It’s New To Me – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (‘School Hard” / “Inca Mummy Girl”)

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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The demise of the Master at the end of Buffy‘s first season left a significant void in the villain department, but it didn’t take long for Whedon and company to come up with a worthy successor with Spike, the bleached-blonde Billy Idol-esque vampire played by James Marsters who makes his debut in the third episode of Season Two, “School Hard.” It doesn’t take long for this badass, wisecracking night walker to make himself a legitimate threat to Buffy and her friends and completely take over the entire vampire operation in Sunnydale and, based on his actions in his first appearance, he’s sure to be a formidable foe for the Scoobies this season.

Before we are introduced to Spike and his creepy companion Drusilla, “School Hard” opens with a meeting between Buffy, Principal Snyder, and Sheila Martini, the one student at Sunnydale who has gotten into more trouble than Buffy. Snyder makes both of them in charge of getting the school ready for the upcoming Parents Night and warns that he’ll be watching their progress and that any slip up just might result in expulsion. We then are taken to the vampire’s underground hideout, where Spike and Drusilla show up and quickly make themselves at home. Spike tells the Master that he can easily dispose of Buffy, since he already has killed two past Slayers. Back at the school, Giles and Ms. Calender warn Buffy that the upcoming Saturday is the Night of Saint Vigeous, which is a night in which the vampires’ strength will be at their peak. Spike pays Buffy a visit that night, stating that he will kill her on Saturday, and then later he kidnaps Sheila and presents her to his beloved Drusilla. After hearing about Spike from both Buffy and Angel, Giles digs into his archives and discovers that he is a nearly 200 year old vampire named William the Bloody who earned his nickname by impaling his victims on railroad spikes.

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Spike jumps the gun a bit when he and his minions attack Buffy at the school during Parents Night, stating that he just couldn’t wait until Saturday. Buffy leads many of the faculty and parents, including her own mother Joyce, to take refuge in the science room while Giles, Xander, and Ms. Calender hole up in the library and Willow hides in a utility closet with Cordelia. Buffy tells the adults to stay put while she climbs up an air ducts to get her weapons, while Xander sneaks out to get reinforcements. When Xander returns to the school with Angel in tow, the benevolent vampire pretends to have captured Xander in order to fool Spike, but Spike sees through his ruse and expresses how disappointed he is to see his “sire” stoop toward actually helping the humans that he used to prey on. Later, Buffy and Spike have their first showdown, which is cut short when Joyce attacks Spike from behind with an axe handle. Surprisingly, Spike retreats after that, and during their walk home, Joyce tells her daughter that even though she heard from Principal Snyder about all the trouble she has gotten into, the events of this evening has proven to her that her daughter is a strong, capable woman who is able to take care of herself. When Spike returns to the lair, he is chided by the Anointed One for attacking too early, which leads Spike to kill him and all of his followers, leaving himself and Drusilla the new leaders of Sunnydale’s vampire population.

Despite yet another anticlimactic final showdown, “School Hard” is one of the strongest episodes of Buffy that I’ve seen so far, mostly due to the introduction of Spike, who in only his first appearance looks to be a worthy successor to the Master as the show’s main big bad. I am especially intrigued by his relationship with the deranged Drusilla, which at times seems romantic and at other times seems like a brother-sister pairing. Perhaps the most interesting scene comes late in the episode, when both Principal Snyder and the chief of the Sunnydale police reveal through their dialogue that they may be more knowledgeable about all the strange goings-on around the town than they seemed to at first. All of these character elements converge to make this a key episode in the show’s continual evolution and has already made the second season far deeper and richer than the entire first season. 4.5 out of 5 “Yoda” References.

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The following episode continues the show’s tradition of following up an important chapter in the show’s overall plot with a more contained, one-and-done story. I’ve generally enjoyed these one-off episodes and didn’t mind that they didn’t do much to further the ongoing story, and “Inca Mummy Girl” is no different. This episode not only further explored Buffy’s ongoing angst over not being able to live a normal teenage life, but it also made Xander a much more sympathetic and relatable character than he had ever been before. It also introduces us to Oz, the goateed guitar player played by a young Seth Green who develops a bit of a crush on Willow from afar.

“Inca Mummy Girl” begins at a school field trip to a museum hosting an Incan exhibit. Among the ancient artifacts on display is the mummified remains of a young Incan girl who was sacrificed by her people to appease their gods. After the students leave the exhibit, one of the school’s troublemakers tries to steal the ceramic seal being held by the mummy but instead accidentally breaks it. Because this is Sunnydale, this awakens the mummy, who pulls the mischevous youth into her coffin. Seriously, any ancient exhibits on tour need to cross Sunnydale off their list of stops.

After hearing about the boy’s disappearance, Giles and Willow investigate the mummy site at the museum, where they narrowly escape an attack from a man in ancient Incan garb and find a fragment of the mummy’s seal. Willow also notices that the mummy now has braces on its teeth. That night, Buffy and her friends rush to the train station to pick up a teenaged South American boy named Ampata who will be staying with her as part of a cultural exchange program the school is participating in. To Buffy’s surprise, and Xander’s delight, Ampata appears to be a beautiful young South American woman who is actually the escaped mummy from the museum who has regained her youth after sucking the essence from the delinquent back at the museum and from the actual Ampata.

On her first day at school, “Ampata” is introduced to Giles and is asked to translate the Incan markings found on the fragment of the broken seal.She says the seal tells the story of a sixteen-year old girl chosen by her village as a sacrifice to appease the gods and that a bodyguard had been chosen to make sure she meets her fate. Ampata is visibly bothered by the presence of the seal and asks that they destroy it. Xander starts spending a lot of time with Ampata and an attraction grows between them, much to Willow’s chagrin. Xander asks Ampata to the Cultural Exchange dance being held at the Bronze, and Ampata accepts, but not before she confronts her resurrected Incan bodyguard and drains him dry. Buffy discovers the mummy’s secret when she finds the desiccated body of the real Ampata in her travel bag, while at the Bronze, Xander and Ampata dance and look longingly at each other while Willow watches forlornly, not noticing Oz, the guitar player of the band playing at the dance, staring at her. Ampata leans in to kiss Xander but pulls back in fear that she may accidentally drain him, so she goes looking for someone else to drain so that she can retain her life and youth. Buffy and Giles rush to the museum, which obviously doesn’t have much of a security system, in order to piece together the seal and return Ampata to her mummified state. Ampata senses what is happening and rushes to the museum to stop them.

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When Ampata arrives at the museum, she grabs the seal from Giles and shatters it. She then knocks both Giles and Buffy unconscious and traps them in her sarcophagus. Willow arrives, and Ampata tries to drain her essence but is stopped by Xander, who tells her that if she is to drain anyone, it should be him. Ampata resists at first but soon agrees in order to prevent changing back into a mummy. Buffy escapes from the tomb just in time to save Xander, and in the ensuing battle, Ampata dries up and shatters. The next day at school, Xander laments on how he always seems to go for the wrong kind of girl, while Buffy tells him that Ampata really did care for him but didn’t belong in this time.

Much like the reanimated corpse in “Some Assembly Required,” the mummy in “Inca Mummy Girl” is less of a malevolent beast and more of a tragic figure who does horrible things in order to try to find happiness. Her attempt to maintain a normal life is a direct parallel to Buffy, whose own destiny and obligations frequently get in the way of her own attempts to be just a normal teen. While the central conceit of the episode was quite original and entertaining, there were a few plot details that felt clunky. The Incan bodyguard, for one, was a completely wasted character that ultimately served no purpose but to give the mummy another victim. Also, while I know I need to stop dwelling on the implications of all the death in this series, I wonder how the school is going to explain Ampata’s horrible death to his parents back in his home country? Regardless, this was one of the better “Monster of the Week” episodes, and it provided a sweet, albeit tragically doomed, romantic angle for Xander, who up until now has been primarily the comic relief of the show. I also found myself feeling sorry for the eternally-shy Willow, who once again has to watch the boy she likes cozy up to another girl. Perhaps her luck in love will change once Oz finally gets the stones to talk to her. For further stenghening the characters within a solid plot, “Inca Mummy Girl” gets 4 out of 5 Eskimo Costumes.

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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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  1. Yep, this is when the series really started to hit it’s stride, imho. It helps that without the looming fear of cancellation the writers were able to start sowing seeds for both characters (Oz, Spike/Dru/Angel) and stories (the conversation between Snyder and the chief) that would be picked up on later.

  2. Ben Gilbert says:

    Indeed. I’m glad the show is developing more varied subplots other than the Buffy and Angel “Will They or Won’t They (or Can They, Even)?” angle.

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