Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season One)

Created by Joss Whedon
Media Reviewed: DVD

This is possibly the best writing assignment I’ve ever had to complete. For the first time in my life, I was able to sit down and watch an entire season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and claim productivity. I’ve been a fan of the series since I was a kid, so over the next couple months I will be sitting down and watching the entire series again then posting my reviews of each season. Since TV seasons are quite different from the films that we normally review at The Blood Theatre, I came up with a reviewing format that I will be using as I work my way through the series. For each season I will review the story arc and the big bad of the season, the regular cast and guest stars, and some best and worst episodes or moments. Starting immediately with Season 1 of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

I will admit that for some people Season 1 is hard to get through. It stumbles a bit at first and has a serious cheese factor that some people just can’t handle. Personally, I love it. It’s not my favourite season, but it’s definitely in my top 3.  It doesn’t take long to realize that this Whedon guy certainly knows that he’s doing.  His quirky dialogue and made up words (coined by his fans as Whedonisms) begin to take form almost immediately.  This season is quite clearly what Joss Whedon wanted the preceding film of the same name to be. I once saw an interview with Joss where he describes that the title explains it all, and he’s entirely right. BUFFY is a funny word, VAMPIRE is a scary word, and SLAYER is an exciting word.  That’s everything that this show is in a nutshell.

Story Arc and the Big Bad
If you can get past the teenage angst and the hyena possessions you’ll find an enjoyable storyline underneath. The Master is a frightening and mysterious villain, and perfect for a first season to the series because he takes little focus away from the characters that you’re just learning to love.  He is featured in almost every episode, but the main plot is really only mentioned in a few. With only the viewers seeing his plans unfold in the darkness, Buffy and her friends are treated to the popular “Monster of the Week” television format. The writers play the format well and it keeps it new and fresh for most of the season. This season does seem to get the basics from the Monster Book of Monsters out of the way pretty quick. Did I just reference Harry Potter in a Buffy review? Yes readers, yes I did. Moving on, by the basics I mean this season introduces some of the regular contributors to monster movies such as witches, robots and invisible killers right away. These weekly monsters keep you interested until an amazing and thrilling finale.

This season is of course where we are introduced to our four lead cast members that (aside from a serious lack of Giles in season 6) stick around for the entire series.

We’ll start with Sarah Michelle Gellar. I’m sorry Kristy Swanson, but the Buffy you portrayed is nothing compared to this one. She’s quirky and funny, stunningly beautiful, and she kicks some serious vampire ass. She has perfect comedic timing, and when the opportunities arise she can act the crap out of the heartfelt scenes.

Some people will always see Alyson Hannigan as the band camp girl, but to me she will always be Willow. She is instantly lovable due to how adorably nerdy and naive she is, and her chemistry with her costars holds the entire cast together from the first scene they share.

Fun fact about Nicholas Brendon: He decided to get into acting because he heard that it would help his stutter. It must have worked because I have never once noticed any stutter.  The comic relief of the series and the most relatable character for any young nerdy guy, Xander is without a doubt one of my favourite characters to ever grace the small screen. He steals almost every scene he’s in consistently as the series continues.

Anthony Stewart Head plays Giles, the father figure to every character since the only revered parent on the show is Buffy’s mother.  He’s the perfect person to play the only adult cast member because he manages to be serious, intelligent, and strong while still being an entertaining person to watch.

Angel is also in this season, but I’ll say this. I don’t like Angel on Buffy. There I said it. Please don’t hurt me, 90’s teenage girls. His spinoff is great, but he is angstsy and depressing and he turns season 2 into a really long chick flick. BUT THEN HE GOES EVIL AND BECOMES AWESOME. But then he gets sad again and he’s less awesome. BUT THEN HE HAS A SPINOFF AND HE’S AWESOME AGAIN. But we’ll get to that over the next few reviews.

Cordelia has the same problem as Angel. BtVS’s Cordelia is the worst; Cordy on ANGEL however is one of the best examples of character development done right from any television series.

Bests and Worsts
The best is an easy choice.  “Prophecy Girl” is a stellar finale. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. Gellar and Head’s performances are spectacular in this episode. The tear filled dialogue they share really shows how much Giles really cares for Buffy and you sympathize with the fact that she is just a kid in way over her head. It also has one of my favourite last lines before Buffy slays: “You have fruit punch mouth”.

The two part premier of  “Welcome to the Hellmouth” and “The Harvast” is another great story, and a perfect first adventure for our heroes.

The worst episode in my opinion is “Teacher’s Pet”. Xander narrowly avoiding being raped and beheaded by a giant praying mantis is a bit heavy for season 1.

Honourable mention: “The Pack”. I made a reference to this episode earlier when I brought up hyena possessions. A lot of people hate this episode, but for me it’s actually one of my favourites. It almost seems to have a subtle underlining message about bullying that I can definitely relate to. It is definitely one of the cheesiest episodes in the series, but at the same time it pulls at my heartstrings a little bit. I just don’t like seeing Willow cry.

Final Words
Season 1 is a pretty fun season. I’d say in my rating system from worst season to best, Season 1 takes the bronze.  If you can’t handle anything super cheesy, maybe start at season 2. If you can’t handle sappy chick flicks either, then maybe start at season 3.

Coming soon: My review for the really long chick flick turned horrifying monster movie with an abstinence message and a sword fight. Stay tuned.