Sunday, 14 November 2010
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 6 'The Pack'
Writer: Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkenmeyer
Director: Bruce Seth Green
What's the sitch?
While on a class outing to the zoo Xander ventures in to the cordoned off Hyena exhibit to save a kid from a gang of bullies...only to have the Hyena's pull a mystical whammy on both the Xan man and the bullies by possessing them and turning them in to a cruel pack of predators. Being Hyena possessed, Xander's behaviour starts to change and he soon alienates Buffy and Willow by hanging out more and more with his nasty new friends. But things start to get much worse when new school mascot Herbert the piglet is mysteriously eaten alive. And then things get much MUCH worse when the school's principle, Mr Flutie, suffers the same grisly fate. Buffy is convinced that Xander and the others have been possessed by something evil. And while Giles tries to find out how to undo the possession Buffy tries to keep Xander away from the Pack and out of trouble.
What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
It's all about bullies, falling in with the wrong crowd and also the general adult fear of a feral youth. You know the drill: normally good kid makes some dodgy new friends and his/her behaviour starts to change for the worse. Except that in the Buffyverse it's a mystical whammy that makes Xander behave this way and pushes the already nasty gang of bullies in to pig killing, then finally in to murder and cannibalism.
Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
The gang of bullies, a creepy zoo keeper and Xander.
Why it rocks
1. Metaphor. Okay, so it ain't subtle but it does the job. Adults, if you annoy teenagers enough then they might just eat you.
2. Horror. Despite the inherent silliness of the idea this is actually pretty nasty stuff. Finding out that cute little Herbert has been eaten alive is bad enough. But soon after we get to see the Pack encircle and taunt poor Principle Flutie before they attack him and (out of sight though not out of earshot) tear him apart. Also, the small scene where a mother and her baby stumble across and awaken the slumbering Pack is nicely tense and mildly disturbing. As the Pack look at the mother and her child with burning hunger you really do think its gonna be chow time again. Gulp!
3. Nasty Xander. Nicholas Brendon is excellent as nasty Xander. Luckily he avoids chowing on Herbert and Principle Flutie, though he does get to be really horrible to poor Willow making her cry and everything. And when Willow cries it really gets you where it hurts. He also attempts to sexually assault Buffy. It's pretty grim stuff. And Buffy is so shocked (as are we) that initially she isn't able to defend herself, though she does eventually manage to subdue her possessed friend before he can do her any actual harm.
4. Killed off. Yet another regular character is killed of as Principle Flutie (Ken Learner) becomes a school dinner. This paves the way for the school's new principle: the odious child hating Snyder played with relish by Armin (Quark from DS9) Shimerman.
Why it sucks
1. Bad puppets. The 'real' Hyenas we see at the zoo are obvious puppets. And pretty awful ones at that.
2. Giles being slow. Giles is a bit slow on the uptake about the zoo keeper. Has he never seen Scooby Doo?
3. Odd pack behaviour. If Xander is now part of the Pack then how come he spends so much time off doing his own thing like trying to assault Buffy?
Buffy catches poor little piglet Herbert, the school mascot who's escaped from his cage and is looking to get the heck out of Sunnydale High. Maybe he knows what's coming. Poor piggy. Anyway, Herbert's run is great. It's shot low angle with high speed pig POV hurtling down hallways, through people's legs...then right in to Buffy's waiting arms. SMG looks genuinely happy cuddling Herbert. Maybe this is where the idea for Buffy's stuffed toy pig Mr Gordo came from.
Dialogue to die for
Xander (to Buffy): "We just saw the zebras mating. Thank you, very exciting!"
Willow (also to Buffy): "It was like the Heimlich... with stripes!"
And another thing
We see Buffy and Giles training for the first time.
How many stakes?
It's a three member pack. 3 (out of 5)