LadyGhosts of TV Past

Ladyghosts of TV Past: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.01, “Dead Man’s Party”

Unbelievable. “Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!” Americans.

It’s generally my goal when writing these recaps to say something witty or insightful, or to put things together in a new way. It’s a challenge to do for any show, but with something as beloved and well watched as Buffy, it gets a lot harder. Some days I just have to accept that there’s not a ton of insightful, well, insights that I can offer. Not every episode is going to predict a plot twist coming two years away or undermine sexist pop culture tropes. There are episodes where I just have to be satisfied saying “This is a good episode and I liked it a lot.”

This is a good episode and I liked it a lot.

Let’s review why.

First, there’s zombies. Everyone knows that I have a soft (edible) heart for zombies, and not only are there your run-of-the-mill walking corpses, there’s a Pet-Sematary-esque cat that claws its way out of the grave and a zombie demon god that possess a nattering book clubber.


Second, there’s this private smile Giles has after Buffy comes home. He manages to keep his demeanor stoic until he as a moment alone, making tea for the kids. His small smile matches the same one on Buffy’s face when he welcomes her home.


Third, we get a glimpse of The Ripper rearing his head when Giles threatens Snyder at the end of the episode.


Fourth, both Jonathan and Snyder get their moments on screen.



Joyce’s gallery – which I’m not clear if she owns or just manages, its never elaborated on and Buffy never sets foot in it – gets in a shipment of “primitive African art,” in which a zombie demon god mask is included, which Joyce hangs in her bedroom because it seems “cheerful.” Joyce has problems. The fact that she considers a demon mask “cheerful” is one of them. Another is her complete inability to deal with Buffy’s homecoming – she doesn’t know what to do with her daughter, seems unwilling to admit that telling her to never come back to the house ever again might be the reason Buffy didn’t come back to the house for three months, and misplaces her guilt over this all over Buffy (and Giles, but that came up last week).

Unfortunately for all involved, there is not a single person among the Scoobies that is capable of dealing with their emotions. No one wants to acknowledge they resent Buffy for disappearing for a couple of months, and no one seems able to put together the clues that something really awful happened to her. All they see is her disappearance. But only a year before, Buffy had died, I mean literally died, and she didn’t take off for parts unknown after, so intelligent people might be able to figure out that something worse than dying happened to her. Instead of calling Buffy a therapist, they throw her a house party.

Buffy, being the intuitive girl she is, realizes that no one seems overjoyed to have her back. It hurts. It might hurt like someone rubbing salt in an open wound. When Willow and Joyce catch her packing a bag to run away again, all emotional hell breaks loose. Joyce yells about how selfish Buffy’s running away was, in front of her friends and party goers. Xander gets on his righteous high horse about something or other I couldn’t understand because all I heard coming out of his mouth was douchebag. Willow interjects with a snarky aside, and then no one really needs to deal with what’s been said, because zombies crash the party.

Then everyone remembers why it’s great to have the Slayer around, because she slays the demon zombie god thing that took over her mom’s weird new friend, and I bet that particular kill was sort of passive aggressively satisfying.

Friendship bonds reestablished after the airing of grievances and a bit of cathartic zombie killing, Willow and Buffy meet for coffee at The Espresso Pump, just the two of them.


Bonus Content: Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party”

By [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 You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

4 replies on “Ladyghosts of TV Past: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.01, “Dead Man’s Party””

I think one of the reasons I like this show is that it writes teenagers really well. No one knows how to deal with Buffy coming back because (except for Joyce, omg, I don’t even know) this is a very new experience. Their friend ran away. And she wasn’t gone for a few days, or a couple weeks. She was gone for three months and they had to live their lives without her. They are mad about her leaving so when she comes back, they are still mad at her. That emotion just doesn’t go away. They can’t process it out. They don’t know what she’s been through because they don’t ask and I’m not sure Buffy can explain it. Everyone is working with only the experience they had and no one is sharing a difference experience without attaching some sort of rage, anger or shame to it. Teenagers. Just bags of emotion.

I know that in sixth grade, my best friend ran away – she ran away to her mother’s house the next city over – she took off and didn’t tell anyone except her older sister (who supplied the ride). I actually never saw her again until my senior year of high school and even then it was for just a few minutes to congratulate me on finishing (she got her GED the year before). I can tell you that for all that time I was MAD at her. I hated her for leaving me. I did not have a lot of friends and to have one who I thought was my best friend just up and leave – it was like she up and left ME. Even though I know now she did it because she didn’t like her father. In the sixth grade, you don’t have those rational thoughts. I’m still mad at her but that’s something I can’t process out. How do you handle your best friend leaving your life?! Everything Willow went through made sense to me – not from a logical standpoint, there is no logic here – but from a path of emotional steps standpoint. This is how it feels, it doesn’t seem clear but this is how it is. Except, well, my Buffy didn’t come back.

Teenagers. Bags of emotion.

(Also, clearly, not one of my favorite episodes – and I really do not find zombies fun, zombie movies are lame, there I said it.)

Yep, if there’s one thing that Joss Whedon severely lacks (and I say this with the most love because I’m still a huge fan of his work), it’s ethnic diversity in his casting and writing. I mean, Buffy lives in Southern California which is SUPER diverse in reality. Always thought it was a smidge weird that Buffy never really has any friends that don’t at least pass as white.

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