I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming, uh, text

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for “Ted.”  Objectively, it’s a below average monster of the week episode full of obvious themes, straightforward plotting, and with no credible threat.  On the other hand, I loves me some John Ritter and he’s fantastic as evil robo-dad.  Yes, Ted’s a little broadly drawn, as is Buffy’s reaction to her mom’s new man, but it’s nice to see Buffy’s personal life and duties as the Slayer intersecting in new ways.  Ted turning out to be inhuman is a bit of a copout from the whole “power and responsibility” line this story could’ve taken though, to be fair, the series may not yet be mature enough to have a Slayer kill a human.

“Ted” starts out on the wrong foot by asking us to make two big leaps of faith: Ted and Joyce have become serious without Buffy even knowing her mother was seeing anyone; and Buffy’s instant hostility.  Joyce hasn’t been terribly well defined thus far, though I think she’s a bit better mom than that and, while it’s natural to hate the guy shtupping your mom, Buffy’s reaction seems excessively immature for the character.  Fortunately, the episode doesn’t rest on these conceits for long and we’re rushed off to miniature golf where Ted reveals his hostile nature.

This is where John Ritter’s performance really shines as he’s able to seamlessly blend oldshool values/trying too hard mom’s boyfriend with casually abusive stepfather.  First threatening to slap Buffy and later following through on it, one never gets the sense that we’re seeing behind some sort of mask.  Ted is the cheerful baker and the abusive asshole rolled into one, his concern and affection are genuine,   as is his need to have people behave in the way that fits his cheerful reality.  It’s only when Buffy starts breaking the rules that he becomes hostile.

Making the rigid stepfather actually be a robot is another on the nose metaphor for the series, as is the fact that he’s literally stuck in the 1950s.  I’d be more keen to forgive this if there were some more layers there, or if the episode hadn’t held out the tantalizing storyline of Buffy killing a human being.  The need to control her power isn’t an angle the series has really explored yet and, while they may not yet be ready to get that grim, this story was more interesting and made the one we received suffer for the comparison.

Final Thoughts

Xander and Willow’s debate about the Captain and Tennille was obscurely hilarious.

This episode was a little heavy on the exposition in revealing Ted’s back story, it felt like a lazy wrap up for the story.

SPOILERS

As people who’ve seen season three are no doubt aware, this episode reminded me of the Faith arc and had me wonder what kind of story it would’ve been had Buffy been the one to kill the mayor’s assistant.

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2 responses to “I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming, uh, text

  1. This episode was better than I thought it would be. Ritter’s talents are fully utilized when the robot starts spazzing out.

    The lowlight for me here is Joyce’s behavior towards Buffy. The cast’s harsh reactions to Buffy’s moods is something that comes up quite a bit in the series, and it bothers me a lot. Buffy accidentally knocks a man down the stairs and kills him, which is likely going to traumatize her for life – and the mother’s reaction is to be a c–t to her? It’s unreal. She’s a horrible person.

    It happened at the beginning of this season as well, with Xander being the main offender. Your best friend almost died and is going through post-traumatic shock, and you yell at her for withdrawing? I don’t think it’s a realistic friend’s reaction at all, and it’s very distasteful.

  2. Gotta agree with you re Joyce. She was generally ill-defined in the first two seasons, being little more than a complication for Buffy’s double life whenever it’s convenient. This episode ranks among the worst examples as an opportunity for her to be a supportive parent gets turned into another “Mom can’t know she’s the Slayer” moment.

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