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BtVS rewatch : SEASON 1

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  • Out of Mind, Out of Sight


    This episode does a pretty great job exploring high school politics, social status and the interpersonal group dynamics within the Scooby Gang. It reminds us that the Scoobies may be a “social leper colony” but there are people who have it worse, and people who may appear in a more enviable position on the totem pole but that in fact may long for the genuine friendships the Scoobies have. It does a very good job fleshing out Cordelia and I think Marcie Ross is a very memorable guest-character (though I’ve never wished she’d return as an invisible assassin like a lot of fandom does, apparently).

    I guess we should start off by talking about the Scooby gang and the Buffy and Willow/Xander divide. This episode really emphasizes how Buffy came from a very different world than Xander/Willow and feels somewhat isolated from them due to not only her past and being the Slayer, but the fact that they have years of history together. It’s thus pretty appropriate that Buffy finds herself relating to Cordelia and that Marcie (who has been watching Buffy for some time – “What you gonna do? Slay me?”) thought Buffy in particular would relate to her loneliness. So far the series has hinted at Buffy’s snobbery left over from her Hemery days (“you’re a computer gee – I mean genius”) but I think this is the flipside to that. Xander and Willow ridicule Cordelia’s efforts to be May Queen and in the process insult Buffy who once partook in a similar ceremony (“What kind of moron would ever want be May Queen anyway?”). The snobbery works both ways. The episode does play up how silly Cordelia’s popularity contest is but offers Buffy’s perspective as well, and I find that scene of her looking in on Cordelia’s dress-fitting to be really sad. The series straddles the line between saying Buffy was a vacant airhead before her destiny grounded her and saying that, no, Angel saw her heart laid bare even before she was the Slayer and Buffy had genuine problems at home that were hard on her. So do Xander and Willow re-think their position that all wanabee-May Queens are morons because Buffy used to be May Queen and she’s obviously not a moron and their friend? Or do they write it off as an embarrassing and frivolous part of her past life because she “had [them]” now and is a different person now that she’s a Slayer and, well, unpopular like them, and not part of the vacuous in-crowd?

    I think Buffy *is* grateful that she has Xander and Willow. She’ll later admit to Cordelia that when she was popular she too felt something was missing and Buffy lost all her friends once she became the Slayer so what friendships she did have weren’t comparable to the loyalty and love Xander/Willow have shown her. But I don’t think she’s entirely satisfied by her life like Xander wants her to be when he says she doesn’t need popularity because she has them now. In Homecoming we’ll learn that Buffy would actually like to be a valuable part of the school and stake her place in the year book. She doesn’t want to just be one forgettable crappy picture on one fifth of one crappy page. For Buffy her unpopularity is a consequence of her Slaying and that’s something she’ll always be (justifiably, IMO) resentful of. The episode touches on this when Cordelia and Harmony ridicule Buffy after she drops the weapons – “She’s always hanging around with that creepy librarian in that creepy library”

    But this episode all explores how Buffy feels like a third-wheel to Xander/Willow. She feels left out by their in-jokes and humorous anecdotes of their childhood. When school finishes Buffy looks on as Xander invites Willow over for dinner and Willow demonstrates familiarity with Xander’s family that Buffy probably doesn’t feel yet (“Xander do your parents even own a stove?”). And this leads right into the scene of Buffy having to patrol alone and stumbling upon Cordelia’s fitting which Buffy can only watch from the shadows.

    What I like about this episode is how it shows a more sympathetic side to Cordelia without cheating on her less than positive qualities. She’s extremely nasty to Buffy throughout a lot of this episode, she’s horrible to Marcie in the flashbacks, really self-centered about Mitch and the girl she hit with her bike, and in general pretty insensitive and rude. I think there’s two things going on here; Cordelia comes from a very privileged background and genuinely sees others as beneath her because that’s how she was raised (“Queen C”). She also embraces the dog eat dog world of Sunnydale High and is willing to assert her authority and put others down to maintain her popularity and not be alone – or at least not be alone by herself. I feel we do see a different side to Cordelia when she makes extra effort with her school work and arranges some tutoring with Ms Miller after class. We know from both Band Candy and Lovers Walk that this is a side of herself Cordy feels she has to keep under wraps though she has no hesitation about participating a lot in class. Sadly, even before Cordy comes clean about the truth of her popularity we see the ugly side of those she chooses to surround herself with when Mitch brags about his intentions to sleep with Cordy in the guy’s locker room.

    At the end of the episode Cordy’s gratitude and sincerity is much appreciated even if she ends up ditching the Scoobies out fear of being judged (she’ll get there finally in B,B&B). What I find sad about this scene is that you can see in Cordy’s eyes that she’s about to consider having lunch with the gang before Mitch interrupts and it’s rather depressing that Cordy turns away from the possibility of genuine friendship to remain popular and on the arm of someone who’s only interested in getting in her pants. I do feel Cordy begins treating the Scoobies pretty differently from this episode onwards or at least doesn’t go out of her way to pick on Buffy and Willow. Cordy and Willow do bond a little in Prophecy Girl and Cordy will spend the evening with them even if she’s ashamed to tell people that in WSWB.

    BtVS is pretty big on showing the effect bullying can have on a person and Marcie is just one in a long line of characters who become dangerous or act out violently. Jonathan almost kills himself in Earshot, Tucker unleashes the Hellhounds on the prom after being rejected, Warren violently lashes out at the guys who made him cry in gym class, Dark!Willow expresses her resentment and self-loathing for being a “loser” who was “picked on in junior high school, high school, up until college, with her stupid mousy ways”, and even Xander admits to the fantasy of taking out the entire school with a semi-automatic. So whilst Marcie is the first she’s hardly the last.

    Other brief thoughts;

    I love the Angel/Giles scene. I think these two characters have really great chemistry together and I really enjoy their relationship pre-Angelus. I do want to give Angel credit for trying to keep to his word and stay away from Buffy since Angel. I also appreciate Angel’s insight into Marcie’s invisibility as it’s fitting that as a lonely solitary guy he’s able to see Marcie’s pain.

    Angel’s pretty useful in this episode. Not only does he get the Codex for Giles but he saves Willow, Xander and Giles’ lives down in the basement. Xander’s total lack of gratitude towards Angel and his hostile attitude towards him (“what do you want!?”) goes a long way, I feel, in setting the unpleasant tone of their relationship. This is only the second time Xander has spoken to the guy and both times he’s been unfriendly and aggressive.

    I really admire Willow’s friendliness towards Cordelia at the end of the episode considering their history and how many years Cordy has picked on her. Willow and Xander actually formed a We Hate Cordelia Club so there’s a lot of anger and resentment there so it’s pretty big that Willow was so open to extending an olive branch.

    I’m not a big fan of the resolution to Marcie’s storyline in this episode. It’s a convenient way of getting rid of her without Buffy having to kill a human girl but the shady government guys are so far out of left field and such embarrassing caricatures. I’m also not hugely fond of how apparently this has happened at other schools as whilst the supernatural does exist outside of Sunnydale I always thought Sunnydale High was meant to be pretty unique with these phenomenons. The idea of invisible assassins is cool in theory but it doesn’t really resonate with the rest of Marcie’s storyline which I’m really fond of, so I just don’t get the obsession fans have with bringing her back. But then I never got why people felt it was bad writing we never saw the hatchlings from Teacher’s Pet. I don’t need to see this stuff, you know? And I never felt it was meant as a promise that we would.

    Shallow observation but SMG looks particularly great in this episode. She looks sexy as hell at the beginning of the episode in that white t-shirt and she looks very beautiful with her hair down.

    I feel like I wanted to discuss a lot more about this ep. More emphasis can be placed on the Buffy/Cordy parallels and the various pitfalls of both popularity and unpopularity but I’m running out of time. I’ll try and discuss more over the next few days but I’m sure you guys will cover it better than I could anyway

    ~ Banner by Nina ~

    Comment


    • Great review vamps.

      I really like the idea of showing that perceptions can be such a strong and important thing that they can literally shape physical reality, and, well, the title switch around is just neat.

      Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
      This episode does a pretty great job exploring high school politics, social status and the interpersonal group dynamics within the Scooby Gang. It reminds us that the Scoobies may be a “social leper colony” but there are people who have it worse, and people who may appear in a more enviable position on the totem pole but that in fact may long for the genuine friendships the Scoobies have.
      If we compare Marcie and Willow’s responses to Cordelia we can see where/how these differing ‘levels’ can occur. In The Harvest Cordelia’s (very appropriate against this episode) question to Willow “who gave you permission to exist?” is met by Willow’s retaliation in tricking her into deleting her work. Willow does feel she exists regardless of Cordelia, she has friends and she has smarts and she will defend the former and use the latter. But Willow also has a respect and belief in the school social hierarchy, or an acceptance of it at least.

      It could be that Marcie lacks self worth, only has her band activity, and wants to be be an upward mover, coveting acceptance by the elite group. But her frustration and anger seem to be at the nonsense and injustice of not even being seen. That by random determinations, such vacuous facts such as beauty or lack thereof, that she could be figuratively (at first obviously) invisible to others . So in the toilets when Cordelia et al try to entirely ignore Marcie her attempt at a humorous observation is literally taken from her and used by Cordelia, her very being is denied. She has no permission to exist, no contribution is accepted from her (“they take your life and they suck it out of you”) and she is left standing alone.

      It is interesting to also consider in AtS 5’s Harm’s Way we see the boot on the other foot for Harmony. Social structures/groupings/situations can change and I think this is something Cordelia is perfectly aware of. She works to maintain the hierarchy, the level of bitchiness and dismissal of people coupled with positive accolades affirms her position, she does work to stay popular. It is pretty precarious balancing everything to remain as high as can be.

      Having said that, and even though she fights against socialising with Buffy and dating Xander, and regardless that she is aware and she does question how much any of those around her know her, I do think she is still a little surprised by being shot down so comprehensively by the ‘cooler’ kids when she does 'lower' herself later on. It is of course to Cordelia’s credit that she does do these things regardless in the end and shows that she has self worth past her own popularity/wealth/status. Sadly, it exposes that she did hope that there would be some greater degree that she was looked at and valued by those she had been socialising with, Harmony et al, than she actually was.

      I really like Cordelia's openness with Buffy and the line “I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone.” I find very poignant, although I understand why to Marcie it sounds dramatically self involved. It is interesting that she follows that vulnerability by putting up the defences again in snarking at Buffy in what alternate universe she was popular because Cordelia recognised the valley girl when she first arrived and courted her until she chose a 'lower' rung on the ladder and became weird/gossip fodder.

      I guess we should start off by talking about the Scooby gang and the Buffy and Willow/Xander divide. This episode really emphasizes how Buffy came from a very different world than Xander/Willow and feels somewhat isolated from them due to not only her past and being the Slayer, but the fact that they have years of history together.
      It is good to see this aspect in the dynamics of the trio. We have seen in previous episodes that Buffy and Willow are creating their own friendship and can share the eye rolling moments at Xander. But as much as Willow feels that Buffy’s arrival has changed things, which it has, it doesn’t corrode her history with Xander and her getting to feel that connection still at times, and Xander getting to feel the consistency of Willow’s affection for him, they are still valuable. It is harsh for Buffy on this occasion, but totally realistic that there are times like this. Having worked in school environments, I rarely saw friendship groups of three children that didn’t have very regular tensions arising from one member feeling like the outsider for a time.

      I’m not a big fan of the resolution to Marcie’s storyline in this episode. It’s a convenient way of getting rid of her without Buffy having to kill a human girl but the shady government guys are so far out of left field and such embarrassing caricatures. I’m also not hugely fond of how apparently this has happened at other schools as whilst the supernatural does exist outside of Sunnydale I always thought Sunnydale High was meant to be pretty unique with these phenomenons. The idea of invisible assassins is cool in theory but it doesn’t really resonate with the rest of Marcie’s storyline which I’m really fond of, so I just don’t get the obsession fans have with bringing her back.
      Marcie’s dark behaviour in this episode, the vicious vengeance path is very disturbing. I always found the end of this episode very unsatisfying in that it failed to deal with this really by just simply implying that she would willingly be molded/controlled, ‘rehabilitated’ for nefarious purposes. I also agree that it being something that occurred because it was Sunnydale High sat on the Hellmouth worked better. So, I’m happy with her as a one time character.
      Last edited by Stoney; 14-04-14, 03:00 PM.

      Comment


      • Great review, Mogs!

        Buffy obviously relates to Cordelia more than Marcie. She's surrounding herself with the Scoobies even though she shouldn't, because she does not wanna be alone. This episode shows how out of the loop Buffy can be with Xander and Willow: their shared childhood memories + different interests.

        Buffy would have fit in well with Cordelia's friends had she not been a Slayer, but now she's on the other side. She's the loser hanging out with a geek and a nerd, looking longingly at the life she used to have. I have noticed a contrast between Buffy and Xander from last episode: Xander smirks with satisfaction at a cool kid's embarrassment while Buffy smiles happily for Cordelia's happiness. It shows that Buffy is more forgiving and a much nicer person than Xander.

        Also, while Buffy relates to Cordelia, Willow pretty much relates to Marcie and is sympathetic to her quest, even though she obviously disagrees with her methods of physical abuse, but I think it's loosely similar to the whole "del" incident. It's about vengeance, and Willow isn't above being a vengeful person.
        Made by Trickyboxes
        Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

        Comment


        • Sosa, I must say I was surprised at your last post. I thought you were much more pro-Scooby/pro-Xander. Like:

          Originally posted by Sosa lola View Post
          Buffy obviously relates to Cordelia more than Marcie. She's surrounding herself with the Scoobies even though she shouldn't, because she does not wanna be alone. This episode shows how out of the loop Buffy can be with Xander and Willow: their shared childhood memories + different interests.
          I don't know what you mean by Buffy "surrounding herself with the Scoobies even though she shouldn't". Why shouldn't Buffy? Willow and Xander have been really kind and wonderful to her so far. Buffy likes hanging out with them. Despite their different backgrounds, they have many similar interests and conversational styles and rather dovetailing senses of humor. Willow and Xander have been big helps in her slaying mission from every angle- physically, intelligence-gathering, as ethical counsel, as alternatives to Giles's more staid, authoritarian pep talks. Buffy's become rather emotionally invested in helping Willow gain some confidence and social skills.

          Buffy has every good reason to make friends with Willow and Xander, beyond just being afraid of being alone. BTW, I've read a bunch of pro-Buffy folks (on LJ and Tumblr) argue that Buffy just hung out the horrible Willow and Xander so she didn't have to be alone- but they don't realize that this makes Buffy look *worse*. Are these people really arguing that Buffy really just chaffed under the crappy treatment of her "friends" but pretended to like Willow/Xander through years of missing Ivy League opportunities or missing eyes because Buffy was a people who needed people even though it made her the unluckiest people. </Barbara Streisand>

          Buffy would have fit in well with Cordelia's friends had she not been a Slayer, but now she's on the other side. She's the loser hanging out with a geek and a nerd, looking longingly at the life she used to have. I have noticed a contrast between Buffy and Xander from last episode: Xander smirks with satisfaction at a cool kid's embarrassment while Buffy smiles happily for Cordelia's happiness. It shows that Buffy is more forgiving and a much nicer person than Xander.
          I thought Buffy smiled *wistfully* in that scene with some longing bittersweet happiness at seeing a rather idyllic tableau in Buffy's eyes- a beautiful dress fitting for a lovely ball where the lovely, popular girl is surrounded by happy, stylish, admiring friends. I didn't get the vibe that Buffy smiled because Buffy was particularly happy for Cordelia.

          I also don't think Buffy's and Xander's differing actions say one way or another whether someone is a nicer person. I strongly object to measuring a person's niceness or forgiving nature by assessing their privately expressed thoughts- displayed only by a smirk or beneficent smile. It curtails people's ability to think what they want and really judge people in this cold, mean world to figure out how they need to protect themselves and where they stand. Judge people for how they *act*- not as much for one bit of unexpressed feeling.

          Plus, there's a lot of ways to be a nice person. It *could* be nice of Buffy to be happy for Cordelia. However since Buffy has legitimate reasons to be angry with Cordelia and since Cordelia won her May Queen crown by oppressing the voiceless and powerless SHS students, Buffy has cause to *not* be happy for Cordelia and still be perfectly nice and forgiving. Or Buffy could be showing niceness by identifying with every person that Cordelia hurt against Cordelia, the person who causes pain. Similarly with Xander, the ep put that moment of the cool (rather rough and bad looking) kid being smothered by his mother's embarrassing affection as a comedy moment. If BtVS had a laugh track, it would heard over that moment. It was *funny*. I can't really blame Xander for also finding it funny- just because Xander is actually *in that world* instead of just watching it on his television. Not to mention, that the boy's nightmare doesn't really feel like a nightmare for Xander. So, this dude's mother loved her son enough to smother him with kisses and endearments in the middle of the school. Maybe Xander would be embarrassed if his mother did that but IMO, a pretty big part of him would be touched at such uncharacteristic parental affection. In a bunch of ways, Xander *wishes* he could have a credible nightmare like that.

          Originally posted by Sosa lola View Post
          Also, while Buffy relates to Cordelia, Willow pretty much relates to Marcie and is sympathetic to her quest, even though she obviously disagrees with her methods of physical abuse, but I think it's loosely similar to the whole "del" incident. It's about vengeance, and Willow isn't above being a vengeful person.
          The "del" incident is light years of different from Marcie carving up Cordelia's face and using lethal force on Mitch and Harmony. Although, I see why you'd relate the two VERRRRRRRY loosely. Actually, IMO, Willow is against solely vengeance, pure as the driven snow- at this point of the series. Willow has *vengeful* impulses but at this point, she needs some corrective or noble mission tied up with the vengeful mission to buy into it and go forward with her plan to satisfy her vengeful impulses, but also to believe that she's putting *some* good and justice in the world. In the Del incident, Willow was standing up for Buffy and she was doing battle with her wits that a halfway computer knowledgeable Cordelia could have seen through.

          In other Defending Willow news, I've seen the argument that Willow's identification with Shylock = Willow is a bad person. It's kind of darkly funny to me because the scene goes:

          CORDELIA
          With Shylock it's whine, whine, whine, like the whole world is about him! He acts like it's justice, him getting a pound of Antonio's flesh. It's not justice,
          it's yicky.

          MS. MILLER
          But has Shylock suffered? What's his place in Venice Society?

          WILLOW
          Well, everyone looks down on him --

          CORDELIA
          That's such a twinkie defense! Shylock should get over himself. People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like the time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike, and it was the most traumatizing even of my life, and she's trying to make it al about her leg! Like my pain
          meant nothing!..
          Note, Willow never defends Shylock's actions. She doesn't say that she'd like to get herself one of dem pounds of flesh one day. Heck, she doesn't even defend Shylock until Ms. Miller prompted it in her question- "But has Shylock suffered? What's his place in Venice society?", looking for the widely accepted and downright vanilla conventional literary analysis of the Merchant of Venice that Shylock was oppressed and treated poorly. (Moreover, it's a reading that is rather important to Jewish people like Willow and I since IMO, Shakespeare intentionally wrote Shylock as a 3D character with his own legitimate pain to shine a light on anti-Semitic European culture instead of just writing the dirty, rotten money-lending Jew as just a worthless sack of shit with no real pain.)

          Maybe, I'll write a post of "Willow's Literary Analysis and Fandom Bashing Willow For It". Because, the FBI mass murderer profiles are now going to single out people who felt that Venetian society oppressed Shylock in Merchant of Venice and people who liked and rooted for Quasimodo in Hunchback of Notre Dame i.e. MOST EVERYONE WHO EVER READ EITHER PIECE BECAUSE BOTH ARE PRETTY FAIR AND THOUGHTFUL REACTIONS THAT IMO VICTOR HUGO AND WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE WERE FISHING FOR! Sheesh!

          This ep does feature Buffy being on the outs from Xander's and Willlow's bond from history and Buffy's dividing May Queen shiksa goddess who was just forced into uncharacteristic unpopularity because she's a *superhero*. However, I would argue that S1 shows how this close group of three can have cliques of two of all permutations. Willow's nerdiness and her physical weakness as well as Xander's best efforts to create Buffy/Xander romantic relationship force her out of the Buffy/Xander clique. ("Willow, I love you but BYYYYYYEE. Hey, Buffy! Wait up!") Xander's opposite genderness and Willow's and Buffy's inclinations to be tender to one another out of sympathy (for Buffy's crushing special destiny and angsty love life, for Willow's shyness and vulnerability) while reserving their snarkier sides for Xander forces him out of the Buffy/Willow clique.

          IMO in S1, of three "You two are the two who are the two. I'm the other one", the Buffy/Willow clique excluding Xander is the most obvious, exclusive, and consistent. However, in S1, that's somewhat negated by the fact that I'm not even sure that Xander really knows that he's on the outs. He's pretty happy to be a guy and thus, he's quite jolly when Buffy/Willow act according to their scripts of feeling removed from his guyness and he acts according to his script of really being a guy. That works better for him than Buffy reiterating that he's totally and completely one of the girls. Plus, he's really hoping that Buffy will come to love him anyway. It takes Xander until late S3-4 to start feeling the burn of being the Left Out One. In this, Xander is the opposite of Willow who consistently dwells on and analyzes the group dynamics and where she stands and thus, is the eloquent wordsmith of "You two are the two who are the two. I'm the other one." (Although, I'd argue that Willow focuses less on Scooby dynamics when Willow starts falling *hard* for Tara by the beginning of S5 which is very bad in a whole lot of ways.)

          Originally posted by Stoney View Post
          If we compare Marcie and Willow’s responses to Cordelia we can see where/how these differing ‘levels’ can occur. In The Harvest Cordelia’s (very appropriate against this episode) question to Willow “who gave you permission to exist?” is met by Willow’s retaliation in tricking her into deleting her work. Willow does feel she exists regardless of Cordelia, she has friends and she has smarts and she will defend the former and use the latter. But Willow also has a respect and belief in the school social hierarchy, or an acceptance of it at least.
          I read a drabble that speculated that Willow could have turned invisible Marcie-style if Buffy hadn't noticed and befriended her in time. I don't know whether that's accurate. Willow had Xander and Jesse noticing her and certainly, the teachers of SHS noticed Willow while they ignored Marcie. The teachers never never acknowledged Marcie even when she raised her hand to participate in class. Willow had a rep on a campus as a big brain and habitually entered the school science fair where teachers/professionals had to have noticed and awarded her experiments. Marcie didn't have any of that. Plus, it did look like Marcie harbored dreams of breaking into the Cordettes which such a lofty social dream that Marcie really had to be crushed to fall so far from her goal.

          However, Buffy was *very* important. Before Buffy, Willow's MO was a Marcie-style "Do you want me to move?" It took Willow falling hard for Buffy as a friend (and possibly a subliminal crush) and learning about Buffy's crucial, life-saving mission for Willow to develop the assertiveness to play the Deliver trick.
          Last edited by Dipstick; 14-04-14, 07:57 PM.

          Comment


          • I don't think Willow was vaguely at risk of 'vanishing' pre Buffy personally, although I do agree that it is at least dubious whether she would have done the 'del' trick before or not. She did have friends and, as you say, was noticed by the teachers and other students for her smarts.

            One of the really disturbing things about what happens to Marcie is that she is universally treated that way as far as we see, illustrated by the teacher also looking straight past her. Do we then see wider societal judgements/hierarchies reflected in the school social ones so that the adults around her unconsciously could also treat her the same way? It isn't a great leap as jocks in school are often praised etc by the powers as they are by their peers. Being a geek isn't necessarily 'uncool' to adults but some people just fade into the background to adults and children alike. Is it also safe to therefore assume, given the extreme result of what occurs to her, that Marcie was pretty much ignored at home as well? It raises the question of why this did happen to her. Others have the same social status so it must be more than that, like there is something fundamentally dismissible about her. It isn't presented like a coping mechanism to 'disappear' because she is so resentful and angry. She didn't wallflower herself, this is the perception of others made real, wiping her out. I think Giles is right that she is somewhat mad. Her fury is at the injustice of it all and she wants Cordelia to see, to learn, that her wondrous popularity is based on nothing substantial. Destroy her face and she loses all she has. It is hard to imagine visible!Marcie who just wanted to at least be acknowledged, whether or not she truly aspired to substantially climb socially or not, just to at least be seen and heard, as taking these extremely violent actions. So she becomes something that she wasn't and is at the end whisked away to play a new role. Her rejection and distortion changed her so that, ironically, becoming invisible finally made her noticeable.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Stoney View Post
              One of the really disturbing things about what happens to Marcie is that she is universally treated that way as far as we see, illustrated by the teacher also looking straight past her. Do we then see wider societal judgements/hierarchies reflected in the school social ones so that the adults around her unconsciously could also treat her the same way? It isn't a great leap as jocks in school are often praised etc by the powers as they are by their peers. Being a geek isn't necessarily 'uncool' to adults but some people just fade into the background to adults and children alike.
              Yes, many of the SHS teachers reflect and even inspire students' insensitivity and cruelty. Snyder sucks up to the jocks and gives them special treatment. Based on Snyder how intimidated Willow into undeserved passing swimmer Gage, it felt like most SHS teachers gave athletes special treatment. It's possible that Miss Miller was genuinely charmed by how Cordelia was offering an honestly fresh perspective on Merchant of Venice and showing off that she *did* do the reading and thought independently about it. However, Cordelia wasn't giving the answer that Miss Miller was looking for and her "I ran a girl over and she was just whining about *her* leg" story says horrible things about Cordelia and Cordelia was rather rudely debating and dominating the conversation. It did feel like Miss Miller was possibly a little starry-eyed that the beautiful, wealthy, popular Cordelia was so interested in her class- and certainly, Willow rolled her eyes at Miss Miller praising Cordelia's contribution to the skies. Even though the teachers and arguably Snyder "like" and "approve of" Willow, they do imitate/influence students in assuming that Willow should be on call for homework help, library organizing, tutorial running, teaching class, hooking up electronics usually in a high handed, domineering way.

              This ep works with my analysis of Master/Cordelia parallels in The Harvest. I wrote:

              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.
              Here, the beauty/ugly aspect is clear. Marcie knows that Cordelia is treated like royalty because of her beauty. The Master is treated like royalty because he's a very old vampire (shown by his ugliness). Horror is somewhat related to humor, to puncturing our every day life by distorting it so crazily. The Master does work as an ironic play on what makes someone a monarch and what inspires a cult of personality. When you think about it- the Master is trapped, he doesn't provide his minions anything real, he's frequently mean to his minions, he only has a relatively small group of followers but they all treat him like he's the King of the World. These vampires are hungry for blood and evilly self-interested but they deny themselves food and prostate themselves before the Master. It's ridiculous- but yet, it makes sense because the audience knows that groups make monarchs out of fallible people even when that hurts the followers more than it helps them. The Cordettes' manner of treating Cordelia like a Queen and Cordelia's attitude that she really is the Queen of all of SHS is similarly mocked. Cordelia, like the Master, doesn't really provide her minions anything other than being the zone of royalty. Cordelia is frequently rude to her minions and IMO, a lot of them know that she's using them. Cordelia is a friggin' sophomore at a One Starbucks Town public high school and she gets a bunch of self-interested in their own right gals desperate to play Anna to her Lady Mary Crawley but without the cuddliness and you know, getting wages and room and board at Downton Abbey as payment.

              The difference being that vampires will rally around the Master for his old age, demonstrated by his ugliness. Cordelia, though, could never enjoy her life's privileges without her outstanding beauty. Even though Cordelia was still gorgeous when she moved to LA, she had to live in poverty and she was desperate for male attention and people stepped on her because her beauty meant a lot less in LA which is over-saturated with gorgeous girls.

              I agree with vampmogs that this is a great ep for Angel. I think it's classy that Angel still kind of holds Willow until she wakes up from unconsciousness on her own instead of dumping her or shaking her. I also like ASH and DB's chemistry and the Angel/Giles relationship. IMO, Angel/Giles is by far Angel's most interesting non-Buffy relationship until Angel gets to LA. (Spike and *Angelus* is very interesting and awesome in BtVS S2, but I'm less interested in Spike/Angel and IMO, they get more boring the more their relationship is overplayed.) It's pretty astounding that Angel and Giles get on as well as they do. I think it shows characteristics, both good and bad in Giles and Angel. On the good side, arguments that Angel just fought for good to get Lolita-style with Buffy go out the window when one considers how Angel worked for and approached Giles on his own. Angel wants to do good. And he values Giles's opinion as a learned, experienced Watcher. On the Giles side, Giles demonstrates a lot of trust in Buffy to give Angel a chance like this. Additionally, Giles demonstrates his usual winning flexibility around Watcher-dogma to embrace having Angel on his side if Angel can use his super-strength, resources, long memory of the supernatural for good. Giles also aims for empathy and politeness with Angel in S1-2 until Angel loses his soul- and even afterward, Giles is very empathetic to the vampire who cost him so much. Giles takes an interpersonal and intellectual interest in Angel in this ep at the library instead of just accepting the Codex.

              I also think that Angel and Giles share a lot of really cool but rather exclusive, domineering characteristics- worldliness, a cool as ice cosmopolitan approach to life, intellectualism, badassery, protectiveness, artistic talent, confidence despite their angst over their dark pasts- and they make sense as friends, the kind of men who would like each other. Based on their personalities, Giles was actually a more natural friend for Angel than early Wesley was because Giles's and Angel's shared confidence and maturity. Giles and Angel started off with more a friends vibe despite their distance; Wesley and Angel started off with a more follower/boss vibe despite all their closeness.

              On the bad side, I do think that Angel and Giles see similar paternalistic, secretive, manipulative instincts in each other and want to embrace it in the other because they mistakenly see it as noble and protective. In this very ep, Giles lies his head off to Buffy about how a janitor found them to hide the fact that he's working with Angel on his own and to avoid distracting Buffy with this maudlin romance. (And Willow and Xander rather confusedly go along with Giles's deception because Giles is the adult here and they trust that he knows best.)

              Angel treats Giles a little bit like Buffy's father who needs to be brought on board with the Bangel relationship to make it all kosher. (I wonder if there's some correlation between Bangel shipping and ardently reading Giles as Buffy's substitute father in fans.) However, Angel hides from and lies to Buffy's *actual parent* Joyce and never feels guilty that he's having this big romantic relationship behind Joyce's back much like Giles didn't feel guilty that he was having a secret, deadly relationship with Buffy behind Joyce's back until she stated that directly to him in Anne.
              Last edited by Dipstick; 15-04-14, 03:18 AM.

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              • I agree it is a great episode for Angel too. I think it emphasises the separation that Giles feels to the 'kids' a little as well. Although I think him declaring that Angel was in love with Buffy is pretty unrealistic because he knows they hardly know each other and I really do think instant love is a fanciful notion anyway that not many would actually put weight to and buy into in reality. I really can't express enough how silly I find it. Especially coming from a) an adult and b) someone other than the couple caught up in the attraction/caring/lust combination. And I will say again that I do think the intensity and irrelevancy of the age gap works from the points of view of both Angel and Buffy themselves because of where they are at personally even if I find the instant depth of emotion labelled to it daft. But Giles seems very accepting of the idea in a scene where although (and in part because) Angel is talking about needing to keep away from Buffy, he is coming across very much as an adult/mature which simply underlines the age issue with Giles' very young charge. Taking Giles here then as pseudo father I think that also makes this seem a dubious exchange on that front. Even considering that he later keeps from Buffy that it was Angel that let them out, going along with keeping them apart. And hey, at this stage when Xander is very much interested in Buffy, and as mogs says unreasonably rude to Angel, he doesn't slip and mention him absentmindedly as he will do later in Pangs.
                Last edited by Stoney; 15-04-14, 09:19 AM.

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                • Well, I don't really blame Giles for saying Angel loves Buffy after Angel expresses how it's too hard to even be around her. I think Giles more than anyone would find something remarkable about a vampire having any kind of feelings for the Slayer and would be swept up in the 'poetry' of it all. He also witnessed first hand Angel stake Darla, his sire, the woman he was involved with for several generations, to save Buffy's life. And, icky or not, when you consider that Angel really is another mature older guy who Giles is bonding with and who is most certainly not a kid, it makes sense Giles wouldn't just write Angel's feelings off as tawdry teen lust.

                  I dunno. Whilst I do think a lot of Buffy's feelings in S1 comes down to teen lust and immaturity ("You're in love with a vampire are you out of your mind!?") I really never get that impression from Angel. Angel's been watching her for some time and has been rather invested in her. He staked Darla for her. As we'll later come to learn, he connects with her when he watches her cry in LA and changes his entire life because he "wants to help her" which is no small thing. I think 'love at first sight' is pretty atypical but I do believe it exists, mostly. Which doesn't mean I don't think B/A can be heavily scrutinized for not knowing each other before they're declaring their undying love for one another, or that there's not plenty of other reasons Angel latches onto Buffy like he does, but I don't really have any problem believing he genuinely loves her at this point.

                  Believe it or not I hadn't even thought about how Giles lied to Buffy about Angel's involvement. I think this may be the first time in the series where Giles lies to Buffy 'for her own good?' I agree with Dipstick that Giles and Angel share a lot of similarities including their paternalistic attitude towards Buffy which makes Stoney's Pangs comparison very apt. Although, unlike in S4, Angel never asked Giles to lie for him or keep his involvement a secret from Buffy. And I think it probably does showcase that whilst Giles has been pretty lax concerning B/A as both a Watcher and an adult-figure in Buffy's life, he does think it's for the best that Buffy and Angel stay a part. What's funny is that in Welcome to the Hellmouth Buffy assumed that Giles and Angel were "buds" and now Giles is trying to form a friendly business relationship with Angel and work with him (and will again in Prophecy Girl).

                  Interesting point about how the Sunnydale High teachers are right in the mix when it comes to the student's social hierarchies and bullying. I particularly like this as it stood out to me when rewatching this episode how Giles is judged for being a loser as much as the kids are ("that creepy librarian"). In HS my friends and I certainly judged teachers on their coolness factor but I'd never DREAM of insulting a bunch of kids in front of a teacher the way Mitch calls Buffy, Xander and Willow "losers" with Giles standing right beside them. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was calling Giles a loser right along with them which takes a LOT of balls given that Giles is a faculty member, but it does serve to prove that Giles, just like Snyder or Miss Miller, is caught up in the high school politics too. In my experience, it was just an unspoken rule in high school that kids would play nice in front of teachers and then go in on each other when the teacher's back was turned. Mitch calling B/W/X "losers" in front of a teacher shows how little Giles is respected -- and yeah, I think he's lumping Giles in with them too.
                  Last edited by vampmogs; 15-04-14, 09:39 AM.

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                  • Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                    Well, I don't really blame Giles for saying Angel loves Buffy after Angel expresses how it's too hard to even be around her. I think Giles more than anyone would find something remarkable about a vampire having any kind of feelings for the Slayer and would be swept up in the 'poetry' of it all. He also witnessed first hand Angel stake Darla, his sire, the woman he was involved with for several generations, to save Buffy's life. And, icky or not, when you consider that Angel really is another mature older guy who Giles is bonding with and who is most certainly not a kid, it makes sense Giles wouldn't just write Angel's feelings off as tawdry teen lust.
                    I suppose I can see that point of view and I didn't think that Giles would/should be writing it off as tawdry teen lust. It is just a bit of a knee jerk reaction for me I think, and even though I know there is a degree of personal meaning involved, 'love' is just bandied around too easily for me. I could see the exact same scene with Giles saying 'cares' and wouldn't have thought anything of him acknowledging and seeing there is emotional investment in there, it is just the 'love' label gets me twitchy when it is instant.

                    I dunno. Whilst I do think a lot of Buffy's feelings in S1 comes down to teen lust and immaturity ("You're in love with a vampire are you out of your mind!?") I really never get that impression from Angel. Angel's been watching her for some time and has been rather invested in her. He staked Darla for her. As we'll later come to learn, he connects with her when he watches her cry in LA and changes his entire life because he "wants to help her" which is no small thing. I think 'love at first sight' is pretty atypical but I do believe it exists, mostly. Which doesn't mean I don't think B/A can be heavily scrutinized for not knowing each other before they're declaring their undying love for one another, or that there's not plenty of other reasons Angel latches onto Buffy like he does, but I don't really have any problem believing he genuinely loves her at this point.
                    Ah, see I don't believe love at first sight exists because I think love has a depth to it you can't possibly achieve just by looking at someone which is an entirely physical reaction. I think Buffy's link to Angel's redemption is a great additional layer to his feelings and the intensity of them so it is easier to see more depth early on from his side. But also, he is 'young' in the role he is in and somewhat 'green' so the immaturity side of his emotions isn't a no-go for me despite his actual vampiric age. I have no issue with how it feels from their perspectives because of where they are both at but I do find Giles being the one to label it as love unlikely and him just a little too accepting a) of the instant depth and b) as Buffy's guardian of sorts.

                    I can see what you are saying about Angel already challenging the norm for Giles in his actions though and this making a difference but as Angel's actual time with Buffy has been miniscule I think from the guardian pov it would actually be even more off putting and pretty alarming that a vampire with a vicious history has been watching over her and is claiming to love her without actually knowing her. I think Giles is so role focused it seems dubious he would see it as romantic/poetic and not just concerning.

                    I suppose the significance he puts on Angel having a soul may account for it but I would expect him to be more likely to be researching demon/soul combinations for some surety or something than just being so carefree about it all. Of course the simple acceptance of safety from Angel's actions/intentions plays into what will unfold and their reactions in S2, so again perhaps Giles' overly ready acceptance here plays into that.

                    Although, unlike in S4, Angel never asked Giles to lie for him or keep his involvement a secret from Buffy. And I think it probably does showcase that whilst Giles has been pretty lax concerning B/A as both a Watcher and an adult-figure in Buffy's life, he does think it's for the best that Buffy and Angel stay a part.
                    Ah, maybe this is where there is a line. Giles doesn't actually think there is a chance that it is going anywhere so he is looking at it poetically as you say.

                    Interesting point about how the Sunnydale High teachers are right in the mix when it comes to the student's social hierarchies and bullying. I particularly like this as it stood out to me when rewatching this episode how Giles is judged for being a loser as much as the kids are ("that creepy librarian"). In HS my friends and I certainly judged teachers on their coolness factor but I'd never DREAM of insulting a bunch of kids in front of a teacher the way Mitch calls Buffy, Xander and Willow "losers" with Giles standing right beside them. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was calling Giles a loser right along with them which takes a LOT of balls given that Giles is a faculty member, but it does serve to prove that Giles, just like Snyder or Miss Miller, is caught up in the high school politics too.
                    A fair point. Mitch as one of the school jocks is effectively confident that he can insult Giles and, to be fair to him, he is right. If Snyder was stood right there I can't see him saying jack.

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                    • Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
                      Sosa, I must say I was surprised at your last post. I thought you were much more pro-Scooby/pro-Xander.
                      I am. Xander was the reason I watched the show and the Scoobies are the reason I'm still a fan.




                      Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
                      I don't know what you mean by Buffy "surrounding herself with the Scoobies even though she shouldn't".
                      I guess I didn't phrase it right - sorry about that, when I was writing my post my son had turned the couch into a trampoline and my daughter thought that my laptop was her bottle. What I meant was that Buffy as the Slayer shouldn't have friends because then she'd endanger them, which is something Buffy herself said, but she couldn't bear the loneliness so she befriended them and let them help and become part of the team that was supposed to be only her and Giles.


                      I also don't think Buffy's and Xander's differing actions say one way or another whether someone is a nicer person.
                      Maybe my read on Buffy in that scene wasn't correct - it makes more sense for her to be smiling wistfully about the past than for Cordelia. However, I do think that Buffy overall is a nicer person than Xander. Buffy is far gentler, politer and forgiving toward people than Xander is: off the top of my head, in Nightmares, when they went to talk to that kid who was attacked by the spiders, Xander was quick to bail but Buffy stopped him, and there are more examples of Buffy being more considerate to others' feelings than Xander.

                      The "del" incident is light years of different from Marcie carving up Cordelia's face and using lethal force on Mitch and Harmony. Although, I see why you'd relate the two VERRRRRRRY loosely.
                      I do think it's far fetched. I think I was relating the vengeful impulses to future episodes than anything in S1.

                      IMO in S1, of three "You two are the two who are the two. I'm the other one", the Buffy/Willow clique excluding Xander is the most obvious, exclusive, and consistent. However, in S1, that's somewhat negated by the fact that I'm not even sure that Xander really knows that he's on the outs. He's pretty happy to be a guy and thus, he's quite jolly when Buffy/Willow act according to their scripts of feeling removed from his guyness and he acts according to his script of really being a guy. That works better for him than Buffy reiterating that he's totally and completely one of the girls. Plus, he's really hoping that Buffy will come to love him anyway. It takes Xander until late S3-4 to start feeling the burn of being the Left Out One. In this, Xander is the opposite of Willow who consistently dwells on and analyzes the group dynamics and where she stands and thus, is the eloquent wordsmith of "You two are the two who are the two. I'm the other one." (Although, I'd argue that Willow focuses less on Scooby dynamics when Willow starts falling *hard* for Tara by the beginning of S5 which is very bad in a whole lot of ways.)
                      I think that while Xander is in the outs, his friendship with Willow is still tight for him to notice it. It's after being caught cheating by Cordelia and Oz in S3 that Willow distances herself from Xander out of respect for Oz. That's when the late night phone calls stop right with the hand holding and whatever it is that made Xander and Willow "Xander and Willow." As for Buffy, there'd be too much tension between them, Xander's fault IMO, for them to be close. S3 is when it hits Xander that he's an outsider in his own group of friends.
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                      • I feel like I'm wading into later eps controversies- but I needed to do that to respond to Sosa effectively.

                        Originally posted by Sosa lola View Post
                        I guess I didn't phrase it right - sorry about that, when I was writing my post my son had turned the couch into a trampoline and my daughter thought that my laptop was her bottle. What I meant was that Buffy as the Slayer shouldn't have friends because then she'd endanger them, which is something Buffy herself said, but she couldn't bear the loneliness so she befriended them and let them help and become part of the team that was supposed to be only her and Giles.
                        I still disagree. I mean, I agree that Buffy has feelings that she shouldn't have dragged Xander and Willow into this life. However, Buffy also has IMO the more correct feelings that being the Slayer is not just a two-person job of Slayer/Watcher and that she needs the Scoobies to effectively do her duties which include saving the world and the town that they all reside in to avoid *everyone* being dead meat. Buffy did say twice in this season that she doesn't want to drag Willow and Xander into this but that's somewhat belied by the considerably more numerous amount of times that Buffy gave Xander/Willow an assignment or tried to convince Willow/Xander that something supernatural is causing X problem and Scoobies Assemble! And that's in S1. For the rest of the series, Buffy kind of takes it as read that she has a team supporting her and gets angry or pouty when they don't come through as Buffy would expect. Buffy defended her having a team of non-Choseny people RIGHTEOUSLY in Checkpoint. She may feel some guilt over what the life does to her people, but I think generally Buffy is pretty righteously proud that she commands a unit of her friends to efficiently solve apocalyptic and Hellmouth sized problems instead of just clinging to Slayer handbook rules that the Slayer.Fights.Alone and hoping that the less manpower and intelligence is enough to protect less lives on the hellmouth.

                        Maybe my read on Buffy in that scene wasn't correct - it makes more sense for her to be smiling wistfully about the past than for Cordelia. However, I do think that Buffy overall is a nicer person than Xander. Buffy is far gentler, politer and forgiving toward people than Xander is: off the top of my head, in Nightmares, when they went to talk to that kid who was attacked by the spiders, Xander was quick to bail but Buffy stopped him, and there are more examples of Buffy being more considerate to others' feelings than Xander.
                        I think they have different strengths. I think Buffy is gentler and MUCH more polite. I think Xander is more honest (even though he lies too) and less...the guy version of catty and superior. I don't know if Buffy is more forgiving than Xander. It feels like the wrong word to apply generally. Like, I think Xander forgave Willow much more quickly and authentically for S6. Xander forgave Willow by Grave. I think Buffy held a resentful grudge from Afterlife until The Long Way Home. Xander was *much* more forgiving to Jenny Calender. Xander seems more forgiving of Faith by S7- but his relationship with Faith hasn't really been explored and Faith did worse to Buffy (although attempted rape/attempted murder/assault is more than enough fodder for grudges). I think it's pretty stunning that Xander's parents are the Worst but he forgave them enough to keep up the relationship even as he was haunted by becoming his father. However, that's more a testament to Xander. It doesn't compare to Buffy since Joyce was an OK parent and Hank didn't want a relationship even though Buffy tried to have one.

                        Xander was less forgiving of the Champires than Buffy was of Anya- corresponding more or less forgiveness depending on who was the love interest. However, the Champires actually did horrible stuff to the Scoobies that demand forgiveness while Anya didn't hurt the Scoobies short of Doppelgangland and The Wish (which no one remembers). Then, again Buffy does show much more grace to Anya and Cordelia than Xander showed to Spike and Angel- but then, Cordelia wasn't dangerous and most of the gang (rather naively) didn't take Anya as dangerous. Buffy did hold a low-grade snarky grudge against Cordelia long after Cordelia left to work for Angel.

                        I dunno. I love how gentle Buffy is despite her strength and despite her reasons to lash out and her compassion is a strong point. However, I have an issue with a flat out statement that Buffy is *better* than Xander. Then on the other foot, I wouldn't say that Xander is more forgiving than Buffy even though I cited more instances of Buffy holding a grudge. Buffy's issues are explored more.

                        I think that while Xander is in the outs, his friendship with Willow is still tight for him to notice it. It's after being caught cheating by Cordelia and Oz in S3 that Willow distances herself from Xander out of respect for Oz. That's when the late night phone calls stop right with the hand holding and whatever it is that made Xander and Willow "Xander and Willow." As for Buffy, there'd be too much tension between them, Xander's fault IMO, for them to be close. S3 is when it hits Xander that he's an outsider in his own group of friends.
                        I think Xander started the distancing by having a secret relationship with Cordelia. Xander was being sentimentally disingenuous in Becoming by saying that they've always talked about everything they did all day. Xander hid a big part of the making out with Cordelia in closet part of his day for a month and he picked his attraction to Cordelia over his loyalty to Willow. Then, Willow didn't tell Xander much about her relationship with Oz until the fluking was about to start and Willow basically told Buffy in Dead Man's Party that *Buffy* is who Willow would talk to about Oz and learning magic and all of her hopes and dreams. Maybe The Wish is finally when Xander actually got that he was missing a lot- with no girlfriend, less respect from Buffy and a strained relationship with Buffy because of his repeated fights with her over Angel/running away, upcoming graduation with no idea of what he wants to do after high school, AND Willow drawing a line of appropriate intimacy. (Although, IMO, it's fanon that Willow banned phone calls and communication in The Wish. Willow banned Xander putting his hand on the top of her tights-clad thigh and everything else is conjecture.)
                        Last edited by Dipstick; 15-04-14, 02:43 PM.

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                        • Originally posted by Dipstick View Post
                          However, I have an issue with a flat out statement that Buffy is *better* than Xander.
                          I didn't say she was better than him. I said she was "nicer," by which I mean gentler and politer. I think by S7, Xander develops a much needed gentleness and politeness to those around him, including Spike. But during HS, he is quite aggressive and dismissive of those he dislikes or doesn't care about.

                          (Although, IMO, it's fanon that Willow banned phone calls and communication in The Wish. Willow banned Xander putting his hand on the top of her tights-clad thigh and everything else is conjecture.)
                          I don't think Willow banned phone calls, but from that moment on, Xander and Willow just stopped being close. Even with the whole Cordelia thing, they still had those special stares and smiles for each other - it just kinda stopped in S3. I don't know, I will focus on the Xander/Willow friendship as we do this rewatch because anything Scoobies I find interesting and fascinating.
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                          • Hmm, I think I can agree that High School Buffy is nicer than High School Xander, as long as that's not "better". Although, I think a lot of Xander's anger and judginess can also be quite positive. I don't like it how Xander directs that anger a bunch of the time and I've certainly critiqued his manners (although manners are very much learned from parents like no other virtue). However a bunch of the time, it fees like Xander is angry and on-guard because he's thinking critically about who is dangerous and because he's incredibly aware of how classist and oppressive the Sunnydale and SHS system is. His emotions give him power- they're total assets! Generally, I'm more pro-snarky angry, judgey Xander than con. (Although, that's not to excuse the moments where I'm con. And hey, Prophecy Girl is coming up! I don't like he responded to Buffy's rejection.)

                            I also look forward to analyzing the Scoobies and how Willow and Xander drifted apart as we move through the series too! Scooby group dynamics is my favorite subject to analyze on the show.
                            Last edited by Dipstick; 15-04-14, 04:22 PM.

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                            • Again, just cutting and pasting from my notes at LJ -- sorry. But this time, I'm leaving in almost all of the cross talk between me, Max, and Strudel (aka Bro). Maggie in plain print; Max in bold; Strudel in italics.

                              Buffy 1.12 Prophecy Girl, In Which Buffy Dies and the Series Concludes .... Not

                              Buffy as a hero. The heart of Prophecy Girl is just the very effective delivery on what’s at stake with Buffy’s calling. Interesting that it comes directly following an episode that raises the question of protagonists who do heroic things, because in this episode Buffy just is the hero. She knows what it will cost her to take on the master and she goes anyway. For me, at least, there’s real emotional punch to both how Buffy takes the news that she will die, and Giles’ anguish at being helpless to help her. “I’m sixteen years old. I don’t wanna die.” Buffy’s conversation with her mother about how Joyce and Hank met, and Buffy’s wistfulness at the thought of those who have a future before them. It’s impossible to not admire Buffy’s deliberate choice to fulfill her duty as a slayer in full awareness of what it will cost her, and this is an episode that gets to me every time I watch it.

                              Strudel, nodding vigorously: I agree entirely. This episode also brings up another, more prosaic dimension of Buffy’s heroism that I find particularly compelling. In the opening scene we see Buffy dispatching her third vampire of the night, right near the car where Cordelia is busy making out with somebody. This simultaneously reminds of the nice, frivolous teenage life Buffy is giving up in the name of her calling, as well as showing the un-ending nature of her task. She may kill three vampires tonight, but there will be more tomorrow night, and more the night after that. They keep coming and Buffy, all by herself, has to keep up the Sisyphean task of dusting them, one at a time, night after night. There’s no prospect that she’s ever going to win this war and get to retire in comfort. This is her life and she keeps at it. Maggie replies: But do notice the look on her face when she takes out that first vamp. Buffy doesn't entirely hate this gig.

                              Max: Indeed she doesn't! I think the juxtaposition of Buffy's fight with a random vamp and Cordy's making out with a random guy (who is later given the name Kevin and shown to be flaky before he is summarily killed) is both a compare and contrast. Contrast because (as Strudel points out) Buffy's a hero, risking her life to make the world safer, and Cordy, right now, isn't. But compare, because what are both doing but following their physical instincts and having fun? Buffy and Cordy are both dealing with boys, here, and Buffy's visible pleasure as she gets out the stake reminds me of Faith's (in)famous assertion that slaying makes her hungry and horny. That Cordy and Buffy's worlds are so close together (you can see the car in the shot where Buffy pulls out the stake) represents how Buffy's moving into a period of her life in which her vampire issues and sexuality issues aren't easily separated. Later in the episode, the two worlds get even closer as Cordy's boyfriend is killed by vampires. I'll add that Xander asks, right before the cutaway to Buffy's vamp fight (and Cordy necking), why Buffy isn't at the Bronze. Willow says "the usual," and we see the answer visually: Buffy isn't with Xander, because she's with a vampire.

                              The other aspect is that she is largely in this on her own. She may have the Scoobies as a team supporting her, but she’s the one on her own in these fights. It’s her neck that’s the most exposed. Her line to Giles highlights the disparity: “I remember the drill. One Slayer dies, next one’s called. Wonder who she is. Will you train her? Or will they send someone else?” Of course, in this episode, we also see her going out of her way to keep it this way, telling Willow to stay inside, and then clobbering Giles to keep him from trying to fight the Master. Her isolation may be in the natural way of things for Slayers, but Buffy does share some of the responsibility for magnifying this condition.

                              But the episode isn’t just a straight-up answer to the question about protagonists who do heroic things. Buffy’s changed on her resurrection, and the episode that follows this is When She Was Bad. Still, the answer about protagonists who do heroic things is not likely to be (in Buffy’s case) that she’s not a hero, but rather that being a hero doesn’t remotely mean being a saint, and that any human life is too complex to capture with a single word (or refusal to bestow that word). In this last episode Buffy bravely goes to her death and then rises with all the kick-ass quippery, confidence and power walk a hero could want.

                              I’m not sure there is any coherent explanation of this change at the surface level of the plot (uh, mystically enhanced powers transmitted through the Master’s saliva?), but at the metaphoric level, there is the under-developed hint here – which becomes manifestly clear in When She Was Bad – that while you may gain something by overcoming a failure, you may lose something as well. Buffy gains a layer of armor from this encounter, which helps her kick ass, but it’s hardened her as well.

                              Buffy does gain strength from her death and resurrection--which marks her as being like a vampire--and she comes out with her soul and essential goodness more or less intact. As she says to the Master, whose outside appearance represents a rejection of human values, she may be dead, but she's still pretty.

                              As the resident agnostic, I feel a bit weird bringing this up (and worry that I'll get something wrong) but Buffy's death and resurrection (hm...) is also associated with a baptism, as she is dunked under water wearing a pure white dress/robe. There are crosses everywhere in this episode, in particular in the (joking?) shot of the Master's bones at the end, as well as the shot of Xander lying upside down (in the frame) while listening to country music, his arms mildly outstretched. Sometimes oustreteched arms are just outstretched arms, so I might be reading too much into these shots. Considering that even midway through the episode Buffy was still considering quitting, I think the baptism imagery is primarily about the way her willing walk into the Master's lair represents a new commitment to her calling.


                              I'm going to lean a bit in Max's direction here. I don't think it's just plot handwaving that makes Buffy come back stronger. I think it's just quite literally Nietzsche's maxim: that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Buffy has literally died. A person who has faced death isn't going to have the same type of fear as someone who has not. But yes, like Strudel says, that strength is going to come with a certain hardening. At a minimum there's a loss of innocence involved. The other thing that the increased strength represents is that this was a rite of passage. Buffy isn't the same little girl she was. Life is hard. She now knows that.

                              Foreshadowing and father figures. If post-resurrection Buffy is marked as The Hero, by many standard dramatic cues, her actual death at the hands of the Master has a darker layer. She goes to meet him in a virginal white dress. When he pulls her in with his thrall, he removes her coat to go in for the bite. Strong overtones here of loss of virginity, which makes this scene serve as foreshadowing for Buffy’s actual loss of her virginity in season Two. The scene between the Master and Buffy is genuinely creepy. The parallel between the Master and Angel is being revisited in season 8, it would seem. At root, Buffy's primary issues deal with her father, and so we have the connection between the father-figure as bwahaha villain, and the father figure as mysterious romantic protective lover. Season 8 is lasering in on this complex which is at the root of Buffy's deeply wounded heart.

                              Ummm, Maggie? Speaking as your brother here, I hesitate to point out the jarring pivot you make from Buffy’s loss of virginity to the two vampires to their roles as competing father figures. Is there anything we should be talking about, privately? Ha! My problem is I never was Daddy's girl. More seriously, as I walk lightly around the taboo subject matter, let me observe that we did just get Oedipus Rex two episodes ago. And of course Daddy issues shape how a woman approaches her lovers.
                              Max: Hate to interrupt this family therapy session (joking! ), but since we have a gender flip in play, I'll add that Oedipus Rex as foreshadowing for Buffy's Elektra complex makes the appearance of Electro-Gwen in season four AtS (who references the Greek Elektra by way of the Marvel comics Elektra), right before the explicitly Oedipal Connor/Cordelia/Angel triangle, somewhat interesting.

                              Anyway, there's real emphasis in the episode for the jarring pivot Maggie made. I've already mentioned how making out and a regular vamp fight were connected in the teaser, so a vamp fight to the death as a metaphor for losing one's virginity has basis. Joss is hardly the first to connect sex and death. On the family side of things, note that it's Buffy's mother who gives her the white dress, and Joyce draws a comparison between the Spring Fling and her own homecoming dance, where she met Buffy's father. So I think it's reasonable to say that Buffy's night out in her dress is meant to be the night when she "meets" her own lover/father equivalent. She does meet the Master in person for the first time this night. But I also think (more on this later), this night also changes the way she sees both Xander and Angel. So one could take this as the night that she actually "meets" her new Hank replacement in Angel, and potential closest male friend (platonic or otherwise) in Xander.

                              To emphasize the coming-of-age elements of the story, Buffy walks into the Master's lair holding hands with a child, and walks out flanked by two romantic suitors. The Master's bite, which kills her, is followed shortly thereafter by Xander's "kiss" (CPR) which brings Buffy back to life. It's interesting to note that the Master's bite is, in a creepy way, more erotically charged than Xander's CPR, which is filmed much more matter-of-factly (though Bander shippers, among others, might disagree on this point). Next year Buffy will famously say to Angel, "When you kiss me, I want to die." But we see in this episode that Xander's kiss has the opposite effect. Whether this implies that Bander is the endgame or not is up in the air, but I think the contrast points out the healthy and important role that the Scoobies and particularly Xander play in Buffy's life, despite all the not-insignificant interpersonal problems that result.

                              Speaking of Buffy/Angel foreshadowing, how about this exchange early in the episode, shortly after Xander's gedankenexperiment of asking Buffy out turns into a discussion of tagging wild animals mating before they migrate:

                              Buffy: I can't put it off any longer. I have to meet my terrible fate.

                              Giles: What?!

                              Buffy: Biology.

                              Of course, Buffy is bored and learns nothing from the class. The consequences of her biology (i.e. hormones) are something she can only experience firsthand.


                              Meanwhile, sticking with the theme of father figures, let’s talk about Giles for a moment. In the same episode where we see the concerned mother thinking she knows what’s troubling her daughter (not getting invited to the dance), we see the daughter thinking her father figure is distracted and uncaring. While he is of course completely distracted, she has no idea that he is distracted precisely by his deep concern for her. Still, despite his shortcomings, he is the one she talks to when she wants to quit. Angel is there, but he is an irrelevancy to her at this moment.

                              Unfortunately, her father has let her down here. Sure, he didn’t have the Codex until last episode, but Giles has simply not prepared Buffy for the confrontation with the Master. When she goes down there in her white dress, she really is the lamb, the virgin sacrifice. She is not in the least equipped to fight the Master. Oh, and even with the Codex in hand, Giles has misread the Prophecy, as the Master will tell Buffy in that fatal moment.


                              Angel v. Xander. On the subject of heroism, we get Angel talking the talk (“we’ll figure something out”) but not much walking the walk (when next we see him he’s pacing alone in his apartment). Xander, the rejected suitor, is the one who makes a move to actually figure something out. The contrast is pointed. It’s echoed when Angel observes that Xander is in love with Buffy, and Xander replies “Aren’t you?” We don’t hear an answer from Angel. The two do work together, though, to find and save Buffy, and then stand guard to do battle with stray vampires when Buffy goes to meet the master again. Angel has his game face, but Xander is shown to be his equal. From beginning to end this season, Xander is far more proactive and heroic than Angel.

                              There’s an interesting line, when Angel tells Xander, “you’re out of your depth, kid.” That turn of phrase sounds like it comes from 1930's potboiler radio detective shows, subtly emphasizing Angel’s age. Also wrapped into that one line is the interesting fact that Angel can, on the one hand, use “kid” as an insult to Xander, even while, on the other hand, he’s got the hots for sixteen year-old Buffy.

                              Going further, let’s pause on Angel’s apt observation that Xander is out of his depth. This is absolutely true; Xander has not a clue about what he’s up against. This statement, though, highlights the fact that Angel has depths and depths of experience we can only begin to guess at. Already, we have seen he is a guy who knows the Master well, who’s still connected to the demon world rumor mill, and who is able on short notice to put his hands on the Codex. All that knowledge, combined with his formidable superhero strength, would seem to give Angel all the tools necessary to be THE key ally Buffy needs in this final confrontation with the Master. And of course, what has he done? Zilch. That zilchness comes to a deafening roar when you combine everything together: he knows the world is doomed; he knows the Prophecy; he knows the Master’s location and his strengths and weaknesses; he knows this is his chance to redeem himself; and he knows he’s made himself out to be Buffy’s knight. Meanwhile, both Xander and Giles are willing to sacrifice themselves for her sake and Angel has to be coerced into lifting a finger. It’s astounding, really. The guy can’t even muster a puff of breath to do a little CPR.

                              Let’s take our hats off in amazement at how Joss et. al. can use all the traditional cinematic vocabulary and cues that for generations have told audiences who the heroes are to give this character such a substantial-seeming heroic veneer. Angel will start to earn the veneer at some point, but the baby steps he has taken so far are pathetic – there’s no better word – compared to the tremendous potential he so plainly has. Remove the heroic filter they put over the camera’s lens and Angel is exposed terribly. Put the filter back on and the audience sighs. Meanwhile, you were saying....
                              Well, before I get to saying what I was saying, let me reply that season 8 has brutally ripped off the filter and is stomping all over it. You and I agreed that Captain Hammer seemed like a take down on Angel. In the upcoming issue #37 we get a page of Angel as Captain Hammer that is even more layered in ironic disdain for the 'hero'.

                              Now I'll get back to what I was saying...

                              Xander’s heroism gets a bit of an underline due to the fact that this is also the episode where Buffy definitively rejects Xander. It’s not unlike Chosen in a sense, with Spike going to his heroic death having seen Buffy bask in Angel’s presence in a way she would never bask in his. (Speaking of Xander/Spike parallels, note how he tells Buffy here that he wants to dance with her.) Although Buffy hasn’t said much about Angel in the last several episodes, her reaction on seeing him initially in Prophecy Girl tells us that Buffy is very much still into him, as does her natural gravitation towards him as they all walk out to the prom at the end.

                              I'll add as a former 16-year-old boy that I have great admiration for the courage Xander showed in asking Buffy out. It's very hard especially at that age to ask out a close friend, the way Xander does here, particularly when you consider his generally low self-esteem and poor home life. I really don't think Xander's lying when he says that this is the first time he's felt this way before, and the risks Xander takes here--alienating a close friend and the person who makes him socially and supernaturally important--are significant. He falters when asking her out at the beginning, but gets across the message unambiguously. It's after Buffy says no that his nasty side comes back, with his accusation about someone needing to be dead to make time with her. And we see a Willow-pining-after-Xander-style pathetic when he says, "Try! I'll wait" in response to Buffy's not having feelings for him. Buffy acquits herself very well, trying hard not to make Xander uncomfortable and showing empathy, trying to sidestep Xander's questions about her feelings for him when, essentially, it comes down to telling him that he's one of the girls.

                              Anyway. Buffy does have eyes for Angel here. Buffy sees him for the first time since "Angel" in the scene where she learns that she is going to die. "Angel?" she says, all aglow, happy to see him again. But you could still plausibly read it as normal teen infatuation and not the kind of life-or-death obsession that comes next year. Then, she hears that she's going to die, and Angel is present. She later sees him again upon her resurrection. So Angel, even more than he was just by virtue of being dead and a vampire, is associated with both death and the sacrifices she has to make as part of her calling. We later find out in "Becoming" that Angel was present (without Buffy's knowledge) on the day she was called. Giles, Xander, Willow--they are also present for much of this episode. But they're also part of her every day life. Angel is pretty much only associated with death and her calling, here, and I think that, in addition to the standard heroic cues, is what pushes Buffy's feelings for Angel to a new level. As Maggie will point out, Bangel hits the ground running in season two in a way that's a little discontinuous with the story in season one; I think a lot of that has to do with this. People like Xander who are there every day stand little chance.


                              Note, though, that immediately prior to the exit from the library, we see Xander, Buffy, Cordy and Angel walk in, with Xander and Buffy coming in as one pair and Cordy and Angel coming in as another. (I'll add that, while it may be minor, Buffy says "Xander?" upon her resurrection with some of the same surprise/awe she used in saying Angel when she saw him earlier in the episode, so there's some indication of a change in Buffy's relationship with Xander.) The Cordy/Xander antagonism has gotten a lot of attention this season, and one senses that the original structure was supposed to be C/X and B/A with the intention of switching the partners at some point. I'll add that the structure did get flipped in at least one respect: B/X and A/C were longer-lasting relationships, whether platonic or romantic, than B/A or C/X. If you include season eight for B/X, both B/X and A/C have a period of long friendship followed by romantic feelings developing, which end up unconsummated.

                              Another quick note on Xander. There’s another little throw-away line that actually signals some interesting trends in the series. At the beginning of the Season, the Scoobies were all social outcasts, and Buffy’s gravitation towards them was seen as a positive sign for her character. In just the last episode, however, we saw that Cordelia, the Enforcer-in-Chief of the social pecking order, is actually a person with depths, and that the Invisible Girl, the Outcast-in-Chief, was the villain. Now, in this episode where Xander still wears the mantle of the oft-rejected loser, we see him go up to an occupied bench and tell the bewildered boy sitting there: “Hey. Leave.” The whole insider/outsider set-up is collapsing around our ears, and Xander in particular will start playing some pretty harsh insider/outsider cards next season. We see a similar bit of insider/outsider set-up collapsing when both Xander and Willow seems reticent about Jenny's presence in the Scooby meeting. Willow is particularly reticent. Not liking another technopagan on the team?

                              Scoobie Dynamics. While we are on the subject of romance, Xander’s reliance on Willow as supportive friend in his quest for Buffy reminds us of the ironic layer to Xander’s thwarted romantic interest in Buffy. Buffy has no more feelings for Xander than does Xander for Willow. As Willow tells Xander when he asks her to the prom as a substitute for Buffy, he knows why that’s not OK, yet he seems entirely unconcerned about using Willow as a sounding board for his romantic woes with Buffy. Xander’s more of a hero than Angel; but he’s a bit of a dick to Willow. To be fair, Willow is willing to play the role of supportive friend, even though it clearly hurts her. Given the patheticness of her wistfully letting Xander practice his wooing on her (and having to listen to him say “there’s never been anyone else for me but you,” just stomping on everything Willow thinks they have together), it’s somewhat of a surprise that Willow doesn’t grab the rebound and accept his invitation to the dance. Willow sometimes has these moments of emotional clarity that make you think she’s going to turn out just fine. Of course, she tries to go back on this later by calling Xander, but, fortunately for her, she doesn't get through.

                              Xander is unconcerned too about how Willow would fit in to the dynamic if Xander and Buffy did get together, which is part of the text of his blithe dismissal of Buffy's concerns about her: "Willow's not looking to date you. And if she is, she's playing it pretty close to the chest." (OK, I admit I just wanted an excuse to quote that line; there's another point where Cordy asks why she and Willow even put up with men, and Willow responds, "I hear you.") In any case, if Xander and Buffy did go out, it probably would drive a rift between Buffy and Willow, and I think that Buffy recognizes that.

                              Post-Angel we went through several episodes that seemed to be rather weak on serialization, most notably in the complete absence of attention to Buffy’s separation from Angel. Prophecy Girl however does continue the evolution in Cordelia’s character. Now that we’ve seen she has depth, we have a conversation between Cordy and Willow that has real elements of human contact in it, followed by Cordy’s chance to play the hero, rescuing Jenny and Willow from the vampires outside the school. And Cordelia uses her car--earlier in the episode used to make out as a contrast to Buffy's nightly slaying--to do it!

                              I'll add that Willow is gracious with Cordelia here, when Cordelia asks for her help; she rejects Cordy's insincere compliment but agrees immediately to help her erstwhile enemy nonetheless. Given how vindictive Willow is later in the series, it's interesting to compare her friendliness with Cordelia here. I submit that in part, it's that Willow, despite bottling many of her feelings inside, is still at this point fairly content with her lot in life as a misfit: "It's okay, it's the computer age, nerds are in!" she exclaims, after Buffy tells her not to put herself down by calling herself a nerd. This is followed immediately by an insecure, "We're still in, right?" It isn't until the option of not being a nerd is presented to her (in no small part due to Buffy) that the resentment related to her nerd status can actually find any conscious expression. So perhaps Willow's willingness to run errand for Cordelia is part of the same aspect of her personality as her willingness to play Xander's supportive friend. It's one of the many complexities of Willow's character development, the way her genuine growth and empowerment and healthier self-expression is accompanied by the loss of most of her existing mechanisms for coping with emotional distress.

                              Prophecy, Destiny, and Free Will. Finally, there’s lots to think about with respect to the prophecy. On the main point (Buffy’s death), the letter of the prophecy is met, albeit not the spirit. Strudel, with a couple of textual asides on this point: Joyce tells Buffy that she isn’t trapped by destiny, and she can decide for herself whether and how she goes to the prom (“Says who? Is it written somewhere?”). Then, Buffy confronts the Master, who seemingly can’t go a scene without saying, “it is written.” And of course, what does she say? “I flunked the written.” Buffy lives to fight another day. But she did go through a real death in the sense that we’re instantly told that she’s stronger. It’s subtle here, but the death experience has also marked her – and that forms the subject of the opening episode of season Two. Be that as it may, we get the tension between prophecy/destiny and Buffy’s free will. It’s a subject that will be explored a great deal more going forward.

                              The letter and spirit of the prophecy were wrong, however, in one respect. The slayer is not supposed to know the anointed one. But Buffy does know him, going to him and letting him lead her to her death. That could just be a plot hole. But if it’s not, then we have to conclude that everyone’s sense that the prophecy must be true is, in fact, simply flat wrong. Not sure what to make of it. I want to say that it, too, is foreshadowing. Buffy doesn’t recognize the cursed one (Angel) and goes through hell as a result of that failure. But it’s faint foreshadowing at best.

                              We see several attitudes toward prophecy. The Master is a firm believer in prophecy, obviously, as is Angel. Xander is the cheerleader for free will, as he decides that he, a kid as Strudel points out, can avert a prophecy is an act of great bravery or stupidity or both; Giles also tries to defy the prophecy and go in himself. Buffy in the grand scheme of the series subverts prophecies and expectations, but in this episode she doesn't subvert them; she walks into her death, albeit with heroic intentions, and, left to her own devices, would have stayed there. Moreover, Buffy, Angel and the Master all act (or don't act, in the case of Angel) based on concerns about what the world should be; the Master wants it gone and Buffy wants it saved, but that is part of why they so strongly want to play their roles in the global drama. It's particularly complicated in Buffy's case, because it's concern over Willow's experience in the AV room that convinces Buffy of the importance of stopping the Master.

                              But for Xander it's only personal: he states explicitly that he doesn't care about anything but Buffy, and I think it's the personal (read: unpredictable) element that allows him to subvert the meaning of the prophecy. This prioritization of the personal over the abstract (and Angel always goes for the abstract, so much so that his character in season one is almost entirely abstracted) saves Buffy's life. This particular conflict (personal vs. abstract) gets played out throughout the show, with personal usually winning out. But while I applaud Xander's actions here, I don't know if I feel comfortable with his overall attitude (that nothing but Buffy matters), and I don't think we're necessarily supposed to. This personal vs. abstract needs gets played out most spectacularly in "The Gift," where Buffy decides that she doesn't know how to live in this world if the two are in conflict, and at the end of episode stops doing so.

                              A few random notes:

                              Can I just say, as a completely random aside, that I still laughed out loud at the Master’s line following the earthquake: “Yes! Yes! Shake Earth! This is a sign! We are in the final days! My time has come! Glory! Glory! ... Whaddaya think? 5.1?”

                              Which makes the shift to the serious all the more impressive. I especially liked Willow’s description of the massacre in the AV room. Everything in the series has been either jokey or hokey in some way, but that scene very effectively changes the tone and announces a seriousness of purpose: “I’m not okay. I knew those guys. I go that room every day. And when I walked in there it ... it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun.” We’ll still get treated to absolutely ridiculous cheeseball stuff (was the demon coming out of the hellmouth the stupidest looking thing ever, or what?), but the writers are telling us there is plenty going on behind the shlock.


                              The massacre in the AV room and Willow's reaction to it are some of the first bits of real, serious horror in the show. And what is the central, haunting image? A cartoon on TV with a bloody handprint. It's about innocence lost, blah blah, but it's also about something central to the series. The show is both cartoon--and often a broad one!--and deadly serious, and the characters and viewers are both uncertain when it's going to transform from one to the other. And of course, it's often both at once. When Buffy is resurrected, the opening theme gets played out, and Buffy makes the cheesiest jokes ever ("you have fruit punch mouth!"), and defeats the Master's genuine horror and restores the cartoon once again. Strudel: And we the audience are put in the position of rooting for the restoration of a cartoon. How did we get maneuvered into that spot? Max: And indeed, a lot of the show (and the meta level of the show) toys with the audience and the characters' desire for a restoration of the cartoon.

                              Moreover, Willow's reaction is the moment where Buffy decides that she has to face the Master. It's the thing that makes it real for her, what's at stake not for her but for the world. Up until this point, because everything has been, as Strudel says, jokey or hokey, Buffy (whose P.O.V. we're usually in) could to some degree dismiss the threat the Master and other monsters pose. Here, she can't. There's a connection to "Welcome to the Hellmouth," in that it was Willow who prompted Buffy to take up slaying again there. It's an interesting split within the core Scoobies, at least in this episode: Xander brings Buffy closer to the normal human side, but Willow's presence actually pushes Buffy to be more of a slayer to protect her. Willow herself does want to be involved ("What do we do?" she asks, emphasis mine), so it might just be that Xander and Willow, while both non-slayer humans, have different paths when it comes to the supernatural (towards everyman and "goddess" status, respectively).

                              I've seen pointed out (I think, though might be wrong, this was in manwitch's episode exegeses on ATPOBTVS, which ran up to Some Assembly Required) that the opening theme in the power power walk, and the later use of a piano cover of the opening theme, are a signal too that season 1 is, essentially, just a teaser for the show that follows.


                              Season 8. Now that the Master has appeared in season 8, we can get a better appreciation for how important season 1 is to Joss and to the show. Prophecy Girl gives us Buffy's first big wound. She was afraid of the master, she was paralyzed by him, and he killed her. It's layered on top of her real life wound from her father. Angel naturally appears to be her 'salvation' from all of this -- but Prophecy Girl has already told us that's not true. Xander does the heavy lifting, but Buffy can't see Xander that way (yet) because she doesn't look up to him. Buffy's fixation on Angel becomes very intense from this point on. It's not just that he's dark and mysterious. It's that he's a walking encoding for the Master, and in dancing with him, Buffy is dancing with her darkest fears. Season 2 will play this out brilliantly, but it helps to see just how profoundly deep this wound is, so we can better appreciate just why it is that Buffy never does want to let go of Angel. He's the fantasy and the nightmare all blended together. She can't turn her back on that.

                              Summary. Season one concludes with Buffy’s first rite of passage. It sets us up for the big Bangel drama coming up next season, both by establishing that Buffy and Angel are drawn to each other AND establishing that there’s a substantial gap between the romantic trope and the reality of who Angel is. The structure of the season is all introductory. We meet the characters in the first four episodes; launch the romantic questions in the middle four episodes; and conclude with a series of episodes that are heavy on themes important to the show and meta-commentary on the nature of the show itself. The season isn’t as tight as many of the seasons that follow, and a lot of the episodes are labor to watch. But it lays down a lot of material for future development, and comes to a close with an affecting drama about what’s really at stake in Buffy’s calling. A lot of the episodes are cheesy and not so much fun to watch. Yet season 1 was not nearly as haphazard as it seemed to me on my first, second and even third watches. It has a clear structure and purpose: four episodes to introduce the characters and their issues; four to explore romantic issues; three to establish the thematics, and one final episode that brings it all together. If the series only becomes great later on, it's because it's building on a foundation that is remarkably well thought out here.

                              The door to season two is left open in the closing shot of the master’s skeleton. Vampires are supposed to dust, but Buffy will always be haunted by her encounter with the master. History matters in this world, and we’ve just had our first major event.
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                              "I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear." Banner Credit: Vampmogs

                              Comment


                              • It is a good episode and finishes the season well and sets up the second as Maggie showed. I have a few minor niggles I'll get out of my system first. The hellmouth beast is pretty bad and Buffy's moment of revival was poorly done. Buffy is facing away from The Master when he pulls her back which doesn’t fit with the image I have of thrall, so I’m not really sure what that is supposed to be. It is described as an hypnotic power but that doesn't track for me in how it is shown if she doesn’t have to be looking at him for him to freeze her in her tracks. Also, I find Angel’s role in the cave with Xander really frustrating. His line to Xander that he won’t be able to draw breath before the Master kills him falls beside his comment last episode about not needing oxygen himself and this then leads to the need to revive Buffy. But obviously Angel could help with CPR. If he can talk then he draws in air and exhales it and that is all that is needed. It is a nonsense and whilst I do think it was all just to emphasise that Buffy’s support system saves her, someone not of the supernatural world rescues her, it throws Angel under the bus somewhat to do that.

                                I like the idea that Angel, at this stage in his own story, can learn something about determination, bravery and heroism from the average guy. Angel is somewhat accepting of destiny and fate, with capitals to them. Having had the soul forced onto him I think it is a good/realistic thing that the start of his path is mixed in season 1. He is out there trying to help as we can see by his injury in Teacher’s Pet. He gets involved trying to help Giles without an expectation to see Buffy. But he is also needlessly cryptic and withdrawn as he tries to balance his motivation to help with his attraction and his uncertainty how to go about getting not too involved. Basically he is finding his way and not getting all of it right and that is fair enough considering the standing start he is coming from.

                                Xander did take a risk in asking Buffy out. I actually didn’t find on this rewatch that his nastiness when he is rejected bothered me so much. He is bitchy in his comment but he does apologise for it straight after and admits that it is a negative reaction to being rejected. Taking himself away at that point is the right choice to make. He is hurt and he isn’t perfect. Of course he shouldn’t have said what he did but we aren’t always at our best. What does frustrate me about the situation is that I think he should have been expecting that Buffy’s answer would be no. Everything that she has done around him and specifically said has made it pretty clear that she wasn’t interested in him like that. I can see him deciding that he wanted to take the chance and ask her but the extreme reaction surprises me because I think he should have been prepared for it going the way it did. But, going by his comment about Angel to Buffy and then him telling Willow that Buffy is still jonesing for Angel, it implies that he doesn’t see, or want to see, that she just might not see him that way and that there aren’t other barriers to point at.

                                As well as the reality of Buffy’s calling, we are also shown the reflection again between her and Giles as the situation also shows us the reality of his role too. He doesn’t want to be the person watching, sending Buffy out to her death, reading these prophecies and feeling the weight of it all. It does make his distancing in S6 make more sense if we see Buffy’s second death as a breaking point for him where her resurrection can have delighted him but him also left him not feeling able to go through it all again perhaps.

                                Other observations. I like that Jenny’s interest in Giles is clearly indicated by her awareness that he is wearing the same outfit. Also, I never noticed before that the handprint on the tv looks like a child’s in size. It fits well then that Collin offers his hand to Buffy to lead her to her death. The Giles/Buffy of the reveal scene about the prophecy was really good and my favourite line delivery is Buffy’s, for both her expression and tone when she asks “Do you think it’ll hurt?”

                                These choices would probably change every day, but, here and now, my favourite individual moment of the season is the powerwalk in The Pack and my favourite episode is Nightmares.
                                Last edited by Stoney; 17-04-14, 02:18 AM.

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