[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: Michael Lange | Aired: 11/10/1998]
This is a very funny episode that unfortunately has a couple problems. Willow and Xander’s silly romance still bugs me to no end. This is really out of character for both of them. Yes, Willow had a big crush on Xander in S1 and into S2, but Xander only returned those feelings once, in [“2×01“] . They both have a boyfriend/girlfriend now, and they wouldn’t both betray them like that; it’s not in their personalities. The episode is making it out to be a cute moment between them when all it does is make me cringe.
Back in “Surprise” [2×13] Buffy gives her mom a little speech about feeling more responsible now that she’s 17. It’s fun to see Joyce saying ‘no’ to Buffy’s continuous requests to drive. Also very interesting is the fact that Joyce believes Giles is taking up too much of Buffy’s time. This is a natural extension to how she felt back in “Anne” [3×01] when telling Giles that he had an entire relationship with Buffy behind her back. This is great character development and follow-through.
Buffy wants more adult responsibilities, but when her ‘parents’ start acting like reckless teenagers she becomes very uncomfortable not having those ‘parents’ there to help her when things get messy. She wants her mom to be the serious parents and she needs Giles to be a responsible Watcher again. This issue is followed up in a very serious way beginning with “The Body” [5×16] and continuing throughout S6 and S7.
It’s really fun, and surprisingly interesting, seeing the “adults acting like teens” premise play out. Giles is all cocky, Joyce wants his approval, and Snyder is a nerd who wants to be in Buffy’s group. Somehow it all seems to make sense based on what little we know of these characters’ pasts (Giles being the exception). Because of that exploration this turns out to be a great plot. It’s even better knowing that Ethan’s candy curse was just a ruse to allow a baby-eating ritual to go through unscathed. The fact that the Mayor is ultimately responsible for the entire scheme, and that Buffy doesn’t find out, makes it even better.
There’s a couple small things I really liked as well. First is how easily Ethan gives up the information about his part in the scheme. Another amusing moment is when the Mayor makes a phone call about needing sewer repairs while waiting for the ritual to begin. As a package, this episode really delivers as a fun basic premise with a cool little twist thrown in. On top of all that we get little touches of character development from Giles, Joyce, Snyder, and Buffy. It’s not perfect, but I definitely enjoyed it.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Buffy studying for the SATs in the cemetary with Giles.
+ The Mayor looking for some Scotch in a shrunken head.
+ Angel’s excerises and great scene music.
+ Willow pointing out, while in The Bronze, that she doesn’t act all crazy and ‘teen-like’ normally.
+ Giles and Joyce making out (and a whole lot more) on the hood of a police car.
+ Giles telling Buffy to hit Ethan and then jumping in the air whispering ‘yes!’ when she finally does.
+ Awkwardness between Joyce and Giles at the end. Awesome ending and abrupt cut to credits.
– The scene at The Bronze where all the adults are acting crazy goes on too long.
* The demon Buffy torches in the sewers is a large snake-like creature. It’s fitting that the Mayor is paying tribute to a similar family of demon that he turns into in “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] . Also fitting is how Buffy uses fire to kill both this demon and later the Mayor in snake-form.