Season 1, Episode 5
Date of airing: March 31, 1997 (WB)
Nielsen ratings information: 4.1 million viewers, 2.8/4 in Households
This was pretty much a solid episode, though maybe there was a little too much comedy for my tastebuds, even if BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is known for putting a little too much comedy into the story every once in a while. But this episode is one more example of why BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is so uneven during its first season. Episodes with something of a dark story are followed by light-hearted comedic moments; characters are taking events seriously at first, just to jump into a sarcastic tone a second or episode later. I think that is generally a problem with this show throughout its seven-year-run, and even though I do not mind it at all, the placing of sarcastic comedy in one episode while the rest of the season is rather moody is not a good way of writing a season of television, and is usually a problem I have when it comes to Joss Whedon’s writing (which he overdid at times for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON — “clearly you’ve never made an omelet” is a funny line, but boy did it not fit into the narrative).
That does not mean this episode is bad though. The comedy was working, the danger the characters found themselves in were actual threats for once, and I like the fact that Buffy is unable to move on with her life as a slayer and just wants to be a normal human being. All of a sudden she has the potential to be a real girlfriend to someone (if she ever gets to date the guy, without being interrupted by her “job”), or simply just to be a normal, real girl, but she fails becoming one, because her new lifestyle is turning into a relationship killer. It turns out this is actually a great premise for Buffy to walk through as a character, because at one point she really has to become a moody person when one of her wannabe boyfriends is chased away by the danger that inhabits her life — the destiny forced upon her is removing her from a world of normal, and that should bring her to pause at one point and think about what she is doing and what she is prevented from achieving.
The mystery involving the Anointed One was a little lame though, especially at the end, when sort of nothing came out of it and the writers decided to end this episode in an open-ended fashion. I hate it when writers make the audience ride on a red herring, and this episode was definitely painting that herring red by having the two-time killer be the Anointed One for Buffy and friends, when the ending of the episode said something entirely different. It begs the question by the Brethen of Aurelius decided to turn one of the five victims into a vampire, or if all of the five victims were turned into one, which means three of them are unaccounted for. Anyway, the reveal at the end was something of a cop-out, just to carry a simple story further into the season, even if it means the Anointed One could turn into a recurring antagonist for Buffy, which could lead to intriguing thoughts of Buffy fighting a child and vice versa.
Borba was a silly vampire. First of all, his lecture, his judgments, his quoting prophecies sounded like it was re-recorded in post production with a more “evil voice,” because the actor did not deliver on set, which threw me out of the episode every time the guy was speaking. Second of all, even though he was a proper thread to the characters (compared to other threats so far), his actions just reminded me of an idiot trying to be his best impression of evil. Someone who has no idea what he is talking about, because he is being steered into a direction by what he thinks is a higher power. Since this episode had elements of comedy, I was wondering what could have been if the writers had treated Borba like a silly villain all the way through the hour.
In the meantime, the action in the funeral home could have been a little more creepy. When you run around a couple of dozen dead bodies (of which there was only one on-screen — Giles’s bunk mate), you surely could bring in some horror. It could have been cheap to hire a few extras from the production crew and let this place live a little with dead bodies to be discovered (and to show that people die in Sunnydale), but the funeral home part of the episode forgot to be real horror. At least that part of the story had an interesting angle with Owen’s involvement, and how he was suddenly a part of the gang for a few seconds, even fighting his own fight, during which he looked good enough to definitely survive. I liked it, because in that instant, Owen was not just a forgettable throwaway-character. Owen had a chance to become a major character in a show and in Buffy’s life, which was a nice look.
Sunnydale Mortality Rate: Because the Anointed was destined to rise, five people had to die. Thirteen people died in total, the mortality rate therefore climbs to 2.6.
Hellmouth Mortality Rate: Three vampires were killed in this episode, two by Buffy and one by the ever-evil Master. The first one was accompanied by the famous “I’m, Buffy and you’re history” line, and the other was thrown into fire where vampires definitely do not survive. Meanwhile, the Master minimized the number of the Brethren of Aurelius, because one of them could not wait to drink until after the job was done. The Master’s kill count has risen to two, while Buffy’s count rises to ten, killing two vampires per episode on average. Thirteen monsters and vampires have been slayed in total, the rate is 2.6 also.