The Pack


Tonight, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer… Psychotic Zookeepers: Could your zoo trip turn to tragedy? Also, we look at Teen Cannibalism: do you know what your children are eating at school? Then, high school crushes — what to do if your unknowing love spurns you and sexually assaults your best friend!

Ahem. Basically, it’s one of those episodes where a main character goes nuts.

The Good

This week, Xander gets posessed by Hyena spirits, and Nick Brendon displays a reasonably good jackal-smirk. He does a pretty good job at being a mean bastard, too. Of course, his mean scenes with Alyson Hannigan are doubly good because she’s so good at being sad. When she cries later to Buffy, it’s proper, convincing, ugly crying,1 which is… well, it’s sad, but perfect. Happily for all of us, Xander gets to nobly throw himself into the fray to save Willow at the end.

In the creepiest scene of the series yet, Flutie is attacked and eaten. The Flutie actor’s nervous laughter is quite disturbing. I’ve never slowly come to the realisation that the people I’m in a room with are going to eat me, but if I did I imagine I’d have a similar reaction.

For a second I was worried that Willow’s reputation would be tarnished by being the classic stupid person in charge of keeping someone locked up, who walks close enough to give them the key. But, er, she doesn’t. Oh me of little faith. Meanwhile, Buffy proves herself unfazed by some Slayer-Hyena violence. They’re a crack team this week. Giles does less well this week, which I’ll come to later.

The Bad

It’s an animal-themed episode again, so once again we get an obligatory lesson in all the animal habits that will be referred to later in the story, which is a shade clunky. Normally Buffy is quite good at picking up the pieces after the episodes, but this week four posessed children eat a human being alive, and the script doesn’t mention them again at all once the posession’s over, except to say that at least Xander wasn’t one of the cannibals. This seems a bit rough, since they’ll presumably be suffering considerable psychological damage as a result. While Willow gained clever points earlier, she later walks into a room where Giles is missing, and a dodgy man is wearing scary blue make-up, and lets him tie her up without even vaguely objecting. Even wallflowers have some basic level of fight-or-flight, surely?

The Nonsense

It’s interesting to watch Giles and Buffy training in the open in the Library. How do they explain it to people that walk in? Even if they close the doors, people can see them through the window. Maybe all Librarians are martial arts teachers in the USA.

Since this section is a bit empty this week, let us also mention that the stock hyena sound-effects used for the pack aren’t particularly convincing, or indeed plausible. Though the realistic version — a whole bunch of kids going around saying “Grrrrr, Arrgggh” a lot — wouldn’t be an improvement, I suppose. Or in any way threatening.

The Interesting

We have some more slow motion walking to rock music this week. Vampires are scarier than posessed hyena-people, but it does sell the ‘hyena pack’ idea nicely. Buffy hasn’t the benefit of this convincing scene when she tries to persuade Giles that some supernatural element is behind Xander’s meanness, and he is dismissive of what he calls “sketchy evidence”. He’s later humbled anyhow when some decent, pig-eating evidence arrives — and then gets to do his awesome exposistion shtick. He makes it sound almost like a nature documentary.

Buffy and Willow have a cute discussion about their crushes on Angel and Xander. Willow can tell that Angel’s a hot kind of guy, but Buffy’s clearly not into Xander, even a little bit. It’s a rough week for Willow’s crush though, and it’s interesting to note that in two episode’s time she’ll be trying to find another man. In unrelated news, this episode features a scary Dodgeball game and matching PE teacher, which allowed me to truly understand the culture referred to in the Dodgeball film.

The Tally

Herbert the Razorback gets eaten, which I’m not counting as he’s not sentient. Principal Flutie is sentient, however. Poor bugger. The Zookeeper proves himself to be on the ‘evil’ team and so his subsequent death by hyena munchies brings this episode to a 1-all draw. Just after Giles works out the plot, he gets knocked cold for the third time.

The Conclusion

This was better than I expected it to be. I was dubious at first, what with having suffered through a few ‘red kryptonite’ episodes of Smallville, but this handles things very nicely: Xander’s horrible, but believable, and everything he says under the influence sounds believably like something subconscious and not just standard randiness and cruelty. Unfortunately, while the emotional story is great, the actual plot is resolved in something of a pat and rushed fashion.

  1. Unlike the sort of “I’ve got a few tears running down my perfect face which is frowning a bit” crying that you normally see on TV. A good cry involves some level of face-crumpling.
Testosterone is a great equalizer. It turns all men into morons. — Giles

2 Responses to “The Pack”

  1. im disappointed you onyl got one foot note. very poor effort tom.apart from that i see no other faults.

  2. Thank you, your eminence! Sometimes, the footnotes just don’t come to me…