So this isn’t you being afraid of hospitals ’cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?
In the greater narrative arc of Season 2, it seems odd to follow up the emotional devastation of “Passion” with a throwaway episode like “Killed by Death.” I was ready to grit my teeth through this rewatch, as I recall hating this entry, but like many of Buffy’s one-shots, I found myself warming up to the story once things got going.
Our girl starts off the episode in a bad way, struggling through her patrol while being sick with the flu. One of the benefits of being the Slayer is a primo immune system, but the virus Buffy contracts seems to be a particular strong one. It takes a lot to take her down. The Scoobies try to convince her to go home and get some sleep, except that Jenny’s death still smells of fresh guilt and Buffy won’t hear of laying down on the job any longer.
Angelus, of course, shows up to pummel her for a few rounds. He even has her on the ropes until the Scoobies intervene with some handy crosses, after which Buffy passes out.
The gang carries her to Sunnydale General. Once Buffy is admitted, the episode is straightforward. While delirious with fever, Buffy sees a monster creeping through the halls of the hospital. Turns out the sick kids in the children’s ward seem him too ““ they call him Death and he seems to be preying on them. Per Monster of the Week rules, Buffy must track down and slay him.
We learn from Joyce that Buffy has hated hospitals ever since she saw a beloved cousin die in one. There’s several flashbacks to a little brown-haired, brown-eyed Buffy (pre-bleach and green contacts, apparently) interacting with her cousin Celia ““ they play superhero (Power Girl!) and Buffy visits the hospital. Celia dies a horrible, screaming death while Buffy watches her helplessly. I can’t blame anyone hating hospitals after watching that.
Joyce also offers condolences to Giles. Watching his face fold in on itself is so painful ““ it’s a moment that elevates the episode above filler.
Xander: Visiting hours are over.
Angelus: Well, I’m pretty much family.
Xander: Yeah. Why don’t you come back during the day? Oh, gee, no, I guess you can’t.
Angelus: If I decide to walk into Buffy’s room, do you think for one microsecond that you could stop me?
Xander: Maybe not. Maybe that security guard couldn’t either. Or those cops… or the orderlies… But I’m kinda curious to find out. You game?
Angelus: Buffy’s White Knight. You still love her. It must just eat you up that I got there first.
Xander: You’re gonna die. And I’m gonna be there.
The truth hurts, Xander. Now that Angelus is evil, Xander gets to look like a hero and gets to say stuff like “I hated him first,” and everyone else has to look embarrassed. But the truth is, Xander didn’t hate Angel because he thought he might go evil again. He hated Angel because Angel got there first. Xander’s proprietary jealousy is one of his least redeeming features.
During her first night in the hospital, Buffy notices a little girl walking by the door to her room. A second later a monster follows her, tipping his hat at her. She wakes up suddenly and wanders down to the children’s ward, where she discovers the little girl from her dream died in the night. (The scene plays out like an homage to the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie ““ even the victims’ first names are the same.) Two of the other children from the ward tell her that Death comes at night. Sounds like an investigative job for the Scooby Gang!
Suspicion is directed first at the doctor treating the kids, but since he’s swiftly murdered by an invisible force, it seems like he was a good guy. Luckily, Ryan, one of the kids, has drawn a picture of the monster, which gives the gang something to work with.
I don’t know what this says about me, but all the creepy little boys they use on this show all look alike to me ““ Ryan, the Anointed One, and that kid who’s in the coma from the first season are entirely interchangeable. And why is it always little boys? Weird.
The surprising duo of Cordelia and Giles discover the monster is called Der Kindestod (child death), who feeds off children’s life force and is only visible to the delirious. Buffy can’t see him now that she’s feeling better, which means she can’t kill him, and since she’s deduced that it’s also responsible for Celia’s death, this isn’t a villain she can let get away.
Buffy decides to reinfect herself with concentrated flu virus, provoke a fever, and then, you know, kill things. With Willow providing a distraction for the hospital staff and Xander literally keeping her on her feet, Buffy tracks Der Kindestod to the children’s ward. Except they’re not there, because the kids weren’t going to wait around for the monster to kill them and hightailed it to the basement to hide. I don’t know why the hospital put an unlocked access door to the basement inside a child’s hospital room, but much like the whole “reinfect with flu” thing, you just got to let some things slide.
There’s a creepy basement (more shades of “Nightmare”), some frightened kids, a monster, and the Slayer. Is there a moment where we don’t know how this will turn out? Der Kindestod can show off his gross eye ball tentacles all he likes, the Slayer is still going to snap his neck like a pencil.
Recovering at home, Buffy gets a letter from Ryan to thank her for saving him: