“Didn’t anyone ever warn you about playing with pointy sticks? It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.” – Buffy
Next to vampires might just be one the most over worked of the horror sub-genres, especially when every week there seems to be a new low budget zombie movie thrown out direct to DVD, so needless to the prospect of having Buffy face off against the zombie hordes this week was hardly a thrilling one.
Continuing on from the events of the previous episode, this episode essentially picks up directly after the season opener with Buffy struggling still to adjust to life back in Sunnydale as her mom still feels that she might run off again. At the same time the Xander and Willow appeared to have moved on without her. Of course she doesn’t have time to dwell for long when the mysterious mask her mother has brought back from her gallery has the nasty side effect of reanimating the dead.
While as a fan you want things to get to normal between Buffy and the Scoobies, rewatching the episode this time round it made a lot more sense why they choose to do this episode the way they did as the last episode saw Buffy finding herself and ending with her turning up at her mother’s house. True they could have just left it at that, but this episode chooses to acknowledge the fact that the Scoobies have been forced to pick up her slayer duties and generally move on with their own lives instead of waiting for her to return. It’s her reunion with the Scoobies which provides one of the highlights of the episode especially when they are introduced more kitted up for their slayer duties than the last time we saw them attempting to patrol, even if they are still no better as slayers than they were previously. Of course this hasn’t stopped Xander from dressing in a leather coat and calling himself “Nightwing” something which it seems is also Cordelia’s thing aswell.
Of course it’s not just with her friends that Buffy is having issues as despite being cleared for the murder of Kendra (guess the Sunnydale aren’t as incompetent as Buffy suspected) Principal Snyder still refuses to lift his expulsion from school as he continues to brand her a troublemaker, while giving an evil little smile when Buffy’s mom threatens to escalate her complaints to the mayor, clearly not knowing that Snyder is on his payroll the extent of which we will soon discover as the season goes on. Once more Armin Shimerman nails this role and somehow manages to make a school principal one of the cruellest characters in the whole town which is really saying something when you consider the town is built on a hellmouth.
While zombies might be the monster of the week, they are really more of secondary plot this week, with the main focus clearly on Buffy trying to get her life back in order and reconnect with the Scoobies. That being said they do provide the great finale when the mask, which at this point has only resurrected a dead cat (Patches) causes a whole army of zombies to descend on Buffy’s house where he mom’s attempts to throw a nice dinner for Buffy and her friends has turned into a full blown party after some creative interpretation from the Scoobies. The party also being a plus for “Four Star Mary” fans with Oz’s band “Dingoes Ate My Baby” unsurprisingly providing the music, which as any good Buffy fan knows already, is always a Four Star Mary Track.
The zombies thankfully are the classic shuffling kind though surprisingly these are not the same gut munchers George Romero and Lucio Fulci terrorised us no doubt due to censorship. Instead these zombie are more concerned with generally attacking people and in one of the more surprising moments snapping the necks of their victims as they are drawn towards the mask. The mask of course is mch more than a signal for the shambling hordes as we get the added twist of the zombie who wears the mask turns into a super zombie or the incarnated version of the Zombie Demon Ovu Mobani if you want to get into specifics.
As far as foes go Ovu Mobani does have the neat trick of being able to temporary blind Buffy with flashes of light from his eyes and I also liked the fact that Joyce’s annoying friend Pat is the one who gets turned into a zombie before putting on the mask and ensuring that we never have to endure her again as while the supernatural can seemingly come back from most things, I’d like to think a shovel to the eyes is pretty darn fatal.
The real highlight of this episode though is Giles, who not only once more gets to unleash his inner badass as he demonstrates his skills hotwiring his car, but also has some great lines throughout the episode such as the scene where he is battling his way over to Buffy’s and mockingly mutters to himself
“Unbelievable. ‘Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!’ Americans.”
While generally a good episode it suffers slightly with some of the pacing as well as getting a little angst heavy in places. It’s also sad that Patches the zombie cat is never seen after this episode as couldn’t help think while watching this episode how great Patches would have been if keep on as a minor character who’d occasionally show up as a comedic aside or just as general colour. On the plus side this episode used zombies well and in a more interesting way than if they’ just gone the traditional zombie route while at the same time prove to be the perfect monster to reunite the group in a believable way.
Next Episode: Faith, Hope & Trick