too, but even Angel doesn’t give a shit about Wesley. Meanwhile, Faith goes back to the body.
Meanwhile, the soupy vampire is super gross.
Soups McGee: “The front! The front! Moisten the front.”
I’m a good person. I don’t deserve this.
Wesley is freaking the fuck out, and Giles is not. Dealing with wimpy, ‘fraidy cat Wesley has drained Giles’s tank of fucks to give right on down to empty:
Chili Pot: “You know what I want.”
Giles: “If it’s for me to scrub those hard to reach areas, I’d like to request you kill me now.”
Wesley is like, what the hell are you doing, and Giles is like, yeah, they’re going to kill us anyway. At the slightest mention of torture, Wesley starts singing like a canary. He tells Chili Pot that he knows who has the amulet, but he doesn’t remember the name of the guy who took it. Then Angel is like, his name is Angel and busts in like a rock star. He starts beating everyone up, and Buffy comes in and she’s beating everyone up, and Giles starts beating Wesley up–okay, I made that part up. But he does fight, with a sword, like a total badass, to protect the little shit who came and took his job.
So, Campbell’s Condense Vampire uses his vampire magnet power to pull Angel to him and is about to break his neck when Buffy uses some exposed wiring to electrocute the dude. I guess that’s one of downsides of living in a vat of liquid. As he’s basically like, good job, idiots, you killed me and now a way worse thing is going to happen.
Cut to The Mayor changing in a pentagram of salt, surrounded by candles. Mr. Trick is there, with the vampire who tried to attack them earlier in a cage. There’s a big, dramatic earthquake, shit shakes off the walls, etc.
The Mayor: “I don’t understand why Allan would miss this. He’s usually so punctual.”
Mr. Trick looks at him like he wants to say, “Fuck Allan,” but instead he asks if the ritual worked. The Mayor decides to test it out. He gives the vampire in the cage a sword and tells Mr. Trick to open it. When he does, the vampire runs out and carves a ditch right down the median of The Mayor’s head:
This doesn’t kill him. The two halves just stick right back together, and The Mayor checks “become invincible” off his to-do list.
Now he’s invincible until “the ascension”, so our heroes actually did drop the ball. They went after the wrong guy and helped the really, really bad guy level up.
At the motel the next morning, Faith is scrubbing blood out of her t-shirt with a toothbrush when Buffy arrives. She tells Faith they need to talk about what they’re going to do. She says being a Slayer isn’t about being a killer, and they need to be there for each other to go through all of this. Faith is like, nah, that’s not for me, and Buffy tells her that eventually, they’re going to find a body.
Faith: “Okay. This is the last time we’re gonna have this conversation, and we’re not even having it right now, you understand me? There is no body. I took it, weighted it, and dumped it. Body doesn’t exist.”
Buffy was not expecting this kind of casual acceptance of accidental human killing. She’s like:
Buffy: “Faith, you don’t get it. You killed a man.”
Faith: “No, you don’t get it. I don’t care.”
And that’s where the episode ends.
Now, let’s talk a minute about Faith becoming evil and why that happens. We know that Faith is freaked out by the fact that she killed a guy. We see it when she goes back to the body, the way she’s afraid to touch it, etc. She does care. But because of who she is and how she is, she’s going to pretend that it doesn’t bother her. Buffy’s super morality just pushes Faith to continue denying and denying, until she legitimately doesn’t care that she’s evil.
I’m getting ahead of us, though. We’re going to have a serious grown-up conversation about how this all plays out in the next recap. While this isn’t two-parter, it definitely needs to be consumed as though it and the next one are a single story.