Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 3, 2011

Cordia’s Review: S1, E09 – The Puppet Show

The Puppet Show
Season 1, Episode 9
Original airing: May 1, 1997

My Rating: 56

The Good: This is actually an interesting twist on the possessed puppet horror cliché. The story starts off very basic and bland, but having Sid turn out to be a good guy trapped as a puppet was clever.  The introduction of a demon who looks human made Morgan an excellent red herring. Even Snyder creepily following Buffy everywhere makes him suspect. For these reasons, the story actually stays fresh and surprising.

For the actors, I felt like Anthony Head as Giles was the only one shining of the core group. The rest of the team did they’re usual (Buffy was strong, Xander was funny, Willlow was smart) but Giles being forced to interact with the rest of the students. He played the frustration, stress, and lack of enthusiasm wonderfully. Especially when he was able to scare off Cordelia by making a vague comment about her hair. However, I don’t put too much blame on the actors here. They had to act across from a dummy, after all (See The Bad).

Principal Snyder is an excellent new character. He is a complete opposite from Principal Flutie and even considers Flutie’s untimely end to be the fault of his own caring nature. Snyder comes across strong in this episode as a controlling personality. He definitely dislikes Buffy, to the point of physically grabbing her arm at one point and apparently following her all over the school to keep her from causing trouble. He’s set up well to be another thorn in Buffy’s side.

In addition to Snyder, the other secondary characters mostly had real motivations again. Sid is a demon hunter, therefore he’s hunting the demon. He even has reason to suspect Buffy since he knows he’s looking for someone who appears human and is preternaturally strong. Marc is a demon who needs a human heart and a human brain every seven years to maintain his human appearance. So he goes for someone with dedication and someone who’s smart. Morgan is confused and scared and torn between his debilitating brain cancer and the fact that a wooden dummy is talking to him. He doesn’t want to hurt people and he’s scared of losing control of Sid.

The Bad: It must be difficult to act across from a piece of wood sitting on someone’s hand. The downside to this episode is the kitschy-ness of a dummy as a major character. The idea of his character is well done and strong, but he’s still an inanimate object. The other actors all come across as silly playing against him, except for Morgan. When Buffy pins Sid against the wall during their fight, it’s easy to see there’s no pressure in her arm and she doesn’t really seem to be looking at him. In the end, it was impossible for me to ever suspend my disbelief and imagine the dummy was real.

And again, we have a silly looking demon. When Marc reverts to his demon form, he looks like a flabby naked guy in body paint. It doesn’t play well on screen and takes away from the drama of the moment.

Another major flaw right at the end of the episode is when the curtain opens on the post-fight scene revealing a full audience. The show expects me to believe that some two hundred people didn’t hear the fighting, screaming, yelling, and growling coming from behind the curtain for the preceding five minutes? I would expect a bigger fall-out from this situation.

Favorite Moment: Snyder’s second introduction is a wonderful summation of the show so far. As he walks down the auditorium aisle with Giles, Snyder comments on the previous happenings of the school, including Principal Flutie’s dismemberment, cheerleader combustion, suicides, and disappearances. Snyder plans to correct all of this by keeping an eye on the ‘bad element’ in the student body; namely, Buffy and her friends. One has to wonder if he knows how close he is to the mark.

The Bottom Line: There’s the potential for a really good episode here. The characterization is strong in the main and secondary characters. The main issue here was the silliness of the physical manifestations. Both the dummy and the demon aren’t scary or realistic. They look B-movie quality and that detracted from the episode as a whole.

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