Never Kill a Boy on the First Date


Tonight, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer… Buffy tries to go on a normal date, lead a normal life, ra ra ra. You know it won’t work, but it’s fun to see her try. Meanwhile, the Master has been visited by some vampire fanboys who are supposed to help raise ‘The Anointed One’. Which isn’t a very impressive name, but it’s better than Fork-Guy.

The Good

This episode looks like it’s going to be about Buffy’s love life — and it is — but even more than that, it’s about the relationship between Giles and Buffy. At the start of the episode they’re a little sarcastic with each other, but respectful. By the end, they’ve both realised that they’re not just a ditzy teenager or a stuffy bookworm. In the sweetest scene so far in the series,1 Giles reveals that he wanted to be a fighter pilot. Or a grocer.

Xander’s watch envy gives way to a horrible jealousy. He’s really not a nice person when his green-eyed monster is about, with no restraint or shame. When he has Owen away from Buffy, he’s quite happy to tell him that Buffy doesn’t like to kiss, or even touch, people, and isn’t afraid of making Buffy appear to be some kind of freak. Still, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him when Buffy goes through another episode barely even noticing he’s there.

Unfortunately for Giles, he’s completely lacking in awesome fighting skills. Which is nice, once again the episode has a nice desperate feel when danger lurks. Just throwing one vampire at our heroes seems reasonably scary.

The Bad

While it doesn’t really stand out when you look at the season as a whole, this is one of the best of the season. As such, it’s hard to find bad things to talk about… but Buffy’s blue swirly top is really ugly. Meanwhile, the Master’s dialogue this week isn’t quite as good as it has been in the past: “If she tries to stop you, kill her!” Oh, really? Thanks for the tip, boss. It must be particularly uninspiring for the vampires who’ve just heard him read out an as-yet unfulfilled prophecy involving the Slayer, in her ‘alive’ form.

The Nonsense

When Buffy kills one of the Order of Aurelius in the cemetery, neither Buffy nor Giles are surprised that the vampire’s ring survives the ‘poof’. Isn’t that kind of odd? Do accessories always survive? Or is it only plot-important accessories? Later on, running from stinky vampires, Willow and Xander put a couch against the door to brace it; this makes sense. Then, they put a lampshade and a cushion on top of it. Er.2

The Interesting

This episode is the first to mention the Order of Aurelius — a group who’s symbol is a sun and three stars, and who have some kind of connection to the Master. Giles doesn’t immediately recognise their symbol, but Buffy remembers it, so they must have come across it together when studying. As mentioned above, we’ve got a prophecy this week for the first time. Like all good prophecies, it does come to pass, just not quite how some of us expect it to. Vampires remain highly perturbed by crucifixes, though the ‘I can’t believe it’s not the Anointed One’ is the first vamp to pull the classic “Well, I’ll knock it out of your hand then” trick.

Buffy likes the broody Owen, to Xander’s irritation, another in a string of men who are completely not him. In other crush-related news, Willow embraces the pretence of being with Xander for the second time in two episodes with joy.

“Hello, salty goodness!” exclaims Cordy when she first lays eyes on Angel — who is of course totally focussed on Buffy and doesn’t notice her. It almost looks like Angel’s going to get all funny and jealous around Owen but in the next shot he’s all grim again, which is a shame. We’ve probably got a long while to wait until we get some petty Angel-humour.

The Tally

This is the first loss for the good guys, and in fact sends them behind. 2 vampires are dusted, one old one, and one brand-new one, but inbetween these, five civilians are killed by the Order of Aurelius. Also — and I missed this when I first put the review up — Giles is knocked out for the second time.

Oh, and Giles checks a book out to a student. No, really, he’s got a library stamp, and a barcode reader, and everything. This earns him some librarian points after being puzzled as to what Owen’s doing in the library in the first place.

The Conclusion

This and ‘The Witch’ were both on one of the first Buffy VHS tapes3 together, despite not being adjacent episodes. This was back when TV-making people assumed that no one would be so crazy as to want an entire season of episodes. A more innocent time, indeed. But, and here’s my point, there was a reason it was on that tape. It really feels like one of the archetypal Buffy stories, and plays with a lot of the common themes of the show: Buffy’s wishes for a normal life, whether she can endanger others, her friendship with Giles, prophecies… More importantly, it’s the first episode to deliberately (and rather neatly) set up a non-contained plot arc,4 which we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future.

And even more important than that: it’s really good, and funny, and touching.

  1. I won’t be able to use this kind of hyperbole when I’m a few seasons in, so I’m making hay while the sun shines.
  2. It’s possible this is supposed to be a joke, but it’s not played that way.
  3. Remember those?
  4. Unless you count the Master being alive still at the end of ‘The Harvest’. Which I suppose you could.
Alright, well, I'll just jump in my time machine, go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their prophecy for a few days. — Giles

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