Episode title: School Hard
Original air date: September 29, 1997
“You were my sire, man! You were my … YODA!” – Spike
For some reason I thought this episode came later in the season but this current rewatch only highlighted how early in this season the showrunners were working on their endgame for the season as this week we get the first appearance of Spike and Drusilla, two characters who would go on to play major roles in not only this series but “Angel” aswell. Not that we could have ever known this by this first appearance when they seemed like another villain of the week, but unquestionably here the duo certainly make their mark with their debut.
Unaware of the threat of Spike and Drusilla this week sees Buffy once more struggling to balance her slayer duties and school life and once more putting her in the sights of Principal Snyder, who pairs Buffy with fellow problem student Sheila to prepare the school lounge for the parent-teacher night or risk being expelled. Of course this event will serve for the climax of the episode with Spike launching an assault on the school.
A simple episode seeing how it resolves around Buffy having to battle Spike and his vampire henchmen while at the same time trying to keep the parents and teachers alive and which see’s her pulling a high school version of “Die Hard” as she is forced to move around the school using the air vents. While it’s a simple setup its one that does allow for a lot of character development such without slowing down the pacing of the episode. Something especially important seeing how its introducing two major characters for this season, let alone the series as a whole.
Spike and Drusilla are essentially the Sid and Nancy of the Buffyverse especially with James Masters perfecting a perfect cockney drawl as the bleached blonde Spike who right from the start is marked out as being something different than we have seen so far in the series, especially as he foregoes any old world aesthetics instead opting for a 1980’s punk look instead. That being said I still can’t understand how he able to smoke, especially when its been highlighted before that vampires don’t have any breath. The other thing which makes Spike stand out is the fact that he’s previously killed two slayers, something that none of Buffy’s previous foes can claim to have achieved and unlike them here we see Spike observing Buffy in action before openly telling her when he’s going to attack her, which is a tactic I’m not sure is overly strategic but as we see here proves to be a ruse when he attacks Buffy at school two days prior to when he claimed he would. Drusilla meanwhile spends her time in a dreamlike daze as she hints to her psychic abilities which will become more apparent in her later appearances and while she might not seem like the perfect match to Spike bizarrely works thanks to Juliet Landau’s pitch perfect performance who somehow manages to make her character work without her becoming an irritance.
While we don’t get told everything about Spike and Drusilla in this episode we do get some interesting tit bits about their past, such as Spike being known as “William the bloody” due to his love of torturing his victims with railroad spikes. We also get the introduction of Spike’s relationship with Angel as he hints at their past together. What is so much fun though rewatching the show is to hear these facts and know that certain ones are later disproven in flashback episodes, but here the few things we are given really sell these characters and only add to what is essentially a very simple episode.
As I mentioned already this is a simple episode but one which really pays off in terms of character development as it introduces new characters aswell as moves existing ones into key positions as we start to see the first moves of the series endgame falling into place. At the same time the humour is spot on throughout, from Xander searching through Buffy’s purse for a stake through to Spike’s conflicts with his vampire kin which the show takes advantage off to maximum effect as they finally do away with the anointed one and intern put the show here on the path for bigger and more exciting things as it does away with the last the season 1 baggage.
Next Episode: Inca Mummy Girl