We open in Italy, in 1418. Why? BECAUSE WE CAN. I should say that I love this episode. I really love this episode. Out of all of the subpar episodes in Buffy, this is the one that is the most dated and is, if anything, only going to get more and more silly the more time we have between us and it. It recalls a more precious time, when being online took up the phone line and when the only possible outcome of meeting a stranger online was terrible. Online dating is seemingly unheard of, everyone is calling the internet “the net” and apparently we call being online “being jacked in.” There are few episodes that I have as much pure fun watching as this one. It’s absurd on every level and I love every minute of it. So, back to Italy.
In Italy we meet Molloch, a super exciting looking demon, who has really great and curly horns and seems to also have a really impractical method of dealing with worshippers; i.e. killing them. I get that human sacrifice and such is certainly not unheard of but he’s so obsessed with gaining their love and making sure they adore him so that he can murder them. Maybe that’s a route you can take if you have a whole lot of followers but we never see any indication that he does. He just seems to gather a small group and murder them one by one. Not a sustainable plan, I would think. Does he get his charge out of willing sacrifice? That seems unlikely because there’s no indication they know they’re about to die. I’m just saying, it doesn’t seem terribly bright. Seduce the best, richest, brightest, etc so they can help you… and then kill them.
Whatever, then we have chanting monks. I love chanting monks. They chant, the demon gets angry, screams a lot and ends up in a book. They say “Pray this accursed book shall never again be read.” Here’s a thought. Burn it? Tear it up? If you can’t actually destroy it for whatever nonsense reason than fine, go wrap it up in something and throw it to the bottom of the sea? There are totally really excellent ways of handling this that DO NOT involve putting it in a box and apparently just like… on a shelf somewhere? I mean, we don’t really know but if it got handed off to Giles (for what reason, btw? How is this relevant to a high school library?), I have to assume it’s been found for a while, I don’t know. It doesn’t look too beat up. THESE ARE THINGS I THINK ABOUT, OKAY?
Here is our introduction to Jenny. I love Jenny. I love Giles and Jenny. Giles all flustered and upset by the computers, her poking fun at him, it is all so damn adorable. Also, we meet computer geeks. Fritz is played by a boy named Jamison Ryan who, according to imdb, was in exactly 3 titles during 1997 and then nothing ever again. And Dave, played by Chad Lindberg, who I primarily know because he’s from my home town. I have seen him in enough things that I’d probably be aware of him either way but the reason I notice him is because sometimes he shows back up to visit his parents and gets stoned and goes to Chuck E. Cheese to have people fawn over him. I’ve never met him personally but I know a lot of people who have. He is also notable for dying in seemingly most of the roles he plays. I’m just saying that I’m obligated to point him out cause he’s from here.
Now Willow will scan things with a remarkable device that I am fairly sure does not exist anywhere. I feel very much like there is a great deal of connective tissue in this episode. Come with me, people. So, Molloch is scanned into the internet (let’s move past the absurd method) and suddenly, on a black screen he asks “Where am I?” and then… what? I mean, does Willow just start talking to him right then? She says she met him after the scanning project so it was either then or shortly thereafter. How did she think he found her? Was she in a chat room of some kind? Did she think this guy just hacked a random computer and hooked up with her? How exactly did their initial conversations go that she didn’t think something was amiss? I get that sort-of his whole deal is making people love him or whatever but I would think there would be at least a little bit of a learning curve to suddenly being online. Although, who knows, maybe it’s easier. I mean, it’s probably easier to fall in love with text then with the giant demon with horns? Still, I just feel like his disorientation should have lasted a couple days, before he started picking up ladies.
The following day we get another really cute talk between Buffy and Willow. I think a lot of the boy talk stuff really dies down as the seasons progress, which I guess makes a certain amount of sense but I still miss it. Also, I love that she was trying to call her all night and her line was busy. Makes me remember my high school days of talking on the phone for hours and hours and hours. What the hell did I talk about anyway? I like Buffy’s concern for Willow to some extent but in a lot of ways of course this whole episode is all about that fear of the internet and that absolute inherent danger of meeting people from “the net.” I don’t know if that’s still a thing or not. I feel like not very much? I know when I was in high school and such, my parents had a lot of concerns about people getting my information, stalkers, etc. When I met my first people from online, they definitely weren’t thrilled about it. However, since so much of my day to day life has really involved people from online, it’s not something that’s ever made much sense to me. This episode in general is obviously about all those deep seated fears but to me now it just seems sort-of adorable. Like those old propaganda films about sex or pot or whatever. It just seems precious. The only part of it that always stands out to me is when Willow rapturously sighs that they “agree about everything.” Is that really an attractive quality in a partner? Maybe in high school, I guess.
They walk into the computer lab right after Dave finishes agreeing in creepy, zombie-like ways with his computer screen. Dave, stop talking to your computer screen. As Buffy tries to lay out all of the potential horrors in a guy Willow’s never seen before (he might have a HAIRY BACK, HEAVEN FORBID!!!), Fritz looks at the screen and the essentially magical webcam (do schools have webcams btw?) “sees” Buffy, uses this information to pull up her profile and sends it to Fritz who grins. Oh Fritz. It’s hard to believe you were only ever in 3 things. Meanwhile Jenny, hair all crimped and fabulous, points out to Fritz that he and Dave seem to be clocking some “pretty scary hours” in the computer lab. When he says it’s a project and she asks if she’ll be impressed he says, “You’ll die.” I just love it so much. Even though it really doesn’t make sense because I don’t think the plan is to kill her, is it? Or is it to kill everyone? I’m unclear on how many people Molloch really wants dead.
Here’s one of many weird things about Molloch. This is the pettiest damn demon alive. I mean, his goal is a little unclear to me anyway but while he’s accomplishing it he’s also doing things like rewriting a high school paper to praise Nazi Germany, changing a student’s medical records to indicate that he is NOT allergic to penicillin. When Buffy and Giles are talking about all the havoc he can wreak on the internet and they include things like, “Mess up all the medical equipment in the world” (little sketchy on that one) and “randomize traffic signals” I couldn’t help but think, “Okay, why in the world would he do those things?” But honestly he really has been so bizarrely small and petty about all his actions that who knows, maybe he’d find those things to be a good time indeed. He also causes Fritz to chant “I’m jacked in” while carving an M into his skin (OMG SELF INJURY!!!!!!!). This scene is so hilariously absurd that I watched it twice.
Then there is a fight between Buffy and Willow that I really like. In the way that Buffy (particularly in high school) often does, this episode offers a totally absurd situation mixed with the supernatural that really mirrors a much more commonplace situation. Buffy is worried about Willow suddenly devoting all this time to this new guy. Willow blew off some classes, she’s angry and defensive at Buffy for not understanding how amazing this guy is. I don’t know, seems to me that no demon robot needs to be involved for this to be a fight. Also, on a total side note “boyfriendly” is one of the Buffy words I use most often.
Buffy needs help so she seeks out the computer nerd. He is nerding in the computer lab (apparently this is before home computers?) and she asks him questions about how to track an “eletter” which totally cracks me up. He ends up getting very upset when he realizes what she’s after (also, is it a challenge to track down which computer an email came from? I mean, it would be for me because I’m not a computer nerd but don’t you just need to track the IP number or whatever?). Buffy is understandably suspicious of the fact that Dave suddenly freaked out on her and decides to follow him in the least subtle glasses and trenchcoat ever. Also, he was driving and she was walking, so was she like running behind him? I know she’s the Slayer and she can run fast or whatever but that seems a bit unlikely and also, how incredibly not subtle is that? She spots him at a factory, talking to a bunch of people who are now working at the factory. Apparently for Molloch. Okay, I know he makes people love him and everything and that’s sort-of his gig and I guess since he’s connected to every computer in the world or whatever, he can probably pay them using money he’s stolen from somewhere. But how did he make them decide to serve him? I mean, they built him a body, they’re clearly pretty involved in this. Did he meet them on the web too? What does he say that is so convincing? Is it magic? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Jenny has an encounter with Giles in the library as Xander and Buffy are on their way out, which leads to the line “To read makes our speaking English good” which is one of my favorites. Then we move on to Willow talking to “Malcolm” in the computer lab at school. Again. She does have a home computer, we see it. Whatever. This computer is apparently equipped with the ability to have a robotic voice speak to her. Weirdly the robotic voice still puts emphasis on certain things but whatever, I guess. She talks about loud while she’s typing, which is something I have almost never done in my life. But at least she can type okay. When she becomes suspicious, basically because Molloch overplayed his hand a bit, she tells him she’s signing off. Which she does. BY TURNING OFF THE MONITOR. No one in this episode, including the girl who is supposedly a computer genius, has any idea at all how a computer works.
Meanwhile, Buffy is directed by Dave towards the very, very dark girls locker room and ends up being electrocuted. Would this work through her shoes? I mean, if they had rubber souls…? I don’t really know about these things but it always seems like a super sloppy murder plan to me. Meanwhile Giles is admitting to Jenny what she more or less already knows (because she’s a “technopagan” hehe). I think it’s interesting he wants to know who she is but she never once asks why it is that he knows all this stuff. Anyway, after determining that the book that held the demon is not the world’s shittiest diary (I’m just saying, really huge), Jenny agrees to help get the demon out of the internet.
Things are not going well for Dave. Horrified by what he almost helped do, he tells Molloch he won’t do it anymore and Molloch keeps asking for his love… whatever. It’s not like things would end well regardless. He kills you when you say you love him too.
Now I’m not getting into it here but Giles specifically says that the soul of Molloch was put into that book. THE SOUL. So as if the whole thing wasn’t fuzzy enough already, here’s another bit for pondering.
Willow is kidnapped from her house by Fritz (with chloroform, going old fashioned there) and taken to meet Malcolm at last. Buffy and Xander make a plan to break into the building while Jenny and Giles plan to form the circle of Kayless inside the internet. Of course, if everything is happening inside the internet, I’m a little unclear on why they need candles outside but whatever. Willow finds out that looks do matter a little bit when it turns out that her love is actually a Power Rangers villain. He’s about to kill her, there’s chanting and things. Buffy tries to break through the door but can’t because it’s heavy steel. Poison fills the room. All seems lost. Except then the charm sort of works and they get him out of the net but not in the book, just in his body and he crashes through the wall (which seems to be made of nothing but a thin sheet of drywall so Buffy probably should have tried breaking through that part) and there’s a silly ending fight in which Willow gets to kick a bit of ass and have some catharsis and Buffy tricks the not so bright demon into electrocuting himself.
Finally we have a cute scene between Giles and Jenny where he explains why he loves books. To some extent I agree with him, although for me that relates to books vs ebooks or whatever. I like tangible books but love computers. Anyway, when he gives her back her jewelry and says that he doesn’t dangle a “corkscrew from his ear”, which I guess is true. He does have an ear piercing though so it doesn’t seem THAT far off. Anyway, her response is “That’s not where I dangle it.” Which leaves me with only one question in this episode. WHERE THE HELL DOES SHE DANGLE IT? PARTICULARLY SINCE IT GOT LOST IN THE LIBRARY??