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BtVS rewatch : SEASON 1

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  • BtVS rewatch : SEASON 1

    I'm so in the zone with these rewatches!! As with the AtS ones, to help navigate the thread I'll keep an episode list at the bottom of this first post linking to each initial episode post as they happen.

    For reference, below are those signed up to do the initial reviews and the suggested ideas to consider/discuss. Over to Sosa.


    1.01 - Welcome to the Hellmouth - Sosa Lola
    1.02 - The Harvest - Dipstick
    1.03 - Witch - KoC
    1.04 - Teacher's Pet - Sosa Lola
    1.05 - Never Kill a Boy on the First Date - Stoney
    1.06 - The Pack - Local Max
    1.07 - Angel - vampmogs
    1.08 - I, Robot... You, Jane - Dipstick
    1.09 - The Puppet Show - Maggie
    1.10 - Nightmares - Stoney
    1.11 - Out of Mind, Out of Sight - vampmogs
    1.12 - Prophecy Girl - Maggie

    **General topic ideas**

    Favourite character moment
    Best subliminal message
    Weakest element of episode (script/set/wardrobe/plot etc)
    Something you've noticed for the first time.

    SEASON 2 thread
    SEASON 3 thread
    SEASON 4 thread
    SEASON 5 thread
    SEASON 6 thread
    SEASON 7 thread

    SEASON 1 episode links
    Last edited by Stoney; 19-10-19, 09:08 PM.

  • #2
    S1E1: Welcome to the Hellmouth

    * The opening scene is remarkable. I love the twist in which we were meant to believe that the girl is helpless and innocent and then all of a sudden it turns out she's neither. From the very first scene you get a clear picture of the show's messages and themes: no more blonde damsels in distress. These blondes are vicious and strong. It's interesting that both the heroine and main evil vampire – excluding the Master – are blonde females.

    * One of my biggest problems with S1 is the lighting. The scenes are too dark you can barely see what's happening.

    * I love how 90s S1 is! The hairdos, the clothes, Xander's skateboard – which we will never see again – picking actors older than their characters to play them; I never noticed how not-16ish Nicholas Brendon and Charisma Carpenter were, they're older than their own characters by 10 years! It's not just them. Even the extras walking down the school halls are even older than NB and CC. On the other hand, SMG and AH can pass for 16 year olds.

    * I understand that Joyce's parenting skills are questionable, but I felt for her when she said, "Don't get kicked out." She's going through a lot with the divorce and her daughter being labeled a troublemaker and moving to another town and starting everything over… Buffy's problems and pain will always be greater and makes us forget about those around her who face a difficult time as well.

    * I love Xander's entrance! His life story is depicted by that entrance. He goes through life carelessly, disregarding others' annoyance and discomfort, get blinded by his feelings for Buffy. His thoughtlessness of others and careless acts always end with a bang! And no one notices but Willow.

    * Xander dislikes math, doesn't do well in math, a recurring theme and we will discover by S3 that he's a slow learner when it comes to this subject. I love how constant the show is about this. Just like Buffy's dislike of history.

    * Jesse! The show's biggest missed potential story! The sight of him makes me sad. The first guy friend Xander is going to lose.

    * Cordelia being helpful and nice to Buffy, I don't know if it's her inner goodness that shows on rare occasions in those early seasons or if it's because she sees potential in Buffy to be a Cordette. After all, Buffy is from LA.

    * I love how it's established from the very beginning that Sunnydale is a very small town and yet it seems to have one of everything.

    * From the red circle on the missing boys in the newspaper, Giles is already researching and preparing for Buffy's arrival.

    * Giles' excited grin when presenting the Vampyre book to Buffy! Hee!

    * Giles met Buffy at 10: 25 a.m.!

    * Aphrodisia is the weirdest name I ever heard of. And then there's a girl named Blue. What's up with Joss and weird names?! I have to ask, was Alexander Harris the first to be called Xander or was there someone by that name before? It became very popular after Buffy.

    * I love the whole Xander tossing his bag at Jesse. They seem to be so at ease with each other. I wish Jesse stayed alive for one more episode just to explore his friendship with Xander – heck that could have easily happened with flashbacks after his death.

    * Buffy seemed weirded out by Xander in their first meeting, perhaps because Xander was very awkward around her. She seemed okayish with Cordelia, probably felt right at home with her. But she was so taken back by Cordelia's harsh comments toward Willow and I think that's why she was excited to meeting Willow officially – after knowing she was the smarted girl in school.

    * "Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? ( end of S2 ) For losing all of my friends? ( Empty Places ) For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? (Her mother, Owen, and almost everyone who isn't a Scooby) Go ahead! Prepare me."

    Poor Buffy.

    * Xander knew that vampires existed at 12:30.

    * I like snarky Angel and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It clearly shows that they're not sure what they're going to do with Angel yet. "I don't bite" IMO clearly indicates that he was supposed to be a human.

    * Okay, that's been bugging me for a while. "Where would Willow go?" And Xander thinks, "Cemetery!" Really?

    * Xander closing his eyes, feeling a bit nauseated, when Buffy stabbed the vampire with the stake! I LOVE that they will keep Xander's inability to stomach violent killing/corpses throughout the show.

    * I just can't take how they've written Darla in this episode! I keep cringing every time she talks.

    * S1 is so creepy. It's felt with moments of suspense and then PAM!! My ten year old niece who watches it with me is too scared and doesn't wanna watch anymore episodes. I keep telling her it will be less scary by S2.

    Anyway, this is my Welcome to the Hellmouth recap. I'm sorry I stopped commenting on everything by mid ep. I couldn't pause to write, I was so engrossed with the episode that started it all.
    Made by Trickyboxes
    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag


    • #3
      I love WttH -- I think it's a really, really great introduction to the series. I haven't actually rewatched it, and probably won't get a chance to do any actual rewatching until closer to when we get to The Pack, but I have some thoughts! right away, mostly on the Buffy/Willow/Xander/Cordelia social situation.

      I tend to think Angel's "I don't bite" and Angel's giving Buffy the cross, but safely in a box!, are indications that Angel is a vampire, but is deliberately trying to hide his vampireness. Giles doesn't give Buffy a cross, even though it'd be useful for her, because he's not super-overcompensating. And of course, Angel says "I don't" and not "I can't."

      I feel for Joyce too. And that intro of Xander's is just great.

      I like that the series opens with Darla rather than Buffy. My overall take on WttH is this: the world is harshly divided into the weak and the strong when Buffy arrives, the cool kids and the losers. Darla is the first person to subvert this, by posing as weak when she's actually strong, but she's evil. Buffy subverts this in a more significant way, but she is good. Cordelia is initially a high school villain (not a villain's villain like Darla) because she's part of the in crowd and is happy to abuse the social power she has, but part of that is because she plays along with what society values in a woman -- attractiveness and subservience to the men who have it all (i.e. cars). Xander and Willow are on the bottom of the social chain with no prospects for social mobility. Buffy is the one who comes in and busts up the binary, that the weak must always be weak, by showing there is a way to be both strong and good -- to be socially powerful, self-confident, non-self-loathing, not picked on, without also being mean. Initially, it seems the only options are to be a WttH Willow or a WttH Cordelia -- you can either be a bully or the bullied. Buffy breaks that, and she represents the hope for heroism -- for strength without cruelty, female empowerment without discarding femininity. Everyone will struggle with this going forward, because it turns out that is an extremely difficult balance to maintain, especially when there are vampiric wolves at the gate who are much worse than the

      This is part of why I love love love this exchange --

      Willow: (looks up) Why? I-I mean, hi! Uh, did you want me to move?

      Buffy: Why don't we start with, 'Hi, I'm Buffy,' and, uh, then let's segue directly into me asking you for a favor. (sits next to her) It doesn't involve moving, but it does involve hanging out with me for a while.

      Willow: But aren't you hanging out with Cordelia?

      Buffy: I can't do both?

      Willow: Not legally.
      Because, of course, "not legally." She's not being literal, but she very nearly is -- Willow believes that the rules of conduct are that the nerds like Willow (and Xander) deserve to be bullied, and the only (mild) consolation that Willow has at this point is that she and Xander and Jesse have each other. Xander's not happy with that, though, and nor should he be -- there's no reason the bullied nerds should have to, basically, hate themselves. Xander and Willow both see Buffy as something like their salvation, their way out from being the bullied self-loathing underdogs forever. Jesse, of course, sees Cordelia as his salvation, and then Darla, and eventually becomes a monster -- which is the way to show that that is not the correct way to go to get out of being the oppressed. You don't become the oppressors. (I'm speaking very generally here -- Jesse doesn't deliberately choose to become a monster.) The difference between Xander and Willow re: Buffy is complicated by a lot of things, including sexual attraction -- which, like, Willow maybe is attracted to Buffy, but is in denial about digging women -- but Xander somehow is willing to jump at the chance to get close to this hot-strong-good goddess, is drawn first by her hotness and then by her goodness and strength, and Willow would never, ever be so bold as to think she could possibly deserve to be her friend, until Buffy sits down and gives her "permission" to think well enough of herself that she'd deserve to hang out with Buffy the blonde goddess. Call it what you will -- Willow is more afraid than Xander is of rejection, Willow hates herself more than Xander does, Willow is happier with the Willow/Xander/Jesse outcast losers dynamic than Xander is, Xander has a bigger sense of entitlement, Xander is more in touch with his drives, Xander believes in himself more, Xander is more willing to suffer pain. Maybe Xander is so used to failure that he is desensitized to the risk that Buffy might not want to be his friend and will launch himself at her anyway, and Willow is so used to success in her very narrowly defined fields -- intelligence, being a good girl, being a good friend to Xander, wearing the right clothes to please mom -- that she is much less willing to risk moving outside them. But the basic thrust of it, and the basic thrust of how things work in the first season, is: Xander goes for it, and Willow pulls back until Buffy gives her permission. Buffy is a possible friend, and a person, and she's more than just their salvation, but she somehow is something like their salvation.

      Of course, the first major change in Willow when she encounters Buffy later on at the Bronze is that she "seizes the moment," goes out with a cute guy, and nearly gets herself killed, or possibly turned into a monster. Which is partly a recognition that there are bad people out there, and partly just: Buffy takes for granted some of the very, very hard lessons she's had to learn about navigating the shark-infested waters of the dating world; she knows there are bad guys out there, and she can spot most douchebags and vampires a mile away by what they wear (though not all -- and not ones who put on a certain mysterious act the way Angel does). She can defend herself, because she's strong (though ultimately defending herself against Angel will be so hard it very nearly kills her), and Willow at this point has none of the strength or wisdom. That Willow's very first attempt to seize the moment is brought on by Buffy inspiring her, and nearly gets her killed, gives a nice summation of the problems of Willow's arc; and the fact that Willow's mirroring Buffy's advice back to her in Surprise is as devastating as it is shows that Buffy, while much, much better at defending herself against the Bronze vampires than Willow is, is still far from immune to the destruction they bring.

      Sorry, I know I should talk about more than just Willow but: also, "my mom picked it out for me" re: her outfit is pretty great, too, the way Willow's whole identity seems to be geared at pleasing people, including her mother, who have already chosen a path and identity for her, and who have ignored any aspect of her that doesn't fit in. Buffy is not 100% listening to Willow, but she is trying, and in some sense is the first person to really listen to her, and to really believe that she could be something else -- though, there are elements even here of Willow trying to get Willow to "express herself" in ways that just make her more like Buffy (we see this, for ex., in the way Buffy basically dresses Willow in Halloween). Buffy's making friends with Willow is part of Buffy's desire to protect and help the weak, her internalization of her mission even as she outwardly denies it, though I think there's a tiny element of Emma Woodhouse tutoring Harriet Smith in there too, of finding someone who looks up to her as a god among people and will help her with homework and will fully appreciate her in a way Cordelia won't. Willow will discard the clothes her mother picked out for her, but on some level she's going to be trying to find the clothes that impress Xander, and Buffy, and then Oz, and then Tara, and it keeps going and going. I think the Buffy/Willow dynamic is really smartly written and nailed from moment one -- Buffy is condescending and heroic and giving and bringing in desperately needed love, Willow is resentful and desperate and also the perfect indulgent friend who will do anything for her, they both give and get and it's sometimes destructively codependent and sometimes the best thing in their lives.
      Last edited by Local Maximum; 10-03-14, 07:27 PM.


      • #4
        I will watch the ep this evening but just wanted to make a quick comment on the social hierarchy side and give a slight nod to what will probably be my most referenced BtVS topic, that of perceived 'normality'.

        What I loved the first time that I saw WttH was the complex mix of Buffy's ability to disregarded the limitations put out there that she should instantly choose between the nerds and the popular group, showing such personal confidence, at the same time as showing such uncertainty around her own identity by trying to turn away from the pressures she feels on her as The Slayer and yet being unable not to respond to them as an intrinsic part of who she is.

        It is great that Buffy is able to enter a new social environment with her own perspective of what is a reasonable way to conduct yourself and she doesn't feel pressed to conform, a real strength of character many would struggle with. She then of course tries to encourage Willow to break free and seize the moment, not to limit herself. But people do react to each other and what they feel is expected of them rather than just acting purely on their own wants and Willow's attempt to do it for herself runs alongside wanting to do it for Buffy too. Of course Buffy is doing somewhat the same thing with Giles as she is trying to carve her new place without feeling the restraints of his expected role in her life, her duty pressing around the edges, but it is unavoidable and she does react to his expectations of her even if that is in trying to turn away.

        What people want, their motivations, their aspirations, their self imposed boundaries and the wider social limitations/expectations they operate within, the relationships they forge, all form essential jigsaw pieces of their reality. In may ways Buffy is very down to earth about herself and those around her, what she thinks of them and how she reacts and feels to their responses to her. But in others Buffy struggles to even face what she sees as the truth of her life. How can she assert her own autonomy, her own right to seize the moment how she wants, when she has expectations of her choices/actions/future that weigh so heavily on her? And of course this will run through this season to Prophecy Girl.

        In fact the ease and simplicity of how she responds at first to those around her will be greatly lost as her relationships with them gain history and take on layers that influence and shape her choices more. Buffy constantly assesses and seeks comparatives of 'normal'. She has her life before her calling and how her life now seems to compare and contrast to what she sees as the normality that others live in. Of course 'normal' is relative and this is why it will constantly be a reoccurring theme in Buffy's life. This is the start of her journey and her normality is that being The Slayer is part of who she is and she will spend seven seasons struggling in different ways and over different aspects whilst she tries to find her balance and shifting perspectives on this.

        No doubt more later when I have rewatched!!


        • #5
          And we're off!!! Great start -- Thanks Sosa and Max.

          My comments are also from memory.

          I absolutely love that the first major character introduced is not Buffy, but rather Darla. I doubt they really knew then the way the two end up as mirrors of a sort -- largely because given the way Darla is played, I'd be surprised if they really knew who Darla was at this point. But by the time we get to Becoming, the mirroring is explicit. Close your eyes. Anyway, Joss tells us in the commentary he wanted to play off the opening where we see a blonde in an alley who gets munched by monsters, to surprise us by having the blonde turn out to be the hero who smashes the monsters. But in the actual opening the blonde who seems about to be munched *is* the monster. Buffy herself never is a monster -- but I do think that double switch there allows us to ponder the relationship between the hero and the monster. How do you draw on the monster power you need to smash monsters without becoming monster-like? Buffy will worry about that at least as late as Get it Done. Bottom line: the open sets up a major theme of the series -- nothing is quite what it seems.

          Again, I don't know how much was intended from the beginning and how much evolved. But there are two other plot elements in this opening that look like standard teen flick convention that end up being not what they seem as the series unfolds. First, the cool girl is the villain and the nerds are the heroes. One of Buffy's first heroic acts is to choose Willow (and Xander) over Cordelia, largely because she was repulsed by Cordelia's smug sneering at Willow. If this is the conventional story, Cordy remains a 2D villain the whole series long, and the Scoobie-underdogs overcome in the end. Instead, the binary cool/villain vs. nerd/hero gets challenged almost right away. Xander has a streak of vicious in him (The Pack); Cordy isn't as 2D as she seems (OOM, OOS). Also by OOM, OOS, we'll find out that being a nerd doesn't automatically confer hero status on someone -- as Max says, Joss is well aware that people can handle that situation well or badly. The heroism of the nerd isn't just standing up to the 2D villain -- it's learning how to find your own value, which is a much tougher challenge. Also along these lines (following Max's lead), the complexity of Buffy's relationship with Willow charts out a lot of the complexity about cool/nerd boundaries and the way that plays out.

          The second teen flick convention is the Angel/Xander/Buffy triangle that's set up from the start. If this were the standard flick, we identify with Xander and root for the hot girl to wake up and realize that the awkward nerdy guy is the good one, not the suave guy who turns out to be a jerk. But this turns out to be Buffy's story, not Xander's, and so in the end Xander's story arc lands him not getting the girl, but rather finding the depth within himself to ask his rival to help him save the girl (knowing he's never going to get the girl himself). Angel, of course, retains a lot of the baggage that goes with being the cool love interest who is more than a little dangerous for the girl who falls for him (especially in season 2 where the metaphor is made explicit). But the Buffy/Angel leg of the triangle really plays out on dimensions far more related to her role as the hero than to her role as potential love interest.

          Nothing is what it seems!

          One side note -- My understanding is that Joss is the one who insisted on the infamous balcony scene in Dead Things. That makes me wonder if the parallels between that scene and Giles and Buffy on the balcony aren't intentional. Not (!!) that there's anything sexual between Buffy and Giles up on the balcony in this episode. But more because it represents Buffy's ultimate separation from the normal lives enjoyed by the people she sacrifices so much for. There she is talking to the fuddy-duddy about business while watching her peers party on down below -- is it little wonder that she ends up finding emotional solace up there in the dark with the vampires (first Angel, then Spike)?
          "I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear." Banner Credit: Vampmogs


          • #6
            Some notes-

            1. Between Giles's degree from Oxford and his job as curator at the British Museum, Giles has a very impressive and exotic resume for a public high school librarian. IMO that resume is dazzling enough to a schoolboard in a supposed "One Starbucks Town" (albeit with its beach, airport, university, military base, and big honkin' castle), that neither Snyder nor Flutie could even threaten to fire Giles no matter how seemingly weird Giles got or no matter Giles's repeated insubordination towards Snyder.

            Giles has a number of advantages in life which make him both impressive/formidable and drain his empathy towards those around him. One is that Giles got to lead a respectable life in the civilian world and build up a real resume that allow him thumb his nose at a guy like Snyder while the Scoobies, as mere teenagers, need to constantly suck up to Snyder/Flutie and take their crap to keep their head above water. To some extent, Giles has earned this by being an adult and achieving a lot. To another extent, Giles is unfairly insulated from the consequences of fighting this war on evil that Buffy to a great extent and Willow and Xander to lesser extents have to deal with.

            2. For the shy, unpopular girl, Willow starts out the show knowing the most members of the Core Four- she was best friends with Xander and she got to know Giles a bit. On a school night, Willow sits at the Bronze's bar like it's a routine for her. The SHS teachers seem to refer people who need tutoring right to Willow and Willow gets to know a bunch of people that way and she's achieved a certain celebrity around the school that way.

            Willow's unpopularity is a little odd. She's not some sad sack sitting at home with nothing in her life- despite Willow and Amy rewriting her life that way in All the Way and Smashed. However this early on, she's kind of an oddball. Thus, Willow goes to the Bronze as her regular schoolnight bar- but she sits at the bar eating raisins. She gets to know a bunch of people at SHS and she hears lots of stories- and Willow's knowledge of the town gossip and geography is particularly indispensable early on. However, she has all of this scuttlebut that she finds fascinating (like Giles and his pre-Sunnydale career) that she has to keep to herself because no one else is interested.

            Willow is a person of rather large appetites for everything. Since Willow is interested in pretty much everything and she can get straight A's in her sleep, she ends up somewhat punishing herself because she goes to the Bronze only to sit alone and she learns the gossip about the popular folks like Cordelia, Daryl Epps, etc. to satisfy her curiosity but she has to keep it to herself because no one cares what she thinks. Willow seems to have been present where the action is but on the outside looking in to what the cool people are doing. Buffy really provided Willow to be in the thick of the action even if Willow can't be part of the cool set.

            3. Buffy is mostly open about her past slaying to Giles and later Xander. However in her rant about all the pain and losses that she endured since becoming a slayer, she doesn't bring up her first Watcher dying. I wonder how come. Because Buffy thought it would be too awkward and painful to bring up to the fresh Watcher she's staring at? Because Buffy is trying to get Giles to fight the vampires instead of her and she doesn't want to harsh Giles's interest in that supposedly easy "like bumpin' off a log" activity by bringing up Merrick's death i.e. she's doing a little Time Life salesmanship as a survival strategy for herself? I think a little of both.

            4. If Buffy is manipulating Giles into fighting vamps, Giles is definitely doing the same. Giles uses the slayer-nightmares as his ace-in-the-hole after his other arguments failed:

            Giles: Or perhaps you're right. Perhaps there is no trouble coming; the signs could be wrong. It's not as though you've been having the nightmares.
            I've often felt that the slayer-dreams are more traumatizing and focused on showing slayers scary things to motivate them to keep fighting than helpful in providing solid actionable intelligence for slayers. Either way, the nightmares are a logical component of a Watcher's argument to convince a slayer to take their duty seriously.

            Hmm, maybe more later. I don't want to shoot my whole wad for The Harvest. The two eps go together like "chicken...and another chicken, you know what I'm sayin'!".


            • #7
              It is so great to be watching these through again. I really enjoyed that, a few more thoughts now…

              I totally see what you mean about the extras Sosa and I had never registered before that they look like they are college students rather than high school. It only ever struck me that CC looked far too old, NB/AH/SMG all seem plausibly close enough to 16 to work for me. A random other thought, but I liked the idea of Darla’s initial victim saying that you could see the whole town from on top of the gym. Totally tenuous I know, but in my head the image of that linked to the general populous not seeing the reality of vampires, not looking in the gym itself (Hemery fire), not seeing the risk in front of him (Darla), just standing on top of the gym (hellmouth) obliviously looking out.

              Cordelia is interesting here as an introduction to the character as you do see a really genuine mix. I think that she is looking at Buffy as someone who would be socially acceptable to join her group but I don’t think her welcoming approach is a false/shallow act. Cordelia is obviously to some extents constrained by the hierarchy around her too, even if it is seemingly to her benefit, and as cruel as she is to Willow I think she is being genuinely nice with Buffy. Willow’s instinctive desire to protect Buffy from the social damage of being caught talking with them in her rapid insistence she isn’t hanging out with them to Cordelia is endearing. Linking into what I said earlier about Buffy’s constant placing of normality, despite her confidence during the episode, her uncertainty over her outfit and comment that she used to be good at this does show some of her underlying sense of displacement. This could possibly just be from the move to Sunnydale itself but I think the change in her own life, no longer being just the social butterfly, is certainly in the mix if not the leading issue for her here.

              I found Giles very interesting in his awkwardness and his rather blunt and stuffy approach. Viewing him here like this just reminds me of Wes’ foibles when he arrives and emphasises how difficult it was for him to come into a scenario where there were established relationships.

              I tend to be a very harsh critic on Joyce for her parental mistakes but I have to say that I have a lot of compassion for her in this episode. Her conversation with Buffy about looking positively and feeling that the nurturing school environment is what Buffy needs shows a really genuine desire to provide the right influences for her daughter and change the situation that they had come from. The implication too that she has read parenting help literature also underlines this. Backing that up, a crucial point for me is the moment that she tells Buffy with a certainty that she is going to make it work, taking on that proactive responsibility.

              I love the simple script establishment of Willow and Xander’s history and significance to each other just through her telling Buffy that they dated at five and Xander stole her Barbie. That they have known each other for that long, still hang out and that those memories are important to her is just a really neat way to easily establish that depth.

              Angel I would agree is definitely a vampire who is trying to just hide his nature. It works pretty well for me in linking to his lack of socialisation in his early souled years, his behaviour in Why We Fight and Are You Now or Have You Ever Been fits a degree of social reticence and works well with him popping up here and being cryptic with Buffy. Having said that, his comment about expecting her to be taller/bigger just seems odd when we will see that he has already seen her before. That aside, this unease at trying to help whilst avoiding the truth about himself also leads towards the significance Buffy’s acceptance of him has with such soul significant ramifications.

              The Darla of the episode is strange characterisation having just come out of watching AtS but I appreciate that they didn’t know where they would go with the character and that BtVS Darla would feel very discordant to AtS. I did find her dismissal of the vampire that Buffy dusted an interesting back up to the mythology that older vampires are stronger “he was young, and stupid”. That is then followed by Luke telling Buffy he is stronger than her and overpowering her. We cut as he lunges, but how he is thwarted links to this notion of strength and works well that straight away we will have Buffy aided/protected by the support offered from those around her. A slayer with family and friends.

              Like the suggested link in the balcony scenes Maggie.


              • #8
                Wow. Great thoughts everyone!

                I do think WttH is pretty great as far as pilots go. Yes, it's incredibly dated and cheesy but it was a product of its time. What it does do exceptionally well is introduce all the cast and make the characters distinct, interesting and likable and that's actually really rare. A lot of pilots don't manage that but BtVS does it all whilst also establishing the mythology of the show and its central themes. What it doesn't do so well is create compelling villains but even the Master will get more of a personality as the season progresses.

                I love Maggie's thoughts on the opening teaser and how it's a darker twist on Whedon's original twist of the blonde girl going into the alley and slaying the monster. Whilst we're on the subject; Buffy is followed into the alley and fights back against the "monster" Angel. Viewers are unlikely to have known Whedon's intentions going into this series but in hindsight it's a dead giveaway Angel is a vampire. Along with his "I don't won't bite" and the crucifix tucked away nicely in a box, of course.

                It's a little sad to hear Buffy tell Willow to "seize the day because tomorrow you might be dead" for a number of reasons. First, because that's actually a real possibility for Buffy, more so than most other people, and that's not something any 16 year old should have to think about. But also because Buffy's confidence takes a real knock as the series progresses and she's unable to stick to this philosophy.

                I love Sosa's analysis of Xander's first scene. I never thought about how it symbolizes the Buffy/Willow/Xander dynamic in S1-S2ish. Xander is fixated on Buffy to the point he hurts himself, Buffy doesn't even notice him, Willow does. Obviously Buffy notices Xander as a friend but this is the classic "Nerd guy sees hot girl and instantly falls for her" so I'm talking purely about the romantic angle to their relationship.

                Buffy was my favourite from the very beginning but I must admit that I'm not greatly affected by her situation here based on this episode alone. Her rant to Giles ("Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead! Prepare me") is completely justified but it also feels a bit, well, generic. There's not a lot to differentiate it from your pretty standard superhero angst~ and it won't be until later in the season (Prophecy Girl!) that her burden really resonates with me.

                I do love Buffy pretty much instantly when I see her reaction to Cordelia being so nasty to Willow. Even in my 20's high school already feels like a lifetime ago but it's no small thing for a 16 year old to move to a new school and have to make new friends. For Buffy to risk her chance to be popular and fit in in order to befriend Willow is pretty huge, especially when she'd already went through the heartache of losing all her friends once before and she was just accepted by the most popular girl in school.

                And Ally Hannigan makes me feel for Willow so much in the water fountain scene. As S1 progresses it'll become clear that the Scoobies are very fortunate in a lot of ways and that they're certainly not the biggest pariahs at Sunnydale High, social dynamics never are that black and white, but it's still awful to see Cordy humiliate Willow like that. It just breaks my heart to see Willow bend over backwards to please other people ("Hi! Do you want me to move?" /"You don't have to come back if you don't want to") because people have actually convinced her that she's worthless. I mean, it's not like she's even telling Buffy what she thinks Buffy would want to hear, she genuinely believes she should move for Buffy or that Buffy doesn't have to "pretend" to like her at the Bronze because she assumes she really is inferior and Buffy will of course see her that way. And when you think back to the social hierarchy in high school just how low must Willow's self-esteem be that she's willing to be kicked out of her seat by the new girl who has been at the school less than ONE DAY. I'm sure a lot of this this has to do with Willow seeing Buffy socializing with Cordelia but most people wouldn't immediately defer to the new kid, not that quickly.

                Xander's crush on Buffy is pretty harmless here. It's fairly cute and humorous and, well, who can blame him? But his "Can I have you?" does foreshadow the Nice Guy-ish tendencies and sense of entitlement that makes his crush less fun going forward. "Can I have you?" is very different than, say, "Can I be with you?" What the scene also does is establish how Buffy will choose to handle Xander's feelings going forward which is by basically by pretending she oblivious to them. I think she does this to avoid an awkward conversation for herself and because she's trying to spare his feelings being hurt as well. Obviously as she grows closer to Willow and realises the full extent of Willow's feelings for Xander it's a convenient way to avoid that minefield as well.

                The only OOC moment I find in the pilot (other than Darla's characterization which is just awful lol) is Xander's reaction to hearing that Willow "scored" at The Bronze. He may not be interested in Willow romantically but Xander is fiercely protective/possessive/territorial of Willow (and all his female friends) and I just can't imagine him being this supportive. He certainly isn't this way about "Malcolm" or Oz. The second Buffy even hinted at Willow being in danger you'd think Xander would latch at the theory because he's naturally very distrustful of the other men in Buffy and Willow's life and prone to assuming the worst. That moment just didn't feel accurate to me.

                I loved rewatching this. The clothes! The hair! They're all so young! The Master is doing some weird rising-out-of-blood-pools thing! So much fun. I still have vivid memories of watching this episode when it premiered in Australia in '97 (I was 7 at the time!!) and the cliffhanger with Buffy/Luke left me so excited to see the next episode (which aired the very next day down under as a 2 part special BtVS event). S1 has a lot of really nice childhood memories attached it to it for me.

                Favourite quotes;

                Sorry I have to call everybody I have ever met right now

                (holds up the stake) All I can think of is that you're building a really little fence?

                Will there be boys there?
                No mum, it's a nun club

                We used to go out but we broke up
                How come?
                He stole my barbie... we were five.
                Last edited by vampmogs; 11-03-14, 11:45 AM.

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                • #9
                  Hey ! I'm so glad that you make this thread. I also rewatch BTVS , but I'm on S 4 "Who Are You " episode now. May be it's little off topic, but I just want to say, that as much as I rewatch S 4, as much I become to like it. A years ago I didn't like S 4 so much, but now I do and I think it's so underrated. Yes, may be Adam is lame , but the atmosphere of S 4 , the college life is just great and I love it. I even like Riley, LOL ! This season is different compare to S 1-3 and S 5-6 , so I can't understand how could I didn't like it before.
                  Last edited by _Buffy_; 11-03-14, 08:02 PM.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Local Maximum View Post
                    I tend to think Angel's "I don't bite" and Angel's giving Buffy the cross, but safely in a box!, are indications that Angel is a vampire, but is deliberately trying to hide his vampireness. Giles doesn't give Buffy a cross, even though it'd be useful for her, because he's not super-overcompensating. And of course, Angel says "I don't" and not "I can't."
                    I swear I read somewhere that Joss wasn't sure of Angel's role in the show and that he was supposed to be a human-older guy ( possibly demon-hunter) type character. But I'm not sure if that was before filming episode one or after. I tried finding a quote but couldn't.

                    The difference between Xander and Willow re: Buffy is complicated by a lot of things, including sexual attraction -- which, like, Willow maybe is attracted to Buffy, but is in denial about digging women -- but Xander somehow is willing to jump at the chance to get close to this hot-strong-good goddess, is drawn first by her hotness and then by her goodness and strength, and Willow would never, ever be so bold as to think she could possibly deserve to be her friend, until Buffy sits down and gives her "permission" to think well enough of herself that she'd deserve to hang out with Buffy the blonde goddess. Call it what you will -- Willow is more afraid than Xander is of rejection, Willow hates herself more than Xander does, Willow is happier with the Willow/Xander/Jesse outcast losers dynamic than Xander is, Xander has a bigger sense of entitlement, Xander is more in touch with his drives, Xander believes in himself more, Xander is more willing to suffer pain. Maybe Xander is so used to failure that he is desensitized to the risk that Buffy might not want to be his friend and will launch himself at her anyway, and Willow is so used to success in her very narrowly defined fields -- intelligence, being a good girl, being a good friend to Xander, wearing the right clothes to please mom -- that she is much less willing to risk moving outside them. But the basic thrust of it, and the basic thrust of how things work in the first season, is: Xander goes for it, and Willow pulls back until Buffy gives her permission. Buffy is a possible friend, and a person, and she's more than just their salvation, but she somehow is something like their salvation.
                    Back in high school, I was completely a Willow who desperately wanted to be a Xander. You have a point about Willow's fears of rejection - on the other hand, Xander who gets rejected a lot never seems to give up and still tries to achieve what he wants. A switch will happen as they grow older, and Xander will be the one content with his role while Willow will try to seek more power and thrive to be better than who she is.

                    Originally posted by Maggie View Post
                    One side note -- My understanding is that Joss is the one who insisted on the infamous balcony scene in Dead Things. That makes me wonder if the parallels between that scene and Giles and Buffy on the balcony aren't intentional. Not (!!) that there's anything sexual between Buffy and Giles up on the balcony in this episode. But more because it represents Buffy's ultimate separation from the normal lives enjoyed by the people she sacrifices so much for. There she is talking to the fuddy-duddy about business while watching her peers party on down below -- is it little wonder that she ends up finding emotional solace up there in the dark with the vampires (first Angel, then Spike)?
                    Great catch! I remember reading a discussion somewhere about how creepy the Buffy/Giles scene on the balcony was - though after rewatch, I honestly don't see it. I like how standing on that balcony shows Buffy's separation from the normal life she wants and the people she wishes she can hang out with.

                    It's interesting to note that while Buffy keeps trying to run away from the dark ( her slayerhood ), she ends up seeking it. It started when she found the body in the locker, her instincts told her to go back to the library and talk to Giles. Then while she was having a conversation with Willow, the second she sees Giles she rushes toward him.

                    Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
                    3. Buffy is mostly open about her past slaying to Giles and later Xander. However in her rant about all the pain and losses that she endured since becoming a slayer, she doesn't bring up her first Watcher dying. I wonder how come. Because Buffy thought it would be too awkward and painful to bring up to the fresh Watcher she's staring at? Because Buffy is trying to get Giles to fight the vampires instead of her and she doesn't want to harsh Giles's interest in that supposedly easy "like bumpin' off a log" activity by bringing up Merrick's death i.e. she's doing a little Time Life salesmanship as a survival strategy for herself? I think a little of both.
                    I don't think Joss wanted us to see the movie as canon. He seemed to be so disappointed with it he wanted no ties with it. Funny thing is that he recycled Pike's storyline with his friend ( Xander and Jesse ).
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                    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sosa lola View Post
                      I don't think Joss wanted us to see the movie as canon. He seemed to be so disappointed with it he wanted no ties with it. Funny thing is that he recycled Pike's storyline with his friend ( Xander and Jesse ).
                      If I remember correctly, he also recycled the moment when the Master rose from the pool of blood as I'm fairly certain Lothos did the exact same thing in the film. And Buffy's outfit in Prophecy Girl (Angel's leather coat with the prom dress) is just another version of the outfit Swanson!Buffy wears to the prom (Pike's jacket and prom dress).

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                      • #12
                        Mostly all I had to say has already been said.

                        But I agree, this is a very good first episode. Many things got better with time, but there's not doubt of that Joss had his ideas clear from the very start. And yes, the continuity. I loved seeing how many things (not everything, but the whole series wasn't written back then, so it's perfectly understandable) set in this episode were followed accurately and logically.

                        The Core Four and Cordy were introduced really well. You can guess who they are, their story and backgrounds in a very natural way. Awesome.

                        It's funny... when Buffy went into the library for the first time, I thought: 'That's a nice library. Not too big, but pretty. My high school didn't have a library like that, in fact, I don't think I've ever been in a school library that looks like that one...' Then, when the Bronze appears, I think: 'Now, that one looks like some hangouts I know'.

                        Maggie, I agree. The balcony scene reminds me too much of the one in Dead Things. I don't think this was a coincidence either.

                        Well, over all, I enjoyed. Reading your thoughts too.


                        • #13
                          I thought I'd post my commentary on The Harvest now. I think my computer access will be limited tomorrow and Stoney wanted to aim for a mid-week/weekend type pattern. So, The Harvest.

                          The Master, Cordelia, Buffy and Hierarchies: In this series mirroring high school clichés with monsters, the Big Bad of the first season is a total social alpha and that’s where he gets his power. The Master is trapped underground. Left alone, he couldn’t hurt people in his underground prison. However, he is a danger for the whole first season because he has devoted minions in his cult that bring him food, worship him, and will do anything to help him get above ground to take over the world.

                          Giles is a little unclear on why the Master rising is tantamount to the end of the world. Giles expresses it like the Master will open the hellmouth and let all of the demons loose which conjures the image of every type of demon flooding the world ala The Gift. The Master does open the hellmouth and it unleashes big beasties in Prophecy Girl.

                          However, The Wish implies that if the Master rose, he’d turn Sunnydale into a dystopic community where vampires ruled. With all three instances in evidence, I get the impression that the Master would bring up a few beasties from hell but the main thrust of his apocalyptic plan would be to start by turning Sunnydale into a playground for vamps and then, head from there.

                          The Wish also implies that The Master’s threat lies in his power to create powerful but obedient minions. I find it significant that between the Realverse and the Wishverse, the Master made minions out of Darla, Willow, and Xander and he had Angel as a slave- all important characters who are very powerful in their own way. Glory and her scabby demons don’t come close in the prized minion sweepstakes. The Mayor comes closest by getting control of Faith and Mr. Trick- but those were the only true jewels in his crown based on Allen Finch and the Mayor’s stupid vampire minions who folded easily under any pressure from Buffy (Choices) or Vamp Willow (Doppelgangland)

                          Cordelia and The Master are the monarchs of their groups and that’s what makes them dangerous. They’ve created a cult of personality around themselves- even if Cordy’s power is in her beauty while The Master’s power is in his ugly. To keep that up, Cordelia and The Master somewhat flatter and promise their followers greater belonging. They also drain from the outsiders. In this ep, The Master through Luke sucks the life blood out of humans. Cordelia maintains her alpha status by draining popularity, self-esteem, etc. from the outsiders. In this ep, Cordelia sucked away at Buffy’s reputation before Buffy even had a chance to meet Harmony or Long Haired Dude so Cordelia could enhance Cordelia’s prestige as the snarky, cool one who knows all the gossip before anyone else.

                          One could argue that Buffy, as a leader, also has some Master/Cordelia. Quite a bit of Buffy’s power also rests in her ability to have followers and be their alpha leader. Yet particularly in the first season, Buffy runs a considerably more democratically minded operation than The Master and Cordelia. In this ep, Willow and Xander force themselves onto the mission and Buffy accepts their help against her first instincts. In this ep, Angel is pretty mouthy for a lovely but useless love interest but Buffy is very cool with that and banters back. Buffy models a different model of leadership where you can be a strong leader without being a dictator. And the Scoobies model a different follower method where you can be loyal followers without being blindly worshipping minions. Plus, Buffy doesn't suck from outsiders- she saves them. (Although, per The Freshman, she can suck all of the energy in a room but she didn't suck...).

                          However since we’ve just come off an AtS Watch, the difference in Cordelia and The Master boils down to the Reprise/Epiphany “Evil is inherent to humanity and heroes have to pick their battles.” Cordelia’s behavior sucks but it’s *very* human. That’s rather apparent when Luke tries to suck Cordelia’s blood to empower The Master. Cordelia is being mean right now but she ain’t evil and she ain’t killing people! That brings me to…

                          Willow and the Deliver Trick: One of the most interesting aspects of the Deliver scene is that Willow tries to do what all of the After School Specials suggest schoolchildren cope with bullies. Stand up for your friends against bullies by talking to the bullies in a calm and rational way to tell the bully that they are being mean and unfair! And as the real world works, that was a total failure. Willow defended Buffy. Naturally, Cordelia decided to react by further verbally pushing Willow down and of course, Harmony and Long Haired Dude were on Cordy’s side. Seriously, does ever telling bullies “That’s mean!” ever end up with bullies deciding to change their behavior?!

                          We later learn that Cordelia really has natural reserves of empathy and goodness enough to change her behavior and behave better than this. However, it’s an open question on whether Cordelia could have reformed without a lot of lessons at the School of Hard Knocks to force her into identifying with people in

                          Willow didn’t have a good way to leave that confrontation. However, it would have been better if Willow just left it meekly as a doormat and let Cordelia go on thinking that she won. Willow did gave into her pettier, meaner, more dishonest side. Cordelia didn’t really learn or change from that incident- other than perhaps learning the function of the delete key and value of saving work and the need to second-guess advice. (Although come to think of it, those are all good lessons. Though, not the point…)

                          IMO, the “Deliver” trick reveals why this tiny, retiring, high school girl was so ripe to sign up going into a “dark place full of monsters.” While most every main character on BtVS and AtS gets involved in the fight, IMO, it’s pretty atypical for human nature. Most people would probably just walk away instead of fighting evil or becoming evil.

                          Willow, in particular, did a lot of pre-Scooby stuff as a child. Like the Scoobies, Willow organized a “We Hate Cordelia Club” of friends to organize themselves against a common foe. Little!Willow read her dad’s big, old books to diagnose Little!Xander with fake diseases and “cure” them- for the sensation of learning and solving problems. Little!Willow wanted to live in a fantastical fictional world so she pretended like she was the Cat in the Hat took a big risk in balancing everything including her goldfish. This ep shows that Willow hacked into government sites- in prep work for her role on the show. Moreover, later eps show that Willow is a little mistrustful of the US government. (Again off the AtS Re-watch, not nearly as much as Fred. However, it’s somehow natural that the hacker/science geeks trust government the least but subverted that the facially girl-next-door as American as apple pie types don’t trust the US government.) The fight against evil allows Willow to legitimately hack for all of the vague reasons that she felt but couldn’t express before.”

                          This ep crystallizes that. Willow can’t really win her social confrontation with Cordelia. Willow can’t even really fight back gracefully because Willow is basically fighting against the petty foibles of her own species. Fighting against high school bullying can amount to fighting against smelly perspiration- it’s a fact of life. However, The Master’s and the vampires’ brand of evil that actually pose a life or death threat against humans and exist far out of the bounds of the crap that we have to learn to tolerate from humans. Vampires are an unambiguously worthy target where the Scoobies can fight, exorcise their issues, and come off both noble and dignified at the same time.

                          And since I have my biases….

                          Willowy Point of Interest #1: Willow says “No joy” when the Scoobies are blocked from the back entrance to the Bronze. Willow repeats the “No joy” line in Orpheus when Willow couldn’t extract Angel’s soul out of the glass jar. “No joy” is military-code for “I have no information” or “This mission was unsuccessful”.

                          Willowy Point of Interest #2: I love the way AH delivers the line “Buffy doesn’t want you to get hurt…..I don’t want you to get hurt to Xander. AH delivers the Buffy part matter-of-factly but she really puts an emphasis on how *Willow* doesn’t want Xander to get hurt. However while Willow is delivering that line strongly and emotionally, it still feels like Willow is holding her deeper feelings somewhat back in her mouth because she is holding back her romantic feelings towards Xander.

                          Xander v. Angel: I said that I’m more sympathetic to Angel on BTVS than post-S1 AtS. However, the ep does beg the comparison that uncool, dorky Xander is actually the dashing, brave one that fights side by side with Buffy while cool, mysterious Angel is in his words, too scared of the Master to fight. Then again, Angel has to worry about alerting Buffy to his vamp status- by fighting too well and by running into the Master/Darla in front of Buffy. Of course, there’s the wrong of Angel lying to Buffy about his correct species.

                          However, I actually do get it and understand it. Angel has good reason to believe that Buffy would stake him if he ever told her what he really is. Given that Angel isn’t hurting people and is taking all precautions to not hurt people and has good reason to believe that he won’t hurt anyone in the future, it’s too much to expect Angel to suicidally tell a slayer that he is a vampire his correct species and invite a staking after Angel hasn’t killed anyone out of malice and evil since the Boxer Rebellion and hasn’t fed off a living soul since the 1970s.

                          I also think that a big part of Angel would *like* to be out there fighting the fight by Buffy’s side. He’s repressing important parts of his personality- his love of violence, his desire to save the day, his own emotional investment in Buffy’s well-being since he fell in love with her immediately. He’s cosigning himself to a weaker position as Fount of Information when we know that he believes that he should be doing more to make up for his years without a soul. Angel is emasculating himself partly out of self-interest to avoid outing himself and fighting the Master but he’s also repressing himself to stay good and *not* tap into the violent parts of himself and preserve himself as an ally of Buffy’s even if it costs him self-actualization and pride.

                          Still, Whistler told Angel that part of his job would be to *fight* alongside Buffy. Angel took on that burden to fight with Buffy. He’s kind of welching on his promise there. Moreover while Angel has a lot to endanger and potentially lose by fighting by Buffy’s side now, I’m never going to say that Angel is more vulnerable than non-powered Xander who just found out about vampires last night or that Angel has more to lose than Xander who had to stake one of his best friends on his first day of fighting evil.

                          Giles v. Buffy and Orientations for the Non-Choseny Folks Buffy is very open about what she experienced as a slayer before. She freely complains to Giles about all of the crap that she endured- except, as I discussed, the fact that her first Watcher died. Buffy casually tells Xander war stories in this ep. She reacts authentically and spontaneously to news like the incoming apocalypse. By contrast, Giles is rather close-lipped about how Sunnydale matches up to his prior experience and expectations.

                          Giles announces his theory that the end of the world may be tonight calmly, but with gravity. Giles never indicates whether he thinks an apocalyptic threat is out of the ordinary or typical- and I find that strange. At the end of the ep, he enthusiastically predicts that the Scoobies may face even greater evil like a fresh novice who hasn’t seen the world's horrors but also like an expert who knows all about the dangers on the hellmouth and is imparting them to the ignorant and untested teenagers. Giles clearly knows how to fight vampires (although he doesn’t display it in this ep so much) and he is prepared to fight even without Buffy at his side but he clings to his “A slayer is the one who slays” mantra.

                          In the future, the Scoobies hit the books as a matter of course when there is big danger on the horizon, particularly old-school danger like the Master who is a folkloric vampire with likely volumes of research and notes in the Watchers' Council archives. However in this ep, Giles uses Willow’s computer expertise but he also keeps her away from the old books by giving her rather vague assignments to look up weird murders in Sunnydale. It should be apparent by this ep but certainly later events will prove that the rash of murders that Willow discovered could stem from any number of weird and horrible things going down in Sunnydale that have nothing to do with the Master. Giles doesn’t invite Buffy or Xander to research at all. IMO, Giles had to build up confidence in the Scoobies' capability and discretion to get around to referring them to his super-duper secret Watcher books- and even then, he imposes limitations on Willow's access to his books.

                          IMO, this is all very calculated. Giles walks a fine line of presenting himself as both a worldly and weathered expert on the supernatural but also playing along that he’s new to Sunnydale and he’s learning right alongside Buffy. Giles wants Buffy to have faith in his expertise. However, he doesn’t want to come off as threatening or shady by knowing too much about the supernatural. As he said later, he didn’t give Buffy her copy of the Slayer Handbook because he read her and knew it would be pointless.

                          In addition, Giles wants to make Buffy aware of how dangerous the hellmouth is so she’s alert and motivated to fight but he doesn’t want to draw too vivid a picture that Buffy gets scared off or discourage. Part of Giles just believes with all of the entitlement of a Watcher that Buffy should accept his leadership because he’s a Watcher and he’s destiny-vested with the power to command slayers. However, another part of Giles knows that he needs to convince and persuade his slayer into the fight and accepting his guidance- and that part most contributed to Giles’s success with Buffy. Giles has a delicate task to get Buffy to accept a Watcher since Buffy is already a tough cookie that has slayed for a year, lost a Watcher, and walks in with all of the entitlement of a headstrong American only child.

                          In addition, it’s notable that Giles gives Willow and Xander the full skinny on the supernatural the morning after Buffy rescued them. He needed Willow’s computer know-how but he also easily tolerated Buffy taking Xander along on the Jesse-rescue and he freely adopted Willow and Xander into the big fight at the Bronze. Giles, then, drew them into the mission at the end by saying that they’d *all* be facing even greater threats ahead.

                          Willow: Well, I'll never forget it, none of it.

                          Giles: Good! Next time you'll be prepared.

                          Xander: Next time?

                          Willow: Next time is why?

                          Giles: We've prevented the Master from freeing himself and opening the Mouth of Hell. That's not to say he's going to stop trying. I'd say the fun is just beginning.
                          LOL, at this point, Willow and Xander kind of thought that this was a one-off adventure and they'd go back to their regular lives. Not so much.

                          Giles steps away from Watcher-rules against drawing civilians into battle in an instant. IMO, Buffy actually resists drawing Willow and Xander into the fight much more than Giles in The Harvest and Witch for starters. Buffy argues against drawing her friends in because she's much more sentimentally attached but also based on her prior limited and short history as a slayer, Buffy thought that she had to work alone. However, Giles knows from his past that lots of non-Watchers and non-Slayers are involved in the supernatural. The Watchers of Checkpoint lied to themselves by believing that civilians have no place in the supernatural. Moreover, I also think that Giles read that Buffy was decidedly more motivated to be a slayer when Willow and Xander walked into the picture.

                          Hmm, my commentary is a little light on Buffy analysis (especially re: Joyce) and Xander analysis (especially re: Jesse) and it could use more Master analysis. Open invitation to others to fill in those blanks! I may supplement if I have the time and computer access.


                          • #14
                            Great writeup Dipstick. I think that the show's distinction between the Cordelias of the world and the Masters is really important -- humans can be jerks and their jerkiness is something you should fight, but you shouldn't fight *them*.

                            But then, the process of how exactly to combat someone else being horrible to you is basically an open question. I have my biases too, so, on that Willow/Cordelia scene, a few notes:

                            1. I think it's really important that Willow sticks up for Buffy, not for herself. Willow expects that she herself will be verbally abused, "softer side of Sears" and all, and makes no real effort to defend herself against it, except making vague, half-hearted attempts to justify her decisions ("my mom picked it out") which just lead to more abuse. We later learn in "Inca Mummy Girl" that Willow sees Xander's having been beaten up for years and years as something she sort of laughs off. I don't think it's because she doesn't love Xander at all, so much as that she's resigned to her and Xander being in the social stratum that get verbally/physically abused. There is a big thing there about Willow's inability to recognize that physical abuse actually is much worse, and her relative lack of sympathy for Xander being beaten up is a mark against her which has to do with a certain kind of entitlement. But generally, I think she just expects that she and Xander will be badly treated, has accepted that this is the way things are, and has made "peace" with it, with a lot of anger flowing beneath the surface which she has "accepted" she will never access. Buffy is both the person who gives Willow the courage to stand up for herself, and the cause -- Buffy is the person who gives Willow the self-confidence to know that she can stand up for someone, and Buffy is the wonderful person who doesn't deserve the abuse that Cordelia is launching at her. So Willow values Buffy way more than she values herself, but she is also using Buffy as something of a proxy for her own issues.

                            2. Why does this happen, exactly? I think we get it from Cordelia. "Who gave you permission to exist?" is Cordelia's attack on Willow, and that strikes me as the rhetorical question that goes to the heart of Willow's issue. I think this is part of the big problem of bullying. It's not just inflicting pain on people, though that is itself bad, but the way a constant assault on someone with already low self-esteem makes them believe they deserve it. I think Willow really has internalized a belief that she doesn't actually have a right to exist -- not unless she earns it, somehow, by doing what other people want her to do. Willow's parents don't notice her, Cordelia only notices her long enough to bully her, and Xander loves her but also sort of ignores her and seems on some level to want out of their close relationship. So the answer to Cordelia's rhetorical question, "Who gave you permission to exist," turns out to be "Buffy" - it's Buffy who gives Willow permission to exist, but that can only go so far before eventually it withers. For now, Willow develops the "right" to stand up to Cordelia because she is doing it for Buffy, who really deserves it, but it's also sort of about Willow. The anger at the world that develops from this self-loathing becomes pretty powerful. If it really were just Cordelia who were the problem, if Cordelia beat her up but Willow could withstand it and not believe she was somewhat justified, I think it'd be different, "easier," but on some level the bullying sinks deep because she thinks she's right, and that she has no real place in the world.

                            3. This is related to what Dipstick says about the desire to help out. Willow really wants to help, and do something good, and I think a lot of it is about trying to deal with the oppression that's being done on her. It is also, I think, partly a way to justify her existence -- if she's helping others, then she has earned her right to continue being. I think she does want to help, too, and wants to do good, and Dipstick is right that she is very much motivated to protect Xander and that there is some real emotion in her fear that Xander will get hurt. But I think part of it is an abstract desire to do enough good, to win enough points on some arbitrary scale, that she justifies her existence.

                            4. Also, Cordelia says "Because you're boring," and that also resonates through the series. I think that's part of what "bored now" resonates with; "Doppelgangland" has Willow say "You think I'm boring!" with a harsh exclamation of sadness to Oz, the more to contrast with her vampire self's catchphrase. On some level, Willow is fundamentally out of sync with the vast majority of the people she knows, and only a handful are close to her wavelength and she's even mostly isolated from them. Cordelia's "you're boring" shows her perspective on the reason for the separation: the problem is with Willow. Vamp Willow and later Willow-in-Villains identifies the problem is with the other person. The reason she's "boring" is that harsh treatment has led her to stop trying to present herself to the outside world in anything but the most wallflower-y, don't-notice-or-hurt-me ways, which leads to her being treated more harshly. Quite the cycle.

                            5. I really like Dipstick's point about the fact that Willow tries the After School Special method for dealing with bullies, which is to tell them off and drop some truth bombs on them and stand up to them. Anyway, the use-your-words method with bullies basically works only insofar as the bullies are willing to correct their behaviour when they see how much they've hurt someone else, which is usually not very. It's not because bullies are evil or uncaring people, but it is very hard to admit that one has done something wrong, and turning around one's behaviour on a dime is a lot harder than just continuing with one's previous assumptions, that one is just telling-it-like-it-is, or even going more extreme. Willow's initial stand-up-to-Cordelia move is something like a cousin of her Choices standing up to Faith when Faith is holding a knife to her face, the kind of morally unobjectionable confrontation with bullies where you stand up to them with your words and show them you're not afraid of them and then if you're lucky some authority figure will step in before they cut your face up with a knife.

                            6. So, Willow's deliver moment is interesting because it is a very Willow way of getting back at Cordelia, in spite of the Buffy overtones of the whole thing -- she uses not strengths but smarts, computer knowledge, and deception. Indeed, she uses the fact that Cordelia will still take Willow's computer advice after she just berated her, that Cordelia still uses her, to get at her. But anyway, while I agree with Dipstick that some hard knocks might help Cordelia to clean up her act, as Dipstick somewhat alludes to this particular one seems maybe to be designed to leave Cordelia uncertain what happened (as we see afterward) -- I don't think Cordelia exactly knows that Willow tricked her, that del meant delete, and so I don't think she associates her verbal bullying with the payback in a way that might make her likely to recognize what happened. That Willow sneakily gets back at Cordelia sort of undermines a potential long-term gain. And so I think it's basically revenge. That said, Willow clearly was pretty much out of options at this point, except to get some small, tiny consolation of hurting a bully for treating her (and Buffy) badly, or to stew in private misery. On some level, I think convincing herself that hurting Cordelia is something of a way of convincing herself that Cordelia deserves to suffer some small bit as much as she has made Willow suffer.

                            7. I identify a lot with Willow in various ways, as is probably clear, but I do find the revenge thing a little hard to get my mind around, because my usual response when someone criticizes me, even manifestly, totally unfairly, is to just be really sad for a very long time and stew on it. Fighting back with whatever weapons are available is a natural reaction, and an important one when it can be managed effectively to prevent further damage. Being able to convince a bully that they'd better stop hurting you or a loved one or they will have to suffer too is a noble goal, ultimately. But finding the "assertive" land between passive and aggressive, or passive-aggressive, is, like, unimaginably difficult for some people. I don't actually know how people do it, and I'm not sure what Willow should have done in this situation. She chose the path to cause some mild amount of pain to get some measure of revenge/justice for Cordelia attacking her and Buffy. In this particular instance, I think it's much lower than the damage that Cordelia was doing to Willow, but the thing is that it's very hard to gauge what is fair and proportionate. Doing nothing -- just letting the abuse continue and saying nothing in response -- is what Willow tried for basically her life up to this point, and it's left her mostly self-loathing and sad. Trying to deal with the situation in a fully above-board way -- telling them not to be mean -- leads to them being meaner.
                            Last edited by Local Maximum; 13-03-14, 01:06 AM.


                            • #15
                              Dipstick, your comments on Giles' determinations of when to pull back, when to assert his authority and how he keeps lines of expertise are really interesting. I can't help but keep drawing comparisons to Wes and thinking how he will be treated on introduction against how Buffy/Giles et al are rubbing along here as they figure out their dynamics. It feels that although Giles pre Helpless is playing more closely to a Council approach that reflects more of where Wes is coming from than Giles will be when Wes actually does arrive, he is also using his experience and self confidence to determine when those lines can be blurred in a beneficial way and times when it is in his best interests in managing and working with Buffy to let more harmless rule breaking simply pass. This is where Wes lacks maturity in his dealing with the slayers and his inability to manage them is in part down to his rigid procedural approach to try and gain authority, as well as being hampered of course by the established relationships and the resentment/resistance to his presence regardless.

                              But Giles pre Helpless, particularly in S1, is still more Wes-like and does hold 'the slayer slays' as his perspective on Buffy's duty and this shows clearly throughout this season. Although we do learn of Giles' more colourful past (is The Dark Age the first time??), I never felt that S1 really fitted that character expansion very well. Giles' stuffy overplayed 'Britishness' and his more rigid Council views of duty/authority are somewhat incongruous with that additional layering in his history I feel. His character always felt the most lacking in cohesion from his first appearances for me. I think Rihannon is right that they do pull a lot of consistencies well going forward but Giles has a bit of a jarring jump imo from where we are here.

                              Angel also suffers a little from a juddering start. In terms of pulling his characterisation through to AtS there is of course a huge leap in detailing. But, whilst I argued in WttH that we can draw some consistency with Why We Fight and AYNOHYEB in his social reticence and, as has been said, his avoidance of his true nature, it isn't all as easy to make sense of. As you say, he also has a standoffish approach to the actual fighting and as we see Angel openly challenging and disparaging the Master in Darla, it only makes sense for the avoidance of being 'found out'. However, I do find the needlessly cryptic messages rather than simply providing more straightforward details harder to make sense of, particularly if, as you say he is trying to present himself as an informational resource. There is also a slight air of cocky attitude in his approach with Buffy and perhaps that is down to his attraction and his desire to be challenging, mysterious and attractive to her, whether subconscious or not.

                              I'll watch the episode later and probably post further.

                              - - - Updated - - -

                              A few more thoughts...

                              I have to say the stereotyping of being 'a bit British' is hilariously ridiculous - “…it may be that you can wrest some information from that dread machine.” Yep, that’s us with our convoluted sentences, fear of technology, royal family and 'all kinds of problems'. Ha!

                              We touch on the human-vampire transition with Giles telling them that Jesse is dead and now they are facing only the thing that killed him. This implies that the demon taking the hosts body is what actually kills off the human rather than the vampire that attacked and drained the human in the first place. Generally I always took the demon claim on the host to be a post death process, enabled by the 'infection' of demon blood. We do of course see throughout BtVS/AtS that although it isn't pinned down, it isn’t as simple as saying that the human dies.

                              The vampires have more than memories of their human lives they have emotional investment in their memories and human years. In Dopplegangland Angel was about to refute Buffy’s assertion that a vampire’s personality has nothing to do with the person they were and of course the link is Willow thinking vamp!Willow was gay. To whatever weight/balance the human part forms the vampire alongside the demon, the verse shows us consistently that some of a vampire’s personality, strengths, weaknesses are linked inextricably with the original human. It makes perfect sense though that the Council would want The Slayer to disassociate the human to the vampire they become as it could obviously become a risk and a danger if they started to question the need to slay. The focus then turns, through Angel's story, to the soul despite souled human crimes/atrocities. The lack of moral boundaries/conscience would seem a better, although less poetic, distinction to me. But that isn't what we received.

                              I always felt it worked very well for Xander’s overall perspective going forward to have this experience of loss and for a lot of it to come to focus on what I always saw as his lack of belief in the council line that Giles is trying to feed them and then his deep wish that it also is true once Jesse has dusted. Because it wasn’t that Jesse doesn’t remember who Xander is, it is just that he has become irrelevant to him. Seeing a young teen from the unpopular crowd feeling empowered, becoming bold and brash when vamped seems a reasonably realistic reaction to the power blast and lack of conscience. It works well alongside the Willow/Cordelia scene where we see the nerd wants to hit back and that we're not to assume that desire isn’t there. Willow, as oppressed as she is socially, still has a position of power intellectually and was able to use it for revenge. Jesse is overcome by his newly gained sense of strength, is overawed by it really and that overconfidence and narrowed focus weakens him in a different way but is all he can see/feel.

                              Similarly with Luke where the focus again is on strength - he takes out the burly bouncer first, he told Buffy in WttH he was stronger, the Master and he discuss that he doesn’t get beaten and he is the one chosen as the vessel to transfer strength. But it isn’t enough. The support of each other and the smarts to use the stage light to gain the advantage are formidable weapons and the fight becomes more than brawn. Similarly, if only Buffy could hone her wider skills she would have sensed that Jesse was a vampire (despite his modern clothing!) and, of course, she would realise about Angel too. As an aside in the ‘things you didn’t notice before’ vein, I hadn’t previously registered that Jesse undergoes a speed siring.

                              In a season start that emphasises straight away the group dynamics and support of each other, the benefits to Buffy of having the group with her, Joyce’s isolation is greatly emphasised. Joyce struggles as a parent and tries to have authority over Buffy whilst undermining herself by openly admitting to trying to follow books/tapes that are teaching her how to respond to her daughter. I don’t agree with many of her approaches/decisions through the seasons but I don’t doubt in these early episodes that she is worried about them settling in, making it work and that she feels the pressure to ensure that happens and tries to assert herself.
                              But senior boys have mystery, they have – what’s the word I’m searching for? Cars. I’m just not the type to settle, you know? It’s like when I go shopping, I have to have the most expensive thing, not because it’s expensive, but because it costs more.

                              I love this as an insight into Cordelia and the social hierarchy she works within. At a glance it seems a tautology but it isn’t, she is talking about comparative worth rather than worth in itself. The college guys have more to offer and Jesse who was always a nerd becomes worth a dance when he becomes confident/assertive and stops treating her like he is her puppy. It brings some sense to why Xander manages to break through her hierarchical structures as someone who pushes her buttons, banters and disparages her.
                              Last edited by Stoney; 13-03-14, 02:30 AM.