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Buffy The Vampire SlayerBuffy Blowout Part 1 : Scoobies and Villains
By Tara DiLullo and Billie Doux
Friday 16 May 2003, by Webmaster
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Yeah, not exactly a television series title that makes the average person immediately think of complex characterizations and wickedly profound storytelling. As a matter of fact, most just think "bad B-movie" and then move on, never having given the show a fighting chance.
Well, for those of us "in the know" for the last seven seasons, "Buffy" is indeed one of the best television shows to ever grace the idiot box. Even the critics think so - TV Guide went so far as ranking it as one of the 50 Best TV Shows - Ever! When the series makes its grand exit on May 20, 2003, there will be "Buffy" parties the world over to celebrate the end of an era. And believe us, there will be much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth from fans. But we’ll be left with 144 original episodes of possibly the most unique television show in history.
The two of us are monstrously devout fans, and good friends; "Buffy" is actually what brought us together so it seems fit we review, reflect and dish on our favorite show In the next few weeks, as the series comes to a close, we’ll talk about the highlights and lowlights of all seven seasons. We’ll review and praise our favorite arcs, discuss our least favorite storylines, share our personal choices for best and worst episodes, and review the penultimate season seven.
Let’s start with the cornerstones of the series — the characters. Which Scooby was your fave? Which villain made you laugh, and who made chills go down your spine?
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REVIEWING THE SCOOBS -THE "BUFFY" CHARACTER HALL OF FAME What would "Buffy" have been without the exceptional writing? We’re not knocking the exceptional cast but hey — even Olivier had to have something good to work with. Those beautifully written trials, tribulations, heartbreaks and highs had us coming back for more pain and suffering each week despite ourselves. Match those well-written stories with an exceptional cast of regulars and long list of fabulous guest actors, and therein lies the "Buffy" magic.
Many characters have come and gone; several have died, although death has never kept a good character from returning on "Buffy" or its spinoff, "Angel." More than one character introduced as a villain has somehow made their way over into the Scooby camp, and vice versa. Nearly all of them made an indelible impression.
Every favorite character list must start with the Scoobies — Buffy’s posse of loyal and talented friends who help her fight evil and cope with day-to-day life. Xander, Willow, Giles, Cordelia, Spike, Angel…choosing favorites amongst them is like picking your favorite child. But then - what the heck, we’re all about playing favorites so here is our TOP TEN:
She started as a shallow sixteen-year-old who was nearly as concerned about the color of her nail polish as she was with fighting demons. Since then, she has died twice, survived three devastating love affairs (two with the undead), lost her mother, gained a sister, and saved countless lives as well as the world — several times. Watching Buffy grow as a person over the past seven seasons has been amazing.
There are many things to love about her: her bravery, warmth, passion, and loyalty, plus her trendy fashion sense and a mean drop kick in heels. There are just as many things that make us both want to smack her in the head: she can also be whiny, bossy, cold, self- righteous and just plain mean. Sarah Michelle Gellar managed to combine all of those characteristics into a vulnerable, believable superhero. She battled her own demons both literally and metaphorically, and she was far from perfect; but as much as Buffy may have frustrated us in the later years of the series, we still love her for her amazing heart, for the sacrifices she made for good. She saved the world a lot, and changed the face of television forever.
Tara’s Highlight Moments: Her speech at the end of "The Gift," killing Angel in "Becoming Part 2" and her role in the entire episode of "The Body."
Billie’s Highlight Moments: I strongly agree with the three choices above. Oddly enough, another of my favorite moments is in the second season episode, "Go Fish," when a member of the swim team corners Buffy in his car and tries to paw her, and she lets him have it.
The show may not be called "Spike the Vampire Slayer," but Spike’s journey is a huge reason why we both are such big fans. Joss Whedon and James Marsters took a dynamic villain who was only supposed to last half a season, and made him into one of the most layered, conflicted, passionate, witty, and indelible characters on television.
What is it about Spike that has created such a huge and passionate fan base? He is not just eye-candy, as some have implied; it is James Marsters’ talent as an actor that stretched the writers and propelled the character. Spike is now a vampire with a soul, but even as a villain (which he was originally), and the soulless vamp imprisoned by a behavior-modification chip (which he later became), Spike was always about the shades of gray. He is as different from the black-and-white Angel/Angelus as it is possible to be. And he’s dead sexy, pun intended.
Spike got us to root for him, not despite of, but because of all his faults. He appeals to the underdog in all of us and comes across as all the more human for the terrible mistakes he has made. We love Buffy for being a hero, but we love Spike more for trying to become one.
Tara’s Highlight Moments: His first appearance in Sunnydale in "School Hard," his soul confession at the end of "Beneath You" and his grief over Buffy’s death at the end of "The Gift."
Billie’s Highlight Moments: Yes, yes, yes. The way he stared at Buffy when he saw her for the first time in the Bronze in "School Hard;" his musical number "Rest in Peace" in "Once More, with Feeling"; playing twenty questions with Harmony, and waking up realizing he was in love with Buffy, in "Out of My Mind."
We were both Willow. We were the quiet, smart kids who suffered through high school in anonymity only to come into their own as adults. Neither one of us ever dabbled in witchcraft, went lesbian or flayed a guy alive, but even for the extreme divergence in paths, we still know and understand Willow’s inner struggles and turbulence.
Sensitively portrayed by Alyson Hannigan, Willow’s evolution as a character was compelling and heartbreaking to watch and we were always with her, even when we knew she was headed for bad business at the end of season six. Take away the magic and the power, and Willow is just like us, trying to find where we belong in this world.
Favorite moments: Being both Willows in "Doppelgangland," confronting Faith in the Mayor’s office; saying goodbye to Oz in "New Moon Rising," losing Tara and becoming Dark Willow at the end of season six.
Just as so many women have identified strongly with Willow, many men strongly identify with Xander. Nicholas Brendon was king of the one-liners throughout the series, as he slowly morphed from geek boy to grown-up, while suffering along the way through multiple bad jobs and romantic failures.
Sure, he wasn’t the showiest character and to be quite honest, after season five we think the writers got stuck on just what to do with poor Xander. Yet, he was the heart of the group and the consistent man who has been there for Buffy and Willow since the beginning. Fans have a tendency to think about all the men that have deserted Buffy throughout her life (her father Hank, Angel, Parker, Riley) but they always forget that Xander was one who never left her and was always by her side (even when he wasn’t happy about it). A true friend and someone you’d always want watching your back is Alexander Lavelle Harris.
Favorite moments: Xander finding out he was capable of saving the world too in "The Zeppo," dealing with his double (played by his twin brother Kelly) in "The Replacement;" his speech to Dawn about her being special in "Potential" and the "butt-monkey" speech from "Buffy vs. Dracula," and talking Dark Willow down in "Grave."
He started as the archetypal wise man and stereotypical old-world librarian, and became a complex, fascinating, and even sexy character with a wild teenaged past. One of the main weaknesses of seasons six and seven has been the partial departure of Giles as the group’s adult anchor; it just hasn’t been the same. His presence has been minimal and his absence from the group dynamic not to mention the wasting of such an enormous talent is depressing. But, one only has to look back to his glory days from season two through five to remember why Giles was so much more than the two dimensional "exposition guy" he could have easily remained. He was strong, supportive and incredibly dry and witty. He’s has more concussions than called for in a lifetime but I defy anyone not to tremble when "Ripper" got angry or crossed his slayer. He became the father Buffy needed and we loved him for loving her like she was his own.
Favorite moments: Going after Angelus in "Passion;" getting drunk with Ethan Rayne in "A New Man;" getting drunk and fighting with Buffy, Xander, and Willow, in "The Yoko Factor," and facing off against Dark Willow in the season six finale.
She had the unfiltered mouth we all secretly wished we had, and wow, did she use it freely. Sure, blame the bluntness on her ex-demon status, but Anya’s character evolved into way more than that limiting description. A comedic genius and the expected voice of brutal honesty, Anya became the touchstone of the gang. Whatever the situation at hand be it bleak, stupid, positive or confusing, Anya would lay it on the line with the unflinching perception and honesty that made her who she was. Like Spike, she was originally supposed to be in one episode but she made it to the finale while making us laugh in every episode in which she appeared.
Tara’s Highlight Moments: Her speeches in "The Body" and "Hell’s Bells," her entire episode of "Selfless."
Billie’s favorite moments: Anya’s speech in "Hells Bells" where she explains that she finally understands love, right before her emotionally wrenching walk alone down the aisle. I’m also very fond of "I’m eleven hundred and twenty years old. Give me a freaking beer!" in "Doppelgangland."
David Boreanaz, by way of the immensely talented "Buffy" writers, took a season one cutey-pie love interest for Buffy and carried him over the goal line. Shifting Angel from the dashing and mysterious boyfriend to the most painful, hateful, and evil adversary in Angelus for Buffy to ever battle was inspired. The intimacy of the way Angelus victimized Buffy in season two took our breath away. Moving him to his own series after season three was an excellent move, since the Angel/Buffy romance had gone as far as it possibly could by that point but it was a stirring journey all the way. Epic and bittersweet, it was also one of the best metaphors ever for teen sexuality and the perils of star-crossed love.
Favorite moments: When Buffy’s cross burned into his chest in "Angel"; when Angelus intimated that Buffy’s sexual inexperience had disappointed him in "Innocence;" and when he finally drank Buffy’s blood in "Graduation Day II" (oooooooh).
Talk about a character having to grasp and claw for fan affection! When introduced in season two as a love interest for Willow, fans of a potential Xander and Willow pairing (which was just about everyone) hated the diminutive guitarist with a passion for daring to horn in where he wasn’t wanted. He slowly proved over the season that his interest for Willow was deep, genuine and worthy of her fragile heart, and he slowly won our hearts as well. Coupled with his unique and shall we say, sparing use of words, Oz, played by Seth Green, eventually became a huge fan favorite. It also didn’t hurt that his own demons were literal, considering he was a werewolf. Cool beyond words, unflustered by just about anything and always ready with the perfect comment, Oz was the guy who didn’t care about what other people thought. He was perfect for Willow, and the hole left by his departure in season four was felt for long after (even though Tara eventually filled that hole nicely).
Favorite moments: Oz’s Nietzsche like contemplation of self when Buffy could read minds in "Earshot," discussing why he won’t kiss Willow to Willow in "Innocence," being "God" for Halloween in "Fear Itself," and saying goodbye again to Willow in "New Moon Rising."
She was good. Then she was really bad. And now she’s trying on the jacket of redemption again. Faith, the "other" slayer, burst onto the Sunnydale scene in season three, and to our delight, returned in seasons four and seven.
Eliza Dushku embodied Faith as the dark side of Buffy - a glimpse at what Buffy might have been without a family or a loving upbringing. She coerced Buffy over to her side of the tracks with murderous results, and then made a beeline to evil as she changed sides to work for The Mayor. She was fun, feisty, and aggressive to the core but she was still vulnerable enough for the audience to want her to come back to the light. She’s coming full circle now and watching her and Buffy fight side by side again is fitting.
Favorite moments: Bedding Xander in "The Zeppo," Eliza Dushku doing a Sarah Michelle Gellar impression in "Who Are You?" ("What’s a stevedore?") and all of her interactions with The Mayor.
Tara: If you told me a year ago that the possibility of adding Andrew to this list would have even dawned on me, I would have laughed in your face. I was still referring to him as "What’s his name" along with the rest of the cast up until the beginning of season seven. But the impossible happened and as the season progressed, Tom Lenk made us love his quirky, flawed but heavenly comedic Andrew. He was part of the evil Nerds of season six but by mid-season seven, Andrew became the rapidly reforming Scooby groupie who was trying to fight the good fight to redemption. Andrew may be weak, an unqualified spinner of tales and just damn needy, but he’s also very human in his quest to belong and amazingly seems worthy of the gift of a second chance.
Favorite moments: Riding shotgun with Spike in "Empty Places," almost all of his panicked lines in "Two 2 Go" and his redemptive episode "Storyteller" (especially frolicking and singing "We are as Gods!").
and... 10. Tara
Billie: I like Andrew, but I’m much more of a Tara fan. I still miss her, and I’m still peeved at Joss for taking her away from us. Amber Benson gave the character of Tara such sweetness, beauty, and complexity; I loved her just for loving Willow the way she did. Her death in "Seeing Red" was the hardest Scooby death for me to take.
Favorite moments: Her silent communication with Willow at the end of her introductory episode, "Hush"; Spike punching her out to prove she wasn’t a demon in "Family"; her duet with Giles in "Once More, with Feeling"; and her dinner-table confrontation with Willow in "Tabula Rasa."
Least favorite Scoobies:
Dawn: Despite good acting chops and the fact that Michelle Tractenberg is extremely likeable, Dawn was probably the most poorly written main character in the series. We heard somewhere (and if we’re quoting you without attribution, forgive us) that if the writers had written teenaged characters this poorly at the beginning of the series, the show would have never gotten off the ground.
Riley: The Clean Marine just wasn’t the man for Buffy; not really his fault. Marc Blucas’ best moments were as a foil for Spike.
RANKING THE VILLAINS Of course, you had to have evil lurking to make any of these characters interesting. What Joss and his writers did each season was give us a "Big Bad" to thwart Buffy and her gang for the season - prodding and provoking as well as getting in a fair share of violence and smack downs. Not all of them were great... but when they were good, they were wonderful!
1. The Mayor and Faith (Season 3)
As played by Harry Groener, The Mayor was evil wrapped in Mr. Rodgers. For all the "golly gees" and wet naps, The Mayor was truly terrifying beneath the grin. He was equal parts vicious and diabolical but boy, he knew the value of good ole manners.
Billie’s favorite moments: My absolute favorite Mayor moment was in "Graduation Day I" when he walked right into the library and confronted the gang face to face.
Tara’s favorite moments: Asking Faith is she wants to play a round of mini-golf after he failed attempt to turn Angel, and his speech to the gang with the Box of Gravrock.
2. Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus (Season 2)
These three characters and their perverted season two love triangle put the vampire in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." David Boreanaz most certainly got his spinoff series "Angel" on the strength of his spot-on portrayal of Angelus. Juliet Landau’s insane and complex Drusilla is one of our favorite evil continuing characters on both series; and Spike — see Scooby characters, above.
Billie’s favorite moments: Drusilla torturing Angel, and Angel sexually taunting Spike, in "What’s My Line"; the double couples fight with Buffy in "Becoming II."
Tara’s Favorite moments: Angelus and Drusilla in the mall with The Judge in "Innocence", and Spike and Dru making short work of the Anointed One in "School Hard."
3. Dark Willow (Season 6)
Never underestimate the wallflower. Power unlocked the wicked Wicca at the end of season six turning the grieving Willow into a force to be reckoned with on earth. She looked amazingly cool with her black eyes and hair but she was also truly menacing! She flayed Warren, tried to kill ALL her best friends (along with the world), was brutal in her cutting dialogue and she kicked Buffy’s ass. Raising a cheesy temple was a bit much but as Andrew said, "She’s a truck drivin’ magic mama!" and she was awesome in her glory.
4. Glory (Season 5)
A Goddess? We never would have guessed the haute couture bitch flinging Buffy around like a wet sponge in search of her Key would end up being a divinity... but it worked. As played by Clare Kramer, Glory was a schizophrenic clotheshorse who was over the top twenty-four seven yet she induced some serious terror. With her superhuman strength and her crusty minions, Glory was distinctive in all ways. So much so, that Buffy not only went catatonic as a result of her season long war with the she-bitch, but she also eventually sacrificed her life so her sister and friends could live.
Least Favorite Villains:
The Master: Although he was a lot of fun in "The Wish" and in flashbacks, the only episode with the Master that we really enjoyed was "Prophecy Girl." Fruit punch mouth just never did it for us.
Adam: The season four Big Bad was supposed to be Maggie Walsh; Adam was elevated and essentially replaced her when the actress bowed out. Although certainly creepy-looking, his evil acts were mostly repugnant instead of frightening. Billie’s favorite moment was probably when Spike called him Mr. Bits.
The First: How do you defeat evil incarnate? We don’t know and how can you really? Evil will always be around to thwart so making The First a Big Bad is a let down just because you know it can’t win. And while, the concept started with so much promise all the way back in "Lessons," Tara has been less than terrified all season.
Next week, catch The Buffy Series, Part II: Favorite Episodes