Reptile Boy
Written and Directed by: David Greenwalt
Air Date: October 13, 1997

Another horrible “monster-of-the-week” episode, here, folks. And while its a touch better than “Inca Mummy Girl” this is damning with faint praise. The episode sucks. There is a ton of good stuff to be found in this episode, mostly character development and interaction, but the primary plot is so contrived and stupid, it doesn’t even really matter in the end. The best writing in the world can’t save an episode if the central plot device is a horrendous mish-mash of awful cliches, stupid action sequences, and lame effects (not counting the make-up work on the titular “reptile boy” who looks awesome, for the most part).

I mentioned good character work, and I wasn’t kidding. My favorite scene is between Buffy and Giles and what happens as a result; he is so insistent that she not slack during her “off” season (paranormal being more normal and less… para… these days) and she is so against it. This battle between Slayer and Watcher is key to these characters and their development both as individuals and as a team. The sparring match in which Giles refuses to “go easy” on Buffy is a great reminder of a few things, first and foremost being that Giles is not going to beat her in a fight. But mainly this reminds us that the conflict between these two is ever-present and dangerous, something we’ll see come to a head in the future.

The others are all great and fine, but the moment that stands out for me (and many others, I’m sure) is the first hint that – behind that nerdy, poorly dressed outside layer – Willow is a commanding, confident woman. She rips into Giles and Angel for being mega-douches to Buffy and keeping her from the things she wants in her life (namely Angel). Her comments here showcase how far she’s come in only 17 episodes, and also acts as a kind of voice of the audience who I’m sure is waiting for Buffy to do the things she wants, rather than the things she’s supposed to do. Her admittance after her rant that she doesn’t really feel any better is also heartwarming, because it immediately brings us right back down to seeing Willow as a cute little high school kid. One that has another side to her, entirely.

The plot, which I mentioned before as being “shitty”, is – again – shitty. It involves a dumb frat house/cult worshiping a snake demon, providing it womanly sacrifices in the hopes of gaining its favor and, thus, the benefits of its apparent control over money, business, and the economy. It stems from a dumb metaphor about college life, and one that could have waited until Buffy was actually in college. Instead, we get the light hinting that “drinking is bad” and that college dudes are jerks, now. Sure, it works. But who cares? I want to see blood and death, not some crumby sequence involving swords, dumb frat boys in robes, and Buffy killing the demon by simply hacking its tail off. I mean, I’m not demonologist or anything, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t hit any vital organs. But, whatever.

The frat boys are uninteresting, the way they do “business” is trite, and the concept behind their goals is hardly realized in any kind of positive light. The only good thing that comes from it is pushing Buffy’s two major men toward different opinions and outlooks, something – I feel – only leads to tragedy later on. As far as this episode is concerned, it, too, is a tragedy of sorts. Insofar as it was tragic that I had to watch it again, for – maybe – the third time.

Episode Rating: 72

Additional Notes:
-I love-love-love Cordelia’s fake laughs throughout this episode. So true to her character
-Speaking of, her realization that younger men are better gives us our second shot at seeing Johnathan. He’ll become much more than a simple background character, soon enough
-Those frat dudes dressing Xander up isn’t funny. Don’t know who wrote it thinking it would be
-Giles gets his ass handed to him in that training session. Just give up, dude
-Speaking of, Giles’ solitary sword-play moment is priceless and classic “Giles”