It took me six years to finish Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nearly a decade after it has been on the air, and now that I’m finally through it all I can’t shut up about it. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers have all fallen victim to my renditions of “Once More With Feeling” (among other related topics). Slowly, I am publishing my thoughts on the series. Other topics covered so far include: The Beginning.
In the spirit of this-is-my-favorite-show-in-the-world-right-now, one of the truely great things about it is the consistent balance of fun and funny hilarity to actual and serious matters that can be harder to talk about. Buffy manages to give us things like adults acting like teenagers (“Band Candy”), invisibility rays (“Gone”), and spells gone hysterically wrong (“Something Blue”, “Tabula Rasa”) in the same space as issues like death, depression, and addiction.
Fun: Body swaping witches (“Witch”), a giant praying mantis (“Teacher’s Pet”), students turning to hyenas (“The Pack”), and a ventriloquist dummy that’s able to talk on it’s own (“The Puppet Show”). Granted, most of this is also terrifying in it’s own way, but hey, it’s hard to imagine any of these things causing the end of the world.
Serious: All three seasons of the High School years come with something that is quite common of high school: trying to fit in. The Scoobies are just trying to figure out their identity in the world. Buffy’s identity is seemingly chosen for her, Willow begins experimenting with magic, and there are relationships all around that are trying to determine how the world works.
Fun: Spike and Drusilla. Spike and Drusilla are a vampire couple that are at the same time haunting and hysterical. Drusilla in particular is certifiably crazy in a way that is wonderful to watch. Spike starts out as a serious threat (he later turns into something else entirely, but we’ll get to that). Together they are season two’s big bad, which I guess might put them under the serious coulum.
Serious: Consequences. Mid season two Buffy and Angel sleep together which triggers the curse that gave Angel his soul and takes it away again. This turns Angel back into Angelus, the vampire he used to be. Talk about some serious consequences for pre-marital sex. The season cumulates in Buffy having to kill Angel, sending him through a portal to hell.
Fun: “Band Candy”. I love this episode too much to not include it (note, it may be mentioned in every Buffy post ever). What’s not to love about a bunch of parents and teachers acting like teenagers. Giles turns into his rebel teenage self and seduces Buffy’s mom, Joyce. Awesome.
Serious: Relationships in season three get a little wonky. Xander and Cordelia have been dating, as have Willow and Oz. When Xander and Willow have a bit of a thing, it ruins one relationship, and puts the other on eggshells.
Fun: Anya, a vengence demon, creates a parallel universe where the town has been taken over by vampires turning some of our favorite characters into vampires. Vampire!Willow anyone?
Serious: Faith, a party happy second slayer turns on the group and joins the mayor who is attempting to become a demon of some sort by devouring the town. This of course has to happen during the Sunnydale High School graduation ceremony which our heros were supposed to be the stars of. Well, at least they get to blow up the library.
Fun: Anya joins the gang as Xander’s girlfriend. As a now-former vengeance demon Anya doesn’t exactly understand or follow social norms. She is greedy and blunt, hysterically so. She also has an irrational fear of bunnies which is brought up possibly too often.
Serious: Relationships again. Buffy takes a stab at a normal relationship. Riley is a TA for one of her classes and is secretly a member of a covert ops group under the cover of a fraternity. The Initiative is… military. Meanwhile Oz leaves Willow, and a friendship with a fellow Wiccan turns into romance. Xander proposes to Anya, then leaves her at the alter in season six.
Fun: “Something Blue”. While Willow is morning her relationship with Oz, she casts a spell to make her will be done. This has hysterical effects on her friends when she accidentally wills Giles blind, Xander into a demon magnet, and Spike (did I mention that Spike is one of the gang now?) to propose to Buffy. Awesome.
Serious: Dawn shows up as Buffy’s sister which throws some of the relationships off balance. How is it that everyone remembers her, but she didn’t exist until she was created at the beginning of season five? Dawn, goes through the same identity-finding problems that the Scoobies went though in high school, with the added drama of the fact that she only just started to exist. At the end of the season Buffy scarifies herself for Dawn, dying in place of her sister.
Fun: Spike and Harmony. Spike is now incapable of violence even when he does sort of want to kill Harmony. Harmony is a former classmate of the Scooby Gang turned into the most human (and annoying) vampire you’ve ever seen. (ETA: and this was before I even knew she would be coming back in Angel.)
Serious: “The Body”. This episode is serious is subject matter and in tone. Joyce, who has been sick for most of the season dies in this episode which features awkward silence where music would normally diffuse tension. All the characters are faced with this unexpected death (Joyce was recovering) and have to find a way to deal with it.
Fun: The Trio. The ‘big bad’ of season six is a trio of nerds who are out to destroy the universe. Where as in most seasons the big bad is to be taken seriously, these guys are comic relief to the multitude of not-so-nice things that are happening throughout the season. The trio’s shining moments include a freeze ray (“Smashed”) and an invisibility ray (“Gone”).
Serious: After Buffy sacrifices herself in the season five finale, her friends resurrect her. She sinks into a horrid depression, eventually revealing that Willow, Tara, and Xander pulled her back from heaven. Buffy now has to figure out how to deal with the real world which includes being the caretaker for her sister Dawn, and getting a job to pay the bills now that she is the sole provider.
Fun: “Once More, With Feeling” While this episode does deal with some pretty heavy things (Anya and Xander’s fears for their upcoming marriage, Buffy’s depression, and two character’s plans to leave the group), it couldn’t be dealt with in a more fun way. A demon comes and puts a spell on everyone so that the whole town starts singing their true feelings.
Serious: Addiction. Willow becomes addicted to magic. She tries to use it to solve every problem that she comes across, even erasing Tara’s memory so that they don’t fight anymore. This eventually leads to a blow up where she turns into a character that has been referred to as Dark Willow to try and get revenge. Of course, she then tries her hand at causing an apocalypse.
Fun: Dawn goes to the newly renovated Sunnydale High School. There is a feeling of returning to the shows beginnings as Buffy is hired as a school guidence councelor.
Serious: The first. The big bad in season seven is the first evil. Supposedly, this is the thing that all darkness has spawned from. It’s a non-corporal being that can take the form of any dead person it wants. Just for kicks, this includes vampires (who are technically dead), and Buffy (who, to be fair, has now died twice).
Fun: All the potential slayers come to live with Buffy in their house. It turns into a season long sleepover party. Andrew, a former member of the trio, is now their hostage and is intent on documenting the event for the future. If there even is a future.
Serious: The end of the world. Again. But this time everybody knows about it causing a mass exodus from Sunnydale. And then they blow up the entire town. Well. Spike blows up the entire town. Oh. Spike. This is the point where I curl up into a ball and start sobbing because Spike died (yes, I know, Angel, but still).
What is your favorite fun or serious episode of Buffy? Character? Story line? Inquiring minds want to know.
This week in Whedon Wednesday: Eulogy for Angel.
Next in my Buffy rants, ‘Ships.