This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Some Assembly Required (Season 2 Episode 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
In this podcast episode, we'll talk about (1) the lack of a strong Midpoint commitment or reversal; (2) a jumble of antagonists; (3) whether flashbacks might help develop the character relationships; and (4) if the theme works.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
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Last Week: When She Was Bad S2 E1
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In addition to hosting the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story, Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries, as well as numerous short stories.
She also writes non-fiction, including books on writing craft, under L.M. Lilly. She is the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.
Episode Transcript for Some Assembly Required
Hello and welcome to the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story Season Two. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories – or just taking them apart to see how they work – you’re in the right place.
I am Lisa M Lilly, author of the Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries and founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com
This week we're talking about Season Two Episode Two Some Assembly Required.
We’ll cover all the major plot points, including what this episode, which is very Cordelia centric, has in common with our last Cordelia-focused episode Out Of Mind Out Of Sight.
In addition, we’ll talk about the jumble of antagonists here. (That's a technical term that I just made up). And why the crime here keeps us from truly feeling for any of our antagonists.
As always, there will be no Spoilers except at the end to talk about foreshadowing, but I'll give you plenty of warning.
Okay, let's dive into the Hellmouth.
Some Assembly Required was written by Ty King and directed by Bruce Seth Green.
Before we get to the Opening Conflict, I should mention that, as with all the episodes to this point, we start with the voiceover by Giles: To every generation is Slayer is born…. And he explains a bit of the vampire and Slayer lore. Eventually that opening will drop off, but we do still have it here.
Opening Conflict In Some Assembly Required
We then go to our initial conflict. The initial conflict in a book or TV show or movie comes ideally on the very first page of the book or the first scene. It might or might not be related to the main plot. The key is to draw the viewer or reader in right away.
Here, we get two Opening Conflicts.
The first one is Buffy in the graveyard. She is waiting for a vampire to rise. It's not happening, and she says something like Rise and shine – some of us have trig homework.”
This is a great way to very quickly summarize the core conflict in Buffy's life: dealing with being the Sayer and having a life as a teenage girl.
The Second Conflict
Angel appears, bringing in our second conflict. He asks her if she's alone. And there's some really nice dialogue where she says yes, she's alone, and he says, “I thought you might be with someone, Xander or someone. Buffy says, “Xander?” and he says, “Or someone.” And then denies that he's jealous though, when she says all she did was have one little dance with Xander, he calls it more like mating ritual.
They’re arguing. She says she didn't come here to fight. And in a nice moment of comedy we get her saying, “Oh yes, I did” when the vampire finally does rise.
There is a fight between Buffy and the vampire. Then she and Angel pick up their argument immediately after she dusts the vamp. He tries to walk away. She follows him and falls into an open grave. And it's not just an open grave. The coffin inside it is open as well, and we cut to the credits.
This falling into the open grave happened about 3 minutes 15 seconds in. This is a little bit early. Typically, at 10% into any story we see the Inciting Incident or what I think of as the Story Spark. It gets the main plot moving.
The episode here is about 42 minutes. So while this is early, I do think this is it because clearly this open coffin in the open grave is what sets Buffy investigating and makes her aware of what is going on.
After the credits we come to one of my favorite scenes in Buffy that involves Giles. Although that is so hard to pick because there are so many great Giles scenes.
Great Giles, Awkward Giles
Giles is in the library. His back is to the door and he is practicing asking out someone very awkwardly. He can't get it right. He calls himself an idiot. At the end, and of course because it would be the most embarrassing thing for him, Xander and Buffy walk in behind and catch part of this and immediately start giving him advice. And making fun of him a bit.
Buffy tells him to avoid words like “amenable” and “indecorous.” In one of my quotes of the week – this is a double quote Buffy to Giles – Buffy says, “Speak English or whatever they speak in – ” and Giles says, “England.” She tells him to say something more like” “I have a thing, maybe you have a thing, how do you feel about Mexican?” And Giles is just not really getting it.
They keep teasing him.
He shuts it down and asks if Mr. Kolchak showed up on schedule. He was the vampire that Buffy was waiting for.
(I couldn't help wondering if this was a reference by the writers to the show The Nightstalker. It was on when I was a kid, and I thought it was so scary. This guy Kolchak goes out stalking vampires and other supernatural creatures. It was an inspiration for the X-Files. The writers of that have talked about that and even did a tribute episode to it. I've got to think the Buffy writers also may have been Night Stalker fans. In an example of sometimes it's not good to go back, before so much was available digitally or even on DVDs, one of my friends and I ordered the videotape of one of the Night Stalker movies. It was so disappointing to watch it from now because both the special effects and the story that had seemed so exciting just didn't quite hold up. But I still have a real fondness for that show.
Buffy tells Giles about the open grave. He mentions could be a grave robber.
We switch to the Science Fair. a boy name Eric is there. He is taking photos of all the girls, including Willow. Later he’ll photograph both Buffy and Cordelia. He is friends with Chris, and Chris in Willow know each other. They been competing in the Science Fair and Chris always takes first place. But he gives Willow the tip that if you design something that the teacher who is judging it doesn't understand, he will give it more points.
Cordelia complains that it's not fair that participating in the Science Fair is mandatory.
After taking Cordelia's picture, Eric tells Chris that Cordelia would be perfect. And Chris says, “Don't be an idiot, she's alive.”
Back in the library Cordelia comes in to ask for help from Willow. And I love, I wish I'd written down all the exact words. But she says something like, “I hate to interrupt your little undead playgroup” and she's talking about the Science Fair. Cordelia makes these references to her pain and how sad it was – something about Chris.
The Investigation Begins
Everyone ignores her because they are focused on the empty grave and sorting out what happened. The grave belonged to one of three girls who were killed on the way to a game in an automobile accident. So they decide that what they need to do is go and check out the graveyard and see if the other two girls’ graves are empty.
In terms of options of what could've done this, Giles says, there could be demons who eat the dead, voodoo, and zombies. Someone asks Buffy if they should call Angel to go with to the graveyard. She says no she starts to explain about their argument, but then just says, “As far as he's concerned, I'm taking the night off.”
When they ask Cordelia if she would like to go, she says she has plans. And in a great Cordelia quote says, “Boy, I wish I knew you were going to be digging up dead people sooner. I would've canceled.”
At about 10 minutes 30 seconds in we have Xander and Giles grave digging. Buffy and Willow are sitting to the side talking about Angel being jealous. And Buffy says she's never going to live down that dance, but that Angel really overreacted. And Willow says love makes you do the wacky. Another nice quote that comes back later. Although I don't think it works quite as well when Buffy repeats it at the end.
Giles and Xander point out that the digging would go faster if Buffy would help. And Buffy has a great quote: “Sorry but I'm an old-fashioned gal. I was raised to believe men dig up the corpses and women have the babies.”
Buffy asks Willow what Cordelia was talking about, and Willow tells her that Chris' older brother Darrell was a very well-known football player at Sunnydale High. He was a running back and he died rock climbing. Cordelia dated him, but he rejected her.
Willow says that Chris has been in his own world ever since his brother died.
About 12 minutes in Buffy jumps down into the grave, and we don't see what she finds.
The One-Quarter Twist That Might Have Been
We are a little bit past the one-quarter point of the episode. Often there, we’re going to see a twist or turn that spins the story in a new direction and propels it toward the Midpoint. This could be it. Because whatever Buffy finds out will change the direction of the story.
However, here I think that that first major plot point comes a little bit later.
First, we get Cordelia. She's in a dark parking lot – because everything in Sunnydale is dark – and she is going to her car. We get what I feel is something of a cheap scare. Or a not completely believable encounter between her and Angel. She's going to the car, seeming nervous. I think she senses someone behind her. She drops her keys. When she bends down to get them underneath the car she sees feet.
Cheap Pop Scare
We don't know whose feet they are. She runs and she hides in a dumpster. She waits, and when she opens up the top, Angel is there startling her.
The reason I say it's a bit of a cheap scare, I feel it's unlikely Angel wouldn't have said who he was or called out to Cordelia. He doesn't seem like the type who wants to just scare people for no particular reason. He says that he didn't recognize her, and wasn't sure it was her.
And that doesn't quite ring true to me. I feel like Angel, even if he didn't know it was Cordelia, would know that following a young woman at night in the dark in a deserted parking lot would be scary for her. But obviously we wanted a little bit of tension there.
The One-Quarter Twist – Body Parts
At 14 minutes 24 seconds in, we get what I see as the turn in the story. Cordelia is trying to get out of the dumpster. She’s stuck, and she reaches down to free herself and pulls out dead hand.
This definitely changes the trajectory of the story. For one thing, we ruled out zombies unless they're walking around with no hands.
In the library, our four friends show up. Angel and Cordelia are there. They share information about the empty graves, and the body parts. But before that, Angel and Buffy have a brief exchange where he says he thought she took the night off. She tries to pretend this just came up, but he says Cordelia told him the truth.
As they talk about what might've happened, Angel says there weren't three whole girls in the dumpster, so somebody kept some parts. He also tells them that whoever cut up the girls had some skills.
The group is unsure why the body parts would be dumped five miles away from the cemetery and conclude that whoever did it is probably connected with the school since the body parts were dumped near it.
Cordelia seems genuinely shaken, she needs to go home and burn her clothes. She doesn't want to go alone. She asks Angel to take her. He looks like he doesn't know what else to do and lets her lead him out. Because she somewhat recovers and says, “Great, I'll drive,” Buffy looks hurt. And Xander says how he would've taken Angel for a one-woman vampire.
Chris’ House – Back Story
We switch to Chris's house.
His mom is watching footage of the football game or one of the football games Darrell was in. She ignores Chris when he goes out.
This is a nice quick way to show her grief. It does engender a bit of sympathy for Chris. And I think this is a very real thing when you are grieving. It can be so hard to focus on anyone else. Partly because it might be painful to stay there in the grief, but as you heal you feel farther and farther from the person your grieving for.
And here, Darrell's mom is not able to do it despite that she has a son still there. So he is very much in the background of his mother's life. And that is literally. He is mostly in the basement, and I believe he comes out from behind the door that is behind her.
At School Again
At school, Buffy and her friends are searching the lockers of the students that Willow said had the skill to cut up a body. They find anatomy texts in Chris's locker. Eric's locker has a picture of a girl, but it is created from cutouts of magazine photos. So an arm from one girl and head from another girl and so forth.
The next scene shows this Eric and Chris. They’re in a large empty space that we find out later is an old science lab. There is a shrouded corpse on gurney. Eric is showing photos of the girls taken at school, which again include Buffy, Cordelia, and Willow.
At school, Xander and Buffy have a conversation about why anyone would make a girl when there are so many premade ones laying around. Xander says people don't want to fall in love with what's right in front of them. They want the unattainable. Yet another of his pointed comments about Buffy and Angel. Which Buffy ignores.
Xander tries to switch topics by saying “speaking of love” and goes on to talk about dead tissue. Buffy thinks that's really gross. And the only reason I mention it is there is a nice Xander quote: “Do I deconstruct your segues?”
Giles And Jenny Subplot
We switch to Giles walking in the hall with Jenny Calendar. He's very nervous. He stutters, he stumbles. He says words like “indecorous” and doesn't quite get to asking her out. After she rushes into her classroom, she pops back out and says whatever he wanted to tell her why doesn’t he tell her at the football game?
Giles pretends that yes, of course, he was going to go. And she says they can go together, and how does he feel about Mexican?
The Missing Midpoint In Some Assembly Required
The next day Eric and Chris don't come to school. This is all about 23 minutes in.
We are past the actual Midpoint of the episode, so I was looking for some sort of commitment by Buffy at the Midpoint where she throws caution to the wind, fully commits to her quest, or suffers some kind of major reversal. And I just didn't see it.
This reminded me a bit of Out Of Mind Out Of Sight, the other Cordelia-centric episode that we watched. And there was a little bit of a Midpoint. If you remember, Buffy climbed up into the space in the ceiling and found Marcy's things. The invisible girl’s things. And took her yearbook and that made Marcy very angry. It also gave Buffy and her friends the information that they needed, so it was something of a commitment at the Midpoint.
Skipping On Rewatch
Here, I just don't see anything.
I feel like this is part of why this episode, I always want to skip over it when I'm re-watching. Not that I think specifically of how it doesn't have a good Midpoint. But just it doesn't stand out.
The story itself doesn't stand out for me, doesn't make me want to watch it again. I enjoy the things like the quotes I've been talking about, the Jenny and Giles interplay, the way it moves the Angel and Buffy story a little bit. But the actual plot of the episode doesn't really grab me. And I do think this is one of the reasons. That we just we don't have that strong story structure.
The Big Reveal
Giles tells us he learned that there were three heads found in the dumpster. So the girl that is being put together is not finished.
We switch to Eric and Chris. Eric is saying, “You know what you have to do.” And Chris is saying, “Please, you understand. I can't do it.” He's being pushed, of course, to kill one of the girls. I say of course because it’s Sunnydale. Eric says to kill one of the girls so that they have a live head. Chris is saying he can't do it.
And we get the big reveal – Darrell steps out of the shadows. He's got stitching all around his face. And he says, “You gave me your word. You promised I wouldn't be alone.”
Eric argues that if you take a life to make a life it's a wash so it's okay.
Throwing Caution To The Wind
At 25 minutes in, Chris agrees to do this. So here we have the throwing caution to the wind by Chris. If he were our protagonist, that could be the Midpoint of the story. And sometimes you can have an episode where the antagonist is the one who commits at the Midpoint. We saw that in one of the stories, I think it was the episode Angel. Where the Master was driving the main plot and he made this commitment at the Midpoint that drove the story forward.
Here, though, it doesn't feel that strong to me.
Who Is The Antagonist?
For one thing, it isn't clear who the antagonist is here. There is Chris, who is grieving for his brother. He wants to help his brother, but he has to be pushed along.
We have Eric, who just seems like a ghoul. He's human, but he is presented just as this awful kid or young man who doesn't care about killing people. Maybe he's excited about the science of this, but I don't even get that. It just seems like he just wants to do this thing.
And we have Darrell. Who, yes, he doesn't want to be alone, but I don't feel like I know enough about him to have a real feel for who he was before this terrible thing happened to him. He does drive the plot. He's the reason that Chris at least is contemplating doing this.
A Group As Antagonist
This is a good example of why it is challenging to have a group as either a protagonist or an antagonist. You can do it. There are stories that do it.
Generally, though, you need one person to be the one that the audience most identifies with or most follows here. It would be hard to really identify with any of these antagonists. But if one of them was truly taking the lead, I think it might help the story be more gripping.
We’ll see that who is taking lead switches around. And I think there are ways to do that. But here it just that didn't work for me.
Understanding The Antagonist
There is also the issue of sympathy for the antagonist. Here, I don't have it for any of them.
I didn't have sympathy with the Master in terms of I didn't want him to achieve his goals. But the Master was trapped underground, under this church, and he wanted to get out. If you step into his shoes, you can understand this from his point of view. From his point of view, his world has been snatched from him and he is trying to get it back.
In his world, the humans are the antagonists, and he is the protagonist.
Eric Is Awful
Here, I just find it harder to do that. Eric – clearly, we’re not to have sympathy for him. He just seems awful. And Chris – yeah, I can feel bad for him that he lost his brother. His mother doesn't even really know he exists anymore. I hope on some level she cares, but she's not expressing that. She's not able to get out of her grief.
And we will find out at the end that Chris brought Darrell back, and Darrell wished he hadn't been brought back. So Chris feels this responsibility.
And had I know that here, at this point, maybe the story would've grab me a little more. That Chris was being driven not just by his brother saying I don't want to be alone, but because he has created his brother in a sense, he has brought him back to life and doomed him to this life of loneliness and sadness and hiding in the shadows.
But we don't quite get that here. Maybe I should've been able to read that in but for whatever reason I didn't. I never really feel that much for Chris.
And then Darrell, as I said, is someone we just don't know anything about other than that he was a great football player. And he died in this accident and was brought back.
Also, we don't see him go through any sort of struggle over the fact that he would be dooming someone else to the same fate as his or that he would have to take a human life.
Maybe if we saw even more anger on his part. “My life was stolen from me so young. If I have to go through this, why shouldn't someone else? We do see some anger, but I feel like we just don't get enough for me to really empathize. And I'm not talking about empathizing as in thinking it's okay for them to do this. But to understand how they could feel it's okay. How Darrell could justify it to himself. How Chris could justify it.
Unraveling The Clues
Back in the library, Giles and Willow figure out that the reason that they can't use a head from a cadaver is that formaldehyde degrades the brain cells. So they know Eric and Chris need a live girl’s head.
Buffy goes to Chris's to try to talk to him. Willow says don't be too hard on him. But Buffy, like me, has no sympathy given what Chris is trying to do. She goes to his house. The mom lets her in. And Buffy can see that she doesn't know anything about where Chris is. She isn't paying any attention to Chris. Instead he is still watching, or yet again watching, a football game with Darrell. She tells Buffy about it.
So Buffy does start to feel a little bit of sympathy for Chris. We can see it in her face. She notices keep out signs on the basement door and she goes downstairs. She finds photos and plans. Including Cordelia's face pasted onto a diagram of a girl's body.
So she now knows Cordelia is the target.
When she hears someone or something, Buffy escapes out the window. We see Darrell behind her in the shadows.
Moving Toward The Next Plot Turn
Buffy goes to the locker room. Cordelia is getting ready for the game. Before Buffy gets there, Cordelia is alone.
Chris appears, and he distracts her. While she's talking to him, Eric throws a blanket over her from behind and they try to kidnap her. Buffy comes in and stops it, and Eric gets away. Cordelia runs to the football field. (She has to be the apex of the pyramid, of course.)
Buffy realizes Chris is there in the locker room and she tells him she knows what they're trying to do. She asks him to stop.
Chris says he has to do it “for him.” Buffy at first things he's talking about Eric. But she realizes then that he is talking about Darrell.
This could be the next major plot turn, which typically comes three-quarters of the way through. This is at 31 minutes 30 seconds in. And that plot point should grow from the Midpoint and spin the story in yet another direction.
Here, though I think it is this next scene, which is about 32 minutes minutes in and it's at the laboratory.
The Three-Quarter Turn In Some Assembly Required
Darrell is angry because Eric didn't bring Cordelia back. He's saying, “You promised.” And Eric says they can still do this.
So this does turn the story because now Chris is on Buffy's side, and Eric and Darrell are driving ahead without Chris. There is no conscience at all in that group (of Eric and Darrell).
Buffy and Chris are back to Chris's basement. But no one is there, and they realize that Eric and Darrell must be going through with the plan.
At the game, we get some nice Giles and Jenny back-and-forth about American football versus rugby. They're having fun. Xander and Willow show up. They’re investigations haven't gotten them anywhere. And they sit right behind Jenny and Giles despite Giles doing his best to discourage them.
Darrell is under the bleachers. He's watching the game. We get sad music. His lip trembles. I feel like this is meant for us to feel sympathy for Darrell. And I think I could in another, slightly different, story.
Too Late For Sympathy
Maybe the reason I have trouble with this is right from the beginning the crime is so awful that it is really hard to feel for Darrell. We’re shown so much about the crime. The empty graves, that three girls were killed, that their bodies were cut up, that someone is making this girl out of parts.
We find all of that before we know Darrell's motives.
And at this point seeing him in the shadows wishing for his former life, it's almost too late for me to have that sympathy. I'm sure this was something of a tribute to Frankenstein. And I feel like the big difference is in Frankenstein we do see so much through the Frankenstein creation’s eyes and through Dr. Frankenstein's eyes. And here we don't have that.
And I understand this is a different kind of story. This is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So we weren’t going to get an episode where Chris is the protagonist throughout, and then we switch into Darrell's point of view and we get what he goes through.
Darrell Grabs Cordelia
Cordelia goes to the sides of the bleachers to get some water. Darrell kidnaps her.
In the lab, she screams when she sees him for the first time. Then she tries to convince him that she’ll stay with him anyway, they don't have to do this. Of course, he doesn't buy that.
He apologizes for rejecting her in the past, saying he didn't appreciate her. But now they'll be together forever.
The Climax Of Some Assembly Required
We are 37 minutes 51 seconds in when the Climax starts.
Buffy comes in. (Chris has told her where they would be.) She tries to convince Darrell to stop and tells him that Chris sent her. He doesn't believe that. As they’re arguing and then fighting, gas spills. A fire starts. There flames everywhere.
Xander arrives, and Buffy tells him to get Cordelia out. Or maybe he just does it. He tries to unstrap Cordelia but can't do it in time, so he wheels the gurney she's on through the flames and gets her out.
Eric has been knocked out. Giles and Willow get him out. He's not dead.
Buffy and Darrell are still fighting, and he throws her on the floor. He's about to bring desk down on her. She seems very disoriented. So we’re not sure that she's going to be able to get away.
But Chris comes in, and he yells, “Don't!”
Darrell backs off. He runs over to the shrouded corpse that is now in the flames and holds it and says, “We'll be together always.” And here maybe I do have some sympathy for Darrell. This is the kind of thing that shows us how desperately lonely he was. And that he didn't want to continue this existence if he had to be alone.
More On Buffy Not Killing Humans
Note that again Buffy doesn't kill a human being, even one who already was dead and was brought back to life. She doesn't kill him. Darrell kills himself.
Buffy, nonetheless, as our protagonist is the one who stop this from happening. She stopped the kidnapping of Cordelia the first time, found out from Chris what happened, persuaded him to tell her where Eric and Darrell were, and broke in and interrupted everything.
We now have the Falling Action, where we tie up all the loose ends in the plot.
Angel appears. He says he saw the fire and figured that Buffy was there. He asks if she's okay, and she is.
Giles apologizes to Jenny. They joke about how it's pretty hard to top what happened on a second date. He's very happy that Jenny mentions a second date. So it's a nice moment with them.
Xander and Willow are looking around and talk about how everyone is paired up but them. Xander asks if Willow ever feels like it's a game of musical chairs and they're the only ones without a seat when the music stops. And Willow says all the time.
Cordelia comes over to thank Xander for saving her life. She's very sincere, and she says if there's anything she can do – and Xander says, “Do you mind? We were talking.” After she walks away, he turns to Willow and says, “Where were we?” Willow says, “We were wondering why we don't get dates. And Xander says, “Oh yeah, why is that?”
Possible Theme – Love Makes You Do The Wacky
We switch to Buffy and Angel again in the graveyard at night. They're talking about Chris, and she says he acted crazy but it was because he loved his brother. And Angel says he took it too far.
Buffy then reiterates what Willow said: “Love makes you do the wacky.”
This is the part I said I had a little bit of trouble with. I guess it goes to my whole issue with the episode. That I don't think that is enough – that love makes you do the wacky, that Chris had this great love for his brother and that's why he tried to do this.
And I've already talked about why you why I feel like that wasn't enough. But it seems to be the theme that the writers were going for.
I do enjoy the Buffy and Angel back-and-forth. Angel says, in response to her comment, “Like a two-hundred-forty-one-year-old jealous of a high school junior?” Buffy says she doesn't love Xander.
The Strength Of Indirection
And something I noticed here is that we have not heard either Buffy or Angel directly say, “I love you.” In the episode where Darla is killed, Darla says to Angel, “You love someone who hates us.” So we've seen indirectly that Buffy learns Angel loves her.
And here, similarly, we don't have Buffy say, “I love you” to Angel. But she says, “I don't love Xander.” Which implies that she does love Angel.
And this can be so strong – to have things said in an indirect way. And we don't know, maybe they have said this to each other. But I'm thinking not because of the gradual pace of their relationship and that mostly they still meet primarily to deal with terrible things happening.
Angel explains why he feels jealous of Xander. It's not so much that he really thought that Buffy loved Xander. It's that Xander gets to share her day-to-day life. He ends with that Xander gets to see her in the sunlight. Which I thought was both a beautiful metaphor for what Angel and Buffy can't have and is literally true. I love things that work on both those levels.
It's near morning, so they have to say – I was gonna say goodnight –they have to say goodbye. And she says, though, that she can walk him home. And they link hands.
We end on a shot of Darrell Ep’s tombstone.
This episode has some really fun things, and I feel like I’ve been a bit negative about it. Each time I rewatch I do enjoy it. I like seeing Giles and Jenny and their relationship. I really like seeing Giles a bit awkward. We always see him so much in control, so sure of himself. It’s fun to see him being a bit nervous.
More On Giles
I also like seeing him have a relationship with another adult. And his irritation with Xander and Buffy when they’re making fun on him, and the way he cuts it off, adds to what I was talking about last week. About why it isn’t creepy that he’s hanging out with these teenagers.
Because he doesn’t engage in a serious conversation with them about his romantic life. He lets Buffy give him a little advice. He lets them tease a little. But it’s very much what you could see with a parent. And he stops it before it goes very far.
A Voice Of Unflinching Truth
I also enjoy Cordelia. As I mentioned in a previous episode, my first time watching Buffy I didn’t warm up to Cordelia until much later in the show. I just saw her as that sort of mean girl.
On rewatching, I see more and more of what’s great about Cordelia.
There was no DVD commentary for this episode. But I did find a great quote in a book I have about Buffy. It’s called Blood Relations: Chosen Families in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel by Jes Battis. There’s a section the beginning that just lists all the characters. And for Cordelia, it says: “A voice of unflinching truth and the embodiment of shallow materialism….”
And the author is saying that’s how Cordelia starts, and she grows in different ways throughout her time on the show. But I love that particularly – “a voice of unflinching truth.” We saw a little bit more of that side of Cordelia in Out Of Mind Out Of Sight, but it does come through here.
Last thoughts on Chris: I was thinking about when we are first introduced to him.
I think that might be part of the key. The first time we see him he is with Eric, who is snapping photos of girls. And Eric is saying Cordelia's perfect. Yes, Chris is pushing back. He’s saying “No, she's alive. We can't do that.”
But we don't know exactly what's going on, and already we know that Eric would really like to kill Cordelia. We need that for tension.
But the fact that Chris is hanging out with this guy, Eric, already makes him an immediate bad guy in my mind.
Also, if we saw Chris’ closeness with Darrell that would help. We only hear about it. The mom's loss is focused on her loss of the son. We don't see Chris's loss. We don't know what kind of relationship they had. Other than that, Chris tells us that he was trying to look out for Darrell the way Darrell had always looked out for him. But there's no way that we see that. And I don't know how you would. You then you get into flashbacks which we talked about in Out Of Mind Out Of Sight can be tricky to use. I don't know what the answer would've been here, but I feel like if I had a better sense of how strong that relationship was, I might've had a lot more sympathy for Chris.
I did enjoy the rewatch and I hope that you did as well.
And I hope you'll come back next week when we're going to talk about School Hard. It introduces a new character to the Buffyverse and a very compelling antagonist.
If you would like to apply the story structure points that I talked about to your own story that you’re writing or revising, or you would just like to use it to watch a Buffy episode and see if you agree with me on where these points are, you can download a free story structure template from my Patreon page.
Also on Patreon I have recorded a breakdown of the pilot episode of Jessica Jones. I'll be working on editing that this week, so I'm hoping to have that up in the next couple weeks on Patreon for supporters. If you would like to join and be able to hear that type of bonus content as well as get a copy of my book Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel, you can join on my Patreon page.
If you're not sticking around for the Spoilers, thank you so much for listening and I hope to see you next Monday.
And we're back for Spoilers.
There aren't a lot of things here that foreshadow the future.
Cordelia And Xander
But we do get Cordelia and Xander. I had not realized how much that relationship was foreshadowed. My first time watching the series, I was taken completely by surprise. Maybe I just wasn't paying good attention. Or maybe it was just that watching it spread out over time, as it was airing, I didn't connect the dots.
But here we get Cordelia truly grateful to Xander for saving her. And she has started hanging out a bit in the library. Granted she came there for help with her science project, but now she is not afraid to be seen talking to them. And we have the step where she's really grateful to Xander.
On First Watch
When I first watched, I only read it as that – gratitude. And I think that it doesn't necessarily tell you that they're going to get involved later. But it does foreshadow that there is perhaps more of a connection than we realize. It is a foundation for the start of interest by Cordelia. Not so much that he saved her. Anyone, of course, would be grateful about that. But she will say later in The Wish that she never would've looked twice it Xander if Buffy hadn't made him, I think she says, “moderately cool by hanging out with him.”
And here I think we see it's not just the sort of effect of Buffy hanging out with him. It's that Xander is heroic. He has no special powers, yet he goes in there and he gets her out.
Xander does this all the time. He jumps into fights and tries to help. Even though he is very vulnerable himself.
Frankenstein And The Initiative
The other foreshadowing I did not even think of until I was looking in the book Chosen Families and saw an essay about Frankenstein. Buffy dealing with Frankenstein.
And my first thought was, “Oh, this is going to be about Some Assembly Required.” And I thought it might go into that comparison of Frankenstein with this story. And I completely forgot about Season Four and the Initiative and Adam.
When we get there, maybe we'll talk about why I forgot about Adam. But the essay was in fact about Adam and Maggie Walsh and the Initiative. Hopefully I will remember to come back to that when we get to that point.
So that is it for the Spoilers and for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. I hope to see you next Monday.
The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC, copyright 2020.
Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC. Copyright 2020.