Sunday, September 15, 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - 1.10 - Nightmares - Roundtable Review

Welcome to the weekly Buffy roundtable review. This week Robin had some computer difficulties which made the review shorter than normal, so I asked Blaire Knight-Graves, Director of Social Media and Associate Editor of We Love TV More and of course Buffy aficionado, to join me for a second review. Below will be both. Sorry for any repetitiveness from my side but I think you will find both sessions interesting. As always, please continue the conversation in the comments below. I would love to hear what you thought of Nightmares too.

Participants - Blaire, Robin, and Dahne

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.

Review with Robin and Dahne


Robin: Did you have a favorite part for this episode?
Dahne: I really like this episode so there is a lot I like, but probably the scene where Giles sees Buffy's grave, Xander facing his fear and punching out the clown, and Buffy as a vampire were the highlights. What about you?
Robin: I particularly like Buffy as a vampire too, because even if it's not mentioned again, it sets up that anything could happen on the show. It was a great shock.
Dahne: For me it set up one of the 2 dichotomies of the show. Human Buffy was afraid of losing her dad's love, while Supernatural Buffy was afraid to become what she hunted.
Robin: It was a good dichotomy!
Dahne: Another thing I liked about this episode was Joyce trying to comfort Buffy about her nightmares.
Robin: That was good.
Dahne: I also liked learning about the Scooby Gang's fears, both mundane and huge. It helped flesh out the characters better.
Robin: Always good to have character development!
Dahne: I do wish that Cordelia's was more revealing though. I'm not sure they knew what to make of Cordelia in season 1.
Robin: I wasn't sure what to make of Cordelia until she switched to Angel.
Dahne: I felt more in tune with Cordelia after Out of Sight, Out of Mind but the character really came alive in the Halloween episode for me. I did think it was interesting that Buffy had nightmares of being buried alive and then she wakes up in that coffin in season 6.
Robin: That is a good connection! Also, how terrified she was waking up in season six. That to me was more disturbing than her waking up underground. SMG really made me feel it.
Dahne: It was brilliant acting. Plus I think everyone has a primal fear of being buried alive so it played well on that.
Robin: True. I don't think most people would necessarily realize that fear until it happened, but true.

Hank Summers:

Dahne: Oh and Hank Summers. Buffy worrying about her dad and then him coming through in the end was really touching.
Robin: This was the one and only time that Buffy's dad is seen. Do you think that's because they were trying to set up Giles as her surrogate father or more that it fell between the cracks in terms of writing or why do you think we never see him again?
Dahne: Buffy's dad is also seen in the season 2 premiere. He bought Buffy a lot of shoes. Originally I thought they wanted to focus on Sunnydale and so her dad didn't fit in, but then came The Body and I think they just couldn't go there.
Robin: Completely forgot about all the shoes in LA. Why do you think they couldn't go there? I mean he would have had a teenage daughter, Dawn, as well as Buffy to potentially support. Or even a funeral scene with him would have been nice.
Dahne: The whole idea for killing Joyce off was that Buffy would have to step up and take on the adult world alone. Having her dad there would have lessened the dynamic they were going for. Personally I think that dynamic was a mistake as a whole. Buffy in fast food was not my idea of a win, but there is no denying the harsh emotional impact of The Body.
Robin: True. Maybe they could have mentioned that he moved to a different continent or that Buffy chose not to tell him for some reason though. So true. There is no denying the impact of The Body.

Comparing Seasons:

Dahne: I am not sure if he was mentioned shortly after The Body or not. I want to say Dawn mentions him but I could be mistaken, given that I am no fan of that season at all so I have not rewatched it in ages.
Robin: Season five is not my favorite either. (It was better than four though...)
Dahne: I'd say it's better than six though. :-)
Robin: I liked six!
Dahne: Six is one of my least favorite seasons of any show ever.
Robin: Really? Was it because six was so dark in a not usually that dark show?
Dahne: Dawn, chipped Spike, Buffy's depression, witchy Willow - it all sucked. I hated most of the characters that season and ended up dropping the entire show after the silly yellow crayon.
Robin: The yellow crayon saving the whole world was more than a little far fetched. (and despite my dislike of four, seven is my least favorite because I found at least half of it unwatchable.)
Dahne: Seven took Dawn-like characters to an even higher level so I get where you are coming from. Season 6 was the worst for me and then way behind that, season 5. For me the best of Buffy is seasons 1-3, with season 2 as one of the best TV seasons I've ever seen.
Robin: 2 was amazing. Probably my favorite since it has most of my favorite episodes in it
Dahne: Becoming part 2 is still the episode I compare all other episodes too, but getting back to this episode, what are some of your favorite lines?

Favorite Lines:

Robin: I didn't have any particular lines I liked more than the others but I did think it was cute when Xander mentioned he would mind if a Nazi walked over his face (instead of a spider) and then a swastika becoming part of his nightmare.
Dahne: I loved: 1. Xander: "I'm not worried. If there's something bad out there, we'll find, you'll slay, we'll party."
2. Buffy: "Scary. I'll tell you something though, there are a lot scarier things than you….and I'm one of them." This one always makes me laugh too - Xander: "Wendell was in Cordelia's light." Wendell: "I'm so ashamed." Willow: "Why is she so Evita-like?" Buffy: "I think it's the hair."
Robin: That is a good exchange.

Least Favorites:

Robin: Least favorite part?
Dahne: Definitely the spiders. I am totally with Willow on that one. I also thought the Master was particularly cheesy here.
Robin: The Master was always a super cheesy character. (Another good thing they did away with the last remnants of him in s2)
Dahne: I wasn't sorry to see the Master go either. Other smaller negatives for me were Xander and his arachnids from the Middle East (really?), the fact that no doctor would ever share private patient info with anyone other than the police and family members, and the scene where they were contrasting the cemetery darkness with Buffy and Billy with the complete whiteout of the others was poorly shot and way too overdone.
Robin: The doctor sharing the information was definitely bad to the level of distraction for me. Is it just me or was most of this season way too dark on the night shots?
Dahne: I think they were trying to make it atmospheric.
Robin: Yeah, but when you have to change the contrast on your tv and the computer (or at least mine) doesn't get a high enough contrast ratio to see anything, it's too much!
Dahne: Ha! Supernatural did the same thing with season 1.
Robin: So true. And to an extent, they still do. (I actually set my TV based on the Supernatural tv broadcast.)


Dahne: Another thing that always gets me is that the kid Billy looks a lot like Joseph Gordon-Levitt to me. In fact, I've probably checked to see if it was him half a dozen times over the years.
Robin: Yeah, but Joesph had his long hair in 97 so it couldn't be him.
Dahne: I thought the theme of coaches taking the game to seriously was interestingly portrayed. In some ways it is like the second episode Witch in this.
Robin: It is. It's also a little like that season one Smallville episode (that one also had shades of the Buffy fish-swimmer episode. I really hope that makes sense.)
Dahne: I didn't watch Smallville regularly so I'm not sure which episode you are referring to.
Robin: The one where the coach was dosing his player with meteor rocks in the sauna. It was also the one where the sprinklers were set on fire (and one of the multiple attempts on Principle Quan's life)
Dahne: Okay any final thoughts?
Robin: I don't think I really have anything to add. You?
Dahne: I thought the scene where smoking could literally kill you (if there's a monster on the loose) was fun and the scene where Buffy's nightmare world dad tells her she's a disappointment was one of the most painful scenes in the show.
Robin: Yes, smoke breaks don't kill people, monsters attacking people on smoke breaks kill people. And that was a heartbreaking scene.

Review with Blaire and Dahne:


Dahne - Hey Blaire, thanks for coming.
Blaire - I'm happy to be here :) I'm a big fan of this episode, although sometimes I question where the heck it came from. I'm happy to share my thoughts!
Dahne - I really like this episode as well. I think it fleshed out the characters more by showing us their fears.
Blaire - That's an excellent point. Viewers are definitely more inside of the character's heads, especially the titular character's fear of her parents' divorce (a very relatable moment for all survivors of divorce).
Dahne - What I liked best about Buffy's fears were that she had these supernatural fears that no one will experience but then she had common fears that made her very relatable. It's what Joss balanced best in the series. Making Buffy both a superhero and a regular girl with normal problems.
Blaire - Absolutely! That's a fantastic point. So many superheroes are paragons with no human fears.
Dahne - For me it is that Buffy was allowed to have fears AND be the hero. She didn't have to be an anti-hero like so many shows are going to these days.
Blaire - Ah, yes... Buffy was from a time when a hero was actually a hero. All of the heroes in the Buffyverse made horrible, life-altering mistakes, but all were better human beings than those who parade across our television screens today... She's also from a time with kick-ass women, a type of character we are severely lacking nowadays.
Dahne - Agreed. For awhile there Buffy made it safe for women to be both female and heroic, saving lives and being strong. Now it feels like we are reversing that trend. We get some kick butt women, but generally not enough.
Blaire - The kick-butt women are all "badasses" nowadays, but they rarely have the characterization and fleshed-out writing of Buffy.
Dahne - Good point. Although I think that the male version is sometimes stiltedly written as well.


Dahne - So what was your favorite part?
Blaire - Oh man! Favorite? Let me think... On a serious note, probably--as previously mentioned--the relatable moment for young viewers between Buffy and her father. On a silly note, learning that Giles' worst fear is losing his ability to read.
Dahne - The conversation Buffy has with alternate reality Hank was one of the most devastating and hard to take moments of the series for me. I also loved the moment where Giles could not read and is insulted that Buffy thinks he can read fewer languages than he really can. It was classically Giles and always makes me laugh. However, my favorite Giles moment in this one is where he confesses that he fears pushing Buffy too hard and losing her because of it.
Blaire - Absolutely. It may be one of the first times in the series that we see that weakness of Giles. He perpetually shows this fear throughout the series to the audience, but very rarely to Buffy herself.
Dahne - I like that he shared his concerns about his ability to be a good Watcher in front of Willow and Xander too. He is undeniably the parent figure in this show so a lot of times he hides his vulnerability. So when he shows it, it comes out as even more powerful.
Blaire - It's amazing to see the parallels between Hank and Giles. Giles the father-figure and Hank, the father who fulfills Buffy's worst nightmare.
Dahne - I like how they played on the Hank character and wish we had seen more of him. I was really happy though that we got a Buffy and Hank reunion at the end. I would have hated to be left with that image of him.
Blaire - I can't recall... Is this the only time we see Hank?
Dahne - We see Hank again in the premiere of season 2. He brings Buffy back to Sunnydale and buys her way too many shoes.
Blaire - Oh right! On another note, I think it's important that the B and C characters had a moment of comedic relief.
Dahne - I like that Xander faces his fears and punches out the clown. Wasn't too excited about Willow's singing in public fear. The opera singer's facial expressions made me laugh though.
Blaire - Good point! But it's interesting to give Willow that character trait--intense brains paired with an intense fear of being in the public eye.
Dahne - That's something I think they develop well in Willow's character in season 2 and with Oz. One of the little moments that I really liked was Buffy spraining her ankle. It showed that even as a superhero, she wasn't invulnerable and that makes her struggle even more poignant.
Blaire - It is very rare that they show Buffy in that way. When she gets hurt, she later has too many responsibilities to even think about it for more than a line or two. It shows her grow up.

Least Favorites:

Dahne - So is there anything you didn't like about the episode?
Blaire - I could never fully figure out how on earth that kid got those powers. The rest of the Buffyverse mythology doesn't lend itself to this type of supernatural storytelling. I've seen the episode dozens of times, and I'm still not sure it's ever fully explained.
Dahne - It does seem odd that a random kid could not only astral project but then infect everyone else with his fear. Saying they are on the Hellmouth as an explanation felt like a copout. Plus we never see Billy again so we never get to explore if he is a normally psychic kid or if this was a one-off thing.
Blaire - Plus... Astral projection in a coma? From a child?
Dahne - Good point. The story itself didn't make much sense from a Sunnydale canon perspective.
Blaire - It's probably the strangest one-off in the entire Whedon-verse. Whenever any of my friend's ask me about the weirdest Whedon things, I'd have to say that "Nightmares" from Buffy and "The Attic" from Dollhouse are my top two.
Dahne - For me the Master was way too over the top in this episode. I also couldn't believe that Xander blindly follows the chocolate bar trail without ever thinking it could be leading to another nightmare. It reminds me of Harry Potter when Crabbe and Goyle eat the cupcakes and Ron says, "How thick can you get?"
Blaire - You know what, I barely know anything about the Harry Potter universe. But, I think at that junction we only know that Xander likes girls and candy... And that he's really excitable.
Dahne - Ha! Very excitable. I'm glad he matures as the series goes on. By the way, I cannot believe that someone who likes fantasy/sci fi isn't into the Harry Potter world? :-P
Blaire - Honestly! I'm not sure what it is. I got 2/3 way through the 4th book but I hated reading 10 chapters about Quidditch. I know, it barely makes any sense that THAT is what drove me away from HP.
Dahne - Ah, Quidditch isn't for everyone. Try the movies then. There's less time spent on the sport. Also, JK Rowling got tired of writing about Quidditch as well and there is very little to none of it in the latter books.

Sid the Dummy:

Dahne - So is there anything that makes a particular impact from this episode on the series for you? For me it is mostly getting to know the characters better and the theme of facing your fears to overcome them.
Blaire - I think for me the big takeaway from "Nightmares" is that while it's a very enjoyable hour of television that helps me to have a better understanding of some of my favorite characters of all time, the biggest impact the episode has on me was an example of a series almost hitting the mark but falling short.
Dahne - I think maybe I enjoy this episode so much because I really did not like the previous episode about the dummy.
Blaire - Oh my goodness! That's one of my favorite episodes! Sid is one of my favorite characters!
Dahne - Really? You like Sid? We should have had you on the last roundtable because for the most part all of us disliked that episode. You would have been a great counterpoint.
Blaire - Oh my goodness! You get to play as Sid in one of the original Buffy video games. His story gets better and better :) He's one of the episodes I highly recommend to newbies of the Whedonverse!
Dahne - Wow! If I had seen The Puppet Show first, I don't think I would have continued with Buffy. The whole premise was too weird for me and I thought Sid was over the top smarmy.
Blaire - I love smarmy :)
Dahne - Ha!

The X-Files and Other Favorites:

Dahne - One of my favorite things about Buffy is the high school/life as hell motif running throughout it.
Joss always took mundane things and gave them a supernatural twist so that they were out there but still relatable. In this episode for me a big part of that is the insane degree some adults take kid sports.
Blaire - Yes! My favorite example of the mundane things being given a supernatural twist is "Out of Mind, Out of Sight".
Dahne - That's next week's episode and one of my favorite standalones. The idea of invisible kids working for the government creeped me out when I first saw it.
Blaire - TOTALLY! But as an X-Files and Hellboy buff I wasn't too bothered by it. If that makes sense?
Dahne - I don't know anything about Hellboy, but X-Files helped inspire my love of sci fi and genre TV.
Blaire - Me as well! The X-Files may be my favorite series of all time, next to Angel.
Dahne - The X-Files was my first TV obsession, marking the first time I ever went to the internet to talk about TV. It was also my first foray into the massive and sometimes disturbing world of fanfiction.
Blaire - Hah! The X-Files was my first TV obsession as well, but I think my first trip to the Internet to really talk about TV obsessively may have been for 'Heroes'.
Dahne - Ah, you missed some very heated discussions about The X-Files then, especially when it came to 'shipping.


Dahne - John, another regular to the roundtable who couldn't make it this time, also loves to talk about Buffy in society and how it takes on societal issues. I don't see much of that in this episode. Anything you want to say about it?
Blaire - Well... I think we had a missed opportunity earlier. The fanatical sports issues is well-addressed here, and there are countless real-life examples of adults taking it too far with child athletes. Or letting child athletes hurt other children.
Dahne - I thought it was brilliant the way they made the coach into a literal monster in Billy's view. I don't think some parents get how they come across to kids when they get overly involved.
Blaire - Very true. But unfortunately I feel like the pay-off at the end, that we only really discover this at the end, made the episode fall very flat. I like knowing who the bad guy is earlier in an episode rather than a big reveal at the end--like Law & Order.
Dahne - Hmm, interesting. I never really questioned the villain reveal at the end, probably because that's how most of the shows I watch do it. So anything else you want to add about this episode?
Blaire - Honestly that pretty much covers most of my thoughts! Any other questions that you have for me?
Dahne - Nope. Thanks so much for joining on this episode. I look forward to hearing your views on Out of Sight, Out of Mind as well.
Blaire - I would love to offer them! Thanks so much for inviting me! It was a real pleasure :)

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