Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 6, 2010

Robin’s Review: S1, E05 – Never Kill A Boy On The First Date

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 105 – Never Kill A Boy on the First Date

Synopsis: Buffy gets a date with thoughtful hunk Owen but has to miss it when Giles uncovers an ancient Master-related prophecy which is about to take place. Nothing happens though and so the next night Buffy heads out on a date with Owen at the Bronze. Giles meanwhile follows up a lead at the funeral home. He is trapped there by vampires and Willow and Xander bring Buffy to him. Unfortunately Owen follows her and is knocked out as she kills a vampire. The next day she breaks up with him realising that his life would be in danger if she kept seeing him. Meanwhile unbeknownst to Giles the prophesy is fulfilled anyway.

The Good: It was always going to be a challenge to review a show I first saw over a decade ago. I don’t remember what I felt about this episode back then, but upon re-watching it strikes me as quite impressive. There are some serious flaws with Owen’s participation in the story (see The Bad) and yet the episode still made its point with strength and purpose.

That point is simple and was hinted at in the pilot: that Buffy can’t have a normal social life and be the slayer. It’s a principle which marks out all good super heroes. What makes them admirable is that they put aside their own pleasures to make sure they use their gifts to do good. This choice isn’t just what makes Buffy utterly admirable and likeable here though. She plays the cute love-struck girl believably, her desire to have it all is very relatable, she is sweet and considerate to Owen throughout and in the end she apologises to Giles for putting him in danger by prioritising herself over her duties (see Best Moment). The whole episode was an exercise in patient demonstration of why Buffy is a good person, someone we should support and why what she does matters so much.

What impressed me so much was the way all that strong storytelling managed to shine through the silliness. This was far from the best episode the show has produced but the way the tone managed to stay serious and foreboding while balancing the dating game was encouraging.

I liked Giles hiding inside one of the morgue draws. That was about the only way to plausibly have him survive that situation. I also smiled at Xander covering for his question of “How’d the slaying go last night?” with “How’d the laying go? No I don’t mean that either.” The twist that The Anointed One was actually a child was interesting and creepy.

The Bad: Owen was an interesting choice as Buffy’s first crush on the show as he looked too old to be in high school. She played the crush really well despite bad lines like asking Giles if she looked fat in her outfit. Whereas Owen struggled at times to make the earnest and thoughtful act seem more than a performance. Once he became involved in the funeral parlour scenes things became more difficult. Buffy, Willow and Xander kept scrambling to explain why they were there, why Buffy kept disappearing and why these dudes with weird faces were trying to beat them up. The more ludicrous the situation became the more foolish Owen began to look. At no point did he ask logical questions or seem as freaked out and confused as he should have done. Buffy yelling “You killed my date” rather than “You killed Owen” seemed like a weirdly selfish choice of dialogue. Throw in the paint by numbers involvement of Cordelia and the whole Owen side of the story felt unconvincing.

It also seemed odd that Giles and Buffy gave up on the prophecy stakeout when they did. It wasn’t clear why their search was restricted to one cemetery or why they thought it would all be over by 10pm? I assume it was about then that they gave up because Buffy rushed to the Bronze (on a school night) and Owen and company were all still there.

The Unknown: Who is the Anointed One?

Best Moment: After breaking up with Owen, Giles comes over to talk to Buffy. He explains that he was told he would become a Watcher when he was ten years old. It’s a sad thought that Giles’ destiny was laid out to him at such a young age. It immediately paints a picture of his life as being full of frustration and sacrifice. It helps remind the viewer of the quiet dignity of what he does behind the scenes for her. She then apologises for leaving him alone at the funeral home which was a very mature realisation on her part. He then congratulates her on how well she’s doing as a slayer. It’s a lovely scene which underscores the major point of the episode and further bonds these two to one another.

The Bottom Line: A mixed episode. While the details were weak, the underlying impression of the show is strong.

60/100

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