FAIR WARNING: If you love this show so much that you’re not going to like someone mentioning aspects of it they don’t like — DO NOT READ THIS. And some of those aspects are extremely beloved characters. I’m serious. Avert your eyes now.
NOTE: Just skip ahead for the images. But this is a long stream of consciousness about my thoughts on the series thus far, if that’s interesting to you.
That’s right, we’ve been (re)watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for two months now. For me, if Buffy Rewatch is a play, we’re in Act V. But first, I’d like to open by thanking everyone that has actually continued to read these posts. I don’t make it easy — the schedule is all over the place, they have no real roadmap, and they’re filled with run-on sentences (and this is going to be a really long post without many jokes coming up) — but I’m thankful that you care enough to read and contribute (and not bitch me out when I just don’t agree). I don’t say that enough, and I hate that I don’t.
But here’s the truth. And don’t freak out.
I love you.
There, I said it. I know, I know. It’s REALLY early in our relationship but I’m putting it all out on the line here. I love you. I want to marry you, I want to move into a little perfect house with a white picket fence in some suburb and have a dog and two point five kids with you because you’re the one. Don’t run away from me! I’m sorry I freaked you out. We can still work on this!
So I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for two months now. I’ve watched more than two seasons. That’s more than 35 episodes. By now, you’d think someone would have a very coherent, pinpoint-able idea of what his feelings towards a series is. Any normal person would. I’m generally able to tell if I’ll like a series when I watch the pilot. I know a lot of people say you should give it a few more episodes, but the pilot litmus test usually always works for me. When I watched the pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I don’t really know what I thought.
It’s difficult to watch a series from 1997 in 2012 for so many reasons: what was topical in 1997? what was television like in 1997? what was technology like in 1997? We take all of these things for granted now in 2012. If I’m not making any sense, think of it this way: Did you ever watch Psycho and think “That’s what everyone’s raves about?”? Hell, I watched The Dark Knight after everyone talked it up for two years and was just sorely disappointed. (That said, I love Inception and Memento.) Do you understand what I mean?
The same is true for sort of knowing what’s going to happen next. Someone tweeted me and said that perhaps since I know that Angel leaves the show, I can’t truly get invested in his character and his relationship with Buffy. Perhaps that’s true. Or perhaps Angel just isn’t a character I like and I think the two actors have no chemistry. I don’t know. I’ll never know because it’s not 1997.
After 35 plus episodes of Buffy there’s about one thing I know to be true with the series: you’ve got to love the characters. I know that’s sort of true with anything and everything, but I mean that you’ve got to love them. Like, LOVE them. Especially if you want to get through some murky storylines. You have to be invested in what the storyline means for the character more than what the storyline means for you in any which way because, more often than not, the show isn’t really trying to entertain you.
For example: a pack of hyenas possess high school kids — YEESH. But the fact that it showcased the underlying of Xander’s personality — GOOD.
And, for the most part, these characters don’t make it easy to love them. They’re extremely flawed people. Sometimes they’re selfish, sometimes they’re rude and crass.
But if you learn to love them, you’ll find that most times they’re just amazing. And you begin to love them despite their flaws — or better yet, because of them.
The thing is, however, that there’s no other way to view the show. I mean, I know a lot of people may and will disagree with me. However, some of these episodes are tough to sit through. But you have to sit through all of them. You can’t appreciate some of the payoff if you don’t actually…well, suffer through some of it. But if you love the characters enough, then the payoff can be unbelievable. Therein lies the bottom line: is it worth it? I truly don’t know. It’s a lot of work, I won’t lie to you. (You deserve honesty since we’re about to move in together and start a family.) Some people want easy television. Some people might want this.
In an attempt to figure it out, let’s go through everything I like and dislike, starting with the bad news first.
What didn’t work for me
Season-long villains: For the most part on this show, villains are a joke. It’s true of most shows. They talk about how they want to kill someone for 15 episodes and then they do nothing. The Master tried my patience. Spike and Dru did as well.
Sense of gravtias: Whenever the world is going to end for the millionth time, it never truly feels like it’s ever going to end. Sometimes people’s lives are in danger but it never feels like a big deal. And it’s a problem caused by FOTEs, otherwise people who die and then are NEVER mentioned EVER again. When the series tries to make a big deal about it, it sometimes falls flat. For example: Kendra dying didn’t seem like anything Buffy should actually care about, but she did; people drop left and right but Willow decides to cry about it during the season finale; Jesse, Willow and Xander’s friend from the pilot, is just NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. No one cares. Until the script tells them to.
Spike & Dru (and Angelus with them): You have no idea how frightened I am to say this, but as I said honesty is the best policy. This isn’t about preconceived notions. This is just about, quite frankly, being bored. Spike and Dru did little more than stay in their lair and bitch or shriek, respectively. Then Angel(us) came in and made a lot of metaphors about Dru’s vagina. The first time was fun (I made a big point about it in my recaps) but after the eighty seventh vagina joke, it was like: okay we get it, you mean her vagina. Let’s move on, please. But then he made another vagina joke. And then Spike bitched about it. And then there was that one time he stood up from his wheelchair and laughed. I don’t know. I didn’t really make this a secret, to be honest. And if you look back at my favorite episodes of season two, you’ll find they don’t feature Spike and Dru which was weird because I previously didn’t like standalones. I would sometimes see they were guest starring in the episode during the opening credits and sort of get irritated by it.
What did work for me
Dialogue: One of the best aspects of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the interactions with characters, which is just amazing. And the dialogue even more so. It’s cheeky, self-referential, and somehow also contains substance. In other words, it’s perfect.
Sarah Michelle Gellar: You know how Sarah Michelle Gellar will break her voice a little bit and then her eyes get all glassy and then your heart just aches? Oh, my god, she kills me. For that, and for anything she actually says from bitchy one liners to oblivious jokes to kicking ass, she’s fantastic. And by the same vein, so is the Buffy character.
The Ensemble: There isn’t one series regular that is unlikeable. I know, I made a lot of jokes about Angel being unintelligible, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him. Everyone is great and there isn’t one scene with them where you go “Ugh, not a Willow scene.” Also, no one would say that because WILLOW IS THE EFFING BEST AND I WILL BEAT YOU UP. Okay, I might curl up in the fetus position, but.
Spike in “Becoming”: Okay, but there IS good news about the Spike situation. I really, really liked him in “Becoming,” in which I started getting a sense as to why people liked the character (because it was seriously lost on me before then). He was in fact witty and clever and not just complaining. I don’t know in what capacity he returns but if there’s more of him in that aspect, then I suspect I won’t groan when I see his name. I would look forward to it.
Angel(us): If there’s one villain the show finally got right, it’s Angel. There’s just no denying it: he was great. So much so that I actually groaned when his soul returned.
The Vampire Diaries comparison
Since some people — well, a lot of people — compare Buffy and Diaries on a weekly basis in the comments, and since a couple wanted to hear my comparisons by the end of season 2, I figured I could offer that this week.
Here are two things that are no secret: (1) The Vampire Diaries is one of my favorite shows on air currently (it’s even in my bio below this post); and (2) I vehemently did not enjoy season 3 of The Vampire Diaries. You can go back and read my reviews about how I grew more and more frustrated with the show each week in season 3, after the winter break. The reason for that being that the show had zero direction, focused on twelve different love triangles, and became wildly predictable. But I also really loved season 2 and the latter half of season 1.
If I had to offer my comparisons, it would be that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a character-driven vampire series and The Vampire Diaries is very much a plot-driven vampire series. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with one or the other. Some people love to fall in love with characters and some are only along for the ride; it just depends on what you’re into. Then again, I’ve never really seen why people frown upon television that’s for your entertainment. It is, after all, supposed to be entertaining first. (That’s my stance on television, anyway. But of course, I’m the guy who thinks Mad Men is completely overrated, so what do I know? I think I just discredited myself as a TV blogger forever.)
I just think that they’re completely different beasts. And, seriously, the third season of TVD has greatly tarnished it some in my view. But TVD does have some great mythology, it does have great plotlines and twists (used to have?). Ultimately, where I think TVD is inferior to Buffy is the moral compass. A lot of TVD‘s storylines could be improved if there were any morality to it all, but there sort of never is. Even the love triangles would be infinitely better and perhaps actually enjoyable (what I mean by that is: by the end of season 3, can anyone answer who was Damon and who was Stefan? wouldn’t it have been awesome if Damon remained bad and Stefan “good” and see how they satisfied different aspects of her being?). And there’s no denying that there’s a definite sense of right and wrong on Buffy. I know there’s a hookup between certain characters later on, and I can only hope that the moral thing comes into play…because it would be awesome.
Okay, I’m sorry. Longest intro ever (if you read all of this). Let’s get to recapping some episodes. This week, we watched eight episodes (that’s right!). We wanted to finish season 2 as quickly as possible, and then we added a second day. The second day was to get to the end of season 3 by mid-August, which is when I will definitely stop organizing live rewatches. At that point, or maybe sooner, it’ll be in the hands of the community, who seems set on continuing. Some also wanted the second day to add Angel to the viewing. Either case, let’s do this.
2.18 “Killed By Death”
I don’t remember the exact reason why, but I remember saying to myself: This is my favorite episode of Buffy. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the episode (I watched it almost two weeks ago) but I’ve kept it in my mind that I wanted to write that here. From what I can recall, this was also the funniest episode of Buffy yet. I seriously almost cried about three times.
The line that sticks out to me is: “That thing on her face. You know, that thing? I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that thing.” Hahahaha, I’m literally laughing as I type this. For that, it’s my favorite.
Here’s what happened: Buffy got knocked on her ass while fighting Angel and needed to go to the hospital thanks to a virus that’s been going around Sunnydale. While there, she realizes there’s someone that’s going around sucking kids’ lives and killing people. Then she realizes that same thing killed her cousin or something. It’s cray! And then she saves the day. End of episode.
Futuristic References: The episode begins with the idea that these kids are seeing some monster in their dream. And that’s TOTALLY…
Again. Which is a past reference, however. But then it turns out that it’s only kids who can see some sort of spiritual/monstrous thing, and THAT’s totally…
AGAIN. But then it turns out that you need the sickness to see it and that’s not anything that I can remember right now.
And Buffy was NOT happy about it.
The Grade: Seriously, I think this was the funniest episode ever. I’m a sucker for a few laughs.
2.19 “I Only Have Eyes For You”
In this episode, everyone is sort of like “Buffs, you needs tuh get laid again. Who cares that your boyfriend turned absolutely evil and killed our close friend and yadda yadda yadda?” Anyway, it also turns out that some guy who had an inappropriate relationship with some teacher half a decade ago is possessing kids at school and killing them.
Anyway, he possesses Buffy and Angel and they kiss and it’s finally all over. And then Spike rises from his wheelchair.
The Grade: I actually also really like this episode, as well. So much so, I was actually a little disappointed that the episode we ended up watching live was “Go Fish” instead of any of these. Ugh, so tragic. Good episode!
2.20 “Go Fish”
Oh, my god, why? What was this?
Anyway, we’re continuing with the whole Buffy Needs To Get Laid theme. At a beach party, some guy hits on her but it’s the biggest non-story ever. Anyway, it turns out that the swim team at Sunnydale High are becoming fish-things. And then Buffy saves the day. The end.
For the most part, the only reason this episode was good was so that we could point out people we know from it.
OR, since I had the most HILARIOUS tweet that NO ONE noticed:
#BuffyRewatch A Sauna to Remember
— Michael Collado (@michaelcollado) July 24, 2012
Teacher Willow: Okay, this has been going on for some time but it seriously makes zero sense. In this episode, Willow is threatened by the principal to pass the swim team because obviously, but doesn’t Willow have, like, OTHER classes to be in? There isn’t just ONE computer lab period. She MUST have some other classes she’s not attending? Is she getting paid? SOMEONE ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS.
The Grade: Ugh.
2.21 & 2.22 “Becoming” Parts 1 & 2
Okay, let’s actually recap now since these episodes matter. Once again, part 1 of a two-parter episode is the weakest. And you knew that would happen once Angel walked out of some Irish pub and started speaking all Irish-like.
Anyway, then he spots Darla.
And that’s the story of how Angel became a vampire. Or Ay Vam-py-err.
And then in the present, Angel is creepin’ on Buffy slayin’ some vamps and he whispers something. Cue theme song.
Anyway, we return and Giles sees that some guys dug up something that seems non-important but will later be the gate to hell. No biggie.
Back at school, everyone’s asking if Buffy is ready to fight Angel yet. And Buffy’s like “Yeah, it’s the season finale, I’m good now.” And then Xander wants to touch Cordelia after eating fish sticks but she doesn’t want him to because he has “fish hands” however just last week she was okay with him being ALL fish. WHAT?
We flashback in 1860 and Dru’s about to make a confession. Except Angel is on the other side of the confessional. It’s the beginning of him making her crazy. Flashforward to present day and Angel, Dru, and Spike are talk-whispering to each other. You know what that means!
Anyway, they find out that the gateway to Hell is at the museum so they’re happy about that.
I know people have explained the Angel curse to me and the show has explained it but seriously it doesn’t make any sense. The only way it makes sense to curse someone with this is if the gypsies are in fact dumbasses. “We’re going to make sure you don’t kill nobody no mo’. But if you’re ever content with the fact that you ain’t killin’ nobody, we gon’ make sho you kill mo’ people.” WHAT? So, let’s just go with that they are dumbasses so I can find peace with this plotline.
We go from this scene to the dumbass gypsies cursing Angel.
The gang was in the library trying to figure out what to do with the restoration spell.
And then Xander said Jenny is dead and people got pretty mad.
Okay, to be fair, it was the context in which he said it. But still.
For the most part, that’s what’s important in part one. Oh, and we find out that Angel has been creepin’ on Buffy ever since the last slayer dies. And Kendra shows up, proving that she should never have left (and also Faith proves that in season 3…) and then she dies. And it’s a really big moment on the show, apparently.
Anyway, and then the cops tell Buffy to freeze and she’s all:
The cops try to book Buffy because it looks like she killed people or whatever, but she uses her strengths as a slayer to get away and the principal is there. May I say, however, that Principal Snyder finally made sense in this episode where he really just wants Buffy out of the high school so that PEOPLE CAN STOP DYING OMG FINALLY. Jesus. These people just die left and right.
So it turns out Willow is slightly hurt.
And NO ONE knows WHEN she’ll wake up!!!!!!!!
Then she wakes up like two minutes later.
Meanwhile, Spike and Buffy have teamed up to take down Angel (who has kidnapped Giles to help him open the gateway to hell), but Joyce is all “WHERE THE EFF HAVE YOU BEEN? COPS ARE CALLING YOU A MURDERER! YES HELLO???”
And then THIS HAPPENS OMG:
OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! YUS YUS YUS FINALLY OH MY GOD AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
I seriously yelled at my television. YELLED. Finally, Buffy told her mom after telling strangers and their brothers who she is. YES.
On a related note, something I’ve been meaning to ask since episode one, why do vampire’s clothes also disintegrate into dust when they’re staked? Anyone?
So anyway, Buffy finally told her mom and the show uses it as a very obvious coming out parallel (“This is because you never had a strong father figure in your life”) and I was very excited and then Joyce just HAD TO RUIN IT. Ugh, Joyce, why? Look at your choices, Joyce!
Buffy is all “Um yeah I needs tuh save the world” and Joyce is like “Yeah no that’s not gonna happen” and Buffy’s all “SERIOUSLY WHAT IS YOUR ISSUE?” and Joyce is all “BIHHH DON’T EVEN.” So Buffy walks out, even though Joyce gave her an ultimatum — that she wouldn’t welcome her back, which we all know is total bull coming from Joyce but still…dang yo, dat hurts.
Anyway, after a lot of hullabaloo, Angel and Buffy are fighting to the death because he just opened the gate to hell. It turns out that his blood is the only thing that can close it. So as they’re fighting, back at the hospital, Willow is trying to do the restoration spell. And it works! And even though all hell needs is a drop of Angel’s blood to close, Buffy decides to stab him and push him in.
And then Buffy skips town and people are sad.
And that’s season 2.
The Grade: Not bad at all. To tell you the truth, Joyce finding out made this episode for me. And I’m much more interested in things that can come from this more than what actually happened, for example: Witch Willow or Not Boring Spike!
In this episode, we find that Buffy has been living under the radar as Anne in some town as a waitress. Then some FOTEs arrive and one of them gets kidnapped to hell and then Buffy saves the day. And then she comes back home. But when she knocks on the door, Joyce is organizing a LOT of dishes in the dishwasher. Why? How many dishes does Joyce have? It’s just Joyce living all alone? How many dishes can ONE person make!?!?!!!
It was touching.
So there was really just one thing we truly learned in this episode, that the time in Hell is much slower than the time on Earth. Everyday is like one hundred years in hell or something. So Angel has been in hell for a looooooooooong time.
Also, this was very much an episode where people crept up behind other people. Did anyone notice this?
I mean, even in this AIDS poster at the clinic place.
Can we TALK about this poster!? The poster was also in the season 2 finale.
It reads: “AIDS: It doesn’t discriminate.” WHAT? And why is that guy creepin’ behind the girl there? Also, it looks like a very poorly-written Lifetime movie. I don’t know why I was so fixated on this poster but it was very odd to me. I can’t be the only one who notices these things.
The Grade: Just fine.
3.02 “Dead Man’s Party”
So, I’m not going to lie to you, but during this episode the whole Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson news broke and I was too busy making jokes about that because I’m a huge dick than paying much attention. However, there was one very important scene during this episode. And it wasn’t just how Buffy was absolved of all charges for committing murder (even though she didn’t) like nothing. It was quite anticlimactic.
No, it was everyone blowing up in Buffy’s face.
In this episode, Joyce gets drunk at a teenage party she’s throwing where there’s underage drinking and drug use because she’s an unfit mother like why else would she allow this? Anyway, she catches Buffy trying to runoff again.
It was like, okay we get it, it WAS kind of selfish. But dang Buffy had just saved the world for the millionth time, she just needed some SPACE.
Anyway, they all work it out. The end.
The Grade: I need to rewatch this but something tells me that Willow and Buffy bonding plus Zombie-like things is A plus!
3.03 “Faith, Hope, and Trick”
I refuse NOT to put that second comma there. Anyway, this episode was about new people entering Buffy’s life. (And about her entering school again. Spoiler: she does. So, moving on…) First, we have Scott Hope.
He seems cool, I guess. Sort of too accepting. Like, all Buffy does is run away from him and yell as she drops jewelry. Anyway, he wants to ask Buffy out a lot ever since that episode we never saw him in.
And then, of course, there’s Faith.
This is a character I’ve actually been able to know nothing about, so I’m very proud of myself and the Internet here. To be honest with you, I think a character like Faith is exactly what Buffy was missing. Like the people in the show, I’m basically already lovin’ her.
(But okay seriously why couldn’t Kendra have stayed in Sunnydale again?)
And then there’s the bad guy of this episode.
The character was TOTALLY understanding of how there are only white people in Sunnydale, and the actor was having a LOT of fun with his character. I like it.
Anyway Faith and Buffy don’t get along too well but then they get over it. And then Buffy confesses what happened with Angel. And then Angel comes from hell and shows everyone his coin slot.
I didn’t even know you could do that on broadcast television. WHAT?
Futuristic References: Calling people by the first letter of their name is TOTALLY Gossip Girl.
The Grade: Finally a third episode I can agree with. We’re back on track. I don’t really know what Angel’s coming back really means for the story as a whole (it’s not surprising that I don’t really care for him to return with his soul intact) but I guess I’ll just have to wait for the story to play out.
And with that, we’ve begun season three! Whew. That was a lot of nothing. I’m sorry. I’ll be better next time…and quicker! (You don’t hear people say that everyday, eh?)
Remember, we’re watching Mondays and Tuesdays over at #BuffyRewatch!
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