Buffy Shareage S1: E3 Witch

Witch is my favorite episode of S1. As the first non-pilot episode (Welcome to the Hellmouth and Harvest both count as pilots in my opinion), and it definitely feels less . . . pushy. It’s a chance for the writers to start relaxing into the rhythm of the show without being mired in exposition-ville.

The relationships between Buffy, Willow, and Xander start to solidify and take on a natural quality, and the Slayerettes (later to be renamed the Scoobies) – or more importantly, the idea that Buffy will stop worrying about putting her friends in danger and count on Willow and Xander as allies in the slayage business – become a thing.

I like the Joyce-Buffy interactions, too. It’s important that the audience appreciate Joyce’s efforts to be a good mother. If she were too good at it or too bad at it, we wouldn’t identify with her or care about her.

Buffy and Joyce Summers - Buffy S1 E3

One of the key themes of the show is that in the modern age, the slayer cannot necessarily be isolated from the world. Superheros are cool, but if all they do is open super cans of whoop-ass on their foes, they get boring. Buffy is worthy of seven seasons because she’s a slayer with family and friends, not to mention a desire to be more than just a slayer. She’s not a traditional chosen one. If the characters in her world aren’t intriguing, she becomes less intriguing.

A few other observations.

Throughout the first three seasons, Cordelia repeatedly demonstrates that she’s smarter than people give her credit for. In this episode, she uses the term hyperbole correctly, but nobody notices because she’s also being a bitch at the same time.

Why would anyone want to harm Cordelia?

Also, Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy) does a lovely job of switching between Amy and her mother. Her facial expressions, vocal inflections, and posture change. It may not be evident when watching the episode for the first time, but on repeat viewings, you can actually tell when Amy’s mother is controlling Amy’s body and when Amy is in there. (Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku have an opportunity to show off their skills in this area in S4, although the winner of the award for transforming into another character will forever go to Enver Gjokaj as Victor in Dollhouse.)
Elizabeth Anne Allen as Amy

Finally, I like the fact that Buffy leaps into action and puts Amber out when the girl catches fire during their cheerleading tryouts. Buffy doesn’t do this because she has superpowers or because she’s the chosen one. She does this because she’s Buffy and she cares about people. She sits with Amber after putting the fire out and reassures her that she’s going to be okay. Screenwriting guru Blake Snyder would call this a “save the cat” moment, and it works. We don’t just like Buffy because her name is in the title of the show. She would be a hero even if she weren’t a superhero.

Finally, Buffy uses more than just super strength to defeat Amy’s mom. The mirror trick takes smarts.

Buffy Shareage S1: E2 The Harvest

The Harvest continues where Welcome to the Hellmouth left off. A little bit of action followed by a bunch more exposition in the library.

Fortunately, the exposition in The Harvest is a little less awkward, primarily because Xander and Willow are present, allowing for a question and answer exchange.

My favorite things about The Harvest:

Sarah Michelle Gellar’s hair is adorable.

Willow to Cordelia and Harmony: “Deliver.”

Deliver

The Master to failure vampire: “You’ve got something in your eye.”

The irony in Buffy’s conversation with Joyce, who gives her the “I know what it’s like to be a 16-year-old-girl; everything is life or death,” speech.

Cordelia: “I have to have the most expensive thing, not because it’s the most expensive, but because it costs more.”

The Jesse twist. Rarely does a show give the audience a surprise like this. People expect the “main characters” in a pilot to last for a while. In fact, Joss originally wanted to include Eric Balfour in the opening credits to throw the audience off even more, but they didn’t have the budget to create a whole separate credit sequence for one episode.

Buffy demonstrates real creativity and intelligence when she tricks Luke into expecting sunlight to distract him long enough for her to slay him.

Buffy powns Luke

Other observations about The Harvest:

When Principal Flutie attempts to prevent Buffy from leaving school grounds, Buffy leaps over the fence. In subsequent episodes (throughout the seven seasons), situations arise in which this super-jumping ability would come in extremely handy, but Buffy does not always use it.

Buffy has super-jumping powers. Why doesn't she use them more often?

Having seen Angel’s backstory in Becoming, I’m not completely sure I understand why he has such a ‘tude when he interacts with Buffy.

Angel starts out with a serious 'tude.

My biggest issue with this episode is the scene in which Xander and Buffy are underground, trying to get away from Jesse and the vampires, and Buffy is unable to push a door closed without Xander’s help. I just couldn’t buy it. Buffy has super strength. That door should be no problem for her!

That door should be no problem for superhero Buffy.

Fortunately, the “superhero can’t close a simple door” moment didn’t ruin it all. At the end of this episode, my friend was hooked. She said she couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. So far, so good!

Buffy Shareage S1: E1 Welcome to the Helmouth

As pilots go, Welcome to the Hellmouth is decent. The best pilot episodes I’ve ever seen include Serenity (Firefly), the LOST pilot (titled, appropriately enough, Pilot), and Fire in the Hole (Justified). Welcome to the Hellmouth doesn’t come close to any of those, but it has enough going for it that I was at the very least drawn in and curious to see where things went next the first time I saw it.

Joss Whedon wrote and co-directed Welcome to the Hellmouth.

Here’s what Welcome to the Hellmouth does well:

The pilot establishes Joss’s overreaching intent, which is to flip horror tropes on their heads and give the girls more to do than just scream and hide behind the boys who have come to save them.

This episode also clearly establishes the smart combination of humor and horror that became one of the show’s most popular elements. It contains a number of classic-Whedon lines of dialogue.

Buffy approaching and befriending Willow is a nicely crafted “save the cat” moment.

And, most importantly, character introductions are outstanding.

The Buffy-Joyce relationship is not too sweet or too oppressive. Buffy and her mother are not BFFs, but there’s no heavy, angsty stuff going on either.

Joyce and Buffy have a realistic relationship.

Joyce is trying to be a good mother, but she has what she sees as an unruly teen on her hands. She doesn’t want to be a hard-ass, but she also feels responsible for making sure Buffy doesn’t turn into a delinquent. In just a few minutes of screen time, this heavy burden Joyce carries, along with her loving but concerned nature, are clearly defined.

Willow’s character is delightfully charming and sympathetic. I adore every little thing about Alyson Hannigan’s performance. She was, without question, the right casting choice.

Xander comes across as lovable rather than obnoxious. Joss walked this fine line with Xander throughout, making him one of my favorite characters (and his arc one of my favorite character arcs of all time . . . right after Wesley’s) ever.

Willow and Xander are immediately interesting.

And Cordelia … well, Cordelia is just awful. Which I love because Joss doesn’t write two-dimensional characters. Of course, I didn’t know that when I watched the episode for the first time – I just knew she was a wonderful non-supernatural source of conflict.

Cordelia is deliciously awful.

And then there is Giles. Did I love Giles when he first appeared? I don’t think so. Because here is what Welcome to the Hellmouth does not do well:

Exposition.

Giles is a textbook with arms.

In the pilot episode, Giles serves solely as an explainer. Buffy accuses him of being like a textbook with arms, and he really is.

He’s still Tony Head, so he’s adorable and British, but we don’t really get to see much of him, and when we do, awkward exposition ensues.

The scene in the library after Buffy examines the dead body and explains to Giles (for no reason other than “sharing information with the audience”) how she knows he won’t rise again (which, frankly, she could not possibly know) is cringe-worthy.

Buffy wants less exposition and more action.

Joss does his best to infuse said exposition with lightness (“Did you send away for the Time-Life series?”), but it still feels heavy and imposing. If there is anything about the first episode that I desperately want to assure people will get better, it is this aspect of the show.

Fortunately, after watching Welcome to the Hellmouth, my friend was ready to watch The Harvest, so she wasn’t scared away yet.

Buffy Shareage S1: The Season That Comes With Disclaimers

I often encourage others – friends, family members, coworkers, acquaintances, perfect strangers, imperfect strangers – to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not as often as I recommend Firefly, mind you, but frequently enough that those close to me would probably call it a habit.

Occasionally, someone actually listens to me.

When that happens, I immediately start apologizing for Season 1. Well, first I get a little giddy and use the word “awesome” a lot. Then I engage in what I see as necessary preemptive measures – efforts to convince the potential convert not to give up until he or she has made it through the first season and given the second season a chance.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a mid-season replacement.

Buffy was a mid-season replacement, and Joss was still struggling to find the show’s voice throughout the first season. It’s definitely the weakest of the seven seasons. It’s also dated, it’s filled with awkward exposition, and it features a Big Bad who’s trapped underground for eleven of the twelve episodes.

Having seen S2 through S7, I feel compelled to repeatedly apologize for S1 because it’s just not as good.

This is perhaps unfair. To Buffy. To Joss. To my friends. But I do it every time. Sometimes more enthusiastically than others, depending on the soon-to-be initiated.

Nobody "prepared" me for S1, and I loved it.

The thing is that nobody “prepared” me for S1, and I was hooked after the first two episodes.

When S1 was first released on DVD (yes, I know that was a long time ago), a friend of mine asked for the set for her birthday and then encouraged me to watch it with her. No preamble. No “it gets better; just give it a chance.” Just “Watch this. You’ll like it.”

I did.

And I did.

So why, if I was so willing to go on the S1 journey with no awareness that the show would become so much better, do I assume everyone else will give up and walk away from it before giving it a chance to reach its potential?

Why do I worry so much that my friends, family members, and other initiates will fail to stick with it long enough to experience episodes like Surprise and Innocence, Hush, The Body, The Gift, Once More With Feeling, and Chosen . . . not to mention Band Candy, Tabula Rasa, and Storyteller?

Let's explore Buffy from the point of view of a newbie.

In this series, I shall explore Buffy with the help of a newbie – a friend who has never seen the show (or any other Whedon show) and is prepared to share her experience as she watches for the first time.

I admit, I have given her the apology speech. Several times, in fact.

Will she make it through all seven seasons?

As of this moment, I do not know.

All I can say is that I sincerely hope so; if she can just stick it out through S1, I’m sure she’ll love it as much as I do.

Video Buffy the Vampire Slayer Drum Cover

This entry is from Yuya Matsuda, a professional drummer out of Salem, OR. Thanks, Yuya, for submitting your tribute to Joss!

“My name is Yuya Matsuda. I’m originally from Torrance, CA, but four years ago I moved to Salem, OR. I’m a professional drummer with over 20 years of experience playing locally, nationally and internationally. I’ve played just about every type of music there is from rock to jazz, metal to hip hop, classical to electronic music, and everything in between.

I’m also a HUGE Joss Whedon fan. I’ve followed him since Buffy (which was filmed at my high school: Torrance High School). They filmed for the 4 years that I was there (I graduated in 2002). I’ve since watched everything he’s directed. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve gotten to see him in action while filming Buffy, and I’ve met the whole cast from Buffy. I remember his team asking us if we wanted to skip class, make $50 and be an extra when they were filming!

With that being said, I recently did a drum cover of “Rest In Peace” from the musical episode. It’s my tribute to Joss and kinda my way of sharing the love with all my fellow Joss fans!”