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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 14 - First Date

4 February 2014

Just another date for Xander

Synopsis: Xander has a date with Lissa, a woman he just met while Principal Wood asks Buffy out. The latter goes well with Wood revealing he is the son of a Slayer. The former goes badly with Xander yet again attracting a demon. Back at the Summers home the First tries to convince Andrew to shoot the Potentials but he refuses.

The Good: I liked the top and tailing of the episode with comedy and Giles' speech about getting serious. There were smiles to be had along the way including a lovely old school Scooby scene where Willow, Buffy and Xander bantered like it was season three (see Best Moment). But it was all a bit flippant given that a new Turok-Han was almost called. So Giles' determination that everyone begin to focus on sterner business felt like an appropriate battle cry with only eight episodes to go.

The Bad: If Xander could send a text then why write in code? Why not just tell Willow what was happening?

The Unknown: Xander's story felt very thin. I suppose it tells us where his relationship with Anya stands and shows us that demons are taking sides in the coming war. But it felt more like an excuse to give Ashanti (Lissa) a cameo and provide something for Buffy to kill. After all Xander came home cracking wise and not seeming remotely disturbed by his giant wound.

Andrew's story was even weaker. The First shows up and tells him to shoot the girls but he won't. That's it. The First put no effort into his plan and showed a pretty weak understanding of Andrew's nature. But again I struggle to call it bad because it demonstrated that Andrew has changed and reinforced the main plot of the First resuming its attacks and people choosing sides.

The Buffy story was the strongest but didn't drive my emotions anywhere. The writers almost overdosed on misdirection when Robin opened his cupboard full of knives. I for one was utterly shocked when he turned out to be a good guy. His back-story as the son of a Slayer is interesting and of course tying in Spike's back catalogue (507) has obvious intrigue. However I don't think a love triangle is that appealing so late in the game. And Buffy seemed somewhat foolish and certainly selfish in telling Spike that she didn't want him to leave town. She doesn't seem to be offering him a relationship. So she's endangering the human race and stringing him along for what? So she can be reminded that someone loves her on a daily basis?

That just leaves the cliff hanger with the potential for Robin to turn on Spike and seek revenge for his mother's murder. If this weren't the final season I would think that was a great story. But there's something about it that feels off. Again I blame the First for being so obvious with its schemes. If it fooled Robin into attacking Spike then it might seem like a cunning plan. But as a tease it feels like either Robin will jeapordise the whole world for the sake of revenge or he will swallow his pride and fight for good. Neither seems that appealing initially but I admit I'm jumping the gun slightly.

Best Moment: A lot of things have been lost since Sunnydale was blown up. The convenience of the school setting and the rhythms of the monster-of-the-week format have been distubed by the transition to adulthood. But more than anything else the friendship between Willow, Xander and Buffy has been pushed aside. Of course they've stayed friends. But that rhythm departed. The rhythm of them walking into school every day and talking about their lives. That rhythm grounded the show and led to some of its best dialogue. Here we got a brief glimpse of what we've been missing. Buffy and Willow discuss her sort-of date with Principal Wood. It could be romantic, professional or possibly an evil setup. In classic old-school Willow understatement she advises Buffy to "dress for the ambiguity." Xander then rushes in to more bantery chat including a gag about how Buffy only dates a hundred year old men. "Yay, someone who doesn't remember the Industrial Revolution." It was a sad moment when Giles walked in to interrupt. I've missed the old rhythms. I still think they could have been maintained without keeping the show in stasis but alas, they were not.

The Bottom Line: The plots felt quite weak here giving this the sense of setup episode. The Robin Wood story is established, Andrew has made his choice and it's time to get serious. Bring on the end.

 

Cordia's Second Look
First Date
Season 7, Episode 14
Original airing: 2/11/2003

My Rating: 62

The Good: I rather enjoyed a good chunk of this episode. The Buffy and Spike storyline was nice and I’m interested in the potential interactions between Spike and Principal Wood. It seems like this could be a nice wedge between Buffy and Spike if Spike is forced into injuring or killing Principal Wood. It would prove Giles right about Spike’s chip removal and cause a major issue for Buffy’s strong moral compass.

I was pleased to see Andrew going through a smidge of redemption. It was nice for him to be acknowledged by Dawn.

I enjoyed Xander’s storyline as the massive nod to his dating history it was obviously intended to be. It also allowed us to see how Anya is still struggling with the break up and how the enforced interaction between the two has been bad for their emotional healing.

The Bad: I wasn’t so impressed, however, with the part of Xander’s storyline that had him stabbed rather deeply in the stomach and yet… he’s fine. Gut wounds are usually pretty nasty and last time the seal needed an entire body and a half of blood. But here a few drips from the gut and a Turok-Han is ready to rise.

The most annoying, but least important, part of the episode was Chao-Ahn. While the humor was fine in and of itself, it was incredibly on the nose and made me think about how this poor girl would actually feel. She has no idea about Slayers or the related paraphernalia, a British guy whisks her off to America when she doesn’t speak any English, and then he continues to terrify her in a house full of chattering girls. Poor thing.

Favorite Moment: It felt wonderfully old school to have Giles recall everyone to the very real, very serious situation while using kindergarten-level drawings of death to underscore his point. Well played.

The Bottom Line: I enjoyed this episode in general and look forward to seeing how the Principal Wood/Spike story plays out. But it wasn’t anything particularly amazing.

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  • One last thing to add that I just realized: they chose this year to include in the opening credits a scene of Spike in the NY subway where he kills Nikki (even though they haven't in season 5 or 6). This is a very nice way to subtly prime loyal viewers' memory for this connection that's being made now.

    Posted by Ross, 31/01/2014 10:35pm (4 years ago)

  • Firstly, just want to say I wish I'd discovered this site and the Buffy Rewatch podcast earlier, as I've been rewatching Buffy over the last few months and only recently discovered this. Thanks so much for putting these together, it's added a lot to the episodes I've watched since I discovered this.

    As for the episode, overall it was pretty plain. Had some humorous moments (strangely offset against Giles chastising everyone for showing any humor), but the drama fell fairly flat.

    Good:
    - Some decent humorous moments, like Buffy stealing Xander's dating thunder, Spike tackling Giles but realizing he hadn't thought it through, language barrier originally funny (but overdone by end), etc.
    - Nice that we're finally getting some reveal on Principal Wood

    Bad:
    - Super annoyed me: Giles heard the Harbinger's shoes squeaking towards him, but he waited until the axe was an inch from his head to react at all?? Thank goodness that whole poorly done mini-arc is hopefully finished and will never be mentioned again now.
    - For me, this episode really highlighted the constant attempts at misdirection that have been prevalent all season. But this episode tried to do it with *everything*. Andrew seems to have been won over by the First, but is then trying to trick it. Wood seems evil (pulls out the knife *right* after Buffy leaves his office, very heavy-handed), then turns out to be good, then is motivated to kill Spike at the end, which just didn't hit me emotionally. Ashanti seems normal, then turns out to be evil. Misdirection works well when it's unexpected and out of the blue for something major, not when every single mini-story is trying to misdirect the audience.

    Other:
    - I feel sorry for Spike, he seriously can't go a single episode without respite from something terrible happening to him. If he's not struggling with a soul, or insanity, or the First torturing him with visions, or him being forced to kill again, or the First capturing him back, or the Turok-han beating him, or the chip suddenly starting to fry his brain, now he has Principal Wood after him too.

    Anyway, overall a bland episode that didn't move the plot forward much other than us knowing a bit about Principal Wood, but it feels more like a side-story to me than something that will be critical to the main arc. Give it a 60/100.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Ross, 30/01/2014 8:53pm (4 years ago)

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