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Standard disclaimer: I'll often speak of foreshadowing, but that doesn't mean I'm at all committing to the idea that there was some fixed design from the word go -- it's a short hand for talking about the resonances that end up in the text as it unspools.

Standard spoiler warning: The notes are written for folks who have seen all of BtVS and AtVS.  If they become relevant I'll spoil through the comics as well.  Basically -- if you are a spoiler-phobe and haven't seen or read it all, read further at your own risk.

 

Buffy 1.03  The Witch, in Which Buffy Clings to Fantasies of Normality-Through-Cheerleading and We Meet Amy and Her Witch of a Mother.

On one level the purpose of the episode is to establish that there are other evils in Buffy’s world besides vampires and to insert these monsters into stories about ordinary teenage life.  The theme of a mother who tries to live through her daughter becomes a story about a mother who switches bodies with her daughter.  The monster as (heavy-handed) metaphor that is the backbone of season one.

Strudel interjects:  We might as well acknowledge how clunky some of these early episodes are.

In retrospect, however, the episode is more interesting because it almost entirely masks what it really is, namely an introduction of Willow’s arc.  Willow herself has little to do in the episode.  But it’s an episode about a witch, sandwiched between the introductory episodes which give us Buffy and her fight against vampires and Teacher’s Pet, which is our introduction to Xander, the demon magnet.    

Further, the story of Amy and her mother foreshadows the developments that are to take place in Willow’s arc.  We first meet Amy, who seems like a sweet girl (and who not incidentally is first introduced as Willow’s friend).  But then Amy seems to be much darker.  Her mother has switched with her.  Later on in the series Amy herself is going to develop into that dark.   Amy is a mirror for Willow all the way through (a story played in a minor key, but one which mattered enough to get Amy pulled out of the Sunnydale crater to serve as a villain in season 8.)  In this episode we have Amy representing Willow’s sweet exterior, and Amy’s Mom representing the witch who is consumed by her power.  This episode also repeats the detail we got in the opening episodes, and that’s that Willow is happy to break the law as a hacker.  Nobody watching this episode the first time could possibly predict that Willow was going to end up where she was in Grave.  But the trajectory is laid down here.  Interesting that it is Amy we see first as a witch – it’s not unlike the fact that the first high school blonde we meet is not Buffy, but rather Darla.

Strudel adds:  indeed, no one can predict where Willow will wind up, but there is a neat little scene -- seems like a throw-away -- that does foreshadow her vocational calling:  in Biology class, she takes Xander's frog and deftly plucks its eye out.  "Eye of newt," she crows.

Maggie replies:  Ooh, good catch on the eye of newt! I wonder if it's the fact that Willow sees the witches as powerful forces against Buffy that ends up being a subconscious attraction.  She can't be a slayer, but if she can get the power that can hold its own with a slayer?  Next best thing.

Buffy:  She really wants to have a normal life, which she perceives as safe.  The ironic segue the story makes from this desire to the revelation that even ‘normal’ things like cheerleading can be dangerous in Sunnydale nicely suggests that the divisions aren’t as neat as we’d like to think.  To underscore that theme we see Buffy save a burning cheerleader in the teaser using by doing things any ordinary human could do.   Buffy’s notion that there’s ‘normal’ to one side and ‘slaying’ to the other is shown to be false from the get go – but figuring that out is central to her arc for the entire series.

Strudel adds:  The ironic "quotes" you put around normal are a bit too subtle for me, so let me just come out and say that cheerleading is an excellent choice of an activity that is typically treated as normal and wholesome as apple pie but which, on further scrutiny, is bizarre and fraught with sordid tensions.  The skewering of normal continues when Amy recounts the story of her mother and father, Homecoming King and Queen, who married long enough to have Amy, but the father ran off with "Miss Trailer Trash."  Even outside the Jossverse, nothing is as it seems.  In any event, in this episode, we dispense with both cheerleaders and mothers as potential safe female harbors for our Slayer.  Her quest for a role and a role model is just beginning.

The episode also offers us another reminder that for all the show we’re going to make about her academic problems, Buffy is sharp as a tack.  She very quickly figures out that Amy’s Mom is really Amy.  And she’s got compassion as well, wanting to be helpful to Amy when she still thinks Amy is the bad guy.   One of the joys of re-watching the early seasons is getting the chance to spend time with a Buffy whose heart is still wide open.

Willow/XanderThe Witch subtly lets us know that Willow has some feelings for Xander (her very quick flash of hurt when Xander presents a bracelet to Buffy).  And we again hit the theme that Buffy is to Xander as Xander is to Willow.  Xander gushes to Willow that he values her because she’s like one of the guys; then a bespelled Buffy tells Xander she values him because he’s like one of the girls.   Willow encourages Xander to ask Buffy out, but one wonders if that’s so much a selfless desire to help Xander get what he wants even though it’s at her own expense, or a more self-interested desire to get Xander to realize sooner rather than later that he doesn’t have a chance with Buffy.  Since Willow has both a sweet side and a more ruthless side, I’m going to say it’s both.

Strudel adds: another note on the sweet/ruthless Willow dichotomy, we have again an example of her very cheerfully stepping up to do some hacking, which she now unabashedly admits is illegal.  More telling is the self-deprecating line that follows -- "at last, something I can do" -- which shows that even now Willow is resenting being thrust into the role of powerless side-kick.  The venom that she will spew at Buffy in Season 6 has fermented for years.

Strudel inserts:  Poor Giles.  Ever the under-written, forgotten man, and here he is, overlooked in this episode summary.  To rectify the situation, let's give the poor bloke his own heading:

Giles:  We get a few revealing glimpses of this character in this episode.  First, he tries in vain to dissuade Buffy from cheerleading.  His importuning goes nowhere, but it does make enough of an impression on Buffy to serve as an excuse for she and Willow to joke that he needs a girlfriend, except he's too old for one.  OK, really, this sequence does more to illuminate us about the girls' generationally self-centered POV.  Buffy will eventually, notably, begin to see Giles as a three-dimensional person, but that's going to take a while.  In the next scene, we really do get a glimpse of Giles when he is positively gleeful on the discovery of this latest occult threat.  This excitement of his is juvenile (contradicting the decrepitude to which the girls have assigned him), and it shows one or both of the following:  (1) Giles is still new to his post as the Watcher and he is as yet unappreciative of the full gravity of the role (a lack of appreciation which dovetails with his reluctance to delve into the stories of the inevitably early demise of all previous slayers); and/or (2) Giles senses that without occult threats, he has no authority over Buffy, and hence no job (which prefigures somewhat the drift he'll go through when he is dismissed by the Council).  One last item for Giles before we send him back to the library:  in this episode, he gets to do the anti-magic magic, and he does it with a ferocity that seems entirely driven by concern for Buffy.  Of course, we'll later discover that he has his own history of playing with the magicks, and that may contribute to his fierce determination in confronting Catherine/Amy.  

Nothing is what it seems.  Amy is sweet and the Mom is the villain.  Then it seems that Amy is the villain.  But it turns out to be Mom after all, but in a way you’d not have expected.   And Amy’s Mom is a template for what Amy becomes, so Amy isn’t going to stay sweet.  There’s more to people than whatever label you want to put on them at first blush.  It’s worth observing that Joss calls back this episode in LWH, where he has Buffy defeat Amy with mirrors in a way that echoes her defeat of Amy’s mother with mirrors.  Mirrors.  Get it?  They’re all over the place.

 


(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-22 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
I remember when I first watched BtVS, I got the impression that we were supposed to root for Willow and Xander instead of Xander and Buffy. Perhaps because Willow was shyer about it and had no one crushing on her while Xander was more forthcoming and had someone crushing on him. So, Willow gets more sympathy than Xander.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 03:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
When I first watched BtVS, that's what I thought; but I've run into enough Bander fans to see this other point of view, and when I rewatch with that in mind, it is all over the place. I wonder if girls are more likely to root for X/W and guys more likely to root for X/B?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 09:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
I think it depends on the character you like most and not really gender. I'm my experience, my female cousin wanted Buffy and Xander to be together, she sympathized with Xander a lot and thought Angel was a creep. On the other hand, my brother sympathized with Willow more and thought Xander was a jerk for not noticing her.

Bander fans are exactly like other fans, they see what they want to see, and enough of it is there, as you mentioned in your reviews. Back then I wasn't a huge Buffy fan, but I loved Willow a lot. I wanted Xander to notice her because I thought she was better than Buffy. Right now I'm rooting for Buffy/Xander, except not in the earlier seasons -I don't think they work well together here- but from S7 on, when both matured and changed.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
You're probably right, though I think I'd expect that on average women are more likely to ID with Willow and men with Xander. But that'd only be on average, and there are obviously plenty of exceptions.

I'm not rooting for post s7 Bander, but I could see it happening, and making sense for the characters (except for the part where we're heading into an epic tragedy, I'm guessing, and there won't be much time for romance of any sort). Xander has grown on me.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 08:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
...but I could see it happening, and making sense for the characters...

I could see it happening, too - but i do not see the sense in it. At the end of the day, Xander did just not get enough actual development on-screen/on-panel for a Buffy'n'Xander romance to make sense to me. Xander is (early on) the nerd, the writer and male audience stand-in and i have no respect for a story were the nerd gets the supergirl. It reeks too much of 'women have to be super to be worthy while men are allowed to be nerds or jerks, smelling of elderberries'.

For this to make sense (to me) Xander would actually need believable development and get out of the nerd cellar. He has to transform into a superboy himself. Well, You say - look at him in season 8 - he's all mature. Yeah, sure - but how did he get there? Via off screen development. This feels like cheating to me. I would need to actually see him transform, develop and grow instead of being told that he's all mature now. I'd like to see him overcome his weaknesses, his selfishness, his patronizing, his lying and bullying, his insecurities. Mind You, i don't think it is wrong that Xander has these "dark sides" - and i would like for him to work on these, get over (most of) these. I just need to see it.

In short, he needs his own arc, something that was sorely missing from season 7 and season 8 alike. But then, maybe we will get a glimpse of that (see cover #38) - but i doubt it. To me, it feels as if the writers ushered Xander to this place and don't feel like telling his actual story (anymore).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
I was thinking more in terms of what made sense on Buffy's side. If the story wanted to say that she's done her work with the inner dark, she moves on from the vampires. Xander is the obvious human. Also, he'd represent a move from her need to look up to someone Angel, to more of a partnership thing. (Yes, Spike was also a more egalitarian thing -- but Buffy wasn't ready for that, or if she was it was only at the end of season 7).

The main reason I think a B/X end game is still possible, is that they've spent a lot of time on B/X this season. But I think it's more likely that there'll be a massive falling out after Dawn buys it (assuming she does)... and that enmity will be the big plot of season 9.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 09:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
Oh, i got that alright. :)

And i agree with You, Xander would be the logical human choice.

BUT it would grate on me if done without an actual "Xander growth arc". Willow and Buffy go through all these painful growths through all the seasons and Xander - is just there (as of season 8)?! While i know that this is about the girls i still think it is somewhat, uhm, icky that the writer's stand in just transforms off screen from nerd boy to hero/love interest. If You get where i'm coming from. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
I do get where you're coming from! I think Xander will get an arc, so we'll see what's up with that when we get there. I was at least mildly annoyed to see him a bit Gary Stu'd for the comics, and if we stay with only that as a story, then phooey on that.

(I should add that while I think Xander ended up as the writer's stand-in, the standard male POV story got dropped early on. If it's being picked up now, I think it will have a different flavor.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
I'm still on the fence if a male POV is back in play or not. But, right, if it is, it is a different one to season 1. Perhaps it is just the drawings...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
Xander's maturity started in S7 and continued in S8. It was gradual and believable but it happened so subtly that I'm not shocked a lot of fans miss it. I'd love to see Xander get a big arc just like Buffy and Willow, but big NO to super Xander. The beauty of Xander is his humanity, the fact that he's still brave and useful even when he has no superpowers.

It'll be nice to see Buffy/Xander explored, especially after both of them had matured and developed. Also, Buffy being with a weaker partner who doesn't mind that his girlfriend is stronger than him is interesting. Not to mention that we don't see a lot of stories where the female hero falls for her male damsel. It's usually the male hero and female damsel.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
I think we might have a bit of a misunderstanding. Of course i acknowledge that Xander is shown in season 7 and season 8 as "mature" (whatever that really means). I like it. But i do think it is a bit "deus ex machina maturity". Season 6 ends - and Xander is suddenly all-adult. He never really works through his issues - these issues just vanish. Quite probably because the writers lost interest in him.

To make a quite literal (and slightly snarky) interpretation:

The boy/man is allowed to be a nerd, a jerk, immature - in the end we'll all see that he's the only one truly mature at all, "deserving" of the girl.

This doesn't sit well with me. It is the trope of many a stupid comedy throughout pop culture. Supergirl and nerdboy. Men are allowed to be boyish jerks - we still think of them as mature, while women have to be completely inhuman(ly sexy, witty, supporting, insert-other-cliches...) to be worthy of love.

So, what i'd like to see is Xander being dragged through his own mud (like Buffy and Willow) to come out on the other side shining (or at least mature-in-a-believable-way ;-)).

Also, my comment on "Xander as superboy" was never meant to give Xander superpowers. Heh! Comic medium mixing up the signals, here! ;-)

What i meant is "having really great qualities" (in whatever field the writers think are in character), which are aquired through an actual (probably painful) character arc (about growing up; loosing the inner nerd as the ruling entity within the mind).

I know that You love Xander very much and You know that i like Xander very much - we seem to differ in our acceptance of how Xander reached his current state. If Xander is a background character (which i wouldn't like) then i can live with him being in any way the writers want him to be without explaining why he is there (much like other background characters are sometimes funny, sometimey jerky, and we watch them and get entertainment but we don't get the character).

Now, if Xander is NOT a background character (but instead the culminating love interest of our heroine, the one she settles for) i do want a bit more than that.

It just leaves a sour taste in my mouth that supergirl settles for nerdboy (who, mysteriously, became all grownup without us witnessing). And with all the callbacks to the early seasons we get in season 8 it is even more disturbing (to me).

While i don't "fan" Buffy/Xander i am able to appreciate a good story and characterization and will follow BtVS to a Buffy/Xander romance, just as i followed through with Buffy/Riley (i don't like Riley very much - the nazi soldier type just does nothing for me, even if Riley is more than that - but i see the Buffy/Riley romance of the TV show as something good for Buffy, so go! them).

If it gets there in a satisfying way.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-25 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
Sigh. Being a Xander fan turns me into a bitter bitch most of the time. Why couldn't I fall for Spike instead? Great storyline, huge arc, gets the girl, badass, so popular -much much easier than being a Xander fan. Double sigh. The heart chooses what the heart chooses.


But i do think it is a bit "deus ex machina maturity". Season 6 ends - and Xander is suddenly all-adult. He never really works through his issues - these issues just vanish. Quite probably because the writers lost interest in him.

Oh, I agree with you. Xander was pushed to the background, because writers lost interest in him and NOT because his character is finished. I really hated them for using that excuse, Xander has so many issues and faults that they could have played with and developed him out of them.

But, I still find his character growth to be natural and believable. For example, his Spike hate and his trust in Buffy's choices: the first step Xander takes is in Seeing Red when he calls himself an ass when it becomes to Buffy/Spike and how hurt he is that Buffy didn't trust him enough to tell him about even though he understands why.

Second step, Xander talking aside with Buffy in Beneath You about Spike instead of making a scene or like Dawn getting on Buffy's case for not telling them that Spike is back. He wants to show Buffy that he trusts her ability to protect herself even though he's scared for her.

Third step, Xander being put in Buffy's shoes in Selfless, which resulted to Xander making a truce with Buffy. He'll take Spike in if Buffy protects Anya from D'haffrin's minions.

Fourth step, Xander gets to live with Spike, sees more of how much he changed and treats him more gently -we sadly didn't see that, but it happened off-screen.

Fifth step, Xander's objective attitude towards Spike -showing that he trusts Buffy's judgment more than the others do. Among them all, Xander was the one who figured out that Spike was triggered and never accused him or returning to his old roots.

So, that's a natural yet very subtle development for Xander. I'd like to have an In Your Face Xander character growth like Spike, Willow and Buffy. But sadly, the writers don't think it's necessary or interesting, which saddens the Xander fans more than his non-fans. Which duh, but what I mean is, yes, I don't want Xander to grow off-screen, I wanna see it in my screen.

The boy/man is allowed to be a nerd, a jerk, immature - in the end we'll all see that he's the only one truly mature at all, "deserving" of the girl.

I don't see it that way in BtVS. Super powered characters tend to be more important than human characters -which annoys me- because Xander and Dawn tend to be treated like helpless and unimportant by the writers, and they're the characters I identify with.

Question: Don't male superheroes fall for normal females instead of super powered ones? I'm not familiar with superhero stories, but I've got the impression that Superman and Spiderman fall for normal girls.


(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-26 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Sigh. Being a Xander fan turns me into a bitter bitch most of the time. Why couldn't I fall for Spike instead? Great storyline, huge arc, gets the girl, badass, so popular -much much easier than being a Xander fan. Double sigh. The heart chooses what the heart chooses.

To be fair, it isn't as if lots of fans don't HATE SPIKE. But I do see what you mean.

On Xander's maturity: Just to let my Xander/Willow flag fly for a sec (I don't ship them as a couple, but as being hugely important)--in Grave, through the purity of his love, Xander gets to save a woman he cares about who is consumed with vengeance. In addition to reconnecting with Willow, he gets to work out, on that bluff, his Anya issues, at least in part: he has seen how a woman could find herself killing someone, so dark that she's near to ending the world. And he gets to save her from herself, talk her down from oblivion, by connecting to the person she used to be. So he gets to understand and forgive evil in his friend, whereas in Anya he mostly just ignored it and in Spike he vilified it. And he gets to reconnect to the nerd inside (and the nerd inside Willow) and stop hating himself. This is a key moment for both Xander's standing by Anya (and more subtly, Spike) in season seven, and for Xander's more mature self-acceptance. (This is partly in reply to Norwie's comment that Xander is suddenly better after season six. It's because the end of season six helps save him as much as it saves Willow.)

So I mostly agree with your take on Xander's season seven development! My one concern where I agree to an extent with norwie (only to an extent!) is the transition between season seven and season eight. The healed relationship between Xander and Buffy makes sense to me given the way End of Days & Chosen happened. But how do we know that he is ready to commit to another woman, given the way that Xander & Anya went? Xander's willingness to devote 24/7 to the cause, and his competence as a leader, are also a big deal, and while I think things like Dirty Girls help set this up, there is still missing story. So I can understand why Norwie describes his increased maturity as sudden there, even though I think it is very consistent with the trajectory I saw Xander on.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-26 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
To be fair, it isn't as if lots of fans don't HATE SPIKE. But I do see what you mean.

I know there are a lot of fans who hate Spike, but who cares? I don't really care what other fans think when my character has the greatest arc out there, been written as a hero/champion, gets Buffy's love and trust, is treated like a respected character who's wise and insightful -really, who cares what fans think? :)

That's not the same as being a fan of a character who's usually written as immature, insensitive, blind, lame, butt of jokes, not interesting enough to have his own arc, mostly in the background, has a handful of episodes centered around him that usually talk about the same thing... big, big difference.


On Xander's maturity:

Great post about Xander's character growth. You speak wisdom my friend. :)

I'm actually one of those fans who wish we could have an issue about what happened between S7 and S8. And I've asked for fics about Xander taking the leadership role and making mistakes and having Buffy being there for him to help him, I can see Buffy and Xander bonding over this, Buffy teaching Xander how to be an effective leader.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-26 05:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
Sigh. Being a Xander fan turns me into a bitter bitch most of the time.

Oh, don't be that way! Whenever i read something You write on forums (or LJ) i always think how wonderfully positive the things You say are.

Why couldn't I fall for Spike instead? Great storyline, huge arc, gets the girl, badass, so popular -much much easier than being a Xander fan. Double sigh. The heart chooses what the heart chooses.

That is true. But then, You can STILL fall for Spike, never too late for that. ;-)

Oh, I agree with you. Xander was pushed to the background, because writers lost interest in him and NOT because his character is finished.

Yes to that. And Your following comments.

Which duh, but what I mean is, yes, I don't want Xander to grow off-screen, I wanna see it in my screen.

And this is really the heart of what i want to express. It could have been awesome to see the "nerdboy surrounded by strong women" grow up!

In essence, i agree with all of what You said. I just cannot get over the fact that i only got symbols and waystones of Xander's growth instead of actually seeing that growth come to pass.

Question: Don't male superheroes fall for normal females instead of super powered ones? I'm not familiar with superhero stories, but I've got the impression that Superman and Spiderman fall for normal girls.

At the beginning of the superhero genre this was essentially true: the superhero and the damsel. Which is really due to the underlying ideology of the superhero genre, which is fascistoid (is that a word in english? It is in my language.), needing racism and mysogyny as core social foundations ( Watchmen is a great commentary on that phenomenon). Nowadays, the genre is a lot more diversified (and, at least partially, subverted) and there are supercouples of superboys and supergirls.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-25 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
This whole discussion is very interesting, but rather than reply to it all I'll chime in here with a vote that I was hoping for Xander/Willow and not Xander/Buffy. I also think that the story is set up so that both X/W and X/B are potential endgames for the series, and starting with season two both actually get pushed a bit harder--When She Was Bad has Buffy's sexy dance with Xander and Xander's nearly kissing Willow in the teaser. I'd go as far as to argue that Willow/Xander is only completely off the table due to out-of-story reasons--that, following the fallout from Tara's death, Joss et al. figured it would not be possible to tell a story about not-a-lesbian-but-bisexual Willow getting together with a man without further upsetting W/T fans and giving he impression that Willow's sexuality was "just a phase". It doesn't bother me much because I think Willow & Xander is a very good story as a story about platonic friendship, but there are a lot of hints in the story that X/W could have been foreshadowed (I'm thinking the fact that mostly-gay vamp!Willow is with vamp!Xander, the emphasis on the Willow/Xander/Anya triangle in seasons five and six, for example).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-25 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
I remember reading a Xander/Willow fic post-Chosen which was really, really good. I wish I could remember its name.

But I lost my Xander/Willow love :( I find Buffy/Xander more interesting -more issues and more complicated = more fun.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-26 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
I find Buffy/Xander more interesting -more issues and more complicated = more fun.

That may be true. I think what I like about Willow/Xander (more as friends than as a couple, but either way) is the years of familiarity that go into the relationship. There's a sense that the two can't escape their past with each other, and so there's a bit of tension there. Both can pretend to be "not a nerd" with other people, but not each other, and so I think they pull away and come back to each other because of this. Buffy & Xander is something else entirely--it's complicated because Xander used to worship Buffy and idolize her, but he also saw her flaws more clearly than others on some level....

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 07:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladyofthelog.livejournal.com
I don't know if I've commented thus far, but I'm loving these commentaries. I got into the series around season 4 of my housemate's DVD watch, and I don't think I've ever fully appreciated season 1 aside from the opportunity to lol at the wardrobe. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these as you and your brother go along!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
Thanks! Season 1 is still mostly labor to watch, but it does set down a lot of foundations for the greatness that follows!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 08:05 am (UTC)
elisi: (Willow - playing god by bogwitch)
From: [personal profile] elisi
This episode was the first ep of BtVS that I ever watched, and I still remember being impressed with how clever it was. And looking back, it is definitely interesting to see how consistently all the characters have been drawn, and how everything is already there.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 12:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
All that foundation is impressive -- especially on Willow. The Scoobie dynamics in general were very well thought out.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angearia.livejournal.com
Still my favorite reading material everyday you post. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 03:11 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Great notes once again! The Witch. It may be clunky, but I like the episode—there’s a sweetness to it. You point out Buffy’s compassion when she discovers Amy; it’s a nice moment, and one to savour for the closed-off Buffy coming up.

Centrally, I had never thought of this episode as setting up Willow’s arc, so this is amazing insight! And it fits amazingly well. Of course, at this point, Amy and her mother Catherine may switch bodies, but they remain separate entities: the sweet girl and the evil witch are distinct. This is not the case later on, when Amy grows darker, and when it ultimately becomes clear that Willow is both. The body swap is particularly interesting in that not only does Catherine take over Amy’s body (evil witch using innocent girl’s exterior) but the reverse is also true—Amy is trapped in Catherine’s body (innocent girl in evil witch’s exterior). At her most evil, Willow remains reachable by Xander in Grave, by calling out to the sweet girl (from kindergarten) under the evil witch exterior—somewhat like the way Buffy does with Amy-in-Catherine here. And more broadly even Amy, who becomes as evil as her mother later on, still has her sweet side: in TLWH she pauses when her mother is brought up.

It’s worth noting too that Amy explicitly has mother issues. Gingerbread, in which we meet Willow’s emotionally absent mother, is the episode where Amy becomes a rat for several years. Arguably Willow’s mother issues (obviously not emphasized) get played out via Tara, who is in several respects a motherly figure for Willow. (This might be worth tracking going forward, and in Gingerbread in particular though there might not be that much to this observation.)

Interesting that it is Amy we see first as a witch – it’s not unlike the fact that the first high school blonde we meet is not Buffy, but rather Darla.

If this is the case, would the first “demon magnet” we meet be the hapless guy in the teaser Darla kills, and not Xander? The first benevolent but somewhat clueless authority figure confounded by Buffy is Flutie, not Giles? (Maybe not the last one.)

Strudel adds: indeed, no one can predict where Willow will wind up, but there is a neat little scene -- seems like a throw-away -- that does foreshadow her vocational calling: in Biology class, she takes Xander's frog and deftly plucks its eye out. "Eye of newt," she crows.

Excellent catch! And not just resonant for Willow. Xander’s frog gets ONE EYE PLUCKED OUT? Ouch, Xan, that's gotta hurt.

The episode also offers us another reminder that for all the show we’re going to make about her academic problems, Buffy is sharp as a tack.

Interestingly, the episode also shows that Cordelia is smarter than she seems, too. “That girl’s on fire!” Willow yells, and then Cordelia responds, “Enough with the hyperbole.” I assumed at first that this was just a show in which all characters got decent vocabularies even if they were meant to be dumb and ditzy. But could you imagine Harmony saying “hyperbole” and using it correctly? So we’re already set up to see that Cordelia is actually strong academically and bright.

(Speaking of Cordelia, her whited-out eyes when Catherine makes her blind connects with a lot of vision/seeing imagery that she gets on AtS, primarily through the visions but also things like her third eye in Epiphany. She gets the whited out eyes again when she has visions in season four.)

On Willow’s sweet/ruthless: we see vengeful Willow again this week.

GILES: Why would anyone want to harm Cordelia?
WILLOW: Maybe because they met her? Did I say that?


Giles: Giles mentions here that he hasn’t cast a spell before, after having performed it. That said, he seems very confident during the spell-casting, so there’s even a hint that he may be lying. (It’s notable for those keeping track that Giles only claims this was his first spell, which is later revealed to be a lie, after the day is saved.) We do get the sense that he is hiding information from Buffy, perhaps because witches are Bad in this episode, and Giles wants to maintain the moral high ground as long as he can. And his own magic use was not exactly sweetness and light.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Otherwise, this episode sets up the dynamic between Joyce and Buffy. Joyce doesn’t come across great at first; she casually suggests that Buffy will get back into trouble, she’s too fixated on her work to pay attention when Buffy says what she’s trying out for, and she is pushy about the yearbook. But she apologizes, and makes it clear that she does love Buffy and is trying her best to balance her new job with caring for her daughter—and neither smothering Buffy nor letting her go too free. It’s important for their season 1-2 interactions that Joyce’s default assumption is that Buffy is a sweet kid, but one who burned down a school gym for no reason, and this led to having to start a new life, and one where Joyce has few friends. Alienation from her mother (and father!) is one of the biggest costs that being the slayer has for Buffy.

Lastly, checking the transcript, I’m a little amazed you didn’t mention:
Xander: Will, yeah, that is the point, you don't have to drive it through my head like a railroad spike.

Huh.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-24 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 2maggie2.livejournal.com
Good catch on Amy's mother issues -- I hadn't connected them with Willow's mother issues. Though they are a different flavor (uninvolved rather than envious).

And good stuff on Giles. I don't know what it says that both you and bro have interesting insights into Giles and I keep having to remind myself that he's there!

I'm trying to go light on the Spike-resonant lines, because I'm going to be so ridiculously Spike-centric about all of this down the line. That sequence also has Xander talking about stalking Buffy through her bedroom window which points a bit at Spike but much more strongly at that other vampire.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-25 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
I agree that Amy and Willow have very different mother issues. Though by "Gingerbread," Amy's mother is a non-entity in her daily life as well--obviously for different reasons. (And again with the contrast to Joyce: she's not perfect but she does try to be there for her daughter.)

I find Giles really entertaining in season 1 (he was probably my favourite while watching it) but he's a bit of a cartoon, sort of like Cordelia though not as extreme. I probably wouldn't have thought about Giles if your brother hadn't talked about him first. (Definitely he becomes very, very real in "Prophecy Girl.")

And I hear you on Spike-resonant lines! I respect your restraint. (I like Xander's line you mention, because it points to the creepiness of Xander's even joking about stalking her, whereas Angel will be doing that for real with no jokes attached.)

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