Re: School Hard

Welcome

I love this episode. In large part because I love Spike/Dru so much. I love Spike all the way through, really but there’s no question that he has the most intensity and charm in the opening episodes, where he’s just delightfully evil with none of his sort-of whiny unrequited love nonsense from later episodes. I also love this episode because I think it is absolutely one of the best that shows the balance Buffy has to strike between her responsibilities as a Slayer and her responsibilities as a student. I think you really see her up against a wall in this episode, maybe somewhat wondering if she’s really going to be able to do this at all.

This is a pretty good face to make when you find out someone was stabbed with a trowel.

I do find myself wondering, aside from Joelle’s very good point about Buffy burning down the gym and how that was never actually proven (and how if it had been, probably there would have been a lot more legal problems in the long run), let’s ask another question here. Apparently Sheila stabbed a teacher with a trowel. Yes, let’s repeat that. Stabbed a teacher with a trowel. Now again, dear readers. I have never been to school. I do not much know details about how various punishments and things work outside of things I see in movies. But I do feel like, most often in the world, when you stab someone, there are pretty serious consequences to that. I feel like the stabbing, which is clearly known and admitted to by Sheila, is a bit worse than the alleged burning down of a gymnasium by Buffy (where no one got hurt, btw). I also feel like the consequences would probably not be planning parent/teacher night.  I know nothing about parent/teacher night. Joelle says it doesn’t happen in high school. I am intrigued. I wish for votes on this as well. What’s the point of it, anyway? Do students really plan it? Can a principal do something like this? Like “You two do this and whichever one of you does this better gets to be NOT expelled?” Obviously Snyder doesn’t really work by the rules anyway but I WISH TO KNOW.

Xander proceeds to jinx the whole episode very effectively. This is one of the things about Buffy that made it such a fun thing to watch. In a similar sense as Scream and some other self-aware pop culture, this was the kind of show that would make jokes about how horror worked. It was clever and self-referential when that was just starting to be a thing in some ways and it was awesome.

I love Xander clutching his bag.

 

So let’s head into the Master’s former lair. What I found myself thinking about while rewatching the episode this time is the whole vampire pecking order. How does this work, exactly? I mean, look, it seems fairly obvious why the Master was in charge. He’s like…. the oldest vampire and apparently was stronger than the rest of them and far more powerful or whatever. Had all the nifty mind powers on top of looking like a bat. I understand that. But when the Master dies, why is the Annoying One now in charge? I guess the vampire sect that worshiped the Master is particularly superstitious and so maybe that’s the deal. But honestly, clearly the poor man’s Haley Joel Osmont doesn’t have any particular skills or powers. He was important because of his part in prophecy last year but his place in prophecy is over now. Religious vampires don’t seem to do all that well, to be honest. Anarchist sorts like Spike seem to do better. That said, it’s more complicated than just the Annoying One being in charge. Because they listen to him but the angry vampire says that whoever kills the Slayer will take up the Master’s mantle. Does that mean that he’s like a priest of some kind? And whoever kills the Slayer gets to be King? That’s my current theory. I realize it never ends up mattering but these are the things I think about, okay?

My favorite couple in this season. ❤

Spike gives his fantastic opening speech. Dru gives her fantastic opening speech. Honestly, I could spend this entire thing just quoting Dru lines. I adore original Dru. I feel like after second and third season, they never really get her back to where she was before? They always try to give her those crazy lines again but they’re never as good as they were here. For the first time here I noticed something she said though. “Do you like daisies? I plant them but they always die. Everything I put in the ground withers and dies…” Which is just a line I’ve always loved because it’s so dramatic and insane and that’s what Dru does but it’s also what she says right before Spike says “Me and Dru here, we’re moving in.” I suspect there’s a connection there with the roots they’re putting down in Sunnydale and what it’s going to do and I was kind-of delighted to notice it, honestly. I love still finding new things after having watched this show more times than I actually want to admit.

I completely agree this is definitely a good scene to show Joyce’s worst aspects as a parent. I still love Joyce but absolutely these are her weakest attributes. I think she does want to be comforting in a way, I think she does really want to say the right thing. I think she wants her daughter to succeed and do what she knows she can do and she is undoubtedly still hurt and upset about what happened before. On top of which, I’m sure she’s really worried now that it looks like her daughter could be getting in trouble again and worry makes people do and say stupid and crazy shit that is totally unhelpful. None of this is an excuse and it is a shitty way for her to handle the situation. It’s also a shitty way for the writers to handle the situation because to me it really seems like they heightened these attributes in this scene so that her turnaround at the end will be more impactful. Just saying. I hate the scene too though.

If Spike had been paying attention when he first sent a vampire in to test Buffy, he would have actually seen a sign of the family and friends aspect of the brochure. Angel’s comment about Spike as goal oriented and thorough is total bullshit, incidentally. He flits around like a little butterfly half the time. He’s all impulse and only occasionally follow-through. The point is that, while Joyce’s rescue of Buffy will be the most dramatic example, a tiny thing happens in this scene which is also important. Xander comes running out into the alley, into harm’s way and he calls out to Buffy and tosses her a stake. Spike takes no notice of that, which I find strange. How many other Slayers has that happened with? It matters. It absolutely matters.

During the commotion, Sheila gets picked up by a couple of losers in the Bronze and eventually by Spike. It’s hard to believe that Sheila has survived this long in Sunnydale if she is this lacking in caution. This town is crawling with vampires and she is clearly wandering out with whoever she happens to meet. At least, that’s certainly what her few lines of dialogue seem to indicate? There’s no indication she’s met these guys before. If it hadn’t been Spike, there’s no reason that these guys she left with couldn’t have been vampires. Whatever. She’s now not long for this world.

‘Cause I’m crazy about a Cad.

 

Angel comes in to give them more cryptic warnings. Angel, I HATE YOU. Seriously. Other than the fact that what you say about Spike really isn’t even true (except for the fact that he’s dangerous), you know an incredible amount about Spike. You spent YEARS WITH SPIKE. Do you know what would be really helpful right now? You could actually stay in the fucking room and give them useful information on how to hunt and kill Spike instead of just being like, “Be careful. He’ll never stop. He’ll hunt you down.” *poof* Why can you not just give them this information?

I adore Dru and her dolls. I’ll restrain myself from saying anymore of her lines. I will say that I am skeptical she could have vamped Sheila or WOULD have vamped Sheila. Vamping takes strength and the whole point of getting Sheila for her was because she needed to eat because she was weak. Why vamp her? They didn’t need her for anything, she wouldn’t be useful to them. And I’m honestly just not even convinced that Dru is strong enough to be vamping anyone.

But I just got so bored…

Back to parent/teacher conferences. How does this work? Is it even possible to keep parents away from teachers? Like I would assume that there would be like slated times or something? Also, I would assume a lot of people would complain about lemonade with no sugar in it. Poor Buffy. I had never thought about how Spike would even know Buffy was in the school that night, although it’s an excellent point. I also want to know why Spike thinks the school is a good idea at all. I mean, really it doesn’t seem like the best place for an attack. Tons of doors, tons of emergency exits. Closets, rooms, passages. Seems like there’s not really any way to corral that many people effectively in that kind of space.  And in fact, as it turns out, there’s not. Which is another way to prove that Spike is really not all that effective in his plans. Again, all impulse. It occasionally works out for him and usually when Buffy is around, it goes terribly for him. This is another example of terrible quality in the dark shots.

Buffy does completely kick ass in this episode though. Let’s all take a minute to appreciate just how much she kicks ass. Let’s also take a minute for this.

Giles: Let me help you.
Buffy: Giles, my mother’s in that room. If I don’t make it out of here, I know you’ll make sure she does.
Giles: Bloody right I will.
B: *bawling*

 

So Angel decides to go with his worst idea ever. As Joelle says, it doesn’t make any sense at all. We know he hates Xander but clearly he wasn’t actually planning on vamping or killing Xander. I have never even considered the possibility that sire could refer to like…. a grandsire. I always just assumed it was an inconsistency in the writing, due to the fact that they probably hadn’t worked out the family tree yet. Also because there are about a thousand inconsistencies in this scene. Well, not a thousand but a lot. I love the Anne Rice bit but Angel is not Spike’s sire, Angel absolutely WAS one for company (he traveled with a group for like…. decades). There’s so many things Spike should know that he doesn’t. A lot of it I don’t really hold against anyone because I really just assume that most of that stuff they figured out way later in the writing of the show so right now they were just kind-of making it up as they went along. But honestly? Why doesn’t Xander know what a sire is yet? Why don’t ALL the Scoobies know what a sire is?

Buffy’s mom coming in to save her is absolutely incredibly important. It’s one of the coolest things that it is her mom and not Giles or Angel or one of the other guys. It’s great that her mom recognizes how awesome her daughter is and how much of a worthless little jerk Snyder is. Which of course will be something of a continuing thing as the show goes on. Also, it’s cool that she managed to hit him like perfectly with the flat of the ax. I feel like I would have accidentally… I don’t know…. not hit him with the flat somehow. I feel like that would take talent. Of course, I’ve never hit anything with an ax so I really don’t know.

Here we get our first indications that there is a conspiracy in Sunnydale. Which is great and makes perfect sense because honestly the police would HAVE to have some idea that something was up. But if you look at crime stats on Sunnydale, do they just show an incredibly high rate of PCP gang related incidents? Like is Sunnydale the PCP capital of the US in this universe?

They just look so happy together!

 

I laugh hysterically at the idea of Spike laying down his life because of… well, because of anything, really. Much less because he somehow messed up a ceremony. Does the feast of St. Viggus really increase their power somehow? How does that work, I wonder? And why does it never come up again? And, last but not least, the killing of the Annoying One is just an absolutely fantastic and fun scene. No one will miss him and it’s time for a new leader of evil in Sunnydale.

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School Hard

I love this episode!  A lot.  Mostly because I love Early-Series Spike, but I’ll get to that.

It opens with the usual holding-what-Buffy-allegedly-did-at-her-old-school-against-her routine by Snyder.  I never really understood this.  Well, I mean, Snyder’s evil, but even Principal Flutie stuck this Bad Seed label onto Buffy as soon as he found out about her “colorful transcripts.”  I get that burning down a gymnasium is bad, but I also assume it was never officially proven?  Otherwise, Buffy would be in juvie or possibly even jail right now.  So for it to even be on her permanent record is a little weird.  Unless the punishment went as far as her expulsion, but ARSON seems a little more serious than that.

Sheila. She gets vamped and I totally forget to write about it at all in this review. Yep.

Buffy is juxtaposed in this episode by Sheila, an actual troublemaker who apparently makes out with Dog the Bounty Hunter sometimes. Buffy’s reaction to Sheila is one of resentment and maybe a little bit of jealousy.  “It’s not fair,” she says, “I’m the Slayer. It requires a certain amount of cutting and fighting.  What’s Sheila’s excuse?”  She has a point.  Sheila is just a punk, and Buffy resents being compared to her, and maybe wishes she didn’t have an excuse and could just be a normal kid.

Regardless, Buffy and Sheila are put in charge of the Parent-Teacher Night and have to paint banners and make salads and stuff?  Not really sure what’s going on here.  Didn’t Parent-Teacher night end in eighth grade? I don’t recall a single one in high school.  No matter. (Edit: I have been informed by a former classmate that yes, we had Parent-Teacher Night every year. So. Yeah, okay.)

And then Spikey rolls into town to some badass intro music and my heart is filled with oh so much joy.  I loooooove Spike here and until otherwise mentioned.  I love his ‘tude.  I love how his first interaction with the vamps of Sunnydale involves him calling one of them out for claiming to have been present at Jesus’ crucifixion.  And I love how he just smirks at the Anointed One’s bodyguard (hey

Awwww.

yeah, remember the Anointed One is still around?  Me neither) and how we found out he’s killed a couple of Slayers before.  And I love how his face softens and he gets all puppydoggy when Drusilla walks in.  It’s all such a good introduction to him, really.

I don’t believe vampires can love (I’m sure I’ll get to that in later episodes) but obviously Spike and Drusilla care about each other.  And I just love how absolutely insane Dru is.

And then we cut to a Buffy/Joyce scene that makes my blood boil.  Joyce means well in most of the things she does but she’s so clueless about who her daughter is, and the part that really bugs me is that I don’t think she wants to know who her daughter is.  This goes deep into my own Mommy Issues which I won’t get into (you’re all welcome) but when she says, “What I don’t want is to be disappointed in you again,” I want to punch her in the jaw.  Then when Buffy says she’s under a lot of pressure and Joyce says, “Wait until you have a job,” I want to punch her again, harder.  Way to totally invalidate your kid’s experience/life struggles/pain.  Buffy’s parents recently got divorced, she got expelled from school and had to pick up and move away from all her friends and start over, and yeah, being a teenager generally sucks, but nope, Joyce doesn’t even acknowledge any of that.  Blegh.

Seriously, picture Giles in PJs! And bunny slippers!

It’s a bit weird to see Giles still being all “You can’t let your life interfere with your slaying.”  The Watchers’ Council is still in full force in Giles’ life, and this is reflected very much with how he acts pre-season 3.  I think he definitely cares about Buffy at this point, but also probably feels more duty-bound to his Watcher duties than anything else.  And, right now, his Watcher duties don’t include snuggles and sleepovers and OH MY GOD I WANT A SLEEPOVER WITH GILES.  NOW.

Then Xander, Willow and Buffy are at the Bronze in hopes of preventing Angel from hooking up with another girl.  Well, I guess that’s really only Buffy’s motivation.  And, um, does it even seem remotely likely Angel is trying to hook up with girls?  He can barely blunder around with the one he’s got.  Okay, okay, I mostly kid.  There’s some dancing and I swear one of these days I’m gonna make a whole bunch of People Dancing at the Bronze gifs because, oh my god, it’s always perfect.

Spike watches Buffy dance like a creeper, then sends one of his vamp buddies out to eat someone to bait Buffy.  They meet, sort of.  This is Buffy’s reaction when a stranger with bleached hair says he’s going to kill her on Saturday:

You know, c’est la vie, or whatever.

Buffy and Co. return to the library to research Spike, and Angel helpfully appears from the shadows where he was lurking to talk about his ex-buddy:

He’s worse. Once he starts something, he doesn’t stop until everything in his path is dead.

Then he disappears before he can, you know, divulge any helpful information.

The way she “chops” this cucumber will never not annoy me beyond reason.

It’s the day of Parent-Teacher Night, and Buffy is stressing about the preparations while Giles and Jenny are mostly just stressing about Spike and some prophecy that says Saturday night is going to be really, really bad.  Or it’s possible I made that part up.  Her friends are making stakes, which is cute.  Though if Buffy would just stop leaving her stakes inside vampires she could probably save a lot of trees. This is the stuff I think about, okay?

Willow distracts Buffy’s mom a lot that night so she can’t talk to Snyder, and Buffy poisons a lot of people with un-sweetened lemonade.  Snyder eventually does get to talk to Joyce, though, and just as Joyce is about to lay the smack down on her kid, Spike and some buddies burst through the window.  Was there a memo in the underworld that said “Slayer will be preoccupied hosting Parent-Teacher Night.  Free-for-all”?  I mean, I don’t really get how Spike knew she’d be at school that night.

Anyway, everyone splits up and hides.  Snyder accuses the vampires of being a gang on PCP which will amuse me forever.  Xander sneaks out to go warn Angel.  Spike is righteously and hilariously angry.  Willow is in the closet, which is pretty funny.

Buffy formulates a plan and starts taking out vamps one by one.  Joyce argues with Snyder a lot, which is good and makes me slightly less mad at her.  This episode is actually really good for Joyce and Buffy, by showing Joyce that her daughter is capable and dependable and Snyder is a grouchy asshole.  Their conversation at the end of the episode shows Joyce’s improved opinion of Buffy, which is nice.

What.

Angel pretends to be evil and uses Xander as his hostage in what might actually be the worst possible plan in the history of plans.  I mean, it would have probably resulted in Xander’s death which would have been nice at this point in the series, but seriously?  WHAT KIND OF PLAN IS THIS.  I think it’s just so that we, the audience, might be tricked into thinking Angel actually is still evil and his ensouled routine was just an act, which seems like pretty cheap writing to me.  Regardless, Spike doesn’t fall for it and gets cranky.  We find out that Angel is Spike’s sire, though actually he’s Spike’s grand-sire and I wonder if that was a mistake on the writer’s part, or if “sire” sort of means general ancestor rather than “vampire who bit me and turned me into one.”

Buffy and Spike run into each other and decide to abandon their weapons, which seems like a silly move on Buffy’s part.  Spike says that the last Slayer he killed begged for her life, though I’m not sure Nikki Woods did?  I mean, he broke her neck in the middle of a pretty rowdy fight.  So.  I’ll see if I remember this when that episode comes up, though.

At one point, Buffy gets knocked down and Joyce appears, hitting Spike on the head with an ax.  This is super important!  It proves (just like Xander resuscitating her with CPR) that Buffy is unique, un-killable by a vampire who has killed two Slayers before, simply for the fact that she isn’t alone.  She has friends and family to help her and it makes her stronger and more powerful.  This is so important to the overall Slayer arc that carries us through until the last episode.

We also find out that Snyder knows more about the Hellmouth activity than we previously thought, which is cool.  I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE MAYOR OMG.

And then Spike kills the Anointed One.  Thank God.  That kid was annoying as hell.