The Anointed One arrives amidst medium fanfare and an entertaining red herring, Cordelia fucking crimps her hair for a night of boychasing at The Bronze, Anthony Head shows his gift for light comedy with a British bent, and Buffy whines in a tolerable manner that the showrunners should have remembered when Whedon later introduced Dawn.
Okay, the Anointed One really went nowhere in terms of the overall story, but his introduction was in fact rather inventive. Joss Whedon co-wrote this one with Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali, and his Whedonesque dialogue and contribution to the season’s story arc are unmistakable.
My favorite comic moment of the show: when Giles appears frantically at the Summers’ home, interrupting the beginning of Buffy’s date with the seemingly sensitive and poetically inclined Owen, desperate to alert her to the imminent arrival of the Anointed One. As Owen is present, the gang attempts to cover for the school librarian’s inexplicable impromptu appearance at a student’s home in the night by explaining that he is there about an overdue book. Buffy, eager to begin her date, attempts to tie up the ruse and send Giles on his way:
Giles: You have a date?
Buffy: Yes, but I will return those overdue books by tomorrow.
Giles: Wait, you’re not getting off that easily.
Owen: Man, you really care about your work!
What really makes this scene and dialogue work is Anthony Head, who excels at a certain British stock comic character – a fussy intellectual with easily ruffled feathers*, and in this case, eternally baffled by the crass and pragmatic intersection of American and teenage cultures.
Owen’s affinity for Emily Dicksinson offers Giles the opportunity to both correct Buffy on the poet’s last name (not Dixon) as well qualify that the poet was fairly good – not “for a woman,” as Buffy suggests in an accusatory tone – but “for an American.” Head’s slightly exasperated sigh extinguishing this line is why he makes the perfect Giles, ably holding the screen with his teenaged counterparts simply by performing on an entirely different plane from them.
*Rupert Giles is never dithering, however; when Buffy goes on a date instead of on a vampire hunt, he sets out for the funeral home himself to seek out the Anointed One, with predictably disastrous results, involving him bunking down with a corpse in a morgue drawer – albeit without complaint. Giles isn’t a whiner.
But speaking of whining, Buffy does it quite a bit. Nevertheless, she’s a tolerable whiner, often with a set objective and solid arguments packed in. Note how she negotiates making an analogy between herself and Superman!:
Buffy: We don’t even know if this is anything.
Giles: No, we don’t.
Buffy: And I haven’t had a day off in a while.
Buffy: And a cranky Slayer is a careless Slayer!
Giles: Buffy, maintaining a normal social life as a Slayer… i-i-is problematic at best.
Buffy: This is the 90’s. The 1990’s, in point of fact, and I can do both. Clark Kent has a job. I just wanna go on a date.
Giles: Well, I, I suppose it was a fairly slim lead…
Buffy: Thank you, thank you, thank you! And look, I won’t go far, okay? If the apocalypse comes, beep me*.
(*Beep me! Maybe I should be taking notes on the evolution of technology in Buffy! I do believe I remember the first time Cordelia pulls out a shoe-sized cell phone – and Willow will soon engage in an online relationship (granted, with a demon), but what else helps chart the technological evolution of the nineties and early naughts?)
But back to the whining. Teenagers do it a lot, some better than others. I argue that Buffy is better. She’s got plenty to whine about, and she struggles to balance the hedonism of the American teenager with the early imposition of the responsibilities of adulthood via her status as Slayer. Much of this struggle manifests itself verbally, a treat given Whedon’s gift with dialogue, showing her to be clever, manipulative, and insightful simultaneously. (See above exchange with Giles.) What a pity that the showrunners couldn’t call upon all of this once they introduced Dawn, whose whining is incessant and intolerable. Yes, Willow, Xander, and Buffy all have their self-centered, typically teenaged spells in which they grouse and glower, but they do so with charm and wit!
Oh, and the Anointed One. Admittedly, he sucks, but his introduction, with the red herring of the criminal turned vampire in the morgue, shows promise. If the actor had had the charisma of said criminal running rampant and savage in the morgue, we would have had some fun. And if Whedon had applied even a smidgeon of The Master’s humor to the Anointed One’s dialogue, the child could have been wonderfully snide and creepy. Instead, he’s a cypher taking up storyline space until we can get what we really, really want and need: Spike. Whenever I see the Anointed One, I placate myself with the foreknowledge that his doom will come at the hands of one of my all-time favorites. Spike is on the horizon.