This time the Buffy’s Slaying, the Master and his minions are the B-story while Buffy's attempts to date are the A-story. The prophecy of the Anointed One is very well done in this episode, the fake Anointed One is a good and quite scary character with his ‘religious’ fanaticism (vampires having something like their own evil religion is consistent with season 1 and Master-lead vampires; this will pretty much disappear in season 2 when we meet very different and non-traditional vamps), and the twist of the real Anointed One being a child is a good one. Appearances being deceiving is one of the recurring themes of the show. ("Gingerbread" will also play with the idea that the tendency to see children as innocent and good by default can make people blind to the evil hiding in the shape of a child.) Of course now we know that this storyline went nowhere and that the Anointed One was probably the lamest villain on the show, which makes the scary prophecies about him ring hollow, but I'm not going to hold it against this episode.
On the other hand, the A-story introduces a theme that will run throughout the show - Buffy’s difficulties of reconciling her romantic life with her calling. The purpose of this episode was obviously to establish the dangers and difficulties of Buffy dating a "normal" human (before having Buffy get involved with Angel only 2 episodes later). However short-lived and fleeting this story was, on rewatch I think Buffy did really like Owen (unlike for instance Scott Hope in S3, who – IMO – she only dated because she thought of him as ‘safe'), even though Angel was her main love interest, as we are reminded when Angel makes another appearance in the episode and Buffy is clearly interested in him but blows him off because she is disappointed that he seems to only want to talk to her about her “work” rather than being interested in her for herself. Buffy at this point only sees slaying as her job and is very far from thinking of it as a part of herself. Owen saying that Buffy is like "two people" introduces a theme of Buffy being split between her "Buffy, ordinary girl” persona and her Slayer persona, which she'll struggle a lot to reconcile throughout the show, with the Slayer part of her personality becoming stronger over years. We'll later see Buffy having a problem with a “regular” human boyfriend (Riley after losing his supersoldier powers in season 5) because of his feelings of inadequacy - that he can’t keep up with her; with Owen we see the opposite problem: not only he isn’t threatened or freaked out by Buffy's dangerous 'job', he likes it and is all too happy to throw himself in because he finds it exciting – which makes Buffy realize that she has to break up with him for his own good, because he would get himself killed. (Incidentally, I think this is the last time Buffy breaks up with someone until Spike in season 6 - Scott Hope, Angel and Riley all broke up with her, not to mention Parker).
It's not surprising that Buffy was attracted to Owen - he's exactly the kind of guy smart and secretly romantic girls fall for in high school (he reminds me quite a lot of a guy I used to have a crush in high school): brooding, mysterious, poetic, looking older and more mature for his age, which is all incredibly attractive to many girls at the time when most high school boys act very immature and tend to put on silly and unconvincing macho acts. (Even though the same kind of guy might start looking a bit dull when you get a bit older.) With Owen we get another idea of the things Buffy is attracted to in men – obviously Angel also has a "certain Owenosity" – he can rival Owen for brooding, and he's also older-looking, mysterious and a romantic soul. But in many ways, Owen is most like another one of Buffy’s later boyfriends, as he is a poetic, reclusive guy who turns out to be a major adrenaline junkie who gets off on danger and dreams of transforming himself into “danger man”. Owen’s line “I never thought that nearly getting killed would make me feel so…alive” sounds very much like Spike’s line from “Fool For Love”: “Getting killed made me alive for the first time.”
Cordelia is still a stereotype and particularly OTT in this episode with her aggressive come-ons to Owen and her jealousy and bitchiness to Buffy. I don't find it too surprising that Cordelia was after him too, she and Buffy seem to have a somewhat similar taste in men (both are attracted to Angel and Owen) and in high school, girls like Cordelia are tend to go after any guy who is considered attractive by other girls, especially if it’s a girl they have a rivalry with. Speaking of jealousy, this is the first time Xander speaks to Angel, and his dislike for Angel is obvious. Xander is jealous of Angel, and they are both jealous of Owen in this episode. This is also the first time Cordelia sees Angel, and she is immediately attracted to him (but at this point, he still doesn't pay attention to her.) Her line on seeing him: “Hello, salty goodness” will be repeated in AtS S4 "Spin the Bottle”, when Cordelia, after losing her memories and reverting back to her teenage self, gets a glimpse of Angel. There’s an ironic moment here: Cordelia saying about Angel: “That boy is gonna need some serious oxygen once I’m through with him”. Actually, he doesn't and hasn't for 200 years!
The characterization of Giles is much better in this episode than in the previous one, for once he really seems capable, and a good mentor to Buffy, rather than just an awkward and fussy librarian. The relationship between him and Buffy gets a nice development here, in this episode it shapes up as a real mentor/student relationship, and there are signs of him as a father figure as well. For most of the episode, Giles is trying to get Buffy to do her duties while she’s trying to find time to have some fun and go on a date, but later on she choses her duty over dating, and they end up relating better to each other in their last scene. We learn about his background which is also important for the show's mythology: his father and grandmother were also Watchers (which confirms that Watchers, unlike Slayers, can be of either gender); being a Watcher was nothing something he chose, he was 'chosen' in a way, just like Buffy, learned about it when he was even younger (10 years old) and just like Buffy, did not want to accept his calling at first. But unlike the Slayers, the calling of the Watcher runs in the family and is a job passed on from one’s parent (and unlike the Slayers, the Watchers are "ordinary humans" with no magical superpowers).
There's another 'subverting the expectations' moment when we're lead to believe that Giles is being sexist and has prejudice against Emily Dickinson for being a woman, but it turns out he has prejudice against Americans... Which, uh, is better? Well, marginally so, I suppose…
I had forgotten that Master said “Here endeth the lesson” to his minions in this episode, because the exact same line was later used by Spike to Buffy in "Fool for Love", and Buffy to the Potentials in “Showtime”. Did Spike meet Master at some point? Quite probably - but he never seemed to care much about him or his minions, then again maybe he just thought the line sounded cool.
Willow (about Owen): He can brood for 40 minutes straight. I've clocked him.
Xander (to Owen): You should probably know that Buffy doesn’t like to be kissed…Actually,. she doesn’t like to be touched...
Xander: In fact, don’t even look at her.
Giles: Two more of the brethren came in here. They came after me. But I was more than a match for them.
Giles: I hid.
Worst lines: I can’t think of any.
But I guess in-universe, Buffy’s “It’s not you, it’s me” breakup line is pretty bad... although here it is actually true, in part at least (it really is about her, but it’s also about him being so reckless and not understanding the gravity of the life and death situations the way Xander or Willow do).
Buffy worrying that her love life could get someone close to her, specifically Giles, killed.
Willow and Xander pretending to be dating: “We knew it was going to happen eventually, so why fight it”.
Buffy fighting the fake Anointed One while yelling “You killed my date!” is pretty awesome moment - we see how she gets strength from her emotions. Xander makes a decision not to tell her Owen is alive so she would stay as determined – which may be seen as foreshadowing his big lie in the season 2 finale.
Since LJ is not letting me post a poll, I've decided to give up on polls for the time being. It doesn't matter since so few people have been voting anyway. Is anyone even reading these reviews? :/