Re: Witch

While watching this episode, I found myself remembering why so many people don’t really get into the first season of Buffy. This is an incredibly slight episode. There are things going on, absolutely. There is a great camp factor to it that I really appreciate. But I’m not sure it has the same depth as even the opening couple.

Joelle nailed it as far as the preoccupation bit goes. That definitely does seem to be the theme throughout this episode but interestingly it’s not what I focused on. This is the episode where our characters realize that Buffy could die. Joss has put her in danger since more or less the opening scenes of the show. I think it’s safe to say that Buffy has had moments of being afraid but this is the first in what will end up being an endless string of much more heartbreaking realizations that will break our characters down, because Joss seems to take glee in destroying what we love.

I mentioned in the last entry how Giles is still excited about what he’s coming up against. Now, I think this is a character problem, to be honest. Knowing what we know about Giles and his history, he should certainly be aware that magic is deadly dangerous and that people you love can be killed. We won’t really see any evidence of that side of things until season 2, unfortunately. Right now he comes across as a man who has never actually encountered truly dangerous things and still has the excitement without the grounding realization of just how dangerous they are. It’s kind-of like what Wesley will be later, except less annoying. I have a suspicion his character arc wasn’t really planned yet at this point.

Buffy wants to be a cheerleader, which is totally natural. In ways she probably hasn’t even begun to comprehend yet, her entire life (however long or short it may be) is going to be defined by death and violence and general abnormality. For her to want to find some sort-of ground to stand on that is familiar and away from those things is totally reasonable. For Giles to not truly comprehend that is also reasonable. It seems to me that the bond between Giles and Buffy is formed very quickly but at this point they still don’t actually know each other that well. We are never told what information he was given before coming to be her Watcher but certainly the impression is not much. Still, this will be another example of Buffy trying to do something normal and safe that will basically blow up in her face.

I kind of wish she had gotten to stay a cheerleader. So cute!

One of the things I was most struck by in this episode was how nice Buffy is. Maybe that sounds dumb but honestly, in these beginning episodes she is super nice. I think one of the things you will see as the show progresses is that she loses some of that kindness. She’s still compassionate (sometimes to a fault) but in these opening episodes she is just really sweet. She is trying really hard to make friends with Amy, she’s warm, she’s encouraging, she’s quick to smile and offer comfort. This goes back to some of what Joelle was saying in the first episode; how much of her came as part of being the Slayer and how much was just part of her? Is this a new thing for her, to be so nice to people? I mean, if she was Cordelia-esque at her old school, is this her attempt to turn over a new leaf? I guess I’ve never been convinced that Buffy wasthatmuch like Cordelia. I think she was popular and I think she was shallow but Cordelia is more than shallow. I guess I don’t feel like Buffy started off as a cruel person. Cordelia’s arc is super interesting because she really does seem to start out as this cruel and self-absorbed person and will eventually (primarily in Angel) become a much different individual. I don’t see Buffy as having started out that way, which I don’t know if that’s fair or not.

How adorably intense are they?

Anyway. I love to see the forming of the Scoobies. I think that Buffy’s reticence is super understandable, since she absolutely does know more of the danger they’ll be facing but it’s also clear that some part of her wants to have a team, wants to have people she can count on. Which is why it’s super touching that they really quickly move into those positions.

I love the themes of parents in this episode. There are several different looks at that theme. There’s Amy and her mother which is absolutely terrifying. There’s Buffy and Joyce, which I think is frustrating but also one of the things I really love about Joyce. It’s such an understandable loss of temper, which she immediately recognizes and feels terrible for. Of course she’s frustrated by what happened with her daughter and of course she’s scared it’ll happen again and lashing out is a not unreasonable (although obviously not right) response to that. There is also a strong parent theme between Giles and Buffy. Here we have the first truly Daddy Giles. He wants to protect her, he is willing to sacrifice to do that. The bond is pretty definitely formed at this point. The generational differences and lack of understanding, whether it’s Joyce wanting Buffy to be on yearbook staff or Giles totally not understanding why she would want to do cheerleading or Amy’s mother taking an obviously very extreme route are thematically strong and interesting, even if the episode itself is perhaps a bit weak.

Something interesting about this episode and parent issues that I noticed this time through is how, when Buffy realizes Amy is out of control, her first response is that they need to go talk to her mother. For one thing, and maybe this was just me, the idea of going to someone’s parents when I was in high school seemed really not okay. It was just one of those things you did not do. Perhaps it’s supposed to illustrate how Buffy does have a decent relationship with her mom in spite of everything? Or maybe it’s just a plot device so they can figure out what is really going on. Who knows.

So yes. Big fight, Giles being incredibly awesome with his spell casting (getting hurt to save Buffy 😦 ) and Buffy kicking people across rooms. The day is saved but she still almost died and I do think that will continue to resonate stronger and stronger as the show goes on and they face more danger.

I love her look of confusion.

Last but not least, I love this final Joyce/Buffy conversation. I like that she’s humble enough to come in and admit that she just doesn’t know what she’s doing and she loves her but that doesn’t mean she understands her. I like that Buffy is self-aware enough to recognize how great it is that her mother is okay with herself as she is and doesn’t want to relive some imaginary glory days. I think it’s a great ending to a fairly mediocre episode.

Nitpicks/Questions/Favorite bits

I’m going to try this out for a while. Joelle and I were talking about how these things are so long and there was talk about trying to focus on just one or two things but there is always so much I want to say. So, I’m going to attempt this at the end and see if having a place to toss these questions and comments helps me focus on something specific within the actual post. Let me know if it works or if I should go back to a more stream of consciousness approach.

High school cheerleaders are not typically that impressive… are they?

Why didn’t Willow know that Amy had lost a lot of weight? There’s always a lot of talk about how small of a town/school Sunnydale is and apparently it’s small enough that they heard in advance that someone was transferring in. They are not just coming back from summer vacation or anything so surely she’s seen her?

I love the cauldron. I love it so much. I wish there had been more cauldrons in Buffy. Also, I want to know what the substance was in the cauldron, like in reality.

I wonder how long ago it was that Amy’s mom switched their bodies? The whole conversation with Buffy and the hero worship of the mother has always seemed super strange to me. Like it must take a lot of practice to talk about yourself as your mother, especially from someone that egocentric and Amy herself slips up really quickly.

Why doesn’t the truck driver SEE Cordelia? I mean, we don’t even get a shot of him playing with a radio or something. Also, why doesn’t the driving instructor have a brake pedal? I never took driver’s ed at a school so maybe it’s different, but at my driving school the instructor always had one?

“Heat ingredients and apply to witch” is one of my favorite lines from first season. It’s totally stupid but it makes me giggle like an insane person every time.

I feel like it would have been much more subtle to grab one of her hairs and say she thought it wasn’t attached. I mean, that happens all the time.

No matter how distracted Buffy may be, I have never been able to believe that she was just totally unaware that Xander liked her, which has always been something I disliked in Buffy. It just seemed really disingenuous to me. He is not subtle and Buffy is not lacking in insight. Maybe for one episode but the idea that she would later be totally shocked he asked her to the dance… no.

Creepy, creepy.

Why did she want to banish Buffy to the cheerleading statue? Or was it just supposed to be to some sort of hell and hell has a sense of humor? I mean, it makes perfect sense as irony for her to end up in the statue to her obsession (that would be irony, right?) but not for Buffy or Amy to be.





This episode focuses on this a lot. Every character is preoccupied with something. Xander is preoccupied with his crush on Buffy. Buffy is too preoccupied with other things (cheerleading, Amy craziness, general life?) to notice his crush on her (or at least to acknowledge it). Joyce is preoccupied, Giles is preoccupied, and of course Amy’s mother is the most preoccupied of all. Interestingly, all of these characters ultimately fail (or at least, struggle) in their preoccupations.

I love the opening scene. It’s supposed to be comedic, of course–Giles being 100% disapproving of a nice, safe, normal activity Buffy wants to do–but it’s also very sad to me. Buffy wants so much to have one thing in her life that’s normal, hers, and untouched by the craziness of her regular life. This (wanting a normal thing) is actually an act of rebellion for a Slayer, and it’s sad. Of course, Giles actually ends up being right: cheerleading kills, dudes. But more on that later. Buffy’s preoccupation consists largely of attempting to be normal: have friends, join the cheerleading squad, make her mother proud of her. But her occupation is the Slayer and that’s where things get muddled. Buffy can’t escape her destiny no matter how hard she tries.

I heart Cheerleading Buffy.

Amy’s (well, who we believe to be Amy, anyway) preoccupation is clear. All cheerleading, all the time. She is apparently highly influenced by her controlling mother who demands the same level of success from her daughter that she had in high school. This narrative is a common one: the stage parent. It’s clear that Amy’s mother’s behavior is abusive. She forces Amy to train for six hours a day (how that’s even possible, I don’t know! Is she waking up at 3 am every day to train?), she locks up the fridge and eats only broth if she gains an ounce, and has apparently been this way for Amy’s whole life. Yet Amy seems to revere her mother an unhealthy amount and becomes so preoccupied with following in her footsteps that she ignores all logic. (There’s a reason for this, of course, but again! We’ll get to that later.) I’ll say here that I do appreciate that Buffy outwardly rejects her own mother’s attempts to make her more like a version of her high school self. I think Buffy has a strong sense of what she wants and who she wants to be, and it can’t always work out in her favor but at least she’s not using a super-cheesy cauldron to disfigure her competition, right?

super cheesy.

Joyce is preoccupied with her job. I don’t really hold this against her, but it IS sad to see Buffy so obviously wanting more attention from her mom–maybe even the level of attention that Amy receives from hers–and Joyce not reciprocating.

Xander’s crush on Buffy is nearing obsession territory at this point. And poor Willow! My heart breaks for her when Xander says, “You’re so cool! You’re like a guy!” I’ve been there, the “girl friend that knows about guy stuff,” and it totally sucks. Later on, Buffy calls Xander “totally and completely one of the girls!” and you can just SEE the relief on Willow’s face. It sucks for both of them, really. They’re in this triangle of friends-only-ness. On that note, I don’t really understand how Buffy receives a bracelet from Xander that says “Yours Always” and is just like, oh cool! friendship! But…whatever. I’m gonna go with the theme here and blame it on her preoccupations, okay?

So plot-wise, a cheerleader spontaneously combusts at tryouts and nobody does anything about it except Buffy who tackles the girl with a school flag. LOL at Willow, by the way. “[A pile of ashes is] all that would have been left if it hadn’t been for Buffy!” WHY WAS THIS AUDITORIUM FULL OF PEOPLE COMPLETELY USELESS. Xander and Willow jump at the chance to help Buffy figure out this craziness, and she’s understandably hesitant to accept their help. Buffy is used to being secretive and, well, inevitably friendless because of that. Plus, you know, they kind of did just watch as their classmate burned. Jokes aside, I do think it’s interesting that Buffy (and Giles) do accept help from these fairly run-of-the-mill classmates. As of right now there isn’t anything particularly useful about Willow or Xander. Willow is intelligent and can hack computers, and Xander is…annoying?…but basically they help because of their intense desire to help and that’s rather endearing.

Once Cordelia goes blind, the Scoobies (well, mostly Giles) establish that witchcraft is behind all of this, and they all agree that Amy is probably behind it all, given her obsession with getting on the cheerleading squad. Again, all of this is a fairly typical narrative? Girl pressured by her overbearing stage-mom, girl does deceitful/immoral things in order to get ahead, etc etc. Based on her shocked reaction, they decide she probably doesn’t know what she’s doing, and then comes the creepiest scenes thus far in the show. When Amy enters her home and talks so…creepily and condescedingly to her mother (who just stands there looking terrified), commands her to do her history paper, and all but confesses to the spells….ugh, it’s so CREEPY.

I’m impressed that even when Buffy is attacked with the hilarious-and-then-scary drunk spell, she doesn’t want to blame Amy. She understands the pressure a parent can put on their child and sympathizes with Amy’s plight. However, the creepy factor is multiplied by a thousand when it’s revealed that AMY’S MOTHER TOOK OVER HER DAUGHTER’S BODY IN ORDER TO RECLAIM HER GLORY DAYS. Aghhh! “She said I was wasting my youth. So she took it.” SO FUCKING CREEPTASTIC.

At least in the process of cursing Buffy she destroyed that awful bracelet from Xander.

And then during the game Giles attempts to undo all of Amy’s spells and Amy’s mom senses it and tears out of the gym and ugh, every evil look shoots off and strangling Xander WITH HER THOUGHTS….it’s all so scary. Luckily we get to see Buffy kick her mom’s ass once their bodies are switched and all’s well that ends well. By that I mean, all’s well that ends with your psychotic mother trapped in a cheerleading trophy.


Despite my general dislike of Joyce, I do like how this episode ends: Joyce telling Buffy she would never, ever want to be sixteen again, and Buffy beaming and saying “I love you, Mom.” To Buffy, the fact that her mom has flaws but is nowhere near as bad as Amy’s mom is comforting and the best news after such a crazy experience. Joyce may have expectations of Buffy, but Buffy knows that if she doesn’t meet them, her mom will still love her and…you know, not switch bodies with her and stuff.

Hey, Willow: this is not a newt.

Favorite things:

  • Giles: “Why would someone want to hurt Cordelia?” Willow: “Maybe because they met her? …..Did I say that?”
  • Spell-induced drunk Buffy. My fave. ❤
  • “Guess what? I feel better.” *punch*

Re: The Harvest

Okay, I would like to start out by mentioning something that I somehow neglected to mention in the last bit, even though it absolutely cracks me up every time I watch the show. When Luke is reciting the prophecy to Buffy and it’s all this intense, formal language and then it ends with “and hell itself will come to town.” Was he adlibbing? I mean, do you adlib prophecy? Because that really did not fit with the rest of the prophecy which sounded old and rehearsed and somewhat believable. Hell itself will come to town sounds like a shitty metal lyric. I’m just saying!Oh, kicking and fighting. I think that in later seasons there are some totally kick-ass scenes in Buffy and in all the other Joss shows but yeah, the beginning leaves a lot to be desired. But I agree that it’s charming.I actually noted the interesting beginning story as well. And also, totally never connected the how the first Slayer was made thing with that, so that is awesome and go Joelle. Teehee. Vegan demons.I will totally agree that Xander is super frustrating in this scene. Unlike Joelle though, I love Xander. I mean, not so much in this scene but in general, I think I love him really becauseof his fairly serious flaws. I think he’s complex and interesting and I think he pretty much remains that way. But yes, I wanted to punch him in this scene.

Calm and in control, comforting Willow

However, what I most wanted to focus on here is what’s happening with the group. Certainly it’s mildly amusing that they are weirdly unconcerned about Jesse but what I’m really seeing here is the dynamic forming. This is really the first time that we ever see Buffy as a general, which is essentially what she is. She knows what she’s doing, she is a quick and creative thinker. She doesn’t hesitate or even really miss a beat. She takes in that she has new people on board and, while she’s not inviting them to jump in and help yet, her mind is on the battle ahead. She assigns jobs, she is fairly kind about correcting people but she doesn’t hesitate to do it. This is Buffy in her element and it’s something we’ll only see strengthen as the show goes on, until season 7 when she actually is being a general of troops. I love that this is brought in so strongly and so early because I think it’s really important. What makes this show work (and pretty much every other Joss show) is the character dynamics and I love that he is able to nail that so quickly.

Okay, Joelle likes Angel and I hate him most of the time and that will probably be very apparent. But let’s be clear here. He doesn’t just “appear.” He’s been hanging out, in that crypt, for who knows how long, just waiting for her to show up. This is another example of very mild concern for Jesse, incidentally since she stops to have a prolonged chat with him before going in. Obviously we’re not talking Edward levels of stalking here but let’s be clear, this is stalkery behavior. Just saying!

Quality fencework here.

Sidenote: Students DO go off campus while school is in session, just only if they’re seniors. And let’s say that we have absolutely no evidence that Buffy can jump that high from a flat start at anywhere else in this show. JUST SAYING. Also, bug eye glasses.

I agree that the twist of Jesse being a vampire is great. Again, there’s just total subversion of our expectations and honestly, who could be sorry he died? Not even his friends, really. Eric Balfour has gone on to do many things and he’s a perfectly decent actor but he always annoys me and I honestly think it may be because of Jesse. 😛

Am I the only one who has always really wanted to know the end of the story and how she killed the thick necked man with an exacto knife? They NEVER tell us and it always bugs me. Incidentally, this is a scene where Xander is comforted by her being strong and being a superhero. I don’t actually feel like most of his rage in this episode is about her being a girl; I think it’s about how terrible Xander is (consistently) at feeling like he’s not making himself useful. He needs to feel needed and important and yeah, that can be a super frustrating trait but I think it’s a very believable one.

Okay, yes, I have a clown issue but dude!!!

I actually find the whole chase through the sewers thing a little creepy. Which is weird because I do not typically have that issue in Buffy but honestly, the one shot of the vampire looking like an insane clown makes my skin crawl a little. Again, I like the way that Buffy knows exactly what to do. Xander is freaking out (and understandably, I think) but she can both protect them from the angry monsters, deal immediately with the fact that Jesse is a vampire, tell Xander what to do and find a way to get out of there. Nothing is going to slow her down and it is awesome.

But here is another truth that the show sets up early. Buffy absolutely does need her friends. If she had gone down there alone, would she have made it? I mean, honestly, I’m not so sure. There are several instances where it is Xander being there that enables them to get out. He pulls her out of the sewer, somehow her superhero strength is not enough to close the door without his help (okay, I thought that was silly but it supports my point so I’ll go with it). It is having other people there that allows Buffy to survive so long. Often she really doesn’t need physical help but it’s these ties that enable her to survive. She really isn’t meant to work alone and the fact that Slayers almost always have is probably why they’ve died so young.

I always just perceived Xander’s distrust of Angel to be because of how he liked Buffy and she liked Angel instead, to be honest. I mean, I guess Jesse could factor into it but because it’s never mentioned, I always just assumed it was about that. Then after Angel became Angelus and did fairly terrible and appalling things, it seems pretty rational to me to never really want to trust another vampire. But the idea that there’s some seed of unspoken Jesse in there is interesting.

Say you're sorry...

Here we have displeased Master. Which is somewhat understandable. I actually really love this scene. The Master is a legitimately awesome villain in a super camp kind of way and the way he handles this is just fairly awesome. However, I always have something of an issue with him poking the guy’s eye out and how there is absolutely no sound. Like obviously that would not kill the vampire and I can’t imagine how a finger through the eye would stop you from screaming, so I really feel like there should be a shrill scream of terror here instead of just an ominous music beat. It is totally arguable that I am splitting hairs, I realize but seriously. They still feel pain.

We have a brief scene here of Willow and Giles which, again, sets up their dynamic so early. There’s immediately a connection between these two characters and I love them so much. That connection is going to be so important through so much of the show and the set up is early and very believable.

Next the rather homoerotic ceremony to make Luke the vessel. I’m just saying that “My body is your instrument” makes me giggle every single time. Maybe because I’m secretly 12 but seriously, it’s funny.

The tapes all say I should get used to saying it

Again, I do not hate Joyce in the way that Joelle does. I actually really like Joyce. Yes, she’s being frustrating in this scene but I think there is something in it about how Buffy has been raised. I mentioned in my last entry how it seemed like she had probably been something of a spoiled only child and I think this really supports that theory. Her mother is not used to telling her no but she is totally understandably really freaked out by the fact that her 15 year old daughter (it is really hard for me to keep in mind that she is supposed to be that young) is staying out basically all night long, is already having the school call home… I mean, what parent wouldn’t be kind-of terrified, especially if your daughter already has something of a troubled past? I don’t know that she handles it the best way possible but I honestly think that her “If you decide to stay up here and pout, I won’t hold it against you” is not at all a bad mom thing to say and I just like to see how hard she tries to be a good mom, even when she doesn’t succeed.

Communion... weapons?

Also, I just have to mention that when Buffy is looking in her trunk of weapons, she has a giant cylinder of COMMUNION WAFERS. Why does she have communion wafers? I mean, I get that they are also part of a sacrament or whatever but there is never the slightest indication that she has ever used them. Did they just feel the trunk wasn’t full enough and that they had to put something else in there? Also, it’s very full, so clearly she’s not exactly using it. I realize this is a dumb thing but there will probably be a lot of those so my best recommendation is to get used to it. Someone tell me why they are there!!!!

The idea that everyone in Sunnydale immediately forgets everything is pretty insane. On the other hand, this town has been on the Hellmouth forever. I mean, Buffy’s arrival did not start that, it’s always been there. So I kind-of have to assume that people have been dying left and right for a long time and that maybe the entire town has ended up actually looking something like a crazy house and you have to be in completely unbelievable levels of denial to live there unless you happen to be fighting monsters. Okay, I don’t have to believe that at all, but that’s my only stab at an explanation. Also, I’m not sure a cymbal would behead a vampire.

I guess you can kind of see cherries

So yeah, things work out, Buffy wears a really adorable cherry dress (remember when cherries were on everything?) and has a sucker in her mouth, just like she did when her watcher first approached her. I think she’s settling in to enjoy a new life which is looking more bearable than she expected because hey, there are at least friends. Giles is excited by all of the possibilities for upcoming evil, which is excitement that I think is mostly crushed in the next episode, which is good. I mean, not good for Giles but good in general because you probably shouldn’t stay excited about the things that will make people die and because it’s hard to protect yourself or people you care about from things you’re not properly prepared for. The point is that for this one, blissful moment, you see them hopeful and happy about a future together. This is about as carefree as it’ll ever get, kids. Enjoy it!

The Harvest

This episode opens with Buffy kickin’ some vamp ass, which is especially awesome because the fighting choreography is so bad in Season 1. Seriously. Somehow she manages to kick two vampires, standing on either side of her, AWAY from her with one kick. It makes no sense but it is charming.

I really love the ideology that the world didn’t start out as a paradise and instead was crawling with the big bad evil. It’s also super-interesting to me that the “mixing of demon and human blood” here is described as a bad, horrible thing (making vampires) and comes back in Season 7 when we find out about how the First Slayer was made. It’s just awesome how all of these little details are important to the greater story.

(Something I just thought of, though: What did/do the Old Ones feed on? Giles says that demons are “waiting for the animals to die out” and the Old Ones’ return. But what will they eat without any humans/animals…? The thought of a world full of vegan demons is really, really amusing to me right now.)

So Jesse is kidnapped by Darla and the Scoobies are…mildly concerned, I guess? Willow and Xander are obviously in shock about all the new info they’re receiving, but even Xander’s EXTRA INDIGNANCE seems…misplaced. What I mean by that is Xander definitely wants to be part of Jesse’s search-and-rescue team, but he seems more driven by the fact that BUFFY IS A GIRL AND IS GOING TO GO AFTER JESSE SO HE SHOULD MAN UP AND JOIN HER rather than, oh, I dunno, the fact that Jesse is his good friend.

This is Buffy’s “WTF XANDER” face.

Disclaimer, for what it’s worth: I really, really, really dislike Xander in the first few seasons and sporadically throughout the whole series. I won’t say I hate him. I won’t even say I dislike him by the end of the show. He will, on more than one occasion, say beautiful inspiring things that make me cry. Hell, I even have a tattoo from one of his lovely monologues. But I can’t get past his immature, insecure, idiotic behavior in the first few seasons enough to honestly enjoy him and I won’t pretend that I can.

This episode really highlights that behavior for me. Xander’s negative and positive qualities seem to be different sides of the same coin. On one side he’s loyal, brave, and dependable; on the other, he’s stubborn, impulsive, and…well…he hurts feelings. Is there a better way to phrase that? Probably, but I’m going with it. At the end of the day, early-series-Xander hurts my feelings a lot. And he annoys me to boot.

Like, UGH:

Xander: So what’s the plan? We saddle up, right?
Buffy: There’s no ‘we’, okay? I’m the Slayer and you’re not.
Xander: Heh. I knew you’d throw that back in my face.

How is stating a fact throwing it in your face, Xander? What do you even know about the Slayer other than the approxiamately four things Giles just told you? How did you ‘know’ Buffy was going to ‘throw that in your face’ when you’ve known Buffy for all of twenty-five minutes?

Buffy: Xander, this is deeply dangerous.
Xander: I’m inadequate. That’s fine. I’m less than a man.

Okay, look. I’m trying to understand him, I am. I have all the hindsight I need. I know Xander has issues stemming from his dysfunctional family. I know he’s a teenager, an immature one at that. And I know he probably is genuinely worried about Jesse. But…I can still be desperately annoyed by this scene, right? I think what annoys me most about Xander’s ridiculous comments (like above) is that they often go unchallenged. No one’s like, “Xander, I can’t even, just shut up.” Willow responds by being extra-logical (expressing her anxiety as well as her desire to help), but that’s it. And later, when Xander shows up in the sewer, Buffy just…accepts it. NO. TELL HIM TO STOP BEING AN IDIOT. GAHH.

Plus, ugh, being weaker than a girl (even one with superpowers) doesn’t make you “less of a man.” That’s just offensive.

Anyways. Angel appears and is cryptic, as usual, and warns Buffy not to go down into the sewers. I think Angel intuitively understands something about Buffy. Surely he doesn’t mean to scare her away from stopping the Harvest with all his warnings and hint-drops. I don’t believe for a second that he wants her to walk away and allow the Master to rise to full strength. I do believe him when he says that he’s afraid, though. He knows firsthand what the Master, Darla, and the rest are capable of, and he also knows that they’d very much like to see him dead, but I also believe perhaps that he sees something in Buffy that is stronger than himself and he’s okay with that. He knows she will push past her own fears even if he cannot. This is what I like most about him. From their very first meeting, he’s not insecure about her strength. He’s impressed by it, he wants her to embrace it, and he trusts her to use it. That’s awesome, and honestly pretty rare, in fiction as well as in real life. (And OH, his puppy-dog eyes when Buffy asks if he has a friend tug at my little old heartstrings.)

I think the message here is: it’s okay to be creepy as long as you do it sexily.

So anyway, Buffy and Xander find Jesse who, if you know how Joss Whedon’s brain works, you already know must be a vampire because of course he is. That’s what I like about this twist. Not only is Jesse pretty annoying so it’s cool that he’s killed off right away, but his death spells out that this show will push the limits. Kill what was assumed to be a main character in the first two episodes, let a demon set up shop in his body and have him attack his former friends? Good stuff. Buffy and Xander barely escape with their lives and the group is marginally bummed that Jesse is dead and then THEY NEVER MENTION HIM AGAIN. lololol I always find this hilarious. He was part of Willow and Xander’s core group, he’s murdered in a really traumatizing way, Xander has to stake him, AND THEY NEVER SPEAK OF HIM AGAIN. I understand that they can’t get all super grief-heavy in the very beginning of the show for a character we don’t really care about, but seriously? Never speaking his name again is kinda overkill. Pun unintended.

What Jesse’s death does do is set the tone for Xander’s (sometimes irrational) opinion on vampires. Of course, it doesn’t seem irrational right now. “I don’t like vampires. I’m gonna take a stand and say they’re not good,” seems entirely reasonable and, well, perfectly all right in context. However, I’ve always partly attributed this very episode to Xander’s chronic distrust of Angel and, later, Spike. (Am I the only one who finds Xander’s comment about how there are tasty young morsels in the Bronze and he knows that’s where Jesse will be very, VERY weird? Like…dude, your friend was a total creep, and you seemed to be okay with that until he was vamped.)

Joyce annoys me in this episode but I have plenty of time to get into why I dislike her, so that can wait. 😛 Buffy proceeds to thunder sneak out of the house (tee-hee) and head to the Bronze, where Luke kills like 15 people in front of a full audience who will completely forget everything that happens immediately after it’s done.

The first one is black, of course. 😦
Drink up, dude, it’s totally cool. Nobody knows this chick.

To believe that people in Sunnydale are in institutionalized-levels of denial is to suspend disbelief a little. Or a lot. Whatever.

Darla and co. arrive in slow motion. Xander slays Jesse and apparently it’s VERY easy to slay vampires in the Whedonverse and basically if they brush up against a piece of wood, they’re dust.

The tragic permanent death of what’s-his-face.

Buffy fights the vampires, including Luke, and outwits him via fake sunlight and he dies (in slow motion!), again, in front of dozens of people but it’s okay, none of them will remember a thing. Remember?

The episode ends with Giles saying “The earth is doomed” and I love Daddy Giles so much. The Scoobies walk away together and yay! they’re a unit and yay! Willow will always be adorable and yay! one day Xander won’t piss me off every 30 seconds, I promise.

This guy has nothing to do with this post except that every time I watch this episode and he pops up OUT OF NOWHERE in the computer lab, I crack up. You’re welcome.

– J

Re: Welcome to the Hellmouth

One of my favorite lines.

I am also so excited to be doing this project. I have so many projects going on right now but I think this is going to be one of my favorites. 😀 In a lot of ways these first episodes are somewhat slight, so if there’s something I really want to mention I will but the rest of it may just be somewhat formed observations or responses to Joelle’s notes.

So! Welcome to the Hellmouth. Interestingly, I disagree with Joelle’s interpretation of the opening scene. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of indication that the guy is going to take advantage of Darla. I mean, she’s acting somewhat vulnerable but there’s not a lot of indication that she’s necessarily against making out with him or whatever, she’s just acting nervous about being in the building if someone else is there. Which I find weird from a character standpoint. Why should Darla care if anyone sees her? But as far as what I think Joss is trying to do, I find it really interesting. I mean, essentially this is a subversion of horror film tropes. The female is typically the frightened character who ends up running from the monster, who is nervous about the situation she is in. Not to mention the typical horror idea of any girl who has sex will eventually be killed, probably horribly. What we have here is a female playing victim and then ending up being the aggressor. Instead of becoming the murder victim, she is the one calling the shots. Our expectations are being subverted immediately. What we are taught to expect from females and males and sexuality in horror films is immediately set up to be something new. These are all things that I think will be explored in much more detail and more effectively as the show goes on but I think it’s a great beginning.

Also, sidenote, the vampire transformations were so bad for the first couple seasons. Yeesh.

I always wondered if Nicolas Brendan actually knew how to skateboard or if he learned for this particular character trait that ended up never coming up again (fortunately, I think). I’m sure that’s something I could find out but I’ve never bothered.

I agree that it makes me insane that Principal Flutie tapes the transcript together backwards. I mean, really. It’s basically a 4 piece puzzle here. Not exactly complicated.

Also, here’s where one of my blind spots come in. I should say that I was homeschooled all the way growing up (and I swear I’m not as weird as you think from reading that). But this means that there are things about the high school experience that I know primarily from television shows rather than experience. So sometimes I will ask dumb questions! My question is, when Willow says, “I heard someone was transferring” is that something you hear? Like do students know that someone is transferring in in advance? Just wondering.

It's a terrible picture but... PANTS! PANTS! PANTS!

I agree that how Buffy hits it off with Cordelia is interesting, although I hadn’t really thought about it before. As far as how much was Buffy and how much was becoming the Slayer, to be honest, I always saw it somewhat as that becoming the Slayer just forced her to grow up really fast? I mean, even Cordelia will eventually grow up and become a deeper, more compassionate person. Also, Buffy is an only child, raised by a family that would eventually fall apart. I think a lot of people are shallow in high school (I know I certainly was) and I suspect that if she had not become the Slayer, she probably would have eventually matured and become that more caring person. But because she was forced into that quickly, Cordelia was more like who she used to be. So I guess I think that it was something she naturally had but I think Cordelia has some of that too, we just won’t see it for a while.

I think the instance of meeting Giles is again one of those things, like the opening scene with Darla, where we put off characterization for the sake of exposition for those watching the show. I mean, it’s not totally about exposition because by saying he’s her new Watcher, he could still have explained it but it’s more dramatic to have him slam down the vampire book anyway. Or Vampyre book, I should say.

Not exactly easy to carry around

I actually think that it makes a lot of sense that Giles doesn’t necessarily understand her reluctance. Not just from the obvious things but because Giles, as he tells us later, was 8 years old when his father told him he was to become a Watcher. Like Kendra later, he has literally grown up knowing what his calling was and what he was set to do. That’s not how it was with Buffy. Although of course we know he went through his rebellious stage too so again, I guess it could just be for exposition’s sake.

Really fascinating what you say about her philosophy. I had never thought about it being something that went much beyond this episode but when you say it like that, I look forward to you bringing it up again because you are probably totally right and I’ve just never thought about it.

I think we have not talked enough about how incredibly terrible the introduction of Angel is. I mean, honestly. All of the actors are a little hit and miss as the show begins and that is common for pilots and for first seasons. But his delivery of “You’re pretty spry though” is literally one of the absolute worst line readings I have ever heard. I mean, the dialogue in this scene is absolutely not helping him but his performance is abysmal. It still boggles my mind that this is a guy Joss put so much faith in. Nathan Fillion tried out for the role of Angel. I’m just saying. I don’t know if it would have been better or not but I struggle to believe that it would have been worse.

One of the things that I’m curious about is what Giles says about how a Slayer should be able to just sense a vampire, without looking, just honing her abilities. I feel like that is really never expanded on and I’m curious how that works. Buffy always has sort-of her own way of doing things but clearly she has some powers that allow her to do that and I’m curious about what those are. I want to knoooooooow things.

I find the scene where Willow is taken into the crypt to be very interesting from a sexual politics standpoint. I mean, in any other show, I would assume that he was going to rape her? Vampires in general are a very sexual idea and I feel like that’s part of what’s going on. Willow and Jesse are both being victimized sexually in some ways and, instead of a man coming in to save the day, the man who comes in is Xander and he’s useless. Who saves the day but a little girl. In a way, Luke attacking her from behind just heightens that awareness. We see really just how TINY Buffy is and we see her really afraid, which is something that will happen much less as the show goes on. It shows some interesting power dynamics and sort-of cements where Buffy is emotionally starting out in this show. Yes, she’s aware of her powers and she’s full of quips and lines but she’s still just a kid in a lot of ways and she’s still afraid to die. Knowing where her character will ultimately go from that makes it more interesting to look back at where she started and just how unprepared she really was.

I agree that probably no matter where Buffy ended up, she wouldn’t have been able to just allow people to get hurt and such. She’s seen what’s out there and she knows she has what it takes to stop it and unfortunately a vampire free life is just never going to factor into that. Destiny can really suck.



Welcome to the Hellmouth

Can I just say that I’m super excited to be doing this project?

The very first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer opens with a couple of (apparent) young people breaking into Sunnydale High. It is set up as if the cocky, bad-boy character is suspicious and might take advantage of the situation, but is quickly flipped around when the seemingly timid female character reveals herself to be a vampire. This open has always been interesting to me. Power, particularly female power, is a theme throughout Buffy and in a strange way, it’s Darla (whoops! remember my spoiler disclaimer?) who is claiming the power in this scene. You know, by violently murdering a dude.

And then we’re introduced to Buffy herself and the other important characters. (Hey, remember that one time Xander was a skater? Yeah me too.) Sarah Michelle Gellar has bangs, the 90s are beautiful, Willow is perfect, and nothing hurts. As proof of this, Xander AND Buffy, on separate occasions, actually say “What’s the sitch?” without any irony whatsoever. And we find out (assuming we have not seen the movie) that Buffy burned down her ex-school’s gymnasium because it was filled with vampires. IT HAS ALWAYS DRIVEN ME NUTS HOW PRINCIPAL FLUTIE TAPES HER TRANSCRIPT BACK TOGETHER. The ripped sides go TOGETHER dude, agghhh.

I also find it interesting how Buffy immediately hits it off with Cordelia. We know from later episodes that Buffy was very Cordelia-ish before becoming the Slayer, and it shows during their interactions. However, she also has a lot of compassion, which causes her to distance herself from Cordelia (once she sees how she treats unpopular kids) and start befriending Willow, Xander, and Jesse (who are often on the receiving end of Cordelia’s insults) instead. I think it’s likely that this compassion stems from the reality of being a Slayer, since there definitely seemed to be a change in Buffy after she was chosen, though I wonder how much of it is carried over from Buffy’s personality before she was chosen. I don’t think it’s ever something we’re shown outright and it’s probably a mix of the two.

Oh, and we meet Daddy Giles! Who I will consistently refer to as Daddy Giles, by the way. I always found it weird how Giles isn’t just like, “Yo, dawg, I’m your new Watcher” and instead is all creepy about a book called Vampyres. I know it’s probably just so he can explain what a Watcher is out loud, but still.

This leads us to seeing Buffy’s first act of super strength and her reluctance to accept her role as the Sunnydale Slayer. Giles doesn’t understand this reluctance, but I find it kind of awesome. It’s more realistic to me that Buffy doesn’t WANT this power and would rather be a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She clearly hoped that this move from L.A. would allow her to leave slaying behind. But Sunnydale is not an average town. It’s sunny and bright and ordinary on the surface, which only hides it’s darker interior: the hellmouth and everything that is drawn to it.

We learn Buffy’s philosophy:

Life is short. Not original, I’ll grant you, but it’s true, you know? Why waste time being all shy and worried about some guy and if he’s gonna laugh at you? Seize the moment ’cause tomorrow you might be dead.

I think I’ll try to come back to this philosophy from time to time, because I do think it comes up more than once throughout the series to explain some of Buffy’s actions.

So we meet Angel who glowers and creeps a lot, Giles continues to be creepy at the Bronze, and Willow gets lured away by a vampire. (I adore how Buffy identifies him as a vamp based on his outfit, by the way.)

Is it ever explained why the Master appears out of a pool of blood? I always believed he’d been stuck down there for however long but what was with the ritual thing Luke did? Confusing.

So there’s a big fight and a CLIFFHANGER and we sort of find out what the Harvest is. What I really like about the first two episodes is that it sets the stage for Buffy’s themetic conflict throughout the series: her role as the Slayer, and the concept of choice. It’s obvious that she cannot deny this role, especially in a town like Sunnydale, unless she wants to sit back and let the bodies pile up. Her idyllic image of herself living a normal, vampire-free life is pretty much destroyed right here and now, but (and this is something I expect to discuss quite a bit) I can’t help but wonder how much of that is because of her destiny, and how much of it is because of who Buffy is. We already know that she’s compassionate, determined, mindful of others’ feelings, and willing to do the right thing…it’s hard to know if these things are emphasized/created because of her responsibilities as the Slayer or if they were parts of her all along, but I tend to think it’s more of the latter.

– J