Thursday, September 20, 2012

Buffy in Review- Welcome to the Hellmouth

For Whedonverse Thursdays I’m going to offer a closer look at significant episodes throughout the series.  Yes, this could take a while.   Yes, I may skip over a few.  I plan to mention most episodes, while being in-depth with my reviews from the perspective of a well versed fan on a rewatch.  Here goes the walk-through.

First scene of BTVS, featuring Darla
Of course we’ll be beginning with the premiere, Welcome to the Hellmouth.  It begins with Darla walking into the abandoned school, acting unsure, until her somewhat threatening companion suddenly turns into dinner.  Of course on this rewatch we know it’s Darla, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen the school girl outfit.  It’s kind of fun to see her and try to imagine her helpless. 

The first moments with Buffy are spent in her dreams.  Before we ever meet her, we see that inside her head are dark and frightening images.  This contrasts with the rest of the room and a cheerful Joyce, but our first encounter with Buffy is actually with her unconscious, and that’s a dark scary place.  Also, as a rewatcher we know that those images are from her future, so we’re also seeing that her dreams can be prophetic.

The influx of the 90s wardrobe is immediate upon arrival at school, but it’s not the focus.  I guess I don’t find it all that distracting.  What was way more distracting was Xander on a skateboard.  I’m okay with how that did not last.  The unique Buffy-esque dialogue also hit hard and fast, with such classic quotes & phrases as “The library. Where the books live,” from Willow explaining to Xander where he could find a math book, and Xander’s questioning of Jesse “What’s the sitch?”    

Jesse, played by Eric Balfour
Ah, Jesse.  So rarely to be heard about in the later years.  It’s hard to believe in the three musketeers of Willow, Xander, & Jesse when in the many times the Xander/Willow younger days are discussed, no one ever mentions him.  Also, they are just not broken up very long about the tragic death of their lifelong friend.

Principal Flutie is then impressed by Buffy’s history- enough to tape it back together.  The memory of Flutie fades in the wake of Snyder’s dominant personality.

Oh, Xander’s first line to Buffy- “Can I have you?”  I love that. Of course, the answer is ‘sorry but no,’ to the eternal sadness of a few hopeful fans.  I was never personally a big believer that Xander was somewhere Buffy needed to go.  Xander is too real and grounded for Buffy.   This is a conversation for another post.

Xander then picks up the stake that fell out of Buffy’s bag.  If she’s so moved on, as evidenced when she reacts to Giles, why is she carrying weapons?  So we’ve met Xander, now onto Cordelia.

(9:40) Okay, Cordy’s coolness test?  Did they seriously love James Spader?  Apparently he needs to call Buffy.  I wasn’t even sure who that was, so here you go.  And seriously, who is John Tesh?  Buffy, who’s seen real demons, is calling him the devil.  I read his Wikipedia article, but that didn’t really solve it for me.   Is this even the right guy?  Is it just me? I was watching this in the 6th grade, so I took it for granted when I didn’t know these people, but I still have no idea. 

The book the Slayer needs immediately, but never again.
(12:10)Marking through introduction of other main characters, we can check off Giles with Buffy’s visit to the library.  I love how Giles throws that Vampyr book down in front of Buffy without even saying who he is.   Exactly why did he believe that she needed that particular book?  Is it the handbook mentioned by Kendra later? Do we see it again? I plan to be on the lookout, because apparently the Slayer was coming to Sunnydale and the first thing she would want would be that exact book! 

Onto our first dead body.  Okay, why do we never see the girls in the locker room again?  We could have missed out on Aphrodesia (sp?) being the best vapid Sunnydale student turned demon ever! (Sorry Harmony.) And that other girl can scream.  We hear in the next scene or name is Ora (sp?).

Meeting Willow, where we learn that the library gives Buffy “the wiggins.”  I totally picked up that word in middle school.  Things wigged me out and gave me the wiggins all the time.   Buffy, upon seeing the dead body, runs to Giles and declares that she doesn’t care. 

I completely love this scene.  Listening to Buffy, I realize that Sarah Michelle Gellar already had a fully developed Buffy down pat.  Anthony Stewart Head is there as Giles, too.  The music is just a bit corny, and it might be my personal sense of nostalgia, but by this point I am fully invested.  I understand Buffy’s plight as a normal girl, and despite not having seen her do anything yet, I believe in her strength.  I believe that she could take on some vamps and hold her own.  Of course, Xander overhears about her slayage at this point.

Our first view real of the vampires is the ritualistic Master and his minions.  It’s very different and detached from reality.  I like it more a bit later in the series when the big bads can blend a little better into day to day life, and you can relate a little more to them.

Angel, played by David Boreanez
(24:30) Oh, Angel.  He seems so young here. I watch Bones, so he is 16 years younger in this moment.  I have spent more than half my life in love with this guy.   I ADORE that their first moment is Buffy taking him out.  She holds the power from minute one.  I also love that his first comment to her is sarcastic.  His shirt is disturbingly shiny here.  What is it made out of?  He is pretty hot, though.  Surprise.  I do enjoy this scene- just a taste.  He doesn’t have the ancient feel of the Master and crew or the Vampyr tome of Giles, or the same vibe as the ultra-trendy high school hallways. He stands out against that backdrop, offering something different and intriguing.   We see the necklace he gives her at this moment.  It definitely shows that Angel wants to keep her safe, even if she found him “annoying” and “really didn’t like him.”  (Twilight note- proper response to lurking stalkers.)

Giles being a creeper
Entering the Bronze.  I’ll analyze the Bronze itself another time.  Are there many bars that let in fifteen year olds in reality?  I love seeing Giles just lurking in the upper levels, concerned because Buffy “didn’t hone” (32:00).

The Master and Luke are not all that interesting to me.  I mean, it’s interesting that the Master doesn’t ever look normal, but I don’t love him. It’s so much better when you love the bad guy. 

We’ve reached the crisis moment.  Willow and a snacked upon Jesse are at dragged into a crypt, and we have a corny moment when Darla transforms “to feed!”  I like how Darla contrasts her soft and hard so much in her human and vamp forms.  She seems so sweet human form, and so hard when she asks Buffy “Who the hell are you?”  (38:00). This all leads to our first dusting.  I love this whole easy clean-up method set up by Joss.  I remember when I saw the movie later and I could not figure out why the dead vamps were still lying around.  Wouldn’t people notice?  It’s so much easier to believe that the people of Sunnydale live in ignorant bliss when the vamps can be gotten rid of with so little trail.

I enjoy that Buffy has a past, though.  I like a stronger Buffy who already knows what’s up.  I know Joss would have done a wonderful job, but I’m glad I don’t have to wait to see a Buffy who can take on the Vessel.   She’s already got an understanding of what’s being asked of her, and we already feel her pain at the life she’s lost. 

We’re going to breaking at this, with Buffy losing her battle with Luke in a typical horror story growl. We’ll pick up next Thursday with a detailed review of The Harvest. 

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