a fair and balanced birdthing (raaven) wrote,
a fair and balanced birdthing

Raison du Buffy

A co-alumni of mine wrote the following about Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

> > I don't get the fascination, myself < shrug >. *And* I'm a vampire
> > aficionado. But to have the creatures of the night hunted by a cute
> > blond
> > girl--damn, it's just not right. ;)

And I felt compelled to respond. Some of the people who read my response on the alumni list wanted me to post it here, also.


For the longest time, I didn't get it either. Here is the story of my conversion:

My first vision of Buffy, the TV show was my roommate's fault. He was
working late one night and had forgotten to set his VCR, so he called
me & asked me to tape it for him. My VCR didn't have the time set on it (I
forget why) at the time, and it was coming on immediately, so I just turned
the TV on & pressed record. The episode he asked me to tape was Graduation
Day, part 2 (end of season 3). It had been considerably delayed from
the season end because of the Columbine shootings (in the episode, the school
gets blown up).

At the end of the episode, Angel (a vamp, and Buffy's true love) leaves
Buffy, Sunnydale and the show for a new life in LA. As I was deep in the
midst of some serious abandonment/relationship issues at the time, it twanged me especially. But the really interesting thing is, that in a single episode and with no other background (except that I saw the movie, years before), I got to know the characters and story well enough to know how devastating this was. And to make me curious about the characters, enough to watch the repeats that summer, whenever I could. No mean feat, that...the only other program I made any effort to watch at that point
was the X-files (when the X-files were in their height).

Throughout the next season I continued to watch, as Buffy et al recovered
from high school, started college, learned to live without Angel. I watched Angel, on his mission of redemption in LA. I was, in fact, more likely to watch Angel than Buffy, as I like/relate to the character more.

Somehow, though, the stories on Buffy kept drawing me back. I had an
appreciation for the writing, an interest in the characters and the "what happens next" curiosity that gets people hooked on soap operas.

Then came the big gimmick episode, Hush (mid-season 4). I rolled my eyes at
the hype. 25 minutes of silence in a 40 minute episode, blah blah, potential Emmy nomination, blah. Buffy..um...buffs now tout it as "the" episode to get your family or friends hooked. While I disagree with that particular statement, I was pleasantly surprised. Credit where credit is due, the writing is brilliant. Despite 25 minutes of quiet, the episode was rivetting. Season 4 continued with the return of Faith (a slayer gone
bad,who has a problem with Buffy), the uncovering of a government program
to create superdemons from parts of the regular sort (with technology thrown
in to control them with), a second brilliant episode called Superstar (for
which the entire Buffy-verse was changed, including the opening credits)
and assorted other mayhem, wrapping up with a dream-sequence episode (which
we're now finding out heavily foreshadows the next two seasons...and thus
is brilliant in retrospect).

Then we get to season 5. In season 5, we have the sudden appearance of
Buffy's kid sister (who never existed before); the scooby gang fighting
Glory, a god from another dimension;.Buffy vs. Dracula, Spike (bad,
slayer-killing vampire) gets a crush on Buffy, Buffy's mom becoming ill
& eventually dying, and finally the death of Buffy herself. Brilliant
episodes: The Body, Into the Woods, The Gift and the mind-boggling 2
hour crossover episodes Fool for Love and Darla.

So Buffy's dead, and the show is on another network now. This must be
the Buffy jumps the shark moment, right? NOT. Season 6 starts with a gripping
episode, Bargaining, in which Willow & gang perform a rite to bring her
back from the dead. They're interrupted, and they think they've failed.
Meanwhile, Buffy awakes in her coffin, 6 feet under.

A few episodes of the 'average' good writing I've become used to, and then (drumroll please) the musical episode. Hype, hype, hype.

It's absolutely worth every bit of hype it got. Joss Whedon wrote the episode. He wrote the music. He did the choreography. All of the actors did their own vocals, and the acting itself was superb. Hinton Battle played the bad guy, beautifully. It's beyond brilliance.

Followed immediately, BOOM!, by Tabula Rasa, a story which starts to explore in depth Willow's addiction to magic. Another excellent episode. Hilarious. Thought provoking.

Followed immediately by Smashed, in which Buffy becomes involved (rather
turbulently) with Spike.

Two episodes later we have a "Buffy turns invisible" episode, called Gone. The episode itself is only average (for Whedon & crew), but one tiny little detail highlights once more the brilliance of the writing for the whole show. It's this kind of detail (which I shan't reveal here, in case others didn't notice it), that proliferates throughout the whole series, as far as I can tell, that makes it so worthwhile.

Followed by soon after by Dead Things, where Buffy battles herself, mostly.
Wrenchingly. Followed soon thereafter by the almost-wedding of two of the
scoobies, one of whom is an ex-demon, which was both hilarious & heartbreaking. Followed by Normal Again, in which Buffy realizes that she's really in an mental institution & that Sunnydale and all of her adventures are imaginary.

The point that I'm getting to here is that the show is brilliantly written
& executed. Details that seemed forgettable in seasons 1, 2 & 3(which I'm
slowly catching up on) are becoming blindingly relevant in seasons 5 & 6.
Joss Whedon is an evil genius who must be watched very carefully. As
must his minions, Marti Noxon, David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, etc. Everytime
you see a cliche being offered (a musical, a mental institution) you think
"No way they can pull that off" or "oh, no, they didn't..."...and they do it.
Brilliantly. It's amazing.
Tags: tv
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