Giles: Xander’s taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Giles: And, there’s been a noticeable change in both clothing and
Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about
Buffy: It’s bad, isn’t it.
Giles: It’s devastating. He’s turned into a sixteen-year-old boy.
Of course, you’ll have to kill him.
One of the things I’ve noticed about favourite books, movies, TV eps — and The Pack is definitely a favourite — is that it’s often more a question of cool, poignant or otherwise enjoyable moments. A favourite book/movie/episode has a few such moments and the enjoying is not only savouring them but also the anticipation of the build-up and the frisson of the fall-out from them. A truly great episode is simply a collection of such moments one after another, seamlessly and smoothly connected – usually by a theme.
What are my “moments” from The Pack then? Well there are three – Xander being mean to Willow when he tells her he’s dropping geometry, the slo-mo walk toward camera of the pack backed by rock music and the final scene. The first because while it’s awful to see Willow in pain, it’s nice to see her feelings for Xander brought out.
The second, well those things always look cool if you don’t over-do them. I can think of four instances in the first two seasons of BtVS – this is the second.
And the final scene is a moment because it’s where they fix the pain we had in the earlier moment. Xander tacitly apologises to Buffy and Willow whilst pretending not to remember. Plus he lets Willow know that he loves her – clearly it’s friendship love but still… And of course the final joke is funny – which always helps.
Those are the moments but the underlying goodness of this episode the Xander-Willow relationship. (Are you getting the fact that I like the idea of these two as a couple?) There’s also the usual high standard jokes in the dialogue such as “kid’s fat”, “weird behaviour award” and the quote I began with.
Speaking of which, like NKaBotFD, The Pack is summed up by such a quote, it’s another High-School-as-Hell-with-monsters-as-issues metaphor episode. The metaphor is obvious but it works well nonetheless.
Which is odd because in many ways The Pack shouldn’t work as well as it does, the concept is just too silly. Although you could say that about the show as a whole. It works because everyone commits to the silliness, and they write/direct/act well. However there are times when the silliness threatens to show through. It works best when the pack are acting like what the metaphor points to – bratty teens – not what they actually are – hyenas. So in the slo-mo walk or the stealing hot dogs scene the pack are cool and threatening whereas in the scene where they are found sleeping in the woods, drooling from their recent pig-feed, or when they attack the SUV, well the inherent ridiculousness is hard to hide. Fortunately those scenes are in the minority.
Another thing that helps the episode is nice performances in a couple of minor roles – the zoo keeper and the gym class teacher. They both do a lot with relatively little.
Finally I’ve got to note the passing of our first TV principal. I liked Flutie. The actor that played him made him likeable and funny.
So, overall, something a guilty pleasure since a) it’s very silly and b) the stuff I enjoy is the relationship stuff. But once again that could go for the entire show.