SOUL TREKKING
WITH 

PASTOR STEVE

 


 
 
 
 

PASTOR STEVE'S BUFFY PAGE

The absolute best show 
on television today, 
when it's on top of its game, 
is the action/adventure, 
suspense thriller, 
soap opera, 
cliff hanger, 
fantasy/horror, 
serious coming-of-age drama, 
romance, 
satiric comedy, 
morality play...
Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

As you can tell, it has something for everybody. You'll be laughing one minute and crying the next and have much to think about when it's over. 

Brilliantly written and well-acted 
(Sarah Michelle Gellar 
is 
the best actress on TV, bar none.) 

Try it, you'll like it!!


 
 
 
 


 

Page last updated on 08-28-2008. 
See What's New for details.


 
 
   
 
 
 
 

First Season

Second Season

Third Season (Reviews begin this season)

Fourth Season

Fifth Season

Sixth Season

Seventh (Last) Season

Essays

Book Reviews

 

Observations from You, The Fans!

 

 

BOOK REVIEWS

 

What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer As Spiritual Guide by Jana Riess 

The Watcher's Guide by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holden with Keith R.A. DeCandido


 

What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer As Spiritual Guide by Jana Riess (Jossey-Bass, 2004)

In this stimulating book, Ms. Riess proves my contention that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is the most spiritual program on television (and maybe even the most spiritual program of all time).  This is not only because of the parallels between Buffy and Christ, nor even because it doesn't take much imagination to see, as Riess puts it, "...just as God is nowhere mentioned in the book of Esther, God is merely implicit in the Buffyverse present every time the characters put their own lives on the line to save others," but because the characters inhabit a universe where actions have real consequences (Riess in the introduction calls Buffy a "...classic medieval morality play - only with skimpier clothes, wittier dialogue, and cutting-edge alternative music."), and because the characters demonstrate and grasp what all of the great faiths of the world have taught about what it means to grow into being fully human.

Using quotes from the holy books and adherents of those religions, Riess shows how beloved characters (and even not so beloved ones) learn or fail to learn about such essential things as: personal redemption; how death can teach us about life; forgiveness; the necessity of community; conquering our "dark side;" and more. What Would Buffy Do? challenged and motivated me to grow in my own faith and in the daily struggles for wholeness, maturity, and sacrifice.  It is one of those rare books which has the potential to change my life.

As a bonus, it is also immensely entertaining and I effortlessly turned the pages - a rarity among religious books!

Buffy fans (and possibly non-fans alike) will love all the humorous quotes from the series along with the author's balance between seriousness and whimsy.  One of the book's chapters even deals with the importance of humor in spiritual growth.  Also appreciated will be the insights into scenes, seasons, and story arcs, the character profiles, and the synopses. 

I have two fairly minor quibbles with the book.  I believe that salvation by grace may be more present in the Buffyverse than Riess does.  Also, I believe that redemption is just as hard to fight for and takes just as long to accomplish in Christianity as in other religions.  But I even enjoyed my quibbles, as they gave me a chance to interact further with Ms. Riess' fascinating insights and sent me replaying episodes and snatches of dialogue in my mind.

In short, this is one of the best books I've ever read on a television series, pop culture, philosophy/theology/ethics, and spirituality.  It's not bad as an intro to comparative religions either and demonstrates that there is a "Tao," as C.S. Lewis called it in The Abolition of Man - a solid bedrock of truths that all religions affirm.

Kudos to Ms. Riess and a big "Thank You" from this Christian Buffy fan!

I highly recommend this book.



The Watcher's Guide by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holden with Keith R.A. DeCandido (Pocket Books, 1988)

NOTE: This review is of the original first volume.

To call this a reference book would give the mistaken impression that it's stuffy and boring and semi-unreadable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But not to label it as a reference book would be to sell it short.

Suffice it to say that this book covers all things Buffy - plot synopses, major storyline developments, quotes, characters, monsters and villains, actors, writers, directors, universe mythology, the town of Sunnydale, couples and love triangles, and more!!!

Buffy fans will spend hour after hour here and I find myself consulting this book often. 

It's not for nothing that it is "The Official Companion To The Hit Show."

 


 
 
 
 
 

Buffy Observations From You, The Fans!!!

 

Pastor Steve:

Thought you would be a good one to pass this by...

1st: Since vampires can't see themselves in the mirror, how do they shave, comb their hair, etc...

2nd: Since vampires can't see themselves in the mirror, how do they get dressed...who tells them everything goes together...etc.

Just something to ponder...

Zeb Kantrowitz


 

BUFFY - The First Season

EPISODE #

TITLE

1

Welcome To
The Hellmouth/ 
The Harvest

2

Witch

3

Teacher's Pet

4

Never Kill A Boy On The First Date

5

The Pack

6

Angel

7

I Robot, You Jane

8

The Puppet Show

9

Nightmares

10

Out of Mind, 
Out of Site

11

Prophecy Girl


 
 
 

BUFFY - 
The Second Season

EPISODE #

TITLE

1

When She Was Bad

2

Some Assembly Required

3

School Hard

4

Inca Mummy Girl

5

Reptile Boy

6

Halloween

7

Lie To Me

8

The Dark Age

9

What's My Line? Part 1

10

What's My Line? Part 2

11

Ted

12

Bad Eggs

13

Surprise 
(Part 1 of 2)

14

Innocence 
(Part 2 of 2)

15

Phases

16

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

17

Passion

18

Killed By Death

19

I Only Have Eyes 
For You

20

Go Fish

21

Becoming, Part 1

22

Becoming, Part 2


 
 
 
 

BUFFY - 
The Third Season

 

EPISODE #

TITLE

1

Anne

2

Dead Man's Party

3

Faith, Hope 
and Trick

4

Beauty 
And The Beasts

5

Homecoming

6


Band Candy

7

Revelations

8

Lover's Walk

9

The Wish

10

Amends

11

Gingerbread

12

Helpless

13

The Zeppo

14

Bad Girls

15

Consequences

16

Doppelgangland

17

Enemies

18

Earshot

19


Choices

20

The Prom

21

Graduation Day, 
Part 1

22

Graduation Day, 
Part 2


Episode #18 - "Earshot"

Rating: * * * 1/2

Not since the first several seasons of M*A*S*H has there been a show which could so effectively combine biting (excuse the pun) wit, fall-out-of-your-seat comic bits, and deeply moving human drama until Buffy The Vampire Slayer came along.  The "Scooby Gang" are hilarious in this episode, especially Cordelia and Oz.  I loved his reaction upon learning that Buffy could read minds, the fact that he actually felt an expression coming on during the basketball game, and his calling the music review, "Fair."  And Cordy's "undercover work" had to be seen to be believed.    The closing scene between Buffy and Giles was absolutely priceless.

Buffy was very much alone in this episode and her separation from her friends was painful to watch.  When she confronted the troubled teen and told him that EVERYBODY, including the "cool" and "popular" kids, carries around insecurities, fears, and problems inside and that SHE KNEW, it was very moving, haunting, and real.  The WB network held off airing this episode in the wake of Columbine, but I can't help but wonder if more programs like this had been shown before Columbine, maybe the tragedy could have been prevented.  Wishful thinking, I know.

I also appreciated the fact that when lives were in danger, Buffy chucked the old "secret identity" thing and used her powers in full view of everyone.  It reminded me of how Jesus would command people not to tell others who He was, but then once in awhile, he would really cut loose in front of everybody (ex. the resurrection of Lazarus).  And the reaction of the snotty girl, "I could do that, " just shows that there are Pharisees around now just like there were back then.

The mystery of who was planning the murder was well-done, with red herrings and twists and turns.  I really thought it was the newspaper guy.

Cutting from Giles despair over who could bring them the demon's heart to Angel battling the badguy was very stirring.  I know Buffy is a capable, 90's woman, but the old-fashioned romantic in me still likes to see the brave knight riding to the rescue of his fair damsel once in awhile.


Episode #19 - "Choices"

Rating: * * *

Another episode leading up to the climatic season finale, but important on its own merits as well. Willow truly comes into her own here as she stands up to Faith. And Faith herself begins to have some doubts as to exactly what and who she has hooked up with.

I thought it was a little artificial for The Mayor to go on and on about Buffy and Angel's relationship, but I suppose, being evil, he'd try to distract and distress them any way possible. It just seemed to me to be a little bit of "let's spell out for the viewers all the implications for Buffy and Angel's future, so that when he leaves for his own series next season they'll understand why." The writers usually give us credit for more intelligence and are more subtle than that.

I was glad to see that the gang had to wrestle with the hard decisions of warfare. Do you try to save one life at the expense of many others? Was rescuing Willow the right thing to do? Even we viewers are left wondering. Granted we, like the gang, love Willow, but in the larger scheme of things, did it make sense to trade the box for her? On the other hand, can you stand by and let a good friend die? No easy answers here. Just like life.

It was very touching when Willow announced to Buffy that she was staying in Sunnydale. At first, I, like Buffy, thought she was doing it our of friendship, but her real reason was even better. She's staying because here she can fulfill her true calling - to fight evil. Buffy learns that it doesn't matter whether one ever gets to travel the world and have lots of new experiences. What matters is fighting evil wherever we find it and making wherever we are a little better, a little safer. A good lesson for us all to remember.

 


Episode #20 - "The Prom"

Rating: * * * *

This episode contains some of the most hilarious lines and bits since Buffy mocked out The Master after her resurrection in the Season One Finale - from Buffy commenting that Angel's place wasn't exactly girl-friendly, to Xander's "Why do I buy tickets to these things," to the guy asking Buffy directions to the bathroom as she's lying on the floor with a dead hell-hound on top of her.

But it wouldn't be an episode of Buffy if it didn't have its poignant moments. And this one has them to spare: (I'm not ashamed to admit that as I watched, tears came to my eyes more than once.) Joyce exercising "tough love" and doing the hard thing for her daughter; Xander showing extraordinary kindness to Cordelia; Oz having complete faith in Buffy, assuring Willow that they can dance because Buffy won't let them down (If only my faith in God were as strong!); Buffy breaking down after she and Angel call it quits and telling Willow, "Horrible will come later. Right now I'm just trying to stay alive. Oh, Willow, I feel like I can't breathe!" (As accurate and moving a description of a broken heart as I've ever heard); Buffy giving up her "Buffy-Has-One-
Perfect-High-School-Moment" in order to ensure that her friends have theirs; in light of Columbine, the chilling realization that although others had received the vile e-mail that the troubled student sent and knew he made strange purchases, nobody did anything about it; the Seniors finally recognizing that although they snub, avoid, and ignore her, they owe their lives to Buffy; after Buffy's moment in the spotlight, her going back to being what she is - the outsider who suffers so that others can be blessed; Angel dancing with Buffy "just for tonight," knowing that it doesn't mean they will always be together, as an analogy for leaving school days behind to get on with life, and standing for so many high school couples who come to realize that growing up will mean growing apart.

Yet another episode for which Ms.Gellar should win an Emmy and the program should win for "Best Drama." Come on, Academy, wake up! Don't be put off by the title of the show!


Episode #21- 
"Graduation Day - Part 1"

Rating: * * ½

Lots of effective humor in this episode, but it's the emotion and drama that fall short. True, it does have its chilling moments - The Mayor calming waltzing into the gang's headquarters and chatting about their doom, Buffy handcuffing herself to Faith - but its themes of young people going off to war and the joy/pain of leaving High School behind were already dealt with so effectively in the previous two episodes that this one just feels like it's covering old ground. I was disappointed that Willow and Oz rushed things sexually, but they certainly aren't the first teens faced with an imminent war to do so, and in true "Buffy The Vampire Slayer " fashion, there's a quick hint near the end of the episode that Willow finds some aspects of their "new relationship" to be very uncomfortable. Buffy faces what young people in the military have through the ages. She has to kill a flesh and blood human being. Up until now, Buffy has killed only what we would call fantasy figures - vampires, monsters, etc. I think Joss Whedon may mean to suggest that it's one thing for kids to play army in the backyard or blast away at aliens in a video game - fantasy figures. It's quite another thing when you ship those kids overseas and tell them to battle a real enemy. War changes people and I hope the program is going to show Buffy dealing with the psychological effects of warfare. Not that I want her character totally changed or have her morose all the time, but she should be slightly older, sadder, and wiser. And she should find and enjoy more of the blessings of daily life, thankful for those times when she isn't forced to do battle.

Unfortunately, Faith's demise wasn't very dramatically satisfying as we don't really know if she's dead or not. I know this is the way things work in super hero land, but just once I'd like to see a "final battle" with a super villain that really was a "final battle".


Episode #22 -
"Graduation Day - Part 2"

Rating: * * * *

If there has been a more intense scene on television this season than the one where Buffy gets Angel to drink her blood in order to be cured, I have not seen it.  And the intensity continues as the Mayor confronted Angel in the hospital.  When he called Buffy Angel's "little whore," we shared Angel's rage - after all she had just sacrificed herself to save him.  Cudos once again to the acting of Sarah Michelle Gellar, and to David Boreanaz, and Harry Groener.  My tears flowed freely when Buffy kissed the comatose Faith, when Angel told Buffy he wouldn't say, "Good-bye," and when Giles salvaged Buffy's diploma.  Of course it wouldn't be an episode of BTVS without humor.  This one gave us: Zander and Giles' discussion on tea versus coffee; the Mayor telling his vampiric thugs to watch the swearing; Cordy and Wesley's kiss; the Mayor showing how truly evil he was by insisting on completing his boring, cliché' filled graduation speech - as Willow muttered, "Ascend already!"  The episode had a great, stirring, "Hurray!" moment when the kids finally banded together and fought against the demonic forces in order to take their town back.  Interesting that the adults all ran away in panic, but isn't this the way things work in the "real world," too?  The adults count on the 18-24 year olds to fight their wars for them.  And it was shocking when some of the students got killed.

The fact that the school was demolished was poignant.  Don't most grads feel that theirs was the class that broke the mold and that, in some sense, the school should shut its doors after they leave?  Isn't it always a little bit of a shock to go back for a visit and find out that life has gone on perfectly fine without you?  Somehow it doesn't seem right.

Oz asking the gang to take a moment to marvel over the fact that they survived, not the battle, but high school itself, was a nice touch.  And Willow's wondering why demons bother to come to Sunnydale anymore because, "Don't they know how bad we are?" was a perfect expression of youth's confidence and a fitting way to end the season.  I only hope the quality of the series doesn't go down next season when Joss Whedon has his attention divided with the new Angel spin-off.

 

BUFFY - 
The Fourth Season

 


Episode #1 - "The Freshman"

Rating: * * 

After sacrificing her one true love in order to save the world, escaping from Hell, coming back from the dead, running away from home, and figuring out how to defeat "invincible" demons, the first week at college shouldn't have unnerved Buffy as much as it did.  Her angst in this episode just wasn't consistent with the young woman that we've watched mature and deepen.  And how many college clichés can the creators pack into one episode, anyway?  (Long registration lines, a cute teaching assistant, getting lost on campus, being humiliated in class, meeting a weird roommate, Mom using the old bedroom for a storage area...)  What's left for the rest of the season?

The only time my heart strings got tugged was when the phone rang (I guessed it was Angel) and the only time I got excited and wanted to yell, "Yes," was when Xander reminded Buffy she still had friends and said, "Avengers Assemble."


Episode #2 - "Living Conditions" 

Rating: * 1/2

The Roommate From Hell - literally.  This episode was a cross between "The Odd Couple," "Visit To A Small Planet," "The Munsters," and an old Hammer or Roger Corman flick.   The gross ritual footage was out of place in an episode that was essentially a sit-com, and a poor one at that.


Episode #3 - 
"The Harsh Light Of Day"

Rating: * *

Spike makes a return appearance, but this time it's a disappointing one.  All he does is dig up a ring and have one karate fight with Buffy.  (I thought she got the ring away from him fairly easily.)  His new girlfriend, a valley girl, party queen, airhead turned vampire was funny enough, but I miss Dru.  She was one of the creepiest characters to ever appear on TV and an utterly fascinating villain we loved to hate.

This episode revisits the theme that pre-marital, casual sex can have devastating emotional consequences.  Unfortunately, the theme was much better handled in the superb second half of Season Two.


Episode #4 - "Fear Itself" 

Rating: *

Buffy and friends in a haunted house.  Yawn!  Other episodes have been much scarier.  This one was as overblown and overdone as the movie, "Poltergeist."  This series seems to have lost direction post-high school and sans Angel.  And once again this season, we have a sitcom ending (although the final joke was pretty funny.)


Episode #5 - "Beer Bad" 

Rating: * * * 

I was reluctant to watch this episode, fearing from the previews that it would just be a rehash of the anti-drinking episode when Buffy and Cordy went to the Frat party in Season Two.

Instead, it was a funny commentary on the fact that deep down inside, we're all uncivilized to some degree, no matter what sophisticated veneers we try to wear.  But the insights (such as they are) don't get in the way of the comedy.  And both Buffy and Willow get revenge on that creep Parker.  YES!!  It looked for a while as if the vulnerable redhead, still really hurting over what happened with Oz, would fall prey to the cad.  But Buffy's best bud is too smart for that.  Let's hope that young women watching this show are too.


Episode #6 - "Wild At Heart" 

Rating: * * * 1/2

Now this is more like it!  The series leaves behind such burning questions as whether or not Buffy will get registered for her classes or even get a normal roommate, to return to what it does best - gut wrenching human drama.  We feel Willow's pain as she realizes the one she loves may prefer to be with someone else.  We've all been there.  And it's chilling when Willow begins to turn to the powers of darkness in order to get revenge and heartwarming when she discovers she can't do it.  When Oz finally loses his cool and commands Veruca to "Get out, NOW!" it's a powerful scene.  And the scene when he turns on Veruca in order to save Willow is a true heroic moment, but it quickly becomes something quite shocking as he kills the she-wolf and then turns on Willow.  If you don't cry during Willow and Oz's final scene, go check for your reflection in a mirror.  Buffy says that she herself had to run away and go to Hell before she could learn to live with what had happened to her.  She hopes Willow can be spared all that.  I've got news for you, Buff, everyone who's ever lost a loved one goes to a type of Hell.  And this series knows that.  But, Buffy, your simple statement to Willow, "I love you," is just the kind of thing she needs to help her find her way back out.

By the way, Alyson Hannigan has always been terrific, but in this episode she's "Best Supporting Actress In A Dramatic Series" material.  (Are you listening, Academy?)  And Seth Green is no slouch, either.


Episode #7 - "The Initiative" 

Rating:* * * 1/4

With this episode, the series returns to mixing chills and sophisticated, satiric comedy.  Spike's vampiric attack on Willow starts out disturbingly like a rape, but then, after the commercial, becomes fall-out-of-your-seat funny as the two discuss Spike's lack of ability to "perform."  Other great bits: Zander's "fight" with Harmony; Spike believing that The Slayer has gotten "funded;" Riley's cute, bumbling attempts to woo Buffy.

The secret (government?) organization subplot finally moves ahead.  And it was great to see Buffy kick some para-military butt.  I got a kick (pun intended) out of the "soldiers" telling their commander that "It was a big guy!"

I sometimes wish Buffy could meet a normal, well-adjusted guy for once, though.  Of course, what fun would that be?


Episode #8 - "Pangs"

Rating: * * *

Though some of the humor and inter-group conflict seemed a little forced this time around, there were some good bits, like Spike taking the arrows and the gang riding to the rescue on the bikes.  There was also an interesting juxtaposition of Angel and Spike being outsiders looking in on lives they can no longer have.  And there's a great final battle.  I thought the follow-up on Angel's show was contrived, with the creators finding a way to give Buffy and Angel their relationship back, then finding a way to break them apart again while increasing Angel's suffering and burden at the same time, all in the space of one episode.  Still, the couple's goodbyes are heart-rendering and Sarah and David get to show their acting chops.  I rate it * * *.


Episode #11 - "Doomed" 

Rating:* * * 

Buffy and Riley make a cute couple as they get to know one another and work together to prevent the Hellmouth from reopening (although Buffy and Angel were more than cute - they made the screen catch fire!).  Sarah is good portraying a Buffy who is understandably reluctant about entering into another relationship, but the real star of this episode is Spike who's trying to come to terms with the fact that he's just not scary any more.  The interaction between he and the gang is hilarious, along with his "rousing" speech at the end urging them all to get out there and fight evil.  Yay, Team!


Episode #12 - "A New Man" 

Rating: * * 1/2

Some very amusing bits, particularly when Giles, who has been transformed into a demon, teams up with Spike, but otherwise kind of a routine episode.  The subplots of The Initiative, Willow's new "friend," and Buffy and Riley's relationship are advanced.  Not much suspense or emotion, though we do see that Giles and Buffy have a father-daughter relationship.  It was shown more effectively in such episodes as "The Prom" and "Graduation Day - Part 2", however.  All in all an okay show, but nothing to write home about or to spend any more time writing a review over.


Episode #15 - 
"This Year's Girl 
(Part One of A Two Part Story)"

Rating:* * * 1/4

Evil slayer Faith returns!  (I mean that she's a slayer who's evil, not that she slays evil.)  Even though I thought the whole Buffy/Faith rivalry had been satisfactorily resolved in "Graduation Day - Part 2," Faith's dreams and the way she came out of her coma were sufficiently creepy to warrant bringing it up again.  And it was great to see the Mayor again, albeit in flashbacks.  It also brought some disquieting suspense to the series to have our heroes stalked by a more "normal" and "real" villain.

Yes, it was predictable that Buffy would come crashing in to Joyce's rescue after Faith mocked the whole idea, but it was still thrilling.  And I loved Buffy and Joyce's', "Hi, Mom," "Hi, Honey" in the midst of the crisis.

I saw the cliffhanger ending of Faith and Buffy switching bodies and the real Buffy being carted away coming, but it still had me eagerly buzzing forward on the tape and staying up way past my bedtime to watch Part Two.  How did you who had to wait a week between episodes stand it?


Episode #16 - 
"Who Are You? 
(Part Two of This Year's Girl)" 

Rating: * * * 3/4 

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku do excellent jobs of portraying each other's characters using tone of voice, facial expressions, and mannerisms.  Special commendation goes to Sarah for playing the part of Faith, in Buffy's body, trying to pretend to be Buffy.  And a special commendation to writer/creator/director Josh Whedon for using one of the Faith-Buffy's mocking lines at the beginning of the episode as the real reason she returned to help the besieged people in the church.

In fact, Faith's wrestling with the good inside her was fascinating to watch.  She disdains a mother's love, yet desperately wants it at the same time.  She's genuinely touched by the "thank-you" she receives from a vampire's would-be victim and you can see her realizing that this is what she was meant to do even though she intends to fight against it by trying to live for self.  But living for self isn't all that it's cracked up to be as she realizes during a tryst with Riley.  In him, she's met someone who equates sex with committed love and she can't believe it, yet wants it, yet is convicted and therefore repulsed by the whole idea.  She finds that she can't (and actually doesn't want to) use Riley the way she's used so many in the past.  And then, as I mentioned before, she goes to rescue the captives instead of skipping town when she had the chance.  The episode ends with Faith, back in her real body, confused and troubled as she rides the rails.  As a Calvinist, I can save Faith a lot of agony.  When The Higher Power chooses you to be His servant, it doesn't matter how much you fight it - you're going to end up His servant.  And you'll find that it's not so bad, after all.  You'll feel that it's right.  It's what you were born to do.  Again, kudos to Ms. Gellar for portraying all of this.  I find myself partly wishing that another spin-off would be created so that we could watch Faith struggle against, yet come to grips with, her destiny.  Certainly Ms. Dushku is talented and beautiful enough to carry her own show, but I'm wondering if the concept can sustain yet a third series.

Meanwhile, Adam, a new creature who rebelled against his makers, is urging demons to shake off their greatest fear (the Lord, who is actually mentioned by name in this episode!) and do their own thing, actualizing their potential in escalating their rebellion against God.  For further information read Genesis 1-6, 2 Peter, and Jude.  It didn't surprise me that the vampires (demons in human bodies according to the mythology of the series) felt comfortable in the church.  I've unfortunately known many congregations where demons were right at home.  I thought it was interesting that while the vampires mocked out the Lord asking where He was and how He was going to save His people, God was already there in the persons of Buffy, Faith, and Riley.  We are God's agents, His servants, His hands and feet, His Body in this world.  It was good to find out, too, that Riley wasn't on the scene because he got an emergency call, but because he regularly and willingly goes to church.  We need more characters on TV who are church-goers.  There are an awful lot of us in the viewing audience who are, too.

I need to say a few things about the lesbian subplot that's developing, as I know it will make some Christians uncomfortable.  I have to admit it's certainly not my favorite thing about the show right now.  However, let's wait and see how it all plays out.  This series is one that has constantly surprised me.  Also, I see the storyline being less about homosexuality as it is a study in how, in college, lonely people often get thrown together and cling to one another, and how college students start trusting people they really don't know only to find out they have different lifestyles, world views, and agendas.  Did I say college?  Actually life outside of college is a lot like that, too.  Besides, Tara is portrayed as a nice, but troubled and unsure person.  Shouldn't the Church Of Jesus Christ reach out to people like this?  Don't they need God's love?  Not all homosexuals are the student militants you see screaming on the news.

Supporting character Anya continues to be a laugh riot as she's still not used to being human and speaks too bluntly about inappropriate subjects.


Episode #17 - "Superstar" 

Rating: * 1/2 

A one joke premise, an unpopular nerdish fellow remakes the world so that he is the idol of millions, stretched out to fill an hour show.  Some aspects of Jonathan's James Bondian fantasy were amusing, but enough's enough!  And did we really need yet another altered reality/alternate universe storyline?

I might have thought inserting Jonathan into the credit sequence was clever, if I hadn't seen the same thing done on "Pinky And The Brain" in the episode "Pinky And The Brain And Larry."  Oh well, both "Pinky" and "Buffy" are Warner Brothers' shows, so I guess you can steal from yourself.

The whole bit of Buffy and Riley reconciling left me cold.  The fantastic dilemmas that the characters face on this show work best when they have some basis in reality or are analogous to things we all experience.  I don't know about you, but I haven't had to deal with the whole "Is it really cheating if I thought I was making out with my girlfriend when it was really her archenemy inhabiting her body" question for years now.


Episode #18 - 
"Where The Wild Things Are"

Rating: * * * *

WARNING:  This episode isn't for everyone, as it pushes the envelope and delivers more genuine chills than usual, not only because of horror movie-type scenes and situations done well, but also because of its theme, sex, which can be genuinely terrifying in itself.   Who among us really understands why and how it does what it does to us?   In this episode, every aspect of sex, as experienced by young adults, is explored - its glory, fun, and pleasure; its joyous mystery and revelations; the fears it brings; the animal within it seems to unleash; the danger of it linking people together who aren't ready for commitment; how it can cause you to withdraw from the world and from people who love and need you; the way it can make you feel guilty, violated, dirty, and invaded; the power it has to either affirm or destroy one's self-image; the way it can bewitch you, as though you were under a spell.  Add to all of this attacks by troubled spirits, things going "bump" (or worse!) in the night, and a warped view of Christianity wielded like a weapon by an abusive personality, and you've got the makings of a nightmare.  Chilling moments include: Zander being drowned in the tub: Willow alone with something in the bathroom; Buffy hearing Willow's screams and not caring; Julie locked in the closet, chopping off her hair and sobbing, "I'm bad!  I'm bad!"; Tara's "Don't touch me!"; and Buffy and Riley slowly moving farther and farther into the middle of a darkened screen as they let their passions rule them.

Of course, this being an episode of Buffy, it has its share of laugh out loud humor as well.  There's self-mockery ("Is every Frat House on this campus haunted?") and biting the WB hand that feeds them (the Felicity reference).  I also enjoyed Willow cheerfully comparing Adam to Martin Luther King, Jr., her coming up short during the seance and telling the spirits, "Get over it," Zander's "It's what you said, only faster," Spike and Anya consoling one another, and the gang saying they can't believe that it really happened - talking not about their ordeal, but about Giles' singing an acoustic set of Bee Gees' songs.

Television Academy, if there's a better written show than this on TV, I haven't seen it.  Where's the Emmy?


Episode #19 - "New Moon Rising"

Rating: * * * *

A tale against prejudice, as many of the characters have to face up to their own and find out that it's easy to hate people when you label them, it's harder if you actually get to know them as individuals.  Oz was truly beastial (and who could blame him with all the poor guy suffered in this episode), Buffy was righteously indignant (showing the fierce love she has for her friends), and Tara expecting Willow to go back to Oz was heartbreaking, regardless of her sexual orientation.  I'm sure the right-wingers will be upset by this episode, but it never hurts to remember that opponents on the other side are people, too.  I can't imagine, though, that gay activists would be happy either, as Willow was clearly tempted by Oz and has enjoyed the company of men in the past and shows every indication of being willing to in the future.  So, there are no cut-and-dried answers.  Just like in real life.


Episode #20 - "The Yoko Factor"

Rating: * *

An episode of endless talk and a very contrived meeting/battle between Riley and Angel.  I did enjoy Angel's final comment to Buffy about Riley, though, and the fact that the writers didn't want to leave the Buffy/Angel relationship where it was on Angel's series.  However, this was mostly just a set-up episode for the big battle with Adam. 


Episode #22 - "Restless"

Rating: * * * *

A brilliantly creative character study with a spooky, supernatural mystery propelling the episode along.  We enter the dreamscape of our sleeping heroes and see what's going on inside their heads.  Each dream behaves according to the rules for a dream - over-arching themes and emotions, but with constantly shifting environments, players, and situations.  And each nightmare was very consistent with the character having it.  The ending, with Buffy looking wistfully into her old bedroom at home while remembering the words, "You only think you know what you are.  You have no idea what you will become," is one that every college student can relate to, even if you're not called to be a Slayer.  More exceptional writing from the series' creator.


 
 
 

BUFFY - The Fifth Season

 

EPISODE #

TITLE

1

Buffy Vs. Dracula

2

Real Me

3

The Replacement

4

Out of My Mind

5

No Place Like Home

6

Family

7

Fool For Love

8

Shadow

9

Listening To Fear

10

Into The Woods

11

Triangle

12

Checkpoint

13

Blood Ties

14

Crush

15

I Was Made 
To Love You

16

The Body

17

Forever

18

Intervention

19

Tough Love

20

Spiral

21

The Weight 
Of The World

22

The Gift


Episode #1 - "Buffy Versus Dracula"

Rating: * * * *

Usual great blend of horrific chills, superhero moments, and laugh-out-loud comedy. 
 

Chills: Dracula biting Buffy and his seduction of her in the mansion.

Superhero moments: Buffy asking Dracula if he wants a taste of her true nature now and her re-staking him as he re-formed (also qualifies as a laugh-out-loud moment).

Comedy: Buffy's first words to Dracula, Anya's remembrances of The Count, Xander's Sesame Street reference and bug eating, "The thrill has gone out of our relationship," "I'm standing right here," "Mom!" 


I was waiting for Buffy to call Giles, "Dad," during their heart-to-heart.  It would have seemed very natural.  Buffy is discovering that, as she matures, she needs parental figures and their wisdom in different ways than she did before.

At first, I was disturbed by the "Star Wars-like" implication that to be angry at evil and fight against it makes one evil, but Buffy seemed to see the error in that thinking and realizes that it's what one does with one's anger and, in her case, hunting impulses, that determines whether one is on the side of the angels or not. 

It was refreshing to have them not cop out and have Dracula's visit to Buffy's bedroom be a dream. 

Add to the chilling moments her tentative pulling her hair back to reveal the bite.


Episode #3 - "The Replacement"

Rating: * * * *

A comic tour de force as Xander splits into two beings and ultimately discovers that he's a bad influence on himself.  This sort of thing has been done before on other action-adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror shows - a fact this episode cheerfully acknowledges with a quote from "Star Trek" - but rarely with this much wit.  In true Buffy style, amid the laughs emerges the theme that we're all mixtures of saint and sinner, hero and coward, cool person and nerd, and Riley drops an emotional bombshell at the episode's end.


Episode #5 - "No Place Like Home"

Rating: * * * *

Sarah exercises her extraordinary acting ability (C'mon!  When is she going to get that Emmy!) in an episode that has Buffy coming to grips with three pieces of devastating news.  First, she learns that her mother's illness has nothing to do with magic, curses, attacks from her enemies, or vampire slayings.  It's one of those things that just happens.  (I wish more Christians would realize that not every trial that comes to them "means Something.")  Unfortunately for Buffy, there's no one to fight and no quick fix this time.  Secondly, Buffy learns the truth about Dawn and adopts a loving, pro-life stance toward the problem - Buffy didn't ask for this new life to be put in her charge, but Dawn needs her and Buffy will sacrificially accept the responsibility.  It was merciful, too, for Buffy not to tell Dawn.  The sequence where Buffy magically walks through her house trying to find out what's wrong is pretty creepy.  Home, the place of refuge, is suddenly a place of mystery and menace.  Thirdly, Buffy comes face-to-face with the season's main villain, an entity in female form who is faster and stronger than she is.  Ms. Gellar is superb and the character of Buffy continues to show even more depth as the Suffering Servant Messiah figure.



Episode #6 - "Family"

Rating: * * * 1/2

An episode guaranteed to make Fundamentalists howl, not only because of Willow and Tara's love, but also because, though it's not stated, Tara's family are obviously supposed to be extreme, right wing, religious fanatics.  To me, the episode clearly points out the danger of viewing sin as only being something "out there," outside of one's self in other people in the world, a condition to be opposed when one sees it in others, while all the time ignoring the obvious sins in one's own life.  As Jesus said, we aren't to try to take the speck out of another's eye while there's a beam of wood sticking out of our own.  And if there's anyone who can't sympathize with poor Tara having been brought up in that household, and empathize with her thoughts of, "If people knew the real me, they would hate me", and if anyone's spirit doesn't soar when Buffy stands up to Tara's abusive father and says he will have to go through her to get to Tara, then all I can say is that such a person must have a heart of stone instead of a heart of flesh, regardless of what one thinks about Tara's lifestyle choices.


Episode #7 - "Fool For Love"

Rating: * * * 1/2

We learn Spike's origin and Spike learns the truth expressed in Song Of Songs 8:7, "Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away," as he faces the fact (horrifying to him) that he's in love with Buffy.  James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar give an acting clinic as they play off of each other in a perfect duet and ring every drop of juice out of the script.  Watch how Sarah goes from hip, confident heroine to someone not liking what they see inside, to small, vulnerable, crying little girl when she finds out her mother may be dying, all in the space of one episode!  And Marsters very effectively shows us that Spike's attitude comes from private pain.  The question is asked, too, "Who really turned Spike into a monster, Dru, or the so-called respectable people who mocked him?"   True to Buffy form, amidst the intense human drama and shocking vampiric horror, there's an absolutely hilarious scene with Dru and Spike in South America that has to go down in pop culture history as one of Buffy's funniest moments.  By the way, it's good to have Dru back on the show, even in flashbacks.


Episode #8 - "Shadow"

Rating: * * *

Buffy learns what's wrong with her Mom in a well-done scene that shows how one's world and thought processes stop when one hears the word, "Tumor."  There's also an exciting plot about some kind of giant Cobra thingy tracking Dawn, but it's the emotions and bond between the Summers women that make the episode.  And once again Sarah turns in an Emmy-level performance.  One weakness in the storyline is that I don't find the reasons behind the Riley's interactions with the vampires to be very convincing.

 


 

BUFFY - The Sixth Season

 

EPISODE #

TITLE

1

Bargaining, Part 1

2

Bargaining, Part 2

3

After Life

4

Flooded

5

Life Serial

6

All The Way

7

Once More, 
With Feeling

8

Tabula Rasa

9

Smashed

10

Wrecked

11

Gone

12

Doublemeat Palace

13

Dead Things

14

Older And Far Away

15

As You Were

16

Hell's Bells

17

Normal Again

18

Entropy

19

Seeing Red

20

Villains

21

Two To Go

22

Grave


Episode # 3 - "After Life"

Rating: * * * 1/2

Just when you think the creators have exhausted every possible idea for portraying Buffy as a Suffering Servant/Tragic Messiah, they come up with yet another one!  And this one is heart-breakingly brilliant!  Sarah has the acting chops to pull it off and make it believable.

Watching what Buffy is going through reminds me of how much Jesus gave up to come to earth for us (Philippians 2:5-11).  As I reflected on this episode, I remembered that, though we miss our deceased loved ones, they really are in a better place, and that the struggles we have in this life are not worth comparing to the joy of the life to come are (Philippians 1:21-24; Matthew 25:21; Romans 8:18; Revelation 21:3-4).

The first manifestations of the demonic being are truly frightening.  The hair rose on the back of my neck and I thought I heard strange noises coming from the kitchen as I watched.  (It was REAL late Sunday night.)

And Buffy and Spike are fast becoming the best and, believe it or not, in some ways, healthiest (!?!?) couple on TV.



Episode # 4 - "Flooded"

Rating: * * * 1/4

Terrific comedy (ex. Xander quietly being acknowledged by the Scooby Gang to be the expert on Spider-man; Buffy's dress making it impossible for her to karate kick the demon) and some heart-breaking moments between Buffy and Giles make this episode a keeper.  There's also a chilling scene which points out that something weird is up with Willow.

However, this season's main villains, the three techno/magic dweebs, brought the energy level of the show way down in their scenes.  In seasons past, when I first saw The Master, Spike and Dru, the Mayor, Adam, and Glory, I wanted to know more about them and felt anxious that they could prove to be real threats to our heroine.  By contrast, I never want to see Jonathan and his buddies again.


Episode # 6 - "All The Way"

Rating: * * 3/4

The show has used the cautionary plot of young girls dating older guys who only want to devour them before, but at least this episode gives us an unexpected twist involving an old toymaker, Anya's take on "Charlie's Angels," and Buffy and Dawn's Big Protective Sister/Younger Rebellious Sister routine as they are surrounded by bad guys, prompting one vampire to ask if they can all just fight now.  Also, Willow crosses the line when it comes to witchcraft and her relationship with Tara.


Episode # 7 - 
"Once More, With Feeling"

Rating: * * * *

The idea of a Buffy musical sounded absurd to me when I first heard about it.  I should have had more faith.  This episode is superbly done!  It has all the elements of a superior Buffy offering - satire, laugh out loud humor, character development, suspense, emotional angst, and tugs on the heart strings - with song and dance production numbers and clever editing and wondeful cinematography as adde
d bonuses.  Is there anything Joss Whedon can't write?  And is there any script Sarah and company can't handle?  Catch the intensity of the scene where Buffy reveals her secret to the gang and then starts to burn up.  If Sarah doesn't get an Emmy this season, then the Academy is blind and deaf.  And yes, Buffy and Spike finally get together and their relationship followed the right order - first came the revelations and the sacrifices for each other, then came the smooching.  One of the best episodes of Buffy (or any other television show, for that matter ) ever!


Episode # 8 - "Tabula Rasa"

Rating: * * * 1/4

Starting out as a comedy (with a literal loan shark), moving to intense drama, shifting into broad comedy as the members of the gang lose their memories, and ending on high dramatic notes, this episode does all things well.  Best comedy bits: The self-mocking slam on Angel; Buffy getting a kick out of finding out that she's some kind of superhero; "Randy Giles;" Anya calling Giles "Rupie."  And it was funny to see the gang running away and shrieking in terror when confronted by the vampires.



Episode # 9 - "Smashed"

Rating: * * 1/2

A mediocre episode which still has its share of hilarious lines including:
 

"So whatcha been up to?"

"Rat.  You?"

"Dead."

Also, Buffy faces two horrifying truths - she's no longer fully human and she's madly in love with Spike.  A rather bizarre visual metaphor is used to convey the latter.


Episode # 10 - "Wrecked"

Rating: * *

An unusually heavy handed "message show."  Repeat after me, "Using sex in an uncommitted relationship to escape your troubles is WRONG!!!  Doing drugs is  WRONG!!!"  There, now you can skip this episode.  Alyson Hannigan gives a fantastic performance, though, as a drugged-out, er, I mean high on magic (but we all KNOW what it REALLY stands for - the creators made SURE of that ), Willow.  You might want to see the show just for her.


Episode # 12 - "Doublemeat Palace"

Rating: * * *

An episode that fools you into thinking you know exactly what's going on and then it twists its plot to bring a gross villain on stage who has a way of overcoming Buffy's super powers.  There are tense scenes between Willow and Amy that handle the analogy of a drug addict struggling with going cold turkey well and give the actresses chances to shine.  Humor is not neglected either, particularly during a hilarious scene where one of Anya's Vengeance Demon friends arrives early for the wedding, having misinterpreted the invitation.  Dawn makes a statement about the income level of those who are trying to do what's right and save the world that many Christian workers and compassionate humanists can relate to.


Episode # 13 - "Dead Things"

Rating: * * * *

A dark, purposefully unpleasant episode that pushes many envelopes and deals with an area of Buffy's character that was first explored in Season Two's "I Only Have Eyes For You" - she can't accept that she makes mistakes and refuses to forget her sins.  Buffy, the savior, needs The Savior.  Sarah Michelle Gellar, once again, delivers a shattering performance as she thinks she's committed murder, takes out her rage by brutalizing Spike, and begs Tara not to forgive her.  To be forgiven would mean that it was really she, the normal Buffy, who had the ill-advised affair with Spike and is dealing with feeling distant from everyone instead of an alien Buffy who returned from the dead not quite right.  The hardest thing for any of us to face is that the dark part inside of us is really, truly a part of us and most of us have had those moments when we think and do things which cause us later to say, "Was that me?"  And I have broken down, like Buffy, when I realized that the answer was, "Yes!"  The Bible urges us to own up to our sins, bringing them to God honestly in order to find his forgiveness and obtain his help.  I can't imagine how Sarah was able to leave the set under her own power after the scene outside the police station and the final scene with Tara.  She had to be completely drained.  She taps into deep emotions and bares her human soul to the camera.  Sarah, you are light years ahead of any other actress on television.  Bravo!  Interestingly enough, the creators seem to have gone out of their way to make Sarah even prettier than she normally is for some scenes of this episode, showing us that even pretty people can do ugly things.  Reading over what I've written so far doesn't do this episode justice.  It is unbelievably powerful and definitely not for the squeamish.


Episode # 15 - "As You Were"

Rating: * * * 1/2

This episode starts out strong with a good gag about a vampire being offended by Buffy's odor as she's returning from working the grills at the Doublemeat Palace, but goes quickly downhill into two-and-a-half star territory with a sitcom plot device - nobody can bring themselves to hate Riley's new wife.  But there is some wonderful stunt work on location and a terrifically touching final act.  Buffy and Riley have a moving scene together which not only gives the two ex-lovers closure, but also serves as a parallel to the biblical accounts of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well and Jesus and the woman who was about to be stoned.  Here, Riley plays the part of Jesus, knowing all about Buffy's sins, but not rejecting her, instead, giving her the strength to change.  Willow gets in a funny line as Riley and his wife depart.  And then, another couple have a heartstring-tugging scene together.  This time it's Buffy and Spike.  Sarah does a great job (as always) of conveying both Buffy's regrets and her resolve.  James Marsters is no slouch in the acting department either as he deftly handles all the nuances of Spike's complex character - cool, amoral, punk vampire who, despite his supposed lack of a soul, knows his life is pathetic and remembers the hurt and loneliness inflicted upon him when he was a human.  When Buffy says simply, "I'm sorry, William," calling him by his birth name for the first time, it speaks volumes.  And if you're watching it in a room full of fans who have been following the series, there won't be a dry eye in the house.  At the same time that we're saying, "You go, Girl!" to Buffy, we're left with an aching sadness that things couldn't have been different somehow.



Episode # 17 - "Normal Again"

Rating: * *

This episode is a mistake, pure and simple.  Fantasy only works as long as the audience willingly suspends belief and buys into the fantastical elements of the story, and as long as the audience cares about the characters.  By continually rubbing our noses in the fact that the program's premise and storylines sound ridiculous and raising the possibility that our favorite characters might just be figments of a troubled girl's imagination, this episode makes it nearly impossible for us to get involved in the tale and care.  Ironically, of course, all the characters and situations are products of the creators' imaginations, a fact this episode can't help but remind us of.  What kind of fiction author stops every few paragraphs to remind his readers that it's all just make believe?  And, in going for the ambiguous, twist, Twilight Zone-like ending, the episode leaves us with the impression that perhaps all of Buffy's nobility and sacrifices over the last seasons were meaningless, just the attempts of a sick girl who can't face reality to give herself ego boosts.  I would have rated this episode lower except for Sarah's incredible acting and the fact that she's really chilling as she ruthlessly stalks her friends.



Episode # 20 - "Villains"

Rating: * * * 1/4

A shocking (they really killed off poor, sweet Tara!) and chilling (Willow turns to "The Dark Side" to get revenge) tale that is marred by two things.  The first is that Warren is such a sleazeball that we really can't get too upset over Willow stalking him, torturing him, and executing him.  Let's face it - he more than deserved it.  The second is some substandard special effects.  The script called for things that just couldn't be realistically done on a TV show's budget.  The storyline has me intrigued, though.  I don't see how Willow can come back after this.  Although as she said, "I'm not coming back."



Episode # 21 - "Two To Go"

Rating: * * * 3/4

This is one scary, intense episode as Willow personifies the sadistic, cruel, relentless, all-powerful witch that we've all had nightmares about.  I really feared for Buffy, Anya, and especially, Dawn!  Sarah is suitably heroic, but this is really Alyson Hannigan's episode and she gives an Emmy-worthy performance.  The writers also removed one of the previous episode's weaknesses by having Jonathan sort of repent, so that it now seems wrong for Willow to want to kill him.  I loved Anya informing the police that they weren't equipped to handle what was coming.  It got me to thinking, "How many of us are really prepared to handle spiritual attacks?"  And there's a "cheer out loud" moment in the closing seconds of the episode.  However, this episode just misses the "4 Star" rating because during some of the shots of the fight scene, it's obvious that we are watching Ms. Hannigan's stunt double.


Episode # 22 - "Grove"

Rating: * * * * 

This season has been about grief and dealing with loss, so it was fitting that it end with the Scooby Gang realizing how much they still have and by letting Buffy symbolically come forth from the grave again - this time with her eyes open to the possibilities that renewed life gives her and being "reborn," in a sense, into the role of parent for Dawn.  Speaking of parents, there are some great "father/daughter" bits between Giles and Buffy and even Giles and Anya.  Giles noticing that Buffy has cut her hair and Anya's butting in with the information that she dyed her hair is one of the all-time great "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" moments.  And, as corny as the ultimate resolution to the "Dark Willow" storyline could have been, it worked because of Xander and Willow's relationship.  It's interesting to note that it was grace and unconditional love that defeated the satanic scheme.  Then there's a shocking season-ending surprise for Spike that leaves us waiting to see how it plays out next year.


 

BUFFY - The Seventh 
(and Last) Season



 
 
 
 

EPISODE #

TITLE

1

 Lessons

2

Beneath You

3

Same Time, Same Place

4

Help

5

Selfless

6

Him

7

Conversations With Dead People

8

Sleeper

9

Never Leave Me

10

Bring On The Night

11

Showtime

12

Potential

13

The Killing In Me

14

First Date

15

Get It Done

16

Storyteller

17

Lies My Parents 
Told Me

18

Dirty Girls

19

Empty Places

20

Touched

21

End of Days

22

Chosen


Episode #1 - "Lessons"

Rating:* * * 1/2

This is an entertaining season premiere, though I must confess that I had a Star Wars Episode VI:Return Of The Jedi reaction to the new Sunnydale High School being built over the Hellmouth.  ("They have to destroy a Death Star again?  Have the creators run out of ideas?")  Still the humor carried the episode - the rising vampire who got stuck; the running gag about Buffy being mistaken for Dawn's mom; the lame excuses Buffy and Dawn come up with in order to cover up their Slayer-related activities; Buffy putting down the walking, decomposing dead guy by telling him that she's dated dead guys, but that they were real hotties.  In fact, Buffy not accepting any of the guilt the spirits tried to lay on her is one of the highlights of the episode, as is a great "Slayer moment" when we discover that Dawn's "weapon" is a cell phone with which to call Buffy.  We're also introduced to this season's Big Bad through Spike's troubled psyche in language that makes reference to both The Big Bang and the Christian view of creation.


Episode #2 - "Beneath You"

Rating:* * 3/4

Essentially just a set up for the Buffy/Anya confrontation and resolution to come in the later episode, "Selfless," this show nonetheless gives us William's soul in Spike's body trying to act cool and tough like the "old" Spike.  Xander's quick wooing of a character seemingly brought in from nowhere rang hollow, though.


Episode #4 - "Help"

Rating:*

A ponderously slow-moving and pointless episode which covers old ground - Buffy faces the fact that her powers can't solve every thing; we meet another special, yet troubled teen; teenaged cultists try to sacrifice a victim.  Yada Yada Yada.  We've seen it all before.  At least Spike learns to put his "bad boy" identity to good use.


Episode #5 - "Selfless"

Rating: * * * *

This is not just good television, it is BRILLIANT television.  This episode is a nearly indescribable, yet immensely effective and satisfying, mixture of laugh out loud moments, horrific chills, suspense, and heart-breaking human drama.  And it uses several different formats to work its magic - the traditional action/adventure format, the "old, foreign, dubbed movie" (which has to be seen to be believed) format, and the Hollywood musical.  Series continuity is used masterfully as Xander's dirty secret from way back at the end of Season Two is finally voiced, we flashback to a previously unseen part of the "Once More With Feeling" episode, and characters from Anya's past figure heavily in the storyline and are used extremely well.  The plot alone would be enough to entice fans to tune in: The showdown that had to happen finally occurs as Anya goes too far and Buffy sets out to kill her.  But then to have the plot handles so well is utterly amazing!  Each cast member is given a chance to shine, but this is really Emma Caufield's show and she is incandescent.  Her character, Anya, is, by turns in this episode, the star of satiric, Monty Pythonesque bits; a songstress/dancer/comedienne; a romantic lead; an evil supernatural being who is a ruthless, formidable opponent for Buffy; a sympathetic, confused waif; a woman in love; a woman scorned; a troubled soul seeking her own identity and worth; a lonely young woman desperately seeking friendship and love; a guilt-ridden sinner who seeks penance and punishment;  a sacrificing heroine.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Come on, Emmy voters!  Give this show a look!"  In the course of an episode, Ms. Caufield is called on to do more than some actresses are called to do in their entire careers!  And she handles it all superbly.  Sarah is pretty superb here, too, as the coldly confident and utterly competent Slayer and the human being who has accepted, and lives with, that hard role.  Her delivery of the lines about the time she was forced to kill Angel just about stops the viewer's heart and left me in awe of her talents once again.  And Buffy gives a speech that pastors, doctors, and some other professionals can relate to.  Her needed, life-saving, chosen job necessarily carries with it the consequence that she will always be cut off somewhat from those around her, even from her friends.  Her calling is a lonely one that constantly forces her to make decisions that will anger some and please others.  And her decisions are often ones which no "rule book" covers and she must wrestle with the fact that she has to act with black-and-white decisiveness in areas that are shaded gray.  No one who is not a Slayer can totally understand her life.


Episode #9 - "Never Leave Me"

Rating: * * * 

An episode that serves to move this season's main story along, it doesn't really have a memorable plot of its own.  This is not to say that it's a poor episode.  Xander and Anya playing "Good Cop/Bad Cop" with Andrew is fun.  James Marsters gets to show off his impressive acting chops, as Spike is, by turns, penitent, desperate, pleading, questing, and in the throes of an uncontrollable bloodlust, enthralled and tormented by The First.  And The Watchers finally get what's been coming to them all along.  Good-bye Council!  Boom!


Episode #18 - "Dirty Girls"

Rating: * * * 1/2

Faith returns to Sunnydale and she has a great scene of badgirl/badboy bonding with Spike, which makes Buffy jealous, of course. Buffy and Faith have some great wary moments together, too, including a misunderstanding near the beginning of the episode which leads a confused Faith to ask, "Am I the good slayer now?"  The episode also introduces us (and how!) to Caleb, a fallen psuedo-priest/minister whose psychotic violence seems to have made him a perfect candidate to be The First's lieutenant.  He's an example of how religious teachings about sin and male/female relations can get warped, and how, if one doesn't keep watch on one's own heart, one can end up doing things that at one time probably would have been unthinkable.  He's also more than a match for The Slayers, The Potentials, and The Scoobies.  Caleb's the one who fleshes out Buffy's rhetoric about being in a war as he commits brutal acts of maiming and murder during the battle, including a gross and shocking thing done to one of our favorite characters.  This episode earns its "14" rating and the fight scene may be too intense and disturbing for some viewers.  Sarah is brilliant, as always, whether she is the seductively evil version of Buffy conjured up by The First, or The Slayer herself suddenly realizing she's way out of her depth and seeing her young troops getting slaughtered.  After touring the hospital ward, Buffy ends the episode by walking alone, all her hope and resolve seemingly gone, as Caleb's voice-over promises a "happy" ending since he's going to kill them all.  How this storyline and television series can wrap up in four more episodes is anybody's guess.  Andrew provides some needed comedy relief in this episode during a scene which will have Classic Star Trek fans rolling on the floor with laughter, and as he appeals to Xander's pop culture sense of correctness to set the record straight about Godzilla movies.  Speaking of Xander, he makes a speech revealing what he thinks of Buffy, showing that he's really the one for her, and prompting Faith, upon hearing it, to comment to Buffy, "Wow, B!  I didn't know you were so cool!"  By the way, Joss Whedon fans will appreciate the fact that Caleb is played by Nathan Fillion who was formerly the captain of The Serenity in the television series, "Firefly" (a series written by Whedon).   But he's sure not a hero here!


Episode #19 - "Empty Places"

Rating: * * 3/4

This episode's title refers to Sunnydale after a mass exodus, the deserted school, the cloister that Spike and Andrew visit after Caleb has murdered nearly everybody, and Buffy's heart when all her hope and purpose is gone.  It could also refer to some scenes that seem to drag, and dialog that seems unnatural and contrived.  (See the meeting of Faith and the principal, and the group's rejection of Buffy.)  But the episode still has some great comedy bits as Clem leaves town, Willow does her "Jedi Knight" bit, Anya and Andrew "teach" the Potentials, and Spike and Andrew discuss their love for, and the secrets of, flowering onions, prompting Spike to say that if Andrew tells anybody about the conversation, he'll bite him.  There are also some surprises, which, in an effort to keep things spoiler-free, I won't reveal here.  Faith's sort-of, but sincere, attempt to change at least a little is fascinating to watch.  And Buffy and Caleb's confrontation reveals even more of the latter's misogyny, chauvinism, and abusive personality. He practices both physical and mental abuse.  I can't wait for Buffy to finally kick his butt.  Buffy seems to be making mistakes that so many leaders make - forgetting her charges are people, too, and believing all her ideas are golden.  And she experiences the sadness many leaders experience when they realize that they've changed and that the "save the world" quest that they are on isn't fun or exciting, or renewing them any longer.


Episode #20 - "Touched"

Rating: * * * 

The idea that, in wartime, people under pressure turn to sex for escape and in order to feel something is not exactly new and has been explored already in numerous novels, movies, and TV shows - including "Buffy The Vampire Slayer!"  And we've seen shots of these actors and actresses pretending to have sex before, too.  So excuse me while I yawn.  However, it was interesting that the one coupling that was driven by true love instead of lust and desperation didn't involve sex at all, but rather Spike's affirmation of Buffy and his willingness to hold the troubled slayer throughout the night.  I loved Spike's confrontation with Faith and Buffy's superhero moment as she calmly enters Caleb's lair and disses him.  "Watch your language or people will think you're just a big woman-hating jerk."  Caleb roars that he can kill Buffy with one touch and the Slayer responds by taunting him to, okay, touch her then!  What follow is an action sequence reminiscent of the old comic books that featured the quick and agile Spider-Man or Captain America leaping, somersaulting, and dodging away from The Hulk.  Not every move works because a television show doesn't have the time or the budget of the "Matrix" films or "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger," but some of them are pretty cool indeed, including the one that enables Buffy to slide into the basement and find "Excalibur."  It was also great to see "The Mayor" again perfectly in character and I enjoyed it when The First got disappointed in, and disgusted by, Caleb.


Episode #21 - "End of Days"

Rating: * * * 3/4

The next-to-last new Buffy episode ever - and it's a good one!  A bonding, melancholy, "it's lonely at the top" moment between Faith and Buffy gives Faith the oppurtunity to deliver one of the funniest one-liners of the entire series.  And Buffy has a sweet, tender, moment with Spike that's powerful and poignant and that anyone who has ever been in love can relate to.  Sarah and James Marsters are amazing together!  Xander has us thinking he's gone over to The Dark Side and Anya and Andrew have some fun in a deserted hospital.  Buffy has her final showdown with Caleb and Angel makes an entrance.  Then there's a cliffhanger, centered on emotions, heartbreak, and temptation.  The episode just misses a four star rating, though, because I wondered how Buffy knew where Faith and The Potentials were, and I thought that Giles and Willow found our the scythe info way too easily.  The whole bit with the old mysterious lady was hokey and confusing, too, though I did find it interesting that, to paraphrase a Buffy creator, "Joss Whedon claims to be against religion, but his writing is full of it."  The Buffy storyline, which he superintends, here at its end still depends on Spiritual Powers or Forces at work, pre-destination, accepting one's divine calling, and a temple (thought admittedly not a Christian one.)


Episode #22 - "Chosen"

Rating: * * * *

Not a totally perfect episode, but one in which so much works so well that I can willingly overlook any minor quibbles I have.  Joss Whedon brilliantly found ways to culminate many of the series' themes (Girl Power, coming of age, Light and Love conquer Darkness and Hate, the nature of war, self-sacrifice, courage, destiny, self-acceptance, the quest for redemption, anyone and everyone can be a hero and heroes are just as interesting as villains, true love versus sex, Pop Culture is cool and important and it shapes us but sometimes you've got to spoof it or even trash it) and on-going storylines (Buffy/Angel, Buffy/Spike, Sunnydale and its Hellmouth, Willow the witch, The Slayer prophecy, Faith's reformation) in a manner that is paradoxically both totally satisfying and yet open-ended, so that, if this the last we hear from anyone, it's okay, but so that also the Buffyverse can go on forever and more stories could be told in novels, comic books, fan fiction, movies, and TV shows, etc.  The episode gives us all the usual great things that are "Buffy."  There's a shock before the opening credits, then a great heroic moment as Buffy dispatches one of her most loathsome foes in a way that metes out Poetic Justice and has us yelling, "Yes!' and then she laughs at her own James Bond-like quip.  Her "I'm cookie dough" talk with Angel, apart from its comedic and sexual tension-raising value, is one I wish all young people could hear, meditate on, and adopt as a philosophy.  Too many people give their hearts away before they are truly formed.  Speaking of hearts, we're treated to two sweet (for them) scenes betweeh Faith and the principal, which combine humor, wisdom, psychology, and romance. And Buffy and Spike brought tears to my eyes as their story has become a love story in every sense of the term.  When the regular characters have scenes together in this episode, it feels like old friends getting together in ways that are right and true, much like the scenes between Kirk, McCoy, and Spock in "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan."  And like Kirk in that film, Buffy realizes that, in order to win when the rules are stacked against you, you have to find a way to change the rules.  And she comes up with a brilliant plan to do so, tying in perfectly with the series' history and continuity.  Willow has a "Lord Of The Rings" moment and her comment afterwards is so human and so hilarious.  Christ parallels continue, as they have throughout the entire series.  Check out the location of Buffy's shocking wound and the fact that the piercing sword and a shadow on Buffy's blouse combine to form a cross (thanks to David Buckna for pointing this out to me), and consider that what Buffy essentially does at a pivotal point is "send out the Holy Spirit," changing the world forever because of it, as women from all nations and races receive supernatural power to be all that they were created and called to be, and to liberate themselves from all forms of bigotry and spiritual and human oppression, and to carry out a divine mission.  The "Messiah" has multiplied herself and her effectiveness!  It's the book of Acts!  Some of the feminist vignettes shown brought the tears to my eyes again.  The battle with the Uber-Vamps inside The Hellmouth is thrilling and Buffy has another "Yes!" moment as, against all odds when hope seems gone, she stands up to The First.  Spike finally feels his soul (another tear-inducing moment) and there's a frantic display of superpowers as Buffy tries to outrace the destruction and her friends don't know what's happened to her.  The gang gathered at the outskirts of Sunnydale, the last line of dialog, and the close-up of Buffy's grin end the series perfectly.  My thanks to the cast, crew, and creators who, over the course of seven seasons, have given us a show destined to be a true classic, and especially to the creative genius, Joss Whedon, and the magnificent Sarah Michelle Gellar.  Buffy Summers will ever remain one of my heroes and inspirations.


 

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ESSAYS

 


 
 

ESSAY - 

BUFFY THE CHRIST FIGURE


Buffy The Christ Figure - Part 1

Whether by accident or design, Buffy Sommers comes across as a messianic figure that reminds me over and over again of The Messiah. Consider, she is the Chosen One - the only one out of all who are on earth that can save us from the Powers Of Darkness. Sound like anyone you know? Her calling makes it impossible for her to live a "normal" teenage life, no matter how hard she tries. Jesus said that although animals have places to sleep at night, he didn't have a place to rest his head. The "normal life" of settling down in a home with a family couldn't ever be his. His mission precluded it.

And, like Jesus, Buffy often finds herself misunderstood, mocked, and persecuted by the very people she is saving. Jesus was called demonic, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners. Buffy is called "loser," a troublemaker, a murderer, "weird," etc. Cordelia at one point thought she was a member of some gang.

Jesus' followers were not, by and large, the rich, powerful, influential, and respected. He spent most of his time among the outcasts of his society. Buffy, also, finds her "Scooby Gang" (I loved it when Faith called them "The Super Friends") comprised of the "geeks" in the High School.

Prophecy foretold that Jesus would die at the hands of his enemies. And in his death, those enemies were defeated, though they didn't realize it at the time. Jesus came to life again and carried out the new, final phase of God's plan. It was prophesied, too, that Buffy would die, and after her own "Gethsemane" struggle, she willingly went to her fated end. After she died and was resuscitated, she was more powerful than ever and lit into the now outclassed Master saying, "I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you!" Jesus died, but He's "still pretty," much to Satan's regret. And He is returning to Earth in all His glory to show us enemies just how outclassed they really are.
 

Buffy The Christ Figure - Part 2

There is a strange passage in the Bible (1 Peter 3:18-20) which speaks of Jesus going by the Spirit after he died to preach to ancient spirits in prison.  Scholars disagree over exactly what this means, but one way to interpret it would be to say that after Jesus died he went into Hell and freed prisoners.  Certainly Jesus saw freeing captives as part of his mission (Luke 4:10-21) and he liberates his people from the power of sin, the fear of death, and the influence of the devil (2 Timothy 2:24-26).  During the opening episode of Season Three, Buffy descended into a hellish dimension where people were held captive.  We watched as one by one the poor souls were made to say to a hulking demonic guard, "I'm nothing.  I'm nobody."  Our hearts broke when a troubled girl we had come to care about was forced to give up the last shred of her identity and hope.  But then the guard came to Buffy.  "Who are you?" he demanded.  She looked him right in the eye and declared, "I'm Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  And you are?"  before she began kicking the tar out of him and the surrounding guards.  She then led her fellow captives to freedom, lifting the gate which led to the entrance back to our dimension.  The head demon cried out that Buffy wasn't being fair, that no one was supposed to fight back.  It reminded me that the Bible tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from us.

The Third Season's finale saw a rather blatant, but extremely effective, Christ metaphor used.  Angel had been poisoned and only the blood of a Slayer could cure him.  Buffy, out of her intense, selfless love for him offers up her self.  "Drink," she tells him, in a chilling sequence, "Drink me!"  Jesus said that there is no greater love than that a man would lay down his life for his friends.  The "amazing grace" in scripture is that the God of the universe would come to earth as a man and offer his own blood as payment for our sins.  And however your church interprets his words, Jesus still urges us today to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order that we might have eternal life (John 6:48-58).


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


ESSAY - 
ANGEL THE CHRIST FIGURE

Angel, like Buffy, sometimes reminds me of The Messiah.  Consider that Angel is a being living under a curse and, because of it, his life is one of suffering and sacrifice.  The Bible tells us that Jesus became a curse for us when he took the punishment for our sins upon himself on the cross.  God The Father cursed Jesus The Son in our place.  And there's the difference - Angel was cursed for his own sins, Christ for ours.

Angel is also able to help Buffy because he has one foot in both worlds.  He's a composite being, if you will, a vampire with the soul of a human.  Christ is able to help us because he is both God and Man.  He is able to sympathize and empathize with our weaknesses, yet he also conquered sin and the Devil, and was able to take the punishment that was meant for us because he was divine.

And there was an episode of Buffy in which Angel really played the part of a savior and Buffy herself took on the role of God the Father.  In the second season-ender, "Becoming - Part 2," in order to stop the world from literally going to Hell, Buffy must send Angel there.  As time is running out for us all, there is a very poignant, heart wrenching scene in which a weeping Buffy plunges the sword into the heart of the trusting, uncomprehending, loving, righteousness-seeking Angel.  As she does so, he gives her this incredulous look, as from his perspective she has betrayed him.  It didn't take an extraordinary leap of my imagination to hear the words, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  coming from Angel's lips.  The script fairly screamed out for it to happen.  And the darkness that descends on Buffy's soul mirrored for me the fact that the sky was darkened when Christ died.  The world didn't recognize what Buffy had just done for them.  Instead, her mother had kicked her out of the house and Principal Snyder finally got his chance to expel her from school.  When Christ died, many of the "religious" people were glad to be rid of that trouble-making Jesus.  In rejecting him, they were rejecting God and the Lord's plan.  "Becoming - Part 2" is an extremely effective episode whether you are viewing it from a Christian perspective, or as a moving tale of star-crossed lovers, or as a fable about heroic sacrifice, or even as a satisfying wrap-up to various plot lines.  I get chills remembering it.  AND MS. GELLAR SHOULD HAVE WON AN EMMY!!!  (I'm sounding like a broken record, I know.)


( Next: "Amends," the episode where Buffy and Angel play out the Divine/Human Drama.)
 

 


 
 
 
 

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FUNDAMENTALIST ALERT

   FUNDAMENTALIST ALERT
   FUNDAMENTALIST ALERT

The cosmology of Buffy's universe is not biblical and demons can change sides, witches can be "good," etc. But the morals of the program and the lessons taught are DEFINITELY compatible with Christianity and many of the themes it deals with make it one of the most spiritual programs on the air.

The characters, being secular teens, do experiment from time-to-time with sex, alcohol, adopting "wilder" images, etc., but THERE ARE ALWAYS CONSEQUENCES, and abstinence before marriage is portrayed as being a noble position to hold. In fact, one of the coolest guys on the show, Oz, had this view and faced temptation several times without giving in. And when Buffy and Angel had sex, it led to a tragedy and devastating, almost crippling, emotional hurt for Buffy. One of the show's creators said that they used that whole story line to show what happens when teens go too far too fast and play around with things they aren't ready to handle.

If these kinds of things bother you too much, though, don't watch the show. But don't e-mail me to tell me I can't, either.  I find my faith strengthened and affirmed by this show, not torn down by it.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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