The Definitive ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Series Review
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
everything you could ever want in a television show
An overall take on one of, if not the, best TV show of all time, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”!
My history with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is kind of amusing (I am talking about the TV show, BTW, not the movie or subsequent comic books). I actually didn’t start watching it regularly while it was airing, until the last season. Before that, I had watched one episode, by which I was highly impressed. But before the advent of the digital video recorder or online streaming, it was difficult to catch regular episodes between bouts of heavy drinking and trying (and mostly failing) with the opposite sex.
However, I thought that Sarah Michelle Gellar was the most beautiful girl in Hollywood; a thought my female friend Mitra teased me about constantly. She always thought the show had to be horrible, before actually viewing it. Then one day, she came to me out of the blue and asked if I ever watched it. I replied I saw one episode, and her reply shocked me. “Oh my God, it is so f**king good. You need to start watching.” At the time, one cable subsidiary was playing the entire series in order, two a day and she was catching them all. So, at her recommendation, I bought the DVD set of season 1, then of season 2, and then my first real television love was born.
Doing some research about the show, it appears Joss Whedon (now world-famous as the director of Avengers) first had the idea of Buffy by watching regular horror films, where the hot blond girl was always the last victim (or, in horror terms, the final girl) of the monster in question. Whedon wanted to subvert the idea and let that girl have her revenge, so to speak. As he says, “The very first mission statement of the show was the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it.”
He also had the idea for Buffy as a series, to be about all the personal anxieties of adolescence and young adulthood, with the supernatural elements metaphorically representing the things we all go through during that tumultuous time period. He wasn’t very happy with the way the movie version was changed into a broad comedy, and wanted the show to be a more accurate representation of his vision. He described the show, during its first season as “My So Called Life meets The X-Files.”
With that, let’s go into the seasons.
The first season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was, to be honest, hit or miss. The show was really finding it’s footing during that season, with some episodes being fantastic (such as the two-part pilot and the finale) and others not being so great. The only episode I found nearly unwatchable, of the entire series, was “I Robot…You Jane” where Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan, now of “How I Met Your Mother” fame) releases a demon on the Internet. At the time, the Internet was new, and, perhaps because I watched it six years or so late, it just seemed hokey. However, many important elements take place during the first season, making it a must watch to understand the rest of the show. The character of Angel is introduced (played by David Boreanaz…on a side note, Nathan Fillion, who would appear in the show during its final season as a sadistic preacher, auditioned for that role as well) as a vampire with a soul. The Scooby Gang, as Buffy’s group of supernatural battling friends would be known, was fleshed out and the main characters given a strong presence, and Buffy dies for the first time, at the hands of the head vampire of evil, known as The Master. She is brought back to life, but this death has serious ramifications during the show’s second and third seasons. Episode Highlight: “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” the pilot that started it all.
This is when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”really started to shine. About halfway through the season, Buffy, on her birthday, does the naughty for the first time with Angel, who she loves dearly. However, things are not so good with the outcome. See, Angel got his soul back as part of a Gypsy curse, which was put upon him for killing a young Gypsy girl. The curse gave him back his soul, so he could feel pain and remorse for all the evil things he did as Angelus (his name when evil). Angelus was a hardcore brute, going more for torture and pain in his victims than the actual kill. When he got the curse, he could barely live with himself remembering all the horrendous things he had done (and when you’re life span is eternity, there’s not much worse). But, and here’s where the show got great, the curse had a clause. If he experienced one moment of true happiness, he would lose it again and turn again to evil. And when he got it on with Buffy that is exactly what happened. As a metaphor, it’s brilliant. A young girl sleeps with the man of her dreams, only to wake up and find him a complete monster. And Angelus was just that. He killed Giles’ (Buffy’s mentor, or Watcher, as it’s called, played by Anthony Stewart Head) girlfriend Jenny, a Gypsy herself who was looking for a cure, by breaking her neck, which let the audience know that this wasn’t a one-off thing…that Angel is seriously bad. Also, a second slayer appeared, due to Buffy dying for a few minutes. When a slayer dies, another arises to fight the evil. Buffy happened to be revived, making two slayers in existence, for the first time (that we know of). Angel killed her as well. Spike (James Marsters) who will become a huge feature later in the series, is introduced, along with his mentally unstable girlfriend Drusilla (Juliet Landau), as two vampire “friends” of Angelus. On a side note, Xander starts dating Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), the rich girl who was a sort of rival to the gang beforehand. Her character adds a great deal to the show, even moreso when she joins the cast of “Angel”, after season 3. There’s so much subtext, metaphor and drama in the second season that I can’t go into it all here, but let’s just say that I almost cried at the end of the season. And I rarely cry, especially over TV shows. It’s that good. Episode Highlight: “Becoming (Part Two),” the emotional finale, where Buffy finds that being a hero requires pain and sacrifice, in the hardest way possible.
With the other slayer killed, the third season brought in the new slayer, Faith (played by Eliza Dushku) to take her place. Faith was more violent and hostile than Buffy, with more anger in her. Angel also came back from a hell dimension, now with his soul again (how he got it back, or was sent to said dimension, you will have to watch season 2 to understand). Another character, Anya (Emma Caulfield) was introduced, giving me a second crush to have in the Buffy ‘verse. She was a vengeance demon who fell in love with Buffy’s good bud Xander (Nicholas Brendan) after being summoned to punish him by a jaded Cordelia, and ended up joining their forces of good due to said love. The villain was the town Mayor, who was an evil Mr. Rogers type. Faith, after accidentally killing a human, joins with the mayor, who is the first person who really made her feel special. This gives an awesome rivalry between two slayers, and adds a strong layer of depth to the show. This is the season in which Buffy leaves the Watcher’s Council, and starts to work on her own with Giles, after they try to replace Giles for forming a “Father’s Love” for Buffy. They believed he should be detached, which Buffy was having none of. It’s a strong season, perhaps the best overall, with laughs and scares abounding. It’s also the last season to include Angel, Cordelia, and new watcher Wesley (Alexis Denisof), all of whom went on to form the primary cast for the Buffy spinoff, “Angel.” Episode Highlight: “Gingerbread,” which is the one episode I saw before getting into the show, as discussed earlier, in which Hansel and Gretel appear.
Buffy attends college at UC Sunnydale, along with Willow, where she gets a new human boyfriend named Riley, who is part of a government group fighting the supernatural, called the Initiative. Spike becomes a regular at this point, as the Initiative captures him, and puts a chip in his head that makes him unable to cause violence against humans. This serves as a great plot device, as he starts working with the Scooby Gang once he realizes he still can do violence against other monsters. Once he starts working with them regularly, he begins to have feelings for Buffy that go beyond the usual vampire-slayer rivalry. It’s a great, solid season. The main villain is Adam, a Frankenstein-like creature that isn’t so much evil as he is just above human emotion, sort of like Nietzsche’s Uberman. This is also the season where Willow realizes she is gay, after Oz (played by Seth Green) leaves, feeling he’s too dangerous to be around when he can’t fight the werewolf inside of him. Willow being gay was a pretty hot topic for the time period, as she meets her girlfriend Tara (Amber Benson). Episode Highlight: “Hush,” what many consider the first of HEAVILY artistic episodes, as for the majority of the episode, there is no dialogue whatsoever. Sound boring? Think again. It’s a testament to Whedon and co.’s skill that they could pull it off so well, as it’s a favorite among all Buffy fans.