Spoilers, duh (I mean, it’s stopped airing 15 years ago… which makes me feel so old right now)
So here’s the lowdown: Buffy was one of the first TV shows I ever really loved. I watched most of it when I was younger- though stopped after season 5 because it annoyed me that she came back from the dead and spoiled that perfect ending. Years later a friend of mine was aghast and told me to finish the damn thing- I mean missed a lot of classic episodes like Once More with Feeling! (I know, the horror 😉 ) Anyway, those are my pre-blog Buffy credentials, and should explain my intense love for this show and why over the last few months I couldn’t resist rewatching the whole thing on Prime 😉 Also it should tell you why I decided to dress up for this post as vampire orangutan:
And why I got my sister- the slaying monkey baby (who sadly won’t be joining us today)- to dress up too:
Yes, I know Halloween was in October 😉 Anyhoo, onto the reviews!
Season 1– this first season did a great job of establishing the world and has some classic episodes. I loved the quirky characters and everyone seems really zesty at this stage- including Giles. And while not the most interesting, the Master was still a scary villain. So I guess what I’m trying to say is the original is always a good place to start 😉 The one minor thing that bugged me with season 1 was how little I cared for the romance- sorry to all the Angel fans!
Season 2– this definitely felt like the show reaching its stride. What I particularly love about season 2 is that it’s the start of Willow’s journey into witchcraft. I also thought Angel made a much more compelling baddie than a love interest. That twist made it far more emotional and enjoyable. Plus, Spike’s introduction added to the entertainment value tenfold!
Season 3– so I had more mixed feelings about this series. I liked that it started out with a more beleaguered Buffy and dealt with the consequences of being a slayer really well… That said, Faith sucked. I never liked her as a character or an antagonist or any other role she jumped into as the show progressed. The Mayor didn’t excite me as a villain either. Even so, the individual character episodes in season 3 were GREAT. I especially loved the way it explored the sidekicks- Xander and Willow are developed so well and inject the show with consistent humour. What I did find was that my opinions on certain aspects had changed a lot as an adult. I didn’t realise quite how much of a “nice guy” Xander was. And I also didn’t understand why on earth Willow would ever want to be with him- she’s so accomplished and Oz is amazing (discounting later developments as well). I think one of the best episodes for me in this series though is when Anya enters the fray.
Season 4– what I really appreciated about this season was how effectively it focused on the leap from school to college. The way it dealt with that transition was particularly clever, since it showed how dealing with adulthood can be more of a struggle for some (*coughs* Xander and Buffy *cough cough*). I also felt the romance with Riley was far better developed than the one with Angel. And on a similar note, I squealed when Tara was introduced- best love interest in the show by far. I also especially liked the direction the show took with Spike’s character at this stage. There were a couple of standout episodes for me as well: the Gentlemen was terrifying and Something Blue was hilarious. The overarching storyline worked better for me than season 3 overall- though ultimately it wasn’t as exciting. Where season 3 took a while to build, season 4 kinda peters out when the whole government conspiracy thing just morphs into *generic Frankenstein monster battle*.
Season 5– I found this to be the most beautiful, emotional and addictive series by far. In the opening episodes, we already get Dracula, Dawn’s introduction and Xander’s double. Speaking of Dawn, I reallllly liked how that was handled- it was such a crazy, clever twist. Now, at this stage, I didn’t hate her character, though as an older viewer I definitely admit she is irritating. I do think on balance she has a great deal to cope with and really liked how it adds a new relationship dynamic. Buffy adjusting into the sister role was a lot of fun to watch. It also worked brilliantly when it came to the more heart-wrenching stories this season dealt with. Because, while Glory made a terrifying villain, it’s amazing how this show explored that the hardest thing Buffy would ever have to face was the loss of her mother. Episodes like The Body were so well observed and took the show to another level. The one downside to this series was watching Riley turn into a plank of wood and wishing him gone for most of the season- I always forget that he stayed on the show wayyy longer than I remembered. On the flip side, Spike’s growth is great. As flawed and unstable as he is, I really did love his character. Yes, he’s needy and selfish, but also funny and endearing. His story breaks my heart a little and it’s amazing to see a literally soulless character choose to be better- but I’m getting a little ahead of myself… Either way, Season 5 was where it was at for me. I loved the finale so much and thought it was a fatal mistake when they just couldn’t let dead things lie- which brings me onto…
Season 6– So much of season 6 for me is taken up with the Spike/Buffy angle- which ended up being a pity for many reasons. Firstly, because the Dark Willow story, foreshadowed from the first episode, is ultimately overshadowed by this development. Secondly, cos it allows Buffy to deflect a lot of her hurt at being back in the world to her dysfunctional relationship. And boy is it dysfunctional. Now, I love Spike- I know he’s the bad guy, I know he’s largely unapologetic for six seasons, but I also I love a well done redemption arc. And the crucial thing about Spike is he isn’t magically redeemed by love- he has to work at it. At first because he desires Buffy and then because it’s the right thing. So there was definitely a part of me rooting for him to win Buffy’s heart… and yet, not to be an ungrateful fangirl or anything, I genuinely wish it hadn’t gone there. As much as THAT kiss at the end of Once More With Feeling (possibly the best Buffy episode ever) gets me every time and as much as it’s WOW when they are together, it’s never very fulfilling as a viewer cos Buffy is just. not. into. it. That means it’s not just the bathroom scene that sucks- it’s all of it. I’ll admit when I first watched this season I was excited to be handed scraps by the writers- however rewatching it ruins it for me. It’s horrible to see two awesome characters- on their own heroic journeys- destroying each other with their relationship. No, this doesn’t do the whole “love will save you” thing and yes, it makes a certain amount of sense that it went down like this- but the alternative didn’t have to be so depressing. I get the concept- nonetheless the execution for me was off and perhaps there were lines the showrunners shouldn’t have crossed. I did like some of the transgressive elements the series explored though- especially how the big bad was one of their own. It was a bit unfortunate that Willow had to be a little annoying in this season though. But I liked how the show upped the ante and defied expectations by both making the villains useless jokes… and then turning the tables on us. I did like how it was resolved as well. And it’s one of the few times in TV history that a resurrection storyline has worked for me- so I was glad I did cave on my principles and watched this all those years ago 😉
Season 7: now, where season 6 managed to defy my expectations and delivered some cool TV (especially for a show I thought was dead and buried), season 7 ended up making me think it was a shame they’d resurrected it. Let’s talk about some of the things I did like first. I liked how much characters had grown. I thought Willow’s ups and downs this season were more in character. I did also like how the “big bad” and Spike’s redemptive arc were woven together. HOWEVER I was never that fussed about the First Evil. The whole “we’ve got to fight a concept” thing is a bit naff. I’ve since seen this done a few times in shows and I don’t think it works for me. Nor did I take to how it was done here. Especially when it came to later in-fighting, which felt contrived and didn’t utilise this theme as well as it could have. Pointing out that there are flaws- Andrew saying “what kind of name is the First”- is a lazy way of addressing issues and does nothing to diminish them. I also HATED the potential slayer aspect. Most of the new characters are annoying, there were too many of them and they overshadowed some of the actually interesting people in the show. Plus, the British potentials have *the worst* fake British accents ever!!! It’s also a shame that so many characters were sidelined for them and many old favourites were gone- and no, bringing back Faith was not a solution. Nor was including Andrew- I spent most of the series wondering why he was there. While Willow’s relationship with Kennedy started out strong- it ended up feeling like the disappointing whoosh of all the air being let out of a balloon. The whole mutiny thing didn’t work- especially spearheaded by Dawn- because so many characters have done a lot worse and their alternative plan was much the same as the original. Of course, she turns out to be right- even though she was acting *super* out of character by putting a bunch of teenage girls in danger. It all felt contrived for needless drama. James Marsters did a fantastic job as Spike this series- however his relationship with Buffy is so weird and highlights some of the flaws from the previous season. His sacrifice in the end was a perfect end for his character though. Ultimately, I found this season lacklustre, lacking the excitement of earlier series and failed to grab me. I hate to end on a sour note- I guess that’s just the way the vampire crumbles into dust.
So with all that said, here are my rankings for Buffy:
#1 Season 5
#2 Season 2
#3 Season 1
#4 Season 6
#5 Season 4
#6 Season 3
#7 Season 7
So have you seen this classic show? What do you think of it? Do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts? And how would you rank the seasons? Let me know in the comments!