Episode Reviews (66)
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Too silly a concept for me to enjoy!
I just couldn't get into that episode as much as the others. There is 2 horrible episodes in the entire show... the one with the bar in later seasons (I forget the name now) and this episode.
If it was handled a little differently I could have enjoyed it more but overall I found it silly.
nobody mess with MY Willow!
well, what can I say... it really bothers me, but I must admit I'm so not a fan of Xander's own storylines. plus, there are no really good moments... well, I kinda like dodge ball scene but while watching it I want to kick Xander's ass every single time for being such a jerk with Willow, especially for the things he tells her after this freaking game.
though Nicky is really charming and attractive in this epi -- maybe I am (like Buffy) SO into dangerous guys or maybe it's just the confidence that Xander has here. but it's kinda funny and amazing that all it takes to turn geeky Xander into scary Xander is a liberal splash of hair gel :)
but still -- my least favorite episode, probably not only in this season, but in the whole series...
FAVE SCENE: dodge ball.
FAVE QUOTE: Buffy: Yeah, I often do [take a bath], I'm actually known for it.moreless
Xander's back at the center of this story, in another horror movie premise doubling as a metaphor for high school anxieties.
During a field trip to the zoo, Xander wanders too close to the hyena cage along with a quartet of obnoxious popular kids, and all five of them get zapped with a kind of spiritual transference spell that turns them into a tight-knit band of roving savages, preying on nerds and gradually turning more and more feral. And who's behind the transformation? The lowly zookeeper, who had hoped to get hyena-ed himself.
Again, I'm going to save one of my major objections to this episode until the "overall thoughts" section, since it's a problem I had with "Teacher's Pet" as well. Instead, I'll note some minor annoyances here, like the way the teenagers look a little silly leaping catlike at their victims, and the way the writers throw away a good potential action sequence when the pack surrounds Buffy during a game of dodgeball, then turns away from her to pummel someone else.
And yet, even though the analogy of hyenas to high school cliques isn't developed as well as the "sex = icky" theme of "Teacher's Pet," the storytelling in this episode is engaging and a few of the scenes genuinely creepy, as when the Xander-less pack goes after Principal Flutie in his office. If there's one thing nearly all adultsand authority figures in particularfear about kids, it's that there will come a day when children realize that grown-ups feel like frauds, with no real power beyond vague threats. What exactly can the principal do if his students don't obey? In this case, nothing. The pack rips him apart, and Principal Flutie dies. I have to say: I did not see that coming, and I thought it was refreshingly hardcore. A reminder that, to quote De La Soul, "stakes is
The Flutie-murder alone bumped this episode up half a point, as did the way that this Xander-focused episode ended up being mainly about Willow, a character finally starting to get her due nearly halfway through the first season. Willow has a touching conversation with Buffy at The Bronze about which boys they like and why, and when Dark Xander starts ignoring her and sniffing around Buffy, Willow is deeply and profoundly hurt. Thus far, Buffy The Vampire Slayer has been hit-and-miss in its grasp of high school lifesomething I'll talk more about belowbut there's something hauntingly familiar about the relationship between Xander and Willow, two longtime friends dealing with becoming adults, and developing attractions they can't quite control.moreless
This episode is where the weird stuff really starts happening. I love that the series isn't afraid to put its stars in odd situations that would be certain death in other series. The biggest draw back is that viewers will come to expect the crew can get out of any situation, so long as Giles has his books and Buffy kicks some tail. It means that the stakes are likely to skyrocket. It's also a rather dark episode - woo, cannibalism.moreless
Best episode so far
I'm watching from the beginning so don't know what is to come, but this episode was very entertaining. It had good lines, "Dodgeball is such a brutal game... I love it!" and a good performance from a Xander. Also when Xander bullied Willow it's the first time I've been emotionally involved with the characters. Hopefully good things to come.
"The Pack" is an odd little piece that is all over the place in terms of quality. There are some moments of gutsiness, moments of cowardice, moments baked in pure clich, and it's all coated in the episodic amnesia that is S1. In some ways the episode reminds me of "The Witch" [1x03] in that it tells a stand-alone story that is firmly in the "high school is hell" mode of making broad statements about the high school experience rather than telling its story through the characters we care about. The episode almost makes it work by having Xander be among the possessed, but it's all thrown away by the end of the episode. Enough teasing, though -- let's get into the meat of it all. ;)
The central concept behind "The Pack" is in exposing the dark side of social cliques. The pack isolates and preys on the weak and then devours them, made literal here due to the Hellmouth. This concept is set up in the opening sequence, which is written and directed in the most clichd manner possible. Fortunately, the episode's execution of this concept becomes a bit better when filtered through a possessed Xander and his interactions with Buffy and Willow. When Xander lashes out at Willow we later see the after-effect it has on her. On full display is how painful it can be to have a trusted friend seemingly turn on you in an instant something that can actually happen during those teen years, albeit generally not due to hyena possession.
After Xander has done his damage to Willow he moves onto Buffy, but he's not looking to hurt her emotionally he's looking for something a lot more physical. One interesting bit of information to come out here is that Xander sees Buffy as liking men that are "dangerous and mean, right? Like Angel. Your Mystery Guy. Well, guess who just got mean. " While I can see why Xander might come to this conclusion when looking at Angel, S1's episodic amnesia bites again with Xander acting like Owen from "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date" [1x05] never existed. In Owen we have some evidence to support that Buffy can also like a non-threatening nice guy. I do think Buffy likes men who have a bit of mystery about them, but that doesn't necessitate danger or cruelty.
Things get interesting when the pack, sans Xander, actually eats Principal Flutie while Xander makes an attempt to sexually assault Buffy, both of which combine to make quite a shocking sequence particularly for S1. I very much appreciate the episode's guts in going there, but sadly that appreciation quickly gets diluted by the follow-through. Xander's assault is promptly forgotten by episode's end and never brought up again despite being fertile ground for both character insight and exploration. Principal Flutie's gruesome demise is also pretty washed over in the episodes that follow, with only jokes about it down the road. Speaking of missed opportunities, how about there being absolutely no parallel drawn between the possessed students and Cordelia's often cruel 'pack?'
To put the final punctuation on my feelings regarding "The Pack," I'll refer to the giant slo-mo scene involving the possessed pack. This is a unique scene, to be sure, but the shot and the music are allowed to continue going on for way too long, to the point of absurdity. It's a bizarre shot that, in the grand scheme of the season and the series, just doesn't end up giving me a lasting impression other than "weird."
In the end it's a bit difficult to sum up "The Pack." It's decidedly a mixed bag, but what's ultimately damning is like so much of S1 its irrelevance. There are some good ideas thrown around and even a few individually compelling scenes, all of which keep the episode interesting to watch and help hold it together. Sadly, though, there's just not much I find compelling outside of said scenes and ideas as the central theme -- while relatable in a broad sense -- is a mixed bag in execution.
"The Pack" holds up alright as a stand-alone story (I actually prefer "The Witch" [1x03] in this regard though), but I just can't seem to care much when all is said and done. When events like these don't have follow-up consequences and/or reflection, they lose long-term relevance and all we're left with is an uneven one-off. The light-hearted 'everything is back to normal' attitude at the end of the episode sums up that dissatisfaction for me. If this same basic concept was tossed into the more complex S2 landscape, then I think we'd be looking at an overall much more compelling episode.moreless
All hyenas are bullies.
Has anyone seen the Lion King? Even the hyenas in that movie were bullies. They are definitely not very liked in the animal kingdom.
Anyway, this episode is basically about the horrors of high school bullying. I personally was able to survive high school without really getting bullied, or maybe that was because I spent most of my time to myself or with close friends of mine that nobody really had the chance to bully me?
We find the gang at the local zoo for a field trip (ahhh, memories of my own field trip to the zoo, no hyenas though). A group of bullies lure their next victim into the hyena area which is off limits due to a new shipment of wild hyenas. Xander goes in to help the kid out of there, but instead he ends up joining the bullies by becoming possessed by one of the hyenas.
Xander's attitude starts to change drastically, acting more and more like a hyena (or a bully, whichever way you'd rather see this). At one point he even says to Willow that she has a pasty face, which he would love to never have to see again. Talk about insanely harsh and I wish Buffy kicked his ass on the spot.
A lot of deep shit happens in this episode, especially with it only being the 6th episode. I just love how this show isn't afraid to show the true horrors of life. People tend to criticize this show for being too dark and cruel, but what they don't realize that it's just being true to life. Life is really this dark and cruel, especially for a teenager in high school. We've all been there, we all know what it's like. Even if you haven't personally been victimized in high school (even by Regina George, I'm sorry I had to say it), I'm sure we all know someone who has, or have once been a by-stander of some form of bullying. It happens whether you like it or not. It's sad, and dark, and cruel, but it's true.
Another thing that I must point out is the scene between Buffy and Xander. At one point Xander gets rough with her, and we even see a bit of a possible attempted rape. This is so much to handle! And how about the horror of how they all ate a live pig, and the other bullies (not Xander, thank goodness) went cannibalistic on Principal Flutie. Man, I would have loved to have seen the look on people's faces when they first saw this on TV in 1997.
All in all, a good episode. It has a very nice message of what it's like to be bullied in high school, even though the metaphor was majorly obvious. And I love how the writers weren't afraid to go totally extreme on some of the content.moreless
Love Buffy and Giles training, you get a genuine sense of menace when Willow is taken hostage for the first time. You' don't see the twist of the zookeeper, he seems so rational although I'm baffled as to what exact power he hoped to gain from the hyena spirits (then again I don't really understand why the Mayor wished to be this big snake?). Great acting from Nic Brendon showing the first of his range (in truth neither Nic nor David are that good actors in season 1 but they grow better)
The story is pretty stupid, reminds me of an obscure old series called 'Big Wolf on Campus'
Giles; Xander is becoming a teenage boy, you'll have to kill him of course
Questions and observations;
The first time someone is imprisoned in the library book cage but by no means the last. Xander trying to force himself on Buffy is unusually disturbing, for a feminist symbol she seems to get sexually assaulted a lot (but maybe that's the point?). It's interesting to compare this with Nic Brendon's unsettlingly convincing perfrormance as a rapist on Private Practice. Another Buffy cliche is a Scooby going evil (by the end of season 7 I think the only characters never to have gone bad were Tara and Giles?). Jennifer Sky plays one of the pack and she was very good as Amarice in Xena (so you can link Buffy to Xena in one if you're ever playing 'Six degrees of Bufferation'). No Cordy (there really isn't room for her) and no Angel. At this point of course he's not a fighter, he really is just cryptic warning guy but of course that really kicks in during the next ep
During a school trip to a local zoo, Xander and a bunch of bullies are possessed by the demonic spirit of some quarantined hyenas. Buffy and Willow soon become concerned about Xander's sudden change in personality. Not the best, but still fair...
This review contains spoilers.
Although I haven't watched the rest of the season for some years (I'm currently going through them one-by-one on the DVD sets), "The Pack" generally sticks in my mind as being my least-favourite of the first season. Don't get me wrong, it is still a decent tale in itself, but it doesn't really have the sharpness of most other episodes from the period.
Certainly, "The Pack" is often singled out by some fans as being a weak episode. I think this is a little unfair, as, on its own merits, I still enjoy this one. In my opinion, it is more a case of this episode not matching the high quality of some other stories, more than being a weak episode on its own basis. Heck, if "The Pack" came from any number of weaker shows, it would probably be hailed as a classic!
This is one of the several first season instalments with no vampires or Master, or reference to the overall season plot. Although some don't like this pattern, I personally don't mind it at all, feeling that it gives these early episodes more variety. It is also one of the first season stories where Angel does not appear (although he is mentioned a lot, in the scene at the Bronze), and Cordelia is also absent.
"The Pack" is a good Xander-based story (coming after the Xander-centric "Teacher's Pet" a couple of episodes ago). But the real star of this one is Willow. Alyson Hannigan is perfect in this episode, and delivers some of the best lines – I love her innocent questioning of why Xander couldn't have been possessed by something less threatening, "...like a puppy. Or some ducks". Forget Buffy or Cordelia, as a 20 year old when I first saw the series, Willow was the one that I fancied!
The story itself, which definitely not amongst the early episodes' best offerings, is reasonable, and certainly for the initial viewing, holds the attention. However, I did feel that the overall plot was maybe a little stretched, and could have done with some kind of side-plot to round things out a little.
But the other main thing of note with this episode is the demise of Principal Flutie, who is literally eaten by the possessed pack. This comes as quite shocking and unexpected. After being presented as a slightly generic grouchy principal in his first couple of episodes, here we get more feeling for the character, as does Buffy, as he tells her of the pride he takes in the school. Although replacement Principal Snyder was okay, I wish that Principal Flutie had continued for longer. (By the way, I did find it highly convenient that Xander was for some reason not present with the rest of the pack when they devoured him. This was never really explained why, but I won't nitpick on this!).
All-in-all, definitely not one of the early seasons' best episodes, to the extent of many being the weakest of the first season, but at the same time, this is as much down to the other episodes being of such high quality; and I feel that this episode doesn't really deserve the slating that some aim at it. It probably doesn't have the re-watchable value that many other episodes have, but it is a perfectly decent tale in itself. I give "The Pack" a reasonable 8/10.moreless