Buffy S1 Review: In the beginning

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1

Disclaimer: all of the following is obviously IMO, even though I'll be writing in my best "superior objective critic" authorial voice. I recognize watching a TV show is an inherently subjective experience, and there are probably even some deluded fools out there who don't think Help or I Robot, You Jane are steaming piles of crap.

S1: Low-budget, uneven characterizations, and the most episodic season. I've never been fond of episodic television, especially dramas (one of the reasons I never got into Star Trek.) Plot arcs, and especially character arcs, are what keeps me looking forward to the next episode. A few episodes in a row where everything stays the same, and I start getting bored.

My lack of enthusiasm for season one is also colored by the fact I wasn't watching it when it first aired, and most everything they do in this season is done better in later seasons. In general, the plots aren't as clever, and the pacing can be wildly uneven. An exception to all of this is Prophecy Girl, which shows off for the first time how incredibly good the show can be. Buffy learns she's prophesied to die fighting the Master (an old, grotesque, yet strangely charismatic vampire), and she reacts as any teenager would; that being, more-or-less, "Screw this! I'm out of here." But her love for her family and friends eventually changes her mind, and she becomes willing to sacrifice herself if she can take the Master out with her. It's the first Buffy episode with deep emotional resonance, and it remains one of the best.

Also on the plus side, every episode has at least one great scene, such as the scene at the end of the otherwise lousy I Robot, You Jane where Buffy, Xander and Willow are laughing about how doomed their love lives are, and their faces slowly fall as they realize the truth of what they're saying. Or the talent contest at the end of The Puppet Show...

Conclusion: Worthwhile, but not great.

P.S. On a truly shallow note, I think Sarah Michelle Gellar is at her hottest in the first season. She gets way too skinny later.

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