infinitejest: (buffy: the wind speaks)
[personal profile] infinitejest
Episode Title: "Never Kill A Boy On the First Date"
Writer: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Episode Number: 1.5

Spoilers. And, as usual, I got my script transcripts from TWIZ TV.

Vampire Lore

And, lo, the Master uses the church he's trapped in to do a bit of preaching:

Master: "'And there will be a time of crisis, of worlds hanging in the balance. And in this time shall come the Anointed, the Master's great warrior. And the Slayer will not know him, will not stop him, and he will lead her into Hell.' As it is written, so shall it be. 'Five will die, and from their ashes the Anointed shall rise. The Brethren of Aurelius shall greet him and usher him to his immortal destiny.' As it is written, so shall it be."

This is the first we hear of the Anointed One, that shadowy figure who is to pose a big threat to Buffy for the rest of the season and into the second. Of course, while he's entirely creepy in this episode, he doesn't turn out to be as powerful as the literature suggests.

Furthermore, as Giles discovers:

Giles: "You were spot-on about the connection. I've looked at the writings of Aurelius himself, and he, he prophesied that the brethren of his order would come to the Master and bring him the Anointed."

Willow: "Who's that?"

Giles: "Well, I-I don't know exactly, a-a-a-a warrior, but, but it says he will rise from the ashes of the Five on the evening of the thousandth day after the Advent of Septus."

Giles assumes that the form this Anointed One takes is that of a vampire. Instead of, say, a demon summoned up with the ritual sacrifice of "the five." It doesn't even say five what will die. Also, as we come to discover in the show, there are about a dozen graveyards in Sunnydale proper. It seems awfully optimistic of Giles to take him and Buffy off to sit in one graveyard on the night in question, without even checking to see if there'd been five deaths lately (and if those five would even be buried in the same graveyard). Additionally, it just seems careless for someone of Giles' intellectual caliber not to consider the fact that maybe that night was the night they died and not the night they were buried.

Besides that, this episode opens the door for the concept of early risers. Neither of the vampires made in this episode waited until they were in the ground to rise. The Anointed was already hale and undead the following night, and Andrew rose while he was laying out on an examining table (also the following night).

In this episode, we also get our first taste of selective dusting. When the vampire at the beginning gets staked, a ring survives the normal molecular disintegration. Of course, it's this ring that gives Buffy and Giles the tip about the Brethren of Aurelius, which clues them in to what the Master is up to.

The nature of the Anointed One is never fully explained, but we discover at the end that it's a child. This is a very curious and interesting concept: children vampires are sometimes considered anathema, but apparently not in the Buffyverse. Or not in this case, anyway. They never really explore the concept of a child vampire. I'm just not sure what makes this child special-- there didn't seem anything particularly demonic about him before he was made. Is it that a child is a purer form of vampire because they're so close to the Id anyway, before they're made? But that shouldn't matter, considering being vamped removes your soul. Hm, I'll have to ponder this more as I rewatch these episodes featuring the Anointed One.

Apparently, if the Brethren of Aurelius make you a vampire, you're rather strong. At least, Andrew rose as a very strong vampire.

Also, there's more evidence of the Master's physical prowess is in this episode. He holds a vampire off the floor (by the neck) for a while, with one hand, and then throws him across the room with little effort. He also catches a buzzing fly with his fingers.

Slayer Notes

Nothing was really added to the Slayer mythology in this episode. I just wanted to make a note of how this is the first time we actually see Giles participating in her training and evaluating her techniques regarding slaying. He hides behind a tombstone as she fights and, after the snarky Buffy quip as she dusts the vamp ("We haven't been properly introduced. I'm Buffy, and you're history."), he pops out to offer a critique on her form:

Giles: "Poor technique. Prioritizing, sub-par... Execution was adequate, but a bit too bloody for my taste."

Buffy: "Giles, don't mention it. It was my *pleasure* to make the world safe for humanity again."

Giles: "I'm not saying that your methods are without merit, it's, uh, y-you're spending too much time and energy. It should simply be: plunge, and move on. Plunge and..."

He does make a point about her lack of efficiency. However, he didn't mention that she gave the vampire her name before dusting him, thus negating her "secret identity." Of course, that vamp won't be telling any tales, but he could have had buddies lurking nearby.

Later in the episode, Giles also brings up the following point:

Giles: "Oh, very well then. Follow your hormones if you want. But I assume I don't have to warn you about the hazards of becoming personally involved with someone who's unaware of your unique condition."

Buffy: "Yeah, yeah, I read the back of the box."

Giles: "If your identity as the Slayer is revealed it could put you and all those around you in grave danger."

Buffy: "Well, in that case I won't wear my button that says, 'I'm a Slayer. Ask me how!' Goodnight."

This is our earliest formal recognition that Buffy just can't have a normal relationship with someone who is unrelated to her working life. She tries to argue later:

Giles: "Buffy, maintaining a normal social life as a Slayer... i-i-is problematic at best."

Buffy: "This is the 90's. The 1990's, in point of fact, and I can do both. Clark Kent has a job. I just wanna go on a date."

She makes a good plea, and I love the argument of "This is the 90's." Like that makes everything different and better, makes it easier for a Slayer to have a normal life in addition to her dangerous one. In point of fact, the current information age just makes it harder for her to keep her identity a secret and her lives separate.

But, as Buffy recognizes by the end of the episode, she has to be very careful about who she chooses to involve in her life. Any romantic partner she takes on simply must be of a certain caliber and able to handle himself. She cannot heedlessly and carelessly date. And so she lets this one go.

Side note on fighting in this episode: Buffy actually gets nearly knocked out a couple of times (by Andrew, towards the end). I feel like this is partially to show us that Buffy is far from perfect in her training of her abilities. She can still get her ass kicked by a newly-risen vampire and has a long way to go in her development as a Slayer.

Characterization

Buffy: This episode starkly illustrates Buffy's struggle between trying to have a normal life and choosing to follow her destiny. She's becoming more competent in her role as a Slayer and finally entrusting some power to her Watcher... but then a cute boy enters from stage right. She loses focus and splits her energies, once more trying to fight for her "normal life."

However, her destiny continually gets in the way. She misses her first date because the fulfillment of a violent prophecy is imminent. Her second-but-really-first date with the same boy is interrupted in media res due to the same event and her Watcher getting himself into grave peril. But beyond those urgent manifestations of her job in this episode, we still see a Buffy who struggles to want a normal life but really believes she should follow her destiny.

On her date with Owen, instead of enjoying the date without care, we see her checking her beeper for any news from Giles. She just can't leave the Slaying behind her, and she's continuing to think about Giles and to worry about what might be happening. She tries to pull herself back to her date, only to have Owen observe that there seem to be two Buffies, that it seems like she's living two lives.

Beyond this, we see how much stress trying to act like a normal girl is causing her. At school (when she's missed the first date and not yet decided on the second try), she freaks out on Xander over her position:

Xander: "So you just went home?"

Buffy: "What was I supposed to do? Say to Owen, 'Sorry I was late, I was sitting in a cemetery with the librarian waiting for a vampire to rise so I could prevent an evil prophecy from coming to pass?'"

Xander: "Or flat tire?"

Buffy: "I can't take this anymore. I feel like everyone is staring at me, the big, hideous, dateless monster. (to a passing student) What? Yeah, that's right, I have no life, c'mon, nothin' to see here, pal, move it along!"

Buffy didn't even consider trying to frame a lie about what she was doing the night before. When it comes time to tell Owen what she was doing, she can't even think of a viable lie and just gives him the stupidest excuse about all the clocks around her stopping. This girl is not prepared to divide her lives entirely, and certainly not to a potential romantic interest.

I addressed above (in Slayer Notes) that this subject also caused her to have arguments with Giles about whether a Slayer can maintain a normal social life outside of the Slaying. Giles is actually arguing from a point of authority now, and we see Buffy throw out a desperate "Giles, why do you wanna hurt me?" as one might to a parent. Luckily, Giles realizes that he's forgetting Buffy's age in life and later appeals through empathy rather than authority.

By the end of the episode, we see Buffy once more choosing the path of her destiny by firmly turning Owen loose. She realizes that she simply can't be careless concerning who she involves in her life and steadfastly (if sadly) makes the appropriate decision.

This leads us to Buffy's Responsibility Complex. Buffy has a lot of power, and she has a destiny, so it's no surprise that she's developed one of these. More than in the previous episodes where she tried to keep Willow and Xander out of things, we see her complex flaring up in the following conversation:

Buffy: "Yeah. But he wants to be danger man. You, Xander, Willow, you guys... you guys know the score, you're careful. Two days in my world and Owen really *would* get himself killed. Or I'd get him killed. Or someone else."

Giles: "I, I went to the funeral home of my own free will."

Buffy: "And I should've been there."

Giles: "Buffy..."

Buffy: "I blew it!"

Giles: "I have volumes of lore, of prophecies, of predictions. But I don't have an instruction manual. We feel our way as we go along. And, I must say, as a Slayer, you're, you're doing... pretty well."

Buffy: "Well. At least I did stop that prophecy thing from coming true."

We'll see this getting worse over the years, becoming Self-Importance at times, and keeping her isolated in fundamental ways, affecting the quality of her relationships. Right now it's pretty tame, though, and allows her to develop positive, supportive relationships with Giles, Willow, and Xander.

And, of course, we see her putting more trust and power into Giles in this episode. She's not as snarky with him, and actually listens to him as if he speaks from an applicable place of wisdom. She allows him to determine whether she goes on a date, realizing that the needs of the world are a bit more important than her teenage desires. She also starts acting more like a child with him, as in when she railroads him on whether she has to do patrol the night of her second date. She would feel bad if she didn't check in with him, but she does so in a quick-don't-let-him-get-a-word-in-edgewise kind of way.

Ah, yes, one more note: Buffy doesn't think she's God's gift to men. In fact, she has rather low self-esteem when it comes to engaging men romantically. When Owen evinced curiosity about her, she replies: "I'm just surprised you've given any thought to what I'm like." That remains true for the rest of her life (that we see). Instinctively, of course, she knows there are men out there she could have (like many women do), but she fundamentally doesn't think she's worth the time and the effort. I'll have to explore her relationships with men more in-depth later.

Buffy breaks another door-handle in this episode (it was locked). She even coughs to hide what she's doing from Owen.

Willow: - Willow is a very insightful young woman, continuously recognizing what others often miss. She notices when Buffy needs an alone moment with Owen, when Owen needs to be distracted from Buffy's conversation with Giles, when Giles needs back-up, etc. She makes sure that she and Xander are where they're needed and takes care of things for Buffy when she needs to go elsewhere.

Xander: - Xander's jealousy regarding other men's interest in Buffy continues apace. Instead of trying to ask her out again, however, he keeps making subtle statements about how there are other people who are interested in her.

We also see how tight they're getting when we see Xander being included in the pre-date dressing ceremony. It's actually a bit abusive towards him (which Willow should know, knowing he's interested in Buffy), but he makes enough of a jerk of himself by trying to sabotage her date that we don't feel too badly about it. Also, he tries to peek at Buffy changing in a mirror on her chest of drawers.

The three of them are shown to be spending a lot of time together in this episode, cementing the trio in our minds.

Giles: - I talked about the changing Buffy/Giles dynamic a bit already in Slayer Notes and the Buffy section above, but it bears repeating here: Giles is no longer just for information regurgitation and ineffectual arguing with his Slayer. Here he exhibits real authority and initiative, and ends this episode with a more mentor-ly air towards Buffy than they've shared previously.

Also, in this episode, you get the feeling that Giles actually knows what he's doing-- for example, when finding a weird artifact (the ring that didn't dust), he picks it up with his pen rather than his hand. Smart man. You never know what random artifact is going to possess you or have a curse on it or somesuch. Also, Giles follows through on his hunches here, doing excellent contemporary research, and does go out to the Sunnydale Funeral Home prepared.

He also keeps his head when attacked by vampires, at least until he's barricading himself in a room. He starts to panic a bit then, as we see in his successively more ineffectual attempts to block the door and his somewhat unhinged conversation with Xander and Willow. Still, he manages to creatively hide in one of the body drawers and so survive until Buffy can get to the scene.

And, hey, a bit of Giles backstory:

Giles: "I was ten years old when my father told me I was destined to be a Watcher. (sits next to her) He was one, and his, uh, mother before him, and I was to be next."

Buffy: "Were you thrilled beyond all measure?"

Giles: "No, I had very definite plans about my future. I was going to be a fighter pilot. Or possibly a grocer. Well, uh... My father gave me a very tiresome speech about, uh, responsibility and sacrifice."

Good man, empathizing with his Slayer.

We also get to see more of the exquisite exasperation caused by Giles having to relate to teenagers so closely. I love those scenes.

Cordelia: - Cordelia continues to make her mark as a first-rate bitch. She's using really low tactics in this episode, either attempting to humiliate Buffy or blatantly ignoring her presence. (Buffy's definitely made a character judgment on Cordelia by this episode and is no longer keeping her claws in when engaging her.)

However, Cordelia is having to deal with not being God's gift to everyone. Owen innocently ignores her come-ons, re-focusing always on Buffy. Angel doesn't even notice her when he enters the club, going straight for Buffy. She's a bit pissed about this, as you can imagine.

Angel: Angel is once more appearing thanks to his usual MO. He shows up at the Bronze to warn Buffy about the Anointed One, yadda, but his demeanor quickly changes when he realizes she's on a date. I have never seen a man go from irritated-broody to petulant that quickly before. The petulance in his demeanor is incredibly palpable as he asks, "You're on a date?"

Just like that, Angel succumbs to stereotypical male belligerence when Buffy explains that she is, that she's with a man who actually wants to be with her (rather than warn her all the time, hint hint). Angel looks Owen over, and I think we can garner from the look on Angel's face that Owen's been found wanting. Angel's sure that he's the better man. We can forgive Angel this conceit considering how old he is.

Also, I giggle every time I watch the conversation between Owen and Buffy when she's explaining that she has to leave in the middle of their date. Angel is in the background, appropriately enough pictured between Buffy and Owen (who are facing each other). The look on his slightly fuzzed-out face is one of intense concentration as he tries to decide what's going on between the two. Then, when Buffy kisses Owen, his expression morphs into a very amusing "WTF?!" expression.

So, we're left with little doubt as to Angel's intentions toward Buffy. We just still don't know what he means to do with them.

Miscellaneous

This episode didn't have the usual opening monologue explaining Buffy's job. It was just the teaser, then the opening credits.

They used exposition excellently in this moment where Willow explains Owen's character: "Wow! He hardly talks to anyone. He's solitary, mysterious... He can brood for forty minutes straight, I've clocked him."

Excellent horror-movie moment where they barricade themselves in an observation room, only to realize they've locked themselves in with the very monster they were attempting to avoid.

Buffy: "You, Xander, Willow, you guys... you guys know the score, you're careful." I don't believe this. Xander's still pretty careless, for one. They're just already the bedrock of her support group and she can't get rid of them. It becomes more true as time goes on, though-- they definitely do learn to take care of themselves, more or less.

I love the ironic moment at the end, where Buffy and Giles are all happy that they've foiled yet another of the Master's plots. Giles comments that the Master must be having a bad day and, indeed, the viewer expects to be treated to some angry theatrics from below. Instead, we see a very self-satisfied vampire lord and his new creepy, child vampire. Excellent inversion of expectation.

Themes

One theme in this episode is the continuous shifting of power. Buffy is giving more of it to Giles, as addressed in the Slayer Notes, Buffy, and Giles sections.

Also, another recurring theme debuts in this episode: that of prophecies often being wrong, incomplete, read incorrectly, or open to manipulation. They're not absolute, thank goodness. In this one, Giles misinterpreted the prophecy and so responded ineffectually (waiting in the graveyard for someone to rise when the five were, in fact, just that night being killed).

Giles' Knock-Out Count

Knock-out #2: Vampire Andrew knocks a cross from Giles hand, then throws him across the room. Giles hits the wall, his head slamming into the button to turn on the incinerator, before he falls to the floor, unconscious.

Favorite Quotes

Buffy, to Giles: "Oh, that's great: I kill them, you fence their stuff."

The Master: "'And one of the Brethren shall go out hunting the night before and get himself killed, because he couldn't wait to finish his job before he ate.' Oh, wait. (grabs one of the Brethren by the throat) That's not written anywhere."

Owen: "I've lost my Emily. Dickinson."

Buffy: "There's some new hoity-toity vampire sect in town."
Willow: "That's bad."
Xander: "Well, hey, they're bringing the much-needed tourist dollars."

Buffy: "Well, in that case I won't wear my button that says, 'I'm a Slayer. Ask me how!'"

Buffy: "If the apocalypse comes, beep me."

Giles: "Buffy, when I said you could slay vampires and have a social life, I didn't mean at the same time."

Links

Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Movie
Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Origin comic
Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1.1: "Welcome to the Hellmouth"
Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1.2: "The Harvest"
Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1.3: "The Witch"
Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Viva Las Buffy! comic
Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1.4: "Teacher's Pet"

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