[Updated April 30, 2013]
After 3 episodes which prefigure one of the two important themes of S3, we now get two which prefigure the other major theme and some of the plot lines. I’m not going to spoil the plot, but I do want to talk about one of the themes: maturity. Since Buffy’s a senior this year, it’s shouldn’t surprise us that maturity is a theme. Mature is what all seniors are supposed to be when they graduate.
Joyce tells Buffy that she’s being immature: “You're acting really immature, Buffy.” She is, though not for the reasons Joyce and Giles think. It’s the fact that she’s concealing Angel’s return which causes her to lie to them and to Willow. Buffy then does what teenagers love to do and demands to be treated like an adult in order to prove she is one. What follows is a metaphorical enactment of that demand.
Jane Espenson describes the episode as “be careful what you wish for”. As she says, “Buffy wishes she had something, she gets it and then learns that it’s not what she hoped it would be. So in Bandy Candy she was getting a lot of parental supervision from….."I wish I didn’t have these adults running my life" and then they’re not adults anymore and she realizes that she needs them, needs them as grownups.” It’s not just that the behavior of the adults provides a “sobering mirror” (Oz’s phrase), but Buffy also learns something from the absence of adult supervision: that she can function as an adult even if she’s not one.
So who’s being irresponsible here? The adults, certainly, once the candy takes effect anyway. Willow and Xander too, and Xander didn’t even need the candy. It’s an interesting question whether Buffy is. She’s lying to Joyce and to Giles about her studies/training, but she at least sees that as done for a good cause, namely taking care of Angel. On the really big other hand, though, she’s still hiding his return. That’s not exactly responsible behavior, particularly given the look on her face while he’s doing his Tai Chi. Nor does her reckless driving (without a license) show particularly good judgment. Failing to study for the SAT? I’d give that a pass. Last minute cramming isn’t likely to do her much good anyway; might as well relax.
No, Buffy shows her maturity when she has to operate as the Slayer instead of a teenager. She takes over completely at that point in order to stop the sacrifice. And to stop Giles and Joyce: “At least I got to the two of you before you actually *did* something.” Heh.
Band Candy may not have the subtlest of messages, but it’s certainly one of the funniest. Any episode with Ethan Rayne is worth watching repeatedly. It also contains a major clue to the season finale, both in the plotline and metaphorically.
Trivia notes: (1) Answer C on the SAT preparation test Buffy was taking in the teaser was “all systems tend towards chaos”. We know from Halloween that Ethan Rayne worships chaos, and that is what his candy leads to. (2) Mr. Trick’s “I know a beast who knows a guy” plays on the expression “I know a man (or guy) who knows a guy”. (3) When Buffy told Snyder that she “loved the idea of going all Willy Loman” to sell the candy, she was referring to the lead character in the play Death of a Salesman. As we’ll see in S4, one of the writers really likes that play. (5) The song Giles really likes is Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses”. You’ll hear it again. (6) Buffy’s description of the juvenile adults at the Bronze – “Let’s do the time warp again” – is from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. (7) Snyder wanted to be like Barbarino, who was the character played by John Travolta on the 70s TV show Welcome Back Kotter. (8) Ratboy – Buffy’s description of Snyder – was a 1986 movie starring Sondra Locke. (9) Anthony Head played Giles’ juvenile self very much like the character Alex from the movie A Clockwork Orange, the hat he took from the store being a real giveaway. Someone added the hat during the shooting, because the hat is not mentioned in the shooting script even though Joyce’s coat is. I’m giving this detail because the novel A Clockwork Orange will provide a major theme for S4 and later seasons.