In the second episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy discovers that integrating back into life in Sunnydale is not as easy as she would hope it to be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
YOU SHOULD READ THIS FIRST. Just wanted to remind you all that I am going on tour in sixteen days and I might be in your town promoting my ebooks. These are NOT Mark Reads-only events. Some of them will have live screenings/commentary from me, and Mark Watches material is up for discussion. Come out if you can, and if you want me to come to your city, please read the comments and suggest a place or agree with others! LET’S PARTY.
- Allow me to do this in reverse. I want to end on a good note because, at the end of the day, I did like “Dead Man’s Party.” Not as a whole, mind you, but there was so much this episode did right. I’ll complain first, and then I will weep my feels all over this website.
- I know that me complaining or criticizing about anything problematic is not going to change the show ever. It’s done. It exists in a certain, immutable form. I accept that. I know that in that sense, it’s like shouting in a vacuum. When I do criticize plots, character actions, or other such things, it’s merely to express it just to you. I know the writers will probably never see this. (Though now I don’t want to jinx myself, because I said that about Mark Reads American Gods and then Neil Gaiman wrote about me and it was fucking weird as shit. In a good way.) My hope is for discussion. My hope is sometimes for education, too. I do get exhausted writing about race issues, or weird bouts of sexism, or heterosexism. It’s not generally an exciting trip down a waterslide of caramel into a pool of puppies and kittens. But it can be empowering in a way, and I also know that some people genuinely want to learn about this sort of stuff! At the end of the day, though, this site exists as a place for me to brain vomit about one single episode, and I hope that is entertaining.
- It’s with that lengthy introduction that I say this as a message to any and all possible sci-fi writers who are totally hoping to get their work published: Please immediately banish the trope where objects or artifacts from ~scary countries full of brown/black people~ bring about terror to a community of largely white people. Not only am I immensely bored by this trope, but it sets up this uncomfortable idea that these unnamed cultures (and they’re rarely named) only exist in fiction to terrify other people. Did Marti Noxon (the writer of this episode) intend that? Of course not! But it’s an easy thing for people to rely on because it is so specifically depends on the concept of ignorance about other cultures. There is no attempt to explain it, to bring in the people whose culture this belongs to, or to give the artifact any depth. You’re just supposed believe that people in Nigeria do this sort of thing, you know?
- Here’s me already disobeying the order of this list and putting something good in the bad section, but I really need this to come after the last point. It is absolutely hilarious to me that Giles makes a joke about the obsession Americans have, especially those who work in museums or whose lives are spent acquiring for these places, with collecting things from other cultures without fully researching them. Does it cancel out the unfortunate trope I just mentioned? No. Is the joke one of the funniest things Giles has ever said? Yes, without a doubt. Writers, this is how you take problematic ideas and address them in the universe you’ve created. Giles’s active criticism is there, it’s in the text, and it’s a biting commentary on the issue.
- Okay, so here’s the thing. I love zombies. (Everyone go read World War Z. You will not regret it.) I want Buffy to do a zombie episode. I want that episode to only deal with zombies. I understood that they were meant as a metaphor for all of the issues, gripes, and problems the Scoobies had with one another resurrecting themselves to cause conflict. It’s clever. I get it. But we got like fifteen minutes of zombies, and they sort of feel tacked on at the end. It’s a post-script to all of the AWESOME happening elsewhere.
- I didn’t see any brains eaten. Why did that guy snap the neck of Asshole Who Answered Giles’s Phone Call? Eat his brains!
- Okay, you basically ripped off Pet Semetary and then didn’t bother making any other reference to it? LOST OPPORTUNITY.
- I get that Joyce is trying to right by Buffy and make her happy, but the episode totally glosses over the fact that she was excited to have this fancy dinner and then all of sudden there are a hundred strangers in her house drinking and playing loud teenager music and leaving a hot mess of chips next to the phone? Like seriously, who fucking eats chips out of a bowl and spreads them out on the table and then leaves those chips there? It was the dip guy, wasn’t it? Anyway, was there some scene that was cut or something? It just seemed odd to me.
- A zombie demon who has a camera flash for eyes. No. Just…no.
- God, that Mr. Belvedere line was delivered so perfectly that I’m pretty sure like fifty angels got their wings at that exact moment in time.
- Cordelia’s tan looks GORGEOUS. Sorry, I refuse to get over how pretty she is. FIGHT ME.
- The difference between a shindig, a gathering, and a hootenanny is brilliantly explained by Oz. I am just so happy to have him around.
- Joyce called Principal Snyder a bigot. Yeah, sorry, you’re going to have a hard time proving to me that she’s not the best character on the show.
- NIGHTHAWK. OH MY GOD.
- Giles’s moment of sheer joy in his kitchen. It’s so beautiful I almost broke out in tears.
- Let’s just get to the real shit: this episode in particular refuses to take the easy way out in dealing with Buffy’s absence over the summer, and it’s so good that for once, I prefer character development to a zombie invasion. I would have been 100% satisfied if there was no monster-of-the-week for “Dead Man’s Party” and we just had to witness the fall out of Buffy’s disappearance. It is a frustrating, depressing, and uncomfortable thing to watch, and I am so happy that the show went there.
- Despite that I sort of picked her out for death pretty much immediately, I like that the show gives Joyce a friend that helped her through the months Buffy was away. Thank you for breaking my heart even further.
- This episode was certainly awkward, but watching Buffy walk around a party she doesn’t really want to be at and realizing that her friends haven’t instantly accepted and forgiven her is extremely difficult to watch. Yes, I suppose it truly is the tip of the iceberg in terms of awkwardness, but it’s a bold step for the writers to take. This is not simple for any character here. Well, maybe for Cordelia. She seems quickest to forgive.
- Did I cry when Willow started crying in Buffy’s bedroom? No shame. I did. When she started telling Buffy about all of these things that were happening to her and that her best friend wasn’t around to talk to her about them, I just totally let myself go. What a BRUTAL moment of honesty, and one that reminds me how awful I feel whenever Willow gets hurts. Like, here’s the one character on this show who is consistently nice and kind and polite and appreciative and Buffy never really thought about how her actions were destroying her.
- WILLOW IS STUDYING MAGIC. FUCK YES, I CALLED IT.
- Oh my god. Look, at this point, it’s just a brilliant joke in terms of how many people in Sunnydale witness things and then never talk about it again. I mean, we can discuss how on earth folks are supposed to rationalize away a zombie attack AND ALSO THERE IS A DEAD BODY IN THE SUMMER HOUSEHOLD NOW AND WHERE DID IT GO? But never in a million years would I have expected the horrifically awkward and painful argument that the Scoobies and Joyce have with Buffy. THERE ARE PEOPLE THERE WATCHING YOU. It honestly gives that scene such a raw dynamic because Joyce is done beating around the bush, and she’ll be damned if she lets her daughter off the hook this time.
- Cordelia asking Xander to step into Buffy’s shoes is just the most adorable thing ever.
- Actually, so is Oz’s attempt to referee the fight.
- I don’t particularly think anyone aside from Willow is “right” in this argument, and that’s a compliment to the writers. It would be easier to handle if the argument was one-sided, but everyone sort of has a really good point of their own. No one knows Buffy had to kill Angel, not Angelus. Buffy isn’t truly aware of how selfish her actions where, even if they were understandable. She’s also not aware how much she hurt her mother as well. UGH EVERYTHING IS SO AWKWARD AND I JUST WANT TO HUG THEM ALL.
- GILES THREATENING PRINCIPAL SNYDER. IS THIS A NEW SIDE TO GILES? I LIKE IT. I LIKE IT A WHOLE LOT. HOLY SHIT.
- This episode doesn’t end with pure joy, and I like that both Willow and Buffy (Buffy especially) are willing to concede things to work on their friendship.
- Willow called Buffy “BAD SEED.” I LOVE IT.
Dead People Count: 2. Joyce’s friend, and the neck-snap guy. That’s 5 total.