harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

BTVS Review: That one with that introduction of that bleach-blond guy.


School Hard

DIR: John T. Kretchmer

Blurb: Buffy's mother gets trapped inside Sunnydale High School when a vampire named Spike arrives in town and launches an attack against the Slayer.

I remind you that we are not a spoiler free zone, here.

Scene 01: We start with a view of Sunnydale High, with a single student racing toward the front door.

Scene 02: With that pointless shot out of the way, we move onto the wonder that is Principal Snyder. He's speaking to someone unknown, but clearly a student. He tells them that rather than thinking of him as their friend, the student should think of him and their judge, jury and executioner. Because that is the sort of inspirational figure that the man cuts.

There are actually two students in the room being lectured. One of these will be named Sheila. But the other is Buffy. Snyder asks which they believe to be the most troublesome student in Sunnydale High. When he receives no answer from either, he concedes that it is quite a contest between them.

He begins to list their infractions. Sheila apparently stabbed a horticulture teacher with a pair of pruning shears (and she's not already expelled and in jail, because...). On the other hand, Sheila has yet to burn down a school building, as Buffy has now done twice (the gym in L.A. as part of her backstory and the abandoned science building last episode).

Buffy defends herself that the fire wasn't actually proven to be her fault (I'll assume we're talking about the old science building, here). She tells him that even the Fire Marshall stated it could have been mice. Snyder questions this preposterous statement (though, he should be directing that at the Fire Marshall).

Buffy rejoinders: Mice that were smoking?

Commentary: Not only is this funny, due to the way that SMG delivers the line, but it also is a character continuity moment. Buffy cannot lie when she's under the gun. She always comes up with the most improbable things... leaving school grounds to retrieve a book for the librarian from somewhere else, admiring quality fencework, losing her watch and living in a house with no clocks, and now smoking mice. She should really just stay silent. (Oh, and for the record, I miss S2 Buffy - she was adorable.)

Snyder moves on... their both tied in the 'class cutting and fight starting events'. Sheila finds this all amusing, and asks him what the winner will get when the competition is over. His reply is "expelled", which causes a look of panic by Buffy. He also cuts to the chase... that week will be the Parent-Teacher conferences which Buffy and Sheila will team up to hostess. They have three days to come up with the banners, refreshments and to decorate the lounge appropriately for their adult guests.

Scene 03: End of school day... Buffy is ready to get started on the planning for the latest hoop which Snyder wishes her to jump through, but she finds a less than equal partner. Sheila takes off to meet her boyfriend ... or one of many boyfriends... which I totally don't judge her for. I will judge her for having no survival skills even though she grew up in Sunnydale (oops - spoiler!).

Buffy complains to Xander and Willow that she should have some sort of slack for being the Slayer and wonders if any of her predecessors had to put up with trying to fit high school in. Xan tells her not to worry, but then earns her and Willow's ire when he mentions that "as long as nothing really bad happens" between then and when the conference is set... which immediately jinxes everything.

Scene 04: We cut to later that night and the Welcome sign for Sunnydale. A car barrels through it and we see a pair of black booted feet with a black leather trench coat get out of the vehicle. We get the glamor-scan up the figure's thin form and see that, yes, it is Spike. Spike that will be the subject of much lust (guilty!) and fanfic (guilty!).

Commentary: Here, though, his vamp!makeup doesn't look so hot. What is with the purpling around the eyes? It looks like Drusilla has punched him out... twice. Also, oddly we don't get a shot of Dru, either. One can only surmise that she's lying down, weakened as we'll find out that she is later (ooh... spoiler!).

Spike smirks (which he will do A LOT), "Home, sweet, home...."

Credits and Kick-Ass theme song.

Scene 05: We come back from the theme with the Annointed One and his crew of vamp!henchmen. One of these is pointing out that The Master is dead and somebody needs to step up and take the reigns. Vamp #2 points out back that anyone who takes the mantle is only going to end up dead as well, due to the Slayer's presence... presumably a lesson learnt by watching Absalom's exit.

Vampire #1 suggests that the killer of the Slayer should be given The Master title (yes, that makes sense) and further implies that it shall be himself. The Annointed clarifies by asking if he can kill her, and he states he can because that weekend is to be a mystical demon holiday in which the Slayer will be at her weakest and the vampires will be at their strongest.

Commentary: You can safely shrug this off. We won't be reaching the weekend on-screen and we'll never hear any complaints in retrospect about Buffy feeling weaker or having had any particular problem during patrol or anything that suggests that the writers immediately forgot all about this the second the episode was in the can. Oh... and Vampire #1 has a belt that is too long and the extra is hanging on the outside of the sweater he's wearing, so he looks silly. I thereby sentence him to an ashing.

Vampire #1 blathers on about what a big event it will be when he kills the Slayer, mentioning the Crucifiction, which he arrogantly claims he was present for. Obviously he's full of it, because his face shows no signs that he'd be a few thousand years old. Spike makes his grand entrance by pointing this out and mocking him, as he should.

Spike gives us the Woodstock story, which is cute the first time, but suffers in the re-telling, so I'll skip it. Vampire #1 rushes him and is knocked out in one hit... how embarrassing.

Commentary: You know what else is embarrassing... Spike's teeth. He's having only slightly less problems than Darla had with reciting his 'tough guy' lines without lisping his way through them.

So, Spike and the Annointed share banter. He offers to kill Buffy for the pint-sized not-terror. What is important here is that a) we learn of Spike's Slayer-death count (up two) and b) we meet the ethereal Drusilla. Spike is starting to share his tale of the Chinese Slayer's death (spoiler?) when he comes to a sudden stop, sensing Dru behind him.

He immediately de-fangs in her presence. Spike warns Dru she shouldn't be walking around because she's weak, but she wants to meet the Annointed One because she could feel his power all the way from outside.

Commentary: I choke my way through a "HAH-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah" *sputter, gasp, deep breath* "Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah".

Spike informs the others that Dru and he are moving in, but offers if there are any objections, the objector should step on up....

Commentary: This little bit bothers me because a) it's trying to hard to make Spike a bad-ass by telling, not showing... and they already did that by implying he had killed two Slayers, b) why would anyone object since he and Dru are members of The Master's extended family and ergo should be welcome (and we'll discuss this more after Spike's confrontation with Angel) and c) I kind of want the Annointed One to back hand him, just to give us some reason to fear the little shit, since he was so talked up in S1.

Spike, for his room and board I guess, offers to kill the Slayer for the Annointed One on the condition that the others in his entourage don't muck it up by going off independently and trying on their own. Dru tells Spike that she can't see the Slayer - that it's dark where she is - and begs him to kill her for Dru.

Commentary: This is interesting and I don't think it's ever directly addressed. Why can't Drusilla sense Buffy? What does she mean that "it's dark where she is"? Why is Drusilla instantly insistent on Spike killing her? Any of these could be read as flashforwards to Buffy's profound misery by season's end, and her eventual twisting of Spike from killer vampire to savior, but none of that had been worked out this far back, so I wonder what exactly the writers had in mind? Anything... or was this just random blabber?

Spike assures Dru that the Slayer is already dead. He turns to the Annointed to ask if Buffy is a tough one.

Scene 06: We naturally cut to Buffy being rather un-tough, as she owies her way through combing out her tangled hair. Joyce asks her what is wrong, and Buffy complains she spent a good portion of her allowance on a creme rinse that wasn't creamy nor rinsey.

Joyce isn't really there to speak of Buffy's hair, though. She's received a reminder notice in the mail about Parent-Teacher conferences, which Buffy had failed to mention were coming up. She asks about what Buffy's teachers are likely to tell her. Buffy is pretty sure that they'll all agree she regularly brings a pen to class to be ready to absorb the knowledge. Joyce questions just what sort of absorption rate she can expect to be reflected in her grades....

Buffy: What can you really tell about a person from a test score?

Joyce (nodding): Whether or not she's ever going out with her friends again.

Buffy (looking a bit deer-in-headlights): Oh, that.

Joyce comes in and sits next to her daughter on the bed. She tells her that life is about more than test grades and schoolwork, but she brings up Buffy's trouble in L.A. - again - and tells her about how hard it has been to have to start all over.

Commentary: I started out liking Joyce in this scene, but her constantly bringing up L.A. is starting to bug. It's certainly realistic, I'm not arguing against that. But, since we know all of the things that she doesn't about Buffy, I really start to wonder just why Giles is so adamant that Joyce not be told the truth... or why Buffy, who is in the habit of ignoring him when she wants, wouldn't ignore him here. The 'reason' has always been because if anyone knew it would put them in danger, but actually, this makes no sense to me. It would either have no impact on their danger (unless they start running off at the mouth about it to the wrong people later) or it would make Joyce safer by forcing her to be more careful and observant about her surroundings at night. I could buy an argument that Giles doesn't believe that Joyce is ready to confront this sort of truth, but I don't think he actually makes that argument from his perspective as the expert in this sort of thing. And, it seems that his Watchers Council training would include some psychology and how to judge who he should seek assistance from in the field, if need be. Joyce's continued enforced ignorance comes across as a contrivance that grows more and more untenable as things progress (and actively annoys me after Angel goes bad).

Joyce blows off Buffy's having 'pressure' as not comparing to 'having a job', but after she leaves the room, Buffy tells herself in the mirror that she has a job, while also looking at her drawer filled with holy water and various accoutrement.

Scene 07: Cut to the next day, where Willow (yeah, that makes sense) is helping Buffy in Sheila's place (no show). Buffy tries to recruit Willow to help her with French that night, but Will totally undercuts her by mentioning hanging out at The Bronze. With Xan's entrance, Buffy agrees she's going to The Bronze, although, she admits that her schedule is a bit tight, what with Giles also wanting a bit of her attention.

With Giles, is Ms. Calendar, who has discovered the whole 'super-vampire' powers of the vampire holiday. Buffy and Giles clash over her acting as Slayer and her being able to stay in school.

Commentary: You know, I don't really like Giles right now, either. He seems intent on stopping Buffy from keeping her mother happy, while also being impossible about informing Joyce about the situation, which put Buffy in an impossible situation.

As Giles is busy telling Buffy that she needs to put Slaying above her personal life, Snyder shows up. Giles and Jenny (*sob*) quickly go off, leaving Snyder to wonder if Xan and Willow are helping Buffy paint banners in the absent Sheila's place... which they deny.

Buffy covers for her, as Sheila comes in without the 'paint' that Buffy just supplied as her excuse for being absent. And, she looks hung-over.

Buffy quickly covers for her, which Sheila appreciates and Snyder scurries off. Sheila asks Buffy about her burning down a school building, and she admits that it wasn't just one time. Sheila thinks this is cool.

Scene 08: Cut to that night at The Bronze, in which Xan is dancing spastically, while Buffy is practicing French (badly) with Willow. Willow is, as is her nature, supportive. She points out that Buffy is just more concerned with her feelings for Angel (Oh, Buffy... don't do it!).

Xan begs the girls for someone to dance with... so they both go out on the floor with him.

Just as SPIKE wanders up to spy on the Slayer!

Spike, being a creep and a vampire, circles them. His focus appears to be totally on Buffy, though. Buffy, not honing as Giles warned her way back in 'WttH' doesn't sense him. He sends an anonymous vamp out to 'get a bit to eat'. By the smirk, we can sense a greater plan. (Okay, what at prick! Vampire, so expected, but still a complete prick.) He wanders up to the threesome on the dance floor and reports that the police need to be called because there is a 'freak' out back trying to bite somebody!

Scene 09: A random girl-in-danger is about to be bit, when Buffy grabs hench!vamp by the face and throws him to the side.

Commentary: This part makes me smile, actually. Random!vamp calls Buffy "Slayer", so she calls vampire, "Slayee".

They trade blows. (There is some good stunt work here.) Xan and Wills followed Buffy out and escort the stunned almost victim away, while Buffy continue punching hench!vamp in the face. Spike, in the meanwhile is watching this whole thing.

Scene 10: Back in The Bronze, Xan is searching through Buffy's purse to find a stake to rush out to her.

Commentary: This is a hilarious moment, which shouldn't be this funny (and may not be if you're a woman... I can't tell). He pulls out a tampon and drops it on the table as if it is made of molten lead. He continues to search, so this isn't drawing unnecessary attention to itself, but if you're watching, you actually get the humor here. But, there is a greater purpose here, as we'll discuss when Spike eventually confronts Buffy in the high school.

Xander does find a stake and rushes off to deliver it to Buffy.... In the meantime, Buffy continues to fight hench!vamp, while Spike remains not-fighting. Hmmmm.

Commentary: This vampire, by the way, is Vamp #1... also, he delivers a very graphic punch to Buffy's jaw, which is a bit of a surprise considering she's a girl... but also is a forewarning of some of the punches that Spike will deliver later.

Scene 11: Anyway, Buffy is knocked flat on her back, as the hench!vamp (stupidly) mentions St. Vigeous' holiday... and leans in to bite her (idiot... do you not wonder where Spike is?! No, apparently the thought he is being set up doesn't cross his mind).

Anywho, Buffy kicks him in the face and regains her feet. He calls to Spike to help him... rather foolishly not realizing that Spike doesn't give a crap about him... and rushes Buffy. In the meantime, Xander has returned outside with the stake. He throws it to her, and she catches it out of mid-air, staking Vamp #1.

Commentary: The only thing I'll say here... and it's minor... is that Willow just wouldn't NOT come out with Xan. She just wouldn't.

So, Vampire #1 dusts away, and Spike, being cool, claps. He comes out of the shadows. (Oh, and Willow is suddenly there again.)

Buffy asks who this new arrival is, and Spike tells her he'll tell her on Saturday when he kills her....

Commentary: I have a big problem with Buffy standing there dumbstruck, rather than engaging Spike in battle. Now, I do get the reason behind it... they want to build Spike up as an actual threat to the Slayer (in a way that Colin never was), but it just doesn't work for me. I don't see Buffy standing there stunned, instead of rushing him with a quip about 'Why wait?' ... especially since she knows that both Willow and Xander are right there (though off screen).

Scene 12: A bit later, poor Sheila with the zero survival skills leaves The Bronze with two guys. The two boys she's with, while she's talking, disappear suddenly and without explanation. Poor Sheila doesn't run. Instead, she thinks they're playing a joke on her until Spike appears without a sound behind her as she turns.

Sheila doesn't notice that her two boy-studs are lying dead right by her in a side-alley. Spike compliments her and basically seduces her.

Scene 13: While Spike is leading Sheila to her obvious doom (oh, spoiler!) Buffy is in the library with Xan, Willow, Giles and sweet Jenny. Xan points out that if the Night of St. Vigeous is coming (so we assume that Rupert or Jenny found it out) they should evacuate (unnecessary as I've already pointed out). Will tells him that would be wrong, but they could hide.

Angel shows in the library while the Gang discuss Spike. He speaks as if he has a bit too much personal experience with Spike, but Buffy is too wrapped up in her thinking he might have show up at The Bronze to catch it.

Commentary: Even though completely inappropriate, I still grin as Willow off-handedly points out the amount of dates that Angel must have had considering his age, as Buffy shoot her a look that shuts her up.

Giles wants to know if Spike goes by any other name... but when the group turn toward him, they find the library doors swinging shut...! Angel, has mysteriously and suddenly left.

Scene 14: Back at vampire central, we pan over a set of dolls that all have their mouths gagged. We see a set of hands spin a doll around to face the wall.

Naturally, the set of hands belong to Dru. Poor, crazy Dru tells dolly that she's been bad and will have no 'cakes today'. Spike comes up behind her.

Now, he tells Dru that the Hellmouth will restore her from whatever happened in Prague. Meanwhile, we see poor Sheila tied up and gagged. Dru insists that Spike go down and chant with the other member of the Aurelious clan, so that they can remain in their good graces. Spike insists that she eat 'something', which turns out to be Sheila.

Scene 15: The next day, the Gang is preparing weapons, including Cordy who is sharpening stakes. Buffy eyes a machete, but the proceeds to use it for vegetable chopping as she is still working on the Parent Teacher preperations. Giles informs everyone that the vampires will be working themselves into a lather and then on their holiday night will have a blood orgy of savagery.

Xan mentions that Saturday night used to be date night. Cordelia points out not for him.

Cordy then complains she needs a break from whittling, even though Xander told her she's only been at it for three minutes. She next tells him that Buffy isn't going to need all of the stakes their working on, anyway. Thoughtlessly, she reminds everyone (including Buffy) that if this Spike vampire is as tough as advertised, everything should be over pretty quickly anyway - implying that Buffy is doomed.

She quickly tries to recover by telling Buffy that they're all rooting for her. She offers that she'd be with Buffy on Saturday if it wasn't for the leg-wax appointment.

Buffy is off to scare up some punch and as soon as she steps out of the library doors, Xander and Cordelia begin raiding the vegetable tray... she sticks her head back inside with a "No".

Scene 16: In the lounge, Willow finds Buffy spooning lemonade into cups. She asks Buffy how much sugar she used just as she's taking a mouthful. "Sugar?" Buffy asks, as we watch Willow get sour-pucker and look for a place to spit.

Joyce wanders in the background as Buffy tells Willow that all she needs to do now is keep her and Snyder from meeting with one another.

Buffy tries to offer her mother a glass of lemonade and Willow panickly shakes her head no behind her. Fortunately for Joyce, Buffy spots Snyder and has Willow quickly escort her mom to her French class while she stays to 'hostess' and run interference with Snyder.

Buffy tries another of her bad lies, trying to convince the un-convince-able Snyder that her mother doesn't speak a word of English... he goes off toward the classrooms, while Buffy whimpers.

Scene 17: Shot of the clock face changing times, so we'll know several hours have passed and nightfall has, uh, fallen.

Cordelia has arrived from the library complaining about all of the prep work for Saturday's expected attack he's making her do. She takes a moment to point out to Buffy that she's looking slagged and her face is oily.

In the meantime, Joyce has also returned to the lounge from Willow's marathon trek around the school. She informs Buffy that everytime she visited one of her classrooms, the teacher just so happened to have stepped away. But Buffy's luck is unable to hold out, despite her attempts to interest her mother in the boiler room, for Snyder has finally intercepted Joyce. He grumpily tells her that they need to talk about Buffy and invites her to his office.

Cordelia is unnecessarily grin-y throughout this and tells Buffy she sees a very long grounding in her immediate future. Willow offers her the lemonade.

Scene 18: In the library, Giles has run across Watcher reports about Spike. At first things look promising, as Spike isn't even as old as Angel. But then he gets to the part where the vampire has managed to kill two Slayers in the last century....

Scene 19: Back with Snyder and Joyce, they're returning to the lounge and Joyce is looking extremely displeased. "In the car, now," she informs the worried Buffy.

Meanwhile, Snyder begins to turn off the lounge lights as a hint that now that he's gotten to dish all of his dirt to Buffy's mom, conferences are over.

He's interrupted by vampire growls and bodies come hurling through the plate glass window into the lounge. This would be our vampire attack... taking place much too early!

Spike struggles to get out through his ill-fitting fangs that he just couldn't wait as he sizes up the stunned Buffy.

Scene 20: Everyone struggles to flee, as Buffy escorts her mother and any of the other adults who follow to somewhere safer. She discovers that Spike has already had henchman cover the exits. Cordelia and Willow have been seperated from the others as they flee down a hallway. Cordy is briefly snatched up by a vampire, but Willow uses a bust to knock the vampire out.

They rush into a room...

Meanwhile, Giles, Xander and Ms. Calendar have come out of the library, only to have to retreat back in, barring the super-strong library doors...

And Buffy rushes her mother, Principal Snyder, doomed extra (oh, spoiler!) and other extras into a classroom, where the door is again blocked.

Scene 21: Power and phones into the school are cut off. Spike kills an extra. He's pissy because his henchvamp doesn't know which corridor Buffy escaped to.

Giles sends Xander off through an old boarded up entrance off of the library behind the stacks, or something, to retrieve Angel.

Scene 22: In the classroom, Joyce mentions that their attackers faces seemed really messed up and Snyder pulls out the "it's all PCP" story.

Snyder begins to attempt to leave via one of the windows, but Buffy tells him they'll kill him. He snots at her and she starts issuing orders. No one goes into or out of that room until she tells them so.

Buffy tells Snyder she can stop them, which sends Joyce into a panic about her facing the 'PCP gang'. Buffy assures her she's not confronting them directly and heads up into the ductwork.

Scene 23: In the meanwhile, Spike is in a hallway sing-songing for the Slayer to come out.

Spike is just about to kick in a utility closet door, behind which Willow and Cordelia are hunkered, when his henchvamp calls his name. He points up at the ceiling and tells Spike to listen.

Scene 24: In the library, Giles grabs an axe and starts un-barricading the door. Jenny complains he'll be overwhelmed, but Rupert tells her that he is the Watcher and he's responsible for Buffy. He has to go out and help her fight off Spike's gang.

Before Rupert can clear the door, Buffy drops down through the ceiling. They exchange information and form a plan to get everyone out while she deals with the vampires.

Scene 25: Back in the classroom with the also indestructible doors, Snyder's pacing drives Joyce nuts. He tells her that as Principal he is ordering that this is not happening, which Joyce sarcastically responds to. In the background, doomed extra tells them he's not waiting around for them to break into the classroom.

Joyce tries to warn them not to go out, but they don't listen.

Scene 26: In the meanwhile, Spike's mood is getting more sour as no one is dying and he's not getting his confrontation with the Slayer. A henchvamp complains about the door being solid. Spike disgustedly grabs him and swings him head first into a glassed cabinet where a fire ax is secured. He grabs the ax, puts it into stupid henchvamp's hands and then stalks away.

Scene 27: Back in to classroom, the door is beginning to get axed through. At the window, doomed extra crawls outside, only to start suddenly yelling as vampire roars are heard. His legs kick spastically.

He is doomed. Good bye doomed, not listening extra.

Snyder seconds guesses his decision to leave via window. But he and Joyce are still not in a promising situation.

Scene 28: Outside, Angel and Xander find doomed extra drained. Xan asks Angel if he has a plan, Angel responds by grabbing Xander around the neck and dragging him toward the school.

Scene 29: In the utility closet, Cordy tells Willow she thinks that Spike left. Cordy asks what they should do - Willow responds 'pray'.

Scene 30: Back with Buffy in the ceiling crawling. Spike and henchwoman use iron poles to jab up into the ceiling, but they miss getting her.

She makes her way back to above the hallway where ax-using vamp has Joyce and Snyder pinned down. He's about to make his way through the door. She drops down from the ceiling, staking him. Joyce sees just enough to surely make her curious. Buffy checks on her, Joyce tells her to run while she can.

Instead, Buffy stalks around the corner, where another vampire is guarding a second door into the classroom because that door is indestructible, too, and will not fall to vamp!strength.

Before she can attack though, there is a bang behind her. It's Sheila. She apologizes for being late for conferences. She reports the weird looking guys hanging out front. Buffy informs her that they're trying to kill them all.

Sheila picks up the fire ax and smiles at Buffy, offering to have her back (Buffy doesn't hone, again, as her vampire detection doesn't pick her up.)

Buffy leads the way....

Scene 31: In the hallway with Spike and henchwoman, they're still shoving poles up through the ceiling tiles, when Xander suddenly appears in the hallway. He is in the grip of Angel, whom Spike greets as Angelus. They act like old buds (which we'll find isn't entirely accurate later).

Angel offers Xander up to Spike....

Scene 32: In the meantime, Buffy is wandering down her corridor with Sheila still behind her. They sloooowwwwly approach second vamp in the hallway, Buffy with her stake raised. She tells Sheila to stay behind her....

Commentary: They've filmed this with Sheila's face staying hidden, which was an utterly empty gesture. We already know Drusilla fed on her, so are we really expected to believe that she was left alive? Also, if they didn't want to spend the money on the morph-effect Sheila, they still could have filmed her normally, cut away and then cut back to her in sudden vamp!face. This is filmed like we should be shocked that Sheila turns out to be a vampire minion, but it's dumb because of what we've already seen before this.

Anyway, we finally get Buffy moving out of the way so we can see vamp!Sheila. She raises the ax behind Buffy. We cut out with tense music....

... And cut back in with them still in the same places. Now, earlier they established that the science classroom is located across from the library, which allows Giles to see Sheila's ax poised. He's able to shout a warning to Buffy and she's able to quickly disarm Sheila. She uses the ax handle to hit Sheila into a wall, while she spins and tries to behead second hallway vampire. She misses, but his smug look is interrupted when he looks down to find Buffy's stake in his chest... he falls and ashes. Sheila has a look of panic and flees.

Buffy returns to the main door of the classroom and herds her mother, Snyder and the extras out and ordering them to make a run for it (Which makes zero sense... she already knows that the perimeter of the building has been cut off, she doesn't know that Angel has arrived to take care of them all, and she can't be everywhere where the remaining vampires are at the same time, so why would she send her mother running off into the dark?).

Scene 33: Spike confronts Angelus about why he's so afraid of the current Slayer, but Angel points out that he's seen her kill The Master.

Commentary: This scene plays painfully, and I don't know if it's because it's deliberate or not. You see, Spike is already onto Angel - which in retrospect later is going to make this entire attempt at foolery dumb - and is just playing him, while his henchvamps close in. So, it this scene just painfully written, or is it purposely awkward because Spike's biding him time here? I can't tell. What bugs me though is Angel using Xander as bait under these conditions. Just how long was he going to hold him there? How close was he going to allow Spike to come to biting him before he finally acted? This feels like it's putting Xander's life in immediate danger, not because there is a clever plan afoot, but because the director/scripters want us to think that Angel might be showing his true colors now and betraying Buffy. But since he's not doing so, it puts his actions involving setting Xander this close to someone as violent and unpredicatable as Spike unprepared as completely irresponsible, which is why this scene just doesn't work for me.

And, that's before the upcoming continuity stuff between Angelus and Spike's past that we'll run up against much later.

Anyway, so Spike isn't fooled. Angel gets himself punched out, since he wasn't busy doing the punching first. Spike rails against him for turning against his own kind. Spike sends his standing around minions to take care of Angel and Xander. He starts to follow, but is pulled up short when he senses/scents Buffy close by.

Commentary: And this, interestingly, brings us back to that little comedy moment with Xander back at The Bronze. Buffy's tampon suggests that she may be having her period during the episode, and Spike here strongly suggests that vampires are able to scent that blood. Why I find this interesting, is that as the season progresses, there will be more and more emphasis placed on Buffy's burgeoning sexuality, culminating in her and Angel having sex and then that whole consequences of his curse thing (oh, spoiler!). In that light, you could see this as setting the groundwork for Buffy's becoming sexually mature as well as the vampire closest to her becoming much more explicitly interested in her romantically. This is the start of Buffy moving from adolescence toward adulthood that will be explored starting halfway through this season and will be continually visited in future seasons with Parker, Riley, Spike and Satsu.

Also, notice Buffy's skirt here... the rose in bloom pattern is settled just so on the front of it in the general vicinity of her intimate parts. It adds to my feeling that addressing Buffy's burgeoning womanhood was a plan for S2 long before she and Angel began to be drawn closer to an intimate relationship. And, Spike, we've already seen in his interactions with Drusilla is a far more sexualized vampire than The Master, Luke or even Angel (at this point). We're seeing a foundation laid with all of these subtle hints that Buffy is maturing and the show is about to delve into more adult relationship types of stories, rather than the flirty, non-sexual dating issues of S1.

Buffy also takes command in this episode, usurping authority from the adults surrounding her and issuing orders. We've seen Buffy take control of a situation by virtue of her Slayer intuition around Giles and the Gang, but as she grows up, Buffy will also begin to take over more of a leadership position as well. We'll see this when she fights Glory, organizes against the First Evil and finally leads a global organization of Slayers. It's also interesting that Spike is a clearly an Alpha-male sort, but he too will have this 'authority' usurped by Buffy eventually and will end up willingly follow her as one of her supporting troops.

Back to our scene, though - Buffy is in fact standing behind him. She's still carrying her ax, while he is armed with his metal pole. She derides Spike for needing to do this confrontation with weapons, and at first he jokes about them making him feel manly, but he ends up dropping his weapon. She follows suit.

Spike spins a story (which we'll find out in the future is... exaggerated....) about his last Slayer begging for her life (this will be Nikki Wood, and she doesn't come even close to begging). He promises that as a personal favor, he'll make Buffy's death quick. He promises her that it won't hurt a bit.

Buffy's perfect response, a smirked: No, Spike. It's going to hurt a lot.

They start the hand to hand.

Meanwhile, outside the school, Spike's fellow vampires have caught up with Xander and Angel...

... while in the hallway, Spike lays some pretty brutal looking blows to Buffy abdomen, hard enough to cause her to double over.

At the same time, Joyce is in the library, still being herded out back through the stacks. She pauses with a thoughtful look on her face.

Outside, Angel drives his attackers away, saving Xan from a choke hold.

Spike punches a wall and yanks a board out with his hand. He clobbers Buffy, knocking her to the floor. He's about to beat her with it, when the flat of that fire ax that Buffy had dropped onto the floor connects with the back of his head. He also falls to the floor. Both he and Buffy look up with a sense of confusion, only to find Joyce in perhaps her only power moment standing with the ax in her hands.

"You get the hell away from my daughter!"

Spike chooses to retreat for the moment.

Scene 34: Outside the school, emergency vehicles are once again in Sunnydale's parking lot. Bob, who may be a city councilman or a police head honcho or school board president... I don't know. But he complains to Snyder about two dead bodies at the school.

Scene 35: At the front doors, Jenny sarcastically mentions they've had another fun filled evening. Giles tells her that he'd understand if she just started to avoid him, but she gives him a half-smile and takes his arm (ooohhhhh, so cute).

Continuity?: Doesn't that look like Giles and Jenny walking down the sidewalk behind Snyder and Bob... but then we cut to them to share dialog, and they're back just now exiting the school.

Scene 36: Xander is walking with Angel and asking why he didn't clock Spike before getting clocked (thank you!) which Angel explains away as not wanting to make the first move before finding out if he was buying it. Xan brings up his neck being at risk and Angel tells him that if he'd gotten bit, Angel would've known Spike was buying it all, with a smirk.

Scene 37: Back with Snyder and Bob, Bob is going to make a statement to the media. He asks Snyder if they should go with the usual cover story - which is the PCP-gang story. So, we find out that there are actually adults in Sunnydale who have some inkling about what is going on... and Snyder also is in the know. And, this puts a new, more sinister twist on his constant presence hovering around Buffy and threatening her with expulsion at every turn.

Scene 38: With Buffy, she's asking Joyce about all of the things that Principal Snyder said about her. Joyce tells her she doesn't care about Snyder's referring to her as a troublemaker. She now knows that Buffy is resourceful and tough. She can take care of herself and she puts others before herself in a crisis.

Buffy responds with a question about how long this feeling is expected to last before her mom starts riding her again. Joyce shrugs and suggests at least a week and a half.

Buffy grins widely.

Scene 39: Back in the Utility closet, Willow and Cordelia have no idea that things have been resolved. Cordy is praying, as per Willow's earlier suggestion, while Will just looks bored and a bit tired of being trapped with her.

Cordy promises the Lord that if he'll get them out of this jam, then she'll stop being mean to people... well, unless they really deserve it... or it's her time of the month, in which case she has to be given some slack.

Willow interrupts her to suggest she ask the Lord for some aspirin, which Cordy starts to do before getting Willow's meaning....

Scene 40: After daybreak, back at the factory, Spike is sullen and moody. He complains to Dru that the Slayer isn't supposed to have family and friends, but she's confident that he'll kill her.

She also reports, in her Drusilla way, that the Anointed One is very unhappy with him... jumping the gun before St. Vigeous and all, you know. He goes to 'make nice' with the demonic brat.

He's in a real snit because the Aurelious clan has been largely decimated between The Master's death, Absolom's defeat and now Spike's leading a raid on the high school and failing to kill Buffy.

Spike tries to apologize for acting rashly, but he can't bring himself to do it. Instead he snatches up undead!Colin and puts the kid in a cage, where he's hoisted up into the rays of the sun.

Commentary: And thereby gains the loyalty of nearly all of fandom, instantly. If only he'd started there, perhaps we all would have joined him on his crusade against Buffy.

The Good: Clearly both James Marsters and Juliet Landau were great assets to bring on-board. Spike and daffy/scary Dru are marvelous creations right off the bat and added a real spark of energy to early season 2.

Once again, I really like the chemistry between SMG and Christine, so the scene between Buffy and Joyce play well.

The knock down fight between Spike and Buffy could have gone on longer because it was very good... very physical, and there is immediate chemistry between SMG and James playing off of one another as well.

I like the continuing of slowly incorporating Cordelia Chase, against her will it seems, into the Scooby Gang while she continues to be dismissive and insulting toward them.

Anthony and Robia's chemistry never quits... even such tiny scenes as the arm holding near the end are adorable.

Finally getting rid of the Anointed One puts not only his particularly useless subplots to an end, but also acts as the final door being shut on the musty old ways on doing things, and ushering in Spike's more modern and thereby having better dialog way of doing things. Hooray!

The Bad: I generally didn't like Angel's role in this either, and not because of the small continuity details that get changed later. Just his whole plan to trick Spike was awkwardly put together and ultimately pointless. And Spike's reaction "My Sire, man! My Yoda!" ... ugh, lines to bury and forget.

The Score: This episode was actually better than I remembered, because I mostly remembered it for Spike's introduction. The story plays out well though, even divorced from his introduction. It's interesting that Sheila was allowed to escape - I didn't remember that. A highlight was, of course, Joyce's introducing the ax to Spike's head. But, one wonders why she is still so damned blind to the weirdness... since when does PCP deform faces and cause people to spring fangs?

And why doesn't Joyce ever mention Buffy's tackling a man in the hallway, plunging a stake into him, and having him disappear? Even from her limited vantage point, doesn't it strike her that Buffy just stabbed a man, who could be critically hurt (since there's no body, he obviously wasn't immediately killed)?

If feels like their artificially keeping Joyce from noticing the weirdness so they don't have to deal with Buffy's secret coming out (until the finale), but this becomes more and more of a contrivance as we go along. It is still pretty ridiculous here, but I'm letting it slide.

I also think the episode spends a bit too much time in set up (Sheila's introduction, setting up for Parent-Teacher night, Spike trying to get along with what is left of the Aurelious clan) that could have been better spent by extending the fight scenes between Buffy and Spike.

I do like this episode a lot though: 4.0 out of 5

Tags: buffy season 2 reviews

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