Buffy 2×18: Killed by Death

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali | Director: Deran Serafian | Aired: 03/03/1998]

It’s got to be tough being “Killed by Death”, an interesting little episode stuck between two powerhouses. The basic plot here feels very much like a leftover from the Season 1 handbag, which initially doesn’t inspire much excitement. Surprisingly, though, “Killed by Death” ends up becoming another example of just how much the show has matured between seasons. By taking this relatively uninteresting plot and seamlessly integrating Season 2’s ongoing themes, characters arcs, and tone into it, what would have been a really poor episode is transformed into something worthwhile.

As mentioned, “Killed by Death” seems almost completely inconsequential at first glance — skippable, even. Buffy gets sick and saves some kids from a demon. The pace is a bit on the slow side, little happens in the season’s larger story, and it has some other legitimate flaws. So what value does “Killed by Death” have then, if any? To answer that question we have to ask several new ones; questions like why is Buffy sick? What purpose does the demon serve within the story? Does defeating the demon provide any deeper meaning? Where do her friends factor into all of this? Answering these questions, it turns out, will help us understand the importance of “Killed by Death” to Buffy’s Season 2 arc.

Right from the first scene of “Killed by Death” it’s clear that Buffy is ill — indeed, she has the flu. Why is Buffy sick though? Well, Joyce explains it pretty clearly to Giles: “Buffy’s been so down since it happened. She never gets sick.” It would be easy to think that Angelus’ murder of Jenny is solely responsible for Buffy’s sudden illness, but it runs a lot deeper than that. Since “Innocence” [2×14] we’ve seen Angelus murder several people, several more are referenced or implied, and it can only be assumed that there are yet more on top of that. Some of these deaths are people Buffy personally knew, like Theresa in “Phases” [2×15] and, of course, Jenny. Most of the others may be nameless victims, but Buffy is still feeling the weight of letting them down.

Buffy has endured a string of failures for the first time in her tenure as the Slayer, and the cumulative weight of these failures has literally sickened her. Then by trying to overcompensate for a growing feeling of helplessness by tensely taking yet more blows from Angelus in the beginning of the episode, it pushes Buffy over the edge and right into the hospital. Recovering from this bout won’t be easy either: there’s a demon in the hospital killing kids, and Angelus is still lurking around every corner. In Buffy’s brief time at the hospital she quickly witnesses a child being carted off and the doctor being murdered, which is not lost on her (“Another person I wasn’t in time to save.”) Willow tries to plea with her that “one night of rest won’t kill you,” to which Buffy bitingly retorts “no, but it might kill someone else.” When it rains it pours, and Buffy can’t even find rest while hospitalized with the flu.

After a scary scene involving a crazed Buffy pleading to get out of the hospital (giving me serious “Normal Again” [6×17] vibes), Buffy soon suspects that there’s a demon walking the halls of the hospital that is sucking the life out of children. The demon, Der Kindestod (a.k.a. Child Death), turns out to be very real and targets children because they’re naturally weak and must rely on others for protection. So the demon is deadly to the most vulnerable, a scenario that hits Buffy right where it hurts at this point in the season because Sunnydale’s population, among them her friends, have been relying on her protection to survive what goes bump in the night, particularly Angelus. Sick or not, Buffy is the Slayer, and she will not let this thing kill another child. “Killed by Death” argues that Buffy’s protector instinct may run even deeper than we had previously thought.

The Der Kindestod situation is personal enough to Buffy thanks to Angelus, but “Killed by Death” feels the need to add a seemingly redundant piece of backstory to make the situation even more personal. This backstory, of course, is her cousin Celia who we find out was killed in a hospital, conveniently, by the very same demon! So Buffy also feels guilty because she couldn’t save her cousin back when she was a little kid. Okay, so there’s no doubt that this is quite forced, particularly that it’s the same demon, but the more I started thinking about Buffy’s flashbacks in “Killed by Death”, the more I started liking what they were actually suggesting.

In one of the flashbacks we see Buffy playing the role of a superhero (“Power Girl to the rescue!”) and saving her cousin from faux peril. When thinking about this from the perspective of only this episode, it’s totally forced, but if we expand our perspective series-wide, it suddenly becomes revelatory. How so? Well, it seems to me that Buffy’s childhood roleplaying of a super-powered protector is actually an expression of being a Potential Slayer. As we’ll learn in Season 7, potentials have some enhanced instincts and abilities even if they never get called as the Slayer. This flashback fits in perfectly with the larger slayer mythology, thus further enriching Buffy’s character arc. It also makes episodes such as “Helpless” [3×12], “The Weight of the World” [5×21], and “Help” [7×04] all that much more interesting. Season 5 and Season 7 benefit the most from this knowledge — heck, it turns out Celia is actually the prelude to Dawn. Suddenly some of these flashbacks don’t feel quite as forced. How fun!

“So this isn’t about you being afraid of hospitals ’cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?” – Cordelia

While blunt, Cordelia is totally right here, and Giles validates it by adding that “Death and disease are things, possibly the only things that Buffy cannot fight. It’s only natural for her to try to create a defeatable opponent. Especially now, after Jenny.” These statements hit even harder because of what we know is in Buffy’s future, “The Body” [5×16] and “Normal Again” [6×17] being two prime examples. Cordelia’s statement is neat in that it has two meanings, one on a story level and one on a meta level. On the story level, Buffy is more than eager to encounter a demon she can effectively fight and stop from hurting people — in fact, this is the very cure to her larger illness. Buffy needs a ‘win’ right now along with a bit of rest to get back on her feet. On the meta level, the statement speaks to how Buffy, as we know, uses the supernatural as a metaphor for very real world issues. This is the writers effortlessly slipping in a little wink of self-awareness through Cordelia, which is quite amusing.

Thankfully, a regular demon just might be what the doctor ordered for Buffy. To defeat the demon, Buffy ends up making herself sick (again) so she can actually see and kill the creature. This is exactly what the doctor was doing to help the kids: give them more of the flu so it would quickly flush out of their systems. Becoming sicker acts as a catalyst (i.e. sight) that helps Buffy properly heal (i.e. kill the demon). It’s also a reminder of the sacrifices often required of the Slayer to succeed, a notion that has been muddled for Buffy ever since things heated up with Angel.

Killing Der Kindestod restores Buffy’s sense of confidence and frees her to prepare for the bigger challenge that lies ahead: killing Angelus. Buffy thinks she’s ready to put down Angelus, per the end of “Passion” [2×17], but there are some major roadblocks that Buffy must break through before her words become truth, such as the need to forgive herself for what happened to Angel and then completely let go of him. Only then will she be able to reclaim her identity from Angelus and be whole again. Both of these steps will also be “sickening” to go through, but Buffy will come out the other end stronger for it, which is what “Killed by Death” lays down the template for.

Spike made an insightful statement in “School Hard” [2×03] in saying, “A slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn’t in the brochure.” In the coming years there will always be a tension between Buffy’s solitary burden and her connection with said family and friends, but here in Season 2 we’re still at a point where that tension is at a minimum. (Season 3 will begin to show some strain.) The benefit of having a support system is readily apparent in “Killed by Death”, as all the Scoobies work together to help Buffy learn about the demon. Even better is how genuinely friendly they are to Buffy, not just as her sidekicks. Although they all help out the best they can, Buffy is still the one that figures out how to see the demon and eventually put him down. This suggests that that her friends aren’t strictly necessary for success, but they are one reason she continues to succeed.

Speaking of friends, the best individual scene in “Killed by Death” is when Angelus enters the hospital to bring Buffy flowers. Could he get any creepier than he’s been lately? Yikes! Xander being quite gallant in standing up to him on Buffy’s behalf is quite likely one of the best Xander moments in the entire series, particularly in the high school years. Go Xander! Angelus, of course, does everything he can to twist the knife, saying to Xander, “Buffy’s White Knight. You still love her. It must just eat you up that I got there first.” Oh my! It’s crude, but it definitely cuts. In a nicely subtle touch, Xander literally gasps for air after Angelus walks away. What a tense scene, especially after everything that went down in “Passion” [2×17]. I love the follow-through!

I’d like to take a moment to express my appreciation for the general “Passion” [2×17] creepiness spillover, particularly in the first half of “Killed by Death”. When Der Kindestod walks by Buffy’s hospital room for the first time, it’s definitely worth a hearty shiver for being genuinely unsettling. The cinematography is also worth noting, particularly those tilting hallway shots of the hospital at night. Another contributor is Shawn Clement and Sean Murray, who fill in for Christophe beck with a solid original score that nicely mingles the creepy, surreal, and somber.

For all it does well, “Killed by Death” is certainly not without its flaws. There’s definitely some filler that can be spotted here and there, such as the scene where Cordelia flirts with the security as a distraction for Xander. The banter between Cordelia and Xander, while playful and inoffensive, doesn’t really shed any new insight into either character or their relationship. It is nice to see them in more of a normal ‘relationship’ mode, what with Cordelia actually being helpful by bringing Xander some food and assisting Giles with research. The plot itself isn’t particularly interesting in of itself, and the pacing becomes a bit of a slog in a few places, usually accompanying the group’s attempts to hunt down information on the conveniently suspicious doctor. Then, of course, there is the flashback of Buffy’s cousin being conveniently killed by the same demon that’s hanging around the hospital.

Flaws and all, “Killed by Death” is an important and necessary emotional recharge (and through-line) for all the guilt and pain that Buffy’s accrued since “Innocence” [2×14]. I found myself pleasantly surprised by it more often than I was disappointed by it. While certainly not a ‘great’ episode, or particularly amazing in any one area, it’s not that bad either — decent even. Its theme, characterization, and tone are all quite solid, and the more I think about it the better it gets. This is not to excuse its rough edges, because it definitely has several of them, but that shouldn’t mask what is unfortunately a forgotten episode that has far more to offer than initially meets the eye.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ There are a lot of “Normal Again” [6×17] vibes in this episode. I keep thinking about the mental institution reveal.
+ Joyce offering Giles condolences over Jenny’s death.
+ Giles getting a big warm smile out of Buffy by making a pointed comment about Cordelia.
+ The Scoobies’ discussion on “playing doctor” is quite funny, but it also ties into the larger theme of adolescence. Something that used to be innocent now has new meanings.
+ Xander surprisingly pulling out a reference from The Seventh Seal. Did Willow force him to see it?
+ Cordelia being very… Cordelia in this episode, which is generally pretty amusing, although I do wish we’d see her evolve a bit more quickly than we do.
+ Cordelia calling out Xander for checking out Buffy’s body. I like that Cordelia isn’t taking his fawning lying down.
+ When Buffy tells the boy, “believe me, I’m not that grown up,” it’s the truth, which is a subtle reminder that she’s in that awkward stage between a child and an adult.
+ The way Giles asks Buffy if the demon drawing was her work is pretty funny. We’ll get to become quite familiar with Giles’ sketching ability in Seasons 4 and 7. 🙂
+ Buffy saying, “too bad Angel didn’t put me in the hospital sooner,” and actually kind of meaning it. Buffy can’t catch a break!
+ Buffy drinking the flu on purpose. Ew. I really don’t think I could bring myself to do that.
+ Willow’s ridiculous “frogs!” distraction.
+ The appropriately disturbing effect of the demon’s eye suckage.
+ The very cozy final scene where Buffy, Willow, and Xander munch on snacks and watch TV together. Enjoy this while it lasts, folks, because everything’s about to change for these kids.
+ The hilarious drawing the boy made for Buffy. Awesome.

– Buffy’s line, “you make me sick,” is a bit too on-the-nose for my taste, even coming from her.


Foreshadowing

* Xander tells Angelus, “you’re gonna die, and I’m gonna be there.” Well, close enough anyway (“Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22]).


[Score]

76/100

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75 thoughts on “Buffy 2×18: Killed by Death”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    I like some small scenes, like the last scene with the three of them together at Buffy`s house. I always like Angelus`s visit to the hospital and Joyce talking to Giles about Jenny. But I didn`t like the mosnter of the week and that flashback to Buffy`s cousin. I too felt that it came out of nowhere. One last thing: it creeps me out to see Buffy like that, so helpless and also the music surrounding the hospital.But still, this eepisode is watchable and deserves for me a 65 or 70.

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  2. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 20, 2007.]

    The Demon Reminds me of the Joker.

    I love the last scene with Joyce doing the typical mom-with-sick-girl routine, it’s a breath of normality among the incredibly intense Angelus Saga.

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  3. [Note: Austin posted this comment on September 20, 2007.]

    I like how they showed Buffy pretending to be a super heroine at a young age. I think it’s interesting that Buffy was heroine, kind of a little extra foreshadowing that she’d always had the desire to be a heroine in her, maybe that is something that is in every potential, the desire to help and save people. That’s weird to think about, that Buffy was at one point a potential.

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  4. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on September 29, 2007.]

    That was always something that intrigued me. Buffy pretending to be a superhero, like her subconcious was saying something about Buffy`s nature.

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  5. [Note: Suzanne posted this comment on May 17, 2008.]

    Ah, some high culture reference I’d missed. But what irked me most was the demon’s name. The correct German would be “Kindertod” not “Kindestod”. It refers to potential death of all children: der Kinder Tod (plural genitiv) instead of des Kindes Tod: (singular genitiv) the death of one child. Even if this is supposed to refer to any given child, the plural form is used in German. Again something missed by the English speaking Watcher’s Council. Are they bragging about the modern language skills of their Watchers? I thought the same when Giles was unable to communicate with Cho Ahn about potential Slayers and Turok Han. Sure, she speaks Cantonese, but if he’d just written the thing down in Chinese characters, she would have understood him perfectly well, as written Chinese is understood by everyone in the country, or so I’m told. Oké, so the whedonverse writers don’t speak every language on the planet… but they could try to check with someone before they use a language. They did that with the Chinese in Firefly.

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  6. [Note: Adastra posted this comment on August 8, 2008.]

    I admit the reference to The Seventh Seal was pretty awesome, but somehow there’s no way I could ever imagine Xander watching an Ingmar Bergman movie!? How the hell did that happen? I think you’re right thinking Willow dragged him to watch one. I mean, Bergman movies are incredibly slow and you need a lot of patience to watch them. Since Xander has the attention span of a house fly, he’d probably have fallen asleep 5 minutes in.

    I also have to correct Suzanne; “Der Kindestod” is correct German, though an uncommon phrase. There’s a real cause of death for children called “plötzlicher Kindstod” ((sudden) crib death), which is probably what inspired the writers for this demon. Kindstod is a bit of a slang or old-fashioned word for “Kindestod”. While “der Kinder Tod” is also correct German, it wouldn’t make sense in this relation, because if translated it means “the Children’s Death” or “the Death of the Children” and sounds quaint. German is a very complicated language.

    BTW, I think that this is possibly the creepiest Buffy episode ever in the “normal” creepy way.

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  7. [Note: Paula posted this comment on November 26, 2008.]

    I’d have far fewer issues with this episode if the portrayal of people seriously sick with a flu, complete with that high fever and whatnot, would be a little more realistic. I’ll admit that e.g. lots of coughing and a seriously husky voice would not have made a very attractive Slayer, but still. (Yeah, OK, Buffy may have special healing powers, but the kids don’t appear all that sick and weak either.)

    Gotta love Xander standing up to Angel at the hospital, though. That’s quite a chilling scene. Angel not killing people a whole lot more does feel a bit contrived from time to time in the course of the second half of this season, but I guess that vampires on their own do avoid drawing attention to themselves by doing things like killing in public and crowded places.

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  8. [Note: Maki posted this comment on February 17, 2010.]

    The first time, I saw this episode I was was scared to hell. The demon is nasty and the atmosphere at the nightly hospital was also creepy.

    For me – being German – it is very funny to hear the Scoobies say German words. BTW We would say “Kindertod”. “Kindestod” is actually the term for sudden infant death syndrome.

    I liked this episode very much because of the hospital scenes. I really adore the unreal dark lights and (my favorite) disinterested housekeeper. That reminds me in a certain way of David Lynch.

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  9. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 11, 2010.]

    I also liked this episode because of the creepy atmosphere and the demon, he reminded me a bit of Freddy Krueger, the way he moves, invisible for grown ups.

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  10. [Note: Nix posted this comment on April 16, 2010.]

    Maki: I suspect the SIDS reference was intentional, with this demon being the underlying cause. (Hey, the cause is mysterious, thus, in the Buffyverse, it’s probably supernatural and horrible. I’m *so* glad I don’t live there.)

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  11. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on May 16, 2010.]

    This episode is certainly a letdown after “Passion,” but as far as MotW episodes go, this is a good one to follow “Passion,” since the hospital setting, and the fact that Buffy has gotten sick (the only time in the series if I remember right) suggest how harmful the last few weeks have been and the healing that’s needed.

    I agree that the creepy atmosphere in this episode is great (though it didn’t help that the first time Buffy sees Kindestod I instantly recognized the music as being from the DVD menu). Also, for some reason this demon is one of very few in the whole series that I found creepy and/or gross enough to think about days after watching the episode.

    As I re-watch the series, it’s funny to see how many opportunities both Angelus and Spike have to kill main characters and don’t, as Paula points out. Obviously this is important from the perspective of the show — even Joss can’t kill off more than a few main characters in a single season, and it would also make it much more difficult to redeem Angel and Spike later on — but it also could be read as a certain level of ambiguity in their characters. Angelus could’ve killed Buffy in her bedroom in “Passion,” but he chose not to. Spike has a reputation for brutality and ruthlessness, but we rarely actually see that after “School Hard.” The romantic side of his nature gets developed a lot more in comparison. I think this may be subtly setting the stage for Spike’s soulless transformation (or cultivation of a soul, as I like to think of it) in later seasons.

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  12. [Note: Nix posted this comment on May 31, 2010.]

    “I instantly recognized the music as being from the DVD menu” — they didn’t use _Close your eyes_ as the DVD menu music? The fools!

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  13. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 29, 2010.]

    The Good:

    Buffy’s look to Giles as he tactfully gets Cordelia about her not bringing a gift.

    The Giles and Cordelia research session. “There’s a demon for everything.”

    Xander telling about him not being able to tell Willow they were playing ‘Doctor’ wrong.

    Willow’s frog fear comes up again. Can you imagine if she dreamt of being onstage with frogs while being late for class and naked.

    The ending with the gang in Buffy’s room. The drawing of a manly Buffy by Young Giles.

    The Bad:

    8 year-old Buffy as a brunette. She is blonde in ‘Weight of the World’ when she is 4. Is she naturally blonde or brunette. Maybe she’s a ginger:)

    The flashback scenes.

    Screaming children. The old Hollywood saying springs to mind.

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  14. [Note: Seán posted this comment on January 4, 2011.]

    I find Cordelia just so likable in this episode. If you watch her through the episode, she does all these nice little things like warning Xander to “be careful” and bringing him food and coffee amongst other things. It makes her very endearing and I’m not just talking about Charisma Carpenter’s good looks.

    I also find that the Core Four are quite unfair towards her even if she is a little annoying and tact free!

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  15. [Note: Mash posted this comment on July 27, 2011.]

    Clearly, we need a separate forum to discuss continuity for “Normal Again”.

    This episode, “Surprise”, “Becoming”, “The Witch”, “Normal Again” itself, and any other episode we come across that even sort of keeps continuity with “Normal Again”.

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  16. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 18, 2011.]

    This is a great episode, one of my favourites of the season; it was good to see the main plot line take a little breather after the events of Passion. Jenny’s death was unprecedented for the series at the time and as a much loved character the gang needed to be in a new place, so their emotions could take be dealt with.

    Angelus still remained a prominent figure though, his attack on Buffy and his visiting the hospital gave us some character fluency between himself and Xander. Xander it is clear still has strong feelings for Buffy and his subverting Angelus at the hospital gave us an exceptional scene; foreshadowing of Becoming pt 2 and his made palpable again his intense hatred of Angelus.

    This is decent episode, the plot places Buffy and the gang in a different setting and lets us see them outside their comfort zone not just physically but emotionally. Buffy’s fear of hospitals and the outburst she makes about vampires foreshadows events in season six Normal Again and can also be a retrospective flashback for Joyce and herself having been to a mental hospital. As mentioned Xander serves as Buffy’s white knight once more, the last prominent time was in Prophecy Girl; Both times Buffy is in a weakened state Xander steps up which echos Halloween and his being transformed in to a solider. Seeing Buffy get sick is refreshing! Super heroes get sick too! Phew! I liked the mention of her swelling and fractions being healed and the reaction of the nurse; a nice link to the mythology of the Slayer and their ability to heal quickly.

    Even the episode gives us a somewhat new location it was nice to see that the gangs quintessential HQ still played a poignant part to solving the puzzle and saving the day. Willow’s quick thinking was called on again when Buffy self administered the virus to see Der Kinderstod.

    All in all a great episode, it didn’t escalate the plot but it still held an essence of the main story arch and had much respected continuity. I was confounded when i discovered that this script had been originally intended as a season one episode, especially with the hit and miss episodes that many people discuss (i love season one but do agree the content isn’t as good in comparison) I think this episode would have done well there but i like the threat of Angelus being constant.

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  17. [Note: MrPrez posted this comment on October 7, 2012.]

    Cordelia stole this episode for me! She was awesome and hilarious! It’s too bad she never really got a fair chance on this show. It was always lacking Charisma! 😉

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  18. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on March 30, 2013.]

    I agree with MrPrez, Cordelia comes to the fore in this episode. So funny, especially the interplay with Giles. Plus the statement about tact, which is significant. For me about the only thing that beats this is in Earshot where Cordy says just what she’s thinking.

    This is the ideal Cordelia, I think. Trying to help out a little, still basically selfish, but frank. In particular the mix of wise (her initial read on why Buffy thinks she’s seeing a monster) and clueless (“demon for everything”) is just about right here. You have to be careful with stupidity — sometimes the writers push it too far, especially with Xander (“bitca?”, S4 basement-dwelling phase).

    In any case, I’ll take this Cordy over the saintly version in pre-Jasmine Angel.

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  19. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 20, 2013.]

    For a MotW, I actually think of this one as one of the superior episodes. I absolutely love the creepiness of this episode, and I believe it is also a pretty well-thought out plot as well. What I find funny is I also once felt the inclusion of a cousin was unnecessary, but I’ve actually changed my mind since first watch. Of course, I attribute this to my love of hearing more about someones backstory (which is why I love flashback episodes), no matter how irrelevant.

    Another thing to note is I usually roll my eyes at most of the demons on both Buffy and Angel, but I think this one is really intelligently crafted and is legitimately scary. I definitely prefer it to the other standalone at the end of S2, “Go Fish.”

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  20. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 17, 2014.]

    I have a somewhat different take on the episode. I think it is in counterpoint to Passion. It is a reminder that Buffy’s greatest gift is her heart, her love and concern for others. It is also an effective reminder of just how distracted she has been by Angel… There are lots of monsters out there. And her line about Bakker being “one more person I wasn’t in time to save” really resonates- particularly when coupled with the childhood flashback. Cordelia’s line about tact is very telling. Not saying true stuff, even with good intention, can be a bad thing. A theme that underlies so much of the conflict of the rest of the series.

    I love that looks at her friends and says “it’s all of we.” It is a poignant reminder of how important all of them are or will become in her life. Even if, as in the case of Cordy, babysitting her volatile x-boyfriend, who might otherwise have been up to all sorts of to-dos.

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  21. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.

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  22. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I have always thought that this episode would have been more interesting if Buffy had just been imagining the demon. I think it would have played better into the whole needing an enemy she can defeat to make her feel like she’s not a failure as a slayer angle.

    Scenes where we see the clock go through the same time change always freak me out. I don’t know what it meant here though. Buffy having a cousin taken by this demon didn’t sit well with me either. Felt too coincidental.

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  23. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Yet another score increase! I wonder if your Season 2 review score will go up in light of this.

    This is an episode with a concept that could have been excellent, but was squandered by poor execution. The pace was too slow and the scenes with Buffy’s cousin were superfluous and boring. Overall, I would have given it somewhere in the 65-70 range.

    I agree with OtherScott that the episode would have been so much better if Buffy had been imagining the demon. Particularly in light of the Angelus situation, a look into Buffy’s hero complex and desire to fight a physical opponent would have been very interesting. Instead, we get a semi-decent stand-alone which reeks of wasted potential.

    Oh well. “I Only Have Eyes For You” is next (which, by the way, should get an A+.)

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  24. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I do think an exploration of Buffy’s hero complex would have been interesting, but I think it’s a bit out of place, thematically, in Season 2. That’s what “Conversations with Dead People” and Season 7 are for.

    At this point in Season 2, Buffy needing a tangible “win” to get back on her feet after so many failures works quite well for me. Add in the meta value from Cordy’s blunt comment — the show’s also having a bit of self-aware fun at the same time — and it works for me. I don’t even feel the execution was all that bad. “Killed by Death” has some notable flaws, but I really think it’s a bit better than most give it credit for.

    If you disagree with the review, it’s a lot more interesting if you offer some reasons why. For example, per the review, I think Celia’s scenes are more interesting than they initially appear to be due to the rather large Potential Slayer implications and what that says about Buffy’s character. I’ve come around on those flashbacks now, for the most part. I’d still have preferred Celia’s death to have been by an actual illness/disease rather than the demon that’s killing the kids here though — that single part is still quite forced.

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  25. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I honestly feel that killed by death’s biggest problem was it’s placement within the season. Although I’m not a huge fan of the Celia thing, I guess I can see your points about it. The big issue is that it’s inbetween what’s possibly my favorite episode (passion) and an episode that gets me every single time I watch it (I only have eyes for you). It’s a fun episode, but I wish I could skip “killed by death” sometimes just so I can get to The really good one.

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  26. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I really disagree — in fact, I think it’s placed in the exact perfect spot in the season. “Killed by Death” would have been notably worse and nonsensical had it not appeared immediately after “Passion”. The story here is specifically designed to deal with the trauma of Buffy’s recent failures as the Slayer, particularly Jenny. All of that weight she’s putting on her shoulders has added up and made her ill. It really works.

    Yes, people, the next episode is ‘Really Good’ — I know. That doesn’t mean we have to casually toss this one aside. If you don’t agree with my analysis, that’s great: provide counterpoints!

    Am I the only one that likes to think about episodes that aren’t obviously ‘great’? It sure seems like it sometimes. (*shrug*.) I will always maintain that there can be value in otherwise flawed episodes.

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  27. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Oh, I don’t really disagree with anything in the review. I can see your points on the Celia scenes, although I still maintain that the episode would have been better without them (or if it had simply been the disease.) I also see that an examination of Buffy’s superiority complex may have been thematically out-of-place in Season 2, although anything is better than what we got in Season 7 (which really tempered my love for the series, although it’s still above-average television.)

    So in summary – I basically agree with your analysis, I merely quibble over the score (and not by much – I’d only dock 10 points at the most.)

    Also, I must say I am very much anticipating your re-review of “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and I hope you will decide to put the episode up to an A+.

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  28. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Fair enough. I do my best to make coherent arguments to support the scores I hand out though, which will also be the case with whatever score I end up giving the next episode, A+ or not. :p

    Season 7 has plenty of great stuff in it. People are going to have to offer a lot more than casual insults towards the season to convince me otherwise.

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  29. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Sometimes, Mike, we just don’t find the things you find interesting about an episode all that interesting. The idea of Buffy needing to be a protector has been done many times throughout the series, and done in much more interesting ways than “I need to be able to save the kids that are being attacked by a demon who they only see when they’re sick, especially since I couldn’t protect my cousin who was killed by said demon.” Does it tie into the rest of the series? Sure. It just isn’t all that interesting as an episode, especially since the points of comparison at this point are at a sky high level.

    You notice how you don’t have much to say about episodes you find to be worthless? Well, people who don’t really like this episode don’t have much to say about this episode other than it wasn’t interesting. It’s not that your points aren’t legitimate.

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  30. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I didn’t say I disagreed at all. I actually see your points with everything in this review. I was just putting some of my opinion down, maybe that’s unnecessary and I’m sorry. The review itself was awesome. If I disagreed strongly with something you put down, I would of told you.

    The real reason I’m commenting is how you implied that I only focus on the special episodes,I don’t know if you were directly talking to me, but sense it said that you were replying to me, that’s what it got from it. It sort of bugged me because that’s certainly not the case. Heck one of my personal favorites is “doublemeat Palace” and that’s not really one of Buffy’s tiptop episodes. I love all episodes of Buffy for what they are. (Except for I robot, you jane. I’ll always hate it) Just because I sometimes want to skip “killed by death” doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it for what it did right

    As for this review, The one thing I wanted to say is that I totally love the whole Xander standing up to Angel thing. I’m glad you mentioned it in your review. I LOVE Xander’s comeback to angel about how he’s gonna be there when angel dies 🙂

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  31. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Episodes that I think are “worthless” don’t have legitimate and compelling points in their favor. If they did, they wouldn’t be worthless. See my problem there?

    I just want people to engage with the review more and recognize/debate/add to its arguments. I have no problem with people not finding the same things I do interesting. But they need to try to articulate what and where those differences are. In some of these comments (not just on this rewrite) there’s an implication that my arguments weren’t convincing, but people rarely explicitly state that and then explain why they weren’t convincing to them (like with the Celia stuff).

    At the end of the day I honestly just want to get the most of these episodes and enjoy a friendly debate over what they have to say and how successfully they get those messages across. Perhaps that’s too much to ask for?

    I have always encouraged disagreements, but people need to explain those disagreements. Per the note above the commenting posting box, “Before commenting please read the review, argue/augment the points made in it, and be respectful of opposing opinions” [added the emphasis].

    As for your characterization of “Killed by Death”, I feel like the review argues that there’s actually very specific reasons why this happens to Buffy at this point and time. When else do we ever see her sick like this? I don’t think ever. Jenny was Buffy’s first huge failure as the Slayer — as a protector — so it’s a big deal emotionally and in Season 2’s overall tapestry. This is one of the (if not the) first episodes that directly looks at Buffy’s protector instincts, and it comes at a particularly emotionally resonant time in the larger story. Are there some execution flaws in the episode? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t cast off its underlying placement and purpose in Season 2 so casually.

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  32. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    The comment about jumping ahead wasn’t specifically directed at you, but rather more generally. Hence the “Yes, people”. Everything after the first paragraph in my response to you was directed more generally — I should have made that clearer. 🙂

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  33. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I actually think this is one of Season Two’s stronger “standalones”, and I’m glad you recognized how all the death-related material transitions over from “Passion”, Mike. This episode is nowhere near perfect, but I’m pretty much fine with its placement in the season.

    I’m not the biggest fan of Season Two, I’ll admit, as it features a few too many standalone episodes in its first half (as well as “Go Fish”, which I’ve never liked). But I gotta say, your reviews are really making me want to watch it again.

    P.S. I think “I Only Have Eyes For You” deserves a 99. That’s technically an A, but it’s a really, really good A.

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  34. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I’m finding myself more impressed by Season 2 this time around, and I already loved it quite a bit before.

    As for the next episode, well, let’s just say your thinking has some validity. I’m actually planning on watching the episode again tonight to gather my notes, so we’ll see. 🙂

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  35. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I’m just curious Mike, but do you think season 2 will score just as high or even higher than season 5 this time around? A majority of my mind tends to doubt it, but, like I said, I’m just curious. 🙂

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  36. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Nope. Too many first-half episodes that are heavy-handed or have flawed execution to top Season 5. The season will definitely keep it’s A- grade, but the score will likely go up by 1-2 points. Now that I’m far enough into the season to have an idea, I’m thinking Season 2 will end up at 92 or 93.

    Keep in mind, though, that a score like that has more weight now, because the reviews themselves are much more thorough and dig a lot deeper than the original early season reviews did.

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  37. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on March 12, 2014.]

    The Seventh Seal? Season Seven had a Seal. Mind blown.

    Points for Angelus saying Buffy being ill takes the fun out of fighting her, then punches her again and says, “no, still fun.”

    Cordelia telling Xander he can watch her walk away… and he does.

    Buffy almost drinking from the glass before Willow stops her from dying. That could have been akward.

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  38. [Note: alfridito017 posted this comment on March 12, 2014.]

    This episode might win an award for Surprise Hit because of the surprising depth that this episode has. At first seeming inconsequential but prepares Buffy for the road ahead.

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  39. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 12, 2014.]

    Possibly, although I usually only hand out that award to episodes that manage a B+ or higher. “When She Was Bad” and “Phases” are probably the top candidates at the moment.

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  40. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on March 13, 2014.]

    Bit belated but – another great updated reiew, MikeJer. 🙂

    The central point on which I’m in complete agreement with you is this: that taken both in and of itself and within the larger context of the season, “Killed By Death” is an episode that works, even if its placement all but guarentees that it’ll be an overlooked (or rather, massively overshadowed) one.

    Even disregarding the merits of the episode itself, I would say that for the purposes of the wider arc of the season, it was necessary to have something come in between “Passion” and “I Only Have Eyes For You”. As brilliant as those two are (can’t wait for the IOHEFY update!), I really don’t think that it would ‘flow’ smoothly if the one had immediately followed the other. To have an episode about Buffy learning to forgive herself for what she did to Angel directly on the heels of an episode dedicated to showing why Angelus is the Worst Thing Ever just wouldn’t have quite worked, in my opinion.

    Instead, just as “Passion” and “Innocence” were enhanced by the delightful one-two interlude of “Phases” and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Belwildered”, it was necessary at this point to get an episode that does exactly what you outline: show Buffy being impaired by the weight of the failures that she’s experienced, and have her eke out a small but very satisfying victory that points the way forward thematically: experiencing hardship will make her stronger than ever.

    Of course, none of that would mean much if the episode wasn’t effective on its own, which I think it really is. A huge part of that is that this is a legitimately creepy episode which exploits up to the hilt the ways that hospitals can be deeply unnerving places. Der Kindestod is one of the handful of BtVS villains who legitimately freaks me out (the Gentlemen are the undisputed rulers of this category, but Gnarl and the vampire from “Selfless” are also there). Whenever the show manages to pull off something like this, it makes Buffy’s victory feel awfully satisfying, even if the whole is not especially weighty.

    I have to say that I also liked the flashbacks of young Buffy with her cousin, but this review put good words to why they manage to feel appropriate. It’s not just her Slayerness that makes her a hero though: the episode delivers yet enother reminder (no matter how many of them we get, I always love them) that the human-side of Buffy’s persona is just as important to her success as her Slayer-side – the one enables her to figure out how to see the demon, the other lets her kill it. We’ll get the ultimate example of this dichotomy at the end of the season: Buffy’s physical strength is what enables her to defeat Angelus, but it takes strength of a very different kind for her to save the world.

    Also fully agree that the confrontation between Angelus and Xander is pure gold.

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  41. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Interesting re-review, Mike. You make good points on how necessary this episode is for the season’s structure.

    I do not however agree with the cousin-Celia bits, on a review-philosophical level: I do not believe that something forced and out of place can be rendered less so by later episodes following up on it.

    Celia comes out of nowhere, and her scenes in this episode are about as subtle as a half-brick in a sock. And yet she’s supposed to be the very thing that offers this episode its emotional haft, that ups the stakes for Buffy. And in that it fails, and I would hold it against the episode more strongly than you did. (Though the bits and pieces that follow up on Passion go a long way to compensate for the episode as a whole.)

    Now, the fact that this set-up, ham-fisted though it may be, ends up being useful for later episodes, improves -those- episodes, I’d say. Those later episodes get points for using existing set-up and integrating it well into the series’ overarching story. This one doesn’t get points for introducing those things, because the Celia bit still comes out of nowhere and still doesn’t have any support leading up to it. It doesn’t grow organically, it just gets dumped into the story from the blue. And it doesn’t mean to set up anything long-term either. It’s not trying to foreshadow anything. It just wants an easy way to invest Buffy in this plot.

    I’d liking it to a figure-skater making a mistake and nearly falling, but managing to turn the fumble into a graceful manoeuvre through quick reflexes and good instincts. The save gets points, but the fumble is still a fumble.

    And Celia is a fumble.

    Of course, that aside this still is an episode with quite a bit to offer, as your review demonstrates. I actually quite like it, especially the Xander and Cordelia bits. And Buffy did need a victory.

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  42. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    No, wait. I’d actually liken it to a football (soccer for you Yanks) player kicking the ball in an idiot direction and nearly ruining his team’s shot at the goal, only for a pair of brilliant co-players to intercept the ball, pass it back and score anyway.

    The first player’s still an idiot, even if the team as a whole is good.

    (I may need to work on my sports similes.)

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  43. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    You make a fair point regarding Celia — it does come out of nowhere in terms of the story that preceded it. Then again, these reviews do take knowledge of the entire story and mythos into consideration, which makes some of those flashbacks a lot more intriguing.

    Even if you were to read the flashbacks by trying to blank out your future knowledge of Dawn and the Potentials, I still think there’s something worthwhile there in the knowledge that Buffy had the protector bug since well before she was called as the Slayer. I think that adds to the character nicely, and doesn’t seem particularly out of place or ham-fisted.

    That leaves only the convenience of having Celia die by the same demon as an issue for me, which is totally forced.

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  44. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    If they’d just introduced a little-cousin figure as a part of Buffy’s backstory, and if it had been tangential to this episode’s plot, I’d have agreed with you. I’d have liked to see more details on Buffy’s pre-slayer life.

    But while it makes sense for Buffy’s overarching story for her to have taken on a protector’s role from an early age on, the execution here is very poor. A cousin who was killed by this demon is conveniently introduced in the same episode this demon appears? A cousin who then is forgotten about entirely?

    (Dropping the rhetorical questions for a moment, -is- Celia ever referred to again? I don’t think she ever brought up with Dawn, or in Normal Again, or any of those later episodes that could have tied into this one. The thematic link is implicit, not explicit. Accidental, even.)

    I suppose that it’s a matter of authorial intent: I don’t believe for a second that the writers were trying to establish a deep truth about Buffy’s character here. They were writing a lazy and convenient plot-device that only accidentally ended up being of value for the rest of the show.

    You seem to argue that the eventual positive outcome makes up for the authors’ laziness here, I’m a bit harsher on them. I say it’s poor writing here and now, whether or not it ends up serving Buffy’s character later on.

    Perhaps, as I said initially, it’s a review-philosophical difference: I believe more in evaluating the individual episode and judging it on its own merits, while still reflecting on its place in the series’ overarching structure. You put more importance on the latter, I think. It’s why I like episodes like Lineage or Home more than you, I suspect. I blame later seasons/episodes for not following up on the excellent set-up those episodes provide, you judge the episodes themselves to be weaker because they’re not followed up on later.

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  45. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I don´t like the introduction of the cousin who never gets mentioned again but I gotta say that your justification tying with season seven and the potentials makes sense to me.

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  46. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I think you’re right about us having a bit of a difference in terms of how much we let influences outside of a particular episode impact our evaluation. For me, the advantage of looking at something retrospectively is that you get to analyze the whole story as one piece of work, so what happens to be revealed later in the show is just as much a part of our understanding of the characters as what’s revealed earlier in the show. I also don’t really care that much about authorial intent — I generally try to judge the story on its own terms, not based on what the writers intended to convey.

    Regardless, I at least partially agree with you: the pre-Slayer protector knowledge aside, it is forced into the story for the sake of adding to its emotional potency — something wholly unnecessary considering the episode’s place in the season. And I don’t believe Celia is ever mentioned again, which is unfortunate.

    Good comments!

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  47. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Interesting. I agree with Mike that authorial intent isn’t very important in judging episodes, but I also agree with Iguana that episodes should be judged by their own merits first, and by their overarching place in the series second.

    I like to think that the final onscreen product, regardless of the means or circumstances which affected it, should be analyzed for what it’s shown to be. (This is also why I don’t typically like calling out certain actions as “in” or “out” of character.) And I do think that individual episodes should be analyzed on their individual powers, because the whole – no matter how great it is – becomes even greater when looked at as the sum of its parts.

    I think Celia works well within the confines of this episode, but I do think she should have been incorporated into the series from a less tangential angle. As it stands, “Killed By Death” is a pretty good episode, but the flashbacks stick out rather awkwardly when you put the whole series into perspective.

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  48. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Authorial intent is important in the sense that you have to judge the piece in the context of what the author is trying to do. You cannot criticize a Disney movie for not showing the harsh realities of adult life, for instance. That simply is not fair. You also cannot criticize Buffy for not being realistic because vampires don’t exist, because they aren’t trying to mimic the real world in that way.

    It matters a lot less on the other end of the spectrum, in terms of reading too deeply into something. Ideally, the writers present their view of something and then get out of the way and let people interpret it how they will. So, if Mike makes the connection about Buffy being at heart a protector based on this episode and connects it to season 7, I don’t think it matters whether the writers were trying to make that point or not. It’s how Mike interprets it, and he’s not necessarily wrong in any way.

    In terms of overarching vs. individual episodes, it’s just a matter of preference. I also like looking at episodes individually first and as a overall picture second. I think having a particular message or story contained in your episode makes each episode stronger and increases the viewing experience. Piece moving episodes I don’t find to be so enticing. But if people want to watch entirely for the overarching stuff, hey, it’s perfectly acceptable.

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  49. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    Just to be clear: I, too, think that evaluating an individual episode’s merits should be the focus. However, things that we know about from later in the series can improve or weaken certain individual moments, and the strength of those moments can have a sway on how well an episode is evaluated, albeit rarely by a significant margin. Even if I felt entirely the way Iguana did about the Celia stuff, it would likely only take the episode down to a C+ — not a huge change.

    For a different example, would Giles’ warning to Willow in “Becoming” about the use of magic (“it could open a door that you may not be able to close”) have mattered much at all if the character had not gone in that direction? No, it wouldn’t register in the slightest. But with the knowledge that Willow’s spell to soul-up Angelus will spark an entire summer of magic exploration and kick off her multi-season arc in force, eventually ending the way Giles warned her it would, suddenly that scene in “Becoming” is far more relevant and exciting, thus enhancing “Becoming” even more.

    Now I agree that an evaluation shouldn’t be entirely focused on moments like that, but I’d strongly argue for their value in a retrospective analysis.

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  50. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on March 18, 2014.]

    I agree. That kind of thing needs to be in the review; it’s the whole point of this site, after all. That’s what makes this type of review so fascinating and lets it offer insights that no other style can.

    I just wouldn’t let it influence my grading scale much. But that’s a minor quibble. As you say, it’d mostly be a + or – added or removed here or there.

    As for the authorial intent thing: I’d say the end product is by far the most important, but I do differentiate between (apparent) accidental thematic links and intentional thematic links. I’m interested in stories, but also in the art of storytelling. If something turns out well by accident it can still make for a great story, but I’m far more interested in and appreciative of a complex narrative that was deliberately crafted to all come together in the end.

    The problem with this approach, of course, is that we don’t actually know what the author intended and mostly just have to make (educated) guesses about whether a link was intended or was a happy coincidence. It seems pretty likely the similarities between Buffy protecting Celia and Buffy protecting Dawn were purely coincidental. But I can’t be sure if a writer didn’t remember this episode when writing Dawn.

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  51. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 18, 2014.]

    I don’t think the writers intended to show any similarities between Buffy protecting Celia and Buffy protecting Dawn. However, I think what it does show us is character consistency. The writers know their characters well and that shows in the relationship between Buffy protecting Celia and Buffy protecting Dawn, which in my opinion is a highlight of this series.

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  52. [Note: Stian Buhagen posted this comment on March 29, 2014.]

    I just rewatched Some Assembly Required, and a conversation between Buffy and Chris seem to refer to Celia. Buffy says something in the line of: I know how you feel, i once lost someone close to me. Do youthink she was refering to Celia? Or was it just a line to sympathize with Chris? I am not sure, but I don’t think Buffy would just be feeding someone a line like that.

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  53. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 29, 2014.]

    Uh … I haven’t seen the episodes in a long while so I don’t remember that line at all, but I can’t think of anyone Buffy was close to who had died.

    Unless she’s referring to her own death in “Prophecy Girl”? I’d have to watch it again.

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  54. [Note: Stian Buhagen posted this comment on March 29, 2014.]

    The thing is, I didn’t remember that line at all until I saw that episode today. Well she could refer to herself, but I don’t see why she would. She clearly says she lost someone close to her. And she didn’t lose herself until season six, so she must be refering to someone else. That’s how I interpret it anyhow.

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  55. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    I think this is an episode which fits thematically, something that I wouldn’t have thought without reading Mike’s analysis. Wow! Buffy being so ‘sickened’ by her misstep with Angelus that she literally gets sick! I don’t know if that was actually the writers goal, but GREAT interpretation!
    Also, aside from the Gentlemen…This dude was extremely creepy and I’m probably going to have nightmares. He resembles the Joker in many ways, too. Geh.

    One thing that kept pissing me off was the treatment of Cordelia. The writers just never seemed to know what to do with her, they never seemed clear of the base of their own character! I have always been a little mad about how things ended for her character, and the ridiculous Jasmine arc on Angel–After which even her death was overshadowed by Fred’s death. It all just didn’t seem fair.
    Anyway, that’s a rant for another show.
    In this episode particularly, you can see that she’s TRYING. I wanted to punch Xander in the face when Cordy brought food for him! I would never be cool with my guy gushing and coddling his ex-crush who he evidently was still in love with. And when I think about how their relationship eventually ends, ugh! I cringe. Poor Cordy, always getting cast off by the Scooby gang. I agree she can be annoying at times but she’s changed quite a bit from the snooty girl in Season 1 and deserves some more credit. At LEAST from Xander!
    I just dislike the way Xander treats all his girlfriends, especially Cordelia.
    I feel like if he hadn’t been blinded by his Buffy love he would’ve actually had a shot at something real and beautiful with Cordelia. Of course, I love that Anya came along but even that ended up in tragedy.

    Anyway it had some great character moments, creepy yet emotionally reeling parallels to ‘Normal Again’, and a creepy demon for once!
    That makes for a decent episode in my book!=)

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  56. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 17, 2014.]

    nathan.taurus (four years late so you’ll never read this), Buffy is naturally brunette. We see this at the start of S6 in her post-death hair colour.

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  57. [Note: Zach posted this comment on October 18, 2014.]

    I don’t believe it was in reference to the seventh seal, but rather “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” in which they parody the seventh seal…

    Now that sounds MUCH better xD.

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  58. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on October 18, 2014.]

    Yeah, I always thought the idea of playing chess with Death was sufficiently well known in pop culture that Xander could plausibly reference it. I’ve not seen The Seventh Seal either, but I got it.

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  59. [Note: Val posted this comment on November 2, 2014.]

    This episode scares the crap out of me. That thing is utterly certifying. The first time I watched it, I felt like I was going to have to camp out in my two year old’s bedroom all night to keep guard. *shudder*

    I was under the impression that they don’t have Krispy Kreme donuts on the west coast, but that’s what Cordelia brings to the hospital. If she’s got those kind of connections, I think the Scoobies definitely underestimated her contribution to the group.

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  60. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on November 10, 2014.]

    Since the review has been re-written, I would like to add some insights on my own to the already said. I see most discussion about the place of the episode in the larger context of the season and its themes, and the place of it in the biggest context of the series.
    However, I also believe that a deeper analysis should take into account the content of the episode in itself, since as we know, that’s what is a standalone story.

    Into this, am I the only one who sees this monster (and the whole plot here) as a metaphor of child molestation?? I know that this is an often avoided topic, but since Buffy has monsters to “explain” everything, why not consider this possibility?
    The most significant part is the fact that only children can see him and don’t even try to talk because they believe other adults won’t believe them. It’s indeed a very scary episode, because it shows a dynamic (exactly like with this social problem) in which the victims are silent and caught into a ritual type of interaction “in the sight of everyone” and at hidden at the same time. This monster pursued the kids every night and only Buffy believed them.
    Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I believe it’s one of the greatest pros of the episode, to show in a metaphorical way one of the most frightening dramas in human life.

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  61. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on January 29, 2015.]

    Continuity: In What´s my Line part 2, Willow revealed to Giles she had frog fear. Giles woke her from a dream “Don´t warn the tadpoles”.

    This is one of my least favorite episode but your review makes us like the episode a bit more.

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  62. [Note: Joy posted this comment on January 30, 2015.]

    This is exactly the way I see it, Blue Fan. The episode has a similar theme to Nightmares of the abused child who can’t speak up because he fears that no one will believe or help him.

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  63. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 11, 2015.]

    I was wondering if anyone else felt that way as well. This episode, more then any other in the whedonverse, made me feel legitimately uncomfortable because I saw the parallels with childhood trauma and the ignorance that adults tend to have when addressing them, or lack thereof. Particularly, I think it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the demon literally forces himself on top of the child and… “protrudes” tentacle like suckers from his eyes. Then of course, as Blue alludes to, the children feel afraid to speak up because not only is it a monster but also an invisible one. “Invisible one,” like that of someone close and too well respected for anyone to ever believe they’d harm the child.

    It’s not a comfortable thought in the least.

    That being said, it definitely first and foremost services Buffy as most episodes this season do. After everything she’s been through, it’s not a shock she’s become ill. Mental instability causes serious physical trauma, and physical trauma affects the body’s ability to fight off infection. There is absolutely nothing there that feels contrived at all when put into perspective.

    The scene with Angelus is once again marvelous. The tension is there, the creep factor stirring, and the twistedness just unrelenting. Why is it that Boreanaz truly shines as a villain but falls flat as a hero? It’s such a shame he can’t stay that way.

    I too got the “Normal Again” vibe, so much so that I felt as though it was the only other instance where Buffy’s “fantasy” may have been unraveling. It certainly gives credit to the interpretation that Buffy’s universe where she is the Slayer may actually be the false one. I don’t like to believe it myself, but I love it when I spot things that hint it could be, and this episode pops a red flag up over my head with so many things where you can point to it paralleling her trauma in that episode. From the fact she’s in a hospital, that her world is crashing down on her, and to the way she reacts towards being put in the hospital and beyond. It just feels like everything that episode did, the only difference being we don’t get to see in her head this first time. I wonder what it would have looked like if we could…

    So, as you can see, this episode does a lot for me and I regard it with much higher praise. It still has its faults and pacing issues, but I think it keeps the tension of “Passion” steadily adrift with its unnerving allusions to childhood trauma (at least that’s my interpretation) and Buffy nearly breaking down on a “Normal Again” level.

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  64. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 14, 2015.]

    One small observation I have following a comment I made on “Passions” is that what makes Jenny’s death particularly traumatic for Buffy (over and above the fact that she knew Jenny better than any of Angelus’ other victums) are the facts that:

    1) she set up Giles’ trauma by giving Jenny tacit permission to reignite a romantic relationship. I suspect that, in her mind, she made the “wrapping for the gift” possible. And when she apologizes at the end, Giles looks like he wants to assuage her guilt but, presumably, his pain is too fresh for him to say the words. His trauma bleeds over into his role as a Watcher, and so Buffy is left feeling that she has hurt Giles’ too badly to be overtly forgiven. He simply has no wise words of comfort for her yet. He will someday — I refuse to believe that he didn’t eventually tell her it was okay at some point off-screen — but he’s not ready.

    and

    2) she didn’t really forgive Jenny. She stepped out of Jenny’s way, but wasn’t ready to forgive. So Jenny died, at least in Buffy’s mind, with the relationship between them still raw and bitter. And now it always will be because no matter how much Buffy might want to fix that schism someday, she will never be able to. That’s the sort of thing that really kicks the awful sick feeling in your gut into overdrive when somebody you know dies. I can tell you that from personal experience. So the fact that Buffy got literally sick could be coming from several different layers of guilt.

    Like

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