Andy Burns On…Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Dead Man’s Party

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

I know exactly where I was when I finally got “it”. It was a Tuesday night (naturally). I was in the wreck room/basement of the home I shared with my mother. I was flipping channels, just a little after 8 pm ET when I landed on channel 20. It was a catch-all channel from out of Barrie, Ontario that would pick up various shows from the WB and the other networks. On this night, they were showing an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It was the second episode of the third season. It was called Dead Man’s Party.

And it’s the episode that got me.

In Dead Man’s Party, we find Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) returning home a few month after leaving the town of Sunndale. To save the world (yet again), she was forced to kill her boyfriend turned nemesis Angel (David Boreanaz), who in his final moments had regained his lost soul.

Didn’t matter, though. Buffy still had to send him to hell.

As Dead Man’s Party progresses, we watch as Buffy’s comrades, Xander (Nicholas Brendan) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) deal with her return and their own feelings of mistrust in their friend. Would Buffy bail on them again? Can they ever actually count on her? Meanwhile, mom Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) just wants to forget the whole thing. At the end of the previous season, Joyce discovers that her daughter is the Chosen One, the Slayer. It’s Joyce’s words, “you walk out of this house, don’t even think about coming back”, that sent Buffy on her way. Upon her return, mother and daughter would rather just bury their emotions.

That doesn’t work.

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As the episode progresses, the monster(s) of the week wind up being zombies. Dead, buried things that come back to life. It’s an easy and obvious metaphor, but it works. This was a show about teenagers and growing up, we have to remember. Sometimes the simplest things are what resonate most.

Dead Man’s Party certainly resonated with me. For one thing, it had zombies, and seeing the walking dead on television in 1998, long before seeing The Walking Dead on television, was a huge thrill for me. And then here was the show’s clever sense of humour, the appealing characters, the pretty decent special effects. Buffy The Vampire Slayer had it all. On this night, I was hooked.

My love for Buffy The Vampire Slayer has never gone away. Are there better episodes of the show? Absolutely – The Wish, The Body, The Gift, Hush, Restless, to name a few. I’m also partial to The Zeppo. But you never forget the first time something hits you, which is why Dead Man’s Party will always hold a special place in my heart.

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