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Buffy the Vampire Slayer - STV Roundtable - 1.03 - Retro Review

Spoiler Warning (via Dahne) - 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.

Dahne - Time to get this party started. Everyone ready?
Robin - Ready!
Dahne - Great. What do we want to discuss first?
Robin - I thought this week we could start with questions we didn't get to last week, namely:

Things That Paid off in Unexpected Ways:

Dahne - Awesome. For me two things were the introduction of Amy and adding other things besides vampires to the repertoire.
Robin - Those were the things I was thinking of as well. Maybe that was too easy of a question.
John - Actually, my knowledge of future Amy impacted my memory of this particular episode. I didn't call the body switch until a few moments before the reveal because I straight up remember Amy being an evil witch.
Dahne - I also thought drugged, hyper Buffy was a plus. It showed that SMG could do comedy. It is odd seeing some of these characters from the beginning since we know how much they change.

On the Topic of Stand Alones:

Dahne - I ended up really liking many of the standalones that featured other monsters and as I am completely sick of vampires at this point, they are even better in the rewatch.
Robin - I'm also a fan of the stand alones. (I still like vamps though). This one was never one of my favorites for some reason.

Overall Reaction:

John - I did not like this episode at all honestly. I thought it quite weak.
Robin - Me too.
Dahne - I think that this one needs long breaks between rewatching it to make it more palpable.

Things We Liked:

Robin - But let's focus on the positive, what did this episode do well?
Dahne - I loved Cordelia threatening Amy in the locker room. It was her inner witch side that was a lot of fun to rewatch. Liked Cordy more in the rewatch than the originals. I also thought the woman who played Amy's mother did an excellent job.
Robin - I liked the woman who played Amy's mom as well. I thought she was instrumental to having a convincing twist.
Dahne - She did such a great job at playing a frightened teen and then turned around and rocked the evil witch role too. I agree it was a good part of the twist working. Other positives: Giles carrying Buffy and putting his jacket beneath her head was the start of the father-daughter bond for me and I always loved that.
Robin - The Giles/Buffy bond is one of the great ones of the series and what makes season six so painful.
Dahne - Oh let's avoid mentioning the dreaded season 6. It broke my heart. I love family connections on TV shows and Giles and Buffy were one of the best father-daughter combos I have ever seen, even if they were not related by blood.
Robin - I liked season six. For me it's a tossup between six and two for favorites.
John - S6 and S2 are my favourites as well! I wonder if it's a generational thing again?
Robin - Maybe it is.
Dahne - Possibly because Buffy season 5 was when it all went downhill for me and then season 6 was unwatchable. I actually had to stop watching because I was so annoyed.
John - I also enjoyed Giles' excitement about how many monsters existed on the Hellmouth.
Dahne - Giles' glee and the blank stares of the others make me laugh every time. Loved his line - Giles: "But that's the thrill of living on the Hellmouth. It's a veritable cornucopia of…of fiends and devils and…and ghouls to engage. Well pardon me for finding the glass half full.”
Robin - I particularly liked the part at the end with Amy's mom trapped in the statue but I also think season one had the most unfulfilled cliffhangers.
Dahne - Mom in the statue was awesome but it always surprised me that it did not come back to haunt them later. I mean so many things came through that school, you would think some kind of residual energy would release her.
John - You know, it would have been fun if they had included a brief image of the statue lying broken when the school gets destroyed. Oh well.
Robin - That would have been a nice touch.
Dahne - That's the kind of Easter egg I was expecting. Too bad they didn't go there.

Things We Didn’t Like:

Robin - Okay, what didn't go well?
Dahne - Cordelia's driving scene made no sense to me. You don't have to see to hit the brakes. It felt like they were trying to make Cordelia seem stupid and we knew halfway through the season that she wasn't.
Robin - Maybe she was panicked?
Dahne - Yes, but most people hit the brakes when they panic.
John - Also, her teacher had a handbrake.
Dahne - Very true. In driver's ed, the teacher always has a way to brake the car. Good point.
John - Needlessly dramatic scene. Also, Cordy's vain, but she isn't so stupid as to try to drive almost blind.
Robin - Good points.
John - I found the room filled with witch stuff to be way too over the top. I guess the pilot was also pretty true to canon with vampire weaknesses (including garlic, which is not something I've seen much of in Vampire stuff in the last few years). But yeah, having a giant boiling cauldron in a dark creepy room just didn't do it for me. It was pretty corny.
Dahne - I wasn't crazy about Willow's chewed up pen metaphor either. I don't remember her ever chomping on pens like that again so it seemed jarring. Maybe it's just my bad memory though. Also why a witch would cast spells that were that obviously not natural. Wouldn't it have made more sense to make them all sick instead of closing up someone's mouth?

Thoughts on Witches:

Dahne - Well this is a true witches as evil creation, something they veered away from later in the series.
Robin - I’m glad they stopped with the ‘witches as evil creation.’
Dahne - I thought the Barbie dolls hanging over the cauldron were pretty snicker-worthy as well.
Robin - Yeah, that completely was ridiculous.
Dahne - I actually did not like the way they handled witches in future episodes. Mostly because I hated that Willow became a witch and in doing so they practically dropped her being a smart computer nerd persona.
John - It's true. I doubt they knew that they were going to make Willow a witch back in S1. They were just pulling out all of the old horror tropes as fast as possible.
Robin - I'm glad they did. A lot of times in supernatural TV shows it becomes so much of a "witches are evil" while ignoring the true Wicca "witches are from nature" or even the Merlin ideal of "magic is neither good nor bad but how you use it."
Dahne - I think the main point of this episode was to prove that it wouldn't be all vamps all the time. I'm fine with good witches vs evil witches but they went way overboard on the good witch stuff.
John - And jumping to witches was an interesting first choice given that the show acknowledged the existence of demons. It immediately showed us that humans who weren't the slayer could wield power too.
Dahne - Demons may have been too powerful to tackle in the third episode with the show finding its foot. By going for something more human based, it allowed them to delve into a lot of topics its core audience could relate to.
John - True, but they certainly could have stuck with supernatural beings like ghouls or ghosts or whatever. I'm glad they didn't.
Robin - There weren't a lot of shades of grey in the witches, they were either good or bad, not too much of an in-between.
John - That's probably by virtue of the fact that the kinds of magic that could be used were qualified as dark versus light magic.
Dahne - I think it was fun that another petite blond was wielding so much power.
Robin - The show was never lacking for little blonde heroes! Or power people you know...
Dahne - I loved how they twisted the whole parents reliving their glory days through their kids and the sheer amount of pressure parents put on kids in activities they may not even enjoy.

Thoughts on Aging:

Robin - How well do we think the show has aged?
Dahne - The aging doesn't bother me and I think there's less in this episode than the first.
Robin - I didn't see as much bad aging either. Although the cheer outfits are a little unreasonable for SoCal. In Kansas we have lighter weight and skimpier so I'm assuming they would in Cali too.
John - I'd argue that there's more. Certainly there aren't phones or computers (although there is still just as much bad clothing), but the special effects were particularly late 90s
Dahne - I just think the special effects are particularly bad.
Robin - True, the special effects were special only in name.
John - With vampires it was easy enough to apply makeup and dust them occasionally. With magic, people were being choked instead of force pushed and whatnot.
Dahne - Another reason why the witch should have never done the closed mouth thing.
John - Closed mouth thing?
Dahne - When the cheerleader no long has a mouth.
Robin - When I first saw that, I thought it was terrifying. Then again 12, so maybe not so much.
Dahne - I thought it was cheesy from first watch, but I was already teaching at that point.
John - OH. Yes. That. Also, Cordelia's blindness. Also, the colour palette chosen for filming and the camera work were slightly dated.

Watchers and Slayers:

Dahne - Anyone else notice that Giles says this is his first casting but then we learn about his past later on?
John - OHEY. Good catch.
Robin - I think Giles was probably trying to hide that part of himself (as a canonical explanation)
Dahne - Not sure why he would say anything at all then. It would make a lot of sense that while training to be a Watcher he learned to cast spells.
Robin - It would have. And you're right, that part has bothered me in rewatch.
John - I mean, the way he was acting, I doubt they had thought that far ahead. Given his excitement about demons and hell spawn and whatnot, probably he was supposed to be a fresh-faced new young watcher. With minimal practical experience.
Robin - He was, but Joss decided to make Giles more badass because of Anthony Head.
Dahne- That's the vibe I am getting also. Strange they would put someone new on the only slayer.
John - Was it clear that only one slayer existed? The whole watcher/slayer thing always confused me. Why wasn't the whole council ALWAYS THERE to deal with the singular saviour of this planet? Like, maybe they only decided it was one later on?
Dahne - I thought it was clear in the movie that there was only one slayer.
Robin - And "into EACH generation A slayer is born." But that makes it sound like there's only one for every twenty years, doesn't it?
Dahne - Plus the intro says "she alone can face..."
Dahne - Which is why the mythology never made any sense. One Slayer, whole big world. I always wished we had gotten bigger glimpses into Giles as part of the Watcher Council in the earlier years. It was an aspect of him that I was curious about right from the start.
Robin - Well, we know that his grandmother was a Watcher as was his father.
John - And then Giles gets replaced briefly by the even more noobish Wesley. Clearly the watchers don't take themselves very seriously.

Parental Relationships:

Dahne - I really liked the Joyce and Buffy conversation at the end of the episode. I also would NEVER want to be 16 again. Way too much drama.
John - Yes, I forgot to mention that earlier. I was a fan of the mother/daughter development.
Robin - I didn't mind being sixteen. All my friends had all the drama. I on the other hand had all the dramas, so I think I came out on top.
Dahne - I think that Joyce's confession that she doesn't understand where Buffy is coming from ties into the theme of the episode nicely.
John - They setup so much. Why she has a single mother. That her mother works a lot. That her mother tries to be understanding and do the right thing, but doesn't really get Buffy. I also found Buffy's snark particularly interesting. I don't think I was ever that casually snarky to my parents.
Robin - I was.
Dahne - My parents would never let me get away with being that snarky. That's more what you said when talking to friends about your parents.
John - Exactly.
Robin - I think it depends on the parents. With mine I have a very casual relationship, a lot of my friends do not.


Dahne - I like that they contrasted Joyce with Amy's mom in the beginning but at the end Buffy knew that she got the better deal. I really like how she told Joyce she loved her and how much that threw Joyce.
John - It was definitely nice to see how they set up Amy/her mom as a foil for Buffy's relationship with her mother. It seemed like Amy's mom cared more, but then Amy was actually just her mom and evil.
Dahne - Joss did a great job with creating foils. The mother-daughter relationships this time and Buffy/Darla previously.
Robin - Faith/Mayor versus Buffy/Giles.
Dahne - This quote packed a punch - Giles: "Let me get this right. This witch is casting horrible and disfiguring spells so that she can become a cheerleader?" Buffy: "I think you're underestimating the amount of pressure a parent can lay on you. If you're not a picture perfect carbon copy they tend to wig."
Robin - It is a dozy of a quote.
John - I had the same thought as Giles at first. I mean seriously, what a horrible thing to do for something so shallow. Then Buffy goes and makes it about something more complex.
Dahne- Too much parental involvement can be just as bad as not enough as this episode showed. Another example of Joss using the supernatural to highlight a common day problem. Just go to a kids' sporting event.


Dahne - That is the magic of Buffy because if you take it on the superficial level it's easy to shrug it off. Taken at a deeper level and there's all kinds of meat there. I also really loved the scene where Xander and Willow get ready to help and Buffy says it's not their job. The fact that they assumed it was and told her so meant a lot for solidifying the Scooby Gang.
Robin - Do the late 90s representations of empowerment hold up today?
John - So, much like my issues with Xander's feelings of emasculation last episode, this episode continued the trend of Xander needing to feel like a real man. I'm kind of uncomfortable with all of his talk about how men do this and men do that.
Robin - Yes, Xander seems very insecure and it doesn't really get better, he just becomes insecure about different stuff.
Dahne - I think it is just as common for males in their teens to feel insecure as females so that doesn't bother much.
John - I mean, it makes sense and I don't expect any more of a male teen in the 90s, but it's certainly somewhat problematic.
Dahne - In fact, it was kind of a relief at the time to see males honest about that insecurity since in the 80's they seemed to be either "macho men" who couldn't ever have a fear or nerds whose only job was to get beaten up and be the joke.
Robin - It's especially problematic because a lot of the female characters are shown to be a lot more secure. Buffy never worries about being less than female, neither does Cordy until she starts up with Xander. It's disproportionate.
John - Oh, that's a fair point. I guess I would have preferred that his insecurity be less about his gender and more about generally fearing rejection.
Dahne- Buffy often feels insecure about being less than female. That was the whole point of the Halloween episode. I think gender insecurity is a major part of growing up, especially in the 90's and earlier.
Robin - I thought the point of Halloween was that she wouldn't live up to Angel's expectations not that she's not living up to hers.
Dahne - She says an awful lot about body image and not being like a normal girl. Her fear of Angel rejecting her for Cordelia is built upon her gender issues.
John - It's certainly an issue to which it's easy to relate, but I'm always uncomfortable with pushing the gender binary. Also, defining masculinity in terms of STRENGTH and FORWARDNESS and AGGRESSION and whatnot.
Robin - Precisely.
Dahne - I don't think it would have been believable not to talk gender issues in this show.
John - Oh there's definitely a distinction between discussing gender and pushing gender norms. It would be cool to see Xander become comfortable with his masculinity in a way that doesn't need him to be traditionally manly.
Dahne - We've got 2 minutes. Anything else?
John - Did we tackle thematic stuff much?
Dahne - I will talk about it in the comments instead.
Robin - I think we have been talking about thematic stuff but what did you feel was left out?


Dahne - I think there is a greater conversation there but our time is now up. Thanks for participating.
John - We'll start with that next time ;). Sorry about that.
Dahne - I'm not unhappy. I like that the conversation flows wherever it leads.
Robin - I like that too.
Dahne - Good night. See you back next Thursday.
Robin - Next week we have the totally believable plot of "Buffy's biology teacher is killed by a giant praying mantis that assumes the form of a beautiful substitute teacher." I think that happend to my biology teacher. Only instead of becoming beautiful he became someone who didn't understand biology. Or people. Or schools.

So what do you think of The Witch? Worthwhile episode full of plotting or fledgling series trying to find it's footing?

Photos belong to the Buffy wikia, Fanpop, and TVGuide respectively.

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