It turns out that there are a lot of shows I’ve wanted to watch for a while but never got around to. I’ve been catching up, though! I recently finished my first-ever watch-through of Babylon 5 (check out my posts on the series) and now I’m already 2 seasons deep into Buffy. This show is… phenomenal. My discussion of the first two seasons follows, and will have SPOILERS for those seasons. Please do not spoil later seasons for me!
Look, no small amount of my love for this show comes from straight-up nostalgia about the 90s. That’s there in oodles. It’s even better because it’s absolutely unintentional. If you grew up in the 90s or have any interest in that decade, you’re going to adore the show just because of that. The “high schoolers” (played by 20+ year olds, of course) wear the most 90s jeans, the most 90s hair, and the most 90s makeup all the time. The slang, the concerns, the social commentary–it’s all there, and it is so much fun.
But nostalgia would only take me so far. The show is genuinely fun to watch. Every single episode has great one-liners, fun characters, and new threats for Buffy to face. Every character gets genuine development throughout, moving from some one-dimensional characters to people you’re involved with, even as you often wish they’d make much better choices. So far, I think my favorite is the hapless librarian, Rupert Giles. He has such a winsome manner while also being there when you need him. I like him a lot. Obviously, Buffy is another favorite.
Season 1’s plot centered around a generically evil baddy trying to unleash hell on their small town (with an exceptionally high murder rate due to vampires–they should probably talk to Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote about this). It’s a fine story, and it gives us a chance to flesh out the main characters while not having to worry too much about intricacies of plot. Of course, there are some great standout episodes that pad that plot. The silliness of Teacher’s Pet, an episode in which the baddie turns out to be a giant preying mantis cannot be overstated–yet it works. It works phenomenally well because they embrace the campiness, and it becomes a recurring joke in later episodes. Speaking of that–the series has continuity of plot that actually builds on itself over time. That doesn’t sound like a big deal in our era of huge epic plots that continue throughout whole series, but shows like Buffy (and Babylon 5, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) had to build that basis. These aren’t a bunch of one-off episodes. Things placed in seemingly random fashion in one episode turn out to be bigger deals than initially thought–like Amy the witch from episode 3, who turns up big in season 2!
So yeah, there are some great moments throughout, and no small amount of nostalgia involved. It’s just an extraordinarily fun show to watch all the way through. Season 2 ramps up the intensity with a cast of antagonists (and huge development of Angel–good or evil?) who are far more three-dimensional than the generically evil “Master.” I gotta admit, some of the developments with Spike in particular caught me off guard. He and Drusilla are quite dynamic as “baddies,” and that is a credit to the writers and their acting. Drusilla has that kind of offhand glee for evil that makes her much more interesting than she’d otherwise have been.
Also, Buffy’s mom is just… not good. The finale of season 2 really brings that out. Maybe she turns into a more dynamic and kind character later, but she’s basically done nothing but blame Buffy or anyone but herself for everything that goes wrong the entire time. And then her reaction to finally finding out that Buffy is the Slayer is… to kick her from the house? What an idiot!
I’d be remiss to not mention Jenny Calendar, a “techno-pagan” who steals the show in multiple episodes. She becomes a fascinating character through season 2, and then she’s ripped away from us–and Giles!–in devastating fashion by Angel. I don’t know how, but I am hoping they’ll find a way to resurrect her at some point.
Anyway, we couldn’t leave the show alone after the ending that left Buffy distraught about killing (banishing?) Angel. On to season 3!
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