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Old June 20 2011, 04:47 AM   #49
DevilEyes
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

2.04. Inca Mummy Girl

This is a decent early episode, just not very complicated and without many layers. The title spells out exactly what it is about. The parallel between Buffy and ‘Ampata’ the mummy girl is blatantly obvious and hammered home throughout the episode – the Chosen One, virgin sacrifice who had to die to ‘save’ her people, who didn’t really want to die and stay dead at the age of 16, obsessive desire to have a “normal life”… and the last lines of the episode, pointing out the contrast between their ultimate choices, Buffy’s unselfish one and Ampata’s selfish one.

As a love story for Xander, it works only halfway well, since it happens a bit too fast and without him and ‘Ampata’ getting to know each other too well. But I guess in this case the instant romance is somewhat believable – on Xander’s side it was an infatuation with a beautiful girl who is showing an interest in him, while the girl had spent thousands of years as a mummy in a box, and never had the opportunity to live and love, so when she finally had the chance, she fell in love quickly with a handsome, funny boy who really liked her and gave her an opportunity to be normal.

There are quite a few cheesy elements that remind me of season 1 – such as the acting of the actors who play the “guard” and Devon, or the scene between Ampata and the “guard” where they both speak English to each other, for some unfathomable reason.

But on the other hand, the episode has really strong horror moments, and the titular mummy girl is a really compelling tragic character. Technically, this seems like a follow-up to “Teacher’s Pet”, Xander having another romance with a demon, but unlike Ms French, ‘Ampata’ is a sympathetic villain and feels like the lead character of the episode, while Buffy takes a back seat – though of course still managing to figure everything out (showing her smarts again!) and save the day. Beautiful guest star Ara Celi gives a really good performance, making ‘Ampata’ look convincingly innocent to the Scoobies, while also selfish and dangerous but still sympathetic. The scene where she is crying and telling a baffled Xander she doesn’t deserve him is heartbreaking, but the story defies expectations when she eventually decides that she can suck the life out of Xander after all, even though she’s in love with him - her selfish and desperate desire to live triumphing over all other considerations including love. Though, I think the mummy girl has some mitigating circumstances… like spending thousands of years as a shrivelled up mummy crammed in a coffin, living a horrible eternal imprisonment. That’s gotta screw up anyone’s mind! At least she was dead-dead and at peace in the end.

Another thing I enjoyed about the episode is the way it mocks stereotypes and cultural expectations, especially in the comedy bits with Cordelia and her Swedish exchange student Swen – she thinks he doesn’t speak any English, while he in fact speaks it perfectly but would rather not talk to such an annoying girl and isn't impressed with her use of her native tongue. (Although that storyline makes Cordelia a bit dumber/more ignorant than usual, saying things like “He don’t even speak American.”) But it’s also seen in the way that Xander expects the (male) Ampata to be a “Latin lover who breaks hearts”, or the way that the Scoobies don’t see it as particularly strange that ‘Ampata’ is just a bit too overjoyed with the life in USA and acting like it’s completely new and much better to what she’s used to, as if that’s an expected reaction from any foreigner/South American person.

Also, why did the Scoobies expect a teenager from modern day Peru to be able to translate the language of the Incas? (Speaking of which, I can get over Ampata being able to speak English, because we’re supposed to think that she was able to hear people talking all that time while she was driven from museum to museum, and that she was just a fast learner.)

Willow spends most of the episode pining after Xander, while he points out once again that he doesn’t think of her in a romantic way, but later on risks his life to save her. The show went too far at times with trying to make Willow nerdy-cute: if she wants Xander to notice her ‘that way’, why does she have to dress in unsexiest outfits possible (like the Eskimo one in this ep)? Buffy is still trying to judge Xander in the direction of Willow, trying to be a good friend either by helping her chances, or by being supportive when she thinks Willow has decided to move on.

The last scene is the first time that Buffy really thanks Xander for bringing her back to life in “Prophecy Girl”.

Xander makes another remark that might hint at his poor home life, that his father tried to sell him to some Armenians once. Of course, he was joking…Or was he?

Xander demon magnet: 2 - Miss French, and now Ampata. It’s ironic that he criticized Buffy for her attraction to the undead since he falls for a dead person in this ep, but he admits that his taste is awful, except for Buffy.

Recurring characters introduced: Oz – obviously set up to be Willow’s love interest from the start, introduced as a cool guitarist very picky about women, but has a crush on Willow at first sight – while she’s dressed as an Eskimo, none the less. I don’t think that his lines here are as impressive as in later episodes though. Oz’s band Dingoes Ate My Baby (the music is actually performed by Four Star Mary) with singer Devon, who’ll have a speaking role in S4 when we learn he dated Harmony but dumped her for being too flaky.

Jonathan (still unnamed) makes the first of his many minor appearances, as ‘Ampata’s intended victim.

Buffy bad liar: She is again awkward and unconvincing when trying to hide her Slayerness from ‘Ampata’. On the other hand, ‘Ampata’ = good liar. She does a very good job of lying by omission, saying she toured the entire US, or that back home was very crammed, etc.

Pop culture references: Mommie Dearest (Buffy calls ‘Ampata’ Mummy Dearest), Sergio Leone’s (mentioned by Xander).

Best scenes: ‘Ampata’ and Xander’s first kiss.

Best lines: None of the lines really stood out that much, but among the better ones are:

Xander: Oh yeah, fall for the old 'Let me translate that ancient seal for you' come-on. Do you know how many times I've used that?

Willow: The non-violent approach is probably better here.
Buffy: I wasn't gonna use violence. I don't always use violence. Do I?
Xander: The important thing is: *you* believe that.

Ampata: You are strange.
Xander: Girls always tell me that... right before they run away.

Xander: Typical Museum trick. Promise human sacrifice, deliver old pots and pans.

Oz: You're just impressed by any girl that can walk and talk.
Devon: She doesn't have to talk.

Meta moment/leaning on the fourth wall: The Scoobies laughing about what an absurd story it would be for a mummy to rise up and kill someone… before realizing that this is what probably happened.

Foreshadowing: Not much, but one could draw a parallel between ‘Ampata’, who sucks out people’s lifeblood by kissing them, and Angel, who, in addition to being a vampire (i.e. needing blood to survive), is going to turn into a monster by having sex. But it also makes me think of Buffy’s later feeling (expressed in season 8) that she’s toxic and always causing bad things to happen to her lovers or getting them killed.

Rating: 3
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Last edited by DevilEyes; June 20 2011 at 05:07 AM.
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