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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.