So the first thing I’ve learned this weekend is that a lot of people like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the second thing I’ve learned is that people who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer generally don’t mix well with people who observe oddities in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The third thing I learned is that, then in turn, a lot of people don’t like me. Needless to say, I was sort of getting used to people who were just on this site and knew what my sense of humor was…but now there are new people, and they simply do not get it. So now I have to, like, “think” and “delve deeper.” Exhausting.
So, obviously, I’m going to start with the most shallow and then we’ll see where it goes, taking it episode by episode from there.
Being that this is the first official post of these kinds, I’ve got to mention that this was a show that won the Summer Rewatch tournament. And I was quite excited, seeing that Buffy is one of the most iconic television series ever and it was almost embarrassing that I had yet to even watch one episode. I won’t say that I’m a Whedonite, not even close (obviously or not I would have watched Buffy by now…), but I did like The Avengers; Dollhouse is on my list of cancelled shows you should watch anyway; that one Glee hour he directed is one of the only ones I can stomach now; Roseanne is always hilarious; I very much enjoyed Dr. Horrible; and who the hell doesn’t love Toy Story? People with no soul, that’s who! And the extent of my Sarah Michelle Gellar viewing was Scooby-Doo. Only after I watched Ringer have I seen I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions (amazing!).
Anyway, after seven episodes of Buffy, three things are clear. Number one: this show is taking place in the 1990s. The hair! The clothes! The production values! Oh, the production values! Season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is so 1990s, even the show knows it’s old. After citing that the 1990s is very futuristic in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” Buffy whips out a beeper.
See! But I think what’s most telling of its age is the theme song and opening titles. The show spends an actual minute or so on the same credits sequence each and every episode. How archaic! You know what that means…a lot of shots of characters turning their heads towards the camera with the actor’s name below it.
Even a monster, non-series regular does it.
Giles has serious Turn Face; he gets the worst of it. It’s like a complete 180 degree angle turn.
I mean, Sarah Michelle Gellar actually gets twice the Turn Face treatment in the credits, herself.
So yeah, that happens a lot in the opening credits. And it’s obviously the 1990s.
The second thing that is very apparent is that Buffy Summers is not some damsel in distress (unlike her Scooby-Doo character Daphne), even right out the gate. Buffy is “the chosen one” of sorts; there’s a slayer born into every generation, and she’s out for blood. Or, well, dust. Whenever someone else is in grave danger, they call for her. No one’s out to cover her ass. Unlike the female leads on vampire series of today. At least Sookie Stackhouse has faery magic light beams that shoot out of her Amazing Spider-Man hands, but Elena Gilbert treads around surrounded by a border of her supernatural friends (and acquaintances). That’s not to say Elena nor Sookie have moments of badassery, but they’re few and far between (especially for the former) — both of which are on shows where everyone is basically after their blood.
The third and final thing is that there is a moral code on this show and it mostly reigns supreme. Vampires are demonic, evil beings and they must die. It’s quite refreshing, as opposed to the psychosexual way vampires are expressed in the medium today. (Which would be okay on TVD, if they represented dark and light better, but whatever.) And for the most part, even though the fighting sequences can be hilariously bad in these first episodes (I’ve been told they get money to spend on choreography in season 2 and beyond), the battles have become my favorite aspect of this series. Vampires are treated as evil beings, but their abilities don’t completely overpower a human’s. Meaning that people can actually run away from them, that there’s suspense as opposed to just gore. That’s always a plus. And, for the most part, traditional vampire rules are in place — like, crosses can impair vampires and they can’t walk in the day and they don’t just heal right away. All that good stuff.
And that’s it!
Oh, yeah and also (because if not, I’ll get yelled at): the show uses its monster elements to parallel the difficulties that is coming of age. A fight for individuality? Let’s create an overbearing, witch mother. High school bullying? Demonic possession via hyenas. You understand.
What it essentially boils down to, for these first seven episodes at the very least, is a series of uncannily campy episodes, that are mostly self-contained. Someone in the comments section last Friday said that season one is very much one huge pilot, and now that I’m more than halfway through it, I can completely understand that. Bit by bit — with episodes that are dominated by the Monster of the Week troubles, and only spend a couple of minutes on the bigger arc — slowly but surely, the show is explaining who these people are and what universe they live in. I mean, it only took until the seventh episode for Buffy (and the audience) to know that vampires can’t enter homes. Obviously, we know that because that’s a generic rule. But if the show wanted to eradicate that rule and do their own, they could have; it’s just that it took seven hours to get there.
Anyway, here comes a behemoth of recapping and opinion’ating.
1.01 “Welcome to the Hellmouth” & 1.02 “The Harvest”
Meet Buffy. She’s your typical American teenager. Except she previously burned down a school’s gymnasium and is destined to kill Earth-walking demons for the rest of her life. Kids these days! They do the darnest things. But she’s moved on from that life, she’s retired. Except, she’s sort of okay with basically everyone knowing.
She’s got a friend at school, before she even got there, in the librarian (who would now be called the “Media Center Specialist…” semantics) Mr. Giles who just conveniently knows everything. It helps move the exposition along.
He’s the watcher. Every generation has a slayer, the woman who is destined to kill evil, and has a watcher, the man who is supposed to guide and train her. He’s basically like a VERY pushy friend who knows everything about everything. He’s the Wilma to Buffy’s Daphne. In fact, I’m almost convinced that Sarah Michelle Gellar took this role just to do an in-depth character study for Scooby-Doo.
Anyway, The Harvest is about to take place, which is when The Master will drink a lot of people’s blood and finally be able to walk above ground after being underground for sixty years. So, he’s basically like Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
But now that The Slayer is in town, his plans to walk the streets again and munch on people can seriously be derailed. So The Master is all, like, “Kill dat bihhh.” And his slave-vampires are all like “Hecks yeah, we are!” But they fail every time. And he’s really pissy about it.
But we later learn that The Master doesn’t only want to walk around, he also wants to have a few of his demon buddies to hang with. See, he wanted to open a portal from one universe to the next and bring demons back on Earth, essentially creating Hell on Earth (again). And to do that, he needs to gain strength by having one of his slave-vamps, whom he links with his blood, feed and therefore transfer energy to him. It’s cray cray. And he only has tonight to do it.
So it’s super serious.
What will Buffy do!?
Oh. Well that was easy. And now The Master is pissy again.
So together with her new friends Willow and Xander (plus her trusty watcher Giles), coupled with mean girl Cordelia, Buffy must now save the world every episode. It’s not like The Master is just going to give up. Thankfully Willow isn’t just precocious, but a sweet girl and a hacker. Xander, whom we can all see ourselves in, is just sort of lovesick. It gets old about five episodes in, but it continues. Plus, Angel is introduced. He’s a mysterious and dark vampire, ahem, just a guy, and he knows stuff. After about four scenes together, Buffy loves him.
And that’s the pilot!
Oh, yeah, and Eric Balfour is in it.
Buffy is still all “Woe is me!” about being the slayer and wants to have a normal life, so she signs up to be on the cheerleading squad. She makes it…as an alternate. But it turns out that there is another girl at school, who is also an alternate, who just really wants to be on the squad. Way too badly. So much so, she starts harming cheerleaders so that they are forced to have her on the squad.
The Futuristic 1990s | As we’ve noted, Buffy was before its time in terms of references and oddities, while still obviously taking place in the 1990s. The first is bitchy cheerleader talk, which is totally…
But it so obviously takes place in the 1990s because of those cheerleading outfits. How non-slutty are they? If you’re not at least showing navel, you’re not 21st century.
But it stays in the 1990s because I meant the 1970s original, not the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis remake.
Strong Female Lead | Buffy isn’t tied down to just one thing, like keeping a clean world and making sure all is right and everyone is taken cared of. She can also be a cheerleader; she can work and have a social life, proving women can have it all.
Moral Code | This chick’s mom is downright dark, so she stays stuck inside of a statue/award of sorts and the daughter is sort of just okay with it. All is right.
Coming of Age | The episode represented what it meant to live in your parents’ shadow and paralleled the overbearing mother (for example, one who would switch bodies with you to live out her fantasy) with one who wants you to grow into your own person (via Joyce, who just does not care and thinks her daughter is an arsonist). And it actually, kind of works, even though it can seriously feel like it was yelling it at out at you. Basically, Joyce was all “It gets better.” (Hey! Another futuristic reference.)
The Grade | So far, so good. I very much enjoyed this installment and loved the twist…well, both of them. At first, I though the daughter was just a total bitch but it turns out it was the mom! Loved it. And for an episode with no vampires, I sort of enjoyed it more than the pilot.
1.04 “Teacher’s Pet”
In “Teacher’s Pet,” there’s a new teacher in school — and she has eyes for Xander. Well, she has eyes for every boy that also happens to be a virgin. And that’s because she’s a huge bug and needs to lay eggs, and only virgins can actually fertilize those eggs. Or something like that. Buffy, Willow, and Giles figure it out and save Xander just in time! But not before everyone knows he’s never gone all the way, as well as the “cool” jock.
But the twist of having the sacrificial specimen being a virgin, while also a bit overdone in the 21st century, sort of reminded me of Hocus Pocus. And so I’m going with it.
The Grade | I was told by a few that this is one of the worst in the series, besides “I Robot, You Jane,” but I have to say that I enjoyed this one. It’s much better, as a rule of thumb, when people we’ve come to care about (regardless of the fact that it’s four episodes) are in danger as opposed to some random guest star that the group supposedly knows and cares for (like Owen, later on). So, it’s good for that alone.
Was he!? That’s the only way the Bug Lady could have laid any eggs!
In addition, this episode started a trend…or at least something I’m sure will be a trend on this show…which is, dead things falling out of lockers and such. Which is exactly what happened in the pilot.
1.05 “Never Kill a Guy on the First Date”
Okay, in this episode, we return to what we’re familiar with — the vampire stuff and more of Woe Is Me Buffy. Buffy really wants to date well-read Owen, but Giles is like thissure that there’s an apocalypse happening every minute and just continues to cockblock her at every turn. And then he sort of, inadvertently, calls her a slut. She’s all “I wanna get laid” and he’s all “Vamps needs tuh get slayed.” Plus, Xander is over the teacher that wanted to impregnate him and is now stuck on Buffy once again. Unfortunately for him, she asks him which dress makes her look better to go on a date with another guy. Yeah.We’ve all been there, buddy.
Anyway, The Master is hoping that fate proves correct and that The Anointed is risen from the ashes, like Phoenix but eviler. So, Giles is correct. But obviously, with so many cry-wolfs, Buffy ain’t havin’ it. While on her date, however, she is obviously called for duty and has to save Giles who is stuck in a morgue with an about-to-rise Anointed. The Anointed is supposed to be The Master’s best weapon and can destroy the slayer. So what will Buffy do!?
Oh. Well, that was easy. So The Master must be pissy now that Buffy foiled his plans, right?
It’s much more scary because he’s a kid. He’s like 3 feet tall. And he’s going to drag The Slayer to hell! Kids are the creepiest. Just make him sing a lullaby while swinging in a barren park and I will freak the hell out.
Anyway, Owen goes all Fight Club on Buffy and only wants to hangout with her to see her knockout muscular guys. And she’s all, “Yeah, but no thanks.” And then he’s never seen again. Also, Angel is in this episode.
The Grade | This episode works as a representation of Buffy’s conflict with her fate and her social life, but even I was annoyed with her at this point. Seriously, the end of the world could be near, Buffy! And The Anointed is out for your blood. And Owen is dull…and then sort of a creep. Plus, Xander continues to admire Buffy with insane hints she’s just not picking up on. The real plus here, however, is the suspense when everyone is at the cemetery together and the supposed Anointed is after them.
1.06 “The Pack”
This episode finds the high school bullies, and Xander, getting possessed (in a way) by hyenas in a zoo. Not only do they become douchey, but they also start acting…like hyenas, in that they begin eating people. It may be topical now but it’s still downright gross. Anyway, Buffy, Giles, and Willow figure stuff out and then the bullies, but more importantly Xander, become un-possessed. Episode over.
Strong Female Lead | When Willow calls Buffy out for being the reason that Xander, who had just told her off, began acting like a total d-bag, Buffy doesn’t just start acting catty. Instead, she completely understands and moves forward to help Xander and to help rebuild his friendship with Willow.
Willow | Regardless of how little I may be speaking of Willow in this post, she has somewhat grown to become my favorite character on this show. And nothing could help solidify that than this episode. The show decides to make heavy use of Willow’s apparent crush on Xander (which we all know won’t work out, for reasons) and drive the emotion home. Poor Willow! All of the feels.
Moral Code | The zookeeper intended on killing people and then died. Also those kids that ATE the principal went to jail.
Coming of Age | This episode represented a lot of cliché but important coming of age stories. For one, you’ve got the “mean kids” at school, who almost prey on the weak. And secondly, but most importantly, the pain that comes when people sort of just grow apart after being in deep-rooted relationships like Xander and Willow’s.
The Grade | Once again, when it was time to play this one, everyone groaned. And I don’t really know why. It was exceptionally gross, yes, but it was quite a fun hour in a ridiculous and outlandish sort of way.
All right, one episode on, one episode off. We’re back on familiar territory: The Master, The Anointed, Buffy sad about her social life, Xander and Willow pining, and oblivious Joyce. Y’know, the ush.
So Buffy runs into some vampires and Angel ends up saving her life, but not without getting a battle wound. So she goes home with him to help him heal and he ends up staying over for the night. What she finds out is that he’s a vampire! Dun dun dun! Craziness!
So now she has to decide what to do, will she follow her head or will she follow her vagina? Well, actually, it’s her HEART. Because apparently she LOVES Angel. What? They, seriously, shared about five lines of dialogue at this point. But whatever, you go with it.
She comes home, after consulting the Scooby-Doo gang on what to do (by the way, Xander REALLY wants her to slay him) and finds that her mother has been bitten and Angel is holding her. Joyce is just perfectly oblivious as per usual.
But what she doesn’t know is that it was Darla who did it, trying to frame Angel so that Buffy could hate him. Or something like that, the motivations are a little hazy. Also, what we find out is that Angel and Darla used to be an item, back when he was evil and munched on people. Buffy shuns him away and is set to kill him. But then finds out in time that it was Darla. Uh oh, The Master’s minion harmed her mother and wanted to kill her! What will Buffy do!?Oh. Well, actually Angel does that, but you know, still.
What? You don’t slip some tongue when you and your friends agree on something? Prude.
The Grade | Ugh, I hate that I actually like this episode as much as I do, since it relies so heavily on the romantic aspect, but I think this was the strongest episode yet. It blended all elements of the series quite well, and finally felt like an episode where Buffy knew what it was doing and the voice it wanted to be. Even Darla’s plan felt well-rounded enough. Best episode thus far. Also, Buffy just looks super badass with a crossbow.
And that’s seven episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! This post has made me tired. I’m anxiously awaiting the next rewatch day, but I’m also still waiting for that episode where I truly get hooked. I keep hearing it’s coming, so I will be patient.
And remember you can watch along with us. The next rewatch is this Monday; details are at NoWhiteNoise.com/BuffyRewatch.