Sunday, July 7, 2013
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - STV Round Table - 1.01 & 1.02 - Retro Review
Note: Welcome to our first stab at doing a TV roundtable. A few months ago, Robin and I discussed how much fun it would be to review a classic TV show together and the idea grew into this. Basically, interested members of the SpoilerTV staff will get together once a week to discuss an episode of Buffy. We start with a basic framework of questions but the idea is to let the conversation meander wherever it naturally goes. Since we could talk about Buffy for hours, each roundtable has a strict time limit of one hour. No matter what awesome conversation we're in the middle of or if we have gone through all the discussion points or not, that's where we stop. The idea is to continue the conversation in the comments section so you too can talk about all things Buffy. Hopefully next summer we can expand to other shows too if this goes well. Participants this week were Diana, John, Robin, and Dahne. Diana had to leave a little before the roundtable ended so that's why she isn't there at the end. Thanks to all who participated.
I experimented with many different ways to present the roundtable but in the end it made sense to let people speak for themselves. The dialogue below is slightly edited in that we sometimes had several conversations going at the same time so I grouped discussion points together. If things seem a bit jumpy or unfinished in some points that is because we were moving back and forth from one topic to another. I hope you enjoy our first attempt and we'll be back next week with our Buffy 1.03 - Witch review.
Note 2 - Google is still being a pain and not allowing me to add Disqus to this page. If you would like to join the conversation, please head over to the SpoilerTV page. Sorry about this guys. Also, there are some spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen all episodes of Buffy or Angel.
Diana - And how we should start the round table?
Robin - How about with an easy one? Favorite line of the episode?
Dahne - I had a lot of favorite lines. However the one that really hits home for me as a librarian is when Willow clarifies to Xander: "From the library...where the books live." My favorite line in the Harvest is the last one. Giles: "The earth is doomed."
Robin - My favorite exchange is when Giles puts the giant 'Vampyre' book in front of Buffy and she says "That's not what I'm looking for."
Dahne - I have that Buffy and Giles exchange as one of my favorite scenes. I like how it showed the conflict their characters would be in right away.
John - Hahahaha, agreed. For me, it's less a line and more of an exchange: Buffy: "Well, I gotta look on the bright side. Maybe I can still get kicked out of school!
Diana - Welcome to the Hellmouth: Buffy: "Okay, first of all, what's with the outfit? Live in the now, okay? You look like DeBarge!" The Harvest: Giles: "The Earth is doomed!"
Robin - "Only someone who had been living underground for ten years would really think that's the look."
Dahne - I have the Debarge line too. As a teen in the 80's, it really hits home. I bet nowadays people don't even know who that is. Goes with the dated theme.
John - Yup. I was a teen in the 00s, so I know not to whom that line makes reference.
Robin - I think he was a musician...
Diana - In Italian they translated in a bad way that line... I think it loses its meaning. Oh in the pilot when Xander helps Buffy with her stuff, he takes her stake and says "On and don't forget your... stake?"
Dahne - My favorite part of Xander and the stake was when he was talking about building a little fence.
Robin - The little fence was awesome!
References / Groundbreaking TV:
Dahne - I wonder if people in their 30's and 40's see Buffy differently than people younger because Buffy is pure nostalgia to me. I never thought of how some of the cultural references would translate. That's an interesting discussion too as well as translating with different generations.
Diana - In Italy we are used to watching TV shows dubbed in Italian... thank God I watch them in the original language lol.
Robin - It is something to discuss. A lot of the references over the series were lost on me when I watched it but I used the guidebooks and my parents for most of them.
Dahne - Buffy for me was the first show that really combined horror with humor, sparking that whole movie trend. There are so many excellent lines because of it. It changed genre shows into something that could be fun too.
John - Oh man, yeah, absolutely. Generation wise, as someone in their 20s, I only really started appreciating the show around its 6th season (when I was 15). It took me until 2006 or so to do a full DVD run through. I know the impact it had on my use of language was profound. Joss Whedon's unique writing style and voice really spoke to me and to this day influences how I write and use words out loud.
Robin - I was born in 1995. When I started watching Buffy, I was twelve. I don't think it occurred to me how groundbreaking it was until later.
Dahne - I was teaching and then in my second round of college when Buffy came out. I realized that it was different and cool in a way most shows weren't but I didn't realize how groundbreaking it was either until it went off the air for awhile.
John - I think a lot of the important discussions surrounding the show (and probably a lot of television criticism in general) didn't gain much of an audience until the mid to late 00s. While I absolutely loved the show exclusively for its writing, acting, and storytelling, it was only when TV bloggers started having the conversation in earnest online that I really realized how important a show it was.
Dahne - I watch a lot of genre shows and for me, if it doesn't have snark it is really hard to watch. I thank Buffy for that. It was immensely quotable and combined suspense with humor in a way that kept the dark from being too dark and hard to get through.
John - Absolutely. It was helpful that the snark came from such an unexpected place (namely a tiny teenage girl). The manner in which she mocked the GIANT of a manpire at the end of The Harvest was really telling of how this show was going to unfold.
Robin - I think Buffy kind of set up my standards for horror as a genre. It's the reason I love the Nightmare on Elm Streets of the world and could care less about the Friday the 13ths.
Dahne - I also prefer Freddy to Jason because he is more fun
Dahne - Let's talk about that groundbreaking, which started right from the opening scene. When I first saw it, I was shocked that Darla became a vampire and killed the guy. Back then the little blonde girl was always the one killed.
John - Oh yeah, that was some MAJOR reversal of expectation. Obviously in rewatching it, it wasn't shocking because DARLA.
Robin - I'd already been watching Xena and Highlander. To me, Darla was a nice twist but then again nine years after the fact...
Dahne - Buffy is interesting because the first time I watched it, it was all about the twists, the one-liners, and the bad CGI. Now I watch for overall ideas and nostalgia.
John - Right, so Darla. It was interesting how minion-y she appeared in this episode. Later in the series, her power and influence became much more apparent. She didn't frighten me much in this episode at all.
Robin - I liked Darla better on Angel, she was able to be better rounded. What surprised me going back was how few episodes she and Dru really were in.
Dahne - Darla was definitely wimpy in this one and seemed very unsure of herself for someone that old. I like Darla better as she grew into her villainy. It was almost like they wanted Darla to be the foil for Buffy in this episode.
John - Right? That's an awesome point. They hired two petite blondes to face off against each other as two very powerful characters (Darla's wimpyness notwithstanding). Foil is a good word to describe her here.
Robin - But she does become the foil for Buffy in the episode Angel.
Dahne - In this episode, both Buffy and Darla are kind of unsure of themselves and their standing in the group. Later in the episode Angel she becomes a foil more in a romantic sense to me as well as someone who has grown in confidence.
Robin - But Darla shoots at Buffy!
Diana - What was (were) your favorite character(s)?
Robin - My favorite character has always been Giles. Such a smartass. I'm also fond of the usual suspects in vampires: Spike, Angel, Drusilla, Darla...
Dahne - Giles is my favorite too but it changed over the years. Willow was a definite favorite when she was a computer nerd. I liked her less when she became a witch, but then Anya took her place for me. Spike I loved as the villain but liked less once he was chipped.
Robin - I never really cared for Anya (although there were times that were priceless)...
John - I'm a big Xander fan, but my female friends often tell me that he's the worst. I'm concerned that I will not like him much in this rewatch given my newfound knowledge of social justice related literature. Already his talk of emasculation had me a little on edge, although certainly I would expect nothing less of a 16 year old boy in the 90s.
Diana - I may be subjective but my favorite character is Buffy LOL I can see more of myself in her that's probably the reason. I also like Willow. She grew a lot during the series. I loved Angel and his history and his love story with Buffy. They're one of my favorite couples ever.
John - You know, the cast on the whole is pretty excellent. I say Xander is my favorite, but Willow and Buffy and Giles all deserve all of the praise. No one has mentioned Cordelia yet, but she only really grows into her own on Angel I think. Definitely a character who undergoes some of the most intense development.
Diana - Cordelia! What a great character though!
Dahne - I think Cordelia became an awesome character the season before she left for Angel although I always like her now more than I did in the first watch.
Robin - I think Cordy is one of those characters you have to see mature to appreciate when she was younger.
John - Right, so, Angel. I'm not sure when Boreanaz becomes capable of acting, but I'm very much looking forward to that :P. For now, I enjoyed his mysterious aloofness. Ahhhhhh I can't wait for S2.
Robin - It wasn't until Bones.
Diana - Well John, Boreanaz has never been such a gentlemen as far as I know XD I don't like the actor, but only his character.
Dahne - Angel is one of the weakest parts of these two episodes.
John - I guess it explains why he was only a guest star in S1.
Dahne - Angel grows into his own in season 2 especially.
Robin - Yep. But what do you expect from a man discovered walking his dog?
John - Discovered doing what now?
Robin - Walking his dog.
John - Could you elaborate on that (dog walking).
Robin - The dog walking is mentioned in the Watcher's Guide vol. 1.
Favorite Part of Episode:
Robin - One of my favorite parts is when Buffy jumps the fence backwards.
John - That jumping over the fence scene is interesting. I guess they were still discovering her powers at the time. I don't think she ever randomly jumps that high ever again, eh?
Robin - I don't think she does jump that high without looking again, maybe in S7 after the power boost with the scythe.
Dahne - The fence jumping is kind of shocking in retrospect. I almost expected her to climb buildings a la Spiderman
Robin - Or leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Dahne - Ha! Definitely. I loved Buffy doing the handstand and then attacking Angel from the back.
Robin - "I said I was a friend, I never said I was yours."
Dahne - My favorites in the pilot were: Darla in the opening scene, the first meeting with Mr. Flutie - taping the transcripts back together, Giles and Buffy talk vampires and her retirement, and Xander in library hearing about vampires
Diana - Best parts for me: the opening scene with Darla turning into a vampire; Xander bumping into Buffy and finding her stake; Buffy and Angel's first encounter.
John - So, my favorite scene was when Xander accidentally murders Jessie. So many stories would have a long drawn out YOU CAN'T KILL ME, I'M YOUR FRIEND scene, but some random screaming extra drives him into a stake and the world moves on.
Dahne - My favorites in The Harvest: Smart Buffy figures out there's a secret entrance in the mausoleum, Giles gets Willow to research the Harvest on the computer, Willow tells Cordelia to "deliver" and it gets rid of the program - nerd revenge, the trunk of treasures that hides Buffy's weapons, Buffy flips on to the pool table and kills the vamp with a pool stick, and beheaded by cymbal
John - OMG COMPUTERS. That entire scene where a bunch of grade 10 students are apparently learning how to code? That wasn't a thing, was it? I never had mandatory coding courses. Maybe typing. But not coding. Also, the surfer extra who pops out of nowhere only to be the worst actor in the world? Amazing.
Robin - "Deliver."
Dahne - I actually had a computer class in 8th grade where we did learn how to code for half a semester I think. It was very long and tedious.
Robin - I volunteered to learn how to code...I have a slightly off the wall question... Did anyone see any episodes out of order before watching IN order? My first was from season two, Ted.
Dahne - Of course the deaths in Harvest and basically everything that comes from the moment they enter the Bronze is awesome. Death by cymbal may still be my favorite.
Robin - One thing you forgot about, sun rise.
Dahne - The sunrise one with - "it's in about 9 hours moron," was fabulous!
Least favorite things:
Dahne - Things that didn't work so well for me: The Master and Luke and all their cheesy dialogue. This show didn't get a truly inspired villain until Spike.
Robin - True and he had to fry the Annoying One to truly achieve greatness.
Diana - The Master was a good villain but not the best.
John - Yeah, I definitely had some trouble with occasionally cheesy dialogue.
Dahne - I think the Master was like a B movie villain. He got scary later on but in this one, he was pure cheese.
Robin - Maybe C movie...
Diana - hahahahaha
Dahne - Angel's dialogue was also not good. It surprised me how well Joss could write for Buffy and Willow and Xander but not for the villains and Angel in this one.
John - I was about to say the same thing. Angel's attempts at banter with Buffy were pretty weak.
Robin - It was his first TV show. (You know as opposed to working on someone else's)
John - To be fair, I think it was somewhat intentional? Like, the bad guys were supposed to be these horribly tropey megalomaniacs who all fall to this snarky young teenage girl.
Dahne - If it was intentional that's almost worse. Angel was supposed to be mysterious, not brain dead.
Robin - Maybe.. especially considering the end of Becoming. Maybe it's because Angel was unsure of himself.
John - Oh, not Angel. Just The Master and Luke. Maybe the villains were supposed to be caricatures. He definitely screwed up with Angel.
Robin: Let's go with that.
Dahne: I can see the Master and Luke being purposely over the top for effect.
John: Some of Cordelia's lines were incredibly hyperbolic examples of how the horrible popular girl trope tends to act.
Dahne - For me Welcome to the Hellmouth was better than The Harvest because the second gets weighed down by too much exposition. What do you guys think?
Diana - The pilot was great I agree. Some introductions of the characters, shocking moments, and we're introduced to the supernatural world.
John - Agreed. I think the show dealt well with its exposition, but couldn't get away from it all without a scratch. The cheesy prologue was a helpful tool to deal with that I think.
Robin - Oh yes the cheesy prologue, not something I missed.
John - Yup. Quick, cheap, bad, but effective.
Robin - For those who didn't read the box...
Dahne - They did a decent job placing exposition as the series went on but with that much ground to cover it often felt like they were dumping info on us in the second episode. The prologue was good the first few episodes, then it got to be too much for me. Kind of like the previouslies conversation we had the other day on Spoiler.
John - Supernatural or fantastical shows in general need more time for world-building. I don't begrudge it that failing, although I think more recent shows have probably been better at slowly revealing things to us.
Robin - I never really felt it was an exposition dump to me...More recent shows have learned from Buffy's example.
John - I mean, Giles' main purpose seemed to have been to charmingly relate to us lots of exposition. He did a standup job, so maybe it didn't feel like too much.
Robin - True, Giles never lacked for charm.
Dahne - Giles definitely got most of the slogging through lines. I felt sorry for him.
Things Dated in the Rewatch:
Diana - Shall we talk about the outfits in the pilot? lol
Robin - I liked Buffy's outfits the best. Although my personal dress sense is a little more Giles-y.
John - Oh man, the clothing they all wore. Cordelia and Buffy were fine, but all of the men? There was a scene in a classroom where they all stand up to leave and the Hawaiian shirts momentarily blinded me.
Dahne - The clothing was notoriously bad, even when it first aired. That style never did go over well. Also funny is Cordelia's ginormous cell phone. That's the most dated thing to me. Especially when she has to pull out the antenna.
Dahne - Anything you want to bring up from a social issues viewpoint John?
John - So, there wasn't too much that upset me. I mentioned Xander's constant need to reaffirm his masculinity earlier, which was a tad upsetting, but he also stood out as a non-traditional leading male. Angel had all of that gravitas and good looking mystery. Xander had the qualities of a useful side-kick who also got to be super important. Also, Buffy does make one comment about dressing like a slut. I don't know how well that would fly today. She very neatly lays out the Madonna/Whore complex while choosing her clothes. Not something I'm entirely excited about seeing perpetuated.
Robin - Me neither. Glad she stopped doing that. Joss said at one point that Xander was a stand in for himself.
John - Right. With his whole far too-on-the-nose metaphor in season 7 about Xander being the one who sees.
Robin - Yes! I liked that Xander got to be part of the action in this one.
John - Yeah, his issues worked as a useful tool to get him in on the action. It's just an undercurrent that runs throughout the show. I guess I'll wait and see in the rewatch.
Dahne - Loved also that we didn't have to go 5-6 episodes in before they found out that she was the Slayer too. That always annoys me in genre shows.
John - Ugh, yes, Smallville much? I'm glad she starts her journey with a close-knit group of friends in the know. Even Cordelia kind of knows what's happening.
Robin - I know right. It makes you wonder how dumb people really are. Unlike in Shaun of the Dead, then you really know how dumb people are in that film.
John - As for positive stuff, I think we already covered how amazing it is to see such a tiny human be so kickass. The physical imagery of her besting the giant Luke was excellent.
Dahne - I love how Buffy used both her brains and her brawn to beat Luke. I think she gets dumbed down a little sometimes in this show.
Robin - Yes sometime Buffy owns the idiot ball.
John - Agreed. They often split Buffy and Willow up into the braun/the brains of the situation, so it's nice to see Buffy occasionally being not stupid.
Robin - I've always seen Buffy as a metaphor for everyone being strong if they want to be.
Dahne - The show definitely went to everyone finding their inner Slayer in the latter years. It was awesome whenever they showed that they could be smart and capable of kicking butt at the same time. That was the female role model we needed at the time. Most TV women were not very awesome back in the 80's. Some were, just not most.
Robin - And now I think some of the best female characters are from TV. Buffy works best when everyone gets to be on a semi-level playing field, you know, Xander gets to fight, Willow gets to help, Buffy isn't a dumb blonde..
Dahne - I think the early years compared to the middle ones were better at showing that everyone's skill set was important.
John - At some point, the vampires become such a non-issue even Xander can straight up beat several in a fight. I guess that's part of what makes Buffy so ground-breaking. I don't remember how women were portrayed on television in the late 90s, but I suspect it wasn't great.
Dahne - That's the biggest thing I credit Buffy for. She made it okay to have awesome females on TV.
Robin - Big yes, there was less of a "I can only do this" aspect. But guys, in this I think we're ignoring shows like Xena which were contemporaries...
John - This is true.
Robin - There's a bit of a parallel with Xena, Gabby, and Joxer in relation to Buffy, Willow, and Xander.
John - And both Xena and Buffy deserve big ups for their delving into the LGBTQ community. I think Xena only hinted, while Buffy certainly went all in, which is fantastic.
And that's where our time ran out. Please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments section below and don't forget to join us next week for the third episode, Witch. Other topics we did not get to or were only briefly touched on include: Hellmouth as metaphor for teen life, impact on the series going forth, things that paid off in unexpected ways, initial reaction to the episode vs in the rewatch, treatment of the monster of the week compared to other genre shows, and trivia from outside sources like interviews and companion books. So what did you think about the first 2 episodes of Buffy?
Screencaps by Blog o' Buffy, Comic Vine, K & J's Dreamatorium, Buffy Screencaps, Cindy Loves Television, and Weakened State.