I’ll start this off by saying that I’m completely unable to answer B’s burning questions about the typical high school experience because, well, I was totally detached for my duration of high school. To the point where I was just flipping through my yearbook the other day and had NO familiarity with about 80-90% of its content. Who are all those people? What the hell is Winter Festival? Etc. I didn’t spend my high school years trying to engage myself at all. In fact, I spent them mostly staying in and watching Buffy reruns so…here we are.
So yeah, I haven’t the slightest clue whether or not my school had a career fair like this or if students filled out surveys. I know that I explicitly did not do this thing, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Anyway.
I do generally like this episode, a far bit more than B does, I think. I don’t know. I’m always happy to get to it when I get to it, though I suppose I’ve never singled it out as one I want to watch on its lonesome.
In this post, I’m going to touch on what I think this episode does well, what it sets up for the future, and where it definitely lacks.
First things first: Buffy’s gloom and doom. I feel like this is one of the mopey Buffy instances that people who hate mopey Buffy really hate, but I don’t know. I get it. As a somewhat listless post-college slightly unemployed person myself, Buffy’s concerns about growing up and doing something with
her life are all of our concerns, except, you know. She can’t do anything in her life. Not anything that requires excessive amounts of training and man hours, at least. At any moment, she could be required to kill demons or stop an apocalypse and that’s just not conducive to studying or interning or working long hours somewhere. That’s not to say she won’t have jobs, but a career? Nah.
Oz and Willow. Oh my god yessss, this is the first time they actually meet, isn’t it? GO OZLOW I LOVE YOU. Oz being a genius was always funny to be because he’s such a sarcastic, humorously self-deprecating slacker and I think it’s funny. I do think this story line ultimately lacks because, well, we just don’t get enough Oz on screen to explore it. I want more! I want to know what he’ll major in! What career path he’ll go down! His upcoming wolfiness gets in the way of developing his academic and professional pursuits but still, I’m curious. The problem here is that we need more Oz. More Oz is always the solution.
The Order of Taraka. I don’t disagree that they’re lame. However, I think they’re only lame because they give up really fast. I could see how an unrelenting troop of baddies coming at you from all directions and not slowing down or stopping would be troublesome (for one thing, when/where would you sleep?), even if individually they might be easy to kill. (And who says they all are easy to kill, anyway? What if Buffy just lucked out with some duds?) But yeah, the Order of Taraka always reminds me of The Three from S1. Oh, you don’t remember the Three? Neither do I, until at one point Buffy is telling Faith they were one of her toughest kills. What? I guess maybe, in theory…
Buffy and Angel. I agree that Buffy’s bedroom scene is not Angel’s best moment, aside from him clutching Mr. Gordo to his chest while he waits for her. They’re both acting like 16-year-olds here when really only the 16-year-old can get away with doing that. His behavior comes down to his petulant insecurity about having relationships with people and, well, his deep-seated belief that he’s no good for Buffy.
I don’t think he’s TOTALLY off base with assuming Buffy’s wish to “have a normal life, like she did before” refers to him, though. Hear me out. Right before Buffy turns to him to say that, she looks in the mirror where only her reflection shines back. I think she means it when she tells him, “You’re the one freaky thing in my freaky world that still makes sense to me.” But I also think she’s being incredibly naive. I mean, of course she is. She’s 16 and in love for the first time. The fact that she tells him she wishes they could be normal kids is a red flag, honestly. She’s able to forget that he’s actually a 200-year-old tormented demon with a soul, and he’s never able to do that.
I love Bangel but he should probably just end things after this scene. Buffy’s in a weird, potentially dangerous place of romanticizing the “weirdness” of their relationship without taking into account that, yes, dating Angel will hold her back in a thousand different ways. They’re not on the same point in their lives, and she tends to forget that – either willfully or by accident. Angel handles it TERRIBLY but again, it’s quite possible he spent 150 years eating rats and not talking to humans ever, so I mean…he needs practice? I don’t know. There should be studies about the kinds of personality disorders that 200-year-old vampires with souls develop but until then, we can only speculate.
I do LOVE the ice skating scene, though. One of my favorite Buffy/Angel moments, corniness be damned. And I, too, have always felt a twinge of nervousness when anyone makes out with a vamp face. Be careful!
I think the ice-skating scene (“you shouldn’t have to touch me when I’m like this”) goes back to Angel’s insecurity and sheds more light on it. He’s aware of his demon side and aware that Buffy is the opposite of it. It’s ironic, how aware of it he is, based on what’s to come. There are so many hints to the fact that Angel is going to lose his soul that I didn’t notice before. Buffy’s line, then, “I didn’t even notice,” is indicative of her naivety again. She implicitly trusts Angel, even when she probably shouldn’t. He knows that she shouldn’t (maybe just because he’s aware of how EVIL his evil side is) and seems to struggle with whether or not to spare her from it. I don’t know. It’s not a situation I’d want to be in, even though as an adult I can totally see why he should probably end things.
Also, as badly as Angel behaves in the bedroom scene, this episode does highlight one of my favorite aspects of their relationship: he listens to her. He doesn’t belittle her feelings. Yeah, he misinterprets them, he gets emotional and takes them out of context sometimes, but he doesn’t make her feel silly for talking about school stuff, her parents, or her Dorothy Hamill phase. He pays close attention to what she says and I don’t know. That’s sweet. And particularly important in episodes like this one where, yes, her parental figure (Giles) is totally clueless about how she feels.
Okay, now onto the not-so-great stuff. Which I mean…other than the plot problems B already pointed out, pretty much begins and ends for me with Kendra. Oh, Kendra. I want to love you. You’re the first PoC of significance on the show (which is a huge problem in and of itself, obviously) and your character is just so….yeah. The put-on, terrible accent. The vague references to cultural norms that may or may not exist in Kendra’s “actual” culture. You know what? I guess most of this comes in the next episode, so maybe I should press pause and cover this stuff later. But yeah. We meet Kendra, THE VOMPEYRRR SLEYYYERR, and it ends on a cliffhanger. Oh boy.