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All Shows > Buffy the Vampire Slayer > Season 3

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - 3x02 - Dead Man's Party

Synopsis: Buffy is struggling with fitting back in after her return, her friends throw her a big party...oh, and zombies attack.

Review: This episode begins comical but quickly tailspins into atrocious. The emotional angst between Buffy, her mom, and her friends is extremely well written, but that is where the good writing ends with this episode.

I like a good zombie flick as much as the next guy, but evidently Marti Noxon, who wrote this episode, was not satisfied with just zombies. So she added a zombie cat and a demon with an eye problem. On top of that, this episode reminded me far too much of a Jim Carrey movie (bonus points if you can guess which movie).

There is such rich cinematic material about zombies, and I would have thought Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have utilized zombies much better than they did in this disappointing episode. Not even the great dynamic between Buffy and her friends is going to help this episode get a better rating than 4 out of 10. Xander seemed far too mean-spirited.

Rating: 4 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)

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I think the zombie situation should have been handled differently. Given that the mask was African in origin, the zombies should have been voodoo zombies rather than just walking dead zombies. Walking dead zombies are completely cinimatic, whereas voodoo zombies are actully connected to African magics and mystical cultures.

Voodoo zombies are just like the living...only dead. They feel emotion and react to pain.
--Danielbot (Agrees: yes)

I think this is one of the unjustly underrated episodes of the whole series, and one of the best of season 3. In my opinion it gets an unjustified slagging from those who simply can't stand to see Buffy being criticized, even when she is clearly wrong, treating her friends like dirt, and eventually admits her mistake. Buffy is not a saint and if she is to learn and grow, she has to be called to account when she acts like a child. Here she pouts when everything isn't perfect with the gang the moment she comes back (ironically, this is what pro-Buffy fans have accused the Scoobies of doing at the start of season 6), and promptly tries to run away again at the drop of a hat (OMG my mom was depressed and told a total stranger that it's rough having me back home, boo hoo hoo!). When caught, she hits Willow with the same arrogant "you wouldn't understand" nonsense that Buffy (who used to insist that her friends not keep secrets from her "'cause…there's a rule!") called Ford out for trying to pull in "Lie to Me". ("I don't need to understand, I just need to know.") Then when she has to defend her actions, all of a sudden her running away last season was no longer about the guilt she felt about getting people hurt (Jenny dead, Giles tortured, Willow comatose, Xander injured, dozens of innocents slaughtered) because she couldn't bring herself to hurt Angel until it was nearly too late, now her pain is only about sending Angel to his (much-deserved) hell, wah-wah-wah, no one understands, etc. Apparently she misplaced her ability to care about people who aren't Buffy somewhere in L.A. Thankfully, the confrontation seems to get through to her a little, and after the zombie fight she finally does seem to be glad she's home, rather than wanting to run away from the Mean People Who Just Don't Understand That Angel and I Have The Greatest Love Of All Time, Wah Wah Wah.

Some reviews (like Matthew Miller's) call Xander "mean-spirited", but I disagree. He is the LAST character to get involved in the argument, at first clearly suffering in silence while Buffy seems to tune out Joyce's pain at having been left to spend an entire summer wondering if her daughter was dead (he seems to be reliving his parents' fights here, IMO) and finally getting involved to tell Buffy that Joyce's suffering was real, that Buffy wasn't the only one who was lonely and miserable this summer. At which point Buffy derides his right to even have an opinion, comparing him to "you there, by the dip" (Jonathan). Xander then changes tactics and asks if Buffy tried talking to ANYONE, glancing significantly at the off-screen Willow (who was always a strong supporter of Buffy and Angel's relationship, and had even fought with Giles and Xander over the issue), but that idea gets shot down by Buffy, who claims that "there was nothing anybody could do". (Gee, thanks, "friend".) Then Cordelia tries to see things from Buffy's perspective and gets shot down because Buffy doesn't like her choice of phrases, and then Willow tries to speak, and Buffy lets her get exactly three words out ("Buffy, you never—") before cutting her off with "I can't take this from you, too." (Subtext: "Willow, I expect Xander to be a jerk, but you're supposed to be better than that." Hey, Buffy, just because he's more direct doesn't mean he's wrong.) So Xander, who got into the argument to defend Joyce, gets back into it to defend Willow, and Buffy then attacks him for NOT working a personal grudge ("Could you at least try annoying me on your own behalf?") The who in the what in the huh? She's deriding him for NOT making it personal? And then she seems ready to hit her non-superpowered pal when Oz steps in. So it amazes me that in an argument where Buffy implies Xander has no right to talk to her, mocks him ("Nighthawk"), calls him annoying, and is ready to beat up on him, that *he* gets called "mean-spirited" for correctly claiming that Buffy's Angel-angst was nothing more than "boy trouble". But of course Buffy doesn't want to hear that her angst isn't the shiniest, most important angst in the world. Little things like Giles getting tortured, Willow not being sure if she would ever walk again, and Joyce having a nervous breakdown wondering if she had caused her only child's death are unimportant compared to the deep, deep misery of Buffy and her Broody Boy, boo-hoo-hoo.

(Side note: I don't hate Buffy, and I understand that she was upset. It's simply her inability [out of character really, compared to seasons 1-2, but sadly in character for the rest of the series] to see anyone's pain but her own that grates.)

One last thing: this episode tends to get short shrift because people overlook just how funny it is. Even with the underlying tension of the first half, the jokes abound, far more than in later, more ponderous seasons. Yes the zombie plot is purely flabotinous (Marti always did have a problem with the plots), but between the comedy and the angst, this is a first-water episode, up there with "Revelations", "Consequences", "Döppelgängland", and "Choices" as the season's best, IMO.
--It's Amazing (Agrees: no)