In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will forget to change this opening comment before posting. 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.
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 in The Master’s lair. Buffy is there and ready to slay, stake in hand. But when she faces The Master, it doesn’t go well:
Willow: “My parents don’t even bicker. Sometimes they glare. Do you know why your folks split up?”
Buffy: “I didn’t ask. They just stopped getting along. I’m sure I was a really big help, though. With all the slaying and everything. I was in so much trouble. I was a big mess.”
Willow tells Buffy that she’s sure her dad didn’t leave because of that, but it’s clear that Buffy still feels differently. Wow, what a powerful conversation guys, really. This not only clears up questions the viewer has about Buffy’s home life, but it adds another layer to Buffy’s burden of being the Slayer. She has this destiny she has been chosen to fulfill, but she believes it destroyed her parents’ marriage. In this scene, Buffy not only becomes a more realistic character, but she becomes a sympathetic figure to children of divorced parents everywhere, because face it, everyone thinks that they are somehow personally to blame for their parents’ break ups.
In a classroom, Cordelia is admiring herself in a compact mirror when a “doofus” blocks her light. Xander sticks up for Wendell the doofus by taunting Cordelia (fairly, in this case) for her belief that the world revolves around her. The bell rings, and they sit down. Willow asks why Cordelia is so “Evita-like,” a slur I repeat here only because any time I mention Juan or Eva Peron on my blog in any context whatsoever, I’m handed my ass by angry Peron fans in the comments. So, let me state here that I think Willow has Eva Peron mixed up with Patti Lupone’s portrayal of her in the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and the comparison is unfair.
Xander asks if there was any homework, and Buffy and Willow remind him that it was on active listening, a skill the teacher demonstrated with him the day before. Xander wasn’t actively listening, though, because the teacher had on a tight blue sweater. Xander does remember the sweater, so he feels pretty confident that he was really listening. (5)
Buffy drops her pencil, and when she looks up, baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt is there!
Willow: “I don’t like spiders, okay? Their furry bodies and their sticky webs, and what do they need all those legs for, anyway? I’ll tell you. For crawling across your face in the middle of the night. Ew! How do they not ruffle you?
Xander: “I’m sorry. I’m unruffled by spiders. Now if a bunch of Nazis crawled all over my face…
Did anybody else start singing, “What do they need all those legs for anywaaaaay? SPIDERS! SPIDERS IT MUST BE SPIDERRRRRRS!”
Just me? Okay.
Xander actually has a pretty good handle on the situation here, citing the Hellmouth as the reason he can’t get too shaken up about stuff like spiders coming out of books. He has utter faith that Buffy will slay anything that threatens them.
In the library, they find Giles acting kind of suspicious. He comes out of a back room and tells them he “got lost.” How big is the Sunnydale library? Not big. At this point in the episode, the storyline hasn’t become entirely clear to the viewer, and later we’ll be like, “Okay, so that’s what’s going on,” but in my head canon this scene has nothing to with the plot of the episode at all, and Giles was back there with Jenny Calendar losing her piercings all over the damn place. It would explain why he looks so guilty and confused when he comes out of there.
Giles tells the kids to go talk to Wendell who is at school for some reason. I am sorry, I send my kids to school with runny noses or if they’re just having a bad day. I’m like, “suck it up, you’ll have to go to work like this when you’re a grown up.” But if their textbook was full of fucking tarantulas? You know what? Take a few days off. Or like, maybe go to a different school altogether.
Wait, why would spiders hold that against Wendell? It’s not his fault they died. He was at camp. Why didn’t his parents check on the collection? Surely some of their money was tied up in the care and maintenance of these animals.
Doctor Exposition Dump: “She’ll recover. She’s got a couple of shattered bones, a little internal bleeding. She got off pretty easy.”
Giles: “Have you looked up the word lately?”
Doctor Exposition Dump: “Well, the first one’s still in a coma.”
Buffy: “First what?”
Doctor Exposition Dump: “The first victim. They found him a week ago, exactly the same M.O. as the girl, only he’s in worse shape. If he doesn’t wake up soon… Somebody’s got to stop this guy.”
Okay, this is all pivotal plot information. And I get that this is before HIPPA, but come on. Even before HIPPA, a doctor wouldn’t just give all this information out to any random person. There had to be a better way for them to get this info. Maybe the could have overheard some nurses talking about how the cases were similar, or a detective could have come to speak to Laura. Instead, we get this doctor who watches too much CSI speculating on modus operandi of criminals in two cases that might be entirely unrelated, and it’s up the viewer to suspend disbelief. Look, we’re already out here accepting that there are vampires and witches and Hellmouths, so the real world details have to be right. If they’re not, we will fixate on them like an out-of-pattern tile.
Meanwhile, in the same community theatre production of Grease:
Buffy: “What do you mean? You can read like, three languages.”
Giles: “Five, actually, on a normal day. But the words here don’t make any sense. Gibberish!”
I’m going to state for the record that “gibberish” is an underutilized word.
Why does Giles have so many newspapers. I find it difficult to believe it took more than one or two tries to realize that the problem was with him and not the papers themselves. There are like, a minimum of two hundred thousand newspapers on that table.
Buffy picks up a paper and notices Mini-JGL on the front page, wearing a Little League uniform. Well, actually she says “kiddie league” but Little League is trademarked and they can get right on your ass for that. She reads about how he was found beaten after a game. She and Giles put two and two together, that she can’t have seen this kid at school if he’s in a coma. Giles suggests that it might be an astral projection, and Buffy notices the nineteen on Mini-JGL’s uniform. Just then, a wild ALMONZO appears:
Hank Summers: “It was you.”
Hank: “Having you. Raising you, seeing you every day. I mean, do you have any idea what that’s like?”
Hank: “Gosh, you don’t even see what’s right in front of your face, do you? Oh well, big surprise there, all you ever think about is yourself. You get in trouble. You embarrass us with all the crazy stunts you pull. Do I have to go on?”
Buffy: “No. Please don’t.”
Hank: “You’re sullen and rude, and you’re not nearly as bright as I thought you were going to be. I mean, Buffy, let’s be honest. Could you stand to live in the same house with a daughter like that?”
Buffy: “Why are you saying all of these things?”
Hank: “Because they’re true. I think that’s the least we owe one another. You know, I don’t think it’s very mature getting all blubbery when I’m just trying to be honest. Speaking of which, I don’t really get anything out of these weekends with you. So what do you say we just don’t do them anymore?”
And Buffy looks like this:
Jesus, Almonzo, why are you such a dick?
This is actually a super hard episode for me, because I was, in fact, brutally rejected by my own father. Not quite so eloquently as old Hank here, but still. It’s rough, and I suspect there is more than one person out there who identified strongly with Buffy’s horror in this moment, because they had been there. I know I said some really awful shit about David Greenwalt’s writing before, and it was all deserved, but this scene is like bottled reality, and it’s the bottled reality moments in Buffy that make it so special. You can throw vampires at an audience all day long, but the things that really scare them are torn from real life.
Buffy’s dad leaves, and Buffy catches a glimpse of Mini-JGL, but she looks away; she doesn’t want to believe that the things her father said to her aren’t true, or are a figment of her imagination. Kudos to Sarah Michelle Gellar for her acting in this scene, because you get literally everything on Buffy’s side from her facial expressions.
Willow and Xander find Giles in the library and explain Xander’s bought of sudden public nudity. While recounting the details, Willow muses aloud that the attention would be the worst part. Xander calls the experience “a total nightmare,” and Willow has a lightbulb moment.
Xander: “Um. Our dreams are coming true.”
Giles: “Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. Nightmares. Our nightmares are coming true.”
HA! Careful what seeds of bad ideas you plant in Xander’s head in season one, Giles, because they will bite you in the ass when you find yourself providing lead vocals for a training montage in season six.
Giles realizes that it’s Mini-JGL who’s causing all of this, by astrally projecting out of his own nightmares and bringing everyone else’s nightmares with him.
Remember the nice thing I said about David Greenwalt’s writing? When Willow asks how Mini-JGL managed to bring everyone’s nightmares to life, this is the only response the script offers:
Giles: “Things like that are easier when you live on a Hellmouth.”
Deus Ex Hellmouth much?
Xander: “You were a lousy clown. Your balloon animals were pathetic. Everyone can make a giraffe!”
The scoobies run outside, where they find general chaos:
Giles: “Things are getting worse. In a few hours, reality will fold completely into the realm of nightmares.”
How do we know this, Giles? Baby, you know I love you. But you gotta be more specific, because you always are. I know it’s not your fault. It’s the writing. In every other episode so far, the audience has been given detailed backstory about why things are happening, and when. To ask us, in episode ten of a twelve episode season, to just blindly accept that because Giles says stuff is bad, it is, isn’t going to fly. Especially when Giles a) can’t read the books that would lend him expertise on this crisis and b) has admitted to not really understanding what’s going on. If the story takes away his power in the mentor/exposition role, then the script can’t ask us to trust that he has the answers.
Giles thinks if they wake Mini-JGL from his coma, everything should be fine, but they can’t leave Nightmare High without looking for Buffy. They notice that across the street, things are looking a little odd…
Willow: “Excuse me. When did they put a cemetery in across the street?”
Xander: “And when did they make it night over there?”
The gang rightly assumes that Buffy should be in that cemetery. As they walk, Xander wonders aloud about whose nightmare they could be in. And then Giles spots a headstone with Buffy’s name on it.
Giles: “It’s mine. I failed… in my duty to protect you. I should have been more… cautious. Taken more time to train you. But you were so gifted. And the evil was so great. I’m sorry.”
No worries, Giles!
Giles: “You never told me you dreamt of becoming a vampire.”
Buffy: “This isn’t a dream.”
Giles: “No. No, it’s not. But there’s a chance we can make it go away. This all comes from Billy. Now, if we can only wake him up, I believe that the nightmares will stop and reality will shift back into place, but we must do it now. I need you to hold together long enough to help us. Can you do that?”
This is enough to help Buffy regain her confidence in her skills, but she warns them that she’s getting hungry. In other words, she’s got to keep from eating her friends before getting unvamped.
This is one of my favorite Buffy/Giles scenes, because it shows how much he cares about her, and how highly he regards her, even after just a few months. He is truly in awe of her skill and her strength, and he wants her to succeed. Which for a slayer basically means not dying, but also, not giving up even when some dire shit like being turned into a vampire goes down.
As they head to the hospital, Willow asks Giles how he knows things will go back to normal, and what will happen if they don’t, and Giles tells her, as politely as possible, to shut up. It’s going to be rare in the series for Giles to be curt with Willow. In fact, it seems to only happen when he’s worried about Buffy. Because of this, I’m going to use any time Giles snaps at Willow as proof of #2 throughout the entire series.
You know what’s a shitty place to be when reality is turning to nightmares? The hospital. The place is in chaos, there appear to be zombies, and Dr. Exposition Dump’s hands have turned to deformed claws. They find Mini-JGL, still comatose, and Giles’s expert solution is to shout in the kid’s face. Luckily Mini-JGL is like, bi-locating? He’s standing beside his own comatose body when he says that it won’t work. And you know, Mini-JGL is right, without ever having to go to medical school. Shouting at people in comas rarely wakes them up. Reeeeeeally dropping the ball here, Giles. You’d think a dude with his history of head injuries would understand that.
Willow discovers that outside the window, a near Biblical invasion of wasps is plaguing Sunnydale. The ugly man appears, and that’s good, because Buffy the Vampire Vampire Slayer is spoiling for a fight to reduce her stress. She beats the ugly man unconscious, then tells Mini-JGL he has to do “the rest.” Wait, what? Is she going to make a twelve-year-old commit murder?
Nah, he just lifts the ugly man’s face off like a rubber mask on a Scooby-Doo villain. Light pours out, and everything goes back to normal. Mini-JGL wakes from his coma and reenacts the end of The Wizard of Oz, and Giles is about to go get a doctor when Mini-JGL’s kiddie league coach comes in. When the man fondly refers to Mini-JGL as “lucky 19,” Buffy reveals that Mini-JGL is awake and tells the coach that they’re on to him. They know he beat Billy in revenge for missing a catch in the game. Mini-JGL tells the coach that it wasn’t his fault they lost the game, there are eight other players on the team. When the coach tries to run, Xander and Giles stop him. Buffy congratulates Mini-JGL on his victory, but maybe she could also drop in a, “Please don’t solve all your problems by turning reality into a living hell wherein all our darkest fears come true next time, okay?”
At school, where everything is back to normal, Buffy expresses disbelief that an adult could go so psycho over baseball. She tells Xander it was heroic to grab the coach, and they’re all glad he’s in jail where he belongs. And oh, look!
I mean, come on. Everyone knows reality isn’t going to collapse as a result of baseball. Unless the Tigers win the World Series.