Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Buffy: Part One

My thoughts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as I re-watch the series right through from beginning to end.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one my favourite ever TV shows. Probably my favourite ever. Buffy ended when I was ten, and I watched it from about ages 9-12 which is worrying; An awful lot of those scenes (especially later Buffy, and particularly Buffy and Spike's 'relationship') were not suitable.
And since I've had access to the SyFy channel for the past five years, I've been watching all the repeats.

But watching the whole thing from beginning to end? That hasn't ever happened, so thanks to my beautiful boxset + Netflix, I get to do just that.

If you haven't seen Buffy before, shame on you. But here's what you need to know:

The show is legendary. Whedon's spot-on pop-culture wit works so well in a show immersed in the past - myths, magic and prophecies. But BTVS is also famous for two things:

1) Introducing the idea of a 'Big Bad' - a season long evil villain to TV
2) & Buffy herself.

Buffy's the rare 'strong' female lead that TV needs more of. Like Veronica Mars. Or most recently, Agent Carter. But she's also real. Like Veronica and Peggy, we also see Buffy vulnerable and break down. And that's what makes the show so great. No character is entirely one-dimensional - there's a rich back story and over the 7 years you watch the characters learn, adapt, and essentially grow-up.

BTVS ranked #2 on Empire's list of the "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". It is that good.

So now I get to watch/re-watch and enjoy it all again! This post is basically a run down of my points of note and favourite scenes of the first two seasons. And it's been a whole lot of fun so far:

Season 1 -

  • So much of the demons and vampires are references to sexual assault and rape. How did I never notice this before? Like Xander and his preying mantis teacher. That was wrong on so many levels!
  • Xander gets the best lines:

  • So much of Buffy would be way less complicated if they had mobile phones.
'Oh, I need to warn Giles. Let me rush across town to the Library.' 
'No Buffy, let's just ring him. He'll get the message before the vampire comes to him.' 
'Okay, cool.'
  • Cordelia also has more depth than I originally thought having only watched episodes sporadically. Not only does she begin to rely on the Scoobies, but she seems compelled to help them out on occasion (see Season Two's 'School Hard' when she's whittling stakes) Here's my favourite part with Cordelia being real for the first time towards the end of Season 1 and 110% relatable:

  • What is Love?
I can easily understand how Buffy, a 16 year old impressionable girl fell in love with Angel after meeting him 3 times, and him uttering only a few words at these occasions. But a 200+ year vampire falling in love with a 16 year old he's been watching from afar? That's pretty creepy.

Also, Xander's infatuation with Buffy is utterly heartbreaking. He knows she's not interested, but likes her for being 'unattainable'. All the while he's totally oblivious to his best friend Willow being in love wih him. Typical boy. And I know Willow ends up gay and with Tara, but my heart still breaks for her. Trust me Willow, the best friend never gets the guy.

Basically, BTVS has a twisted sense of love. But that's okay.

A lot of people hate on Season One. But there are some truly wonderful moments. And I feel like all of Season One was just a premise for what the next 6 Seasons would bring. Like the way shows have a pilot episode, I think Buffy had a whole season. Don't get me wrong, there are many storylines and sub-plots of merit, but every single one of these is carried on into Season Two. e.g. Xander's feelings for Buffy, Giles and Jenny, angry new headmaster, Amy, the will-they/won't-they of Angel and Buffy. Even the Season One finale where the Master is defeated is exactly where Season Two picks up. This isn't a complaint. The character's are well developed during the season, you care for Buffy by the finale.

Season 1, Episode 12 - 'Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't want to die'. Heart = broken.

But the Xander/Buffy story line should really  have ended in those first 16 episodes. That's all I have to say.

Season 2 - 

  • Spike is too badass. I cannot function. As soon as he comes on screen in Season 2 he steals the show. He's all you can watch. I really don't think James Marsters has ever been given enough credit for his part on Buffy. Even that British accent he had to put on for 6 years - AMAZING! Not to mention having to constantly bleach his hair. It's true commitment. 
But right there in his first episode Whedon has established Spike as a vampire with empathy. The way he cares for Dru in her 'madness' is beautiful. He is the only 'demon' shown in this way - the ability to feel. When Angel is restored to Angelus he has no capacity to care, but Spike always possesses that. Only Spike could be the vampire who willingly got his soul back by the end of Buffy. This is also interesting given the fact Spike and Dru are shown in their 'non-vampire' state so early on. Apart from Angel they are pretty much the only vampires to be shown looking without the lump and fangs for any length of time.

So Spike is established as being non-demon even from his first appearance, but Whedon also establishes Spike's obsession with Buffy, which I love of course as a Spuffy fan.

  • Also on the Dru note; her backstory is ridiculously gory. Angelus tortured her and drove her mad by killing her whole family, and right when she was about to make her vows to become a nun, Angelus bites her and turns her into a vampire. No wonder her mind isn't all quite there. I feel a lot of sympathy towards Dru.
  • I love that Jonathan's first appearance was when the Inca Mummy Girl tried to kiss him in Season 2. And so consistent of him to pop up in almost every episode of this series after!
  • Season 2 establishes Willow as the voice of reason. She asks all the important questions:
(To Angel) "How do you shave?"
(Also To Angel) "You're going to live forever, what, you don't have time for coffee?"
  • The introduction of Seth Green as Oz is a real high point of the season. Willow gets all the best, healthy relationships.
  • I know I'm skipping a lot of amazing moments in Season 2 like 'Lie To Me', 'Phases', 'Killed By Death' & 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered'. And the very important life lesson of dress-code is not consent in 'Go Fish'. But the end is so good it overshadows a lot of mediocre. 
  • Spike and Dru are the expected Big Bad of this Season, so Angel's transformation must have shocked audiences right to their core. I know I was upset and angry, and I knew it was coming! If there's ever been a perfect example to teach teenagers not to have sex - this is it. 
  • This begs the question 'How do people prefer Angel to Spike?' Angel doesn't have a shread of decency to him (as Angelus). And yet Spike is so.. so sweet? I'm not sure what the right word here is. But Spike can be good AND a demon. And that's bloody impressive.
Again, this is seen in the episode 'Surprise' when The Judge tells the couple:
"You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy."
And yet Angel "has no humanity in him"...

FYI: The best Spike is Wheelchair Spike:

  • Watching Giles fall in love with Jenny over two seasons makes her death in Passion hurt that much more. With her body so cruelly set up, there is no forgiveness. From that moment on I want Buffy to kill Angel.
And if Angel's speech doesn't give you chills, you might want to get your emotions checked:
Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping. Waiting. And though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open it's jaws and howl. It speaks to us. Guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have?Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bare. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we'd be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered, dank. Without passion we'd be truly dead.
  • The Season Finale - 'Becoming'
1700s Angel/Liam
Ignoring the highly inaccurate dress code of the C18th Galway lower class and David Boreanaz's most awful Irish accent, 'Becoming' is two of the best hours of television ever made. It has romance, torture, a Buffy and Spike team-up, and death. Never again will a floppy disk play a crucial and significant role as a plot device.
The question is, should Buffy kill Angel, or try to restore his soul?
I'm firmly on the kill side, but unlike Buffy I wasn't in love with him. And then we get the death of Kendra. Not only does this stop the ritual, but Giles is kidnapped, Willow has head trauma and Buffy is dead set on staking Angel/Angelus (yay)!

Xander's bedside speech to Willow is one of the highlights of this episode. Xander says 'I love you' and Willow answers 'Oz?'. Perfect moment.

What I've been looking forward to all Season is the Buffy/Spike team-up! See, here's the thing about my love for Spike - every scene he's in, no matter how evil or romantic he's being, it's still funny. He brings humour into everything. And the Joyce/Spike scene in the living room is comedy gold. 
'Mom, I'm a vampire slayer', is basically how I speak to my mum about my depression. Except she doesn't react by threatening to throw me out of the house...

The worst part of the two-part episode is this Whistler guy. Sorry Josh, but no one needs a new character to be introduced in a season finale.

Oh. My. God. I was not prepared for Angel to get his soul back. And for Buffy to still have to kill him because only his blood could close the portal. As much as I was pro-staking Angelus, this was not what I wanted. My eyes welled up and I wished more than anything that Buffy didn't have to make the ultimate sacrifice. Bloody hell, not the reaction one would expect from a Spuffy fan, eh?

Do I think later Buffy loses something that was essential in early Buffy?
In a way.
She couldn't be in High School forever. She had to grow up. And that's what BTVS is about - growing up. And that's pretty heartbreaking in itself.
But everything that happens later on is set up in the early seasons. There's an extraordinary level of continuity. And sometimes I can't help but wonder whether Whedon knew how it was going to pan out all along?

That's it until Season 3....

No comments:

Post a Comment