Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Buffy 1x05 - "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"

As I’ve been writing these reviews, I’ve been doing only a very small amount of “research”, looking up a little bit about what people have said previously about these episodes. It seems to me that "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date" hasn’t exactly been celebrated, and that's not really fair to it. It won't be making any top ten lists, but it’s a very good episode that’s significantly different from what’s come before and does a good job of showing the versatility of the show—even if the main antagonist is another vampire. More after the jump.

"This is the 90s. The 1990s, in point of fact... If the apocalypse comes, beep me."


The premise of the episode is clear and simple: Buffy’s romantic life and slaying life collide with disastrous results, and something’s gotta give. It’s not the only time we’ll see this as a theme, but it’s done pretty well here. The early plot setup provides plenty of opportunities for humor, most of which springs from the tension between Buffy and Giles, with Xander also providing some good laughs.

This episode returns to the season arc by introducing the “Anointed One,” a rather cheesy part of the plot that I nearly forgot. And I wish I had. We also get a bit more of Angel, who is frankly pretty useless (not that he was useful prior to this). If I didn’t already know what his deal was, I would probably be pretty frustrated with him as a character at this point, but in retrospect it makes a little more sense.

Buffy's aborted relationship with her classmate Owen is a great illustration of one of the central themes of early Buffy: the clash between what she wants and what she's destined for. That moment at the end of the episode when she realizes she has to turn him down is great. The lesson is learned and it doesn't come easy for her. The conversation that Buffy then has with Giles is probably the first example of the show diggin deeply into its characters, and it's really quite affecting. It would have been a perfect note to end the episode on, but instead we end on a cliffhanger with the Anointed One and the Master. The ending of an episode is really important to get right, because that's what the audience will take with them, and thus far Buffy doesn't have a very good track record. It's certainly important to underline the importance of the Anointed One in this episode, but Buffy and Giles having a moment is more important.

Random thoughts:
  • Giles warns Buffy that Owen mustn't find out that she's the Slayer--which kind of rings flat, because Xander and Willow only recently found out themselves, and they've been more assets than liabilities (not that they're never the latter).
  • Cordelia’s given something to do here, as the series pushes Buffy as a threat to her. Her character still isn't terribly interesting, not is Charisma Carpenter's acting the best the show has to offer, but the show's getting a little bit better at using her.
  • I occasionally hear people speak about how well the show uses bands, but I just don't agree. I mean, I appreciate that Joss is doing a great thing by providing exposure to independent musicians, but more often than not I just roll my eyes at the songs.
  • Why is Xander drinking from a juice box at the end of the episode? (40:09) Probably because it's funny. Sometimes that's reason enough, particularly with Xander.

1 comment:

  1. This episode will always hold a special place in my heart because it's the first one Sara F. and I watched together!