The only weak link in this episode is Kendra’s accent and Bianca Lawson’s overacting in general. For the first few minutes, I thought it was going to bug me for the rest of the ep and wondered how come I liked this episode so much all those years ago that I first watched it. But I soon got used to it, or her acting got more tolerable as soon as Kendra starts getting friendlier to Buffy and acting a little more normal, or maybe it was just overshadowed by all the awesomeness of everything else in this episode – in any case, it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment.
(And another thing that doesn’t make sense about her, why is she dressed so sexily and in full makeup, if she is supposed to not talk to boys and not have friends or boyfriends or social life? To distract vampires? Or is her Watcher a total perv? Hm, I think it’s best to go with that explanation.)
This is the first time we get to see what a by-the-book Slayer who abides the Council’s rules is like, and the comparison shows just how unconventional a Slayer Buffy is. We’ve heard before that a Slayer isn’t supposed to have friends or family, and it is really the case with Kendra, whose family gave her away to her Watcher when she was a very young Potential (what would have happened if she never got called? Would she just waste her life away waiting for it?), and she even doesn’t use her last name. I assume this has been the standard procedure for most Slayers. She thinks she shouldn’t have any life outside of the Slaying, no school, no other job, no social life, no friends or boyfriends – she is even taught not to talk to boys, and looks down when Xander talks to her, showing an interest that goes away as soon as he sees her timid behavior. Being a Slayer doesn’t seem to be that much about female empowerment - the oppressive patriarchal aspect of it becomes more obvious, with Slayers being subjugated to the Council of Watchers and slaves to tradition.
Buffy even gets a bit jealous of Giles and Kendra getting along so fine and discussing the books – like a daughter jealous that the father likes another, more obedient and less rebellious daughter better (but Giles actually loves Buffy for being exactly as she is).
Kendra in season 2 and Faith in season 3 are both used to contrast Buffy in different ways and show different possibilities of what a Slayer can be like. Buffy makes clear that she doesn’t play by the rules, but she still has a strong sense of duty. Faith, who doesn’t have the support system and family and friends that Buffy has, is the opposite of Kendra – she represents the possibility that a Slayer could disregard duty and morality and decide to use her powers to do whatever she likes, and regard herself as a superhuman being who is exempt from any human laws. Kendra’s mindset is very limited, but Buffy is a better Slayer than Kendra because she is more imaginative, goes by the instinct, and because her emotions help her fight. Kendra thinks emotions are just a distraction and liability for a Slayer, Buffy on the other hand believes that her emotions are “total assets”. Buffy makes a point to Kendra when she makes Kendra lose temper – anger can be a powerful asset in fight. We see it time and again that Buffy often shows love by fighting to save and protect people she loves, as we see in this episode when Angel is kidnapped by Spike because the blood of Dru’s sire is needed to cure her, and Buffy makes the memorable statement: “You can attack me, you can send assassins after me, that's fine. But nobody messes with my boyfriend!” (Bad news for Spike in season 2; good news for Spike in season 7.)
This is exactly why, having learned the lesson that emotions can help in fight (Kendra fights off one of the Order of Taraka assassins, the policewoman, only when she gets really angry when the policewoman rips her only shirt), and having found a friend (in Buffy), Kendra teachers Buffy something as well: being a Slayer is not a job, it’s who you are, and contrary to what Buffy thinks at this point, being a Slayer is an integral part of Buffy’s personality. Buffy thought she wanted to stop being a Slayer and have a “normal life”, and the existence of another Slayer was a perfect opportunity to leave Slaying to someone else. Instead, it makes Buffy start realizing that she doesn’t want to quit, she wants to be a Slayer.
This episode marks the beginning of the Xander/Cordelia relationship, and a beginning of sorts of the Willow/Oz relationship. Xander and Cordy's first kiss is hilarious one of the most memorable moments, with the two of them insulting each other and shouting that they hate each other, until they suddenly kiss, to the intentionally cheesy background music. The first time I watched it, my mouth fell open. Now I think I should have seen it coming, with all the Belligerent Sexual Tension throughout the season. The best part is when they break away from the kiss and agree that they so need to get out of there. They're more freaked out by their attraction for each other than by the creepy demonic assassin!
The worm guy from the order of Taraka is probably the most disgusting monster on Buffy ever. (Come to think of it, he was kinda slimy even as a human.) But, somehow, the ickiness makes Xander/Cordy scenes fighting him all the funnier and more memorable.
Willow finally learns that Oz might be interested in her (Buffy had to tell her, since Willow doesn’t think anyone would be attracted to her), and she and Oz have their first real on-screen conversation. Oz gets another cool character moment during the shoot-out in the school, when the policewoman turns out to be there not for the career week but to kill Buffy – he jumps to push Willow and Buffy out of the way, and gets shot and lightly wounded, but still isn’t concerned about it and seems to see it as an interesting new experience.
Jonathan appears again, of course as a victim: this time he’s taken hostage by the policewoman from the Order of Taraka during the shoot-out at school, and seems typically oblivious to what is going on, asking if it all was a demonstration.
How ironic is it that it’s Spike who practically saves Angel in the episode from burning out in the cage Kendra put him in, just because he wants to kill him and use his blood to cure Dru?
The complicated and twisted dynamic in the Angel, Spike and Dru triangle get explored in this episode, and these may be the best parts of the ep. Drusilla is really a fascinating character – I’ve never been able to like
her much, but I can appreciate that. Here she is childlike, sensual, creepy, dangerous, masochistic, cruel, insane but still strangely seductive. I’ve got to say that the love scene between her and Spike, kissing and whispering darkly romantic lines to each other (while Angel is in the background, tied up and about to be tortured and killed), is one of the sexiest in the show, partly because the actors have amazing chemistry, and because of the music and colors (there is a lot of deep red and black) contributing to the dark glamour of those scenes. Her relationship with Angel(us) is particularly complex – she tortures him not just physically, but making him feel guilty, talking to him about her human family, reminding him how he killed them – inflicting pain on him like he did on her. But is it revenge, or a part of the intimacy of their twisted relationship? If she’s resentful because he killed her family, why doesn’t she ever act that way with him when he’s soulless and evil? It seems that she despises his souled, good self, and loves his evil soulless self (the opposite of Buffy), and she resents him from leaving his vampire family and betraying them. (A dialogue from the original script that didn’t make it into the ep helps understand it: she is asking Angel if he remembers “that kind of hunger”: she wants him to turn back evil, and thinks that he still has the capacity for evil, despite the icky soul.)
And why does Angel turn his eyes away when Dru and Spike are making out in front of him? It’s pretty ambiguous. Does it just offend his sensibilities? Is he hurt to see how innocent, pure Dru has become the lecherous Dru, part of the evil vampire couple with violent lecherous Spike? Or how once-innocent William is now the violent evil Spike, giving his old self a run for his money? Or is there a hint of the old rivalry and jealousy, not because of Drusilla, but because there was “another rooster in the hen-house”?
Spike’s comment that he’s “not much for the pre-show”, meaning that he isn’t interested in prolonged torture of Angel and would rather get to the killing part, has been used by many fans to try to prove that Spike wasn’t a sadist with his victims like Angelus and Dru were, and that he was always a “nicer” vampire. I don’t think that’s the case. We’ve seen it plenty of times that Spike is not just ready to use torture for pragmatic reasons (like punching Dalton, when he said some people find pain inspirational), but that he really enjoys violence, and not just in a fight with a worthy opponent like the Slayers – see, for instance, snapping the neck of the No-Veal guy from School Hard
for no reason at all, or how excited he was to see Buffy as a helpless, meek victim he would bite, in Halloween
. I think he just has no patience for any long, over-drawn, ritualistic torture, or Angelus’ mental torture of Buffy in the second part of season 2. He is impulsive and direct, and doesn’t tend to think much about the feelings of his victims, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like hurting people.
The fight in Spike and Dru’s mansion is quite spectacular, with Kendra and Buffy working together to fight Spike and the assassins, while Cordy and Xander are fighting in their own way, exterminating the worms that the other assassin is made of. It seems Spike also gain strength from his emotions: he’s fighting way better than in Halloween
, now that it’s Dru on the line, but they can also be a hindrance, as when he forgets about Dru and Angel and Buffy for a moment to go after Willy because he’s so angry at him for what he sees as a double-cross – before noticing what’s going on and pulling Buffy from Angel and Dru so the process of her restoring could be complete. And talk about subtext
: when Buffy and Kendra switch (they’re already working perfectly in unison), because Kendra was losing to Spike while Buffy was easily beating the policewoman, Spike and Buffy have this exchange: “I’d rather be fighting you
.” - “Mutual.” Not only are they both snarky, impulsive, rebellious and both love a good fight, they are both devoted to those they love and fighting to save them. In the end they both got what they wanted, Angel was saved (just one of the instances of the gender inversion of Buffy being the hero who saves her boyfriends in peril), but the process went far enough to cure Dru. But Spike has an organ fall on him, and when the building collapses the Scoobies are left thinking Spike and Dru are dead, before the last scene reveals a healthy, super-strong Dru carrying unconscious Spike in her arms. Spike was originally meant to die in this episode, and this was a way to keep him on the show while still making it possible for Angelus to be the Big Bad.
It’s difficult to choose. The Spike/Dru/Angel scenes are great, but Xander and Cordy’s first kiss is so memorable and funny, that I might do with it as the best scene. The 3rd place goes to the really fun scene where the gang try to explain the Angel situation to her. From an outside perspective, it really is weird. At this point, “He has a soul” still hasn’t become the catchphrase that justifies a vampire being treated differently, and pulling the soul card probably wouldn’t mean a thing to Kendra. (After all, there’s probably no footnote in the Slayer handbook that says “You should kill vampires… [but not the ones with the soul, they’re good]”. Instead, Buffy just ends up justifying her insistence that Angel is good with “You’ll just have to trust me on this one”. The funniest part is Willow starting to defend Buffy saying she would never kiss a vampire, then correcting herself that it would just be Angel, but then insecurely asking Buffy “Right?” Heh. Willow’s mind dirtier than it seems… And it’s a line that makes me giggle now, in hindsight.
Kendra: You talk about slaying like it's a job. It's not. It's who you are.
Buffy: Did you get that from your handbook?
Kendra: From you.
Xander: Angel's our friend... except I don't like him.
Kendra: Angel? You mean Angelus? I've read about him. He is a monster.
Giles: No, no, no, he's, he's good now.
Willow: (smiles) Really!
Buffy He has a Gypsy curse.
Kendra: He has a what?
The calling of the new Slayer is apparently an automatic process -
Kendra got called because of Buffy’s temporary death in Prophecy Girl.
The Slayer line now goes through Kendra rather than Buffy: if Kendra dies, another Slayer is called; if Buffy dies, no new Slayer is called.
Destroying English language:
Buffy replies to Giles using the word“flummoxed” by asking “What’s the flum”. Buffy wonders about the origin of the expression “whole nine yards.” (I’ve wondered about it, too.)
He does much better in this episode, the last one before he ends up in a wheelchair and loses his Big Bad status. Maybe it’s because he feels a lot more motivated fighting for the woman he loves. He fights with two Slayers, was pretty much kicking Kendra’s ass (a much better showing than Angel in his fight with her in the previous episode), and does quite well in the fight against Buffy. He got wheelchaired mostly for not looking behind his back (Buffy threw on object at him to stop him, and then the organ fell on him).
Spike calls Drusilla “my Black Goddess” and “my ripe wicked plum” and refers to Buffy as “Little Rebecca of Sunnyhell Farm” (see Pop culture references), one of the many times he’ll mockingly compare her to fluffy, sunny teenage characters. Dru calls Angel “My Angel”, “Bad Daddy” and shuts him up with “bad dog”. Buffy calls Kendra “John Wayne”, “Pink Ranger” and “she-Giles”.
Pop culture references:
Series of children/youth books Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
. John Wayne. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
. Buffy plans to watch a romcom with Molly Ringwald. So I guess she liked James Spader from his role in Pretty In Pink
It never even occurs to Dru or Spike that they might be two different people, and Angel never says anything of the matter, either. And he’s way too good in acting Angelus-like when he’s taunting Spike.
Angel, shirtless, tied up and tortured. (Not for the last time…)
And the level of kink goes way up with this episode, thanks to Marti Noxon, who makes her official writing debut with this two-parter (part 1 co-written with Howard Gordon), after being brought in to the show to overhaul the script for Halloween
Drusilla dreamily tells Spike she dreamed they were in Paris and that he had a branding iron. It is the first mention of Dru’s sexual masochism. Here we also see some of her sadism, when she is torturing Angel with holy water and clearly enjoying it. We later learn from Spike in Lovers Walk
that she likes to be tied up and tortured, but is the opposite also a part of their sex life? Judging by Spike’s behavior in this episode, it’s not – I imagine he wouldn’t be so happy letting her ‘play’ with Angel otherwise, if he thought her enjoyment was sexual, especially since he knows about their past relationship and he was already jealous that she was just going to meet him in Lie to Me. And here he doesn’t get jealous until Angel starts taunting him.
Angel taunts Spike that he remembers Drusilla likes the “pre-show” best of all, she likes to be “teased”. It’s not clear if there’s any truth to it or if it’s just something Angel has come up with to taunt Spike – Dru just quietly shut him up and says nothing, grinning. In Fool for Love
she certainly didn’t seem unsatisfied, when the only foreplay she and Spike had besides a bit of passionate making out was Spike killing a Slayer and letting her taste her blood. Most likely she’s very satisfied with her sex life with Spike, but she would still like Angelus back, too, since she’s not big on monogamy, as Noxon says in her commentary.
Spike and Dru really seem to have a habit of making out in front of people they’ve got in the room tied up, don’t they? First Sheila, now Angel.
Willy proves his sleeze credentials (in a dialogue added by Whedon), asking Buffy and Kendra to pose for a friend of his who does “artistic” nude pictures.
What the slashy heck:
Spangels must be having a field day with Spike’s sarcastic joke when Willy asked him what he wants to do with Angel: “I’m thinking, a dinner and a movie. I don’t want to rush things, I’ve been hurt, you know…”
Angel taunting Spike about Dru and getting him jealous foreshadows the Angelus/Dru/Spike triangle later in the season. Here Angel is doing it for noble reasons, to get himself killed so he wouldn’t unleash Dru on Sunnydale; without a soul he’ll do it simply to torment Spike (and with much less risk, with Spike in a wheelchair).
Xander says to Kendra that he’s attracted to Slayers. That will certainly be proven when he meets Faith.
Kendra has a point when she says emotions can also be a distraction and prevent a Slayer from doing her duty, which we’ll see with Buffy in just a few episodes.
Buffy does, after all, like being a Slayer, but she doesn’t like being the one and only: it’s good to have someone just like her, another Slayer who understands what it’s like. This could be seen foreshadowing for what she does in the series finale.