Directed By: David Solomon
Written By: Howard Gordon & Marti Noxon
Broadcast Date: 17 November 1997
A solid first episode of this two-parter saw another plan to destroy the Slayer by resident antagonist Spike, yet a shocking reveal at its close could change everything we know about the show to date.
After plotting nothing of real note since his spectacular introduction and attack on Sunnydale High, Spike (James Marsters) is faced with a fresh dilemma, as his beloved Drusilla (Juliet Landau) is growing weaker by the day. Viewers will previously remember that a vampire stole a book from the school library a few weeks ago; that book contains a spell that can restore a weakened Drusilla to her full power, which would be bad news for the citizens of Sunnydale. However, they need a key from the deceased author of the book (who just happens to be buried in Sunnydale), whilst Spike decides to rid himself of his Buffy-sized problem by hiring a group of bounty hunters, from the Order of Taraka.
The calling of bounty hunters certainly sounds like a game changer, on paper at least. It certainly frightened Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Angel (David Boreanaz) enough to try and persuade Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to run for the hills, though I’m not sure this legendary Order sent their best fighters by any means. The assassin who could turn into mealworms was certainly disgusting; viewers caught a particularly gross shot of thousands of these beings feeding on Buffy’s deceased next-door neighbour. However the Cyclops assassin, in effect a strong man with only one working eye, was dispatched fairly easily, whilst a young woman (Bianca Lawson) who locked Angel in a cage to die seemed to have the most intelligence, but her true identity was revealed in the episode’s cliffhanger, which I shall mention below.
In the midst of all of this, the students at Sunnydale High are attending a careers fair, where they are recommended certain pathways based on a test. This triggers Buffy’s despair at being the Slayer, as she will be unable to have an ordinary job and a life because of her destiny. This would have been effective had Buffy not been going through the exact same crisis for at least half of the episodes of this season so far. Maybe this is one of the major themes this season but it feels like every time Buffy turns a corner mentally, the writers throw her back in the same position for the next episode. At least there were fun jokes making light of the situation, especially from Giles, who suggested that Buffy could go into law enforcement – now that is something I could get on board with as the show commences!
For the other members of the Scooby Gang, the careers fair is a bit of a mixed bag. Xander (Nicholas Brendon) continues to feel like a representation of the ordinary working-class figure who doesn’t gain any powers of their own but feels necessary for the balance of the group – in my experience with similar shows, there is always one of these – as he is assigned a meeting with a prison warden to discuss their job. Willow (Alyson Hannigan) is confused at not being assigned a certain job to discuss, yet is led by a couple of very cold and creepy individuals who are not from the FBI, as I thought at first, but a large corporate IT firm. There she ends up partnered with Oz (Seth Green) and I must admit to being disappointed that, after weeks of Oz wondering who the identity of the mysterious girl he keeps seeing is, the writers don’t even include a line of them swapping names… I would much rather have seen this than another Buffy pity-party.
Once the bounty hunters start making their move – an oblivious Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) letting Mealworm Man into Buffy’s house with her and Xander – a weakened Angel is captured by Spike and Drusilla, who need him to restore the latter’s powers. Buffy herself, having walked into Angel’s highly stylish bedroom and slept in his bed because she had nowhere else to go, has a run-in with the young female assassin… or so we thought. As Buffy demanded the identity of her foe after a fairly even fight, her reply was shocking to Buffy, and the audience.
“I am Kendra… the Vampire Slayer”
… and the episode ends there! What? I found this quite shocking as I thought there could only be one Slayer. The writers did a great job in hiding her true identity, correlating her with the tiger tarot cards next to the other bounty hunters. I am curious whether this is a big change for the mythos of the show; does the appearance of Kendra change everything?
Verdict: The first part of “What’s My Line” feels like a standard Buffy episode, with an event at school causing distress for the title character and yet another plan is being cooked up by primary antagonist Spike. However, the appearance and reveal of another Vampire Slayer was shocking and made up for a few of this episode’s shortcomings and it will be interesting to see whether this changes the show as we know it.
Episode Rating: 8/10
The next episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer sees Buffy lock heads with another Slayer, as they try to figure out how to save Angel from Spike and Drusilla. My review of “What’s My Line – Part Two” will be available in a week’s time.
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