As I said before, season two is my favourite season and this is in large part due to the villains. I love the fact that they have complex back stories. I love how funny they are and the chemistry between them, particularly between Angelus and Spike. So, while I’m putting Angelus down as my favourite villain, it is his relationship both with Buffy and the way he plays off Spike and Drusilla that make him so compelling to watch.
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So today I once again find myself torn between two seasons. While I think Season One is qualitatively the worst season, I feel I must cut it some slack due to the low budget and the fact that the series was still coming into its own. Plus it has a really strong overall arc and a convincing Big bad. Season Seven on the other hand, as the final season really should have been better. The Big Bad wasn’t scary, it was full of annoying Potentials who came and died before we had enough time to care. So I’m going to have to go with Season Seven, because it really should have known better.
Lessons - Crazy Spike in the basement is one of my favourite things about Season Seven, but to be honest, the plot of the episode is kind of boring. Although I do like Dawn, and I think she’s pretty good in this one, this still just doesn’t really seem exciting enough for a season premiere.
Beneath You - I kind of hate this episode. It is stupid. The girl and her dog are stupid. However, James Marsters continues to redeem the season, especially in the beautiful final scene in the church which never fails to make me cry.
Same Time, Same Place - This episode I actually think is really clever. I love when Willow’s subconscious does magic (Something Blue). Anya is totally great in this and Gnarl is such a great and creepy villain. But my favourite thing about this episode is, once again, crazy Spike and the scene in the basement where he is the only one who can see everybody.
Help - As far as stand alone episodes go this one is Okay. It’s pretty interesting, but it doesn’t really do anything to further the plot or themes of the season and I find Azura Skye, the actress who plays Cassie pretty annoying to be honest.
Selfless - One of my favourite episodes of the whole series. Totally great character development for Anya, an amazing song and a really alarming death scene, plus Andy Umberger pulls a chilling performance as D’Hoffryn.
Him - A pretty funny stand-alone episode. It’s cute, light-hearted and it’s got a nice use of the rocket-launcher from Season Two. I feel it also really serves a purpose in establishing the themes of the season: going back to the beginning.
Conversations With Dead People - A piece of cinematic genius. Holden Webster must be the funniest one-shot character of Season Seven. He really draws on the theme of the manipulation, which The First uses throughout the season. The use of music in the episode is beautiful and Michelle Trachtenberg and Kristine Sutherland both put in totally flawless performances. The only negative comment I have is that Tara didn’t come back. While I understand Amber Benson’s reasoning for not returning, I thought that having Cassie play The First here just made no sense at all.
Sleeper - Probably my least favourite Spike-centric episode of the series. I just think it drags. Although I do really love the use of “Early One Morning”, I think it works really well. The cliffhanger at the end would have been great had anything actually been done with it. So disappointing - but you’ve heard my thoughts on that already.
Never Leave Me - Meh. Just, meh. Another average Spike-centric episode. Two moments do, however, stand out: Andrew screaming “That’ll do pig” as he attempts to sacrifice a piglet, and the fabulous explosion of the Watchers’ Council Headquarters.
Bring One The Night - Uh, I hate this episode. I think the Turok-Han is such a poorly thought out bit of Buffyverse mythology. It totally contracts the idea of the Old Ones being the oldest vampires and I just don’t understand where they fit in.
Showtime - I also hate this one. I normally like fight scenes, but this episode is like 70% fight scene, 25% Potentials, 5% really beautiful tender moment between Buffy and Spike. Also Beljoxa’s Eye. What is that? Why didn’t they use it all the time if it has all the answers? Why don’t Giles and Anya tell Buffy what it told them? Why does the disrupted slayer line never really get addressed? God, I hate this lazy writing.
Potential - Amanda was actually my favourite potentials so I quite like this episode. I’m also quite a Dawn fan so I think this really works, especially the really sweet moment between her and Xander at the end. Plus I think it really reinforces the feminist message of the show by giving us a strong female character that doesn’t need to have superpowers to be extraordinary.
The Killer in Me - You’ve already heard what I think of this waste of an episode.
First Date - I hate Ashanti in this episode. I really hate how her character continues to perpetuate the demon seductress trope. Plus Kennedy continues to be really annoying.
Get It Done - I don’t think much of this episode. It’s pretty weak. The only interesting thing is the depiction of becoming a slayer as a form of rape, which I’ll discuss later in the meme.
Storyteller - God I love Tom Lenk. I especially love him playing off Emma Caulfield. This episode manages to both be absolutely hilarious and completely heart wrenching, making Andrew into a whole and complete character. Wonderful, and very necessary after the past three episodes.
Lies My Parents Told Me - Another one I really like. I love the flashbacks and I think D.B. Woodside and James Marster play off one another really well. I also like it whenever Giles shows his brutal side, so his betrayal of Buffy’s trust works really well for me.
Dirty Girls - Caleb: a total cliche and a really bad example of a convincing villain. I feel bad saying it because I love Nathan Fillion and I actually think his performance is great, the writing just lets him down. It’s nice to see Faith again but, to be honest, I kind of wish she had stayed on Angel after Orpheus because I think she fits in on Angel way better by this point, but we will get to that later.
Empty Places - Another one I really don’t like. It just seems a totally purposeless exercise of Potentials running around like headless chickens.
Touched - I love the Spike/Buffy stuff. Although I hate Kennedy/Willow, by this point I have kind of accepted them and I do think it was pretty awesome they have the first lesbian sex scene on network TV. Robin and Faith though. Urgh - what even were they? An utterly pointless couple where you can see the writers just thought: Oh, we’re finishing - let’s just couple everybody off, no matter whether or not it actually makes sense.
End Of Days - God this episode makes me mad. So much lazy writing: the white lady, the scythe, everything just comes out of nowhere. Also, while I love the appearance of Angel because it allows for Spike’s brilliant drawing, it makes no sense and it is totally disrespectful to Angel the as a series. Considering he has just lost his son and essentially the woman he loves, Angel would not simply breeze into town and start making out with Buffy. God these two make me angry.
Chosen - While this is not without its problems, I do really like this episode. While I believe Willow’s spell was supposed to carry a feminist message, about sharing the female power, it does carry connotations of rape because of what Buffy sees in Get It Done. But I love Spike’s final scene - as you know. I love Andrew and Xander’s final exchange. I love that smile.
Great: 5 Good: 2 Average: 6 Bad: 6 Awful: 1
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Okay, so for this one I couldn’t quite decide. It’s causing me a lot of problems. On the one hand Season 2 has the introduction of Spike and Drusilla plus Angelus, on the other hand, Season 5 has Glory, Tara and the growth of Spike’s love for Buffy. So, I decided to go through both, by episode.
When She Was Bad - Good episode made great by Sarah Michelle Gellar’s emotional performance as she destroys the Master’s bones at the end
Some Assembly Required - A really average one-shot episode, with not too much character development
School Hard - One of my favourite episodes purely for the epic introduction of Spike and Drusilla and the great performance by James Marsters
Inca Mummy Girl - An episode I often find myself skipping over. I just don’t find it that interesting other than the introduction of Oz
Reptile Boy - Another one-shot episode that I often skip on the DVD. It’s just a bit boring to be honest
Halloween - Brilliant. I absolutely love Ethan Rayne, especially the homo-erotic tension between him and Giles. I love Willow’s character development and I love Oz’s line “who is that girl”
Lie to Me - An episode that I actually find a little annoying, but is redeemed by two important factors: the introduction of Sister Sunshine/Chanterelle/Lily/Anne Steele, and the truly touching conversation between Giles and Buffy at the end
The Dark Age - Not quite as good as Halloween, but another great appearance of Ethan Rayne, plus it’s always great to get a glimpse into Giles’ dark past
What’s My Line (Parts 1 and 2) - Weird Jamaican accents aside, this is a great episode, Bianca Lawson is great and there’s a great combination of action and comedy. Plus Xander and Cordelia get together
Ted - John Ritter puts in a great performance, but I always felt the themes of this one kind of hit you over the head in a Caleb-like way
Bad Eggs - As you might have gathered I’m not much of a fan of one-shot episodes, especially in a season where the Big Bads are so entertaining, so by this stage in the season I just want to see more of Drusilla and Spike rather than other villains
Suprise - Such a brilliant, dramatic episode that manages to still keep up the comedy. No more to be said
Innocence - As far as one-shot villains go, the Judge was pretty spectacular. This episode really stands out as far as Buffy’s character development goes and establishes the series as a truly exceptional coming-of-age story
Phases - Well, the special effects are awful, but its always nice to see Seth Green shirtless. The development of Oz and Willow’s relationship is great and the comedy between Larry and Xander is hilarious
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered - Funniest episode of the season. It has some beautiful yet hilarious moments between Xander and Cordelia and also provides one of the first opportunities to see what Kristine Sutherland can really do
Passion - A truly tragic episode that never fails to make me cry, not because I’m particularly fond of Jenny Calendar, but because of Anthony Head’s truly heart-rending performance
Killed by Death - Another disappointing one-shot, which I think was really poorly positioned in the series. Although more interesting than Inca Mummy Girl or Reptile Girl, it really does not stand up coming after Passion
I Only Have Eyes For You - As a one-shot this episode really works as it plays so heavily on the characters’ arcs. The final sequence between Angel and Buffy is possibly my favourite exchange between them in the whole Buffyverse. A truly wonderful piece of story telling
Go Fish - Although this is yet another stand alone episode, I really like it. I think it’s very funny and I love how it shows how far Cordelia’s come in terms of character development
Becoming (Parts One and Two) - Possibly the best Buffyverse Season Finale. I love what it says about all the characters: How far Buffy has come in coming to terms with her responsibility as slayer, how much further Xander has to go. And Spike, Oh Spike. I love it whenever he and Joyce are onscreen simultaneously
Great: 11 Good: 4 Average: 2 Bad: 4 Awful: 0
Buffy vs. Dracula - Not a favourite of mine, but it is pretty funny, and I really like the introduction of Dawn at the end
Real Me - While I actually really like Dawn and will defend her when people say they find her whiny and annoying, I can’t honestly say I love this episode. I think Dawn is pretty much a perfect representation of a 14 year old girl, and I think a whole episode of that was a bit much
The Replacement - Wonderfully funny, great characterisation of Xander. One of my absolute favourites
Out of My Mind - It is no secret that I love Spike, however I always think his comic potential is enhanced when he is paired with Harmony. However my favourite comic Spike moment of all time is the dream sequence at the end of this episode
No Place Like Home - Not a stand out episode, but I do really like the development of Dawn and the introduction of Glory, which is just magnificent
Family - Just a beautiful episode. I love Tara and I think the moment at the end as they dance is just the most wonderfully tender moment
Fool For Love - Alongside Darla on Agel, this is part of a two-part TV event that I love so completely I find it hard to put into words. Seeing 70’s Spike is just such a treat, but it’s nothing compared to the beauty of the moment at the end as he just sits on the porch with Buffy
Shadow - The snake demon has to be just about the goofiest looking demon in the whole Buffyverse, but I think a lot has to be said for Kristine Sutherland’s performance, which really is stellar
Listening to Fear - Another great performance from Kristine Sutherland, but I just cannot abide how much screentime Marc Blucas gets in this and the previous episode
Into the Woods - While this episode was a little dull it at least marks the departure of Riley. It also marks an important turning point in Xander and Anya’s relationship
Triangle - Hilarious. I love the dynamic between Anya and Willow. Story-wise this episode is nothing special, but it has a lot of great, character-centric comedy
Checkpoint - This is a great episode for reminding myself what Buffy did for feminism. She really proves herself a great feminist role model. Plus there are some great comedic moments between the Scoobies and the Watchers’ Council
Blood Ties - By this point in the series I think Dawn’s arc has become really compelling and I really like the chemistry between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Michelle Trachtenberg
Crush - Mercedes McNab and Juliet Landau are both really great in this. This might be my favourite Spike-centric episode, as I just love Spike’s total passion and Buffy’s utter apathy and the way the two play off each other so brilliantly
I Was Made To Love You - One of my favourite one-shot episodes, because of Shonda Farr’s great performance and the introduction of Warren, the best example of human evil in the Buffyverse
The Body - Total cinematic genius. Anya is heart-renching. Willow and Tara are so beautiful and tender. Plus the first lesbian kiss on network TV
Forever - I really love the way the relationship between Spike and Dawn develops and the way they bond as outsiders. This and Bargaining are possibly the best examples of that. Plus Joel Grey - what can I say? Fabulous.
Intervention - If there were ever any doubts about Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting ability, this episode clears them right up. She is so funny, but her final scene is just so beautiful, and one of my favourite moments between Buffy and Spike
Tough Love - Such a great first glimpse of Willow’s real power. Amber Benson also really shows her acting chops as we are reacquainted with the repeating motif of female violation of the mind
Spiral - Brilliantly dramatic, wickedly funny, fantastic locations.
The Weight of the World - A slightly odd episode, which has been quite heavily criticised. However, I actually really like the surreal nature of this episode and think it works really well against the heavy action of Spiral and The Gift. Plus it’s always great to see the brilliant Kristine Sutherland
The Gift - One of my all-time favourites. The Buffybot is hilarious, Anya is truly awesome, Willow and Tara are so beautiful, Giles is ruthless and Spike. Oh, Spike. That moment when he breaks down crying. It gets me every time
Great: 9 Good: 9 Average: 3 Bad: 1 Awful: 0
Well, I think from this it’s obvious that while, on the whole I like Season 5 more consistently, but the bits that I love in Season 2, I feel much more strongly about. I also think the overall arc of Season 2 is stronger, so I’m going to give this one to Season 2.
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Okay, so this is going to be a short post, not dissimilar to my Day Three post, because I don’t have much to say on these couples and what I do have to say has either already been said or will be much elaborated on later. Mostly my least favourite couples are either comprised of characters I already find boring, have little to no chemistry or simply don’t make any sense.
I think my least favourite major couple (where both characters were in the credits at some point) would have to be Riley + Buffy.
You’ve already heard my thoughts on Riley, who aside from being a thoroughly dull character in his own right, also comprised half of the most boring couple ever seen in the Buffyverse. I really don’t have much to say on these two. They were just so, so boring.
The are two others I would like to mention, one being Willow + Kennedy, who you’ve already heard me discuss in my post on The Killer in Me. I just never found them that compelling and a poor follow-up to Willow + Tara. Plus Kennedy’s character was just so self-righteous and annoying. The one thing I do appreciate about this couple is that they carry the legacy of having the first lesbian sex scene on network TV.
The other couple I just didn’t get was Robin + Faith. It just seemed the writers were trying to pair everybody up before Chosen. The characters didn’t gel, there wasn’t much chemistry and it just seemed so out of the blue. However the real reason I don’t like this couple is going to be expanded upon in my Angel meme in the “Canon I would Add” section. I strongly believe that by this stage in the game Faith was an Angel: the Series character and I really wished she had stayed on Angel for Season 5. I think she would have filled the void of females on the show and been great in a couple with Gunn.
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Okay. So there are a lot of ways to swing this. I mean I could go with one of the clunky early ones with the terrible special effects and odd plots like Teacher’s Pet and Some Assembly Required, but I thought this would be a little unfair as the show was just starting out and it must be tough to make a horror show that no one thought would succeed anyway on such a low budget. Plus the dialogue in some of those early episodes was just so snazzy:
Giles: I just think it’s rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby.
So instead I have gone for a Season 7, which not only had all the resources to be a great episode, but was also addressing a really interesting issue: guilt and grief in the Buffyverse and more specifically, with regard to Tara and Willow.
The Killer in Me: most disappointing episode ever
So Willow’s guilt for her actions have already been explored a bit earlier in the season in Same Time, Same Place: a great episode because of the way in which Willow’s guilt over killing Warren and hurting her friends manifests through her subconscious use of magic. So when you sit down to watch The Killer in me and this happens:
We assume something equally interesting is happening, with the added dynamic of Willow’s guilt over kissing Kennedy as a betrayal of Tara. What irks me is the potential this episode had to be great as an exploration of Willow’s character, to make Kennedy and Willow’s relationship into something with a depth and to explore the idea of redemption which is one way in which I always felt Buffy the Vampire Slayer failed to live up to Angel and remained very much the more childish of the series as, although Anya’s and Spike’s pasts are explored and Spike is clearly on the path to redemption in Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show does have a tendency to deal with it in a less mature way. For example Spike appears to fully redeem himself in one fell swoop through his sacrifice in Chosen. It is only once he joins the cast of Angel, where the whole point is that true redemption is impossible and the fight is never ending that his redemption is explored in a more meaningful way. The main cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Xander, Willow and Buffy) also fail to ever really be held accountable for their actions, and this contrast is never seen more clearly than in Orpheus of Angel Season 4, a place where Willow so clearly doesn’t belong.
Wesley: A lot’s happened. Not just Angelus. I’ve been… I’ve changed. I’ve seen a darkness in myself. I’m not sure you’d even begin to understand…
Willow I flayed a guy alive and tried to destroy the world.
Wesley: Oh. So…
Willow: Darkness. Been there.
However, aside from this let-down, this episode also wastes another opportunity to make Season 7 far more exciting. It confirms that Giles is not the first. While I love the shot in Chosen with the core four standing together in the hallway, perfectly echoing the shot from the end of The Harvest as Giles sees the three students walking off and chatting and says to camera “The world is definitely doomed”, I think it would have been more interesting to have Giles playing The First for the latter part of Season 7 for a number of reasons. Firstly, The First is not a scary foe. He doesn’t (directly) kill any of the main characters and totally fails to rattle most of them, with the obvious exception of Spike. However, if the Bringers had killed Giles and the First had masqueraded as him for the five weeks between Sleeper and The Killer in Me, it would have really added to The First’s credibility. It also would have been really interesting to see The First capitalising on having access to the gang in the guise of the one person they all trust implicitly. The second reason is this:
Rarely have I ever seen such an exciting cliffhanger on television. And they did nothing with it. NOTHING. What a terrible waste. They didn’t even explain how he got out of the situation. Nothing. Granted, some pretty choice dialogue came out of the whole Giles not being The First scenario:
Xander: Touch him! Touch him!
Dawn: Oh, I feel him! I feel him!
Xander: Me too.
Andrew: Me too.
Giles: Good. We all feel each other. Including some of us who don’t know each other well enough to take such liberties, thank you. Um, I assume there is a perfectly reasonable and not at all insane explanation, yes?
Anya: We thought you might be non-corporeal evil.
Dawn: We got a call. We couldn’t remember you touching anything.
Xander: We had to make sure you were okay. We were worried.
Giles: Oh. Ah. Yes, well, that’s very sweet. Now, wait a minute, you thought - you think I’m evil if I bring a group of girls on a camping trip and *don’t* touch them?
But really, I think it would have done Season 7 a huge favour by adding that dynamic and given Anthony Stewart Head the chance to show off his more menacing side which hasn’t really been seen since he killed Ben.
So, there you have it, The Killer in Me, so very, very disappointing.
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Okay so I know I’ve done disclaimers and honourable mentions for every day but I feel that this one is a very special case because what I’m going to write on is pretty much a downright lie. I’m going to talk about the couple that affected me most and that was most important to me. But if I’m totally honest Buffy/Spike is my OTP. However I feel I talked about them as a couple a lot in my Spike day and they’re also going to get a lot more time later on. So to get that out of the way:
Now for the rest of the disclaimer. I have some honourable mentions that cannot be forgotten from the early seasons including Willow/Oz, Giles/Jenny and what I think might just have been the most fun and awesome pairing ever (despite my hardcore Angel/Cordelia love), Cordelia/Xander.
But no, the couple I’m going to talk about this post is Willow/Tara
So, while Willow and Tara aren’t strictly speaking my favourite couple, they do hold a very special place in my heart. Growing up as a teenager struggling with her sexuality, it was really important to me to see normalised gay and particularly lesbian relationships on TV, ones that weren’t the kinky fetish of a hetero guy or some overblown coming out story. In this way I feel the relationship (at least in Season 4 and Season 5) was handled beautifully. The writers acknowledge its importance as a same-sex relationship, without singling it out and portraying it as essentially different from the other relationships on the show. In fact for a while the two women seem to have the most loving and functional relationship seen yet in the Buffyverse.
I’ve already acknowledged the actors’ chemistry in my discussion of Hush, which really builds through the fourth season and the metaphor of magic for sexual experimentation worked really well, but I think Joss Whedon was right to say to the network that he would walk unless he could write an on-screen kiss. Their first kiss in The Body is a really beautiful and tender moment which I think really affirms their relationship to the viewer, establishing that Tara is the right person for Willow in the long term.
And this audience investment in the relationship is vital to Season 5 as we have to believe Willow’s motivation against Glory; we believe in her power because it comes not just from a place of anger but a place of love.
But then we get to Season 6. Ah Season 6. However much I love you on a Spike/Buffy level I find it hard to forgive you for what you did to these two. I don’t want to go into too much detail here because my final essay on Day 30 is going to centre around the theme of violation, but I find the portrayal of Willow and Tara in Season 6 very problematic especially when seen in parallel to Spike and Buffy. Both Spike and Willow violate their respective partners, in Willow’s case repeatedly, yet while Spike suffers the consequences of his attempted rape of Buffy, along with his numerous other offences, once he has a soul, Willow only ever addresses her murder of Warren, and even that is not explored to the degree it should have been in The Killer in Me (but once again, more on that later). Tara’s arc is concerned with her finding her strength through her relationship with Willow until she develops into a strong character in her own right. However in Entropy we see her throw this development away by returning to her rapist and not forcing her to address the way in which she violated her.
Tara: Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard. You can’t ever put ‘em back the way they were. I’m sorry, it’s just… You know, it takes time. You can’t just have coffee and expect… There’s just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again on both sides. You have to learn if - if we’re even the same people we were. If you can fit in each others lives. It’s a long and important process, and can we just skip it? C-Can you just be kissing me now?
And while I love this scene on an emotional level because it puts them back together, I actually find truth in Tara’s speech that leads me to reason that they should not get back together, at least not at this stage. I don’t believe either of them are the people they were when they met in Season 4. Willow is an increasingly masculinised character both in her sexual conduct and in the way the writers continue to build on her seeking knowledge through masculine alleys of text, rather than the holistic magical knowledge that Tara possesses, which is more feminised. I think this masculinisation is definitely a conscious decision by the writers, reinforced through the imagery in Villains
Tara’s death is often seen as the most problematic facet of their relationship due to the imagery of the two women in bed and the immediate bloody and very human death of Tara at the hands of the misogynistic Warren with the bed where they had just made love still in the background. While there is a certain element of sex/punishment in this scene, I don’t think the death should be read as homophobic in any way as we have scene countless times in Joss Whedon’s work that regardless of sexuality, characters tend to die (or at least lose their souls) following romantic encounters. Whedon takes his characters from a place of bliss to a place of turmoil and tragedy. Regardless of whether this is right or necessary this does tend to further the plot. However, I must say I am generally opposed to characters dying merely to service the plot. Their arc has to be complete; they have to have closure. This is why it was so important to wake Cordelia up in You’re Welcome as she needed that closure and why I was alright with the death of Anya (her arc was about understanding mortality and the final way to do that is to die). However Tara’s arc I don’t think was done. Her’s was concerned with finding her strength and in having her come back to Willow the writers failed to achieve that. Therefore I think the only way Tara could have been killed off and retained the dignity of her arc is if she and Willow had still been in a complex but hopeful place of possible reconciliation. However there is a strong argument that this whole relationship isn’t really about Tara, it is about Willow and her character development. While Tara is an important character, she is never established in her own right to the same extent that other love interests of the Scoobies are. She is never given the same depth and attention as Spike or Anya or Angel to give her context outside of her relationship with Willow (other than small bits about her family in The Body and Family). In that sense it may be read as a valid decision to have her die to propel Willow’s arc and drive her off the edge. However, if we were never meant to view her as a whole and complete character, rather than just Willow’s romantic attachment, she should not have been put in the credits as it suggests she was a complete character, yet the writers were still willing to brutally cut her off just as they were beginning to explore and develop her character for pure shock value. I found it quite a tasteless and unsavoury gimmick.
Either way the Willow/Tara arc needed closure in Season 7 and I really wish Amber Benson had accented to return to play The First in Conversations with Dead People, partly because having Cassie there made no sense and partly because seeing Willow interact with her would have dramatically changed the dynamic she had with Kennedy, perhaps to the point that it might even have been interesting to watch, not as interesting as Willow and Tara, but I think there was more potential than was capitalised on.
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Honourable mentions go to some obvious works of cinematic genius including Once More With Feeling, The Body, The Wish and Restless along with some great character studies like Doppelgangland, Selfless and Storyteller plus a few that just tickle me (Tabula Rasa, Halloween and Something Blue). Plus there were a whole category of episodes that just make me so happy due to the Buffy/Spike content (Fool for Love, Crush, Smashed)
But I am going for one that is beautifully shot, has an incredible score, stunning visuals and possibly the creepiest villains ever seen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Plus we meet Tara. But perhaps most importantly it is the first appearance of Giles’ flashcards which are sadly not seen again until Season 7
Yes. Its Hush. I was going to put in a few quotes but it is essentially pointless given the nature of the episode, so this post is going to be comprised of my favourite screencaps of the episode and also a little commentary on what I think makes it stand out even from other so-called “stunt” episodes. I’m actually a big fan of episodes like The Body and Once More With Feeling, which some people have branded Emmy-grabers because I have a lot of faith in Joss Whedon and I truly believe that while he says that Hush was born out of a desire to force himself to be more visually creative, I think the most interesting thing about the episode is not actually the visuals but the way he explores the essence of communication, so I find one of the most touching episodes of the whole series in terms of developing the relationships between Giles and the scoobies to be the interaction he has with them as they enter his house in Hush.
The development of characters that haven’t been around that long is also done really well in this episode as it is established that, even without her voice, Anya’s method of communication is incredibly frank and uninhibited.
Giles’ method of communication - the flashcards - aside from just being absolutely hilarious are, I think, quite a window into Giles’ character at this stage as he is at quite a loss having lost his job as librarian, yet has, to an extent, retained his status as guardian of knowledge within the Scooby gang, so his method of communication, a presentation in a lecture theatre is very interesting as it appears he is attempting to reassert his position as teacher. This is perhaps reinforced by the fact he is using the very same lecture theatre used earlier in the episode by Professor Maggie Walsh who is at this point in competition with him as Buffy’s academic guide.
The introduction of Tara is another reason I feel so strongly about this episode. Tara was a very important character to me growing up and watching Buffy as I found her quiet strength frankly inspirational, even if her willingness to forgive Willow for what was essentially rape is problematic (but more on that later). The audience is really drawn to Tara in the thrilling chase scene that takes place, making for one of the most compelling introductions to what could have been a throw away victim part. The romantic chemistry between Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson in this episode is breathtaking, particularly in the scene where they cast the spell to move the cabinet, making for the perfect introduction to one of my favourite Buffyverse pairings.
It goes without saying that in an episode without speech, the visuals are stunning, but the Gentlemen truly are the most magnificent Buffy villains that ever were. They were truly frightening with their slow hovering movement and their creepy lackies whose lumbering movement contrasted beautifully to the smoothly gliding Gentlement. And those smiles. Those horrible, horrible smiles.
A truly incredible episode, one in which the “gimmick” of the episode not only didn’t hinder the plot, but actively advanced it and assisted character development while simultaneously exploring the way human beings relate to one another.
Mr Whedon, I am in awe.
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In doing this post I debated between characters that bore me (Riley, Kennedy, Robin Wood) and characters that I actively disdain (The First, Caleb, Amy Madison). In the end this guy won as I feel he was poorly written and had little to no character development, in contrast to Robin who developed just too slowly for Season 7, and was poorly acted with very little on-screen chemistry, as oppose to a character like Caleb who although an awful and heavy-handed metaphor for patriarchy was superbly acted by Nathan Fillion.
All work and no play make Riley a dull boy.
Actually I don’t think that’s entirely true. Riley was dull while he was working at the Initiative, but he could just about be excused as he was playing an essential part in the Season 4 narrative if it can be called that. I’m going to digress quickly just to say that I truly believe that there was so much potential in Season 4, particularly in the dynamic between Professor Walsh, as commander of very male style knowledge, and Giles, who although a very patriarchal character in the sense that he is the guardian of knowledge in the Buffyverse, is actually far more feminine than Walsh by being in touch with the mystical holistic elements that make up the demon world.
Perhaps if Riley and Buffy had been played in parallel to each other more as the respective prodigies of their two effective “watchers”, their relationship and subsequent break-up could have been more interesting. As it was they had very little on-screen chemistry as their motivation, why they found each other interesting was never clear beyond their shared beauty.
Some people have criticised their relationship as boring purely because they were happy, but I don’t think that is an entirely fair assessment. Buffy was interesting when she was happy with Angel, but the writers kept the audience on their toes by creating such a complex character with Angel that the audience would savour the moment of bliss, just as Buffy did, as they were never quite sure what Angel’s next move would be. Riley on the other hand was an entirely predictable character until the move to the vampire crack den/whore house, which seemed a move orchestrated entirely to shove Marc Blucas off the show.
This is a short post because I truly believe there is not a lot to be said about this character. Poor charactisation and no chemistry with the rest of the cast. Dull, dull, dull.
I feel this one needs a special sort of disclaimer to acknowledge the profound and very special love I have for Rupert Giles but I feel there will be chances to talk about all the things that are important about him later (sexuality, male vs female control of knowledge, father figures). This guy needed an essay to himself
Spike. Spike. Always Spike.
I am trying to resist talking too much about his role on Angel in this entry as I want to discuss that in more depth in my second meme.
Possibly my most beloved character, I think Spike has easily the most compelling and profound arc of any Buffyverse character (and possibly of any character in the whole of fiction). Spike begins as a bit part that Joss Whedon specifically said was not to be sympathetic, was not to be another “pretty” vampire like Angel, however even in this capacity James Marsters pulls of an incredible villainous performance, allowing the audience to see the humanity behind the pair of vampires by beginning to show the deep emotional connection between Spike and Drusilla.
As Spike is separated from Drusilla and returns in Seasons 3’s Lover’s Walk, one of the most enjoyable episodes of the series, Marsters establishes the comic potential of his character, which would be reprieved in his capacity as the “goofy neighbour”/Cordelia replacement in Season 4. However in this episode he also manages to, like Anya, prove that it is sometimes demons that prove to most fully comprehend the human condition in his speech about love.
Spike: You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love till it kills you both. You’ll fight and you’ll shag and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.
While some fans have criticised his role in Season 4, I personally found the comic appearances of Spike (particularly when accompanied by Harmony) allowed Season 4 to excel at having some of the funniest moments of the series and some of the best lighthearted standalone episodes (such as Pangs and Something Blue). And lets face it, the narrative mess that is Season 4 really needed to excel at something and the comedy that came from Spike’s interaction’s with the rest of the group, especially Giles allowed it to do so.
Spike: We’re out of weetabix
Giles: We are out of weetabix because you ate it all. Again.
Spike: Get some more.”
Giles: I thought vampires were supposed to eat blood.
Spike: Yeah, well, sometimes I like to crumble up the weetabix in the blood. Gives it a little texture.
Giles: Since the picture you just painted means that I will never touch food of any kind again, you’ll just have to pick it up yourself.
In terms of character development, this doesn’t quite pick up with Spike until Season 5 as he falls in love with Buffy and begins to act in a way that I believe is far more interesting than Angel ever achieved on Buffy (though I do love him as a character, I think he is far more compelling on Angel), as we begin to see the growth of a conscience. In Crush, Tara alludes to the fact that Spike has no moral compass and is motivated solely by trying to impress a woman who can never love him back through her discussion about The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Buffy. However, I would argue that over Season 5 and Season 6 we do see him begin to acknowledge morality. Buffy, because she is the woman he loves, becomes a vessel through which he begins to grow a conscience before he even has a soul as she becomes the only reason for his altruism and selflessness, such as undergoing torture at the hands of Glory in Intervention. Even Buffy admits this point, telling him that what he did that day for her and Dawn “was real”. Therefore hurting Buffy, the person around which he bases all his actions and his moral compass, makes him realize that only with a soul can he be the man she truly deserves. However, the reason he actually needs a soul is to become a champion and to act in a truly selfless way, displayed by his sacrifice in Chosen. This is where, for me, Spike transcends Buffy the Vampire Slayer and becomes an Angel character. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a coming of age series about learning to findyour place in the world.
By Chosen Spike achieves this and is fully ready to move on to Angel, a series dedicated learning to live with your place in the world once you have found it. His journey on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is beautiful and profound, yet incomplete and I think that is the best thing about a truly great character: they always leave you wanting more.
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Honourable mentions include Willow Rosenberg but I want to explore her in more depth later on in this meme especially her relationship with Tara and her character as a masculinised woman. I also love Cordelia Chase but I see her more as an Angel character and will therefore discuss her in that meme. Minor characters also come to mind such as Harmony and Tara.
But seriously. It has to be Anya.
Really, this is an easy one, Anya is, for me, the most interesting female character of the Buffy series, partly because even in her early appearances she never failed to make an episode more enjoyable, and party due to the fantastic development of a character started out essentially as a pretty one dimensional girlfriend for Xander. However where Anya begins is perhaps the most interesting thing about her character. In Season 4 she is entirely defined through her interaction with Xander, the rest of the Scoobie Gang resisting her addition to the group, with Willow remaining openly hostile to her until well into Season 5.
She is established as a character who defines herself through her relationships with men: Firstly as doting housewife to Olaf, secondly through her father-daughter relationship with D’Hoffryn and finally as Xander’s girlfriend. This point is addressed directly in Selfless which is one of my favourite episodes, partly because of how much fun the music is but also because it is such a self-aware piece of television, acknowledging that since Hell’s Bells the writers haven’t really known what to do with Anya and her awkward outsider/insider status that other characters such as Dawn, Spike and Angel only ever bridge due to their close relationship with the slayer, which Anya does not possess. Interestingly she is relegated to the same status that Cordelia who she was put in the title credits to replace: distanced from the group due to a failed relationship with Xander and lacking the desire or the relationship with Buffy to remain a part of the group.
Nevertheless I think she continues to be explored in an interesting way through to the end of Season 7. Her interaction with fellow outsider Andrew providing some of the comic highlights of the season, but also demonstrating a poignant objective observation on the nature of the show and the human condition.
Anya: There was this other apocalypse this one time. And, well, I took off. But this time, I don’t… I don’t know.
Andrew: Well, what’s different?
Anya: Well, I guess I was kinda new to being around humans before. And now I’ve seen a lot more, gotten to know people, seen what they’re capable of and I guess I just realize how amazingly… screwed up they all are. I mean, really, really screwed up in a monumental fashion. And they have no purpose that unites them, so they just drift around, blundering through life until they die. Which they-they know is coming, yet every single one of them is surprised when it happens to them. They’re incapable of thinking about what they want beyond the moment. They kill each other, which is clearly insane, and yet, here’s the thing. When it’s something that really matters, they fight. I mean, they’re lame morons for fighting. But they do. They never… They never quit. And so I guess I will keep fighting, too.
Anya, despite her (ex-)demon status is character who ends up most fully understanding the human condition because of the way in which her new found mortality leads her to view the world as a confusing and incomprehensible place in which terrible things happen to good people for no reason and while I have some issues with her death due to possible anti-feminist message it sends, I do think it was an appropriate ending for a character whose arc was mainly about understanding the futility of the world and death and about finding a purpose for herself other than the men around her. So while some people have read her death as a Joss Whedonesque anti-feminist silencing of a female character by having her die off-screen as a faceless body of the battle, I think that he was driven by her arc in making the decision and I firmly believe it was a conscious artistic decision.
So I am going to leave you with some final words of Anya’s in what I believe was the most heart-wrenching speech of the entire series, summing up the most human of emotions, grief.
Anya: I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s- There’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid. And-and Xander’s crying and not talking, and-and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.