In the fifth episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s frustration with the pressure from Angel and Giles inspires her to spend a night with Cordelia. To say things don’t go well is an understatement. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
You know, I did like “Reptile Boy” after some thought, but I found that I enjoyed most of the smaller, quiet moments over the big, flashy scenes. And let’s just get this out of the way first: the Machida is one of the silliest looking villains I’ve ever seen on television. I think perhaps I built up a larger expectation for it than I should have, though the episode tried real hard to conceal the identity of whatever the frat boys were sacrificing to. I suppose I allowed myself to believe it was the most horrifying thing ever, and it ended up looking like a giant lizard penis dude. Sorry, it did!
Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to make me dislike this episode at all. “Reptile Boy” covers a few interesting themes over the course of forty-five minutes. First and foremost, this story is about how the men in Buffy’s life simply do not trust her to make her own decisions, despite the PLETHORA of evidence that she is quite a capable young woman. Giles is primarily the cause of her frustration: he insists that the lack of paranormal weirdness over the Hellmouth does not mean Buffy should be lazy about her training. While I feel that there’s a point to be made somewhere in there, it’s Giles’s execution that’s all wrong. It’s frightening how much he acts as if he’s Buffy’s parent here, and how much he ultimately ignores the point Buffy tries to make: Giles has no idea what it is like to be her.
What’s odd to me is that Buffy hasn’t demonstrated that she’s slipping in terms of her physical health or mental capacity. It’s not like the last episode ended in failure on Buffy’s part, so why the sudden harshness? If anything, I’d say that Buffy’s ready to face anything at this point. But Giles simply does not believe her, and the story shows us how he treats her because of this.
Parallel to this, Buffy sees Angel again, this time on one of her nightly patrols that Giles insists she take. There’s that hope once more that the two might pursue something regular, but Angel, like Giles, does not believe that Buffy is mature enough. I did like that Angel noted the age difference and the possible weirdness of it all, but it was what he said after that that bothered me. I can understand being reluctant to start a relationship with someone who’s drastically younger than you, but it’s generally a bad idea to insinuate that they’re hardly mature enough to deal with you. Angel brings out the tired line that because Buffy’s a sixteen-year-old girl, she doesn’t know what she wants.
Bravo to Buffy for not taking Angel’s shit, and I was really happy that the episode acknowledged this here and in a scene later in the episode. Angered by the rejection and disrespect, Buffy decides to through caution to the wind and go with Cordelia to a frat party her new boyfriend’s throwing. You know, I never thought we’d get an episode of Buffy that deals with fraternity culture. I’m actually more interested than ever to see what y’all think about how this was handled. Personally, I’m a bit biased against them. I’ve never been a fan of them, and I had a bad experience with a fraternity and racism at Cal State Long Beach when I was going to school there. Now, I’m well aware that there are nice people in fraternities, that many fraternities donate to excellent charities, and that not every depiction of frat life is accurate or honest. I don’t think things are 100% accurate here in “Reptile Boy,” but I was impressed at how certain things were portrayed.
In theory, the fraternity can provide an excelled social status, and it’s true that for some participants, it’s like being part of a secret club. All the scenes with Xander’s “pledging” address the inherently misogynistic, shaming tendencies that many fraternities act out during pledge week (and time outside of that, too). I don’t think this episode would have worked at all if it did not involve a fraternity, personally, but when it comes down to it, I’m looking at this from the point of view of an outsider. I think it’s done well, but I could be wrong.
I feel the same way about the date rape subplot; the episode clearly shows that it’s wrong, the people who spike Buffy’s and Cordelia’s drinks do not get away with it, and it’s done in a way that acknowledges that this happens without blaming Buffy or Cordelia for it happening. Still, I always feel weird when it happens, and I know as soon as Buffy laid on that bed and Richard appeared in the doorway that this was going to be gross. But, like the fraternity plot, I think it’s handled well, but I’m not entirely sure.
Let’s talk about something I am absolutely sure is wonderful: Willow.
“Well, why do you think she went to that party? Because you gave her the brush-off! And you never let her do anything except work or patrol! And I know she’s the Chosen One, but you’re killing her with the pressure! I mean, she’s sixteen going on forty! And you! I mean, you’re gonna live forever! You don’t have time for a cup of coffee???? Okay, I don’t feel better now, and we’ve gotta help buffy.”
CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT HOW PERFECT THIS IS, THAT THE SHOW HAS A WOMAN TELL THESE TWO STUBBORN AND CLUELESS MEN THAT THEY NEED TO STOP ACTING LIKE BUFFY DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO RUN HER OWN LIFE? My heart swelled up so much when Willow exploded at Angel and Giles; the writing is wonderful, the acting is superb, and the message is something that had to have been so rare on television at that time. Let women decide how to run their own lives!
oh my god willow GET OVER HERE SO I CAN HUG YOU.
The ending to “Reptile Boy” is a bit odd. I don’t know how anyone can be convicted for murder the day after they’re arrested for it, but there it is! I’ll just ignore that sloppy detail to focus on what I hope is a good sign: Angel coming to Buffy and asking her out. Sure, it’s just coffee, and I’m certainly not shipping anyone yet, but I’m at a point where I just want to see Buffy happy. We’ve seen so few snippets of joy when she’s around Angel, but those few we have gotten are so bright and luminous. I think it will make good television to see them pursue something romantic, and I also have hope that the writers will continue to acknowledge both the strangeness of it all. Plus, y’all know I love some character development. So bring it, Joss Whedon.
No wait. I have to stop saying that. It never ends well.