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November 14, 2013 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Buzzfeed ranks every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from worst to best. Let the arguments begin.
posted by Athanassiel (180 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fool for Love is number 12, THIS LIST IS INVALID! IT'S CLEARLY THE BEST ONE!

(fine, The Zeppo's pretty all right too)
posted by gkhan at 3:51 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH BOURBON TO ENGAGE WITH THIS IM JUST GOING TO PLAY WILD HORSES BY THE SUNDAYS AND WAIT FOR EVERYINE IN THE THREAD TO CRY.
posted by The Whelk at 3:54 PM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is the first Buffy list that didn't put the musical episode at #1. That's a courageous move, since it is the best one.
posted by mathowie at 3:54 PM on November 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


(oh god I took a three hour detour in L.A to visit the exterior of Sunnydale High why am I only now remembering that)
posted by The Whelk at 3:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can there be a single link Buzzfeed warning?
posted by Ideefixe at 3:55 PM on November 14, 2013


Right off the bat I want to quibble with treating Beer Bad like there wasn't any real message there, instead of having any kind of conversation about the messaging to college students being so overwhelmingly split between "it's not a good party if you remember how you got home afterwards" and "alcohol is horrible and if you drink one Zima bad things are going to happen to you and probably a puppy is going to die or something". I will admit it's not the best episode generally, but come on, how am I supposed to take the rest of it seriously if the authors don't read any nuance into anything?

Oh, right, it's Buzzfeed, they don't do nuance.
posted by Sequence at 3:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's the right call. Becoming is the show literally becoming the best of everything it can and will be.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can there be a single link Buzzfeed warning?

You did read the post right?
posted by kmz at 3:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


3 eps tied for #1 for me (don't make me choose!): Becoming, The Body, Restless.
posted by kmz at 3:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


YOU KNOW WHAT, FUCK IT, I LIKED BAD EGGS, IT'S A NICE SELF CONTAINED GOOFY EPISODE AND GOOD FOR INTODUCING PEOPLE TO THE CONCEOT.

The best episode is Band Candy cause Giles wears a t-shirt and fucks Joyce on a car.
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on November 14, 2013 [34 favorites]


This is the first Buffy list that didn't put the musical episode at #1. That's a courageous move, since it is the best one.

Well, it's the best one if you don't want to spend the rest of the evening sobbing, pondering your and your friends' and family's mortality and generally re-living episodes of grieving with uncomfortable verisimilitude, but my vote for Best Episode Qua Art goes to The Body. All of the experimental/stunt episodes should really tie for joint best in some ways.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:59 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Beer Bad's definitely at my bottom. I have a soft spot for Bad Eggs and I Robot though they're always at the bottom of these lists. I'm also the guy who thinks Rose Madder in no way deserves to be dead last on the Vulture Stephen King list though.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:59 PM on November 14, 2013


I only watched Buffy sporadically and consequently was usually confused about what was going on. But one episode always stood out in my mind, the one in which Buffy (spoiler alert!) finds her mother dead, then the camera spends the next ten minutes following her around the house, as she just meanders from place to place, literally in shock. With that I thought "Ah, there really is something to this show after all..."

And on this list it's #3, so there's that.
posted by zardoz at 3:59 PM on November 14, 2013


The Bidy, Real again, Once More, yeah I feel like these should be in thier own universe of ranking next to the more save-the-day episodes.
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on November 14, 2013


I mean, I love OMWF and Hush and all that, but to me they're just a step below The Body or Restless.
posted by kmz at 4:01 PM on November 14, 2013


The Body is one of the TV descriptions of Shock that Gets It. Like the whole series needs kudos just for that.
posted by The Whelk at 4:01 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best episode is Band Candy cause Giles wears a t-shirt and fucks Joyce on a car.

And they listened to Cream!

(Which Giles listens to again in Forever and brb crying forever again.)
posted by kmz at 4:03 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope someday my irrational hatred of Sarah Michelle Gellar goes away so that I can finally watch BTVS.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:04 PM on November 14, 2013


The bottom should really be most of Season 7. I mean, it started so strong. Lessons, Same Time Same Place, Help, Selfless and Him were all stellar episodes. My feelings on Conversations with Dead People are changeable yet intense. After that though it was a dreadful slide into potentials and ubervamps and speeches and I'm not even going to mention Kennedy (oops). Still a decent finale though.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:05 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope someday my irrational hatred of Sarah Michelle Gellar goes away so that I can finally watch BTVS.

She sucks in pretty much everything else, but she's pretty darn amazing as Buffy. Give it a shot!
posted by gkhan at 4:06 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I conferred with MuddDude (who, granted, hasn't seen the 6th and 7th seasons), and we agreed that the worst episode, hands down, is Amends (aka the Christmas episode). Way worse than Beer Bad, way worse than all the other first season episodes that Buzzfeed seems to hate (I mean, the first season is definitely weak, but at least they try for an interesting premise and fail to reach it).
posted by muddgirl at 4:06 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


She sucks in pretty much everything else, but she's pretty darn amazing as Buffy. Give it a shot!

Heh, she's terrible as Buffy too - but everything else about the show is so good that you don't mind...
posted by thedaniel at 4:10 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


More of season one should be closer to the bottom.

Honestly, they just need to rescore it on something that isn't a Casio keyboard and it would be watchable. You could find the same person to make Ladyhawke amazing.
posted by absalom at 4:11 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Zeppo!!!1!!
posted by bstreep at 4:12 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


thedaniel: "Heh, she's terrible as Buffy too - but everything else about the show is so good that you don't mind..."

I respectfully disagree. Buffy-the-character was always written in a certain Valley Girl mode, but the scripts always used that to the show's advantage, taking some of the edge off of the truly horrific stuff and adding a touch of the screwball to the tropier dramatic stuff. For her part, Gellar could modulate that particular voice/attitude/physicality wonderfully.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:18 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Body has to be number one. It is one of the greatest episodes of any tv ever, anywhere.

But god help us, I have opinions about practically every number on this list.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:20 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


But god help us, I have opinions about practically every number on this list.

Exactly. I'm paralyzed by the sheer amount of passionate disagreements (and agreements) I have with the list. Unable to comment.
posted by fatehunter at 4:22 PM on November 14, 2013


I'm holding out until Buffy the Vampire Slayer ranks every page of Buzzfeed from completely trite to unbearably trite.
posted by item at 4:23 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


The episode with John Ritter is only 83. Pffffftt.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:24 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heh, she's terrible as Buffy too - but everything else about the how is so good that you don't mind...

#takes on a look of afflicted despair and strength and tries to forget about angel#

THE WHOLE OF THE 90s and some of the noughties WANTS TO CUT YOU, CUT YOU TILL IT HURTS

it's okay not to cry, it's okay not to cry, it's okay not to cry
posted by litleozy at 4:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I lack the Whedon gene. Snappy dialogue is great but it can't be the only thing carrying your universe I'M LOOKING AT YOU FIREFLY.
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been waiting for a Buffy thread, actually, since I've had this URL saved for a while. For you Giles fans out there, behold Anthony Head doing Shakespeare:

Henry VIII, Act III, scene ii

A little context--that speech is from Cardinal Wolsey, who's just been discovered to have been urging the Church not to grant Henry's divorce request. As a result, he's disgraced and has this wonderful meditation on how fleeting power and greatness are.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:51 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


“Storyteller” should be higher on the list. BtVS was erratic, almost incoherent, were or weren't held accountable for their past actions (the way Angel was treated in particular), but the way this episode takes Andrew from denial to repentance is nearly perfect. And it's pretty funny.
posted by straight at 4:53 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]



She sucks in pretty much everything else, but she's pretty darn amazing as Buffy. Give it a shot!
posted by gkhan at 7:06 PM on November 14 [+] [!]


If it helps, apparently one of the reasons why there's never been a big reunion panel or anything is cause no one can stand her.

Rupert Giles is the reason I own a lot of tweed. And sweaters. WHY COULDN't I GO TO WATCHERS SCHOOL OR WHERE EVER THEY LEARNED THINGS THIS REALITY IS BULLSHIT. GAH.
posted by The Whelk at 4:59 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


And just think, in a few years, there will be a MetaFilter post about Buzzfeed ranking all the episodes of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (with every episode before they finally explain Coulson's "trip to Tahiti" in the Bottom 20)
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:02 PM on November 14, 2013


"Conversations With Dead People" and "The Zeppo" are way too low at 20 and 21.

The best episode is Band Candy cause Giles wears a t-shirt and fucks Joyce on a car.

"On a POLICE car?!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:03 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Like, seriously, The Zeppo? Easily the most self-aware episode in the series other than the horrifying "Normal Again". (*shudder*) There's an hilarious parody of a Buffy episode going on, and it's as background as whatever the school administration is up to in most episodes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:06 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


And the correct sequence is " fire bad, tree pretty" /buffypedant
posted by The Whelk at 5:11 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


My favorite episode is Hush,, my second favorite is the musical, but the best episode is The Body, though I don't think I'll ever be able to watch it again.
posted by rtha at 5:12 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This list is terrible, I think, but I've come to accept that my opinions of Buffy are not shared by most: among my heresies, I don't think season one or season seven is the worst (my bottom twenty-two episodes would be all of season six), I think the show lost its way when Buffy dropped out of college, I like Riley Finn (!), I think "Restless" is mostly a pretentious wankfest, and I think Dawn is all right. And I would go on about this except literally who cares when there's American Horror Story: Coven happening right now? Coven is basically Buffy/Angel except oh! so much better, with Whedonverse alums Tim Minear and Douglas Petrie writing, plus James Wong from the early, good seasons of The X-Files, and it lives today in the nightmare future world of 2013!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:16 PM on November 14, 2013


I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I didn't watch the series to the end (it's on my to-do list...), but The Zeppo has easily got to be one of the most innovative pieces of television that I've encountered. It's easily my favorite of the series.

Hush is pretty good too.

That being said, if I lumped all of Whedon's shows together and ranked them, Epitaph One from Dollhouse is easily my favorite, for many of the same reasons that I liked The Zeppo, but with a huge dose of 'WTF' added, especially when you consider when it aired.
posted by schmod at 5:22 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Lie to Me" was the episode that made me a fan of BtVS, so I was glad that it was fairly well ranked. Its skewering of "vampire" subculture let me know there was something good going on here. But honestly, there is way too much from seasons 4-7 in the top 50 when most of the good in the show happened in seasons 1-3. The "big" episodes - "Hush", "Restless", "The Body", "Once More..." - were good but the bulk of the quality television was in the second and third seasons.
posted by graymouser at 5:23 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had a hexagon shaped library in high school and a well stocked mythology and folklore section.

My HS was totally enabling my Buffy obsession.

( I made a stake in woodworking class once, mostly cause I couldn't do anything more complicated but also cause JUST IN CASE.)
posted by The Whelk at 5:26 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


( I made a stake in woodworking class once, mostly cause I couldn't do anything more complicated but also cause JUST IN CASE.)

That's smart thinking, right there.
posted by gkhan at 5:31 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


This list is obviously wrong in every particular, but, eh, close enough.
posted by kyrademon at 5:33 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


If I end up rewatching the whole series AGAIN because of this list, I'm going to be quite upse... oh, who am I kidding, where's the popcorn?
posted by Queen of Robots at 5:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


We can skip the first season except let's watch Witch I like Amy
posted by The Whelk at 5:47 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love all seasons of Buffy, although some are better than others.

Seasons Six and Three are my favorites, but they're all good. I like my Buffy comfortably nestled between whimsy and angst.

Season Four was soggy and disorganized, but it has some of the best episodes of all time, of all time. The worst thing about Season Four was that Lindsay Crouse left before her arc should have ended. Adam alone could not carry that season, not as a Big Bad.

Season Seven flips wildly between being excellent and being relatively awful. It should have either been half as long, or twice as long.

The worst episode of all time was "Where the Wild Things Are." That said, I would have appreciated it if they didn't drop that plot for the rest of Season Four. Not because it would be sexy, because it wouldn't be, but because it would be such a "fuck you" to the audience of truly cosmic proportions.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:51 PM on November 14, 2013


Oh, and the best episode is probably "Fool For Love."
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:52 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a pretty regular marathoner of Seasons 2-6, I am impressed with whoever ranked them all without going
"pssssssssssh Season 7? THAT's going collectively at the bottom"

Also, note that I validated my feelings about this list by make sure "Once More" was in the top 5.
posted by warm_planet at 5:52 PM on November 14, 2013


Season 7 is weird, because it contains some top-of-the-line episodes, but the grand arc is actively bad. The First is a concept that begins with so much promise, but after the first few appearances, it just sort of twists in the wind.

I also didn't like what the Slayerettes did to the mythology of the show. It's been a while since I've seen it, but while I liked the individual actors and some of the lines surrounding it, the whole concept seemed pretty dire, and in direct contradiction to the simple, appealing rules of the show's universe.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with many of the previous comments ("The Body" is the best thing Joss Whedon will ever do), but I must note that "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Something Blue" are both quite wrongfully ranked. IOHEFY builds really well to the gender twist, and Boreanaz and Gellar are terrific when it gets there. There's nothing wrong with "Something Blue," but there's no way it's the 16th best episode of the series.
posted by aaronetc at 6:17 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, Sticherbeast! I was so excited for the start of season 7 because I was going to watch it ON AIR with commercials and everything, now that I was all caught up.

When the First showed up as dead characters I was riveted. Spooky and spine-chilling pulling on lots of previous Buffy themes. (Is it a good or bad when your loved one returns from the dead?)

But the Slayerettes and especially Willow's new love interest just weren't well integrated. And many of the old gang seemed caught up in the same old drama. Xander and Anya? Been there; seen that. Yes, Dawn is still unclear on her role etc.

Fortunately, the eighth season (aka graphic novels) seemed to regain the forward momentum and has been well worth my money.
posted by warm_planet at 6:22 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK OK OK HEY. Everybody's personal favorite and least favorite, please?

My favorite: I Only Have Eyes for You
Least favorite: ...will have to think on that. Personally, I would have thrown Lies My Parents Told Me off the list and into the incinerator where it belongs, but there are some other terrible episodes from the "Potentials" days and the boredom of S4 or S1 that could give it a run for its money, so I'm not sure.

Overall, I think this list is surprisingly great. No S6 hate! Equanimity re: Dawn! Not putting the musical episode at #1! But why are the best Faith episodes rated so badly? And I do feel like the curator (?) pushed a lot of S1 and S7 way further up the list than deserved to make way for extra Riley-centric episodes near the bottom...though I'm also glad she didn't just drop all of S7 at the end as a collective group (more evenhanded than I probably would have been, to be frank). This list did remind me -- there were so *many* quality episodes. We start hitting good ones at like #80 from the bottom! I can't think of another show that has a batting average like that.

I made a stake in woodworking class once, mostly cause I couldn't do anything more complicated but also cause JUST IN CASE.

I found this itchy, terrible sweater at a Wet Seal knockoff store in high school, and it looked to me like one that Buffy would wear and OMG I loved it literally to pieces because of that. Once a week rotation for at least a year.

So lucky I'm not male, there is no way I wouldn't have worn a variation of Spike's one outfit every day and made a complete fool out of myself. The humongous leather duster alone, my god.

Though speaking of, why did he just have the lone outfit? Just that t-shirt, red button-down, black jeans, and jacket, up until S7 practically. Such a weird outfit, too. You only have one pair of pants and they're black jeans?!

And how do we feel about Spike now, btw? In high school, I thought he was funny, incredibly hot, even relatable in his own way...but then a month or two ago I rewatched some of the last season of Angel and ooooph. So, not sure what to think.

"Where the Wild Things Are." That said, I would have appreciated it if they didn't drop that plot for the rest of Season Four. Not because it would be sexy, because it wouldn't be, but because it would be such a "fuck you" to the audience of truly cosmic proportions.

Why would it be a "fuck you"?

I haven't seen it in a long time, so please forgive me if it turns out I'm being dense.
posted by rue72 at 6:24 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it helps, apparently one of the reasons why there's never been a big reunion panel or anything is cause no one can stand her.

Interesting. I came very late to Buffy and quite enjoyed marathoning the whole series last year. I've never seen her in anything else or seen an interview with her, but she popped up on a fairly recent episode of Craig Ferguson, and holy hell she was unlikeable.

If you can't get along with Craig -- even in slightly cranky, arch dirty-old-man Craig mode -- well, that's got to make me wonder about you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I see what they wanted to do in S7 (Buffy as high school student -> Buffy in college -> Buffy in the brutal real world, with her and all of her friends spinning her wheels in her 20s -> Buffy as mom), but I found the Slayerettes more annoying-annoying than funny-annoying.

Because of overidentifying with the "dead-end 20s angst" bit I also like "Doublemeat Palace" more than perhaps I should.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm inordinately fond of "Where the Wild Things Are" because of one scene that put me on the floor:

(Cut to exterior of Lowell House. Xander helps Julie out. Tara, Willow, Spike, and Anya are there. Julie immediately runs off. Spike takes out a cigarette and lights it.)
WILLOW: We have to go back in there.
ANYA: Why?
XANDER: Because Buffy and Riley are trapped.
ANYA: So? (Willow and Tara look surprised) She's the Slayer, he's a big soldier boy, what do they need you for?
XANDER: Anya, look around! There's ghosts and shaking, and people are going all Felicity with their hair... We're fresh out of superpeople, and somebody's gotta go back in there. (Deep breath) Now who's with me?
(Willow and Tara hesitate.)
SPIKE: I am.
(Everyone looks at Spike in surprise.)
SPIKE: I know I'm not the first choice for heroics ... (drops his cigarette and grinds it out with his foot) and Buffy's tried to kill me more than once. And, I don't fancy a single one of you at all. But... (pauses) Actually, all that sounds pretty convincing. (Frowns, shakes his head and walks away.) I wonder if Danger Mouse is on.

[Spike doesn't return for the rest of the episode.]
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:35 PM on November 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


> "OK OK OK HEY. Everybody's personal favorite and least favorite, please?"

My favorite: Hush. (Yeah, I'd put The Body and Once More With Feeling shortly after it, but Hush to me is an episode that gets EVERYTHING right.)

Least favorite: I'm going to say Hell's Bells. (Xander leaving Anya at the altar? Seriously? This is where the show, for me, completely stopped understanding how to handle stakes and motivation.)
posted by kyrademon at 6:37 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hope Buzzfeed does a list for Angel next so we can argue about that.
(I have no strong feelings about Angel though. Sometimes I forget it existed.)
posted by Mezentian at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


well, Beer Bad is probably the worst episode, though I think Ted is unwatchably bad. It's literally the only one I skip when I watch the series from beginning to end...which...of course...I do not do...often...or anything...

Becoming is great, and I give them points for putting it at the top...a controversial but plausible and interesting suggestion.

I think Hush goes at #1, with the usual suspects (OMWF, Restless, The Body) following close behind. I don't see any way to put The Gift (which, IMHO, is just not good) anywhere near the top.

I think Bad Eggs is way underrated in general, and shamefully so in this list...there are some hilarious moments in that episode...just no way is it the second-worse. Gingerbread is just awful, and preachy. And Witch isn't very good, IMO...no way that they appear that high up!
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:46 PM on November 14, 2013


I'm going to say Hell's Bells.

Yeah, terrible episode. But then, I also never liked Xander. Just had something creepy about him.
posted by rue72 at 6:49 PM on November 14, 2013


Xander is like the archetypal Nice Guy for a long time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:13 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Xander suffers from being a canon-awful-high-school-dude who then never grows beyond like..Season four cause they had no idea what to do with him so he stays like 17 and kinda shitty FOREVER. The Anti-Cordelia.

For further reading check your local past Metafilter threads on the subject.
posted by The Whelk at 7:19 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


" Nosferatu, Pinhead from Hellraiser, and Mr. Burns from The Simpsons all served as physical models for The Gentlemen."

Hush FTW
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:20 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I have no strong feelings about Angel though. Sometimes I forget it existed.)

dude, you can talk alllll the shit you want about Angel but

PUPPET. EPISODE.

ALL SHOWS SHOULD HAVE PUPPET EPISODES.
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 PM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


FROM A CRAFT SCREENWRITING POV BAD EGGS IS A GREAT 'INTRODUCE NEW WATCHERS" KINDA STORY CAUSE IT HAS ALL THE CORE CONCEPTS A MONSTER RELATED TO HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCES SCALED DOWN WITH CHARACTER JOKES AND EXPLAINING THAT NOT EVERYONE KNOWS MONSTERS EXIST 'GAS LEAK!". IT REQUIRES NO OUTSIDE KNOWLEDGE SO I USE IT TO INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO THAT WHICH IS BUFFY.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Xander suffers from being a canon-awful-high-school-dude who then never grows beyond like..Season four cause they had no idea what to do with him so he stays like 17 and kinda shitty FOREVER. The Anti-Cordelia.

Yeah (not to go all down this kind of road but...) it's long bothered me that they couldn't pull off a show with a bunch of interesting, cool, kick-ass females without making the most salient male character totally feckless and kind of a mess.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:27 PM on November 14, 2013


Giles and to a lesser extent Spike/Angel are the male protagonists*. Xander is just ...uuuugh lets not get into it.

*Oz stands alone. OZ STANDS ALONE IN AWESOMENESS.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon and yet I've never seen Buffy. I have no excuse for this fact.
posted by octothorpe at 7:30 PM on November 14, 2013


I'm 100% down with the Bad Eggs love, Whelk. This topic deserves its own thread.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:31 PM on November 14, 2013


For me it's as follows:

1. The Body
2. Selfless
3. Doppelgangland
4. Normal Again
5. Hush
6. Doublemeat Palace




IT'S A MEAT PROCESS! *flips bird everywhere*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:31 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Giles and to a lesser extent Spike/Angel are the male protagonists*. Xander is just ...uuuugh lets not get into it.

So right about Bad Eggs...so wrong about this...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:32 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anyone think it's weird that Jonathan ( Danny Strong) is now a major Hollywood screenwriter?
posted by The Whelk at 7:40 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Everything written by Drew Goddard
2. The musical
3. The other episodes
posted by Auden at 7:44 PM on November 14, 2013


> "Does anyone think it's weird that Jonathan (Danny Strong) is now a major Hollywood screenwriter?"

... Whoa, looking that up, he's writing Mockingjay?! I had no idea ...
posted by kyrademon at 7:48 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's weird that Jonathan ( Danny Strong) is now a major Hollywood screenwriter?

If by weird you mean AWESOME. He's an Emmy winner, apparently!
posted by warm_planet at 7:49 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Does anyone think it's weird that Jonathan ( Danny Strong) is now a major Hollywood screenwriter?

*Shrug* Maybe.

I think he started out as an extra, then someone started noticing he was always around and plopped him in a ton of scenes as a joke, and eventually they straight up hired him for a part. I don't know that he was *aiming* to act, he might have tried background work to support his scriptwriting habit.

On the other hand, where I picked up that tidbit I have no idea, so it might be a complete fabrication.
posted by rue72 at 7:51 PM on November 14, 2013


Does anyone think it's weird that Jonathan ( Danny Strong) is now a major Hollywood screenwriter?

What was really weird was finding out that the people who played Tara and Warren were dating for awhile.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:52 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You guys are missing the best part of "Who are You?" (which was ranked high), the brick joke carried over from Band Candy:
"Oh, 'cause, uh, Ethan Rayne. And-and you have a girlfriend named Olivia... and you haven't had a job since we blew up the school... which is valid lifestyle-wise. I mean, it's not like you're a slacker type, but - Oh, oh! When I had psychic power I heard my mom think that you were like a stevedore during sex. W- Do you want me to continue? "
"Actually, I beg you to stop. "
"What's a stevedore?"

The Body is the best episode, but not my favorite. It hurts too much to watch it. My favorite for watching is Hush. It's a Riley episode where he doesn't speak! (well, much)

On preview: Danny Strong is an Emmy winning writer? That's fantastic.
posted by Hactar at 7:52 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't watch The Body. It contains some kind of powerful allergen that messes with my eyes and throat.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:53 PM on November 14, 2013


he might have tried background work to support his scriptwriting habit.

This sounds like a good plan, where do I put that have an extensive period wardrobe?
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 PM on November 14, 2013


I find it interesting that Hush, The Body and the musical episode are so often in the top ones, because they're all explicit manipulations of sound-- the musical in the obvious sense; the Body uses no music (except maybe there's a radio on somewhere I think), and Hush has no voices.

I like Buffy a lot but it has so many more explicit flaws than Angel, I think-- from Xander's character to a lot of just bad episodes-- it's uneven in a way that Angel isn't quite as much. It's also possible that I just have seen Buffy more times. I'm watching Angel again with my partner, who hasn't seen it, and we're not that far in, but I'm, I dunno, fonder of it in some ways. I think a lot of it is that Buffy really tries to tackle adulthood as a show about adolescence and falls down and just gets depressing. Other people can't rewatch The Body; I can't rewatch Anne or Doublemeat Palace because I can't deal with that kind of real-world depressingness. Death is a real-world depressingness that I can sort of handle, because it's a thing that happens and it doesn't feel like inescapable despair so much.

Angel tackles adulthood in its lack of balance, in how people come and go, how you have to figure out how to make moral compromises or not, when to forgive people and when not to. And I still hold that Wesley's character arc is the most interesting one in the Whedonverse.
posted by NoraReed at 7:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


During his tenure there, he was awarded the James Pendelton Award for Acting and was a finalist for the prestigious Irene Ryan Award given by the Kennedy Center. Upon graduation, he immediately started working as an actor and was awarded a fellowship from the USC School of Theater to teach acting during the summer session (at twenty-two, he's the youngest person to ever receive this honor).

Ok I may have more work to do.
posted by The Whelk at 7:58 PM on November 14, 2013


The Body is truly unique and special, but Restless takes the cake for me. It is so powerfully evocative of the dream experience. I've never seen anything else like it on the big or small screen.

Fool For Love is second place because it's so beautifully told. The posturing frame narrative plus the brutal meltdown at the end... oof. Spike is always a punching bag, but this takes it to a whole different place.

I always skip Doublemeat Palace. Sorry bout it. I just can't handle the gross factor.

(And re: Spike's weird outfit, I always interpreted it as a way to make him look... small. That duster was ridiculously ill-fitting and I'm sure that was intentional.)
posted by annekate at 7:59 PM on November 14, 2013


The problem with Restless is the Cheese Man, who is WACKY RANDOM but not surreal like the rest of the episode. He ruins the tone.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:05 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, Becoming at the top where it richly belongs. I'd quibble with Hush, which should come before Restless at least -- and I hate the Zeppo (it's in the top half, but barely) -- but honestly, Doublemeat Palace is way too highly ranked, Go Fish should really be at the very bottom, Beer Bad wasn't quite THAT terrible, and I still claim I Robot, You Jane has rounded the corner from horrible to become awesome (also: Jenny).

I also have a huge soft spot for Lie To Me (Buffy season 2 is probably not the best season, but it's definitely my favourite) and am glad that they got it up in the top 20 where it belongs.

It's interesting that the top episodes are, as a group, fairly well agreed upon, but the worst 20 are so much more individual.

(Angel has very different flaws from Buffy. In particular, it was a huge step back from the "see, girls can save themselves and everyone else, thanks" feminism that Buffy tried to push. But Wesley's arc was maybe my favourite arc of any Whedon character ever, so it has that. It's a more mature show, but it starts to cement some of the flaws in Whedon's shows.)
posted by jeather at 8:24 PM on November 14, 2013


You only have one pair of pants and they're black jeans?!

I fail to see the problem here. Well, maybe black is the wrong color.
posted by Hoopo at 8:27 PM on November 14, 2013


Oh my god you guys pay attention, it's weird/funny that he's an award winning screenwriter now because of the season 4 episode where Jonathan casts the spell to make himself wildly famous as an award winning screenwriter.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 PM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


I am really surprised that Doublemeat Palace is ranked as highly as it is. I kind of expected to see it in last place. But I haven't watched the show since it went off the air, so there may be rose-colored glasses on some of the earlier seasons.

Also, I'm very glad that the top ranked ep was a 'regular' episode of the show and not a Big Experimental Episode like Hush or the musical. I mean, when you say "this episode which is very different from the rest of the show is my favorite" I wonder... do you actually like the show itself, then?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:08 PM on November 14, 2013


I remember liking the egg episode and the Frankenstein episode so I was ready to hate on this list but then as I read on it occurs to me that I'd watch bad Buffy episodes over the good episodes of most other shows of the time.
posted by Hoopo at 9:17 PM on November 14, 2013


The Body was too much of a total and complete bummer for a teenage/young adult vampire drama that I loved, I'm sorry. It cannot be in the top ten.
posted by frenetic at 9:30 PM on November 14, 2013


Okay, possibly a bizarre opinion here but... I think "The Puppet Show" may be, not the best episode in and of itself, but a perfect representation of what made BtVS the show it was. It is the ultimate expression of a self-contained non-arc episode.

It's far enough along in the series that all the Scoobies have their personalities locked-down and crystalized, but no so far along that any of their characterizations have been betrayed for bullshitty season-filling subplots. Giles "oh dear"s and gets books and is uncomfortable around children. Buffy punches and snarks and has wiggins. Willow acts adorkable and researches things. Xander is... Xander, and makes with the "i'm compleeeeetely inanimate!" etc. And in the end, the first act "obvious" killer is a person you end up sympathizing, the second act "monster" was a hero all along, and the true evil was so banal everyone overlooked it until halfway through the final act.

Classic episode. Really think it should be the one you show to people who you want to get hooked on the series.
posted by Freon at 9:39 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, Amends is up really high. And Pangs -- the horrible Thanksgiving story -- is even higher. More wrongness.

(I agree that 'The Puppet Show' was a fun episode that is a good showcase because it's not tied into anything bigger like the other good episodes mostly are. You could probably use Hush as a top episode that will interest people, but The Body/Restless/Becoming/Once More With Feeling depend a lot on the series surrounding them)
posted by jeather at 9:47 PM on November 14, 2013


Earlier this week, the Once More With Feeling album came up on my iPod shuffle and that's prompted me to listen to that and only that for the rest of the week. Now I'm watching the Season 8 motion comic and realizing that I need to find someone who I can introduce to the Buffyverse and watch every episode with again. Why not by myself? Tara... the crayon speech... I just can't go through it all over again alone.

I saw a few minutes of some awful lowest denominator sitcom that Seth Green is in. What's up with that?

>Tara and Warren were dating for awhile.

What? I... I... what? I don't even... What?
posted by Skwirl at 9:50 PM on November 14, 2013


I haven't watched the series in years, but for me the most affecting bit is the last scene of whatever comes right before The Body. Gellar has her limits, and the writing cannot always make it when it goes for emotional truth, but there is something agonizing about the last three words, when Buffy enters the house to find Joyce staring lifeless at the ceiling: "Mom...? Mom...? ...Mommy?"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:00 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think that's in the recap at the start of The Body, too, and it's one of the things that perfectly sells the Buffy-as-regular-real-girl angle perfectly. It's just heartbreaking.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What this list really needs is the ability to rearrange it and save it with your own personal order. (And possibly use everyone's list orders to make a master ranking of best episodes from everyone.) I know I want to make my own ludicrous list now.

Favorite: Hush (though Once More with Feeling makes me so happy that it's what I watch in panicked situations until the meds kick in)
Least favorite: Ted (Though The Pack and Beer bad come close)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:26 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


i think that the riley episodes are stronger then there rep suggests because

a) it answers the question about the outside world not noticing.
b) it breaks the spike/angel back and forth
c) provides tension for the scoobies
d) makes buffy grow up a bit
e) adam is a pretty smart peice of body horror.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:28 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


the body is still the one that i think is best, though my favourite is once more with feeling.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:29 PM on November 14, 2013


My favorite is Doppelgangland. The scene in the library where they realize Willow is alive is brilliant, with all four leads in top comedic form. We get D'Hoffryn, who is always awesome, and the first glimpse of funny Anya (as opposed to monster-of-the week Anya).

It's mostly a romp, but there's some serious character stuff going on as well. Vamp Willow pretty much fixes all of Old Reliable Willow's problems for her--which suggests that in this universe, she needs to be less accommodating, less nice. And it's after this episode that she's killing vampires with magic and telling Faith she's not afraid of her (even though Faith is pretty freaking dangerous at this point).

There's also light comedic bit that suggests that Giles is one of the many people who imposes on Willow without really thinking about it--a pattern that repeats itself later in the show, only with magic instead of computers.

Then there's this exchange, which breaks my heart a little, every single time:

Vamp Willow: (sadly) "This world's no fun."
Old Reliable Willow : (surprised, empathetically) "You noticed that, too?"

Gets me every time. Oh, Willow . . .

Other episodes might be technically better, more ambitious, more gut-wrenching, but this is the one I keep going back to.
posted by creepygirl at 10:43 PM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


WHY COULDN't I GO TO WATCHERS SCHOOL

I imagine it's like Hogwarts but you also get an outstanding mundane education.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I admit I'm a bit biased towards Season 2, because that was when I really started watching, and I moved to the UK before Season 5 started, so the later seasons were more difficult for me to watch (and therefore I cared a lot less about them), but, okay, I can accept that many of the episodes above it are actually better, but "Passion" killed me. Snapped my emotional neck and left me in Giles' bed (with ROSES ALL OVER THE PLACE OH JESUS).

"The Wish" is the only thing that rivals it. And it would win if there was more Giles and Oz killing more vampires. And being bleak and sexy.

I miss Oz.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:28 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched Buffy on and off as a wee teenager - my friends were OBSESSED with it but I never quite got into it. I'm now watching it through from the start and have no idea how I was so ambivalent about it before - it is so, so, good. I'm just a little way into S4 right now so glad to see a few of these favourites are just coming up for me.

Main difference between teen and adult viewings - as a teen, Giles is just fine, but as an adult he is just the greatest, by so far...
posted by ominous_paws at 3:17 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"it's weird that Jonathan ( Danny Strong) is now a major Hollywood screenwriter?"

He wrote Game Change?? Wow. That is like the coolest thing, ever. (Er, this intersection of me being a politics-junkie and a genre-tv-junkie must actually be more like the least cool thing ever.)

"I like Buffy a lot but it has so many more explicit flaws than Angel, I think-- from Xander's character to a lot of just bad episodes-- it's uneven in a way that Angel isn't quite as much."

This is pretty much how I feel.

It's weird — BtVS is definitely my favorite TV show of all time. There's some personal intersections that make this the case, but it's nevertheless an Important Television Show.

But, even so, critically I'm ambivalent about it in a way that I'm not nearly so ambivalent about Angel or any of my other favorite shows. The thing about Buffy is that it was so uneven. Its worst was really quite bad and the bad wasn't that unusual.

However, its best was extremely good — I'm in agreement with the list and most of the people above about the top four. For me, just the existence of The Body, which I think deserves to be ranked among the top drama episodes of television, period, and Once More, With Feeling, which ...
...
...
... well, I don't have words for how much I love OMWF. I sing-along, I get excited and verklempt, and I can (and do) watch it over and over. So, to complete that sentence, just the existence of those two episodes critically validates BtVS in my mind.

And then added to that the tremendous affection I feel for all the characters — I care about them in a way I don't think I feel about any other television character in my life. Even, maybe, about Buffy herself ... though, to me, she became an increasingly unsympathetic character which is pretty amazing for a protagonist. But the Scooby Gang? Those people matter to me.

Crucially, not just the main scoobies. What's remarkable is how vital and important were to me, and how much affection I felt for some of the other folk, particularly Tara and Anya and Jonathon.

Okay, but in some other ways I think that Angel was the better series. Certainly, it was more consistent. It didn't hit the extreme highs that Buffy did, but it almost entirely avoided the lows. In fact, it tended to stay in the range of "okay" to "great". When I've rewatched Angel, I've watched everything and there was almost nothing I wanted to skip. There are large parts of Buffy I don't like to watch again. I think I've seen all of Angel solidly three times, with portions more than that. In the case of Buffy, it's much more uneven — portions of seasons I've seen eight or more times, and other portions and episodes no more than twice.

On Angel, we get the very solid, great character evolutions of both Cordelia and Wesley. Especially Wesley. It's really quite amazing what they did with him through much of the last season — how he came close to being happy for a time, because he and everyone else but Angel had been made to forget the reality and consequence of Wesley's tragic flaw. And then his hubris, which within himself he experiences as intelligence and judgment, causes him to once again be rash in ways that causes pain to many people, not the least himself. And at his death, he knowingly embraces the Lie.

Faith is similarly tragic and it's interesting how on Angel her tragedy took on depth and weight, and then when she transitioned back to Buffy she became less substantial.

Angel was the more solid show, but Buffy had a special magic and its very best was beyond extraordinary.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:07 AM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thomas Ligotti once said that there were two kinds of authors: those who made a few big fat important perfect books, and those who constantly wrote many more, many shorter, often less-than-perfect shorter works. He felt that authors of the first category were much more likely to be canonized than those in the second, even though he vastly preferred authors of the second category.

In his comparison, he was comparing people like Thomas Mann to people like H. P. Lovecraft, but I think there's something similar at work between Angel and Buffy.

In addition, there's something to be said for the personalities of each show's hero. Buffy is fiery and revolutionary, and what's more, the viewer grows alongside her. You understand more and more why Buffy has such righteous anger and purpose. Only Buffy and the Scoobies stand in the way of not only total obliteration, but also corrupt authority figures. Buffy didn't just save the world. She made it better.

Angel, on the other hand, comes to the show having already matured. He's cool, not fiery, and while he's equally heroic, his goals are a bit more grounded and much less soaring. He's defending the admittedly not-perfect status quo from even-worse bad guys.

Buffy was all about girl power, but also unlocking the potential within you to better this world. Season Seven ends with apocalypse in the original sense of an unveiling. I don't think it totally worked from a story perspective, but it's easy to appreciate what the ending was supposed to mean in a larger sense. Angel, on the other hand, was more like Al Bundy. Sure, he saves the world, but really, he's a hero because he shows up to work every goddamn day. He cannot eliminate evil from the world, so that's not even a goal for him. The best he can do is to be a mensch. There will be monsters today and monsters tomorrow, but so long as he is good and faithful and responsible and hard-working, he can do his best to protect the ones he loves.

As for consistency, it doesn't much matter that Buffy has more genuinely bad episodes. That's not the point. Buffy's greatest strength, which was also sometimes its greatest weakness, was that it was constantly inventing its own subgenre. No story had ever quite tracked a teenage girl in the same way. The show itself knew that, as well. This wasn't just the story of a kick-ass teenage girl. It was also the story of a teenager who feels, in this case with some justification, that her trials and tribulations really are the first and most important of their kind. It wasn't simply a show about a girl staking vampires. It was a story about a girl who defies the very tradition of her calling, improving it in the process.

An example of Buffy's imperfections arising out of its ambition: the show lost its footing in Season Four when she went to college. This was in large part because the show had no other examples to draw from, but also because it strained the relationship between Buffy as a show about fighting demons and Buffy as a show about a teenage girl growing up.

The show ambled for a bit, keeping the ball in the air with some fun subplots and individual episodes, but it had lost the overall resonance of its high school years. However, it regained its footing when it had Buffy dropping out of college in Season Five, as well as her getting a job in Season Six. (Season Four's surreal finale also helped.) The show's original charm had come from Buffy having to be both a Slayer and a real live girl, with normal wants and needs. The show found its charm again when Slayerhood once again intersected with real life problems - your parents won't live forever, you have responsibilities for your family, you will have to get a job to pay the bills, and so on.

Could the show have found another way to succeed, with Buffy still in college? Sure, but it would have been a different show, about a different character. Buffy is not simply a person a juggles her secret responsibilities with her day-to-day life. Buffy is a revolutionary. She couldn't leave her hometown without burning it down. As much as I disliked Season Seven's additions to the mythos, there was a lot to be said for the idea that Buffy couldn't be a Slayer without completely changing the rules.

As for Angel, as good as it was, and it was often excellent, a large part of its consistency came from the fact that it was less ambitious and groundbreaking. The world had already seen supernatural PIs and brooding male heroes and femmes fatales and apocalyptic happenings. Besides, Angel himself is not a revolutionary. He's not a worse person for it - it's just not who he is. He's the social democrat of superheroes. He was more than happy to head up Wolfram & Hart, so long as it actually appeared to have been the ideal form of harm reduction. He's all about the long game, realistic expectations, protecting those close to him, and a preference for risk management, over burning everything down. That said, though, at the end of the day, he'll always charge into battle, sword in hand.

I sympathize with Angel's POV, but it's also inherently more limiting as the POV of a cult TV show. Angel is ambivalent about the world, but he's not ironic. His character leaves a less iconic impression than Buffy's POV.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:21 AM on November 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


Ever spend like 15 minutes writing a comment and then foolishly hit Preview and see that someone has written one that says exactly what you were going to say except totally better in every way?

Sticherbeast gets all the favorites.
posted by Etrigan at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


What? I... I... what? I don't even... What?

Yep, Amber Benson and Adam Busch dated for a while and are still close friends.
posted by kmz at 6:46 AM on November 15, 2013


I imagine it's like Hogwarts but you also get an outstanding mundane education.

And strange dress codes and unusual rituals and hierarchies and arcane, useless class subjects and wait I just described Cambridge.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Lie to Me" was the episode that made me a fan of BtVS, so I was glad that it was fairly well ranked.

I've just started watching Buffy with my wife (who hadn't seen it before). 'Lie To Me' is pretty much the first good episode; you can skip the whole of season one. I was watching the early episodes thinking "Was I deluded? Is this actually rubbish?" and then it hits. But nothing can fix Xander and certainly not 'The Zeppo'.
posted by ninebelow at 7:19 AM on November 15, 2013


I sympathize with Angel's POV, but it's also inherently more limiting as the POV of a cult TV show. Angel is ambivalent about the world, but he's not ironic. His character leaves a less iconic impression than Buffy's POV.

Oh, and also: the entire existence of Angel as a separate series has particular resonance when applied back to BTVS. Here's this person who was a huge part of Buffy's life. He goes away and thinks about her less and less, just like she thinks about him less and less as the years go by. When he comes back, it's always this Big Thing, but it really just comes down to, "Hey, we used to know each other, and now we're both different, and that's cool. By the way, I need a favor." He's having totally separate life experiences that are nonetheless just as important, both to him and to the world at large, and we get to see how that works.

If Boreanaz hadn't wanted to carry a spinoff series, we might have gotten the occasional one-off episode where he comes back and talks about this one thing he did that's germane to the current BTVS plot, but the sheer weight of all of his experiences wouldn't really hit the viewer the same way -- even if you didn't watch Angel, you still know that it's out there on a gut level.
posted by Etrigan at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get the Xander indifference. The Zeppo isn't the only time that he saves the day using the powers of an ordinary person. The arc from "I'll Never Tell," to Hell's Bells speaks to a lot of ordinary fears that are instilled in men, the pressure to be bad ass and live an extraordinary life matched against the pressure to settle down and build a white picket fence and be safe and cozy and boring and to tune down your own life to financially support others. You get to see a bit of grown up Xander in the Season 8 comic, but, unfortunately, we don't see how he got there and have to fill in the blanks. I would like to see him mourn Anya and I suspect that's part of the process of how we get a harder, more authorative Xander.

All of the Scoobies are in Erik Erikson's "intimacy vs. isolation" stage and all of them are doomed by Joss Whedon's pathos to never fully resolve into intimacy with a monogamous partner. They have each other and that has to be good enough. Xander gets a bad wrap because men in our culture are required to be culpable in their emotional decisions, but the choices he's made that led to Hell's Bells are not qualitatively different than any of the relationship decisions that other Scoobies have made. He's just held to a masculine standard.
posted by Skwirl at 8:30 AM on November 15, 2013


Also he tried to rape Buffy and then pretended it never happened.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Zeppo was the episode that made me stop watching Buffy altogether. I found it offensive in a way that I've found very few episodes of TV, and it pretty much convinced me that Joss Whedon/his fans and I have very different concepts of what makes a good thing good.

My favorite episode of the three-ish seasons was the prom one, though the one where all the parents act like kids was pretty good too. Oh, and I watched the entire series up to the season 2 finale that Buzzfeed calls the best Buffy, so I can say with lived-experience authority that those two episodes were pretty shitty.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:43 AM on November 15, 2013


all of them are doomed by Joss Whedon's pathos to never fully resolve into intimacy with a monogamous partner. They have each other and that has to be good enough.

Given that Buffy, Xander and Willow were like 22 years old at the end of the series, I don't find this "dooming" to ring all that untrue. I know very few people who are still in the same relationships they were in during high school or college -- for the vast majority of us, those years are filled with failed relationships, but friendships tend to last longer (at least within that timeframe).
posted by Etrigan at 8:54 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also he tried to rape Buffy and then pretended it never happened.

Willow actually raped Tara but that doesn't get talked about much.
posted by not that girl at 9:31 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Willow's treatment of Tara in Season Six was also (as the actions of a character) horrible and (as a plot development) stupid.

I do not hold Xander to a different standard. And personally, I actually do not share the total character-hate that some have expressed for him.

Hell's Bells was still stupid.
posted by kyrademon at 9:36 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Willow's shitty actions in Season 6 are pretty well-interrogated by the show itself. I think what most fans are arguing is not just that Xander tries to rape Buffy, but that he's allowed to escape from the consequences of that action by pretending that he doesn't remember. By contrast, Willow suffers from consequences quite a bit in S6.
posted by muddgirl at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "I think what most fans are arguing is not just that Xander tries to rape Buffy, but that he's allowed to escape from the consequences of that action by pretending that he doesn't remember."

Something similar was also one of the few truly wrong notes (no pun intended) in Once More With Feeling for me.

Xander: Oh, yeah, I summoned that demon which straight-up killed at least one guy, despite knowing better than 99.99% of all people on earth what an insanely moronic idea that is.

Everyone Else: Oh, it was you? Cool. Let us never speak of it again.

... What?
posted by kyrademon at 9:41 AM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Rory, I'd be curious to hear in greater detail why The Zeppo grated on you so much.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2013


I know very few people who are still in the same relationships they were in during high school or college

True, Etrigan, but I think the previous comment was referencing how Whedon-verse relationships rarely stay the course, and characters generally find more purpose and fufillment outside of intimate relationships, than in them.
posted by warm_planet at 9:56 AM on November 15, 2013


Pointing out problematic Xander behavior does not automagically deny, erase, or excuse problematic behavior from other characters.
posted by elizardbits at 10:09 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Faith is similarly tragic and it's interesting how on Angel her tragedy took on depth and weight, and then when she transitioned back to Buffy she became less substantial.

I think the writing for her on Buffy was actually better (though her makeup was worse, those dark lipsticks and brutal eyeshadow just killed me, it was not *that* early in the 90s, and Eliza Dushku's coloring can't take harsh....OK WHERE WAS I

I think the writing for her on Buffy was actually better, in that she was more active, better integrated into the overall plot-arcs (her relationship with the mayor v. dropping into town to torture Wesley, waking up from a coma v. Wesley telling her to bust out of jail), and her relationships to the other characters was more complex (I think her relationship to the Scoobies and Joyce, where she was trying to fit in but couldn't, was a lot more interesting than her relationship with the Angel Crew, where she basically respected/loved Angel and hated everyone else). *However,* her role on Buffy was as a foil for a character (ie, Buffy) who she was fundamentally unlike (and who she therefore wasn't a good foil for); Faith and Buffy couldn't really act as mirrors to each other, because even though both were Slayers, as characters they wanted and feared completely different things and had completely different drives. I mean, I absolutely love Want Take Have, but the "bad" stuff that Faith tempts Buffy to do are things like skipping a test and getting fired up by patrolling, and the "good" stuff that Faith is tempted by is...guidance? Which Buffy didn't even want. Faith would have been good for illustrating Buffy's Id, but Buffy has like 1% Id, so those episodes don't really work as character studies of Buffy. The same is true of Where the Wild Things Are (and even Beer Bad), I think.

She *does* work as a foil for Angel, and actually for all the other main characters on Angel, pretty well though. She's an anti-social person who wants to belong, self-control is a big issue for her, she feels a lot of guilt and sense of failure -- that could be said about virtually any of the other characters, too. So while I think the plotlines she got on Angel past S1 are pretty contrived, I think that her character fit a lot better over there. Actually, I wish she'd been a main over on that show (I especially think interaction between her and Fred would have made both characters better).

So anyway, I agree that her character works better on Angel, but I think that's more because she fits in with the characters and tone of that show better, not because the writing for her on Buffy was more uneven (though I agree that the writing on Buffy was generally more uneven).

I think the reason Buffy could be uneven is that it was *slightly* too self aware, and when it pushed itself over the line and tried to confront it's themes head on (themes like learning to deal with imperfect/corrupt authority), it would go heavy-handed and weird. To me, that was basically S7 in a nutshell. I think that, overall, the self-awareness was a good thing, though, because that came off (to me) as a way of reaching out to the viewer and trying to integrate the viewer's world directly into Sunnydale and encouraging the viewer to integrate Sunnydale into the viewer's world -- there's stuff all over the internet about BtVS's use of slang, but I think that's one example of that self-awareness forming a connection between the show and the viewer in action.
posted by rue72 at 11:03 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


To give y'all the benefit of the doubt, I'm assuming that anybody saying Season 1 should be skipped altogether have forgotten how fucking good Prophecy Girl was.
posted by kmz at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every re-watch I'm surprised that Prophecy Girl was season 1. It was so good I always kind of assume it came later in the series when I think about it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:34 PM on November 15, 2013


My favorite thing about Season 1 is how many "the danger is over... OR IS IT?!?!?!" moments that episodes end on, and AFAIK literally none of them are ever referenced again. Some of them could've been interesting worldbuilding, like Marcy going to invisible assassin school and the revelation that this is a phenomenon which not only is widespread but known to the government (how did this not come up in season 4?!), but welp.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:11 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


We've all just created the head canon that Marcie went to work for The Initative and is currently starring in an alternate universe show where they're the heroic protagonists?
posted by The Whelk at 6:09 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I totally agree with most of you on the low/high range between Angel and Buffy. I guess I find the moral relativism, particularly in relation to Wolfram and Hart, interesting.

However, I'll disagree with "Angel, on the other hand, comes to the show having already matured." Angel is one-note, broody, and frankly boring and awful on Buffy-- it's his awesome villainy as Angelus that keeps him as an interesting character. He has to grow the fuck up in Angel, and though he does this pretty rapidly-- I give pretty much the Doyle episodes as the ones where Angel has to grow a goddamn personality, stop brooding constantly over Buffy, and actually be watchable.

I actually avoided watching Angel for a long time because of how much I hated his character on Buffy. I think this might be related to why I like Riley more than everyone else; I was so relieved to be rid of the Buffy/Angel relationship that seeing anyone else was great. They could've replaced the creepily old broody vampire fucking the 17 year old and acting tortured with someone as awful as Kendra and I'd have been relieved at the change.
posted by NoraReed at 11:21 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


buffy/faith 5eva
posted by elizardbits at 11:41 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


5eva: because when death is a revolving door 4eva just isn't enough
posted by NoraReed at 12:42 AM on November 16, 2013


I played Resident Evil 4 before seeing Buffy and couldn't stop thinking that Riley was Leon Kennedy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:47 AM on November 16, 2013


This is some fine commentary. I'm disappointed that Rory has such a negative opinion of Buffy and we fans — I feel certain that his claim of essential, deep conflict is wildly overstated. I think that most of us are aware of the problematic things in Whedon's oeuvre. Speaking for myself, I think personalizing everything to Whedon is a mistake for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that even auteur-style TV showrunners don't really manage to be auteurs, the US television industry doesn't work that way, if it even ever does with film, which it mostly doesn't.

Anyway, I'm curious about other people's thoughts on Buffy as a character. Several of us have mentioned some dislike of her, and it was very noticeable on fan discussion sites like TWoP during the later years of the show.

I think she became an increasingly unsympathetic character and especially during the final season she had many moments where you think "why are these people friends with her?" and "why would anyone follow her?" But, of course, the problem with this view is that the show is quite aware of this, it sees this as the inevitable consequence of her inescapable role as the Slayer.

For me, though, what that meant was that the early show had all of the extraordinarily interesting and important quality that Stitcherbeast so eloquently describes:
Buffy's greatest strength, which was also sometimes its greatest weakness, was that it was constantly inventing its own subgenre. No story had ever quite tracked a teenage girl in the same way. The show itself knew that, as well. This wasn't just the story of a kick-ass teenage girl. It was also the story of a teenager who feels, in this case with some justification, that her trials and tribulations really are the first and most important of their kind. It wasn't simply a show about a girl staking vampires. It was a story about a girl who defies the very tradition of her calling, improving it in the process.
...but that this harsh reality, this calculus of character development, meant that the trials and tribulations of a teenage woman unapologetically finding her power was eaten, consumed by the grim responsibilities of the Slayer. Buffy, despite her efforts, and despite the implications of the final episode, lost the way of asserting herself, Buffy, against the relentless necessities of being the Slayer.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Angel traverses this same territory in reverse — initially with little self and only The Job, Angel slowly finds himself in his life, and he becomes a person to the audience. Buffy, sadly, became less and less a person, where all that was left was a surly frustration, a resentment, a sour homunculus driving the Slayerbot on Day 8,393.

This was the sad logic of this character; and if it was intended to represent the empowerment of a teenage girl, against all and varied opposition, as she becomes a confident woman, why is it that this is demonstrated so much more poignantly, vitally, by the character arcs of almost all of the other teenage female characters, from Willow and Tara, even Anne? They grow amongst conflict and self-doubt and opposition and become adults who are people, not mineralized psyches in superhero prostheses.

I cared about Buffy, I almost always admired and respected her, occasionally pitied her, but almost never liked and rarely loved her. What the Shadow Men did to Sineya is what the writers did to Buffy, they made her more than she was at the expense of herself. Buffy is the very opposite of a model of emancipation.

I dislike the box the writers wrote themselves into with Buffy; I prefer to think of the message of Buffy, the show and the character, to be what is visible in the first half of the series and not the second. The second is a kind or revocation of the message of empowerment; it's another iteration of the "with great power comes..." in the modern superhero mythology and, for young women, this is not progressive — they have always been told that adulthood is necessarily the subordination of the self to the needs of others.

I don't mind that we examine the burden of heroism so starkly — it is one of our preoccupations. But with regard to young women and adulthood, it is just more of this toxic contemporary message to women that, yes, you can have a good job, you can do what you want, as long as you understand that what you want must be replacing the drudgery of housework with the drudgery of the corporate workplace and, as ever, you will be responsible for cleaning up everyone else's mess. Welcome to being an adult woman! It's totally different than being your mother!

Meanwhile, Angel gets to discover that the things he wants personally are important, even necessary. Why is that?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:58 AM on November 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really like that analysis, Ivan, and I'm gonna try to answer, but I'm sort of working this out as I go along.

I think Buffy herself falls into a very standard narrative of heroism where the hero gets increasingly focused on The Job and everything else falls away. This seems to happen most with characters who don't have a lot of stuff going on to begin with. Buffy, at the beginning, mostly just wants to have a normal girl life. She doesn't have a whole lot of other motivations and she doesn't really have quirks and passions that send her in other directions. It's a sort of blank slate main character syndrome that you get in a lot of ensemble casts and it's the reason that the lead is so often the weakest member of the ensemble.

You have lead ensemble characters that are distinctly driven toward what they're doing because of a passion for it: Artemis Fowl, Angel, Malcolm Reynolds, Thursday Next, etc.

And then you have lead characters that have an Epic Destiny to fulfill, not a ton of fleshed out details about themselves and their personal quests and generally who keep trying to Refuse The Call, like Harry Potter and Buffy. These characters are defined by what they don't have or can't have, and it can make them weak, depressing, hard to relate to and often unsympathetic. Harry doesn't have parents, he has an epic destiny to fulfill, he has to spend his time preparing to defeat Voldemort and doesn't really have time to develop a whole lot of other hobbies or interests or any particularly fascinating character elements outside of Pretty Angry Sometimes and hilarious sexual metaphors. Buffy is in a very similar boat: she spends so much energy wishing she was normal that she doesn't do the kind of normal things that would make her likable and relatable.

To have a good Chosen One character I think you really have to have one with serious skin in the game other than saving the world, because when they do the standard heroic arc thing of focusing on hero business and losing touch with humanity, they lose touch with their audience too. (Some vague spoilers for Supernatural follow.) That's why Sam Winchester is so much better-- he's not only had time to develop passions and interests outside of his whole special powers nonsense so that he has personality facets that the audience can relate to but he also has Dean and they split the irritatingness of the Chosen Hero stuff between them, with Dean getting most of the focused-on-the-job never-get-other-hobbies kind of shit. (I'm only partway into Season 4 of this, so I could be off on the long run of the show.)

There's other ways this can be done, too. I just finished the Black Sun's Daughter series by MLN Hanover and Jayné manages to have elements of Chosen One-ness but the combination of slowly revealing them over the course of the series, giving her significant skin in the game in the form of revenge, having her do the growing-into-herself thing where she really does get to exercise agency on how she decides to pursue each Monster Of The Book by taking charge helps keep her feeling sympathetic.

I think maybe a big part of it is taking charge, too. Buffy tends to get pushed into what battles she has to fight by her duties, and even though she does choose to go out and fight it she doesn't exactly spend a lot of time strategizing. One of her great character moments is when she stakes Angel, choosing to make the call to save the world over her lover, and the problem with determination to do the job like that is it breaks you if you have to do it over and over again and it's hard to watch a broken character. She never really copes with it and heals-- when Jayné does something similar, a big part of her character arc for the rest of the series is her figuring out how to deal with it. Wesley gets a similar chance in Angel when he goes all antihero. Buffy gets, what, the Anne episode to work through her shit? And then she keeps on being distant and broken and fucked up?

And the show revels in Buffy being broken and fucked up and that's not something you can run on for very long. It just feels like angsty fanfiction, and while you can sorta pull that off if that's the entire point of your show (hello, Torchwood) it doesn't work with everything else and it sure as hell doesn't sustain itself long-term. I think a lot of the Buffy-is-a-broken-hero thing is because she has to be fucked up to even consider Spike as a romantic option, so they had to keep her there in order to keep that relationship (which was a fan favorite, I think?) afloat.
posted by NoraReed at 5:27 AM on November 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of the reasons MuddDude stopped watching after Season 5 is that the season finale really is a great end to Buffy's character arc and her questions about what it means to be a Hero. Especially following "Fool for Love" where Spike argues every Slayer has a death wish.
posted by muddgirl at 5:32 AM on November 16, 2013


Anyway, I'm curious about other people's thoughts on Buffy as a character.

Buffy was a great character, until the Box closed in around her, and yet the show kept on going. Some stories should end earlier than they do. Some characters should not be entirely followed to their in-universe logical conclusion.

Buffy was a teenager who was discovering her own potential, as both a hero and as a person. She faced the pressures of being a girl becoming a woman, as well as the pressures of being a superhero with an irreplaceable, but also imperfect support team. The show was often at its best when it showed Buffy saving the day, accepting the right kind of support, while also rejecting the wrong kind of "support".

Buffy as a character was at her best when she balanced being a wry teenager with being a powerful hero. Buffy was at her worst when she had to follow plot mechanics which forced her character to act below her intelligence.

The show became confused in Season Six, when the show's Big Bad turned out to be its own characters' angst. I loved that season, but I do also understand why it left many people cold. No longer was Buffy a Hero™, fighting demons, smashing the chains forged by her oppressors. Now she was as lost as anyone else.

It was an interesting story, but was it Buffy? Buffy and Spike made some sense, but only as a dark and negative place for her to go. When that kind of plot shows up, you have to ask yourself - what is this show really about? What it would "really" be like if Buffy were a real person, with real people often making bad decisions and getting into bad situations? Or, is it about a hero who is a role model?

It's hard, having a main character be neither too perfect nor too flawed. It's harder when the main character is a minority. She was often tacitly expected to be an ambassador for all women, as opposed to a character in her own right. Veronica Mars had a more deft way of dealing with a powerful female hero, who was just flawed enough to be interesting.

The show really got lost up its own ass in Season Seven, by becoming overly invested in its heroic mythology for its own sake, while also turning that mythology upside-down and inside-out. Buffy no longer made any sense as a person. She became a self-parody, giving inspirational speeches to random passersby. No actor could make that work. Season Six bore an uncomfortable existence to real life; Season Seven ran too far away in the opposite direction. When the Watchers Academy blew up, all I could think was, how the hell had this incompetent organization been set up in the first place? And what the hell is a Potential? I thought into each generation was born a Slayer. Had the opening credits been lying to me this entire time?

Meanwhile, Angel gets to discover that the things he wants personally are important, even necessary. Why is that?

This is a very good question.

My two cents: Angel gets to grow as a person because he comes to LA with his soul having already been broken, but with there also being no doubt whatsoever about his ability to fight evil. The arc of the show is then not about him discovering himself as a hero, but rather about lovelorn, sad sack Angel rediscovering what it means to be alive. He does this by going through what all young adults have to go through: discovering that there was no big kaboom at graduation, that the world never did revolve around you, that you will eventually have to trade in your bright and shiny dreams for something a bit more mundane, stuff like that.

It was actually very smart of the writers to treat his post-curse, pre-LA existence as a bit of an extended adolescence. He was too jaded to be a revolutionary, but he was too decent of a person to descend into hedonism or apathy. He just...lurked. Chipping in where he could, but mostly hiding in the shadows.

Angel's experiences could stand as a metaphor for any post-HS existence. Like all good metaphors, it was never too neatly one-to-one with what it represents.

It was also very interesting that a huge part of Angel's growth as a character was him learning to approach his work as a Job. (He literally set up a business! At one point, he's threatened with numerous OSHA violations!) One of the earlier episodes ends with him awkwardly accepting payment for his services. (IIRC he defeated the ghostly presence of a woman's abusive ex.)

And the big revelation there was that...that's okay. Real people eventually get jobs. They don't just dick around until they can become saviors of the world. He doesn't need to pretend to be too good to perform work in exchange for goods and services. The more-than-satisfied customer was all too happy to remunerate him. And it's not as if Angel doesn't also do his fair share of pro bono work.

Something I really liked about Angel as a character was that, while he did brood and lurk, he always seemed to have a glimmer of humor about him. The key to good brooding is to have a character who would really rather not be brooding, but who otherwise feels that he has no choice.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 AM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another thing with Buffy as a show: a big mistake we often make nowadays is to have characters be too dynamic and pseudo-realistic, and to have stories which go on for too long. Stories often require somewhat static and larger-than-life characters, just as they often require beginnings, middles, and endings. In the real world, Buffy Summers would go absolutely nuts before her 22nd birthday. Within the universe of the show, though, she should be able to get back up and keep on keepin' on. It's very hard finding that balance, especially in TV, where you can't always say, "this show will be exactly x seasons long, ending here."
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:37 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And what the hell is a Potential? I thought into each generation was born a Slayer. Had the opening credits been lying to me this entire time?

They followed the same rules as in seasons 2-3 with Faith and Kendra.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:43 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"They followed the same rules as in seasons 2-3 with Faith and Kendra."

I took the question to be about how there's still something special about them before they are chosen. If there isn't, then there's no reason for anyone to be a "potential", and the "somewhat shallow, perky cheerleader" becoming a superhero with terrifying responsibilities setup makes sense because it Could Happen to Anyone. But if some people are special, then it couldn't happen to anyone.

The funny thing about this trope is that it really is self-contradictory but it works when it's just about one person. The orphan who's really the heir to the dying king. It's a humble ordinary person, but also an extraordinary hero, someone unique and truly special. We, the audience, can relate to this story because with a solitary destined heroic protagonist, it appeals to our secret desire/belief that "we" are uniquely special, too.

But when it's a class of people? Well, no, because that's basically the story we're told about Real Life and, you know, all those princes who have always been princes. (I want a story where the orphan boy discovers that he's the lost Princess.)

As a concept, as a class, the potentials are alienating to the audience. Kennedy sort of embodied this. On the other hand, if all the potentials could have been Sarah Hagan's "Amanda" I totally would have been okay with it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


The weird thing about Buffy turning into the Lonely Destined Hero On Her Lonely Path is that it was undercut by everything the show seemed to have been saying up until that point. It was pretty clear, both implicitly and often explicitly, that Buffy's success as a Slayer was because she had a support network of dedicated friends helping her out, some of whom were just ordinary humans with no special powers other than loyalty and a desire to do the right thing.

So when Buffy started pulling the "You don't understand, I have a special destiny and a path I must travel alone poor me blah blah blah," it seemed unearned and highly irritating. Because she was saying it to people who had been fighting vampires without superstrength since they were teenagers. Who were sharing her special destiny voluntarily at great risk to their own lives.

So, Buffy angsty because, say, she was pulled out of heaven or had to kill her ex-boyfriend? Great. Earned. Buffy angsty about her "special destiny"? Made even Xander suddenly look like ten times the hero Buffy was.
posted by kyrademon at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah they say on several occasions that Buffy's success is due to her having a large support network, Giles is even drummed out of the Watchers for encouraging this.
posted by The Whelk at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"There's other ways this can be done, too. I just finished the Black Sun's Daughter series by MLN Hanover and Jayné manages to have elements of Chosen One-ness but the combination of slowly revealing them over the course of the series, giving her significant skin in the game in the form of revenge, having her do the growing-into-herself thing where she really does get to exercise agency on how she decides to pursue each Monster Of The Book by taking charge helps keep her feeling sympathetic."

I keep recommending those books — I think they're among the best UF/PR out there. But everything Daniel Abraham does is gold.

But, yeah, her character arc has been well above average for this chosen one trope. However, I think that's because Abraham has a clearly delineated story planned — this isn't a neverending series.

Anyway, I think you're correct in your analysis — and it's not just about the heroic savior trope, it's a more general problem when you build a story around a character that is a great-sounding two-line treatment. What makes the idea of that character so instantly intriguing is also a straitjacket or a cardboard-cutout. Especially in television. It's easier for the writers to flesh out interesting and vital supporting characters than it is to breathe life into the protagonist. One of the things that rescued Parks & Recreation was making Leslie Knope an actual person rather than a joke around which a sitcom was built ... while retaining some of the joke.

I don't think that Buffy, the character, was ever well-realized by the showrunners and the writers. She was a prime-mover for the show's universe, but she didn't much move herself. She changed, but it always felt externally imposed, either the hand of the writers via the necessity of plotting or because of some notion of who Buffy must necessarily be. Writers talk about characters taking on their own lives and making their own demands, going their own directions, as if they were self-willed. I never saw that in Buffy; I don't think the writers ever breathed enough life into her for her to do so.

Honestly, I don't know if I see much of that with any of BtVS's characters. Not like what I see with both Wesley and Cordelia on Angel, both of which I think are very good examples of this. (We'll leave out some of the last bits in Cordelia's case.)

I see a little bit with Giles, a little bit with Willow, and the potential with Anya. The best example is Faith, which is really kind of amazing because she's a stereotype.

And when I consider these various examples, what I notice is that exceptional acting talent and craft plays a role, but only a partial role, one which I think accounts for what organic depth we see in Giles and Willow, and probably Anya. But Dushku isn't a very good actor — although, to be fair, she's the kind of actor that can play the hell out of a particular role, and that role for her was Faith. I don't think that Carpenter is an exceptional actor (although, like Dushku, she was amazingly comfortable inhabiting her character's skin). Denisof is a very good actor, but in his case I feel certain his character is a joint achievement between he and the writers.

And Angel himself, as previously discussed, became a person and a compelling character ... but that, I think, is despite all the limitations of the character as conceived and by Boreanaz's skills. On the other hand, Boreanaz has some weird personal charisma, a likeability, that played no small part in bringing Angel to life.

But all that said, why is it, then, that most of us nevertheless have a deep, passionate investment in the Scoobies and recognize something about BtVS as being more important, more artistically interesting, than Angel? I'm not the only person here cataloging all of the show's flaws while simultaneously asserting that it deserves a place in the upper tier of all television shows.

Take Willow, for example. Willow was, for me, without question, my main character of identification and the heart of my interest in the show. There's about thirty different reasons why I love Willow, and a lot of them are idiosyncratic and personal. But in some ways, the best moment of the series for me was Willow going black-eyed against Glory. I was deeply fond of Willow in her nerdy bookishness. But she didn't matter to me, in a way that is still true, until she came into her power.

No small part of it was Hannigan. She could deliver the funniest lines, but do so as more like The Funniest Person You Know and not like merely Hilarious Sitcom Character. Every scripted joke had other things there, too, things Hannigan brought.

Nevertheless, think about Vampire!Willow. Those two episodes, alone, added so much, volumes, to the character of Willow through the vehicle of a new character who was ostensibly not her. That came from both the writers and Hannigan and it's really a neat example of how writers and actors can shift the audience's view into a character so that suddenly there is so much more there to see. And this is how characters develop a life of their own, they bloom into new directions, new dimensions — this generates verisimilitude because the truth of the matter is that fictional characters are, as a rule, quite unlike real people. They don't change unpredictably the way actual people do; you don't know them for years and then suddenly, in a short period of time, through crisis or just chance, suddenly see revealed in them aspects that reshape everything you thought you knew and what you can expect. Most writers aren't up to this realism because when it's imposed, when it's a contrived attempt to generate the surprise of that experience in real life, we recognize it as either phony or simply view it as incoherent. But it works when, mysteriously, the character forces it on the writer.

So, at moments, every now and then, the show gave us brief views of some of these characters through a new lens, a lens that showed us things outside the walls of the expectations for genre characters. And, by the way, I think this is what the show failed to do with Xander, and that's why there's a lot of disatisfaction in his case.

Whedon is responsible for much of this. After all the critical things I've just written about the character of Buffy, in writing the previous two paragraphs I realized that they apply to Buffy in The Body. It's worth exploring why it is that many of the very best episodes of Buffy were the "stunt" episodes. I wonder if Whedon does his best work when he's doing work that isn't what he thinks he's particularly, unusually, good at doing. Someone earlier criticized him as a writer who is overpraised for his snappy dialog but who doesn't offer anything more than that. And maybe, in a way, that's true and exactly false. That is, his snappy dialog, at which he's very skilled, is really his weakness, not his strength. Because his best work comes when he challenges himself to do something he feels certain that many other people would do better.

In his commentary, when he talks about his long single-shot that opens The Body, he sort of defensively mocks himself for this pretension of serious filmmaking. And, in fact, he does this repeatedly. He's not comfortable imagining himself to be a serious filmmaker, though I think it's his secret wish. So he works in genre, where any serious artistic ambition comes with a parachute of irony or just invisibility. And, as a rule, he uses this as a seasoning: BtVS is a metaphor, right? But it's also a fun genre show.

That earlier critic was right, though. Whedon was a good choice, actually, for The Avengers because the producers judged him rightly — he mostly plays it safe. He's not going to risk other people's 350 million dollars with artistic pretense. But he'll gladly add a bit of Whedon j'en sais quoi, both the snappy dialog parts and the very occasional glimpses of real people inside the costumes. But, you know, along with a joke.

Okay, but his best single works are those where he dares at artistic pretense. Even OMWF because, well, despite appearances, everyone knows that musicals are serious business. Here's the test: how badly can someone make a fool of themselves?

So coming back to The Body, I find that it is here — perhaps not exclusively here, but here is what comes strongly to mind — that Buffy as a character fully breathes and lives for me, even as her mother lies inert. And it's because this is not Buffy the hero, it's Buffy the young woman whose mother is dead on the couch before her. There are no heroics here. Her attempt at CPR is the extent of heroism, and it is everything, emphatically, that heroism on this show is otherwise not. It is small and useless, heartbreaking to no purpose.

Every time I've watched that episode I've sort of hated the incongruous ending. It is a relentless work of realism that is suddenly fantastical. And yet, I think that Whedon knew exactly what he was doing, I think that he knew just exactly how not-quite-right, how ill-fitting, that scene would be. Because that's the point. At the end of the episode, we are reaquainted with Buffy the Supernatural Hero, vanquishing Supernatural Villains, but here, in this context, with Joyce's corpse lying nearby in the quiet morgue and a devastated kid sister who Buffy really could not possibly adequately comfort, her staking of a vampire loses everything about it which is heroic. It's just ugly and necessary. It's not saving the world, it's just a job, as Sticherbeast discusses. And in this context, of the isolation of the death of a loved one, the necessity of one thing after the other, the inadequacy of everyone to Make it Okay ... Buffy is a person, she lives, her pain is a pain I truly recognize.

And so I think that Whedon and everyone involved just barely often enough touched on something that made these people and this world vital and true in a way that buoyed all the dreck and mediocrity that was much more frequent. And not just so much that the show became something better, that it became respectable despite its manifest flaws; but that it became great despite its manifest flaws. And, speaking for myself, it's because I care — not cared, past tense, but care, present tense — more for these characters than I do any other characters of any other television show or film I've seen in my life.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Anyway, I'm curious about other people's thoughts on Buffy as a character. Several of us have mentioned some dislike of her, and it was very noticeable on fan discussion sites like TWoP during the later years of the show.

I liked Buffy, she was my favorite character (with Spike a close second). If I were to watch this show as an adult, maybe that wouldn't be true, but as a teenager I admired her and wanted to be just like her.

Buffy was tough. Unlike pretty much any other character on the show, when the chips were down she'd do whatever needed doing, even if it hurt her and even if it hurt people she loved. She didn't have a lot of respect for limits. That's something that I liked about Spike, too, that he was willing to "go there," even if "there" was unattractive, unlikable, self-destructive, and mean.

I didn't trust Xander and Giles because they seemed to want to control Buffy (though Giles eventually learned to let go), and had trouble dealing with her as someone with her own agency. I didn't like Willow because she was too "cute." Even when she was the Big Bad, she was won over by a "cute" little story from her childhood friend. I can't relate to or admire that.

Maybe telling girls that they need to be tough and even if they give their all they'll die anyway isn't progressive. But Buffy was both feminine and hard. There aren't so many characters like that, and most of the ones that do exist are ones fighting over very small, completely romantic/personal/emotional stakes, like Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl.

I could never dislike Buffy, because even at her worst, girl always had chutzpah.
posted by rue72 at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Buffy was tough. Unlike pretty much any other character on the show, when the chips were down she'd do whatever needed doing, even if it hurt her and even if it hurt people she loved."

That's totally what I liked best about Buffy. I wrote that I admired her for it, but I also liked her for it and would have liked her a lot for it if she could have remained fully human doing it.

Whedon has said that his core principle for the character was that she would never be rescued by a man, ever. She would do the rescuing.

And that is an incredibly important and progressive message for young women — I continue to believe that although he fudged that just a little bit now and then, mostly he was true to it and this was fundamentally a milestone for women portrayed in American television.

But the later development of Buffy where she becomes nothing but the responsibility, which she is relentless in attempting to shoulder, ends up changing into something that is not progressive, it's arguably regressive. The implicit message is either what I wrote above — that this "empowerment" is really just another version of the killjoy mom whose workday never ends because she's responsible for everyone else; or it's that this whole empowerment thing isn't what it's cracked up to be, it's a drag, Faith clearly has a lot more fun bedding boys and enjoying the new playstation the Mayor gave her.

As I wrote before, I think that this particular logic of the superhero is sound, it's a valid theme to examine. But I think it collides in a destructive way with the feminist theme of young female empowerment. And both themes make Buffy a symbol, an idea, which is problematic from a feminist perspective for a whole 'nother set of reasons.

"Even when she was the Big Bad, she was won over by a 'cute' little story from her childhood friend. I can't relate to or admire that."

She wasn't won over by the story being cute, she was won over by why he told it and how he ended it: he expressed unconditional love for his best friend — his best friend since they were small children — unconditional love that says that he will stay there with her and die with her in her self-destructive grief because she is more important to him than whether she's right or wrong, he loves her unconditionally.

That isn't small or irrelevant, it's transformative in the face of crippling grief and self-hate. And more to the point, salvational unconditional love, despite some notable religious examples, is traditionally the offering of a woman to the man she saves, her lover or her child, and not an offering of a man to his female best friend.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:03 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


The implicit message is either what I wrote above — that this "empowerment" is really just another version of the killjoy mom whose workday never ends because she's responsible for everyone else; or it's that this whole empowerment thing isn't what it's cracked up to be, it's a drag

But maybe life *is* a horrible sucky grind that you never get out of, or maybe that's how life is for Buffy anyway. I don't need her life to be happy or fun or even "worth it," it's empowering enough for me that she gets to have a voice, and she gets to feel whatever her feelings are even when they're shitty, and that she can have the grit to do what she needs to do as well as the confidence to resent being put in that position in the first place.

She doesn't have to play nice, out of her zillions of responsibilities, playing nice is the *one* responsibility that she doesn't have. Buffy is lumped with a lot of work, she doesn't have the "luxury" of playing by "the rules" and sitting on the sidelines to cheer on the boys, but she can't really win, either, there will always be another apocalypse coming, another excuse for her friends to rip her out of heaven. I think painting a happy face on that wouldn't be empowering, it would be cheap and belittling.

Buffy did turn into a bit of a sourpuss, she did get uglier (god knows her relationship with Spike was ugly), but I think it's pretty great that she was allowed to do that, to be messy, obnoxious, brutal. Fred and Cordelia sure weren't. Willow kind of was, but only by love and she was "saved" by Xander before she really blew the lid. I think being allowed a female character showing that kind of anger, rationality, toughness, ugliness, and showing it largely without apology, is actually very empowering. Those aren't things a lot of women are allowed to express in real life (or even on Joss Whedon's shows).

She wasn't won over by the story being cute, she was won over by why he told it and how he ended it: he expressed unconditional love for his best friend — his best friend since they were small children — unconditional love that says that he will stay there with her and die with her in her self-destructive grief because she is more important to him than whether she's right or wrong, he loves her unconditionally.

I agree with all that. My issue is, how much do I buy the idea of someone rescuing a person from herself? And how happy am I that Willow was "rescued from herself" by a man who knows the "real" her, meaning the 5-year-old version of her?

Willow is infantalized a lot, and she gives up her own agency a lot, and even the character herself expressed a lot of negative, angry, frustrated, confused feelings about that over the years (especially in regards to Xander) so to have her "saved from herself" in that way just...it turned me off. I felt that it was a disservice to her character.

I thought the moment was sentimental rather than sublime.
posted by rue72 at 6:21 PM on November 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I agree, Buffy was allowed to get dirty, have bad, ugly relationships and totally messed up emotions, rewatching the series..there is this huge UMMPH from watching Willow pay off on the threat given in Dopplegangland, that she's got a well of anger and power under the surface - you totally buy she can go on a roaring rampage of revenge but then to jump to ..ending the world and then ...talked down..by that? I felt like writer FIAT from above, in a way that a lot of the characterization seemed to follow a checklist rather than come out of the character, WIllow has to go back into the "cute" box, Xander has to forever stay in his odious "Nice Guy" box. Buffy in the late seasons aors when characters got to got out of these checklists, Buffy can be a superhero AND want to be Prom Queen AND be kind of a basket case, etc. It never really happened for the secondary characters, and for some (Cordelia, who has the best character arc ever until the very end) they had to go onto other shows before it paid off.
posted by The Whelk at 6:30 PM on November 16, 2013


I agree with you rue72. Life can just suck and I love that Buffy didn't have to do it all with her happy face on.

I just rewatched the episode with Xander talking Willow down. It didn't quite feel real to me either. And it wasn't. They said that it was Giles' giving her the earth based magic that made it possible for her to reconnect with love instead of wiping out all human emotion. I actually don't know how much was the unconditional love and how much was Xander basically telling her that if she really wanted to wipe them all out she better be ready to kill her friends up close instead of from a distance.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:28 PM on November 16, 2013


"All of your points are equally valid and I will take some time to consider them carefully"

:)

Seriously, though, while I disagree, I think your two comments, rue72, are great. Your argument is more than valid, it's pretty convincing. If I didn't have the personal experience that I have of those two characters, I'm certain I'd agree with you simply because your argument makes so much sense.

I agree with it non-specifically — that is, about the living difficulty and messiness of a realistically empowered female character (it's the whole spotless role model thing, which tells a false story) and about cute and infantilized female characters. I just ... don't feel those ways about Buffy and Willow. Because I'm male? I don't know. I identify with female characters more than male characters, and I much more strongly identify with Willow than with Buffy.

Putting aside the question of why both of us are most invested in these female characters (or, rather, why I am), it's possible that our gender difference is playing a deciding role. Because, within the context of female characters, Buffy is a female character who has characteristics of a stereotypically strong male that female characters are typically denied. Meanwhile, Willow is a female character who has characteristics of a strong female character that male characters are typically denied, which I see as willing interdependency and occasional indecision in the context of generally being empowered and effective.

I agree that in the ultimate, greatest sense no one can save anyone from themselves. But I do strongly believe that in the proximate sense, in extremis, people very much can be saved from themselves and this is one important reason we like to be with other people. And I'd very much like to be the kind of person who could be saved by someone else's unconditional love; not because I want to be saved from myself by someone else, but that I want to be able to allow myself to be saved from myself by someone else because I can accept, and give, unconditional love.

Insofar as Buffy truly has agency, her determination to protect that agency at the expense of everything else, in denial of her fallibility, is for me a masculine gender role that does more harm than good. And insofar as her will is a function of her privileging her responsibilities to others at the expense of everything else, is for me a feminine gender role that also does more harm than good. Buffy is, for me, with regard to role models in general and gender role models in particular, off-putting from both directions at once.

Willow's agency is not subordinated to an abstraction, she is not chained to a principle. Willow empowers herself and is effective in the world partly through her experience of love, loving and being loved — and this is not a self-abnegation, it is a carnal love, full of passion and pain and the capacity for loss such that she is willing to literally shake the foundations of the world in her grief. This, to me, places her in the world of the real, the vital, the organic; and her heroism exists in the context of taking effective and remarkable action to create a good, right here, today or to relieve a hurt, right here, today. The messy realism you see in Buffy has a counterpart in the messy realism I see in Willow.

For me, Buffy is, ultimately, an agent of history. She is a prisoner. Willow is human and can (and does) choose to do great things and for the right reasons.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:40 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


>Also he tried to rape Buffy and then pretended it never happened.

I had to Google around to find out what episode this was about and then I rewatched it. It's been at least eight years since I watched Season 1. The hyena curse? I see that this is problematic. It's a conceit of the show that people under certain magical influences are not responsible for their actions. That's a bad conceit and something that I will always call out as BS in the real world because people in the real world are always responsible for their actions. Xander was certainly avoidant all around with regards to his crush on Buffy. I still think the Crayon Speech was supposed to be Xander's redemption for being mealy, for what he caused in OMWF and his everyman flaws. I think that the theme is supposed to be that we can be extraordinary in our best moments despite being normal.

Actually, the more that I think about it, the more I think that it is problematic of BtVS to deal with themes of rape and abuse but never quite has the guts to go there and live with it and make us deal with it as an audience for longer than it takes to make a plot point. See also: The throwaway plot point for why Warren is evil evil and not just goofy evil. Not to mention that the beginning of Spike's redemption arc starts with his attempt to rape Buffy. Whedon et al hand out redemption to vampires like it's dollar shop candy.

The significance of the hyena episode that we're supposed to take away is that Xander's crush for Buffy has been reveled despite his best attempts to be civil and hide it. Giles (at this point in the show, he's the undisputed voice of reason) is complacent in Xander's lie about being unable to remember being possessed, which leads me to believe that the writers themselves thought that the lie was justifiable.

The way that I see it, Xander is a Mary Sue but had to be unlikable every-so-often so that the writers could claim otherwise.
posted by Skwirl at 8:24 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a bad conceit and something that I will always call out as BS in the real world because people in the real world are always responsible for their actions.

Excepting insanity or diminished responsibility.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:39 PM on November 19, 2013


Xander? Heck, Buffy (the show) couldn't seem to decide what if any moral responsibility Angel had for what was done when his soul completely left his body and it was controlled by a demon from hell.
posted by straight at 2:57 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that karma works in the Buffyverse this way: Any moment of happiness must be repaid 8 fold in pain. Angel's curse is just explicit because he can recall how it started.

Etrigan: "Given that Buffy, Xander and Willow were like 22 years old at the end of the series, I don't find this "dooming" to ring all that untrue. I know very few people who are still in the same relationships they were in during high school or college -- for the vast majority of us, those years are filled with failed relationships, but friendships tend to last longer (at least within that timeframe)."

When two recurring characters fall in mutual love in the Whedonverse, you might as well flip a coin, because one of them is going to be dead by the end of the season. And death is only for the lucky ones. Non-recurring characters die in the same episode.
posted by Skwirl at 9:53 PM on November 19, 2013


When two recurring characters fall in mutual love in the Whedonverse, you might as well flip a coin, because one of them is going to be dead by the end of the season. And death is only for the lucky ones. Non-recurring characters die in the same episode.

Buffy, Angel, Riley and Spike would argue with that idea. As would Willow and Oz.

This trope that Whedon kills anyone who falls in love is a cute shorthand, but it's not borne out by the text. Yes, a lot of one-off "new boy/girlfriend" characters die, but in the heightened-adolescence world of the Buffyverse, that's a metaphor for breakups. You can just as easily say "When anyone new comes on screen, you might as well flip a coin, because he or she is going to be dead by the end of the season." Well, yeah. That's how horror-drama works. Far more people die because the Villain Of The Week needs to establish his or her evil bonafides than die because they fall in love.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 AM on November 20, 2013


Buffy, Angel, Riley and Spike would argue with that idea. As would Willow and Oz.

Brings up an interesting point between male and female love interests that I've noticed before - men leave, women die.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, the more that I think about it, the more I think that it is problematic of BtVS to deal with themes of rape and abuse but never quite has the guts to go there and live with it and make us deal with it as an audience for longer than it takes to make a plot point. See also: The throwaway plot point for why Warren is evil evil and not just goofy evil. Not to mention that the beginning of Spike's redemption arc starts with his attempt to rape Buffy. Whedon et al hand out redemption to vampires like it's dollar shop candy.

I agree emphatically about Spike raping Buffy, but I disagree emphatically about Warren's evil.

When it comes to subjects like rape, you either deal with it, or you don't. Not going far enough is worse than never touching it at all.

...

Think about the show's very foundation. Vampires are fun villains, in large part because they (normally) cannot choose to be anything other than vampires. Vampires are not people. Vampires do not have souls. Vampires do not have rights. At best, they are mere shadows of the bodies they possess. As they say in the very first episode, "it's not your friend! It's the monster that killed it!"

Indeed, the proper way to deal with vampires is to commit summary execution. You shouldn't feel bad about killing them.

That is literally the whole reason why Slayers exist!

Also note that vampires' inherent evil frees them as a class from moral judgment. Vampires are generically evil, but in a way, they're no more "evil" than a man-eating polar bear let loose in a school.

Either way, because vampires (and similar monsters) are such fantastic, unrealistic creations, they allow us to explore all sorts of real world issues, but in a fun and heightened way. The simple morality forces clear and sympathetic narratives. Monsters of the week show character through action.

Some issues do not work well within this kind of fantasy framework. However, the show's sense of irony, self-awareness, and so on let it still play around with this framework, even when it was dealing with heavy subjects.

However, there are limits.

...

The Trio are the most pathetic of the villains. At the same time, they're also arguably the most evil. Warren is a sociopath and a sadist. Andrew is a follower, who latches onto Warren's sociopathy as a way to give his own life dimension. Jonathan is morally weak - maybe he doesn't intend to perform quite so much evil, but one should always remember "The Walrus and The Carpenter".

When Warren tried to rape that woman, the show hit the nail on the head by revealing that this is a profoundly evil action. The "joke", even if it's not meant to be laugh out loud funny, is that we usually don't take "love potions" in stories very seriously. (See: the film Love Potion Number Nine.) But, if we were to take them seriously, even for a second, we would realize that they were nothing more than devices used to commit rape.

What's more, they're evil in a very human way. Humans can choose to perform good and evil: Warren chose evil, as too many people do. Humans commit rape. Rape is evil.

Warren is not a vampire. He is not a demon. Unlike a vampire, Warren is not freed from specific moral judgment. He does not need blood to "live". Unlike those fantastic creatures, Warren actually does have moral responsibility. What's more, that quality is relatively unique among Buffy villains.

In that way, Warren also has the eerie quality of resembling actual people that we may know, in a much less heightened way than anyone might remind us of the Master or the Mayor. it's ridiculous to say that we personally know any vampires, but who's to say that we don't know several dozen Warrens, Andrews, and Jonathans?

At any rate, for me, Warren worked as a villain, because he was something that the Scoobies had never really fought before: a realistically evil person who does the kinds of things which real evil people do.

On the other hand, since Warren was such an evil person, one could also say that the storytelling around his sexual assault was still much easier than in reality. If anyone ever deserved to be flayed alive, it was Warren. But what about all the people who commit sexual assault, who do not seem to be otherwise literally evil incarnate? People who have friends and hobbies and favorite flavors of ice cream, but who also commit heinous crimes? Isn't that what makes life complicated?

...

On the other hand, when Spike raped Buffy, it was a total failure from a storytelling perspective. The show did not know how to deal with such a serious topic.

Spike is a likable antihero. While soulless, he does seem very different from other vampires, and not just because he had a chip in his head. We know his dedication to Buffy, just as we also know that he's performed acts of heroism. Even before he was with Buffy, we also saw his sweeter side with Drusilla.

And yet, he's still a heightened, supernatural character. He's a Romantic with no soul, in a doomed relationship. He's also not a human.

So, when Spike tried to rape Buffy, there was nothing there, or at least, nothing good.

How was Buffy supposed to react to this? Was there really no other way to show that Spike was not good for her? Seriously?

As for Spike, why would he do such a thing? We had never known Spike to rape before. What lesson was the audience supposed to get from this? Were we supposed to hate Spike now? Except, Spike felt bad about it? So, he does have a soul? Except he doesn't? Huh? And again, was there really no other way to show how Spike was still more A Clockwork Orange than Wuthering Heights?

And maybe this was a reach, but wasn't it kind of seriously weird that Spike as the lovesick puppydog would resort to rape? Was the idea supposed to have been that "X-TREEM LOVE = RAPE"? Because, no, it's not, especially for that character.

If anything, I would say that pre-soul Spike would have been the perfect customer for a love potion. He actively sought Buffy's affection and approval. He would justify his actions because, no matter how lovesick he was, he was still soulless, and therefore ultimately selfish. (Even when, after Season Five, he was hanging around the Scoobies and protecting Dawn, this could be read as a pleasurable activity for him - it was the only way he can stay close to Buffy, by staying close to her family.)

And then there's the whole soul and responsibility thing. If the idea is that vampires aren't really people, then from a coldly logical perspective, you shouldn't be able to hold them morally responsible for anything.

Going the other direction, if a vampire gets its soul back, then they can't be held accountable for anything they've done.

So, you have a big, serious topic like rape, except it gets dealt with on Spike's end through the flipping of a magical switch.

So, nothing like reality, then. Even in cases of insanity, it's never that easy.

Rape is too important (and omnipresent) a topic to be dealt with in such a half-assed manner. It's also seriously weird to have the likable antihero attempt rape, only then to flip a switch such that you couldn't really say that he was really morally responsible for it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:37 AM on November 20, 2013


Brings up an interesting point between male and female love interests that I've noticed before - men leave, women die.

Yeah, that's been a bad pattern. Even if you discount that Angel and Spike had next-series commitments and were too popular to kill off (permanently, at least), Riley and Oz didn't need to live in particular. It was good to have some example of the idea that sometimes people just walk away from relationships because they aren't what they need, rather than being ripped away from them by circumstances, but those could have just as easily (and far more female-empowerment-ally) been done by a female partner.
posted by Etrigan at 6:42 AM on November 20, 2013


At least Olivia (presumably) wisely GTFO of Sunnydale after Hush.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:45 AM on November 20, 2013


Also, I just re-read my previous response, and I want to apologize for using the word "cute." I meant it more as "clever," but I totally see how it comes across as condescending. That was not my intent, but I should have caught it, and I apologize unreservedly.
posted by Etrigan at 6:46 AM on November 20, 2013


Cordy leaves. Or does that not count because she wasn't leaving simultaneously with a break-up? (Honest question.)

Spike asplodes at the end of Buffy. Why wouldn't that count as dying?
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:21 AM on November 20, 2013


Spike dies but doesn't really since he's back an episode of Angel later.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:22 AM on November 20, 2013


Cordy leaves. Or does that not count because she wasn't leaving simultaneously with a break-up? (Honest question.)

Cordelia is an outlier for a variety of reasons. She breaks up with the majority of the male characters on both Buffyverse shows at some point or another, and only "dies" after all of her relationships are over, and still makes appearances even in the canon comics. I would maybe count her as a "leaver" for the most part, but only once.

Spike asplodes at the end of Buffy. Why wouldn't that count as dying?

Everyone knew he was coming back to Angel. Just like Buffy's two deaths, it doesn't really count.
posted by Etrigan at 7:29 AM on November 20, 2013


Hrmm, I dunno. In a show with only so many main characters, I'm not sure what it means to be an outlier. Cordy is a major part of both shows.

Either way, Spike doesn't know he's coming back. That counts as a death to me.

If we're bringing Angel into it, then of course Fred is a dyer, not a leaver.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2013


Hrmm, I dunno. In a show with only so many main characters, I'm not sure what it means to be an outlier. Cordy is a major part of both shows.

I use "outlier" in the sense that she leaves various romantic relationships, but she also dies. Either side could use her to bolster their case that the Buffyverse does/doesn't inevitably punish love with death.

Either way, Spike doesn't know he's coming back. That counts as a death to me.

Then we're counting basically every character as having died or done something that they were certain at the time would kill them. I think that we're discussing how the writers arrange things more than the characters, though, and they (and everyone in the audience) definitely knew that Spike was coming back.
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 AM on November 20, 2013


We probably disagree on terms, then? I think about dyers and leavers as having those categories only within the universe of the show. The writers may set up patterns of dyers and leavers, but it doesn't seem to be ironclad.

To me, Spike is a dyer, even though he voluntarily chooses to do so, and even though he is later resurrected. A leaver, on the other hand, leaves knowing that their life will continue elsewhere.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 AM on November 20, 2013


Yeah, we're a little nonparallel. I approach the discussions of "When two recurring characters fall in mutual love in the Whedonverse, you might as well flip a coin, because one of them is going to be dead by the end of the season" and "men leave, women die" with the unspoken assumption that what Skwirl and yellowbinder were saying was "And this is troubling because the writers are setting up these patterns." As such, we more or less have to discuss them from the standpoint of what the writers know and think rather than what the characters know and think.

Spike didn't think as he sacrificed himself, "Well, this will totally break the pattern of men leaving and women dying," but the writers could well have.
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 AM on November 20, 2013


Expand it to the Whedonverse at large and you get one more female LI death and two male LI deaths that I can think of, though the Dollhouse one is pretty murky as far as what counts as death. I forget who else exactly survives on that show though, just that it's, uh, not a lot of them. IIRC we get one happy ending couple there plus one on Firefly, but the cute doll couple might be a leaver one in the end. Also I'm not sure how to classify characters who are obviously infatuated with each other but too angsty to ever make a goddamn move. I think both Mal and Inara are, like, presumptive leavers.

Oh, and I doubt he counts because he's a shitty LI and everyone forgets about that bc he's boring and a shitty plotline, but Ben does die. If he counts as male, being Glory's alter-ego.
posted by NoraReed at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2013


I would count Spike as a love interest who dies rather than one who leaves because it's clear that the story Whedon had in mind for him was to die at the end of Buffy. He only reappears on Angel as a gimmick attempt to save the series from cancellation, not because the writers really felt his character ought to live on as part of Angel's story.
posted by straight at 12:10 PM on November 20, 2013


I would count Spike as a love interest who dies rather than one who leaves because it's clear that the story Whedon had in mind for him was to die at the end of Buffy.

The story Whedon had in mind for him was to die in Season Two, long before he was a love interest for anyone but Drusilla. Fanservice saved him multiple times.
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM on November 20, 2013


So I just watched the first two episodes. Didn't hate it but if I didn't have everyone saying that it gets better, I probably wouldn't keep going. Very 90s TV style, no shaky-cam, natural colors, no zooms, slow editing.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 AM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I meant the comment about style as a compliment.
posted by octothorpe at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Season One has been used as "Why you can't cancel [insert Joss Whedon show here] after half a season!" ever since. I can't think of anyone who doesn't admit that it was, at best, world-building with some high points.
posted by Etrigan at 2:03 PM on November 24, 2013


Hmm. Six episodes in and only half the episodes actually have vampires in them. So far we've had a witch, a mantis and hyenas but not too many actual vampires. Did the writers forget the title of the show?
posted by octothorpe at 7:50 PM on November 24, 2013


As someone who is a gigantic gross fan of this series....

I am not a fan of season one.
posted by The Whelk at 8:02 PM on November 24, 2013


I've heard that from more than one person but at least it's a short season.
posted by octothorpe at 8:36 PM on November 24, 2013


I loved Buffy from the first episode of season one, and when in the dark days of seasons four and six.
I had no idea there was so much hate for early Buffy.
posted by Mezentian at 9:37 PM on November 24, 2013


It's not BAD it's just NOT AS GOOD, the tone is all over the place and the characters are all amorphous and it dips into the cheesy well too often. I think it's different if you're running the episodes one after another Netflix style but there's very little in the first season to differentiate it from other "X-Files-In-High-School-Paranormal-Investigation" genre shows. If you like those kindsa shows (and I do) then it's watchable and okay, but it's not the tone and characters I know and have creepy attachments for.
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 PM on November 24, 2013


It's more so many of the early, Season One episodes feel like generic genre spec scripts re-written for the characters, OMG OF DEVIL DOLL. OMG A MUMMY, OMG A WITCH, and not built into the Buffyverse cause..well that wasn't established yet.

Two of my favorite shows ever, Fringe and Supernatural, also have oddly generic, uninteresting first seasons.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm. Six episodes in and only half the episodes actually have vampires in them. So far we've had a witch, a mantis and hyenas but not too many actual vampires. Did the writers forget the title of the show?

I think that might be the most vampire-centric season, actually. Also maybe the corniest? Dullest? There's something off about the tone, but I'm not sure what it is.

Anyway, I don't know why you're putting yourself through it, to be honest. Fox didn't even bother to air the season one reruns in the middle of the night like they did all the others (and that's how I was introduced to Buffy back in high school. I fell in love with it at 2am, watching an S5 episode! A DAWN EPISODE. There, I said it). I tried to watch the first season years later, once I was thoroughly a Buffy obsessive, but now I don't even remember if I made it all the way through.

Do you guys think there's even much of a point to watching the episodes sequentially, in general?
posted by rue72 at 10:37 PM on November 24, 2013


Honestly I talked my SO into Buffy by showing season two, episode one with a talk beforehand "Okay HE'S a vampire and SHE's a slayer and.." and he went "oh god it's like watching soaps with your mom when you're home sick" but then he got INTO IT and totally into the thing.
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 PM on November 24, 2013


Do you guys think there's even much of a point to watching the episodes sequentially, in general?

There is, but it's very season-dependent. S6? Doesn't matter. S4? Barely matters. S3? Oh gods yes, what the actual fuck are you thinking.

But even without the overarcing plot stuff ("Wait, why is the Mayor evil?"), there's a lot of things that add up ("What's funny about Amy liking cheese?"*) if you haven't seen them in order.

I fell in love with it at 2am, watching an S5 episode! A DAWN EPISODE.

Don't be ashamed. S5 is vastly underrated, especially when you realize that hating Dawn was the point of the entire season; she only got legitimately annoying (vs. "We're supposed to hate her" annoying) after they ran out of that plotline but wanted to keep Michelle Trachtenberg around.

* -- I have a memory of them making Amy-used-to-be-a-rat jokes, but I can't actually identify when that might have happened. That may be because it was S6, much of which I haven't revisited in... a while.
posted by Etrigan at 12:02 AM on November 25, 2013


Do you guys think there's even much of a point to watching the episodes sequentially, in general?

Like it's even possible for me to not watch a TV series sequentially from the beginning? There's no way I could just start at season two; my brain would keep yelling at me that I wasn't doing it right.
posted by octothorpe at 4:43 AM on November 25, 2013


FWIW, Buffy was a pioneer of TV having quality series-long arcs. It's interesting nowadays to see how it develops that habit over the course of S1 and S2.

S1 is very cute for what it is, but it really is just X-Files for Teens. I mean, I love it, but I love it in the context of Buffy being great as a whole. If there had never been a S2, there never would have been anything resembling its current cult following.

I personally don't think that you would miss out on anything by skipping to the S1 finale. Then, assuming you complete the show, watch S1. It might have more impact when you know where these characters are going to go, especially since even the show itself is figuring it out along the way.

I find it quietly mindblowing, to think that this big fat epic story had such a cute and tidy beginning.

...

S5 is awesome. I never found Dawn to be all that annoying.

I also think that people who have never seen the show should not have anything whatsoever spoiled about Dawn, so forget we've ever even mentioned her. IMHO her introduction is one of the greatest things in all of Buffy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:50 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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