Two of Buffy's devoted followers return to Sunnydale - one episode at a time.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on Buffy Spoiler-free ... good luck with that.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
And the weird behavior award goes to ...
Episode 1.6: The Pack. Original Airdate 4.7.97
"Xander and several other students are possessed by the spirit of a demonic breed of hyenas that wreak havoc at the high school."
Let's take a moment to talk about popular kids or the writers Matt Keine and Joe Reinkemeyer's version of popular kids. (This team also wrote "Inca Mummy Girl", so...) This set of 30 year old models represent mean HS students except they're all...so...lame... And I guess bullies generally are lame, but I can't imagine anyone taking them seriously. Kyle, Rhonda, Tor (Tor?) and Heidi (thanks IMDB, I think Kyle is the only one that ever gets called by name) are played by actors who can't act. Luckily most of them hardly speak - including Jennifer Sky - who was awful as Sarah Webber on General Hospital. (Yes, I watch GH. Yes, I feel shame.) [You frighten me. - Z] Also, when they're gathering around Flutie trying to be "threatening", I'm confused as to whether they want to kill and eat him or...fuck him...especially the Blond guy. Tor. Oy. Stop touching Xander seductively, Tor.
"Whapoosh"? - something only annoying 90s douchebags say.
Shenanigans! When Willow talks of her tingly feelings for Xander, Buffy claims that that feeling hasn't happened to her lately...you mean not since Owen last week?
I guess when hyenas possess you, you start only wearing black and become pale. Wait...do I mean vampires?
I never understood TV series' obsession with showing how horrible and warlike dodgeball is. You want to get out of gym for ten minutes? Jump in front of a ball. They're really not that hard. [Some kids tried that and the teacher made them run laps. - Z]
And why on Earth would the gym teacher allow what happens at the end of the game where "the pack" start throwing balls hard at their own teammate? That kind of violence would get them immediately suspended, if not expelled.
No Cordy :( - I think it's because she would have outshone all the bullies. But also:
Shenanigans! In "Welcome to the Hellmouth", Cordy says "see you in gym class. So...why isn't she in that gym class? WHY? Ok, maybe she was sick that day.
The one thing I really like about this episode is that I think Nicky does a good job. His Hyena-personality is "cruel" as opposed to the cool kids' "lame". Basically, Nicholas Brandon is good at playing a dick...which is essentially what Xander becomes. [Oh come on. Xander makes bad choices but he never embraces cruelty deliberately. I will Crossfire your face. - Z]
Also: Alyson Hannigan is awesome at playing sad which she proves in this episode.
Bye, Principal Flutie...though you were barely in a few episodes, 4? 5? You will always be a memorable character.
I have much less issue with this episode than Daniel does. While I agree that the acting of the bullies/pack is sub-par, I don't think it detracts any more from the episode than Owen's muddy line-readings in "Never Kill A Boy..." [Owen is fantastic. You shut your whore mouth - D] They're not great, but mercifully this is our only episode with them, so I tolerate them (and they will never rival my least favorite one-off villain of all time, The Loan Shark of "Tabula Rasa." That was awful). But they're really the only weak link - I think the metaphor is fantastic, especially in how it translates a mob mentality - the need to laugh at weaker parties in order to seem strong - into the hyena pack - capitalizing on both the hyena's brutal scavenger nature and its signature "laugh." I also really love that this episode shows off not just NB's range and skill - he's quite good at playing cruel and dark, and we don't get to see him do it much (the only other example I can think of right now is "The Wish") [Hell's Bells...D] - but also giving us a small peek into how good Willow is at being sad and how Freaking Huge her eyes are. Further thoughts and quibbles ...
It's called recycling.
Buffy's scarf! Is made out of her dress from last episode!
Thank you, Animatronic Hyena, for infecting the bullies and Xander with your crazy. Also, you're not at all creepy and fake-looking.
Dodgeball - the last step in humanity before anarchy and cannibalism. Which .. yeah, pretty much this episode.
I actually find it really interesting that, in the dodgeball game, when the pack is faced with only Buffy on the other side, they instead turn on their weakest member (Lance) - rather than attack someone whom they sense (or in Xander's case, know) is stronger than all of them. And again, Xander verbally takes down Willow right after, but only laughs when challenged by Buffy, rather than attacking her.
Herbert the pig dies but he is neither human nor demon, so he gets no statistic.
Willow is crying. NOTHING IS RIGHT IF WILLOW IS CRYING. Stupid Xander.
Fun fact: When Xander is possessed by a hyena, he wears rings.
I'm glad Xander wasn't in on the Flutie lunch. It's actually an important factor in redeemability.
Xander goes for Buffy's neck for their first kiss - because he wants to be Angel. Possibly also an explanation for his wardrobe? It's also a good note in that his interest in her when he is HyenaXander is aggressive, not romantic. Also noting that Xander goes after Buffy with only a sexual intent - never with a violent (well, non-sexually violent) intent.
The next we see him, he is unconscious because Buffy hit him with a desk. I love Buffy and her non-victimness.
THERE'S A BABY IN THIS EPISODE. I totally forgot there is a baby in this episode (the night hiker who finds the pack sleeping in the woods has a baby backpack).
Xander: "Weren't our lives simpler when it was just you and me?" ...and JESSE?! Awful memory, Xander and Willow. Oops, sorry, said I wasn't going to talk about that anymore.
I just love the scene through the cage between Xander and Willow. Well-written, well-acted, excellent line of tension. Lovelovelove.
Hyena Pack calling Willow's name through the library windows ... creepy and awesome.
"They're tough. But I think they're getting stupider." Continuing with the metaphor of teenage boys and teenage bullies (and teenagers in groups following the mob mentality) lose intelligent rational thought fairly quickly.
And Xander gets to redeem his awful behavior - his first act when he regains himself is to defend Willow.
Mostly handled without bloodshed above.
Daniel: "It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Course, you'll have to kill him." - Giles
Zelda: "How terribly frustrating for you, that a bunch of schoolchildren could accomplish what you could not." - Giles, being awesome.
This took place in the 90s.
Ahahaha! That was hilarious.
Willow knows Xander's blood pressure. Willow is kind of creepy.
Buffy is wearing Angel's jacket.
Buffy is known for taking baths.
Sunnydale High's mascot is Herbert the "Razorback" Pig. But not for long.
Buffy, Willow, and Xander all have gym together.
Flutie eats it. Or rather, is eaten.
First use of the book cage to lock people in.
Also our first evidence that the book cage can be easily broken open. Why they ever thought it was a good holding room for Oz is a mystery.
Xander fakes amnesia about his Hyena Time. Giles aids and abets.
Voiceover - none
Angel's Character - Off on a camping trip with Cordelia, probably.
Dead Humans - 2