Buffyversed #37: “Dead Man’s Party” Proves You Can’t Go Home Again

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Buffyversed is a week by week, episode by episode, re-exploration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look for it every Friday on Goomba Stomp. 

Well folks, Buffy’s back in Sunnydale, and so are we, with this week’s episode: “Dead Man’s Party.” Though Buffy’s return to her friends and family might seem like a bit of a relief, she’s got a lot of things to deal with, and answer for, as well.

We see this almost immediately in the stilted conversations that Buffy shares with Joyce in her first day back home. This sort of becomes a theme throughout the episode, with Buffy unable to connect with anyone really, and even finds a parallel in the supernatural threat of the week.

Or, well, not so much the threat itself as the result of that threat. You see Joyce has just brought home a spooky Nigerian mask that happens to be a vessel for a demon with the ability to raise the dead.

Even as Willow is willfully ignoring Buffy at her own party, it’s still pretty cute the way she moons at Oz while he plays.

The clear correlation here is that the zombies that assail the Scoobies toward the end of the episode are representative of the “problems” that they keep trying to ignore or sweep under the rug. Heck, you might even say they’ve buried them, as Xander does (more or less) literally say toward the end of the episode.

Now what’s cool about “Dead Man’s Party” in this respect is that despite the long term prevalence of zombies in the horror genre, this is actually the first time we’ve seen an undead uprising, or zombies of any kind really, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

Not to be outdone though, Buffy pretty much amps it up as much as one possibly could with a full-on Night of the Living Dead-style zombie attack on the Summers residence at the climax of the episode.

Of course, there’s a few other things we have to explore before go right to the end of “Dead Man’s Party”, the first of which being how decent the Scoobies have gotten at actually doing Buffy’s job in her absence. We see them here in full on patrol mode, and it’s actually kind of impressive, if a bit bumbling. Bonus points for Xander’s nick name being “Night Hawk.”

Anyone else getting flashbacks to the music video for “Cum on Feel the Noize”?

Man, what a nerd.

Lastly though, we have to really talk about that big blowout scene that occurs right before the shit hits the zombie-operated fan. After failing to reconnect with anyone in Sunnydale, Buffy begins packing to leave town for a second time, only to be discovered by Willow and Joyce.

This leads to one of those brutal group dressing-downs that Buffy the Vampire Slayer does so well, where everybody basically yells at each other emotionally for a few minutes, and the audience sort of gets put through the ringer as a result. Here, the bag is a bit mixed as we can relate pretty easily to both sides of the argument: the one side being that Joyce, Giles, and the Scoobies had no idea where she was for months, and the other side being that Buffy really did go through some serious shit in that finale, and can’t be faulted too much for throwing in the towel for a while, especially at her age.

The emotional blowout is sort of a staple of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is something we’ll definitely be seeing a few more times throughout the series.

Anyway, all of the hurt feelings and repressed emotions get sort of shelved in the advent of a zombie siege on the Summers residence, as it’s the sort of thing that requires a united front type of approach. Luckily, despite a few casualties, the zombies are eventually defeated when Buffy destroys the demonic mask, and its bearer, Pat.

Oh shoot, I guess we should talk a bit about Pat huh? Just kidding! No one cares about her! Hey, RIP though, I guess.

Now, the disruption that Buffy left in everyone’s lives with her unannounced leaving is not totally healed, as we’ll see in the coming weeks, but for the most part it can be put behind us for the moment. In fact, we’re more or less back to status quo as “Dead Man’s Party” comes to a close, with Oz revealing that the murder charges against Buffy have been dropped, and Giles strong-arming Snyder, Ripper-style, into dropping his vendetta against the slayer, and allowing her to return to Sunnydale High for her senior year.

So if everything’s fine, and there’s no big bad yet, what’s the scoop? Well, let’s just say you need to have a bit of faith (I’m so sorry) that there’s a big shake-up coming real soon.

Ripper doesn’t come out of Giles very often, which makes it all the more satisfying on the rare occasions when he does.

Cristina Says:

“Cristina Says,” is based on observations my fiancèe makes. This is my 4th time through the series, but Cristina is a first-time watcher with modern TV sensibilities.

“Oh, Pet Semetary, here we go!” (For some reason I missed the obvious correlation to Stephen King’s tale where “sometimes dead is better.” I feel especially ashamed of this with the clear parallel of the cat coming back first in both cases.)

“That would suck.”
“What?”
“To have to clean up that fucking mess.” (Amen my significant other, this is not the last time that the Summers household will be in desperate need of some serious clean-up either.)

*Also, since Cristina didn’t have a whole lot to say this week, I’ve decided to fill this wee void by showing you my Buffy T-shirt collection, which I imagine you’re super interested in seeing! 

Check ’em out below:

Notable Whedonisms:

Whedonisms are a sort of term for (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon’s style of dialogue, and something we’re using as a catch-all for particularly fun or witty lines.

“It cheers up the room!”
“It’s angry at the room mom. It wants the room to suffer.” (Buffy takes serious issue with Joyce’s latest find at the gallery being used as home decor.)

“Will you be slaying?”
“Only if they give me lip.” (Buffy explains to Joyce that her social engagement will only turn deadly if Willow and Xander give her any guff.)

“Just when you were thinking of changing careers, maybe becoming a looker or a see-er.” (Xander tries to break the ice with Giles in relation to Buffy’s return.)

“What about home-schooling? You know, it’s not just for scary religious people anymore!” (Buffy struggles to find an alternative to the prospect of going to a private school.)

“Would you like to say some words?”
“Like what? Thanks for stopping by and dying?” (Buffy feels little need to grieve for the dead cat she discovers in the basement.)

“How do we know you’re not zombie-Giles?!”
“Cordelia please, let’s not be tiresome.”
“…It’s him.” (Cordy’s fears of an undead Giles are put to rest pretty quick by his response to her suspicions.)

Well gang, that’s it for the “Dead Man’s Party” but get ready for a series shake-up as another slayer shows up in next weeks “Faith, Hope and Trick.”