Sunday, February 10, 2013

Television Reviews: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

       Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a series that ran from 1997 to 2003, this means I was 6 when it started, so obviously I didn't get around to watching it until later, in fact I just finished it, and to be honest, I'm happy I waited until I was able to appreciate it.

Season 1

       Season one was our first introduction to Joss Whedon's abilities as a show-runner, and it was rather good.  The story is a girl moves to a new town called "Sunnydale", which happens to be on a Hellmouth.  The girl's name is Buffy and she is a vampire slayer, a girl that is granted superhuman powers in order to fight evil.  When one slayer dies, the next one in the line gains powers.  In this season Buffy is in high school and she is introduced to her watcher, which a society of guardians who are tasked with aiding the slayer, her watcher is named Giles.  She also meets her best friends Willow and Xander, as well as an airheaded cheerleader named Cordelia who's only purpose is to annoy the main characters.  Throughout the season she is aided by a man named Angel who tends to show up, tell Buffy about a new enemy, tell Buffy how to stop it, and repeat.  He and Buffy eventually develop a relationship and it is revealed he is a vampire, however he is different because he is cursed with a soul.  While all this is going on an ancient vampire named The Master is trying to find a way to open the Hellmouth and be freed from his prison.  This leads to a final showdown in which Buffy is killed, but then revived even stronger and she finishes off The Master.

       This season was good, the villain was cool, the characters were likable, even the pointless ones, and the premiss was unique, and the vampire/human romance was totally ripped off years later in Twilight.  This season's rating only takes a hit because I need to scale for the later seasons that I think are better, thus it earns a B.

Season 2

       In season two the new big bad are a vamp couple named Spike and Drusilla, who terrorized Europe with Angel back when he had no soul and went by the name Angelus.  There plan is simple, kill the slayer because they are bored, however as they continually are beaten, their motives get more personal.  This season introduces us to Jenny Calendar, the computer science teacher who also has expansive knowledge of demons.  Also we meet Oz, a werewolf rocker with an incredibly zen attitude towards everything and becomes Willows boyfriend for the next few seasons.  And another new character is Kendra, another slayer who was granted powers after Buffy died at the end of the last season, meaning for the first time ever two slayers are active.  Cordelia, who was a a minor character in the previous season witnessed the final battle with The Master and is now a part of the group.  About halfway through the season Angel's curse is broken and his soul is removed, making him the new main villain for the second half, leading Spike and Drusilla.  Angel kills Jenny Calendar, and Drusilla kills the other slayer Kendra, who stays dead, this Buffy is forced to fight her former lover to the death.

       This season was even better than the last one, Angelus and Spike are my personal favorite characters from the series, and Drusilla is nuts, but in a fun way.  The promotion of Cordelia from annoying side character to reluctant sidekick is a great move.  Plus bringing in characters who actually die and add gravity to the situation is always good.  This Season earns a B+.

Season 3

       Season three's big bad is the immortal mayor of Sunnydale, who want's to use the Hellmouth to become a demon.  Angel is brought back to life by as of yet unknown reasons (his character was to popular to kill for good), and Giles is fired from the Watchers council for warning Buffy about s potentially fatal test that they give her and consequently he is replaced by a new watcher, Wesley Windham-Pryce, who is willing to accept help from his predecessor and even treats him as a mentor.  Because of the slayer Kendra's death in the last season a new slayer is called, Faith.  Faith's watcher was killed by a powerful vampire so the council decrees she share watchers with Buffy.  However over the course of the season Faith is turned to the dark side and joins the mayor.  As the season goes on Buffy begins to question the Watchers council which eventually leads to her leaving them and doing things her own way.  At the end of the series Buffy knocks Faith off a roof that puts her into a coma.  The final showdown however happens at graduation, the mayor fulfills his plan to be turned into a giant snake demon and the entire senior class is enlisted to fight him.  The battle costs the lives of many unnamed students and the school is destroyed.  In the aftermath of the battle Angel approaches Buffy and tells her he is leaving for Los Angeles for good.

       This was another good season, the mayor is hilarious and Wesley and Faith are among my favorite character in the series.  This season also wraps up the story pretty well, if the show ended here I would have been OK, B+.

 Season 4

       In season 4 our heroes go off to college, except Xander who opts to start work instead.  This season is a great jumping on point because everything changes.  This season is also unique because the big bad doesn't show up until almost the end.  The majority of this season is watching all the main characters develop relationships.  Buffy meets a guy named Riley, who is a member of the government's monster hunter group, more on that later.  He starts off pretty cool, but once he and Buffy start dating his only personality trait becomes; he has sex with Buffy...a lot, I think they spend more screen time in bed than actually fighting monsters.  Xander is seduced by Anya, who used to be a demon, and a very minor enemy in the previous seasons, and the two of them start up possibly the best relationship in the series.  Willow and Oz drift apart and eventually break up when he leaves to learn to control his werewolf side.  This leads to Willow diving into magic with her friend Tara, and eventually the two of them start a lesbian relationship, again one of the better couples in the series.  As mentioned earlier there is a government monster hunting team called the Initiative. The leader is undercover as the psychology professor and many of the field agents are disguised as frat boys.  The leader does not like Buffy for both being undeserving of her powers and distracting her best agent, so she tries to kill Buffy.  She also created her own super-soldier demon/human/machine hybrid, Adam.  Adam is the big bad and proves to be far stronger than Buffy.  This season also reintroduces Spike, the former villain, who gets a chip planted in his brain that keeps him from hurting humans.  In the final battle Willow uses her magic to channel the attributes of the original cast into Buffy, Willow's magic, Giles' knowledge, and Xander's heart to create the ultimate slayer to defeat Adam.  Meanwhile Riley, Anya, Tara, and Spike are fighting Adam's minions so Buffy can fight alone, which she of course wins.

       I have mixed feelings about this season.  The initiative was a cool idea, but it was executed poorly, same goes for Adam who was the most boring Big Bad in the series.  Riley was only cool until he and Buffy started dating, and the whole season seemed like filler.  On the other hand Anya is awesome, and the "chip plot" for Spike is brilliant.  Also the Tara/Willow relationship is handled way better than most gay characters I've seen.   But is it still the worst season of the series, and it's obvious the new characters are just replacements for all the good characters who left to join Angel in his spin-off, so this season earns a C.

Season 5

       This season was loads better than the previous one, Buffy moves back home with her mother and sister, Dawn, who is randomly introduced with no explanation until halfway through the season.  The new big bad is Glorificus, or Glory as she prefers to be called, who is a goddess trapped within a human body, however she has found a way to break free for short periods of time.  Her vessel is a guy named Ben who is a doctor that has has feelings for Buffy, and once Riley leaves to travel the world she begins to reciprocate, but never acts on these feelings because of Glory.  Throughout the season Willow and Tara continue their relationship and develop their magical abilities.  Anya and Xander become engaged, but keep it a secret for almost the entire season.  Spike starts to develop feelings for Buffy, which drives him crazy, and even Giles has something going with some girl.  About halfway into the season it is revealed that Buffy's sister Dawn is in fact the key to Hell that was transformed into a girl in order to hide her from Glory and everyone in her life is given false memories of her existence.  These memories eventually lead to a brain tumor in Buffy's mom that is removed, but complications with the surgery eventually lead to an aneurysm that kills her.  These episode are fantastic, they were so emotional that I'll admit that I almost cried myself.  The heroes learn that Glory is in fact vulnerable so long as she is locked within Ben.  in the final battle Buffy defeats Glory with the help of her friends and the Buffy-Bot, a robot duplicate built by a minor villain for Spike's "pleasure".  However they are unable to kill her and the gate to hell is opened anyway.  A few demons get out and Buffy sacrifices herself to close it.  Meanwhile Glory, unable to free herself from Ben due to exhaustion is killed when Giles suffocates Ben.  The final scene is Buffy's funeral service.

       This season was way better than the previous.  The villain is extremely vain, which is funny, and the Anya/ xander relationship continues to be a highlight.  Dawn is an interesting character, albeit slightly annoying.  And Willow and Tara's relationship remains one of the best television romances to date.  I rate this season an A-.

Season 6

      Season six starts with with the gang hunting a vampire with their newest member, the Buffy-bot.  Willow reprogrammed it in order to fool monsters into thinking she is still alive and to fool social services so that Dawn isn't forced into foster care.  Giles returns to England and while he is gone Willow decides to bring Buffy back to life.  Meanwhile a random vampire damages the Buffy-bot and learns that the real Buffy died, so it's open season in Sunnydale for all monsters.  When Buffy is resurrected her friends believe the spell didn't work, but in fact she is resurrected in her grave, forcing her to dig her way out.  She was also believed to be trapped in a Hell Dimension because of her unnatural death, but in fact she was in Haven.  She develops an incredibly abusive relationship with Spike.  Throughout the season Willow's obsession with magic begins to alienate her friends and even Tara leaves her.  This leads to her giving up magic all together in order to get her life back together and win back Tara.  The big bad here are the Nerd Trio, three very minor villains who join forces with no real goal in mind, in fact only one of them is truly evil.  The season ends with Spike leaving to become what he once was.  The nerd trio is stopped and the leader out of anger buys a gun and goes to Buffy's house to exact revenge.  He fire 3 shots wounding Buffy, but more importantly a stray bullet kills Tara just as she returns to Willow.  Willow then snaps and goes after the trio.  She tracks down Warren, the leader who killed Tara, and tortures him before ripping his skin from his body killing him.  Once Buffy recovers from her gunshot wound she returns to protect the remaining members of the trio, so Willow decides with nothing left to live for, she's going to destroy the world.  She proves far to powerful to be defeated and is only stopped when Xander reasons with her and talks her down.  The final scene is Spike who until this point was thought to be trying to remove his chip, but in fact he was earning his soul.

       This was my favorite season, the villains are fun, Spike is the bomb as always, and the plot is well thought out.  In addition this is the season that has fun with some of its episodes, one is a twisted version of a Christmas Carol with Xander's life if he goes through with the wedding with Anya.  My two favorite episodes are Once More With Feeling, a musical episode when a demon forces everyone in Sunnydale to bust out into song and dance, and Tabula Rasa, where the main characters' memories were wiped and they had to figure out who they were.  Because of these reasons, I give this season an A.

Season 7

       The final season, not quite as good as the last, butt a decent send off.  The first evil, who had a minor appearance in an earlier season has gotten tired of the good and evil balance and decides to destroy the slayer line by taking out all the girls in the slayer line.  But because it can't take a physical form it uses its followers to do its dirty work, most notably the Bringers, humans who mutilate their own bodies to pledge their loyalty.  The bringers are hunting down potential slayers all over the globe.  Willow spent the time between the previous season and the current one with Giles learning to control her powers.  Meanwhile Sunnydale high school is finally rebuilt by Xander's construction crew and the new principal is Robin Wood, the son of Nikki Wood, a slayer killed by Spike in the 70s.  Andrew and Jonathan, the surviving members of the nerd trio also return, and Andrew is tricked into murdering Jonathan.  Andrew spends the remainder of the season as the heroes hostage trying to redeem himself.  The Summer's house in this season doubles as a sanctuary for for potential slayers trying to survive the Bringers.  Some of the more noteworthy ones are Kennedy, who instantly tries to start a relationship with Willow, Amanda who goes to school with Dawn and is very awkward, and Vi, who is played by Felicia Day, and acts like Felicia Day.  The First also has more distinguishable villains, such as the Turok-Han, or Ubervamp, an ancient vampire that proves to be difficult to kill for the first couple episodes, and Caleb, a southern preacher who hates women and is even stronger than Buffy.  Faith and Angel also return for the finale, and thus all the characters people like are returned.  Towards the end of the season Buffy discovers the ultimate slayer weapon, the scythe, an ax/steak hybrid forged to compliment a slayer's abilities.  Also they come up with the plan to activate all potential slayers in order to have an army to fight the first.  The final battle pits everyone against the first and his army of Bringers and Turok-Hans, The slayers fight the Turok-Han, Willow uses her magic to activate the slayers, and all the others battle the Bringers.  In the end a couple main characters die, and Spike sacrifices himself to close the Hellmouth for good...or does he?

       This season was awesome, and if it wasn't for the first being rather boring it would have been better.  Robin's obsession with Spike is cool, and all the potential slayers are unique and with a little more development could potentially be among the ranks of my favorites.  Caleb is also a great character who is both creepy and entertaining at the same time.  All in all I feel this season deserves an A-.

Overall

Season 1-B
Season 2-B+
Season 3-B+
Season 4-C
Season 5-A-
Season 6-A
Season 7-A-

       In about a week or two I plan to do an Angel review, but I have to finish the series first, I'm also planning a top 10 list for these series, but I'm saving that until I read the comic series.  Any comments feel free to post them below.