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BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
2:3 - School Hard
US TX: 29/9/97
Sky One UK TV première: 11/4/98
Writer: David Greenwalt (from a story by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt)
Director: John Kretchmer
"From now on we're going to have a little less ritual and a little more fun around here!" Spike
BUFFY is in danger of being expelled, and is given the chore of organizing the school's parent-teacher night, in the hope that it will keep her out of trouble. Buffy realizes that she'll have to keep her mother ("What I don't want is to be disappointed in you again") and Snyder ("You mess up this time, and your parents will be coming to clean out your lockers") apart. Spike and Drusilla, two vampires, return to Sunnydale. Spike agrees to compete to become The Master's successor - whoever kills Buffy will claim the prize.
School Hard is primarily concerned with introducing two important new characters to the series, the punkish Spike and his disturbingly weird ghoulfriend, Drusilla (and with providing enough evidence to support their credentials as formidable opponents for Buffy: he's already fought, and killed, two Slayers). The episode does this admirably, and also manages to find time to tell a mildly exciting action-oriented story, too. The plot is rather thin (and reminiscent of Never Kill a Boy on the First Date and Night of the Living Dead), but the wealth of character-driven scenes more than compensates.
The edgy relationship between Xander and Angel is highlighted in some interesting scenes, including their encounter with Spike (revealing that he and Angel have some history together). Spike, barely 200 years old, was originally known as William the Bloody - his nickname comes from his habit of torturing victims with railway spikes. (5/5)
2:12 - Luminary
US TX: 23/1/98
Sky One UK TV première: 25/3/98
Writer: Chip Johannessen
Director: Thomas Wright
FRANK attends an election interview in front of a panel of Millennium Group members, but storms out. Later, spending some time with his family at a planetarium, Frank is asked by Alex Glaser's wealthy parents if he will help find their missing son, who has vanished in Alaska. Frank agrees, but is refused any co-operation from the Group.
Although it may chiefly be remembered for its stunning scenery, there is certainly more to this transcendental episode than meets the eye. We finally get to learn a little more about the Millennium Group, and its selection procedure. Catherine and Jordan are back, and there are finally some signs of a reconciliation, with Catherine beginning to come to terms with Frank's work - and his Ladies of the Night CD ROM! - with the help of Barbara Watts. At Luminary's core there's a strong central mystery, which Wright spices up with some unusual narrative techniques. Johannessen's script is sharp, with exactly the right measure of mysticism and spirituality. Watch very closely and you'll see that the credit card number that Catherine taps into Frank's 'Plastic' program isn't exactly the same as the one Frank reads out to her, and isn't the one on the receipt from Monroes! (4/5)