FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Band Candy
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: An old friend of Giles, Ethan Rayne, had previously used Sunnydale as his own chaotic playing ground, scarpering after a demon came after them. Mr Trick is now working with Mayor Wilkins on the Slayer problem after Slayerfest '98 and Buffy is still dealing with the consequences of running away.
There are some episodes of Buffy I can watch over and over again and never get bored with. Band Candy is one such episode. It's just a whirligig of fun from start to finish, one that picks up the magic as metaphor theme and runs the finest sprint you will ever see with it. The third season has a few such episodes, along with season four (yep, I'm a season four defender, sorry guys) and Band Candy shifts the focus on to the responsible adults being anything but, whilst the younger Sunnydale population are forced to deal with the consequences. Plus, there's a fairly gratuitous Angel topless shot. And he's sweaty. You're welcome Angel fans.
The gang are forced to sell candy on behalf of the Sunnydale Marching Band who are in need of new uniforms. Reluctantly, Buffy touts chocolate to Joyce and Giles whilst also playing them off against each other in order to have a bit of time with Angel. They soon discover her ruse and decide to meet to discuss a way in which Buffy can be supervised. However, that's no ordinary candy. The addictive bars start regressing those consuming them until the adults being acting like their teenage selves. As it's Ethan's plan, naturally chaos ensues as it's really just a cover so the Mayor can offer a load of babies as tribute to an underground demon snake thing called Lurconis.
The central concept of this episode already means that the potential for success is considerably high, but what is brilliant about Band Candy is how much fun everyone, from writers to actors, have fun with it. It's a classic 'be careful what you wish for' situation as Buffy, in the middle of revising for her SATs, begs to be given more responsibility from the authority figures in her life. It also provides endless comedy moments for the older actors in the Buffy troupe, particularly Kristine Sutherland and Anthony Head who look like they're having an absolute blast, both of them allowed to stop being the authority figures for a while.
Although much of Giles' past has been hinted at before, it's our first chance to get to see what Ripper was really like and it doesn't disappoint. The RP accent disappears, he opts for a grungy jeans and t-shirt combo, starts smoking and threatens policemen. His animosity towards Ethan is a particular highlight as well as any scene he shares with Joyce. They play well off each other, making the most of their simmering chemistry that has gone on through much of the series so far. Kristine Sutherland is great as a younger version of Joyce who in turn feels like a dorkier version of Buffy; they share some of the same vocal patterns and humour. It's a keen observation from Sutherland, just one of many smaller aspects that make up to a more satisfying whole.
The masterstroke of the episode is how deftly it shades in the backgrounds of each of the older characters without resorting to any exposition-based monologues, as well as building the older versions themselves. Snyder is easier to understand as the commandant of Sunnydale High when you realise he was a completely insecure dweeb with little to no social skills, now relishing the opportunity that authority affords him. Joyce's insecurities as a parent are founded in her insecurities as a teenager, desperate for Ripper's approval and hiding her true likes and dislikes to be more impressive.
Jane Espenson is on first-time writing duty and the script characteristically sparkles. In fact, picking a quote of the week proved to be very difficult because it's witty from start to finish and references abound (including a great Death of a Salesman nod, which will appear later in Restless). There's always a better atmosphere when the show's dialogue is at its tip-top best and whilst it might not be as quotable as others we could mention, it's consistently hilarious.
Certainly one of the best standalone Buffy episodes, particularly of the third season, Band Candy is one that has never diminished in my eyes. It's damn near perfect.
Quote of the Week:
Cordelia: At first it was fun, you know? They seemed like they were in this really good mood--not like parents--and then...
Cordelia: Mom started borrowing my clothes. There should be an age limit on lycra pants. And Dad, he just locked himself in the bathroom with old copies of Esquire.
Inventive Kill: Buffy fashions a makeshift blowtorch and sets fire to dodgy-effects Lurconis.
Let's Get Trivial: This episode is referred back to multiple times; Giles and Joyce now avoid each other for a few episodes, Buffy discovers they actually did have sex in Earshot and Giles plays the Cream song, Tales of Brave Ulysses, after Joyce's funeral in Forever. Sob.
You can catch Becky's look at Homecoming here.