Tag: "buffy the vampire slayer"

Film Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This review contains spoilers for both the filmed and televised versions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Twenty years ago today, a film called Buffy the Vampire Slayer opened in theaters to unimpressive reviews (and only a 32% on the Tomatometer). At that point, no one could possibly have expected that Joss Whedon’s story about a California valley girl would morph into a television show that even today is still impacting fans in powerful and meaningful ways.

From the most humble beginnings, eh?

“Smile Time”, or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust in Whedon”

The following article contains spoilers for the Angel episode “Smile Time”, and is fair game for spoilers of any episodes preceding it, as well as the entire run of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer.

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When Joss Whedon and the Buffy team announced that they’d be doing a musical episode, people were skeptical. I mean, how can you make a musical about slaying vampires?

Oh we of little faith. “Once More, With Feeling” was one of the best hours of television made in the last quarter-century*.

As I began watching Angel a few months ago, I heard rumblings that there was an episode centered around puppets sometime in the fifth season. I finally got there and my tweet**, no lie, was: Oh crap… it’s the puppet episode. Now, I knew there were some big story pieces coming up — the arrival of Illyria, the coming apocalypse, and the series finale, just to name a few of the things to be crammed into the next eight episodes. I’ve just been waiting to get to that part. The one I watched prior to this was a World War II-era submarine story where Angel and Spike are caught on a captured U-boat, and it… wasn’t that great. So I didn’t have high hopes for “Smile Time”.

Should’ve learned my lesson from OMWF: trust in Whedon and his team, and he will never lead you astray.

Book Review: “Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion”

This book contains spoilers for all films and television shows Joss Whedon has written, and therefore the review shall consider such material fair game. Reader discretion is advised.

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It doesn’t take an astute student of my Twitter feed or my blog to know that I’ve been on one hell of a Joss Whedon kick over the course of the past year. From full viewings of Buffy and Angel to my opinions on Cabin in the Woods (excellent) and The Avengers (waiting for the DVD), you must know by now that I’m a fan of the man’s work.

So when Amazon’s algorithm suggested I purchase PopMatters’s Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion, I figured it would be something I’d enjoy.

Perhaps I should’ve thought a little more about the purchase first.

Portrait of a Slayer at Fifteen: the 15th Anniversary Buffy Retrospective (part 3 of 3)

This is part three of a three-part fifteenth-anniversary retrospective of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It contains spoilers for the entire run of the show.

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Continuing with my top 25 episode countdown, here’s the top ten. You’ll notice that I cheated a little and did a couple of two-parters as single episodes. Well, I did say that 20 percent of the show was 28.8, so if I have 27 favorites, you’ll have to forgive me.

Now, on with the show.

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10: Becoming, Part 2 (Season 2, Episode 22)

Angelus – “I want to torture you. I used to love it, and it’s been a long time. I mean, the last time I tortured someone, they didn’t even have chainsaws.”

Synopsis: Buffy, now a fugitive, joins up with Spike to stop Angelus because, while Angelus is trying to destroy the world via a demon called Acathla, Spike actually kind of likes the planet the way it is. Buffy is also expelled from school and confronts Whistler, an agent of the Powers That Be, to find out what she’s supposed to do. She tells her mother she’s the Slayer, and her mother delivers the classic “if you go out that door, don’t come back” line. Buffy goes out that door. Xander lies to Buffy, saying that Willow told him to tell her to kick Angel’s ass, but really Willow is working to restore Angel’s soul. She successfully completes the spell just as the fight between Buffy and Angel reaches a climax. She kisses him goodbye and then kills him, sealing the vortex that would have destroyed the world. Spike and Drusilla escape, and Buffy leaves Sunnydale for parts unknown. (It turns out to be Los Angeles.)

Notable Guest Stars: Richard Riehle as Merrick, since Donald Sutherland probably would’ve been too expensive; Julie Benz as Darla, the vampire who turned Angel.

It Made The List Because: Which is more important to you? Do you save the man you love, or do you save the world? Buffy chose the world, and the pain of it is writ large on her face. Everything she knows is collapsing — Xander and Willow are hurt, Giles was tortured, Angel is dead, and, worst of all, her mother has turned her back on her. Gellar plays it beautifully.

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9: Graduation Day, Parts 1 and 2 (Season 3, Episodes 21 and 22)

Anya – “When I think that something could happen to you, it feels bad inside, like I might vomit.”
Xander – “Welcome to the world of romance.”
Anya – “It’s horrible. No wonder I used to get so much work.”
Xander – “Well, I’m sorry I give you barfy feelings.”

Angel – “Well, he’s not crazy about germs.”
Cordelia – “Of course, that’s it. We’ll attack him with germs.”
Buffy – “Great. We’ll get him cornered and then you can sneeze on him.”

Synopsis: Throughout the season, Faith and the Mayor have been growing closer, becoming almost like father and daughter. Oz and Willow consummate their relationship. Faith poisons Angel, a poison which can only be cured by the blood of a Slayer. Buffy and Faith fight, and it ends with Buffy stabbing Faith, possibly fatally, and Faith falling onto a moving truck and escaping. The Mayor is quite upset over the fight — he really does care about Faith — and sends his minions to find her and Buffy. Buffy allows Angel to drink her blood so he can be cured. In a prophetic dream, Buffy and Faith seem to reconcile, although that’s only on a subconscious level. The Mayor, speaking at graduation, turns into a demon and starts wreaking havoc, including eating Principal Snyder. No one really complains. Buffy’s master plan — mobilizing the graduating class with weapons and using Xander’s military knowledge from Halloween — saves most of them. The other part of her plan is to lure the Mayor, now in demon form, into the library, where she detonates a large amount of explosives. The Mayor is killed and the school destroyed. Angel, as he promised, leaves Sunnydale (to get his own spin-off).

Notable Guest Stars: Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndham-Pryce; Harry Groener as the Mayor.

It Made The List Because: The conflict between Buffy and Faith comes to a head and we finally see who is the better Slayer. Also, Angel leaves Sunnydale despite the fact that he and Buffy are still in love. It was just a good season finale, satisfying in every regard… which makes sense, given that the main characters are now about to move onto the next phase of their lives: college.

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8: New Moon Rising (Season 4, Episode 19)

Willow – “Tara, I have to tell you –”
Tara – “No, I understand. You have to be with the person that love.”
Willow – “I am.”
Tara – “You mean…”
Willow – “I mean. OK?”
Tara – “Oh, yes.”
Willow – “I feel horrible about everything I put you through. And I’m going to make it up to you, starting right now.”
Tara – “Right now?”

Synopsis: Oz returns to Sunnydale having learned control over his wolf side. He and Willow talk for the whole night, but when Tara arrives, she becomes uncomfortable and leaves before Willow can get back from the bathroom. Willow admits to Buffy that she’s getting serious with Tara. Spike makes a deal with Adam to get the chip out of his head. Oz is captured by the Initiative, but Buffy gets him out. Oz leaves Sunnydale again after talking to Willow — the two of them confess that they will always love each other — and then Willow goes to Tara. Tara blows out the candle.

Notable Guest Stars: Leonard Roberts (Heroes) as Forrest Gates; Bailey Chase as Graham Miller; Amber Benson as Tara.

It Made The List Because: It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Willow/Tara relationship. Willow loves Tara because she’s Tara; it doesn’t matter that she’s a girl, or that she’s a witch, or that she’s a college student, or that she thought she was going to turn into a demon someday (don’t ask). Since I was a teenager I’ve always believed that you love who you love, regardless of what parts they have in their pants, and this relationship is about that. Plus, we get lots of Alyson Hannigan’s goofy smiles as a result — always a positive.

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7: The Wish (Season 3, Episode 9)

Buffy – “Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.”
Xander – “Mine is much more advanced.”

Synopsis: Cordelia is pretty upset after Xander and Willow are discovered kissing — at the time, she was dating Xander — and she makes a wish while speaking to the new girl, Anya. Anya is really a vengeance demon, and Cordelia’s wish — that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale — becomes reality. We’re then shifted to an alternate reality where the Master won and Xander and Willow are vampires. Giles figures out that they’re in an alternate universe and they call in Buffy, who was in Cleveland (location of the other Hellmouth). Although Buffy, Angel, Willow, and Oz are killed, Giles defeats Anya by destroying the source of her power and trapping her in human form. The alternate universe disappears.

Notable Guest Stars: Emma Caulfield as Anya, in her first appearance on the show.

It Made The List Because: Mostly because of Willow’s “bored now!” line that comes back with horrifying consequences in the sixth season. Also because alternate universe episodes are cool, and while this one does center on Cordelia a little too much, it’s still pretty good overall.

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6: Chosen (Season 7, Episode 22)

Buffy – “So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of this scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

Synopsis: The series finale. Buffy kills Caleb, minion of the First Evil. The Slayers and the Potentials go to the new Sunnydale High School for the final battle. Willow works a spell that activates all the potential slayers around the world, giving the Potentials the power to win the battle. Anya is killed in the fight. Spike, wearing a mystical amulet, calls down the power of the sun and sacrifices himself to save everyone else. Buffy barely makes it out, running along the roofs of Sunnydale’s buildings (in poorly-done CG) until she can jump for the schoolbus with everyone else on it. In the end, Sunnydale is nothing but a crater and the Hellmouth is closed. As the series fades to black for the last time, Buffy smiles.

Notable Guest Stars: David Boreanaz as Angel.

It Made The List Because: Truthfully, I found everything after the activation kind of weak. I really felt as though there should’ve been something bigger in terms of a one-on-one fight between Buffy and the First, but then, the First is completely noncorporeal. And Anya’s death was kind of a throwaway, sadly. However, we did have “are you ready to be strong?”, an immensely powerful sequence in the show, and of course Spike’s redemption. Oh, and an appearance by Trogdor the Burninator, who is defeated by Amanda the Potential Slayer.

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5: Grave (Season 6, Episode 22)

Xander – “The first day of kindergarten you cried because you broke the yellow crayon and you were too afraid to tell anyone. You’ve come pretty far, ending the world, not a terrific notion, but the thing is, yeah, I love you. I loved crayon-breaking Willow and I love scary veiny Willow. So if I’m going out it’s here. If you wanna kill the world, well then start with me. I’ve earned that.”
Willow – “You think I won’t.”
Xander – “It doesn’t matter. I’ll still love you.”

Xander (Nicholas Brendon, right) stops Dark Willow (Alyson Hannigan) from destroying the world.

Synopsis: Willow, wracked with grief over the death of Tara, has become Dark Willow, using magic for evil. Spike completes his ordeal in Africa, regaining his soul. Buffy and Dawn are trapped in a pit by Willow, forced to work together to fight against demons Willow raised. Andrew and Jonathan escape to Mexico. Willow, who feels all the pain in the world, attempts to cast a spell to end everything. Only Xander, her oldest friend, can stop her, and despite being attacked he keeps on coming, telling Willow that he loves her and that he’ll be right there with her when she destroys the world. She can’t do it, and she turns back into regular Willow. Anya is quite shocked to find out that Xander saved the world.

Notable Guest Stars: Danny Strong as Jonathan; Tom Lenk as Andrew.

It Made The List Because: Dumbledore was right: love is the greatest power there is. It stopped the most powerful witch in the world from destroying everything. When Willow finally gives in to Xander, it’s the capstone: an intense, emotional moment in a season full of roller-coasters.

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4: Hush (Season 4, Episode 10)

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.”

The Gentlemen.

Synopsis: Demons called The Gentlemen steal the voices of every person in Sunnydale. Then they start stealing people’s hearts, killing them in the process. Giles figures out how to defeat the Gentlemen, and Buffy and Riley release the voices of the townspeople. Buffy screams, and the Gentlemen are killed. At the end, Buffy and Riley face each other… and say nothing. Also, we meet Tara.

Notable Guest Stars: Phina Oruche as Olivia, Giles’s on-again-off-again girlfriend; Doug Jones, Camden Toy, Don W. Lewis, and Charlie Brumbly as the Gentlemen.

It Made The List Because: Do not, under any circumstances, watch this episode in the dark. It is by far the scariest of the series, and one of the best. I actually stayed up and watched a second episode the night I saw “Hush” because I was so creeped out.

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3: The Gift (Season 5, Episode 22)

Buffy – “You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world … is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.”

Buffy prepares to sacrifice herself as her sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) looks on.

Synopsis: Buffy asks Spike to protect Dawn, because she now trusts him implicitly. This is important next season. Spike’s Buffy-Bot is used as a decoy to distract Glory. The fight continues until Buffy turns Glory back into Ben, her human host, and tells him to leave Sunnydale (she’s shown in the past that she won’t kill a human being). However, the rift Glory created is still there. With everyone distracted, Giles kills Ben. At the top of Glory’s tower, Buffy tells Dawn she loves her and flings herself into the rift to destroy it. At the end, we see Buffy’s grave. Her epitaph: “She saved the world. A lot.”

Notable Guest Stars: Clare Kramer as Glory; Charlie Weber as Ben; Joel Grey as Doc.

It Made The List Because: I added this mostly because of Buffy’s speech to Dawn at the end. Whedon has a habit of doing speeches in retrospect — you don’t hear them until afterward, as a voiceover. Unlike in the first season, when you really don’t know Buffy well enough to care that she’s dead, you feel it in full now, and you see the reactions of her friends and family. A worthy death for a warrior like Buffy… but it doesn’t last. It never lasts.

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2: The Body (Season 5, Episode 16)

Anya – “I don’t understand. 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 can’t just get back in it and not be dead any more. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid, and, and Xander’s crying and not talking, 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.”

Buffy finds her mother (Kristine Sutherland) dead in their living room.

Synopsis: Some episodes ago, Buffy’s mother had a brain tumor removed. Just before this episode, Buffy came home to find her mother dead on the couch. An aneurysm in her brain killed her quickly and painlessly. The main characters attempt to deal with this loss.

Notable Guest Stars: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers.

It Made The List Because: One of the most powerful hours of television. Ever. No music, no traditional arc of exposition/rising action/climax. Just all of the characters dealing with death. It’s not even so much about Buffy and Dawn’s grief of a child losing a mother. It’s about Willow, who can’t decide what to wear to the hospital; it’s about Xander, feeling powerless in the face of death; it’s about Anya, who doesn’t understand how to react since she hasn’t been a human long enough to face death; it’s about Tara, who’s been through this before and knows that nothing will make the pain go away. Masterfully written, shot, edited, and acted, this episode is probably near the top of every “Best of Buffy” list on the planet.

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1: Once More, With Feeling (Season 6, Episode 7)

Anya – “It has to be stopped. It was like we were being watched, like there was a wall missing from our apartment. Like there were only three walls and not a fourth one.”

Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar, center) sings the final battle song with Anya (Emma Caulfield, left) and Tara (Amber Benson, right)

Synopsis: After returning from heaven, Buffy has felt increasingly disconnected to the world around her. She expresses this in the form of a song, much to her surprise. The Scoobies vow to figure out what’s going on. Xander and Anya, soon to be married, sing a duet about what they think is wrong with the other person. Tara serenades Willow. Spike tells Buffy to leave him alone if she’s not going to love him the way he wants her to. Giles says he’s going to leave Sunnydale. Dawn is kidnapped by a demon called Sweet, who is the cause of all the singing. Buffy vows to fight Sweet even though she doesn’t feel the emotions she should be experiencing. After revealing to her friends that Willow pulled her out of heaven, Sweet forces her to dance, almost to her death, but Spike stops her in time. Xander admits to invoking Sweet — he wanted to know if he and Anya would have a happy ending. At the end, Spike and Buffy kiss.

Notable Guest Stars: Hinton Battle as Sweet; David Fury as the mustard guy; Marti Noxon as the lady with the parking ticket.

It Made The List Because: A musical episode is hard enough without having to advance the plot; one that advances the plot should be spotlighted. Whedon wrote and scored the entire episode (Adam Shankman choreographed it), and every actor on the show actually sings his or her songs. Amber Benson is particularly good in this one, and she’s given a nice little naughty verse at the end of her solo song, as I mentioned in my review of the soundtrack some time ago. Watching this episode after seeing the entire series only underscores just how much viewers care about these characters. From Buffy’s emptiness at being taken from heaven to Spike’s unrequited love, from Dawn’s fear of being unnoticed to Tara’s depth of love for Willow, from Xander and Anya’s odd-couple relationship to Giles’s fatherly feelings toward Buffy, every character on the show receives full attention in this episode, and every one of them is allowed to be funny, or sweet, or sappy, or angry. Between this and “The Body”, you have two of the best hours of television you’ll ever see. Log into Netflix and watch this one right now.

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And there you have it: my top 25 episodes of Buffy. If you don’t have 144 hours to watch the entire show, you can probably find “must-see” lists all over the internet, but seriously… I made the mistake of not catching this when it was in first-run. I was lucky it was on Netflix and I didn’t have to buy the DVDs. Take advantage, take half a year’s worth of lunch breaks, and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It’ll give you something to sing about.

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Note to Parents: Although BtVS is only rated TV-PG at its “worst”, the show does contain violence, sexual situations, adult language, and intense action and emotional sequences. I’d say it’s safe for middle-schoolers on up. Of course, you should use your own discretion when it comes to your children.

Portrait of a Slayer at Fifteen: the 15th Anniversary Buffy Retrospective (part 2 of 3)

This is part two of a three-part fifteenth-anniversary retrospective of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It contains spoilers for the entire run of the show.

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How do you review an entire seven-year run of a television series? How about by picking the top twenty percent of episodes?

Let’s see… 20 percent of 144… 28.8. Let’s go ahead and round that down to the top 25.

So, here you go: the top 25 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At least, in my opinion. Big thanks to everyone who edited the Wikipedia pages for these episodes, because that’s where I got the summaries and cast lists.

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25: Wild at Heart (Season 4, Episode 6)

Willow – “How come you didn’t tell me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?”
Buffy – “I thought that was the point.”

Synopsis: Spike is captured by The Initiative. Oz meets another werewolf, Veruca, who seduces him to the dark side of werewolf-dom (to this point, he has been locking himself up during the three days when he is prone to change, to keep everyone safe). She also sleeps with him. This understandably upsets Willow, Oz’s girlfriend. Willow plans a revenge spell but doesn’t go through with it; Veruca catches her at it, but Oz rescues her. The episode ends with Oz leaving Sunnydale.

Notable Guest Stars: Seth Green as Oz, in his final appearance as a regular; James Marsters as Spike, in his final appearance as a guest star (before becoming a regular).

It Made The List Because: Throughout the series, and despite her witchcraft, Willow sort of represents the everygeek, even more than Xander. She’s hyperintelligent (and pretty hyper), and has trouble integrating socially in a way that Xander really never did. But she’s grown by this point, and has found love, and she and Oz have overcome that… or so she thought. I picked this episode because it’s a pivotal change in Willow’s character: she’s known love, knows what it feels like, and it makes it that much more special for her when she finds it again.

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24: Lie to Me (Season 2, Episode 7)

Buffy – “Does it ever get easy?”
Giles – “You mean life?”
Buffy – “Yeah. Does it get easy?”
Giles – “What do you want me to say?”
Buffy – “Lie to me.”
Giles – “Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Buffy – “Liar.”

Synopsis: In addition to building up Spike and Drusilla as the season two Big Bads, this episode focuses on Buffy and her relationship with her old friend Ford. It’s later revealed that Ford has a disease which will kill him, and in return for handing over the Slayer, Spike will turn Ford and his friends into vampires so they can live forever. After a fight which Spike escapes from, Buffy goes to Ford’s grave and stakes him as he rises.

Notable Guest Stars: Juliet Landau as Drusilla the insane vampire; Jason Behr (Roswell) as Ford.

It Made The List Because: This is the first time in the series where someone has a good reason for wanting to become a vampire. If you’re going to die, wouldn’t you want to do anything possible to keep on living? Is it so bad to have to drink blood if it means you don’t die of a debilitating disease? Also, it showed that Buffy doesn’t always want to slay the vampires, even though she has to, and it worked toward building the father/daughter relationship between Buffy and Giles.

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23: Buffy vs Dracula (Season 5, Episode 1)

Dracula – “You are strange and off-putting. Go now.”

Synopsis: Buffy and the Scooby gang face Dracula. Xander becomes Renfield, Giles becomes Jonathan Harker, and Buffy becomes a combination of Lucy and Mina. Eventually Buffy defeats Dracula and admits to Giles that she really doesn’t want him to leave.

Notable Guest Stars: Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, her first appearance on the series.

It Made The List Because: Last night, someone linked me to a hilarious fanfic story where Buffy and the Scoobies take on Anita Blake and her harem. This episode is somewhat similar, in that Buffy is taking on another well-known vampire icon, and really, who doesn’t want their favorite character taking on someone famous… and winning? Also, this episode introduces Dawn.

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22: Faith, Hope, and Trick (Season 3, Episode 3)

Oz – “I’m wondering about your position on werewolves.”
Willow – “Oz is a werewolf.”
Buffy – “It’s a long story.”
Oz – “I got bit.”
Buffy – “Apparently not that long.”

Synopsis: A new vampire slayer, Faith, arrives in Sunnydale, having been activated after Kendra was killed by Drusilla. She brought with her Kakistos, an evil vampire with a bone to pick with her. There’s some conflict between Buffy and Faith before the big showdown, in which Faith freezes up and Buffy fights the vampire before Faith kills him with a very large wooden pole. Mr. Trick escapes — he becomes important later in the season — and, at the very end, Angel returns from Hell.

Notable Guest Stars: Eliza Dushku as Faith and K. Todd Freeman as Mr. Trick, both of whom recur through the season.

It Made The List Because: The first appearance of Faith cannot be ignored. Nor can Angel’s return from Hell, which leads directly to a major conflict through the season. And Mr. Trick is a delightful sidekick to the Mayor.

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21: The Harvest (Season 1, Episode 2)

Willow – “Maybe you could blow something up. They’re really strict about that.”

Synopsis: Willow and Xander learn about vampires and such. The Master (season one’s Big Bad) gains power. Xander accidentally slays his friend Jesse when Jesse is turned into a vampire. Buffy kills Luke, one of the Master’s top lieutenants.

Notable Guest Stars: Mark Metcalf as The Master; Brian Thompson as Luke; Eric Balfour (Haven) as Jesse.

It Made The List Because: Pretty much for the scene when Buffy kicks Luke through a window, Luke thinks it’s daylight (even though it isn’t), and then Buffy kills him. Overall the pilot two-parter was pretty standard fare for a genre TV show, but that line was hilarious.

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20: Dirty Girls (Season 7, Episode 18)

Faith – “Damn. I never knew you were that cool.”
Buffy – “Well, you always were a little slow.”

Synopsis: Faith returns from Los Angeles. Caleb, an evil preacher imbued by the power of the First Evil, arrives in Sunnydale. After a whole lot of talking, Buffy and the potential slayers take on Caleb, only to find out that he is more powerful than Buffy. Caleb kills two of the girls and gouges out one of Xander’s eyes, but Spike stops him before he can do anything more. Everyone still alive manages to escape.

Notable Guest Stars: Nathan Fillion as Caleb; D.B. Woodside as Robin Wood; Rachel Bilson as Colleen.

It Made The List Because: By this point, we’ve learned that Joss Whedon is not averse to killing off major characters — he did, after all, allow Tara to die, and Buffy herself died twice on the show. Angel died once too. So in the fight with Caleb, I was expecting a major character to die. I’d read somewhere that Xander ended the show with only one eye, but I wasn’t expecting something quite as gruesome and graphic as what was shown on-screen. This episode hammered home the fact that the good guys might not actually win this one, and even if they did, they wouldn’t come out unscathed.

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19: Normal Again (Season 6, Episode 17)

Spike – “Oh, balls! You didn’t say it was a Glarghk Guhl Kashmas’nik.”
Xander – “‘Cause I can’t say Glarba …”

Synopsis: Throughout the whole run of the show, Buffy has merely been creating a fantasy world inside her head where she’s the hero and has to save the world. But what’s actually been happening is that she’s been locked in an insane asylum since she burned down her old high school gym in Los Angeles (the climax of the BtVS film). Inside the fantasy world, a demon has made her hallucinate being in an asylum, and the only way out is to kill her support system — her friends. She eventually fights it off, but then the episode ends with Buffy locked away again, back in the asylum.

Notable Guest Stars: Dean Butler as Hank, Buffy’s dad; Kirsten Nelson (Psych) as Lorraine, Buffy’s boss at the Doublemeat Palace.

It Made The List Because: Which reality is the real reality? Is Buffy dreaming up all of this, or is the asylum just the place where her mind retreated to try and defend itself from the demon’s hallucinogenic drug? Through the entire episode, I knew that, at the end, Buffy would be in the “real” world — Sunnydale, with her friends — but the way the episode was written left a lot of room for doubt. I was a fair bit shellshocked afterward.

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18: Entropy (Season 6, Episode 18)

Tara – “There’s so much to work through. Trust has to build again, on both sides … you have to learn if you’re even the same people you were, if you can fit in each other’s lives, it’s a long and important process and… can we just skip it? Can you just be kissing me now?”

Tara (Amber Benson) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan)

Synopsis: A lot of plot movement in this episode — the Trio grows closer to their ultimate goal, Dawn shows remorse for her kleptomania, Spike and Anya go to each other for comfort (Buffy left Spike, Xander left Anya), Willow discovers that the Trio has been spying on everyone, Spike reveals that Buffy used to be his lover, and Willow and Tara reconcile after a long breakup.

Notable Guest Stars: Kali Rocha as Halfrek; Danny Strong, Tom Lenk, and Adam Busch as the Trio.

It Made The List Because: After the emotional roller-coaster of last week’s episode, it was time to advance the plot. Finally, we see that Spike and Buffy used to have a relationship, but more importantly, we see Willow and Tara get back together. No matter what parts you have or who you prefer to sleep with, I guarantee your heart warmed to see them move past their troubles. Unfortunately, it would be short-lived.

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17: Seeing Red (Season 6, Episode 19)

Andrew – “I can’t wait to get my hands on his orbs.”

Synopsis: Warren (leader of the Trio) uses a powerful relic to become super-strong and nigh-invulnerable. Buffy, injured from an earlier patrol, just wants to relax and take a bath but Spike, furious with himself and with her, breaks into her bathroom and attempts to rape her. Later, Buffy fights Warren, destroying the relic; Warren escapes, but Jonathan and Andrew (his henchmen/partners) are apprehended. At the end, just as Buffy and Xander reconcile (Xander was quite angry about Buffy sleeping with Spike), Warren surprises them in the backyard and shoots Buffy. One of the shots goes wild, breaking a window and killing Tara.

Notable Guest Stars: No one new, but this is the first and only episode in which we see Amber Benson in the opening credits.

It Made The List Because: I thought the worst thing I would see in this episode is Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy. I was wrong. I finished watching this episode, closed my iPad, and actually found myself near tears. This is what I was talking about in the first part of this retrospective: Joss Whedon makes you care about his characters… and then he kills them. Also, Spike leaves for his journey of redemption, which leads to an important story arc in the next season. But still… Tara, man… *shakes head*

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16: Showtime (Season 7, Episode 11)

Kennedy – “How’s evil taste?”
Willow – “A little chalky.”

Synopsis: The Potential Slayers are feeling pretty down because the uber-vampire Turok-Han is taking them down with ease. Buffy realizes that she has to do something about this, so she arranges a fight where all the Potentials can see her defeat it, one-on-one. Also, we learn that Buffy’s resurrection made it possible for the First to carry out its plan, and in the end, Buffy rescues Spike from the First, who had been using the Turok-Han to torture him.

Notable Guest Stars: Felicia Day as Vi; Iyari Limon as Kennedy, who would go on to become Willow’s lover.

It Made The List Because: There was a hell of a lot of speechifying in season seven, but it was all right, because most of it was good. The episode had Buffy showing the Potentials that they could be powerful enough to win, and it also had Spike’s first major redemptive moment in his reunion with Buffy. It was the end of the first major arc of the season as well.

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15: Restless (Season 4, Episode 22)

Cheese Man – “I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.”

Synopsis: After defeating Adam and the Initiative, the core Scoobies (Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles) take an evening off at Buffy’s house. One by one, their dreams are invaded by the spirit of the First Slayer. The First Slayer kills everyone except Buffy (in their dreams, not in real life), but Buffy defeats her by ignoring her.

Notable Guest Stars: David Wells as the Cheese Man, who I put here because it’s a funny character name; Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder, back from the dead in dream form; George Hertzberg as Adam, seen for the first time without his makeup.

It Made The List Because: “Restless” was unlike any Buffy episode filmed or aired, before or since. There’s an exhaustive write-up of it on Wikipedia. It’s interesting to me that, about a week before I saw this episode, someone in my writing group mentioned it in reference to the use of dreams in fiction. Overall it was a weird, interesting episode, but for more, I’ll leave you to the wiki.

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14: Prophecy Girl (Season 1, Episode 12)

Xander – “You were looking at my neck.”
Angel – “What?”
Xander – “You were checking out my neck. I saw that.”
Angel – “No, I wasn’t.”
Xander – “Just keep your distance, pal.”
Angel – “I wasn’t looking at your neck.”
Xander – “I told you to eat before we left.”

Synopsis: Buffy faces off against The Master, despite the fact that a prophecy has her dying at his hands. Well, it happens; he drinks her blood and throws her face-down into a pool of water where she drowns. Xander brings her back with CPR, and she goes on to kill The Master and end the season.

Notable Guest Stars: No one not already mentioned.

It Made The List Because: Buffy’s death in this episode reinforces Joss Whedon’s predilection for killing main characters, but it also sets up several interesting storylines, most notably those of Kendra and Faith.

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13: After Life (Season 6, Episode 3)

Buffy – “I was happy. Wherever I was … I was happy …at peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time…didn’t mean anything. Nothing had form. But I was still me, you know? And I was warm. And I was loved. And I was finished. Complete. I … I don’t understand theology or dimensions, any of it really… but I think I was in heaven. And now I’m not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out, by my friends. Everything here is hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch. This is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that. Knowing what I’ve lost.”

Synopsis: In the previous two-parter, Buffy was resurrected after sacrificing herself in the Season Five finale to save her sister. Now she’s trying to get back to normal. Unfortunately, a demon followed her back from wherever she was, using Willow’s magic as a guide; Willow and Tara use magic to make it solid, and Buffy kills it. At the end of the episode, Buffy tells Spike that she was in heaven, not hell.

Notable Guest Stars: Amber Benson as Tara, although really she doesn’t count because she was more or less a regular by this point.

It Made The List Because: Glory, season five’s Big Bad, came from a Hell Dimension. The rift she was trying to open with the key (Dawn) should have led back to it, right? Well, not so much. This episode begins Willow’s downfall into magic addiction by showing the consequences of her actions and her selfishness (wanting Buffy back despite her friend having nobly sacrificed herself) and also strengthens the relationship between Spike and Buffy.

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12: Halloween (Season 2, Episode 6)

Buffy – “A demon! A demon!”
Willow – “It’s not a demon, it’s a car.”
Buffy – “What does it want?”

Synopsis: Giles’s old frenemy Ethan Rayne comes to Sunnydale and uses a chaos spell to make everyone turn into what their costumes portray. Willow is a ghost, Buffy is an 18th-century noblewoman, and Xander is a soldier. Xander protects Buffy while Willow and Giles take on Ethan, eventually defeating him. Also, Oz is seen around town being interested in Willow.

Notable Guest Stars: Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne.

It Made The List Because: This is the episode that launched hundreds of thousands of fanfics. Just go to any fanfic site, find the Buffy section, and search for YAHF. Also, it helped to set up the long-term courtship of Willow by Oz, which would eventually lead to Seth Green getting into the opening credits. So, y’know, good for him. Finally, by having been a soldier in his costume, Xander retains much of the knowledge the chaos spell gave him, which comes in handy later.

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11: Surprise/Innocence (two-parter, Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14)

Angel – “Still, not every dream you have comes true. I mean, what else did you dream last night? Can you remember?”
Buffy – “I dreamt… I dreamt that Giles and I opened an office supply warehouse in Vegas.”
Angel – “See my point?”

Synopsis (“Surprise”): Spike and company are attempting to bring forth a demon called Judge to defeat Buffy. With the help of computer teacher Jenny Calendar (Giles’s love interest), Buffy figures out what’s going on. However, she’s unable to stop the rise of Judge. Later, she and Angel consummate their relationship — Buffy’s first time. That night, as Buffy sleeps, Angel wakes and runs, screaming…

Cordelia – “So does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?”
Xander – “I’m 17. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.”

Synopsis (“Innocence”): …and loses his soul, the thing that made him a good vampire instead of an evil one. He joins up with Spike and company, taking over as the season’s Big Bad, and begins terrorizing Buffy, who is pretty torn up over the whole thing. Somehow, in the middle of this, Oz and Willow begin their relationship. Anyway, Buffy uses a rocket launcher to kill Judge, then fights Angel (now Angelus) but doesn’t kill him. Buffy admits her mistakes to Giles, who forgives her because she loved Angel and he her.

Notable Guest Stars: Brian Thompson as Judge; Vincent Schiavelli as Uncle Enios; Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar.

It Made The List Because: For many people, losing one’s virginity is a watershed event that occurs in the high school years. It’s fraught with mystery, worry, and afterward, a profound sense of relief*. Buffy is clearly not the type of girl who sleeps around, as is referenced many times through the series (and the one time she does, she faces real-world consequences that any person might); she chose to be with Angel because she loves him, which is a good message: that intimacy with someone you love should not be avoided. Unless that person you love is an evil vampire who killed countless people before he was stopped. The episode shows just how much more evil than Spike Angel actually can be, which is quite powerful. And hey, they killed a demon with a rocket launcher. That was pretty darn cool.

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The final part of the retrospective will hit my top ten Buffy episodes. Until then… “goodbye, Picadilly; farewell Leicester bloody Square.”

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Note to Parents: Although BtVS is only rated TV-PG at its “worst”, the show does contain violence, sexual situations, adult language, and intense action and emotional sequences. I’d say it’s safe for middle-schoolers on up. Of course, you should use your own discretion when it comes to your children.

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* Or maybe that was just me.

Soundtrack Review: “Once More, With Feeling”

This review contains spoilers for the Buffy: the Vampire Slayer television series.

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If you follow me on Twitter (@listener42), then you know I use the app GetGlue to play a FourSquare-like game with the media I consume. And, for the last six months or so, you’ve observed many quotes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as I finally got around to watching a series my college friends told me was something I should see.

This isn’t a review of the show — I’ve saved that for the 15th-anniversary retrospective that’s being posted this week. Instead, it’s a review of the soundtrack to the musical episode “Once More, With Feeling”, which I received last month and loaded onto my phone.

Yesterday*, I was having kind of a bad day, and I had a long drive ahead of me. So I figured I’d put on some music that had good associations. See, I really liked the Buffy series, and “Once More, With Feeling” was a really good episode — on Facebook, my friend Dave said, “to this day I consider this to be the greatest single episode of a series I’ve ever seen”, and while I’m sure I’ve seen great single episodes before, I can’t think of anything at the moment to contradict his statement. And, according to the episode’s Wikipedia page, the critics tend to agree.

I think the soundtrack works best if you have fond memories of the show, or were significantly affected by it. For me, one of the most emotional arcs of the show was Willow and Tara’s relationship — beginning with the episode she chooses Tara over Oz, and ending with Tara’s accidental death at the hands of Warren Mears. I was particularly moved in the episode following Tara’s death, “Villains”, when Willow invokes the god of death to try and undo what was done to the person she loves. Tara’s death occurred after she reconciled with Willow following a breakup, and that breakup happened shortly after “Once More, With Feeling”. (Trust me, all of this will be relevant in a paragraph or so.)

Emma Caulfield (Anya)

So, in the beginning, I got a few laughs out of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s opening number, “Going Through The Motions”, and I actually thought I’d have a nice Saturday afternoon drive. Although Gellar’s voice occasionally sounded thin, I remember being surprised at how good she did with the song — which explained how empty she felt about her life after being resurrected in the beginning of the season**. “Motions” was followed by a medley featuring solos by Anthony Head (Giles) and Emma Caulfield (Anya), and again I found myself laughing along with Caulfield’s rock anthem about her dislike of rabbits.

Bunnies aren’t just cute like everyone supposes.
They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses,
And what’s with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?

I guess you had to be there.

The third track was equally amusing — “The Mustard” — which is a 19-second declaration that the dry-cleaner got the mustard out of producer David Fury’s shirt.

Amber Benson (Tara) and Alyson Hannigan (Willow)

And then things took a turn for the sad, because Amber Benson (Tara) began her first solo, “Under Your Spell”. The song is actually pretty happy on the surface, and if you haven’t seen the episode, you may not know that, just before it, Willow and Tara argued about Willow’s increasing usage of (and dependence upon) magic. Benson has a beautiful voice — an unexpected joy, given her character’s soft-spoken manner — and she spends several minutes serenading Willow. She ends with a verse that could be considered a little dirty, but is still kind of sweet:

The moon to the tide
I can feel you inside
I’m under your spell
Surging like the sea
Wanting you so helplessly
I break with every swell
Lost in ecstasy
Spread beneath my willow tree

Because of what happens through the rest of Season Six — the fight, the reconciliation, the death — I found my throat getting a little tight*** as I listened to the song, and I think that set the mood for the rest of the album.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander) and Caulfield

On the heels of that song comes the duet “I’ll Never Tell”, where Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Anya sing to each other about the things that niggle at their seemingly-perfect relationship. It’s a hilarious song which, among other things, rhymes the words “Scoobies” and “rubies” with the words “tight embrace”. Brendon isn’t the best singer in the group (by a long-shot), but Caulfield carries the song for him, and anyway it’s more about his lyrics than his abilities.

X: Is she looking for a pot of gold?
A: Will I look good when I’ve gotten old?
X: Will our lives become too stressful / if I’m never that successful?
A: When I get so worn and wrinkly / that I look like David Brinkley?

One more interlude follows that song — producer Marti Noxon lamenting “The Parking Ticket” she receives — before things get serious. There’s a great scene with Spike where he fights the urge to sing and dance before being forced to succumb — “Rest in Peace”, in which Marsters channels the rock gods of the 70s and 80s while still sounding like a small-theater performer. He’s not an amateur, but he’s no Anthony Head.

Hinton Battle (Sweet)

We move on next to “Dawn’s Lament” and “Dawn’s Ballet” — Michelle Trachtenberg, trained as a dancer, has a very thin soprano voice, but she dances her feelings instead. The Dawn songs are followed by “What You Feel”, where Tony Award-winning guest star Hinton Battle explains that he’s going to be taking Dawn back to Hell to be his bride, and that he’s the one who’s been making people sing and dance.

Next, we go back to the Scoobies: Anthony Head (Giles), who is a rather talented musician and singer, doesn’t seem to hit his full potential in “Standing”, although he definitely excels in his duet with Benson (“Under Your Spell/Standing — Reprise”). Again, Whedon’s writing to this point in the series strengthens the emotional connection viewers (and listeners) feel with the song: Giles is going to leave Sunnydale because he feels he’s standing in Buffy’s way, and Tara is going to leave Willow because she’s been lying about her addiction to magic usage****.

The next song, “Walk Through The Fire”, is an ensemble/”get ready to fight the villain” montage number, led by Gellar (again her voice is a little thin and her singing feels flat — although she’s supposed to feel unemotional so I guess it was a character choice). Eventually everyone joins in, and Hannigan receives the line of the day with “I think this line is mostly filler” — I wonder how long it took Whedon to come up with that. It’s followed by the most plot-filled song of the episode, “Something to Sing About”, when Buffy reveals to everyone (except Spike, who she already told) that, when Willow resurrected her from the dead, she pulled her out of heaven.

There was no pain,
No fear, no doubt
Till they pulled me out
Of heaven.

So that’s my refrain.
I live in hell
‘Cause I’ve been expelled
From heaven.
I think I was in heaven.

So give me something to sing about.
Please give me something.

Spike, who over the past twenty or so episodes has been getting closer to admitting (to himself and to others) his feelings for Buffy, saves her from dancing herself to death, and then Xander admits that he summoned Sweet (the demon played by Hinton Battle) because he wanted to know if he and Anya would have a happy life together. Sweet reprises “What You Feel” and then disappears.

James Marsters (Spike) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy)

The episode ends with “Where Do We Go From Here?”, a final ensemble where everyone sings about the way their relationships have changed, and closes with “Coda”, where Spike and Buffy kiss for the first time.

Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?
The battle’s done
And we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer
Where do we go from here?

Though the episode itself was excellent, the soundtrack was more effective (in my case) because of the emotional associations with the material. Fans of Buffy will definitely enjoy listening to this, although casual watchers may not get the same level of appreciation. As far as the material itself, the songs are arranged and ordered in such a way that the weaker offerings are interspersed with the stronger. If we could’ve had Benson knock it out of the park with the opening, I think that might have worked a little better, but it wouldn’t have been germane to the primary plot — that Buffy feels nothing since leaving heaven and can’t admit it to anyone except Spike, who she’s supposed to hate (but doesn’t, not really) — I can understand why Whedon didn’t go that route. Still, if for no other reason than to hear “Under Your Spell”, “Under Your Spell/Standing — Reprise”, and “Walk Through The Fire”, I am definitely keeping this soundtrack on my phone. I might get a little teary-eyed driving to work someday soon as a result, but you know what? I don’t care.

Because I am drawn to the fire. Apparently, some people will never learn.

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Note to Parents: I’d rate this soundtrack a very light PG for mild language (mostly “hell”) and thematic elements (death and sex). Of course, you should use your own discretion when it comes to your children.

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* February 4. I’m writing this on the 5th.

** At the end of Season 5, Buffy sacrificed herself to save her sister, jumping to her death to destroy a portal to a Hell Dimension.

*** Okay, a LOT tight.

**** I realize that pretty much every TV show has to have a character addicted to some kind of drug or behavior — alcohol, gambling, sex, painkillers, whatever — but I never really liked the “Willow’s addicted to magic” storyline. It seemed a bit forced in there just to give us some additional tension. The tension was necessary — up until the last quarter of the season, The Trio wasn’t really that great of a Big Bad in terms of villainy — but I almost wish we could’ve had something else (besides Dawn’s kleptomaniacal cry for help, which also was pretty annoying).

Portrait of a Slayer at Fifteen: the 15th Anniversary Buffy Retrospective (part 1 of 3)

This is part one of a three-part fifteenth-anniversary retrospective of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It contains spoilers for the entire run of the show.

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Fifteen years ago this week, television as we know it was changed forever by…

Okay. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t “change television as we know it”. At least, not in the beginning.

In 1992, the filmed version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was released to a fair, but not great, reception (it only has a 32 percent rating on the Tomatometer). That was twenty years ago. About five years later, give or take, screenwriter Joss Whedon’s televised incarnation of Buffy Summers launched on the WB Network (now the CW). Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the title character, and also featuring Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, and Anthony Stewart Head, the show quickly gained popularity among… well, honestly, I don’t know who it was popular with, except to say that my college friends were really into it, going so far as to organize little viewing parties in the Honors Lounge. They invited me every time, but I declined.

Last year, for lack of anything better to do on my lunch breaks, I decided to see what this Buffy thing was all about.

And I was hooked.

Okay, not at first — every show has its growing pains in the first ten or so episodes — but the show quickly gained momentum thanks mostly to Joss Whedon’s writing talent and the way he oversaw the show. He didn’t write every episode, but as the showrunner he had control over the main story arcs, and he most definitely did not disappoint.

Buffy ran for seven seasons — six and a half, actually, since the first season was only twelve episodes — and launched a five-season spin-off (Angel). It’s one of the most fanfic-laden intellectual properties out there (trust me; I looked), and even now the story still continues in an official, canon sense with Whedon overseeing the Buffy comic book series.

How was Buffy different from other vampire stories? For starters, it wasn’t really, when it came to the vampires: they can be killed by sunlight and stakes through the heart; silver and crucifixes hurt them; they drink blood; they make more of themselves by having humans drink their blood; they’re faster and stronger than normal humans. But Buffy took it a step further, actually explaining how a vampire is made: when a person is killed by a vampire, their soul moves on to the next world and a demon takes up residence in the person’s body. Apparently all of these demons know martial arts, too, because right when they come out of the grave they’re pretty good fighters.

So some folks many thousands of years ago imbued mystical powers into a girl — the Slayer — who was called upon to fight vampires (and anything else that falls into the general category of “evil”). She, like the vampires, is faster and stronger than normal people, and heals faster, too. She’s supported by a Watcher, a human member of a secret society whose job it is to keep an eye on “potentials”* — girls who might become the next Slayer after the current one is killed. They die young; fighting evil does that to you. The Slayer fights alone, one girl against the forces of darkness.

The stars of Buffy Season 1: Nicholas Brendon (Xander), Anthony Head (Giles), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia), Alyson Hannigan (Willow)

But Buffy said no to that. She has friends — Willow, a geek who becomes a witch; Xander, a nice guy with a crush on Buffy; and even Cordelia, the queen of the popular kids who can always be counted on to say the wrong thing. And she falls in love with a vampire — again, nothing new here, but unlike a lot of other vampire fiction of the time, said vampire has renounced his old ways and is trying to help in the fight against evil.

And that’s where the strength of the show really is: not “Buffy kills a lot of vampires using ninja moves and wooden stakes”, but the interpersonal relationships between the characters. It means a lot more to viewers when they care about the people they’re watching. Will Buffy’s mom ever find out about the slaying? How will she react? What will Willow do when she realizes her boyfriend is a werewolf? Is Xander’s home life really so bad that he’d rather fight evil than see his parents? And what’s behind that well-constructed British facade Giles shows the rest of the world?

Whedon didn’t just do this with his heroes, either; even the villains got their due — Spike, the Big Bad of season two, is forced to make hard choices when Angel turns evil; the Mayor of Sunnydale, a relentless pragmatist, truly loves Faith, who knows he’s evil but loves him right back; even the Trio, the villains of season six, have their redeeming qualities despite their leader murdering one of the show’s most beloved characters.

Joss Whedon, the man who gave us Buffy, Angel, Echo, Captain Tightpants, and so much more.

It’s that — not the vampires, not the demons, not the pretty girls or the handsome guys — that made Buffy the Vampire Slayer worth watching all those years. We watched to see how Buffy would save Angel, how Spike would be redeemed, how Riley would escape Adam, how Dawn would react when Glory threatened to kill her… and yes, how Buffy would defeat the most evil thing to ever be born of humanity’s desire to do bad. Through it all, we cared about these characters, from the stars of the show to the villains — reformed and not — and even as far as the occasional comic relief**. In the Whedonverse, every character matters, and that’s what makes the show special.

March 10, 1997: the day that changed television for a lot of people. And continues to draw in new viewers all the time. The fashions may not hold up; the slang and pop-culture references might be dated; the effects in the early seasons are definitely iffy. But the storytelling will make this show worth watching even twenty, thirty, or fifty years later.

I’d stake a vampire on it.

I found this on the internet and thought it was apropos.

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Parts Two and Three will cover the top 25 Buffy episodes.

Note to Parents: Although BtVS is only rated TV-PG at its “worst”, the show does contain violence, sexual situations, adult language, and intense action and emotional sequences. I’d say it’s safe for middle-schoolers on up. Of course, you should use your own discretion when it comes to your children.

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* I just realized I used this same idea in a story I recently wrote — although mine was about Santa Claus, not vampires. So, Joss, if you’re reading this… please don’t sue me.

** Come on, now; who didn’t just adore Clem?