Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Never Kill A Boy On The First Date   Rewatch 
January 29, 2015 7:41 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Buffy tries to date sensitive cool guy Owen, but a vampiric prophecy about "The Anointed One" cramps her style. Can she get the slayer/social life balance right this time?
posted by yellowbinder (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is the first plot episode, and it is not that good. I think it struggles from several key elements that hurt all early episodes of Buffy.

1-A lack of an established cast of characters. Owen poofs into existence for Buffy to have a crush on him, and as a result feels necessarily 2 dimensional. I don't really see why Buffy likes him, as she doesn't seem to have a great deal of interest in poetry in general and Emily Dickinson in particular.
2-Bad guys who lack personality. The religious nut vampire was vaguely interesting, but too many vampires at the moment are just snarling ninnies who aren't noticably scary.

As a result this is an episode that doesn't really work for me. In general the whole "life vs slaying" thing was never super engaging when it came up (especially because, we, as the viewer, are incentivised to want to see slaying).

Some observations:

-Angel here, a centuries old vampire, menacing a 16 year old boy. Stay classy dude.
-Xander doing the creepy mirror spying on Buffy. Urgh.
-"Hello salty goodness!" What the hell does this mean?
-Willow and Xander barricade the door with cushions and a lampshade
-Cordelia spends several episodes having brand new lackies who never appear again
-Considering everyone is going to the Bronze in season 7, its remarkable how everyone remains the same age as Buffy throughout really.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:54 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've always found this one a bit boring. Yes we are incentivised to want slaying, and Buffy comes off as a brat shirking her duties.

My random observations:

Boys on this show have weird security blanket books. Emily Dickinson isn't as odd a choice as Oberyn Martell's love of Of Human Bondage in Season 4, but still.

They still haven't gotten the verbal banter of fights down. In the opening fight Buffy just says "I'm Buffy and you're..." I guess the dusting is supposed to fill it in but really.

Xander continues to be the worst. We covered this last week but it reaches new heights in these too episodes. Even though he tries to rape Buffy in the next one it might actually be worse here. His "What just happened" when Buffy leaves to sit with Owen is bad, his glaring at Owen at the lockers is worse. And when I thought it couldn't go any further we have the bedroom scene where Buffy is asking for clothing advice. He tries to force a parka on her to cover her up, and when asked for a lipstick choice he yells at her for being easy. I know it's a different time and all but this is way too far even for 1997.

In other 1997ness - "If the apocalypse comes, beep me." The line was on the verge of being date at the time which is understandable, but they put that line on posters!
posted by yellowbinder at 8:49 AM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh, and more "things are not what they seem" stuff with the vampire raving about doom and gloom and pork and beans not being the Annointed One. Instead a child is annointed. I don't think the character ends up really working, the only bits I like are the two line scene with Buffy in Prophecy Girl and his eventual demise. Cool idea in theory though.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:29 AM on January 29, 2015

Agreed that the "child Anointed" was a cool idea that they never did much with (I mean, c'mon, an evil 8-year-old could cause all sorts of chaos aboveground and no-one would even look at him twice), and it feels like he was pretty blithely killed off once the much cooler Spike shows up.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:51 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I seem to recall reading that the actor was growing up too quick -- as a vampire, he needed to be unchanging (not sure how to handle this, even Angel looks noticeably different between season 1 of Buffy and season 1 of Angel). So they had to move the actor on, and someone seized the opportunity to show how badass Spike was.
posted by Mogur at 11:19 AM on January 29, 2015

Also I think they really didn't know what to do with the Anotined one, past that one moment in Prophecy Girl.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:17 PM on January 29, 2015

I think the point of Owen, for Buffy anyway, is that he's pretty (to her). She's actually being a lot like Xander in some ways, attracted to someone purely based on how they look and only pretending to like the same things so that she can get closer to him. It's a teenage thing, I know.

Partly this is because Buffy doesn't know how to be a "normal" girl so she's just trying to reproduce the surface of what she sees other "normal" girls around her - good-looking boyfriend, going out, dancing, etc. She wants the normal life. Interestingly, at the episode's end it's not so much that she's reconciled herself to not being normal, but at least she's had the insight that she doesn't want someone who fetishises her lack of normality. So that's something. She still has a lot of insights left to have though.

I watched my DVD episodes in the wrong order (they're not numbered, just named) so watched ep 7, Angel, as well last night. It made a very interesting contrast to Owen. Say what you like about it, and it's pretty cheesy indeed - especially the music - but the URST really shimmers between Buffy and Angel in a way it never does with Owen. Anyone know if SMG and Boreanaz had a thing?

Other minor asides on this episode:
- SMG is sooooo short! Either that or the guy playing Owen is super tall!
- Owen looks a lot like Riley (S4), only not quite so butch.
- Holy hell the Master's face looks like a naked mole rat. So gross! Combined with his reedy voice he's one of the least satisfying villains for me; disgusting and repellent but not much of a personality.
- "Salty goodness" - does Cordelia want to give Angel a BJ or suck his blood? Plot twist that never happened: Cordelia is actually a super-vampire even older than the Master and totally smacks him round for trespassing on her territory, makes Angel into her vampire slave and does it all without letting Buffy know because she thinks it's more fun to completely fool the Slayer into thinking she's just a normal bitchy teenage girl.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:36 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Also I think they really didn't know what to do with the Anotined one, past that one moment in Prophecy Girl.

I don't think he really had a role- he basically existed to catalyse the Master's release, and once the Master was free of his sunken church the Anointed One's job was basically done. The Order of Aurelius latches onto him once the Master's gone, but they're pretty clearly at loose ends even before Spike shows up.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2015

After watching this one again, I'm not sure what the writers* intended us to think about Owen. Is he supposed to be wryly clever? Is he supposed to be affably dumb? Is he just kind of an uncharismatic pseud with latent Fight Club tendencies? I'm legitimately confused about what Buffy even sees there. He's reasonably attractive-looking, but this is a WB show, so everyone kind of is. At least he's a one-ep wonder and not a season-length dragalong love interest like on some shows I could name.

I wish we'd gotten to spend a bit more time with Borba the psycho, as well as with the other people on the bus, because the twist in this episode never had quite enough juice for me. I wanted to see them really sell us on how insanely evil this guy was before pulling the rug out from under us with the Anointed reveal. The first time I watched this, I totally forgot about seeing the kid on the bus, so maybe it would have been cool to throw in a scene near the beginning with just the kid and his mom to establish them a bit better.

In any case, it's the first episode to deal with the Master's plot since the pilot, so I suppose I can forgive some of the early A-plot/B-plot balance issues happening at this point in the series. In some respects, this was an early stab at shaking the freak-of-the-week plot structure in favor of more serialized storytelling, which the show undoubtedly got a lot better at doing as time went on.

* Rob Des Hotel & Dean Batali, who will go on to do S01's "The Puppet Show", as well as the Oz-centric "Phases" in S02.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:58 PM on January 29, 2015

I suspect the anointed one actor just wasn't very good.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:13 PM on January 29, 2015

My friend once made me an "If the apocalypse comes, beep me" shirt with stick-on foam letters, because we were just that cool.

The Annoying One could have been used in a more compelling way, really dealing with the contrast between appearance and reality, but I was mostly okay with his main contribution being a "Spike is a much more interesting than you" scene.

I feel like Owen's attraction, honestly, was that he WAS so bland and normal, so it never bothered me that he was...bland and normal. It worked for me because they were so obviously looking for the opposite life in each other- she wanted a normal, soulful (heh) teen poet kind of guy, and he was interested in mystery and danger. He really was kind of the proto-Riley.
posted by ilana at 1:26 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also got the sense that the actor playing Owen wasn't entirely clued in on the tone of the show's dialogue. He'd deliver something written as playful snark as though it was straightforward dialogue, and vice versa. Sometimes this made him seem mystifyingly dense, and other times (like when he told Buffy to meet him when the "big hand is here, and the little hand is here") it made him seem like kind of an asshole. I do think that actors coming in later in the series definitely had a leg up over the early one-shotters, since there wasn't yet an established previous-episode corpus of How These Here Sunnydale Kids Talk and Stuff.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:27 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I dunno, I like how the Anointed One stuff fizzles out. The buffyverse is filled with prophecies and random crap; to have one get so unceremoniously kicked to the curb even as it's still taking itself too seriously worked very well for me.

I am also comfortable with Xander being awful. To go all Sondheim, nice is different than good. I think Xander spends a lot of time in the course of the series being a cautionary tale and making bad choices and sometimes flat out being bad while not necessarily ever having evil intentions. He, Willow, and Buffy all at times in the course of their high school period do shitty things and betray each other.
posted by phearlez at 11:24 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

The religious themes are interesting - vampire singing "shall we gather at the river" ... but he was a religious nut before he was turned, so that kind of makes sense.

The Master's churchy readings, though ... can't help noticing, not sure what to make of it.
posted by bunderful at 2:23 PM on January 1, 2016

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