Buffy the Vampire Slayer – School Hard
This is my fourth time watching this episode in about as many months, and I still enjoyed it immensely. I used this episode to introduce my sister to the show, and still think it’s a great first episode for those people you know won’t watch the whole series. Spoilers abound below!
Up until this episode, the evil vampires have been rather boring, comprised of ritualistic leaders and dumb lackeys (with the possible exception of Darla in the last of her 3 episodes). Angel has been his angsty self. And then along comes Spike, punching vampires, making jokes, and giving Drusilla his jacket. With a fun British accent to boot.
Spike: I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. I fed off a flowerperson, and I spent the next six hours watchin’ my hand move.
Angel may be the one who turned vampires into romantic heroes, but Spike made vampires cool.
I think it’s amazing how many of Spike’s numerous and conflicting facets make it into his first episode. His violence. His impatience. His signature attire. His romantic side. His arrogance toward authority. His underlying need to be part of a group (seen mainly in his conversation with Angel – he wants them to be “family” again). His tendency to get knocked to the floor by attacks he doesn’t see coming. His sense of humor. His love of rock music. His charisma.
While most villains tend to have motive and a personality quirk or two, Spike starts out as a fully fledged character who just happens to be a bad guy. It’s no wonder they decided to keep him on the show.
It’s fun looking at Spike and Buffy’s interactions in this episode, knowing what the following seasons will bring. His first words to her are, “Nice work, love.” And right before they fight, Buffy tells him. “No, Spike. It’s gonna hurt a lot.” That makes me think of the episode in season 7 where Spike tells Buffy, “Meaning I have come to redefine the words pain and suffering since I fell in love with you.” Hey, at least she warned him.
Even as an evil vampire, Spike has his good points. He cares for Drusilla. He respects Buffy as a fighter, and even honorably drops his weapon first. He does lure Sheila in and give her to Drusilla to kill, but he also sets up one of the vampires for Buffy to kill. He snaps a teacher’s neck, but also gets rid of Collin. Yes, he had selfish reasons for both, but the demise of the Annoying One should be celebrated by Scoobies and viewers alike.
In addition to Spike (portrayed awesomely by James Marsters), we get Drusilla (Juliet Landau) as another unorthodox vampire. She’s weak, gets visions, and is completely insane.
The main part of the episode is great, too. I didn’t get that the title was in reference to Die Hard until I read it in a review. But Buffy doesn’t spend all that much time crawling in the ceiling and taking out bad guys unexpectedly. The episode focuses on her trying not to disappoint her mother on parent/teacher night and trying to balance school, friendships, a budding relationship, and vampire slaying.
Xander: As long as nothing really bad happens between now and then, you’ll be fine.
Buffy: Are you crazy? What did you say that for? Now something bad is gonna happen!
Xander: Whadaya mean? Nothing’s gonna happen.
Willow: Not until some dummy says, ‘as long as nothing bad happens.’
Buffy: It’s the ultimate jinx!
Willow: What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking at all?
Giles: This Saturday’s going to need a great deal of preparation.
Willow: Well, we’ll help.
Xander: Yeah, I’ll whittle stakes.
Willow: A-and I can research stuff.
Xander: And while I’m whittling, I plan to whistle a jaunty tune.
It’s interesting that Cordelia joins them in the library, helping carve stakes – the first time she’s helping when she hasn’t been thrust into the situation by some outside force. Of course, the gang saved her life in both of the previous two episodes, so she kind of owes them. And in this episode, Willow saves her yet again. I love her “in danger” prayer, though:
Cordelia: And if you get me out of this, I swear I’ll never be mean to anyone ever again. Unless they really deserve it. Or if it’s that time of the month, in which case I don’t think you or anyone else can hold me responsible…
Snyder’s conversation with the police chief hints that there’s more going on here than meets the eye – something that won’t play out until the end of season three.
There are also a bunch of fun little moments throughout the episode. Spike asking if the Slayer is tough – and cut to Buffy saying “ow” while brushing her hair. Xander going through Buffy’s purse looking for a stake. Buffy catching Xander and Cordelia about to swipe veggies. The sugarless lemonade punch.
Willow: We can’t run, that would be wrong. Could we hide?
What’s your favorite part of this episode?