Band Candy
Written by: Jane Espensen
Directed by: Michael Lange
Air Date: November 10, 1998

To compare “Band Candy” to the previous episode, “Homecoming“, its like night and day. While you could make a claim that this episode is also mostly filler, it doesn’t attempt to justify itself with a message or a lesson for Buffy and her friends. It doesn’t suggest that it gets a deeper level of development for its players. No, “Band Candy” is here to do one thing: provide laughs and solid action, while being expertly written and directed. This is Jane Espensen’s first episode on the writing staff, and buy does she knock it out of the park. Between each character there is a moment of solid gold humor, and thats exactly what this show is all about… finding jokes to play off of in even the most dangerous of situations. Not that cursed candy is all that serious, in the end.

Ethan Rayne, who we haven’t seen since season two’s “The Dark Age“, returns as the curse-er. The Mayor needs a major distraction so that he can steal babies for a ritual demon tribute, and has Mr. Trick see to it. Ethan curses the candy, which in turn makes all the adults turn into teenage-level goofballs, causing antics, funny scenes, and great character moments for the entire cast. Chief amongst this group is Giles, Joyce, and Snyder, each of whom gets a great moment to shine while being a kid-like version of themselves. Joyce and Snyder in particular, seeing as how serious their characters are most of the time. Watching these two, its hard to picture their respective actors having anything other than a blast filming the episode. Giles, though, goes back to his “Ripper” days and gets the most laughs.

This episode begins a long-standing joke that takes place throughout the season. See, while under the influence, Joyce and Giles are together and acting like horny kids. They don’t come out and say it with words, exactly, but its obvious that the two boned on top of the police car (the driver of that car having been beaten unconscious by Giles moments before… while trying to stop Giles from making off with merchandise from a store he’d robbed moments before!), and its a gag they play with, with great writing in future episodes. Anthony Stewart Head and Kristine Sutherland probably had the times of their lives in their scenes. Watch the way Giles messes with his hair and the way Joyce cracks her gum. And my favorite moment in the whole episode is when she takes said gum out of her mouth a second before they start making out. I don’t know why, exactly, other than to say that its perfect and a great touch of realism.

The Mayor subplot is kinda lame, though. I get that he has a ton of stuff in the works (in the last episode he’d told Mr. Trick that he had an important year ahead of him. Far more so than a simple election year…), and as such a sacrifice of four babies to an underground snake demon isn’t all that out of place. But it just seems like slightly lazy writing, coming up with something like that. And why a snake demon? The Mayor wants to become a snake demon himself, so why foreshadow it with this? I don’t know, maybe they didn’t know, or maybe they did and they wanted that connection? Who cares. It still works, though, because we now get to spend more time with the Mayor and, in turn, Mr. Trick, both of whom have great screen time.

The real winner in this episode, though, is Snyder. Armin Shimerman has only had the opportunity to play a dick for almost two seasons, now, being tightly wound and eager to piss off any kid that gets in his way. But here, he gets to ham everything up. His “under-the-influence” tendencies are hilarious to watch and beg for more screen time. The way he plays off all the other characters is great, but what’s really great is that it never betrays his character, really. He knows about the nasty things that inhabit his town, and his school. At least somewhat. And here we see him say it without even saying it. None of the things going on phase him. He knows about magic and curses and vampires. Its a great bit of development for his character, thankfully without making him have an episode all to himself.

As it stands, “Band Candy” is a stand-alone episode that is just as much filler as it is fun. But it moves the story along and does so by fueling itself with laughs. It reminds us that “BtVS” is a show about more than just slaying and sex, that its about humor and quality character. The interactions here are worthwhile and telling of how well Whedon’s staff of writers know the characters by this point. It brings together the best of what the show has to offer without it being an “end of the world” situation, and thus it earns my respect.

Episode Rating: 92

Additional Notes:
-Where is Faith?
-Buffy’s driving is soooooo horrible. Even Willow is freaked out
-One of the best final seconds of an episode in the show’s history
-More cute Willow+Xander stuff in this one. That trouble is brewing
-Much of the adults-being-teenagers stuff can get annoying, but its in small doses throughout the episode, so its OK
-Oz saying that those “tall fuzzy hats” the marching band wears go with everything had me laughing
-Angel continues to do nothing in the mansion