Season 1, Episode 9 - “The Puppet Show”
Original airdate: May 5, 1997
Project 310 re-watch date: Dec. 30, 2008
I have to admit, this episode didn’t hold up quite as well as I thought it would. I remembered it as a smart, funny episode, but really it’s a half-decent episode with some smart, funny bits. That’s not to say it’s bad (really, the only bad episode in Season 1 is “The Pack”), but it’s not a classic either.
The main problem with the episode is the writers -- Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali -- keep trying to throw us off the track of a demon who we weren’t really keeping track of anyway. First Morgan might be the bad guy, then Sid the Dummy might be the bad guy, but really the bad guy is some random kid (Mark, the magician in the talent show) that we didn’t even think twice about. As an aside, this is the same problem that many procedural dramas have in their writing.
I did actually like the character of Sid the Dummy, and I kind of wish they’d brought him -- or the spirit that inhabited him -- back at some point during the run of the series. He did make a significant guest appearance in the “Buffy: Chaos Bleeds” video game, but that’s non-canon, so it doesn’t count.
This is the first time we get a glimpse of Willow’s fear of public performing as a character trait. It reappears in the very next episode, “Nightmares”, and shows up again in the season 4 finale, “Restless” (plus, Alyson Hannigan’s own fear of singing leads to Willow having almost no lines in “Once More, With Feeling”). It’s nice when things like this get established early on and don’t disappear through the years.
I understand that when a show lasts for 7 seasons (now 8, if you include the canonical Dark Horse comic), characters grow and mature along the way, but sometimes things we see early on should stick with them. This was one of the biggest faults of “Charmed” -- the characters we saw in Season 8 bore little resemblance to the season 1 versions of those same characters. Every show on TV should have some form of Show Bible to remind the writers about the key character traits of everyone on the show -- “Lost” has a legendary version of this in chart form, and it shows in the level of detail on the show.
Also, in my write-up of the previous episode, “I Robot, You Jane”, I mentioned that you could tell from Giles and Jenny’s bickering that they were destined to be together. Well, this is the episode where Xander and Cordelia start to reach that level. Once you know that they end up there, it adds a whole new level to the spats in these early episodes.