In the fifth episode of the first season of Buffy, an ancient prophecy begins to distract Buffy from the possibility of finally going on a date. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
There are a lot of really ingenious things at work here in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” and it’s helping me see how there are seven seasons of this show. Well, I don’t have any idea what might happen beyond season one, but there’s so much to address about high school life and that whole experience that can be used within the show. For Buffy, we see how her role as the Slayer normally pans out when she tries to do anything that most high school students take for granted. I really can’t imagine how terrible of an experience she had at her last high school. Did she have any friends at all?
My guess is no, because Buffy is entirely treading new ground with Owen, a quiet bookworm who expresses interest in her. It’s interesting to me that Buffy is an experienced Slayer of vampires and other creatures, yet she can’t even navigate the world of Emily Dickinson. I actually like that the writers choose to portray her as socially clumsy and increasingly awkward because it gives her faults. If she was an amazing slayer and could bed any man in school, I think I’d be bored out of my mind. What sort of conflict would that even provide?
The other main source of friction comes from Giles’s interactions with Buffy. I know I said I was glad that the show incorporated Xander and Willow into the “secret” so early, but it’s also nice that it’s only them so far. This is the first time that Buffy and Giles have seriously clashed on their priorities. Giles is insistent that he’s discovered some sort of prophecy that will help free The Master from under the city, and that Buffy must come with him to help stop this. Of course, she’s entirely opposed to the idea on more than one level. But she downright refuses to accept the responsibility that comes with her role, which frustrates her more than usual. For once, she just wants a night off to be herself, but when you compare that to the fate of the whole world, it does seem inconsequential. So she relents to spend the evening in a cemetery with Giles in order to stop the Anointed One.
And that’s really what this show is doing well: showing us the conflict between being someone who kills creatures trying to bring about the end of the world and being a sixteen-year-old girl in a California high school. How does Buffy balance that? How is Giles supposed to manage her? In this case, Giles has to concede that no vampires are rising from below the earth in the cemetery, and allows Buffy to leave to go meet Owen at the Bronze. But I knew this wasn’t going to be over. I started questioning the very idea of Buffy dating. How on earth could she do that and also keep her Slayer side a secret? See, I’m already imagining her having to sneak out in the middle of the night, constantly canceling dates, making up bizarre reasons to disappear…damn, this is just unfair. Like, what a shitty gig to land entirely without choosing it. How exactly did Buffy find out that she was the Slayer?
Okay, that’s for another time. Let’s talk about how CRUSHING it is that Buffy shows up to the Bronze and that horrific band is playing. LOL JUST KIDDING. no they really are terrible, but the actual tragedy is Cordelia Chase. Damn, she is just rude. Here’s what I just want to shriek into her face: BUFFY HAS SAVED YOUR LIFE TWICE NOW. Couldn’t you be nice to her for five goddamn minutes? I understand that Cordelia believes she’s at the top of the social chain at Sunnydale, but even some basic courtesy will keep you there. Has she even thanked Buffy once for doing this? Okay, I’m sure something is going to change this dynamic because I don’t think the show can sustain this absurd back-and-forth for seven years. DID I JUST DOOM MYSELF BY SAYING THAT. Regardless, it really is hard to like Cordelia aside from her sass because she’s such a mean person and I don’t like big bad meanies.
Oh, by the way, Giles was totally right. From the ashes of the five….VAMPIRES DESTROYING BUSES. Man, that is fucked up. They chose to crash a bus with a mother and kid on it just to make their prophecy come true. Well, I suppose that means that Giles was right in general, but he got the specifics wrong. They weren’t going to raise a dead body; they were going to create them. Which, again, is pretty fucked up.
So what does that mean for Buffy? Well, when Owen asks her out on a date for the next night, it means that it’s time for everything to get hopelessly complicated. First of all, Xander is just not tolerating this. He’s not one to be subtle, so he barely hides his jealous at Owen getting a date with Buffy. I’m curious where his storyline is going this season, and I imagine that Buffy’s going to have to put an end to it soon. I mean, there’s still that dude Angel who she is totally crushing on, right?
But that’s sort of a small storyline compared to the fact that Buffy’s date with Owen, which is going rather well, is constantly interrupted. First, Cordelia (WITH THE WORST HAIRSTYLE I HAVE EVER SEEN GOOD GOD WHAT DID YOU DO TO IT. Oh, right, you ran in through the 90s) tries to insult Buffy to get Owen to hang with her, and I scream internally at how irritating and rude Cordelia is. BUFFY. SAVED. YOUR. LIFE. TWICE. Couldn’t you cut her some slack, please?
Then Angel shows up. Oh, great, her other crush is here. Oh, and he’s insisting that she leave because stuff is happening? Everyone really wants to make decisions for Buffy, don’t they? But the frustrating thing is that GILES IS TOTALLY CAPTURED BY A BUNCH OF VAMPIRES AND HE WAS ACTUALLY RIGHT. Oh god, why is this situation so difficult? What am I saying? Xander and Willow haven’t even shown up yet. That is when it truly becomes hopeless. How can Buffy ignore all three of these people who clearly know that some shit is going down? Also, Angel is buff and such, so why isn’t he helping out? I seriously don’t get who he is and why he only acts as a really shitty and vague informant. WHO ARE YOU ANGEL.
Unfortunately, she has to ditch Owen (BECAUSE WHY ON EARTH WOULD SHE TAKE HIM WITH HER), but I thought her goodbye to him was really cute. Using that line about her being two people was smart, but the kiss sealed the deal. Actually, the entire scene from when Xander and Willow show up is one of my favorite parts of this show so far. It’s awkward, witty, funny, and really uncomfortable all at the same time; no one seems to say the perfect thing aside from Buffy’s last words to Owen.
At this point, though, I couldn’t ignore the name of this episode. I’d had this small thought in the back of my mind that perhaps Owen would die early in the episode, but he was still alive at this point. He’s going to show up at the funeral home, isn’t he? OH GOD, HE IS. And that’s when this episode really gets good. How the hell do they keep Owen distracted enough so that Buffy can leave his side? How on earth do they prevent him seeing a vampire? The best part about “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” is that the writers make Owen last maybe five minutes before that creepy religious dude from the bus arises as a vampire right before Owen’s eyes. It’s simply pure chaos at this point, and…well, is it weird that I had this big smile on my face? All I kept thinking was OH THIS IS GONNA BE SO GOOD OWEN IS TOTALLY DEAD.
And then it happened and I didn’t feel very good about Owen dying? I mean, it was rad to see Buffy almost recharged by his “death,” but she actually liked him. And he was a nice guy! So she just casually cremates the vampire alive (or….well, he’s actually dead, isn’t he?) in retaliation. NO BIG DEAL. But then Owen stands up! OH. Oh, so he didn’t die? Well….that’s awkward, isn’t it? That’s actually more awkward than if he had died, I think! How does Buffy try to explain him nearly dying?
So you can imagine my shock when the next day, Owen wants to see Buffy again. However, like Buffy, I was disappointed in his reason for doing so: he feels more alive through her. In a fantastic moment for her character, Buffy rejects him. She certainly doesn’t want to take Owen into dangerous situations and risk getting him killed, but there’s another subtext to this. Owen framed his interest in her as a way for him to improve his life at her expense. That’s kind of a shitty thing to do, don’t you think? I was impressed that the show immediately said, “NO. NOPE. NOT HAPPENING.” So much in fiction, we see how the men in the story get to “grow” and “feel alive” through the women, and this entire storyline is amputated right from the start.
I was also shocked to hear Giles comfort Buffy by telling her how he came to discover that he was destined to be a Watcher. In a way, it gives a tinge of sadness to Giles. At ten years of age, he learned his whole life had been planned out for him. And now he’s waited since then for Buffy, hasn’t he? The thing is, Giles just openly accepted his fate, so it’s frustrating for him to see Buffy fight against it. At the same time, I think he recognizes how frustrating this is for her. She just wants her own life, and fighting against her “destiny” is exhausting her.
Oh, right, by the way: the Anointed One was actually the little kid on the bus. WHAT THE HOLY FUCK FUCK. I mean: “And the Slayer will not know him, will not stop him, and he will lead her into hell.”
SWEET BABY JESUS. Oh god WHAT’S HAPPENING.