Holy crap. I feel like the cheerleading coach in Witch trying to sort out the best from the alternates. There really were no bad entries here, so everyone makes the team, though some episodes didn’t work as well as stand-alones, and I’ve found on review that I really prefer those that played into the seasonal story arc with The Master. At heart I am a soap fan and I need to ride that continuity for a sense of tension threading the whole together. Yet in terms of setting the characters and tone for the overall series, I consider the first season a major success. I enjoyed it even more the second time around, and I can say without doubt that I enjoyed every single episode here.
And here they are from #1 to #12. Each episode is linked to my post on it.
1. Angel – s1:e7
Not just the big reveal for Angel, with both his game face and our first dose of his history, a seminal moment in itself, but also a showcase and first farewell for Darla. This episode really nails it on multiple counts: exposition dealt out in battle, a massive bombshell revelation along with a first kiss, a significant contribution to both the season’s story arc with The Master, and a foundation to alter the series with the character of Angel. I loved it.
2. Prophecy Girl - s1:e12
Fantastic finale, though not enough of a building seasonal arc to make the impact it deserves. Yeah, The Anointed One goes thud (his grand destiny is to hold Buffy’s hand while she descends into the lair?), but the showdowns with The Master – him taking the first round and Buffy the second – pay off big: Buffy’s doom and then triumph, sandwiched between her revival (I’ll stop short of resurrection and save that for s6) by competing suitors Angel and Xander. Plenty of legend laid here to be referenced for years to come.
3. The Harvest - s1:e2
Our first battle at The Bronze – plus The Master makes his presence known through his hulking vessel and special friend, Luke. A superb second half to the series opener!
4. Welcome to the Hellmouth – s1:e1
Solid start!. Tone is consistent with the rest of the season and establishes characters right out of the gate. Win from the get-go.
5. Witch – s1:e3
Cutthroat cheerleading, a monstrous mother, voodoo-esque Barbies causing blindness, sealed mouths, and spontaneous combustion – all that plus body switching and a surprise villain who receives one of my favorite bits of poetic justice! This episode may be the most unadulterated fun from the season.
6. Never Kill a Boy on a First Date – s1:e5
One of the better early examples of how to meld the episodic storyline (Buffy trying to date) with the seasonal arc (siring of The Anointed One). Humor and horror, teenage life and Slayer destiny – it all comes together on Buffy’s fabulously failed date. And I love hanging out at The Bronze!
7. The Puppet Show -s1:e9:
Another surprise villain, this one with a more grisly bent. Creepy ventriloquism plus an organ-stealing demon – yes.
8. I, Robot… You, Jane - s1:e8
Memorable demon Moloch goes online to court Willow and corrupt Fritz and Dave. And hello Miss Carpenter.
Gold star for Buffy’s nightmares. The others were comical but unscary, uninvolving, and unrevealing. Moreover, the child abuse angle felt pedestrian and out of place. Yet the episode gave Sarah Michelle Gellar possibly her best quiet scene in the scene, when her father appears to tell her that she wrecked her parents’ marriage with her all her faults. Plus we got Buffy with her game face. I don’t think this happens again!
10. The Pack – s1:e7
Silly but also startling. Really, the pack devouring Principal Flutie alive may have been one of the biggest shocks of the season. The cackling of the pack still rings in my ears!
11. Out of Mind, Out of Sight – s1:e11
Good episode, but ill-fitting in the season. We really needed a jolt of The Master and The Anointed One to build into the first season finale, the very next episode.
12. Teacher’s Pet – s1:e:4
Not bad, certainly not as bad as I’d remembered it, but still last place for the first season. The episode marks Xander’s first major turn as damsel-dude in distress needing a rescue from Buffy.
Season One did not impress me so much during my first viewing a few years ago. In fact, I needed some light encouragement to continue forth to s2. However, after my second full viewing, I appreciate far more the solid foundation that Whedon set down here. The man had a plan.
I have ideas why I resisted watching the show in the 90s, despite overwhelming enthusiasm from all corners, including some corners with voices very near to my heart and loud to my ears.
- The credits: they’re awful. I hate the theme song and even the clips selected annoy me. I can understand why the nineties Raúl might not even make it through those before shutting off the TV, which would have taken some effort because I believe in 1997 I still had a 15″ set with no remote and a dial for switching channels. It would have been worth my while to get off the couch to spare me those credits.
- Picture quality: everything is dark and grainy. I’ve read that the dvd collection’s picture is poor as well, so I can’t blame streaming. I suppose this might cover up some of the budgetary constraints, but the visual quality blunts some scenes; for example, I loved the chaos in the Sunnydale Funeral Home from Never Kill a Boy on a First Date, but I had a hard time even seeing what was happening in the hallways. And while Whedon works so hard to nail his characters, his actors sometimes hidden blend into the murk; case in point: at several turns Willow’s hair looks almost black, and we’re still years away from Dark Willow!
But hey, I avoided/missed out on the series on its initial run, which only means that it’s slightly fresher for me now that I’m back for seconds. May the great Buffy re-watch of 2014 proceed.