The return of the leather jacket! But, alas, not the return of Angel. Since we’re about to get a whole episode about him (even titled after him) I can’t be too upset, though.
I have always been highly attracted to Xander in this episode. This may be the episode that actually got me to like him. Not that I disliked him? I just seem to recall that this episode was the deciding factor in my decision about how much I liked Xander. (I like him, for the record. Probably a lot more than Willow, to be honest, but we’ll get to that later, when I start having actual problems with her character and how Joss handles it.)
I think part of the attraction here is we get to see Nicholas Brendan playing an alpha male. Now, I get that hyena pack structure is matriarchal, but Xander is clearly the leader, so whether that means he was possessed by a female spirit or that means he’s the alpha mate and was stalking Buffy because she’s a great candidate for alpha female, I’m not sure, and I feel differently about it every time I see it. How was he going to convince her to join him, anyway? Is he a were-hyena? Was he going to bite her? Or was he going to take her back to the zoo and have her trans-possessed too?
I do have to laugh at the whole “becomes evil, starts wearing leather” trope, here. Not that Nicky doesn’t pull it off, it’s just such a cliche. And yet again, Nicholas Brendan’s acting makes me want to see him in more serious roles. He gets cast in goofy roles a lot, but he really does have the ability to pull of some emotional depth, and I want to see him explore that.
I had forgotten that this was a dodgeball episode. I have mixed feelings about dodgeball, mostly because I was often the first one out, but found it somehow satisfying to watch people get hit with rubber balls during gym class. I do feel like dodgeball was over used as an easy game to have people play in high school in the nineties and early two-thousands, but it works for the plot here, so I’m not going to get too upset about it.
I am upset about Herbert, though. I have always hated shows that are mean to animals, and while not exactly mean, having the school mascot be eaten just makes me upset. He’s just a cute little pig! Who was probably going to grow into a giant pig, but still. Poor Herbert.
And poor Principal Flutie! No one deserves to be eaten in their own office by four of their students. I will miss you, Mr. Flutie, and your overbearing insistence on taking care of your students.
I don’t have a ton to say about this one. It’s a fun watch, but not terribly substantive. I enjoy it (unlike the previous two episodes), but it doesn’t have much bearing on the rest of the show, and it doesn’t commit any sins of writing or characterization, so I don’t feel the need to pick it apart. Just enjoy this one; or if you don’t enjoy it, enjoy knowing that “Angel” is up next!