harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

BTVS Reviewed: "Gingerbread"


BTVS, Season 03, Episode 11


Writer: Jane Espenson
Story by: Jane Espenson & Thania St. John
DIR: James Whitmore, Jr.

Blurb: After Buffy’s mother discovers two dead children marked with a symbol linked to the occult, she begins a campaign to rid Sunnydale of witches.

Scene 01: We open with Buffy wandering one of Sunnydale’s parks. She’s on one of her nightly patrols. A bush shakes nearby and she gets her stake ready, but from stage right, a voice rings out, “Is it a vampire?”… to Buffy’s chagrin, it’s Joyce.

She asks what her mother is doing out there, and stares at her mother like she’s some kinda crazy as Joyce tells her she brought her some snacks. Joyce has decided now that she’s in the know on the whole “vampires are real” thing, that she should come out and see what Buffy does. She wants to get a handle on this Slaying thing.

Buffy tries to beg off the audience, but Joyce wants to be more involved.

Scene 02: The bushes shake again and before they can continue the discussion, a business suited vamp leaps out at our ladies. Foolishly, since y’know -- The Slayer.

Buffy starts to engage in the fisticuffs, while Joyce cheerleads from the sidelines.

After Buffy gets flipped onto the ground, Joyce helpfully calls over to her that the vampire is “over here”, where he’s busy snarling-growling in Joyce’s face. As the vampire turns back to the threat, Joyce exclaims that it’s Mr. Sanderson from the bank.

After a few more punches, Mr. Sanderson-demon decides to take off. Joyce points this out, again truly helpfully, that he’s getting away! Buffy orders her to stay put and goes on the chase.

Commentary: This is about equal parts amusing and narmtastic and I’ve never been able to decide if I’m “oh my gosh, this is so weirdly amusing” or more “oh my gosh, this is so cheezy”. But I do find it so funny that Joyce showed up with SNACKS… lol.

Scene 03: With Buffy having taken off after the former Mr. Sanderson, Joyce huffs a little disappointed that this ‘bonding moment’ didn’t quite work out the way she’d hoped with her daughter.

She wanders over to the adjacent park to wait for Buffy’s return. At first she nervously hunches her shoulders against a chill in the air, but then her attention is captured by some kid’s muddy toy truck.

Scene 04: Meanwhile, Buffy and Mr. Sanderson are going for another round. She’s finally able to stake him something good.

Scene 05: As this is happening, Joyce is stumbling forward into the playground with a look of shock. She reacts with horror.

On a merry-go-round, a boy’s body has been left lying.

Nearby, his probable sister lies on the ground.

As Joyce stares in heartbreak, we notice a symbol stamped onto the palm of one of the children, pointing to something ritualized having happened… not Mr. Sanderson, surely.

Commentary: This part of the opening was a real shock, even after two seasons-ish of monsters because one of the things that the show has avoided is the direct victimization of children. It’s been mentioned, like the baby whose eyes were turned inward at birth to emphasize The Master’s prophecy coming to pass and that truly chilling scene of Drusilla stalking the boy before Angel interrupts in “Lie to Me”, but this is our first dead kids on screen scene and it is out of the blue.

[Of course in retrospect, things aren’t as they seem… but still….]

Those Credits Be Crediting To Us

Scene 06: Sometime later, the police and ambulance have been summoned while Joyce and Buffy watch over the scene. Special attention is paid to the mark on both children’s palms referencing something mystical in the works.

Buffy wraps up a statement to a police officer and rejoins her mother who isn’t dealing with finding these victims so well. Joyce points out to Buffy how small they were. Buffy assures her that she’ll find whatever did this thing and kill it, but Joyce tells her that she can’t make this right.

Buffy hugs her. She tells her that she’ll take care of it and tries to calm her down.

Scene 07: The next day in the library, Buffy is shouting at Giles not to tell her to calm down. Giles offers he was just trying… but she cuts him off by pointing out that he wasn’t there, he doesn’t know what it was like to find little children lying like that and she’s upset that Joyce can barely talk straight since finding their bodies.

Giles offers that he wants to help her, he just needs more information to go on.

Buffy jots down the symbol that she saw on the kids’ hands. Giles gives her a “hmm” and has to break it to Buffy that the symbol would suggest some sort of ritualistic killing, rather than a monster per se. Buffy is appalled that he’s suggesting somebody with a soul did this horrible thing.

She suggests that while Giles is looking up the symbol to find who is behind these killings, he also find her a loophole in the “Slayers don’t kill people” rule. He's disturbed by the suggestion that Buffy may respond as to supernatural threats against other people and suggests that maybe she’s taking things a bit too personally this time. She agrees that she is… it involves her mother and what she’s gone through.

Scene 08: Later in the cafeteria, Xan makes uncomfortable overtures toward getting on Oz’ good side, though Oz doesn’t appear to be holding a grudge over his and Willow’s mistake. Now that he’s decided to forgive Will's indiscretion, he’s also letting it go with Xander, too.

They sit down to eat, where Willow joins them. For some reason, Amy also is eating with them. Xan compliments her new, darker hair.

Oz smiles at Wills and mentions he hasn’t seen her all day and asks what she’s been doing with the day [in a very not-jealous manner by the way] and Xander panics and insists that she hasn’t been with him at all… nosireeeBob.

Oz stares at him like he wants to tell him to chill out, but that would involve words and we know that Oz tries to avoid them.

He switches to the neutral topic of Buffy’s upcoming birthday to break the sudden tension around the table. Xan is relieved but then that topic has to be avoided as Buffy makes the scene, still upset over having to face down human monsters in the kid case.

As Buffy is discussing this with the gang, Joyce comes in unexpectedly to tell them all that she couldn’t sleep all night because of it. She asks Buffy for an update from Rupert.

Buffy explains that he thinks it may be a cult thing, and Joyce leaps to the conclusion of witchcraft being involved. Willow chokes and Amy suddenly gets very uncomfortable.

Joyce tells Willow that she knows she dabbles, but whoever did those things last night is not cool in any way. Buffy drags Joyce away. Willow remains impressed that Ms. Summers would actually be interested in what Buffy is up to, in contrast to Wills’ own mom who clearly isn’t.

Commentary: The only part about this scene I actually like was the Xan/Oz uncomfortable-ness and how Xan is overcompensating in trying to smooth things over.

The scene goes on a bit long and Joyce’s “cults who kill kids aren’t cool at all” sounds just as awkward as it is self evident. There is a point behind it… a reason why Joyce feels driven to point out that this heavy witchcraft is evil, but the scene still feels drawn out.

Scene 09: Out in the hallway, Buffy tries to express how having Joyce visit her at school is like world-mixy and that she’s home and this is not home. But Joyce is preoccupied with the child murders and keeps pushing for Buffy and Giles to give her some news on who could be responsible. In addition, she tells Buffy that she’s spoken to all of the people in town that she knows and everyone is going to hold a vigil at Town Hall that evening. She’s even gotten the Mayor to be there.

Buffy sorta-kindly reminds her mother about the low-profile work that she does when it comes to the evil fighting, and Joyce assures her there probably won’t be that many people in attendance.

Scene 10: Cut to City Hall that evening, where there are in fact a lot of people who are just as upset as Joyce and looking for some answers. [And OMG, there are African Americans there! In Sunnydale! Front and Center!]

Buffy and Willow walk through the crowd where Buffy sarcasms that later everybody could go patrolling with her. Wills is more impressed that Joyce would make the effort to get involved in Buffy’s activities… unlike her own mother who… oh, hey! Her mother is there! Much to Willow’s shock.

They’re all soon joined by Giles who has awkwardly awkwardness with Joyce as each try to act casually but are both still embarrassed by whatever may have happened during the Band Candy incident -- which Joyce amazingly hasn’t forgotten. Apparently with the blinders now off about Buffy and vampires, all of the Hellmouth Effects are leaving Joyce with less fog-brain.

Sheila brings up hearing rumors that witches are involved in this brutal crime, which panics Willow a little as she tries to blow that suggestion off as silliness.

Commentary: Again, I’m having some trouble with getting into our scenes because they seem to be going on and on with small talk. And it’s not clever small talk or overly amusing small talk but just… gabbing. It’s nice to meet Willow’s mother here, but this is just more of the “isn’t this awful” and we’ve had that over and over now.

Yes, okay, yes, it’s awful. Yeeesh.

Scene 11: Sheila’s sharing of her recent research in the rise in adolescents experimenting with supernatural beliefs is interrupted by The Mayor grimly joining the assembled to make a speech. The Mayor promises to not rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice.

He introduces Joyce as the organizer of the vigil to say a few words.

To Buffy, Willow and Giles’ shock, Joyce makes a speech telling the Mayor that Sunnydale is not a good town. She points out how many of them there have suffered a mysterious loss of a loved one, or had someone skinned to death, or lost somebody that they knew to a mysterious neck rupture… basically spotlighting how Sunnydale’s residents have been accepting and forgetting all of the weird and unexplainable events that happen around them.

The Mayor is clearly uneasy in Joyce bringing up how the town has been suffering various evils with no one speaking out. As everyone is reeling from this, Joyce continues that the town doesn’t belong to them anymore. It belongs to the monsters, the witches… and the Slayers…!

Rupert gets wide eyed while Willow and Buffy share open mouth-shocked glances at one another. Joyce tells everyone that it’s time they took their town back and they can start by finding the people who murdered those children and making them pay.

Commentary: There! This made the talky scenes worth it. It was pretty surprising that the writers put Joyce in the position of openly commenting about the main conceit of the show: That nobody seems to remember just how crazy their town’s death rate is and the ridiculous modes of those deaths around them.

And when Joyce actually mentions The Slayers as being part of the problem, I immediately felt my jaw hanging open just like Buffy. This scene was excellent.

And it’s interesting to note the Mayor in all of this. But ultimately, things will go back to pretty much status quo at the end of the episode, and that makes this scene so much wasted potential. I would’ve loved to see Joyce menaced directly by the Mayor at some point, since he now knows that she knows about the Slayer in town and it’s just a real shame that nothing gets done with this.

I think that is why I really can’t get into this episode at the end of the day: There is so much set up by Joyce’s speech here, and how we have an inkling that the other townspeople DO realize the ills of the town but nothing changes after this episode so the whole thing ends up feeling like a reset-button episode.

Scene 12: Well, with that strange evening done we join a coven of some type performing a ritual… possibly our child killers. One of our participants is a Goth Guy. From off screen a pair of hands lifts a skull and WHAT!? It’s Amy!!

Amy is performing like… super dark magicks!?!

As the ritual spell continues, we see Amy walk around a half circle and replace the skull in the center of the candles and symbols. She picks up a container of powders and hands this off to another pair of hands… hands belonging to WILLOW!?

Our camera pulls back and we see that our three spell casters are working at an alter on the floor which contains the very symbol that Buffy and Joyce found on our dead kids’ hands! WTF?!

Commentary: And here, I pretty much figured that this was all a red herring. Maybe if they hadn’t tipped their hands by including Willow we could’ve been faked out a bit longer, but c’mon. There is no way that they’d have Willow be responsible for two dead kids… even if she’s under some dark influence.

So, despite my exclamation marks I was not fooled. I still had no idea what the hell was going on, but it was pretty clear that this ritual magic wasn’t as dark as the lighting and spooky camerawork was trying to let on.

I had assumed that this was some sort of mystic trace and that our Teen Witches were trying to track down the person/persons/monsters who used it on the playground. That isn’t correct, but we’ll find out anon what the story is with this scene.

Scene 13: The following day in school, things are starting to escalate with the anti-magic sentiment around town, as Amy and Michael (our Goth) come under attack for “being freaks”… Michael getting physically assaulted.

Our Hero tells Amy that everybody knows that Michael is into that voodoo-witchcraft crap and people like him need to be taught a lesson. Amy asks what about people like her, all but daring him to put his hands on her. He replies for her to get up in his face and he’ll show her but before things can escalate to the point of Amy actually showing him that some spells are real, Buffy comes from stage left.

Roy takes one look at her staring him down with a sarcastic smile and he takes his hands off of Michael. He and his Letterman Gang tell Buffy they don’t have a problem here and walk away under her watch.

Scene 14: As Buffy is headed toward class, Cordelia stops her to rag on Buffy for defending Amy the witch and whatever boy witches are… plus Michael being a definition for “yucch”. She tells Buffy if she’s going to try to defend the losers and freaks, she’s going to be busy full time. She further points out that everyone knows witches killed those children. Buffy calls after her while she’s moving on that witches didn’t do it.

Giles whispers to her that he is starting to think they did as his research keeps coming back to European covens. He sends Buffy to find Willow in order to retrieve a book that she borrowed -- it has the final piece of the puzzle he needs.

Scene 15: Buffy comes into the student lounging area where she finds Xander. She asks about Willow’s whereabouts, only to have Xan complain to her that everybody keeps assuming that he knows where she is at all times, even though he’s already told everybody that it’s over between them. Buffy points out a stack of books and asks if those are hers… they are. He tells her that Wills is in the restroom. But he also insists that his complaint has merit. He feels like everybody is expecting him to mess up again and he’s getting tired of the stares and innuendo… that uh, I haven’t actually noticed. But despite that, Xan thinks that Oz is sending a constant barrage of pointed silences at him with his volume-speaking eyes.

Buffy shrugs all of this off and basically reminds him that he was caught in illicit smoochies -- a price must be paid. She walks over to Wills’ books to find the one Giles may have given her, only to find Willow’s open notebook containing the symbol that we’ve seen several times now. She’s nonplussed.

Scene 16: When Willow comes back from the bathroom, she finds Buffy in a minor state over finding her with a witch symbol on her notebook. She tries to tell Buffy it’s just a doodle but Buffy tells her about seeing that symbol on the dead kids.

But then a commotion in the hallways draws their attention before Willow can explain what the symbol is and why she has one in her notebook. Everyone rushes to the hallway to find out what is going on.

Scene 17: It turns out that Snyder, never one to turn down an opportunity to disrespect students, has arranged for a locker search. The contraband the authorities are there to locate are anything that involves the occult.

Oz tells Buffy that they’ve already taken three students away. Amy pipes up that they took her spells and she has to report in to Snyder’s office. Everyone is freaked out by this blatant harassment, which of course Snyder is enjoying.

As Willow starts to freak out at the magic stuff she has in her own locker, an assistant principal or teacher comes to escort Amy away. Willow tells Buffy that her locker is next, but she insists to her that she didn’t do anything wrong. She tells Buffy that the symbol she was freaking out about is harmless and is actually a symbol for protection for the spell she was working on for Buffy’s birthday. She insists that Buffy has to believe her that she’d never hurt anyone.

Snyder marches over to her and addresses her as Ms. Rosenberg. He tells her she’s coming with him. Buffy takes the book Giles needs from her and slips away while Willow, with Oz going too, is marched away to Snyder’s office.

Commentary: I did like this scene quite a bit as the camera work and the acting by Elizabeth and Aly really did capture the sudden fear that the students have toward the authority figures, and the way they’re collected and taken away makes it difficult not to see a fascist threat growing in town. It’s supremely creepy to see what appears to be Sunnydale’s entire police force [and hey! Black officers… I think we’ve seen more black people in this episode than we’ve ever seen before or will see in future… and that includes after we meet Principal Wood] going through student’s things and taking kids away.

Scene 18: When Buffy returns to the library though, she doesn’t find safety, but more police taking away Rupert’s library of monster hunting books. Buffy is able to tell him about what Willow said about the symbol and how it doesn’t make sense for it to have appeared in relation to human sacrifice, but he’s unable to help her search for an explanation as the men with guns are loading his books into boxes.

He complains that this is intolerable. Music to Snyder’s ears who is enjoying his feeling of power and authority that the police presence is giving him.

Giles threatens Snyder, but he’s unconcerned. He tells Rupert and Buffy that there is a new faction in town who has a lot of power and is the host of this raid on books that have no business being in a school library: MOO… Mothers Opposed to the Occult.

Buffy asks who came up with that lame group name and Snyder tells her condescendingly that would be the group’s founder: He believes she calls her “mom”.

He glides out full of amusement and smugness in equal measure [we hate him].

Commentary: But actually, I kinda have to agree with Snyder here. How many times have we complained about the Scooby Gang doing heavy research in the school library anyway? It is more than a little ridiculous that Giles’ reference material would be at the school, rather than in his apartment… especially anything having to do with Watchers material.

Although I’m totally against any reading material being banned/confiscated/forbidden in schools, especially at the high school level. So, I’m not agreeing that this raid is justified, I’m just saying that it is ridiculous for Rupert to have the really deep, dark, esoteric shit hanging around in the publicly accessible school library. He’s only lucky that the books are being collected temporarily by Snyder and the Goon Squad instead of the actual evil guys who could leave the Scooby Gang without a leg to stand on with one nightly break in.

Scene 19: That evening, Willow’s tough day gets worse. As she comes into her house, she finds Sheila over the living room table, going through her witch accoutrements.

But to Willow’s surprise, Sheila doesn’t appear all that concerned, telling Willow that her identification with mythic blah-blah-blah is perfectly normal for an adolescent in her age group. Willow tries to break it to her mother that she can really do spells, but Sheila isn’t playing along. She tells Willow that she’s concerned about her daughter’s “delusions” and it is very obvious that Sheila barely knows anything about her daughter at all… something that Willow clearly resents as the discussion goes on and Willow gets more obnoxious [claiming she worships dark entities now and sacrifices goats].

Sheila plays the understanding parent over Willow’s “teenage rebellion phase” until Willow mentions dating a musician at which Sheila balks. But then Willow pushes too far with that “sacrificing goats to Beelzebub” thing and now her mother actually gets pissed at her. Not only is she grounded to her room until she hears otherwise, but Sheila forbids Willow from hanging out with her friends anymore, putting the blame for her “obsession” on that no good, dirty, rotten Bunny Summers.

Commentary: I liked this scene for the humor laced throughout it coming from Willow desperately trying to have a conversation with her academic mother that involves something other than Willow being a case study for her age group. It’s especially humorous that Sheila doesn’t really start to lose it until Oz is brought up and I like that she’s so out of touch, she still doesn’t know Buffy’s actual name.

Scene 20: Meanwhile, Buffy is confronting her mother also where Joyce is working on more MOO stuff. Joyce tells Buffy that she doesn’t want her seeing Willow again, expressing dismay that Wills is so far into that occult garbage.

Buffy accuses her of calling in for the raid on the school that day. She’s angered, but Joyce tells her that Rupert will get most of the books back. She goes on to say that MOO just wants to weed out the offensive materials.

Buffy is more pissed now. Her mother’s interference in the Slayer gig has gone from embarrassing unannounced trips to her patrol route while she’s trying to work to heading up a Moral Guardians Group using authoritarian tactics to get in her way of trying to solve and stop the killers. Joyce expresses her terror at how any student could get a hold of Giles’ books and get all sorts of ideas. Buffy tries to be sympathetic because of the fright her mother just had, but then Joyce goes on to bag on Buffy for not having a plan to fight the big evil and calls her endeavor to patrol the town “fruitless”.

Buffy takes that personally and snots her way out of the house for a “pointless patrol to react to some vampires”. She points out how stupid MOO sounds for a group name on her way.

After she goes, Joyce sighs that Buffy doesn’t understand that she’s trying to help her make a difference, instead of only “reacting when evil pops up” only to not make a dent in the vampire population. She shakes her head and as she walks back to her chair, we see across from her the two dead kids! They assure Joyce that she’s helping, but reminds her that there are bad people out there and they can’t rest until Joyce finds them and hurts them. Joyce nods her head in understanding.

Commentary: I loved this scene. It basically points out everything that we might see when we’re watching Buffy about how people keep dying anyway and how ever much Buffy fights the forces of darkness, she never really wins. But unlike Joyce, we also know how worse things would be if Buffy hadn’t stopped things like The Master and Angelus’ hell-sucking portal.

But what I really love is how it takes a moment that makes Joyce sound really insensitive and insulting to Buffy’s hard and painful work, and turns it into a creeptastic moment when we see the ghost brats egging her on. It suddenly becomes clear why Joyce created MOO and is being so obstinate on interfering in Buffy’s duties.

And it was chilling that the children aren’t talking about the “monsters and vampires” in town, but about “the bad people” and how Joyce has to hurt them, and her nodding her head in agreement.

Suddenly, this episode just got mildly more interesting than it had been.

Scene 21: Out on patrol, Buffy goes back to the playground where a shrine has been left by the neighborhood where the children’s bodies were found. Angel meets her there. He tells her that what happened is the talk of the whole town.

Buffy and he sit and she tells him that she’s never seen the outpouring over any of the other deaths in town. Angel explains it away as children victims being different. This is something Buffy already knows, but she tells Angel about what her mother said about her trying to fight the monsters being fruitless. He tells her that her mom is wrong, but she’s not so sure. She asks if Sunnydale is any better since she arrived [Yes. It is. We saw that in “The Wish”].

[But what I really want to add is for Buffy to not do whatever that thing is that she did with the back of her hair. I’m giving it a solid thumbs down.]

Angel agrees with Buffy that they don’t ever win one big battle and all the evil goes away, but he tells her that one thing he does know is that it’s important that they don’t stop fighting [Which basically sums up Angel the Series in a nutshell].

Angel goes on to tell her that they fight for those kids… and their parents. This gives Buffy frown face, as now that he mentions it, we’ve never heard one word about these kids’ parents nor seen one hair of a grieving family member’s head around town.

Scene 22: Meanwhile, at the library, Giles is trying to research using the computer in place of his books. It’s not going well and his yelling at it isn’t leading it to tell him what he’s doing wrong.

Xan and Oz comes in to report that they found Giles’ books for him. But alas, they can’t get to them as they’re locked up in City Hall.

Buffy then comes in, but interrupts Xan’s attempt to chat by putting down the photo of the brats that Joyce is using on her MOO posters. She asks Giles just what they know about those kids. He’s confused what she means. She goes on to explain that with all of this attention from anyone, no family members have come forth, no names for the kids have ever been learned, nobody knows where they came from or who they belonged to.

Buffy asks them if nobody knows who these dead kids are, just where did the photographs come from that everybody is plastering around town?

Oz takes over for Giles at the computer, but tells them they really need Willow as she knows all of the research sites to hit. Buffy complains that thanks to the wrath of MOO, Wills can’t even come to the phone, but Oz has a way around that….

Scene 23: In her room, Willow is sulking on her bed when her computer beeps for attention.

Scene 24: In the library, Oz tells them that he’s linked the school computer with Willow’s laptop and explained what they need to find.

Time passes and between the library and Willow, they realize that the same kids were reported killed back in Nebraska in 1949... And back further… And further back… all the way back to the original brother/sister sudden death syndrome in Germany. That’s right… It’s Hansel and Gretel over and over!

Scene 25: Willow’s part in this is interrupted by her mother coming into her room. She complains about Wills not minding her and puts her foot down that she won’t have Willow communicating with her cyber-coven or whatnot.

Wills brings up that she thought she was just delusional, but Sheila has been speaking to Joyce again about all of this witchcraft nonsense. She realizes now that she’s been closed minded. Willow offers with hope that her mom now believes her, which Sheila concedes.

But then she stares down Willow coldly and tells her that all she can do now is let her go with love. Which is a really weird thing to say. Sheila doesn’t respond to Willow’s question about what she meant by that, but leaves her. She locks the bedroom door behind her [wait, Willow has a door lock on the outside of her bedroom door??].

Commentary: This was another nicely acted scene that gave me a chill. Jordan Baker’s going from amusingly obtuse previously to this chilling talk of letting Willow “go with love” was more creepiness, which really, this whole episode could’ve used much more of.

Scene 26: In the library, Giles puts the clues together. He tells the others that some folklorists have a fringe theory that fairy tales have antecedents which influenced those lessons. He then puts together that some demons don’t destroy and kill on their own, but take pleasure in manipulating humanity to turn on itself.

He now believes that they’re dealing with a demon who uses a person “finding” the murdered brother and sister to whip up a crusade, like the Salem Witch trials where the townsfolk turn on and destroy their own neighbors all under a mass hysteria. He further conjectures that the woman killed for trying to murder the original Hansel and Gretel could’ve been a set up and there never was a witch who ate children [except, Supernatural - which I’m convinced is an extension of the Buffyverse because I want it so badly - will teach us that no, she’s real alright].

Buffy goes to rush home and tell her mother what they’ve found out so she can stop the whole MOO crusade before things get outta hand. But it’s too late. Michael Goth Guy runs into the library [interesting in itself… Buffy was expected to be there and be the one to go to for help] to tell them that he was attacked. He’s sporting a bloody face and is in a state of panic. He tells them that his own father turned on him violently.

He further tells them that he saw them taking people out of their homes and that they’ve snatched up Amy. He then points out most disturbingly that they were shouting about putting them all on trial down at City Hall.

Scene 27: At Willow’s, Sheila has returned to her daughter’s room. She’s not alone. She tells Willow pleasantly that it’s time to go, and to grab her coat because it’s chilly out.

When Willow questions where they’re going, Sheila snarls, “I said it’s time to go, WITCH!”

Willow tries to slam the door shut, but her mother and the others are pushing their way in.

Scene 28: At Buffy’s, her mother is holding another MOO meeting.

Buffy calls for her mother to join her and Rupert so that they can talk. She’s about to explain what is going on with the fake dead kids, but is pre-empted when Joyce shoves a chloroformed cloth over her face. In the meantime, Rupert is stopped from helping her by the other men at the MOO meeting, and he ends up knocked unconscious [Well, yes… of course he was].

Joyce turns to tell the children that they were right and it was easier than she thought. Buffy isn’t quite out of it completely, though she’s too woozy to do anything. But she hears the children ghost tell Joyce that they’re still afraid of the bad girls and they need her to punish them all. As Buffy goes unconscious, the kids tell Joyce she has to make the bad girls go way forever.

Scene 29:  At Willow’s, Oz and Xander have arrived to save her from the crazy adults but find they’re too late. Wills’ room shows signs of a struggle.

Scene 30: At the town hall, the adults are going old school on those witches in their midst, setting them up to be burned at the stake [okay, not quite old school American History at least, but old school how we think that witches were treated -- although it's not hard to believe that they did burn people alive for witchcraft in the U.S. within the Buffyverse].

Buffy is still unconscious, while Willow yells at her mother to stop. But Sheila tells her that only the fire can purify her now. As Amy is shouting for Buffy to wake up…

Scene 31: … over at Buffy’s house, Cordelia is slapping Giles and irritated, shouting at him to wake up too. As Giles is trying to pull his head together, Cordy tells him that she came by because this whole Parent’s Group thing is out of control. Her mother has confiscated all of her black clothes and scented candles.

Cordy actually comments about the number of times that Rupert has ended up getting knocked out. She warns him one of these times he’ll wake up in a coma.

Giles stumbles out of Buffy’s house, warning Cordy that they need to save Buffy from Hansel and Gretel. She wants to make sure that he understands that the brain damage happened before she slapped him around to wake him up.

Scene 32: At City Hall, Xan and Oz try to talk their way past four adult men by telling them that they want to join in the hate, too. But as it’s clear they’re not buying it, Oz expresses if they know that they’re nuts. They end up being chased.

Scene 33: In the room that was guarded, which could certainly be the court room, Buffy comes around. Joyce greets her. Buffy tells her mother she doesn’t want to do this, spotting Sheila with the lit torch and the pile of Giles’ books around her feet but Joyce says since when does it matter what she wanted. She wanted a happy, normal daughter and instead she got a Slayer.

Sheila hands the torch to Joyce, who offers that this whole thing has been so trying. She compliments Sheila for being such a trooper and invites her to lunch sometime soon. Joyce sets the kindling to burning.

In response, Amy calls on Hecate and turns herself into a rat to go dashing off to safety. Buffy complains that she could’ve done her and Willow first [but as we’ll learn soon, it’s a good thing that she didn’t]. Willow threatens to turn her awesome powers on them next, and Buffy tells them they’ll all be turned into vermin… except that guy in the back who will be a fish.

Commentary: This is all mildly amusing, so it’s not a bad episode but Buffy will do funny so much better in future. Mostly, I just wish this one would get over, because I’m getting tired of transcribing it now.

Scene 34: Meanwhile, Giles is rushing to City Hall with Cordelia. He has her working on a potion that will reveal the true demon responsible for the dead kid illusion.

Scene 35: Meanwhile, Xander and Oz are still running for their lives from the adult men chasing them. They hear Willow yelling in distress and find one of those impossibly large air vents that all buildings in TVLand come equipped with.

Scene 36: In the court room, the fires are getting too close for comfort for Willow and Buffy as they’re close to actually being lit up!

[Well, only in close up. When the camera pulls back we see the flames are nowhere near them and Willow is just whining. BECAUSE BTVS DOESN’T DO FIRE STUNTS WELL AND THEY SHOULD STOP ATTEMPTING THEM.]

Meanwhile the spirit-illusory-brats chant to burn them. Buffy shouts at Joyce that dead people are talking to her and she should do the math. She warns Joyce that if she doesn’t stop this, she’ll never be able to live with herself. But Joyce is committed. She tells Buffy that she’s toyed with unnatural forces and asks what kind of mother would she be if she didn’t punish her?

Scene 37: In the meantime, Rupert and Cordelia have arrived but found the door to the court room locked. Giles grabs a bobbi pin out of Cordy’s hair, with her complaining at his tearing her hair out, and starts picking the lock. Cordelia makes fun of him for his youthful offender past and wonders if he doesn’t just look back on that and cringe to his unamusement… disamusement… not-amusement [c’mon Spellcheck, I’m sure that unamusement must be a word… and so is Spellcheck damn you].

Scene 38: Inside, Willow shouts that it’s too hot and she can’t take anymore. Buffy takes the blame for their predicament.

[Once she shape shifts from her stunt person to herself again, anyway… and really?? The “blaze” isn’t anywhere near her, I really don’t think that Sarah or Aly had anything to be worried about.]

Meantime, at the door, we see Rupert horrified faced as he slips in.

Scene 39: Giles points Cordy off to the side and she calmly [and awesomely, I’ll just add] breaks the glass and grabs the emergency fire hose. She turns it on and struggles to get the water where they need it against the pressure.

Meanwhile, Giles looks for the demon as he chants with his bottle of potion in German.

Scene 40: In the air vents, Xan and Oz try to find their way to the court room.

Commentary: Such an important scene. I was so wondering if they’d been caught and butchered in the impossibly large ductwork by the maddened day player crowd. *roll eyes*

Scene 41: In the court room, Cordy has the fire mostly out and the various brainwashed adults slammed onto the floor, recovering. Giles spots our little bratlings walk around Joyce and stare him down, but he continues to chant his German language spell.

He tosses the potion at the floor and upon breaking, the “children” turn to one another in a hug. They merge together, and we see that they weren’t ever children or even ghosts of children… they were the single demon presenting itself as two child murder victims.

With its reveal, everyone breaks out of their MOO Mandate Madness. Joyce is horrified at what she tried to do. Everyone else runs. For some reason, now that it doesn’t look much like two little kids who need help, its husky voiced entreaties to help it by killing the bad girls doesn’t actually go anywhere with the group.

Buffy mentions he’s not too convincing anymore. Angered now, Demon-Giant rushes Buffy to kill her himself, but she snaps the pole she’s tied to by bending at the waist, and he runs right into it with a squishy sound and some sickened shocked looks from Sheila.

Buffy asks, “Did I get it? Did I get it?” as the pole is stuck through its throat… so yes.

[I was gonna cap it, but it’s effects failure: Basically the pole is lying on the guy’s shoulder and he’s pretending that it went through his neck… y’know, a play on the old sword stab under the armpit gag we all did as kids].

Seconds later, with a yell of alarm, Xander and Oz fall through the ceiling. They tell the girls that they’re there to rescue them.

Scene 42: Some night soon after, Buffy and Willow are talking in her room over spell works. Buffy questions if Sheila is really okay with Wills performing the magic like this, but Wills tells her that her mother doesn’t know. In addition, Sheila - no doubt to save her sanity and logically clinical mind - has fully engaged the Hellmouth Memory Filter at full strength… in fact, it’s probably straining itself in this case.

But Wills does tell Buffy that her mother fully remembers the part where Willow threw dating a musician in her face and now Oz is stuck coming to dinner one night.

Buffy asks if Wills is ready to try this again, referring to the spells that apparently they’ve been working on for some time. This turns out to be related to trying to break Amy’s spell on herself. They caught her, but she’s still a rat and apparently can’t undo the spell herself, since she doesn’t have her use of words anymore. Rather clumsy, but she is still an acolyte, so I guess mistakes come with the territory.

Their counter spell fails again and Buffy offers that they may need to get her one of “those wheel thingies.”

And it’s finally ended.

The Good: The shocking opening with seeing two children's bodies lying in the playground was immediately attention grabbing.

It was great that they had Joyce calling out the Mayor and the town for ignoring too long all of the strange deaths that plague Sunnydale, and it was a real shock when she mentioned The Slayers too!

I did like the slow build toward the town turning on its children with Joyce leading the pack with MOO.

I also got a bit of a kick out of the Willow/Sheila scenes and how they went from funny to chilling.

I also thought it was mildly amusing to have Joyce set up a lunch date with Sheila over burning their children alive.

The Bad: This is one of those times where the status quo reasserting itself [especially when it comes to Sheila Rosenberg] is just too far for me to go. It's ridiculous that nearly burning her daughter to death could be covered up by the Hellmouth Influence.

Other Thoughts: I kind of like the show once again approaching the idea of human evil and what Buffy may or may not do about it. It's hard to argue that a child killing serial shouldn't be eliminated, but at the same time, I like that Giles is disturbed by even the suggestion that Buffy could kill a person deliberately. We can take it on faith, that Giles is disturbed by what taking that step could do to Buffy. A concern that Xander will also voice later of course about... ah, Faith.

I do like that this episode draws Joyce even further into Buffy's mission, but at the same time there is a lot of repetitiveness about how awful finding the kids was and some of her lines are crossing into painfully earnest.

I like that the Mayor was included in this episode, but I'm disappointed that Faith is once again out on a walkabout and that more wasn't done with Wilkin's private feelings about this newest demon in town getting his citizens all riled up in ways that he hasn't seen before. And, there really should've been some follow up on Joyce referring to The Slayers from the Mayor, even if it was just a spit take at her.

I appreciated some of the light humor sprinkled throughout, especially when it came to the character work, like Xan seeing condemnation for his tryst with Willow from everyone where it most likely isn't and some of the meta humor, like Cordy remarking on the number of times that Giles has been knocked out. But it's an uneasy bit that doesn't really fit where it falls in the episode because we're led to believe that the children were real kids and they've been murdered - something that comes as completely new and a disturbing 'upgrade' in the evil going on around town.

The Score: I'd call this a middling episode with a few nice scenes and a few meta jokes that work, though they'd have worked better in an episode where the audience didn't believe that two children were murdered. Everything is okay, but it's all just kinda... "kinda humorous", "kinda chilling", "kinda narmy", etc.

3.25 out of 5 Stars

Next Up: BTVS, Season 10, Issue 17
         Angel & Faith, Season 02, Issue 16
         Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Season 01, Episode 01.
         Movie Reviewed: Invisible Ghost (1941)

Tags: buffy season 3 reviews

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