It’s New To Me – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (“When She Was Bad” / “Some Assembly Required”)

In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!

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One of the things that bugged me about the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer was that the main characters were faced with extreme danger and the death of their peers every week but never seemed especially bothered by it. It took until the season finale for Willow to finally grieve, and that was only after people she actually knew were killed by vampires. It seems that Whedon and company may have faced the same criticism from fans of the show during the first season, because they seem to tackle the subject fairly heavily in the premiere episode of Season Two, in which the title character is obviously showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after her climactic battle against the Master that nearly took her life.

“When She Was Bad” begins with Xander and Willow hanging out near the town cemetery, where they are unsurprisingly attacked by a vampire. Buffy, back from her summer away with her father in Los Angeles, conveniently shows up to slay the vampire and catch up with her friends. On the first day back at school, Giles informs the Scoobies that while the Hellmouth was closed with the Master’s defeat, there is still a great deal of mystical energy in the town that attracts evil forces. He tells Buffy that she must continue to train in order to be ready for any trouble that may come along. Buffy begins to act strangely aloof around her friends and with Angel, who shows up to warn her that Colin the
Anointed One has been making plans to attack her. At the Bronze, she shocks everyone by dancing with Xander in a provocative and overly seductive way to the music of special guests Cibbo Matto (featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s kid Sean), which creeps Xander out and raises the ire of both Willow and Angel. She is confronted outside the club by Cordelia of all people, who tells her to get over whatever’s bothering her before she loses what few friends she has. After Buffy walks off, Cordy is kidnapped by two dark figures and is thrown into a basement that also includes Miss Calender. Buffy walks to the cemetery and finds the Master’s grave open with his skeletal remains missing.

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The next day at school, Giles informs the gang that Colin may be trying to resurrect the Master using a revivication spell. They discover that this spell requires the blood of the person who was closest to the deceased. They discover that Cordy and Miss Calender have been abducted, and Buffy goes to find them, ignoring Xander and Willow’s offers to help. She runs into Angel, and both of them find a female vampire who engages them in battle. Back at the library, Giles discovers that the spell requires the blood of those who were the closest in proximity to the deceased, which of course means Willow, Cordelia, Miss Calender, and himself. Buffy returns to the library to find Giles and Willow gone and Xander wounded. Xander tells Buffy that they have been taken and that if Willow is harmed in any way, that he will kill her. By torturing the female vampire, Buffy finds out where her friends are held and arrives there to find them hanging upside down over the Master’s bones. After slaying the vampires present at the ritual, she smashes the skeleton with a sledgehammer and breaks down emotionally. The next day at school, she apologizes to her friends for her odd behavior and is forgiven by everyone.

“When She Was Bad” doesn’t delve too deeply into Buffy’s PTSD, but I appreciated that the events of last season’s finale weren’t completely unfelt by her. I also liked that she reacted to it not through overly emotional scenes of crying and freaking out but rather by acting in a manner that was completely the opposite of her normal personality, as if to shield herself from her own feelings and potentially alienate herself from her friends so that they would no longer be in harm’s way. I was also quite taken aback by Xander’s threat and wondered just how serious he was about it. Regardless, it seemed to snap Buffy out of her “bad girl” phase. While I’m still annoyed at how easily the villains are defeated in the show, the character development and dialogue were both excellent. This was a strong intro to the second season that built on the events of the previous season’s finale and hopefully will foreshadow great things to come in the episodes to follow. 4 out of 5 Ice Cream Nose Dollops.

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After that key episode in the show’s main storyline, we return to the “Monster Of The Week” format with “Some Assembly Required,” an episode where the body count actually starts to extend beyond Sunnydale. The main mystery revolves around the deaths of three girls from a neighboring school who died in a car accident but whose bodies mysteriously disappeared from their graves, as discovered by Buffy on a particularly unfruitful stakeout (no pun intended). The Scoobies’ investigation into the matter puts them on the trail of two bright but socially awkward science nerds named Chris and Eric, and after snooping around Chris’ locker, they find out that they are harvesting the bodies of recently dead teenaged girls in order to create a reanimated “dream girl.” As we learn later, their macabre creation is meant to be a mate for Chris’ older brother Daryl, a popular star athlete at Sunnydale who died in a tragic accident but was successfully reanimated by Chris. Their amalgamated bride is nearly complete, missing only a head, The slightly more sinister Eric shows Daryl three pictures of the three most eligible bachelorettes at Sunnydale High from which to choose a suitable head, and Daryl eagerly chooses Cordelia.

A raid of Chris’ basement lab reveals to Buffy that Cordelia is the boys’ next target and runs off to the school football game to try to stop them. She is unsuccessful, however, as Daryl abducts Cordy when she takes a break from her cheerleading gig to grab a drink behind the bleachers, which seems like an inconvenient place to keep a water tank. Buffy catches up to Chris, and he tells her where Daryl has taken Cordy, expressing remorse at the idea of killing her. Buffy and the gang arrive at the school’s science lab in time to save Cordy from being beheaded and in the ensuing battle with Daryl, the lab catches on fire. Everyone is able to exit the burning building except Daryl, who decides to die once again alongside the incomplete body of his intended.

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As a fan of the old Universal horror films, I really enjoyed this episode’s nod to James Whale’s 1935 classic The Bride of Frankenstein. I especially loved how Daryl is portrayed somewhat sympathetically as a lonely and frustrated being, much like the Monster was in the film. After dealing with mostly malevolent creatures in the first season, it was refreshing to see a threat spring from mostly noble intentions, even if they did involve murder and decapitation. Though this episode is basically a one-and-done tale, there are a number of moments here that carry on the overarching plot of the show via the development of the characters’ relationships to each other. One of the most pleasant of these developments involves the budding romance between Rupert Giles and Jenny Calender, whose first official date is interrupted by the turmoil caused by Cordy’s abduction. Buffy and Angel’s relationship gets a little more interesting as Angel expresses a bit of jealousy over Buffy’s suggestive dance with Xander in the previous episode. Perhaps the most surprising bit of character development comes from Cordelia, who actually drops her snooty pretense to extend some genuine gratitude towards Xander for saving her life, only to be shut down by Xander’s flippant dismissal. It was the first time in the show’s history that I actually felt sorry for her.

Based on the strength of “Some Assembly Required,” it appears that Season Two of Buffy The Vampire Slayer might do an even better job of integrating the main storyline with these one-and-done episodes than the first season did. If this trend continues, it will most certainly continue to draw me into the show and increase the appeal of these characters that have already somewhat endeared themselves to me. These introductory episodes have set a standard that I hope the season, and the show as a whole, will uphold for the majority of its run. “Some Assembly Required” earns 4.5 out of 5 Debunked Zombie Theories.

 

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Who ARE these people!?

Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

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