|Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode|
|Episode no.||Season 6|
|Directed by||Nick Marck|
|Written by||David Fury|
|Original air date||October 23, 2001|
"Life Serial" is the 5th episode of season 6 of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy returns from her visit with Angel, but doesn't want to talk about it. Instead, the Scoobies discuss Buffy's future plans. Not knowing what she wants to do in life, Buffy agrees to audit the classes Willow and Tara are taking until the next semester starts.
The Trio prepares for its competition to test Buffy, setting up their van with high-tech monitoring equipment.
At school, Buffy finds herself overwhelmed by a class she takes with Willow. Buffy later meets up with Tara for Art History, but before class begins Warren tags her with a tiny device that causes time to fast-forward. Buffy is dazed as the world whizzes around her; when she finally notices the device Warren planted on her, it self-destructs and puts Buffy back in normal time.
Buffy works with Xander at his construction job, telling him about the time situation at school before she is introduced to Tony, the boss. Andrew summons demons from the van, which trash the construction site before Buffy kills them. Unfortunately, Buffy knocks Tony unconscious and the construction men she saves refuse to admit they were saved by a girl. Xander gets mad at Buffy for bringing slaying to his work place but understands that something is happening. However, he is still forced to fire her.
Buffy learns about working at The Magic Box from Giles and Anya as Jonathan begins a spell to loop time until Buffy satisfies a customer. Buffy assists a man with a candle sale and then goes downstairs to fetch a live mummy hand for a female customer, but the hand attacks her and she is forced to kill it, which also kills the sale. Events start to repeat as Buffy must help the customers and fight the mummy hand over and over again, being reduced to tears out of frustration. She is stuck in an unsolved dilemma, but soon Buffy is able to end the spell by telling the woman she will order the hand instead of going downstairs to fight with the one they already have. Stressed out by the repeating time and the job itself, Buffy walks out. All the while, the three villains keep scores on their Buffy attacks.
Later that night, Buffy gets drunk with Spike at his crypt. Completely hammered, Buffy goes with Spike to a bar where he plays poker (using kittens as currency) and searches for information. After the poker game ends badly, Buffy rants to Spike about the new low her life has reached with her inability to understand school or get a decent job. Buffy and Spike notice a black van; the Trio notices Buffy approaching with alarm.
A fake demon appears from behind the van and threatens Buffy, but it is beaten down while the van drives away. With the use of smoke to confuse the slayer and vampire, the demon (Jonathan in disguise) runs away and complains to the Trio who realize they now have lots of information on Buffy's fighting style that can be used against her. Buffy begins to recover from her drunken state and complains to Giles about her life. He consoles her and offers her a cheque to help pay for all the expenses. Buffy says she is happy that Giles will always be there, but the look on Giles's face suggests that he might not always be.
- The title of the episode is a pun on the breakfast cereal Life.
- Logan's Run: When Warren plants the time dilation device on Buffy, he uses the codename "Logan 5" and refers to Buffy as "the runner."
- Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch: During the time loop sequence, the Trio references the famous sketch with "This mummy hand has ceased to be!" "This is an ex-mummy hand!" This same sketch is also referenced when Buffy attempts to sell the stabbed mummy hand to the woman. The woman says the hand is now dead, only for Buffy to respond that it's just "playing dead," mimicking the shopkeeper's insistence to the customer in the Parrot Sketch that the parrot is still alive.
- Groundhog Day: The sequence in the Magic Box is similar to the film's main plot.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Andrew describes the time loop they have put Buffy into as being "like that episode of TNG" in which the Enterprise-D continually explodes ("Cause and Effect").
- X-Files: Warren responds, "Or Mulder, in that X-Files where the bank kept exploding" (Season 6 episode "Monday").
- James Bond: The Trio has a protracted argument over actors who have played James Bond: Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. Warren insists that Moonraker was inexcusable. Dr. No, the first film of the Bond series, is also mentioned.
- Star Wars: Andrew spray paints a mural of the Death Star from Return of the Jedi on the side of the Trio's van, and the van's horn plays the Star Wars main theme.
- Tara makes reference to watching SpongeBob SquarePants with Willow to Buffy during Buffy's speed problems at college.
- The sculpture shown in the pages of Tara's "Renaissance book" before her art appreciation class is called the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, and is more accurately described as Baroque.
- Black vans similar to the one used by The Trio were used in Joss Whedon's other project Dollhouse.
- Crossover with Angel: A meeting between Buffy and Angel takes place immediately before this episode (between the corresponding Angel episodes "Carpe Noctem" and "Fredless"). It is the subject of Jane Espenson's Buffy/Angel comic, Reunion.
- The good demon Clem, who will later befriend Buffy and the other Scoobies, appears for the first time playing kitten poker. He is credited as "Loose Skinned Demon".
- Buffy shows how she would rather hang out with Spike than the other Scoobies. The two now share common interests which will lead to their physical relationship later in the season.
- Though it could have been inferred from previous episodes, the specialties of all of the Trio members are established; Warren's is technology, Andrew's is demon summoning, and Jonathan's is magic.
- Although Buffy is back with the Watchers' Council, which pays its Watchers (including Giles) and appears to have financially supported other Slayers such as Kendra, no one appears to think of asking them to put Buffy on their payroll. This may be because Kendra was a one-off, or the show's creators wanted Buffy more grounded; to face financial crisis with no true 'happy ending'.
The Futon Critic named it the 15th best episode of 2001.
- Brian Ford Sullivan (January 4, 2002). "The 50 Best Episodes of 2001 - #20-11". The Futon Critic. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
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