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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 3, Episodes 11 – 12

October 27, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3-12 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Parents Just Don’t Understand: A BTVS Retrospective, S3 E11-12


Episode 11

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

In two and a half seasons, I have learned something. This show has two different beginnings: “Buffy Is Hunting”, or “At School”.

This one is “Buffy Is Hunting”!

So Buffy is out hunting, and mom shows up out of nowhere with a snack. How did she know where Buffy was? I’ve never seen Buffy tell her “I’m going out to slay; I’ll be on Carson Street if you need me”. A vampire strikes and completely ignores vulnerable Mama Summers because the vampires in this town are the opposite of strategic. While Buffy fights the threat, Mom finds the bodies of two children at a nearby park. There is an emblem or something drawn on their hands; it’s a triangle with a moustache. Weird.

The cops are on the scene with the bodies, mom, and Buffy. Buffy is not a suspect despite her history of murder accusations and missing victims. Kristine Sutherland shows off mom’s devastation by poorly acting.

At school, Buffy shows the symbol she saw to Giles. He notes he thinks this might be a ritualistic killing, i.e., humans/witches; he doesn’t recognize it as anything monster-based. Buffy is AGHAST at this notion! PEOPLE CAN BE BAD, TOO?! Bitch, you already fought evil humans, like, so many times. Amy’s mom was setting people on fire and tried to kill you. The frat boys tried to sacrifice women to a serpent god.

Xander and Oz end up next to each other in the lunch line at school, and holy hell, my brain just flashed to lunch time in public school and standing in that long, annoying line. It took up half of our lunch period! At SunnyDale, they seem to have multiple lunch options! Those lucky dogs. We had, like, whatever they were serving for the day, or the option of a cold cheese sandwich if we didn’t want that. But here, they have several different warm options! I wish I went to fictional high school!

We now interrupt this Buffy Review to ask: What was lunch like at YOUR school? One daily option and maybe some crap cold substitutions? Or multiple meal choices? I HAVE TO KNOW! Was I just short-changed?!

Xander and Oz sit with Willow and the newly brunette Amy. They talk about Buffy’s birthday coming up soon! OH MAN, ANGEL, she’s going to be eightee–oh, this hasn’t stopped you yet, I guess.

Buffy drops in on them still reeling over the dead kids. Then MOM shows up! She really wants to help catch the kid killer, so she has called a town meeting!

The meeting–which is basically a late night vigil with pictures of the kids and candles–takes place, and right as Willow says her mom doesn’t care about anything going on ever, HER mom appears. And she is VERY upset about the idea of witches. Oh look, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is trying on dramatic irony.

The mayor gives a speech, then Mom co-opts it to start her NEVER AGAIN campaign against death and violence in SunnyDale. MAKE SUNNYDALE GREAT AGAIN! WITCHES DIES TONIGHT!

You know high school students are kids, too, right? And this town has been hemorrhaging those in the last three years. And a few episodes ago, literally all of the babies were almost killed. But suddenly everyone is all “OH NO, NOT CHILDREN!”

(That ends up being the plot, but STILL)

At some point, we see Willow, Amy, and a third character gathered in witches’ garb… and they are using the Moustache Triangle emblem! Shortly thereafter, Buffy sees the symbol in Willow’s book at school. The police barge in to start a raid on all the lockers, and Principal is fucking GIDDY about this intrusion into their space. I’m all for occasionally writing a character without tons of nuance and allowing him to embrace one personality trait, but even I think this guy is way out past the buoys.

During the raid, Willow explains to Buffy the symbol is a protection charm she was working on for Buffy’s birthday. The police round up Willow and Amy for what they find in their lockers. They are also taking Giles’ books out of the library, causing Principal further glee. He has the full support of MOO–Mothers Opposing the Occult. And Buffy’s mom started MOO. Like, since last night, I guess?

Willow and her mom talk at home. W-Mom doesn’t seem too surprised about her daughter’s witchery. Willow tells her she can do spells, but that’s a bridge too far for mom at this point. Willow gets really… weird about it. Trying to get her mom’s attention and all, but she starts praising Satan and saying she kills animals.

You know what’s odd? That actually really works with how Willow has been slowly set up to have a negligent mother. She just wants her mother’s love. And barring that, her acknowledgement! It’s like Rebellion 101 for a character as dorky as she is.

I turns out that Willow’s mom and Buffy’s mom both want their daughters to stop seeing each other. Buffy tries to get through to mom, but mom is focused on making Approved Reading Lists and banning books that aren’t for school kids. Oh, BTVS, look at you, remaining topical in 2023.

While talking, mom sees the ghosts of the dead kids, and they command her to get revenge. That’s what I get for thinking we were going to get a grounded episode about actual killers. BUT IT CAN GET WORSE!

Because you will never guess who the Scooby Gang figures out these kids are.

(I mean, you probably already watched this show, unlike me, so maybe you can)

They are Hansel and Gretel.

I… what?

The backstory here being that Hansel and Gretel are actually evil, and there was no witch. They just made everyone THINK there was a witch to sow hate and discord and get towns to turn on each other. They pop up every 50 years and do the same shtick over and over. Salem Witch Trials and what-have-you. All Hansel and Gretel’s fault!

It would be a really interesting twist on the mythos if you wasn’t so insultingly stupid compared to where I thought this episode could go.

Things start happening fast! At school, Willow and Amy’s third witch friend rushes into the library talking about how his dad started beating him over the witchcraft stuff. Amy is already on trial at City Hall. Willow’s mom gets a gang together to round up her own daughter. Buffy’s mom chloroforms Buffy and Giles (from a big brown bottle with a white label that just says “CHLOROFORM” because this fucking show, guys). As Buffy fades, she sees HANSEL & GRETEL there looking pleased with themselves.

At City Hall, Buffy, Amy, and Willow are tied to stakes (like… big ones! Not vampire ones) with a pile of books surrounding them. Mom lights the books to start the pyre. Amy peaces out by turning into a rat, haha.

In the library, Cordelia wakes up Giles. Actually, Cordelia points out all the knock outs Giles has suffered and is worried about him; he might have brain damage! Best Character Of The Series strikes again! They drive to City Hall to save everyone while he walks Cordy through how to make the potion they need.

They bust into City Hall, and Cordelia turns a fire hose on everyone until H&G appear corporeally. Giles goes full Jason Mendoza and Molotovs them with the potion… and they combine into one large monster.

Cordy: “I think it was better when they were little kids”.

Buffy breaks her stake in half and stabs Grensel (?) through the face with it. Everyone’s back to normal, despite the fact that Buffy and Willow should be VERY badly burned.

The episode ends with Buffy and Willow expositioning the town’s return to normalcy, though Willow notes her mom remembers at least SOME aspects of what happened under Hantel’s (?) control. They try to turn Amy back human, but… fail. Whacky hijinx!


Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

My wife says this is one of her least favorite episodes because apparently the plot is “stupid”. Let’s see!

The show immediately undoes what I said I learned last episode, as this one kicks off with Buffy and Angel sparring amidst a date night kind of spread (food, candles, etc). Buffy defeats him, then turns him down for a date. She mentions she goes to the “ice show” every year with her dad for her birthday.

This took me a while until Buffy explained later on that it’s like those Ice-capades / Disney On Ice kinds of things. I thought “Ice Show” was like… they went to look at ice carving exhibits.

WHICH! To be fair! This broad did say in an earlier episode that she likes Buster Keaton. So it was possible. Her tastes are intentionally strange for her age group.

We see Buffy and Giles cataloguing gemstones for a minute, and during the note-taking process I initially left this scene out entirely, but it ends up being important later. Giles pulls out a big blue crystal…

And we cut to Buffy fighting a vampire in the park. She is taunting and wiping the floor with him… until she gets a headache? The vamp turns the tables and is about to kill her, leading into the opening credits! When we come back, she headbutts him off of her, and he does the ol’ WWE Flying Nothing maneuver, basically impaling himself on her stake.

Back in the library, Buffy can’t hit a target with a knife. She can’t even get the knives to stick in the target. Giles worries that she might just have a bug and tells her to go home and rest. Buffy doesn’t want to get sick and miss the [not about sculptures] ice show with dad.

It’s all a moot point, though! When Buffy gets home, she discovers that dad himself has bailed. Ha, this show HATES showing this guy. Apparently his job did bad numbers or quotas or something? I do not know; mom explained it, and my brain is really learning to just Charlie Brown’s Teacher the words when she speaks. It’s easier on all of us that way.

Having just said that, I did catch that mom offers to go to the ice show with her in dad’s stead, and Buffy refuses.

CUT TO: Three dudes bricking over a wall. Gripping stuff!

Buffy talks to Giles about dad bailing on her, and she drops HEAVY hints that she wants him to take her, not her mom. Aww, Buffy sees Giles as her surrogate father! Surely nothing will happen this episode to impact that!

Giles is still working on his crystals collection. He pulls the big blue crystal back out, and Buffy goes into a trance. Giles then injects her with something…

Later on, Buffy and Willow are off-handedly talking about Amy, who Willow still can not cure. Damn, that girl had an emergency exit strategy, but not a particularly good one, I guess. They see some guy getting a bit aggressively physical with Cordelia; Buffy tries to intervene, but he tosses her aside easily.

Giles offs to meet our town bricklayers union. This is all a plan to drain Buffy of her powers, lock her up, and then unleash something on her. Not like… villainously. It’s for her own good, you see. She has to survive based on her own cunning!

Okay, sure.

In theory, this is a thing these guys might as well do.

But without safety measures in place, Buffy could legitimately just die, right? Then all they have accomplished is the sacrificing an experienced slayer for the activation of a rookie. Doesn’t seem practical, old men!

This is some real “Geoff Johns writing Green Lantern” level stuff. He had such a mad-on for making the Guardians Of The Universe out to be both uncaring and incompetent. Buffy is doing the same thing with the Watcher Council.

The guys open a big box to reveal a strapped up vampire. They give him some medicine!

It turns out that I’m not the only one who can make comic book references in regards to this episode, though, as at school, Oz and Xander are debating which kind of Kryptonite does what to Superman. Luckily, it’s 1999, and Pink Kryptonite had not been invented yet. And it’s really unfortunate for us as a society that some writer invented Pink Kryptonite in this millennium.

(Look it up if you don’t know)

The locked up vamp tricks one of the members of the wise and experienced Watcher Council into being a fucking idiot and getting really close to him, allowing him to break free and turn him. The show is ambiguous at best on how long turning takes. Here, it’s like MAYBE an hour. Previously characters have been full on buried, which means it had to have been days. Buffy plot gonna Buffy plot, though.

Angel bought Buffy a poetry book for her birthday. She laments what life as a normal girl could be like if she doesn’t get her powers back. She remembers being vapid and oblivious, and she doesn’t want to go back to that life. Wait, are Slayer Powers like Flowers For Algernon? Why would she go back to being a deluded fool?

Angel tells her for the first time that he saw her from afar before she was the slayer, and she was always the person she is now. He loved her even then. YOU CAN NOT GET AWAY WITH THIS IN 2023. I don’t know how they got away with it in the very late 90’s. I will reiterate: She was either 14 or had JUST turned 15 when he saw her!

Giles shows up to the facility and finds that the vamp’s box is empty. He discovers blood all over the place, then sees the body of the second of the three council members. Giles–WHO HAS BEEN FIGHTING VAMPIRES AND SEEING THE DEATH THEY LEAVE IN THEIR WAKE FOR DECADES–gags heavily and flees the scene in upset terror.

Buffy is catcalled by some construction workers despite the fact that she is wearing a coat she bought at Andre The Giant’s estate sale. She looks sad about not being able to kick their asses, and I realize this is how all women feel when that happens to them. The trial vampire and his new minion find her, but she escapes through a broken fence after yelling for help. The construction bros do not come to her aid. Jerks.

Giles drives up and rescues her, though!

At the library, AND I WILL POINT OUT THIS IS THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, Giles tells Buffy about the injections and the trial. He says the vampire is named Zachary, and he was a serial killer in life before he was turned. Buffy is fucking outraged at all of this. Cordelia strolls into the school library because she needs to study (remember the part about it being the middle of the night?). Buffy tells Giles she doesn’t even know who he is, leading to this:

Cordelia: Oh no, did you lose your memory again? He’s Giles! Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiles!”

The quality of this show is going to collapse when Cordy leaves to be on Angel.

Anyway, Cordy offers to drive Buffy home. Oh no, you can’t get back in my good graces now, BTVS. You’ve buried the Cordy Drives subplot for over a half a season now. The magic is gone.

Zach shows up on mom’s porch, using Buffy’s elephant blanket of a coat to cover his identity. When mom comes out to check on “her”, he strikes!

Buffy finds a friggin POLAROID–making this episode feel so much older than it is–taped to her front door showing Zachary with mom. She loads up on slaying supplies, even though she can barely carry the bag, and heads off to save mom.

Zachary has mom tied up and relays his own issues with his mother. After he turned, he killed her. He plans to do the same here: turn Buffy and have her kill her own mother. The writer of this episode has some real issues with their own parents.

The council guy that Zachary turned jumps Buffy, but she buries him under a bookshelf (which powerless Buffy is strong enough to push over, but vampire guy is not strong enough to immediately get out from under but WHATEVER, I guess).

Zachary grabs her, but she fends him off with a cross. He then starts… well, let’s be honest. He starts getting off on the pain the cross causes him. He seems about to kill her, but his condition kicks in. He needs his pills. This whole thing gives me “John Hartigan And/Or Marv From Sin City” vibes. He has a condition and he needs his medicine!

Big, tough serial-killer-cum-vampire that he is, he can’t dry swallow his pill, though! So Buffy wins by tricking him into chasing his medicine with Holy Water. It’s clever, in a “the show created this weird weakness just so Buffy can beat him” kind of way.

The last council guy standing is pleased that Buffy won her trial, but pissed at Giles for telling her the truth. He tells Giles that the latter’s fatherly love for his charge is no good, so they will be assigning a new watcher to Buffy (and presumably Faith, who everyone keeps forgetting or ignoring).

Is Buffy still feeling betrayed by Giles? Who knows? It seems like that plot point was resolved off-screen? Or by magic? But we will see how the follow up goes…

Two mid-level filler episodes as season three continues to refuse to move forward with anything resembling an endgame in mind. We got a whole episode basically revolving around Mom, so you can imagine how that makes me feel. Then we got an episode about Giles being a jerk until he feels a little bad about it. Or does he even? He only admits what is going on when Zachary gets loose and the plan itself is out the window.

Basically nothing to see here.