Postmortem: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I had heard good things about Buffy. I knew it was created by Joss Whedon, the same guy who did Firefly and The Avengers, both of which I loved. And I noticed it was on Netflix. So I asked my wife – want to give it a whirl?

Sure, why not. Goofy title, strange premise, but we like weird stuff. Could be okay.

Then we blinked, and somehow, months had passed. We emerged dizzy and dazed from the living room. We had binge-watched all seven seasons. 144 episodes. Zero regrets.

Simply put, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen.

Saying that Buffy is about vampires and demons is like saying that Star Trek is about technology and aliens. It’s technically true, but it completely misses the point. The monsters in Buffy are lenses for exploring humanity. And explore it does.

How do I love this show? Let me count the ways:

  • It’s funny. No, I mean really funny. It’s got puns. (“We thought you were a myth!” “Well, you were myth-taken.”) It’s got British snark. (“Look at her shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to, she’d wear cats strapped to her feet.”) It’s got sarcasm – lots and lots of sarcasm. Buffy is funnier than most shows that describe themselves as “comedy.”
  • It has great characters. This is the heart of the show. How the writers convinced me to care this much about a group of fictional people, I really don’t know, but it worked. Which leads to my next point…
  • It will rip your heart out. Buffy deals with sacrifice. Depression. Unrequited love. Growing up. Betrayal. And death: not the comic book kind, but real, honest, brutal, unflinching death. There are times Buffy is genuinely hard to watch, in the best possible way.
  • It has great dialogue. Well, great writing in general, actually. But I guess I’ve sorta implied that already.
  • It has great acting. I’m overusing “great,” I know, but it’s true. Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) and James Marsters (Spike) are real standouts in this department, though the entire cast is good. Some of my favorite scenes in the series don’t even have any dialogue – their faces say it all.
  • Rocket launcher. Why? Because they can.

Okay, you get the picture. Brian and Buffy, sitting in a tree, etc. So what are my criticisms?

  • The first season is a little rough. Low budget, cheesy effects, slow pace, and the writing hadn’t really hit its stride yet. Only twelve episodes, though, and even some of those are quite good.
  • The series finale. Most fans seem to like it. I thought it was extremely disappointing and deeply, deeply stupid. Sad for such a good show to end on a low note.
  • The occasional dud. Among so many quality episodes, the bad ones stand out all the more. “Beer Bad,” “The Killer In Me,” I’m looking at you.
  • Hit-and-miss special effects. And the earlier in the series you are, the more likely it is to be “miss.” Computer-generated graphics in the 90s? Best not to talk about it.

If you want even more analysis, try Critically Touched, which has an in-depth critical review of every single episode and season. Excellent stuff.

I’ve rambled enough. Your turn. Any thoughts?

2 responses to “Postmortem: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  1. As I may have mentioned, I resist shows where there are a lot of episodes. I like shows like Firefly — four DVDs in a slip case, and then I’m on to something else. The Champions is another one I like.

    And then you say that the first season was uneven. So, do I start with the first season, or jump right to season #2… No, it’s too difficult.

    “Computer-generated graphics in the 90s? Best not to talk about it.” These sorts of things are always dicey at first — there’s too much “Hey, look what we can do!” I saw somebody comment recently that pop music from the 1980s (the era of cheap synthesizers and string machines) has dated far more than any other decade.

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