Written By: David Greenwalt
Broadcast Date: 13 October 1997
Premise: Buffy and Cordelia attend a frat party where they are offered as human sacrifices to a reptile-like creature.
Episode 5 of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a great watch that combines an interesting mystery around a fraternity with some great individual scenes from the majority of the main cast.
The aspect that impressed me most about this episode was the return to the type of humour that the show excels in. I was initially worried that the similarity in title with the previous episode, “Inca Mummy Girl”, suggested that the episodes would have a similar tone to them. However, unlike the sappy and lacklustre script for its predecessor, “Reptile Boy” featured a lot of back-and-forth humour between characters and there were several stand out moments, the most memorable being Willow (Alyson Hannigan) unleashing her frustration and criticising a shocked Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Angel (David Boreanaz) for their multiple failures towards Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar).
The premise of this episode sounds like it will be another filler episode with a predictable twist, however the way the plot developed created an intriguing mystery. In the first moments, we see a girl being chased by a group of young men wearing something akin to monk’s robes; the reason why they do this remains unclear for the majority of the episode. One criticism I have had of several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that they show their cards too early, thus making it frustrating as the viewers have to wait for the characters to catch up with them. Viewers knew from the start that the mystery girl was the Mummy who killed the people in the previous episode from the off. Here, though the young men who invite Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Buffy to their fraternity party are suspicious but what their plans are for the two remains unknown. I did like the twist that the fraternity were sacrificing young women to a demonic snake-like creature who lived beneath the fraternity house. Honestly I wish that the creature wasn’t killed in order to shed more light on it but I also appreciate the amount of mystery around it.
Alongside the intriguing plot of this episode, “Reptile Boy” also sees a lot of important character development for several members of the Scooby Gang. For the first time since the opening episode, we see Buffy frustrated at having to give up all of her responsibilities to be the Chosen One who kills vampires. I think that this is probably the weaker part of this episode, as we have seen this complaint from Buffy several times in the past, though I think it is suitable for the themes of the episode and for her complicated relationship with Angel. After weeks of leaving things unsaid, Angel admits that he doesn’t know if he can be close to Buffy because he could kill her at any time. As someone writing in 2019, I have come to realise that many vampire-human love stories were inspired by this and I am intrigued to see whether Angel can keep in control when around Buffy.
The second major piece of character development this week isn’t as obvious but is something I have been thinking about since watching the episode. From the outset, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) was jealous of the two fraternity boys who hit on Buffy and invited her to his party, more so than he has been about Angel. The answer didn’t hit me until the uncomfortable scene where the fraternity members realise Xander is an imposter and forces him to wear a wig and fake boobs. When he leaves the party in a desolate mood, it becomes clear that he feels he is not good enough in comparison to the wealthy guys who go to those parties and even to Angel, whose Vampiric essence can give Buffy something that he can’t. I’m starting to see Xander as more than just the clown of the group; he seems to represent the ordinary guy who will never get the girl because he is just ordinary. I hope that the writers develop this more without changing his character because he represents the viewers in the way he reacts and is portrayed in a sense.
Though it doesn’t contain any progression in a sense with the main narrative of the season, “Reptile Boy” is a great watch that combines an intriguing plot and monster with a great back-and-forth script and progression for Buffy and Angel’s relationship.