Sarah Michelle Gellar is a bonafide scream queen. Just look to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 12 as the television embodiment of her natural horror ability.
Right from the start of the playground fight, she pulled out her acting chops like it was second nature. I'm a HUGE horror fan and I cheered whenever classic horror tropes popped up on screen. THIS is the Monster of the Week adventure for you horror fans!
Brace yourselves, things are about to get scary. Let's find out by rewatching "Helpless."
To give you all a little background in horror history: Sarah Michelle Gellar earned her scream queen title in the 90s and 00s.
Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Grudge, and Possession all had that horror flair where she ranged from helpless victim to Final Girl. Her role of Buffy Summers, on the other hand, is where all those tropes that she could've been lumped into were turned on its heads.
We could also count her role of Daphne from the Scooby-Doo movie series, but those films overall had different issues to overcome entirely. (Let us never forget, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleased. *Shudder*)
Sarah Michelle Gellar is perfect in the horror field, so it's a shame that she doesn't do the genre anymore. Maybe it's time to start a fan campaign to get her on American Horror Story?
A boy can dream.
One of Sarah's best performances is her subtle change from vampire slayer to horror movie character.
Thanks to her Slayer abilities, Buffy could go toe-to-toe with Big Bads destroying the world. The powers were almost like her security blanket because she didn't fear the possibility of death, as compared to someone like Cordelia or Xander who didn't have those gifts.
But, once she lost her powers, she regressed to her Cordelia-like level before. Instead of going on the offensive, she played a strictly defensive game to protect herself. Many of her tactics involved running away, hiding, and thinking strategically about how to outwit the serial killer.
This methodology is a tactic we see a lot in horror movies, and, it's the smartest move to make.
If I was at full slayer power, I'd be punning right about now.Buffy
Horror victims die more often by making bone-headed decisions or being ignorant of the situation, especially when a killer is around.
Buffy recognized the vampires posed a bigger threat, and instead of ignoring the signs and fighting them, she knew when to get out and regroup. If this were a movie, Buffy made it to the sequel in empowering flames of glory.
Still, it sucked that she had to feel alone first to find the strength inside herself to stop the killers.
Three seasons into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we as fans were already taught that the life of a vampire slayer was one of loneliness and solitude. Their Watcher would be a constant guide, but beyond the wisdom, the Slayer was to fight the battle alone.
Buffy Summers is the anomaly we all know and love.
She had friends (the best ones ever!), and a support system who would fight evil with her. Even her mother would march in the figurative Slayer Pride Parade for her. Buffy had a better situation than her predecessors ever had in their lineage.
Though, in the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 12, these same themes were forced on Buffy as a means of "tradition" to push the narrative.
It seems almost apt that in the same week that Buffy had her powers drained for this test, her father canceled on the most important tradition that she kept close to her heart. And, that her father-figure in Giles would be the one to betray her by stealing her powers.
Being alone didn't need to relate to finding true strength.
Which, we knew that didn't need to be a requirement because she bounced back-and-forth between fighting alone and believing in the power of friendship a lot. The men in her life and friends supported her, so the piled on grief came across as a moot point.
(Plus, it was her birthday! The Watchers were unbelievably cruel in their timing. Give the girl a break and some cake.)
Alright, we've made it to the point about the Watchers ... and I might be a little triggered. (The Watchers were so frustrating!)
The Watchers Council here were a bunch of archaic misogynists who willing risked countless lives just to put Buffy in her place with an outdated tradition. WERE THEY SERIOUS?!
Buffy had already saved the world multiple times, even going so far as sacrificing her true love for the greater good. She lost friends, she lost her own life, and she defeated Big Bads to keep the world moving. She had nothing to prove regarding her Slayer aptitude.
So, the fact that Quentin and his motley crew of attempted murders felt the need to put her life at risk in a horror-inspired death trap came across as ungrateful.
We saw what the world would be without Buffy in Sunnydale, and it was absolute hell on earth. They should bow at her feet, and offer her help in every instance. But nope, the Scoobies only had smug Quentin and his fractured views on the lives of 18-year-old girls to keep them down.
Even the choice of the vampire for the test (a cannibalistic women-murdering serial killer) fit the skewed thinking against Buffy.
The Watchers wanted to keep her in line in that barricaded home, and if she happened to fail, they'd find another Slayer who could. Someone like Kendra would probably see it as an honor. Faith ... not so much.
If a vampire slayer ever made it to 18 years old, it should be a time of celebration instead. The Watchers Council really needed to reevaluate their traditions and protocols.
Plus, the Watchers stealing her powers was a huge breach of trust.
Understandably, this move would damage Buffy's relationship with them going forward until their demise later in the series.
Buffy had been gifted with the abilities, not them. The group didn't control the powers nor had ownership of them; they naturally belonged to the Slayer and would pass on to the next selected person.
Them weakening her reinforced their views that THEY had the power over her. Without them (in their view), the Slayer would be nothing, which is completely incorrect.
Buffy had the mission to carry and she made the sacrifices every day in her life. The power is hers and no one should force her to do a test to prove them.
Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgment. You have a father's love for the child, and that is useless to the cause.Quentin
I don't completely hold it against Giles because he believed wholeheartedly in his purpose for years.
However, he's at fault for his part by following tradition. If he had stayed on that same path, his character development would've been tough to swallow.
His relationship with Buffy needed to change after the trust was broken. He preyed on her vulnerability and led her into a situation that could've killed her. That danger was something that couldn't be easily forgiven; it needed to be repaired over several weeks.
Giles: You have to listen to me. Because I've told you this, the test is invalidated. You will be safe now, I promise you. Now, whatever I have to do to deal with Kralik... and to win back your trust...
Buffy: You stuck a needle in me. You poisoned me.
[Cordelia walks into the library]
Cordelia: What's going on? Oh, God. Is the world ending? I have to research a paper on Bosnia for tomorrow, but if the world's ending, I'm not gonna bother.
Giles: You can't walk home alone, Buffy. It isn't safe.
Buffy: I don't know you.
Cordelia: Did something take her memory? He's Giles. Gi-les. He hangs out here a lot.
Buffy: Cordelia, could you please drive me home?
Cordelia: Of course.
[Cordelia turns to Giles]
Cordelia: But if the world doesn't end, I'm gonna need a note.
Thankfully, one of the best changes made was growing their character development more as father-figure/daughter instead of Watcher/Slayer. They connected more on an emotional familial level that strengthened them; their actions weren't forced due to business.
And with the precarious relationship she had with Joyce (and non-existent with her real dad), she needed a parental figure somewhat looking out for her.
Their tender moment in the Sunnydale library after he had been fired was the first step in the new phase of their relationship. You could see that she started letting down her guard/anger after the truth had been revealed.
When it came to the test itself, the house was everything a horror fan needed.
The hotel provided a lot of room for Buffy to fight Zachary, so she could hide away if things got tough dangerous. We were treated to many classic tropes, like running down a hallway with the doors locked and finding an even scarier room by pulling on a string light.
My favorite had to be the hand breaking through the rotted wall. (A jump may have occurred the first time watching this at eight years old.)
Plus, the rotted walls and darkness suited the horror feeling with its amped-up creepiness.
Side-note: Sunnydale strangely had a lot of big abandoned buildings to use for programs like this. What made the Watchers choose a hotel in the first place? Did it have the space they needed?
(A dilapidated and abandoned hotel in the middle of town? Perfect!)
Kralik: Mother. May I call you "mother"? My own mother was a person with no self-respect of her own, so she tried to take mine. Ten years old, she had the scissors. You wouldn't believe what she took with those. But she's dead to me now. Mostly because I killed and ate her, but also because I know I won't be alone much longer. I'll have your daughter. I won't kill her, I'll just make her like me. Different. She'll go to sleep, and when she wakes up, your face will be the first thing she eats.
[He stops to think over his comment to Joyce]
Kralik: I have a problem with mothers. I'm aware of that.
Zachary's torment of Joyce and Buffy included a strange plothole in vampire mythology that we shouldn't ignore.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer decided that vampires wouldn't have reflections, and their image would never be seen in photographs/videos. However, the vampire serial killer left Buffy a Polaroid of Joyce to torment her. The problem, however, was that Zachary's face appeared in the photo.
That photo shouldn't happen because of the above!
Sure, the scene of Buffy discovering the first Polaroid, and the small room filled with Joyce's Polaroids, might be one of the creepiest scenes ever on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But the end didn't justify the lapse in change.
Zachary should've stayed invisible to keep the myth in check.
There's a pivotal moment in the Angel TV series when he sees his reflection for the first time in centuries. That discovery meant a lot to him because he could finally see his appearance. If all he could do was take a photo, that moment wouldn't have meant anything.
He and Buffy would've taken a bunch of couple photos to mark their relationship. And you know Buffy would've placed photos of her and her man in her Sunnydale High locker because of #couplegoals.
Did you like the way Buffy killed Zachary Kralik?
Her move with the holy water offered a clever take on vanquishes. The liquid suited stunning enemies instead of turning them into dust. We didn't get any enemy deaths with holy water before, so it was nice to see a change from common stakes.
Kudos to Buffy for preying on his weakness with the pills and water. She saw the advantage and exploited it to win in battle without fighting him personally.
Plus, she stopped a dangerous killer, so that's always a good outcome.
Angel: I saw you before you became the Slayer.
Angel: I watched you, and I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. You walked down the steps... and... and I loved you.
Angel: Because I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life, I wanted to keep it safe... to warm it with my own.
Buffy: That's beautiful. Or taken literally, incredibly gross.
Angel: I was just thinking that, too.
What did you think of "Helpless"? Did the vampire photo confuse you? How much did you hate Quentin after his first appearance? Did Buffy's attitude about her powers surprise you?
Want to join us in rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer? We'll be posting new rewatch posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.