Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | March 13, 2011

Robin’s Review: S2, E04 – Inca Mummy Girl

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 204 – Inca Mummy Girl

Synopsis: The students of Sunnydale are preparing for a cultural exchange programme. On a trip to the local Incan exhibit Rodney Munson tries to steal a seal from a mummy but is killed by it. The mummy then kills and swaps places with Ampata the boy who was supposed to stay with Buffy. The new female Ampata fits in well and falls for Xander. But her “bodyguard” keeps attacking and insisting she go back to her coffin. She kills him but won’t kill Xander. Buffy and Giles figure out what is going on and try to put the seal back together.

The Good: The Inca Mummy story was ok but not much more than that. I liked that Ampata was presented as a real person who genuinely struggled with her situation. She didn’t sacrifice the lives of others with a smile on her face, it was a difficult choice for her. Her interactions with Xander were cute and they definitely furthered the story of the Slayerettes internal dynamics.

That was clearly the main thing to take away from this as Buffy, Xander and Willow moved toward a healthier set of relationships. Buffy finally thanks Xander properly for saving her life by acknowledging that without him she would have been a sacrifice like Ampata was. In addition to that they share a nice moment by her front door when she tells him he looks nice. They are finally moving to a new part of their friendship where the spectre of his attraction to her will no longer hang over them. This is true for Willow too who hears Xander explicitly point out his lack of interest in her. Although it will take her time to move on she now accepts that she needs to and here comes new boy Oz to take an interest in her.

As you would expect the episode was filled with some lovely touches of humour. The show is becoming adept at mocking the clichés of TV which they are forced to follow. When Rodney goes missing the gang jokes that perhaps the Incan mummy killed him before realising that on the Hellmouth that is exactly what happened. I really smiled at Giles greeting Ampata and immediately asking her to translate the seal. Buffy’s comment “That was in no way awkward” summed it up perfectly. Then you had Willow looking adorably out of place in her Eskimo outfit and saying “sigh” out loud when Xander complains about not being able to see her shrug in the outfit (for more on Willow see Best Moment). Finally you had Xander asking if Ampata was a praying mantis which was a nice call-back (104).

The Bad: Although the parallel was drawn between the young girl sacrificing her life for her people I didn’t think much was done with it. Buffy of course did chose to sacrifice her life with the Master but Buffy was given a fighting chance. The Incan girl was told her life would literally end and the writers perhaps wisely didn’t get into whether she was being sacrificed to appease a real deity or on some superstition.

The plot itself had some flimsy parts to it. Was the “bodyguard” meant to be a real person? Presumably he was as he died and was mummified. But are we supposed to believe think that this particular Incan cult had managed to keep descendents tracking the mummy’s tomb for hundreds of years through Spanish and then post-colonial rule? Was he following the coffin around from museum to museum dressed like that and with only a knife to protect her? Or did he morph into existence only when the seal was broken? Either way he looked pretty foolish appearing out of nowhere swishing his knife wildly.

As we knew all along that Ampata was the Incan girl it made parts of the plot feel a little dull. The lingering dance and almost-kiss she and Xander share felt fairly insubstantial as we waited around for her to be found out. The conclusion felt a bit flat too as Ampata didn’t exactly make a choice either way about killing Xander and just expired. The gang all wandered off making me question exactly how Giles kept getting such unfettered access to the museum and whether anyone was going to ask who had desecrated the exhibit.

The Unknown: Who is Oz and what’s his deal?

Best Moment: Despite this being an underwhelming episode the dialogue between the gang was excellent as ever. I particularly like the way the writers find ways to make otherwise predictable conversations sparkle. Take this exchange between Willow and Buffy:

B: “Ampata’s only staying two weeks.”
W: “Yeah and then Xander can find someone else who’s not me to obsess about. At least with you I knew he didn’t have a shot. Well you know I have a choice. I can spend my life waiting for Xander to go out with every other girl in the world until he notices me. Or I can just get on with my life.”
B: “Good for you.”
W: “Well I didn’t choose yet.”

The Bottom Line: Another monster-of-the-week story which didn’t really work. Fortunately the writers put a lot of effort into making the Slayerette stuff solid and that helped carry this along.



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