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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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68
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Episode 1 - Lessons

19 November 2013

Spike looking a complete mess

Synopsis: Buffy teaches Dawn about slaying and is apprehensive about the rebuilt Sunnydale High School. Buffy hangs around after dropping off Dawn and is not surprised to be attacked in the bathroom. As she searches for a demon Dawn is attacked in class. Dawn and another girl fall through the bathroom floor and are tormented by three dead spirits in the basement. Buffy comes to their aid but runs into an unhinged Spike. With help from Xander, who is helping with construction, they defeat the spirits. The Principal offers Buffy a job as a sort-of counsellor and she accepts. Willow is in England recovering with Giles but feels the power of the hellmouth on the move. Anya is being mocked by other Vengeance Demons for being too lenient. Spike is lectured by a shapeshifting being.

The Good: Buffy season premieres usually restate the premise of the show and hint at this year’s arc. This episode heavily underlined both as we go back to High School and back to the Hellmouth.

The return to school is an interesting choice. Perhaps there was no more the adult world could offer after last season’s dark stories. It certainly seems like the action will be returning there. With Buffy, Dawn, Spike and possibly Xander all on site and the hellmouth right there it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with plots. It could be just the thing to finally get me to like Dawn. I enjoyed seeing her being trained and appreciated her embarrassment at Buffy’s meddling. Now she has her own Scooby gang is she finally going to get an episode to herself?

The angry spirits plot was perfectly adequate for a season opener. It never felt like anyone was in real danger but it achieved a number of goals. Introduce us to school. Check. Show Dawn being resourceful. Check. Cool bag full of bricks fight scene. Check. Reintroduce Spike. Check. Throw in successful Xander who can now pop in every week to fix those pesky holes in the floor and this worked nicely.

Spike seems to be going through the type of psychological trauma which Angel went through after receiving his soul. The fact that we know that but Buffy doesn’t made those scenes nicely confusing for her. The Shapeshifting being lecturing Spike was certainly a memorable scene. It was nice to see all of our Big Bads line up one by one to make the point clear that this year Buffy faces the biggest threat of all.

I liked the brief scenes with Willow and Anya. Both struggle with the moral implications of their power and will surely rejoin the gang once this new threat begins to kick in.

The Bad: That utterly shameless cell phone plug which Dawn gave made me feel dirty. I generally shrug at product placement but in a life or death situation you should not be bragging about your reception.

The Unknown: Robin Wood is a terrible name on so many levels. But the cocksure new Principal is an intriguing figure. He played his interactions with Buffy with real confidence which leaves it open as to whether he is a good guy fighting for the kids or a bad guy who wants to keep his enemies close. You have to suspect the latter initially because of his strange interest in Buffy and lack of concern about why she was hanging out for a whole school day.

Obviously we want to know who the shapeshifting being is and what Spike is going through. As well as the significance of the girl in Istanbul who was stabbed in a surprisingly effective chase sequence.  

I assume we all heard Giles say that Willow’s magic powers are not an addiction. Was that an acknowledgement of a mistake?

Best Moment: Probably that final scene as it was intriguing and called back so many past favourites.

The Bottom Line: This felt very deliberate but not bad at all. A new high school, an old hellmouth, we go back to the beginning for our final season. We begin the episode with a girl being chased through the streets but she doesn’t fight back and kill her enemies. Then we jump to the woman who always does. Can she overcome this final challenge? I’m excited once more to find out. Job done.

 

Cordia's Second Look
Lessons
Season 7, Episode 1
Original airing: 9/24/2002

My Rating: 68

The Good: This is a pretty fun season opener!

It was really cool to start the episode with the premise originally given to Buffy the show being flipped on its head. A young girl is running down an alley and she almost escapes, but then she’s murdered, just as she would be in any other scary story. Then we see Buffy and remember, this isn’t any other scary story. And to prove that point, Buffy basically unleashes a vampire on her non-Slayer kid sister.

It’s nice to see the show catching up with the times a bit. And the introduction of cell phones was handled well. It didn’t solve all of the problems, but it helped Buffy stay in touch with Dawn. Last season ended with Buffy basically saying Dawn is her reason for living, so I think it makes sense that she would find any way possible to help protect her.

Dawn’s first day experiences are pretty well done. She gets repeatedly embarrassed in class, makes some new friends, shows some ingenuity, and knows when to call for help. Dare I say she actually acted like a reasonable person in this episode?

Having Xander around as foreman at the school is a good way to pull the character into the locale. And Principal Wood’s offer to Buffy works in some ways. It seems a bit random, but it’s nice that he points out it’s really a part time position and the school does have a licensed councilor around. I’m curious how they’re going to fold Willow into all of this.

Principal Wood is an interesting guy. As Buffy points out, he’s quite young and fit and appears to be pretty much the opposite of first season’s Principal Flutie and his mean successor, Principal Snyder. He obviously knows at least a bit about Buffy and her predilection for violence and property damage. Perhaps he knows more?

I think the choice to have Spike in hiding and in obvious mental/emotional pain is a nice way to go with his re-ensouling. He can’t suddenly be a good guy and it matches well with Angel’s experience. I also really like his ability to focus in and recognize Buffy. She’s still the most important thing.

Anya and Halfrek’s scene was quite interesting as well. Halfrek hints that Anya needs to step up her game to be on the side of evil, because apparently something quite evil is coming soon.

Finally, I like the conversation between Giles and Willow. She’s finally learning to control and respect her power. But she also mentions a rising evil.

The Bad: Insanity is a difficult factor on TV shows. Spike’s madness comes and goes in Buffy’s presence and who’s to say it wouldn’t be like that? But it does seem to provide some convenient answers for Buffy’s current problem.

Favorite Moment: This episode is a nice way to reintroduce the school, but I really like the introduction of the shapeshifting creature at the end. He/She seems quite knowledgeable and spooky and it’s a good set up for the evil of the season. Whoever this is has the power to change their appearance, even to look like Buffy! I really like how he/she shifts through almost all the old major villains to set the stage for turning into Buffy. Will this season’s Big Bad be Buffy herself? It raises a lot of very interesting questions.

The Bottom Line: Great pains are taken to make sure the audience knows Evil Is Coming. This overriding factor helps bond all the stories together and gives a bit of credence to the monsters of the week who were apparently summoned by someone. I’m quite taken with this episode and look forward to seeing how it begins to play out.

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Comments

  • Yes yes yes! Finally this show makes sense again! I am thrilled with the return of Sunnydale High, as it just plain feels like BuffyTVS is supposed to feel, in my opinion. I almost exploded when it looked for just a moment like Glory had returned, but was happy to see something even more intriguing, more basic, and hopefully a lot less annoying. Can't wait to see where they're going with Spike (or is it William now?). Dawn actually was bearable.
    And who would be so nitpicky as to complain about the new principle's name? Robin would :-D

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Matt E., 19/11/2013 10:57pm (4 years ago)

  • My reaction to this episode has not changed in the last 10 years. To me this episode is "meh" Just "meh". The only scenes I liked were the girl being killed at the beginning, Halfrek and Anya discussing what's going to happen and the ending with all the past villains. Other than that the main story was just meh.

    I do have a couple questions about this episode.
    1. How did Crazy Spike get back to Sunnydale from Africa and how did he end up in the basement?

    2. How long does Dawn's friendship with Kit and Carlos last? I don't think they even appear after this episode.

    3. How long does it take to apply makeup to actors? I ask this because both Mark Metcalf and George Hertzberg appear as The Master and Adam for only about 5 seconds each.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Andrew the Geek, 17/10/2013 5:36pm (4 years ago)

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