Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4.E8 — “Pangs”

“And the thing is, I like my evil like I like my men. Evil. You know, ‘straight up, black hat, tied to the train tracks, soon my electro-ray will destroy Metropolis’ bad. Not all mixed up with guilt and the destruction of an indigenous culture.”

Scoobies at the door
Image courtesy of 21st Century Fox.

“Pangs” kicks off a trio of some of my favorite season 4 episodes. After this, we get “Something Blue” and then the impressive, scary, and occasionally funny, “Hush.” That’s three weeks of just really good Buffy. I’m so excited!

The plot of “Pangs,” if you’re following along at home, concerns the liberation of an avenging Chumash spirit from an old mission discovered under Sunnydale College. (Honestly, I don’t understand how the whole campus isn’t a massive sinkhole. So far underneath it is a warren of tunnels dug out by Spike’s gang, a massive military complex, at least one mission, some caverns, and the Hellmouth. This area is not structurally sound.) When one of Sunnydale’s archaeologists puts a ceremonial knife on display, she releases the Chumash warrior, who, understandably pissed off about the annihilation of his people, sets about evening the score.  Buffy, never one to ignore a supernatural murder spree, gets on the case.

Big Bad: the Chumash warrior in a defensive pose
Image courtesy of 21st Century Fox.

Over on Angel (the show), Doyle, his demon prognosticator, has a vision that Buffy is in danger from the Chumash warrior. Why, exactly, this threat is more important than any of the other threats Buffy has faced this year is not really explained. But it’s serious enough that Angel (the man) schleps his way up to Sunnydale and skulks around in the shadows, pouncing on all of Buffy’s friends while she’s not looking so he can be incognito. Basically the only person who doesn’t know he’s in town is Buffy because Angel doesn’t understand the meaning of “secret mission.”  Everyone assumes he’s evil again, because that’s funny, even though Angelus was a much slyer stalker.

Willow is trying to figure out a non-violent, apologetic way to settle the warrior’s complaints. Xander, who dropped feet first into the old mission, gets cursed with typical vengeance demon STDs, which will later pay off in the episode “Once More with Feeling” because Anya gets to sing, “His penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe!” Comedy gold, people. In between tracking the warrior, finding one eared corpses, and trying to be historically sensitive to the Chumash’s complaints, Buffy is attempting to put together her first Thanksgiving dinner, full of turkey, pie, and rampaging bears. Into this mix drops Spike, looking for sanctuary among the Scooby Gang.

Spike, famished and wrapped in a ratty blanket
Image courtesy of 21st Century Fox.

Since his neutering, Spike is starving. He wanders the streets of Sunnydale, sadly gazing in on a group of vampires eating dinner in the old warehouse set, his nose pressed against  the glass and a tear in his eye. He tried seducing Harmony ““ again! ““ but she’s been eating a lot of women’s studies majors and is feeling empowered, and kicks Spike to the curb. Good for you, Harmony. Good for you. With the threat of becoming a walking skeleton hanging overheard, Spike stumbles to Giles’s door and begs for help. The gang is not super excited to help.

Spike: I’m saying that Spike had a little trip to the vet and now he doesn’t chase the other puppies anymore. I can’t bite anything. I can’t even hit people.

Buffy: So you haven’t murdered anybody lately? Let’s be best pals.

Spike offers to trade information about the soldiers in exchange for help, which is what finally gets him through the door. Meanwhile, the Chumash warrior has summoned a bunch of undead buddies to help him with his vengeance scheme, leading them on a full assault on Giles’ apartment. Spike gets shot up by arrows. A lot! Buffy gets shot with arrows! Giles gets a mid-assault phone call (Giles : H-hello? Yes. … Yes, w-w-we’re well aware of that. … We-we’re under siege now, actually. … Thank you.) from Angel warning him about the attack! The rest of the Scooby Gang ““ the Cavalry, if you will ““ rides stolen 10-speed bikes to the rescue. Angel awkwardly fights ghosts just out of Buffy’s line of sight! The spirit warriors can’t be killed because they’re already dead! Buffy manages to cut the head vengeance warrior with his own ceremonial knife and causes him to turn into a really large, angry bear!

Collage of pictures of Buffy, Spike (pierced with arrows), and a very large bear, captioned "A bear? You made a bear? Undo it! Undo it!"
Image courtesy of 21st Century Fox. (And Tumblr)

At the last minute, teamwork lets Buffy kill the Vengeance Bear with the ceremonial knife. The whole gang finally gets to sit down to Buffy’s dinner ““ even Spike ““ where Xander lets it slip that Angel is in town, stalking around like a stalker.

The gang sits down to Thanksgiving dinner
Image courtesy of 21st Century Fox.

 Random Observations:

Willow foreshadows Adam, this season’s Big Bad, when she theorizes that someone is building a something out of stolen body parts. She was right, she just had the wrong bad guy.

In Buffy vs. Dracula, Xander declares he’s tired of being the one who always gets “the funny syphilis.”

Even though the show is now moving away from “college” stories and back to “slayer” stories, they keep sprinkling in these fantastic little moments that remind me of being in college, or at least being of that age, where we’re getting exposed to new thoughts and ideas, and sometimes embrace them with no subtlety or with a bit of excess fervor. Check Willow’s passionate anti-Thanksgiving, White Guilt moments throughout the show. I knew a lot of (and maybe was one myself) freshman who seized on the “real meaning” of Thanksgiving as if they were the first people to make the connection between the illusion of celebrating friendship between Native Americans and white settlers and the actual, horrible, disastrous history of our treatment of Native Americans. Despite the fact that Spike is tied up and blood-starving, Xander is delirious from the funny syphilis, the whole argument they have about history’s winners could be a tableaux from any college group, even down to the setting in an inappropriately-older-man’s living room. You just need to add more beer.

Willow: Buffy, this isn’t a western. We’re not at fort…Giles with the cavalry coming to save us. It’s one lonely guy. Oppressed warrior guy who’s just trying to…

Buffy: Kill a lot of people?

Willow: I didn’t say he was right.

Buffy: Will, you know how bad I feel about this. It’s eating me up – (To Anya.) 1/4 Cup of brandy and let it simmer – (To Willow.) But even though it’s hard, we have to end this. Yes, he’s been wronged, And I personally would be ready to apologize –

Spike: Oh, someone put a stake in me.

Xander: You got a lot of volunteers in here.

Spike: I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians.

Buffy: Uh, the preferred term–

Spike: You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. It’s what Caesar did, and he’s not going around saying, “I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.” The history of the world isn’t people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.

Buffy: Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of – Not that I don’t like Spaniards.

 

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[E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com. She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

9 thoughts on “Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4.E8 — “Pangs””

  1. This episode is GOLD. Comedy GOLD. I love Spike with the Scoobies (his snark keeps Buffy from too many monologues, if only because he starts making fun of her increasing tendency to speechify, and she offers to murder him in a fun way, and it’s entertaining). Xander’s less stupid than usual, but he’s delirious, and Giles is trying to keep Willow from handing the entire city of Sunnydale over to vengeful, solid ghosts.
    Another notable thing is Buffy’s “I will make Thanksgiving happen and it will be PERFECT because I AM A GROWN UP ADULT” hyperfocus. I know I felt that way my first Thanksgiving away from parents (or friends’ families), and what actually happened was a can of soup in front of the TV. At least they had Giles’ kitchen to invade (so he would clean up) and his apartment to trash during the fight. I imagine his neighbors either wonder what the hell is going on regularly or just turn up their televisions (and dismiss it all as “well, he’s English, and always has teenagers over, trying to reclaim his dying youth and etc”).

    I still wasn’t sold on Angel until I watched his series, but his skulking and trying to be sneaky and protect Buffy without letting her know he’s there was hilarious. And I love that everyone but Spike looked ashamed when Buffy found out — Spike’s smirk. I love Spike. He’s such an amusing mass murderer with overbleached hair.

  2. I’ve been avoiding the recaps all this time because I was afraid I’d get sucked back in then I’d have to sit down and watch the series all over again and jfc I don’t think I could watch the last episode again ( I was literally on the floor sobbing because of how much I love Spike) …

    Anyway, these recaps are fucking awesome and I’m mad at myself for taking so long to start reading them.

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