Buffy re-watch: Never Kill A Boy On The First Date and learning to love kale

In this post – containing spoilers – I continue my Buffy re-watch. And between my thoughts on Season 1, Episode 5, go off on a tangent about kale and Soylent Green.

In this episode Buffy dates romantic Owen and we see the emergence of the Anointed One. I don’t get it when people say, “you have to get through Season 1 before Buffy gets good”. Even just the first minute of this episode is fab TV and sets the tone and style for many more happy hours of Buffy viewing to come. As for example, the funny moment when Giles pops his head up over a gravestone and provides a biting critique of Buffy’s slaying technique.

Buffy: I’m Buffy and you’re … history. Giles: Poor technique…

Giles spots an interesting ring within the vampire’s dust, and not for the last time pronounces that he must consult his books. Cut to the Master also consulting his books and reading out a prophecy about the coming of the Annoying One – sorry I mean the Anointed One.

Back in the library Buffy and Giles study the ring found the night before and recognise the symbol of the Order of Aurelius. They are interrupted by the entrance of Owen, a student who has lost his Emily Dickinson book. Giles is astonished by a student coming into the library, while Buffy is in awe of sensitive bookish Owen.

The mystery that is Kale – in which I go off on a complete tangent about the wholesome green stuff

In the cafeteria Xander wonders what the green stuff being served is. He hazards a guess that it’s kale. It’s funny, I don’t remember this conversation from first and subsequently viewing this episode (probably about 8 times).

So I just realised that – please don’t mock – I have only recently become aware of what kale is; a mysterious green leafy vegetable that has only become popular in recent years here in the UK. So I was surprised to hear it mentioned in this episode of Buffy from the late 90’s. As recently as 2013  – ok, that’s not that recent – one of my favourite bloggers, Jack Monroe suggested a healthy and low budget kale pesto. I’ve since tried this recipe and it’s actually very nice and very cheap. An outraged tabloid columnist attacked Jack at the time, claiming that working class people in Britain didn’t know what kale was. I won’t link to their nasty paper and column, but will link to Jack’s on point response.

When Buffy and Cordelia flirt with Owen, and Buffy drops her tray, Owen jokes, “At least you don’t have to eat your soylent green”. Again, I am surprised, this reference passed me by before. Owen is referencing the dystopian sci-fi film Soylent Green and comparing the Kale to the food of the title, which is horrifically made from recycled people. Maybe I picked up on this more now because I am currently re-reading Cloud Atlas, a brilliant sci-fi novel by David Mitchell, in which one of the characters also references Soylent Green.

Going off on a tangent…

But I digress, lets get back to the plot and themes of this episode. While the Master continues to strive towards his release from his underground prison, Buffy attempts to balance her slayer duties with other teen concerns, specifically dating. She is attracted to Owen who is broody, wears a lot of black and who reciprocates her interest in him, (hang on does this sound like someone else we know?)

Giles warns Buffy of the risks of getting involved with someone and revealing her role as the slayer.

Giles ponders the prophecy of the Order of Aurelius that “five shall die and from their ashes the anointed shall arise”. On a small bus carrying a driver and four passengers, one of the passengers rants about judgement day when the bus is forced to a stop by vampires on the road.

Buffy’s slayer duties mean that she arrives late for her date with Owen to see him dancing with Cordelia.  The next day she complains bitterly to Xander about being a hideous dateless monster. Xander attempts to cheer Buffy, she could have any boy in the school, even if they lack a certain “Owenosity”. Fortunately Owen follows up with Buffy, and reassures her that he only danced with Cordelia for a short time. They reschedule their date for the same night. Not great timing again; Giles turns up at Buffy’s as Owen is calling to pick up Buffy.

Giles plans to visit the funeral home after reading about the five dead from last nights bus crash. Buffy convinces him it is a slim lead and that as it is the 1990s, she should be able to both have a social life and slay. Later Owen says that Buffy is like two different people. She is as ever torn between two worlds, slaying and normal life.

Giles goes to the funeral home alone and is immediately surrounded by vampires. Willow and Xander realise that Giles is in danger and go to help.

In this episode Cordelia competes with Buffy, vying for Owen’s attention. She sees them at the Bronze and complains that Buffy is throwing herself at Owen. Just then in walks Angel. It is the first time Cordelia sets eyes on Angel and her first words on seeing him are “Hello, salty goodness.” She plans to make a move on him only to see him go straight to Buffy. Years later, while under a spell which causes her to regress to her teen years, Cordelia will repeat the same line in the Season 4 episode of Angel – Spin the Bottle.

Angel is put out that Buffy is on a date, she should be preventing the rise of the Anointed One. Again Buffy is torn between the different sides of her life. Willow and Xander interrupt her date as she is needed at the funeral home. Although Buffy tells Owen she has to go without him, he follows them.

Buffy finds Giles in the morgue and he provides an update on his situation:

Giles – Two more of the brethren came in here, they came after me but I was more than a match for them,

Buffy – Meaning?

Giles – I hid.

While Buffy and Giles have no luck finding the anointed one, Owen experiences a revelation.

“I’ve never really seen a dead body before. Do they usually move?”

The frightening guy from the bus has risen again as a vampire. After fighting and destroying him Buffy deals with her failed date. Owen goes home shaken, but the next day he sees Buffy and wants more dangerous dates with her. Buffy realises she has to let him go.

Giles comforts Buffy, he tells a bit of a fib in stating “I don’t have an instruction manual”, (what about the slayer handbook?!) “we feel our way as we go along, and I must say as a slayer you are doing … pretty well.”

This is a nice conclusion and a turn around of the episode which began with Giles deriding Buffy’s slaying technique. Buffy and Giles can congratulate themselves on a job well done and having prevented the Anointed One prophecy from being fulfilled…

What? So the anointed one wasn’t the scary shouty guy – it was this cute/creepy kid?!?

Overall this is another satisfying Season 1 episode, exploring Buffy’s desire to balance slaying with a normal teenage life while advancing the background menace of the Master. Buffy’s relationship with Angel is not yet established, in this episode she explores another option. But despite being a more normal guy and not as mysterious as Angel, Owen is astonishingly similar to Angel.

This episode is another one in which Willow is not the go-to-character for being in danger; Owen and Giles are put in this role. By the end of the episode Buffy realises that she has a responsibility to keep someone like Owen out of dangerous situations and to be more present to her slayer duties to prevent Giles being endangered. And us viewers are left with the satisfying reveal of who the Anointed One actually is, and hear the Master reading the ominous prophecy about the Anointed One and the Slayer.

Text © Angela S

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