3.6 Band Candy
Before we get into the discussion on this week's eps, I just wanted to include a gentle reminder that this forum is the safe one, where many of the first-time viewers are reading, and therefore no spoilers are allowed in the blog post itself or in the comments. That spoiler-free zone extends to both Angel and the Season 8 comics, so please no discussion of either of those either. If you'd like to talk about this week's episodes within the context of future episodes, please read through this one and then go to the post below this one, where you can speak freely about Buffy and Angel. Thank you!
This week’s episodes are all about returning home and facing reality, and realizing the importance of maturity. In various ways Buffy and her friends grow up – Angel and Buffy’s high school romance suddenly turns serious when he returns from hell after what could be thousands of years of torment. And she can’t tell her friends that he’s back. In Homecoming Buffy and Cordy fight for a high school rite of passage for some girls – the throne of the homecoming queen – and along the way figure out that friendship is more important than rivalry… even if that rivalry gave them the fight they needed. And in the hilarious Band Candy (I LOVE this episode) when the adults of Sunnydale suddenly become immature teens, Buffy discovers that maturity is what keeps the world from imploding. At the same time, both Giles and Joyce remember that they were actually given a chance to be teenagers, something they’re not letting Buffy do. Snyder, who reverts to all-out nerddom, learns NOTHING.
Meanwhile, Xander has discovered feelings for Willow, and Willow has reawakened her Xander crush. They find out that just because you’re happily in love doesn’t mean complications can’t happen. I love seeing Willow and Xander together, and yet every scene is coloured by knowing how much Oz loves her, and how much she loves him. Cordelia admits to Buffy that she’s fallen in love with Xander, and despite her bitchiness, we don’t really want to see her get hurt, either.
The MAYOR is finally here! He was mentioned a couple of times in season 2, setting him up to appear in season 3. I love the way Harry Groener plays him (I remember doing an autograph session with him and James Leary, who will play a later character on the show, and the two of them were beside me as they flipped through my book, cracking jokes about the photos of other people: “Look! David Boreanaz looks like he’s in a boy band!” “When does he NOT look like he’s in a boy band?!” It was an amazing afternoon.)
• The counsellor guessing things about Angel: “Let me guess… he changed. He got mean.”
• Willow pulling Oz’s tail.
• Buffy to Cordy: “You’ve awakened the prom queen within.”
• This scene:
Trick: We all have the desire to win. (walks through the room) Whether we're human... vampire... and whatever the hell you are, my brother. You got them spiny-looking head things. I ain't never seen that before.
Kulak: I am Kulak, of the Miquot Clan.
Trick: Isn't that nice.
• Oz: “As Willow goes, so goes my nation.”
• Giles at the dance: “We have to find Buffy! Something terrible has happened!! Just kidding… I thought I’d give you a scare.”
• Faith’s prank on Scott while he’s dancing with another girl (this was the first time I really liked her the first time through).
• The Mayor!! “Well THAT’S an exciting suit!”
• Buffy driving the car, hahaha!!
• Snyder: “Oh Summers! You drive like a SPAZ!”
• Giles’s air punch of happiness when Buffy slugs Ethan. LOL!!!!
• Willow: “Kiss rocks? Why would anyone want to kiss…”
Did You Notice?
• Several people have pointed this out in the comments, and I forgot to mention it last week, but yes, in season 3 Nerf Herder re-recorded the theme song to make it heavier and louder, so it’s not just your imagination that it’s slightly different.
• Willow’s Scooby-Doo lunch box!
• I find it interesting that Giles comes into the library, finds Buffy asleep, and doesn’t wig, right after he freaked out on Xander for doing the same thing.
• Every metaphor this show uses for alcoholism always seems to fall flat. The “but he’s so nice when he’s sober” parallel they make with Debbie and Pete is a bit over the top.
• Why is a teacher smoking in the school?
• Gorch. Why are you back when we hated you the first time around?
• The lead singer of Dingoes is the WORST lip syncher ever.
• Anthony Stewart Head’s accent in Band Candy is much closer to his real one, which has a Cockney sound to it. To play Giles he puts on a far more formal accent. He’s also put his earring back in (they usually put makeup over the hole to try to cover it up).
• Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double was SO obvious in every scene.
Most importantly, Buffy says, “Let’s do the time warp again,” an inside joke about how Anthony Stewart Head once played Frank N. Furter in a West End production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And now, for the first-time viewers who didn’t know that, I’m about to make your eyes bleed:
And if that didn’t do the trick, then how about watching him dressed in drag in this VH-1 Rocky Horror special, complete with ripped fishnets.
Will someone else please reassure me that I’m not the only person who finds this get-up strangely alluring?? Please?
Now that your brain has exploded (either with glee or horror… it really could go either way), we have another wonderful entry from Steve Halfyard this week on the music. For this week’s slice of cheese (which she titled ‘gorgonzola’ when she emailed it to me) she’s even added a visual aid to help you understand her analysis:
“Beauty and the Beasts” gives us a brand new love theme for Buffy and Angel. Except that it’s not entirely new: I call this one “This is what is left.” At the end of “Faith Hope and Trick” we get the full love theme as Buffy tells Giles and the gang what really happened the night she killed Angel. It’s a symbolic moment: Buffy lets go of Angel, accepts that he has gone. And at the start of “Beauty,” before she knows he has come back, she talks to her counsellor about what happened, and this is where we get the new theme, as she talks about him as something in her past. What we hear is a four-note motif, two pairs of notes, one a little sad step down, the second a little yearning step up. But once she knows Angel has returned, this new theme mostly replaces the old love theme in terms of representing Buffy’s feelings for Angel. We hear it again in the mansion, when she chains Angel to the wall; in the library as she researches to try to understand what’s happen to him; when Giles talks about what he would be like if he came back; and then a big statement of it when she returns to the mansion and looks at what has become of her lover. Right at the end of the episode, we do hear the love theme again as Angel finally says “Buffy”; but the episode ends with the new theme as she watches him sleeping and we hear her narrating the “Call of the Wild” passage in voiceover.
The new theme represents the idea that they cannot go back to their original relationship; instead it is about what they have: this is what is left now that they know that they can never truly be together. But musically, it also uses that idea of ‘this is what is left’ in terms of its relationship to the love theme. OK, slightly tricky musical bit: the first two phrases of the love theme start exactly the same way: the first four notes are the same – then in phrase 1, the fifth note goes down, and in phrase two, the fifth note goes up. The most instantly evocative bit of the love theme is the first three notes: if you remove those from the first two phrases, then what is left are those two pairs of notes, the sad step down, the yearning step up.
The new theme is absolutely literally what is left when you strip out the most identifiable part of the love theme. It’s much simpler than the old theme, much less lyrical, the intervals are smaller, the phrases are shorter: the emotions are more contained, more restrained, the pain and the loss that were written so large with the original theme are suppressed, accepted, not dramatised. I love this theme, I love the way it’s been extracted from the old theme and the way it articulates such a degree of carefully controlled and suppressed heartbreak. It stays in the score for most of the rest of the season, working along side the love theme to give us the two perspectives of (on one hand) that is what was, what could have been, what we would like to have; and (on the other) this is what we’ve got, what is left. It is one of the most fabulous musical metaphors imaginable. (I love Christophe Beck!).
Thank you, Steve! And now I’d like to introduce a colleague of mine (I get to see her lovely face at the office all the time), Jennifer Knoch. Jen has been an associate editor at ECW Press for about two and a half years now, and in that time we’ve discovered we have very similar tastes in books. Which makes me feel good, because Jen is a book maven. She runs the very popular book blog, the Keepin’ It Real Book Club, and about a month ago she was one of the country’s leading commentators on Canada Reads. But wait, she’s not all about books – not everyone knows this, but she secretly authored a book about Taylor Swift under a pseudonym, Liv Spencer (one we use at ECW when staff members write books). So hey, she’s still a teenager at heart.
And that brings us to the essay she’s written for us this week. Take it away, Jen!
“Man is not truly one, but truly two.” — The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
“Teenagers, that’s a sobering mirror to look into, huh?” — Oz, “Band Candy”
INT. NIGHT: A blonde, fifteen-year-old girl is huddled on the couch. Blue light flickers on her face, is reflected in her wide eyes. She’s alert, muscles tensed, glancing around nervously. A terrible howl fills the room and her heart races, for she’s in living in peril . . . of her parents catching her watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
That’s the scene of my early Buffy years, when my parents were worried that the show would forever traumatize my five-year-old sister, and watching it was firmly discouraged (somewhat more vehemently if there was a hockey game on TV at the same time). But despite parental disapproval, I persevered. It was a romance as intoxicating and forbidden as Buffy and Angel’s. The Scooby Gang was one year older than me, which was pretty perfect — it put the possibility of that kind of coolness just over the horizon. Something to aspire to.
It’s been over a decade since then, my high school sucked into a mental Hellmouth, but with this rewatch, I have an interesting opportunity to return to Buffy and also to my high school self. That return is something one I often make inadvertently, actually. You see, I have a theory (that it’s a demon . . . just kidding) that when you go home to stay with your parents you subconsciously transform into your teen self. It’s as inevitable an unavoidable as Oz’s full moon change. You may be a patient, good-natured, self-sufficient, mature human being out in the regular world, but as soon as you cross the threshold into your childhood home, that all changes. You’re short-tempered. You’re petulant. You stop contributing. You can’t wait to just . . . get . . . out. Something about returning to a familiar place brings to light another self that may have been long buried, creating a personal polarization, what’s at once a doubling and a fracturing of self.
In “Beauty and the Beasts,” we have Pete, Oz, and Angel, all transform into savage beasts, and while the episode puts the emphasis on parallels with Jack London’s Call of the Wild, I think the more interesting allusion is actually to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The first time I watched this episode I was probably only familiar with the Bugs Bunny adaptation, which is too bad, because a familiarity with the original Stevenson really enriches the episode, and, really, the series as a whole. Obvious parallels like Pete’s potion drinking and increasingly frequent and uncontrollable transformations aside, the meatier connection is the inner struggle between our conscience and our inclination to evil, between freedom and responsibility. In his final confession, Dr. Jekyll writes, “Of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.” Remind you of anyone? Pete, yes, but more importantly, the tortured Angel/Angelus. Stevenson’s book speculates that evil given free reign will eventually take over, making Angel’s situation that much more fragile and foreboding (something that Joss & Co. will exploit later in the season). And yet Angel, like Oz, is fighting against these urges, and we must take into account the scene post-climax: Angel, on his knees in front of Buffy like a penitent, separating himself from his bestial side the clearest way possible, uttering his first word since his return from the hell dimension: a quivering “Buffy?” And so while this episode’s main purpose is to emphasize the bestial nature in humans, it also introduces the possibility of keeping your inner beast on a leash.
In “Band Candy,” my Return to Teendom theory has its time to shine when the adults return to their teen selves by virtue of enchanted chocolate (a much more delicious and convenient alternative to the long GO train ride to the suburbs), creating a “Land of the Irresponsible.” It’s great comedic material, if slightly distressing — seeing Giles re-tweeded at the end is a bit of a relief. As adult viewers, especially viewers who watched Buffy as a teen, the episode showcases a part of ourselves we might not want to acknowledge. In a moment of maturity, Buffy can see things for what they are. Looking at the grown men singing onstage at the Bronze, Buffy notes, “They’re acting like a bunch of us.” Willow’s not convinced (or perhaps is unwilling to be) and replies, “We don’t act like this.”
And it’s kind of true. Because while the adults’ immaturity reaffirms their regular maturity, it also casts the Scooby Gang in a much more mature light. While Buffy does do some childish things this episode (not taking the SATs seriously, that horrible driving that made adult me brace for impact), she steps up when she needs to, plays the adult and restores order . . . but wait, that’s what she does all the time. The Scoobies may sometimes be vulnerable and irresponsible, but it’s usually on the emotional side (as we see with Willow and Xander’s flirtation, and with Buffy keeping Angel’s return a secret), and they’re often to forced to act like adults just to survive. Living on the Hellmouth means you don’t have the benefit of the irresponsible teen years that Joyce and Snyder had. At the beginning of the episode, Buffy laments, “I don’t need this much active parenting,” and it’s true. Buffy’s already a sort of parent, a protector to all of Sunnydale, dealing with hell beasts that rival teenagers for morning snarliness every day.
So these two very different episodes end up having a very similar theme: inner battles between our own Jekyll and Hydes. It seems what it comes down to is responsibility, a willingness to keep fighting: something that Buffy knows far too much about. Mr. Platt, the guidance counselor tells Buffy, “Demons can be fought.” (Though this is something he fails at in the literal sense in episode 4.) That doubleness is always there: between human and beast, maturity and recklessness — you just can’t let one side take over. Because when you get tired of the fight, as Dr. Jekyll does, everything goes to . . . Hyde.
Maybe getting back in touch with my teen self for this rewatch is just good training for the next trip home. Then maybe I’ll take some responsibility: I’ll take a deep breath, shelve my irritation, and offer to wash the dishes. I’ll try to be a mature teen. It looks like even now that I’m an adult, Buffy is still someone to aspire to.
Thank you, Jen!
Next week: One of my favourite trios of Buffy eps:
3.8 Lover’s Walk
3.9 The Wish
Guest-hosted by Stacey Abbott and Suzie Gardner