Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Killed by Death

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Before you ask: Yes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18 reminds me of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I see Freddy Krueger every time the Der Kindestod appears on screen. (I clearly watch too many horror movies.)

I enjoy "Killed by Death" as a guilty pleasure hour. It was a nice break from the Angelus drama and we got a new enemy that played off some iconic fairytale themes, like the Boogeyman. Still, I can see why not everyone likes it.

Are you a fan? Let's chat it out as we rewatch "Killed by Death."

A Child's Warning - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18 featured a first that we didn't see often throughout the series. In this case, Buffy was sick. Not 'sick' as in healing from a fighting injury but she had a case of the flu.

If this were any other show, a sick character would be common and arbitrary. However, we're talking about Buffy Summers here; she IS the vampire slayer. Her superhero abilities cloud her other attributes and she can withstand mostly everything. However, the flu was what affected her hardest.

Except, you know, for being killed on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 12. Death somewhat supersedes all that.

Seeing her in a weakened state, and losing in her fight to Angelus, showed that Buffy isn't immune to everything. She falls for the same human weaknesses too.

Sick Buffy - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

I was a bit surprised hearing about Buffy's fear of hospitals. This news somewhat came out of nowhere, especially when we've seen hospitals be used before. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 10, we saw the character visit the hospital on two separate occasions to visit hurt characters.

Was the fear only tied to HER being in the hospital as a patient? Was this only created as a plot device?

It felt a tad convenient that Joyce would have this story ready to go when Buffy herself needed to be kept there to recuperate.

Reluctant Recovery - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

Having the premonition ability return for "Killed by Death" was a nice touch. It added a creepy element to the hour and teased the introduction of the Der Kindestod.

As I've mentioned previously, the ability didn't always appear throughout the series. In fact, the premonitions were dropped at some point and her physical strength became the bigger focus. However, I loved how it was used here.

The appearance of the demon following the kid, and Buffy reliving her childhood, made it seem like it was only a dream. Obviously this was not the case as EVERYTHING tied back to the Monster of the Week.

This was a huge red-herring!

Family Flashback - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

"Killed by Death" had barely begun and already the Nightmare on Elm Street inspirations were strong. When the dead kid was wheeled out of the children's ward and the doctors were talking in hushed voices, you knew something fishy was going on. You couldn't ignore the dream AND the new dead body without putting two and two together.

The kids warning Buffy that "Death" would find them was the dialogue that sealed it.

Come on, a monster was going after the children. You could brush it off simply as kids worrying about the Boogeyman, but this was Sunnydale, after all; a demon was expected. I would've LOVED if it turned out to be Freddy Krueger. However, the design of the monster was close enough.

(Obviously, there might not be a correlation between the two villains, but if there is, let me know in the comments. My horror fan curiosity has peaked.)

Angelus: If I decide to walk into Buffy's room, do you even believe for a micro-second that you could stop me?
Xander: Maybe not. Maybe that security guard couldn't either, or those cops or the orderlies, but I'm kind of curious to find out. You game?
Angelus: Buffy's white knight. You still love her.
[Angelus whispers]
Angelus: It must just eat you up that I got there first.
Xander: You're gonna die and I'm gonna there.
[Angelus gives Xander the flowers for Buffy]
Angelus: Tell her I stopped by.

Angelus is a terrible person. Many readers of the rewatch here have pointed out before that he was sociopathic with his torment of Buffy. I completely agree now. He didn't need to visit or bring her flowers; he just did it to rub it in.

None of his actions were love.

Even though I'm not the biggest Xander fan, and it's been well-documented here, he did have some gleaming moments. One of them was defending Buffy against Angelus. I liked that he stood up to him and tried to defend Buffy while she was in her weakened state, not letting the ex-boyfriend stick around longer.

There's no doubt that Angelus would've killed him and won the fight, but his heart was in the right place. Xander had some moments, however small and few they may have been.

 
White Knight - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

Why did none of the doctors research Buffy's blood after Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18?

She healed very quickly after her fainting spell/injuries. The doctors noticed something was going on and even used it as a basis for their flu treatment to help the kids, but they did nothing afterwards. I find it strange they gave this up without any explanation.

Buffy's blood could've been the answer to a number of treatments. And, it would've given a few more answers about her Slayer abilities with the medical officials looking into it.

This was a missed opportunity to explore and come back in the future as a storyline.

Willow: I'm good at medical stuff, since Xander and I used to play doctor all the time.
[Xander laughs uncomfortably and Cordelia stares him daggers]
Xander: No, she's being literal. She used to have all these medical volumes and diagnosed me with stuff. I didn't have the heart to tell her she was playing it wrong.
Willow: Wrong? Why? How did you play doctor?
Buffy: I...never have.

Cordelia positively shined throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18. Her comedic timing and dialogue were on point and had hit their marks.

Of course Cordelia would be someone who would not think about bringing a gift to a friend in the hospital. It would've been a simple gesture, but one that she would never consider outside of her bubble. Thinking of someone else and their pain wasn't something that she paid particularly close attention.

Her dry retort to Giles made the moment!

And we can't forget the tact comment in the courtyard. This is one of her most iconic lines and strangely, it makes a lot of sense from her point-of-view.

Buffy: Maybe it wasn’t Death? Maybe it was something else?
Cordelia: So, this isn’t about you being afraid of hospitals ‘cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight, so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?
Giles: Cordelia, have you actually ever heard of tact?
Cordelia: Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass.

Should Xander be over Buffy by this point?

Cordelia was completely in the right about her assessment of her boyfriend. Xander kept trying to be Buffy's White Knight and came to her defense whenever an enemy was nearby. We saw it earlier when he stood up to Angelus, which I still do think was one of his better moments.

However, I agree with Cordelia that it's frustrating when the person you're with is still hung up on someone else. It not only wastes your time, but it wastes the time of everyone who interacts with the relationship.

Cordelia made a big show on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 16 to choose Xander over siding with her friends and breaking up with him. She showed her feelings that she liked him and wanted to be with him. Xander needed to return the favor and dispel any worry she may have had.

He didn't.

Cordelia: What about you?
Xander: I’m going to stay here.
Cordelia: Oh, right. Your obsession with protecting Buffy. Have I told you how attractive that's not?
Xander: Cordelia, someone's gotta watch her back.
Cordelia: Yeah well, I've seen you watch her back.
Xander: What is that supposed to mean?
Cordelia: Well, I was using the phrase 'watch her back' as a euphemism for 'looking at her butt.' You know, sort of a pun.

The head doctor at the Sunnydale hospital was a good red-herring. He had all the makings of being the real threat, especially with the hushed conversations and close proximity to the kids. And we've seen before that humans can be the Monster of the Week.

Though, when we started getting all the information about him, like the list of lawsuits, I figured he wasn't the villain. This was too much backstory to find out halfway through "Killed by Death" to close the book on this mystery.

Something demonic had to happen.

Life's A Drag - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

We got the supernatural element in full force when the invisible demon killed the doctor. It was an interesting special effect because it wasn't simply a man being scratched and killed off-screen; we had the dead doctor quite literally be dragged away. His body was being moved by an invisible source.

My eight year old self was wowed by this trick of TV magic.

Also, add his murder to the list of A Nightmare on Elm Street connections here. Him being attacked, killed and dragged away down the hallway felt reminiscent of the first movie in the movie series, as well some scenes in A New Nightmare. (There's a slight chance there will be a movie marathon this weekend...)

Trying To Help - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

Who else loved the research scene between Giles and Cordelia? It was perfection. These two characters needed more scenes together to highlight their polar opposite relationship.

Anthony Stewart Head is a great actor because you can feel the frustration his character experiences every time he had to chat with Cordelia. Each facial move and word forced out was dripping with disdain. Giles dreaded working with Cordelia.

That's not to say he didn't care for her, but he would've preferred working with any other Scoobie. His relationship with Cordelia was almost like his relationship with Anya.

I can't wait for us all to chat about Anya when she joins the series in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3.

Cordelia: Eww, what does this do?
Giles: What?
Cordelia: What does this do?
Giles: Uh, it extracts vital organs to replenish its own mutating cells.
Cordelia: Wow. What does this one do?
Giles: Um, it elongates its mouth to, uh, engulf its victim's head with its incisors.
Cordelia: Ouch. Wait, what does this one do?
Giles: It asks endless questions of those with whom it's supposed to be working so that nothing is getting done.
Cordelia: Boy, there's a demon for everything.

Cordelia being the one to give the demon's information added so much humor to the scene. It contrasted the dark severity of the demon's attack perfectly.

Looking back on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18 after all this time, I still like the Der Kindestod.

He's creepy, he's different, and he's a good one-week only villain. He didn't do anything then that would've looked ridiculous now in hindsight, and let's be real, some of the past villains did not age well with time. (I'm looking at you Moloch on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 8!)

He had a subtle cross between The Gentlemen from "Hush" and Freddy Krueger.

Cordelia Saves The Day - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

And we can't forget about the way he kills his victims!

Similar to The Gentlemen who stole voices and hearts, the Der Kindestod drained the life from their eyes. Just think about it, that's terrifying.

If I was still an eight year old child and that creepy demon was lurking around the hospital, I would've begged my parents to take me home immediately. We even saw Buffy witnessing her cousin Celia being murdered by the demon; that's a traumatic experience to endure. I don't know why Ryan or any of the kids in the hospital didn't make a run for it earlier.

They were playing with fate by sticking around all that time.

Der Kindestod - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

Buffy made a selfless move by drinking the flu formula to be infected again. There's no telling if the formula would've negatively affected her or caused her to react worse than the flu she already had before. Though, she saved a lot of lives taking one for the team and hunting down the Der Kindestod.

Her invisible fight was fun to watch. The stunt double must've enjoyed simply punching and kicking the air to mimic the fight choreography. It was probably one of the easier days she had on set.

I would be remiss to not mention that the kids ran down into the basement/sewer/boiler room area. But, you already have an idea of the movie reference I would make at this point, so I'll give it a rest. All I'll say for that is "Frogs!"

(Seriously, that was a great moment by Alyson Hannigan. It's no wonder she moved into comedy next after Buffy the Vampire Slayer wrapped filming.)

Good Prognosis - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18

What did you think of "Killed by Death"? Was it weird to learn about Buffy's phobia of hospitals this late into Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2? Did you side with Cordelia? Why did no one notice the missing dead doctor?

Want to join us in rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer? We'll be posting new rewatch posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Come back here and let us know what you think of the episode.

Killed by Death Review

Editor Rating: 3.9 / 5.0
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Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 18 Quotes

Buffy: Maybe it wasn’t Death? Maybe it was something else?
Cordelia: So, this isn’t about you being afraid of hospitals ‘cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight, so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?
Giles: Cordelia, have you actually ever heard of tact?
Cordelia: Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass.

Cordelia: Eww, what does this do?
Giles: What?
Cordelia: What does this do?
Giles: Uh, it extracts vital organs to replenish its own mutating cells.
Cordelia: Wow. What does this one do?
Giles: Um, it elongates its mouth to, uh, engulf its victim's head with its incisors.
Cordelia: Ouch. Wait, what does this one do?
Giles: It asks endless questions of those with whom it's supposed to be working so that nothing is getting done.
Cordelia: Boy, there's a demon for everything.