Thursday, 25 November 2010
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 2, Episode 1 'When She Was Bad'
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
What's the sitch?
It’s a new school year and returning from her summer vacation spent with her dad in LA, Buffy is back in Sunnydale, back with her friends, back slaying vamps. But something is different. She’s a different girl. She’s distant, dismissive, angry and more than a little bitchy. Willow and Xander think she’s been possessed. Giles is more on the money. He thinks she has issues stemming from her ordeal, her death at the hands of The Master. Meanwhile, the Anointed One and some remaining vamps loyal to The Master dig up his consecrated bones in order to attempt a ritual to bring ol' bat face back from the dead…
What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
This is about dealing with trauma and personal demons. It’s about learning to face up to the bad things that have happened to you, and about trusting those around you who care about you.
Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
A bunch of who cares vamps and the Anointed One. But the big villain of the week is Buffy herself.
Why it rocks
1. A splendid relaunch. This episode reintroduces the characters and the concept and tells you all you need to know if you have never seen Buffy before.
2. A character story. This is all about Buffy and what her ordeal facing the Master has done to her. The beauty of this show is that nothing is without consequences. Bad stuff happens to people and it has an effect. Sometimes that effect can be ongoing, sometimes it can rear its ugly head way on down the line. Here, Buffy must confront and deal with the psychological trauma she suffered due to her battle with the ancient vampire at the end of last season.
3. Your hero is your villain. In this episode, in what is basically a relaunch for the series to help entice new viewers, Joss does a massively brave thing. He turns his heroine, his main character, in to the villain. Buffy is a total bitch for most of this episode. She is horrible to her friends and to others around her. Huh? But…you can’t do that to your main character. Nobody will watch it. Nobody will get it. But Joss does do it. And it works. And this is partly why Buffy works as a show. Sure, it can be very silly, just as it can be very funny. But it can also be painfully emotionally honest.
4. The Gellar is back. I know I keep saying this but Buffy wouldn’t be the show it is without Sarah Michelle Gellar. She owns this role so much it ain’t funny. As soon as you see her make her fun entrance in this episode’s teaser you can’t help but grin. After she slays the vamp, she smiles sweetly at Xander and Willow and says before the titles kick in, “You miss me?” Damn right we did. And still do. She does a hell of job in this episode. Playing nasty Buffy and also sexually provocative Buffy to Xander (to make Angel jealous) is something she does with classy abandon. But you can always feel the fragile vulnerability behind it all, as if she is about to break down or to snap at any moment…which is exactly what she does at episodes end.
5. The darkness. Once again, the photography by Michael Gershman is excellent. It is very dark with heavy shadows and plenty of deep blacks. Faces are shot partially lit with half-profiles in total black. And once again The Bronze looks awesome. The dance sequence there with Buffy and Xander looks especially lovely and moody. It is also wonderfully directed and performed being only music and visuals but being entirely about character. Wonderful stuff.
Why it sucks
1. Vampires suck. The vampires that threaten Buffy are frankly rubbish. They ponce around and spout pretentious dialogue and are about as threatening as a small gang of geriatric muggers. The annoying Anointed One isn’t much better. Luckily, Buffy herself is the villain for this episode so it doesn’t really matter. But you are left wondering if season 2 is gonna be able to field some decent villains for her to face. Oh, we really needn’t have worried about that. Two episodes later and we get all the villains we could ever want. Then another eleven episodes later we get arguably the greatest villain the Bufster will ever face.
2. Where’s the fun? For a season opener this is rather dour and downbeat stuff. Sure, there’s humour, but as a whole it might be a little too angsty and introverted for new fans and some old ones.
At the end, Buffy takes on all the vampires. And though they all attack her mob handed she holds her own and slays ‘em all…eventually setting the main vamp on fire and watching as he’s consumed by flames.
Dialogue to die for
Principal Snyder: “There are some things I can just smell. It's like a sixth sense.”
Giles: “No, actually, that would be one of the five.”
Xander: "Well, we could grind our enemies into talcum powder with a sledgehammer, but, gosh, we did that last night."
And another thing
David Boreanaz became a regular cast member as of this episode.
The band playing at the Bronze when Buffy does her sexy dance with Xander is Cibo Matto with Sean (son of John) Lennon on base guitar. The song being played is called ‘Sugar Water’ and is a really cool tune.
Season 2 was still being filmed in 16mm so retains that rather grainy look.
The school set has grown and includes more corridors, stairs and a large seating area.
Tony Head now provides the famous intro “In every generation…” as opposed to the WB announcer in season 1.
How many stakes?
Bad Buffy bags 3.5 (out of 5)