“My Buffy-Fest” 22nd July 2011
“My Buffy-Fest” is going to be an on-going series within my blog. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003) is my favourite ever television show and it may sound corny but the show changed my life in so many aspects! I grew up with it and the many metaphors within the show helped me deal and understand a few things that were going on in my adolescence and now even into adulthood; some people may roll their eyes and wonder how can a show that is endearingly and cheesily titled “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actually make a massive impact on me and many others? Well die-hard “Buffy” fans will understand exactly what I mean; the show is cleverly written, the characters develop on so many levels throughout the seven years it aired for and it is still considerably current despite it being a late-nineties, early noughties show; I’m pretty sure Anthony Head who played Giles actually commented on that recently, it also has many enjoyable and entertaining pop culture references and unlike other “teen horror” (I use this term loosely) shows it is not actually focused on “the monster of the week” scenario; this concept is actually used as a metaphor for issues that occur in real life such as morality (I will delve into that more later) also the show has the right balance of humour, tragedy conveyed through some dark and then the lighter episode; creator Joss Whedon’s method of story-telling is always consistent as well as compelling and a lot “unfinished business” is never left hanging! So, my plan for my little “Buffy-Themed” series is to watch three episodes of the show and then analyse and review them, I’m going to focus on why I chose the episode in question and what I enjoy about it (and possibly disliked about it!) but most likely enjoy! As previously mentioned, I grew up with this show, It’s been influential, I adore it and its part of me…so let’s get our fangs stuck in (excuse the pun!) and begin:
#Season Two #Episode 19
“I Only Have Eyes For You”
- Directed By James Whitmore
- Written By Marti Noxon
- Original Air Date: 28th April 1998 (According to “The Watcher’s Guide” Vol 1. Edited by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder)
The reason I chose this later episode from the second season is because it plays a very significant role in terms of the Buffy and Angel (or Bangel) relationship along with his soulless side Angelus’s reign of terror. The main themes of the episode is coming to terms with the end of first love and coping with the aftermath with feelings of hurt, rejection and regret; the episode also touches on the grieving process for Giles’s character. As the episode opens Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) appears very isolated from her closest friends, with thoughts of Angel plaguing her mind, she shows no indication of attempting to move on through rejecting a boy who shows interest from her class and vowing she will never date anybody ever again!- the show then dealing with another emotion; denial. I love the soundtrack that plays in this scene, the song “Charge” by Splendid is performed in “The Bronze” which perfectly describes Buffy’s conflict at this point in the series with lyrics such as “I’m falling from the opposite, what good is it, fight the map with no key attached, my heart’s enlarged and I charge” demonstrating how her and Angel (Played by David Boreanaz) are in very different places at this stage. Willow (Played by Alyson Hannigan) then makes an attempt at optimism and ironically states “Love Can Be Nice” (this early character trait for Willow is going to prove interesting later in both the show and this review!) following that statement we are then into Sunnydale High where we are in the midst of a couple arguing; however it is a little bit more than just a “lover’s tiff” when the guy pulls out a gun on the girl; luckily our protagonist appears in time to prevent any damage occurring and the couple regain their senses with no knowledge as to why they were arguing, followed by the gun disappearing into thin air, contrasting with Willow’s earlier comment and setting up enigma for the episode. I like the strong character motivation in this episode and the little touches used in order to place Buffy in the centre of the action e.g. a 1955 year book falling on the floor in Principal Snyder’s (Played by Armin Shimerman) office and her daydream in the middle of history class introducing her to the antagonist of the piece James (Played By Christopher Gorham) and his “forbidden” relationship with his teacher Grace (Played by Meredith Salenger); I think its clever how the episode also mirrors the “forbidden” human relationship against the Vampire/Human relationship, the line Buffy/James utters “I don’t give a damn about a normal life” emphasises this aspect. I liked how the episode showed a different side to Giles portraying his vulnerability through the grieving process and seeing him as an actual person rather than just a figure of authority; it is heartbreaking seeing him cope with his loss and holding out hope that the ghost that seems to be haunting the school and couples is his beloved Jenny (Played by Robia LaMorte). Its not just Giles’s grief that is looked at but also how the rest of the Scooby Gang are affected by his behaviour through discussing his failure of acceptance. I enjoy watching the continuous banter and ongoing tension between Angelus and Spike (Played by James Marsters) and how they attempt to get one up on each other, Angelus by impressing Dru (Played by Juliet Landau) and mocking Spike for his incompetence (he’s in a wheelchair!) and later Spike outsmarting Angelus by faking the fact that he can’t walk; granted in future “Buffy” and spin-off “Angel” (1999-2004) episodes there’s plenty of classic Spike and Angel moments (My favourite being in “In the Dark” (#1.3) in hindsight these scene’s aren’t the most memorable but its still fun to watch. Buffy’s character development in the episode is stunning, from having lack of empathy with James and seeing everything in black and white to eventually identifying with the spirit after he possesses her, I love the shot where she looks in the mirror and sees James instead of her own reflection which emphasises her identification with him. Its clever how the “Monster-of-the week” scenario is relate-able to the key plot of the season. This episode has a pretty good scare sequence and the image of James’s decaying spirit is chilling on top of the haunting soundtrack of “I Only Have Eyes For You” By the Flamingo’s. “I Only Have Eyes for you” is definitely one of the more emotional episodes as it deals with the aftermath of tragic events as well as leading to future revelations e.g. foreshadowing Buffy really having to kill Angel in “Becoming Part Two” (#2.22).
#Season Four #Episode 9
- Directed By Nick Marck
- Written By Tracey Forbes
- Original Air Date: 30th November 1999 (According to both IMDB.com and “The Watcher’s Guide Vol. 2” Edited by Nancy Holder)
Season Four was a daring risk for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”; the familiar settings of Sunnydale high and the Library were now gone as the show had moved on with the characters portraying their lives after high school. We also had the loss of popular characters Angel and Cordelia (Played by Charisma Carpenter) who were now starring in the spin-off show. I chose to analyse “Something Blue” as it is one of the more lighter episodes and its just purely fun! It is also key as it is the first time Buffy and Spike are thrown into a romantic scenario (that’s if you disregard the subtly of Spike lustfully watching Buffy dance in his debut “School Hard” (#2.3)! The chemistry between these characters is amazing and both Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters give hilarious performances. The episode is also significant as it delves into Willow’s darker side as she turns to magic (addiction metaphor) in order to attempt to get over her first love Oz (Played by Seth Green), I like the realism of how Buffy tries to use her own failed romantic experience in order to empathise with Willow’s plight; near the beginning of the episode we also get a hint of Willow’s future sexuality storyline as Riley (Played by Marc Blucas) is displaying a banner for a lesbian group within the university; and I still laugh when he utters the line “I’m a Lesbian” which is second to “I’m Cowboy Guy” from “Restless” (#4.22). I actually noticed in “Something Blue” that there are subtle indications suggesting that Riley will not be the permanent love of Buffy’s life; she just appears incredibly awkward around him and there is a lot of space between them in relation to how they’re framed in the shot. I liked how Buffy analyses her tendency to fall for “bad boys” (something we’re all guilty of!) and felt distanced from Riley because he’s not making her feel miserable and how love and passion have to collide with pain and fighting; I also liked her comment on the crossover episode with “Angel” “I Will Remember You” (#1.8) as it was nice to see the interactions between the two shows. Neutered Chip-in-the head Spike has to be my favourite version of the character, as he is much more comical; there are some classic moments between him and Giles in this episode as well as with Buffy. Its clever how Spike, the “villain” of the piece actually realises what’s going on with Willow and senses her pain whereas the human characters assume she is coping fine. This episode consists of a lot of foreshadowing particularly into Season Six, through everything I have previously mentioned and the cameo of Amy (played by Elizabeth Anne Allen) is a nice touch. “Something Blue” is definitely a feel-good episode, however it does deal with the thin line between humour and sadness very carefully and is a definite must-see for all Spuffy fans!
#Season Six #Episode 19
- Directed by Michael Gershman
- Written By Steven S. DeKnight
- Original Air Date 7th May 2002
The final episode I am going to analyse in this series is “Seeing Red” from the sixth season; depicted by most as the darkest season of “Buffy”. Again the show took a massive risk and it paid off well. I love how brutally real the storyline’s are more than before and that the show is delving into concepts and the reality that human beings are the real monsters in this world. The tone of the episode sways from one extreme to another as it opens with a blissfully happy reunited Willow and Tara (played by Amber Benson) and ends in complete and utter tragedy as well as dealing with an attempted rape storyline; its really heavy stuff and excellently written. After viewing “Something Blue” then moving on to this its incredible how serious the tables have turned for the characters, however the hints have always been there. I thought it was interesting how the audience are put in a false sense of security as Amber Benson was finally credited as a regular for her role as Tara, only for her to be cruelly killed off by the evil Warren (played by Adam Busch). The episode has a consistent feminist theme throughout e.g. Anya (Played by Emma Caulfield) voicing her hatred of men to a potential vengeance client, the solid lesbian relationship between Willow and Tara, and the male characters being portrayed in a negative light e.g. Spike, Warren and even Xander (Played by Nicholas Brendon) is shown to be less than understanding after discovering Buffy’s trysts with Spike. For me the most shocking and hard-hitting scene in the episode was the attempted rape scene between Spike and Buffy, its no secret that James Marsters was adamant that he would only perform the scene once as it was such a difficult subject; therefore the fact that the scene was done in one take adds to its terrifying nature and displays rawness in the scene. The storyline focusing on the nerds Andrew (Played by Tom Lenk) Jonathan (Played by Danny Strong) and Warren was built up slowly throughout the season and finally comes to a devastating head in this episode, placing emphasis on how people can spiral out of control and go completely out of their depth through the thirst for power. Xander and Buffy’s friendship in this episode is considerably frail demonstrating how people can change and grow apart after possibly being friends for years and the changes that occur in adulthood, however when Xander comes through for Buffy after her rape ordeal and supports her, it shows the people who matter are there when it counts. “Seeing Red” is incredibly powerful and tragic and one of the best written episodes, it feels real and is often uncomfortable to watch which makes it a powerful moment in television.
I apologise if this review feels a bit endless, but I am talking about something that means a lot to me and want to be as detailed as I can be; I’m writing not just for myself but for every single “Buffy” fan out there and of course as a massive thank you to Joss Whedon and all the writers for creating seven years of compelling television. I would love any feedback regarding this review and as readers you’re thoughts on the episodes discussed. I hope to make this mini-series frequent. Thank you for reading.
Hayley Alice Roberts.