Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”)

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.

Buffy is a teenager in love with a real man.

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.

He likes his new evil powers.

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.

Wizards of Waverly Place (“Disenchanted Evening”)

Season 1, Episode 5
Date of airing: November 9, 2007 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.339 million viewers with Kids 2-11, 1.820 million viewers with Kids 6-11, 1.623 million viewers with Tweens 9-14,

I got used to the silliness of WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE, even if the show still did not quite know what it really wanted. I guess the show actually went towards being a hit either later this season, when the writers knew that it was actually a hit, or in season two, when the Disney Channel got bang-boom ratings with the production (okay, the first season, too). Maybe the show will be a bit less episodic and a little more serious at times then, because I would not mind if some events from various episodes would actually have an aftermath and the kids would actually learn something of value from all the messes they create and all the mistakes they do. Or supporting characters would appear more than once. And I am not just talking about Amanda Tepe.

Among wizards, men with dad bods have an opportunity for a quick modelling career.

This episode was okay. I am a space geek, so the trip to Mars brought me joy, although the joke of the Martians doing their Earth wizard thing was a little lame. In fact, I was expecting for Max’s face to be captured by the Mars rover, and for NASA to see Max’s face, but apparently that gag was not even thought of by the writers. If you already do not care about grounding the show and have the teens be on Mars without freezing to death immediately, or suffocating in the non-oxygenated environment of the planet, or get radiated to death, then just have NASA look at Max’s face on a picture the Mars rover took, let alone have the scientists look at pictures of the Russo living room, in which the Mars rover spent some time in. It’s a cheap and predictable joke, but would also have been a good joke. Anyway, at least the kids went to Mars and I was able to do some THE MARTIAN jokes in my head. Surprisingly, they all worked, even though the book and movie came a few years after this episode aired. Who knows, maybe Andy Weir was watching WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE when he got the idea for his novel? Maybe he wanted to “set the science right,” which this episode obviously threw in the trash for the sake of kids comedy?

TJ was an okay-ish character. A bit of a dick and an asshole at the same time, and thankfully not a love interest for Alex, which I was expecting at the beginning when she saw him use magic. Unfortunately, TJ’s appearance didn’t do anything to flesh out the universe of the show, let alone made him a kid with a brain — using magic out in the open… This kid must have begged to be discovered by a stranger and then put into an interrogation room led by some radical scientist who likes to cut open living beings that are subnormal. But TJ’s existence kind of established that there are more families of wizards in New York, yet it looks like they do not know of each other, which I find just a little bit strange. Also, this was the first episode in which the Russos were acting with another family of wizards. I would have thought that was something of a rarity (considering the Russos and Taylors did not know each other and were excited to speak about magic to strangers without holding back), but apparently that was not the case either, since the Russos and Taylors talked to each other like they were friends (okay, magic was involved, but their excitement should have “overwritten” the charm). If the writers would have taken the magic world a little more seriously, there could have been some great stories, but the magic is considered like a plot device in each episode.

Welcome to Mars, make friends with machines!

In this particular case, the Taylors were dropped into this half hour of television, because Alex, Justin and Max needed to go crazy with their magic and be emancipated wizards for a few minutes. It was a promising premise (heh, have those two words ever been used like that before?), but barely anything was done with it. Alex changed from a care-free wizard to a worried wizard during a split-second trip from Mars to Earth, and surprisingly Justin cared a little too much about the rules he came to love. And I cannot say there are inconsistencies in the storytelling and the characterizations, because the writers have not even given one shred of depth to the characters. I do not know if Alex is a good student or a bad student (she failed Spanish, but that is all we know of her), or if Max is a nerd or simply just a crazy boy (he liked being on Mars and even fixed the rover, but did not care about the school project). After five episodes, one might have thought that the writers have figured out who the characters were and what kind of stories they should be planted in. WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE does not depict that, which begs the question why the show was such a success.

Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Episode 6293)

Season 2020, Episode 6
Date of airing: January 9, 2020 (RTL)

If there is one lesson you should get out of this episode, it is that you should never try to define the life of your kid. Katrin very much failed to be a proper mother during these 23 minutes and Johanna had all the reasons in the world to hate her, especially since she is only a teenager in a daily soap opera the writers cannot do much with, thanks to German laws of minors in the workforce. That is why it surprised me just a little that Johanna had enough screentime to be given her own story for a few seconds, to get her own boyfriend trouble, and to get me all confused that said boyfriend did not even know Johanna is in a wheelchair, begging the question how long she has been in a wheelchair and whether she has sheltered herself ever since the accident and the unsuccessful operation. If the latter is the case, then we have a serious situation on our hands, because it would turn Johanna into something of a depressed and maybe even suicidal character — someone who cannot handle her disability and how other people look at her, someone who hates her mother for blocking friends and family to see her, and someone who is not being taken seriously by the people who should care about and for her. But a suicidal Johanna is most likely a character the writers cannot work with (due to the character being too young), which is a shame, because it is such a good premise.

The surprised and shocked face when there might be another wedding on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Toni and Erik were going through something, because neither of them could make up their minds about whether or not to take each other and their relationship seriously. This was a story worthy of consideration to be one of the realest stories in any soap opera, but for some reason it did not work well in this episode. Maybe it is because this is only my fourth episode in (so I still have to get to know the characters and get used to the stories), or maybe this is because of the way the two characters behave when they are around each other. Toni seems to go stir-crazy, not knowing whether or not Erik wants to get married, and when she cannot get a clear answer from either her boyfriend or her own heart, she decides to sink into a depressed mode and blame her looks and her weight for the failure that is her not having a husband by now. Girl, if you want a husband, pop the question. The same goes with Erik, who is just way too cool for school and does not seem to take this relationship very seriously. He must know that Toni is a little too insecure about the entire thing, so why not just giving her a clear answer at the beginning? Okay, if he had done that there would not have been a story here, but damn, if Erik could be a little less cool as a character and a little more considerate and emotionally available to his girlfriend, then things might go a lot better between the two. And things definitely went better between the two — there was almost a sex scene.

Quickly finish your drink, so you can get the hell out of here.

Emily and Sunny on the other hand are still dealing with the launch of their vegan leather bag business and I really cannot connect with it. The writers really tried to bring personal conflict into the mix now, but it comes with too much baggage for me to handle right now, since I do not know all of the characters yet (minus Gerner and Leon, the only two characters still on the show who I followed when I was watching GUTE ZEITEN, SCHLECHTE ZEITEN during the 1990s). Like, who the hell is Nihat and what is his back story with Sunny? And should I care about it or is this story being reheated to destroy Emily and Sunny’s only hope of having a fashion bag career? In the meantime, consider me disappointed that Lilly does not have to count on a lawsuit any longer. It is laughable that she had it this easy to convince Katrin to retract her suit, and it is sad that it happened because I would have loved to see what this show would have done with a legal premise and how the court room sets would have looked like. Oh well, off to the next story with Lilly then. Is she in love with someone who has not been introduced to me yet?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“Teacher’s Pet”)

Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: March 25, 1997 (WB)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.0 million viewers, 2.0/3 in Households

Well, it kind of was a solid episode, though this hour is one of those many examples of the season why BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is more than dated in its first season. Not just are the She-Mantis effects unable to be carried over the millennium line (especially the transformation scene of the hand), but the general thrill of the show was just not there. When I think about how much trouble Angel must have had in defeating the claw vampire, and how Buffy did not even break a sweat in the cheap fight against the sucker, I could only find myself in an amused state, especially after Buffy came out of the bushes with the claw vampire, bound by her, being played by her, and pretty much being humiliated by her, and not to forget, being used by her. Buffy versus the claw vampire was probably one of the worst plot devices the show has delivered and most likely will deliver, and it already has not brought Angel into a better light (knowing his back story, his inability to defeat the claw vampire seems laughable). The claw vampire gets thrown in as the mighty vampire that HAS to be slayed before the apocalypse comes near again, but at the end the supervillain was just a whiny bitch who feared of a biology substitute teacher.

At first everyone wants to storm the new substitute teacher’s castle.

I liked that Xander was in the focus of the episode, making clear once again that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is an ensemble show, albeit with a small cast of characters. Before it is getting ridiculous that Buffy gets into trouble all the time, it is the other characters that get into trouble and need rescue, and I found it entertaining that Xander’s silly, almost deadly behavior carried him through the episode, without ever getting boring or without Xander feeling too much as a character. His awkwardness in front of Ms. French was hilarious, and how he was pretty much thinking he would win this situation and have sex with the hottest teacher in the universe while completely losing it in front of her makes the show more of a parody in some genres than an actual show to take serious. I am pretty sure that Joss Whedon still had to find the tone of his show during the first season, which is why the rather dark moments (Xander almost doing it with a human-sized bug before losing his head) turn into comedic wannabe-horror, which does not really fit into the tone of the story every once in a while. Especially when the She-Mantis was supposed to be a creepy monster, but instead she turned out to be a sex object for horny male virgins, so she can make some eggs and make some offspring. It is a good thing Buffy prevented that from happening or Sunnydale would have been the breeding ground for more mantises. How would the Master, in the process of rising to fame again, have liked that if Buffy had not been around to save the world?

At least the character development of the episode was quite nice. As always in high school shows, you would have expected for Mr. Gregory, the virgin (because his head was cut off and there were eggs in the classroom, so the She-Mantis definitely did it with the old man), to give Buffy a lesson, but surprising for everyone, he actually believed in her, and he hoped to get through to her with his positive assessment and treatment of Buffy. It is like a different way to depict that Buffy has not only wit and intelligence, but she can also be loved by someone who is outside her usual area of life and that she is just a high school student after all, who needs help to pass the latest exam. First the she focuses on the development of her relationship with her mother in the previous episode, and now she realizes that even parts of the faculty (as small as that part might be) sees in her something more than just a part of the world. It gives Buffy a boost which she might need as a character, if she would not have any friends.

But when inside, terror and fear reigns.

The rest of the episode… Well, nothing really is worth mentioning. Angel is being put into the position of love interest, the Master gets a mention to remind the viewers that the villain is still around, trying to revive his standing as vampire king, and in general the mythology of the show only relies on the Hellmouth and how much of a demon magnet it is — nothing more, nothing less. Considering what is to come in later seasons, I am surprised that the first season is so tame with its mythology and very much never went deep and complex with an overarching story. As if Whedon really tried to be careful not to waste any time going too far with the show when he did not know whether or not BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER will live to see a second season.

Sunnydale Mortality Rate: Dr. Gregory died before the title intro, and a homeless person in Weatherly Park died before the episode began. I will include the latter in the count, as he was specifically mentioned having been killed, even if said homeless person never had screentime and died between episodes. Eight people died in total, and the mortality rate is back where it was after “The Harvest”: At 2. By the way, there is a good chance the She-Mantis killed another victim after Blaine was thrown into the cage. He knew what was about to happen and he mentioned that he did not want to die this way, meaning he must have witnessed the She-Mantis doing its thing. But the dialogue was never specific about another person having been in the She-Mantis’ cage, especially since no one seemed to have been found missing during Buffy and friends’ investigation.
Hellmouth Mortality Rate: First, Buffy slayed the vampire with a claw who got into trouble with Angel, and then she sliced and diced the She-Mantis. Ten monsters or vampires in total have been killed, eight of them by Buffy. The mortality rate is 2.5.

Hannah Montana (“On the Road Again”)

Season 1, Episode 12
Date of airing: July 28, 2006 (Disney Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.704 million viewers with Kids 2-11, 2.987 million viewers with Kids 6-11, 2.888 million viewers with Tweens 9-14, 1.616 million viewers with Teens 12-17

In which Billy Ray Cyrus was allowed to play a musician on a television show he stars in and probably took the opportunity to flash back to those times where he was the heartthrob of the 1980s, where he was the country superstar who could have had any woman in the world. It is almost two decades later and this episode is pretty much a depiction of a former country star who has forsaken his music career for a different one, and it turns out he was happy about making the decision to switch careers from music to parenting. Not only was I glad that the writers shipped around the usual genre cliches of a superstar turning their back from a superstardom career to raise children, but the episode generally delivered a great message about how music should not be the only thing that thrives people in their thirties or forties who may have children. This episode could clearly be a message for those folks as well, instead of being a sitcom for the t(w)eenage audience sitting in front of the television, making HANNAH MONTANA show that transcends generations — even if just for this episode.

Look who showed up in this show to be a huge fan of the Stewarts.

Okay, I wasn’t happy about the entirety of the episode, since most of the second act was wasted by having Roxie helicopter-sitting both Miley and Jackson to desperation. I would have loved getting some more screentime of Robbie during his tour, smelling the days and nights of being a music superstar again, realizing what that life has been like for him back in the day and how it’s for Miley now. Robbie going back on tour could have given him an insight on how his daughter is doing, but the writers did not want to make this story about Robbie, because it is not his alter ego name that makes the title of this television series. No, we had to go back to Malibu and see Miley and Jackson fail getting rid of their babysitter and to develop the emotion of missing their father, which pretty much turns HANNAH MONTANA into a family sitcom that pushes the value of loving your parents onto the viewers, when probably a surprisingly large part of the target demographic of the show do not like their helicopter-parents very much. But hey, the show is already unique in the regard that Robbie is a single father of two teenage kids — something the Disney Channel usually never bothers with.

Plus points for Ashley Tisdale showing up to bookend this episode. I have no idea if she was already a star midway through 2006 (right now I could not tell you if she ever starred in her own Disney Channel sitcom before her hit appearance in the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL franchise, or if she found a way out of that dangerous bubble filled with child-grooming sharks), but her appearance gave me joy, and I remembered how crazy she can portray her characters, all while staying in the realm of comedy the entire time. Tisdale would be perfect for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but apparent someone found her for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL before she ever had the chance to be a real comedian. And this was me trying to find a way to write about Ashley Tisdale, because there is not much else to say about this episode.

The look of a bored country rocker during a reunion tour.

Okay, maybe there is, but I almost forgot about it: Something about Robbie’s performance when Miley and Jackson joined him as audience members bothered me. In fact, it was Robbie’s bored and shy, anxious, “I wanna get out of here” facial expression when he was performing his song. The man was not excited to be on this stage, which could be for two reasons. For one, maybe that was just Robbie not enjoying the experience much and wanting to go home to his kids. Or it is the second option, but that would mean Billy Ray Cyrus is a terrible actor and he was unable to find a way to just perform on that soundstage, because this Cyrus was only known to be a musician before he decided to star with his daughter in this TV show. It is like he forgot how to act while acting out his musician character as he was singing.

Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Episode 6292)

Season 2020, Episode 5
Date of airing: January 8, 2020 (RTL)

When it comes to Nina and Leon’s romance story, the writers must have figured they were having an epic in their hands, ready to be threaded through multiple episodes, through one of the characters leaving town (and presumably the series) for a while, through the other character falling in love with someone else, through the return of the one who left, through an engagement, and finally through a wedding, and it does not even mean Leon and Nina’s story is going to be over after that wedding (if it ever happens). I would almost wish for Nina to realize she loves Robert as much as Leon, but because we are not allowed to be married to two people, except in some Middle Eastern statehoods under Shariah Law, only one man gets the happy end while the other gets to live in a life full of depression and unrequited love. It is a good thing that Leon is said man, as Daniel Fehlow seems to be a better actor (or the one with more experience on the show), but it is anything but good that the story is currently stuck on both Nina and Leon telling each other they love each other, but cannot do anything about it because of Robert’s existence and the wedding planning. I am only three episodes in and the story is already repetitive. It makes me question why Nina even showed up at Leon’s place to tell him that she spoke the truth, when she never had the plan to cancel the wedding, let alone leave Robert.

Surprise man walking up behind his fiancee in their shared apartment.

Meanwhile, the wedding planning has been depicted from the points of view of other characters, introduced just for me, the new viewer, so consider me surprised just a little that Nina has a daughter who almost looks like she could be Nina’s age. This must be one of the soap opera curses, in which kid characters rapidly age at one point and then look like they could be siblings to their parent characters. Anyway, I sort of liked Toni in this episode. She said she did not feel well wearing dresses, she feared that she had to wear one for the wedding and risk a spout of anxiety, and at the end of the day she had to force herself into a summer dress (with cleavage, because this is still a male-driven world) nonetheless, because Toni’s friends are no friends of hers and decided not to listen to her when it comes to her anxiety. The thing is just, I have no idea if it is in fact an anxiety thing with Toni or if the writers just needed a story to have the wallflower dress and put some makeup on, so she can look hot and attractive in front of her boyfriend Erik (who by the way can stop speaking in Berlin dialect, because it just sounds horrible, and I say that as someone who has not spoken in that dialect for more than a decade). As a person with anxiety myself, I am interested in her character’s journey all of a sudden, and I will have a look whether or not she has anxiety or if this episode just needed convenient storytelling.

“Do I look desirable in this dress that I hate?”

Lilly’s back story also gets fleshed out just for me, although I do believe it is a coincidence that the writers decided to give the most important bullet points about what Lilly did to Johanna and what is currently happening in her life (Katrin mentioned a lawsuit during her conversation with Johanna). First things first: Lilly does not even deserve to be suspended for deleting X-rays — she deserves to be fired for that, because that is medical malpractice. Secondly, I don’t think it was the writers’ intentions to have me hate Lilly for her decision to panically delete the X-rays, because a doctor who breaks the rules like this cannot be a character to cheer and hope for. But then again, this is just my second episode with Lilly and I do not know her as a character yet, but so far I am all on Katrin’s side, even if her behavior to block everyone from seeing, talking to or having therapy sessions with Johanna is kind of bitchy. And that makes her a villain — which I would not be surprised about, considering her relationship with Jo Gerner. From my history with GUTE ZEITEN, SCHLECHTE ZEITEN, I know that Gerner is the show’s personal villain slash criminal, so anyone he dates and marries and makes kids with will also turn out to be people who do not care a lot about other people’s feelings.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“Witch”)

Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: March 17, 1997 (WB)
Nielsen ratings information: 4.6 million viewers, 3.2/5 in Households

I knew there was a reason I remembered this episode in a positive light. It is kind of surprising that the actual second episode of the show (the first two hours being the pilot episode, which reminds me that the cancellation of two-hour pilots for genre shows still saddens me) established what the show really is going to be about and how the writers treat its characters. First of all, Giles’s excitement about the fact that the Hellmouth under Sunnydale is not just a magnet for vampires, but ghouls of every kind and in every size and color (intriguing that he did not use the word “demon” here), made things intriguing for the dangers Buffy and her peers will face in upcoming episodes and future seasons, and secondly, the way Joss Whedon and his writers made clear to the audience that Buffy is not the only one in the character pool, and that there are more characters who can save lives, deal with evil, and kick ass, prove that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is very much an ensemble show and that the fate of Sunnydale residents does not necessarily rely on the titular heroine all the time. For most of the final third of the episode, Buffy was out of order and barely able to do the fighting, let alone the straight thinking, which is why she necessarily had to rely on her newfound friends for the first time. She was hindered at using her strength and all Buffy could employ was her intelligence and wit, showcasing her strength beyond the superpowers she possesses. To put that in the episode after the pilot, when the pilot established that Buffy is literally THE action heroine, is quite courageous, and it shows that Whedon knew what he was doing with his characters from the beginning. With Buffy unable to get into action mode, thanks to Catherine’s spell, it gave her new friends enough time to further develop their characters, and to make sure that they are not a fifth wheel in Buffy’s life, but in fact a force to reckon with.

Being a cheerleader demands hard work even when you’re about to die.

The story itself… Well, let’s not consider it a burner, but the twist of the body switch saved the episode above average. How creepy it was to find out that Amy’s mother is the guilty witch, and how even creepier it was to realize that she was ready to relive teenagehood in the body of her own daughter, just to repeat her cheerleading successes. Sure, there might be a little inconsistency in here (like: Why did Catherine not continue her cheerleading beyond high school? After all, it was somewhat of a “career opportunity” in the 1990s as well), but stealing your daughter’s life to follow your own dreams is quite the brutal way to realize that your parents do not give a crap about you. Buffy realizing that Catherine is really Amy, and that Amy’s mother is out to kill a few students was a nice and chilling surprise, giving the episode another edge that makes it a lot better than it has any right to be. I liked that the writers took the story a little more serious during the second half of the episode, although the suspense never managed to rise above expectations, especially after the body switch twist. There was a bit of suspense when Catherine, in Amy’s body, was in the middle of the cheer number, realizing that body switch spell is about to fall apart like the pyramid she was standing on, but the rest of the story was unable to really wow me, and this mostly because Catherine never developed into a real and dangerous antagonist. Okay, she put cheerleaders on fire and in front of a never-stopping truck, but those evil deeds were of a very egotistical nature, making Catherine look more like a bitch than a witch. Especially since those spells were not able to immediately kill the victims. Catherine wanted them to suffer, but she also gave them enough time to … well, survive. “Shall we play a game,” she probably thought in her head as she was putting the spells on the unsuspecting victims.

Amy’s mother has had enough with those teenage games.

When it comes to the character development, I have to applaud the relationship between Buffy and Joyce a little. During the two-hour pilot, their mother/daughter relationship wasn’t really glowing (with Joyce giving Buffy house arrest like a cliched parental unit in a story about teenagers), but in this episode it was established that Joyce — and it does not matter whether Buffy listens or not — loves her daughter, and that Buffy loves her mother. It is a different mother/daughter relationship, due to Buffy’s fate and no father being in the house, giving the story an edge with Joyce being a single mother of a troubled teenage daughter who happens to save the world from vampires and now witches. Which is also a thing that can be considered surprising, because some would think that absolutely every drama cliche between family members would be utilized during the first few episodes. On the other hand, I can see that it was necessary for Buffy and Joyce to have a somewhat glowing relationship. With vampires, ghouls, witches, and death glooming above Buffy’s head, it would be quite difficult to develop and show her character when she has such dark times at home as well. This can be a story in a later season, but at the beginning of the show it would have been overkill.

This paragraph would normally go into the Sunnydale mortality rate, but in this episode, Buffy slayed no vampire or other demons, and no Sunnydale residents were murdered. Everyone who began this episode as a living being ended this episode as a living being. You could argue that Catherine is dead, but she was clearly alive in that statue at the end of the episode.