This past March, Buffy turned 20 - which still kind of blows my mind. As a 15 year old when the show first aired, I was instantly hooked because at the time (and reasonably still to this day) it had everything I looked for in a show: Compelling characters, magick, monsters, teenage drama. It also, as a show airing in the 90's at a pivitol point in my life, had a lot of stuff I didn't know I needed: A strong female lead, underdog empowerment and the lesson that strength and humour can get you through just about anything.
So here I am today, as a 35 year old woman, settling down to rewatch my favourite series of all time from absolute start to finish. I've done rewatchings in the past, though I would usually tune in around Season 4 because, or at least I told myself at the time, I was too far removed from highschool to be able to relate. Well, I can already tell you that I am so glad I didn't skip ahead because season 1 is 100 times better than I remember. And dare I say, I get even more out of it today than I did even back then.
Was it a perfect series? No. Are there some things that I'm watching now (in 2018) that make me sigh an enormous "wtf!?" - absolutely! Like anything, there are aspects to this show that have aged enormously well and some that have...not. But, rest assured we will get to all of that! Before we do though, let me purpose the format that I've come up with for these posts (because I'm obviously doing one for each season).
- A rank of the episodes or at least, season highlights and lowlights
- The Cast as tarot cards
- A tarot spread designed in the essence of the season's main theme/plot
What do you all think? I'm not 100% set on this so if after reading the post you have some suggestions, I'm all ears!
Okay let's dive in then shall we? To kick things off, below is my list of then season one episodes ranked from worst to best. Oh, and while I hope it goes without saying, this post does contain spoilers!
Buffy Brawl: Ranking Episodes 1-12 of Season 1
#12: Episode 6 - The Pack: What in the hyena hell was this episode? Who was that group of "cool kids"? Why did they scrape by with just detention for eating the school mascot? So many questions, so little answers. What did strike me though was just how twilight-esque this whole episode felt. I don't know. I've only seen the first Twilight movie, but I kept feeling like the pack bared a striking resemblance not just in look but also demeanor. I'm not a Twilight fan and as it turns out, I'm not a Pack fan either.
#11: Episode 5 - Never Kill A Boy On The First Date: I found this episode boring, quite frankly. I don't have many notes and I don't have a lot to say about it except that it was just sort of meh. I will give Buffy props though for defending her date in the face of Angel who doubted her choices. Oh Buffy, always (mostly) doing the right thing.
#10: Episode 9 - The Puppet Show: I actually think Sid the puppet was really cute, but what I don't like is the whole creepy dummy trope. All that aside, there were some real highlights to the episode. For example, we get our first introduction to principal Synder who then goes on to deliver one of my favourite lines in all of season 1: "That's the kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten." It's so good. What's also very good is the final scene when after an epic showdown to defeat the demon, the curtains are drawn and there's the Scooby gang looking out into a bewildered audience who aren't quite sure what they're observing. BTW, this whole episode revolves around a rather talent-less high school talent-show that seems to be endlessly and haphazardly in rehearsal mode.
#9: Episode 4 - Teacher's Pet: Boy did this episode have a theme and stick to it! It's apparent from the get-go there's something off with that substitute, but cut to one of the early class scenes and it's all insects and sexual tension. Okay, so it's fairly problematic that we're getting into teacher/student relationship territory - I mean, insects aside, it's not a good situation...and not just because Xander almost ends up getting eaten.
#8: Episode 3 - Witch: I love that just 3 episodes in we're already establishing that this is not just a show about vampires! I also love that unlike Teacher's Pet where the whole thing is set up from the beginning, in Witch, it's not totally clear who the villain is. As the audience, you're playing right along with the gang trying to figure it all out. It also occurs to me that even though I know Cordelia isn't the Witch, given that it was only 3 episodes in and characters weren't established yet, it seemed they did try to set it up as if it could have been her. Cordelia is mean, sure, but there was one scene in this episode where she became uncharacteristically aggressive ...and I didn't like it. But then I thought, maybe they did that to make it seem like she's the witch!? I think it's a good thought and I'll use it as a way to get past her behavior, I guess?
#7: Episode 11 - Out Of Sight: This was an interesting one. Like Witch, it also sets the stage for what is possible in the Buffyverse. We're already used to demons and vampires, but what about ordinary humans out to harm? Okay, so in this case it's not a totally ordinary human - it's an invisible ordinary human - but close enough! I also love that we see a softer side to Cordelia, or at least, observe that she's sort of capable of feelings. Oh, and I can't forget my very favourite part of this episode which takes place in the library as Giles provides an explanation for how Marcie becomes invisible. And get this, he breaks it down quantum mechanics style! Yes Giles, I may just love you most of all.
#6: Episode 7 - Angel: We learn a lot in this episode, not least of which is the fact that Angel is in fact a vampire! Along with this, we learn that he was sired by a gal named Darla who's really into school girl uniforms and they have, shall we say, a complicated relationship. I think this was a really well loved episode by many, and I liked it a lot too...but I do have a really hard time wrapping my head around those guns. Like WTF - those guns!? Yes, Darla brings guns to the fang show and I'm like "what am I watching!?" I mean, if vampires can just go around shooting people then I feel like that changes the landscape of this show into something it's not and should never be. It takes it too far out of fantasy and puts it into this uncomfortable reality. Even though Buffy dusted her and her gun toting ass back to whatever hell dimension she came from... I didn't like it.
#5: Episode 8 - I Robot, You Jane: This is the episode that would have been called "Willow Get's Catfished By A Demon" if it was made today, which tells you something - this show was so damn ahead of it's time, people! Now, let's just get one thing out of the way before you criticize me for having this one so high on my list. Yes, the robot demon was ridiculous, but here's the thing. This particular episode is such a 90's culture jam I just can't help but love every cringey moment of it. I mean, this WAS the internet in the 90's - weird AOL chat rooms and "you've got mail!" and those kids that were on the very leading edge of it all. Hey, I was one of those 90's internet nerds and I'm not afraid to admit it. So from this, we not only get some incredible one liners, we also get a total time capsule like-effect, or at least, that's what I experience when I rewatch this episode. Um, not to mention this is our introduction to the flawless Jenny Calendar who is, my I add, a god damn fucking techno pagan!!!!! Incredible. And remember kids, if you're not jacked in, you're not alive! P.S. where does that ring dangle?
#4: Episode 6 - Nightmares: What I loved about this episode, aside from the insanity of watching nightmares come to life, was the fact that we got to learn so much more about each character than we had up until this point. It was riveting to watch, but also fascinating to uncover these nuggets that seemed to foreshadow to so much that I know is to come in the series. For example, Willow's worst nightmare was being made to sing in front of an audience and I can't help but think Joss turned to Alyson and said "hey, what are you most afraid of?" Because we know, come the musical, she got the least amount of lines because she can't and doesn't like to sing. As well, seeing that ominous gravestone with Buffy's name on it - sad and telling all at once. Not only because of what happens in the last episode of this season, but what happens later in the series. Essentially, this episode while entertaining also laid some very important ground work.
#3 & 2: Episodes 1 & 2 - Welcome To The Hellmouth & The Harvest: I'm rolling these two up since the second episode is a continuation of the first and they very much feel like a unit. With that being said, for a series premier that likely didn't know 100% where it was headed, it had a remarkably strong start. We established immediately the key players, enjoyed some incredible one liners, and instantly get hooked into the Buffyverse. No downward mobility here - just two episodes in and Buffy is off to the races and I am 100% all in all over again.
#1: Episode 12 - Prophecy Girl: In Prophecy girl, we learn just how high the stakes are (pun entirely intended) as Buffy and the gang become aware that her death may be imminent as told by some old dusty prophecy. Of course, Buffy lives, after she dies, and what emerges is a stronger, braver, badder Buffy than what we've known up until this point. But it's not all doom and gloom and serious slayer stuff. Cordelia plays a key role as incredible driver or a motor vehicle when she saves Willow and Ms. Calendar from incoming vamps and then proceeds to DRIVE THROUGH THE SCHOOL straight into the library. The Master is also destroyed, but not before Buffy finally addresses his weird juice coloured mouth in what is one of the best lines of the season. It's just got everything! Horror, suspense, action, humour, drama - and above all that, I feel as if Prophecy Girl is the episode where the story arches and Buffy becomes Buffy. Truly an incredible episode to end an amazing first season
Casting The Characters As Cards
Each season, I will revisit the key players and cast them as both a Court Card and a Major Arcana. I anticipate that what some characters are in early seasons will evolve as the series progresses so it will be interesting to see where they begin, and where they end through the lens of tarot. Agree with my choices or disagree? I'd love to know - leave a note in the comments!
Angel as the Knight of Wands and The Devil. Angel is fighting some pretty serious demons which is why I've picked The Devil for his Major Arcana. He's also a bit of a bad boy, coming off aloof and unaffected (even though we know he harbours some serious feelings for Buffy) which is why I selected the Knight of Wands as his court.
Buffy as the Page of Wands and The Lovers. Buffy is just a kid when the show airs and we see she's not yet got her head wrapped around her role as a Slayer, especially while balancing her social and school need. I've chosen The Lovers for Buffy because she's very much guided by her heart, she's passionate and she constantly needs to make difficult choices.
Xander as the Knight of Cups and The Fool. I think of The Knight of Cups as wearing his emotions on his sleeve for better or worse and this is Xander. He can't really control himself and it is certainly a problematic theme throughout the season. He's also inexperienced doubts his abilities and comes off as directionless, which is why I've attributed his Major Arcana to The Fool.
Willow as the Page of Swords and The Hermit. Willow is an introverted book nerd, though highly intelligent and articulate. She is able to communicate quite well, but also knows when to hold back. She is a controlled character, though quirky, and like Buffy - young and learning.
Giles as the King of Swords and The Hierophant. Giles thinks he knows it all and granted, he knows a lot! He's the watcher, keeper of the books, knower of knowledge and sort of in charge? Or thinks he is? Or wants to be? Anyway, he's totally the Hierophant for these reasons and while I will likely choose a different court as the series progresses, in Season 1, I'm mostly seeing him as the voice of intellect and "reason".
Cordelia as the Queen of Swords and the High Priestess. While Buffy uses weapons to slice her enemies, Cordelia uses her words - and what words those are! Some of the best one liners (albeit terribly mean) are from Queen Cordelia. I've also given her Queen title because I'm afraid anything less would not sit well with her. Unlike some of the other characters, Cordelia knows who she is and isn't afraid to let the world know it. Yes, she will grow and develop like the rest - but that doesn't stop her from claiming her spot from the start. I chose The High Priestess because Cordelia gives a kind of cold vibe, but I think her intuition is strong. She is far more observant and in the know than she lets on.
Joyce as the Queen of Cups and Temperance. Joyce is so sweet and lovely and exudes that soft approach. She's clearly invested in figuring out what is eating Buffy and centering their lives so that Buffy can have the best chance at being successful at her new school. Joyce brings love, balance and a touch of naivety to the situation, but she has everyone's best interest at heart.
Jenny Calendar as the King of Wands and The Magician. Jenny is clear she is not a witch, but she is still strong and resourceful as fuck. She's also a bit edgy and fiery and certainly gives Giles a run for his money. Jenny is a leader and isn't afraid to speak her mind or take the bull by the horns. And while we're only just meeting her in Season 1, I think come season 2, these attributes will become even more clearly defined.
The major theme of Season 1 is the characters defining themselves, finding their role and rising to meet such occasions. For this reason, the spread below has been designed with self-discovery in mind.
Slayer Spread Season 1: Chosen One
Card 1. You now
Card 2. Your super power
Card 3. How you wield it
Card 4. How you face challenge
Card 5. Your fear
Card 6. How to overcome it
Card 7. Who you are becoming
Okay well I hope you enjoyed this season one roundup. I can appreciate that my regular visitors may have zero interest in all this and that's cool! Or perhaps I've piqued some of your interests and you want to check out the series which is available on Netflix so GO WATCH IT!
If you are a fanatic already, let me know your thoughts - what were your favourite episodes? Characters? Lines? Scenes? Whatever...
Until next time...