Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Buffy 1x06 - "The Pack"

"The Pack" continues the trend of the previous episode, digging into the characters and using their personalities as an engine for drama as well as comedy. But unlike that episode, the main plot here suffers from some really lackluster performances. Even so, it has enough good moments to make it seem pretty entertaining, if inconsequential.

“It’s devastating. He’s turned into a sixteen year old boy. Of course, you’ll have to kill him.”


The episode starts with the group of teenagers, soon to become possessed, as they mock Buffy. The scene isn't really funny, and their taunts aren't sharp enough for it to really work on a more painful level. It's just kind of annoying, because of the incredibly broad performances by the teenagers. It's a crippling problem for the episode, because they collectively serve as the main villain and they really don't work at all. It's too silly to be threatening and it's never really funny either.

Which is not to say that there's no humor in the episode. Giles provides a few good moments, notably his attempt to do combat training with Buffy and also his initial dismissal of Xander in the above quote (highlighting another example of the series literalizing a metaphor--teenagers behaving like animals). The episode also concludes on a humorous character moment between Giles and Xander, which is quite effective and breaks the streak of bad conclusions I complained about yesterday.

But mostly, this episode goes for the character-based drama, relying again on the love triangle but discussing it more openly than ever. Xander's cruelty to Willow really hurts, and her reaction to it is pretty devastating. A lot is brought out into the open here... and then put back into the box, as the characters choose to act like it never happened. Ah well.

All this aside, this episode will be best remembered for the death of Principal Flutie. This is Joss's attempt to upend the table by killing a character you thought would be sticking around. and while Flutie's hardly a main character, he seemed to be a part of the fabric of what the series was defining itself as, so it's more effective than Jesse (who didn't have a chance to establish at all himself before becoming fodder for Joss's murderous tendencies). He wasn't exactly a great character (although ultimately I do prefer him over the Tobolowsky version from the pilot), but the shock with which his death is received is quite effective.

Random observations:
  • Once again, we get an episode that focuses on Xander, and while Willow gets caught in the crossfire we've yet to get a real Willow episode.
  • I think the zookeeper in his makeup is probably the first example of something we'll see a lot in Buffy and Angel: Something with a horrific appearance, undercut by a matter-of-fact vocal tone that sounds like just any random guy. This juxtaposition for humorous effect will be used again and again.
  • I think this is the first use of the cage. Why a high school library has a cage isn't ever really explained, is it? But it has an armory and a massive collection of rare occult books. So maybe it's best not to ask.
  • Xander attempts to sexually assault Buffy in this episode. Obviously, Xander's not himself, but even so, you'd think there would be some kind of dramatic ramification from this, particularly given the fact that Xander has full memory of it happening. But we can't explore this because, again, they pretend it never happened, for the sake of a laugh. I know yesterday I said that funny is often reason enough, particularly with Xander, but today I'm not so sure about that.


  1. Cages are actually not uncommon in libraries that have items that need to be kept locked up, such as rare books and archival materials--I say this as a former librarian. True, ours didn't have weapons, but still.

  2. Huh. Never seen anything like that. Any particular reason they don't just lock them in another room? Sounds more practical to me.

  3. I think it's a matter of having them theoretically available to the public--hiding things in a back room is generally very antithetical to the spirit of libraries.