Friday, October 31, 2014

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season One)

Warning: This post contains spoilers from the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If you have not seen the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in its entirety, then continue at your own peril. For a spoiler-free introduction to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, click here.

Transitioning from the film to the TV series is a little bit awkward. It seems to want to wipe the slate clean (which is understandable, given Whedon's opinion of the film), but while still making vague references to a previous incident in Buffy's life. In any case, they're easy enough to overlook - and certainly, you needn't watch the film first in order to get into the TV series. As the series opens, our protagonist has just relocated to Sunnydale, a small California town that embodies the same dichotomy as Buffy herself - pleasant on the surface, but harboring a focal point of dark energy (the "Hellmouth") just underneath.

Sarah Michelle Gellar takes over the role of Buffy Summers, and is re-introduced in the first episode to her Watcher (charming fan favorite and English actor Anthony Stewart Head), a man by the name of Rupert Giles, who is the high school librarian (secretly specializing in occult texts), as well as her destiny as this generation's Vampire Slayer. This is understandably a tough revelation to swallow, and will be the cause of much existential drama, until Buffy ultimately comes to accept it as her purpose in life (whether she likes it or not).

We are also introduced to Buffy's two new best friends: the awkward tech geek Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and dorky comic relief Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon). Rounding out the cast are Buffy's semi-rival - stuck up high school diva Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) - and her soon-to-be much-conflicted lover, Angel (David Boreanaz), the vampire with a soul (the irony of the Slayer falling for a vampire is not lost on anyone). All of these characters speak in a strange dialect that I can only describe as "Whedonese", as it's not familiar to me, and I was in high school during this series' initial running. It's a bit awkward at first, but after a while you do get used to it.

I feel like the individual seasons of Buffy are largely characterized by the "Big Bad" (the main boss/villain/antagonist of each season), and so in the first season we have actor Mark Metcalf gloriously made up as The Master, an ancient vampire trapped in an abandoned underground church. I really liked The Master, and would have liked to have seen more of him. I was disappointed when, after escaping his supernatural prison in the season finale, instead of setting him up for a reign of havoc throughout season two, he was slain instead. I mean, they went to the trouble to kill Buffy to get The Master out, and then she just resurrects and kills him anyway. It doesn't make any sense, except to set up the Faith character in season three...

What's interesting about watching the first season of Buffy (which is a short season, with only 12 episodes, compared to the rest of the series' 22 episode seasons) is that, for such an established pop culture show, it has a very undeveloped feeling. Obviously, this is because it was only the first season, and it matures incredibly over its seven seasons, but to see it in such an early stage is, well, a bit uncanny. The show hasn't quite found its footing yet. The characters are still new and underdeveloped, and the show is very episodic - with a focus on the monster-of-the-week, which, in later seasons, would supplement and then eventually take a supporting role to the ongoing drama between the main characters.

Continue to season two!

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