FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Living Conditions
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The gang have now entered the college years, or at least, Oz, Buffy and Willow have. Xander is back living with his parents and Giles is enjoying unemployment. Buffy is still having trouble fitting in after her disastrous first couple of days but has a nice new roommate to get to know.
Buffy is finding difficult to adjust to life with her new roommate, Kathy. Not only does she have to find excuses for her late night patrol excursions, she has to put up with excessive Cher, accusatory milk suggestions and telephone bill systems. She also begins to have weird nightmares about a demon pouring blood down her throat and sucking her soul and, given that she's a Slayer, this doesn't really set alarm bells ringing. What does is her increasingly psychotic behaviour towards and about Kathy, lending the Scoobies to think that she might be possessed. But she might not be as wrong about Kathy as everyone thinks. There's also a new love interest on the horizon.
We'll tackle the evil Parker Abrams in the next episode, but hey, here he is. Yeurch. The douchey warning signs are already there, but Buffy's loneliness makes her an easy target for campus arses.
Roommates/Housemates. Can't live with 'em, can't hope that they're actually a demon sucking your soul so you can get rid of them. Living with people you don't know very well is hard. Trying to ignore each other's bad habits, remain calm and make the most of the situation is enough to drive anyone mad. Passive-aggressive wars of attrition are going on right now up and down the land with that housemate of yours who just won't play nice. Post-its become weapons, whiteboards the kind of thing that could change the direction of the battle forever. Of course, not all of us have Buffy's excuse, but that doesn't make her experiences in Living Conditions any less recognisable.
It's one of the metaphors in the fourth season that actually works well, the banality of the kind of things that annoy people mixed with the evil of demon possession. Dagney Kerr's performance as the permanently upbeat Kathy is pitched at just the right level of perky annoying, allowing us into Buffy's state of exasperation and Marti Noxon's script gives Kerr some great, Ned Flanders-esque expressions. Sarah Michelle Gellar's increasing psychosis around the whole deal is also played perfectly, allowing her to fire off one liners with maniacal aplomb. Their clashes, accompanied by some nifty visual and audio editing and a suitably dramatic score, are the highlights of the episode.
The episode is undercut nicely with the ultimate reveal of Kathy's back story as a transdimensional demon who wasn't actually given permission to go to college but went anyway. The little temper tantrum she has with the demon that comes to get her is a brilliant little scene. I also love that she is without a soul, because so often when living with an absolute terror of a person, that's how it feels. It is a sad one and one which Buffy should be able to identify with, given her own quest for a normal life, but of course she gets Willow as a roommate instead. I love the little sting of Buffy's eyes narrowing.
Living Conditions suffers slightly from repeating the neuroses from the previous episode (Buffy really doesn't like people touching her things) and the 'Buffy can't get used to college' thing threatens to get tired quickly. It also marks a consecutive episode in which Buffy's assertions about the threat she's facing isn't believed. Thankfully, the sparky and insightful dialogue hides those differences well enough to produce a fun instalment.
Quote of the Week (Marti Noxon scripts are the hardest for this kind of thing):
Buffy: So then Kathy's like, 'It's share time.' And I'm like, 'Oh yeah? Share this! [throws a few air punches]
Oz: So either you hit her or you did your wacky mime routine for her...
Buffy: Well, I didn't do either actually, but she deserved it, don't you think?
Oz: Nobody deserves mime, Buffy.
Let's Get Trivial: The sixth episode so far to not feature vampires in any form. It does have evil toenail clippings though.
Demonology 101: Although we don't know she's a werewolf yet, we meet Veruca. We don't like Veruca. Everyone narrow their eyes at her.
You can read Becky's look at The Freshman here.