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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

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Episode 5 - Life Serial

14 November 2013

Synopsis: The Trio test Buffy to learn about her strengths and weaknesses. Warren plants a device on her which alters her perception of time while at college. Andrew sends demons after her as she tries to do a shift at Xander's construction job. Jonathan casts a spell which makes her repeat a time loop at the magic shop. After such a testing time Buffy heads for a night of drinking with Spike who takes her to a demon bar to gamble for kittens.Jonathan looking impressive

The Good: This wasn't a good episode but I'm not sure it was terrible either. Rather like the Trio's appearance last episode they managed to make things entertaining as a whole even though so much of what they attempted didn't work.

It helped that the core story remained a serious one no matter how many layers of silly went on top. Buffy didn't want to come back to life and now that she has she doesn't know what to do with herself. Missing so much college has made it hard to catch up, while finding an appropriate job is not going to be easy. The construction job revealed two unfortunate truths. Work that suits her strengths will show up other people (the construction workers resented her pace) and draw unwanted demon attention. Clearly retail isn't right for her but the Magic Box was the obvious place to employ her so it was good to rule it out. In the end Giles shares some Watcher cash to fix the most immediate problems. Buffy is so relieved to have a parent back while Giles is disappointed to see how dependent she is on him. The fallout from her return to Earth continues to be handled well.

The Bad: As for the way those stories got told...hmm. The comedy was as broad as could be verging on cheap at times. The Trio's childish bickering felt too easy and predictable. But to be fair it was entertaining at times ("grab your magic bone") and began to steadily differentiate their characters.

The three tests were flawed but served a purpose. It was never clear what was happening with Warren's time device. Was Buffy frozen on the spot as time passed or did she disappear? Tara's reaction made no sense because she kept wandering away as if Buffy had blown her off rather than acting concerned. The demon attack at the construction site was a lazy choice but again accomplished its goal. I didn't like the way Xander was scripted to tell Buffy not to talk supernatural stuff to the foreman (why would she?) and then to blame her for the attack. It was clumsy writing because the wider point about Buffy's danger to her own job made sense but he should never have seemed so unsympathetic. Finally the time loop took advantage of the obvious Groundhog Day gags which was fine but at times it felt sillier than the show should be. It was entertaining though and kept you guessing about how she would get out of it.

The three tests were depressing enough to explain why Buffy would go drinking with Spike. However after telling her to embrace her dark side he then joined in a poker game...for kittens. That felt like a big swing and miss as a gag and as cute as drunk Buffy is it was probably a joke too many.

The Unknown: I guess we'll never know what happened when Buffy and Angel met.

Best Moment: The final scene did an effective job of showing us the difference between Giles and Buffy's perspectives. She is clinging to him at a time when he thought his responsibilities were finished.  

The Bottom Line: This is the second episode in a row where I'm surprised at my own lack of harsh words for the episode. The explanation, beyond the strength of the overall arc, lies in the Trio being more thoroughly characterised and therefore more entertaining than your average villain. I already know more about them in two episodes than I did about Glory and Ben in a whole season. I think that is really helping to cover for the fact that most of what they do is pretty flawed television.

 

Cordia's Second Look
Life Serial
Season 6, Episode 5
Original airing: 10/23/2001

My Rating: 62

The Good: I enjoyed the attempts the show made at explaining Buffy’s future options. She needs money and she needs direction, so she attempts to return to school and tries on a few different jobs. Unfortunately, nothing is a good fit for her, which Spike narrows in on at the end of the episode. She’s a Slayer and she should focus on being a Slayer.

The Giles/Buffy scene at the end was well done too. I liked the naturalness of the post-puking conversation and Giles offering Buffy money to help her current problems. It felt like an appropriate extension of the parent/child relationship.

I also liked the attempt to introduce the audience a little more to the Trio and what they could be capable of doing. Unfortunately, none of their plans really made any sense.

The Meh: The majority of this episode left me feeling blah. The idea of testing Buffy’s abilities is good, but the tests themselves are pretty random. I’m not sure how the Trio is getting measurable data from them.

The most egregious test was the first one because it left way too many logic questions. There’s no indication of how Buffy is appearing to people outside of her perception. Is she standing still looking spaced out? Does she disappear? No matter what the situation, Tara looks pretty stupid for not noticing anything and just wondering of leaving Buffy. When Buffy gets outside, she ends up getting knocked around a bit, which begs more questions of why people are walking into her. Finally, I have no idea what this test is supposed to be doing other than freaking her out.

Andrew’s test was just silly. How many times do they have opportunities to see Buffy fight demons? Every night? Yeah.

I liked Jonathon’s test and found it humorous, but again, I’m not sure what he was attempting to test.

The big problem with the Trio at the moment, though, is their excessive nerdiness. The characters are constantly arguing and quoting pop culture, which is fine in theory, but generally people do occasionally talk about other things. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show quite good at turning out realistic characters. At the moment, the Trio is way too stereotypical.

Favorite Moment: Buffy taking a shot and then making a face and going “Bllllaghhh” is one of the cutest things the show has ever done.

The Bottom Line: Overall, this episode flowed fine and had some good moments, but was mostly a little too silly.

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Comments

  • I'm unsure whether to assume that the Trio are the Big Bad of season six, but I honestly find them to be a more convincing and believable enemy than Adam or Glory, despite their being annoying. My favorite moment by far was the smoke bomb exit, which made me laugh out loud. I am a bit concerned by Buffy continuing to keep her inner turmoil a secret... When is she gonna learn to include the Scoobies from the beginning?

    Viewer score: 63 / 100

    Posted by Matt E., 14/11/2013 4:25pm (4 years ago)

  • On Buffy and it’s depictions of good and evil... I think this is a fascinating debate and as has been mentioned a difficult one with the changing nature of the show

    Generally when you see a vampire or a demon they’re quite deliberately evil in the storybook sense - the way novels, TV, movies and all media have defined “evil” to be over the years. It’s even present in the news - think about pictures of wanted criminals, the obsession over the graphic and heinous details of their crimes committed. These people are made out to be something “more” than human. They’re quite literally monsters.

    And that’s what BtVS was initially about. Depicting the real monsters of the world in the form of storybook monsters - demons; vampires. Somewhere along the line, though, the metaphor eroded/stopped being emphasized. And then we have the real grey area and the ultimate reason we are having this conversation - Spike.

    Think about how having a soul vs. soullessness has been portrayed. I believe in season one Angel explains to Buffy that having a soul is equivalent to having a conscience. If we are to believe this and if having a conscience is defined as being able to differentiate between right and wrong, can we not say that Spike has demonstrated he has a conscience? Of course, I think you could make a fairly strong argument for either side here.

    But lets say we assume that Spike has demonstrated that he has a conscience. The question then becomes - is the technology contained in a chip implanted in the brain of a vampire enough to “effectively” give that vampire a soul? And, if that’s the case, is our long-held concept of the idea of a soul being a larger-than-life spiritual idea ill-fitting for this series? A soul is just a conscience, and a conscience is the result of physiology and nothing else - nothing more? It’s an interesting point to posit.

    I think Cordia has a great argument and I found myself wanting to clap after she had her long speech about the perspective that we, as humans, will adopt when approaching the dichotomy of good and evil in the Buffy universe. The concept of evil (and morality for that matter) is already a concept created by us, manifest in the stories that we tell, and the traits of evil are defined and propagated through our various art forms and also our societal rules and understandings of right and wrong (one could say our collective conscience is a social construct). 

I think if I think about it long enough I would say that yes, vampires and demons are evil (and that the show is ultimately about that). Because they’ve been created out of our cultural assumptions of what evil looks like and what it means. And, if you think about it, that has never actually changed as the series has progressed. The question we should ask as viewers is not “what is evil/what is good?” but “is it possible for evil to change?”. And that leads us to Spike. He is our vehicle for attaining the answer to this question. Is it possible?

    This is long and ramble-y, and I don't think I really picked anyone's side here or shed a light on anything. Apologies!

    Posted by Romit, 01/05/2013 7:13am (5 years ago)

  • Morality becomes much more complex in later seasons. Souls don’t mean good. Many ensouled humans are evil. Humans killed off demons and took over their planet. Maybe that was good, maybe not. The show gives us the perspective from current society- and connects it with an alternative history. Of course humans today couldn’t go back. But what was the morality of humans destroying demons at first?

    Buffy isn’t a tale of good vs evil. It seems like it at first. It’s instead a show about power and choices. Vampires having souls was a plot device for Angel and has been built upon. Even still a soul is so ambiguously defined it has little meaning on the conversation.

    Posted by James, 26/04/2013 6:42am (5 years ago)

  • On vampires on other shows that argument I really think is fine. However on Buffy we know that vampires don't have souls, so I really think it is a question of what does that mean. I think what we are meant to conclude from the show and Spike as a character is that vampires have no sense of morality. They don't recognize a right or wrong. Since their basic force of survival is the taking of others lives that is their basic mode. They are inherently "evil" in that way. Their main goal is kill and they have no qualms about it. The only reason that Spike does "good" things is because he has been conditioned to do so, in several different ways. He has been conditioned to anticipate pain when attacking humans by the chip and anticipates affection from Buffy for helping her/others.

    Posted by Derek, 25/04/2013 4:38am (5 years ago)

  • Rather than ask whether vampires should be killed, I think we can ask ourselves is what vampires do evil? Immortality, super strength, powers, etc make them stronger than human. The only reason they don’t rule over us is inferior population which can probably be attributed to the line of slayers.

    They eat humans the way we eat other animals. One might argue that blood is much more important to their diet than animal meat is to the human diet.

    You might look at Vampires and their propensity to do damage and say that proves Vamps are evil. But I say this mostly proves their dismissal of human society. Vamps in groups are shown as very religious and usually following a strict hierarchy. Spike is a rebel among vampires and a bit of an exception as was Angel (partly why they’re more interesting characters).

    We were told that demons existed in the world before humans. We view their old way as evil- and to our civilized society it may seem that way. But we came into existence and drove them to the brink of extinction. Vampires are a hybrid of these two battling sides- with tendencies from both. Not really fitting in to either world fully.

    All this is not to say we shouldn’t kill Vamps….we should. It’s us or them really. But labeling their actions as evil seems hypocritical and simplistic.

    Nice podcast- thanks for not going easy on the show. Nice to hear critical analysis.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by James, 24/04/2013 1:02pm (5 years ago)

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