Before these past couple of weeks, I had never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve heard only great things about the show (it’s practically unavoidable to encounter wild praise on the nerd-run Internet), and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen from Joss Whedon. With time to kill on Memorial Day weekend coupled with a lack of any interesting programming during this time of the year, I decided to take advantage of the wonderful Netflix streaming videos feature on my XBox Live account and see what all the fuss was about. After finishing the first season of Buffy, I can safely say that I’m looking forward to seasons two through seven.
For years, a buddy of mine – along with all the Whedonites that inhabit the Internet – has been harping about what a great show Buffy is. It’s not like I don’t trust my friend’s opinion, but there has to be some level of hesitation before one jumps into a show whose protagonist’s first name is “Buffy.” I loved Serenity, had really enjoyed just about every episode of Firefly I had ever seen, and was a big fan of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but I wasn’t quite ready to invest my time into a show that featured a high school girl killing vampires.
I’m glad I finally did.
After just one season, I’ve found the characters in Buffy to be more interesting than most of the people I come across on a daily basis. Then again, you don’t meet too many interesting people practicing law, so take that for what it’s worth. Buffy’s immediately likable due to her willingness to hang out with the nerdy outcasts and it’s clear that she’s more focused on slaying vampires and her responsibilities as the chosen Slayer than gaining social status. Her friend Xander is, so far, sort of a funny dork, but his loyalty to his friends makes him endearing. He’s not painfully dorky, either, and despite his pining after Buffy, I am hoping he’ll find the sort of girl he deserves and actually wants him, too. Will that girl be Willow? I’m kind of hoping so, and it looks as though that’s where he’s headed (note: I haven’t read any spoilers or anything like that; I really want to try and watch this series without knowing anything in advance).
And that’s another thing I like about the show – instead of pairing Willow and Xander from the beginning simply out of convenience or because they seem somewhat compatible, the show has been taking its time in developing the relationship between all the characters, making their actions and responses to one another seem all the more organic. Yes, this is still a fun show about balancing the pressures of high school with slaying vampires, but it’s nice to see that some thought has been put into the writing.
The other characters that have appeared in this first season are the Master and Angel. I’m not quite sure what to make of Angel just yet – aside from the fact that he’s a vampire – but he obviously plays a huge role in the show later on, as evidenced by his own spinoff series. As for the Master, he’s clearly the “big bad,” but it’s nice that he’s not always the root of Buffy’s problems each episode. Instead, the writers can take a break from the overarching “Master vs. Slayer” plot and have some fun by writing episodes that can stand alone and be watched mostly out of context.
I particularly enjoyed the episode “The Puppet Show,” in which the the writers successfully pulled a bait-and-switch on me. It was refreshing to see that the talking dummy wasn’t evil a la Chucky or something from Tales From the Crypt, and up until that reveal, I was pretty sure the show would go down that same cliched road. I enjoyed every episode up to that point, but I suppose that’s when I started to really appreciate Buffy. “Nightmares” stood out, too, particularly for its portrayal of nightmares – I’ve definitely had the “there’s a test I didn’t study for” nightmare at least five times. All the while, the show never seems to take itself too seriously and instead presents itself as a clever, well-written 45 minutes of fun.
The same friend who recommended Buffy to me has told me that the show really starts to hit its stride sometime around the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3. If Season 1 is any indication, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this series. My only complaint – and it’s not really a complaint at all – is that if a high school girl who looked like Sarah Michelle Gellar pranced around school wearing short skirts and knee-high boots, boys would literally be excusing themselves from class to, uh, relieve themselves in the bathroom. Other than that, I’m totally on board with Buffy. Yes, I realize I’m about 13 years late to the party, but better late than never, right?