Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Gingerbread" (Buffy 3.11): Fairy tales are real!

Well, duh. Of course they are! Since all the 'ships are fairly stable in this episode (Buffy loves Angel; Willow loves Oz; Cordelia hates all of them), this clever revisionist fairy tale has more to do with rules for living than rules for loving. So let's take a walk into the Whedonverse woods with some do's and don't's!

DO share with your friends and family if you're talking to people who are supposed to be dead.
The impetus for this ep comes from Joyce's discovery of two murdered kids in a playground while Buffy is busy slaying Mr. Sanderson from the bank. Her rational and righteous anger at the injustice of the two kids' deaths quickly devolves into quite the opposite right around the time that the little undead moppets show up at the house and tell her to "kill the bad girls" (ooh, foreshadowing alert!). Because in Sunnydale, the non-un-dead are never quite what they appear. Unfailingly, they're going to end up looking something like this:
Angel learned this last episode, JOYCE.

DON'T trust anyone over 30.
Unless he happens to be a sexy librarian demi-god.
You might know him as Giles, but he'll always be Ripper to me.

With the exception of the above, all the adults come out pretty bad in this one: Joyce, Sheila Rosenberg and the rest of the Sunnydale parents, Principal Snyder (though not out of character) and the Mayor (who is way over 30). It's like the inverse of "Band Candy" when all the adults are fun-loving sociopaths. Though I do have to say, valid complaints about benign neglect and anti-pagan zealotry aside, it seems kind of mean to bitch about incompetent parenting in front of Amy.
Game, set, and match.

But DO trust Mom, not MOO.
To quote a wise man, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals." Yes, that wise man is Agent Kay from Men in Black, but he knows of what he speaks. Even though Buffy wavers when she sees the symbol found on the children's bodies in Willow's notebooks, she ultimately decides to put faith in her friend because she knows her, despite what the label "witch" might connote.
Generic pagany looking symbol = sufficient justification for illegal search and seizure, kidnapping, and execution.

And a right-minded Joyce would never want to harm Buffy, but a little demonic persuasion coupled with mob-rule panic in the guise of MOO led her, along with many otherwise good people, to believe that burning the witches is the only way to avenge the dead children. Having typed that sentence, I feel I'd be remiss in not mentioning that it was literally that precise line of reasoning (and not much more evidence) that led to seventeen years of incarceration for the very real West Memphis Three. Okay, done with the politics, back to Buffy.

DON'T turn yourself into a rat until you're sure your friends aren't coming for you.
Once again, this show affirms the crucial importance of keeping your enemies close, but your friends closer. Even Cordy, who takes special care to insult Buffy earlier in the episode, is first in line with the fire hose to save her and Willow. Similarly, Xander and Oz put aside their tension-filled awkwardness to team up and save the day. Or they would have, if Buffy hadn't slayed the demon first.
I love you, Oz! And you too, Xander. Most of the time.

A fun standalone monster-of-the week episode that none the less has big (bad) implications for the rest of the series. Oh Amy Rat, the trouble you will cause in season 6 . . . And, as my intrepid co-watcher Jenn notes, this episode also has ramifications for the developing relationship between Joyce and Buffy. All demon trickery aside, Joyce's observation that there are some things Buffy "can't make right" is a major stumbling block for the slayer throughout the rest of the series, not to mention Joyce's illness in season 5. Sniff.

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