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!
The second season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer has been firing on all cylinders, with each episode drawing me more into the world and characters established by the entertaining but uneven first season. I guess it was all but inevitable that the steady increase in quality would start to plateau at some point, which I’m sorry to say is what happens with the eleventh and twelfth episodes of Season Two, “Ted” and “Bad Eggs.” Neither of these episodes are considerably bad, but compared to the streak of very good to great episodes that the first half of the season had, these two standalone installments are a bit of a letdown. Perhaps it’s more of a testament to how engrossing the overarching storyline of this season has been that I’m sad to see a departure from it, but after so many Spike and Drusilla-centric stories, the “Monster of the Week” format just doesn’t seem to cut it for me anymore.
“Ted” does have a lot going for it in the character department in terms of Buffy’s perception of how her divorced mother should behave socially, but ultimately it drops the ball in terms of the execution of its central story. The episode begins with Buffy and her friends entering Buffy’s house to find her mother Joyce kissing a strange man (played by the late TV icon John Ritter). The man introduces himself as Ted, and Joyce informs her stunned daughter that the two of them have been dating. Xander and Willow are immediately charmed by the genial middle-aged software salesman, but Buffy is bothered by him, as shown later on when she spends a little too much time beating up a vampire before staking him during a routine patrol. She asks Angel for advice while tending to the hand he injured during the previous episode’s battle with Spike and Drusilla, and he tells her that Joyce deserves to be happy and that she should stay out of her way. Buffy reluctantly agrees but still has conflicted feelings about Ted.
Tensions between Buffy and her would-be stepdad escalate during a session of mini-golf when Ted catches her being less than honest to the rules of the game and threatens to slap her, only to revert back to his cheery self when Joyce, Willow, and Xander arrive within earshot. Buffy then decides to spy on Ted and infiltrates his place of employment, where he finds a picture of Joyce on his desk and learns that he is planning on proposing to her. Later that night, Buffy returns to her room after going on patrol only to find Ted reading her diary. Ted threatens to tell Joyce about Buffy’s secret life, which leads to a brief moment of hand to hand combat in which Buffy sends Ted tumbling down the stairs to his apparent death. Joyce is shocked when she discovers Ted’s body, and Buffy is understandably shaken having accidentally killed a supposed innocent person.
The next day at school, the Scooby Gang and Cordelia reveal to Buffy that they found out that Ted has been married four times dating back forty years and that all of his former wives supposedly disappeared. When Buffy arrives home, she is shocked to find Ted waiting for her. Their scuffle reveals that Ted is actually an android of some kind, as Joyce discovers when he tries to kidnap her. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang finds the dead bodies of “Ted”‘s four wives in his basement, decorated in a 1950′s style. Joyce helps Buffy in destroying her robotic beau, and Buffy is eventually cleared of all charges of killing Ted. All is explained in a rather clumsy denouement in which the real Ted is revealed as a failed inventor in the 1950′s whose divorce drove him to despair and influenced him to built a robotic copy of himself that went berserk after the real Ted’s death. This episode does end on a positive note, however, when the Scoobies spot Giles and Jenny Calendar kissing, having gotten over the previous rift in their relationship.
Despite having a talented and high-profile guest star, “Ted” was a disappointing entry in what has mostly been an excellent season. Again, the main threat is defeated way too easily, which is made worse with Xander’s explanation of Ted’s motive after the battle ended, which was obviously inserted for the benefit of the audience and does not work at all as actual dialogue. While I can appreciate that this method of explaining the villain’s motivations may have seemed like a decent alternative to the old “talking killer” cliche, it tells when it should have showed, which is a cardinal sin in the realm of storytelling in a visual medium such as television. John Ritter did seem to have a lot of fun being the heavy after a long career of playing mostly mild-mannered characters, and his physical comedy background helped him in his two fight scenes, which were fun to watch. I particularly enjoyed the cute subplot that brought Giles and Jenny back together, which provided one of the funniest individual scenes of the series when she tries to help him fight off a vampire and accidentally injures him in the process. Overall, this was a fairly flawed episode that still had a handful of bright spots and earns 3.5 out of 5 Drugged Cookies.
The slight drop in quality unfortunately continues in the next episode, “Bad Eggs,” which is the show’s homage of sorts to the 1956 sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers and its legion of remakes. Instead of using mind-usurping creatures that hatch from pods to symbolize the Red Scare of the 1950′s, this episode uses mind-usurping creatures that hatch from eggs to (kind of) symbolize teenage pregnancy. The eggs themselves are given to the Scoobies as a class project by their Health teacher for them to care for as if they were human infants in order to teach them of the inherent responsibility of accidentally letting their raging hormones bring another life into this world. Buffy receives the egg secondhand from Willow, having skipped Health class to help Giles research a couple of vampire cowboys, one of which she recently encountered at the Sunnydale Mall. After an evening of patrolling the cemetery that was mostly spent making out with Angel, Buffy returns home to get some shuteye, and as she sleeps, a small crack opens up on her head and long tentacles reach out from it and attach to her face.
The next morning at school, Health class is cancelled because the teacher failed to show, and Giles tells Buffy to go on patrol again that night, which results in another extended makeout session with Angel. When not sucking face, Buffy informs Angel of her Health assignment, and Angel asks her if it bothers her that it would be impossible for her to have children with him. Buffy reassures him, stating that he is the only “man” he sees in her future. When Buffy returns home, she sees her egg moving. She moves closer to it and is attacked by a small, nasty-looking creature that resembles a facehugger from Alien. She kills the creature with a pair of scissors and calls Willow to warn her about her egg. Joyce, alarmed by the noise, enters Buffy’s room and discovers her fully dressed. She then grounds Buffy for sneaking out of her room at night. At school the next morning, we discover that the creature from Willow’s egg has attached itself to her spine, which has put her under the monster’s control. We discover later that Cordelia has also been taken over by these creatures when she and Willow knock Buffy and Xander unconscious and throw them in a storage closet. Joyce arrives at school to pick up Buffy, and both her and Giles fall under the creature’s control as well. When Buffy and Xander come to, they follow the line of students and faculty as they march somnambulantly to the basement of the school, shovels and pickaxes in hand.
Buffy and Xander discover that the mind-controlled horde is digging a hole in the floor of the basement, revealing a larger version of the creatures that hatched from the eggs, and the enslaved people are pulling eggs from the larger creatures’ body. To make things more difficult, Lyle the vampire cowboy arrives with his brother Tector to even the score with Buffy. Willow discovers Buffy and the vampires and orders the other enslaved humans to attack them, forcing them all to defend themselves. During the tussle, Tector falls into the hole in the floor and is devoured by the mother creature. Buffy also is thrown into the hole, but not before she grabs a pickaxe, which she uses to destroy the mother and snap everyone out of their trance. Buffy emerges victorious from the hole, covered in black goo, and Lyle runs off, intimidated by the Slayer. The episode ends with the still-grounded Buffy making out with Angel at her windowsill, stating that she’s not breaking any rules this way.
“Bad Eggs” is a fairly fun episode, but structurally it’s even more of a mess than “Ted” was. The main threat of the story pretty much comes out of nowhere and is never fully explained to my satisfaction, and once again it is easily defeated. The vampire foes seemed arbitrary and pointless, and the only decent character moments belong to Xander and Cordy, who carry on with their secret trysts even though they still outwardly despise each other. The egg assignment is a fairly poignant parallel to Joyce’s view of Buffy as flighty and irresponsible, and her behavior with Angel in the cemetery doesn’t do much to disprove this, but the ultimate reveal of what the eggs are didn’t really follow this theme very well. The script of this episode just seemed rushed and half-baked, as if Whedon and his writers were a little too eager to dust it off so they could get on to further developing the overarching plot of the season. Hopefully this slump is temporary and the remaining ten episodes of Season Two will be just as focused and enjoyable as the first ten episodes of the season were. “Bad Eggs” is by far the weakest episode of Season Two so far and earns 3 out of 5 Hard-Boiled Baby Stand-Ins.