Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Season One

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a really good TV show. Earlier this year, I thought about it and realised how much I liked it, and since it’s on Netflix, I decided I might as well rewatch it. Because I’ve got no money or friends, and it’s a cheap way to spend an evening.

I figured I should write about it a little bit, season by season. So at the end of season one, I wrote most of this. And then I didn’t finish it because I was lazy and busy with work and sleeping a lot. And now I’m four seasons in. OH WELL.

But hey, here it is now. I try to avoid major spoilers, but in later seasons (you know, where meaningful stuff actually happens) I’ll probably throw that out the window. Keep up!

Season One

Okay, so at this point in its run, Buffy is super-dumb. Like, incredibly dumb. At this point it’s little more than a high school comedy-drama with vampires and demons, and most of its episodes are monster-of-the-week. The noble notion here is that all those problems teenagers perceive in their high school years are made manifest into real problems. Demonic ones.

One of this show’s other innovations is that there are characters in it. Buffy is a well-meaning teenage superhero, Willow is a computer nerd, Xander is the bumbling everyman, Cordelia is just unbearably awful (it’s impressive how much Cordelia evolves over the course of this show, and Angel, and actually breaks out and becomes a really strong character)… In season one, only Rupert Giles and Angel seem to have any real depth (and of those two only Giles actually has any).

Man... Compare this promo photo to those for the later seasons. At this point you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Man… Compare this promo photo to those for the later seasons. At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking it was Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

The season’s Big Bad (Whedon term for a season’s primary antagonist) is The Master, a kind of uber-vampire who understandably wants to take over the world. Probably the show’s least interesting villain. For supposedly one of the most powerful vampires in existence, he’s remarkably incompetent at just about everything. There’s also Darla, who is also a vampire (not for long as it turns out).

"I'm dumb. I'm so dumb!"
“I’m dumb. I’m so dumb!”

The season is mercifully short though, at only 12 episodes. And it’s not all bad. The episodes Angel and finale Prophecy Girl are kind of interesting lore-wise. Kind of. Also, some darker streaks in episodes like Nightmares and The PackBut I wouldn’t say there’s really any stand-out episodes, they’re all fairly lame plot-wise.

But half-way through this season does introduce Miss Calendar, who is super-cute and awesome. I mean, sure she describes herself as a “technopagan” which is so dumb it made me slightly throw up in my mouth, but man, I just… Miss Calendar…

So, I was... Something... And then... mmmm.
So, I was… Something… And then… mmmm.

Oh, where was I? Yes, that’s right, Miss Calendar.

No, before that. Yeah, season one sets up some cool stuff about vampires, and the show’s twin story pillars of monster-of-the-week plus Big Bad arc, and begins to weave those elements together.

Ultimately though, Buffy is about a family of characters, and they go through some high school stuff, and I guess all the monsters are more or less analogies for their everyday high school problems. The girl who disappears because nobody pays attention to her, the issues of dating and being the Slayer, Willow’s endearing social anxieties, hints of Xander’s perpetual position as a third-wheel, Giles’ fish-out-of-water thing. Anyone who has a problem in the show invariably finds that problem come to life. All that stuff get established here, while still being too light-hearted for its own good.

So season one is foundation-setting. The show clearly doesn’t find its footing until much later on, but the groundwork falls into place easily, and if you can get through some of the show’s dumbest episodes (praying-mantis teacher, demon who lives on the internet, teenage gang possessed by mystical hyenas), there’s still enough Whedon charm in the dialogue that you can get through it. If anything it’s more bearable to watch these episodes in season one, because the quality ramps up so much in the later runs that the stinkers tend to stand out like sore thumbs.

Anyway, join me at some point for season two, or don’t, HOORAY!

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