“Something weird is going on. Isn’t that our school motto?” – Xander
Well it had to happen eventually and this week it has as we get a pretty ho-hum episode as Buffy and the Scoobies find themselves having to deal with a stream of ghostly happenings at Sunnydale high, while Giles is convinced that it’s the spirit of Jenny, Buffy is left feeling something else is responsible.
In theory this episode should have really worked as it’s a simple enough tale with a spirit possessing the bodies of various people at Sunnydale High, which leads Buffy to soon discover that the ghost is former student James Stanley, who in 1955 had been having a relationship with his teacher and who attempted to break things off with him on the eve of the Sadie Hawkins Day dance leading him to shoot her and then himself and now seems set on constantly reliving the events of that night using the bodies of his unsuspecting victims. At the same time it seems that James is not too happy with anyone trying to interfer with his ghostly puppetry as he also makes snakes appear in the school cafeteria while Xander gets grabbed by a random monster arm in his locker.
It’s here the downside of the episode lies as essentially outside of a few tricks, the ghost of James really only has the same trick of reinacting those final moment over and over, which despite some fun choices for who he uses for the roles of himself and the teacher, it constantly feels like it is lacking something or a sense of urgency especially . That being said when it comes time for Buffy and Angel to play the roles, there is a strange similarity between their situation and James’s and by way of this scene we finally get the confirmation of how over things between them really are.
More randomly it’s the things which happen outside of the main story this week which are actually more interesting than the one we are supposed to be following and including such great moments as Principle Snyder discussing with a government official the Hellmouth and more interestingly hinting at a connection to the Mayor’s office which will be the main plot of the next season. We also get to see the gothic mansion which has become the new lair of Angel, Drusilla and Spike since the factory burned down thanks to a vengeance seeking Giles, but despite the change of scenery for the trio, it’s clear to see that the frosty relationship between Spike and Angel still hasn’t changed as Angel continues to taunt the still injured Spike by flirting with Drusilla while hinting that he is getting close to revealing a way to move on from the current games he has been playing with Buffy. The real highlight though comes when Spike secretly stands up from his wheelchair revealing himself to once more be back to full power, while it’s the fact that his burns have all but faded shows the eye to detail the make-up team have, while showing a progression of time which you could be mistaken for thinking the show didn’t have outside of the end and start of each season.
Interestingly it was David Boreanaz’s performance in this episode which convinced Joss Wheldon that he could carry an Angel Spin off and it is a great performance he gives in this episode as he get to play everything from cruel and taunting to fragile and emotional….okay true the last two were while he was possessed but still it’s easy to see what Joss saw in him here. Outside of this and some of the fun subplots happening this episode really didn’t work for me and marking a rare misfire in what has so far been a pretty solid season.
Next Episode: Go Fish