We are gonna get out of here, and we’re gonna head back to the library, where Giles and the rest of the weapons live. Then I’m going to take out the rest of these guys, just in time for you to congratulate me on my sweeping victory as Homecoming Queen.
“Homecoming” is a fun episode but it is, by no stretch of the imagination, a particularly deep episode. I think of it as a placeholder – it launches important plotlines for the rest of the season, but the actual impact of the A-plot fizzles quickly.
The main storyline revolves around the long simmering animosity between Cordelia and Buffy. Cordelia is running for Homecoming Queen, because that’s what girls like her do. And Buffy is stewing over the girl she used to be. For those of us who entered the series from the movie (which I like on its own merits just fine), we have an edge on where Buffy’s coming from. The movie establishes that Buffy was a popular, vapid fashion victim whose life is essentially ruined by becoming the Slayer. This backstory is eluded to the very first episode of the show when it’s revealed she’s been kicked out of school for lighting a gym full of vampires on fire. When she came to Sunnydale, Buffy made half-hearted stabs at regaining her lost life before surrendering the war.
In the supernatural world, she’s kinda of a big deal. But in the real world? Her teachers don’t remember her, she’s failing at her classes, her classmates barely know her name, and she can’t get it together enough to get her senior portrait taken. Even the milquetoast new boyfriend dumps her. So when Cordy is tactless enough to pounce on Buffy’s fragile ego, the Slayer does what she does best – she fights back.
There’s a lot comedy in the dueling campaigns for Homecoming Queen – they one up each other, they bargain for votes, they nearly come to blows in the middle of the hallway. One of the things I found fairly interesting about this campaign is that Buffy is deliberately styled in retro ’50s clothing and hair, playing up these hyper feminine traits. Not that she slobs it up on the regular, but there’s an obvious effort here to contrast “Back-to-the-Future Buffy” against “Xena Buffy.”
While they’re fighting, Mr. Trick is organizing the first ever Slayerfest, inviting all sorts of miscreants to hunt the two slayers (he mistakes Cordelia for Faith) including that werewolf hunter from Season 2 and the surviving Gorch brother and his tarty new wife. Hilarity and explosions ensure. Cordelia gets some great lines. She frightens off a vampire. Giles is knocked unconscious. Neither of them win Homecoming Queen. The end, see you next week.
The meat of the episode is truly in the flavoring. OK, I have no idea what the hell that’s supposed to mean, but let’s talk about the storylines that get kicked off here:
The Mayor – The Mayor has been a shadowy figure since his name is first uttered in the first season and “Homecoming” is our initial introduction. He’s very concerned about the fate of Sunnydale’s children, because he believes the children are the (his) future. He hates germs, likes golf, makes his assistant very nervous, and seems to know an awful lot about the demonic underbelly of his town.
His line to the nervous assistant, “I have faith in you,” is funny/foreshadowy looking back on it FROM THE FUTURE.
For my money, The Mayor is one of the show’s best Big Bads. If you’ve never watched Buffy before, you are in for a fantastic ride.
Angel’s return – Buffy specifically mentions that she is keeping his presence a secret from everyone. This in no way will come back to bite her in the ass.
Willow and Xander – Willow and Xander share an illicit kiss while trying on their Homecoming outfits, which somehow sparks a full on crotchal burn for each other. It’s, honestly, one of the least charismatic pairings in the entire show, and at least for Xander, it comes completely out of left field. BtVS made a big deal of how devastated Willow was by Xander’s constant rejections. But except for the near-kiss at the beginning of Season 2, Xander has never once indicated he reciprocated. So either he’s attracted to her because he’s got a girlfriend and is scared of commitment, or he’s attracted to her because she’s unavailable to him, with a side salad of jealousy that he’s lost her affection. No matter what the motivation, I’m side eyeing the hell out of him.
Mr. Trick – The Mayor forces Mr. Trick into his employment, which will have its own repercussions, as well as give us an insight into how he gets what he wants. Despite his aw-shucks personae, The Mayor is Serious Business.
And in important other news, next week is “Band Candy.”