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Oh, episode 7 is called “Angel”, so I’m expecting some answers I already know (because I’m not oblivious to pop culture) to all the questions I have and don’t really care about. But you know what? The episode is not called “Xander”, so we’ll call it a win!
Oh man, The Master is going to send The Three after Buffy! They sound like a definite threat worthy of more than one minor fight scene! Also, I guess the kid they are calling The Anointed is named Colin? And he’s spent a few days hanging with vampires after they killed his mom and just has a full on murder boner! “Annihilate her!” he says regarding Buffy. Kid, you are eight. Go annihilate a juice box.
The Bronze is apparently infested with cockroaches and is having a pre-fumigation party. This is supposedly an annual event, so it seems like they need to call a better exterminator. What are they fumigating with? Axe Body Spray? Wait, it IS 1997…
Buffy gets jumped by The Three, and living up to their rumored potential, they almost kill her… until Angel busts in and helps her escape. They don’t even defeat or kill The Three; they just flee for their lives. Boy oh boy, I can’t wait for the rematch! You also know The Three are badass because they wear portions of medieval knight armor!
I am excited to find out that the Invitation Into Your Home rule exists for vampires in the Buffyverse. Basically all vampire lore is nonsense, but this is one of my favorites. What is even the rationale for this? Like, I’m sure I could look it up, but it just sounds silly. I’ve also heard tale that in some cultures vampires can’t cross bodies of water. And at that point, you’ve got sunlight, can’t go in home, and can’t cross a creek. Being a vampire is just a straight-up handicap.
Can Buffy vampires cross water? I hope we find out!
This show knows what at least 60% of its audience is here for, so while the opening credits are still telling us who worked on this episode, David Boreanaz takes his shirt off.
So… Edward Cullen is just Angel, right? Young, hot dude turned into a vampire. But he has a heart of gold. Underage female protagonist falls in love with him. This is all just proto-twilight, am I correct?
Anyway, Angel spends the night but sleeps on the floor LIKE A GENTLEMAN. This of course INFURIATES Xander because he just can’t have a scene without showing how fucking abominable he is. Buffy clearly has a crush on Angel.
Meanwhile, The Master has Darla kill The Three for their failure. They have existed for centuries and are feared warriors and have had a flawless track record until now, but yeah… one near-miss where they weren’t even bested means they must be punished for their impudence. Listen, The Master… this right here? This is why you are going to lose. You are acting like a silly cartoon villain. You gotta pick those guys up, dust them off, give them a pep talk, and send them out into the field! They took ONE L! Their record is now 500-1! They aren’t due to lose again for another few hundred years.
Also, what is this? A few episodes ago you sent Nick. Then you sent the Fake Anointed Guy. Now you are sending The Three. Next episode you will send Captain Jabroney. What are you doing, The Master? Your strategizing is poor. Have you ever seen The Professional? Gary Oldman will tell you who to send!
MORE MID-SCHOOL-DAY SPARRING for Buffy and Giles. I hate this school. Buffy sees a crossbow and wants to learn how to use that. After she whips Giles with, like, battle sticks, he agrees she can play with it next.
Buffy meets up with Angel at her house the next day, and the two of them finally kiss. But as they break apart, Angel has the vampire face! Oh no, he’s her sworn enemy! What will happen? And while the show kind of dances around acknowledging it, YES: the problem is presented as He Is A Vampire And She Is A Slayer, not He Is Very Grown Up And Old And She Is Six-Fucking-Teen.
Xander is downright gleeful to hear that Angel is a vamp and immediately starts up Team Gotta Kill Him. The team talks about what their options are; Buffy is freaked out, but recognizes there is SOMETHING there. After all, he could have killed her and her mother any time he wanted. Giles finds the story of Angelus, and it turns out dude was plenty nefarious as a terrifying monster and killer. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, Darla goes to try to convince Angel to give up his protagonism and just kill Buffy and return home. As she gives him her sales pitch, she implores him to “remember Budapest”, and holy cats… Joss Whedon put a LOT of references from this show into The Avengers, didn’t he? So far we have seen Shawarma and Remember Budapest make appearances. I can’t wait until Angel tells Buffy, “That’s my secret, Buff. I’m always vampy”.
Darla drops by Buffy’s pretending to be a tutor, so mom invites her in. Angel is skulking about outside and hears a scream! Mom has been bitten by Darla. She basically throws mom into Angel’s arms and runs away so a returning Buffy can see Angel holding a bitten mom because this show is just an unfunny sitcom. Buffy… disinvites Angel to her home. That’ll teach him?
In the hospital, mom regains consciousness enough to play The Pronoun Game with Buffy, telling her “your friend stopped by”, and being VERY CAREFUL not say “she”, “her”, or “Darla”. Buffy assumes she means Angel, and really… why did we need this? Buffy already saw him with her. We don’t need to reinforce her desire to go after him.
Darla meanwhile is telling Angel he has to kill Buffy because now she is coming for him. Oh my god, this is every stupid 80’s sitcom episode where if any two characters just TALKED FOR ONE MINUTE, there would be no plot.
But you know what? Angel jumps Buffy, they scuffle for a bit, and then they start talking. It’s a miracle. Angel only attacked because… he felt bad he was TEMPTED to feed off mom? What sense does any of this make? We get Angel’s origin story where he was cursed by an old gypsy woman, and hahaha, so little of this episode would fly in 2022.
Anyway, he used to be a cold blooded vampire, but the gypsy gave him his soul back. So he has his human soul. And I ponder: according to this show, what is a “soul”? Non-Angel vamps don’t have one, but… vampires are alive and thinking and planning beings. So what is a soul? Just the ability to know right from wrong? Because THAT’S pretty heavy here. So you can be soulless but not a vampire? Potentially? I’m reminded of my actual 101 level Philosophy class in college where he discussed the Dual Aspect Theory and Mind-Body Dualism and stuff. Buffy is making me THINK, and I don’t love it.
Thinking time is OVER though, as Darla shows up DUAL-WIELDING HANDGUNS, and I have no idea why the sight of a vampire in this universe shooting up the club like she’s Nicholas Angel just rocks my jollies. It was impossible to take this seriously. Would vampires use guns if they had them? Yes, absolutely. But it’s still so friggin’ weird to see. The juxtaposition of “Here is some subtle foundations of philosophy to consider” against “VAMPIRE FIRING TWO GUNS WHILST JUMPING THROUGH THE AIR” is adorable, and I kind of love it.
Anyway, Angel kills Darla Wick here. This causes The Master great distress but the psychopathic grade schooler is all like “It’s cool, we’ll just fuck all their shit up”. What is this kid’s story? It better be interesting and not just “He’s evil! The end”.
The episodes ends with Buffy and Angel kissing again, her cross necklace burning into his chest. So if he has his soul, why does the cross still hurt him? Does it have anything to do with running water?
Vampire lore is dumb, you guys.
We kick things off in the 1400’s in Italy. There is a villain called Moloch The Corrupter, who is honestly? Some pretty bad-ass practical make-up effects. He’s like some kind of evil lizard demon god. Don’t worry, it gets worse later. But here? Great! Elsewhere, some Italian priest dudes cast a spell that turns Moloch into text and seals him away in a book. As long as no one ever reads the book, his threat is gone. The end!
OR IS IT?
Because 500+ years later, that book ends up in the Sunnydale High School library. I can’t wait till we get backstory on why it’s here! We see that Giles’ library is getting the Internet. You know, the Internet it clearly already had all those episodes where Willow’s job was to hack into things. But it’s just getting the Internet now. Was Willow hacking the morgue files through Minesweeper? What the hell?
The school’s computer science teacher is Ms. Calendar, and Giles is hot for her. In a kind of adorable, dweebie, “I’m scared of computers” kind of way. I’m very excited for this episode of 1997 television to be about the heroes talking about how the Internet is dangerous and untrustworthy!
Willow is tasked with scanning the library books into an online database, which… Jesus. In 2022 that would take eons. But it’s just a few minutes for her. What kind of technology does 1997 Sunnydale have? Giles is right, this is all very sinister. Willow scans the ancient Italian book, and that counts as “reading it” to a weird degree where it “frees” Moloch, but only as an online presence. And you know what? Even now, this would be an interesting take on the typical Monster Of The Week thing. So credit to 1997 Buffy writers for a solid idea. I’m sure the execution will be flawless.
After scanning the book, the monitor pops up with a message: “Where Am I?”. Hey, I’ve seen this episode of The Office. Don’t fall for it, Dwight!
There’s this clearly evil Fritz kid who is obsessed with computers and keeps talking about being “jacked in” like he’s fucking 1997’s answer to Timothy Leary. He starts getting messages from Moloch and is immediately welcoming of his new Internet overlord.
Willow tells the gang she met a guy online who lives near-ish to them and is named Malcolm. They stay up until 5am chatting, and he just GETS her, you know? Willow is smitten. This is the man for her. Buffy is skeptical; clearly any man you meet on the Internet is up to no good! You don’t even know what he looks like. I mean, you could scan entire libraries in any afternoon. A picture of yourself shouldn’t be difficult.
Are you ready to not be surprised whatsoever? Here we go: Xander is mopey and shitty about Willow having an Internet boyfriend. And he vaguely acknowledges to Buffy the fact that Willow has always had a crush on him, but he never cared because she was just always there. But now, he’s an ass about it. Seriously, this show can just fuck ALL the way out of here with this asshole character. How does he survive season one? What test audiences were like, “Yes, we like the pathetic, pouty, useless man-baby. Keep him forever”.
At some point, Buffy says she wants information on how to find out about the sender of an “e-letter”, and even in 1997, no one thought the phrase was “e-letter”, come on.
There’s a real squiggy kid named Dave who Buffy goes to, but she quickly doesn’t trust him. She stalks him after school and finds that he is going to a computer research lab that has long-since been closed down. She mentions having a Spider-Sense, and I again give my wife dirty looks because she refuses to accept that Buffy is just Spider-Man for 90’s girls!
Meanwhile, Willow is in a real time, instant messenger style chat room which I’m PRETTY SURE was not a thing in 1997, but maybe Pittsburgh got shit later than Sunnydale. Willow is, of course, FUCKING OUT-LOUD NARRATING her messages to Malcolm, and the computer is speaking back his words to her. I just… I’m all for Showing And Not Telling, right? But if you write a scene and then immediately go “Hm, this doesn’t work for television unless we make it really stupid”, maybe you don’t SHOOT THAT SCENE ANYWAY.
Willow figures out Malcolm is up to no good with one of those classic “I never told you that…” bits of information that lazy mystery stories love to use as reveals.
Then the most important part of the episode happens: we find out that Giles’ first name is RUPERT. So our heroes are Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Rupert. And our villains are Nick and Darla. That would be progressive if every single person on this show wasn’t white anyway.
Fritz stages an elaborate ruse to assassinate Buffy in the girls’ shower, but Dave has a pang of conscience and rushes in to warn here so she can save herself. Buffy then immediately lets Dave go off on his own so that Fritz and Moloch can kill him and fake it as a suicide. There is a scene where Dave is talking to the computer, and Moloch is talking back to him, and while this is all even dumber than the Willow scene from earlier, it has a neat moment where Moloch starts typing and printing out Dave’s suicide note in front of him. This episode would be great if it wasn’t such shit.
Giles, Buffy and Xander all figure out what is going on right at the same time that Fritz kidnaps Willow and takes her to the aforementioned computer research place. It turns out that Moloch is in love with Willow for freeing him. And… so wait. The ancient evil demon known for his power of corrupting youth and bringing them to heel with promises of power and glory is now simping for a high school girl he met who knows how a page scanner works? It’s all “Please baby, I can give you the world”, and he means it.
Oh, did I mention that Moloch gives himself a fucking JASON X body? Because he does! And so we went from Awesome Practical FX Make-Up Moloch to Pretty Shitty Robot Costume Moloch.
Giles needs Ms. Calendar’s help because computers are strange and foreign to him, so he steels himself to explain the reality of demons and vampires and the supernatural. He’s got to ease her into this world so that she can help them flush Moloch from The Net, and surely with her modern, science-based sensibilities, she will be hard to sway oh no wait never mind. She immediately is like “Oh yeah, I know” and gives some babble about being a “techno-pagan” because this episode’s only got, like, ten minutes left! No time for nuance, Dr. Jones.
They banish Moloch from the web and into his Uber Moloch form. Buffy tricks him into punching a circuit breaker by, uh, slightly moving her head so that she is blocking his view of something well after he should have seen it. Evil vanquished!
This episode is the worst of them all so far just because it was SO CLOSE. It had a solid plot! O.G. Moloch looked amazing. The concepts were original and actually horrifying. But then it all got twisted up in Boomer screenwriting that had no idea what The Internet or Chatrooms or Scanners actually are, but wanted kids to know that dangerous people live there. Buffy looked the bones of a solid episode square in the eyes, and then the show fucking blinked. We were RIGHT THERE.
In addition, we never get backstory on why that book is in the library. Because The Plot Needed It To Be, I guess. The same reason Marie Calendar here is The Technodrome or whatever.
Oh well. At least Moloch didn’t bust out two handguns.
Until next time… take care!
3 thoughts on “Xander Is The Pits: A BTVS Retrospective, Episodes 7-8”
The only time I saw the “vampires need to he i cited” rule work in a modern story was in Lost Boys.
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I think it is Let The Right One In, too.
Ah, I still have yet to see either one of those movies.
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