"The Puppet Show" [1x09]
Review by Mikelangelo "MikeJer" Marinaro
Posted by MikeJer on October 13, 2005 (Updated: January 26, 2013)Writer: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Director: Ellen S. Pressman
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
Well that was kind of… pointless. All the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so far have been about something. Whether they were good episodes or poor episodes, they all had something they were trying to say about, if not the characters, life in high school through the lens of the Hellmouth. "The Puppet Show," alas, does not have much of anything on its mind. Beyond priming the viewer for the show's ability to throw out a plot twist or two, there is absolutely nothing substantive to analyze in this slow paced all-plot outing where the only character relevance is the introduction of Principal Snyder.
With none of the reasons I love this show so much for present, there's not much to talk about. Well, at least unlike "I Robot, You Jane" [1x08], "The Puppet Show" is reasonably pleasant to watch. This is mostly thanks to a good number of amusing scenes involving fun, albeit inconsequential, character interaction. This characteristic of the episode, in conjunction with that hilarious end credits scene, single-handedly keep this one out of 'F' territory, but not by much.
The first time I saw "The Puppet Show" the plot struck me as a mildly fun murder mystery in which a lot of characters are implicated, and the perpetrator turns out to not be the obvious candidate: the possessed dummy. The problem with all-we-have-is-plot episodes -- like nearly every procedural out there – is that once you've experienced it once, maybe twice, there's nothing more to do with it. Episodes like this simply offer no reason to ever revisit them, which is directly at odds with what Critically Touched as a site is all about. If you're ever curious about how I might grade the common procedural show, look no further! Lasting relevance is a problem a number of Season 1 episodes have, but I think "The Puppet Show" might just take the cake. With any possible surprise removed from the plot, all that's left are a lot of shots of Sid staring insidiously while on one-off one-note Morgan's lap.
The only thing I can think of to take away from all this is what Sid's role communicates to the viewers, and to Buffy. Sid represents the subversive nature of the show by appearing to be evil, but is instead good, like Angel. From Buffy's standpoint, though, Sid is a reflection of her destiny: trapped in her circumstances and required to constantly sacrifice (eventually her life) to succeed.
Sadly, that's about it. I found "The Puppet Show" to offer relatively inoffensive fun, but that fun has its limits. It is completely devoid of the things that I'm looking for in a quality episode of television: lasting relevance and resonance in story, theme, and characterization, along with some symbolism, subtext, and a nice dash of subtlety. If all you want in an episode of television is campy horror with a twist, along with some fun quotes, then "The Puppet Show" will satisfy. If you expect more -- as I do -- it will not.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
QuotesBUFFY:The school talent show. How ever did you finagle such a primo assignment?
GILES:Our new Führer, Mr. Snyder.
WILLOW:I think they call 'em 'principals' now.
GILES:Mm. He thought it would behoove me to have more contact with the students. I did try to explain that my vocational choice of librarian was a deliberate attempt to minimize said contact, but, uh, he would have none of it.
BUFFY:Giles, unto every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny.
SNYDER:So. We think school events are stupid, and we think authority figures are to be made fun of.
BUFFY:No! No, we don't... unless you do.
BUFFY:What am I gonna do? Slay vampires on stage?
WILLOW:Maybe in a funny way!
SNYDER:Kids today need discipline. That's an unpopular word these days, 'discipline.' I know Principal Flutie would have said, 'Kids need understanding. Kids are human beings.' That's the kind of woolly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.
SNYDER:This place has quite a reputation. Suicide, missing persons, spontaneous cheerleader combustion... You can't put up with that.
GILES:I'd like to think you're right. A demon is a creature of evil, pure and very simple. A person driven to kill is, is, um, it's more complex.
WILLOW:The creep factor is also heightened. It could be anyone. It could be me! ...It's not, though.
WILLOW:We could set up a complex sting operation where we get him to confess!
XANDER:Uh, I should wear a wire!
SNYDER:School hours are over. You, therefore, should be gone.
BUFFY:And I'm going any minute now.
SNYDER:There are things I will not tolerate- students loitering on campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking.
BUFFY:Well, I don't do any of those things. Not... ever.
GILES:Oh! I'm sorry. Um, your hair, uh...
CORDELIA:There's something wrong with my hair? Oh my god! (runs off)
GILES:Xander was right. It worked like a charm.
BUFFY:Well, I saw something. I-it ran across my floor, under my bed and then it attacked me.
GILES:Attacked you? How?
BUFFY:It was like it pounced on my face.
XANDER:Like a cat.
BUFFY:Yeah, exactly! But when I turned the lights on it was already gone. I think it went out my window.
XANDER:Like a cat.
BUFFY:This means that whatever's out there still needs a healthy, intelligent brain.
XANDER:In other words, I'm safe!
BUFFY:And it's gonna be looking for the smartest person around.
WILLOW:What? What could a demon possibly want from me?
XANDER:What's the square root of 841?
WILLOW:29. Oh, yeah.
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