2002 December 10 Tuesday
UPN Trying To Get Sarah Michelle Gellar To Do 8th Season

SciFy Portal says UPN may be offering Sarah Michelle Gellar $750,000.00 per episode to relist for an eighth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 10 07:51 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (84)
2002 November 05 Tuesday
Another Reason I Like Sarah Michelle Gellar

There are some celebrities who come across in interviews as, well, ding bats. They have loony ideas. Their connection to reality seems tenuous. They figure that if millions of people want to hear what they have to say then they must be possessed of more wisdom and learning than they in fact possess. Its a sad spectacle to watch such people. However, any time I've ever seen Sarah Michelle Gellar interviewed she has always struck me as so normal and sensible. Well, I was just out looking for reviews of Joyce Lee Malcolm's book Guns and Violence: The English Experience and saw a picture of Ms. Gellar on a web page that mention's Malcolm's book. Clicking thru the picture link led to a page from June 1999 with this blurb:

Buffy Doesn't Blame Guns

Showing honesty and common sense that is far too rare among NRA's critics in Hollywood, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of the hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer of the Warner Brothers Network, refused to blame firearms for the tragedy at Columbine High School in April of this year.

In an interview published in the October 1999 issue of Teen People, Ms. Gellar, whom the magazine described as "the WB's hottest star," admits she "grew up around guns." She also said that she was taught not to touch them as a child. At the same time, she admits that it is impossible to fully comprehend what can lead to this sort of tragedy.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 05 06:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2002 October 23 Wednesday
Buffy Review: "Same Time, Same Place" Season 7 Ep. 3

Buffy The Vampire Slayer continues to develop in its seventh season. In episode 3 Willow comes back to Sunnydale. But can anyone see her?

In the last episode it became known to the Scoobies: Spike got his soul back. This invites comparisons with Angel. Angel is a more regal figure. But since Angel's on a different television network with his own show its obvious that Angel has to direct his love at Cordelia and bring her back from the higher level of existence where she's bored. Therefore Angel isn't available to play Buffy's true love. So Spike is going to be given another opportunity with Buffy? Oh, I am just not keen on this idea. Spike is not truly heroic. I don't care what he does.

Xander Saved The World

Xander: My mouth saved the world.

Hadn't thought of it that way but its true. At the end of season 6 by telling Willow how much he loved her he broke thru her hatred just before she destroyed the world.

Willow didn't finish the recovery course. So why was it important that she came back early? Probably the Hellmouth problem.

Buffy and Xander are ready to meet Willow at the airport. For reasons that are not immediately clear they somehow miss her at the airport.

A Quick Kill

A young guy is spray painting grafitti on some concrete. He thinks he hears stuff and stops and looks around. Eventually a voice speaks to him and in quick order some creature is attacking him.

Everyone comes home

Willow makes her way back to Buffy's place. BTW, does Willow pay rent to stay at Buffy's? Buffy could certainly use the money.

Willow entering Buffy's house: Welcome home me.

So is there a parallel universe? Willow came in to Buffy's house at 10:41. But so did Buffy and gang several minutes later. Also, the people getting off the airplane without and with Willow seemed to be the same people.

Buffy: If Willow flipped out its her bad. We can only be here for so her so much if she's not here (or close to that).

Also, what was the noise in the house both times? Separate identical houses? Or were they hearing each other as separate noises in the same house? That might be it.

Willow And Anya

Willow is walking toward what's left of the Magic Box. Recall that she had trashed the place at the end of the 6th season while fighting Giles and Buffy when she was given over to the Dark Side of the Force. Out comes Anya hauling out some remains in a box. Anya is none too happy to see Willing. But see her she can and Willow can see Anya too. They have a chat in front of what is left of the Magic Box. After insulting Willow for what she did eventually Anya describes how she's travelling around doing vengence demon work. Anya starts to describe how she made the guy Ronnie into a worm but Willow just wants to know where the gang is at. Anya says Buffy and Xander are both working at the high school. Off Willow goes.

Dead Skinless Body At High School Construction Site

Willow goes to the construction site and finds the body. Then the Xander and Buffy are there. They can't see each other again. Its becoming clear that they are in the same universe but invisible to each other. Do they hear the sound of her walking up the ladder as she's leaving? They are in the same universe but can't see or hear each others' voices. The body is skinned. It looks like what Willow did to Warren. Of course they suspect Willow.

Willow, Spike, Buffy in High School Basement

Willow is wandering thru the high school. Spike can see Willow even though he's halfway insane again. Eventually Buffy and Xander come to talk to him. A weird conversation ensues with Spike realising that they are seemingly oblivious to each other.

Spike: Everyone's talking to me and not to each other.

Spike thinks the witch is not really there? Has Spike it figured out?

Spike: You did it once. I heard about it.

Spike is talking to Willow and Buffy/Spike at the same time. So we know Buffy and Willow can't see each other.

Spike: Everyone's talking to me. No one's talking to each other.

Given Spike's mental state its probably more likely in his mind that he's hallucinating either Willow or Buffy. He says things that ought to be a tip-off but of course Buffy is aware of just how much he's talking to demons in his mind or demons under the ground and doesn't connect the dots to realize that Willow is really there.

Willow goes to see Anya. Wilow and Anya are talking and Willow tells Anya about the skinned body at the construction site. Anya of course thinks Willow could have been the killer.

Anya: Was it you?

Willow: No.

Willow similarly wants to know whether Anya did it.

Anya as a vengeance demon has become a lot more interesting. She can't get any satisfaction from doling out the vengeance.

Anya: But its no longer fulfilling and its upsetting.

Willow states how Anya is feeling and its really how Willow is feeling too. There are obvious parallels here. Willow has done things she's ashamed of. Anya is doing things in the present that she takes no satisfaction from and which she appears to be morally troubled about.

Back at the Buffy Home

Dawn is doing book research for Buffy. Dawn finds a gnarl that eats the skin. He laps up the blood because it is his natural beverage. We in the audience are supposed to be getting the idea that Dawn shows promise that she's going to become a clever detective.

Buffy realizes that Spike can track blood. So they are following the crazy vampire Spike and the blood trail that the demon left. But how can the blood drop off for that long a period of time?

Dawn: Its smellementary.

More suggestions that Dawn is going to become the thinking fighter against demons. Of course, Willow was that way before she ascended to major witchhood. Still, the writers could send Dawn down this road iand it makes sense to do so since so far at least Dawn has no superpowers.

The Buffy gang's use of Spike to track the blood doesn't seem reasonable. The blood wouldn't drip off the Gnarl for such a long time.

Tracking Down The Gnarl

Willow and Anya have done a spell with a Sunnydale map and can see where weird demons are in town. The spell caused a fire that burnt Anya's carpet and Anya is not pleased.

Willow is able to find the rock cave from the partially burned map. But there were other burn spots. The choice seems kinda arbitrary.

There's a funny bit when Anya tells Willow that as a punishment for turning Ronnie back into a human she needs to file a flight plan in order to teleport.

So now Willow and the rest of the Scooby Gang are headed for the same cave.

Willow can hear the demon but in the same cave Buffy can't. How can that be? That seems rather too contrived.

Is the creature that cut Dawn the same as the creature that is messing with Willow?

Implausibility Alert: Why would the same magic that makes Buffy's group invisible to Willow and Willow invisible to them also make the Gnarl invisible to Buffys' group? I didn't enjoy this part because it seemed like an arbitrary extension of the invisibility magic in order to make the cave fight more complex. The whole episode built up to this climax and the climax is not satisfying. I'm disappointed.

The poison in Dawn's cut paralyzes her. They react by taking Dawn back to Buffy's house. Well, this seems like an awfully long interval.

Back at Buffy's House

Anya is asked to come over to Buffy's house and watch over paralyzed Dawn while Buffy and Xander return to the cave. The whole sequence of Anya showing how Dawn's joints can be positioned in various locations and stay there seemed unnecessary and not particularly well done.

But Anya knows about Gnarl and Buffy decides she has to come along after all. Also, Anya mentions that she's been helping Willow and that Willow was headed for the cave.

There's going to be some deeply symbolic message in all this about how Willow subconsciously didn't want to be seen or was too embarassed to be seen or something similar.

Why would Anya go to get help?

Then its decided that Anya should go with them back to the cave. Of course, this means that Anya will be able to tell them that she sees Willow right there in the cave.

While this is happening we see Gnarl taking slices out of Willow's belly and eating them while licking up the blood.

Eventually they all return to the cave.

Implausibility Alert: The trip back to Buffy's house, waiting for Anya to come over, playing with paralyzed Dawn (which seems incredibly cruel and out of character for the new Buffy who is now supposedly heavily bonded with Dawn btw) and then the trip back to the cave amounts to too much time gone by given what Gnarl is supposedly doing to Willow. Gnarl would have gotten much further along eating Willow if they had really taken the amount of time that would be required to make the round trip. Keep in mind that Anya can't teleport any more so there is a delay for her to arrive at Buffy's house as well.

The final scene is between Willow and Buffy as Willow sits on the bed trying to mediate to pull energy from the ground to heal herself. Willow explains to Buffy that she inadvertently made herself invisible by thinking about the idea of how she wasn't looking forward to seeing them. This illustrates just how powerful her magic has become and it foretells future difficulties in her attempts to keep it under control.

Willow: Giles said everyhing is part of the earth.

Buffy: Explains why my fingernails get dirty when I don't do anything.

Willow: Its nice to be forgiven. Too bad I need so much of it.

The offer by Buffy to give Willow some of her strength and the final joint meditation is touching.

Some Observations On This Episode

This episode has a couple of good premises. Willow subconsciously wished herself to be invisible to Buffy and gang. Gnarl was a thoroughly disgusting skin eating demon who happened to leave victim corpses that looked liked what Willow did to Warren. This of course caused the rest of the cast to suspect Willow of the killing. So far so good. It had some good funny lines in it too. Anya's lack of fulfillment as a demon is brought out clearly and nicely. The danger of Willow's only partial control of her incredibly powerful magic is made manifest.

But there were some problems in the structure of this story. Most crucially, the whole sequence of events involved with the trips to the cave needed to be worked out better. See my implausibility alerts above for some of the problems with the cave sequence. I think there was the delay of the trip back from the cave to Buffy's was implausibly too time-consuming given Willow's situation. I also think it was slow and dull.

Another problem I have with the story is the initial set up at the airport where Willow couldn't see or be seen by the Scoobys. Initially there were multiple interpretations possible to explain what happened. Were we meant to immediately realise that invisibility was the explanation for what was going on? Or were we supposed to wonder if, say, Willow had transported to a parallel universe or whether Willow was hallucinating that she was returning to Sunnydale? These things crossed my mind as I watched the episode and I wonder whether the writers wanted me to have the reaction that I had.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 23 01:11 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 22 Tuesday
Buffy Review: "Beneath You" Season 7 Episode 2

The second episode of the fall 2002 seventh season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is entitled "Beneath You".

Okay, I really liked this episode. It was better than the first episode of the season and better than the bulk of the episodes of the last season.

Girl Being Chased By Red Hooded Men Again

Frankfurt Germany, girl with hair dyed red is being chased at night by another group of hooded guys. This is like the first season episode except in that case the hooded guys were chasing a girl thru Istanbul Turkey.

Red dyed hair girl looks up after being stabbed and says "From beneath you it devours"

Buffy wakes up and tells Dawn she heard the girl say "From beneath you it devours".

Buffy knows there are more girls like this girl who are going to die. So what else does she know? Just that feeling? And just who are these red hooded guys? When will they show up in Sunnydale? And why are they tracking down these particular women to kill? And most importantly, how many episodes will it take before we can find out?

Buffy Goes To Work At The High School

Buffy and Dawn go to school. Buffy meets the principal. She is wondering why he hired her. He says that she is someone the students will be able to relate to. Is he holding back on her? Does he want her around to protect him and the school? Just what does he know? I think it would be cooler if it turned out that he did know about the supernatural forces at the school and if he hired Buffy for her protective abilities. Someone tell this to the show's writers!

Wood: Trust me, you open that door and these students will eat you alive.
Buffy: You heard about Principal Flutie, right?

Buffy: Was it my sparkling personality? Or maybe you enjoyed my work at the Doublemeat Palace?

Buffy then goes looking for Spike in the basement.

Set Up Willow's Return

Okay, Willow is coming back from Merrie Olde Englande. Looks like Giles is staying in the Olde Countrie. Willow is afraid she will be rejected. Giles tells her she has to go. Yes, her training is not done yet. But there's trouble on the Hellmouth. Of course, this means that Willow is coming back with a huge amount of witch power that she may not be able to control once she starts using it. It could get interesting...

Sunnydale Like That Kevin Bacon Super Ground Worm Movie

The writers are definitely rifting off of popular culture with the Kevin Bacon 1990 comedy horror classic Tremors (which is DVD or if you prefer here is Tremors on VHS).

Meanwhile. a woman (turns out to be Nancy - have they met her previously?) gets her dog swallowed up by a hole that pops up thru the sidewalk and she almost gets dragged down with the leash.

Along comes Xander just a moment later. Why does Nancy immediately trust him to go back with him to see Buffy?

Hanging out at Buffy's discussing the problem with the ground

Buffy's gang are hanging out talking with Nancy She expect them to treat her like she's nuts but she's come to right people for a sincere discussion of the weird.. Then Spike shows up at Buffy's place. No one is happy to see him.

Spike: What you need is help. Fortunately you got me.

When no one else is listening Dawn's threat to Spike is pretty heartfelt. She asks if he sleeps. Then she tells him she'll kill him in his sleep if she does anything that hurts Buffy. The bonding of Dawn and Buffy continues. Its about time, you writer people you.

Later Buffy and Spike are walking along.

Buffy to Spike: Skittish? You tried to rape me, I don't have words.

Spike (now with soul that Buffy is as yet unaware of): All I can say Buffy, I've changed.

Buffy: I believe you..... there's something you are not telling me.

Spike: You are right, there is. ... we're not sharing

He's only not sharing that he has a soul and a conscience and that he's hearing voices in his head. Spirits? Memories? His own conscience torturing himself? Its not clear. The ambiguity may be intentional on the writers' part.

Xander and Nancy

Xander walks Nancy home. There's some romantic chemistry that becomes apparent as they reach Nancy's apartment building. The worm comes after them as they stand in the foyer. They rush up the stairs and get away from it. (note to writers: I would rather see Xander pair up with Nancy than get back with Anya again)

So is this worm thingie hunting Nancy? Nancy tells Xander about Ronnie, her psycho ex-boyfriend she's been trying to get rid of the last few weeks. Ronnie cast a spell to create the worm monster? Its not clear yet.

Xander has an inspiration and asks Nancy if she's made any wishes lately. Ah, its Anya at work. She's turned Ronnie into a Sluggoth Demon.

Confronting Anya At The Bronze

The Scoobys plus Nancy confront Anya at the Bronze. Anya is unapologetic about what she's done. The conversation takes a weird twist when she recognises that Spike has changed in some profound way. She's about to blurt out that he has a soul but Spike punches her and Spike and Anya both take on their demon forms. They fight, Buffy jumps in and punches Spike, Spike sees this as expression of repressed anger. Nancy is missing and they all go running off after her before the conversation can proceed any further.

The Tarzan rope scene

Nancy is being chased by Ronnie the burrowing Slugoff Demon into an alley.

Slugoff Demon battles with Buffy in the alleyway: okay where did the rope come from that allowed Buffy to play Tarzan? Come on guys. This is the second thing in this episode (the worm was the first) that was too derivative. But this one is also way too improbable since there is no place for the rope to come from. Supernatural stuff is more plausible than a rope that comes out of nowhere. My guess is the writers wanted the Tarzan scene. But there could have been a metal pipe that could have bent down off from the side of a building and Buffy could have come swinging down with it. Or how about a fire escape that swung down and with Buffy hanging on to it she could have grabbed the Nancy? I think this scene was weak.

Spike spears the Slugoff demon just as Anya lifts her spell and as a result Spike really spears Ronnie the human. Is Ronnie killed or just wounded? Probably the latter. Spike of course suffers at least from guilt and possibly from his chip as he spears Ronnie.

Buffy calls for medical help on her cell phone and then runs after Spike.

Spike and Rocky Horror

Spike ends up in a church and Buffy finds him there.

Spike must have a soul and not a chip. Or maybe he has a soul but still has a chip? Spike must have been temporarily taken over by spirits.

Spike: From beneath you it devours. From beneath. Poor Rocky.

Okay, is that a reference to The Rocky Horror Picture Show? (Rocky Horror VHS) Its pretty funny if it is. Reminds me of how John Crichton in Farscape would go rifting off of various pop culture themes.

Tripping sentences and fragments of sentences from Spike throughout the episode drove home the idea that he'd gone thru the big spiritual getting-a-soul change. For me there was a sense of relief by the end of the episode when Buffy finally figured it out. The writers definitely like to tease the viewers about when the characters will finally find out something the viewers already know.

Okay, are the spirits that Spike killed really in his mind talking to him? You'd think so. But is he hearing them most of the time? One would need to carefully puzzle over all the babblings he has said in order to figure it out. There are probably a lot more hints being dropped than most of us are picking up on.

The show ends with Spike draped over a cross with smoke coming up from the cross.

Overall Impressions

The writers were so desperate to put Buffy back in an environment that provided good material that they had to stick her all the way back into high school? Apparently so. The fast food job was such a total dud that I hope don't waste any more time showing her behind the counter of the Double Meat Palace.

Was a return to high school the only option? The college setting was available but a big university is a rather large and anonymous place. Plus, its not a place which would have afforded as many ways to work Dawn into the script. Still, the college scene could have been made to work. As it stands, they could still send Buffy back to college part time.

I still do not think this high school setting is a sufficient basis for building new stories for the show. The writers ought to give Buffy a part-time occasional contract job as a body guard or as a courier of valuable goods. Or how about giving her occasional opportunities to do work as a for-hire supernatural detective for upscale clients? The clients could hear thru the grapevine that she can deal with the supernatural realm. Kinda like Angel does in LA. Heck, it would be easy to make this happen. Some kids she went to high school with could recommend her to their rich fathers or to their bosses.

The writers also ought to bring in some interesting supernatural characters who are not evil. I really like the Skip character that pops up occasionally on Angel. This sense of the supernatural realm as having regular working guys doing security or messenger jobs can be made to be pretty funny.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 22 04:49 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
Buffy Review: "Lessons" Season 7 Episode 1

The seventh season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer begins with an episode called "Lessons". At the end of the sixth season Willow almost destroyed the world in a mad witch rage. Xander talked her out of it by an appeal that melted thru her hatred. Just as the final episode ended Buffy finally pulled out of her post-resurrection funk and decided that life was worth living. In the final scenes Buffy developed a deeper bond with Dawn. It was clear that the relationship between the sisters was going to grow closer in the seventh season.

I'd like to step back a moment and briefly reiterate my view that in the last couple of seasons Buffy The Vampire Slayer developed progressively greater weaknesses in the structure of the show. Buffy was no longer even in college, had been dead in heaven for a few months, had come back from the dead severely disappointed to be alive again, engaged in a pointless relationship with a vampire, worked in a fast food joint which provided little material for interesting story lines, and lived a depressing life. The seventh season needed a big change in direction if the show was to regain its vitality.

The Seventh Season Begins

There's one opening sequence of a girl running thru the streets of Istanbul being chased by hooded guys. The girl ends up getting killed (probably) by some hooded guys. This of course must be presaging some future event. Does she come back as a monster? Are the hooded guys coming to Sunnydale?

Then we cut to a bonding experience of Buffy training Dawn in a cemetery. How to train your kid sister? Hang out next to a brand new grave site and wait for a new vampire who is just clawing his way out of the grave. The attitude that Buffy projects definitely gives the impression that Buffy is feeling more upbeat, confident and purposeful than she has been for quite a while. This scene signals that Buffy is going to be treating Dawn as an apprentice and that Buffy's over her despondency about being alive once again. It is a great opening scene.

Buffy: Its about power. Who's got it. Who knows how to use it.

Buffy: So who's go the power Dawn?

Dawn: Well, I have the stake.

Buffy: "The stake is not the power"

Buffy: "Who's got the power?"

Dawn: "He does."

Then after the fight:

Buffy: Its real. Its the only lesson Dawn. Its always real.

Giles and Willow are in England

Giles in Westbury England and on horseback even. With Willow even.

Next Willow is in a meditative pose. Did Willow make the flower bloom? Yes, looks like Willow has permanently absorbed a large amount of magical power. She caused a Uruguayan flower to bloom. She's channeling the forces of Mother Earth in a big way.

Willow: "I've killed people Giles"

Giles: "I've not forgotten"

Miss Harkness (possibly a member of a coven of witches) is teaching Willow.

Dawn To High School

Dawn is starting first day of classes at the rebuilt Sunnydale High School. Xander is in charge of the construction project on its grounds for the part that is not yet finished. Buffy is going along on the first day of classes to check out the place to see if there are any signs of supernatural activity.

Dawn goes to class. Mr Lonegrin is Dawn's first teacher.

After the students all go to their first classes. Buffy is wandering the halls.

Portent Warning: Lots of ghosts in the high school come out and start haunting Buffy. Ghosts of students and demons past.

Buffy rushes into Dawn's class to rescue Dawn but she's in no immediate danger. After Buffy leaves a ghost tries to attack Dawn in class. Of course only Dawn sees it. So Dawn is seeing the ghosts too. Dawn goes to the lavatory and finds a girl in a toilet stall. This girl is named Kit and is also seeing ghosts. Plus. the floors can open up and swallow people (okay, they just get dropped down into the high school basement). Down go Dawn and Kit into the basement.

There are 3 ghosts in the basement who are after Dawn and Kit. They try to get away and run into a high school boy named Carlos who was already down there trying to get out.

Anya Failing To Be Ruthless As Vengeance Demon

Anya is having coffee with her fellow vengeance demon friend Halfred. Halfred tells Anya she's not making the grade. The vengeance demons are doing an intervention on Anya since she has fallen from being the hardest core vengeance demon to being the softest one. When requested to turn a husband into a frog she turned him into a frenchman. This episode has some witty moments.

Portent Warning: The Anya-Halfred conversation turns to the subject that something bad is coming up from below.

The Principal and Buffy Chat

The new principal is surprised to find that Buffy is still at the school. He knows some stuff about Buffy but isn't being real forthcoming about what he knows.

How can he not know that there are supernatural events at the school or that Buffy was at the center of those events when she was in high school? Was her file always kept sanitized by the old principal of all the supernatural stuff?

More Portents From England

Portent Warning: Meanwhile Willow back in Ye Olde Englande is deeply in touch with the whole planet. She feels the Hellmouth and thinks it is going to open. Portents of bad things coming show up on three threads of this episode.

Buffy, having talked to Dawn and Xander via cell phone, goes thru the hole in the floor of the lavatory and gets into a tussle with the 3 ghosts. Finally she gets thru to a door and she's hoping Dawn is behind it. But instead there's Spikey boy, back from his trials in Africa.

My reaction so far: Buffy's the most interesting character. Talk of having a TV show centered around Dawn seems premature. Also, it is interesting that Dawn is a freshman. Wasn't she older than that in some previous episode? There is a big advantage of making Dawn a freshman though: it gives the writers 4 whole years of Dawn being in high school. High school is the natural milieu for the Buffy world.

Spike Has A Soul And He's Hearing Voices

Spike is going thru some sort of ordeal in his mind. At the end of the last season it seemed from a line the monster dude said as he put his hand on Spike's chest that he gave Spike his soul back. So Spike is probably going thru major guilt trips ala Angel.

Buffy fights the ghost people. They appear to be people who died in the high school while Buffy was a student there. She gave a good ground upward kick that sent a guy flying. That was well staged. So why do they resent her? It seems unfair to expect her to be able to protect everyone.

Buffy comes across Spike in a basement room. He's talking to voices in his head. He has scratches on his chest. One is supposed to guess that he tried to claw his heart out either because his emotional pain over loving her, guilt at trying to rape her, guilt at what he did to others, or something else drove him to try. Its not clear, It may become clear in some later episode.

Important clue from Spike: Manifest spirits raised by a talisman to seek vengeance.

Buffy goes looking for Dawn. More fighting ensues.

Dawn, Kit, and Carlos are in desperate straits. Dawn shows that she's learned something from being the Slayer's sister when she improvises a weapon. This buys some time for Buffy to arrive.

Aside: I'm waiting for Dawn to demonstrate some superhuman powers as a result of her being The Key. But my guess is that Dawn is going to go thru many other kinds of growth before getting any superpowers of her own.

Xander Saves The Day By Destroying The Talisman

Things are looking pretty grim as Buffy battles the manifest spirits in the basement of the high school. Finally Xander makes it into the girl's lavatory and destroys the talisman in the nick of time. The manifest spirits go poof.

Buffy's Continued Presence In High School Established

The Principal watches Buffy talking to Dawn, Kit, and Carlos and sees them hug her. He's suddenly inspired to offer her a part time job as a counselor for troubled kids. So now Buffy will always be around in the high school ready to grab new story premises as they arise right there on the Hellmouth. I'm also guessing that Xander's construction project at the school will take months to finish so that he can be around too.

Spike Watches A Weird Morphing Sequence

A person is talking to Spike in the basement. That person morphs: Warren, Glory, Adam, the Mayor, Drusilla, the super force vampire guy (the Master?).

Did they all morph into Buffy where she said "Its about power"? Were all those people there? Surely Buffy couldn't have been there. She was the one non-evil person in the morphing sequence. Was Spike just hallucinating? Was he seeing real figures that are going to come back and are the writers, by inserting Buffy in the sequence, just being inconsistent?

We can expect that Spike will hear the voices of his previous victims. But also he appears to be channeling messages from the dark forces that are coming up to the high school. Are these evil figures all going to make a comeback?

Aside: I gotta say that I never was impressed by Warren as an evil guy. But perhaps that was the point. Some humans can seem perfectly normal but underneath they can be cruel self-absorbed narcissists who gradually work their way up to being willing to commit thoroughly heinous acts. Still, Warren is a dull and uninteresting character.

Weird first episode

Buffy returns to high school. I'm sure that this will make it a lot easier for the writers to come up with new plots. Plus, it provides a way to give Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) a bigger role. We see all sorts of hints in this episode that Dawn's character is going to grow. Dawn already has made two friends who may become members of her own Junior Scooby Gang. The high school also provides a way to have lots of fairly young people around. This is great for attracting a young viewing audience.

Still, putting Buffy in high school is not by itself going to make Buffy The Vampire Slayer once again into a great show. Buffy has grown a lot over the years and high school storylines by themselves will be too confining. The show needs some outside factor that will make it more interesting. It needs a character that is as interesting as Angel was. It looks like Spike might become Buffy's love interest again. I think that would be a mistake. There's room here to bring in some other male role that is unrelated to the high school. He should be an unusual supernatural being that is not evil and who has some heroic characteristics. How about a Greek God's son? Or how about some being that comes from a parallel universe and gets trapped in this one? He could have a mix of abilities that are quite unlike anything else we've seen so far.

I have a similar concern about Spike's experience watching the morphing series of beings: the writers might draw too much on old characters. If all these characters come back then its like no battle is ever won. I understand that the war against evil is supposed to be portrayed as never really being won. But at least the individual battles that make up that war ought to be portrayed as getting resolved one way or another.

The other reason I find a problem with relying so much on old dead characters is that its a sign of a failure of imagination. Surely new and interesting characters can be created. Let us tune in and watch new manifestations of evil and more generally other manifestations of the supernatural. Human mythology is full of figures that could be brought to life in Sunnydale using any number of pretexts. I'd bring out some Greek mythological figures if I was writing a Buffy episode.

On the bright side, there was plenty of snappy funny dialog. Some example lines that were good:

Willow: Is there anything you donít know everything about?
Giles: Synchronized swimming. Complete mystery to me.

Dawn on the phone to Buffy while she's in danger in the basement:
Dawn: And, Buffy? Isnít this reception amazing? Iím in the frickiní basement!

Buffy to Xander explaining the events of the day:
Buffy: I think I may have destroyed Dawnís social life in all of about thirty seconds but apart from that, no.

Other Info On This Episode

At the official Buffy The Vampire Slayer UPN web site go can go here to read their description of the first episode of the 7th season entitled "Lessons".

By Randall Parker    2002 October 22 01:20 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 October 04 Friday
Christian religious interpretation of Buffy

Cruising around on the web I stumbled across an interesting interpretation of Buffy The Vampire Slayer written by a person who appears to be a Christian. The essay finds plenty of Christian symbolism in the series:

The story of the origin of Buffy's world has been seen as a denial of the traditional biblical narrative in Genesis.

In one program, Giles explains: "This world is older than any of you know, and contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin in a paradise. For untold eons, demons walked the earth, made it their home, their hell. In time, they lost their purchase on this reality, and the way was made for mortal animals. For man. What remains of the Old Ones are vestiges: certain magicks, certain creatures..."

In fact, this tale is pretty close to the Fundamentalist Scofield Reference Bible exegesis explaining, from passages in Ezekial 28 and Isaiah 13, that Lucifer walked on earth as his rightful domain before Adam and Eve were created. Yikes! Is Whedon actually a Fundamentalist?

Gregory Erikson, in his essay in Fighting the Forces called Sometimes you Need a Story: American Christianity, Vampires and Buffy, maintains that Buffy and the Scooby Gang reflect the postmodern American attitude toward religion that falls between faith and disbelief. Breakpoint columnist Roberto Rivera agrees, saying Whedon's characters acknowledge that there are "consequences" to their actions, but never draw a clear-cut moral line to say why.

I've often wondered how much of the symbolic parallels are intentional. One really doesn't need to know anything Christianity to undestand much of what is in the show. For instance, the idea of one person sacrificing their life for another seems like something some humans would choose to do anyway. Still, themes of self-sacrifice, heaven, hell, redemption, good and evil permeate every episode. Does this represent the exploration of Christian cultural beliefs by unbelievers brought up in a society that is still influenced by Christianity? Are the writers acknowledging the value of such concepts as good and evil?

The reference to Fighting the Forces is to the book Fighting The Forces: What's At Stake In Buffy The Vampire Slayer?

By Randall Parker    2002 October 04 02:33 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 03 Tuesday
Buffy: One problem may be fixed in new season

I've seen every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. For the first 5 seasons I've seen each episode at least twice. But in the last couple of years my enthusiasm for the show has seriously waned and I don't try to catch the re-runs. I keep tuning in hopng it gets better and that it regains some of the things I loved about the earlier years.

So what has gone wrong? BVS has lost good cast members, moved to progressively worse settings (high school to college to the local chicken sandwich joint) which provided less of the raw material needed to drive plots, and has become too weighed down with a painful joyless view of life.

Buffy In High School

At the start the show had a very strong and interesting cast. Buffy just wanted to be a teenager and left Giles baffled. Angel showed up as a mysterious cool figure in the first episode. Darla was a great sophisticated evil vampire. The high school was a great setting because it made it easy to bring on lots of other figures both youthful and adult. Since it was on the hell mouth it was also a great setting for all sorts of supernatural goings-on The high school setting was especially great because Buffy could be saving the kids and the school while almost all the adults were either oblivious or trying to hide what was going in. Plus, since teens in real life feel like what they are going thru is incredibly serious and important the ability of teens to actually fight total evil rather than just fight for better positions in their social groups allowed teen and former teen viewers to fantasize about a youth lived where what one did really mattered.

Since the kids almost all had parents that they lived with (a few maladjusted kids like Faith were exceptions) the parents were always available for great humour about the proverbial generation gap and the gap in understanding and in priorities. On this theme the show demonstrated a great deal of irreverence. It had no problem with showing how parents in modern suburbia can get whipped up into a frenzy of fear about some non-existent danger (South Park does this too) while the parents were simultaneously oblivious to real threats that Buffy's gang were fighting. Joyce Summers mouthed platitudes from pop psychology in her lectures to her daughter while Buffy was putting her life at risk saving the world and experiencing personal tragedies. When Buffy had to kill her boyfriend just after he got his soul back it was a tragedy of classical dimensions.

Of course Buffy's gang had to graduate from high school eventually. The events leading up to the graduation culminating with the destruction of the school (necessitated by the need to kill the mayor after he ascended and became a dragon) were very well orchestrated. But Angel had to leave in order to start his own TV series. So there went one great character. Plus, Faith went into a coma and the mayor and the school principal died.

Buffy In College

Buffy went off to college. College wasn't as funny as high school. Riley wasn't as interesting as Angel. The show became a little more serious but still had its irreverent moments. Buffy's soulless roommate from another universe as the roommate from hell was quite well done. Faith did come out of her coma and spice things up for a while. There was even a great moment where Faith was in Buffy's body and was in the airport and became inspired to try to be like Buffy and returned to fight the bad guys in the church. Buffy's mom died (bad idea). The Initiative made for good opportunities to make fun of out-of-control secret government. But other opportunities were lost here. The various college subjects and the politically correct pablum spewed by stereotypical professors in each subject could have been grist for the humour mill. Buffy could have gotten off many seemingly ignorant but common sensical and funny replies to what professors told her. Student political group leaders motivated more by the desire to be important than an understanding of their causes could have provided a great contrast to our hero Buffy who was really battling something worth fighting about.

The climax of The Initiative was well done. But the show seemed to lack a driving force after that. Glory showed up and she was a great character who was incredibly well cast. The idea of a narcisstic ("What about me?!") Goddess who was hip to modern culture while at the same time being an ancient threat to the existence of our universe was brilliant. She was funny. She was cutting. She was easy to like and loath at the same time. But the death of Buffy's mom, the departure of Riley, and Buffy's withdrawal from college were all causing a decay of the larger context of the show.

Buffy's sister showed up too. I don't think the relationship between them has been very well developed. Once Buffy's mom died I think our hero should have done a better job of emotionally supporting Dawn. That Buffy is capable of understanding and more importantly empathising with her sister is demonstrated in a very moving sequence in Dawn's bedroom after Buffy has has discovered who Dawn really is and Buffy accepts Dawn's emotional need to make Buffy a janitor in an imaginary club where Dawn is President:

Buffy: I just had a bad day.
Dawn: Well, join the club.
Buffy: Can I be president?
Dawn: I'm president. You can be the janitor.
Buffy: Okay.

When Buffy then brushes Dawn's hair it seems to me an act of understanding and compassion for her emotionally less mature little sister. Buffy does this sort of thing too rarely. She is close enough to Dawn in age and yet at the same time so much richer in experience. Buffy should demonstrate a lot more understanding and emotional skill in her handling of her little sister.

Buffy Dies and Comes Back Unhappy And Stays That Way

Buffy had to die in her fight to stop Glory in order to fix the hole in the fabric of the universe. But why? If people can be dead for months and be brought back to life then at some point it begins to seem that no event or struggle has permanent effects and no battles are ever really won or lost. BVS is in danger of becoming another X Files. Also, the episode that shows Buffy as a schizophrenic living in a mental hospital imagining that she is a Vampire Slayer was a BAD idea. Hey Joss Whedon, hey Marti Noxon, do you want us to take the show seriously? Do you want us to imagine that it is possible for there to be such a thing as a vampire slayer? To get sucked into the fantasy and root for the characters? Well then don't pop the bubble.

So anyway, a new season started and then Buffy got brought back to life. At this point the show was so tired (and Buffy so unhappy) that an affair between Buffy and Spike became a logical next step. Now, I know that Gwen Stefani sings "Why do the good girls always go for the bad boys?" but blech! Being a heterosexual male I can't say how the female viewers see Spike. I think he does a great job playing his role (and even as a sleezy Jaguar Pride leader in Andromeda Ascendant). But what did this relationship do for this show? It showed that a girl who is feeling down can stuck in a bad relationship. Well, yeah, okay. But it just wasn't that interesting.

The show became too inwardly focused on the three pairs of relationships of its major characters: Willow and Tara, Buffy and Spike, and Xander and Anya. Buffy's job in a fast food joint just didn't provide much context to inspire the writers. Okay, one old lady working there was some kind of monster. So what.

One other complaint: Making magic into something addictive provided an opportunity to portray Willow as essentially a dangerous substance abuser who became a threat to herself and her friends. Certainly there are obvious parallels with conventional drug substance abuse in the real world. So the writers were able to do a lot with it. But the end result was that Willow had to kick the magic habit. Therefore good witches lending support to Buffy in her fight against evil are no longer in the cards. This sort of plot development can limit the longer term possibilities for the show.

The show has become less witty, too serious, with too small a cast of interesting recurring characters, and too ingrown.

Buffy Is Returning To College?

But wait, there is hope. Here we are in the end of the summer of 2002 and the previews for the new season are hinting that Buffy is going back to college. Well, good idea. Buffy needs to be in social settings with lots of other people and with reasons to interact with them. Putting her in college at least creates the potential for plotlines as good as the earlier years of the show. Lets hope the producers and writers can come up with some good ways to play off of the college setting.

The show should make some plots out of something she hears in an ancient Mesopotamian history class or in an aberrant psychology class. There are many different types of personality types that could be portrayed in demons or vampires. How about an evil vampire with an obsessive compulsive disorder? Or a good demon with Tourette's Syndrome?

Buffy could be sitting in an English literature or Middle Ages mythology class where the professor and students are making fun of the fears that the people of the Middle Ages about supernatural creatures and Buffy could rush to defend the reasonableness of their fears and then could she get made fun of by her classmates. At some later point in an episode Buffy could save the prof or some of the students from one of those Middle Ages creatures that were supposedly all just one big myth. A great twist would be for Buffy to save only the Prof when no students are around to see it and then the next day in class when the students start making fun of Buffy (expecting the Prof to join in) the Prof could switch and come up with some lame rationalisation for taking Buffy's side.

So college could easily be made a great springboard for countless excellent Buffy plots. As a long time Buffy fan I sincerely hope that this turns out to be the case.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 03 04:30 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
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