“So, we think school events are stupid, and we think authority figures are to be made fun of.” Why, hello, Principal Snyder, clearly no one saw you there. “The Puppet Show” is not one of Buffy’s high points—though it does contain a Buffy high point at the very end—but it does feature the hideously, deliciously authoritarian debut of Armin Shimerman as Sunnydale’s new principal, who has almost as little patience for smug librarians as he does for rebellious students.
Snyder is one of Buffy‘s great unsung villains, simply because he’s the most common kind: a rigid, small-minded man with limited power and delusions of grandeur. His villainy is inescapable for teens and for adults: the malicious control of reverence, rules, schedules, consequences, participation. He’s the steely-eyed team leader who believes in meetings and knows your weak spots. He will have order in the halls, even when order in the halls is the least of anybody’s worries.
And he will make Giles run the talent show, which leads to a delightful opportunity for the Scooby Gang to sit back with poorly hidden gleeful smiles, enjoying his suffering. They’re on the same side—the anti-Snyder side—but they don’t know it yet. Not until Giles gets that same smile on his face as Snyder interrogates the threesome. Three new participants for the talent show. This may be the most notable time we hear Buffy whimper. Demons, fine. Talent show? Less so.
The fact that the entire scene is set to the playing of a very sad tuba is just the icing on the schadenfreude cake.
If only the rest of the episode carried on at this level
Season 1, Episode 9, “The Puppet Show”
Written by: Rob Des Hotel & Dean Batali
Directed by: Ellen S. Pressman
Original airdate: Monday, May 5, 1997
Rewatch date: Friday, May 5, 2017
“That’s the kind of woolly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.”