Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: Are There Any Nachos In Here, Little Tree?

A quick update this week, as season 3 continues with "Beauty and the Beasts", "Homecoming", and "Band Candy".

"Something's weird."
"Something's not?"

More than 15 years later, some episodes have aged better than others.

"Beauty and the Beasts" was written by Marti Noxon (of "Marti Noxon ruined Buffy" fame), and it is absolutely a Marti Noxon episode. Like season 2's "I Only Have Eyes For You", the plot here revolves around an abusive relationship between minor characters (in this case, friends of Buffy's sort-of boyfriend Scott Hope). And even though the episode also features the whole gang thinking werewolf Oz may have gotten loose and killed people, AND Buffy finding out that Angel is back, all I can think of is the heavy-handed nature of the writing. If I'm feeling like this about early Marti Noxon, how am I going to approach season 6 with an open mind?

Another episode that, surprisingly, has not aged well is "Homecoming". I had fond memories of Buffy and Cordelia battling for homecoming queen, and their insult exchange "Crazy freak!" / "Vapid whore!", but I did not enjoy their sparring as I rewatched this episode. (Scooby gang infighting rarely works for me.) There's a solid premise here (a number of demons hunting Buffy and Faith in "SlayerFest"), but the most notable thing about the episode in hindsight is that it features Harry Groener's first appearance as Mayor Wilkins.

We know from the a couple of mentions in the second season that the Mayor and Principal Snyder and others are aware of all the supernatural goings on in Sunnydale, and we know from his brief appearances in "Homecoming" and "Band Candy" that Mayor Wilkins is up to something. The Un-Detailed Plan is a staple of shows that want to have some serialization without necessarily knowing the details of what the story will ultimately involve. It's a great way of not backing yourself into a corner too early, and it works well with Buffy's season-long serializations.

"Band Candy" has aged VERY well. The premise is fantastic: Ethan Rayne has returned, and he has cursed the chocolate bars that gave the episode its title, causing Sunnydale adults to act like teenagers. And you can see just how much fun that the adults in the cast - especially Anthony Stewart Head, but also Kristine Sutherland and Armin Shimerman - are having, playing younger versions of their characters. The whole episode is gold. "Band Candy" is the first BUFFY episode with the credit "Written by Jane Espenson", and it's a hell of a first impression for Espenson. (In many ways, she's Marti Noxon's opposite: she specializes in bringing the funny.)

(Of course, the scene where Giles and Joyce listen to records at Giles' place makes me think of the scene in season 5 that calls back to it, so I'm having the feelings.)

Looking at the upcoming episodes, things are about to get REALLY good, so I'm sure I'll have more to say next week.

"Beauty and the Beasts": B-
"Homecoming": C
"Band Candy": A

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