That’s the reason I love this country. You make a good product, and the people will come to you. Of course, a lot of them are going to die, but that’s the other reason I love this country.
So often these one shot episodes are kinda “meh” with a side of “temporary importance.” But “Band Candy.” Oh, “Band Candy,” you retain a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s because you give us a sniveling hanger-on in Snyder. Or maybe it’s Ethan Rayne’s reappearance. But it’s most likely because we get to spend some extended time with The Ripper, with his accent and his bad boy attitude and smoking-hot Anthony Steward Head-ness.
And Joyce and Giles totally do it. On a cop car. Twice!
Like the last episode, “Band Candy”’s lasting importance in the overall story arc of the third season is in the plot seeds that are germinating:
We get to know a little bit more about The Mayor, who keeps his liquor, his shrunken heads, and his demon worshipping supplies in the same cabinet in his office. He makes regular payments to demons for some bargains we have yet to hear the specifics on, including babies fresh from the hospital, and whatever circles he’s got pull in, they’re enough to scare even Mr. Trick. The build up to The Mayor as the Big Bad is part of what makes this season work so well. With Glory, Adam, and The First Evil, what they are is right out in front of you and their “badness” is awfully flashy. They’re monsters that you recognize as monsters. The Mayor – well, he’s insidious. He’s that weak part of us that can go bad, even while still being human. There’s probably extended universe background out there about him, but as I write this, I can’t help but wonder if he got power that corrupted him, or he was corrupted and sought out power.
Xander and Willow continue to flirt, though it seems that most of the guilt about the situation rests on the redhead’s slim shoulders.
Buffy still hasn’t told anyone Angel is returned and is “Angel” again. Also she sees him with his shirt off and looks like someone slapped her across the face. I included a picture. You’re welcome. Hubba hubba. Also she drives in this episode, and for the life of me, I cannot remember her ever being behind the wheel of a car again.
Buffy is studying for the SATs and people are talking about college and her future.
All these themes are going to be revisited in the coming weeks (and seasons!). So let’s talk about the fun stuff.
The Mayor has a major tribute due to one of his demon buddies and has Trick arrange a distraction for the town. Trick outsources to Ethan Rayne, a criminally underused antagonist in the series (you can see more of him in the Buffy video game “Chaos Bleeds”), who black magics up a bunch of chocolate, which has the properties of turning people who eat it into immature and irresponsible teenagers.
Oh, and if you ever wondered where the working class and ethnic minorities of Sunnydale are in the show, apparently they all work in the warehouse the candy is stored in. I would be lying if that did not jump right out at me on this rewatch.
The plot is fairly straightforward. The enjoyment is in watching Snyder, Joyce, and Giles get to stretch their characters. We’ve heard about the Ripper before and we’ve seen glimpses of him coming out in Giles’s personality (see: when Giles storms the warehouse after Angelus kills Jenny), but this is our long-term introduction to him. He smokes cigarettes, he rolls the sleeves up on his t-shirt, and gives off that bad boy vibe that makes girls want to save him. Also note – his Ripper accent and his librarian accent are notably different.
There’s this fantastic scene in Giles’s apartment where Ripper and Joyce are sitting on the floor, listening to records and smoking, having this conversation that just makes me twitch with empathetic embarrassment – Joyce desperately trying to seem cool for this guy she’s interested in, but he’s pretending to be aloof and uninterested. It hurts because it’s a real scene. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can remember being in Joyce’s shoes. (Note ““ they’re listening to Cream’s “The Song of Brave Ulysses,” which is the same song Giles listens to alone in his apartment during “The Body.”)
With the adults acting – well, not exactly like Buffy who always has too much going on to hang out and do nothing with some guy she likes – like teenagers, the actual teenagers have to pull a full Scooby, finally noticing there’s something seriously wrong when middle-agers invade the Bronze. Also, Snyder tries to hang out with them. He likes Oz’s hair. He hits on Joyce. He’s a coward. Teenage-Snyder is pretty boss.
Of course everything comes together, but not before I have about two dozen screencaps to choose from of Buffy looking sickened while Joyce and Ripper make out. Buffy tracks down her mom and Giles, they in turn track down Ethan, Ripper and Buffy chase Ethan through a warehouse maze until Buffy uses her super skills to find him hiding in a box. Plans are thwarted! Ethan tries to brain Buffy, and Ripper threatens to kill him. I CAN CHANGE YOU RIPPER, IF ONLY YOU’D GIVE ME THE CHANCE.
Ahem. The good guys save the day in the end. The show has nothing particularly insightful to say about teenagers – it says insightful things about teenagers all the time, but watching the adults behave like kids isn’t fodder for deep philosophical introspection. Unless it’s that you can be a cool teenager who grows up to buy a dork mobile because it gets decent gas mileage and you can tote your art gallery pieces around in the fold down back, but I think everyone over the age of 12 knows that people get older and change. It is what it is: a funny, enjoyable conceit for the show to run with him.
Still, I love everything about this episode. Everything. Especially that feathered jacket Ripper steals for Joyce.