“I have a daughter who can take care of herself, who’s brave and resourceful and thinks of others in a crisis. No matter who you hang out with or what dumb teenage stuff you think you need to do, I’m gonna sleep better knowing all that.”
-Joyce Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer S2E3: “School Hard”
Brief synopsis: Buffy tries to keep her mom from running into Principal Snyder on Parent-Teacher night. Meanwhile, a new vampire is in town, one with a reputation for killing slayers.
Title significance: So apparently the plot of “School Hard” shares some elements with the movie Die Hard. One of these elements would definitely be how Buffy clamored through the vents, a wink at John McClane’s air vent scenes in Die Hard. They also share the premise of a bunch of people taken hostage in a public building.
I think that besides just alluding to Die Hard, this title is just plain making a statement about Buffy’s life. School is hard for her. It’s just one more thing she has to worry about on top of slaying, her social life, her family life, especially when the principal is giving her extra work in order to keep from being expelled.
Girl Power: Even though most women don’t really have to worry about saving the world, I think a lot of us can relate to the stress Buffy faces in juggling the different aspects of her life. I think this really makes Buffy relatable, and speaks to the girl power that’s around every day, where women are taking care of business.
Speaking of woman who don’t have superpowers rocking, how badass was Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mother, this episode? Not only does she risk herself in order to save her daughter (and succeeds in taking down Spike!), but she also states exactly how proud she is of Buffy because she can take care of herself and tries to help other people. The Summers women really are quite awesome.
Success of girl power: Really good this episode.
What “School Hard” does right:
- Intro of Spike – Spike is such a badass, and I think this episode does a great job introducing him. His long leather coat. His cigarette. His car. Then we hear that he’s fought two Slayers and won both times. It makes him instantly a very cool, very interesting villain, much more so than “The Annoying One.”
- Joyce – Even though I just talked about this above, I want to reiterate how awesome Joyce Summers was this episode. Her taking out Spike was a moment that was right up there with Ripley and Molly Weasley. It was an exceptional moment for her, followed by another awesome moment where she decides she doesn’t care what Principal Snyder says, she is very proud of her daughter.
- Getting rid of the Annointed One – Spike was really spot on when he called Collin “The Annoying One.” He was a very boring villain, lacking any sort of character, and the kid was a pretty poor actor. I was glad they decided to get rid of him, and they did so in a very shocking fashion, that really makes Spike feel more dangerous.
What “School Hard” could have done better:
- Overtness – Joyce tells Buffy that she should just wait until she has a job and see how stressful that is. Buffy then opens a drawer to look at her little stash of weapons and announces to the audience: “I have a job.” Yeah. We know. We get that your mother has no idea the amount of stress you’re under and the responsibilities you have. It lessens the scene and makes it seem like the writers don’t think the audience will get it.
- Principal Snyder – Principal Snyder just doesn’t make sense to me as a character. He imposes this weirdass contest for Buffy and Sheila with the threat of expulsion. He loves to complain about the students, yet nothing he does ever feels like he’s trying to make them less annoying. If he cares enough about Buffy and Sheila’s trouble-making behavior, then instead of imposing this contest, why isn’t he contacting the parents in the first place? Why doesn’t Joyce already know about Buffy’s truancy if he cares so much?
- Angel and Xander – Wait. What exactly was Angel’s plan? Pretend to be buddy buddy with Spike, putting one of Buffy’s best friends at risk, and then what? It was a stupid plan, had very little chance of working, and just . . . I didn’t get it. Couldn’t anyone have come up with something a bit more clever?
Overall: A pretty good episode.