Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - STV Roundtable - 1.05 - Retro Review

Welcome to the 4th edition of the Buffy STV Roundtable. Today we're discussing Never Kill a Boy on the First Date. We will be taking a one-week break next week for traveling but will be back the following week for The Pack, one of my favorite standalone episodes from season 1. As always, we cut the conversation off after an hour so please add your comments to keep the conversation going and we hope to see you back in two weeks when we continue.

Spoiler Warning - Although we discuss specific episodes in these roundtables, all episodes of Buffy and Angel are fair game. There may be spoilers ahead for those who have not watched both series in their entirety.

Participants - Max, Robin, and Dahne

Link to past roundtables


Robin - Alright, I'll start with something minor this time. Was it just me or did it bother you how quickly Buffy got into her dress?
Dahne - Ha! I found it weird that she was changing with Xander in the room.
Robin - The bigger question I had about that scene is when did she put on underwear? That was a short skirt and Buffy isn't really the type to leave home without it. And Xander being there was totally weird.
Dahne - Another great point.
Robin - Thank you. It was the only big, big flaw I saw.
Max - Hah, never even thought of that really, but yea.. as close as I was with some female friends in high school, we never got changed together.. guess Xander should have taken the hint early on that Buffy clearly viewed him as nothing more than a friend, certainly not a guy she was into
Robin - Xander seems a little clueless on that front.
Dahne - Xander took a long time to realize that it was never going to happen with Buffy.
Robin - A couple of sources I looked at to find trivia said that there wasn't much of a plot this episode, which I was initially inclined to agree with, but the plot is that she's trying to balance work and not work so the action plot was going to be diminished.
Dahne - I agree that this episode was big on Buffy trying to figure out who she was going to be and how slaying would or would not define her. That may be why it is pretty forgettable.
Robin - It is forgettable but at the same time, it always feels like one that shouldn't be forgettable.
Dahne - Exactly. This episode always surprises me by how much I like it when I get around to rewatching it and yet it is never one I think of when I think of Buffy season 1.


Dahne - This episode always surprises me because I always forget about it but when I watch it again I pretty much like it. I like that we introduce the Anointed in this episode. Now creepy evil kids are normal but that was still kind of new to TV back then. In the movies, not so much.
Robin - I'm glad you added "in the movies" to the mention of creepy kids. Now that you mention it, I don't remember seeing creepy kids on TV before the 90s.
Dahne - I really liked the directing choice to show us Buffy and Giles looking into the vault of dead bodies from the vault side as well. It was interesting.
Robin - It was. The only problem is that all three drawers were in the same column.
Dahne - Another great scene was Giles' toy car pulling up to the Sunnydale Cemetery with their sign: "We'll take care of the rest." Nice pun there Cemetery Owner.
Robin - Should we tackle favorite lines?
Dahne - There are quite a few in this one. One that always makes me laugh is: Buffy: "Oh that's great. I kill them; you fence their stuff."
Max - There's the classic "if the apocalypse comes, beep me" which seemed to be pulled out in the media a lot
Dahne - The Apocalypse line is one of my favorite in the entire series. It is actually the quote I associate most with the show. Witty and sadly true about the Apocalypse. However as a librarian I also love all these great quotes: 1. Buffy: "See this is a school and we have students and they check out books and then they learn things." Giles: "I was beginning to suspect that was a myth." 2. Giles: "Buffy, while the mere fact of you wanting to check out a book would be grounds for a national holiday, I think we should focus on the problem at hand." 3. Buffy: "Yes, but I will return those overdue books by tomorrow." Giles: "Wait, you're not getting off that easily." Owen: "Man you really care about your work." 4. Xander: "He's going to be alright. He's like Super Librarian. Everyone forgets Willow that knowledge is the ultimate weapon."
Robin - Those are all great ones. Mine is: 'Buffy, when I said you could slay vampires and have a social life, I didn't mean at the same time."
Dahne - I also adore: Buffy: "Okay at this point you're abusing sarcasm." I've used this one in my real life.
Robin - But the one I always forget about is when she hides the book from Owen while telling him how much she loves books and Giles deadpans: "She doesn't love this one."
Dahne - Giles deadpan is always fantastic. He makes me laugh every time. There are so many fabulous quotes in this episode. Truly snarky.
Robin - This episode was A+ in the quote department. If we really wanted to, we could easily fill a page.


Max - This episode is really awesome in terms of the Giles / Buffy relationship, even if much of it is just funny banter
Dahne - I agree that Giles and Buffy get a lot of quality time in this episode. I really like the scene at the end when Giles says he doesn't have an instruction manual.
Robin - Giles is amazing. I liked the scene at the end with the instruction manual too but as I think John pointed out last time, why wasn't he more of a badass in the fighting department? These early episodes seem to be completely negated when the audience learns of Giles past. Also, the last scene failed the earring test.
Dahne - "Earring test"?
Robin - Anthony Steward Head's left ear is pierced. The earring test is whether or not they remembered to cover the hole. Sometimes they forgot to take the thing out.
Dahne - I like how we got the beginning of back story to Giles and how he is sympathetic to her wanting to fight her destiny, but yes, once we know who he was earlier it is hard to reconcile season 1 Giles with later on.
Robin - Although he does still get knocked out a lot in the later seasons.
Max - Giles does indeed get knocked out a lot.. "One of these days you're gunna wake up in a coma" - Cordelia, 'Gingerbread'
Dahne - Very true.
Max - That end scene does indeed have a great Giles quote & is an awesome moment that sticks out to me. The heart of this episode is not only Buffy struggling with the limitations of her life outside of slaying, but also Giles trying to help her adjust, and I think trying to figure out his own place in her life as well.
Dahne - That's a great way to put it Max. This is definitely a character-driven over plot-driven episode and it really works. They did quality Buffy-Giles serious and funny time and that's one of the reasons why I like this episode so much in the rewatch. One of my favorite funny times with Giles and Buffy this episode was when Giles builds up how important that night is going to be and then they sit around in the cemetery bored.

Larger Cast:

Dahne - I like how everyone was smart at some point too. Willow and Xander with their double date speak was hilarious and then Willow talking about Buffy looking for guards made perfect sense.
Robin - I liked that too.
Dahne - Xander also came in with the win when Buffy was freaking out about what she was supposed to say when she was late for her date with Owen and he says, "Or flat tire." Ha!
Robin - The only problem with that is that Buffy only ever drives in one episode.
Max - With a smaller core cast in the early seasons, I think it was a lot easier to sort of spread the wealth and let the entire crew really be useful to the mission at hand
Dahne - Agreed Max and I think that is something that the show really lost out on. A smaller cast is usually better for me because I like to see each member shine and have a vital role to play. Later on it felt like there were too many people and therefore characters like Xander got shunted to the side a bit.
Robin - Sometimes I think the show worked better with a smaller cast but then there are some epic episodes with the full cast. Xander definitely got short shrift in the expanded cast episodes.
Dahne - It felt like they didn't know exactly what to do with him as the seasons went on so they just kept adding female characters.
Max - Totally agree about Xander. His character clearly lost direction for me, though I always related to and enjoyed him
Dahne - Xander remained one of my favorite characters all the way through and I looked forward to episodes that let him really shine no matter how few and far between.
Robin - Not that female characters aren't great but there was a definite under population of men folk as the series hit about five and six. When Giles left, there was just Xander as a regular Scoobie and Spike tagged along occasionally.
Dahne - Buffy actually went overboard in the opposite way to most shows of that time. In other shows there was a distinct lack of females that made them feel unbalanced. Later years of Buffy unbalanced in the too many females direction.
Robin - But would we really have wanted to trade any of them out (I'd trade Anya but that's a personal matter)
Dahne - I liked Anya but I would trade out Dawn in the blink of an eye. I am in the minority too in that I think a lot of the time Tara was completely unnecessary to the episodes and could have been cut.
Robin - I agree on the Dawn front. She may have had her issues but they were not well presented in relation to the other characters. And as much as I liked Tara, I kind of agree with that statement because she didn't do much in the group. I'm not sure she needed as big of a role as she received. So I wouldn't write her out per say, more down.
Dahne - I feel Dawn was tagged in as part of the Buffy needs to be more part of the grownup world phase the show went through and that was part of what made seasons 5 and 6 so crummy to me. Buffy dealing with all the other things that happened to her would have been plenty without a made up kid sister thrown in the middle.
Robin - Plus Dawn was a total jump the shark moment. It would have been fine if she had left at the end of season five (not ideal but her arc was completed at the end of seasons five).
Dahne - I agree Dawn was jumping the shark.

Buffy vs. Normal Life:

Dahne - One thing I don't get in this episode is why Cordelia was interested in Owen. He hardly seems like the kind of guy she would like and so it seemed thrown in there just to have a "girls fighting over a boy" theme.
Robin - I think Cordelia was interested in Owen as practice. She saw herself as being able to get any man and him to be a challenge. Plus it annoyed the hell out of her that he liked Buffy.
Dahne - It felt like Cordelia wanted Owen before Buffy had anything to do with it but yes I do think that after she saw Buffy with him, it made her even more determined to get him.
Dahne - I think this episode was interesting in that it spoke about the common issue of people trying to change themselves in order to be more impressive to a date. Buffy went all "I read" and yet Owen did not seem to try to change himself. Oddly he was the most comfortable with who he was.
Robin - I don't know about in real life but the expectation on TV seems to be that the woman has to change for the man not the other way around. Cordy, who didn't really change herself, didn't get the guy at all. Buffy, who changed a little bit about herself, realized she did not want the boy.
Dahne - Or maybe realized that she couldn't have the guy because her career was too dangerous for him to be part of. That is actually an interesting angle that I never really thought of before. Buffy had the same 80's/90's dichotomy that many women faced about choosing home/family or career. Nowadays I wonder if that is primarily moot because women seem to have a more balanced view of life than they did back then.
Robin - That's what I meant, she didn't want him because she realized she'd end up getting him killed.
Dahne - I think we're talking on different semantics because I see it more as she still really wants him but she knows she can't have him. Same concept just slightly different emphasis. I also think Xander shows the tendency to try to change who he is according to whom he's dating too though. It's not just a Buffy thing. You are right that Cordelia did not seem to change though.
Robin - But Xander isn't shown as a successful guy in the date department. He doesn't conform and therefore remains dateless until Cordy.
Dahne - I think sometimes Xander tried too hard and that's why he had such a hard time.
Robin - Maybe Buffy didn't want a relationship but only did the date thing because that's what "normal girls do."
Dahne - I have a hard time believing that all the time Buffy spent pining for a relationship was all peer pressure. It seems to be on her mind a lot.
Robin - There are lots of things that are on people's minds as more of a curiosity than actionable thing. Maybe Buffy didn't want to date a normal guy but she still wanted companionship.
Dahne - I think part of Buffy's appeal and the reason she was relatable was because she did want things everyone else did. She did want a relationship, she did want to be popular (at least at first), she did want to have typical teen problems. However her destiny made many things impossible for her.
Max - It's a huge part of learning what being the slayer meant to her outside life, packaged in a standalone episode. Her relationships with outsiders simply never worked.. maybe she didn't try hard enough, but this was the first time we saw it
Dahne - It does become a recurrent theme that Buffy has to continuously balance - slaying and normal life. I'm not sure it ever got resolved to be honest.
Max - That's why I loved the final moment of the final episode - Buffy got what she had sought since the first season, throughout these early episodes, a chance at a normal life. We didn't see it, but the possibility was finally there. That moment was 7 years of payoff for me


Dahne - We've got 8 minutes. Any last words on this episode?
Robin - Cordy's crimped hair = so, so bad.
Dahne - That hair was a huge fashion mistake. So much so that it made the clothing pale in comparison.
Robin - I didn't even notice her outfit to be honest.
Dahne - It was more the outfits while they were in school. Nobody wore those clothes.
Robin - I consider the fact nobody wore those to be a good thing.
Dahne - Absolutely a good thing! Buffy's wardrobe department probably should have gone to the Midwest to see how much kids were NOT wearing those styles.
Robin - (teases) California people are weird!
Dahne - I think that though this was mostly a standalone episode, it did bring in the Anointed and the return of the Master which made it pretty important mytharc-wise as well.
Max - I think while far from being a best episode of the series, it is a pretty stellar episode. It explores a lot of issues that sort of snowball throughout the series but in a way that isn't too heavy-handed
Dahne - I do love the episodes that take a subtle approach. That was one great thing about Joss. He generally did not go too heavy handed on anything. I also loved the beginning of the Giles back story. When I first saw this episode I wanted to know so much more.
Robin - I still want more Giles back story. There was talk of doing a Ripper series awhile back. Officially it's still on the table but in the same way Doctor Horrible 2 is.
Dahne - I would love a Giles series. Let's face it. There is never enough Anthony Head.
Robin - There is never too much Anthony Head, I will agree with you there.
Max - I don't think Ripper will ever happen, and I sort of don't want it to. The Buffy universe seems pretty complete to me as is.. I wasn't a fan of the Giles we got in season 7, maybe that's why I'm opposed
Dahne - I would like to see a prequel much more than a continuation. Of course that means a different actor so it might be hard for me to handle.
Robin - I think it was pitched as a prequel at one point (the concept changed like four times) but still with AH as the lead. Now it's been too long but maybe as an animated or something.
Max - I loved how it was explored in season 2 & 3 mostly. Most notably in 'The Dark Age' and then hilariously in 'Band Candy'
Dahne - That's kind of what I think of when I think of Giles prequel. Band Candy was awesome.
Robin - Band Candy is one of the few episodes I will drop whatever I am doing to watch every single time.

Don't forget to leave your comments about the episode below. We'll be back in 2 weeks with 1.06, The Pack.

Screencaps by Buffyverse Dialogue, Rose Watches BuffyBuffy Wikia, Spectaculacularmoosekeeter, Buffyverse Stills, Dan's Media Digest, and Vunzooke.

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