Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Buffy: 3.13 ‘The Zeppo’
Some of Christophe Beck’s great score for this ep. The piece is entitled ‘Dead Guys with Bombs’.
Writer: Dan Vebber
Director: James Whitmore Jr
What's the sitch?
The evil and all-powerful Sisterhood of the Jhe is on its way to Sunnydale to unleash powerful magics in order to open the Hellmouth and send the world in to a seemingly unstoppable apocalypse. Giles is truly scared, while Buffy and Angel are convinced they are about to spend their last night on Earth. Meanwhile Xander is having a crisis of confidence and identity. Cordy, still enjoying torturing him due to his cheating on her with Willow, has pointed out how utterly useless he is to the Scoobies; he’s the one who keeps on having to be saved; the one with no power or knowledge. He’s basically the useless fifth wheel who goes and gets the donuts when the rest are researching and preparing for battle. He’s “The Zeppo” Cordy points out, referring to Herbert “Zeppo” Marx, the oft overlooked Marx Brother who usually played the straight man to his more famous brothers. Determined not to be that guy, Xander borrows his Uncle Rory’s flashy car in order to be “car guy.” But all too quickly he gets involved in his own crazy adventure which sees the Xan man getting embroiled with the local psycho bully, Jack, and his plans to raise from the dead his group of thug buddies, make a bomb, and go blow up the school. On the way through this rollercoaster night, Xander saves Faith from a demon attack…and then goes and loses his virginity to her in her motel room before being rather unceremoniously thrown out by the nonchalant slayer straight after she's had her way with him. Shell-shocked by his brief yet intense time with Faith, Xander must still man up and go on and stop Jack and his buddies from blowing up the school. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the school building (and totally unaware of the explosive zombie plot going on in the basement) Buffy, Angel, and Giles are in an apocalyptic battle to the death as the Hellmouth opens…
What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
No real big underlying metaphor here as this is basically a Xander comedy episode which also looks at his role in the gang and in the show and gives him a chance to shine. He’s not “The Zeppo”, he’s not “car guy,” he’s a whole lot more. Basically, Xander is us. He’s just a normal everyday guy, kinda geeky and not especially talented or gifted at anything…at least not until he discovers carpentry. But what he certainly is is brave, perceptive, and loyal. Xander is the heart of the group. He’s the glue that keeps things together. He’s the guy who sees what's really going on with people when they are far too busy with the big epic apocalypse stuff, and then helps them deal.
Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
Psycho Jack and his zombie buddies, and The Sisterhood of the Jhe (kinda).
Why it rocks
Nicholas Brendon. It’s a Xander comedy episode. Which means Nicky Brendon gets to go full-on funny. And he is so, so good at that. This is simply one of the funniest episodes in all of Buffy…and that’s saying something.
The script. Dan Vebber’s hilarious and beautifully constructed script has Buffy the Vampire Slayer doing Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In the same way that Stoppard’s comic play has its two titular characters, being two minor characters from Hamlet, take centre stage while the epic events of Shakespeare’s play form the backdrop, so the same happens here. Xander’s adventure is the 'A' story, while Buffy and co. battling the apocalypse with all the destruction, blood, fights and high emotion that entails (especially between Buffy and Angel) is reduced to being just a sub-plot. It all comes together wonderfully at the end as Xander battles alone to stop crazy Jack and defuse the bomb in the school basement while at the same time Buffy and co upstairs are fighting for their lives to save the world from the creatures released from the now opened Hellmouth.
Xander and ‘Katie’
Xander and Faith – especially the look on Xander’s face as he’s pushed out of her motel room door after the event.
The showdown. The brilliantly edited/cross-cut end sequence, which is played out like a horror version of a French farce…culminating in psycho Jack’s sudden and unexpected demise in the jaws of a wolfed out Oz.
Why it sucks
The Hellmouth monsters still look rubbish.
Oz’s werewolf costume also still looks rubbish.
Jack says that he couldn't raise his dead friends earlier because he "had to wait 8 months for the stars to align," but he died three weeks ago and his "grandpappy" raised him the same night.
Xander, feeling out of his depth in trying to stop Jack, goes to find Buffy to ask for her help…only to walk in on her and Angel in the midst of a tearful and hilariously overwrought moment as they prepare for their demise in the face of the imminent apocalypse and declaring their love for each other. Seeing he’s picked a bad moment, Xander apologises and quickly retreats, leaving the pair to their apocalyptic melodrama.
Dialogue to die for
Xander: “What do I have?”
Oz: “An exciting new obsession. Which I feel makes you very special.”
Xander: “Now with the mocking.”
Jack: "You wanna be startin' something?"
Xander: "What? Starting something? Like that Michael Jackson song, right? That was a lot of fun, huh? 'Too high to get over, yeah, yeah.' Remember that fun song?"
Xander: "Is it hard to play guitar?"
Oz: "Not the way I play it."
Xander (referring to his car): "It's my thing."
Willow: "Your thing?"
Xander: "My thing!"
Buffy: "Is this a penis metaphor?"
Buffy: “And, you know, with the pain and the death, maybe you shouldn't be leaping into the fray like that. Maybe you should be... fray-adjacent.”
Xander: “Yeah, great knife. Although I think it may technically be a sword.”
Jack: “She's called Katie.”
Xander: “You gave it a girl's name. How very serial killer of you.”
Jack: “I like you.”
And another thing
As in the previous episode ‘Helpless’ the main bad guy here was played by a regular cast member from the defunct 1996 vampire series Kindred: The Embraced. Coincidence or not?
How many stakes?
Funny Xander slays all before him. 4.5 (out of 5)