FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Homecoming
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angel has returned to Sunnydale from a hell dimension. Buffy knows, but is keeping it a secret from the gang. She also happens to be dating Scott now.
First of all, apologies for the gap in posts, folks! You know how it is, all you want to be doing is watching Buffy all day, but then life happens and you have to deal with that. However, we are back and we are raring to go with Homecoming, which is a doozy of an episode to come back to.
The Homecoming Dance is impending at Sunnydale High and so too is the competition to be crowned Homecoming Queen. After a typically self-centred moment from Cordelia, Buffy decides to run against her to prove that not only can she slay, she can also wear the hell out of a fake plastic crown. Not only is the decision influenced by Cordelia being mean, it also comes as a result of Buffy feeling invisible at school having been dumped by Scott and missing the yearbook photo call. Elsewhere, Mr Trick decides to take out Buffy and Faith, but in characteristically suave fashion, constructs Slayerfest '98 (98?!) in which he offers a reward for assorted hit gentleman/ladies/spiny-headed creatures to track down and kill them.
The episode is notable for a few things, not least the enmity between Buffy and Cordelia or the kiss between Xander and Willow. Before we get to those particular explosions, there's another huge moment at the beginning of this episode in which we meet the Mayor for the first time. We learn a fair bit in a brief exchange with his aide Alan like his abhorrence of germs and, perhaps more importantly, how knowledgable he is about the darker side of Sunnydale. It teams him up with Mr Trick by the end of the episode, a partnership which will prove influential over the course of a few episodes. He's drawn to Trick by his Smokin' Aces style hit on Buffy and Faith (customary plug for Smokin' Aces here: it's a great film).
However, due to the assassins not having seen Faith, they hijack the limo that Cordelia and Buffy have been put in to sort out their differences and don't really care that a slayer is missing. And naturally everything goes awry. The Slayerfest concept leads to some great set-pieces and some particular inventive use of a spatula from Cordelia. The various differences in the fighting styles of the Slayerfest competitors allows for some variety across the episode itself. Buffy taking down the dagger throwing yellow demon is fun, but it's the way in which she dispatches the Germans that is the most memorable. And just through the cunning use of wet toilet paper.
In turn, the already explosive combination of Cordelia and Buffy at loggerheads adds some genuine tension to the proceedings. Everything about their interactions with each just screams hatred, even down to the clashing colour of their dresses. Yet it does allow them to work out their differences across the course of the episode as they take down the demons, accept their respective differences and then lose the Homecoming crown together (a typically great Buffy undercut right at the close of the episode).
All the props to Charisma Carpenter in this episode who manages to make Cordelia truly detestable and sympathetic at the same time. She goes from dead weight to monologuing a vampire into running away over the course of the episode, an evolution that feels organic (not to mention forecasting her future development). It's something of a theme for her role in Buffy before moving on to Angel, but she does it very well and is the perfect foil for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Gellar often gets a lot of flak for her portrayal of Buffy, as does the character of Buffy herself, but in Homecoming, she captures that desperate sense of isolation perfectly; her pleading with Scott in particular strikes an emotional chord.
There's also lots of great little moments of humour in this episode like Giles and the finger sandwiches at the Homecoming Dance, not to mention his mannerisms looking wonderfully out of place at the Bronze. And then there's the dad jokes. Oh the dad jokes. Xander and Willow kiss for the first time, which should feel cathartic considering Willow's previously unrequited crush, but actually makes me a little sad. The best little moment, though, belongs to Faith as she approaches Scott, now dancing with another blonde, and tells him the itching, swelling and burning will go down in a few days as the blonde becomes decidedly unimpressed.
It's not one of the all time great episodes, but Homecoming does allow for two sparring partners to engage in adversarial combat for the entire runtime. Cordelia and Buffy rarely get moments like these alone anymore and it's always fun to see them snipe.
Next week is Band Candy. BAND CANDY. I shall try and contain myself until then. Promise.
Quote of the Week:
Xander: Okay, let's not say something we'll regret later, okay?
Cordelia: You crazy freak!
Buffy: Vapid whore!
Inventive Kill: Buffy disposes of Candy Gorch with a spatula, provided by Cordelia.
Sunnydale Who's Who: Lyle Gorch, husband of Candy, was last seen in Season 2's episode, Bad Eggs.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode Beauty and the Beasts here.