harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Review: BTVS's "Killed by Death"

killed by death splash

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 2, Ep 18

"Killed by Death"

Written: Rob Des Hotel & Dean Batali
Directed: Deran Sarafian

Blurb: While hospitalized with a severe case of the flu, Buffy battles a demon that sucks the life out of sick children.

Scene 01: We open on Buffy hauling herself up and over a wall. She coughs a bit and when she lands on her feet on the other side, she ends up falling over. She is doing more sniffling as she patrols a graveyard. Her Buffy-senses activate and she pulls out a stake before creeping around a mini-mausoleum.

She startles with a scare as her "vampire" turns out to be Willow, Xander and Cordelia. She barely stops herself from plunging a stake into Xan (I see his pants and beg her to go ahead, anyway).


Commentary: And I immediately flash forward to Faith's actions with Deputy Mayor Fitch. I wonder if this episode came up in the discussions that led to that development, or if it was coincidence?

The gang and Buffy confront one another: She for them running around Sunnydale cemeteries at night, and they for her patrolling when she has a flu that has taken out half their classmates. Even Cordelia is concerned "with how gross [you] look". (Hah!)

They bicker about her responsibilities, as she is guilt-ridden over Jenny's death and won't consider giving herself a night off to recover. She stresses that if she doesn't do her Slayer-duty, someone else could die and she won't let Angel kill anyone more.

Scene 02: Obviously, this is the perfect place for Angelus to do a walk-on, which he does. He snarks he just wants one more and rushes Cordelia, knocking her flat. It seems more to terrify than to kill since Buffy IS standing RIGHT THERE. She easily yanks him off so they can engage in fisticuffs.


Significantly, Buffy goes straight for the stake to the chest with him -- no playing around. But he tells her he can tell she isn't feeling well as he easily stops the strike.

They begin to trade blows, but with Buffy woozy on her feet, Angelus is able to start mopping the ground with her. He's then able to punch her out and pin her to the ground, snarking at her how it doesn't look good for "our heroine".

Commentary: And, once again, David's make-up is so heavily done that he looks like he's trying to be Vampire-Joker. May I direct your attention to his lipstick. Look, Angie-Baby, I'm all for expressing yourself -- but at least learn how to apply.

Fortunately for Buffy, the gang has stopped standing around watching and Xander comes up behind him. Unfortunately, none of them use a stake through his back. But, Willow is able to throw her coat over his head and Xander starts punching him as hard as he can manage. He actually gives him a very nice knee to the face! That was fun!

Cordy and Willow then haul out their crosses against the Angelus-flat-on-his-back. Angelus backs off, while making clear that they'll be doing this again sometime.

Scene 03: Buffy woozily gets to her feet. She berates the Scooby Gang for not retreating, but then she collapses - passed out thanks to the combo of Angelus-punches and flu-ickies.

Credits Doth Credit

Scene 04: On returning from credits, the gang come in with Buffy in Xander's arms. They report that Buffy had a mumble-mumble-clashing explanation, before Xan takes charge again and reports that Buffy had a flu-induced faint/fall.

Commentary: And Nicky is hauling SMG around like she's a paperweight. It's almost funny how really tiny she looks in this scene.

Buffy is whisked away, while the gang separate to get Giles and Joyce to the hospital.

Scene 05: With Joyce's arrival, the doctor lets everyone know that Buffy will recover, though she "still has some healing to do", which apparently is letting us know that Angelus caused some fracturing during his beating of her (however, this will not impact anything, so it's more of a throwaway then anything).

Scene 06: Buffy is rolled from ER to a room, with the gang walking at her side. She's clearly still a bit loopy from the high fever and whatever pain meds she has onboard. Buffy expresses her desire to go home, but of course, the staff isn't going to let that happen.

Buffy gets resistant and tries to leave, as the staff and Joyce try to get her to calm down. She yells for Giles to tell everyone that she has to patrol to stop the vampires. She gets a shot, while Giles and the gang cover for her being obviously delusional because of the fever. Joyce comforts.

Commentary: More importantly though, she provides yet more evidence that Buffy's "stay in a mental hospital" that was retconned in during Season 6 is clumsy. Her mother is remarkably non-impacted by her daughter raving about those vampires again... despite the fact that her retconned history had her and Hank so flipped out the first time she started going on about them that they sent her to a psych hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Oh, and Xander? Would you please... please... go change into a pair of jeans.

Buffy is calmed enough for the sedative to take affect, and she's rolled away to her room. Xan states how he's not used to seeing her so afraid. Joyce lets them in on some more Buffy-backstory in which her favorite cousin Celia went to the hospital and died, giving Buffs a phobia about staying in them.

Scene 06: Joyce notices through the door that Buffy seems settled, so she goes to call Hank. Giles walks with her. Joyce thanks him for coming and expresses her appreciation to him for looking out after her daughter.

Commentary: And obviously that will change by the beginning of next season where Joyce will express her anger toward him for the same thing, although that is due to The Secret.

She also expresses her sympathy toward him for Jenny's death, telling him that Buffy has been upset since it happened and told her that she and Giles had been close. She offers anything that she can do.

Commentary: And, this is a nice bit here because Joyce - in dialog - mentions that Buffy never gets sick. I've long had a theory that Buffy's abilities are tied to her emotional states and sense of self-confidence. It seems like whenever she is feeling particularly stressed or despairing, she does worse then when she's confident and quippy. But, this has never been made canon explicitly. I think it would explain nicely, however, why she seems to have such wild fluctuations in her strength, fighting ability, agility, etc. that would really be more of "the script says so".

Scene 07: Back in the hallway, Xan expresses concern that Buffy may be vulnerable in the hospital. Cordelia doesn't really get the point and goes on about one of her Cordette's botched nose jobs that was received at this particular hospital. While Wills and Xan worry over Angelus having an all-access pass to the public building, Cordy goes on about "that thing" that is wrong with Buffy's face that she should have worked on since she's there anyway.

Scene 08: Later that night, Buffy wakes up from the sedatives given earlier (and we get the DVD intro music, taken from this episode).

In the hallway and little boy stares at her wordlessly, before continuing on. But behind him, Buffy sees a tall, demonic looking man following. Buffy gets up groggily to follow.


Scene 09: As Buffy follows after the two through the darkest hospital corridors in the world, she has flashbacks to her time as a little girl when she was visiting that favored cousin. Her flashback self wanders down the brightest hospital corridors in the world.

Little Buffy approaches a white curtain draped bed where Celia must by lying, but we don't get confirmation because of a flash of white light.

Scene 10: We're back at current Buffy lying in her hospital bed. Apparently she'd had a Slayer dream/vision of the boy and the scary man and hadn't actually gotten up to follow them.

This time she does wake up for real at the exact time that her dream self awoke. She wanders down the corridor again, but this time it isn't the world's darkest hospital corridor, but is regular subdued lighting.

As Buffy wanders by patient rooms, creepy-red-herring security guard pokes his head out from one to watch her.

Scene 11: As she approaches one such patient room, two orderlies are rolling out a sheet draped body. One of the orderlies comments on hating when they lose the young ones. Buffy spies in the children's ward where she sees her emergency room doctor arguing with a children's doc about dosages of some experimental medications. She hears just enough to get an inkling that mad-science may be going on.

As she turns away, she runs into two small children behind her. They warn her that "he" comes at night and that 'Tina' was taken by him and he's going to return for them, too. When Buffy asks who, kids respond "death". They further exposit that the adults don't see him.

Commentary: This is one of the more exceptionally clumsy dialog scenes in Buffy. Kids simply wouldn't start blabbing about monsters to some strange sick teen girl in the hallway, what are these kids doing wandering around at 0230 in the morning, what kids would respond to Buffy's question with a dramatic "DEATH" rather than 'the creepy guy' or 'the monster'?

No, no, it simply doesn't work for me.

Scene 12: Later? The same time? The following evening?

Xander is sitting in the waiting room when we hear somebody whistling a jaunty tune. This turns out to be Angelus with flowers for Buffy. Xan (bravely/stupidly) steps up in his face and tells him that visiting hours are over.

Angelus taunts Xan with his powerlessness to stop him from getting to Buffy's room if he wishes to, but Xan won't back down. So, he next turns to taunting out that Xan still loves Buffy, but he got to bed her first and it must just eat Xan up. Xander's response is to stare him in the eye and tell him that he's going to die, and Xan will be there when it happens.

Angelus smirks, but he leaves.

Scene 13: Meanwhile, we get another flashback of little-Buffy playing Power Girl to rescue beloved cousin from an avalanche of pillows.

This flashes to the flashback where little Buffy is again approaching Celia's hospital bed. When she opens the curtain, Celia lies still, pale and unmoving.

Scene 14: Buffy awakes in her own hospital bed. She's feeling much better, but her attending won't let her leave quite yet as the flu virus she has is a nasty one. Buffy asks if it's the same one the kids have, but doctor only has time to get uncomfortable-glance before Giles and gang interrupt to visit.

They banter a bit. Buffy tries to tell them about the weird occurrance the night before with the kids, but a nurse is checking out her replaced IV. She suggests they go for a walk, as she's not confined to her bed or anything, just to the hospital.

Scene 15: Outside in the sun, as Buffy is being wheeled around by Willow, she shares that there is something off with what is happening in the children's ward. At first the gang blow off her concerns as the tales of scared children in a scary environment, but Buffy is adamant that they should at least take a closer look.

Scene 16: The first order of business is Xander and Cordy sneaking into the patient record's room to find the file on the girl that died that morning (and speaking of... just how long is Buffy's doctor's shift, anyway!). Cordy spends the time complaining about sick people taking advantage of their friend's compassion to get them to do sucky stuff like this.

Cordelia gets caught snooping by red-herring security guy (speaking of, just how long is his shifts!).

Scene 17: Back at the library, Willow and Giles are discussing how to proceed. At first Rupert believes that Cordy may have been right to suggest that Buffy is looking for a monster that doesn't exist due to her inability to fight regular diseases that kill children around her. But Willow counters they live on a Hellmouth.

Rupert tells her that a monster who children can see, but adults can't isn't ringing any Watcher-bells. But then, he suggests that sometimes children can see what adults don't... a person's real face. He suggests that the children may be afraid of an adult in the hospital and are calling him "death". Willow starts looking into mad science doctor.

Commentary: I also like how Rupert brings up their recent trauma with Jenny again, both because it shows what an impact her character had but also because it plays well into very next episode's "I only Have Eyes For You" where Giles will continue to presume a ghost in the school is Ms. Calendar even after it displays behaviors that would have nothing to do with how she died.

Jenny's death is one that haunts the series right up through the ending of BTVS: S8 and Angel & Faith.

Scene 18: Back with Xan and Cordy, she's been caught by the skulking security guard. But as we rejoin her, she's got the poor man wrapped around her finger. Through her coy flirtations and her standing just a bit too close, she's able to crack open the guard's secrets regarding the weird doctor and the little girl who died while Xan stays hidden in the shadows (and probably suffering extreme eye damage from the strain of rolling them).

Xander nearly ruins it all by making noise as he tries to slip out the door, but Cordelia saves the day by mentioning the guard's perfect nose, which she somehow turns into a "you must work out" comment without any cognitive dissonance at all.

Scene 19: When Cordy returns to Xan in the hallway, he's immediately annoyed at how touchy-feely her distraction was. She accuses him of being jealous, but he denies this. He does hand off Tina's file to Cordy to run back to Giles. He tells her he's staying and it's her turn to be annoyed over Xan's obsession with protecting Buffy.

He points out that somebody has to watch her back, and Cordy accuses him of doing this too often, as in watching her butt. He teases her for being jealous, and she storms out.

Scene 20: Meanwhile, Buffy has wandered to the children's ward where only Ryan is at currently. He's sitting in the dark, except for a lamp and lighted drawing table. Buffy notices his drawing is of a monster.

She flashes back to the scary monster face she noted while she was zoned out/having a Slayer vision the night before.

Ryan tells her that "death" will be returning that night for them. Buffy tells him that monsters are real, but so are the heroes who fight them. He doesn't believe that anyone can fight death.

Scene 21: With Giles and Willow, they're looking of the creepy doctor and find that he has several complaints on record.

Scene 22: We join mad-doctor in his office that night at the hospital, where he's reviewing some findings. He has an inspiration and goes to his in-office fridge where he pulls out a vial. After marking this, he returns to a book to confirm something or another, all the while muttering to himself.

Scene 23: Meanwhile, Xander is nodding off in the hallway where he has again positioned himself for the night to make sure Angelus doesn't make a return [because as we know, hospitals only have one way in and out of each hallway so it would be impossible for Angelus to simply use the back door... or scale up the building and use a window...].

Cordelia suprises him by bringing donuts (product placement!) and coffee. It is a wordless, but sweet moment.

Scene 24: We return to mad doctor with a vial in his hand heading toward the children's ward, obviously with more of that fever-enhancing experimental medication. We see Buffy waiting beside a door, where she starts to follow him.

Scene 25: In the children's ward, mad doc wanders to a bed of one of the really sick kids and readies to give her an injection. He's startled by a raspy laugh from behind him, but when he turns there is no one there.

No one he can see, anyway. It doesn't stop him from being slashed to death to Ryan's watching horror.

Buffy comes upon the scene just as mad doc is flung out into the hallway. She tries to see to him, but gets herself punched away against the wall by her invisible foe. Doctor is then dragged away.

Commentary: So, 26 minutes in and we finally have some onscreen carnage. Alas, except for one slash mark and some shadow/blood fling we don't get to see much in the way of horror. As you should be able to tell from the commentary thus far, this episode is simply lacking in its structure and visuals. There really isn't much going on on-screen, and since we already saw Buffy's vision of the monster we already know that Willow and Giles' suspecting the mad doc of being the bad guy is off base, so there isn't any mystery to get involved in either.

The episode isn't bad, really, but it isn't all that interesting either. There isn't even much going on to screen cap, explaining how few images got included in this review.

Scene 26: The following day, the Scoobies meet up with Buffy. They explain that Tina had been improving before she suddenly cratered and died. Willow tells Buffy that Doctor Backer isn't a very solid citizen, but Buffy has to share that he wasn't the bad guy. She explains the doc is dead and she was bowled over by it, but she couldn't see it. Cordelia reminds her that she told him that she did see something before, but she tells her that she was raging with fever and out of it.

She questions how it makes sense that the kids can see the thing just fine, but she can't otherwise.

But, before they can continue to puzzle it out, Joyce comes in. She jokes that it looks like she interrupted a secret meeting, which everyone strainably laughs off. Joyce is there with the good news that Buffy can be released.

Buffy plays that her symptoms are coming back and sends Joyce to speak to the doctor about allowing her to stay another day or so. They come up with a plan of action and separate.

Commentary: I'm not sure what it is either, but even the cute parts like Willow and Xan playing doctor as kids -- and doing it wrong -- just pass by with nary a smirk. Too many close ups? To much quick line readings? Too bright? I don't know. Maybe it's just too late in the episode for cuteness, when we should be gearing up for battle now.

Scene 27: In the hallway, Giles, Cordy and Xan review. Xander is staying at the hospital as sentry, even though Angelus won't be able to return until dark (I'm finding it impossible to believe that there aren't maintenance tunnels under Sunnydale's hospital to negate this assumption rather obviously). He sends Cordy to accompany Giles to the library.

In the one funny bit, Giles' first response is "Why do I have to... uh, right, good idea. I could use a research assistant".

Cordelia gives him a "Let's go, tact-guy".

Commentary: That one did get a snort of amusement from me, followed by a few giggles.

Scene 28: We cut to Ryan. He looks out at the hallway, but quickly ducks back in when he sees Security Guard prowling about.

Scene 29: Meanwhile, in mad doc's office, Buffy and Willow try to find a reason behind his targeting by the creature of the week.

Willow finds evidence that Dr. Backer was introducing controlled dosages of the virus the kids already had in their systems back to them in order to raise their fevers enough to burn it out of them, without it killing them. His results seem to indicate it may have been working, when the monster interrupted by slashing him to death.

Scene 30: In the library, Giles is trying to focus on identifying their beast, but Cordy is busy asking questions about every single demony picture on the desk, keeping him from concentrating. And even when he pointedly and sarcastically points it out, she doesn't get that is what he's doing.

Commentary: Okay, this was mildly amusing, too. Obviously, there was more untapped comedy potential in the Cordelia/Giles relationship that sadly we'll not get to explore.

Giles starts to despair that with the monster's relative invisibility they may never find a demon that matches Ryan's badly drawn picture. But when Cordy closes the current book she's looking in... whattayouknow, there he is, right on the cover!

Scene 31: Cut to Cordy on the phone, giving the lowdown on the demon. Der Kinderstod kills children by sucking the life out of them. At first Buffy is nonplussed at Cordelia giving her this info and asks after Giles, but Cordy insists she found the monster so she should just listen.

Giles has come in at this point and Cordy freaks out at the image of the monster killing its prey. She complains about being dragged into this kinda stuff and huffs out of his office. Meanwhile, Rupert fills Buffy in on how the monster straddles its prey's chest before beginning its life-force suckage. His mention of how terrifying it must be for the victim causes memory flashback for Buffy.

Scene 32: She back in Celia's room, where she's moved aside the curtain. Celia suddenly snaps awake, screaming with her hands up as if trying to ward off something that isn't there.

Buffy realizes that she watched Der Kinderstod kill her cousin.

Commentary: I don't even know how to comment on this. Is it a pointer at Buffy's future fate that the monster's were touching her life even before she knew about them? Is it just bad storytelling? Is it really necessary to give Buffy a personal stake in avenging her cousin's death to battle this monster? Is there a reason we'll never hear about Celia again, if this is such a big moment of vengeance for her?

This just really seems out of left field, where the whole plot point is shoved back as soon as Der Kinderstod is dead. Also, is he unique? Is there only one of them?

Scene 33: Anyway, Buffy sits in shock at the realization and Willow hangs up with Giles. Buffy tells Willow they need to kill this thing, but she doesn't know how because she can't see what she's fighting against. Wills points out again that she saw it before, but Buffy isn't sure that her mind wasn't playing tricks on her because of the fever....

Scene 34: Cut to Doctor Backer's office again, where Buffy gets into the flu samples. She and Willow whip up a cocktail of flu virus for Buffy (although, I'm doubting the science here) to reinfect herself so she'll regain her fever.

Scene 35: Which strikes nearly instantly, amazingly. Willow helps Buffy stumble down the corridor toward the children's ward. But, when they reach it, they find all of the kids missing.

Scene 36: We cut to the kids, who have gotten proactive about their own survival. They're retreated to the basement of the hospital and are looking for an escape/place to hide where Der Kinderstod won't find them.

Scene 37: Upstairs, Willow and Buffy worry over where the kids have gone. As Buffy watches through the door, and her fever intensifies, she can suddenly see Der Kinderstod checking over the empty beds. It notices Buffy watching it and gives her a raspy laugh and a doff of its hat in her direction before heading to the basement access door -- which is ridiculously connected to the children's ward (I'm trying to accept this however, because of future developments -- we know that the Mayor is interested in babies for his own purposes, so I suppose he could have arranged for this sort of crazy architecture when Sunnydale's hospital go built --- but before we know all of this, this is just dumb).


Scene 38: Buffy realizes that the demon is going after the kids, but she can't break into the locked children's ward door with her fevered weakness (Yes, you put locks inside a children's ward, and give basement access -- I'm horrified for any parents dropping their kids off here divorced from the Hellmouth highjinks).

Before Buffy can take off after them, ER Doctor (who apparently wanders all of the floors during her shift, despite being the ER trauma doctor) finds them and notices Buffy's worsened condition. She tries to get Buffy to her room, but is pushed away. She calls for security while Willow and Buffy make a run for the basement.

As Buffy and Wills round a corner, they're met by lurking security guard and extra guard. Willow taps into her frog fear and starts acting flipped out, so that the guards' attention is on her, allowing Buffy to slip away to where she's needed.

The only living doctor in the hospital catches up and yells at the guards that Willow isn't the patient, it's the other one. Will has a sudden recovery from her frog flip out.

Scene 39: Meanwhile, Buffy runs into Xander who worries that Angel tried to attack her again. But she explains it wasn't Angelus....

Scene 40: In the meantime, Der Kinderstod is sniffing out the children despite their attempts to hide in a dark corner. Ryan tries to tell the others that they'll be safe now. But naturally, right after the phrase gets out of his mouth, he's snatched up by the demon.


Scene 41: Meanwhile, Xander helps Buffy shuffle her way into the basement.

Scene 42: Cut to Ryan screeching as Der Kinderstod shakes him up a bit.

Scene 43: Cut to Xan/Buffy jogging down the drippiest basement corridors in creation.

Scene 44: Cut to screeching Ryan getting thrown to the ground and stunned. He has a split moment to make a mad dash, but he stares at the other kids, who are too terrified to do anything but crouch there screaming for their lives.


Then Der Kinderstod is on him. The demon's eyes turn into tentacles and protrude from its sockets, where they go to latch onto the screaming Ryan.



Scene 45: Thankfully for Ryan, Buffy shows up then and beams Der Kinderstod in the back of the head, distracting it from its feeding. While Buffy engages in fisticuffs, Xander collects the screeching kids to rush them back upstairs.

Xan returns to see how he can help Buffy, but he can't see what she's fighting. She, in the meantime, is getting in some good hits but the demon is more than taking them and returning as good as he's getting. Which doesn't look good for Buffy, since she's still wracked with the flu.

Buffy is thrown to the ground, and Der Kinderstod is able to straddle/protrude the eyes bit at her. But, since she's not a paralyzed with terror child, she is able to reach up and snap its neck.

Scene 46: Later at the Summers house, Buffy is recuperating in her bed. Xan and Willow are there... and everyone is totally abusing Joyce by demanding: Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with crunchy peanut butter and extra jelly and no crust; a juice with two parts orange juice and one part grapefruit juice, a refill on a soda and another bag of cheesy chips (which when she points out that Xan ate the last one, he responds that there is another bag hidden behind the raisins)... Joyce somehow bares this without rat poison.

Joyce also delivers Buffy a letter received from Ryan. He's drawn her a picture... Joyce says "how... nice..." as the picture is of Buffy standing over Der Kinderstod with its neck broken open and blood fountaining up into the air.

Sweet kid.

The Good: I liked the beginning confrontation with Angelus, especially Xander getting in on some nice fisticuff moves.

I liked Der Kinderstod's look.

I love that Jenny's recent murder is still hanging over the gang and continues to be mentioned.

I really liked the bits of humor revolving around Cordelia this episode, especially in her interactions with Giles.

The Bad: The whole Celia connection is kinda ham-handed, but would be okay, if they just hadn't included that she was also an early victim of Der Kinderstod long before Buffy was called. With no follow up on this unlikely coincidence, this just feels really tacked on and was completely unnecessary to Buffy's desire to fight the bad guy.

Other Thoughts: I liked Xan getting a chance to stand up to Angelus, but I also find it kinda empty since Angelus just goes away and doesn't come back later in the episode. It feels like a "oh, yeah, remember bad-Angel is still around too everyone!" which was already taken care of in the opening.

A big problem was pacing, as we spent too much time with the mysterious doctor when we already knew early on that he wasn't responsible for the kids' death because we already saw the demon. Also, it takes just a tad too long for our gang to put together Buffy's ability to see an otherwise invisible demon with the fever that she's sharing with the kids.

There were some cute moments, some scary moments involving Ryan... but only some.

The Score: Uninspiring and unremarkable. 3.0 outta 5


Next Review: I'm not positive; I'm leaning toward Buffy, S9 #2 and Angel & Faith #2
Tags: buffy season 2 reviews

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