It’s New To Me – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (“Passion,” “Killed By Death”)

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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Buffy The Vampire Slayer has never been a show to shy away from dark storylines and high body counts, but for the majority of its first two seasons it managed to keep its main cast and handful of supporting players relatively safe from all the death and destruction going on in Sunnydale. That is, of course, until the seventeenth episode of the second season, entitled “Passion,” which not only kills off a prominent supporting character but also lessens the likelihood of Angel’s redemption. Of course, we all know that he eventually gets changed back to his soul-having, guilt-ridden self since he got his own spinoff series, but the events of this episode prove that it’s going to be an arduous and considerably dangerous pathway.

“Passion” begins in appropriately uneasy fashion with a voiceover by Angel explaining the concept of passion and how it influences people. This voiceover occurs while Buffy and Xander dance with each other at the Bronze, with Angel watching in the background. He visits her room as she sleeps, but instead of killing her, he strokes her hair. When Buffy awakes, she finds a charcoal sketch of her, drawn by Angel. She asks Giles if he can whip up a spell to bar Angel from entering her home again and considers telling her Mom the truth in order to protect her, but Giles advises her not to compromise her secret. Buffy does wind up telling her mother about her relationship with Angel, leaving out the fact that she slept with him and that he’s a vampire. Later that night, while talking to Buffy on the phone, Willow finds a drawing of herself in her bedroom and rushes over to stay the night at Buffy’s, stake in hand.

In an attempt to redeem herself to both Giles and Buffy, Jenny Calendar visits a local occult shop before school the next morning and procures an artifact called the Orb of Thesulah, which she will attempt to use to restore Angel’s soul. The shopkeeper warns Jenny that without a proper translation of the original Romanian restoration spell, the orb is useless, and she states that she is attempting to translate the spell on her computer. Jenny’s activity is sensed by Drusilla, who warns Angel that someone is trying to restore his soul. At school, Giles presents Buffy and Willow with a spell that will make Angel unable to enter their homes, and as Buffy, Cordy, and Willow perform the protection spell in Willow’s room, they find another drawing, this time of a sleeping Joyce, and they rush over to Buffy’s house. While arriving home, Joyce is confronted by Angel, who reveals to her that he and Buffy had sex. Angel is shocked to find out that he is no longer able to enter Buffy’s house, leaving Buffy only to contend with her mother, to whom she reluctantly admits to having lost her virginity to Angel.

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While working late in her classroom, Jenny is visited by Giles, who invites her to his place later that night. Jenny saves her translation of the Restoration Spell to a floppy disk and then begins printing it out, only to discover that Angel has entered the classroom. He smashes the Orb of Thesulah against her chalkboard and destroys her computer before chasing after the fleeing Jenny. He catches up with her on the school’s second floor and snaps her neck, killing her. Later that night, Giles arrives at his house and finds a rose, champagne, and opera music playing. He walks upstairs to his bedroom expecting Jenny, and finds her dead body in his bed. Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang are informed of Jenny’s death and rush over to Giles’ place to console him, only to find that he has left with a number of his weapons in order to kill Angel in retaliation. Buffy follows him to the vampires’ factory hideout just in time for Buffy to save Giles from Angel, and in the ensuing battle, the factory catches fire. Buffy is forced to let Angel, Spike, and Drusilla escape in order to make it out of the burning building with Giles. A few days later, while standing near Jenny’s grave, Buffy apologizes to Giles for not destroying Angel before he killed Jenny and tells him that she is now ready to get rid of Angel once and for all. The final scene of the episode shows Jenny’s classroom, now being taught by Willow as an interim sub, and the camera zooms in to the backup disk, which falls to the floor in between the desk and the filing cabinet.

It would have taken a near-perfect episode to even come close to topping “Surprise” and “Innocence,” and “Passion” comes damn near close. In terms of story progression and changes to the overall status quo, this is arguably the most important episode of the show since that remarkable two-parter that began Angel’s regression. Jenny’s death is tragic, not only because she was on the verge of making up yet again with Giles, whom she admitted early on in the episode that she had fallen in love with, but also because she was so close to restoring Angel’s soul. Giles’ reaction to Jenny’s death is legitimately heartbreaking, mostly because it is such a contrast to his usual pragmatic, unemotional temperament, and his scene with Buffy after escaping the burning factory is a true tear-jerker. The existence of Jenny’s backup disk, as shown in the final shot of the episode, will either wind up a deus ex machina for the end of the season or a red herring that will give the audience false hope, and based on how this season has gone so far, I can’t for the life of me predict how it’s going to go, which is quite a refreshing and exciting position to be in as a viewer. “Passion” receives 5 out of 5 Puppy Snacks.

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It would be hard for any episode to follow such an important and moving episode as “Passion,” and while “Killed By Death” doesn’t quite live up to the previous installment’s quality, it does make a perfectly entertaining palate-cleanser. This episode has a flu-stricken Buffy being admitted to the hospital after a grueling battle with Angel in the cemetery that nearly does her in. Giles and the Scoobies are shocked to find out that Buffy, who faces vampires and demons on a daily basis, is deathly afraid of hospitals. Joyce tells them that this fear began when Buffy saw her cousin die in a hospital when she was younger.

Since the hospital is a public building that Angel can just walk into, the gang takes turns guarding Buffy’s room against a possible attack. During her first night, Buffy has a dream in which she sees a young boy walking past her room, followed by a tall, pale man dressed in black with ghoulish features. When she wakes up, she walks into the hallway and discovers that one of the young patients in the Pediatric Ward has died. She overhears a discussion between two doctors named Dr. Backer and Dr. Wilkinson about the effects of an experimental treatment they have been giving the sicker children and then encounters two young patients who tell her that Death visits their room every night. The next day, Buffy tells her friends about Dr. Backer’s treatments and ask them to investigate him to see if he’s possibly killing the kids. Xander and Cordelia snoop around in the hospital’s records room, while Giles and Willow do some research in the school library. Buffy befriends a young boy named Ryan, the same boy from her dream, and discovers a picture that he drew that looks exactly like the ghoulish man she saw in her dream. She later finds out too late that Dr. Backer is trying to help the children in the hospital before he is brutally slashed to death by an invisible assailant.

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After being informed by Buffy that Backer is not their suspect, Giles and Cordelia find information in the library about a demon named Der Kindestod who kills children by sucking the life out of them. Upon hearing this update from Willow, Buffy flashes back to the day she saw her cousin die and is convinced that Der Kindestod was who killed her.

Buffy and Willow break into Dr. Backer’s office and discover that he was trying to inoculate the children in order to save them from the demon, who apparently can only be seen by the sick. Buffy voluntarily imbibes the virus after Willow dilutes it in water, and she immediately starts burning up with a fever. She staggers to the children’s ward only to find that they have all retreated to the basement in order to hide from Der Kindestod. She finds the monster, who is on his way to the basement to get the kids. While Willow distracts the hospital security guards, Buffy and Xander make it down to the basement in time to save Ryan from the demon and eventually kills it by snapping its neck. The episode ends with Buffy convalescing at home and receiving a drawing from Ryan that has her standing victorious over Der Kindestod’s dead body.

For a standalone episode that followed an important chapter in the overall storyline, “Killed By Death” did a great job in not only showing a natural progression from “Passion” but also in giving a little bit more of Buffy’s backstory that up until now we didn’t know about. The flashbacks to her cousin’s death, as well as the revelation that Der Kindestod was the cause of it, serve as reminders to the audience that Buffy’s connection to the supernatural goes a lot deeper than they may have realized and further legitimizes her destined profession. I also enjoyed how it revealed yet another weakness of Buffy’s as a result of this memory, in this case her fear of hospitals that she had to overcome. While not directly addressing the tragic events of “Passion,” this episode did allude to them in a scene involving Joyce giving her condolences to Giles, which I appreciated. While not the most essential episode of Buffy ‘s second season, “Killed By Death” provided an entertaining plot and a genuinely creepy villain while still keeping us up to date on the season’s main story arc. 4.5 out of 5 “Phantom Frogs”.

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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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