With seven seasons and 144 episodes under its belt, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a surprise cultural phenomenon that went on to inspire one official spin-off series, novels, comics, video games, board games, fan films, parodies, and academic conferences. And now, Jamie Gerber is here to walk us all through it from the first episode to the last. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries and empowerment of the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer! S1E9: “The Puppet Show” (Writers: Rob Des Hotel & Dean Batali/ Director: Ellen S. Pressman) This is another one of my least favorite episodes, not just of the season, but of the series. Don’t’ get me wrong, this installment is no “I, Robot…You, Jane.” For one thing, it’s funny. The dialogue is snappy and the talent show subplot is delightful. Not to mention, “The Puppet Show” introduces a new foil for Buffy: Principal Snyder. So, what’s not to like? Maybe I’m just not one for the killer dummy horror trope. Those things really do give me the wiggins. Buffy would understand. So no, this episode isn’t bad by any means. I simply feel that it is one of the season’s weakest. We begin with Cordelia’s awful, yet awesome rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” Giles is tasked with running the talent show and Snyder punishes Buffy, Willow and Xander for leaving school grounds by making them participate. This leads to another brilliant moment, which is their performance of a scene from Oedipus Rex, but we have to wait for the credits to roll to see that gem. Armin Shimerman plays Principal Snyder as the perfect opposite of Principal Flutie. He’s there to “keep an eye on the bad element” and he’s sure that Buffy is exactly that. This episode sets him up as the proverbial thorn in Buffy’s side. Everything starts and ends with the dreaded talent show. When Emily the dancer winds up dead and missing her heart, the Scoobies narrow down the list of suspects to Morgan. Buffy agrees that Morgan is a weirdo, but has her doubts as to whether the case is that simple. Then again, she’s not a fan of the dummy he’s using for his ventriloquist act, or dummies in general. Sid the dummy does seem to have a mind of his own, but even more suspect for the audience, is the creepy voiceover of whomever was watching Emily earlier in the episode, saying, “I will be made flesh.” It turns out the mannequin is indeed alive and he thinks Buffy is “the one”, whatever that means. The gang’s research indicates that the most likely candidate is a demon that needs human organs to maintain its mortal guise, which means the culprit could be anyone. The Scoobies are still leaning towards Morgan, but Buffy is by this point, pretty damn sure Sid is our guy. This leads to a brief cat and mouse game between the two. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had already proven itself capable of subverting expectations. Putting my negative feelings toward the “The Puppet Show” aside, it does do that, because Sid isn’t the villain of the piece at all. In fact, he’s got more in common with Buffy than with our killer. Buffy discovers Morgan dead and missing a brain, at which point she is briefly incapacitated by Sid. Their conversation brings to light interesting info about the dummy. He’s a demon hunter, cursed to live as a mannequin and he thought Buffy was the killer. Once he offs this final demon, he’ll be free, meaning he finally gets to die. He and Buffy team up to find the real murderer, who has discarded Morgan’s brain in favor of a healthier one: Giles’s! The demon was the magician all along and he’s about to guillotine the Watcher’s head, giving him the last organ he needs to remain human. Backstage, Buffy and Sid take on the demon together, although the monster being stabbed by a dummy is a bit difficult to take seriously. The death of the demon leads to Sid’s own, just in time for the curtain to open on what Snyder thankfully views as an “Avant-garde” scene. S1E10: “Nightmares” (Story: Joss Whedon/Teleplay: David Greenwalt/Director: Bruce Seth Green) This episode is another example of a great concept with mediocre execution. However, There are aspects of “Nightmares” that I absolutely adore. We get inside the heads of all of our main characters in a way that we have yet to: their dreams. As the title indicates though, it’s no land of unicorns and rainbows. This is also the first episode to truly touch on Buffy’s feelings of guilt over her parents’ divorce, as well as her absentee dad. Hank Summers is important not for what he is, but for what he is not, namely a father to Buffy. It is the lack of relationship between them that makes Buffy’s rapport with Giles all the more poignant. That bond is evident by the Watcher’s nightmare turned reality in this very episode and will only grow over the course of seven seasons. The nightmares of Sunnydale students are becoming waking life. They begin harmlessly enough, with Xander showing up to class naked and Buffy losing time while taking a test she’s unprepared for. Before the Scooby Gang can even put the pieces together, a fellow student (while on a smoke break) is attacked by a scary monster ominously saying, “Lucky nineteen.” Pay attention, because smokers are always punished on BtVS. Meanwhile, the bad dreams are escalating and Sunnydale High is slowly descending into chaos. The most heartbreaking scene is Buffy’s meeting with her father, who is meant to spend the weekend with her. This is a moment she’s been anxiously awaiting and it goes horribly wrong when he tells her that she’s “sullen and rude and not nearly as bright as I thought you were going to be.” He confirms her deepest fears in blaming her for the divorce and says that he no longer wants to see her at all. This conversation may be a nightmare, but it’s also a bit of a portent in terms of their relationship. It turns out that the rug tying this room together is Billy, a young boy Buffy keeps seeing when dreams bleed into reality. His little league number is nineteen. The only problem is, he’s in a coma after being attacked himself. Giles, who can no longer read, suspects that the Monster of the Week here is no monster at all, but rather the astral projection of a frightened boy. Buffy does her best to help him fight the “ugly man” that already hospitalized one student, realizing that he is the manifestation of a very real threat. Billy leaves an easily followed trail of breadcrumbs, which lead straight to the man responsible for beating him into his current state of unconsciousness. My biggest issue with this episode lies in its resolution. “Nightmares” is a brilliant mediation on fear and grants us insight into all of our major players. We see just how strong Giles’s fatherly affection for Buffy has grown. She dreamt of being buried alive by the Master (who she notably meets for the first time here) and waking up a vampire, but his worst nightmare is her death. The depth of these characters is explored in varying degrees, which works within the context of each of them. Xander winds up punching a clown (so gratifying), Willow is in Madame Butterfly with no idea of how to sing and Cordelia…has frizzy hair. However, its ending plays like an after school special about abuse, wrapping up far too neatly, with Billy facing his abuser and Buffy kicking the dude’s ass. Also, the idea of a little league coach hospitalizing a kid for losing a game is fairly preposterous. I mean, I know sports fans be crazy, but come on. S1E11: “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (Story: Joss Whedon/Teleplay: Ashley Gable & Thomas A. Swyden/Director: Reza Badiyi) Oddly, this is one of my favorite episodes of the season. It’s odd because, well, the writers of “I, Robot…You, Jane”, wrote it. The story however, came from the mind of Joss Whedon and while it may be a bit on the nose, it’s a very cool idea. Girl feels invisible, so life on the Hellmouth makes it so. In part, the success of this episode can be attributed to guest star Clea Duvall as the invisible Marcie Ross. As far as Season One’s Monsters of the Week, she is most definitely my favorite. Duvall somehow manages to convey complex emotions, despite the fact that we only see her face in flashbacks. “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” also includes several important plot developments. For one thing, it brings Cordelia more into the fold. For another, it marks the first meeting of Angel and Giles. We also gain some insight into who Buffy Summers was before she became Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This installment sees Cordelia running for May Queen, an honor that is mercilessly mocked by Willow and Xander. Buffy however, is almost envious. She was once the kind of girl that would covet such a title and the normalcy of it is something that she still secretly craves. Buffy may be an outcast now, but before being tapped for her true calling, she had more in common with Cordelia than she cares to admit. ”Out of Mind, Out of Sight” continues to explore the undercurrent running through BtVS of Buffy’s intense desire to be a “normal girl”. There is even a moment where Buffy and Cordelia almost bond over the inherent loneliness that can come with popularity. Of course it is quickly ruined by Cordelia’s unfailing ability to make everything about her. An unseen force is attacking both students and staff at Sunnydale High. A baseball bat attacks Cordelia’s boyfriend, her best friend Harmony is pushed down the stairs and her English teacher is suffocated. For once, Cordelia would be right in assuming, “This is all about me…me, me, me!” Buffy hears laughing immediately before bumping into something that while invisible is definitely corporeal. Aside from that, she hears mysterious flute music and a search for lost kids turns up a missing flutist, one Marcie Ross. Students and teachers have ignored her for so long that she has actually become invisible. I mean, her yearbook was full of nothing but “Have a nice summer” and we all know that means you’ve got no friends. Due to her winning personality, Cordelia has incurred Marcie’s wrath. The girl’s invisibility seems to have driven her mad and she can see nothing beyond exacting her vengeance. Meanwhile, Angel pays Giles a visit. Angel and Buffy have agreed to go their separate ways, but he’s still looking out for her. Giles has been in research mode, learning all he can about the Master. Despite his greatest efforts, certain texts have been eluding him. However, it turns out that Angel knows where the Pergamum Codex is, a book that will be largely significant to the season finale. Good thing Angel returns with that tome, because Marcie locks Giles, Willow and Xander in the boiler room and turns on the gas. A guy that doesn’t need to breathe is pretty much the best man to come to the rescue. With the Scoobies otherwise occupied, Marcie snatches Cordelia from under Buffy’s nose and drugs the Slayer. Both girls awaken tied to chairs, with the invisible girl about to go Joker on their faces. Despite the fact that Marcie went homicidal, Clea Duvall manages to evoke sympathy for the character, using only her voice to clearly express the girl’s unrestrained anger. Marcie didn’t choose to become invisible. People simply stopped seeing her. Someone sees her though. After Buffy breaks free and hones her senses enough to kick some invisible ass, creepy government guys show up and cart Marcie away, taking her to a school for kids just like her. This is an interesting plot point that is never touched on again. S1E12: “Prophecy Girl” (Writer: Joss Whedon/ Director: Joss Whedon) The finale is unequivocally the best episode of Season One. It elevated the caliber of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to an entirely new level. This is also the first episode of the series both written and directed by Joss Whedon. “Prophecy Girl” feels epic from first frame to last, giving us the crescendo that the entire season has inexorably been moving towards, playing a few surprising notes along the way. The cast had finally begun to gel, everyone’s acting had improved and the dialogue no longer felt contrived. In short, by the time we reach episode twelve, the majority of kinks present throughout the season had been steadily worked out. Those that remained would continue to be improved upon in Season Two. We begin with Xander attempting to ask Buffy to the dance. Willow cannot hide her enjoyment both of the fact that he is practicing on her and that he is hopelessly blowing it. “Spring Fling just isn’t any dance. It’s a time for students to choose a mate and then we can observe their mating rituals and tag them before they migrate…just kill me.” When Xander finally does ask Buffy to Spring Fling, he does marginally better than his practice runs on Willow, but we all know what her answer will be. Although expected, Xander’s brutal rejection at Buffy’s hands is difficult to witness. Unfortunately, his next blunder is to invite Willow. Knowing she’s nothing but his standby, in an incredibly powerful move, exemplifying her evolution over the course of the season, she turns him down. This leads him to “go home, lie down and listen to country music, the music of pain.” Meanwhile, Giles is deciphering the Pergamum Codex and meets with Angel to discuss his findings. According to the prophecy, Buffy will face the Master and she will die. Overhearing their conversation, Buffy vacillates between hurt and anger, in the end choosing to quit being the Slayer altogether. “Giles, I’m sixteen years old. I don’t wanna die.” It’s the first time in the series that the true weight of Buffy’s burden is explored, although it won’t be the last. This is also the first time the show addresses just how inextricably linked Buffy is to her calling. She cannot walk away from it. That’s just not who she is. It is easy to forget that Buffy is a teenage girl, with the fate of the world pressing down on her tiny shoulders at all times. For one minute, she thinks that she can escape that, lashing out at both Angel and Giles because they are the only ones at whom she can aim her vitriol. However, the vampires are getting bolder, attacking kids inside the school. Aside from that, according to Jenny Calendar (who’s back in the mix) there is “Apocalypse stuff” happening. Buffy puts on the gorgeous (seriously, I want it) dress her mother gives her, in one of the few touching scenes they’ve ever shared, and heads out to meet her fate. Mirroring her actions in the pilot, Buffy walks into a battle that seems unwinnable, because she is the only one that can fight it. In an act, which truly typifies his fatherly love for Buffy, Giles attempts to face the Master in her stead. “There’s nothing you can say will change my mind,” he tells her. “I know,” she replies, knocking him out with a punch to the jaw and leaving the library without hope of returning. The twist here is the tricky wording of that pesky prophecy. In a heartbreaking moment, it is Buffy facing the Master that actually frees him. There is no struggle. The Master simply wins. He gets a taste of slayer blood and then leaves her face down in a shallow pool. While Buffy is losing the fight for her life, Xander is looking for help from a cowering Angel. It’s a pretty badass moment for him, one of several that he gets during this episode. Armed with a cross he tells Angel, “I don’t like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you’re a vampire.” The two share a moment of mutual realization about each other’s feelings for the Slayer and then head off to find her. They arrive just in time for Xander to save her with CPR. Surely, Angel would’ve, but that’s tough to do when you’ve got no breath. A rejuvenated Buffy snaps back to life, ready to face the Master once more. Back at the library, Willow and Jenny (who assume they know where the Hellmouth is) leave to go warn people at the Bronze of their impending doom. Oh boy, are they wrong though, which they learn when vampires surround them. Luckily, Cordelia happens by and picks them up, driving them straight into the library (where the Hellmouth really is). This is part of the brilliance of BtVS. It’s not just that the town of Sunnydale sits on top of the Underworld: every single day that these kids walk into school, the jaws of the Hell sit directly underneath, poised to swallow them whole. With the Master freed, that bottle is uncorked, leaving Giles, Jenny, Willow and Cordelia to fight the Hell that is quite literally unleashed. Buffy’s final confrontation with the Master is probably my favorite moment of Season One. Facing off on the roof of Sunnydale High, while the Scoobies are battling a three-headed beastie below, he attempts to best her the same way he did before. However, this isn’t the same trembling girl he left for dead. Buffy has died and been reborn. She is no longer afraid of this monster. “You’re dead,” he says to her. In a truly iconic shot, that is indicative of the style of direction that Joss Whedon would become known for, she responds, “I may be dead, but I’m still pretty, which is more than I can say for you.” The second fight is as brief as the first, resulting in Buffy throwing the Master through the roof to be impaled on the leg of a broken table. He is the only vampire she has ever fought that left behind a skeleton. “Prophecy Girl” ends quickly after that and while it does wrap the season up with a bow, it also proved that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was capable of true greatness. See larger image Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Complete First Season (Slim Set) The complete first season of the TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. New From: $16.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.