[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: James Whitmore, Jr. | Aired: 10/06/1998]
This episode has two distinct halves to it, one which is great and the other which is poor. The first half is dealing with the unresolved issues from Buffy skipping town in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] . The second half is a somewhat poorly done zombie plot that seems to happen right when important dialog is about to be said. I can’t help but feel cheated by the fact that all is forgiven just because they killed some zombies together. This is a cheap way out of having to find real solutions to the problems everyone has with Buffy taking off and not telling anyone. There are a few really powerful scenes, though, which help elevate this a bit beyond failure.
The episode begins with Joyce telling Buffy she wants to put this whole mess behind them, which we find out later isn’t that easy. The group’s initial reaction to suddenly seeing Buffy back is perfect: they all looked kind of dazed and confused. None of their reactions can compare with the beautiful piece of subtle acting by Anthony Stewart Head when Giles, alone in his kitchen, gives us a potent emotional sense of happiness and relief just by his expressions. This is possibly one of my favorite “small moments” in the entire series.
I was very pleased to see that it isn’t going to be too easy for Buffy to get back into school. I do, however, love Giles’ pressuring of Snyder at the end. I have some real issues with some of the characters’ reactions though. First of all, while I can buy that the group has issues with how Buffy took off, they seem to be overdoing the anger and not at all understanding what she went through. This seems a tad out of character, especially Willow being so avoidy. However, the scene between Buffy and Willow in Buffy’s bedroom helps exlpain why she feels the way she does and is quite touching.
While walking around the stupid party she didn’t even want, Buffy understandably gets the impression that everyone is ignoring her and would prefer she not even be there. She hears a guy say the party is for a “chick on rehab.” Joyce even says that things were in some ways better before Buffy came back. I could feel Buffy’s sadness and can understand why she nearly took off again. This leads to the big confrontation downstairs where Joyce and most of the Scoobies all start attacking Buffy for leaving without telling anyone. The group should be more understanding of what Buffy went through! I agree that she should have left some indication that she was at least ‘okay,’ but poor Buffy! It’s great to see that at least Joyce admits she made a mistake when she gave the ultimatum to Buffy in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] .
It’s here when the zombies come literally crashing in and ruin the rest of the episode. These guys are hokey, boring, and completely spoil the incredibly important argument that was being had. So the final verdict is that I loved most of the scenes dealing with Buffy’s return and really disliked all the zombie stuff. I would have been perfectly content if there was no supernatural threat. Overall it’s an ‘okay’ episode at best.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Principal Snyder’s “tingly sensation.”
+ Buffy yelling to get her mom downstairs when Pat comes over.
+ Buffy disliking the big gathering and wanting a personal dinner instead.
+ Two really annoying people get killed: the dumb phone guy and Joyce’s friend, Pat.
+ Good to know that Willow’s been doing a lot more witchcraft over the summer.