In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
One of the overarching themes that has been explored so far in Buffy The Vampire Slayer is the title character’s growing angst about not getting to be a normal kid. It’s a theme that has played out regarding her identity as a teenage girl and her love life, but in the two episodes covered in this week’s column, we get to see what Buffy’s fate means in terms of her future professional life. The two-part storyline “What’s My Line?” takes place during Sunnydale High’s Career Fair, which gets our heroine thinking about what line of work she would best be suited for if she weren’t destined to fight vampires. Of course, she isn’t given much time to dwell on this possibility as she is called on to save her beloved Angel from being sacrificed by Spike in an attempt to restore Drusilla’s vampiric powers.
The first part of “What’s My Line?” begins with Buffy being forced to fill out career questionnaires as part of Career Week at school, despite being apathetic about the activity due to her destined position. Meanwhile, Spike and another vampire named Dalton are seen poring over the book that they had stolen from Giles’ library in search of a cure for Drusilla’s weakened state. Dalton is unable to dechipher the texts found in the book, and Drusilla tells them that it is in code and that she knows where the decoder is. While on patrol at the cemetary, Buffy spots Dalton stealing a cross from a mausoleum but is distracted by another vampire whose attack allows Dalton to escape. She returns home via her bedroom window to find Angel, who again warns her of impending danger. Back at school, she and her friends receive the results of their career tests. Xander is informed that he is best suited to be a prison guard, while Buffy is encouraged to go into law enforcement. Willow is not given any career information but is quickly approached by a representative from a software company who whisks her away to a private lounge area stocked with refreshments. It is here where she is formally introduced to Oz, who seems to share her affinity for computers.
Back at the lair, Spike and Dru examine the cross that Dalton stole from the mausoleum. In order to try to get the Slayer off their backs while preparing for Drusilla’s restoration ritual, Spike puts a call out to an ancient order of supernatural assassins known as the Order of Tanaka to eliminate Buffy. When Giles hears from Buffy about the stolen cross, the gang conducts research and finds out that the key belonged to the author of the book that was stolen from the library, who coincidentally enough happened to be buried in Sunnydale. Buffy does not participate in the research, as she has a skating date with Angel at the local ice rink, where she is attacked by one of the assassins. Angel arrives to help her fight off the assassin, whom Buffy kills with the blade of her skate. Angel recognizes the symbol on the killer’s ring and tells Buffy that she should leave town until the danger has passed. This leads to a rather tender scene where Buffy kisses Angel, whose face is still in vampire mode, as a mysterious young woman who arrived in town at the same time as the Order of Tanaka looks on.
As an exhausted Buffy crashes at Angel’s apartment, Angel tries to get information from Willy, a local barkeep who has ties to Spike and the vampiric population of Sunnydale. Willy tells him that Spike is the one who hired the assassins, but before Angel can do anything about it, he is attacked by the young woman who was spying on him and Buffy at the ice rink, who proves to be quite the formidable combatant. The mysterious woman locks Angel in a cage facing a window with the sunrise just hours away. Giles informs Willow that the stolen text is a ritual designed to restore strength to a weakened vampire. Xander and Cordelia arrive at Buffy’s house and enter only to find no sign of the Slayer. While there, the doorbell rings, and Cordelia answers to find what appears to be a mild-mannered cosmetics salesman, whom she eagerly lets in, not knowing that he is in fact an assassin in disguise. Back at Angel’s pad, Buffy wakes up and is attacked by the young woman, who reveals herself as Kendra, The Vampire Slayer.
As far as cliffhangers go, the final scene in the first part of “What’s My Line?, Part One” was a lot more effective than the one at the end of the pilot episode. I’m intrigued by the appearance of Kendra, who is revealed in the second part to have been called to active Slayer duty after Buffy’s brief death in “Prophecy Girl” and has just now made it to Sunnydale to report for duty. I also enjoyed how the episode leaves both Xander and Cordelia, two characters who have nothing but disdain for one another, in mortal danger, even though they don’t know it yet. Plus, we finally get the meeting between Willow and Oz that we’ve been teased with since the fourth episode of this season. Time will tell if anything will come from that meeting, but it was nice to find out that they have similar interests. “What’s My Line, Part One” is a solid setup that introduces at least a couple of new elements to the show and earns 4 out of 5 Dorothy Hamill Phases.
The second part of “What’s My Line” picks up right after that impressive cliffhanger with Buffy explaining to Kendra that she is not a vampire and is in fact a Slayer just like her. This of course confuses Kendra, who states that only one Slayer can exist at a time. The two Slayers then go to the library to consult Giles, who surmises that Kendra must have been called up to the majors after Buffy temporarily died while facing the Master. During their catch up session, Kendra mentions that she trapped Angel in a cell facing the Sun, but when they arrive there, Angel is gone, having been set free by Willy and then turned over to Spike. Spike decides to sacrifice Angel in the ritual and gives him over to Drusilla for her to torture.
Through her conversations with Giles, Kendra proves herself to be a much more centered, mature, and disciplined Slayer than Buffy, who begins to entertain thoughts of retiring and letting Kendra take over her position. Meanwhile, Xander and Cordelia try to fight off the assassin that she let in the house, who has the ability to turn into thousands of parasitic worms. While hiding from the assassin in Buffy’s basement, the two of them begin screaming at each other before sharing a surprising and passionate kiss. Shocked by what they have done, they make a break for the door, running past the assassin. Back at school, Buffy attends the career fair, only to be attacked by a female police officer who is actually another assassin from the Order of Tanaka. Kendra aids Buffy in fighting the attacker, and in the ensuing melee, Oz is grazed by the assassin’s bullet and is attended to by Willow. Regrouping at the library, the group learns that the ritual to bring Drusilla back to health involves killing her sire, or the vampire who originally turned her. Buffy realizes that Angel is the sire and makes plans to raid the vampire compound to rescue him.
Buffy and Kendra head to Willy’s bar to find out where Spike took Angel, and Willy is more than willing to oblige in order to avoid getting beaten to a pulp. He offers to lead them to Spike’s lair, and Buffy agrees, though Kendra decides to consult Giles beforehand. When they arrive at the site of the ritual, already in progress, Willy reveals that he has led Buffy into a trap and Spike orders his minions to kill her. Buffy is aided in her battle by Kendra, who arrives with Giles, Xander, Willow, and Cordelia. The worm-assassin is destroyed after he is forced to slide under a locked door and every worm is stomped on by Xander and Cordy, while the rest of the team battle the vampire army. Spike cuts the ritual short starts a fire in order to allow for his and Dru’s escape, but Buffy prevents them from leaving by trapping them in a pile of falling rubble. With Spike and Dru temporarily out of comission, Buffy attends to Angel, who has been severely weakened by the ritual, and the gang heads home. The next day at school, Willow and Oz bond over animal crackers and Buffy and Kendra part with a newfound respect for one another. The episode ends with a stronger Drusilla pulling the unconscious Spike out of the rubble, stating that she is going to take care of him now.
“What’s My Line, Part 2″ is a great example of how much the writing has improved on this show since the first season. Nearly every plot point of this storyline ended on a satisfying note, from Buffy’s newfound commitment to her mission to Xander and Cordelia’s romantic moment, which was accompanied by a hilariously cheesy orchestra hit straight out of a Douglas Sirk film. I was also greatly impressed by a scene involving Angel, Spike and Drusilla where Angel taunts Spike by hinting at a past sexual relationship between Dru and himself, which sends Spike into a rage. This scene adds an added layer to Spike’s character that makes him more of a flawed and complicated villain than the more cliched and one-note Master from Season One. I was rather bummed to see Kendra leave at the end of this episode, because she’s a really cool character and an amusing foil to Buffy’s more laid-back approach to slaying. Hopefully she will make future appearances on the show and add some no-nonsense badassery to the quippy and oftentimes bumbling Scooby gang. I also hope that the events of this episode will mark a reduction of Buffy’s whining about her lot in life, which while understandable from someone her age was getting a little repetitious and boring. “What’s My Line, Part 2″ did quite a lot to further develop these characters and set up some interesting changes to the show’s status quo, and for that it receives 4.5 out of 5 Drops of Holy Water.