Hello to everyone reading this and welcome to another Boxset Binge. Last week I started reviewing a show that set the trend for Young Adult sci-fi and horror series in the past couple of decades: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Today I will continue to go through each episode and give my verdict on each of them – and I will be doing it with as much honesty as I can. Onwards to the reviews!
*Warning: This review contains spoilers. Proceed at your own peril!*
Episode 7 – “Angel” (7.5)
I enjoyed this episode for its relation to the main narrative, as well as developing the character of Angel, who has been largely in the background for the majority of episodes thus far. His depiction as a vampire with a soul and one who chooses not to feed on human blood is a overused trope by now, but back then I can imagine that it brought something new to the table; his story also reminds me of the works of Anne Rice, a terrific writer in this genre. Buffy and Angel naturally have great chemistry and the development within this episode to get Angel framed for attacking Buffy’s mother is necessary for future seasons and the relationship between the two. This sequence of events allows the love triangle between the Scooby Gang to take centre stage again. On the other hand, I am getting a bit tired of The Master appearing in every other episode, since he is a pretty one-dimensional character who slows the pacing of the episode’s plot down, but this is a much better episode than Episode 5, for example, and I prefer his involvement towards the Angel sub-plot here.
Episode 8 – “I, Robot…You Jane” (6.5)
This is the first Willow-centric episode (or at least the narrative being about her). I am glad to see that the writers are really fleshing out the other primary characters instead of leaving them as tools for Buffy’s narrative. The idea definitely has potential and I’m sure it was unnerving at the time, as opposed to now, when TV episodes involving “evil technology” were more unsettling and scary. There are still a couple of moments that are shocking, not least when a possessed teenager kills another and then hangs his body from a rope (done offscreen but the aftermath is seen) to look like suicide. It is also good to see the first ever flashback sequence introducing the villain, though I wish that it occurred midway through the episode instead of the start, completely revealing their identity. The episode does have pace and threat but the robot suit isn’t as creepy as the writers want it to be.
Episode 9 – “The Puppet Show” (8)
First, let me get this out there, the titular puppet Sid is very creepy, even in the inappropriate way he talks. This aspect seems copy and pasted from Child’s Play but the effect is still there, plus it makes a very good twist when it is revealed that Sid contains the soul of a monster hunter trapped in that form, meaning the identity of the creature is someone else. There are some fun moments in this episode too, such as when Buffy, Xander and Willow are forced by the new Principal to perform in the school talent show and see the lack of talent in the other performers. Honestly, sometimes I enjoy Buffy and the Scooby Gang having to survive at high school more than the actual narratives. The main problem I have with this episode is that the final ten minutes feels quite rushed after Sid’s true identity is revealed – thus robbing any kind of tension about who the demon is (not to sound smug but I did guess) – and the fight is over too quickly, along with a sad death for the puppet. Overall though, the humour and creepy puppet moments definitely make up for that.
Episode 10 – “Nightmares” (7.5)
The idea of nightmares appearing in the real world isn’t a revolutionary one, even for this period, but the execution is spot on. There are many memorable moments in this episode that stem from people’s nightmares, from a terrifying killer clown to a emotional talk between Buffy and her Dad where he tells her it is her fault her parents split up. The ugly man is scary at first, getting a couple of jump scares out of him, but then starts to feel quite clunky and poorly designed compared to demons in previous episodes. However, the fact that it is the embodiment of a violent act when a little league baseball coach beat up a young child into a coma made this enemy one to remember, especially since the writers were dropping hints since the start of the episode. On the other hand, the nightmare transformation of Buffy into a vampire felt like an ex-machina moment, as it gave her enough strength and power to fend off the ugly man while the child found the courage to defeat him.
Episode 11 – “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (6.5)
Throughout the season Cordelia has been portrayed as a shallow, attention-seeking brat who desires popularity and staying beautiful. It said a lot about her in the previous episode when her nightmare was having bad hair, bad fashion and being forced into the Chess Club. When she gets her comeuppance for how she has behaved towards Buffy this season, it feels natural to be on the side of the invisible girl, especially when she is given a particularly sad backstory where no one, not even teachers, paid attention to her. When the girl turns completely psychotic, it feels like a get out of jail free card for Cordelia. Plus we get a sob story for her too which, though intended to flesh her out, doesn’t completely make up for the last ten episodes. Her arc is completed in the next episode, too soon for me. If I remember this season in twelve months time, I don’t think that I will think of this episode. In terms of quality it is okay but nothing outrageously different happens (much like “Witch”). The ending is intriguing though, having Men in Black take her away to ‘rehabilitate’ her into, it is suggested as, an assassin.
Episode 12 – “Prophecy Girl” (8)
I really wish that this episode was developed into a two parter, much like the first couple this season, with the first part ending with Buffy’s ‘death’. Because, whilst the pacing is good up to this point, the final fifteen minutes is a complete rush where it seems like a lot has to be done and attention to detail is missing. Buffy comes back and kills The Master, a regular feature in this season, in just a couple of minutes. The other characters get a fair amount of development, from a traumatised Willow discovering a room containing her murdered classmates, to poor Xander being turned down by Buffy and then admitting to Angel that he is in love with her – but it seems like her heart is with Angel, after his episode 7 framing was revealed to be just that. That will not end well for anyone. It is also good to see the ‘computer witch’ Ms. Calendar making another appearance, even if she doesn’t do as much here. The season ends on a strong note with this episode, the emotional tones all struck their targets. As a whole, it is probably the best vampire episode since the opener, though there have been other highlights when writers have decided to run with their concepts.
So those are my thoughts on the final six episodes of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am very much looking forward to watching the next season and seeing where the writers take us next.
Thank you for reading this post. If you like what you have read then please like and subscribe. Leave a comment if you have any suggestions on what shows I should watch and review next, particularly if they are in the genres of Young Adult and LGBT+. The next show that I will review in Boxset Binge will be Season 1 of Stranger Things; I’ll see you all then!