Monday, March 21, 2011

Buffy: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date (1.5)

This is the most obvious depiction so far of one of Buffy's enduring themes: the desperation for a normal life amid all the apocalyptic monster-hunting. Here we have Buffy besotted with an annoyingly broody and handsome loner who surprisingly isn't Angel, who reads Emily Dickinson alone in the cafeteria and clearly has some fetish for watching petite young ladies beat up toothy muscle-men. It's all very, very disturbing. What it succeeds in is creating real sympathy for Buffy. She can't do anything ordinary without at least that nagging sense that others could be in danger or that darkness could be lurking right around the corner. It sucks, but it makes her such a great heroine in the process.

Never Kill a Boy on the First Date made me long for the days when Xander and Willow join in on the stabby fun, instead of merely running around screaming. Early episodes clearly painted Buffy as a lone wolf of sorts. Sure, we already have the beginnings of a Scooby Gang, but when it comes to the action, it's pretty much Buffy by herself and protecting everybody around her. It's not the most dynamic of decisions. Obviously it wouldn't be realistic at this point for Xander and Willow to not be scared out of their minds, but this episode in particular featured an abundance of poorly-lit sequences where they were running away and cowering in fear. As a result, the entire coda in the funeral home wasn't hugely interesting.

Cordelia steals the show with her brief appearances, from her abject horror at so many guys flocking around Buffy at The Bronze to her infamous "Hello, salty goodness" line when she first glimpses Angel. At this point, Cordelia is still the teen show bully with a couple of bitchy lines per episode, but Charisma sells it in such a wonderful way that you already wish you could see more of her.

This isn't the most exciting of episodes, but it does see the show attempting to balance standalone elements with more important story arcs. There's a superfluous Angel appearance as well as a hole-filled story about the Master and the Anointed One, but in general it's still funny, warm and charming. And Xander's jealousy is still hilarious, especially that great moment where he compares his kiddie watch to Owen's big, golden man-clock. Heh. C+

Guest stars Mark Metcalf (The Master); David Boreanaz (Angel); Christopher Wiehl (Owen Thurman); Geoff Meed (Andrew Borba)
Writer Rob Des Hotel, Dean Batali Director David Semel

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