I have only one gripe with Band Candy which I’ll cover later on, but mostly the episode is on my short list for funniest in the series. It’s the first episode written by Jane Espenson who later went on to be a producer on the show, penning 23 episodes in the process. And while she did win a Hugo Award for the very serious Conversations with Dead People, by and large her episodes tend to be more like Band Candy: Hilarious and a ton of fun.
The opening joke in Band Candy is one of my favorites as it so exemplifies the show’s core dna for subverting our expectations. Not only that but it also informs the theme of the episode. Giles is ominously reading from what appears to be one of his ancient sacred texts and Buffy is rapt with attention when. Incidentally the answer to the question, choice C is the definition of Entropy: All things tend towards chaos.
Mr. Trick is hiring a guy for one of Mayor Wilkins’ task.
“I know a beast who knows a guy.”
And Mayor Wilkins reveals he owes a very important demon a tribute he can’t get without Mr. Trick’s guy.
The next day at school Snyder is handing out chocolate bars that the student’s are supposed to sell in order to support the band.
“But we’re not in the band.” – “And if I’d handed you a trombone that would have been a problem.”
So remember in “Surprise” when Buffy asked her Mom to take the driver’s test.
“Do you really think you’re ready Buffy?”
Turns out she failed the written and they wouldn’t let her take the driving test. Buffy tries to pressure Joyce into letting her go again and Joyce reveals some unresolved fear still lingering about from the earlier events in the season.
Joyce buys half the candy bars and Buffy tells her she’s spending the evening Slaying with Giles. Giles buys the other 20 and Buffy tells him she has to be home with her Mom…and then stops by to see Angel who is doing Tai Chi.
“I didn’t know you could do that?”
Do what? It’s not that great. Anyone looks cool moving slow with a soundtrack. Watch
Buffy and Angel do a little close talking and there’s some very obvious sexual tension still going on. She brought him blood from the butcher and he indicates he’s getting stronger and shortly won’t need her. At home Buffy gets caught in her lie by Giles and Joyce and the two of them sit down together to properly plan and portion out her responsibilities without her input. Juxtaposed against Joyce in this scene, this is the most literal example of Giles’ role in Buffy’s life as second parent. Curiously they both seem to be on a bit of a candy bar binge. Wonder how many pieces of chocolate they had to eat in these takes?
And in the following scene it’s revealed who exactly, Mr. Trick’s ‘guy’ is pulling the job.
The next day we find out that the bars have been selling well for everyone. Xander and Willow are still spiraling into each other, the gravity of the indecent possibility seemingly increasing in strength the harder they pull away with it. The moment is punctuated by Cordelia’s admsision of having a cute term for her life before she met Xander.
“Of course that was Bx.” – “BX?” – “Before Xander.”
This particular episode does a lot to grow Cordelia as a character, right from her first line.
“What I can’t have layers?”
Remember what we’ve gone through to get to this point. In Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered, Cordelia BROKE up with Xander because of his lack of cool. And in the end she choose self determination over social acceptance.
“Shut up Harmony”
We could see her grappling with the fear of the ramifications of her decision. The great unknown. But in this moment she has clearly dealt with that side of herself and grown as a person. She seems secure, and happy. Which makes the impending stellar collision between Xander and Willow that much harder to watch. Typical of the show to give us something we think we wanted but turn it on it’s head.
Giles has apparently skipped out on his duties at school today and Snyder is miffed…though he is also acting strangely.
Buffy stops by Giles to see what’s going on and finds her mother there. Joyce suggests Buffy take the car and Giles can drive her home. Buffy doesn’t need to be asked twice, grabs the keys and runs.
“Do you think she noticed anything?” – “No way.”
As Buffy is scaring the hell out of Willow on the way to driving them both to Bronze Joyce and Giles have officially become the teenage versions of themselves. There is so much to love about this episode but this is my favorite scene. Joyce playing the young girl with the crush who is trying not to make a mistake. And Giles as the aloof too cool boy who is just so frickin’ moved by the music man. I love the way his accent has changed too and lost any hint of posh. I know close to zero about English accents but this is certainly much more Johnny Rotten to me. Incidentally this is also much closer to Anthony Stewart Head’s more conversational accent/
At the Bronze it appears nearly every adult in Sunnydale has succumbed to the effects of the age reversing chocolate. Including Principal Snyder.
“I am so stoked.”
The gang figures out the chocolate is the source of the mischief and set out with Snyder in tow.
Giles beats up a cop and takes his gun and then he and Joyce uh…do a little bangaranging on top of the cops car. Snyder takes Buffy to the chocolate factory and Buffy discovers…
Giles and Buffy confront Ethan and chase after him. Giles completely revealed here as Ripper is fun to watch. After a little coercion
Ethan reveals the demon tribute being collected tonight is a sacrifice of babies. Buffy breaks up the infant handoff and slays the demon, releasing the mayor from his obligation and also showing us what actual demons (as opposed to half breeds like vampires) look like. In this case, a giant snake.
I think my lone nitpick here is everyone describing the dosed adults as teenagers. Maybe Chocolate Giles and Joyce fit that description but everyone else are more like drunk children with a chocolate heroin addiction.
– I love Ethan’s reaction to Mr. Trick killing a man. Ethan is an agent of chaos, not destruction. Hence the entropy definition in the opening. He looks equally repulsed by the murder as we feel. But this entire episode is about entropy itself. Entropy is the lack of order or predictability in any system (here it’s Sunnydale itself) and the propensity for any system to gradually decline into disorder. When you strip away the responsible adults in a community things descend into chaos. But there are also microcosms of that going on throughout.
Chaos is countered through integrity and responsibility. For instance we’ve already seen that Buffy and Angel’s relationship in the form they’re capable of having it now, lacks integrity. And presently, she is slowly succumbing to it once more, lying to her friends and Giles about Angel’s existence and seeking Angel out for comfort when Scott dumps her. Again, all things tending towards chaos.
And then there is Willow and Xander, succumbing to the gravitational pull of their hormones, at the risk of destroying their strong cohesive relationships with other people. Again, entropy isn’t chaos itself but rather the tendency for all systems to move towards it. And within a cultural system (be it the relationship between two people or an entire government itself) it’s impeding force is integrity, authenticity, and responsibility.
At the beginning of the episode Buffy wishes she didn’t have adults running her life and her wish is granted. Through their removal she discovers their necessity, as things in town fall apart. But the takeaway is that she discovers she herself is able to function on that level by virtue of the Slayer/Adulthood parallel, which reinstitutes stability in the town.
I love that this episode is for all intents and purposes a one-off, but has learned the lessons of the previous seasons to cure one of my constant one-off pet peeves. The arbitrary inclusion of the Big Bad. Remember Halloween, an episode surprisingly similar to this one? In that episode, Spike seemed adrift, not really connected to the plot of the episode itself and just sort of there throughout to menace and toss one liners. It had the effect for me of diminishing his power in the show. In Band Candy, everyone is vertically integrated into the story. Sure the Mayor is really just a mcguffin in this episode but that is far more preferable to him just showing up the way Angelus did in all the Season 2 one offs.
If we consider the season to this point there are already some emerging patterns which hint at the season’s overall themes. So far we’ve dealt with the idea of shadow selves (“All men are beasts Buffy,”) authority (“children need to be controlled,) and chaos in any system. The appropriately named Revelations, coming up next will begin to tie some of those threads together in what is one my favorite seasons of Buffy.