Joy! Just when you think a season of Buffy has gone off the rails (again) along comes an episode so perfect, so adorably smart that you get all hopeful and optimistic once more.
And surprise: it's written by Jane Espenson. Buffy's queen of rom-coms wheels out a neat, subtle, and giggly romp that actually explores its central topic in a variety of powerful and entertaining set pieces.
Whereas the previous episode barely managed to be about a single thing, this episode ambitiously gives us:
Two parallel plots, each with their own subplot ("Buffy/Xander has a date. Meanwhile, how do Spike/Anya feel?")
A gorgeously funny Andrew plot that smartly demonstrates the power of the First
More of the glorious Asian Slayer
A killer pay-off about Principal Wood's mother
There's barely a line that overstays its welcome, and for once there are two big emotional pay-offs that work (for both Giles and Wood), delivering the first episode in weeks that ends with a slap, rather than someone mewling on until they finally run the credits.
Hurrah. Yes, Buffy is still the best show on TV.
After the wasted plot of The Killer in Me, Buffy’s back on form with First Date. There’s so much good stuff, where do I begin? First of all there’s the big reveal of the Principal’s reasons for being in Sunnydale. He’s the son of a slayer and demon killer, and a pretty cool one at that.
Then there’s the humorous bits: firstly, the lactose intolerant potential (at last - an exception to the English-speaking rule. Well OK, there was Molly). Then there's Giles' flashcards (are they all Anthony Stewart Head’s own work?); the dates themselves and Anya’s mixed emotions over Xander’s one; the lovely scene where Willow and Buffy talk about the bidet of evil... All of these moments, combined with important plot developments and one hell of a cliff-hanger, produce a great episode.
This has to be one of the best structured episodes of Buffy yet. The threat and dread is all-pervading from the start, with so many directions for danger to come from it's almost overwhelming.
It's got that Espenson light touch, though, that lets you laugh in the face of danger, be there ever so much. Andrew's microwave fixation and Anya's jealousy were particular high points for me.
The final revelation - hinted at throughout but never quite given away - is perfect. A touch of continuity, a touch of threat - excellent.
More like this please, but no more Ashanti. She may look good and sing well, but she can't act.