Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 13, 2010

Robin’s Review: S1, E06 – The Pack

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 106 – The Pack

Synopsis: On a field trip to the zoo Xander and a gang of cool kids get possessed by hyenas. Slowly Xander rejects Willow and Buffy to join them in their cruelty to others. They eat the school mascot (a pig) and then Principal Flutie while Xander molests Buffy. She manages to lure them back to the zoo where Giles arranges with the zoo keeper to try and reverse the possession.

The Good: This was very creepy. The show pulls no punches with its portrayal of the possession. Xander and his new friends become increasingly more violent and intimidating culminating in the disturbing eating of both a pig and Principal Flutie. It’s dark stuff and it allows Xander to play a whole different version of himself. He is pretty convincing as he sheds all his silly humour and nervous ticks and instead becomes cocky and cruel. He uses Willow’s feelings for him to cut her down and then admits to his jealousy of Angel and tries to force himself on Buffy. The metaphor here is not hard to understand as Xander abandons his friends to hang with the cool kids.  It’s another clever twist on a high school story but with far darker consequences.

I liked Giles’ reaction to Buffy’s initial concerns as there was no proof that anything supernatural was going on. I also enjoyed his comedy exhaustion after helping her train.

The Bad: I felt this episode failed on a couple of levels.

The episode was dark but it became too dark for its own good. School children eating their principal is really horrible stuff. It left the deeply uncomfortable question of what trauma the pack were now suffering with their memories returned. Who explained to them what had happened? How exactly were they going to deal with the memories of their murder and cannibalism? At one point they threatened to eat a baby. It was fearlessly dark but it jarred against the jovial nature of much of what we have seen so far.

That isn’t to say the show can’t handle darkness at all. But this episode showed the limitations of it. Only fifteen minutes into the episode it was clear that Xander wasn’t Xander anymore. From then on the darkness reigned supreme with no humour to break the story up. The escalating atrocities became unpleasant to watch and when the young mother and baby escaped attack it was clear that nothing worse was to come and we were just waiting for the possession to be reversed. Willow and Xander’s interaction while he was in the cage fell flat because it had been established clearly that he was no longer himself and that she wasn’t about to be eaten. The final note of the episode was played for comedy value as Xander pretends to have no memory of what he had done. But there was nothing funny about it, especially when you think about what the rest of the pack did.

The last few episodes have managed to keep the “detective” part of the story pretty interesting and entertaining. This felt too creepy to be enjoyable but also too predictable to be tense.

The Unknown: When Buffy first ran into the pack they mocked her and she brushed them off. “Careful, she might beat you up” one of them taunts. I couldn’t tell if this was meant as a joke or an acknowledgement of Buffy’s strength. We’ve seen her leap into action a few times now in front of her school mates. If it was meant like that it was a nice subtle moment to show people do recognise her unusual behaviour and strength.

Best Moment: I found the scene with the pig somehow more disturbing than Principal Flutie’s death. But each was quite shocking.

The Bottom Line: I do admire the bravery of presenting such a dark story. However I don’t think the details were thought through and the escalating horror didn’t lead to an enjoyable story.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: