[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson and Thania St. John | Director: James Whitmore, Jr. | Aired: 01/12/1999]
This is not a great episode, but as is Buffy tradition the dialog and occasional character insights keep it from floundering. It’s still very entertaining and, as a bonus, Amy turns herself into a rat and stays that way until “Smashed” [6×09] (6×09, aside from that brief moment in “Something Blue” [4×09] ). Buffy says, “Maybe we should get her one of those wheel thingies.” Kind of like “Go Fish” [2×20] , this is a lot of fun if you’re in the mood for it.
The episode begins with Joyce finally going out with Buffy to see what she’s been doing every night for the last three years. It’s sweet that Joyce brings food and drinks for her. While she gets distracted by a vampire, Joyce wanders off and finds some dead kids in the playground. This brings up something that’s always annoyed me. People somehow rationalize that a child’s death is so much worse than any other person’s death. If the person is innocent then it’s only slightly more tragic when a child dies (because of age). It should still be extremely tragic when innocent older people die as well. Buffy points this out when talking with Angel.
Later on, after tons of people begin acting strange, Joyce and Buffy have an important conversation about the work Buffy does. Yes, Joyce is under the influence of a demon, but some of her points are still interesting to consider. She tells Buffy that her work is fruitless. On a certain level it can appear fruitless because of the nature of evil — it will always exist. The fact that she stopped the world from being overrun by demons in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] and prevented the world from being sucked into hell in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] , proves otherwise though. As Buffy said to Angel in “Amends” [3×10] (3×10, and he reminds her of here), it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about fighting.
The ending battle scene is hilarious. The way Buffy breaks the wooden pole, bends over, and puts it through the demon’s neck, even though she can’t see it, is wildly fun. She asks, “Did I get it!?” I also loved how Oz and Xander crash through the vent after all the action is already over. Oz says, “we’re here to save you.”
There’s unfortunately a handful of problems that need to be addressed. The entire episode is simply too inconsequential and irrelevant to the main arc of the season. The fact that the town is just “under a spell” takes the punch out of the story. I would have really enjoyed seeing an episode that really dealt with the way the town’s populace looked at Sunnydale, and for some of them to make a genuine attempt at exposing the supernatural threat. Yes, a lot of people turn a blind eye to things they don’t understand (or don’t want to understand), but not everyone is like this. Some people would be open to and search for the truth.
Overall, though, this is a pretty solid stand-alone which ends up with Amy being stuck as a rat. Combine that with a good number of great lines along with some interesting themes and you have a respectable, but very unnecessary episode in the same arena of “Go Fish” [2×20] . Yet another thing I love about BtVS is how only a few of these type of episodes are in each season. That fact makes me able to enjoy them as a one-shot break from the season’s primary arc.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ The awkward tension between Oz and Xander in the lunchroom.
+ The continuing awkward tension between Joyce and Giles.
+ The mislead to make us think Willow’s somehow involved with the group that killed the children.
+ Giles yelling at the lone computer in the library because all his books got taken away.
– How would the stupid old creature, who only makes appearances every 50 years, know how to use chloroform?