Thursday, June 24, 2010

Buffy 2x04 - "Inca Mummy Girl"

Isn't that always the way? After the excellent "School Hard" we get the rather lackluster "Inca Mummy Girl," backsliding into the so-so monster-of-the-week territory of season one. It's not a bad episode, but it's a bit boring in how much familiar territory it covers. Find out more after the jump.

"You're not a preying mantis, are you?"

- Xander

The episode begins with the student of Sunnydale on a field trip, when a trouble-making student accidentally unleashes something evil. This is the exact same setup as season one's "The Pack", and in fact this episode is written by the same two writers. But despite the initial similarities to "The Pack", it has more in common with "Teacher's Pet" and "I Robot, You Jane": One of Buffy's friends becomes romantically involved with someone who turns out to be a freaky monster-type thing. But unlike the best monster-of-the-week Buffy episodes, there are no real twists, and the episode proceeds in a pretty predictable way. The episode benefits from some pathos for "Ampata," the mummy, and a somewhat interesting resonance between her position as the "Chosen One" and Buffy's as the Slayer. They even both died as a result. But the episode doesn't really mine this for all it's worth, and it ends up pretty inconsequential.

The episode is mainly notable for being the first appearance of a couple of important characters. Seth Green makes his debut as Oz, who spots the eskimo Willow and is immediately quite taken with her. We don't get a really good feel for who Oz is at this point, but Seth Green's performance works well with the script to mark him as someone who stands out from the crowd and thinks differently. This episode features the first appearance of Danny Strong as Jonathan. Technically he appeared in the unaired pilot as well, but he wasn't credited as Jonathan there and it isn't "canonical" anyhow. There's not really much to say about Jonathan at this point. But in a weird way, that's sort of the point. Despite these auspicious beginnings however, the episode is mainly a dud.

  • Is there something weird about the lighting in the library in this episode? It seems brighter than usual.
  • One of the ways in which this episode seems like a relic of the first season is the bitchier version of Cordelia used here. It kind of makes me wonder whether this episode was originally pitched for the first season, and got recycled for this season.
  • A spoilerish note on sexuality: [HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS] Ampata nearly kisses Willow, but stops short. Willow would have been the only female Ampata attacked in this episode. And Willow spent much of "School Hard" locked in a closet. I'm tempted to read these as hints about Willow's sexuality, but Joss claims that, although he wanted either Xander or Willow to experiment with their sexuality at some point, it was not until writing season four that he decided it would be Willow.


  1. Regarding your spoilerish comment, I will just say that I *really* wish Joss had chosen the other character to develop in that way--that would have actually been unique and daring. As it was, it all felt a bit familiar and then rather comfortable.

    But you're right--the episodes a bit meh.

  2. It's interesting to think what Buffy would have looked like, had Joss taken the other path. I've never really given it too much thougt before.

    I'm about to say something spoilerish, so in the event that someone's reading the comments they'd best look away...

    Xander often serves the role of the ordinary guy who grounds the show: blue-collar job, no special super magic powers. Imagine if he had just happened to be gay. By contrast, Willow's lesbian experiences were strongly associated with the exotic world of magic. The two choices lead to very different attitudes toward homosexuality.

    Which is not to say that one is obviously better than the other, dramatically. As it turned out, I think the lesbian/witch metaphor is pretty well in keeping with the ethos of the show. But I can't help but imagine what season six would have looked like had things gone differently.