Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: The British Invasion

This week, we start season 2 with "When She Was Bad", "Some Assembly Required", and "School Hard".

"Do you know what I find works real good with Slayers? Killing them."

Season 2 starts with a couple of good episodes, but then kicks into high gear with its brilliant third episode. The season probably had to start off a bit slowly, since it had to deal with fallout from the events at the end of season 1.

"When She Was Bad" picks things up a few months after "Prophecy Girl". It's a strong episode emotionally, even though we might question the logic of the plot. (Giles lets Buffy have the summer off, without training? Willow and Xander wander around a town known to be atop a Hellmouth after dark? I know things have been quiet since The Master's death, but still.) But "When She Was Bad" really excels in dealing with Buffy's emotional state. It's one of the first signs of how dark that Whedon and the writers (and Gellar, of course) will let the character be over the seven seasons, and it's good.

"Some Assembly Required" feels a little like a season 1 episode, with a couple of notable exceptions. First, it continues the integration of Cordy into the group. But second, and more interestingly, it tries and manages to sympathize with just about every character on screen. (The mother grieving her dead son, the brother trying to make things better, the reanimated football star wanting to not be alone.) It also amuses me, in hindsight, at how much the show (particularly in this episode) plays up the animosity between Xander and Cordy. HMMM I WONDER WHY.

But really, this is all prologue, because the next episode is "School Hard".

Revisiting "School Hard", I was a bit worried that it might not stand up to scrutiny. Are my opinions of Spike and Drusilla's introduction affected by later stories involving them? Did the show have a good handle on them from the beginning, or did they get better over time? And happily, Spike and Drusilla arrive fully formed. Spike's first big scene features his terrific bit about Woodstock: "That was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person, and I spent the next six hours watching my hand move."

His and Drusilla's voices are just so unique, so different from any of the characters introduced to this point. It's a sign of the show's growing confidence that it would branch out like this. And James Marsters and Juliet Landau seem to immediately know how great this opportunity is - they're fantastic from their opening moments, and Spike and Dru are probably their career-defining roles. (Fifteen years later, it's still a little disconcerting hearing their real accents.)

It's well known that Spike was supposed to die after a few appearances. He didn't, because Marsters was great, and had great chemistry with Landau, Gellar, and everyone. This is an excellent example of the show recognizing an opportunity and running with it. Of course, it's not quite a perfectly plotted-out introduction. Spike famously says to Angel "You were my SIRE, man!", implying that it was Angel who'd turned him. We'll soon find out that's not true, but no matter.

On the other hand, the Spike/Drusilla relationship feels fully fleshed out, even in their few brief scenes here. In Drusilla's first scene, Spike famously goes from vamp-face to human-face when he sees her: this one brief moment says SO MUCH about the very things that will cause this impulsive fool for love nothing but grief in his relationship with Dru.

Another great thing about "School Hard" is how it recalibrates the Buffy/Joyce relationship. After the battle at the school, Joyce tells Buffy: "I have a daughter who can take care of herself. Who's brave, and resourceful, and thinks of others in a crisis. No matter who you hang out with or what dumb teenage stuff you think you need to do, I'm going to sleep better knowing all that."  Great stuff.

Another thing: Spike says "A Slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn't in the brochure." We will come back to this. Again and again. It may be the key theme of the series.

Ok, finally, one other thing: Spike also says:
"Fee, fi, fo, fum.
I smell the blood of a nice... ripe... girl."

Sadly, this is not the worst poem Spike ever wrote.

"When She Was Bad": B+
"Some Assembly Required": B
"School Hard": A+

What did everyone else think?


  1. I love Spike.

    Ok now that that is out of the way, I can continue. You wrote so much of what I think so I don't have too much to add, but I wanted to say I'm glad you pointed out the "slayer with a family" because it is, I think, the heart and point of the show. Even when we see other slayers later (not spoiling), it becomes so important to see the Buffy is at her best when she has support, and it is what makes her special.

    And have we ever seen a villain as completely batshit crazy, watch the world burn, nuts as Dru? Certainly not on this show, before or after her.

    And Spike makes me feel effulgent.

  2. Season 2 was the best 'Buffy' season ever. Just thought I'd say, it was Spike's relationship with Buffy that caused him nothing but grief, not with Drusilla. According to James Marsters, Spike was happiest with Drusilla.