Talkin’ violence, strong language, adult content. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1

Alright, I know, crap title, because BtVS doesn’t even really have these things. It has strangely arch, balletic violence (you’ll have to go to Angel for some real bone-crunching), very smart, highly intelligent use of language, and an equally intelligent ongoing examination on the process of growing up from adolescence to adulthood. Conducted through the medium of vampires and other staples of the horror genre.

As some of you are no doubt aware, @purofilion is currently working her way through Buffy for the first time and, consumed with envy, I’ve decided to join her, only this time this is my first rewatch in maybe seven or eight years. And it’s been highly enjoyable. What follows below is a personal reaction to the first two seasons, for the sake of kickstarting a general discussion of those seasons for whoever might be interested, while remaining spoiler free of anything that happens beyond that. I’d ask any discussion below to respect that, as well as consider anything happening in any season of Angel to be similarly off-limits.

I’m not going to go too much into the often quite interesting and well-documented behind-the-scenes to-ing and fro-ing of the show. It’s all quite easy to find on the interwebs. But the original concept of ‘Rhonda the Immortal Waitress’ (soon to be renamed the more memorable Buffy) became a so-so but not awful movie starring Kristy Swanson, although ‘creative differences’ with both the Kazuis and Donald Sutherland’s take on Merrick the Watcher led to Joss Whedon walking away and largely disowning it. That would have been that had the WB not needed a mid-season replacement for failed Aaron Spelling drama Savannah.

So, what we get to start with is essentially half a season that I’d argue that takes almost its entire duration to really find its feet and its full confidence. Some shows really hit the ground running — Firefly and perhaps the Who reboot being good examples — while some take their time to find themselves. It’s a depressing state of affairs that it’s becoming harder and harder to find networks that will allow shows this kind of evolution time, which is why we’re constantly seeing shows being canned and then revived further down the line. Appropriately for a show that’s all about the maturation process, Buffy had that luxury. But I’d argue that there’s a lot of evidence that with the exception of Whedon himself, many of the writers were still not sure what the show was, where it was going.

But it did have a strong start. And that helps. Welcome to the Hellmouth starts with that classic horror movie trope, the jock and high schoolgirl in mid transgression before turning it completely on its head. It also introduces us to the idea that the line between People and Monsters is often not that easy to find sometimes. It’s almost like a mission statement for the entire show.

But Welcome to the Hellmouth and its conclusion The Harvest, like all pilots, are largely about set-up and introducing the cast. And this was where BtVS was particularly blessed. Sarah Michelle Gellar (who originally auditioned as Cordelia but instead got offered the lead) is fantastic, as are all the regulars. It’s hard to single out any one for particular praise, so I’ll leave that for episodes in which they clearly shine but just add that one of the things that boosted the pilot is the quirky take on Giles that Antony Stewart Head brought with him. In his commentary, Joss commented on how all the other actors who read for Giles were very straight down the line, patrician and dull, but ASH brought something unique to the part. And it shows right from the off. (As an aside, it’s always well worth checking out any commentary done by Whedon on any episode. Not only are they highly informative about the show, they also provide what essentially amount to a free course in TV screenwriting and directing.)

The other thing I’d highlight about the first two episodes is that Mark Metcalfe did amazing work as The Master. No relation to our Master, of course, although it has always struck me that if the Deadly Assassin-era Master had been played like this, he would have seemed like a more credible continuation of the Delgado character, instead of the bland generic villain we got. But rather than playing a straight Nosferatu-type, Metcalfe brought a humorous, sarcastic edge to character that if anything made him more scary, again served as a mission statement for subsequent Big Bads in the show, as well as influencing just about every other genre show since. There was just no going back to ‘mwah hah hah. insert joyless, unconvincing megalomania here’.

The Witch is interesting in a ‘not just about vampires’ kind of way but isn’t massively memorable. It does serve to illustrate the ongoing tension between Buffy’s desire for a normal life and her Slayer life however. Plus it introduces Amy.

Teacher’s Pet is similarly fun but forgettable. Good for deepening Xander’s character and I loved the writing of Dr Gregory’s character. A key strength of Buffy is that there are very few characters, even their equivalent of the ‘red shirts’ who don’t get some decent development.

Never Kill A Boy On A First Date is much more of an arc story. More on the Master, more on Angel. More on the Anointed One. Probably a good time to talk a little about Angel. In terms of acting in the first season, David Boreanaz is the weak link, almost as if he’s still learning as he goes along. His take on Angel is still less than convincing here and I don’t think he really has the character nailed until Season 3 really.

The Pack is another one I don’t really love and fastforwarded through chunks of it on my rewatch. Nick Brendon does good work here though, taking Xander to some darker places. And we do get rid of the going-nowhere character of Prinicipal Flutie for the far more satisfying Snyder. It also hits upon one of the show’s writers nuclear options — Make Willow Cry. This will be used to devastating effect in later stories.

Angel is the first key episode we see in the show’s mythology. The start of the Bangel arc and cementing Darla’s place as a key figure in the show’s history.

I Robot, You Jane takes us back into a run of more self-contained ‘monster of the week’ episodes but I’m singling it out because it a) introduces Jenny Calendar and b) contains Giles’s great ‘books should be smelly’ speech.

The Puppet Show/Nightmares/Out of Mind,Out of Sight are all again standalones but all with some really nice moments. I loved seeing Buffy as a vamp, Willow’s operatic nightmare and the Scooby’s take on Greek drama. Out of Mind is also nice because it develops Cordelia beyond being the cartoon bee-atch and emphasises that she’s a Scooby in her own right, even though she really doesn’t want to be.

But I’d say that it’s not until Prophecy Girl, the season finale that the show really finds its feet. This is where all the elements hinted at in the previous episodes come together and we see the show that we’ll recognise throughout subsequent seasons. Buffy effortlessly slaying vamps to the strain of the Nerf Herder theme, Angel putting on his game face for the final battle, Giles breaking his own Watcher’s code because of his love for his Slayer, Xander’s sheer ordinariness bringing Buffy back from the dead, Buffy’s smart putdown of the Master (‘you have fruit-punch mouth’) and all the Scoobies working together to beat the apocalypse. Even Cordelia. This is where Buffy finds itself and it’s pretty bloody glorious.

(Right, that’s it for season one. Feel free to leave your own thoughts below. Season Two to follow but don’t worry, I won’t trawl through every episode but go for a more edited highlights kind of thing.)


21 comments

  1. I was Buffy’s bitch right from the combo of the WTTH cold opening and the first hearing of the theme music.

    I agree with most of what you say, but would argue that The Witch may be the most under-rated episode in the entire run. It well as being rather fun, it sets in motion stuff that has consequences for pretty much the rest of the run  – and that’s as far as a stray in a spoilery direction, so jog me when we get there.

    And you are spot on about one thing: taking care with writing the one-offs, death has consequences – and, as we discover, long-term consequences at that, even when it turns out not to be permanent. That, if anything, is Joss’s great contribution to modern TV writing. Death matters.

    Also, IRYJ is the first sign of Joss’s (still) shaky grasp of technology.

    I think even by the end of S1 we get a glimpse into Joss’s approach to writing: he does not give a toss about tiny pedantic details of plot continuity (although his writers dug him out of a couple of holes). What matters is theme:

    What is the story about?

     

     

  2. @JimtheFish – Thank you for writing this. Writing about a whole season of Buffy at once is unbelievable. I agree with all of your analysis of the episodes. Especially that the first and last episodes are the best episodes of season one. The rest of the stories are sketchy feeling which is normally a bad thing, but it is sneaky greatness for BtVS (especially in a “meta” way).

    Like you said Buffy is a show about development. The characters are freshmen at high school that are not sure footed either. So the shows uncertain feeling makes the characters experiences seem more real (I think it works, even if by accident). There’s one more example of this happening, but I will wait on that.

    I want to say Nightmares is my favorite because it is so funny, but the creepy reveal at the end takes all the fun out it. But that is Meta again, because the kid was playing a game that was supposed to be fun, but the coach ruined it.      

    So instead my favorite is Out of Mind, Out of Sight. I always love invisible monsters, and the ending is terrifying for Cordy (her worst nightmare). Cordy’s vanity made it even scarier. I’m starting to feel a little bit sorry for Cordelia now, just a little.   

    @Pedant – Argh! It took me forever to finally make up my mind. Now I want to say The Witch too.  That’s the problem with picking favorite Buffy episodes.  There are so many different ways to look at them.  There are funny ones, important ones, scary ones, heart-ripping-out ones… how can you pick?

  3. @pedant — you’re right. The Witch is a lot more key than I give it credit for. Especially for the significant role witchcraft plays later (I think that’s discreet enough, don’t you). Plus it’s easy to forget just how pivotal a character Amy actually is throughout the entire series. True also that some of the tech stuff in I Robot is just embarrassing but to be fair I don’t think it’s a Joss episode. In fact, it comes across as one of the most generic, old-fashioned episodes of the whole season. It’s almost like an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man or something. But I have a soft spot for it, largely because of the banter between Giles and Jenny. That and Xander’s ‘elderly Dutchy lady chatroom’ line.  But I have to say that the phrase ‘techno pagan’ still makes me cringe.

    It’s definitely really true to say that Joss’s writing pretty much changed everything. Even down to nu-Who today. After the first couple of seasons of Buffy, writers everywhere must have sat down and thought ‘bugger, we’re really going to have to up our game here’.

    @Barnable — It’s probably obvious from the above but I’d say my favourite eps in order are Prophecy Girl, Hellmouth, Harvest, Never Kill A Boy and The Witch (thanks to yours and @pedant‘s powers of persuasion).

  4. @JimtheFish – ha ha ha.  Fair enough for the Cordy comments. 

    Never Kill a Boy is another fine choice.  Starts slow, but has possibly the coolest slay ever! 😀

  5. @JimTheFish  thank you, I echo @Barnable . A great read and I look forward to more!

    I agree with @pedant in that I was also taken pretty hard by the end of the first episode. I think Whedon went in head first with an operating assumption that reasonable prudence isn’t good enough if it smells like cowardice.

    I like how he doesn’t manipulate things to fit an hypothesis. He gives truth a chance to emerge without forcing conclusions to satisfy ego. Spunky. Shame that whilst it should be obvious to other writers to do the same, they stuff things down viewer’s throats until there’s nowhere left to go.

    Regards, puro.

  6. My “ha ha ha” post was intended as tongue-in-cheek – which I clearly suck at, but can’t help myself – but it looks like I’m being a wanker if nobody can follow my reasoning.

    First, ty for complimenting my “powers of persuasion”, you didn’t pick one of my favorites, so that means I must have even better “powers of dissuasion” (right?). So I assumed you meant it sarcastically (tongue-in-cheek).

    <drum roll> Fair enough, I should say nicer things about your “crush” Cordy.

    *Jokes are never funny after you explain them, but with any luck this explanation will be even funnier.* :smile:  

    OTOH, I wasn’t joking at all about liking NKaBoaFD though. Great choice!

  7. PS – Joss’s original plan was to include Eric Balfour in the main title credits, so that it was full-on shock when he was killed off – but apparently that had financial implications so the studio wouldn’t let him do it.

    But remember that thought for MUCH later in the run.

  8. @Jimthefish

    Thanks for this, Jim – great blog idea and a bit liberating after I’ve read the conditions placed on discussing Buffy on the General Forum. I hope you’ll progress to other series.

    I agree with much above, although I don’t think I was Buffy’s bitch from day one. It was on the BBC cult zone slot – 6pm on BBC2, with Farscape, Star Trek, et al. I thought it felt fresh, considering it seemed at first glance to be a bunch of high school clichés wrapped in vampires and spells. I count myself as fortunate in that I hadn’t seen the original film (I’ve seen it since and boy – words fail).

    As I remember, the main attraction for me was ASH as Giles, as I was curious. As well as the fucking tedious Nescafe ads, he made an astonishing Doctor Frankenfurter on stage in the Rocky Horror Show. Throughout the seven series I don’t think he put a foot wrong. I think he made me take the first series seriously, even when he was playing it for laughs.

    It’s a great performance, and I’d also say some of the other mature actors bring some groundness to it. The Master could have been a crass role, but in Mark Metcalf’s hands its bloody brilliant. I don’t know – Doug Neidermeyer from Animal House! Who knew?

    The makers of the Paul McCann Who Movie must be kicking themselves that they didn’t consider him as their “Master”. The tone of some of those scenes could have been so different.

    The stories were fun – I quite admire in retrospect how they introduced the magic concept – as important as the Vampire Lore into the show. It’s amazing how many times (and it becomes a joke) a plot is wrapped up by “we’ll do a spell”. It’s magic, in its own way. Also – someone seeking continued life being locked as a statue with moving eyes? Well, they had seen every episode of Doctor Who (according to Andrew). That presumably includes The Five Doctors.

    The last episode is harder and does show its true potential. Just very good TV full stop.

    Can I also echo your point about first series as well? Many shows (and I think Buffy, even with a recognisable Universe, struggles with tone on occasion) need time to sort out issues. It really is becoming more difficult, I think, for innovative shows to get the time to tell the story at the pace they intend. I’m grateful that the 90s saw B5 and Buffy get made. I’m not convinced they would have survived at the moment.

  9. @Phaseshift — many thanks for the kind words and a great contribution. I never realised that The Master was also Neidermeyer. That’s a fine piece of trivia. Am working on the second installment of the blog even as we speak. Have to say I’m very much enjoying my revisitation of the Buff.

  10. @JimtheFish, @PhaseShift, @Purofilion

    @Pedant What is the story about?

    You know, that might really be important?! 😉

    I agree with everything JimtheFish wrote and wanted to add some more ideas. Some S1 spoilers included.

    The first season is my lowest rated season, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Before I mostly rated the episodes based on entertainment value alone, mainly because they were mostly stand alone episodes without very much lasting impact for the characters. But these S1 stand alone episodes all have a purpose besides just being fun (And yet being fun is still the most important thing for me). So now I like the episodes even more, having thought about what they were meant to do, for building the foundation for the rest of the show. Here is what I think the episodes did.

    Each character got their own stand alone episode which I think was important, because it is like the difference in meeting people in a group or really talking to them alone.

    Welcome to the Hellmouth /The Harvest – In these episodes, three major themes for the first season and beyond are set up. For seasons 1-3 the theme is High School is Hell, especially when it sits on top of the Hellmouth. Buffy decision about taking the responsibility of the slayer is the theme for the first season. The Master is about how the show intends to subvert established tv tropes.

    The Witch – Giles/Joyce stand alone episode. Giles/Joyce don’t seem like the focus but the episode theme is about parents controlling children’s lives too much. So comparing Amy’s mom to Amy with Giles/Joyce to Buffy is the most important thing we need to learn about who Giles/Joyce are right now. Magics get introduced too.

    Btw, the Theme-Song-Hair-Blast is from this episode, but it’s not Willow. It’s Amy’s mom and mostly edited out of the episode (the mirror scene).

    Teacher’s Pet – Maybe the cringeworthy moments blind people from seeing the awesomeness?

    Not Dr. Gregory?! He was so nice. Exactly that’s the reason why!! It is a joke that there are way more “bad/mean” teachers then the “nice/good” teachers. Kids wonder why? In the Buffyverse the good teachers get killed by monsters. Subverting the horror trope that bad/promiscuous teenagers get killed (right after or during sex). Dr. Gregory gets killed right after he is nice to Buffy. The same thing happens to the teacher that is nice to Cordi and Flutie was a lot nicer than Snyder.

    The tv trope of female virgins being rescued by heroic men is subverted too. :smile:

    Other than that this is Xander’s stand-alone episode. Xander’s demon attractions, submissive Buffy fantasies, heroic Xander fantasies, and confirming he’s pretty much only thinking about sex or becoming cooler so he can have sex begins here. These are definitely foreshadowing for what happens in later seasons. Soon the Buffy fantasies turn into issues. Maybe the ending foreshadows Bad Eggs too?

    So much fun I just can’t hate for some clunky execution.  

    Never Kill A Boy On A First Date – Part of Buffy’s decision arc, because she learns she can’t have a normal life and be the slayer at the same time. She has to choose.

    The Pack – Okay, not my favorite episode, but good considering what it did. The High School is Hell theme is pretty scary and the clique mentality of High School life is so real, that this is the most dark episode from the first season (forshadowing Xander’s bad side). The effects of the dark events don’t have permanent consequences for the characters this time, which usually sucks, but in this case is good. The characters this season are still child-like and innocent, so the mistakes they make during childhood are not taken as seriously and are usually forgiven until they are held responsible as a teenager and adult. It also introduces the concept of how much responsibility a possessed person has for doing bad things. That’s very important for understanding Angel’s arc and other character arcs later on.          

    Angel – Angel’s episode (duh!), key episode like JimtheFish wrote. It stands out compared to other character episodes. The fun feelings of this season make this one seem all “Brooding and Serious” a perfect introduction for Angel (except for that accent).    

    I Robot, You Jane – Willow’s episode. This is when Willow’s best skill is hacking computers, hence a perfect time for a watchery books are smelly speeches. Amazed Ms. Callender doesn’t run from the yawnworthinesses. 😕  

    The Puppet Show – Maybe foreshadows and introduces the concept of curses trapping and releasing souls?

    Nightmares – Good character development by showing their greatest fears. Sure the plot used to make it happen doesn’t make sense, but Hellmouth effects can explain it.

    Out of Mind,Out of Sight – Cordelia’s episode. The best character intro-episode because Cordi isn’t as bad as she seems once you get to know her. She didn’t really change, just what we think about her does. She returns to the same Cordelia at the end, but at least it’s the first signs that Cordi isn’t a total bitca. Mean Cordi is more fun, I’m glad she doesn’t turn all nice after just one episode.

    Prophecy Girl – Buffy makes her decision and leaves childhood behind. All of the unconnected pieces come together magically come together. It’s time to see what this baby can do, just like Cordi’s car!

    S1 introduces the rules, characters, and themes of new Buffyverse in only half a season and remains fun to watch even on repeat viewing, so it’s impossible that Buffy S1 isn’t great. What more could it do? Alright! It makes more mistakes, but mostly only looks like it’s not as good compared to the complexity of later seasons. That isn’t fair to do, since this season is like looking back on the Scoobies childhood, so it’s suppose to feel like simpler times. Xander even says it later on.

    Now I’m pretty sure all the characters do change during this season.

    Buffy is the character that definitely changes when she finishes the first season arc against the Master (evident when she returns for S2), but the rest of the Scoobies surprise us based on what we know about them. Like Giles trying to protect his slayer, Cordi getting involved, Xander saving the day, Willow more confident toward Xander.

  11. I don’t like the movie, but I think a lot of people hate the BtVS Movie for the wrong reasons, which leads to other problems, like Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of a Watcher being bad acting or a misinterpretation of the character. That is not true imo, because there is no character in BtVS Movie that is likable or accurately portrayed. They are all terrible on purpose.
    BtVS Movie is not a prequel for the TV show. If BtVS the Movie was a serious movie then “Epic Fail” doesn’t come close to describing it. What a massive pos. But, the BtVS Movie was only supposed to be a spoof about horror genre and action genre movie tropes. As a spoofy movie Buffy is about the same as the rest in that genre. I’m not a fan of spoofage, but it had some parts that made me laugh.
    However, now that Whedon created BtVS TV show, the Movie has to be in the genre of parody too. It is probably the only time a parody has been made about a show that doesn’t even exist. Imagine Space Balls being made before Star Wars ever existed! That’s impossible without using timey wimey. Not to mention it’s the stupidest marketing strategy ever conceived. To pitch a tv show after trashing the hell out it first! That part blows my mind. What Arse-some-fuckwit watched Buffy the Movie and said “I’ve gotta see more of that”?
    Would George Lucas ever make a movie like Space Balls? I mean intentionally, ever?! Trashing the hell out of Star Wars and then decide to turn it into something cool. He waited 20 years before making Episodes I, II, III. 😉
    My theory for why Whedon would trash Buffy is because he knew it would be an easy target for Parody makers. They would taer it to shreds before it ever had time to develop. So he stole their thunder and shredded it first. A brilliant tactical move since it worked, but an insanely risky thing to do.
    I have to give huge props to Whedon for this achievement.
    I don’t know what Joss Whedon said about his real intentions, so this is just my theory about what happened. If it’s not true, then I’m happy with the fantasy, because for me, it is the only way to-put-a-shine-on this movie-turd.

  12. @barnable

    I don’t know what Joss Whedon said about his real intentions, so this is just my theory about what happened.

    He said he would never cede that much control again (and really resented he Kazuis having a credit on every episode of the series – he held them responsible for the eff up of the movie).

    This is adapted from the original screenplay : Buffy : The Origin. Quite hard to get hold of now.

    The series agrees with this, in that the gym is burned down.

  13. @barnable  and @pedant — Whedon has been pretty specific on more than one occasion that he’s less than happy with how the Buffy movie turned out. Admittedly he blames a lot of that on Sutherland’s almost entire failing to get the point (but also heaps praise on Paul Reubens and Rutger Hauer for their input). And @pedant is right that the Kazuis get and probably deserve a lot of the blame for the movie’s suckitude — if you want further proof look how their proposed and thankfully aborted Buffy reboot of a few years back sounded.

    But the movie as it exists is pretty far from what Whedon intended by all accounts. In fact, I think the reason that Whedon is held in such awe by many writerly types — apart from the fact that he has mad skillz in terms of character and plot development — is that his is the tale of the little writer who won. He got burned by the Hollywood system — in both stars and producers — and then got the unique chance to revisit the exactly same property and re-produce it as originally intended. That’s a major fantasy for just about every writer, I’d imagine.

    As to parody, I’d probably dispute that. In the TV series, I’d say that any parody of the genre is very, very mild and is in fact pretty respectful. The exception that proves the rule is Buffy Vs Dracula which does very much parody the more hokey aspects of vampire myth but the fact that it does it so blatantly I think emphasises how much the show didn’t take that tack in the general run of things. Sure it is often gently mocking of some of the conventions (in the same way that it gently mocks its own conventions) but I don’t think this amounts to parody.

    The film is different, of course and is very much parody. But I don’t think any of this is Joss’s doing and is largely the Kazuis just not getting it  at all, as well as feeling sheepish about Sutherland’s clear embarrassment at doing a vampire flick. Joss is a tricky writer in that it is often possible to completely misinterpret his writing and get it completely wrong (see also Alien Resurrection and X-Men). It’s actually really instructive to seek out the original script for the movie — which is readily available on the internet, check out the daily script or scriptorama — to see how it could have been done very differently.

  14. @JimTheFish

    Spot on.

    It turns out I have the origin story in the Omnibus vol 1, along with the excellent Slayer, Interrupted – which we can’t discuss because it would spoil puro. It is quite well done and used the Right Merrick.

    (Can’t recall where I saw it now, but there is a great Whedon quote about the Origins story meeting his approval and mentioning the “…actor who will remain hated”.)

  15. @Pedant and @JimtheFish

    The way Joss rescued Buffy makes him a real life super hero (for writers and artists like JimtheFish said). All legends get exaggerated, and to me it would be better if the Buffy Movie was part of Super-Whedon’s master plan all along, but the true story is cool already.

    The Buffy TV show was not a spoof or parody at all. It is a subversion of tropes, which is doing something unexpected and different. Sometimes that is funny but it is always non-boring and cool.

    I’m pretty sure we agree on the Buffy movie. My point was the movie should be completely ignored as in not part of Buffy canon. I think that is what Joss thinks too. The real prequel to the Buffy TV show is the Buffy: Origins story (thx pedant). Buffy: Origins has the burning of the high school. That isn’t in Joss’s original movie script or the movie.

    I found and read the original Whedon Movie script (that’s what they say it is, I can’t be sure it’s true). I agree that Joss did not intend to make a spoof or parody movie.

    However Joss did include a scene in his script (unchanged in the movie) where Buffy commandeers a Harley to chase after the bad guys (imo that was intended as a spoofy-shot-at action movies, where the characters always know how to drive any vehicle they need to without any experience).  That doesn’t mean it was intentional spoof by Joss, but it doesn’t fit his  subversive style.

    Other than that, Joss’s script was meant to be serious, especially the death of Merrick scene. That scene was completely changed in the movie. In the script, Merrick kills himself with a gun to avoid being converted into a vampire servant for Lothos – that’s very dark and not intended to be funny at all. But in the movie, Merrick tries to stab Lothos, and Merrick’s extraordinary non-fighty incompetence causes Lothos to overpower Merrick making him stab himself to death with his own weapon. It’s intentionally played out as awkwardly as possible to accentuate the ridiculousness to make people laugh. Amilyn’s ridiculous death scene is the bloody finger prints proving the movie is intentionally spoofapalooza, when he takes forever to die. There is no way that was unintentional. That never happens in Joss’s script.

    So I’m guessing that was the Kazuis/Producer/Director vision of the kind of movie they wanted to make (not Joss’s). But I don’t understand blaming Donald Sutherland at all, since an actor just follows the Director’s instructions – mostly – [I’m guessing] actor’s get some input on the part but not the final say. The Producers were making a spoof movie and Donald’s performance was perfectly crafted for that. Every other actor was being silly too, including Rutger Hauer. I’m hoping Joss meant Rutger was the closest to what he envisioned, but didn’t mean Rutger did it right, just closest. If Joss hates Donald Sutherland for some reason? I really don’t care, but blaming him just doesn’t make sense to me.

  16. @Barnable

    But I don’t understand blaming Donald Sutherland at all, since an actor just follows the Director’s instructions

    That’s the point – he didn’t. He bullied the director, because he could (he has quite a bit of form, unlike Keifer who is apparently very easy to work with).

  17. @pedant and @barnable — I’ve heard from more than one quarter that Sutherland did increasingly call the shots on-set and demand wholesale changes to both the script and I’m guessing the whole tone of the production. At that point the guy still had some serious clout in the industry, I’d imagine. I always imagined that Joss cast such an uninspiring seeming Merrick in Becoming in s2 as a sly dig at the guy who trashed his movie.

    But, no, the movie definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Which is why I guess it’s pretty clearly referenced in Becoming and also Origins. But, yeah, it is a tricky and actually pretty unique set of circumstances.

  18. @PhaseShift “bit liberating after I’ve read the conditions placed on discussing Buffy on the General Forum. I hope you’ll progress to other series”

    I would hope that @JimTheFish can do his wonderful analysis of S5 -whether others have watched it or not? If it’s any consolation, a) I can stay away from this particular page :) and b) I’m on leave at exactly 12 midday in two days and can therefore sit in front of the rest of S5 and start the sixth -I haven’t even seen the cover of the 6th (it was smartly hidden like grog in a paper bag). I’m now brilliant at avoiding even teensy spoilers so: ‘spoil away’!

    Regards, puro.

  19. BUFFY AT 20 — It’s quite fun looking back on these comments after two years (although have to say it feels a lot longer than that.) Some thoughts after a quick whistle-stop revisit of some of this season. General thoughts are as above, the look of the series does look a little dated round the edges, and the pace is sometimes oddly slow compared to current TV narrative pace. Certainly I Robot, You Jane has not aged at all well now that we are well in the grip of the internet age.

    For my money, Prophecy Girl is still the highpoint of the series. It exudes confidence, of a show that’s exuberantly found its feet. And for all it’s tentative, standalone, exploratory episodes, it still stands up as a fine example of the construction of a narrative arc, leading to a satisfying finale that leaves you both sated and yet eager to see more.

    As noted by various contributors above, the writing is variable but it’s still interesting how the various strands of the show’s lore are threaded throughout — even ones that won’t become apparent for two or three seasons down the line. And while the writers are finding their feet, the spot-on cast does much of the heavy lifting in this season. Buffy herself is the obvious example here, but look how both Giles and Cordelia evolve by the end of the series. It’s thanks to the perfectly pitched performances of ASH and Charisma Carpenter I think that they were given more to do. Genre TV is littered with exposition drones which is what Giles could have remained if ASH hadn’t brought that something extra to the table, that sense of, if not vulnerability, then of being wounded slightly by his past, of regret, of self-knowledge that was gained at a cost. Similarly CC moved Cordelia beyond the generic class bee-atch to someone we can care about and even root for.

  20. @jimthefish

    That was really good to read again. Mum and I watched it again and it certainly meant f’forwarding thru some of the episodes. But I remind myself that everytime an episode finished, when I first watched it, I’d beg Mum to “watch ONE more please?”

    She’d give in. :)

    The Witch was terrific as was the Puppet episode and to me, Xander was excellent right from the get-go.

    On my bookshelf, all of Buffy, Angel and Firefly are right where I can see them.

    Thank you for your thoughts, Mr Fish.

    Thane

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