Jul 16, 2010

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 1

Words could hardly express my adoration for the "Buffyverse" (the shared world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) and my respect for its creator, Joss Whedon. It is easy to scoff at those shows, with their cheap special effects and unrealistic premises. But if one but looks with unbiased eyes, it is even easier to fall in love with their deep characters, the complex relationships between them, the underlying themes in each episode, and the brilliant dialogues. What Joss Whedon has given us with Buffy and Angel is something that has rarely, if ever, happened on TV - not just entertainment, but an experience, something which changes us, if only a little. And I really love those shows. Not with the fervor of a fanboy, but with the respect and fondness of someone who felt the characters of the Buffyverse come to life before his eyes, and become his friends, even if for a short while. See, I cared for them. And still do.

Recently I decided to rewatch the shows, and I thought I might as well express my geekness in written form, season by season. I am aware that most of you probably have either watched them, or do not care to, but for the sake of those who haven't and maybe some day would, I will review the seasons without spoilers.

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 we meet Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) - a 16-year old California girl who just moved into the little town of Sunnydale with her mother, after being kicked out of her school in LA for torching the gymnasium. In her first day at Sunnydale High, she meets two outcasts who will quickly become her best friends, and the core of the show's cast - science geek Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and goofy slacker Xander (Nicholas Brendon) - as well as the British librarian Mr. Giles (Anthony Steward Head), and the mysterious Angel (David Boreanaz), both of whom know entirely too much about her. Because Buffy is the Slayer - one who is born into each generation to fight vampires and the forces of darkness. And Giles is a Watcher, sent to guide and teach her. Only, Buffy doesn't really fall in line with what is expected of her, and often her teenage girl problems take precedence over world-saving. But then the Master - an ancient and powerful vampire - threatens to escape from his prison in the Hellmouth under Sunnydale (a vortex of mystical energy, which also acts as a portal to the demonic dimensions), and it is up to Buffy and her friends to stop him.

Season 1 is a tentative first step in what will be one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It is nowhere near the quality of the following seasons, but even here the traces of what is to come are visible. The first two episodes - "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "Harvest" - comprise the two parts of the pilot. After only half an hour of watching it, we feel as if we've known these characters for years, as small details are scattered all over the place, giving flesh and depth to what could easily have been card-board one-liner delivery devices.

Episodes worth mentioning are the hilariously over-the-top "Teacher's Pet" with its kitsch sexy Giant Preying Mantis slash Biology Teacher villainess, as well as "Angel", which was one of the biggest shockers of the 90s (its plot-twist regrettably long since ruined by Angel's pop-culture popularity). This season also offers two of the best episode endings I've seen anywhere on TV, in terms of comedic timing - those of "I, Robot... You, Jane" and "The Puppet Show". But nothing shines as bright as the season finale - "Prophecy Girl". Directed by Joss Whedon himself, it raises the overall quality of the show almost to the heights that it will reach by the end of its run. The very real drama of the Slayer who is also a very scared 16-year old girl who just doesn't want to die, is portrayed in such painful and touching manner, that if "Prophecy Girl" were the last episode in the show (as, for all its creators knew at the time, it could've been), Buffy the Vampire Slayer would still be among the best things to happen to TV in the 90s.

Fortunately for us, that was not the case. As for Season 1 though, it is a brilliant, if a bit childish and unsure beginning, and apart from a one or two mediocre episodes ("The Pack" springs to mind, even though it shows a very cool "dark side" of one of the main characters) it is well worth the time.


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