Thursday, October 4, 2012

Buffy in Review- The Witch

I brought home a stack of work.  I’m not going to do it, because I’d rather be watching Buffy.
I'd rather be watching Buffy.
We’re on The Witch, the third episode of Season 1.  Granted this is not really a pivotal episode, but for some reason it seems to be referenced a lot.  Is it Buffy in a cheerleading uniform?  Meeting Amy, the character who pops back into our lives every few years?  I am hoping to figure it out on this rewatch. (This is written as a rewatch after having viewed the entire series, so if you aren't through the series and are sensitive to decade old spoilers, beware.)

We begin with a lecture from Giles about Buffy “enslaving [herself] to this cult” of cheerleading.  Personally, I struggle seeing Buffy as a cheerleader.  It’s so yay sports, which isn’t something she seems to care about, be aware of, or anything at all.  Since when did the Scoobies care about school spirit?  I guess that may not be the standard motivation for being on the cheer squad, but it just doesn’t seem like an activity she would care about.  Is that just me? I know the very idea of Buffy is based around the cheerleader type becoming savior of the world.  I don’t know, I could be all wrong on this.  Just thoughts.  

Also at this moment Xander creates some serious awkwardness with his bracelet.  How can Buffy not react to the weirdness of giving her a bracelet that says “Yours Always,”?  That is not an appropriate friend present and should not be accepted.  After viewing the Human Torch (cheerleader suffering from spontaneous combustion), we move into the more familiar setting of the library.  Okay, this is my favorite Giles moment.  His smile about having a “cornucopia” of amazing evil shows his joy in learning of something new.  A true educator.  Willow coins the phrase “The Slayerettes” in this scene, then Xander states his life philosophy, “I laugh in the face of danger, then I hide until it goes away.”   This was always one of my favorite Xander quotes.  Honestly, the line itself isn't true.  More than once in the series Xander fights back, but it’s just such a great line.

The trophy case makes its first appearance in this episode. (And one of its last; it doesn’t pop up much.) This is where we establish Amy’s weirdness factor.  She’s obviously obsessed with her mother.  We know where this is going, but it’s still creepy,  even in hindsight.

Back to the Slayerettes- we pretty much establish this is the episode all about defining Xander’s friendzone status.  According to Willow, he’s a chewed up pen you’re just used to having.  He doesn't react well to this metaphor and offers to drive a railroad spike through his head.  I cannot help but wonder if this line was at all the inspiration for Spike’s name, or at least thought about after naming Spike.  Thanks for the flash-forward moment, Xander!  It’s almost fun watching him try to ask Buffy out and get shot down, or just completely ignored.  They act like kids for such a small portion of the series that it’s fun to watch the honest awkwardness. 

Cordelia gets cursed; mostly for being Cordelia,
a little bit because she was a cheerleader
As we view a cursed Cordelia wreck a car, we learn she’s failed her driver’s license twice.  This is pretty sad, considering Cordelia is pretty much the designated chauffeur for the next couple of years.  You think someone would be more successful than her at the whole driving thing.  Is it supposed to act as a status symbol that Cordelia had a car?  Most high school students can afford something to drive to school.  Regardless of their success in driving,  Willow is successful at something here- she has no issues dealing with the eye of newt to concoct the “witch detecting” spell.  Foreshadowing future skills, Ms. Rosenburg?

I love the twist in this episode. When primes suspect Amy goes home and is obviously in control, not the suffering pressured victim, you know there is something different going on here.  Even in an early, non-pivotal episode, it’s got to be something just a bit different.  Oh, and then there’s the black cat on Buffy’s shirt.  Witchy!  Intrigue at her sleeping ensemble is followed by head shaking at her enthusiastic cheerleading self.  Obviously there is some other kind of problem (evil Amy spell) going on here, but regardless, I prefer sarcastic, bigger picture Buffy.  I’m okay with her cheer phase not lasting all that long.

We end up back with Giles in the library, and he appears to have recognized the spell cast on Buffy fairly easily.  He would, wouldn't he.  I believe The Ripper would recognize a vengeance spell when he saw it.   I do love Giles through all of this.  He showed that he’d leave the library and get his hands dirty when he needed to in order to protect Buffy and get the job done.  Even just a couple of episodes into the series, we believe that he cares about her.   Watching it, I barely detect a difference in his concern and controlled protectiveness in this, merely the third episode, than in the latest episodes when Buffy had practically become a daughter to him.  It shows us that caring for Buffy is just going to become a part of him, from beginning to end.  Thank you Anthony Stewart Head for being such a great actor.  By the way, he is awfully competent here.  I like it.  He does mention it’s his first spell casting, which is going to prove to be a lie.

Sidebar- We see a lot of the inside school gym in this episode.  Do we see it again?  I remember prom, but I’m struggling to come up with another scene in the gym.  Oh, and I remember gym class in Phases (the werewolf episode).  I remember way more locker room than gym.  I'll be keeping an eye out as we proceed.  

Amy's recovered from her curse of
wanting to be a cheerleader.
My favorite Buffy is always quippy, strong Buffy, and she doesn’t let me down in this climactic scene.  She “feels better” after her little death curse is lifted, and she takes care of the situation.  I definitely prefer Buffy to be of the attitude Amy, the real Amy, has at the end of the episode.  She “will really miss the intellectual thrill of spelling words with [her] arms,” and I appreciate her sarcastic look at cheering.  Forgive me any avid cheerleaders out there, it’s just not my thing.  Most cheerleaders that I've actually known or had in school have been very nice people.  Most of them are not the type to become avid Joss Whedon fans, however.  I'm sure there are exceptions.

As far as conclusions, this episode's is a long standing favorite of mine.  I would never remember Catherine being trapped in the cheer-leading trophy if Oz didn't mention it’s eyes were following him later in the series.  As small as that connection is, it’s one of my favorites.  Joss, and all the other amazing Buffy writers, never forgets the details.  It’s one thing that makes the series so special. 
It follows you with its eyes!

Stay Shiny!

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