As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Blogging Buffy – Intro & 1.01-1.08

Posted by Hedwig on March 12, 2008

For my birthday, faithful commenter & colleague Kaj gave me the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. Whedon fan as I am, I was delighted, and have since watched the first 8 with a friend, who was up until now a Buffy-virgin. We’re planning to continue, 2 episodes at the time, until the end of season seven or until we get sick of it – whichever comes first. And here, I will be blogging along.

(Truth be told, I was planning a post on the pleasures of pulp TV, especially that involving immortal men (with recent examples Moonlight and New Amsterdam), going on into a diatribe about the lack of female immortals in lead roles, complaining that those who did seem to have an extended lifespan never for everlasting youth like their male counterparts… but following my post about not-getting an intellectual film like Caché with that seemed a tad too embarrassing. At least it’s more or less intellectually accepted to love Buffy.)

Don’t expect recaps – that’s what Wikipedia, imdb, TWOP or one of the countless other sites are for. Nor will I engage on a regular basis in thorough analysis, though I can’t promise I won’t get carried away every once in a while. I’ll simple offer a few observations about each episode, and try to look at how single episodes fit into the series as a whole, how they illustrate the concept. That, and I’ll of course remind you of some cool quotes. There will be spoilers, but I think it might be interesting to read even for people who haven’t seen every episode, maybe even for those who’ve never seen the show.

Ok. So here goes: after the jump, the first 8 episodes.

1.01 & 1.02 Welcome to the Hellmouth & The Harvest

“I don’t like vampires. I’m gonna take a stand and say they’re not good.” Xander

Joss Whedon loves subverting expectations. It shows in little details, but he also opens his show with it. The scene: a lovely, innocent-looking blonde gets persuaded by a roguish boy to break into the school. She looks around nervously, says she heard something, and all the cheap horror tricks seem to point to something bad happening to her… but of course, she’s not in danger, she’s the danger. The victim turns out to be the predator, and the predator the prey. It sets the tone for the whole show: don’t trust first impressions, and little blond girls can kick ass.

Ah, and this show is so wonderfully dated by now. Incredibly how much pop culture can change in 11 years. Remember the days when James Spader was a sex symbol? When the internet was a new and exciting? When girls tied knots in their blouses to show their midriff? I doubt though, that the production design ever looked sleek or modern, but the low-fi camp quality of it kind of works.

1.03 Witch

“This is madness! What can you have been thinking? You are the Slayer! Lives depend upon you! I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility, and instead of which you enslave yourself to this, this… cult?” Giles

Ah, parental expectations. Season 1 was full of episodes with a clear link to a common adolescent problem, and this one is about parents pushing their children, and trying to relive their youth through them. In this case literally, as a witchy mother takes over her daughters body to get back into cheerleading. Not a very remarkable episode otherwise, though here already we see Xander’s insecurity about NOT fulfilling the tradition male role in the show. He likes strong women – he obviously has a crush on Buffy – but he does resent feeling powerless.

1.04 Teacher’s Pet

“We all need help with our feelings. Otherwise, we bottle them up, and before you know it powerful laxatives are involved.” Principal Flutie

Again an episode that plays with our expectations. The monster of the week first seems to be clawed vampire… but then something shows up even that big bad vampire’s terrified of. And that something, of course, is female. Furthermore, a sympathetic character is introduced here, only to be killed: a sign that maybe we shouldn’t get too attached to anyone.

Xander falls for another strong woman here, and more than ever gets the traditional ‘girl’ role: not only is he the one who is seduced and needs to be rescued, but … it turns out he’s a virgin, a common horror trope. And really, at age 16, that’s not something to be ashamed about (just sayin’). And while we expected that, the cool jock who brags about his conquests turns out to be one, too. The lesson for this episode? Beware of older women. And don’t get involved with teachers.

1.05 Never Kill a Boy on the First Date

“This is the ’90s. The 1990s, in point of fact, and I can do both. Clark Kent has a job. I just wanna go on a date.” Buffy

This episode gets the prize for best title of the season… unfortunately, it’s fairly dull otherwise. Again, subversion: we’re led to expect the prophecy-spouting murderer is “the Anointed one”… but it’s actually the little boy. Buffy’s date is a nice (and accurate!) caricature of the angsty, Emily Dickinson-reading, death-obsessed, danger-seeking teenage boy (“he can brood for forty minutes straight. I’ve clocked him.”), but much handsomer than those guys generally are, and the plot is not that interesting. Next!

1.06 The Pack

A bit of dialogue instead of a quote this time, because it illustrates the episode better than I ever could in so few words.

Giles: Xander’s taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Buffy: Uh-huh.
Giles: And, there’s been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
Buffy: Yes.
Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
Buffy: It’s bad, isn’t it?
Giles: It’s devastating. He’s turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. ‘Course, you’ll have to kill him.
Buffy: Giles I’m serious!
Giles: So am I, except for the part about killing him. Testosterone is a great equalizer, it turns all men into morons. He will, however, get over it.
Buffy: I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me.

This episode’s lesson? Don’t give in to peer pressure, kids. Also: the end of principal Flutie. He won’t be missed.

1.07 Angel

Not an episode for great quotes, but it does show at its clearest what Whedon wants to do: he wants to use all the horror and vampire tropes, and most importantly use our knowledge of those tropes, to get to a kind of emotional truth – and of course, to make us laugh along the way. The series is pure camp, easy to mock but also mocking itself, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t capture something of what being a teenager is like. Case in point, this episode, where Buffy learns that no matter how cute a guy is, inviting him into your house (how metaphorical) is always risky.

Among Buffy’s relationships, I find the one with Spike in later seasons much more interesting. Angel, I thought, was a little too earnest, a little too broody, and I never really got into his spin-off. I still do, but it is lovely to be reminded of how young David Boreanaz was. E., the friend I’m watching with, had never seen Buffy or Angel but does watch Bones, and it’s hilarious listening to him go “Oh Booth” every time Angel has a particularly corny line.

Dear Darla, the other power blond on the show, doesn’t make it, also because she trusts someone she maybe shouldn’t have. It’s too bad. She looked bad-ass with those guns.

1.08 I Robot… You Jane

“There’s a demon in the Internet!” Giles

The dangers of cyberspace! Careful girls and boys, the one you’re chatting with might not be who they say they are. They might be a demon from the Middle Ages named Moloch the Corrupter who… corrupts. Willow, in this case, and a couple of computer geeks.

Ms. Calendar appears for the first time here, surprisingly unsurprised when Giles utters the above line. They spark off each other… but she seems to be the only one who notices. Another smart, determined woman in the mix. And a nice little update on all the old musty traditions: not only can ‘scanning’ be a form of reading, but computers are not, in this universe, anathema to mysticism and magic.

Phew. That was long. The next update will only be about 4 episodes, so hopefully less exhausting, both for me and for you, dear reader who made it this far.

9 Responses to “Blogging Buffy – Intro & 1.01-1.08”

  1. Kaj said

    I’ll react to the whole story when I’ve got more time, but I just wanted to ask one quick question: how could you get sick of it?

    Oh, and the lo-fi quality can be attributed to the fact that it was a mid-summer replacement at first, and only got turned into a longer show with multiple seasons after it was made (and likely after it got broadcast, but I’m less sure about that).

  2. As loveable as the first season is, the show for me really starts to come into its own in Season 2.

    Also, I have an abiding crush on Willow.

    Good birthday gift, Kaj!

  3. This is so cool, I have not thought about this show in ages, it was a favourite past time of mine, maybe I should re-watch it. Sarah M. Gellar was {one of} my first “crushes,” seriously. Reading this bring back so many memories!

  4. sarcastig said

    I wasn’t saying I thought I’d get sick of it, but you know, it could happen… though I remember when there were reruns every weekday (that’s when I started watching, in fact), and I was in front of my TV every single day. Ah, the free time you have in high school…

    I think you’re right, Craig, that it’s doesn’t get its footing until Season 2, and the first season is a little clumsy… but that’s kind of part of its charm. I also think it’s funny that you had a crush on Willow, while Nick fancied Buffy herself. Personally, I always identified with Willow more than Buffy, but Xander was my favorite. Until Spike entered the picture, that is.

  5. Kaj said

    Heh… we’ve got something in common Nick. 🙂 But I think I’ve fancied Willow, Faith & Anya too at one point or another… and in the later seasons Anya definitely became my favorite female character.

    Ah, those Net5 daily reruns… good times. I’ve seen those early episodes so many times because of those reruns.

    I agree with you on Angel in Buffy. In his own show he became a much more interesting character, although the development of Wesley was the real treat. He went from comic relief to one of the best written characters of American network television.

  6. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn Buffy down, but Willow is more my kind of girl.

    I liked Anya a lot too in later seasons.

    Character-wise, Spike and Xander where my favorites.

  7. Kaj said

    Xander was great in the early seasons, but in the latter seasons the comedy got diverted more and more to other characters and he got pushed more and more to the background.

    Spike is great. And to think he was only meant to last a couple of episodes (he was originally supposed to die in What’s My Line 2)!

  8. I like Willow a lot too! And Anya……rush of childhood hormones coming back 🙂

  9. Yeah Xander kind of ran out of gas, particularly when Anya started to dominate. Spike was never less than entertaining.

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