Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Band Candy

At the end of Season Two and the beginning of Season Three, Joyce was the source of at least some of Buffy’s problems. With a more supportive mother, she would not have ended up running away, for a start. Arguably, Giles is now the source of Buffy’s Angel problem, because she is assuming a very negative (and possibly violent) reaction from him if he finds out, although it remains to be seen if she is underestimating the father figure in her life. Either way, Buffy has become like a child playing two parents off against each other, using one as the excuse for absence from the company of the other. The parental figures in her life have become a problem, stifling her and limiting her freedom.

Band Candy gets only halfway to engaging with that issue, because it could have been the moment Buffy learns to appreciate Giles and Joyce the way they are, in comparison with what happens when they cease to be functioning parents in her life. Writer Jane Espenson never quite joins those dots, and instead we have something that is almost entirely a comedy episode.

That happens at the expense of a degree of realism and comes with an insult to teenagers in general. Ironically for a series that shows teenagers as capable of shouldering great responsibilities and saving the lives of adults on an almost daily basis, this episode assumes that regression to teenager equals regression to dangerously unreliable idiot. That’s a little unfair, if you stop to think about it. We don’t see one adult who has eaten the chocolate retaining any common sense or keeping sight of the bigger picture of their lives. Let’s forget about Xander in that equation, because he’s either too young for it to work, or it’s simply a cheap joke at his expense, as if he’s already that kind of a teenage idiot (he isn’t). Looking at the key adult figures in the show, Snyder becomes an annoying nerd trying to cling on to the cool kids, Giles becomes a dangerously edgy rebel, and Joyce is so impressed by a bad guy that she stops caring about Buffy’s safety and tosses her the car keys to get rid of her, something which proves to be a very bad decision. For once, adult Joyce had it right.

But this broad spectrum insult at what it is to be a teenager is easy to overlook, because it’s such a funny episode. When Buffy goes for full-on comedy, it’s absolutely hilarious. I mentioned in Beauty and the Beasts how we don’t often get to see what a superb comedy actor Anthony Head is, since Giles is so often the straight man in the routine, but Band Candy will leave you in no doubt of how funny he can be. You can just tell that all the actors were having a whale of a time here, especially Head. Giles regresses back to Ripper, his criminally rebellious younger self, a very British kind of delinquent:

“I’m your watcher so you do what I tell you. Now sod off!”

Although this episode is nearly all disposable but very entertaining comedy, the season arc is still moved on a little. We learn that the Mayor has done some deals with evil forces to get him to where he is today, and we also find out that Snyder really doesn’t seem to know much about the Mayor or his plans. Mr Trick is proving to be a fairly weak adversary for Buffy, only surviving because he runs away. Faith is absent for the episode, as if the writer forget she is even part of this series now. Finally, Buffy is adding to her catalogue of lies by failing to tell Angel that she has broken up with Scott, which seems like an odd decision until you realise that she probably doesn’t even want to admit to herself that there is a possibility of picking up her relationship with Angel where she left off. Angel is now well enough to do some exercises (yoga?), which mainly consist of striking poses and not having a shirt on.

“I didn’t know you could do that.”

Anybody can do that. Although they might not look like David Boreanaz while they’re doing it. With Buffy still keeping Angel a secret, and Xander and Willow now progressing to playing footsie under their desk, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere much for this story to go. Surely the truth will out soon, and it might just turn out that the greatest demons they all have to fight are the ones they keep locked up inside.   RP

The view from the Sunnydale Press…

Ah, I remember when I turned 40.  It marked one of my two best birthday surprises of all time.  As Buffy hits it’s 40th episode, I feel we needed a little party.  Ironically, that’s exactly what we get.  And it’s ridiculous.  But let me qualify that statement.  My little Irish nephew was playing with me one day and, through loads of laughter, realized I’m a bit silly.  In that wonderfully lyrical little voice he said to me in no uncertain terms, “you’re ridiculous!”  That’s the sort of ridiculous I’m talking about.  The 40th episode is hilarious.  Oh, it’s total filler but it’s such fun to watch all the characters acting so out of sync with who we expect them to be, that you just feel the fun coming off the production.  I imagine the cast had loads of laughs making this episode. 

That’s not to say the episode is a great example of the series and in reality, it would probably be very tedious to watch if you were not a regular viewer.  You need to know the transitions that leads here, the arc the characters are on for it to make sense and be relevant.  Thinking of it, this is one of those series that doesn’t lend itself to the casual viewer because from that point of view, you’d be put off, having no idea what lead to this being enjoyable viewing.  But epic viewing is something I really enjoy and this series does bring you along for the ride.  Otherwise I’d be complaining that all vampires are martial artists.  Is California just known as The Dojo State??  Of course not!  Those viewers who have been with the series know you just have to expect that.  You also have to expect warehouses that are set up as box-mazes, because why would anyone think to store things on proper shelves??  Isn’t it more fun to wander a maze before shipping out the next box of chocolates?  And look, there are rewards for being an epic viewer, sticking around for each episode. Take for instance that Giles has a tattoo on his arm that we first found out about a season ago and even in this episode, they didn’t forget to show it.  So, make fun of Ninja Vampires in box maze warehouses all you want, I love good continuity.  It’s a reward!

I also love the cast.  Even Snyder wins me over as he acts the fool along with everyone else.  The cast gets some outstanding lines, along with Cordelia complaining about her absent teacher: “I’m bored and he’s not here to give me credit for it.”  Also complaining about the SATs, we learn that “it’s discrimination against the uninformed.”  I confess, the brooding relationship between Buffy and Angel is getting a bit worn out now.  Those scenes are actually taking the episodes down a notch at this point.  Get over it and start being the team you were before.  Oh, but I do have to make fun of Buffy who, watching Angel do Tai Chi (I guess it is The Dojo State) says, “I didn’t know you could do that!”  Do what?  Move his arms like a real person.  Did she think because the action figure only has 5 points of articulation, Angel couldn’t move like a real person?  It did make me laugh.  Oh, I didn’t know Luke Skywalker could sit at a table because my action figure didn’t have bendable knees!  Yep, ridiculous!  

So I had to ask myself, was this just a fun romp where the cast all gets to act out of character?  Where was the big topic that we needed to address like so many other episodes later?  And then it hit me, probably the same way my nephew made his realization.  This was a ridiculous way of reminding the audience that too much candy is a bad thing.  It must be an anti-sugar episode!   It’s the boxes of Milk Bar (sadly, not Milky Bar, which would present us with a whole discussion on commercials from my youth) that cause everyone to lose their minds and act out of character.  As I said, even Snyder is fun to watch in this as he pals out with Buffy and crew.  One wonders what this will do to his relationship with the Mayor, come to think of it.  As a subtext, there’s also an interesting commentary for parents about overbooking a child’s schedule.  I think that’s an important message based on how often I have to plan weeks in advance with some friends just to get together.  Sorry, Monday is baseball, followed by Tai Chi, Tuesday is ninja training and candy sales.  Maybe we could do Wednesday in 2022 if my son doesn’t sign up for woodshop… Ridiculous, I tell you.

The funny thing about the episode is that it spends a full 35 of its 45 minutes being silly.  It’s not until the last 10 minutes that the actual threat turns up, steals babies to eat them, and needs to be saved by Buffy using a gas line to ignite the creature and not blow up the town in the interim.  I think it was just a fun way to spend an episode, having a laugh, being silly and still keeping it vampire-slaying-ly meaningful.  And what the heck, I loved it.  But I am ready to get back to the actual story now.  I want to see if Angel and Buffy will stop brooding, and really I want to know what will happen between Xander and Willow.  While I am anxious about where that story will go I’m also afraid of these revelations.   ML

Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Revelations

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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