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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" Tv Series - Dnaindia.com Review

Tuesday 2 September 2014, by Webmaster

Buffy Summers. She saved the world. A lot.

The main contention people have when you say things like ’Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ is still one of the best cult shows out there, is that how can you compare it to ’Breaking Bad’ or ’Community’ or ’The Wire’.

But, it’s been almost two decades now, and Buffy still tops numerous lists of the biggest and best cult shows of the last 25 years. Sure, now the freedom of cable and online media, allows for stronger story lines when it comes to dark and gritty material, but for it’s time, with what it had, Buffy reigned supreme.

The reason why nearly 20 years later this show has such a strong and outspoken fan following is, in short, because it’s brilliant, utterly brilliant. Also, it could help that this is the first baby of the King of the Nerds - Joss Whedon. It has the chills, the scares, the heart, the wit, the dynamics and so much more, that one would expect in a favourite TV show. The strongest aspects of any show has to be its writing, acting and the chemistry between the cast. Check. Check. And check.

But just saying that these are the great things about the show, will hold no weightage to those haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing all this. So let me take you through just some of the exceptional points of the show.

- The Supporting Players -

We’ll start of with the obvious. Xander, Willow, Giles, Angel, Spike, Anya, Cordelia, and the troupe of fantastic characters that Buffy had to offer. The greatest writing and direction in the world will fall flat on the floor if the characters cannot deliver. That was absolutely not the case with Buffy. Most shows bank on the star power and acting ability of their lead character. The brilliance of Buffy, was that this show didn’t have to bank on the lead actor. Till date I haven’t found such well rounded and brilliantly written supporting characters in the genre.

One of the biggest pros of the characters in the Buffyverse is that you feel everything they feel. You become so invested in the characters that you are heartbroken when they’re heartbroken, and you are happy when they are happy. That comes not only from the writing that allows the actors to display those emotions, but more so from their acting ability to get you invested in their lives. A lot of shows have breaking out characters, ’How I Met Your Mother’ has Barney Stinson, ’The Big Bang Theory’ has Sheldon Cooper, ’Supernatural’ has Castiel and well, Buffy has Xander, Spike, Angel (who got his own show), Willow, Giles, and a whole bunch of others. Moreover, even hated characters like Riley, and to some extent Dawn served their purpose. Through the lot of them, there wasn’t a weak link.

- The writing, the underlying themes and the relationships -

Drawing from the previous point of stellar writing, there are hundreds of examples through all seven seasons to showcase how brilliant Joss Whedon, Steven S DeKnight, Jane Espenson, David Fury, Drew Goddard, David Greenwalt, Marti Noxon and the rest of the BtVS writing team were. They used the characters and the themes to the fullest, and a large percentage of that was done through the writing and dialogue. Again the show was a fantasy genre show, and well dealt with the supernatural, but ostensibly, it was about love, loss, fear, death, strength and most importantly—life. In a lot of shows it might take more than the casual observer to sniff out some of the underlying themes. But with Buffy, the underlying themes were subtle but at the same time in your face. It found the balance. Themes like child abuse, rape, the LGBT community, addiction, and divorce are just the a dip in the wide pool of issues Buffy touched upon through its seven year journey.

Another great part of the show was the relationships between the characters. You feel like Giles has a fatherly love for Buffy, you understand why Willow gave up on destroying the world for her best friend—Xander, and you could honestly see that Spike would give his life for Buffy. The soul mate vibe that Angel and Buffy had resonated long after he left Sunnydale, making you believe that one day, they will eventually be together. They had to. That was the immense power of the writing behind it. You became so invested in the relationships that when Jenny Calendar was killed when Angel became evil, when Tara was accidently shot and Willow was driven to madness, these were the moments that made you feel for Giles and Willow. Because in the end, you knew it wasn’t going to be alright. Great writing and brilliant character dynamics help you equate the fiction with real life, and Buffy did that brilliantly.

- Character development and the change in the status quo -

Character development happens in all shows, that’s a fact. But how it happens varies. There should be visible changes, as well as relevant events that led to said changes. In Buffy, some changes happened so rapidly, while with some you genuinely enjoy the ride. Spike, a primary antagonist in season 2, becomes a sort of anti-hero in season 4, and an ally in season 5-6 and finally a champion in his own right by the end of season 7. But the way, his story was weaved, the way the changes happened was extraordinary. It’s not the story, it’s the way it was told.

Like Spike, there were plenty of characters that went through dramatic changes through the show and it’s spin-off ’Angel’, including Cordelia, Wesley, Giles, Oz and others. But the most notable and interesting development was with Willow Rosenberg. She was introduced as the meek tech-savy ’sidekick’ of the Slayer. Through the course of the series, the character has progressed the most, through a variety of ways, whether it be finally realising and embracing the fact that she is gay, or her progressive addiction and redemption through her abuse of magic, or even her rise as one of the less useful members of the Scooby Gang to unquestionably the most powerful. I challenge you to find characters that showcase such rich development in the TV shows of today.

- The Acting -

It’s an absolute crime that the show was snubbed in all top categories at the Emmy Awards for the entirety of it’s run. So much so in fact, that the fans created a wide amount of outrage around it, forcing the Emmy Awards to showcase a special tribute to the cult show in its final year. Nicolas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, Emma Caulfield and Sarah Michelle Gellar herself proved themselves at various points in the show to be definitely deserving of at least a nomination or two at major award functions. But the biggest snub definitely goes to James Marsters for his absolutely fantastic performance of the vampire Spike. He masterfully managed to make you believe anything he did. Whether it be his blood thirsty vengeance in season 2, his profit oriented ways in season 4, or his self sacrifice, unadulterated love for Buffy and eventual rise to champion through the latter seasons.

- Landmark episodes, direction and subtext -

There are so many episodes that exhibits the excellence in the writing and story arcs, but there are some episodes that not only proved the top notch quality of BtVS but also elevated the quality of television at that time. Landmark episodes like ’Hush’, ’Once More With Feeling’, and ’The Body’ have consistently been cited as some of the best episodes of any show of all time. Hush was a silent episode with just about 14 minutes of speaking, and was done because someone once mentioned to Joss Whedon that the critical acclaim that surrounded Buffy was in the dialogue and the writing. As Whedon often does, he decided to take up the challenge and abolish all dialogue focusing only on the acting, while having a silent episode, focusing only on sounds and the background score and ignored speech. The demons in the episode dubbed ’The Gentlemen’ are arguably the scariest villains of the Buffyverse, with the episode resonating chills throughout.

Conversely, the episode ’The Body’, was in stark contrast to it, focusing on speech, with very little background music, only having sounds that occur due to movement. It focused on the death of Buffy’s mother, and Whedon expressed through all the characters the feelings of overwhelming grief. The entire atmosphere of the episode screamed somber, as the characters let their acting chops flow, as they powerfully expressed the unnerving feelings of dealing with the loss of a loved one—whether it was Anya being confused about it and asking a whole bunch of questions, Buffy being in complete shock throughout the episode, or Willow stressing out about what to wear to the funeral. This is personally one of my favourite Buffy episodes. It’s bleak, slow, painful, and for the most part the characters resonate the loss through silence, which made the episode a smashing success.

Apart from these, there were twists and turns galore in episodes like ’Surprise’, ’Becoming Part 1’, ’The Gift’, and plenty of others. There was never a dull moment in Sunnydale. The were a number of references riddled through episodes about future events as well. For instance, Tara and Faith make various references to Dawn’s arrival way before her actual introduction. References as early as season 3, whereas Dawn appeared first in season 5. Similarly, Buffy’s death was foretold, albeit cryptically, in earlier seasons; once more by Faith and Tara mostly.

- The Slayer -

The first glimpse we get of Sarah Michelle Gellar as the Chosen One is a far cry from the one we see in the final episode of Buffy. She progresses from a ditzy and Cordelia like blonde to a damaged and worthy hero in the end. The players, the writing, the direction and a number of other things make Buffy The Vampire Slayer brilliant, but it is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance as the eponymous hero that cements the show into the ’The best of all time’. Her transformation as naive, young girl to seasoned, hardened warrior was more than Emmy worthy, and it’s a shame that it wasn’t recognised as one.

There are plenty of supernatural TV shows out there today, that are great, well written pieces of art. But at the time, for it’s time, none compare to the original vampire series that redefined the genre. Buffy not only broke barriers at the time, but it paved the way for the supernatural genre today. It will always remain a legend when it comes to the occult, and will continue to maintain it’s cult status for many decades to come.

So if you haven’t watched it yet, fire up the Netflix.