Welcome back to the final season 1 roundtable review. Sorry it took me a few weeks but work was keeping me busy. We are going to take a break before starting season 2 reviews because we need to get more people involved with the roundtable, ideally 4-5 per episode. If you are interested in joining us, please let me know in the comments below. We do things through Google+ right now so you would have to have an account. We may go to a podcasting format on Skype later. Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. I know this one is quite a few people's favorite season 1 episode.
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 - John and Dahne
Dahne - So most people say this is their favorite episode of season 1. What do you think of it overall?
John - I don't know that I agree. I thought it had some of the most powerful dramatic scenes the show has had in season 1, but I also think I preferred "Angel".
Dahne - It's not my favorite either but it has some of the most powerful scenes in season 1 I think.
John - Which was your favourite? Or, perhaps, why do you think this is everyone else's favourite and why do you disagree?
Dahne - I think this is most people's favorite because each of the characters has an important role, the drama is top notch, and it brings the season one mytharc full circle. Plus, Buffy died. I think all of those are very valid reasons and I think this is one of the best Buffy season 1 episodes as well. I guess for me it falls short in comparison to Becoming 2 and I automatically expect the finale to be so much more than other episodes. Still it is a great episode.
John - I think most episodes of everything fall short of Becoming ;).
Dahne - Ha! Becoming 2 is the episode I judge all other TV against. Very rarely does something even come close.
John - I think the reason I preferred other episodes was the general lack of humor. Not that it didn't have lighter moments, and not that I don't like my Buffy dark, but I generally find that Whedonesque writing is best when humorous. Also, I was not excited about Xander's crush coming to a head. I'm glad it's out of the way now (sort of) and I am glad he had his big moment saving her life, but that was an arc I did not enjoy so much.
Dahne - I would agree. I have a lot of notable quotes for this episode, 3/4 of a page in fact, but very few are snarky fun like most Buffy. I get that this is the most intense episode of the season, but like you I like a brief tension break every now and then.
John - Same! Well then, speaking of, why don't we talk about stuff we enjoyed for a bit. Favorite quotes or moments?
Dahne - Let's do quotes first since we are talking about them. You first.
John - Willow: “I’m not ashamed! It’s the computer age. Nerds are in. They’re still in, right?” That wasn't my favourite line, but I always enjoy confidently tentative Willow's delivery + the datedness of that quote.
Dahne - I thought she delivered it well too. I love the part that goes right before that: Buffy: "Wow that was boring." Xander: "I don't feel that boring covers it." Buffy: "No, boring falls short." We've all had those class periods before. Another great delivery was: Jenny: "I'd say the end is pretty seriously nigh."
John - Lol, agreed. On a much darker note, I thought that "“Do you think it will hurt..?” was probably the best line of the episode. It really drove home the fact that this superhero slayer was still just a teenager. She goes on to say "Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die.” which really drove that point home for me.
Dahne - I have that entire scene in my best quotes. The acting was superb all the way around. The pain between Giles and Buffy was palatable. I also thought the exchange between Giles and Buffy later, where they are fighting over who will face the Master was well done.
John - I generally feel that Anthony Stewart Head is the strongest cast member (or at least he was this early on). When he has paternal moments like this with Buffy, I generally well up. They're all so well written.
Dahne - In my notes I have ASH's acting is both brilliant and subtle. Best yet. Some of my favorite funny lines include: Buffy: "Giles care. I'm putting my life on the line battling the undead. Look I broke a nail, okay. I'm wearing a press on. The least you could do is exhibit some casual interest. You could go hmmm." / Xander: "I'm just going to go home, lie down, and listen to country music, the music of pain." / and Joyce: "You're probably just full from that bite of dinner you nearly had."
John - Hahaha, yes, Joyce was barely present, but that was probably my favourite funny line.
Dahne - I like how it was encased in the conversation so it was very easy to miss the humor if you weren't paying attention.
John - Yeah, I'll agree with that sentiment. I have a note here about how much I disliked the unrequited love story/how big a jerk Xander decided to be when rejected, but that I thought he was a pretty big badass while confronting Angel. Not that I think Angel ever really would have hurt Xander, but still.
Dahne - I disliked the love triangle as a whole and while I did not like Xander's reaction to Buffy's rejection, I did think it felt real and earned.
John - I agree that the scene was well earned. I just didn't like that it happened. It isn't that I think the story is unrealistic. I've been Xander at 16. I just think that Xander was a big jerk. And then his treatment of Willow to boot just generally made me sad. The love triangle idea wasn't terrible... I just didn't like that it was mostly a story about a clueless teenage boy hurting his friends.
Dahne - I hate love triangles with a passion so that also clouds my take on it. My biggest problem though was the opening scene with Xander practicing his speech on Willow. No one looked good in it. Willow comes off as a masochist and idiot. Xander comes off as clueless.
John - I also feel like the setup for that scene was supposed to be a surprise. Where Xander's talking to Willow, but we legitimately think he's talking to Buffy until TWIST he isn't. Maybe it's 16 years talking, but I don't think that sort of thing fools anyone anymore. If the person isn't in the shot, it's a trick scene.
Dahne - Agreed. It didn't come off as a twist. It came off as pathetic for all parties.
Dahne - So what were your favorite scenes besides of course the ones with Buffy and Giles?
John - Besides the Giles/Buffy ones, I had two specific scenes. 1. I loved Buffy's scene in Willow's bedroom (which we never see ever again I think). It's amazing to watch Buffy's reaction to Willow's complete crash in the face of the most horrific thing Willow has seen to date. Buffy wasn't going to go through with meeting The Master because of her fear. Then she sees Willow and knows she has to protect her. Willow: "I'm not okay. I knew those guys. I go to that room every day. And when I walked in there, it... it wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun… What are we gonna do?”
Dahne - I have the Willow scene as well because it made Buffy changing her mind valid. It would take a lot to get anyone to voluntarily go to certain death and Willow's fear and horror made a good catalyst for Buffy. We see Willow's room again when they have to do the spell to keep Angelus out of it.
John - 2. The slow-mo Vamp fight scene at the beginning. I thought it was kind of beautiful, despite its age. You?
John - Yes, agreed. I really enjoyed Angel's “You have to do it, I have no breath”. It both satisfied some larger mythological technicalities, and made it such that Xander had to save Buffy's life. I also think it was set up such that Xander could finally "kiss" her, but have it be something no one was expecting.
Dahne - Hmm, I didn't think of it as a promo event but yes, that would have been a big selling point to some fans and then to have the kiss actually be CPR. Sounds like something Joss would do. On a sillier note, I also adore when Cordelia bites the vampire and says, "See how you like it." Oh, and I also liked Buffy's dress. :-P
John - Hahaha, yes, Cordelia was excellent this episode! From her badass car moment to her suddenly humanized actually likes a boy as a person moment.
Dahne - I was kind of sorry to see the demise of Cordelia's new boyfriend. I think he was good for her too. I also like that she and Willow shared a moment right before walking into the lounge.
Dahne - The Looney Tunes was one of the creepiest scenes in season 1. I liked Cordelia bonding with other characters as well. I think because she was the least well rounded that every time we saw a new side of her it was a genuine surprise. That and no one could turn a phrase quite like Cordy.
John - I also found the marching vampires somewhat amusing. They seemed a little too zombieish to be vampires, but whatever.
John - I agree entirely with that assessment. I don't know that I felt Ms. Calender's return was deserved. Not because she shouldn't have returned (given that The Apocalypse was happening), but she didn't serve much of a purpose. She should have had a more distinct role I think.
Dahne - I was glad to see Jenny back but yeah, she didn't do much. I adored Willow and Xander's reaction to her presence though. It was so "little kid" not wanting her to share in their secret club.
John - Also, that was some small scale Apocalypsing.
Dahne - Ha! I always questioned if they knew the meaning of Apocalypse on this show. They had one every season.
John - Not to mention the numerous apocalypses on Angel.
Dahne - Remember when the Apocalypse ended up being a demon Buffy squashed with her foot? Bwah! Now that was a small Apocalypse.
John - HAHAHA, yes. So good. And why were they specifically located in Sunnydale or else Los Angeles? I get that Sunnydale's the hellmouth, but still. I think that all feeds back into my previously discussed confusion about the mythology. Why are there many watchers? What do the rest of them do when GIles is the only one being a watcher? Why aren't more helping him? How can one slayer save the entire world all the time ever?
John - Yes. Exactly! My last note reads "MASTER HAS SKELETON!?" It's because he's a super secret special vampire king!
Dahne - The fact that he was so old made me think he should have dusted faster than the rest. It never made sense to me. Neither did leaving his body in the earthquake-ruined library. Surely someone from emergency services was going to check the school pretty quickly.
John - Eh. There was also a tentacle beast, no? Probably lots more cleaning could have been done. Ohey, Xander makes a Locutus of Borg reference. I'm sure no one from the 90s watching that today would catch it xD.
Dahne - I had to look it up when I was doing the notes to find how to spell it. I knew the Borg but not Locutus.
Dahne - Most of the high school hell stuff was the worst part of the episode. Well except that the high school literally became a portal to hell. However, there is a lot of impact from this episode, which may be another reason why people love it so much.
John - That's kind of my feeling. Strong drama + plot momentum = people like the episode lots.
Dahne - Obviously Buffy dying was the biggest impact since it lead to Kendra and Faith. I really liked how they waited to play that one out though, instead of ramming it as season 2 began. Makes you question how much Watchers talk to each other though.
John - Yeah, again, the Watchers are super weird, but agreed, that was a super excellent plot twist. I liked that she died in the prophecy, but obviously, no one mentioned CPR. It also made for an excellent act break. Not that I was terribly worried about her.
John - Agreed. Although, like I said, I too feel like they dispatched with him too quickly. Not because I wanted something more drawn out... just that, they spent a whole season on him. And then she just throws him once and he's dead. Or maybe that was the point. The Big Bad wasn't so big or bad after all. Oh! I just remembered one thing that struck me as odd. The music that played when The Master kills Buffy was REALLY BAD. It was just two super dramatic horn blasts.
Dahne - Which was strange because the music was usually a highlight for me in seasons 1 and 2.
John - Yeah! I mean, the show even has leitmotifs, which is my favourite thing ever. The Buffy/Angel theme is probably one of my favourite themes ever.
Dahne - I still play that theme on my iPad when I'm working. The other thing I liked is that this is the first time the entire Scooby Gang works together. It was the good times before the Jenny debacle.
John: Hahaha, yeah, well said. I guess we felt roughly the same way. I think we mostly covered what I wanted to talk about. This was probably an overrated episode in the scheme of things, but a decent season finale for a flawed first season. Season 2 is where things really amp up, so I'm super psyched to start that. That being said, it definitely starts to set the show up to me more dramatic than it was. Something I look forward to given how strong the show becomes.
Dahne - I don't think it was overrated, but it only gave us a peek at what would be one of the most flawless seasons any show ever had.
John - Fair enough. I suppose, by overrated, I meant that it may not deserve the coveted slot of best episode in season 1.
Dahne - If season 2 hadn't been so vastly superior to most anything else that came out that year, I think I would think of this episode in a much different light. I think that I look at finales different than most people, for whom finales are almost always the best episode of the season.
Dahne - Absolutely not! Buffy season 1 was a great concept and important in how it portrayed both teens and women. However, it wasn't until season 2 that it became a masterpiece. I certainly wouldn't still be watching, talking, and reviewing it. Of course, I would have loved Buffy better if it had ended earlier though too.
John - Hahaha, agreed on all counts.
Dahne - Thanks so much for being such a fun contributor to our season 1 Buffy roundtable. I always look forward to your take on episodes.
John - Thanks :). I'm really glad to be here. It's too bad we don't get more of us at the table at the same time, but thanks for being so solid throughout. We all bring different interests and focus to these discussions and I particularly enjoy your interest in thematic content.
And so ends our season 1 Buffy roundtable. We will be taking a short break before going on to season 2 in order to round up more people for the roundtable. If you are interested in joining us and you have a Google+ Account (possibly a Skype account later on), please let us know in the comments below. Ideally we would like to have 4-5 people for each episode.
Thanks so much for reading our roundtable reviews and for commenting. It has been a pleasure talking Buffy with you these last few months. I hope you join us when we come back for my favorite Buffy season, well actually my favorite season of any TV show ever. Until then, keep fighting the forces of darkness.
Screencaps by Buffy Comics, Goodbye Piccadilly, Jet Wolf, We Heart It, Live Journal, Buffy Wikia, Teen Nick, Fanpop, Telegraph, Slayerworld, Buffy Loves Angel, and the Buffyverse Database.
Additional pictures I didn't use: