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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.


Episode 18 - Killed by Death

7 February 2013

Synopsis: Buffy catches the flu and after fighting Angel she is rushed to hospital. While running a fever she sees a creepy demon following children around. The children claim he is death but no adult can see him. Xander stands guard in case Angel returns while the other research. Buffy recovers but decides to stay to help fight the demon who we learn is Der Kindestod or child death. Buffy realises that this same demon killed her cousin when she was young doubling her determination to kill it.Der Kindestod

The Good: After practically every momentous (usually Angel related) episode of these first two seasons the episode which has followed has felt like a letdown. For once though I think this episode served a very necessary purpose. The emotions surrounding Jenny's death were so heavy that it felt like a wise change of pace to put Buffy in a new setting where that story could take a breather.

It's not as if Angel is entirely absent either. It is his attack on the fevered Buffy that forces her into hospital. I liked the fact that reference was made to how quickly her bruises and swelling disappeared. You would imagine a Slayer would need to be able to heal quickly. Angel also returned for one of the best moments of the episode when Xander bravely stood up to him and talked him out of trying to get into Buffy's room. I really had forgotten how clear the writers were about Xander's love for Buffy. He and Cordelia once more bicker over his obvious affection for Buffy and yet still manage to get past it and make their own relationship work (see Best Moment).

The Der Kindestod story was interesting enough to pass an episode. His Freddy Krueger inspired look and invisibility made him suitably creepy which was intensified once you realised he was feeding off children. The plot had a little humour and a little misdirection and gave everyone something to do. There were some nice moments of humour with the Scoobies including their lazy final scene treating Joyce like a slave and Willow distracting the hospital security guards with her Frog-fear.

The Bad: To some extent though this was always going to be come-down after "Passion." The Angel-Spike-Drusilla story has really made monsters-of-the-week seem obsolete. There was never a moment of doubt that Buffy would save the day and how she got there wasn't really interesting enough to make this a good episode. The way she snapped Der Kindestod's neck was a particularly anti-climactic finish to their fight. The use of Buffy's cousin Celia in the story felt superfluous. The fact that the actress playing young Buffy looked nothing like her didn't help either.

The writers lent almost entirely on Cordelia for humour throughout the episode and it became a little much. I think there is a tendency to have her frown at or misunderstand everything that is going on and there comes a point when it happens too many times to be believable.

The Unknown: Perhaps more people than Joyce could have made reference to Jenny's death. I wonder how her death was explained?

Best Moment: About half way through the episode we cut to loyal Xander struggling to stay awake as he keeps watch for Angel. Despite their earlier argument Cordelia then appears with coffee and doughnuts and sits beside him. He says nothing but gives her look of genuine gratitude. She says nothing either but has brought several magazines to keep her occupied while she supports him. It was a lovely little moment and unlike so much that the writers do with these two it was understated.

The Bottom Line: As monster-of-the-week episodes go this was average. However I do understand the desire to have the emotions lie low for an episode after Jenny's death.

Cordia's Second Look
Killed by Death
Season 2, Episode 18
Original airing: 3/3/98

My Rating: 66

The Good: This Monster-of-the-Week is actually an interesting premise in this episode. Buffy is hospitalized and learns children are dying and no one really knows why. But the kids say Death himself is coming for them. The demon is quite creepy and well costumed/acted. The fact that only the children can see him makes him an interesting analogy for Buffy's desire to always be fighting something. Especially since even the Scoobies don't believe he's real at first.

We also get to see an interesting slice of Buffy's life where she is sick and relatively helpless. She can't even keep up with Angel at the beginning of the episode. And yet, she heals from it all very quickly, which is a nice nod from the doctor to her slayer powers.

And, as always, the characters shine through. Xander and Cordelia in particular get their relationship examined a bit. They are both  jealous of the other at some point and Cordelia even has a legitimate reason as she points out Xander's continuing crush on Buffy. But an accord is reached with the very underwritten and sweet scene where Cordelia brings Xander coffee and donuts. No matter what, they know they work together.

Finally, Angelus remains a force in this episode. After his destruction in Passion (S2E17), it's nice to see him stepping up again instead withdrawing to the shadows as he did after Innocence (S2E14). He's not overly involved here, but he is the reason for the change of setting to a hospital and his attempt to "visit" Buffy is a wonderful moment for Xander to step up.

The Bad:  It was a bit disappointing to be introduced to such a wonderful analogy of Buffy's psyche, then to have it all be a monster anyway. Cordelia brings up that Buffy might be inventing this monster so she has something to fight since she can't fight natural causes. The concept itself is brilliant, but unfortunately, ends up false. This has happened before in Ted (S2E11), where the writers touched on the brilliance of a new man in Joyce's life and the effect of that on Buffy as well as Buffy "killing" a human. But in the end, Ted turned out to be a homicidal robot, so the impact was a bit lost. I understand this is a genre show and sometimes the cerebral has to be outweighed with a bit of violence, but it still feels like a bit of a backtrack when such brilliance is almost realized.

The show relies on a heavy conceit in this episode that Willow is a complete and utter medical genius. I'm always willing to believe Willow can do anything with a computer, but to also believe she's extensively studied medicine to the point where she can instantaneously see and understand an involved and progressed medical experiment to the point of safely dosing Buffy with an unmeasured about of a highly lethal virus is really too much. It's distracting and disappointing that the writers couldn't come up with something a bit cleverer.

But the major disappointment in this episode was the dispatching of the demon himself. He's actually built up pretty well and comes across as rather scary, especially with the sense of self-confidence he projects and his casual backhand to Buffy when he kills the doctor. Even the fight at the end is coming out in the demon's favor, till weakened, delirious Buffy reaches up at the last second and casually snaps the demon's neck. It's incredibly anti-climactic and unrealistic. Perhaps a full strength Buffy can snap a neck with a simple twist of the wrist, but even full power Angelus had to give Jenny's neck a pretty good twist in the last episode. It's just not that easy to break someone's spinal cord. And it does, of course, lead to comparisons with Jenny's death of the previous episode. Having two people/demons dispatched in the same manner in two concurrent episodes feels like the writers just weren't trying.

Favorite Moment: Angelus "visits" the hospital to torment Buffy, but Xander is there to keep him from entering the room. The conversation between these two is very powerful and very painful, but Xander's determination to stare down Angelus is admirable and well-acted. We can see he knows if Angelus decides to get past him, Xander will most likely die, but when it comes to protecting Buffy, he's willing to make the sacrifice.

The Bottom Line: This is a fine follow-up to Passion and much better than many Monster-of-the-Week episodes. But the problems mentioned in The Bad do weigh it down and keep it from being any more than merely good.



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