Homecoming
Written and Directed by: David Greenwalt
Air Date: November 3, 1998

Any episode that reminds me of “Bad Eggs” – for any reason at all, really – isn’t a great episode. That episode featured the Gorch brothers, a pair of Texan vampires that were corny and goofball-ish. One died, the other fled, and he returns in this episode with his vampire wife, Candy. Somehow, despite all logic, laws of writing, or the concept of impossibility, Gorch comes off as dumber and more wasted here than before. I know, I know, I’m wasting a lot of time talking about Lyle Gorch, a character only seen twice, having only a handful of lines, and never having done anything – on screen – worth his reputation. But that’s kinda my feeling about this episode, really. Its good for a laugh here or there, but – like Lyle Gorch himself – tiring, draining, and stupid. And very, very uninteresting.

That is not to say, though, that there isn’t some good stuff to be found in “Homecoming” – the episode features a return to form for Cordelia Chase, back to her bitchy old, self-centered persona from the first season and a half of the show. I like in-love Cordy as much as the next guy, but I really like her as a snooty bitch. I can get behind that personality. See, Buffy is tired of only being seen as the Slayer and not as a person, so she goes head-to-head with Cordelia for the title of Homecoming Queen, something she misses from her old school, her old life. Here, we see her work her ass off trying to out-nice her friend’s girlfriend (for naught, it turns out) and its cute, yes, but doesn’t really delve too deeply into her character. I understand, at this point, that she has a human side that just wants to be a teenage girl. I get that a lot. And I understand that this episode was trying to utilize this aspect in a fun way, for once, rather than one rife with drama. But it just didn’t interest me past a point. Ho hum.

Then there’s the whole “Slayer Fest” thing. I like Mr. Trick as a character, as mentioned in my “Faith, Hope & Trick” review, but this whole contest to kill Buffy and Faith thing just seems silly and an excuse to have violence. I like my action to have a real point to it, not just because its necessary. The assorted demons, vamps (including the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Gorch), and hitmen are stupid and I couldn’t care less about them. It does lead Mr. Trick into working for Mayor Richard Wilkins, the head of Sunnydale, but that’s not enough of a reason for me to invest in this plot device. I like that they confused Cordy for Faith and fucked it all up, but even that ending seemed tacked on and against character development. No, the whole “Slayer Fest” angle of the episode seemed lame, too.

So what did I like? Well, I like the Mayor. It is no secret that the Mayor ranks as my second favorite “big bad” of the series, behind Glory in season five. He’s just a cool dude. Here, we are already introduced to him as a really nice, really down-to-earth dude, but a creepy one that is aware of all the nasty things that go on in and around his town. Mr. Trick being a vampire isn’t a surprise to him at all, no, he actually calls him out on it himself. This guy goes through so much on-screen complexity before its all over, and as such I can’t help but love it every time he’s on screen. We don’t get much of him in his debut episode, but what we do get is fun and promising for future episodes.

Willow and Xander get with the smoochin’ in this one, too. Its a long time coming, and its one thing I like. Its destructive to both their relationships, yes (including my second favorite relationship in the show, Willow and Oz), but its a nice touch and adds to their own drama. It could be said that this kind of thing is only included so as to free up Cordy for “Angel” in a bit (Angel, in this episode, is also being turned away by Buffy who proclaims to have been moving on in his absence, also trying to push him off to his own show), but regardless, it feels true to these two characters, both of whom have loved one another for many years, just at varying degrees of the word. Some might disagree with me on this matter, of course, but I really feel like Xander and Willow act true to themselves, here. And its a moment I love and one that, when played up in future episodes, is telling of the paths these two will take for the rest of the series.

Otherwise, this episode is dumb. It has Faith in it, but she’s barely used – and used improperly when she does show up. Giles has nothing to do all episode aside from make one good joke at the expense of his Slayer/Watcher relationship with Buffy. The bad guys are stupid and uncool (was that one guy just a hunter? Like, is that all he did?), and even the setup for the rest of the season, some of which is laid in place here, is forgettable and not worth the price of admission. It was a great episode, there, for a bit, but it just didn’t have what it takes to be a great one.

Episode Rating: 65

Additional Notes:
-Cordelia looked smokin’ in her dress
-Buffy with a gun? Awesome. Cordy with a gun? Frightening
-The yearbook photos were awesome. Xander looked so sleazy and Willow’s ultimate expression was so fitting!
-I wish they’d have killed Lyle Gorch, just to be done with him. As it stands, there’s always a possibility he could reappear in the comics or what have you
-Why did they arrest Mr. Trick but leave that other dude in the house? Overall, wasn’t he more dangerous?
-That knife-armed demon guy was stupid, but the first time they made mention of a demon clan. This kind of thing will be common on “Angel” – particularly the fifth season

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