I thought I’d combine my views on S1x09-S1x12 of Buffy into one mega post, just to catch up on the series as I’m already ploughing my way through Season 2.
So, what a collection of episodes we have here. Episodes 9-12 covers everything from after I Robot, You Jane to the fantastic finale that is Prophecy Girl, and really shows just how interesting this show can be. Sure, most of the episodes, Prophecy Girl excluded, are pretty much standard, filler episodes that come across ‘monster of the week’ storylines that are quickly forgetable, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t skip them when you’re rewatching them or discovering, like myself, Buffy for the first time.
Also, I’m gradually starting to like this format of reviewing, so expect more group TV reviews in this format.
S1x09 – THE PUPPET SHOW
The ninth episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is entitled The Puppet Show, and introduces for the first time, the new Principal, Snyder – who will replace Flutie, who met an unfortunate end in The Pack. He’s rough, firm and heavy handed – forcing Giles to oversee the Talent Show, allowing for an amusing sequence early on where Giles has to put up with Cordelia’s singing. However, this episode as a whole was probably the most pointless one in the whole series – truth be told. It doesn’t advance the plot, and neither does it really focus on any themes – because in the past, good episodes or bad – they’ve all focused on something. Even I Robot, You Jane dealt with the concept of internet dating and trust issues. But at least, unlike that episode, The Puppet Show is certainly more watchable. The characters on display here, as well as a very amusing end-credits scene, make this better than some of the worst of Season One, but I think – in the long run, The Puppet Show is fairly forgettable.
There were some things that didn’t work in this episode. The voiceover that opens this didn’t work to its full potential, and one thing that I couldn’t help but notice – nobody really seemed overly concerned about the fact that a classmate got her heart cut out whilst at school. Given the fact that there’s several more gruesome deaths later in the series, this isn’t really a fault of this episode alone, but rarely does Buffy focus on the casualties and deaths of the previous episodes – well, ever. You’d think that with the amount of students that meet unfortunate ends, the school would start to become a bit smaller, and people would start to notice. However, that’s not the case.
This episode boasted several humorous one liners, and nothing really feels quite so cheesy as the previous one. It’s a fun, light hearted and entertaining watch – even if it’s not overly serious and despite a few minor elements of foreshadowing, doesn’t really play an overall part in the grand scheme of things.
S1x10 – NIGHTMARES
Nightmares follows on from The Puppet Show, but again adopts another Monster of the Week format of an episode, even if this one is slighty different to its predecessor – by examining the worst fears of all the Scooby Gang, and allows a mix of not only the fantastic going on here – but also the downright horrible. The horrible thing in question being that we have an episode with one of the greatest potentials of the season so far, but when eventually coming together, the end result feels a little bit weak. However, one thing that makes up for it – the characterisation, which I’ll touch on below.
The best thing about this episode was that it fleshes out Buffy a bit more as a character. The opening dream sequence, whilst suffering from poor music, allows for a fun element of foreshadowing for later episodes, and sets up a nice following act. Right from the get go, you know that Nightmares will be about well, nightmares – and there are some pretty solid, amusing quotes here to boot. However, several problems prevented Nightmares from being the great episode that it could, and by all rights should have been. Firstly, it’s quite obvious to notice that the Billy character featured here, really looks all too familiar to the creepy Anointed One. And aside from Buffy, Everbody else gets a brushed aside with only minor stuff. For example – take Willow, her fears were already covered in The Puppet Show - the previous episode, during the last scene, and whilst Giles and Xander’s nightmares may be more serious, they aren’t exactly revealing, and when you throw in Cordelia as well – it soon becomes apparant that everybody apart from Buffy really does get pushed aside when it comes to the exploration of nightmares, and I really think this could have been handled a whole lot better.
However, this episode is fairly solid. It’s not a complete waste of time, and provides for some really interesting sequences, and a great line – where Buffy finds herself confronting the Ugly Man – who shouts, “Lucky Nineteen!”, at our protagonist. She responds in an awesome way – and as this series goes further, particularly having watched the first four episodes of Season 2, I can safely say that Buffy is starting to grow on me as a character, initially thinking of her falling into the ‘meh’ bracket, whilst only Giles and Willow fit the ‘awesome’ one. Therefore, Nightmares proved a significant turning point in the series for me despite the fact that it was only an average episode, and remains a solid watch for a Season 1 drama.
S1x11 – OUT OF MIND, OUT OF SIGHT
So, this is the penultimate episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s first season, and it’s another solid one – but I can’t help but thinking the one set before the finale should be even more epic. Mainly that’s probably because I’m just used to Doctor Who, which more than often (or at least, under the Russell T. Davies era) had two or three part finales that normally meant that something seriously epic was going to happen in the penultimate episode, leaving our heroes pretty much beaten to allow for a miraculous recovery in the finale. However, Out of Mind, Out of Sight proves that isn’t the case with the first Season of Buffy, and ensures that for this season at least, every episode has been effectively a self contained watch focusing on Monster of the Week drama.
Unlike its predecessor, Out of Mind, Out of Sight manages to tell a coherent storyline that whilst may not be the most intriguing, It’s a Cordelia-heavy episode, and whilst I’m not the character’s greatest fan, it was nice to see her get some screentime once in a while – particularly when the episode deals with an invisible girl, and an interesting plot that although has a metaphor that comes across as a bit too heavy-handed, it does manage to offer up something that’s entertaining, despite the pacing issues. I’d like to say that this episode also effectively explores what would happen to a person if they were so ignored, so cut off – that they eventually vanished. It benifits from a solid focus on Buffy and Cordelia, even if Xander, Willow and Giles get pushed aside for this episode.
There’s also an element of interesting foreshadowing here – and it soon becomes apparent that the Government aren’t completely in the dark with the supernatural happenings in Sunnydale. I haven’t seen more than the fourth episode of the Second Season (which oddly enough, is also where I’m at with Supernatural – you can expect a similar review roundup of the first four episodes of its second Season soon), but I can tell that this is obviously meant to have a huge element of foreshadowing – but when we’ll see a bigger involvement, I don’t quite know. This also looks particularly interesting when you consider S2x04, which shows that even Principal Snyder knows that something is up.
Therefore, this allows for a fun, solid – and enjoyable watch, but like all previous episodes of Season One before it, nothing special. Nothing that screams – oh, this is going to be my favourite TV series ever, and if this weren’t created by Joss Whedon, Giles and Willow weren’t such awesome characters and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing more of where the show went from here, I’d probably have given up by now. However, I thought I’d stick around to the end of the Season at least – and I’m so glad I did. Prophecy Girl was superb, and I have my full thoughts on it just below the rating for this episode.
S1x12 – PROPHECY GIRL
So, this was it. Prophecy Girl - the finale of Season 1. I remember reading/watching somewhere that each finale of Buffy was approached as though it was going to be the last episode of the series, and they really pulled out all the stops here. Whilst it’s sadly not perfect, Prophecy Girl was the push that I needed to really get intrigued with this show. It was a spark of greatness – and whilst it feels similarly in tone with previous Season One episodes, the directing debut of Joss Whedon feels like it stands head and shoulders above what we’ve had so far. One of the main themes in this episode is sacrifice – something that was touched on earlier on in both Welcome to the Hellmouth and Never Kill a Boy on a First Date, but this episode really is the first time for the character that her role and devotion as the Slayer is truly tested, especially after she overhears the Prophecy discussed by Angel and Giles regarding her ‘death’.
I can imagine that this episode would have been slightly more unpredictable if I didn’t already know that there were several more seasons to follow, but as a result – the suspense about her death was robbed as I guessed that this wouldn’t be her fate here – given what I knew about later Seasons. After all, they wouldn’t kill of the titular character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, would they? Whilst the episode does fall apart towards the end after they avoid her death, there were some very strong moments about this episode. The music is poor as well, but the strong elements of the plot, the character development of Buffy, and the Scooby Gang really acting together – all of them so far – Mrs. Calendar, Xander, Buffy, Giles, Willow, Angel and even Cordelia, have very important roles to play in this episode and Prophecy Girl allows for a very interesting watch. It also has a nice scene towards the end with Buffy and Angel – Angel claims that he likes Buffy’s dress, and Buffy retorts that “Yeah, Yeah. Big hit with everyone”, especially when given the context of the fact that even the Master praised Buffy’s new look.
So overall, Prophecy Girl serves as a very satisfying conclusion to Season One. If you’re having any doubts about this Season as a first timer, I can safely say stick with it – Season 2 has a promising debut with its four episodes and Prophecy Girl really is an excellent finale despite the few minor issue that I raised. This episode is great – and easily gains my award for pick of the Season.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 1 (1997): S1x01: Welcome to the Hellmouth, S1x02: The Harvest, S1x03: Witch, S1x04: Teacher’s Pet, S1x05: Never Kill A Boy on the First Date, S1x06: The Pack, S1x07: Angel, S1x08: I, Robot… You, Jane, S1x09: The Puppet Show, S1x10: Nightmares, S1x011: Out of Mind, Out of Sight, S1x012: Prophecy Girl