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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.

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Episode 3 - School Hard

7 February 2013

Synopsis: Principal Snyder puts Buffy and fellow "trouble maker" Sheila in charge of Parent-Teacher night to see if they can get in his good graces. Meanwhile a new vampire Spike and his girlfriend Drusilla arrive in town, bragging to the Anointed One that they can kill Buffy. Spike takes a look at Buffy by arranging a scuffle outside the Bronze and then promises to kill her on the Night of St Vigeous in a few days. Instead though he gets bored and crashes Parent-Teacher night forcing Buffy to protect the teachers, her friends and Joyce.Spike and Dru are moving in

The Good: This was a tremendous episode which forever changed the show.

You won't find many better introductions for a character than Spike gets here. So far vampires have appeared dull and characterless animals for the most part. Darla aside, even Luke, the Master and Angel have all been fairly stern and serious figures. So in walks Spike, a character of vibrant colour. As soon as he swaggers out of his car you are struck by the contrast with the other vampires: he smokes, he has dyed hair, he has a specific look, he has a sense of humour, he makes pop culture references, he has human reactions and emotions.

So much of what makes a TV show work are the intangibles. You can write a great part but if you get the wrong actor it won't quite make the impact you were aiming for. Sometimes though an actor inhabits a part so wonderfully that you end up with something better than you could have imagined. James Marsters looks born to play Spike. His impact on the screen is instant and striking and there was an amazing range of things he was able to do. He is tremendously charismatic and his distinctive pseudo-cockney accent sounds very natural. The result is that he is able to deliver simple phrases like "metaphorically speaking" and "I feel better" with a twist of personality that the script didn't necessarily intend. The script does aid him of course by giving him a well rounded personality. He obviously likes the grandstanding and bragging but can also switch up in an instant to understatement "I couldn't wait" (when breaking into the school) or anger "You think you can fool me?" (when Angel tries to trick him). He also shows a rebellious streak (killing the Anointed), leadership skills (ordering the other vampires around), tenderness (towards Drusilla) and of course plenty of humour.

By the end of the episode he has changed the show forever. By replacing the Anointed One the show changes Buffy's adversaries from dark metaphors for teenage angst into a super villain who has desires and relationships to concern him. We saw how fascinating this idea could be in "Angel" (107) and now it looks set to become a weekly fixture in the show. From an audience investment point of view this is a massive change. Where last week the time spent with Daryl and Chris seemed inconsequential, here every scene with Spike and Drusilla felt as important as those with the Slayerettes. Let's not forget Drusilla who has her own look, accent and personality. Apparently unhinged and potentially clairvoyant she is obviously less easy to pin down at this stage but adds a whole intriguing dimension to the new villains in town.

Spike also provided the most exciting and entertaining action plot that the show has produced so far. There was genuine tension in seeing the teachers and parents trapped in the school confused and scared as Spike stalked the hallways calling out for Buffy. Everyone was on top form with Giles and Joyce able to show off parental emotions toward Buffy while she worked tirelessly to keep everyone safe. Angel stepped in to add some back-story to Spike and allow Xander to admit to his firmly held prejudices. The resolution to the story saw Joyce step in to save Buffy and compliment her daughter's bravery and cool head in the crisis. It was actually quite a moving moment as Buffy is given love and approval in the real world for her work as a slayer. Spike adds to this sense of what Buffy has accomplished by contemplating on the fact that a "Slayer with family and friends" is a new idea for him. This underlines what Buffy's goodness has brought her: a team of allies who will help her fight evil.

Amongst all the action the writers found time to slip in some solid humour too. Again Willow points out the obvious about Angel (that he may have had four hundred dates!) and swiftly changes subject. I also thought she played her reaction to Buffy's sugarless lemonade perfectly.

The Bad: The body double used for Spike was not well chosen as his much thicker blonde hair stood out instantly as Buffy smacked him into the wall.

The Unknown: Principal Snyder talks to someone from the police after the attack and they all but acknowledge that they are aware of the existence of vampires. They agree to blame the attack on a PCP-fuelled gang rather than admit the "truth." It seems like an intelligent direction to go (as we have seen before with the FBI in 111) to present the wider authorities as being aware of the existence of demons on a limited scale. Hopefully we will find out a little more about the extent of their knowledge as the show goes on.

Spike refers to Angel as his "Sire." Presumably this means that Angel turned him into a vampire?

Best Moment: It's tough to ignore a line of dialogue as outrageously good as this one. It manages to touch upon pop cultural peaks, show off Spike's personality, make a realistic point about the age and origin of the average vampire and just generally amuse. The Anointed One has his few vampires gathered and one of them is claiming that he can kill Buffy. "When I do" he says "it'll be the greatest event since the Crucifixion. And I should know, I was there." A voice laughs its interruption as Spike appears saying "You were there?! Oh please! If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock...I was actually at Woodstock, that was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person and I spent the next six hours watching my hand move."

The Bottom Line: We already knew the casting on Buffy was very good but this kicks things up a notch. Spike not only changes the nature of villainy on the show but he looks like he has been playing the part for years. The result is a really exciting and entertaining episode which makes you want to watch more. Terrific stuff.

 

Cordia's Second Look
School Hard

Season 2, Episode 3
Original airing: September 29, 1997

My Rating: 85

The Good: This is a good episode made better by the introduction of Spike and Drusilla as season two's Big Bads. These characters come onto the scene with a power and vibrancy which gives new life to the show after dealing with the death of the Master. Spike is a powerful presence from the start as he works to increase his Slayer kill count from two to three. He not only attacks Buffy, but her family and friends as well. He isn't scared to bring the fight straight to her. Meanwhile, he's also protecting and caring for Drusilla, who is introduced as very fragile. Drusilla is obviously insane and it's interesting to see the affection she shares with Spike. It brings up the idea of demons with emotions and it's a welcome dimension to the characters. It was also interesting to see Spike and Angel's reunion and realize that there is a very deep connection between them that has only had the surface scratched. All in all, I'm thrilled to see these two replace the Anointed One as the threat of the show.

Meanwhile, we had continuing character development for Buffy. She's working harder than ever to balance her real life with her Slayer life. And in the end, it's this aspect that keeps Buffy alive. It's indicated that other Slayers have fallen because they always work alone. But Buffy is saved at the end of the episode by her mother. And her friends are there to help her throughout with preparing for the vampire attack as well as Parent Teacher Night. Buffy is more vulnerable for having people she cares about to protect, but she'd also never be able to do everything on her own.

It was also interesting to see an indication that Principal Snyder and the police chief know there was more to the attack than a gang on drugs. They don't come out and say that they know it was vampires, but they definitely hint that it's supernatural and not something which can be printed in the papers. If Snyder does know about vampires, this explains a lot about his interest in Buffy and desire to kick her out of school.

The Bad: Sheila was an unnecessary addition to the cast. She served very little purpose except to show us that Buffy really is a good person placed in poor circumstances. But we already knew this from the last season, so there was really no point in illustrating it again.

Favorite Moment: The writers of the show recall so perfectly the powerful issues in Buffy and Giles' relationship. At the end of last season (S1E12), Buffy is upset with her prophesied death and Giles' position as her watcher, when he's acted so much more as a father. It's recalled here as Giles is about to risk his life to fight Spike because he's Buffy's watcher and he's responsible for her. It's a short moment, but very powerful for what has happened before.

The Bottom Line: This was an excellent introduction episode for Spike and Drusilla.

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Comments

  • Just for fun, you guys spoke about Spike's accent, but what did you think of Drusilla's? Regional accents are quite interesting to me. In the case of Spike, he seems to have developed his personna over time and possibly for a particular purpose. After all, bleached hair, black fingernails and leather were not exactly in style in the 19th Century. Could his accent be a part of his "costume"? Love the podcast!

    Posted by Wray, 08/03/2011 10:25pm (9 years ago)

  • Hi Lenni, we recorded this podcast before I saw your comment. It will definitely go in the next one. Thanks so much for contributing :-)

    Posted by The TV Critic, 04/03/2011 9:38am (9 years ago)

  • I rewatched the episode and was surprised at a few of my reactions. First, James Marsters accent seemed must less consistent than I remembered it. Spike sounded quite Southern in a few of his opening lines. I know that Marsters is American and that his accent is a point of discussion with the fans, but I was surprised to find myself noticing.
    Second, Spike is indeed introduced quickly and efficiently as a cruel and impatient demon--but then, the viewer is intrigued with his obvious caring and soft manner with Drusilla. So the writers did a good job of introducing an "odd vampire". This is really the first well developed hint that vampires have family type bonds as well.

    While I certainly wasn't very concerned about the welfare of "the annointed one", Spike's rapid dispatch by sunlight certainly got rid of an awkward plot point (the child was not very frightening) and proved Spike's lack of respect for at least some of the Vampire rituals.


    Thank you to Robin and Cordia for the podcasts. I am enjoying them.

    Posted by Lenni, 04/03/2011 4:16am (9 years ago)

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