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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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    • Gaby

      Graduation episode is the BEST. FINALE. OF. ALL. TIME. But was that 3rd season? Eek

      • katherine

        completely agree.

    • Paige

      Joss Whedon is a BAMF, and Buffy will always be one of my favorite shows. I really love season 3, but maybe that’s just because I have a huge thing for Faith…

    • Sadie

      I’m rewatching it too! just got to season 5. I’m dying. Dawn sucks. Giles is hot.

      • Sarah

        I wish there were a “like” button on this thing! I love season 5 – it’s got some heart-breakers.

    • Hatti

      Whatever series’s Dawn is in…she is so fucking annoying!

      I love the first series cos they feel, i dunno, ‘proper’ i liked the minimal character development at first and liked the direction it went in.

    • http://gravatar.com/joycenancy joycenancy

      awesome. I can’t wait to re-live the entire series vicariously through you. and yeah, I bet watching it knowing what happens with all the characters later is way crazy. especially with spike (my favorite). also, I don’t know anything about twilight, but am I the only one who thinks true blood very closely mirrors the buffy/angel/spike storyline with the sookie/bill/eric storyline?

    • Lauren

      Best show ever. I’ve been re-watching it as well and I’m on season three. I’m dreading getting to season four because Riley is one of the worst characters of the entire series and the whole Initiative thing was not that interesting. Also, I want to note that I absolutely hate Buffy/Spike together. Ugh.

    • Cat

      I love watching Willow starting to get into witchcraft, mostly because it gets me so psyched for season 6. The Trio can be a little tiring, but Evil Willow is the single awesomest Big Bad in the whole series. Although the whole allegory of magic being like hard drugs with the addiction and how it makes you hurt the people you love, blah blah blah always makes me roll my eyes with the over the top acting and obviousness of it all. It always feels like the writer felt it was just as stupid as I do every time I watch it.

    • Samantha

      This is the show I watch when I’m feeling a little depressed, or homesick, or whatever. Seasons 2 and 3 are by far the best and I can easily watch a random episode and be totally happy. Plus, Buffy is the ultimate heroine – I wrote my thesis based on this fact.

    • Ashley

      I honestly could watch this show over and over and over. Amazing stuff here. Favorite character by far is Spike. Witty. Sexy. British. He has this need to be accepted for who he is but can’t ever really get it because he enjoys being a baddy. Bawled like a baby at the series finale when Buffy told him she loved him. :'( I wrote my thesis on how I felt that Buffy and Spike’s relationship could be compared to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Don’t hate people

    • me.

      I’ve been on a Whedon kick all summer. I’m currently in season 6 of Buffy and am absolutely loving your comments :)

    • Laura

      Season 2 is probably my favorite. I loved the Angelus storyline and no matter how many times I watch the season finale, it always gets me. Also, Jenny Calandar’s death? I didn’t like her much as a character, but the way Angelus set it up for Giles to find was just heartbreaking.

      • Cat

        That episode makes me cry every time. I am way too attached to the major characters in Buffy.

    • http://Twitter.com/CrystalMyers Crystal

      So weird. I just finished season 2 in my rewatch! I agree with almost all of what you’ve said here. ESPECIALLY Giles. Whoa. This time around I was almost glad to see Ms. Calendar gone because he’s so insanely attractive. SMG and Hannigan are truly wonderful, as is Green.

    • Megan

      I love Buffy- never watched it while it was out, but started about 3 yrs ago and slowly watched it & Angel in order. Then, Season 8 was released in trade paperback and I found myself rewatching the episodes after I finished the comics. I couldn’t get enough of Buffy. I’ve rewatched the series completely 3 times in the 3 years since I started.

      I LOVE her romance with Angel and that innocence of the 1st love, but I look forward to her relationship with Spike, which seemed to go beyond blind love. And what strikes me every time I watch the first two seasons is the development of friendship between the Scoobies. That kind of “stand by your side no matter what” friendship is what all of us want… We wanted a confidant like Willow, a guy-friend like Xander, and we all had someone like Cordelia. Despite the corny, 90’s appearance, Whedon captures those awkward high school day to day moments and coming of age.

      My fav episodes are later on in the series, but the ones that I liked the most from Season 1 & 2 were “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and “Passion”. Passion was one of those that was freaky, because even as Angelus, he’s obsessed with Buffy. But “I Only Have Eyes for You” was my fav from the early days.

      I love knowing that there are others that love Buffy too- thank you for letting me spew my opinion and fan girl thoughts.

      • M

        I Only Have Eyes for You and Passion are definitely my two favorite episodes of that season. My favorite episode of the whole series was the season 4 finale (I can’t remember the name of the episode) where the gang falls asleep after killing Adam and they all have these dreams that foreshadow so many things that happen in the rest of the seasons. So brilliant.

        • Sarah

          “I Only Have Eyes For You” is such a genius episode! And I love that episode of season 4 – it’s called “Restless” :) One of the reasons I love “Restless” is because Joss is so good at creating a dream-like world! Like when they’re eating popcorn and Xander asks if it’s butter-flavored and Buffy says it’s “new car smell.”

    • Jules

      I recently rewatched Buffy and continuously kept thinking about how dark it was– an obvious statement now, but something I wasn’t really paying attention to when I was younger.
      And that song? The song that’s played when Buffy kills Angel? I’m not a crier, but that gets me every time.

      • Vienne

        Oh my- I know what you mean. I used to sulk to that tune in the 4th grade… Oh gosh, THIS show. :sigh: :cue that tune:

      • M

        That Sarah McLachlan song that plays when Buffy kills Angel always has me weeping. I concur with not realizing how dark that show was when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I can really grasp all the heavy stuff they dealt with.

    • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers (@tannnyaya)

      I did this last summer! Love Buffy so much.

    • Sarah

      I love Buffy! My boyfriend and I are working our way through it (me for the umpteenth time, him for the first time) He’s got a major thing for Willow. We’re on season 3, which is hands down my favorite season of the series. Joss Whedon is the F-ing MAN!

    • KARLA

      I’ll never forget the prom episode in season 3. “Wild Horses” by The Sundays was just so perfect for that moment.

      • M

        We need a thought catalog post about how sick the music on Buffy was.

    • M

      Buffy is one of the most brilliant things to ever be on television. The second season is my favorite, hands down.

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    • http://katieboe.wordpress.com Katie Boe

      As someone who has rewatched all 7 seasons at least 4 times, finding your posts Gaby is joyous indeed. Season 1 was definitely laughable compared to 2 and 3 (3 being the best), but you have to start somewhere right?

      In regards to other vampire things — I hate them all. Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, they all suck (pun intended) and aren’t nearly as well written or acted as Buffy. These newer movies/shows don’t get any of the vampire stuff right and they make the humans completely unlikeable and unrelateable, whereas I still wish I were Buffy/sometimes feel like I am.

      In terms of the music — that Sarah McLachlan song is called Full of Grace. Buffy music defined my taste for many years. Their music people were definitely on point in every episode and even a little ahead of their time.

      Thank you for starting this Gaby, I’m really looking forward to your review of Season 4 (which I think is underrated and has some really funny episodes), and then the awful 5 6 and 7.

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