Thought Catalog
July 27, 2012

I’m Rewatching Buffy: A Review Of Seasons 1 and 2

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Welcome to “I’m Rewatching Buffy,” a column(?) about how I’m rewatching Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Back in the day, I loved Buffy and her gang of Scoobies, but I haven’t thought about the show in years. I recently watched Firefly (RIP) and I loved The Avengers so I’m in a sort of Whedon-y mood. I’m also trying to learn a bit more about how TV shows are structured, writing-wise and Buffy is on Netflix Instant so I’ve decided to rewatch the whole thing and do a sort of cursory, shallow review of the show ten years later. Mostly, I just want to start a discussion in the comments. That’s okay, right?

Season One: Welcome to the Hellmouth

Buffy: Season One

I’d forgotten how awesomely cheesy season one of Buffy is. This cast is fantastic, but that’s basically the only redeeming thing about the show at this early stage. Eventually it just becomes, “Oy with the boring monsters and metaphors for the dangers of youth already.”

Alyson Hannigan is so cute and innocent as Willow so once again, she’s my favorite. Knowing what’s to come for her makes seeing her this young kind of exciting. I don’t particularly enjoy Hannigan on How I Met Your Mother (bummer) but now I think it’s probably because the character of Lily doesn’t suit her talents the way Willow did. And also, I was kind of a Willow in high school so she wins.

Angel and Buffy were the original Bella and Edward. But this show handles the “vampire in love with a human girl” plot way better than Twilight ever did. Though Buffy is a bit of a dippy idiot for falling for some mysterious weirdo who barely talks to her, the difference is that Buffy never loses her sense of self. She’s always prioritizing her own work as the Slayer and even when everything gets super bleak, she never fully disengages. I mean, it’s annoying, but it’s miles above Bella Swan.

The monster of the week episodes — the witch mom, the haunted dummy, the praying mantis teacher, Xander as the hyena — are laughable in retrospect, but I understand they’re there to set the tone of the show as a “horror movie in a high school.” The acting from the supporting cast and random one-off people is so, so bad and so 90s. But more than that, the metaphors for adolescent life through supernatural occurrence are just overblown and dated. (The episode where Willow “online dates” for example.) The baddies are rarely people we care about and it’s all just…plot with no character development.

Clea Duvall as Marcie the invisible girl. What ever happened to her? I think I saw pictures of her and Ellen Page lezzing out and then…nothing. She and Fairuza Balk really had that 90s goth girl thing locked down. Is that not a role Hollywood needs to fill anymore?

I forgot how unapologetically girly Buffy is. She wears pink and clips her hair with butterfly barrettes. The 90s fashion is off the wall, especially on her. She’s also written so realistically as a teenager. Her sass and self-centeredness, yet strength and maturity are really cool and different for a female teenager on television. Guys. Sarah Michelle Gellar was a pretty good actress.

When I first watched the show, I remember having a HUGE crush on Xander, but now someone else is catching my eye.

Aging (n); watching Buffy all the way through for the first time and crushing on Xander, then watching Buffy again and crushing on Giles.

Looking back now, I could write an entire thesis on Xander in season one. He is the ultimate “Nice Guy” in a really bad way. He only seems interested in helping Buffy because she’s hot and he has all this entitlement when it comes to women. Now that I’m not a tween, that aspect of his personality is super unattractive.

Ultimately though, the first season is kind of so bad it’s good. There are redeeming elements that foreshadow the amazingness to come, and the dialogue is leaps and bounds above what was on the WB at the time, but it’s all wrapped up in supernatural cheese. Is it weird that the main reason I want to keep watching is how flippin’ much I love Willow?

Season Two: Buffy and Angelus

Buffy: Season Two

I super love season two. It’s such a great, satisfying followup to the potential shown in season one. Enter Spike and Dru, two awesome bad guys that really have some depth and impact. Juliet Landau is so eerie with her face, her voice, and her demeanor. It’s so otherworldly and unnerving. I almost don’t like watching Drusilla. She makes me wicked uncomfortable.

And again, I love Whedon’s use of sarcasm and language. His wordplay and dialogue are some of the strongest parts of the movies and TV shows he’s worked on and it’s still the best part of Buffy. Sometimes though, it really takes me out of the show when a character says something that is so clearly just Joss Whedon talking. Does that make sense? There’s some dialogue that’s in character and then some that’s just a funny quip Whedon wrote and assigned to whatever character he felt like. And sure that’s what makes the show good and Whedon-esque but also, come on dude.

Willow gains confidence and a boyfriend. Seth Green as Oz! He’s great! I’d totally forgotten about their couple-y cuteness. And oh no, Willow’s dabbling in witchcraft. It’s so…hard to watch knowing what ends up happening. Xander and Cordelia start their Sam-And-Diane courtship, which is also pretty cute. I love how this changes both of them, but especially Cordelia. She’s part of the gang now.

Speaking of love, the “Buffy losing her virginity causes Angel to become soulless again” arch. I remember thinking this was such a HORRIBLE, big deal when I first saw these episodes. (Probably because I was a virgin and I could not even imagine turning a guy into a demon with my vagina.) It’s still pretty terrible to see now. I feel so hard for Buffy. She’s the strong Slayer but in the end, man, she’s still a teenage girl. They do such a good job with playing with both sides of her.

Speaking of heartbreaking: John Ritter as Ted! This episode had so much potential. I loved seeing Buffy grapple with having killed a regular person. Even though in the end, the show copped out and had him be an evil robot. Her relationship with her mom is also more painful to watch knowing how it turns out.

And the end of this season, wow. Way better than season one. Spike really surprised me here and it’s a great setup for future events between him and Buffy. Not to harp on the Twilight thing but can you imagine Bella ever killing Edward because she knew it’s what she had to do? Buffy really doesn’t get enough credit for this. She’s brilliant here.

…Okay, talk amongst yourselves below. I’m on to season three! TC Mark

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