In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will misnumber the episodes because what is she, some kind of math whiz? Fuck that. 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.
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.
Hey, you know who else has a book? The Master! Remember that guy? The one who isn’t from Doctor Who? He has a book and he’s holding some kind of vampire church.
Buffy: “So, Emily Dickens, huh? She’s great.”
Buffy: “She’s good also.”
That exchange painfully reminds me of this time I went out on a few dates with a really cool guitar player guy, and he said something about liking “The Dead,” and I was like, “Me too, ‘Casey Jones’ is totally my jam,” and he was talking about a hipster local band and I was talking about The Grateful Dead and he thought that was massively uncool of me, then we never went out again. Which turned out for the best because who the hell doesn’t like The Grateful Dead?
Giles directs Owen to the poetry section, and Buffy follows Owen so they can have this adorable conversation:
Owen: “I didn’t think I’d find you here.”
Buffy: “Why not?”
Owen: “I didn’t mean – I mean… I think you can read.”
Wait, does that book say DEATH BEAR?
Owen does NOT check out Death Bear, which is undoubtedly the most thrilling book of all time, so we know right away that Owen sucks.
Giles checks out Owen’s book for him, grudgingly admitting that Emily Dickinson is a good poet for an American. He doesn’t make any eye contact with poor Owen, and rolls his eyes when the kid walks away. File this scene under #2, because once we get through this series together, you’re totally going to come back, look at this little fiddly shit, and go, “OMG YOU WERE RIGHT!”
As soon as Owen leaves, Giles changes the subject right back to the Order of Aurelius. He tells Buffy that if the order is in town, it’s for a good reason. He’s even more stern than usual, and clears his throat a lot.
Buffy: “That was Owen.”
Giles: “Yes, I remember.”
Buffy: “Do you have any more copies of Emily Dickinson? I need one.”
Giles: “Buffy, while the mere fact of you wanting to check out a book would be grounds for a national holiday, I think we should focus on the problem at hand.”
Now, some of you will probably argue that Giles is just upset that his Slayer is focused on dating when they have serious end-of-the-world shit to deal with. But throughout the entire series, Giles reacts super badly whenever Buffy is dating anyone, even if they’re not trying to prevent a catastrophe from happening. We’ll see this especially in the season 4 episode “A New Man,” but it happens no matter who Buffy is romantically interested in. He takes an intense and immediate dislike to any guy she’s into. I suppose this could be chalked up to the father/daughter nature some people see in their relationship, but… you know what? We’ll cover the father/daughter thing and why it isn’t a thing in season six. Moving on.
Buffy apologizes and assures him that he’s right, they need to contrate on vampires. But she wants to know if her dress makes her look fat.
At least Willow understands the importance of Owen talking to Buffy. He apparently never talks to anyone, and broods for forty minutes at a time, and Willow knows because apparently she times other people doing weird things. They have a seat at a table with Xander, Buffy fills her friends in a little on the new vampire threat, and then Xander snarkily points out Owen sitting alone. Buffy sees this as her opening, and heads over, but Cordelia is making her way to Owen’s table, as well, and the two girls collide. Buffy spills her lunch, and as Owen helps her pick it up, she quips:
“Boy, Cordelia’s hips are wider than I thought.”
Oh, Buffy. I am disappoint. You’re supposed to be a strong female character. Sure, everyone has their moments of weakness, but we just saw your insecurity in the last scene, when you asked Giles if he thought you looked fat. I really wish we could have seen Giles’s response to that question, because someone needs to be telling these girls that their physical appearance isn’t going to make up for their shitty attitudes towards other women. But we, the audience, are supposed to see Buffy’s dig as a coup d’etat, an overthrowing of Cordelia, the very symbol of popularity at Sunnydale, in favor of the more gentle and deserving Buffy regime. And the battle ground this mighty war is fought upon is poor Owen. Two girls, fighting over a boy. Get used to this, because Cordelia and Buffy will continually try to c-block each other well into the second season. (#6)
Cordelia tells Owen he should come to The Bronze, because she’s going to be there, and Owen asks who else will be there, then specifically asks Buffy if she’s going to go. They agree to meet there at eight, and the scene cuts to Buffy and Willow walking through the hall. Buffy doesn’t think it’s that big a deal that she’s going to hang out with Owen, and Willow heartily disagrees, even appealing to Giles, whom they meet outside the library, to tell Buffy how important this is. Giles agrees that things are serious, but he’s clearly talking about something else. He asks the girls what they’re talking about, and they answer, “Boys!” in indignant unison. Giles informs them that the Order of Aurelius means serious business. They’re going to be picking up the Anointed One, and by Giles’s calculations it’s going to happen that very night.
Willow: “Buffy has a really important date.”
Giles: “Alright, I’ll just jump in my time machine, go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and show.”
Buffy argues further, but Giles stands firm, insisting that they have a chance to subvert dark forces, and, “Tonight, we go into battle.”
Then the scene cuts to this:
“Very well then. Follow your hormones if you want. But I assume I don’t have to warn you about the hazards of becoming personally involved with someone who’s unaware of your unique condition.”
So, in Giles’s expert opinion, she shouldn’t date guys who don’t know she’s the Slayer. This is another one that could go either way. He could be arguing this from the point of view that she’s the Slayer and can’t have personal entanglements… but he seems pretty okay with Willow and Xander not only knowing that she’s the Slayer, but also helping her fight the forces of darkness. Or, he could be doing the “fatherly feelings” thing, not wanting to see her make a stupid choice out of youth and inexperience. But the very bottom line is, he’s telling her she should really only date people who already know she’s the Slayer. The only other guys who know she’s the Slayer are Xander and Angel. We already know how Giles feels about Angel (“I think you have too many guys in your life,” from the last episode) and how Buffy feels about Xander (she dismisses the idea of him as a romantic partner in episode three) and we’ve already seen that Giles can only tolerate about two seconds of Owen, and just barely. He doesn’t like dudes being around Buffy. So… just put this on the list under #2.
Buffy leaves, and Giles repeats the prophecy about five dying and the Anointed One rising from the ashes. He comments to himself that he was sure the prophecy would be fulfilled that night. Cut to an airport shuttle with five people on it, including a crazy sounding dude talking about pale horses and riders and people being judged. Then, it’s on to The Bronze! Buffy sees Owen and Cordelia on the dance floor, and they look like this:
And then Buffy is all:
In high school dancing is just socially acceptable public sex. If you dance with someone, it’s probably because they gave you naughty in the pants feelings. Or, you went to the homecoming dance with another couple, but then your date and the girl in the other couple hooked up, and even though you really, really disliked the kid who was the abandoned half of the other couple, you dance with him anyway and immediately fall hard for him and wind up dating him for nine months, and when you break up you go to your BFF Jill’s house and cry while digging a big hole in the road for no reason.
Wait, what was I doing here today?
Anyway, dancing is either a product of tingly in the pants feelings, or a precursor to tingly in the pants feelings, so from Buffy’s perspective, it looks like Owen and Cordelia are pretty much a thing, and she missed her chance.
Back on the airport shuttle to nowhere, the pale horse guy is walking up and down the aisle, bothering people with his crazy ravings. A mother is holding her small child close, and everyone is very nervous. The driver is so distracted telling the guy to sit down that he hits a dude standing in the road. When he gets out to check on him, the dude is predictably a vampire, and he’s brought his vampire pals along, who proceed to slaughter all FIVE people on the bus.
At school the next morning, Buffy is complaining to Xander about her ill-luck with Owen the night before:
Xander: “So you just went home?”
Buffy: “What was I supposed to do? Say to Owen sorry I was late I was sitting in a cemetery with the librarian waiting for a vampire to rise so I could prevent an evil prophecy from coming to pass?”
Xander: “Or… flat tire?”
Here, I will give credit where credit is due. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy most of the time, but he’s actually listening to and giving Buffy advice about guy problems in a sincere, non-agenda-ed way. Good for him. Buffy is totally freaking though, saying she feels like everybody is staring at her because she’s so hideously undateable. I hate to point it out, Buffy, but you are wearing a shirt with a target on it, and that tends to draw the eye.
Xander tells Buffy she’s overreacting, because she could have any guy in school. She doesn’t want any guy, though, she wants Owen. But when Owen shows up she offers him a lame excuse about her watch breaking as an explanation for not meeting him at The Bronze. It’s kind of shitty that Buffy knew she wasn’t going to be able to make it and she didn’t call him or otherwise contact him to say, “Hey, I might not make it tonight, it’s nothing personal.” Good thing for her, Owen wants to try again, and to Xander’s horror, even loans Buffy his super cool pocket watch:
And Xander checks out his watch:
Let’s examine Xander’s watch for a minute. Xander’s character arc in the series is one of a young man trying to navigate from the teen years into adulthood, and struggling with the transition from childhood to being a mature, responsible person. This arc starts the moment he sees Buffy’s reaction to Owen’s watch. It’s this episode where Xander’s character arc activates, because he’s seeing what Buffy wants – someone mature and deep like Owen. So in season seven, when we get responsible suit and tie Xander, we can look back to this episode and see exactly where he came from. Pretty neat, huh?! WRITING!
Meanwhile, in an Advil commercial:
Buffy busts in and subjects Giles to a conversation in which she plays both Slayer and Watcher, excitedly reasoning that she doesn’t have to patrol tonight and she will see him tomorrow. After she leaves, Giles uses the line that nearly every single male character who becomes romantically invested in Buffy uses throughout the series. That’s right. He calls her a strange girl. Because the writers just have to give me more ammo, don’t they?
Back at the Evil Ponderosa, The Master is talking to his minions about how he’s imprisoned, he’s been imprisoned for so long he can’t remember what the surface is like, yadda yadda. Now, I understand that when you’re telling a story in serial form, you have to reinforce some important details for the audience, especially when that audience may be joining your story already in progress. This is only the fifth episode, after all, and new viewers are tuning in every week as the show gains popularity. But it’s starting to feel a little heavy handed, when every single episode featuring The Master has him brooding out loud about how he’s trapped, he can’t get out, he needs this prophecy fulfilled, kill the Slayer, so on and so forth. Especially when Giles and Buffy have described the situation in this episode already. So, yeah, clue in new viewers, but we don’t need The Master’s entire backstory every single time he’s on screen or mentioned in an episode.
Anyway, The Master tells his minions that they’re to lay down their own lives if necessary to bring him the Anointed One.
In Buffy’s bedroom, Xander and Willow are helping Buffy pick an outfit for her date with Owen. Buffy asks:
“Do I want to appear shy, coy, and naive, or unrestrained, insatiable, and agressive?”
Do I want to look like a virgin or a whore, because those are the only two options? Thanks for making #6 easy to prove, I guess.
Furthering our theme of #6, Xander recommends Buffy wear a parka and ski cap on her date, because Owen is probably put off by assertive women. So, not only should Buffy not show too much skin for a man, she shouldn’t dress in a way that makes her feel confident and comfortable because her male friend and the object of her affection won’t like it. This is played for humor, because of course a jealous man trying to control a woman’s clothing choices is super funny.
For some reason, Buffy still trusts Xander’s judgement. She asks him which lipstick to wear, red or peach, and he says:
“Oh, you mean for kissing you and then telling all his friends how easy you are, so the whole school loses respect for you and then talks behind your back. The red’s fine.”
Way to slut-shame, Xander. First of all, if Owen did that, it would be Owen’s fault, not Buffy’s fault for going on a date with him. Second, you just called the girl you’re interested in dating “easy” to her face, so that’ll probably score you a lot of points. #5.
Buffy decides on the peach, and then she’s going to get changed. Xander tells her it won’t bother him if she changes in front of him, and when he’s banished to go stand on the other side of the room with his back turned, he does this:
Yes. He is adjusting the mirror on Buffy’s jewelry box so he can watch her get dressed. Fuck you, Xander. I just gave you credit for being a good friend, and you have to blow it in this scene by being a Nice Guy creepy douchebag. #5. Of course this also played for laughs.
The doorbell rings and Buffy dashes downstairs, only to find it’s not Owen waiting for her, but Giles, and he’s all, “Good news, everyone!”:
Giles tells Buffy that she has to go to the funeral home tonight, because that’s where they’ll find the Anointed One, who died in the van accident in the paper. I think it’s weird that Sunnydale has twelve cemeteries and funerals at night because they have such a high death rate, but they only have one funeral home. Especially considering most of these people are dying in vampire attacks and rising again. The turnover rate for morticians must be unbelievably high.
Owen shows up, and he’s super confused as to why the school librarian is at Buffy’s house. Xander and Willow take Owen aside while Giles scolds Buffy for dating too much, and Buffy points out that she hasn’t been on a date yet because slaying. In the living room, Xander tries to sabotage Buffy’s date with Owen by telling him that Buffy doesn’t like dancing, kissing, touching, or being looked at. #5 Buffy is still fighting with Giles over why she should be allowed to date, while he tells her that slayers can’t really have normal social lives. Ultimately, though, he concedes that his hunch about the five people dying in the airport shuttle might not be significant at all, and Buffy goes on her date, telling her friends they can beep her in case of apocalypse. After she’s left, Giles tells Willow and Xander that he’s going to go to the funeral home, just to keep an eye on the situation. Willow knows this is a bad idea, and tells Xander they should follow along, but Xander wants to follow Buffy and Owen on their date because he’s a Nice Guy and can’t leave well enough alone. #5.
At The Bronze, Buffy and Owen are looking super couple-y. They’re having a convo about Emily Dickinson, and how awesome Owen finds death and loss and other stuff. So basically, he’s goth on the inside. He also complains about how “most” girls are frivolous and only care about dating, when there is more important stuff in life. Hard to take that criticism from a dude who’s ON A DATE, Owen. They dance, and Owen tells Buffy she’s “weird,” because every guy who is romantically interested in Buffy has to mention that she’s strange or different in some way. Then Cordelia comes up and makes a play for Owen, which he rebuffs, and cut to Giles’s sad little car with the bad transmission pulling up outside the funeral home.
He is immediately attacked by vampires, because what the fuck did he think was going to happen?
After the commercial break, Giles runs into the funeral home/mausoleum that is also in the cemetery. Basically, this business has the monopoly on death in Sunnydale. Inside, he tries a door labelled “flower room” only to find it locked, then finds the embalming room, which is unlocked. That seems like shitty security, locking up the flowers but not the bodies, but hey, I didn’t finish mortuary school so what do I know?
Back at The Bronze, Buffy and Owen are still dancing and having a good time, while Giles barricades himself in at the funeral home. Remember when I mentioned before that sometimes, Giles will do something and it’ll suddenly seem odd that he can do it? Like when he used a fucking keg to smash in a door at The Bronze? Here, he blocks the door to the embalming room with a full-sized filing cabinet, presumably filled with files. Have you ever tried to lift a filing cabinet? Did you try again after the doctors finished threading your herniated colon back into your body? Giles is super strong, yo. This is the second time we’ve seen evidence of this. In season 3 we’ll see another Watcher demonstrate some super strength of her own, so I guess weight training is a part of Watcher school.
Willow and Xander appear at the window and tell Giles they’ll go get Buffy. Time is kind of a factor, because the vampires are trying to get in.
At The Bronze, Buffy and Owen are still enjoying their date, while Cordelia seethes and basically calls Buffy a whore, and then Angel walks in and Cordelia makes what sounds like a reference to semen (“Hello, salty goodness,” I mean, really, is that appropriate for prime time television?!) and tells her friend that Angel will need “serious oxygen” when she’s done with him. But then he walks over to Buffy and Cordelia freaks out, because it’s more male attention going to Buffy instead of her. Ugh, can we just be done with the “girl vs. girl, two bitches enter, one bitch leaves with the guy” trope abuse in this episode? Please? Isn’t there already enough conflict? We’ve got Buffy trying to maintain a normal life, Buffy trying to stop The Master from rising, Buffy needing to rescue her Watcher… at what point did we need yet another thread of conflict? Because this show was considered a “teen” show, and “teens” apparently live for girl-on-girl hate. That doesn’t mean they need to get it, though. #6.
Angel tells Buffy she needs to be out patrolling. He’d intended to give her the information about the Order of Aurelius, and he’s a little put out that she already knows. Then he’s mad because she’s on a date, and gives one-word answers in conversation with Owen. Even though his relationship with Buffy has, until this point, been “show up, antagonize, disappear, rinse, repeat,” Angel is offended that she’s on a date. Because #9.
Willow and Xander crash the date, too, and after some awkward lying, Xander proposes that they all go to the funeral home for fun. Owen wants to tag along, because he’s so into death and stuff, and he can’t understand why Buffy wants to abandon their date. Caught between her Slayer duties and her desire for a normal life, Buffy tells Owen that part of her has to leave, but part of her is having a great time and doesn’t want to go. Then she kisses him, and when she leaves, Owen says, “She’s the strangest girl.”
Ahem. *Giles already said that earlier* cough cough throat clearing.
Buffy, Xander and Willow arrive at the funeral home, only to find that Owen has followed them. He’s super psyched to see a dead body, which is, you know, something I always look forward to on a first date. This kid might be a future serial killer.
Buffy finds the embalming room all wrecked up and the bars over the window peeled like a banana, and she’s thinking something horrible has happened to Giles. And I guess horrible is relative, because I would find it pretty horrible to be in a morgue cooler drawer on top of a dead body, but when Giles comes out, he’s pretty cheerful about the whole thing:
“You, Xander, Willow, you know the score. You’re careful. Two days in my world and Owen really would get himself killed. Or I’d get him killed. Or someone else.”
Giles tells Buffy that he went to the funeral home on his own, and she argues that she should have been there. She tells him she dropped the ball, and he reassures her that she’s doing fine as the Slayer. This is an important moment for us to see, because it’s the first time we’re seeing the Slayer and her Watcher working together as a team, rather than antagonists to each other. It’s also the first time she’s not just grudgingly accepting her destiny, she’s making a real effort to accept it. There is so much character development and growth for Buffy in this episode that it’s mind blowing. She’s not just a funny teen girl with silly super strength and isn’t that funny because she’s so little and helpless looking, etc. She’s a real person now, with inner strength, and she’s citing a need to rely on her friends, as well as a responsibility to keep them safe.
There’s a big character development moment here for Giles, too, who is starting to see his Slayer as not just an automaton soldier in the fight against evil, but a person he can relate to. And yes, I’ll give the “father/daughter” dynamic a nod here, because when Giles tells Buffy that they don’t have a manual to navigate their relationship (wait, why isn’t there a manual? It seems like that would be the very first thing the Watcher council should have come up with), he’s reciting a line I think many, many people have heard from their own parents. And it draws a nice parallel to Joyce’s comment about reading parenting books in the first episode. Joyce is willing to read a manual, but not actually pay attention to what’s going on in her daughter’s life. Giles is willing to listen to Buffy and empathize with her, in a way that Joyce has already admitted to being incapable of doing (episode 3, “Witch).
Giles and Buffy have a little happy moment over the fact that she took out the Anointed One, and then cut to The Master, who is still spouting prophecy about how the Slayer won’t recognize the Anointed One when he comes. And OH SNAP, it’s the little boy from the airport shuttle.
So, now Buffy has an evil little Omen kid to deal with. So it’s good she has her friends.
Several people commented that this episode is worse than “Teacher’s Pet” on the problematic feminism/misogyny scale, but I’m not sure it is. The girl vs. girl for a boy stuff is pretty terrible, as is Xander’s slut shaming and creepy jewelry box voyeurism, and the episode is filled with scene after scene of the men in Buffy’s life trying to steer her course. But at the end, I think it really redeems itself with Buffy accepting her destiny and choosing to be the Slayer, especially when it’s clear that she could continue her relationship with Owen if she wanted to. She does what she wants to, makes her own choices, and generally ignores what the men in the episode are telling her to do in favor of those choices.
Oh, and where was Angel when all that stuff at the funeral home was going down? He didn’t come help. Because #9.