Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Part 4 Spoiler Forum

Nikki’s Spoilery bits:
• Buffy’s biggest nightmare is that she’d be stuck in a coffin alive and will have to claw her way out… a nightmare that, unfortunately, comes true in “Bargaining.”
• Similarly, Giles’ nightmare will come true in “The Gift.”
• Xander says in “Out of Mind” that his mom is making her special call for Chinese… there’s much insinuation later in the series that Xander’s home life was rather hellish at this time, but that he kept it hidden. His mom calling for takeout didn’t seem like a major deal at the time, but in retrospect, you wonder if that’s because she didn’t care enough to actually prepare dinner… or that she was drinking or something. We know his father’s an abusive alcoholic, but what of the mother?
• In “Prophecy Girl,” Angel tells Xander that he has no breath, but later we’ll see Spike smoking. I’m pretty sure he’s asked about it at one point and says that vampires simply choose to breathe. Which means Angel could have had breath if he wanted it. A suggestion that perhaps Angel didn’t actually want to save Buffy in this scene? I vote no; I think it was simply a plot point that wasn’t fully thought out, and it was important that Xander be the hero who saves her life here. In season 2 and onwards, Xander’s hatred toward Angel is apparent (and leads to the shocking moment in Becoming when his lie causes Buffy to send Angel to hell) and this gives him more fodder to use against him. Not only is he way older than Buffy, and undead, but when it comes down to it, he can’t save Buffy – only Xander can.

OK, now, as promised, the complete David Kociemba essay!

I first met Nikki at the third Slayage conference and we spent some time sitting on a veranda chatting away with one of the liveliest band of conference-goers you ever did meet. Nikki met my fiancée, Kristen, at the last Slayage in Florida, just before her verbal duel with Matthew Pateman. (And, since he is such a good sport about the ribbing he gets from Nikki (I have NO idea what David's referring to here. —Nik), I want to thank him again for his patience in editing my piece on the opening title sequences of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was a writer lost in the woods, but he let me find myself.) I’m flattered that Nikki likes my writing on the effect of spoilers on readers and I’m eager to delve into her books on Lost before I propose a course on that series for next year.

I teach a seminar on Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Emerson College, along with other courses on media history, digital cultures, fandom and the representation of disability. I’m also the editor of Watcher Junior, a peer-reviewed online journal for undergraduate scholarship on the Whedonverses. (Take a look at the article on Restless or the one on the many faces of Buffy. They’re amazing.) The sixth issue is coming out this winter and we’re currently accepting submissions on Whedon's work outside the Buffyverse. We welcome completed essays and research papers that exhibit familiarity with previously published scholarship in Whedon Studies.

Right now, we’re doing a fascinating study of today’s fans of Joss Whedon, asking them what values are represented in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You can find the initial survey here, the survey results summarized here, and the beginning of the summary of the comments here. We can’t wait to do the same survey on each of Whedon’s works.

Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer…
The first guest blogger, David Lavery, mentioned that when he encourages people to skip the first season when he introduces people to the wonders of this novelistic television series. I have a great deal of sympathy for his approach. The series tends to face a triple whammy of media prejudice: fantasy is a low culture genre, a lot of people look at melodrama as failed realism and it can be hard not to prejudge the series as Dawson’s Creek with fangs. Twelve episodes is a long time for people to expect people to have faith in a new series. (The fact that Buffy’s outfits seem to be designed to show off her bra is a fourth whammy.) That’s why I’ve taken to showing its best episode to introduce the series, “The Body”, from its fifth season. It’s surprisingly accessible to new viewers.

This will definitely be one of the more spoilerriffic of the early rewatches. I’ll start us off with a very brief look at the first season as a thematic foundation for the series. My reading of “Nightmares” and “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” should have so much whited-out that it will read like experimental poetry to any spoiler virgins in the audience. It’s necessary to delve into narrative construction, however, because, as Roz Kaveney put it, the series’ use of intricate foreshadowing “indicated a real commitment to, and respect for, the intelligence of its viewers.”

The Essential Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The first season was Joss Whedon’s one chance to tell the essential story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Indeed, he anticipated that few people would even watch the midseason replacement series with the cult title on the two-year-old network, let alone expect it would get some of the WB’s top ratings. So what parts are essential to Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Jesse shows us that vampires are sexual predators through his interactions with Cordelia, even more than Darla does. But why taking back the night is foundational, Xander’s interactions with his friend shows that these predators are simultaneously victims, an understanding he comes to long before Buffy will, even if his jealousy and anger prevent him from applying it to other vampires. “The Pack” shows us that cruel humor that inflicts emotional trauma is an essential trait of a great villain, which definitely becomes central characterization techniques in seasons two and three. The bedrock themes of the series reveal themselves in these early episodes: the just use of power; re-imagining families through the biological, vampiric and friendship models; and teaching men new ways of seeing women through Xander. We also see that while the creativity of linguistic playfulness is an essential heroic trait, so is the inability to perform on stage or to pretend to be someone you’re not. And, with Jesse and Principal Flutie, Whedon learned that killing seemingly essential characters increases suspense by undermining the audience’s assumption that everyone will make it out alive and unharmed.

Given these expectations, should we watch the first season with long-term narrative construction in mind? Whedon and his fellow writers knew the overall arc of a season prior to its start. They planned some character deaths as much as two years in advance. But Whedon left room to react to unexpected developments on set. According to Nikki, Robia LaMorte’s chemistry with Anthony Stewart Head upset the initial plan to have Jenny Calendar appear only in “I, Robot… You Jane”. Whedon similarly responded to Julie Benz’ quality performance, upgrading her role during season one. The writers also responded to unexpected developments in their own writing, such as deciding on Calendar’s true identity during the second season. And, of course, fans of the series can’t watch Alyson Hannigan’s performance without looking for clues that Willow is gay. Writer Jane Espenson recalls the first time that plot development was foreshadowed, “In “Doppelgangland”, [Willow] notices that her vampire self is ‘kinda gay.’ When we started plotting the Tara arc in Season Four, Joss said, ‘Were we planning this back then?’ And even he didn’t know for sure…. Some of [the foreshadowing] is conscious and some of it is not conscious, but it is clearly there anyway.”

Such retroactive continuity is an inherent feature of creating complex narratives in a serial format. Rhonda Wilcox observes that these moments are not simply about the momentum a narrative develops as it is created, writing, “… it is possible that the early versions of a pattern are purposeful foreshadowing; it is also possible that they are preliminary explorations or first inklings of an idea which the writers will choose to develop more fully later. Retroactive continuity allows for the effect of foreshadowing…”. For her, these processes are one way that complex narratives develop “…the wonderful quality of much great literature, of seeming both surprising and inevitable.”

“With nudity, it’s a total nightmare!”
“Nightmares” is the first season’s version of two fourth season episodes, “Restless” and “Fear, Itself”. Or, as Giles puts it, “Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this.” It’s not quite a dream episode like “Restless”, as the characters manifest their darkest fears as the nightmare of a kid in a coma expands to encompass them. Facing fears is an essential part of all three episodes, however. Each character’s fears are revisited later in the series.

There are a few comic moments from these two episodes that take on some significance during the series’ high school years:

In “Nightmares”, Cordelia fears having bad hair, worse fashion and being dragged off to join the chess club against her will. (Note how Hannigan smiles during Willow’s reaction shot to this event.) Cordelia experiences exactly that kind of downward mobility once she starts dating Xander in the second season.

The gas leak that almost kills Giles, Xander and Willow in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” becomes the comically flimsy excuse Giles uses to explain the memory loss and strange behavior of dozens of Sunnydale citizens in “Bad Eggs” in season two.

Willow asks if Xander’s parents even have a stove, setting up Xander’s Xmas Eve outdoor vigils waiting out his parents’ holiday fights in “Amends” and whose terrible marriage has the more serious effect of fatally undermining his wavering confidence in his relationship with Anya in season six. (The first Slayer takes on the shape of Xander’s father to rip his heart out in the season four dream episode, “Restless”.)

At the end of “Nightmares”, this thematically ripe exchange occurs, Xander confesses to Willow that he found the vampire version of Buffy attractive, saying, “I’m sick. I need help.” Xander’s experience with desiring a vampire, even temporarily, makes his hostility and revulsion to Buffy’s relationships with Angel and especially Spike more complicated.

Earlier in that same episode, Xander finds himself stripped to his boxers in front of the class. The writers love taking advantage of the fact that Nicholas Brendan (who plays Xander) is “way too hunky” to be a nerd, as Joss Whedon put it. He’s stripped to the waist in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” and is dripping wet and in a Speedo in “Go Fish” during the second season.

Xander faces off against the clown of his sixth birthday party. Punching Bozo out, he slams the clown’s act, saying, “You are a lousy clown! Your balloon animals are pathetic! Everyone can make a giraffe!” Xander loses the coveted Sunnydale High Class Clown award to a prop comic wearing a balloon hat. (His fear of being ignored in “Fear, Itself”, even by his friends, perhaps also references that crushing defeat.) More seriously, Xander spends much of the fourth and fifth seasons worrying that he’s a buffoon, not a grown man. Xander’s the first one to face down his nightmarish tormenter in “Nightmares”. One could argue that he’s the first to face the fears revealed in “Restless” as well. Giles never does develop a fulfilling personal life. Willow’s performance anxiety haunts her “Restless” dream and suggests the underlying psychological issues that produce her murderous, suicidal grief at the end of season six. Buffy… well, she has so many justified fears. Xander recognizes his fear of failure while lying in bed with Anya two episodes prior to the dream episode and he’s found a steady construction gig that pays enough for him to afford a new apartment just three episodes into the fifth season. (Note: “Nightmares” does not feature a fear of commitment!)

Giles fears getting lost in the stacks and being unable to read. Willow causes him to go blind in the fourth season episode, “Something Blue”. His dream in “Restless” features his concern that his work as a Watcher means he’s lost out on a fuller life, symbolized through Olivia and her baby carriage. Lastly, Giles fears that he will fail in his duty to protect Buffy as he kneels by her grave. His speech reveals a father’s love and pride only to be accused of being unfeeling in the next episode. Buffy would die in “Prophecy Girl” (and “The Gift”).

Buffy’s nightmare features many elements that get incorporated into the series. Her fear of failing to perform in combat comes true, as the Master hypnotizes her in their first encounter. She takes a history test utterly unprepared, during which time speeds up. (In season six, the Trio make Buffy experience time as going faster and looping in “Life Serial”, co-written by Jane Espenson, a writer who loves to make these kinds of inter-connections.) In a devastating scene, Buffy’s father blames her for his divorce from Joyce, wants to drop his visitation rights and wishes she’d turned out differently. We never see Hank Summers again outside of flashbacks, as he misses Buffy’s 18th birthday and ends up in Spain with his secretary “living the cliché” by the fifth season. Buffy’s transformed into a vampire in “Nightmares”, which foreshadows both Angel and Dracula drinking from her. In “Nightmares”, she fears that the Master will be released, which he is during “Prophecy Girl”, temporarily. The Master serves as her spirit guide in this nightmare, confirming the mystical and psychological sources of the nightmares. Her dream in “Restless” features only characters that were once antagonists or threatened a key relationship: Anya, Joyce, Tara, Riley and Adam. Yet each provides guidance. (Her fear in “Fear, Itself” is that she will be abandoned by her friends.) Finally, the Master buries her alive in “Nightmares”, which foreshadows Buffy clawing her way out of her grave after Willow’s resurrection spell is interrupted in the sixth season’s premiere. (Indeed, Kristen observed on Watcher Junior’s Twitter feed that the second season premiere, “When She Was Bad” neatly encapsulates seasons six and seven, with Buffy’s imperious leadership style and shell shock.)

“Nightmares” reveals two of Willow’s fears: being judged and being noticed. Willow gets dragged backstage, costumed in a kimono, told by the director that there’s an ugly crowd with lots of reviewers, then thrust onstage next to her irked male lead. She doesn’t know the words and squeaks a single note. There are a few things of interest here. Aldo’s first sung line, loosely translated, is the following: “Child, from whose eyes the witchery is shining, now you are all my own.” Willow would begin her study of witchcraft next season. Second, Willow fled the stage during Buffy, Xander and her reading of a dramatic scene from Oedipus Rex in the prior episode, “Puppet Show”. Third, her dream in “Restless” features an extended expansion on this actor’s nightmare: she’s cast in her drama class’ surreal adaptation of Death of a Salesman having never attended a single class. While she never steps on stage, the backstage chaos here bears startling resemblances to the various acts warming up during “Puppet Show”. Buffy’s casting as a 1920s vamp in Willow’s dream play in “Restless” is a call-back to her being a vampire in “Nightmares”, as is Willow’s question about whether the play is Madame Butterfly, “as I have a whole problem with opera.” Buffy takes the role of the director in “Nightmares” here, cheerfully telling her, “The place is packed. Everybody’s here! Your whole family’s in the front row, and they look really angry.” Finally, just before Willow’s opera debut, Xander finds himself semi-nude in front of the classroom. In the library afterward, Willow remarks, “Everyone staring? I’d hate to have everyone paying attention to me like that.” This fear of being seen by hostile viewers seems grounded in her decade of bullying by Harmony and Cordelia, who critiqued her dress and found her boring in the pilot episodes of the series. The final moments of her dream in “Restless” find her back in that very homespun dress and white tights combo giving a book report before a bored and hostile class.

Despite all of this, Willow seems to have some ambivalence about being noticed. In the third season episode “Gingerbread”, her mother hasn’t noticed Willow’s new haircut and boyfriend over the past few months. Willow complains that Sheila Rosenberg listens to her colleagues more than her daughter, claiming that their last in-depth conversation was about the patriarchal bias on the Mr. Rogers Show. Willow shouts, “I’m not your sidekick!” at Buffy during “Fear, Itself”. In “Two to Go” near the end of season six, Willow would reference this moment, saying that after “six years as a side man… now I get to be the Slayer,” meaning the most powerful one, and perhaps suggesting the one that gets the attention. For both Willow and Xander, attention must be paid, to quote Death of a Salesman. And it was, by the viewers.

“My So-Called Life meets The X-Files”
The revelation of Cordelia’s humanity in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” proves crucial to her character’s evolution in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in Angel. First, her inclusion in the opening title sequences suggests that the creators planned a more complex role for her, as the first ten episodes have her simply a high school society villain. (After all, neither Mark Metcalf, who played the Master, nor its chief love interest, David Boreanaz’ Angel, were listed by name in the opening title sequence.) When she is the “Queen of Mean,” she provides the pleasure of biting sarcasm whose wit indicates her intelligence and social awareness. She’s the first outsider to put it together than Buffy is not what she seems. Whedon makes clear just what a source of power that position can be first, then reveals the costs of holding that power:

Cordelia: Hey! You think I’m never lonely because I’m so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It’s not like any of them really know me. I don’t even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone’s so busy agreeing with me, they don’t hear a word I say.
Buffy: Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?
Cordelia: Well, it beats being alone all by yourself.

In this moment, the meaning of Cordelia’s character changes, as Whedon makes her into a person to be understood. He does something more than the fake progressivism of inverting who is positioned as the social Other to be exiled and mocked. Whedon forces viewers to recognize Cordelia’s humanity. The only requirement to join this club of outsiders is a sincere desire to change. Of course, this is not a Very Special Episode, so Cordelia returns to her old habits once she’s observed hanging with losers by her boyfriend and Harmony. (She would do the same thing in “Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered” once she realized that dating Xander had bumped her off the top of the social pyramid.) Yet, when people are in danger in “Prophecy Girl”, this epically self-involved girl joins the good fight in spectacular fashion. In the second season, she would slowly start to pitch in during non-apocalyptic situations. Unlike Buffy, Angel or Spike, Cordelia opts for a life well lived without the formal second chance offered by special power or responsibility. That may be what makes her redemption even more remarkable than theirs. In the first season, it is Cordelia who shows what Whedon regarded as essential to his story’s theory of redemption, not Angel. Change is hard, it takes work and there’s always the temptation to fall back into old habits. But anyone can do it if Cordelia can. In a way, she’s the first Spike.

“Out of Mind, Out of Sight” features a precursor to the Initiative, our government’s secret attempt to weaponize and control demons in the fourth season. Once Buffy foils Marcie’s plan to maim Cordelia, FBI agents bust in and place Marcie in their custody. Remembering their earlier presence lurking on campus, Buffy intuits that “This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s happened at other schools.” They take Marcie to a schoolroom with others like her, where she’s taught assassination and infiltration techniques. It has glass-enclosed rooms like the Initiative cells. The first season even features its own version of Adam, with Moloch the demon cyborg of “I, Robot… You, Jane”. The idea that the government would be interested in the monstrous is a foundational one, which makes sense given its creator’s history. Joss Whedon script-doctored X-Men, later did the Astonishing X-Men comic and once referred to Buffy the Vampire Slayer as “My So-Called Life meets The X-Files.”

“Out of Mind, Out of Sight” is part of a broader project to keep the mix of the fantastic and the contemporary viable. The series adjusts its narrative logic to compensate as it evolves. In “The Harvest,” Giles explains the pandemic of denial in Sunnydale in this way: “People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can’t.” During the first season, Principal Snyder crackdown on missing persons and spontaneous cheerleader combustion signals that others in the world know and respond to these things. At the end of “School Hard” in the second season, a cop and Principal Snyder feed reporters the usual story for mayhem: gang-related and involving PCP. As Snyder says, “What’d you have in mind? The truth?” (The sinister way they shoot him with light behind his ears gives him a goofy demonic vibe, foreshadowing his villainy.) By the third season, Mayor Wilkins has been behind it all for decades, down to the demon-friendly extensive sewer system. By the fifth season, government black-ops teams fight a covert war against monsters across the globe. In the sixth season, everybody in Sunnydale knows enough that a rampaging Troll God is unusual and disturbing, but it’s hardly worth a town meeting. As Scott Westerfield puts it, “The fantastic leaves its mark on the world.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer presents not simply a trespassed world which snaps back to middle class normality, nor an altered world, with its brand names and increasingly familiar bands performing at the Bronze, “but it is a world that, like ours, can be and is changed, for better or worse, by the actions of the people who live in it,” Westerfield observes. From the earliest moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon strives to maintain the balance between the monstrous and the ordinary with a variety of explanations ranging from the psychological to the political to the conspiratorial. The Initiative is part of Whedon’s Essential Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Anonymous said...

The student heading downstairs before meeting the monster is the first indication that the basement is an evil place. We'll see much more of that later, even when the school is rebuilt.

Buffy's Dad is Almanzo! He was much nicer on Little House. I wonder if Buffy's dream is just her fear, or if that's how Hank really feels, considering what comes later.

The Giles and Angel bonding scene in Out of Mind is very sad, considering what will come in season 2. And even sadder considering the comics.

I don't think the men in black are the Initiative, but the use of special people by the government is an oft used theme. We also see it in Dollhouse, and in Firefly (blue hand men.)

Willow is horrified by the massacre of the students. "The had fun."

So did Dark Willow.

Page48 said...

Clea Duvall appeared in the "Grey's Anatomy" 4th season episode "Where The Wild Things Are" (listed on IMDB as the 73rd of the series), an episode title that it has in common with the 4th season of BtVS (listed as the 75th of the series). That's not a big thing, it's just a thing.

@redeem147: ah yes, "two by two, hands of blue".

I didn't immediately recognize Buffy's Dad. In fact, it wasn't till I checked his real name that I realized who he was.

Unknown said...

Wanted to post this above, since that's where it's addressed, but it seems spoilery to say: I would argue this is not the only "Power Walk" that appears in the series. What about "We Will Walk Through the Fire. . .and Let it Buuuuuu---rn" in OMWF?

SenexMacDonald said...

Figured I would divide up my thoughts by episode. So first up is Nightmares. I find it interesting re. the opening sequence that Buffy looks so much like a young child with her pigtales and all. Or like when it appears that the Master taking control of things, just what Buffy is worried about losing.

Did anyone notice that great transition from the underground ‘lair’ where The Master resides as the camera moves up directly to Sunnydale High - little did we know then that the school, in fact the library itself(!), actually sits on the Hellmouth!

Lots of common themes re. nightmares - last minute tests in
school; the lose of time; wendal’s nightmares about spiders after his
are killed; the ‘monster’ in the dark; being naked in public (especially Xander in class), etc.

Best moments? Cordelia as Rosanne
Rosannadanna!! Xander don’t follow the trail of chocolates! Willow singing - and Allyson doesn’t sing! Haha And especially that Xander doesn’t like clowns - that part was especially written with Redeem147 in mind. Right? Okay, not really.

Buffy crawling out the grave. Her arm reaching up was reminded me of her coming out of the grave at the beginning of season 6.

Did anyone else think that Willow’s mouth looks odd - and not just from the lipstick?

Overall, I feel this episode is starting to move in the right direction and feel for what Buffy will become over the remaining seasons. I would say it is a keeper (or creeper, if you all prefer). :)

Page48 said...

I'm not sure if anyone recently noted the story of SMG's potential return to series TV.

I haven't been swept off my feet by anything she's appeared in since Buffy as she seems to suffer from the same can't-find-decent-work condition that has plagued Jennifer Garner since "Alias" faded to black.

I cringe the second I hear the word "mob", but I'd love for "The Ringer" to amount to something for SMG's sake as well as for those of us who would just like to get re-acquainted with her 8 years after BtVS.

Rebecca T. said...

I am so loving re-watching these. Also, my sis and I just hit S7 and it's amazing the parallels they draw between S1 and S7 - just in the first couple of episodes!


I love that opening silhouette shot of Buffy.

Xander: I'm sorry I'm unruffled by spiders. Now if a bunch of Nazis crawled all over my face...

I <3 Xander.

I love the development of Cordelia even starting here. She's on top of things for class, in the next episode she's asking for extra help on a paper. Even before she joins in to help the scoobies, Joss is already playing with her character and giving hints that there is a LOT more to her than what we see initially.

I love the little exchange between Willow and the opera singer:
My turn?
Mm hm

The "flippant" comments of Willow and Xander right at the end strike such a stark contrast to the ugliness of the rest of the episode.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight:

HARMONY!!!! GAH! That is all.

Giles: You may have to work on listening to people
Buffy: Very funny
Giles: I thought so

Although I enjoyed these two episodes I felt like the "message" was rather heavy handed - kind of like "I Robot, You Jane" - the abusive coach, the girl invisible because no one sees her... it's a good thing there are so many other levels.

David Kociemba said...

I don’t tend to talk about this series and its depictions of social issues, but the issues underlying BtVS’s monsters do have resonance it seems. I remember a conference paper from Slayage 2 that talked about using Buffy to teach American slang in China to elementary school students. A girl, young for her elementary school class, watched “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” This girl, who never spoke in class or even much outside of it, came up to the teacher at the end of the semester. She asked the teacher in that troubled way that kids do when they’re trying to figure out something on their own, about the episode. She asked for confirmation, essentially, of her understanding that the girl in that episode disappeared because no one thought of her. Getting that confirmation, she nodded.

Later, back in the states, the teacher heard word of this student again. It’s a tradition in the foreign language classes to take a name from the culture being studied. The next semester, this quiet young girl had taken the name Buffy. She’d started speaking up for herself in class and outside it, just a bit.

Needless to say, the presenter had the audience in tears by the end of it.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

@Rececca T, have you been watching Angel as well? If not, then you are in for a treat with Harmony.

Alright, I know that someone here has talked about Buffy's wardrobe, and I can't remember who it is, and it may be on one of the other two boards. Sorry I can't give credit where it's due, but here's my beef with all that as well: Regarding Buffy's comment about them not being able to afford the dress...ahem. I am now going to go back and count how many different, expensive looking, coats she's worn in season one alone. And this will continue throughout the series (including the one stolen by Dawn). Ahem.

Efthymia said...

I don't understand why, but every time I have watched BtVS, by the time I got to "Bargaining" I had forgotten that in "Nightmares" being buried alive was one of Buffy's nightmares. I could understand the shock and the horror, because finding yourself buried alive and having to claw your way out is something indescribably horrific even for those who don't have nightmares about it. Poor Buffy... Between that and her speech in "Profecy Girl" about being just a 16-year-old girl, I really felt for her. This is the fourth time I watch the series, and somehow it's the first time Buffy has had this kind of impact to me - ever since my first watch, I always thought Buffy was OK but I loved Willow, Giles and Xander (and a couple of characters yet to appear) a lot more, and I focused more on them.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

When that 3 headed monster with the tenticles came up from under the library and I looked closely at one of the heads, all I could see was Janice from the muppets...

Michael Holland said...

Well written, as always, Mr. Kociemba. And Ms. Stuller as well! I look forward to picking up a copy of ' Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors.'

Having worked in television – a medium I treasure and respect with equal measure – I can tell you shows are most interested in putting out the best episode they can THAT WEEK. Each week. That ‘Buffy’ did so so consistently is a testament to Whedon & Co. So as we delve further into the episodes, especially as in-depth as we are, I particularly like Kociemba’s noting that “retroactive continuity is an inherent feature of creating complex narratives in a serial format” but, also, as he quotes Ms. Wilcox, “they are preliminary explorations or first inklings of an idea which the writers will choose to develop more fully later.” Let’s not forget that we’re indeed watching a serialized show, sometimes pre-planned and sometimes not. The Master’s build from the beginning to his fall at the end of the season is indeed a planned arc. But I think Xander’s line about Willow playing a crush on Buffy pretty close to the chest is just a funny line and not foreshadowing her own arc in later seasons. In other words, sometimes a moment is just a moment – even the great ones – and not the key to a larger treasure.

As Stuller writes so well, “Buffy’s scene as she stands in the doorway and overhears Giles is a tear-jerker, and despite her bravado and toughness to this point, you realize she’s a girl.” And how EXTREMELY essential that is to the show. As we’ll see later in ‘The Wish’ as “other Buffy” is combat-fatigued out, our hero consciously wears her dress and heels into hell. If she’s to die, she’ll do it her way, as the girl inside the hero, with style. What Whedon & Co do consistently better than anyone is keep that balance. “High School is Hell” is the easiest metaphor, of course, but twisting The Hero’s Journey, as Stuller writes so well, is itself a treasure.

And just a quick note on 'Prophecy Girl' if I may, as it has my favourite Buffy/Vampire fight in it, at the beginning, itself beginning with the blank shot of the grass, and she falls into it. The pan across her back as she pulls the stake out. Her flipping up to her feet. The vamp seeing the stake, his smile dropping to fear. And (so sweet) Buffy smiling. ALL IN SLO MO. Great great and simply more of the great.

Sure there are little oddities in it – the use of the theme in the march to the library (here here Nikki, it IS terrible) and the horrible score (which surprises me from Walter Murphy as he’ll go on to do great things on ‘Family Guy’) and the broken desk pointing the large “stake” straight up to the skylight. But you know what? Even irks like these don’t kill the show; not this episode or the series. And THAT’S a testament to great storytelling as well.

Cheers …

SenexMacDonald said...

Sorry, got delayed re. the other 2 eps by sleeping and then work. So I am back... not like Buffy but back none the less.

K - Out of Mind, Out of Sight and Prophesy Girl.

It is late so I will keep this short. Best lines ever!!

"What? So there’s homework now? When did that happen?" Xander… doing research? Not going to last… lol

Willow wearing a Scooby Doo
t-shirt… how ironic? Is that Joss's first demonstration that this group is the Scooby Gang? I doubt it is anything but a coincidence and yet?

Cordy - "You have all these weapons. I was kind of hoping you were in a gang." I laughed out loud at this. In a way, Cordy is correct but just not that type of gang.

Again, Cordy - "You think I want to join that social leper colony?" Ah, time will change that… haha!

Prophecy Girl
Why is Giles not telling Buffy anything? She is the Slayer after all. She should know - and not after he talks to everyone else!

"Nerds are in, they’re still in, right?" Yes, Willow - they truly are, especialy now. You should see what is on television ... LOL

This episodes has a more serious tone than other eps in season 1. Damn, I was so busy watching, I
forgot to write down more stuff!

Haha! The Master - power and fashion sense. Gotta love that!

The CPR looked all wrong but Xander still kisses the girl :)

That last scene - and the gang is complete, with Jenny and Angel foreshadowing what is to come by their presence.

Can't wait to start season 2! Nite...

Page48 said...

Jenny reports to Giles that a baby boy was born last night with his eyes facing inward...at Mercy Hospital.

The Niblet (M. Trachtenberg) spent last season working at Mercy Hospital. Her eyes appeared normal.

Where I live, when there's a stiff breeze in the morning, school is canceled for the day. In Sunnydale, when the school suffers pretty substantial damage in a Master-induced 5.1 earthquake, it's business as usual at Sunnydale High. That's Principal Snyder for ya.

Tom D. said...

Efthymia said: This is the fourth time I watch the series, and somehow it's the first time Buffy has had this kind of impact to me - ever since my first watch, I always thought Buffy was OK but I loved Willow, Giles and Xander (and a couple of characters yet to appear) a lot more, and I focused more on them.

Yeah, for some reason I'm having a similar experience this time. I'm appreciating SMG's performance more, and the details of the way the character is written. The stuff with her dad in Nightmares, especially.

Tom D. said...

Oh, hey, regarding Nikki's ragging on the "power walk" in Prophecy Girl which is supposedly the "last" -- what about that moment in "Fool for Love" and "Darla" where the four vampires are striding through Shanghai after Spike has killed his first slayer? I think I'd call that a power walk.

Tom D. said...

Not only is the dress in "Prophecy Girl" great (everyone likes it) but it gives Joyce a nice moment of triumphant successful mothering, for once, since she picked it out for Buffy and surprised her with it.

Interesting that it's sad-faced Willow who is the catalyst for Buffy's going from the "I'm 16 years old, I don't want to die" state of mind to a point where she's willing to die and only hopes to take the Master with her. That fact alone could have been the source of some serious 'shipping, the first time I watched this show, if I was that type of fan. I mean, Xander's ready to go into the underworld and potentially die because he loves Buffy. And Buffy's ready to do the same thing, and even to face the prophecy of her own death, primarily for the sake of Willow.

Even at the end of Season 1, Joss still really hasn't figured out who Angel is. Angel supposedly loves Buffy so much, but he's a lot less courageous than Xander in actually doing something about it.

(I wonder if Xander ever pointed out to Buffy, off screen, that it was him and not Angel who was the moving force behind both of them going down to the Master's lair to try to save her.)

As we get into Season 2, I'm going to be keeping an eye out for Angel's personality to start to really come into focus and make sense. I don't remember if it ever does or not, prior to his turning into Angelus halfway through the season. I love the TV show Angel, including the main character of that show, but the guy in "Prophecy Girl" doesn't yet seem to come anywhere close to being that guy.

And, it hardly needs to be said, but Buffy's whole "I quit, I don't want to die" speech absolutely stakes me through the heart every time. Still one of the best scenes in the whole series.

Prof P said...

An exceptional account - thanks! The discussion of OOS, OOM was really intriguing. This re-watch not only reminds us of the joy and wonder that is Buffy, but also the amazingly talented group of scholars, bloggers and interested bystanders who can contribute to the public discourse of television's place, purpose and possibilities. Thank you. All.

Anonymous said...

exactly, tom d., the fanged four and their hero walk, in slo-mo and all!
(i woke up in the middle of the night when i remembered it and seriously thought if i should get up and comment about it.)
and what about drusilla in the school hall, before she kills kendra, wasn't she in slo-mo? or is it too anti-heroic?

(admittedly the hero walk is my personal favourite movie cliché, i'd take a good hero walk any time over - for example - a training montage with inspirational power chords.)

David Kociemba said...

TomD: You'll note that it's Willow-in-trouble who calls Buffy to action in the pilot too. Full-circle from season open to close here.

And I've always liked that Angel was a bit unfocused here. Once we get his background, it makes sense that he's struggling to adopt a new, better role, making mistakes, backsliding...

And thanks ProfP, it does mean a lot to read that.

Suzanne said...

Like everyone else, I am really enjoying this rewatch. The guest writers are excellent. It is so much fun to read about Buffy from a scholarly perspective!

I agree with many of the previous comments in that I am appreciating SMG's performance so much more this second time around. She is an excellent actor. The first time I watched it (which was only a little over a year ago), I couldn't get her popular image from the 90's out of my mind (especially her Scooby Do role), so it distracted me a bit. I loved the character of Buffy, but I am not sure I appreciated how well SMG played her. Now, I really see it, and the scene in the library in Prophecy Girl was incredible. Her performance could be stacked up against any of Claire Danes's emotional scenes in My So Called Life (one of Joss's supposed inspirations) favorably, which is a high compliment from me since I loved that show so much.

As for Angel, yes, I haven't felt much for DB's performance either of the times I have watched this series, yet I really grew to love his acting in his own series, Angel, and even in some of the Bones episodes I have watched here and there. I guess he had to mature.

As for the power walk, my husband made fun of it because of the music, but I liked it for some reason. After reading these comments (I have read so many that I can't remember whose it was, sorry), I realize I must have liked it since it signals the start of a new, kick-ass Buffy -- the one that I love.

Jennifer K. Stuller said...

@Michael Holland

Thanks for the lovely compliments! I hope you enjoy "Ink-Stained Amazons."

I do have to admit that the first quote you attribute to me was actually written by Ms. Nikki - though later I do point out how that scene is gut-wrenching.

Unknown said...

Tom and David--OMG, I have never looked at it that way re: Willow--call to action, inspiring our hero, shipping! I have never looked at it through that lens (I guess I'm stuck in my own hetero framework) but I am totally thinking of every single time throughout the series that holds true. What about Weight of the World/The Gift? "it's ok--we'll figure this out. Just don't go catatonic again, ok?" (I'm too lazy to look up the exact quote.) And then the stuff about the Buffy Bot. I always just took that to be crude humor. But. . .I will be on the lookout for that vibe throughout the show. Especially given some of the stuff that happened in Season 8 comics. Wow.

Blam said...

Rebecca: I <3 Xander.

Mia has you mooning now, I see.

I really appreciate the way you referenced threads that are woven throughout Buffy, David — both intentional and unintentional (or perhaps a little of both, in terms of subconsciously laying seeds). You, Jennifer, Matthew, and the other David have added some fascinating dimensions to the kinds of discussion Nikki typically brews among her regulars. [threads... seeds... brews... It's a metaphor clusterfrolic in here!]

Now if only I could get caught up.

VW: tionog — A yuletide brew made for Spanish uncles.