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BtVS rewatch : SEASON 1

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  • #31
    I guess self-bump and I should have posted it in this post. Don't want ya'll to not notice that it's there
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    • #32
      I love "The Witch". It suffers from some continuity problems and the usual S1-cheesiness but as far as MotW episodes go it has a brilliant concept and for the most part it executes it exceptionally well. I also feel that Katherine Madison is a more memorable character than your average disposable villain-of-the-week and I'm rather fond of the actress who played her. She was great as Amy but even better as Katherine in the laboratory scene.

      Minor complaints out of the way worst; the witchcraft displayed in this episode bares little resemblance to how magic will be portrayed later in the series. Now, it's fair to say that the magic in BtVS is very inconsistent, but black cats, cauldrons and voodoo dolls is a far cry the magic Willow will use throughout the show ("A cauldron? Who even uses a cauldron anymore?") and some of the rules established in this episode are never seen or heard of again. For example, cutting a witch's head off will reverse all her spells? Buffy and Xander would hardly have advocated that even during the height of Willow's darkness but it's a little hard to imagine it didn't come up as a possibility between, as for example, Amy and Warren in S8. And whilst the Scoobies wouldn't want to kill the likes of Amy or Jonathan it's a typical example of where such a solution should have come up as a possibility when dealing with dangerous spells. Even if it's in a 'The Gift!Xander way' of being disgusted that they'd even considered it.

      And King is right that Giles' line about this spell "being his first casting" is something that the writers had clearly forgotten about later on. Though it's fanwankable, I guess. It does make Giles into a liar though when I'm sure it wasn't the writer's intentions at the time they penned this ep.

      What does stand the test of time is the magic on display when Katherine faces off against Buffy. Her telekinetic powers and black eyes are very similar to the kind of power Willow possesses when engaging in combat so I rather like that scene. And when Katherine hurls Buffy into the wall it's a rather impressive wire stunt for an episode this early into the show. I also appreciate that once again Buffy is shown using her wits in battle by kicking down the mirror and using it to deflect Katherine's spell.

      The metaphor here is great. A parent controls their kid by living vicariously through their child's life only in this case Katherine actually steals her daughter's body and literally begins living through her. It's deliciously dark and twisted and really resonates. The episode, at times, can be a little on-the-nose with the metaphor but it really doesn't bother me much at all.

      Looking back on this episode I do think Amy's story line plays out rather well. She's innocent and sweet here but as the series progresses she will become more and more like her mother and I'm glad we got some payoff to that in S8's The Long Way Home. Hers will be an interesting story to track throughout this rewatch. I do have to say that what she went through must have been extremely traumatic and whilst she hides it well (in S1-S3 anyway) it surely must play a part in her breakdown later on.

      I'm always going to give Buffy major props for refusing to be just a Slayer and wanting to have friends, family, romance and an education as well. Her exchange with Giles ("And you'll be stopping me... how?") is brilliant for that very reason. However, I also have to give a major shout out to Xander and Willow for helping to redefine the Slayer and her mission. Buffy wants to have a life separate from Slaying but she intended to keep Xander and Willow in her 'normal life' rather than let them overlap. It's their insistence in this episode that they will get involved that really helps open Buffy's eyes to the possibilities when she planned to work this alone (with the aid of her Watcher) and Buffy seemed to see "The Harvest" as a one-time deal.

      I'll always the love the moment Willow attempts to stall Katherine by offering to help her with her witchcraft -- "Well, you know, all your... witchcraft. I know a really good... cauldron... do you actually ride a broom or..." Not only is it ironic considering Willow's development as the series progresses but I would think such a question would drive Willow crazy now given her extreme dislike of stereotypes and inaccurate representations of witches/witchcraft

      I feel for both Buffy and Joyce in this episode. I remember what it's like when your parents suggest for you to do things you have absolutely no interest in (it still happens now!) and that can be aggravating, especially when, as in the case of Buffy, you feel they are totally dismissive of the things you have shown an interest in. And Joyce was careless when she implied that she lacked faith in Buffy to not get in trouble again. However, I do feel badly for Joyce seeing Buffy shoot down her suggestions and obviously Joyce was extremely busy and preoccupied opening up her new gallery. Joyce's constant references to all the parenting books she has read becomes something of a running gag in the series but it also proves what a good mother she was trying to be.

      Willow can't even hide her smile when Buffy calls Xander "one of the girls"

      A great episode! And funny too! I love Buffy accidentally hurling the Cheerleader across the room and the shot of her dancing whilst all the other girls stay in rhythm. Willow bursting into the lab with the baseball bat ("Where is she!?") also never fails to crack me up

      Favourite Lines:

      BUFFY
      Have you seen the kids that do yearbook? *Nerds* pick on them!


      BUFFY (to Katherine)
      Oh grow up!


      XANDER
      I laugh in the face of danger.
      Then I hide till it goes away.

      ~ Banner by Nina ~

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      • #33
        Thanks King. Having no point of reference for the cultural cheerleader aspect I found your comments on that really interesting. Totally agree on Giles’ lie about his first casting and Joyce ignoring Buffy’s vampire slayer reference, both really stood out. I agree that the episode hits a lot of spots but it isn’t a particular fave for me in itself although it is enjoyable enough.

        Joyce/Buffy – Joyce really angers me in this episode. Whilst I can go with her end conclusion that she doesn’t ‘get it’ because times/interests change and her and Buffy are different people, it is a huge cop out. As we see earlier in the episode she is paying scant attention to the interests that Buffy has, carelessly states that she is expecting her to make a mess of things again and tries to push her own perceptions/preferences on her when following it up without ever really asking Buffy about how she is feeling and listening to what she is wanting to do. She is too busy for a proper interaction basically and that isn’t good enough. I speak from experience as one who gets this wrong far too often, but it would only take a small daily investment, just ten minutes even, of direct attention/effort to find out how she is feeling and show support/interest in what is on Buffy’s mind. I do think it is clear Joyce wants to be a good mum but if she spent less time analysing her relationship with her daughter and less time reading how to be a parent and actually did it more, things might be a darn sight easier. I have huge sympathy for her in that she is handling all this alone but she needs to do, to interact, and stop treating it so much as a logic problem to solve.

        Nod to the normality angle from Buffy here as one of the many times when she will openly be wanting to balance her slaying life/duties with average activities that those her age are involved in. Of course her desire to do something normal and ‘safe’ doesn’t work out and in part it is simply because her reality doesn’t allow for her to avoid these ‘non-normal’ occurrences and, well, just because it wouldn't have been much of an episode if it had just been about cheerleading! Good point vamps about Willow/Xander being the ones to push their own boundary out of the normal zone and into Buffy's slaying life. In this instance I think that she is the one with a better perspective on trying to make time for such an extra activity alongside her slaying and it gives Giles a pause away from his dictatorial approach he tries to press, showing another adult trying to demand and define what the ‘child’ is doing with their life.

        I do get frustrated with Xander’s crush this season and it starts at this point. Willow calls him on being almost creepy in the way he is picturing his interactions with Buffy different to the reality of them, almost like building an imaginary relationship. Willow of course is conflicting in her advice because she doesn’t want to encourage him but also wants to be a friend to him too. But Xander from this point I always felt is starting to engage some active blindness/denial. As King said there is the mirroring between himself/Willow and him/Buffy, as he refers to Willow as being his guy friend that knows about girl stuff and then later Buffy tells him he is one of the girls. She then also is clearly positive about the difference to other guys who would give a bracelet and then want to date her, so I do think he has clearly been shown that she isn’t interested here. Having said that though, I don’t think that means he shouldn’t choose to ask her out anyway and take the shot, just that he should be expecting that it isn’t likely and he is taking a probable risk of rejection. The intensity is of course too much for such a short period of time of knowing her but totally realistic to teenage drama/emotions!!

        Cordelia is a complete b*tch in this episode. She continues to belittle those around her and cling to status and what expectations she has but I find her talk with Amy in the locker room a step further than it normally goes. She not only invades her personal space but the slam of the locker door as she heads out is a huge underline to the threat sounding real but also physical. The intention to intimidate is so unpleasant, it is just disgraceful bullying behaviour.

        One aspect of the episode that I always like is that Amy’s mum (totally agree vamps great guest actress) ends up trapped in the statue. Her desire to be what she once was becomes an immortalised reality where she literally ends up trapped in a representation of her own body. It sits nicely beside the image that adolescence can often be an ungainly and awkward period of time where some people also feel trapped within themselves as they are changing and maturing. And again that works alongside the exploration of the social hierarchy. We hear that Joyce was what Buffy would view as someone the nerds themselves would pick on and she of course says she wouldn’t want to relive it. Popular and cool or nerdy and awkward, glory days to be admired or awkward teens to be thankful we’ve passed?

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        • #34
          Probably brief Witch thoughts:

          Joss has said in an interview somewhere that this episode is especially important because he wrote it entirely with David Greenwalt (and he's also basically said that not a single word of the final script is Dana Reston's, that this is the one instance in the series in which he really strongly opposes the writing credit). He also said in some interview that the moment when he and Greenwalt hit on the idea that a kid's mother would steal her kid's body in order to live out her life is a moment of horror where they realized what they could do with this show. They push things further in The Pack, but Catherine Madison is the show's first truly villainous human -- not a bitca like Cordelia (who herself is cruel enough to nearly ruin lives, should the Willows and Jonathans and Marcies of the world not get over their pain), but a person who does something really horrifying.

          One of the overriding themes of season one (and the series, but especially season one) is "growing up," and so a lot of the villains in season one are specifically geared to resisting growing up. One of the big deals about vampires metaphorically is their refusal to grow up; permanent arrested development. And they avoid death. The Master is frightening because he's a vicious representation of what aging does, and he's something of a horrifying mirror of what a child sees adulthood as being like -- Buffy defeating him in the end of the season is her conquering her fears about adulthood, in addition to the social-status stuff that is also in play (and which Dipstick discussed back in her The Harvest post). So Catherine is another version of this: she is a woman who is stuck in high school, because she never actually got over the success she had there, and in order to maintain her position she will steal from her daughter. Catherine's fundamental flaw is an unwillingness to grow up, and a willingness to hurt people, including her own family, in order to ensure that she doesn't.

          Besides Buffy, the people who are most obsessed with cheerleading in this episode are Catherine and Cordelia. Cordelia has many fine qualities, but she's still mostly a bitca in this episode. Amy, when she gets herself back, dons hippie attire and mocks the idea of cheerleading. Cheerleading is maybe "fun" and "normal," but ultimately I think the episode is suggesting that it's a mug's game; it's something that is of high school, of early adolescence, and not of or associated with adulthood. As we see with Catherine, it's not a hobby that is going to lead to very much happiness outside high school. I think that the episode somewhat defaults against Buffy choosing to be a cheerleader not so much because cheerleading is wrong in and of itself, but because it's a particular kind of "normal" that is not really that normal at all: it's an authority structure, a hierarchical kind of popular that is most valuable to people stuck in high school, rather than people who are looking forward to more "important" things.

          This all comes down to part of the big problem at the heart of Buffy's struggles with "normalcy" in these early years. It is good that Buffy doesn't just submit to Giles and devote herself to slaying overall. She needs to hold onto something from her normal life in order to remain human, and in order to find happiness. The problem, as I see it, is that Buffy frequently associates normalcy with popularity. Buffy wants to be s1 Cordelia, and her slaying is drawing her away from that into a more spiritual calling. Buffy's best kind of normalcy is when she finds a way to use her desire to be normal to connect to people in the human social world in good ways, to make real connections, rather than to connect to the most superficial aspects of the real world. It's not that Buffy should be working on the yearbook either, but her casual dismissal of yearbook kids, "Have you seen the kind of kids who work on the yearbook? Nerds pick on them!" speaks to an insensitivity and snobbishness that she hasn't really overcome (and which does, I think, drive a subtle wedge between her and X&W, though it's a two-way street that also includes their difficulty understanding her). In trying to become a cheerleader, I think Buffy is somewhat chasing her own past, which means that she is mirroring Catherine to some extent. However, that is not the same as saying that she should give up on her desire to be a normal girl -- she just has to find a way to express it properly. Buffy is already on her way to escaping being trapped in her high school trophy, though.

          I do think Joyce comes across as clueless in this episode, and Joyce's relative disinterest in what Buffy is up to is meant to contrast with Catherine's hyper-involvement; Joyce seems like a bad parent at first, and Buffy sees her as one, but really it's Catherine who's the bad parent, and Joyce is a good one. However, "a better parent than Catherine Madison" is not something one should get a trophy for. I tend to defend Joyce more than others do, not necessarily because I think she's right as that I think she's in a difficult, awful position, where her daughter is constantly getting into trouble and there is no apparent explanation why. Joyce "should" be able to tell that her daughter's obvious goodness means that the bad stuff is not really her fault, but Buffy can provide insufficient justification for what happens, why she burned down the gym and so on. Joyce is also struggling with not having any friends, and I find things like her Fear, Itself "I have made so many friends now and you can too, little toaster!" monologue false because it always seems obvious she's basically lonely all the time, and her mild attempts to make friends usually end with them becoming evil and dying (Ted, Pat). Joyce also spends some time being more Catherine-like, trying to push her daughter into the yearbook; however, unlike Catherine, and while it's ham-handed and frustrating (and she is frustrated with herself over it), I think it is more genuinely an attempt to help Buffy and find a way to connect to her rather than live through her.

          In the episode notes over on lj (and even before I joined in), Maggie suggested that this episode could be read as something of an introduction to Willow's role in the series; it's the first episode about a witch, we can read Amy as the innocent, put-upon girl Willow starts as and Catherine as the woman consumed by her power Willow risks becoming. I wrote a meta using this basic structure over on my lj, which I won't quote at length here, partly because I don't really believe that this episode was planned that way, though it is nice that it worked out that way; Willow/Amy mirroring continues later in the series up into season eight, and Doppelgangland, pretty much the definitive Willow episode, even uses a somewhat similar structure to this episode's, where the two Willows (the sweet good girl and the monster) switch identities and have to play each other the way Catherine and Amy do here. Some of Willow's issues are analogous to the Madisons' issues. Then again, Buffy and Faith's body swap is much more explicitly similar. We do get a general feel for how witchcraft will work in this show, though, right down to Catherine's eyes going deep black when she's summoning the most powerful stuff. Willow's ease at plucking out the eye-of-newt compared to Xander's inability to do so suggests a certain knack for the gross stuff that she wouldn't seem on the surface to be good at.

          Speaking of Giles, I totally think he was just lying when he claimed that spell was his first casting, especially considering how confident and badass he looked doing the spell.
          Last edited by Local Maximum; 18-03-14, 08:02 PM.

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          • #35
            Local_Max said a lot of the stuff that I was planning on saying (namely the Buffy running back to her past and cheerleading as a dead end purely high school activity arguments)- but he did it more articulately and excellently. I agree with everything he wrote.

            Originally posted by Local Maximum View Post
            This all comes down to part of the big problem at the heart of Buffy's struggles with "normalcy" in these early years. It is good that Buffy doesn't just submit to Giles and devote herself to slaying overall. She needs to hold onto something from her normal life in order to remain human, and in order to find happiness. The problem, as I see it, is that Buffy frequently associates normalcy with popularity. Buffy wants to be s1 Cordelia, and her slaying is drawing her away from that into a more spiritual calling.
            I don't know if its purposefully or accidentally revealing that Buffy didn't make the squad and only made first alternate. If the cheerleading tryouts were solely based on talent, it’s a sham that Buffy merely first won an alternate position. With her slayer skills, she has strength, grace in motion, flexibility, and athleticism far beyond any of her competitors. Buffy could do stunts so amazing that the SHS cheerleading squad would win national renown.

            It presents two possible issues. First, high school cheerleading is a rigged game just for the popular girls. The senior cheerleaders, first and foremost, picked their friends and fellow queen bees than the most talented girls. Or, second, Buffy didn't make the squad because her individual routine (which we didn't see) was unimpressive because she didn't put much time or thought into it which indicates that Buffy didn't really want to cheer. Buffy was out for the nostalgia tour- rather than a big love of cheering. I absolutely could see both things happening- which is a mark against cheering as a good extracurricular for Buffy.

            Buffy said that she wanted to cheerleader to do something “safe” and non-slay-y. However, she learned by the ep that cheerleading is “too hairy” for her. Ultimately, I don’t think that SHS really has a *safe* activity. If cheerleading can’t be safe, Buffy takes another step towards embracing her slaying life which is may be unsafe but it sure has more value than cheering. Also, I think Buffy may have liked being a cheerleader before she was Called because she was an athletic girl and she enjoyed that exercise/release of energy. However, now, Buffy has to be constantly athletic as a slayer. Maybe I'm a couch-potato (I drag my sorry ass to the gym sadly) but between patrolling, fighting, and training, Buffy already has so much physical exercise in her routine that cheering could be needlessly tiring and monotonous.

            Also, cheering is *such* a fake gender performance for Buffy. It seems a little silly for Buffy to cheer on the school's manly athletes like they're fighting the most important fight evah with their superior strength and endurance when (a) Buffy can and does beat any of these guys in a physical fight and (b) Buffy actually *is* fighting the most important fight evah. Later, we'll learn that SHS's big shot athletes are treated like gods and they're spoiled rotten and given all kinds of breaks. Buffy will resent how these athletes are spoiled and petted because they're supposedly fighting for the school while Buffy is treated like a pariah for actually truly fighting for the school and a town in a 1000000X more consequential battle. Looking ahead, it's a good thing that Buffy didn't make the squad because it would have put her playing a fake role in a sexist system that she'll come to know and hate.

            Although while cheerleading is somewhat incongruous on Buffy's role as a hero, it does fit Cordelia's later role as a hero. Coming off out AtS Watch, Cordelia really maintains her cheerleader stance from beginning to end. Cheering is rather incongruous on Buffy since Buffy is like, the mega-star athlete and team captain of her horror-filled world- not the cheerleader. However, Cordelia increasingly plays a cheerleader role in AI where Angel became her football, basketball, and lacrosse team rolled up into one big hunk’uva manpire. Later when she's Jasminfiied, Cordevilia will groom Connor and The Beast as her warriors and mostly watch them physically play the game and cheer them on from the sideline.

            Willow gets a lot of flack for her “Why would someone want to hurt Cordelia?”/”Because they met her. Did I say that?”. However, at root, Willow is speaking big truth that should be bandied about in a detective-y meeting to figure out who hurt Cordelia and why. Cordelia really does march around high school making enemies because she treats everyone out of her social stratum like crap. Catherine-in-Amy casts her spell on Cordelia as:

            WITCH
            ...reap thy vengeance with keen and cruel might... send thy sudden darkness out of darkest night.
            Catherine would likely have injured Cordelia anyway to make space on the squad. Then again, maybe Catherine would have spared Cordelia and gone after someone else if Cordelia didn’t menace her in the bathroom. Either way, there was both an opportunistic and a vengeful element to Catherine’s spell on Cordelia. Later, Marcie will vengefully hurt Cordelia. (Although to be fair to Cordelia, her reputation as a beauty who is very nice to football players nearly killed her in Some Assembly Required. Cordy's bitchiness makes her a target but her high profile popularity and enviable looks and status also endanger her.)

            Catherine is something of a facial cautionary tale for Cordelia. Catherine was probably a lot like Cordelia in high school. Cordelia articulates Catherine’s contempt for “Amy’s” klutziness and accompanying threats of assault. As Local Max says, cheerleading and high school athletics are very particular to the school system. In high school cliche speak, at least, these are not activities that breed social systems that really prepare their participants for the real world. In high school cliche terms, the popular girls and boys especially are firmly divided into their respective packs in SHS. Boys hang out together and the girls hang out separately and they only meet up to date or maybe hang out as a group with their dates. This system means that popular high school girls force a sexist system where they are the cheerleaders and homecoming queens and they are rigorously feminine and don’t aspire to anything else because these girls don’t compete with the boys for extracurricular activities and identities. Popular girls are already ghettoized into their girl-group for social interactions- the key is to just be the prettiest, most fabulous girl there.

            However, as the cliché goes, you can’t stay in your gender-pack permanently into adulthood. Maybe there are a few rarified types like professional athletes or Real Housewives who can be highly paid and fabulous and just share the company of their same gender at work. However, generally, being an adult means having to work and network with the opposite sex and get along beyond a few high school dates. The workplace is intergendered. Being an adult means building a relationship longer than taking the latest athletic stud-hero for a test drive while he's hot or flocking to the It Girl of the moment who has a reputation for being fast.

            Although within this meta, I'm not sure how to parse that Cordelia's eventual growth is that she did go to the more masculine AtS world and it swallowed her whole and killed her. Poor thing. Certainly though with Catherine, she appears to have stagnated into a festering ball of resentment because she picked a feminine-coded lower income job (cosmetologist), pushed her husband away, and her one relationship was with her daughter and Catherine obsessed about that one relationship that she had left. And Catherine can't relate to women or her daughter unless it's catty, vicious competition. I have no problem with cosmetologists or divorced women- but the whole shebang indicates a that Catherine's problems started because of her immaturity at building real relationships with men and relating to them as an equal instead of a popular ice queen and her inability to even relate to her own daughter without high schoolesque cattiness on steroids and morphed into horrifying child abuse.

            One of the cutest thing about Xander/Willow is that Willow flips back and forth between starry-eyed admiration of Xander and bluntly judging and snarking on him and his choices. I'll be pointing it out as a motif through this re-watch because it cracks me up. In the same ep, Willow totally bought Xander's fib that he alone took care of the Catherine/Amy situation with starry-eyed hero worship (pay no attention to Buffy and Giles standing there exhausted like they just did something big!) and Willow snarked that Xander giving Buffy the bracelet is like dating without the kissing or the hugging or the Buffy knowing about it. It does connote a fundamental truth about Xander- entirely capable of being the epic hero of valor but kind of silly on a day to day basis. However, it does have a worse lining where Xander feels like and he's treated like a joke on a day to day basis even though he always does the brave thing when it counts. Xander saves the world and people that mock him regularly.
            Last edited by Dipstick; 18-03-14, 09:46 PM.

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            • #36
              Originally posted by Local Maximum View Post
              In the episode notes over on lj (and even before I joined in), Maggie suggested that this episode could be read as something of an introduction to Willow's role in the series; it's the first episode about a witch, we can read Amy as the innocent, put-upon girl Willow starts as and Catherine as the woman consumed by her power Willow risks becoming. I wrote a meta using this basic structure over on my lj, which I won't quote at length here, partly because I don't really believe that this episode was planned that way, though it is nice that it worked out that way; Willow/Amy mirroring continues later in the series up into season eight, and Doppelgangland, pretty much the definitive Willow episode, even uses a somewhat similar structure to this episode's, where the two Willows (the sweet good girl and the monster) switch identities and have to play each other the way Catherine and Amy do here. Some of Willow's issues are analogous to the Madisons' issues. Then again, Buffy and Faith's body swap is much more explicitly similar. We do get a general feel for how witchcraft will work in this show, though, right down to Catherine's eyes going deep black when she's summoning the most powerful stuff. Willow's ease at plucking out the eye-of-newt compared to Xander's inability to do so suggests a certain knack for the gross stuff that she wouldn't seem on the surface to be good at.
              I agree it's *probably* not intentional. But when I sat down to do those notes at LJ, I thought about the structure of season 1, and I'd make a case for breaking it down thus:

              Buffy-centric intro: WttH/Harvest
              * ??? * : The Witch
              Xander-centric intro: Teacher's Pet

              Buffy's love life/not ordinary boys: NKABOYFD
              Buffy's love life/not Xander: The Pack
              Buffy's love life/I guess that leaves Angel: Angel
              Willow's love life: IRYJ

              Thematic/The thin line between demon and demon hunter: Puppet Show
              Thematic/Fear and how it manifests itself: Nightmares
              Thematic/Look past the surface: OOM/OOS

              Big Wrap-Up: Prophecy Girl.

              Anyway, you can see why I'd want to slot Willow into the Witch given that. I mean, seriously: slayer, witch, demon-magnet? How can that not be intentional?

              Very great comments all around, and I am also fairly positive about The Witch. I especially like the switching on innocence/guilt because I do think that foreshadows a major theme in the show. Amy seems to be the bad guy, but no, it's Amy's mother as Amy, except as we know Amy is going to head off in that direction herself. I do still think that's a fairly good outline of Willow's victim to villain transformation over the course of the show. Didn't they already gesture in this direction with the "del" scene?
              Last edited by Maggie; 19-03-14, 02:02 AM.
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              "I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear." Banner Credit: Vampmogs

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              • #37
                Originally posted by Maggie View Post
                Very great comments all around, and I am also fairly positive about The Witch. I especially like the switching on innocence/guilt because I do think that foreshadows a major theme in the show. Amy seems to be the bad guy, but no, it's Amy's mother as Amy, except as we know Amy is going to head off in that direction herself. I do still think that's a fairly good outline of Willow's victim to villain transformation over the course of the show.
                I agree, though Willow ends up neither victim nor villain at the series' end and so escapes either fate. I do think it's important that Willow doesn't end up a villain, because this point is not merely that every victim is just a villain waiting to pop up at any moment and victims should start preemptively hating themselves in anticipation of their inevitable future evil.

                Anyway, if anyone is interested, back in the day I wrote a lot about the resonances that crop up around Willow and the episode Witch here -- the main thing I'd change is to be more forthright that I don't believe that the episode was intended as a summary of Willow's arc, but it's got a few nifty resonances.

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                • #38
                  Oh I forgot to add that I too found Cordelia's behaviour in this episode especially appalling. She's always been a bully but the moment where she slams the locker door is the first and only time she is physically threatening and it's ugly to watch. It's probably one of her worst moments in the show for me, if not the worst.

                  ~ Banner by Nina ~

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                  • #39
                    I'm not sure what my feelings are about Witch as foreshadowing for Willow. It skates a little close to blaming Willow for stuff that she didn't do and was entirely removed from. Plus, as Local Max said, Amy's and Catherine's march to pure villainy is not really Willow's. However, I do see the mathematical appeal of slotting Witch into Willow's stealth ep when Maggie put up the chart of where the eps fall thematically and character-wise. I'd probably just label it another Buffy-ep (and I wouldn't pick Maggie's summation of The Pack and OOM, OOS but they make sense). However, yes, the chart does look lopsided to Buffy and then Xander- but then again, I kind of think that's S1. Willow and Giles aren't as important in S1. And Giles didn't even make Maggie's chart. As delightful and quietly interesting as they are in S1, they get more focus and dynamism in S2.

                    I don't buy the Deliver trick as foreshadowing for Willow being the Big Bad at the end of S6. It's interesting that everyone in fandom has basically agreed that this trick of Willow's the foreshadowing/first step on her path to super-villainy. However, I've never read anyone write that Faith's trick on Scott Hope where she pretended that she and Scott contracted a venereal disease in Homecoming foreshadowed her villainy. Instead, the usual analysis of the Homecoming trick is that it shows glimmers that Faith really does have goodness and Buffy's back and wants to be her friend despite later events. It's quite a double standard since it's basically the same trick- Faith and Willow fib to punish someone who's been hurting Buffy in a small but meaningfully high school way. I'd be consistent and say that in both cases, the trick is such a non-event and frankly, they both feel so understandable (if not justified) by Scott's and Cordelia's behavior and power imbalance, that it doesn't feel like foreshadowing for a spree of very serious crimes (homicide, assault, torture, arguably attempted rape).

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                    • #40
                      I agree the trick is a non-event and fits so much into the explored social/hierarchical aspect of high school that I just don't think it is more than a hit back at the bully by using some brains.

                      Originally posted by Local Maximum View Post
                      Speaking of Giles, I totally think he was just lying when he claimed that spell was his first casting, especially considering how confident and badass he looked doing the spell.
                      This got me thinking this morning and I am going to really specifically reevaluate Giles as we rewatch based around this. As I said his S1/2/Ripperpast has never previously meshed well for me, but there is possible coherence here. If I take Giles' 'my first casting' as an intended lie then things can switch a bit. Giles is the lead watcher to the active slayer. That is a huuugely important Council position and it is feasible then that Giles is intentionally focused on his responsibilities and his role and wanting to do a good/professional job in such a way that he feels he should intentionally disassociate from his wilder past. This is just the start of the road for these guys and the first set ups of setting dynamics and people often choose to present a 'work' persona. At this point, keeping within the traditional format of how slayer's work, Giles could reasonably be anticipating keeping his work hat separate to his personal life and feel that he can/should construct a more 'watcherly', more conforming!Wesleyesque approach if he is a) going to do the job well, b) get the right working dynamic with his slayer and c) give the role the weight/gravitas he probably feels it deserves. He doesn't know at this stage that he will become personally invested and that those walls he is hiding behind will be pulled down. This could all work and pull his characterisation together for me and his lying at this stage can couple to make his affected 'watcher persona' understandable and without any malicious intent to it.

                      Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                      Oh I forgot to add that I too found Cordelia's behaviour in this episode especially appalling. She's always been a bully but the moment where she slams the locker door is the first and only time she is physically threatening and it's ugly to watch. It's probably one of her worst moments in the show for me, if not the worst.
                      It was awful but perhaps we can see it as illustrative of just how unsettled Cordelia is by Buffy's arrival. She vetted her and Buffy passed muster and yet opted to hang out with the losers and has turned away from what Cordelia offered her and the social pluses her friendship provides to those she accepts. Cordelia is then somewhat angered and wary of further disruptions and unprecedented results and her extreme aggression here is fuelled by uncertainty and fear. Of course Buffy's path on the social ladder, somewhat clinging back to her previous life of popularity and the desire to be prom queen, rides alongside this.

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                      • #41
                        I probably won't be able to do The Pack. I might still have something to write about it by then, but I want to de-commit now. If someone else wants to take it, feel free.

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                        • #42
                          Thanks for letting us know Max. King do you still want it?

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                          • #43
                            Sure, I'll pick up "The Pack". Speak up if the situation changes, Max, my review would be refitted into a discussion post
                            Last edited by KingofCretins; 20-03-14, 03:40 PM.
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                            • #44
                              Great stuff.

                              Our timings have ended up falling more to the beginning/end of the week, which is great if everyone is happy with that. We're with Sosa again next for Teacher's Pet.

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                              • #45
                                Warning: Too much Xander! And jumbled thoughts are, well, jumbled.

                                S1E4: Teacher's Pet



                                - I can't get over the fact that confident Xander in the dream is so freakin' hot!

                                - Teacher's Pet is one of the most disliked episodes of the verse, yet it was the first episode to show to turn gender roles upside down by reversing the traditional roles in a typical damsel in distress tale: the young female blonde virgin gets kidnapped by a rapist who threatens to steal her virginity and then murder her until the tall male dark-haired warrior saves her and her virginity – this exactly happens in this episode in reverse, even the kidnapper is switched into a female.

                                Xander dreams of being the hero who saves the damsel because that's the idea that his parents and society have been feeding him and the other boys like him all their lives, by the end of the episode it's Buffy who saves Xander and she will be saving him throughout the series.

                                - While girls are valued for being pure and untouched, boys are pressured to sleep around. Virgin boys are humiliated and bullied for not getting laid on regular bases, which leads weak hearted and minded boys to seek immoral ways to escape humiliation like lying or tricking girls into bed or raping them.

                                As a typical teen boy in a typical American high school, Xander knows that in order to be respected and valued in school, he must: be macho, save women, be physically buff and strong, be an athlete, have sex, and Xander is none of the above and that's why he thrives to be all of the above, because that's what is expected from him. ( Notice how Buffy assumes that Xander must have had sex, because guys are supposed to have sex! )

                                - Xander is dismissed by bullies, lead singers, and Buffy because he doesn't have what it takes to be a real man – apparently clothes are one of them, Angel's leather jacket wins against Xander's bracelet – and in this episode sex is what makes one a man. He's probably not ready to journey from boyhood to manhood, but it doesn't matter, he must "score" to keep up with the other cool guys, not knowing that they as well are as much boys as he is.

                                If Xander had realized from the beginning that in order to fit in and be cool he should not care about how others see him, he'd probably be one of the coolest kids in school.

                                - Let's talk about Angel. Witness the personality transformation! That is NOT the same guy from the first two eps. The writers obviously figured out Angel's role by this episode.

                                - Same-gender friendships: You can easily see how at ease Willow is now that Buffy is around. Here we see them rolling their eyes at Xander believing he's got a shot with an older attractive woman. If Buffy were a guy, he'd probably be buddying with Xander over this while Willow rolled her eyes alone.

                                - Speaking of buddies: how adorable that Willow knows that Xander is a virgin. And how sad that when he loses his virginity, he won't tell her – which is also interesting because Xander tells no one about it. Interesting and sad.

                                - I felt really sorry for Buffy about the teacher who died. Poor girl just needs someone who believes in her.
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