Big Announcement: I'm happy to report that local_max
has agreed to join in with Bro (Strudel) in commenting/dialoguing with these notes. If y'all haven't read Max's stuff yet, get thee to his Live Journal immediately. Go! Now! (OK, maybe read this post first, and then go).
A second announcement is that because of developments in season 8, I'm shifting to a twice a week posting schedule so we can get to Prophecy Girl before #37 comes out. I'll be posting notes on Mondays and Thursdays.
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 AtS. I'll be spoiling 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.
Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, aka Buffy’s love life, part 1, in Which Buffy Tries a Normal Boyfriend on For Size, and Brings Him Into the Middle of a Vampire Attack.
Having opened with a tale of a slayer, a tale of a witch, and a tale of a demon magnet, we move on to three takes on Buffy’s love life. In Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, we quickly sketch out the reason why Buffy can’t date ordinary guys: she can’t tell them who she really is and that makes things more dangerous for everyone.
Strudel adds: On top of that, she can barely find time to go out on a date, it being so hard to squeeze in time between impending apocalypses.
Owen mysteriously appears as the boy Buffy is seriously crushing on. In Teacher’s Pet we saw her sigh because she knew Angel was going to be a big deal, so this is a bit of a turn around. I suppose we could wank it to say that Buffy is running for an ordinary boy rather than get swooped up by Angel’s charms, but I honestly think they just wanted to trot in an ordinary boy so they could make the point that ordinary boys don’t fit into Buffy’s life. It sets the stage for Buffy’s only two remaining options: Xander (who already knows what Buffy is) and Angel.
Max adds: Not sure how much of a fanwank that really is. Owen has a lot of traits in common with Angel, suggesting that Buffy may subconsciously still be seeking out Angel: Owen is solitary, obsessed with death (which Buffy doesn't know about Angel but probably intuits), and, has been clocked as brooding for 45 minutes straight by Willow. (Maggie replies: Good point, but they still jump start the episode with Buffy seriously crushing on a guy we haven't seen at all before now. Owen has plot device stamped on his forehead.) Though in the grand scheme of the show, Owen reminds me more of:
The life of Riley: The course of Buffy/Riley is actually laid out pretty well in this very episode (or, at least, Buffy/Riley follows this episode as a bit of a template for "normal relationship" problems Buffy must face). Riley is a normal guy Buffy meets in the library (Owen is introduced to us in the audience in the library)--i.e. he's the sensible choice, the one she makes with her head. Owen is tall, not-as-dark-as-Angel, and pretty handsome, normal, and referred to by Xander as "a little homespun," so that he "probably doesn't like that assertive look," suggesting some of the Iowa farmboy. Owen is enough like her dream guy (Angel, both times) for Buffy to get her small emotional and romantic/sexual fix, but enough of a normal guy that she can get the life she thinks she wants. Note too that Riley, like Owen, finds the fighting fun even though he ultimately is outmatched, and eventually nearly gets himself killed with the thrill of the excitement of fighting death. At any rate, while Buffy does need to let Owen go independent of any other reasons, it's still notable that in the Buffy and Owen kissing scene, Angel stands between them in frame--probably both as a representation of how Buffy's "work" interferes with her life, and that Angel is still in her heart more so than Owen is. Speaking of....
Angel : Angel shows up at Buffy’s date to warn her about the anointed one, as do Xander and Willow. Xander, Willow and Owen all rush off to the funeral home with Buffy. Giles is already there, and the episode shows his bravery as he walks into the funeral home alone and promptly gets overwhelmed by vampires. (MAX: And serious resourcefulness to make up for a relative lack in strength.) Angel, our hero, melts away into the night as usual. Five episodes in and Angel’s count of heroic acts remains firmly fixed at zero.
MAX: There's an amusing moment too when Buffy says "Bite me!" and there's a cut to Angel staring at her. Strudel: There is a curious little moment when Giles heads off to the funeral home to wait for the Anointed One, when Xander and Willow have the option of going with him or going to the Bronze. Xander chooses the Bronze, breezily saying that Giles's knowledge is the "ultimate weapon" (hmm, shades of Giles dream at the end of Season 4...). It looks like Xander's heroism is not accompanied by a universal sense of duty. If it's Buffy or a friend he has to save, he's going to be there. Giles, on the other hand... It seems he's to be left behind, when, surprisingly Xander and Willow appear at the key moment. Also, Buffy dutifully ditches her date, or tries to, when she knows incontrovertibly that duty calls. The kids may not get really see Giles as a three-dimensional person, but he's one of them and they're there for him. MAX interjects with: I think it's in this episode where Buffy starts to see Giles as a three-dimensional person herself, at the end when he reveals that he is not just an old man (there's a cut from Giles saying he'll consult his books to the Master doing so in the teaser!) but was young once and has had, in his own way, to give up a normal life just as Buffy has. Giles' sacrifices really start getting focus in season two. Back to Strudel:\
Now, Maggie was talking about Angel and his not being there before I interrupted. She was about to say... While we’re on the subject of people not being who they seem:
Things are Not What They Seem: Giles assumes that the murdered dead guy is the one who is likely to rise as the anointed one. Instead it’s the innocent looking kid. We’re a full season away from Lie to Me and it’s already the case that we can’t tell who the villains are by looking. Two episodes from now we’re going to find out about Angel.
Cordelia: I haven’t said anything about her because so far she’s got no layers at all. She’s well established at this point as bitchy and entirely self-absorbed. This is the episode where she claps her eyes on Angel.
Max: Cordelia is also a bit of a shadow-Buffy, living the life Buffy wishes she had as a popular, normal girl, and always expressing her desires explicitly whereas Buffy has to hold them in. So it makes sense that she's attracted to Angel and Owen (though in-story, I really can't believe her liking Owen at all, but whatever). It's interesting that Angel doesn't notice Cordelia at all, onlyhaving eyes for Buffy, similar to the first Buffy/Xander meeting where he's smitten and Buffy barely notices him. Of course Buffy & Xander, and Angel & Cordelia, will get to know each other more than Buffy & Angel will. Maggie replies: I totally agree. Cordelia/Buffy are an important contrasting pair, especially in this first season.
Strudel drops a footnote from the beginning of the episode. The Master, reciting his dark scripture to his disciples, and then berating them for not following the plan, concludes by saying, "here endeth the lesson." That's a line Buffy will use when instructing the Slayerettes in episode 7. The resonance is not a great indicator of the kind of leader Buffy's going to be.
Maggie replies: There's might be more to that than you think: the Master has reappeared in Season 8, a story about vampires and slayers and their essential connection. The other time we hear that phrase is in Fool for Love, when Spike concludes his lesson on slayers and their death wishes. The master is telling his minions they ought not to have a death wish; Spike tells Buffy that all slayers do have death wishes; but when Buffy uses the phrase she's just shown the slayers they can overcome even a seemingly invincible foe like the Turok Han.
Max: Speaking of season 8, Xander's Tweety watch makes an appearance in this ep, to contrast with Owen's pocketwatch. He's wearing Tweety pyjamas in The Long Way Home #2. Is this a sign that Xander is no longer ashamed of his geeky, S1 roots? Or is it a sign that Xander has still not grown up? Note (because I couldn't find anywhere else to put this) that this episode continues Xander's creepy/heroic dichotomy, where he both tries to sneak a peak at Buffy in the mirror and lies to Owen to sabotage their date, and not only helps save the day but also shows the emotional intelligence to know that Buffy needs the catharsis from beating up the vamp at the end, thinking that Owen is dead, and that the reveal that Owen is alive could undermine that. Maggie: oh, that's an interesting dichotomy to ponder. I wonder if that's meant to serve as commentary on the standard male POV story that Xander represents.
Season 8 update: In this episode, the Master gives us the following prophecy:
'And there will be a time of crisis, of worlds hanging in the balance. And in this time shall come the Anointed, the Master's great warrior. And the Slayer will not know him, will not stop him, and he will lead her into Hell.' As it is written, so shall it be. 'Five will die, and from their ashes the Anointed shall rise. The Brethren of Aurelius shall greet him and usher him to his immortal destiny.' As it is written, so shall it be. 'And one of the brethren shall go out hunting the night before and get himself killed, because he couldn't wait to finish his job before he ate.' Oh, wait. (grabs one of the brethren by the throat) That's not written anywhere. The Anointed will be my greatest weapon against the Slayer! If you fail to bring him to me, if you allow that girl to stop you... (throws the vampire into a coffin) Here endeth the lesson.
As we'll find out later in Prophecy Girl, the prophecy is a bit off. Buffy knows who the anointed one is. The prophecy is also quite OTT for what's happening in season one. What crisis? What hanging in the balance? In season 8, the worlds are hanging in the balance, for sure. This all worries me ever so slightly because Spike is the one leading Buffy back to Sunnydale. But figuratively speaking, Angel just did lead Buffy into hell -- drawing her into the epic space-boink that threatens to destroy the world. Also, Angel fits much more nicely as the Master's great warrior. Also the number 'five' shows up in Buffy's dream in #20 -- five disciples of Morgala trying to raise the dragon. (We just got remined in #36 that Angel had a dragon of his very own there for a while). The dragon in #20 has that red eye that looks a lot like the seed of wonder, takes Buffy flying and that drops her to the ground hard when she kills it. In any case, Angel is the one that *somebody* using as the bait to lure Buffy in, and I think that tends to cast him in the role of the anointed one. In the dream Buffy kills the dragon. In School Hard, Spike kills the Anointed one. There's a bit of rumbling around the fandom right now wondering if Angel isn't toast. This is a bit of text that makes me think he might be.
Max adds: Re: the OTT-ness of the prophecy, there ARE lots of apocalypsy signs in "Prophecy Girl": Quoth Jenny, "A cat last week gave birth to a litter of snakes. A family was swimming in Whisper Lake when the lake suddenly began to boil. And Mercy Hospital last night, a boy was born with his eyes facing inward. I'm not stupid. This is apocalypse stuff. And throw in last night's earthquake, and I'd say we've got a problem. I would say the end is pretty seriously nigh." So a lot happened off screen, and the show's budget and time constraints seem to have compressed all the signs into one speech from Jenny (and an earthquake and some blood coming out of taps). I don't know what to say about that, except that a boy born with eyes facing inward reminds me of Oedipus' eventual fate (blindness, not eyes facing inwards), which reminds me both of Prophecy Girl and of Angel's very Oedipal son.
Maggie replies: They impending signs of doom are all off stage. More importantly, season 1 hasn't been structured around an actual calamity in anything like the dramatic fashion we're seeing in season 8. I really like that the cheesy "ooh apocalypse" has taken on such a different texture in season 8. Love it or hate it, the rent in the worlds is thematically important: raising questions like what's the difference between slayers and demons; how can the world accomodate an army of slayers, things like that. In season 1 it was just external bad thing that the heroine has to fight. This season is adding up to be MUCH more than that.
"Five will die." 206 slayers are dead, plus many soldiers and werewolves. But major, recurring characters? I count three: Ethan Rayne, Renee, and (Future Dark) Willow. Also there seem to be five bugs in Spike's ship. Given the prominence of sex in season eight (and in association with Angel and Spike and even the Master, albeit more subtly), I'm also thinking that whether the slayer "knows" someone could have to do with "knowing" in the Biblical sense. Buffy does know Angel and Spike (and I suppose Parker and Riley and Satsu). She's also been bitten (sex-metaphor) by the Master and Dracula. This in a sense makes it less likely for me to think that any of the above are the Anointed in a revamp (ha) of the prophecy. But who knows?
Maggie replies: I don't think that the five who will die are characters of name. I rather think it'd have been part of whatever ritual the Master used to get things going; the way the five disciples were involved in the ritual of charging up the dragon in #20. There are other reasons to think Angel could be taking on the role of the anointed. As we'll see later in season 1, the Master wanted Angel as his right-hand man, and that's the role he gives to Colin. Let's see if this analogy works when we get to those parts of season 1. I should add that I don't hear the line about the slayer not knowing the anointed one as having sexual connotations. I hear it more as her failing to recognize him as a danger.
Strudel: OK, now that you guys went all Season 8 on my last little footnote, it is with great trepidation that I add one more: Note that Willow is happy to encourage Buffy's interest in Owen. We'll see her later be even more pro-Angel. The take away is that it doesn't matter who the guy is to Willow. She just wants Buffy off the market for Xander. Maggie replies: Yup, Willow is a cunning one. Which reminds me that her role in the big finale to season 8 remains murky. Who knows what she's got up her sleeve!