13:07 General thoughts
Justin found the episode creepy in a way that Buffy the Vampire Slayer normally isn't. Combining kids, an invisible predator and a hospital ramped up the potential creepiness of the episode.
For Griff the title reminded him of the 70s classic, Murder by Death, although it followed a very different plot line. He didn't find the horror as scary as he felt he would've had he not been watching a "Monster of the Week" episode of Buffy. The design of Der Kinderstod gave him a strong Freddie Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe, while Alec struggled to not see the Trolls from World of WarCraft when the demon was on screen.
Alec also felt that the design of Der Kindestod was better executed as the fourth season episode, Hush while the idea of a kid in hospital playing the role of victim was better executed in the first season episode, Nightmares.
While there were parts of the episode which didn't work for Justin (straight forward functional exposition at the start, the flash backs and the final scene), Der Kindestod reminded him of the villain from Poltergeist II while the element of kids being the only ones who could see the villain was reminiscent of the original Poltergeist, which helped the episode to deliver on some of its promise.
He also felt that Der Kindestod's method of killing his victims, sitting on their chest while they sleep and draining their life force, fit perfectly with myths such as the Succubus which can be traced back to people explaining the condition of Sleep Paralysis, where you're partially awake but your body is still in a paralysed sleep state. People suffering from Sleep Paralysis often experience feelings of dread and of some malevolent force being in the room with them or actually sitting on their chest.
25:28 Dispatching the demon
Even so, Justin didn't find Der Kindestod to be a particularly threatening demon, especially when it was so easily dispatched by Buffy.
Alec noted that, for a child, Der Kindestod would be a formidable opponent which would explain why the demon preys on sick children: they're easy for it to control and overpower where as Buffy isn't, so she was able to kill it quite easily.
For Griff the fact that it attacked Doctor Backer in the first place didn't feel right. For no apparent reason, Der Kindestod became an enemy of opportunity and took the Doctor out with a sneak attack. If it was capable of doing so all along, Griff felt that it should be capable of preying on adults as well as children.
Alec was accused of being a demon apologist by Justin after putting forward the theory that Der Kindestod attacked Doctor Backer and Buffy out of pure desperation to protect its food supply. Both of them were meddling, which pushed it out of its comfort zone.
Ultimately Justin, Griff and Alec agreed that regardless of how desperate the demon was, it was still a complete douche.
32:34 Doctor Red Herring
Both Justin and Griff fell for the possibly unintentional double bluff that was Doctor Stanley Backer.
At first he's positioned as the bad guy, with Buffy displaying an obvious distrust of him which is borne out by Giles & Willow's discovery that Backer is viewed by the authorities as a twisted mad man who takes unnecessary risks and puts his patients in jeopardy.
To the Scoobies, he's clearly the bad guy, which signals to the audience that he's a red herring.
When the audience sees him at work, he's portrayed by the all too familiar face of Richard Herd who comes across as too sweet and well intentioned to be the bad guy, which of course means that he must be the bad guy... until he's attacked and killed by Der Kindestod.
Alec was suspicious from the get go, but still suspected that Backer was involved in some way, possibly through being under the thrall of the creepy, if underused, security guard.
While Griff could believe that the kids could be seeing Backer's "real face" as suggested by Giles, the fact that he appeared quite physically different from Der Kinderstod cast doubt on the idea.
Ultimately, Doctor Backer turned out to be a slightly tragic figure who took risks but always had the patients' best interests at heart.
41:12 Doubting Scoobies
While Alec didn't like the instant doubt of Buffy by Giles and the rest of the Scoobies, he did concede that without that dramatic tension, the episode would've been far shorter. It also paved the way for the rest of the Scoobies to step up and take a more prominent role in fighting both the monster of the week and Angelus.
It reminded Griff of Ted (season 2, episode 11), where the Scoobies were compromised by LSD infused cookies and $300 mini pizzas which led to them doubting Buffy. Killed by Death flips that formula on its head by compromising Buffy while still delivering the same dramatic tension.
It's clear to Justin, Griff and Alec that the Scoobies are becoming more and more capable. They're out slaying when Buffy is ill, they're standing up to and staving off Angelus and coming up with their own plans, without the need for Buffy or even Giles to take charge.
There's an obvious level of growth in both the characters and writers in this episode, and it's an early example of the change in dynamic for a show and its characters which has become a hallmark of the Whedonverse.
54:57 Xander is great...
Everyone felt that Xander in particular had grown so much that he can convincingly take charge, give orders to Cordelia and Giles as well as stand up to Angelus, even to the point where Angelus' reluctance to take Xander, a few cops, orderlies and security guards on doesn't feel out of character for someone who, in the past, would've decimated a small eastern european village on a whim.
Justin made the observation that Xander's desire for Buffy has evolved into a genuine platonic love. Even though he may still be harbouring some unrequited feelings of lust, her protection is paramount.
For Griff one of the clearest examples of Xander's growing maturity is that there weren't many "Xanders" (also known as Xander Zingers) in this episode. Xander is a lot more serious and the writers are no longer using him purely for comic relief.
56:48 ...until he sucked at the end.
In spite of all that growth, the crew agreed that the portrayal of Xander in the final scene was terrible. It didn't gel with Xander in the rest of the episode or, in some cases, the rest of the series.
For Griff, Xander felt at least five years younger than he appeared to be earlier in the episode while Justin and Alec couldn't agree on whether Xander was an utter bastard or an utter arsehole.
73:45 The Trip to the ER and the Flash Backs
The crew agreed that the ER inspired scenes that followed Buffy's collapse in the graveyard worked because they didn't feel like an episode of Buffy. That allowed them to drag the characters into the real world where even The Slayer could die form something as mundane as the flu.
On the other hand, not feeling like part of the episode actually let the flashback scenes down. They came across as hamfisted and it was never clear that Buffy was the little brunette girl in both.
Griff and Justin felt that the show's inability to deliver on the emotional resonance of those flashbacks served to undermine the very personal stake that Buffy had in taking down Der Kindestod.
81:58 Final Thoughts and Episode Ratings
Despite the wonky flashbacks, lack of Oz, and terrible science the crew enjoyed the episode. Even so it didn't deliver on the promise of its horror elements, or of forcing Buffy to face death at the hands of something as mundane as the flu and for that reason they rated it:
- Justin: 3/5 Imaginary Frogs
- Griff: 3/5 Demons for Everything
- Alec: 3/5 Bogarted Cheesy Chips
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