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September 1, 2015

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Pack

by Keith McDuffee, posted Jul 3rd 2006 11:03AM
buffy the pack
(S01E06) This was an exchange between my wife and I last night:

Me: "Hey, we've gotta watch another Buffy tonight."
Wife: "Oh yeah, that's right. Which episode is it again?"
Me: "Um ... Oh yeah -- the one with the hyenas."
Wife: "Oooh ... ugh."

That pretty much sums up this episode. In fact, later this year, when I list my bottom five Buffy episodes of all time, I'm pretty sure 'The Pack' will be on it.

There are really only two things that make this episode stand out from others (besides it being bad, that is). We've got the killing of the first principal, Mr. Flutie, and we've got an episode that's referenced at least a couple of times in later seasons.

The continuity of this show is one of the things I appreciate immensely. Sure it's not perfect in that respect, but the writers consistently pay homage to the fans in continually referencing, sometimes very subtly, things that have happened in previous seasons ... even if they aren't from stellar episodes.

What did I hate? I hated that Xander was somehow able to take down Buffy, even if he was possessed. I hated that the possessed kids laughed "like a hyena." I hated that the goings on really did nothing to advance or otherwise change the relationship of any of the characters, even though it very well could have. With the good episode before it and the excellent one to follow, this was like a big turd sandwich surrounded by two gourmet pieces of focaccia bread.

This episode was written by Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer, two writers whose only other writing credit for Buffy is 'Inca Mummy Girl.' Need I say more?

Main points of interest in this episode:
- Principal Flutie is eaten to death.

Quote of the episode:
Giles: "Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?"
Buffy: "Uh huh."
Giles: "And there's a noticable change in both clothing and demeanor?"
Buffy: "Yes."
Giles: "And otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles?"
Buffy: "It's bad isn't it?"
Giles: "It's devastating -- he's turned into a 16 year-old boy. Of course, you'll have to kill him."
Buffy: "Giles, I'm serious!"
Giles: "So am I. Except for the part about killing him."

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I have to very belatedly agree with the posters: this is one of the BEST episodes of Season 1, and one of the most memorable from the series. It was genuinely scary, and definitely captured the high school metaphor in the hyenas. And I was surprised that the mild-mannered zoo guy turned out to be the scary voodoo guy. AND it was a great Xander episode. I think Keith missed the mark with this one. But I'm enjoying all the RetroSquad posts, especially for this show, Angel, Seinfeld, Futurama, and Newsradio.

July 13 2006 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agreed with Avec, also. :) The Pack has the first glimpse of a darker Xander (and the first time Xander was actually, disturbingly hot), and it rounds his character up a lot more than it had been previously. It may not advance the plot, but saying it doesn't develop the characters is a little strong. Plus, it's worth it for the use of the song "Far."

July 06 2006 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm with Avec..this is an underrated classic from season one.

July 04 2006 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I used to hate this episode, but now it's definitely one of my first season favorites. It was one of the first times the plot worked on many levels, as a silly possession story and a metaphor for real life high school hell.

The zoo scenes near the end are pretty silly, but also kind of fun in their ridiculousness. I love the poor school pig, and that dodgeball scene is brutal!

July 04 2006 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Har har. I meant the scene at the end where they fight the crocodile hunter.

July 03 2006 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave D

I'm with Avec--I really enjoyed this episode when it first aired. The dodgeball scene alone made it all worthwhile IMHO.

July 03 2006 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Avec -- You are so right, the episode does fall apart as soon as the zoo scenes start.

July 03 2006 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Backing Logan on this one

I had no idea that the writers of this ep also wrote "Inca Mummy Girl." So here's my message to Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer:
Kudos on your appreciation of Xander; he really is a great character, and I'm glad you like him enough to focus your efforts on him. Now step away from the keyboard, and never -- I mean NEVER -- write a television episode again. Please. For all of us.

July 03 2006 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What!? This is one of the *best* first season episodes! It kind of falls apart at the zoo but everything up to that is great! Perfect blend of the early buffy themes, black comedy, horror. Good stuffy.

In regards to "advancing relationships", believe it or not, most hour long shows are not pitched to be serial, and some degree of episodic content is expected. Continuity can be just as ruinous as "advancing the story". Wrongo!

July 03 2006 at 11:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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