Thursday, December 30, 2010

Episode 8: "I, Robot...You, Jane"

(Note: doing this a day early, so I can spend Christmas day with the fam.)

Short summary: A demon imprisoned in a book gets scanned in a computer and picks up Willow as his cybergirlfriend. That's pretty much it.

Shorter summary: I,, bad episode.

Analysis: ...yeah. Not much to analyze. Metaphor? "Computers are evil"? "Men are evil"? "Books are evil"? ..."The internet is evil"? Well, we all knew that one.

In any case, this episode was more about virtual stalking. And since computers have marched on a lot since 1997 (geez, thirteen years? where did it go), this one doesn't really hit like it's supposed to.

Note: barely any glitches at all this time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Episode 7: "Angel"

Short summary: Angel is a vampire. The Master hires three vamps to kill Buffy - when they fail, he gets Darla to do it. Angel kills Darla.

Analysis: Woo, this one was a doozy. After the last few clunkers, this one actually delivers. Besides the main metaphor ("This boy I met turns out to be different than I thought"), it contains a more subtle one (you can't escape your own past). Angel's past comes back to bite him and it won't be the last time (eventually, Buffy's past will come back to haunt her, too).

One of the creepiest scenes is where Darla attacks Buffy's mother. We all know Buffy can handle herself, but her mother is...well, her mother. We don't want to see anything bad happen to Joyce and just watching her in the hospital is sort of heartbreaking.

In the end, Angel kills part of his past and allows some of the future in.

Note: this episode only had a few glitches, but it's weird. I couldn't find any scratches. Perhaps it's my DVD player? But none of my other DVDs glitch on it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Episode 6: "The Pack"

Short summary: A trip to the zoo turns the school bullies (and Xander) into hyenas. They terrorize the school, eat the principal, and Xander tries to rape Buffy. Buffy hits him with a desk. Turns out the Zookeeper is responsible and he gets his karmic payback after Xander and the rest get depossessed.

Analysis: on the one hand, the monsters-as-metaphor thing is pretty interesting ("My friend is hanging out with new friends who aren't nice"), but on the other hand, it also gets pretty heavy handed. The attempted rape scene in particular (and why couldn't we see Buffy actually hit him with that desk?).

A better metaphor might have been a more simple one ("Those bullies are just animals"), but then we wouldn't have gotten Xander into the mix. (Xander-episodes have always been somewhat of a mixed bag - "Teacher's Pet" is a low, while "The Zeppo" is a high.)

Note: this time the DVD froze only once, during the end where the Zookeeper's eyes glowed. I checked the disk, but there weren't any scratches.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Episode 5: "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"

Short summary: a prophecy puts in peril the personage of Buffy. Buffy hopes to perchance ask pretty Owen out, but is perplexed by protecting people from poorly-versed Anointed One. Buffy kills the vampire with pyre, but her pick of boyfriend turns out poor when he likes peril. The Anointed One she pushed was a phony, however; the predestined one, a pint-sized pup, meets the pernicious Master at the end.

Analysis: Another clunker. Besides providing the audience with a lot of mythology, but main metaphor of the episode ("Can I balance my work against a social life") ultimately comes down to a definite answer ("No"). Perhaps with a different character it might have worked, but Owen (a character we have not seen before nor will see after) was just so lifeless, I have expected him to be a monster when I first saw this episode. And the actual monster was...not that great. I mean "pork and beans"? They couldn't think of anything better for him to say?

On the other hand, the actual Anointed One looked pretty interesting (creepy child, always good). We didn't see much of him, though.

Note: the DVD set didn't skip at all during this episode (though, again, sometimes I wished it would).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Episode 4: "Teacher's Pet"

Short summary: the new substitute teacher is a giant preying mantis who eats virgins. The end.

Analysis: Ah, the first clunker. This episode tries to give us another monster-as-metaphor, but ends up just making us confused. Teachers are...bugs? Stay a virgin or die? (Well, "sex equals pain" was a lesson Buffy taught well.) There is a sort of enjoyment in watching a bad episode, though, as at least you can have a good laugh.

In any case, the praying mantis teacher was one of the few clunkers of the first season. The only good parts about this episode is the increasing wordplay the characters use and the subtle use of Angel. There wasn't even much to analyze.

Note: my DVD was much better on this episode, which is weird because I wouldn't have minded if it did skip. There were times when I wished it would skip.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Episode 3: "The Witch"

Short summary: Watch Buffy try out for cheerleading. Watch Amy try out for cheerleading. Watch all the contenders for being a cheerleader suffer magical accidents. Watch as Buffy and friends figure out Amy is a witch. Watch as it turns out it's not Amy at all: it's Amy's mother, yearning for her glory days. Watch Giles break Amy's mom's spell. Watch Buffy's awesome fight. Watch as Amy's mom gets trapped in a trophy.

Analysis: the first episode not about vampires. In short, this episode could have broken Buffy, but ended up being the episode that finally showed what Buffy could be about: monsters as metaphors. The previous episodes had metaphors, yes, but they weren't the main monsters, they weren't the main plot. This time, the metaphor and monster are the same: my mother is jealous of me. "Youth is wasted on the young."

Just as the Master and Luke made "The Harvest" about fathers and son, so did Catherine and Amy make this about mothers and daughters (although Buffy and her mom started that a bit in the last episode, it kicked into high gear in this one). This theme will actually come back and forth throughout the series.

Note again: the DVD was glitching on this episode too. If it gets worse, I may have to buy a new DVD set. In particular, the image at the end of the episode of the cheerleading trophy just froze.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Episode 2: "The Harvest"

Short summary: Buffy escapes evil Luke, emancipates all (except Jesse) from enemies. Willow and Xander now experience the evils and get to know the esoteric expert Giles, while Buffy meets the enigmatic Angel again. Buffy endangers herself (and escorts Xander) when she goes to the underground enclave of the egregious Master; and finds that Jesse is now an excrable vampire. They escape and figure out the Harvest (some evil equinox) is here and through an extrasensory Vessel, the Master may find egress from his ensorcelled enclave. She puts an excellent end to this at the exalted Bronze. Then Buffy and friends eloquently entreat about a mall establishment. "The world is definitely doomed."

Analysis: Awesome. While the first episode started off at a good pace, but had some strange moments, this episode firmly cements the show as awesome. On the whole, the episode is pretty simple: Buffy goes places, is attacked by vampires, goes other places, is attacked by more vampires, and at the end kills the biggest vampire and wins. But underneath the thin veneer of simplicity lies a much more complex metaphor: the Master and his Vessel Luke, like father and son. The Master wishes to escape by feeding (living, practically) through Luke (a theme repeated again in the next episode, "The Witch"). Meanwhile, Buffy and her mom are having trouble themselves - in one of the best scenes, Joyce grounds Buffy for the same behavior that got her kicked out from her previous school. Buffy, saddened by this, simply escapes out the window.

The fact that the climax of the episode takes place in the Bronze means something too (and not just that they didn't have many sets). The Bronze has been shown as a place for teenagers, so naturally Luke (The Son) would go there, to sow his wild oats. With some symmetry, in the very last episode of the season, Buffy believes the Hellmouth will open at the Bronze, but is proven wrong when it opens in the library - because then it is the Master himself (the Father), who is more about knowledge than freedom.

Note: the DVD I'm watching was bought used, so parts of the episode skipped. While I've seen the episode enough times to practically know all the lines, it was still pretty weird.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Episode 1: "Welcome to the Hellmouth"

(Note: I won't be watching the unaired pilot. For one thing, it isn't canon. For another thing: Riff Regan as Willow? No way.)

Short summary of episode: Buffy Summers, student-cum-Slayer, arrives at Sunnydale High, meets soon-to-be-sidekicks Willow and Xander, meets and rejects the offer of Watcher Giles, suffers setbacks when it's revealed by sphinxlike stranger Angel that Sunnydale lies on a stygian Hellmouth, goes to the sonorous Bronze where sidekicks are placed in suitable danger. With such stakes, she strikes against the blood-suckers until she meets strongman Luke who subdues her with a smash. "To Be Continued."

Analysis: With the first episode, there are certain things that will be lackluster: the special effects, some of the acting, even parts of the plot. But on the whole, this episode is better than most first episodes and this is why: it sets up the action quickly and, yes, while there is a lot of contrivance (Xander just happens to be in the library to overheard Buffy and Giles' conversation), the plot as a whole moves forward rapidly and with undue haste. The pace of the episode isn't slow, but it doesn't feel like it's rushing either.

The role of reversals is a big one, too: the opening scene is a reversal of a common trope in horror/slasher films. The blond girl walks down a dark corridor and is attacked by the killer/monster. But in this scene, the blond girl is the monster, which mirrors the later reveal that another blond girl fights monsters. Buffy's awakening is also mirrored in the awakening of the Master.  And the characters are mirrors of each other: Cordelia is who Buffy once was, Willow is the opposite, the girl Buffy never was, but wants to hang out with now. Xander is the boy Buffy befriends (and only befriends, though he longs for more) and Jesse is his mirror (similar personality, but a different fate). The episode ends, though, predictably, with Buffy in danger (though this is perhaps a holdover from when this episode and the next were connected and shown as one pilot movie). A slight letdown from a less predictable pilot.

These themes (and more!) next week with "The Harvest."

Friday, November 5, 2010


My name is Neville (yes, like that kid in Harry Potter). I watch a ton of television. The shows I watch are many and vary, but there is one show that I consistently watch when I need a pick-me-up. You know the one: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

There are tons of sites about BtVS on the web. What makes this blog any different from them? Well, for one, it's written by me: a Creative Writing major with a fondness for horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. And another thing: this website is an experiment in Buffy-watching. I shall watch one (and only one) episode a week and attempt to analyze it as one would analyze a Robert Frost poem or a James Joyce novel.

Yes, it shall be daunting. But I shall not waver, I shall not quit, not until 144 weeks have passed (or I get bored, whichever comes first). And maybe then I'll move on to Angel.

So: hello and welcome! Let the experiment begin...