Sunday, 12 December 2010

Buffy: Season 2, Episode 4 ‘Inca Mummy Girl’

Willow's so snug.

Writer: Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Director: Ellen S Pressman

What's the sitch?

Sunnydale High’s student foreign exchange program is up and running with some of our key players hosting students from foreign shores – including Buffy. Meanwhile at the local museum a cursed Incan mummy of a sacrificed princess gets accidentally reawakened. Said mummy, newly revitalised as a pretty young girl going by the name of Ampata, manages to fool Buffy and co. by masquerading as Buffy’s genuine exchange student who she killed. She immediately makes a big impact on Xander and the two soon become romantically involved. But Ampata still needs to kill regularly, taking people’s life forces in order to keep from returning to her yucky mummy form. At the same time, Buffy and the gang are trying to find out what is killing people in such hideous ways and what has happened to the original Incan mummy that disapeared from the museum, not realising that the truth is right under their very noses.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

This one is about fate, destiny, duty and also romantic relationships. Ampata’s plight is a mirror of Buffy’s. She too was a “Chosen one” by her people who had to give up a normal life and life altogether in order to serve a higher purpose. Although she is the villain of the week she is perhaps the most sympathetic of all Buffy’s villains. Like Buffy she was just a young teenage girl who, given no choice, was forced to be who she had to be. Now all she wants is a normal life - even if she has to kill to keep it. Plus she falls for Xander and he likewise for her, which complicates things even more. That’s part of the relationship angle, as is Willow overhearing Xander telling Buffy how he loves Willow but only as a friend. However, unbeknownst to Willow, it’s in this episode that she is first noticed by her first true love interest of the show, Oz.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

Ampata, the Inca Mummy Girl of the title.

Why it rocks

1. Curse of the Mummy. It’s a classic horror tale (a resurrected mummy) that’s given a fresh new spin by the Buffy writers. Instead of some vengeance-seeking monster, Ampata is an innocent who just wants, like Buffy, a simple, normal life. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but she will because she feels (justifiably) hard done by. In fact the episode works well as a romantic tragedy. You can’t help but feel so very sorry for poor Ampata at episode’s end.

2. Nicholas Brendon. He does some very good work as the smitten Xander. His quips and jokes remain, but he also invokes a tender sweetness that really sells his feelings for Ampata.

3. Beautiful mummy. Ara Celi as Ampata also does good work and makes for a suitably sympathetic and tragic character. Her underlying sadness and her attraction to Xander is well handled. Plus she’s a very beautiful girl.

4. A normal girl. One of the show’s main underlying themes is hammered home in this episode: Buffy’s eternal quest to be just a normal girl and to have a normal life. But this time it is mirrored in Ampata. The bedroom scene where Buffy hides crosses, stakes and crucifixes from Ampata, while Ampata hides a desiccated corpse in her trunk from Buffy could have come across as really silly and light hearted but is played with a genuine melancholy that is actually quite touching.

5. Oz. Yep, Oz (Seth Green) makes his debut in this episode. The intelligent, taciturn Oz is lead guitarist with Dingoes Ate My Baby, a local band that plays at the Bronze regularly. His noticing of Willow throughout the episode – especially when she is in her Eskimo costume at the Bronze - is really cute. And speaking of…

6. Eskimo Willow. At the fancy dress party at the Bronze, Willow goes as an Eskimo complete with furry hood and fishing spear. Xander, dressed as a Sergio Leone cowboy, comments that she looks “Snug.” What she looks is utterly adorable. No wonder Oz is smitten.

7. Sven and Cordy. Cordy ordering around her hulking Swedish exchange student throughout the episode is hilarious. The twist at the end only makes it funnier.

Why it sucks

1. Does Buffy really not know that her genuine exchange student is definitely a boy as well as what he looks like? Surely they’d have some contact info for his parents and have likely seen a photo. Even Joyce accepts female Ampata without question. No alarm bells ringing at all? No contact from real Ampata’s parents to confirm he arrived in one piece? Hmm.

2. The plotting relies a bit too much on coincidence and on the characters being dumber than they should be.

It's Buftastic

Willow dressed as a snug-looking Eskimo attempting to nonchalantly shrug when Xander asks her if she’s seen Ampata.

Dialogue to die for

Xander: “I think the exchange student program's cool. I do! It's a beautiful melding of two cultures.”
Buffy: “Have you ever done an exchange program?”
Xander: “My dad tried to sell me to some Armenians once. Does that count?”

Devon: “What does a girl have to do to impress you?”
Oz: “Well, it involves a feather boa and the theme to A Summer Place. I can't discuss it here.”

Buffy [to Giles]: “So, can I go?”
Giles: “I think not.”
Buffy: “How come?”
Giles: “Because you are the Chosen One.”
Buffy: “Mm, just this once I'd like to be the Overlooked One.”
Giles: “Yes well, I'm afraid that is not an option. You have responsibilities that other girls do not.”
Buffy: “Oh! I know this one. Slaying entails certain sacrifices, blah, blah, bitty blah, I'm so stuffy, gimme a scone.”
Giles: [sardonically] “It's as if you know me.”

And another thing

Along with Oz, nerdy Jonathan (Danny Strong) makes his series debut in this episode.

Ara Celi had a small role in Robert Rodruigez’s 2010 film Machete.

The Inca Mummy Girl of the title is actually based on a real female Incan mummy found in1995 in Peru frozen and extremely well preserved on Mount Ampato– hence the name Ampata.

How many stakes?

Xander wants his mummy. 3 (out of 5)

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