Saturday, November 26, 2011

I can’t put it off any longer. I have to meet my terrible fate.


I have to discuss Prophecy Girl.

Although, as fates go, this could be more terrible. I’ve long thought that Prophecy Girl is the best S1 episode, hands down (though it has competition). I love it because has a little bit of everything: teenage drama, regular drama, comedy, and metaphorically metaphory metaphors.

Remember how I mentioned back in the write-up for The Harvest that it had an emphasis on “ripening,” or “becoming”? Well, here’s that metaphor you ordered. This is ultimately a show about growing up. You may be familiar with the term “bildungsroman.” This show is that. Only not a book.

The prophecy that she has to die can be taken both literally and symbolically. Of course she has to die. Everybody dies. But the dying itself also symbolizes a loss of innocence. It’s no coincidence that the dress Buffy wears to go face her destiny is white.

It’s also no coincidence that The Master bites Buffy before discarding her. Knowing the connection between vampires and sexual awakening, the action is pointing to yet another aspect of growing up; the development of Buffy as a sexual being.

Yeah, I know—The Master’s pretty ick-looking and the thought of sex and him being connected pretty much makes my lady parts scream in terror, but the point stands. Symbolically, the virgin has been deflowered.

Oh, there certain subversions to the standard seduction tale; Buffy is the one that seeks The Master out, and she is the one that has to be led over the threshold. And that’s a nifty Buffy bonus. Buffy is just as afraid of her own power as Willow is, but she also knows her destiny is inevitable.

Buffy’s dying also symbolizes her transition into—well, not “adulthood” yet, but definitely into another phase in her quest for adulthood. Notice that she awakens revitalized and stronger than she was before. And where she was uncertain before, she’s back to her quippy, self-confident self when she faces The Master again.


But why do I say it’s not adulthood yet? Well, a couple things:

The show’s not over. There are six whole seasons after this one. Also, I’ve yet to meet an “adult” 16-year old. But in-show, there are a few clues.

Firstly, her dress? The all-white one that probably symbolizes purity and innocence? Considering how much stuff it’s gone through, it stays pretty unsoiled. And there’s that moment after The Master kaputs and everyone’s congratulating themselves. Buffy stares just a little too long at the remains—a sign that this ain’t over yet.

Maybe it’s also her way of acknowledging the loss of her old status as “just a kid,” who knows? It works either and both ways. But I do know she’s not quite ready for her new transitory status, and you’ll see why when we get to S2. There are still a few rites of passage to get through.

Speaking of “rites of passage,” Prophecy Girl deals with another, more mundane one, too: getting rejected. Poor Xander, eh? Well, no. Not “eh.” Xander deals pretty harshly to a surprisingly mature and gentle Buffy when she rejects him. There goes that cruel streak again.

Still, he does pull it together long enough to save her, so maybe even man-children can have moments of maturity. Hope springs eternal.

See you guys for S2.


Stray observations:

  • It’s a bit cruel of Xander to practice asking Buffy out on Willow, no?
  • “I wanna dance with you.” Xander does get his dance, eventually.
  • Atta girl, Willow, refusing to be #2.
  • This is the first time Buffy sees Angel since Angel.
  • The scene where Buffy overhears Giles and Angel talking about the prophecy and breaks down is the best scene in S1. Proven by science.
  • The vampires killing the kids in the Audio/Visual Room is a sign that Slayer world has invaded “normal” world. Buffy can’t escape.
  • When Willow asks Buffy what they’re gonna do, Buffy’s voice breaks a little when she says “what we have to.”
  • …Xander knows where Angel lives?
  • Leading Buffy to The Master’s lair is the Useless One’s one and only job.
  • Now do you see why I love Cordy?!

Friday, November 25, 2011

This is all about me! Me, me, me!


It has been suggested that Cordelia is actually Buffy’s shadow self, and on some level, I definitely agree, but what I love so much about Cordelia is that she refuses to be confined to being just Buffy’s foil. Out of Mind, Out of Sight begins to demonstrate that Cordy ain’t just your goddamn mirror, bitch.

Yeah, Cordelia is shallow-ish. Yes, she does not suffer fools gladly, or at all. And yes, she can be cruel. But she’s also a vulnerable, occasionally lonely teenage girl. And yes, there, Buffy and Cordy share a common point.

There, but for the grace of being Chosen, goes Buffy, basically. And truth be told, it’s not a terrible fate. Cordelia has a confidence few teenagers have, period. And she knows how to use the tools she has to get ahead. She’s also brilliant, notwithstanding  her slightly privileged point of view on The Merchant of Venice.

She comes prepared to class, after all, and she has the guts to take an unpopular view without worrying about what other people think (something that has an awesome payout in S2).

At first glance, it looks as though we’re supposed to side with Marcie, but let’s face it: while this is a story about Marcie, she’s not the heroine.

How could she be, with that awful, pasty skin?

Seriously, though. Out of Mind puts us in the unique position of siding with what would normally be considered the antagonist of the piece. Which, if you’re as smart as Cordy is, is also what The Merchant of Venice does. After all, Cordy (and Antonio) are in the wrong, initially.

Marcie (and Shylock, to continue the parallel) falters in the way that (1) she’s fucking insane, and (2) the punishment is way more severe than the crime.

Point is, Buffy rightfully beats her down. And now we know Cordelia has a softer side that has nothing to do with Sears.

She’s not a villain. She’s (sort of) one of us.

And maybe this episode is not just about feeling so alone that you feel you’re invisible, but also about how people you think are evil bitch-monsters are actually just people, too. Rich, beautiful, popular people.

Of course.


Stray observations:

  • Can’t wait ‘til Cordy becomes a regular.
  • Buffy’s doubly an outsider in this episode: she’s excluded from Cordelia’s circle, and she’s left out of Xander and Willow’s inside jokes.
  • Angel’s back. He’s been MIA.
  • Notice how Giles trusts Angel based on little more than Buffy’s word.
  • The Codex plotline ties into the next episode, which begins the grand tradition of over-arching arcs. Actually, come to think of it, Angel (the episode) did, too…
  • Cordelia and Snyder are the first “outsiders” to notice that there is more to Buffy than meets the eye.
  • Assassin Marcie is never followed up. Damn.

Wake up. Ow! Gotta wake up.


In case it was a little too complex for you to get, the episode Nightmares was about… wait for it… Nightmares.

I know… crazy, right?

Well, okay, I’m being a little facetious here. This episode is actually a treasure trove when it comes to characterization. The S1 precursor to truly orgasmic S4 episodes that are also characterization treasure troves. And that is in no way an attempt to get you to stick with this show for at least that long. Nope. Not at all.



Anyway, this episode is a bit heavy on Buffy’s nightmares, featuring such gems as her fear of being the cause of her parents’ divorce (and as the child of divorced parents myself, fucking ouch), being unprepared for exams (again with the History), and becoming a vampire herself.

What strikes me most is that Buffy’s so used to fighting actual physical nightmare things that most of the things she fears are emotionally-based. Her fear that she’s at the center of the breakdown of her family and that she will fail so badly at her job that she becomes the monster she fights (Nietzsche, anyone?) are things she can’t really counter with a punch to the face like Xander does with his fears. Even worse, even if she doesn’t fail at her job, she risks being so good at it that she alienates the people she’s protecting and becomes more like the things she fights anyway. Fuuuuuuuck. Whatever happened to dreaming you’re plummeting to certain death or something?! Oh. Never mind.

Giles fears failing, too, and losing Buffy. Actually, losing Buffy would be a direct consequence of his failing, so I guess those are two sides of the same coin.


Giles’s worth this early in the series is mainly demonstrated by his access to arcane knowledge; knowing what to look for and how (navigating the stacks, so to speak) and communicating that to Buffy, who then uses that information to not get killed.

When he can’t do that, well:

And given that Giles is beginning to care for Buffy as a father would, this is doubly devastating.

Xander fears being exposed, obviously, but the clown thing, hmm…

First of all: fuck you, Whedon, for dredging up all those It memories. And second of all, we’ve gotta see the hint here. Xander’s like the class clown, right? How is this not symbolizing that on some unconscious level, he’s afraid of being perceived as just a clown? And a bad clown, at that? What I like about this, though, is that Xander is the first one to actually face his fear. And—you know—punch it in the face.  He’s rejecting this view of himself before anyone has the chance to use it against him. In this episode, anyway.

Willow, having been the least developed character in the series so far (barring background characters, that is), only gets a cursory treatment here. She fears being the center of attention as much as she envies it. Willow’s afraid of coming into her own power.


(I’m gonna go ahead and assume those red curtains are symbolic.)

It also kind of brings us back to Buffy; specifically, her fear of the Master. However, this ties in closely with Prophecy Girl, so I’ll reserve that analysis for then. Stay tuned!


Stray observations:

  • First episode where we see Hank Summers. It doesn’t really last—we see him once more, and that’s it.
  • So… dreams coming true would be a “musical comedy version” of Nightmares, eh, Giles?
  • Notice how Buffy chides Billy for putting too much responsibility on himself. I wanna say “how ironic,” but the internet has instilled in me a healthy fear of that phrase.
  • “Willow, do shut up.”
  • Poor Cordy! Bad hair and chess club?! Fuck that noise.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What am I gonna do? Slay vampires on stage?


This one’s an odd one, I’ll admit. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be much to it besides the “school talent shows suck” angle. I mean, I guess there’s some stuff about sacrifice and how someone really committed to the demon-slaying gig may be asked to give up everything, but really? I’d just focus on how funny parts of The Puppet Show are.

I mean, there’s the introduction of Principal Snyder (technically the longest surviving Sunnydale High principal), horny dummies, and Cordelia singing.

The Puppet Show does work on another level, though, and that’s in the interesting choices the gang makes when it comes to “talent.”

Giles is naturally the director, which correlates with his status as a Watcher. And Buffy, Willow, and Xander choose to act. Their first choice is to play parts? Things that make you go “hmm.”

Cordelia’s is the most obviously perfect, of course; why wouldn’t she choose something where she’s the center of the spotlight, and why wouldn’t she choose a song that’s primarily about learning to love one’s self? The phrase “fits like a glove” could find some purchase here, if you ask me.

And hey, make sure to stay for the credits. Comedy gold.


Stray observations:

  • “Sunnydale has touched and felt for the last time.”
  • Goosebumps has successfully ensured that I will be freaked out by dummies for the rest of my natural life.
  • “There are things I will not tolerate: students loitering on campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking.” Snyder kinda rules.
  • Did I mention to stay for the credits? Stay for the credits.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick Interlude

Before I carry on posting all the stuff I said I would post before leaving (sorry!), I just wanted to bring your attention to something.

There’s a guy (I know him by Sophist, but his name’s Mark Field) who is also writing up Buffy, and he is pretty damned brilliant. If you’re familiar with the AV Club's reviews of Buffy and Angel, you know who I’m talking about, as he’s a regular commenter there.

Anyway, read him, too. His analyses are much more in-depth than mine, and sometimes contain stuff that’s gone right over my pretty little head.

Here’s the link.

Go. Now.

There’s a demon in the Internet

And it’s this guy:

Yee, right? Well, even more “yee!” is this entire fucking episode. You guessed it; it’s not a favorite. Hell, it’s not in the top 140.
Oh, there are bright spots. The Giles/Calendar interactions are funny, if only ‘cause flustered Giles is exceedingly adorable.

And while this episode focuses pretty obviously on the dangers of meeting strangers on the Internet (none of which is that they might be demons bent on world domination, though who knows these days, right?), there’s a neat little discussion on the dangers of the acquisition of knowledge in general. It’s not an accident that while Moloch is in the Internet in modern times, he’s in a book in the 15th century. A little learning is a dangerous thing, indeed.
Fritz, two things: (1) You’re a nutbar, and (2) knowledge is nothing without wisdom.
The demon, as Giles so succinctly put it, is acquiring knowledge without context.
But really, poor Willow.

First guy besides Xander she’s interested in turns out to be a big, honkin’ robot demon. It’s no wonder she—never mind. We’ll get to that.
For now, just enjoy the one good scene in the entire episode:

Stray observations:
  • Giles’ stance on computers in general is about the same way I feel about Kindles.
  • Buffy has a 2.8 GPA. Far from total ineptitude. She’s not dumb, okay?!
  • “Pop culture reference—sorry.”
  • “We’re literary!”
  • Aww, I remember when being online meant no one else got to make or receive a call!
  • Okay, let me get this straight—Moloch has minions that can build a body for him from scratch, make him look like anything at all… And he picks “horned demon robot.”
  • I cringe at every single Willow “break-up” line. Ugh.
  • I’m back! Be happy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A vampire can’t come in unless it’s invited


Love hurts. Just ask Angel.


Angel, poor guy, is stuck between two worlds; the evil, nasty, kill-bitey one, and the sensitive, if a bit mopey, decent human being one. Angel as an episode is a bit hard for me to relate to “real life” because it’s so tied up in what will be the show’s mythos, but it does have elements that can be applied to real life. Wouldn’t be a Buffy episode if it didn’t.

There’s first love, burgeoning sexuality, there’s… well, there’s…

Um. There’s…

Right. There’s real stuff and shit. Ahem.

Anyway, this is obviously an Angel-centric episode. In the show’s mythology, it establishes (or tries, anyway) the concept of “soul” and how it qualifies what we thought was a simple thing like “vampire.”

There are also other words thrown around, like “curse,” “Gypsies,” “conscience,” and “remorse.”

Angel gives us to understand that a vampire is basically some kind of a hedonistic evil thing driven by two imperatives: feed and kill. Although, there is talk of a “song in my heart,” and “love.” Sure, there’s that whole evil filter, where the song in the heart thing is used to describe the joy of killing, and love is mentioned by an evil being. But the fact remains. There is something damned fishy with the definition of soulless demon thus far.

The point is, souled Angel still has darkness in him, which suggests that the demon still has a bit of sway, and Darla has enough… eh, let’s call it “light”… in her to be able to love. In a twisted, way fucked up way, sure… But still. If Angel’s darkness means the demon has some influence still, then the other side of the coin would imply that the humanity remaining in Darla, however minimal it is, may influence her as a demon. How (and why) else form attachments and jealousies? Perhaps it’s not as easy to determine as “soul=good,” and “no soul=evil.”

Quod erat demonstrandum.

However, we are still working in a Season One frame, where the choices are still relatively simple and the ‘verse only has an eensy bit of gray. For the choices to remain simple, we have to accept the slightly misleading soul/no soul dichotomy. For now.



Stray observations:

  •                                      “This is exactly what happens when you sign these free trade agreements!”
  • “Thresholds have historically held significant symbolic value, and a vampire cannot cross a threshold unless invited. The connection between threshold and vampires seems to be a concept of complicity or allowance. Once a commitment is made to allow evil, evil can re-enter at any time.” (Source)
  • How can Giles be researching The Three from 12-6 when Buffy never called?
  • Buffy has trouble with history…  and History… and History majors…
  • For Angel to honor Buffy’s “don’t come near us again” request, he’d have to be the er, honorable guy Buffy assumes he is.
  • Not to spoil potential new watchers or anything, but Angel has fed on humans since the Gypsy girl.
  • Gotta love the symbolism of the cross burn on Angel in the ending scene. Love leaves its mark.

Monday, November 7, 2011

And the weird behavior award goes to…


Okay, I have some problems with this one. On its surface, The Pack is a good episode dealing with bullies and bullying in a smart way. Hell yeah, bullies are like hyenas. They’re usually not very bright, and laugh at stupid shit, and share that whole “scavenger” vibe. And on that level, I think this episode is good.

However. Two things. Firstly, I take issue with Giles’ cavalier attitude when Buffy first approaches him. Let us review (along with my real-time thoughts):

Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Buffy: Uh-huh.

(Me: Yeah…)

Giles: And, there's been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
Buffy: Yes.

(Me: Uh-huh…)

Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
Buffy: It's bad, isn't it.

(Me: Well, yeah, but when you put it that way it just sounds…)

Giles: It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Course, you'll have to kill him.

(Me: Wait, no, that’s not exactly—)

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.

(Me: Come on, not ALL men…)

Buffy: I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me. There is something supernatural at work here. Get your books! Look stuff up!

Giles: Buffy, boys can be cruel. They tease, they, they, they prey on the weak. I-i-it's natural teen behavior pattern.

(Me: Okay, now. Time out.)

It certainly sounds logical, being a simplification and all that, but it strikes me as jarring that we agree so readily with such a dim view of teenage boys. Sure, they’re immature and occasionally cruel. Emphasis on “occasionally.” Giles basically conflated “teenage boy” and “bully.” As if girls can’t be bullies. Wake up, mister:

This is (was) the 21st (20th) century! Testosterone is no more an equalizer than estrogen is. Beware generalizations.

While the bullying message is what we’re supposed to take from this episode (see: “high school is hell” metaphor), what I took from it is that (1) we don’t expect very much from teenage boys, general, and (2) Xander has a hell of a cruel streak.

A hell of a cruel streak. Whoa, mama.

A note on the trans-possession. I find that, in Buffy there are two kinds of spell/supernatural occurrence: One in which the subject is totally subsumed into the possessing agent or spell. Total immersion. The ensorcelled has no say in what happens to them or what they do, and frequently there’s memory loss—basically, what Xander and Giles let the girls believe Xander went through.

And then there is the other: the subject is at least marginally aware of their surroundings, the subject’s memories and desires are co-opted, and indeed, the subject’s desires are… not the driving force per se, but let’s say the foundation of the possessing agent’s goals/effects. We see a lot of this second one. And I think it’s what we’re dealing with in Xander’s possession.

The problem with this is that this is still Season One. We can’t really go into the implications of what this means, because Season One is about introductions and monsters-of-the-week. This is supposed to be one and done, really. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut… I can’t help it. The writers done goofed.

I don’t believe Xander is totally responsible for everything he did while possessed. That would be ridiculous. But I do think that the last scene, while it was played for laughs and was necessarily shallow (for it to be a successful Season One episode, that is), was a mistake.

Why suggest that Hyena Xander is influenced by Normal Xander’s desires and disdains but unable to restrain them, and then put him back on the hook for his transgressions by having his post-possession amnesia be a lie? And why have Giles aid and abet?!

I guess I would’ve been cool if the worst thing Hyena Xander had done was trip some dweeb in the hallways, but sexual violence is a wee bit of a hot button with me. I find that this show is oddly cavalier about it (except in one case which I also hate, but for different reasons). Still one of the better episodes of the first season, but… I don’t know. Fuck it. Here’s a picture of a kitten.


Stray observations:

  • The pre-hyenaed bullies suck.
  • Why is the principal on a school trip? Is the entire school on this trip? Is this a California thing?
  • Flaws aside, Xander was kind of hot in this episode. Not when he was laughing, but you know.
  • Do hyenas usually rape?
  • RIP Flutie. I liked him.
  • This episode marks the third in which Giles is knocked out.
  • The psycho-zookeeper’s name is Dr. Weirick.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A note on my impending absence (maybe)


Okay, I am gonna be skedaddling soon, to the sunny, orgasmic beaches of the Motherland, and I figure I should warn whomever’s out there actually reading my drivel.

I’m hoping to finish Season 1 before I go, and I am trying to swing WiFi when I get there, so that I can post drunken ramblings late at night, but that latter is kind of iffy, so… Season 2 may be a bit. Still, this’ll be an excellent chance for you phantom readers to send me suggestions. And questions. And to challenge my readings of episodes so far. I am committed to answering every single question, even if it’s with a shrug. It’ll  be a text shrug, but that counts, so there.

I realize Season 1 isn’t very deep as a Season, and it’s nowhere near the highest high of the series, but depending on how you look at it, we learn a lot from it. I’m trying to bring that to light.

Also, I’m thinking of adding end-of-season recaps/summaries, and maybe something along the lines of a Character Appreciation Post, where I honor a character with a full analysis based either on the season we’ve just watched, or the entire series. The only drawback I see with the latter is that I’d be spoiling the shit out of new watchers, so I’d have to give that some thought. Y’all let me know; I take suggestions.

So… yeah. I think that’s about it.

Try not to wreck the internet while I’m gone.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

But… Cute guy! Teenager! Post-pubescent fantasies!


Never Kill a Boy on the First Date (try saying that three times fast) is one of many “juggle normal life with Slayer duties” episode. I ultimately like this episode, though, mainly because of the dialogue, which is pretty top-notch, but also because of Giles and Buffy’s final scene, in which he tells her about the sacrifices he’s had to make to become the book-loving, tweed enthusiast he is today.

It’s an episode about responsibilities. We see it in the opening scene, with Giles chiding Buffy about her prioritizing (or “prioritising,” as they’d spell it across the pond) during the staking, and even with the vamps, who decide to take a break from waiting for their vampy messiah to go grab a bite to eat.

Here’s Owen:

Owen is hot, but a bit… I don’t wanna say “tool,” but… actually, I do want to say “tool.” He’s a sensitive, doe-y eyed, blond hunk of a thing, and I find him completely boring. Dances with Wolves boring. It looks like all the excitement we’re gonna get come from Andrew Borba, psycho-vamp extraordinaire. You’re gonna wanna remember him for later, by the way, for when I get really into the nature of vamps and stuff. We’ll call him People’s Exhibit #2.

Anyway, the thing to note about this episode is how Buffy ultimately makes the right decisions. In the beginning she tries pretty hard to balance Owen and her duties, but when Owen shows a lack of… brains, really… by wanting to be involved with the dangerous parts of her life, Buffy knows enough to break it off. Her desire for a normal life does not mean she can put people in danger. Even dumbasses that want to be in danger.


Stray observations:

  • Giles actually forgets that he works in a library.
  • Owen broods for forty minutes straight—psh. Angel has him beat.
  • Do people really need parkas in California? How cold does it get near Santa Barbara?
  • Owen is like Riley 1.0. Blecch.
  • Okay, Giles, hon… If you can move the file cabinet, the vamps definitely can.
  • (courtesy of Temporarily Obsessive)
  • The Anointed sucks. He will continue to suck. Feel free to ignore him.
  • I love that ten-year old Giles’ choices for future professions were “fighter pilot” or “grocer.”