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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Puppet Show

[Updated April 29, 2013]

After a series of episodes telling Buffy what she should not do, because false steps will impede her progress towards her destiny, we now get the first of three episodes which tell her the affirmative steps she needs to take.
The metaphor in The Puppet Show is pretty straightforward once Buffy discovers the plot twist: Sid, the dummy, is a demon hunter, ergo he stands for Buffy. The metaphor is the message.
Putting aside his “horny” shtick, Sid is very dedicated to his profession. He’s willing to sacrifice his own life to eliminate the final demon. He may have seemed a puppet, trapped by powers and circumstances beyond his control, but in the end he wasn’t a puppet at all because he chose his fate.
There are other metaphors here which I can’t discuss because of spoilers. I’ll have to cut this short and talk about this episode in more detail when we get to Prophecy Girl. I’ll only say that I don’t think the reference to Oedipus for the hilarious closing scene was accidental.
There are a couple of little things I love about this episode: Principal Snyder and the irony of Cordelia’s song choice.
Trivia notes: (1) The episode takes its inspiration from the movie Child’s Play. (2) Xander had the dummy “say” the word “redrum”. “Redrum” is the word “murder” spelled backwards, and comes from the movie The Shining. Nick Brendan adlibbed the line. (3) Xander asked if anyone else felt like “they’d been Keyser Soze’d”. Keyser Soze is (duh) from the movie The Usual Suspects. (4) Alyson Hannigan adlibbed Willow running off-stage. (5) Although I really like this episode, it was the lowest rated episode in the show’s history.


  1. Another amazing thing about the Buffyverse, is that gimmicks like this(puppets or dreams) are used multiple times, but they are always fresh.


    You have puppets, which were used well her as a good case of misdirection and subeversion, instead of evil puppet you have a heroic one, then the idea is used again in Angel, to hilarious effect.

    Using dreams, first in Nightmares, then again in Restless, which was absolutely brilliant(OMG I can't wait for that review!!). I would also classify Fear, Itself as a dream episode, because the parallels with Nightmares are extensive, because the challenges they face come from their own fears, as much as it does in Nightmares.

  2. Whenever Joss reuses a theme or plot point, he shifts the viewpoint to explore the issue from another angle. That allows him not only to get a lot more mileage, but to deepen our understanding of the issue.


    In addition to your examples, all of which I agree with, I'd highlight Ted and Bad Girls/Consequences as demonstrating this m.o.

  3. Mark, I was wondering if the mention of the Monroe Doctrine in the classroom scene related to the episode (since that's something you frequently point out), and I admit my history is rusty in that area. So I did a quick Google search, and I laughed when I saw the highlighted result (emphasis mine):

    "The Monroe Doctrine is the best known U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Buried in a routine annual message delivered to Congress by President James Monroe in December 1823, the doctrine warns European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or *puppet* monarchs."