Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes a break from all of the vampire drama of the previous week with a mummy-themed episode that could have been explosive but is essentially filler with some important character development for Xander and Willow.
*Warning: This review contains some spoilers*
This is one of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes that has a fairly straightforward plot to it; a ceramic seal is broken that allows a centuries old Incan mummy to rise from the dead and suck the life out of individuals in order to maintain their lifeforce. It’s not as though the audience spend any portion of time wondering what the revitalised mummy looks like, as we see a mysterious girl taking on the name of a foreign exchange student just seconds after seeing him killed. The only real wildcard in play is a menacing bodyguard who pops up from time to time to attempt to strike Buffy and the gang, or so we think. However, he ultimately doesn’t play anywhere near as big a role as I hoped for. Coming after last week’s dramatic episode, this is uneventful on nearly ever level.
The episode takes a swift turn from the standard Buffy plot pretty quickly when the mummy (who has taken on the name of Ampata) starts to fall for a tongue-tied Xander. We are so used to Xander being attracted to a member of the opposite sex, but it is rare for those feelings to be reciprocated, except when they plan to use him. (remember Praying Mantis teacher?) I guess the episode really hinges on how believable the potential relationship is between Xander and Ampata. There is chemistry between the two and the portrayal of feelings is reasonable, if extremely cheesy. However, since the viewers know Ampata’s true colours from the start, it comes down to whether enough material is presented to make her seem vulnerable and easy to empathise for her sacrifice. I think the writers try to do that but ultimately it is not enough to keep the major aspect of this episode afloat.
Xander’s budding relationship with Ampata also creates interesting dynamics between him and the female protagonists. It seems that he has already mentally resigned himself to not being the guy Buffy wants, so not much is said apart from a couple of remarks about how he brought her back from the dead. But I feel like it marks a turning point in his friendship with Willow; for over a season there has been clear signs that she has unrequited feelings for him and it finally feels like she is resigned to just being his best friend instead of anything further developing. This is one of the better parts of the episode overall. It looks like Willow is ready to move on with her life, though her uniqueness gets some attention from guitar player Oz; could we see more of him in the future?
“Inca Mummy Girl” is not a bad episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It brings a new flavour of episode to the season and provides some much needed development for Willow’s character, though the narrative plods along as expected and the budding relationship between Xander and Ampata turns to the cheesy side. Coming after such a memorable episode, with the arrival of Spike and his murder of the Anointed One, this reads much like filler and doesn’t feel like Buffy at its best.