copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
In Part 3 of this series, we saw how the creation of dynamic, complex characters with rich back stories can initiate and sustain storylines. Elements of plots can also be springboards into other stories when they leave unanswered questions or set up unresolved incidents or situations. We saw how the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Bad Eggs” does this by ending with a shot of monster’s eggs hidden in the storage closet of a biology classroom in Buffy’s high school. This thread is never picked up again, but it could have been the impetus to another story that involves the offspring of the monster that Buffy slays in the “Bad Eggs” episode, had the show’s writers wished to revisit this leftover plot. This post will consider other such leftover plots from episodes in the series’ third season.
In the first episode of this season, “Anne,” Buffy, having run away from home, assumes a new identity as “Anne,” working in Helen’s Kitchen, a Los Angeles eatery. Despite her decision to renounce her role as a vampire slayer, she agrees to assist Lily, whom she knew previously, in Sunnydale, as a vampire wannabe who was going by the name of Chanterelle. After Lily is abducted, Buffy rescues her from an alternate dimension ruled by a band of demonic entities. She then returns to Sunnydale, Lily taking over her motel room and her identity as “Anne.” What becomes of Chanterelle-Lily-Anne? What happens to the hell dimension from which Buffy rescued Lily now that she’s slain its rulers? What befalls the other captives, now that they’re free to go? Are they too broken to fend for themselves? Such unanswered questions could inspire additional Buffy stories or could suggest ideas for stories by aspiring writers in the horror or another genre of fiction, provided that neither the actual scenes nor any of the Buffy characters is used in the stories.
“Beauty and the Beasts” presents a monster that, although it is dispatched by Buffy, leaves a means for the appearance of one or more replacements who could wreck further havoc. Pete, a modern-day, high school version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has invented a potion that transforms him into a bestial date from hell. However, he’s advanced beyond the need to use the potion, rage being sufficient now to effect the transformation, as is the case with Marvel Comics’ Incredible Hulk, and his girlfriend Debbie often is the unwitting catalyst in his change. In a fight with Oz, while Oz’s is in his werewolf state, Pete is killed (and eaten). What becomes of his potion is unclear. Although he smashes the flask in which it’s stored, viewers may well wonder whether he might have left the drug’s formula behind, to be found by another insecure and abusive youth. Since Buffy doesn’t indicate that he did (or didn’t), the possibility of this incident’s being another leftover plot exists.
Most of the leftover plots in this season involve characters who could return, but “Earshot” leaves an open-ended situation in place that could recur to set other plots in motion. During a fight with a demon, Buffy is bitten by her adversary (demons fight dirty). It’s as a result of the bite that she takes on the demon’s ability to read minds. The incessant mental chatter, so to speak, that she hears, as it were, nearly drives he mad, but it does allow her to eavesdrop upon the thoughts of a suicidal student and prevent him from killing himself, so it’s not all bad. However, she feels much better when the side-effects of the demon’s bite wear off--until she is told that they tend to recur. This device allows the opportunity for Buffy to have a relapse and to start eavesdropping on others’ thoughts again, like it or not, in future stories. Although the series never revisits this storyline, its writers certainly left themselves the choice of doing so by leaving the dramatic situation open-ended.
Having considered only a few of the lessons to be learned from a consideration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, we’ll revisit the topic of “Leftover Plots” in future installments.